Even though you're growing up, you should never stop having fun." -Nina Dobrew
One of our family values is having fun. I must admit I have to schedule fun, but my husband Bryan is the spontaneous, fun guy in the family.
As a busy family of six (plus 1), fun as a couple and family takes intentionality. As a couple, we schedule regular date nights to connect. We love concerts, movies, walks, and attending basketball games together.
We also try new things to see if we can find something new that we both enjoy. Bryan is definitely more adventurous with our date choices. For example, we've gone to the gun range and attended the Professional Bull Riding (PBR) tour for a date. I agreed to try both of these, but I quickly found that they are not for me.
I actually had an enjoyable time at the PBR tour, that is, until the bull won and stomped the man's head. That was it for me--I couldn't take the level of danger the men were putting themselves in.
As a couple, we work hard to make time for each other, and we must do the same for family time. My kids are involved in several after-school activities. We often go in opposite directions, so family fun must get planned on the schedule.
As a family, we love to laugh and enjoy each other. Every Friday night is movie night. This tradition started at the beginning of the Pandemic. It has been an excellent way for all of us to connect after a busy week of running around.
Bryan spoils the kids by bringing them Bubble Tea and ice cream. We also like to have fun at the pool or beach. The beach is one of our family's favorite places to relax and unwind.
Never ever underestimate the importance of having fun." Randy Pausch
And, of course, there's nothing like the family completing a 1000-piece puzzle, card, or board game. We love the competition and camaraderie that comes with having fun together.
How much fun have you had with your family lately? If you can't think of anything, don't worry. Plan or do something spontaneous today!
If you need help to think of something, here's a list of 101 ideas that you can implement.
Picking Celia up from the airport in September!
We had four months to prepare for our exchange student’s arrival. Celia arrived from Germany in September and will live with us for the entire school year. For her to adjust well to our family and avoid frustrations, I felt she needed to understand our family values, rules, and expectations before she arrived.
Our family values guide how we function, and I wanted Celia to understand what’s most important to our family. If you were to be a fly on the wall of our home and observe our family, I believe that you would be able to decipher the following values that we try to live by:
Love & Respect Each Other
If It’s In Your Power, Do Good for Others
Honesty & Integrity Matter
Service is Leadership
Watch Your Mouth - Use Respectful Language
Watch Your Eyes - Guard Your Heart by Filtering What you Watch
Use & Grow Your Gifts
Resolve Conflicts (Murray Court is Available)
Family Time is Important
Once we shared our values with Celia, I discussed house rules and expectations. Our family functions like a team, and everyone contributes to the house. We rotate chores and cooking dinners (I don’t cook on the weekend). When I buy groceries, everyone’s expected to come to help put the food up in the kitchen. Teamwork--common courtesy guides our family eco-system.
Obviously, education is expected to be completed at the highest level. All the kids are responsible for getting themselves up in the morning and crafting their schedules to complete their schoolwork promptly. I expect school work to get done on time and for each child to regulate their break sessions.
Sharing our rules, expectations, and family values have made Celia’s transition into our home very smooth. Before arriving at our house, she could decide if she could live by our ways, and she decided to join us.
So far, we’ve had a lot of fun and expect the entire year to go well!
Picking up Celia from the airport!
This school year, we welcomed Celia Grosß to live with our family as an exchange student from Germany. Celia is finishing her senior year in the U.S., homeschooling with my kids, and completing the college application process.
And yes, homeschooling is illegal in Germany, so it’s a good thing that Celia is now a dual citizen. It's awesome to be in a country that allows for educational freedom!
Homeschool Field Trip to the Botanical Gardens
It’s been enjoyable having Celia added to the family dynamics, especially since we dropped Jayda off at college this school year. She has filled in the gap of Jayda’s presence, giving me another child to help along the path of adulthood.
We often forget Celia was not raised in the U.S because she speaks excellent English with no German accent. In fact, not only did she learn English in school, but she taught herself how to speak like Americans by watching television shows like Nickelodeon. She is a very driven teen who has fully immersed herself in American culture.
Homeschool Field Trip to the Delta Fair
Another unique thing about Celia is that she is half-African American. Her dad is a U.S veteran that served in Germany. Although he did not raise her, she has always desired to connect to her African-American roots.
Being black in Germany gave Celia many challenging encounters with racism as she was usually the only black child in her class. I can often relate to Celia’s stories about growing up in a majority white space because I grew up in Oregon, where African-Americans were 1% of the population.
Celia's learning that I love to take pictures of everything!
I’m happy we can allow her to learn about Black culture and history. By living with us, we are giving her her first chance to live with a Black family that includes a father and mother--with three siblings.
