Admitting Your Child Is Dealing With Trauma

There are a lot of good reasons to be in denial about signs of trauma in a child. One being: it sucks. It's painful and terrifying as a parent. I can't only imagine what it must be like to be a child entirely dependent on their parent for supporting their healing. I use the word "good" loosely of course. I am sure when an adult sits down with their therapist they might not consider their parent's reason for remaining in denial "good." Maybe they are understanding, but I can't be sure it lessens the damage.  

I talk myself for a while that not admitting to my son's traumatic experiences were for his privacy, I imagined him feeling exposed and upset about my decision to speak out. It was my shame. Shame around how long it took me to understand what was happen even as he screamed and writhed, possessed with memories. Frustration and fear of the systems I am beholden to that seem to refuse to offer protection for fear of "vindictive baby-mama stereotypes." A freeze response to secondary trauma and pure exhaustion. 

There is value in secrets; they serve to keep us isolated. There is no value in silence it does not alleviate pain. There is no honor in shame; it only chains you to your oppressor. These are the things I remind myself. 

I will never speak about the specific traumatic events my son experienced. I don't know them all. The harsh reality that we are two entirely independently souls but what has been confided in me is not mine to tell. 

But I will speak about trauma. About parenting a child through trauma because many people are doing it yet, I keep reading that it is isolating. The two shouldn't be right simultaneously. So consider this a step out of the shadows.   


50 Books and Counting

Last new years my son challenged himself to read 50 books on his reading level and over 150 pages. He reached the goal at the beginning of December, and the journey through us both a few lessons about goal setting and achieving. I realized pretty early that the page requirement would have to lose considering how long some of the books on this list are. There was also the issue of books that were 135 pages. Would I prohibit him from reading them? No. I had to set some internal guidelines for what would count and what wouldn't.  The most significant benefit of this adventure was the moment he suggested he would write book reviews for a living at some point in life. He realized that she could read all day and be perfectly happy AND it is possible to do that and earn a living. Of course, that's not all someone who writes books reviews does, so next year we are setting a goal of 12 book reviews. That either means twelve new books or reaching into this list, I will be happy either way. Keep a look out for his book reviews which I will publish here. Special thanks to the staff at our local bookstores, Unabridged and 57th Street Books as well as the Chicago and Evanston Public Libraries.

Here is a complete list of the 51 books and seven audiobooks blerd read this year. *You can listen to the latest episode of conversations with berldhero about complex characters too. The episode contains a random interesting discussion about the representation of governments in the books he has been reading and the significance of complex characters. 

  1. Aesop's Fables

  2. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Koningsburg (Author, Illustrator)

  3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (Hogwarts' Library Book)

  4. Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse (Max Helsing: Monster Hunter) by Curtis Jobling

  5. Max Helsing and the Beast of Bone Creek (Max Helsing: Monster Hunter) by Curtis Jobling

  6. Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

  7. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett and illustrated by Brett Helquist

  8. The Boy In the Striped Pajamas

  9. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

  10. N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (2009) by Michael Buckley and illustrated by Ethen Beavers

  11. N.E.R.D.S.: M is for Mama's Boy (2010) by Michael Buckley and illustrated by Ethen Beavers

  12. N.E.R.D.S.: The Villain Virus (2012) by Michael Buckley and illustrated by Ethen Beavers

  13. N.E.R.D.S.: Attack of the Bullies (2013)by Michael Buckley and illustrated by Ethen Beavers

  14. Warriors: The Prophecies Begin Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

  15. Warriors: The Prophecies Begin Fire and Ice by Erin Hunter

  16. Warriors: The Prophecies Begin Forest of Secrets by Erin Hunter

  17. Warriors: The Prophecies Begin Rising Storm by Erin Hunter

  18. Warriors: The Prophecies Begin A Dangerous Path by Erin Hunter

  19. Warriors: The Prophecies Begin The Darkest Hour by Erin Hunter

  20. Warriors: The New Prophecy Midnight by Erin Hunter

  21. The Fairy-Tale Detectives (Sisters Grimm #1) by Michael Buckley and Peter Ferguson

  22. A Tale Dark and Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm Book 1) by Adam Gidwitz, Dan Santat (Illustrator)

