Back to School: Parent Edition

Are you excitedly awaiting for back to school? Your kids have eaten you out of house and home? A couple of them you’re not sure what to do? I get it! Rejoice! It’s back to school time! So I’ve written a blog for how you can your kids ready for back to school. It was filled with all great and helpful suggestions. I am quite proud of that piece, but now it’s time to shift gears for the parents. Yes the parents.

I told you how you can get the kids successful but it’s the parents turn! You are the one in charge of you and helping you get ready for back to school first helps the kids get aligned!

Plan Early

Listen I’ve had some years where I’ve gotten supplies last-minute. It happens for various reasons but plan and do as much as you can early enough to cut down on anxiety. I for one will bargain hunt for supplies. So for me aligning sales is important to me. It’s important to know that I’m saving money. Let’s keep it real, having 3 kids means that back to school expenses expensive. I’ve never understood my parent’s life until recent years. I as a child just thought parents just went to the store, paid and rolled. I had no clue until I had my own that there is work to be able to do it all!! Shout out to parents who are trying to do their best.

Make a list and come up with a plan to attack school uniforms, supplies, tuition and back packs. It’s imperative to figure out as early as possible your game plan of attack!

Look over previous report cards

Although it would seem that this is exclusively for your child to do, learning to see trends will assist you as the parent to outsource help. It’s not ashamed to not know something it’s a shame to not do all you can to identify ways to make your child as successful as they can be. This may mean helping to fine tune their skill sets. We noticed a few lacks in concentration and so we started taking it back with practice work to help our children get better in that area. There are several sites that offer free printouts. Also you should have been tuning in often times the previous teacher is a great place to start. We had the kids start their Summer assignments early. We also increased reading and I looked online for other books to add to the reading list.

Get the Kids on their early back to school 3 weeks or more

We used to wait until the week before school and then send them to bed early and wake them up like a test run. This year outside of a few movie nights we have kept them on the same schedule. We didn’t even implement our normal Summer schedules. They are in camp all day and it’s easier for them and in reality for us. So far with us doing that and making them keep after camp studying at least 2 days a week it’s been helpful. My son is zooming through his sight words and our daughter is arising to the occasion in her work. It sounds harsh but some kids can’t really break too much and for the parents the house can have that well deserved rest time!!

Reorganize

It’s important for you to either place a station or two aside for the kids ahead of time for paperwork. One of the worst things is getting a slew of papers and have no clear direction of where it is. Our kids school don’t play and will give you an eye roll if you request another copy. I used to get so mad if they gave me an attitude. I soon stepped back and realized the lesson is helping the kids understand that you don’t always get the chance to fix things. I also started making copies or scanning forms. This way I didn’t have to bother with things. We never let on to our kids that we had the back up. We would depending on what it was give a consequence like delayed electronic use for having us assist in obtaining or using the back up.

Attitude Check

We all know back to school is coming. There is zero no reason to be upset, frustrated and upset that money is going to have to be spent. Even if your child is public school there will be money to be spent. You can attend a free back to school event in your town if you need it. However adjusting your attitude will help your child to adjust as well. They are relying on you to show them the ropes. Having a good attitude in general is helpful! Trust me going from this:

Versus this:

You decide!! So may your wallet be blessed, your nerves settled as we all push onward and upward towards our children education. Also may your wine glasses be bountiful as the time draws near!!

College Final Words

So when I graduated I was the happiest person in the world.  I thought about every stressful situation, every heartache, every defeat, every victory and it made me realize just how strong I was to get through it all.  I was happy to finally have my degree.  The very next semester I cried walking in a Walmart because there was no more school.  I know I am a rare person most folks would have rolled over and slept or even just went to work but I didn’t.  College had really been so much fun and a place for me to learn about myself.