And Celia is a quick learner--she is learning how to fend for herself in our big family.
Bear Learns to Share
I never imagined that my first published children's book would be a collaborative work with my teen daughters, Anaya 14 years old and Jayda Murray, 16 years old!
It was such a fun AND challenging process. I think my daughter Jayda had the toughest job because as the illustrator she had such a high learning curve when it came to formatting and designing the books.
So far there are two completed books, Bear Learns to Share Picture Book and Coloring Book. We are excited to say that a Spanish version and Activity book are in the works and will be available mid-December 2020!
I am sooo blessed to have such talented children--I'm already dreaming up what I can write with my boys.
How Was the Process?
As far as the process of working together, Anaya and I wrote the manuscript in a couple of weeks. I had a group of authors critique the story-line and then we revised it some. Once the story was solid, I sketched out some drawings for Jayda to work with and she did an incredible job of bringing the story to life.
I know for a fact that she grew tired of me and all the revisions we had to make. :) But we are already working on the next book, in the Bear Learns series, so I guess it wasn't too bad! LOL!!
What Has The Response Been Like?
We have been so encouraged with all the positive feedback and excellent reviews. One of the best parts of this process has been seeing how children are responding to the story--it has made all the work worth it and we can't wait to bring more books into the marketplace.
Check out the Amazon reviews here:
A few days ago I wrote a Facebook post about my boy's walking to the store and "the talk" that occurred prior to them leaving the house. I wanted to share it here along with some of the comments because it will give you more insight into my life as an African-American mother and maybe just maybe, make a difference for them in the future.
Facebook Post October 25, 2020
"My boys are walking to the grocery store for the first time since moving into our new neighborhood here in Memphis.
Why is this something to post about?
Well if you could have heard how we prepped them...Here is what we said:
The goal is to come home.
Don't get distracted, get to the store and come right back.
"So we don't look suspicious."
When you enter the store what should you do?
"Take off our hoodies and don't put our hands in our pockets."
If you're stopped by a police officer be respectful and what else?
"Keep our hands out front and don't reach for anything."
What if they ask for ID?
"We'll tell them, we're only 13 and that we are homeschooled."
Ok--we think you're ready.
"Mom, I'm a little nervous."
"Don't worry son, God is with you. Hold your head up high and walk to the store."
What do you say to your son when he walks to the store?
#raisingblackboys #raisingblackteens #conversationswithblackboys #imablackmother #GodProtectOurChildren
When they came home--I could breathe again!
As of today, this Facebook post has been shared over 50x's and it really it struck a chord with the public. Here are some of the comments--I'm hoping you will find them eye-opening and educational:
There is so much about parenting that is inherently frightening. I cannot imagine how heavy this extra burden of racism must be. I’m sorry and I want a better, safer, kinder society for these two boys and for all of us. We need to heal this ill. Thank you for the reminder. -Comment
Definitely an added burden. I mean walking to the grocery store shouldn't be so stressful. But my boys came back and said, "Mom, it was no big deal." And that's how it should be!--My Response
Had the same talk the first time my sons walked to the store. --Comment
Parenting is hard enough--I'm just glad they made it back home!--My response
We have had this conversation with our kids, my parents had it with us. We explained it is a cops job to look for suspicious behavior and investigate and that they have dangerous jobs. They are confronted daily with people who would rather do them harm than be obedient. So they are to be very respectful, obedient and keep their hands in plain sight. We cant assume they will u understand that we are safe people, no matter what we look like.--Comment
You are right, we can't assume they will think we are safe. But I've had a father falsely accused for being a wanted man by the FBI, I have been "arrested" as a teenager--accused falsely while being a straight A student and school president, cousin convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison, a cousin shot and killed in his own home for no reason, and the list goes on and on. The suspicion for black suspects has always been high in this country and the cost are even higher. That's why I had the talk with my sons---history.--My Response
My dear Ayanna, that was so heartfelt it put tears in my eyes.
May our Lord be w/ your boys and EVERY colored kid.
May our country one day become COLOR BLIND.--Comment
My heart is settling down, now that they made it back home safely. Yes, may God be with all our children.--My Response
It's so heartbreaking. Mine isn't that independent yet but have had the talk when she started making her own store transactions, even with me, especially with others, to keep her receipt until she got to the car.--Comment
Oh yea--I forgot about the receipt part---I'll remember that for next time!--My Response
#whiteprivilege the inequity it is beyond words that is what has to happen. Ill tell my son about cavities and crossing the street you have to tell yours how not to get shot. I can’t. Thank you for sharing this.--Comment
Yes cavities, crossing the street, and how not to look suspicious, how to interact with police in a way in which they will make it back home---and hope and pray that its enough. But my treasures are back home and all went well this time!--My Response
I’m literally tearing up. This conversation shouldn’t have to happen. But this conversation must happen. Thank you for sharing for those that don’t know about the talk.--Comment
I didn't want to have the conversation but I wasn't allowing my boys out the house to explore the neighborhood. It was time but wow--it's hard trying to have the balance of letting them know there is a potential for danger but not wanting them to live in fear.--My Response
What do you think about "The Talk?"