  23. In a Glass Grimmly (A Tale Dark & Grimm Book 2) by Adam Gidwitz, Dan Santat (Illustrator)

  24. The Grimm Conclusion (A Tale Dark & Grimm Book 3) by Adam Gidwitz, Dan Santat (Illustrator)

  25. George and the Big Bang by Lucy and Stephen Hawking

  26. George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Lucy and Stephen Hawking

  27. George and the Unbreakable Code by Lucy and Stephen Hawking

  28. X: a Novel About Malcolm X By Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

  29. Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffery Brown

  30. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

  31. Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown

  32. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse  by Joseph Marshall

  33. Tales of the Greek Heroes by by Roger Lancelyn Green, Alan Langford

  34. The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable by Dan Gutman

  35. The Genius Files #2: Never Say Genius by Dan Gutman

  36. Wayside School is Falling Down No. 10 by Louis Sachar and Adam McCauley

  37. The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade by Max Brallier

  38. The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

  39. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

  40. Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 4 by Stan Sakai

  41. Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 5 by Stan Sakai

  42. City of Thirst (The Map to Everywhere) by  Carrie Ryan, John Parke Davis

  43. Thorfinn the Nicest Viking: Awful Invasion by David MacPhail

  44. The Adventures of Captain Underpants (1997) by Dav Pilkey

  45. Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (1999) by Dav Pilkey

  46. Chika and the River by Chinua Achebe

  47. My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson 

  48.  Nicholas by René Goscinny, Jean-Jacques Sempé

  49. Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

  50. Holes by Louis Sachar

  51. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Audio Books

  1.  Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
  2. Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix
  6. Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince
  7. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows





This Fight Just Started

The struggle with parenting young is that your fight with life is far from over. The dust on your definition is far from settled. Motherhood can become your entire identity at any stage in your life came. Being unsettled isn't only for the young. I wish I knew that when I was 20. I wish I knew how bad ass I was at 20, walking around campus with books and baby. I wish knew I was radical and beautiful, I wish I saw my revolution in its full glory but honestly, I thought I was just surviving. I wish I knew that who I was then was enough, to refine instead of redefining. In some ways, surviving is what it was but it was on my own terms. My independent study in black feminist thought had me realizing my fight with life had just begun. Do you know how many fights women have fought with babies on their backs? Motherhood did not give me purpose but it did narrow my path options enough to help me make a choice.

That's what I thought until sitting with the creative limits I put on myself. Does a single mom have the right to follow her dreams? Yes of course but the devil is in the pursuit. Resources are limited and a woman that tells you she can do it all at the same time is a lier. I am not always comfortable the give and take of big dreams. All these chips are not my own anymore but this fight just started.

This fight was just easier when my son was younger. When what is said was the unquestioned norm and he couldn't fight sleep. This fight just started but I'm getting hammered by the growing independence of a young man on the brink of an increasingly fucked up world. I haven't seen a blue-print for juggling all these balls and nothing I have created seems to stick but my fight just started and I'm not ready to give up.

The rules of my fight are simple:

1. I can't get into the ring unless my son is working toward his goals simultaneously.

This was really easy when his goals were things like crawl, walk, read, make friends. Before he had projects, beefs, and serious opinions. A schedule and a preference for pizza and TV. His is the fight that just started and I have to be ringside and engaged in ways the stages before this just didn't require. I used to read him my assigned reading as bedtime stories. I used to listen to recordings of my lectures while I made dinner or walked through the grocery store. There was a time when he didn't ask open-ended questions. 

I know if I didn't homeschool I would at least have school hours to myself push toward my personal goals but that's just not the best option for him. So there it is, now what is best for each creates a bumpy grueling road.