I literally wouldn’t be the woman I am had I not gone through the experience.  It helped me to see others for who they really were too.  One of the biggest things I got from Penn State outside of the education was a lifetime supply of friends. College isn’t for everyone. I don’t look down on anyone who hasn’t gone. It seems like a party all the time but it’s not. It’s hard work.  There are many students who start out and don’t finish.  I would be lying if I told you that there were many days I wanted to quit.  I cried a lot.  I was stressed.  I had disappointing times.  End of the day it was something that I wanted so I fought and won.  If you want to take the journey into college whether that’s community classes, a big or small university or college it’s your choice to make.  Make sure to be clear what you want and if you decide to change your mind that’s fine too, but be sure and prepared to do the work to graduate.  To some college is just a piece of paper but I call it the proving grounds. If you are a graduate of higher education do NOT let anyone make you feel bad for attending.  You did the work and like me may even be a first generation college student. I had many people tell me how stuck up I was.  I had people say I thought I was too good.  I wasn’t.  I simply made my plan and with detours in the way made it happen.

To incoming freshman embrace this new life you are about to embark on.  It is the most challenging and most rewarding one yet.

My last key things to remember:

Breaks: It doesn’t matter if its Fall, Spring or Holiday breaks take them.  Try to spend time with family but also go on one trip with your new friends.  It is the time to have a blast so don’t waste it sitting on campus unless you are working getting your coins.

Meal Plans: I had one of the biggest meal plans but like most colleges they have places off campus where you can use them and of course they eat up your points.  Try to do this every now and again or prepare to eat Ramen noodles and spaghetti O’s.

Refunds: It seems like a big check in the beginning but once you account for all of your needs during the semester which will also include entertainment try to budget especially if you don’t have a job or work-study.

Image result for ramen noodle gif

Off Campus Apartments: Make sure you either have a reliable car or get familiar with the bus system in your town.  Make sure that you pick convenient living arrangements.

Roommates: Do not always choose your closest friends to live with.  I did and had no issues but just because you are friends does not mean you can live with one another. I have seen friendships end fast.  You do not know how another person lives.  I was a neat freak it drove my roommates crazy but we were able to live together.

Romance: If you read my college blogs you know that I ended up marrying my college sweetheart but not everyone ends up with that love story.  Make sure the one you decide to make public and date on campus is on the same page.  Dating should never interfere with your grades.  So if you are dating someone who is encouraging you to let your grades slack you already know what to do.  You both came to get an education so get it.  Be balanced.  Yo do not need  to be joined at the hip.  Separate us time, me time, friends time, school time, and maybe work time.  This is practice for when you get into the real world or get married its the same expectations.  If you were interested in certain activities continue them. Keep the campus folks out of your business.  Rumors spread faster on campuses so be aware of what you allow out.

Laundry: Many students do not take laundry into account. Most campuses have machines that take cards, points or some type of monetary exchange.  Please consider the options. Mom and dad love you but no wants to see a semester worth of clothes coming home.

 

 

 

 

 

Chug, Chug, Chug-College Style

So yes as I stated in my other college related blogs I didn’t start drinking until at least end of sophomore or early junior year.  I won’t name my supplier since I wasn’t of age. Now this is where all parents fear comes in the most.  Kids and alcohol don’t always mix.  Let me say off the bat that drinking responsibly is drinking of age and not to get drunk.  Let me say I didn’t follow those rules so let me tell you some of the things that I got into as a result of that. This is anti drink message. This is a make your own choices message.  This is a be in control of yourself message.  I’m not about to tell folks what they should or shouldn’t and I know me and my freinds have stories for days about the things we all did while drinking.  Drinking is a personal choice but be prepared like with all things to handle the responibilities and consequences of drinking.

Let me reassure any friends that this is not a time for me to drop dimes.  Keep in my mind this will come only from my perspective but for the rest of the world I didn’t drink alone. Now that we got that out in the air, drinking at first was to taste the alcohol.  I really did enjoy alcohol.  I was a baby drinker.  I would order when it came time for me to order and ask for pina coladas, rum and cokes because it was something I could order and not look inexperienced even though I really was. The first time I drank I was on campus and the intention was for me to get someone else drunk and it didn’t work.  She kept her cool and to be honest I don’t even think she drank that night.  Me and another friend did and did and did.  We weren’t sloppy drunk but we were drunk.  Now let me hip freshman and newbies to what could have happened.  We could have been caught drinking under age in a campus dormitory and gotten into serious trouble.  Thankfully we didn’t.