Photo by Alexander Dummer from Pexels
“All of us have a sense of wanting to ‘do something meaningful’ with our lives. We call this universal and powerful longing a Big Dream. And, like the genetic code that describes one’s unique passions and abilities, your child’s Big Dream has been woven into his or her being from before birth--therefore it never is quite like someone else’s Dream. In fact, your child’s unique makeup points toward his or her Dream. And as a parent, it is your privilege to help your child discover and shape his or her Dream.”
--Dream Giver for Parents by Bruce & Darlene Marie Wilkinson.
Tomatoes from My Garden
I have four children and every day I ask God to show me what He has placed inside them so that I can encourage their growth and curiosity. With my girls, I can see so much fruit but I’m still waiting to see what’s inside my boys.
Waiting doesn’t cause me to worry because as a novice gardener, I know that every plant bears fruit at different times, even if planted at the same time.
So in the meantime, I keep praying, watching, listening, observing, watering, and providing sunlight--waiting to see if I can get a glimpse of what’s to come.
Imagine living in a city like New York without the infrastructure of sanitation and trash pick up. Back in the 1920-30’s trash was a huge problem in New York. With so many people rushing to live in the city, trash was often dumped in the streets and rivers. The picture above gives you an idea of what a mess things were!
I mean have you ever stopped to think about what your town, city, or state would look and smell like if no one picked up your waste? Well in New York City trash is picked up daily and the waste is shipped off to several states and then put into landfills. Just think about how much money, planning, and infrastructure is needed to make this service run each day!
“I strongly believe that sanitation workers are the most important labor force on the streets of the city...They are the first guardians of public health. If they’re not taking away trash efficiently and effectively every day, it starts to spill out of its containments and the dangers inherent to it threatens us in very real ways. Diseases we’ve had in check for decades and centuries burst forth again and start to harm us.” Robin Nagle- What I Discovered in New York City TrashTed Talk
I for one admit that I have taken waste management for granted and never thought about the process until my trip to Haiti. During my time there, I was confronted with trash.
It was everywhere in Port au Prince. I mean mounds of trash and litter scattered throughout the city. Where did it all come from? Why wasn’t anyone picking it up?
I mean the canals were packed with plastic bottles, bags, and boy did I see a lot of Styrofoam! Kids were playing on top of it and women were selling fruits and vegetables near it.
Then I thought, what happens when it rains? Well, if it rains, the bacteria from the waste spreads into the water and soil, creating a river bed of trash that leads right into the ocean. The trash spreads and disease like Cholera spread.
My heart and mind were so conflicted about the trash problem that the first night in Haiti I penned the following poem in my journal:
"The rooster crows
Complex is actually an understatement. The problems in Haiti are monstrous but they are not the only country in the world struggling with trash. For places like Hong Kong, Cairo, and slums throughout Africa and India trash is a big problem.
So if you lived in a place like this, what would you do with all the trash? Some Haitians are not letting their circumstances defeat them--this is what I love about the Haitian people. They are expressing hope by turning the trash into treasure. Watch the following video to learn more:
You see some people look at the trash and shake their heads in disgust. Some shout from the rooftops “Cholera is coming” while not providing any solutions. And then some get close and help one family at a time to get out of the mess.
Papillon Enterprise is not only making use of recyclable materials but providing jobs for hundreds of families while 40% of the population is unemployed. This amazing business is taking care of the trash and circumventing the cycle of families sending their children off to live in orphanages.
Haiti’s trash is a symptom of many problems and I for one am not knowledgeable enough to tackle it by offering solutions. But as a new lover of the people, I believe that those who live abroad, can do something to help. If you’d like to help one person, one family rise above their current circumstances, please consider purchasing this beautiful Haitian jewelry from Papillon.
Another way we can move forward is to stop taking our sanitation services for granted. We should live with grateful hearts that we have the resources for proper and efficient waste management and pray for our brothers and sisters of many lands who aren't as privileged.
Robin Nagle in her Ted Talk encourages each of us to “In the flow of your days. In the flow of your lives, next time you see someone whose job is to clean up after you, take a moment to acknowledge them. Take a moment to say thank you.”
