Much Ado About Nothing

By Zerline Hughes

Summer is all about relaxing, having fun, and breaking from schedule – that is, for the first two weeks.

During the school year, These Two get up at 6 a.m. to commute with me for a half hour to the school bus stop, only to transfer to a school bus for another half hour. They take some pretty intense classes and participate in competitive sports during the school day. They don’t get home most days until 6 or 8 p.m. And then we do it again. Yeah, I told you before, they’re overscheduled.

By the time a three-day weekend comes, the kids would rather vacation at home, sleep in and veg out, than go out and celebrate their day off at a museum, or a special event.

When summer break comes around, we celebrate hard! No early wake ups, no crazy schedules and now that they’re older, no back-to-back activities. BUT, I still make sure to schedule everything to a T. Two weeks of this, one week of that. But part of that schedule also includes breaks and down time. And the past two weeks have been just that.

These Two soon close their second week of summer break having not adhered to a schedule. They loved it. And so did I. There were a lot of spontaneous trips – a Starbuck’s and wi-fi outing downtown while I had a business meeting. A screen on the green treat at Freedom Plaza. Two consecutive trips to Rita’s for frozen custard were appreciated by all. They registered for summer reading at the library. We all enjoyed an evening at the movies to see Wonder Woman. They even came to the last week of my Zumba classes – to watch and enjoy last day refreshments, of course. The girl continues to hone her cooking skills, creating new vegetarian recipes, and there’s been a lot of Netflixing, SnapChatting, videogaming, and even Lego play.

Before we engage operation summer spreadsheet and they take off for camp, enrichment classes, summer jobs and a solo flight out West, take a look at the first weeks of their Summer of ’17 doing nothing!







A Visual Reminder That it’s Time to Back Off

By Zerline Hughes

When he saw it, his actual first thought was a genuine, “Oh, cool!”

We both know his sister would have responded 100 percent differently. He imitates her,  says her first thought would have been, “Oh no, why me?”

Lemme explain … My son is actually quite accepting of me hanging around him. He doesn’t shoo me away, nor does he give me directives on where to pick him up at school for fear of his friends seeing me. I can be spotted at the kids’ school any day, any time. That’s one of the reasons I decided to try my hand at being a consultant – so I could have more control of my schedule and be more involved with  and available to my children. And I am.

jobemom2I just never thought that I was so hands on and involved that my son and I would be in his school’s yearbook in a photo together. Gasp. It’s a photo of us, mind you, during a weekend Homecoming celebration that families were invited to. We’re taking a selfie with the school mascot and the featured photo captures us posing together.

On the one hand, it’s cute, fun, sweet. On the other, I wonder if it’s overkill. I mean, he is an 8th grader — ahem now, officially, a ninth grader — and he’s pictured in the yearbook with his momma! Are his friends thinking, “she’s always around,” or “why in the world is his mom in the student year book?” or “what a momma’s boy!” Continue reading

The Joy of Seeing Your Loved Ones (Especially Your Teens) Happy – Like Really Happy!

By Zerline Hughes

I unlocked something this weekend that’s still got me floored.  My tween daughter can actually have fun. I mean, beaming, jumping, throw-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care fun! Even her brother couldn’t believe his eyes and stood still in disbelief. I swear!

Two months ago, I planned to invest in concert tickets for these two and me to see The Chainsmokers. They’re all the rage in electronic dance music (EDM) or electropop, and thanks to my Sirius XM BPM channel (and my desire to connect with the kids and be youthful), I actually love The Chainsmokers. So, when I heard the group would be at the outdoor Merriweather Post Pavilion venue – and asked if the kids wouldn’t be too embarrassed to go to a concert with their mom – I got the tickets. (But lemme tell, you, they weren’t cheap; I made an extra 30-mile commute just to save on the service charge for three tickets!)

So we get there and there’s masses of 20-somethings – probably 18-somethings … and a good amount of 14-and-up somethings. Daisy-dukes and butt cheeks, major boobage (or at least attempts) and glittered faces and shoulders were everywhere. It was a mini Coachella. It was too hard not to judge or lecture, but I was losing cool-mom points, so I had to stop. (Ahem, since we were getting quite a dose of marijuana contact, I did sneak in a quick lesson on the misconception of drug use and race disparity: there were only a few dots of African Americans there, so I learned them that Blacks are not the leading users of weed, yet we are incarcerated at alarming rates more than whites.)

Because I was still hoping for young innocence, I brought some coloring activities for the three of us so boredom wouldn’t set in and ruin the evening while we waited for the show to start. We each colored on tiny “adult coloring book” canvases from Five Below. The girl even begged to get started on hers in the car like a small child. That made me happy. One cool point for mom. Then, even though we brought our own food, I sprung for some $8 french fries – twice. (They were actually pretty good). Two more cool points for mom. It was a sweet, fun, chill afternoon in the woods with some good DJing from Lost Frequencies and meh-decent singing by Kiiara.