But you know what, that's ok. I may not have a blueprint but I know it can be done and Imma at least have some best practices to show for it when I get to the teenage stage.


Flamin’ Hot orange + Ultrasheen blue

The museum is the backdrop of some of my most cherished moments. Saturday, my 30th birthday, E and I met up with the kids at the Museum of Contemporary Art for family day. Museums with a toddler, anything with a toddler really, isn't easy. I  appreciate how often the library and the museum provide the backdrop of the stories she recounts about her daughter.


Pointing your maternal bravery in the direction of libraries and museums, dance performances and theater shows is something I didn't do consciously until the recent past. In so many ways I marvel at the vision and intention E puts into mothering. The things she knows and considers.

We came specifically to take part in the awesomeness that is the creative mind of Amanda Williams. We had seen her exhibit before so it was wonderful for us to meet her in the flesh with a tag reading "ARTIST" slug around her neck. To hear him say, "Wait, so that's the artist with the exhibit downstairs?". To say "Yup." An artist as a human, a woman, melaninated. The type to speak to you, to smile at you. To help you peel the back of a sticker. To accomplish things that feel out of reach while staying within it.


On the logistics for parents, they had a break room with free snacks and water/juice for kids and I saw adults eating too. The room was designated specifically for family day participants. This really stretches the amount of time you can be there, especially if you pack sandwich.  All of the activities took place in open areas were kids could focus fully on the task at hand.



I am ready to have a daughter. When I looked at a positive pregnancy test a few months after my 20th birthday I knew I needed the child to be a boy. I wasn't ready to have a girl. I knew I wasn't ready to raise a girl. I'm ready now, I understand my myself and the world in a way that I didn't then.  

Sonlight helps to illuminate the night. "Helps" because it's not the only way. A girl can be her own sun or a flame. I'm sure I can model that for my daughter. 

Only Child(ish)

My son is never going to experience what it's  like to grow up with a sibling. He is nine, since I am single. It looks like he will be into his teens before I have another child. If I have another child at all. I'm not sure why it hit me but I found myself writing a letter explaining this to him. I feel bad, Im sorry. I didn't intend for him to be an only child but I also didn't intend to have other children. I still can't say I'm sending a strong signal to the universe. I am at the "under these conditions" I could point in the journey. 

I know that he could still have a sibling but since the age gap is so large it would be different. I imagine it like having a cousin but I'm sure that's  a terrible analogy. I have a friend from Serbia who said that large gaps are common. Maybe so you can focus on one child at a time. Big age gaps mean totally different sets of demands.  Still I feel like I have deprived him of something. That will always be the case I guess. 

Race Relations over Tacos

We had our neighbor over for dinner. I made tacos. He brought pie and ice cream. My son has never made, friends with the neighbor and I have never had neighbors over for dinner. . We talked about race most of the night. As soon as the kids finished their food, they ran from the table, to hide in the corner with the iPad and that's when the conversation started. I could have guested this put I wasn't fully prepared.

More conversations like this are necessary, and they are gentle reminders of how much some white people are bothered. I wouldn't invite hardly any white people to come to my house and talk about race. That's stress I don't need in my life, but I do think it's important to understand where my son's friends parent's stand on such an important issue. I certainly don't make these types of discussions a practice, put parenting often takes you

Let's be clear about where you stand before our kids spend time together. If your child thinks Christopher Columbus discovered America my son would call bullshit. This oversight call into question what else you choose not to dismantle. I'm not giving the benefit of the doubt, that's basic and here's why  

Adolescence is four blinks away and he will be navigating the city alone, and I need those friends to have a basic understand of privilege and politics. I refuse for my son the become a casualty in someone else's journey; he has his whole life to navigate -isms. For now, we vet friends. I know my vetting will not completely shield him, but to me, that seems like all the more reason to try.