There were many stories of times where I drank to get totally wasted.  I mean like couldn’t fully remember what happened.  That put me so many bad situations.  Shout out to my friends who definitely had a system where one of us had to be semi sober to keep the others in line.  I hadn’t heard too many stories between friends where women were being raped while the other friend was there and was too drunk to see what happened.  Drinking and over drinking to the point of getting drunk seems fun to a certain extent.  I never needed alcohol to have a good time.  Let me be clear I enjoyed dancing and socializing without out.  However I played many a beer pong games, and other college related drinking games so I’m not about to front on that.  As I got older I still drank but it wasn’t the same level.  I  as an adult can’t remember the many times I drank to get drunk like I did in college. Again it was my choice and a choice where I had to be sure I could handle the responsibilities of that choice.  Looking at it now I could say yes but reality is if I was arrested or put off campus I would have been devastated.

If you are a parent talk to your kids about being safe while on campus.  You won’t be there to stop them from drinking but you can instill in them the dangers that can happen if they do.  If you are a student make it up in YOUR mind what you want to do.  Never drink to please a man or a woman.  Trust me if someone is pressuring you to drink they are going to pressure you for other things such as sex.  So be careful.  Be your own person.  I was with friends who didn’t drink because that wasn’t their thing.  Outside of us attempting to get our one friends drunk, we didn’t push the issue.  If you were one who went to college and didn’t drink kudos to you.  Drinking or not drinking is a personal choice.  I wouldn’t look down for either choice.  However there are many pitfalls such as getting addicted or drinking to have fun.  If you have to drink to have fun that’s just whack.  You are a wonderful person.  You don’t need drinks to make you more beautiful, more energetic or to be more social.  Learn what you like before you allow alcohol to enter the picture.  Then it becomes a choice and not something you do just to be fun.  Fun is in your mind and how you engage. Remember beer goggles are real.   Beer and alcohol goggles are what you use to see things and trust the vision is always distorted. Many men for my ladies will prey on you.  They see easy written on your face.  Always have a system in place.  Never let yourself get too wasted.

One important thing is date rape.  I spoke briefly on this before but please ladies realize that a man can and will take advantage of you.  I’m not saying all men but some will.  Do not take drinks from someone who didn’t make that drink in front of you.  I don’t care how much you can trust them.  I know on college there is always big tubs of drinks already mixed so you take a risk but be careful.  I went to a party that served Ever Clear in a baby pool.  No lie it was in a baby pool where people were just dipping their cups into it and drinking.  I literally watched as some people appeared to just drink and then others were adding things.  How do you add anything to Ever Clear?  Like it seriously was already a strong drink.  So be careful.  I drank what I wanted and moved right along.  Keep in mind too that baby pool had everyone’s hand in it.  What I told myself and my friends know that my rule is alcohol kills the germs.  I don’t know the realness of that statement but it’s what I lived by.

College is designed to encourage drinking.  There are many specials on campus that cater to students.  I remember many wonderful drinking establishments that only my Penn Staters would know and I still go and get even to this day and they are nice and cheap. College kids are broke people.  So that is why many get together to combine funds to get the alcohol.  That doesn’t mean just becuase you put in with someone that they have to be the ones that pour.  Also on campus will have drinks for like $2 a piece.  On Penn State campus alone if you got $10 you can get a pitcher of long island and some Pokey sticks and be good for the evening.  Drinking does add up so be aware of that.

Be aware that you must know where you stand on this topic before you go.  You can and will change your mind if you want but always keep safety as your number one forefront.  I would suggest the following:

  1. Always have cab fare or now Uber and Lyft.  Be aware of your surroundings at all times.  You can still be assaulted even in a cab.
  2. Get drinking friends who are accountable.  Meaning its more than just a designated driver but a designated watcher that kind of keeps everyone in line.  It’s almost like the Bad Boy movie, we leave together we come home together.
  3. Drink and know your limits.  I would attempt to overindulged when I was in a safe place that if I did fall asleep it was with close friends that we had already discussed their house being the safe haven before hand.
  4. Watch who you take drinks from.  If possible get your own drinks.  Do not allow anyone to make you drink anything you do no want.
  5. Safety is first.  Always have your own back.  Make sure you are ready to accept the responsibilities of drinking before you start.  Don’t think it can’t happen to me because it can and will.