And last but not least--we should all try to live in a way where we learn ways to reduce our personal trash by recycling, composting, and reusing goods. If we all make more of an effort things can and will change around the world.
Period. Cycle. Bloody Buddy. Or what I call, Ms. Flow, visited me during my trip to Haiti. And why would I divulge such personal information? You'll see, just keep reading.
I was really stressed out the first day in Port au Prince because I was quite unprepared for Ms. Flow’s arrival. But after a quick trip to the grocery store I left with ample supply of expensive sanitary supplies.
Well, starting my cycle caused me to ask myself a very important question: If according to the World Food Programme
How are my unemployed Haitian sisters purchasing sanitary supplies for their menstrual cycle? I mean many families are struggling just to put food on the table, so what are they using?
I did not realize that by asking this question and typing in a google search on “poverty and menstruation” that I would be thrust into a the world-wide crises of menstrual management. You see girls and women around the world are struggling with managing their menstrual cycle.
Some are using old cloths, leaves, wool, feathers, foam, sand, corn husk….anything they can think of to help absorb blood when modern pads are not available or affordable.
Let’s just stop here and imagine the mess of leakage from using sand and feathers! If that’s not terrible enough, my research led me to finding out that some girls are actually selling their bodies in order to purchase pads so that they can stay in school or go to work. This is inconceivable and yet it is happening in the year 2016!
I never imagined it was such a problem and that there are organizations assisting women around the globe with this very issue. So as a result of Ms. Flow showing up uninvited during my trip to Haiti I am seeking out ways to help my sisters.
I want to know how I can assist in helping them get access to affordable sanitary napkins and possibly do some micro-financing so that they can earn income from the endeavor. Right now I’m just in the research phase but I’d encourage you to join me by doing one or all of the following:
3. Purchase sanitary pads or cups from organizations (Days for Girls , AfriPads , BeGirl . Ruby Cup ) who are supporting our sisters living in poverty.
4. Every time Ms. Flow shows up, say a prayer for your sisters around the world who are struggling with menstrual management. We need to stick together. Period.
My team’s purpose in Haiti was to travel to textile factories with Share Hope and educate the pregnant factory workers on how to protect themselves from the Zika virus. We were going to be presenting to over 300 women in the course of 6 days and we weren’t quite sure how to dress for the occasion.
In my mind, I didn’t want to be overdressed and thus communicate a social class difference. But I what I didn’t realize is that although 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, the Haitian people take a lot of pride in their appearance!
In fact, when our team arrived at the factory office we all felt under-dressed! The Her Health educators were dressed professionally and looked beautiful!
Needless to say, I was completely surprised by how well dressed the people were and at the amount of clothing on the streets of Haiti. As we drove around Port au Prince I was thinking “Where on earth did all these clothes come from?”
That’s when I learned about Pepe or the journey of second hand clothing from the United States. So as I understand it, when thrift stores like the Goodwill and Salvation Army get rid of clothes they sell them to companies who buy them in bulk. These companies then sort the clothing and put them in huge pallets to sell to developing countries around the world.
In many cases, Haitian Americans living in the States, buy the clothing in bulk and then ship it to Haiti so that the local people can buy and sell them in the markets.
It seemed like every main street was filled with people selling these items. I saw a lot of cute designer clothes and shoes and trust me, the next time I travel to Haiti, I will be dressed cute!
From June 20-25th, I traveled to Haiti with five other women to partner with Share Hope’s Her Health Education program. There was so much that I witnessed and so I’ve decided to write a series of post as a way for me to share what I encountered during my brief time Port au Prince.
Now before we arrived in Haiti, several team members expressed concern about us driving ourselves. You see, just because we all could handle driving in Manhattan's rush hour traffic, did not qualify us for driving in Port au Prince. I’m so glad we hired a driver because driving was definitely a cross-cultural experience!
First, many streets had huge pot holes, traffic lights seemed almost non-existent, and lane divisions were not clearly outlined. In some parts of the city, traffic was so crazy that at any point, another vehicle could be going in the opposite direction but headed directly towards you in your lane. And although it appeared chaotic, the people knew how to navigate the streets and get from point A to point B without killing each other or road rage! New Yorkers could learn a lot from the Haitian drivers!
What I found interesting was that although the streets were crowded with vehicles, according to the World Factbook of Haiti, only 5 out of 1000 people own vehicles. Most Haitians travel by motorcycle or tap taps which are colorful buses and trucks which serve as public transportation. For a ride, the people pay about 25 cents and travel throughout the city.
I have lot's to share about my time in Haiti, so make sure to check out the other post in this series!
I've been married to my best friend Bryan Murray since the year 2000. Now we have four incredible children and a super full life with extended family and friends.