So far so good. #SundayDinner


Missed Connections

"What do we want from our mothers when we are children? Complete submission. Oh, it's very nice and rational and respectable to say that a woman has every right to her life, to her ambitions, to her needs and so on. That's what I've always demanded myself, but as a child, no. The truth is it's a war of attrition. Rationality doesn't come into it, not one bit. What you want from your mother is that she once and for all admit that she is your mother and only your mother and that battle with the rest of life is over."      Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Thelma Golden came to Chicago, and I missed it because I was deep in mothering. Deep in the fatigue of thinking about somebody else hard because you are not them and you are trying to decide what is best for them. I have missed several events this week because of the juggle, the mental acrobatics. It's not always like this, but sometimes it is. simple and clumsy. You can have it all but not at the same time. I long for the days when in ways I couldn't see clearly that my days were my own. When a child's protest was loud cries, not a silent disappointment. Toddlers scream, but tweens don't forget. Days when his developmental needs didn't rub against my social/professional needs like sandpaper.

I did not always feel like I was missing out. The spaces I feel are professional. Creative. Motherhood rubs at you like sandpaper, brushing of layers of dead skin in places and leaving you raw and exposed in others. Better than you started. More tender. Eroded. Rounded. Smooth but uneven.

I missed this opportunity and others because of motherhood and it does frustrate me. In an alternate universe, I may have missed them for another reason, and that would have frustrated me too. In this universe it was motherhood. I know there can be more synergy but doing it all takes all of me so who will enjoy the spoils. Alright, so that is a little dramatic. There are some weeks where I do manage to do everything we both wanted and need; they are always followed by one full day in bed. Sometimes this trade is worth is and sometimes it's not. The trade off sometimes reduces me to tears, momentarily.

As I approach 30, my concerns are not about aging or relationship status but these missed opportunities to grow myself as an individual.  The quote from Swing Time is accurate, so I missed the event, laying in bed for "read together" time, listening, being still and together. Surrendering to the demands of motherhood at least for the moment. 

50 Book Challenge/Two Must Have Resources

We spent the last hours of 2016 making goals. BlerdHero decided he wanted to read fifty books, all over 150 pages in 2017. That's about a book a week; I feel like it's an attainable but challenging goal. So far keeping him on task has been a challenge. There haven't been mainly goals that I have been able to help him achieve. Goal setting is a skill, learning to achieve your goals is a practice. I have been working on how to help him understand that doing a little bit every day is an effective way to reach a target and I think this will be a year-long exercise in that. Today is the 15th, and he has read one and a half books.

I have increased my search for books to accommodate his need because #yougonreachthisgoal.  I am deeply invested because I know his success is going to depend in part to me helping him find books that he WANTS to read. I also need to help him push past the hump for books he's not as interested in reading.

I want him to gain the confidence of succeeding. I could tell him how great he is from sunrise to sunset but unless I help him get some wins under his belt we will have issues with his confidence, that is the kind of kid I have. On the other hand, I take pleasure in helping him find books he enjoys. I am sure I am not the only one so, I thought I'd share some of my favorite literacy websites and bookstores .


1. Unabridged Books (Chicago)

The North-sides best bookstore. This place has everything. I often go there and browse the shelves to see what I discover. During a recent trip, I found, X: A novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. I had no idea that this existed and I am very excited to read it with my son. There are some great discussion questions in the back as well. Kekla Magoon also wrote, The Rock and The River, which BlerdHero read last year. The book was incredibly powerful and left a lasting impression on him. Aside from having a broad range of books, the staff atUnabridged are extremely helpful. The bookstore is also in the midst of a beautiful neighborhood with lots to enjoy. There is an excellent pastry shop named Vanille next door with spectacular macaroons. It is always my next stop after getting some books. There are also some great restaurants, mainly sushi, in walking distance.

2. 57th Street Books (Chicago)

The southside's best bookstore. I love this place for all the same reasons I love unabridged. I have found more great kids reads here than any other place in the city. This bookstore has the added benefit of being near the University of Chicago, The Dusable Museum, and Museum of Science and Industry. The University of Chicago has a few museums that are ideal for exploration. During the summer, we wonder to one of the nearby parks, which has more grassy areas than the northside and relax.