 

Picture Perfect, College Blunders

I said I would speak about my personal downfalls and so here we go.  Today will be raw and as real as it gets.  In college one of the balances that many will face is the balance of what parents and administrators want along with the plan that the student themselves want.  If you grew up in a home that I would call strict and a preacher’s kid you already know that the stress of keeping up with a certain image is key.  Now before we go because there will be someone reading this thinking that I blame my upbringing or my church etc. for my story and I do NOT.  I take full responsibility however in that responsibility the truth is the truth that we have to watch the pressure that we put on kids to become what we want and not support them as they find what they want.

So again freshman year was my most moving year.  I really was trying to find my own but in order to do that I had to deal with the real me. Not the 4.0 person everyone else came to know.  Not the highly responsible Toi that folks was expecting me to be.  So as I was excited to get my college career started I had to hit quite a few pit falls and the first was going to be me hitting me.  When I was younger like most kids I lied.  Yes if I was afraid and wasn’t able to face my consequences I lied. When you become an adult if you don’t check those childhood annoyances, you can become an adult who lies too.  Now again this is me being raw and out there.  I have the full support of my husband by which this story affects the most.  Anybody else you can continue to chew on the gossip and eat on.  For those who have an ear, hear the message and the testimony.

In my freshman year going to school I was told to keep myself for marriage.  I hadn’t even 3rd base with my high school sweetheart.  Too scared that I would get pregnant or an STD. Got to shout out to my parents for making sure I was chase while under their roof.  So as a preachers kid sex wasn’t discussed in open healthy ways.  It was discussed in ways that would evoke the fear of God in your soul.  However after keeping the fear going I decided to make my OWN decisions.  My now husband and I had been seeing each other secretly not really telling our closest friends who knew anyway.  We were a tight 4 some.  So I’m sure they could see that he and I were taking our relationship to the next levels.  It was quite some time before we made the decision to have sex. And let me be clear although it’s not anyone’s business but helps to set the stage of what I am about to say, it was I who set the encounter up.  Yep I told him we were going to play video games at his dorm.  Ha when I think of that now its quite funny.  He was my first.  He never pressured me in any way to have sex with him. We were taking things slow but I was ready.  I made that decision not thinking of others but what I really wanted.  So after the initial decision was made, it was clear that we were entangled with one another.  However one day I made the most awful decision to lie.  We had gotten caught by my roommate.  Instead of just taking the embarrassment on the chin I lied.  I made it sound without coming out and saying he raped me that he had forced me when reality he hadn’t.  I quickly cleared his name but the damage was done. To be honest he shouldn’t have even dealt with me further but he said he understood why I said it.  To say I was embarassed was an understatement but my husband he was humilated.  I felt so sick to my stomach.

My parents weren’t as forgiving towards him.  They took it as I stated and although I tried to clear things up with them they weren’t biting it.  So we snuck around and still saw each other.  He never wanted to be in the secret about our relationships which made it hard for us on campus as well.  He and I dated until we hit a bump in the road that was unrelated to my lie.  SO yes I lied.  I was scared and just like a toddler who is learning I reverted to what I knew to keep my reputation in tack.  However you know how this works, I wasn’t 4 I was an adult who knew better.  I had to make it right with all parties.  To this day for those who never knew and for those who thought they did that’s what happened in October 1999. Now its 2016 and I still have some folks who haven’t moved on.  They aren’t my husband who I have been married to now for 4 years.  They aren’t even my parents who love my husband.  The ones holding onto it wasn’t even my roommate or close friends who were on campus.  It’s literally a bunch of adults who I don’t associate with.  Go figure.  You see I learned to address me and my demons when I couldn’t hide behind my upbringing or church.  I had to deal with me.