Websites: Ths website helps you look up the Lexile level of just about any book and search for books by Lexile level. is my go to for determining how challenging a book will be for BlerdHero. I find myself on it about once every two weeks.

Usborne: Usborne books were my first love as a homeschooler. Their website is ideal for exploring books for a broad range of age levels and interest areas. I like this publishing company because they are not afraid to tackle complex science topics for young readers. The website includes links to online resources by subject area. You can even take quizzes and watch videos, all of this gave me a little insight into what education is like in England, where the company is located. Review and Coding Resources

A few seasons ago I attended a coding event hosted at the local Apple store. There wasn't a whole lot to the event, Apple employees helped participants work thru a Hour of Code module while in the store. It was well attended and organized, every participant received headphones and a certificate of completion. Overall, I thought the event was very successful and provided my first introduction to

I all started with my absurdly early arrival to the Apple Store for a kids Coding Event. We had a full HOUR to spare while we waited for our time slot. I wondered around aimlessly for half the time of course because the store is magical but eventually of found myself on the website. Jackpot: I found a list of free workshops for educators that welcomed home educators. The SIX HOUR workshop I would attend later that week isdesigned to help educators understandhow to teach coding and how the website can help.

I wasshocked the event was even open to home educators. Usually they are not. And it was free. A FREE SIX HOUR TRAINING. Can't beat that. I walked in already impressed I will admit but the training itself was absolutely spectacular.

 I can not say enough about how knowledgeable and professional our trainer was. I learned a lot about the resources the site makes available for teachers. There are complete lesson plansand what's called "mat/floor activities". These activities are designed to teach basic coding principles AWAY from the screen. We practiced teaching a concept to the group, then discussed the challenges we faced.

I felt very supported as an educator in the training and fully capable of teaching coding when I left the room, a far cry for the worried momma I was when I signed up. I am not unfamiliar with coding and I have tried teaching my son to code with a few coding websites and one great book but nothing has worked as well as because of the additional support the website makes available. The videos that are incorporated into modules are also great conversations starters because they showcase what real people do with their knowledge of coding, even if they end up becomingsomething else like a professional basketball player.

So far we have done exactly four floor activity andall have beensplendid. They felt like a little game the two of us were playing. We laughed and talked, it was slightly enchanted.

Some other benefits of the training: goodies and some pride. I am very much Team after the training.  Participants spoke very highly of the organization and the founder. There was even a teacher there sporting gear he ordered. Yes, I was very impressed that he liked the organization enough to go and buy gear.  

At this point in our coding journey is the right program for us because it is the most engaging for my son and supports me as an instructor because truth be told I had no idea how to teach this subject to him.  I have tried other great programs that just haven't worked for us as well. Here is a list of a few programs (and two books) that we have tried. I put the books first because I like them both. The first book, I one I recently found at Barnes and Noble, is a workbook and I am currently obsessed it,  I wish it was much bigger. Writing out code is invaluable especially for kids that are easily distracted once computers come on.  The second it one that I liked and may return to in the future but it's not suitable for us right now.  

DK Workbooks: Computer Coding (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming

RoboMind Academy


If you are not interested in a semi-formal/formal coding course there are about a zillion apps and webpages that have activities.  Apartment Therapy has a great list. I am excited to see Sphero made this list. I have been wanting to test this out as a learning tool since the first time I saw it. That desire only intensified after checking out the webpage. Process with caution, this will jump on your must have list and if your anything like me that list is already long.

Say Whaaa?: A lesson on Questions

Given our political climate I decided to make a strong commitment to focus on critical thinking and research skills this year in order to raise a strong independent thinker.  We are doing a year long themester on narratives. 

Vocabulary Words

Open-ended Questions - questions that will solicit additional information.

Closed-ended Questions - questions that result in "yes" or "no" responses.