When you come out of the shadows there is going to be slander. Even now I have heard that I was bisexual which I have never been.  I heard even from close folks that I had men swinging in and out of my house which wasn’t true and makes me think, man where was I to enjoy that?  I’m not saying I was an angel after college but I always protected myself and attempted to keep things on the up and up.  How could I not after that?  So for all the lovely folks that think they know me they don’t.  I have no problems speaking my truths. I have no problems saying my pitfalls.  Here are the lessons for my college students and beyond.

  1. Never lie.  Some folks will never see the truth in you.  Even after making it right there are some who wrote me off.  That is to be expected.  I’m glad for the family and friends who can see your faults and still love you and accept you.  We all got skeletons in the closet, so while the ones that I have come full frontal the ones that were speculating mine may need to worry about their own.  I have done the work and continue to do the work to be upstanding for my family.  If God and my husband who didn’t have to marry me and since we were friends first he knew about the very core of me and still loves me daily, all others can have several seats.
  2. Figure out what you want in life and don’t be afraid to go after that.  No I’m not talking about sex.  In my situation it wasn’t about my personal decision in having sex or not it was about worrying about others.  My whole life up to a few years ago when I learned to say oh well, I was so caught up in people’s perception of me.  Let me help someone who is struggling with that.  Live life on your terms and have God be your judge.  Do you see how people are STILL holding me accountable for things done in my late teens and 20’s.  I could easily be brittle in my spirit and at one point I was. I had to learn that folks will view you from the mirror they choose.  It’s not my job to convince.  This is with accepting and taking my lumps for anything I have done.  You don’t get to say don’t judge and still be the old you, you have to change and I have.
  3. Do not allow folks who don’t have a paying seat in your life hold you down. There are some folks who again have no personal dealings with any decisions that I have ever made.  Think about that.  The ones chirping the most didn’t have to bear my sins but guess what they were still acting like poor me I can’t believe she was young and dumb.  We were all young and dumb.  I do not regret not one decision made.  I am happy it happened-all of it.  The ones I write about and the ones I don’t.
  4. Finance yourself.  Parents hold your breath but I am about to help you and your student out.  There are people who go through years of college for majors and lives that you as a parent want for your child.  Please allow them to figure it out.  Why go through 4 years of college pursuing a dream that doesn’t make them feel fulfilled.  It is torture.  Your child doesn’t need to be carbon copy of what YOU want.  Learn to help foster them into the life THEY want.  Student this may sound mean but you will have to finance your dreams.  Things will not be handed to you.  I worked 3 jobs and took a 19 credit course at one point to make sure I didn’t have to run to my parents for help.  It wasn’t pride it was determination.  I wanted to have what I wanted and knew their standards wouldn’t match mine so I made it happen.  Was it hard?  You better believe it. I even changed majors half way through and had to take courses in the summer but I graduated on time in 4 years.  I refused to be on Penn State campus beyond 4 years so I worked my behind off.  No hand outs.  No nothing just tears, hard work, and sleepless nights.  That same work ethic helped me to press through even with a sick child that was born early, go to work on 20 minutes of sleep and still provide with no real assistance.  Again life is hard you make the best of it.

College doesn’t have to be hard but it will be challenging.  Besides the academics you will face yourself.  You will find out things that mommy and daddy can’t teach you. Experience good or bad will be the push that makes you great or makes you crumble.  I decided even with folks talking that I was going to push. I thank my friend the fabulous 4 and my other PSU friends who kept encouraging me not to transfer. They are still some of the best in the world to me when it comes to awesome relationships.  You know who you are I won’t shout you out.  To my husband who saw my worth when others said don’t fool with her, you the real MVP. You stuck by me through it out and should we go left you know I will still love you.  We are friends first and that type of love will endure even scandal.  

To my kids, know that I will be as open to you about what I learned in college just like my parents were with me about life.  I didn’t live in a sugar-coated household and I don’t raise mine like it either.  

To the family and friends who have written me off, that’s your choice.  I have love for all but I have changed whether you see it or not.  That’s your lost not to be around an awesome woman like myself.  I can’t change the past but I surely can learn from it and be better.

To my readers, life is about choices.  Make the best of them for you.  If you too have things in your closet that someone wants to hold you to, own it and do a Kanye shrug. What you gonna do, cry forever?  Not over here!!

College, The One Time I Failed

So I have had straight A’s since the second grade.  Even the raggedy 5th grade teacher that I had that attempted to change my grades because I was just “going to have babies anyway,” couldn’t stop my drive.  I took and graduated from the International Baccalaureate program at my high school.  I was apart of the first class of graduates from the program.  I had been wined and dined by many colleges but I decided to go to Pennsylvania State University. I was offered a full scholarship and with other local scholarships my college was financially was looking great.

My first day on campus I was a nervous wreck.  I really enjoyed the happy environment that “happy valley” showed me.  I already knew a few people on campus and so for a freshman I was feeling myself. I felt like I had the social life down.  I didn’t but that’s how I felt.  So as time passed and we had that extended weekend to get settled, and meet new people it was time for classes to begin.  So I walked into my classes so ready to learn and meet new challenges.  However when I stepped into my math class it really made me rethink why I had come to college to begin with.  This teacher was from another planet.  He just went too fast and I couldn’t grasp the information.  He had to classes were like 50 minutes and he meant to “teach” you in that little bit of time.  At Penn State he might have taught 10 more classes that day the same way.  It really was a huge campus and we all had to have this class for our general education requirements.

I will call this math teacher Richard.  It’s no where what his actual name was but Richard will do.  Richard was a hard teacher.  He had been teaching for years but it was something about his teaching style initially that I didn’t like.  So I knew I was going to have to work harder in this one.  Math was never my favorite but I excelled in it before. As I knew I hadn’t gotten the first lesson, I just kept going  I of course got a little cocky.  Here I was a student who had competed with students all around the world and still found success so I didn’t study hard.  I did minimal work and then that first exam came, I failed it!  Not even like barely passed failed, nope like the type of fail where I’m sure the points I had gotten was for getting my name right.  I had never failed at anything and I didn’t tell anyone about it initially.

To some students it would be no big deal however for a student like me I was devastated.  I remember me not saying anything for the first day of receiving my grade.  I was shocked, afraid and in the back of my mind I kept thinking I was going to lose my scholarship.  I did the most hardest thing ever and that was call my parents.  I didn’t even speak.  My mom gave her normal what’s up buttercup line and I just started crying. She couldn’t even understand what I was saying. I could hear her mom voice about to go into extra because the way I cried you would have thought I was physcially hurt.  I hadn’t been on campus a month. Once I got settled and finally told her what happened she was like okay calm down. She told me to go and meet with the teacher during office hours and ask for extra help. She told me that college wasn’t high school.  She reminded me that I was on campus with a million other kids that are scholars in their own right and I was going to have to work smarter not harder.  My dad agreed and told me I would be alright.  He said go get yourself together and do what I had to do.  I did.

I met with the teacher and passed that class with an A.  Go figure.  I couldn’t rely on my smarts, I had to work.  I wasn’t the top of my class.  At Penn State I was one of…. I had to humble myself and learn the new way of learning.  I wasn’t in a small town with small classes of kids I had been in school with forever.  The main campus where I attended had thousands of undergrad and graduates.  So it helped me to fail that class.  I learned about all of the academic support that was available.  I learned to navigate better.  I was able to see my weakness for the first time.  That lesson has helped me in my personal life.  I’ve bad many trials in my life, but I am able to know that I can’t do it all.  There will be times where I will need help and it’s okay to speak up.  If you are in college, thinking about college, or a freshman please learn to utilize all academic support.  They come in handy for many classes.  They can help with papers, etc.  They are an endless wealth of assistance but you have to be willing to go to them.  It worked out in the end for my good.  I may have had more challenging classes since then but I didn’t fail in more exams becasue I learned how to get it together.