Assumption/Assuming - an assuming that something is true

Imply - to express (something) in an indirect way : to suggest (something) without saying or showing it plainly

Bias - an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially :  a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment :  prejudice c :  an instance of such prejudice d (1) :  deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) :  systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others

I recently taught a few lessons on questions as part of our unit on research. I decided to start here so he has the tools for critical analysis and the vocabulary for discussion and writing. First, we listened to the Big Universe, Big Questions episode of Brains On!. I choose this episode because many of our science lessons last year focused on space and because interviews are a form of research.

I used the Socratic method of teaching for things like this because I have found it to be the most effective method for fostering critical thinking. Each lesson has vocabulary words. He is required to write the vocabulary words and be able to use them in written and verbal responses.

Conversation Questions:

  • We have learned about two types of questions, Open-ended & Closed; Which type of question was used most often during the podcast?
  • If you met a friend at the park what type of questions would you ask? Why that type of question? Can you give me two examples of questions you might ask?
  • Why is it important to do research before conducting an interview?
  • Do you think assumptions are always bad?
  • How can assumptions influence the questions you create?
  • Do you think bias is always bad?
  • How can bias influence the questions you create?
  • Bias is a systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others. What do you think that means? 


Listen to the podcast again. This time stop to talk about new observations using the new vocabulary.

Write each vocabulary word and a definition in your own words.

Write 5 interview questions, examine your questions for assumptions and bias. Are they closed or open? Do they imply anything, if so examine what they imply and how it may effect the interview.

Our minds are great at filling in the spaces others leave behind, but do we have the critical thinking skills to really examine what we are being told and the purpose the narrative serves?



That Never Ends

Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. A circle of friends that never ends.....

I have very strong feelings about friendship. Growing up the only black girl besides my sister in Indiana meant I didn't have many. I remember telling my mother, I wanted one. Just one, one friend who would be like a sister. I thought this was a reasonable request. As a mother, I haven't forgot my childhood request or helplessness around maintaining friendships outside the proximity of school.

This weekend I drove to see my son. I was determined bordering on possessed. Duty had taken hold of me. It has been almost two years since we moved to Chicago. In that time my son has relentlessly made the same request: to see his close friend again. I honestly was not sure if his friends mom would be interested in maintaining their friendship and building ours, I wasn't sure how he would handle it if I tried and failed. I thought in time he would forget. He didn't. If anything with each passing month his resolve grew. No new friends could replace the old. 

He doesn't have a cell phone or a car. He can't follow thru on plans. It is my job to help him maintain his friendships. And so I drove to help them reunite. They played happily for four hours, time and distance are no match for true friendships. As for his friends mom and I, we talked the entire time. We took pictures of our smiling boys and set the intention of meeting again. I felt such an intense amount of relief and joy.

I drove a total for 10 hours in a 26 hours period so I could ensure that interaction. As a drove my son back to his dads, where he spends a portion of his summer, we sat in silence. He could barely keep his eyes open after a full day of play. He told me stories about their adventures between trips to slumberland.

He has a circle of good friends and I am excited to watch it grow.



A Whimsical Science Wonderland

I have been thinking a lot about updating my son's room with the theme: whimsical science wonderland. The space is really important because since we home-school he spends a great deal of time snuggled with good books especially in the wintertime. Growing up my room reflected none of my personal style and I always resented it. I think a kids room should look and feel like a kids place. It has endless possibility for facilitating healthy mental development.

Here is a little inspiration board I put together for the room update:

BUGS by James Barker Illustration

DosFamily - This link also contains really helpful information about decorating a kids room.

My Scandinavian Home



To the Center of the Kids Bedding

Mini & Beau


Painted Sticks




Introducing Your Young Scientist to Physics with a Bang!

It's only once a year but it's well worth the wait. Last week we had the pleasure of attending the Physics with a Bang! program at the University of Chicago. The FREE program is designed to introduce physics to young children. It was a loud action packed show, full of explosions, makeshift rockets, and fire. 

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