By sundown, when The Chainsmokers arrived onstage, everyone got up on their feet from their blankets – and we never sat back down. All of a sudden, my girl was singing – like ALL the words to the songs, clutching her heart, even. She was jumping when we were told to jump to the beat. She was even waiting for whatever her song was to be performed before agreeing to leave for home. This tween was smiling, laughing and having a genuinely great time.

Continue reading

Out-of-school Time, I Mean, Summertime is Here!

By Zerline Hughes

Finals were last week for my son and daughter. Finals? Middle School? ‘Woah,’ is all I have to say. And in 10 days, I will attend my son’s middle school step up ceremony and say goodbye to all things innocent. He’s headed to the big leagues, now. I still can’t believe that my Baby Jobe (what we so lovingly referred to him as for his first year or two) now has a man’s voice, about two hairs under his chin and scuffles around in a size 13-14 shoe. Where did the time go?

ostAlas, with finals, graduation and the completion of yet another school year, that means it’s out-of-school time (OST) – the point of figuring out how to put our kids’ two to three months of summer break to good use while keeping them safe and their minds busy. OST, the abbreviation used in the education and juvenile justice field specifically pertains to after school or summer“programs that support children and youth—especially those in high-poverty urban and rural areas—by providing safe, positive environments that engage and inspire them, help them explore careers, and enhance their work in school.”

You’ve heard it from me before, I keep them busy – not necessarily to keep them off the streets; I have to beg them to go outside in the yard and across the street at the park. I keep them busy so they can continue to have new experiences. You know: travel, nature, hands-on activities, social interaction. I also don’t want them home eating everything in sight, making me take two trips a week to the grocery store.

spreadsheetSo, the spreadsheet is just about done. Yes, spreadsheet! Like clockwork, I started in January, got serious in February and by March it started filling in with dates, camps, potential opportunities. And so here we are: a week-long Great Books camp in Massachusetts for the boy, a two-week long Girl Scouts overnight camp for the girl, the District’s Summer Youth Employment Program for the boy (yes, he’ll be working!), a faith-based camp for the girl, summer school enrichment for her as well, and hopefully a solo plane trip for the two to visit with family.

Continue reading

Wait, What .. Who? But, Why?

By Zerline Hughes

missingIt’s been a whirlwind of a six months. My last blog post “The Next Four Years: A New Chapter of Child Rearing,” focused on America’s looming change in leadership and how my children would be growing up under a new, less nurturing administration than our previous under President Barack Obama. I wrote the following:

“My son will endure whatever Trump brings for the next four years. He’ll be 18 at the end of his term. My son will have endured Trump’s heinous verbal attacks on minorities (and maybe worse). He’ll have watched more police killings of Black men. And his chances at attending college may be negatively impacted. How great for my son’s self esteem as he enters adulthood.

“And for my sassy, ‘nasty woman’ child: she will be in the most formative of her years as a teen entering womanhood. But she will endure a president telling her that her body is not, in fact, hers to make decisions about. She will be led by a president who has taken advantage of women, disrespected them, and allegedly abused them. What a great message to my daughter.”

So, it’s quite fitting that I return to NotTheseTwo six months later to confess that my kids will be attending school next fall with Donald Trump’s son.

My husband received the emailed announcement from the school before I did and forwarded it to me. In his preface, he wrote something followed by an exclamation point (which he doesn’t use often). I couldn’t wait to see what he was referring to. When I proceeded to read the memo from the headmaster and head of middle school, my mouth dropped.

Now, this is not at all about the innocent child who will most definitely be welcomed on campus. In fact, these two kids of mine don’t even seem to be phased by the news. This is about just what the announcement said: inclusivity, openness and being a welcoming and affirming school. Yes, we are an inclusive, safe-haven of a school community. So, with that, will our students – even parents – be able to remain open and honest during discussions and debates in and outside of the classroom? Further, does the school’s decision keep into account the feelings and perspectives of our diverse school population that includes immigrants, transgender and GLB students and parents?

Even after two week’s of digesting the news, I continue to find myself struggling with the school’s decision. Sure, there are definitely Trump supporters at the school – in all shapes, sizes and colors, in fact – yet and still, having an actual Trump there is juuuuuust a little bit different.

Once a year, the middle school has a “mandatory” (and usually totally awkward) parent-student roundtable discussion on drugs/alcohol, sex and healthy relationships, some topic du jour where parents and students compare notes on growing up as a tween. My son so poignantly said of the news, “that parent roundtable is gonna’ be interesting.”

Indeed, it will.

Only time – and patience – will tell how ALL of this will pan out.

The Next Four Years: A New Chapter of Child Rearing

By Zerline Hughes

My children say some of their classmates are Donald Trump supporters. To prove it, last spring, the boy brought home a Trump shirt he found in the school’s lost and found. I was verklempt, to say the least. At ages 11 and 13, they know what Trump represents, but they don’t know-know. Heck, for the last eight years, their president was a cool Black dude with swagger, genuineness and tact. Since they were five and three years old, they’ve understood that America is a pretty decent place (until I started regularly teaching them the ills of our country). They didn’t see color (until I took many opportunities to remind them that it existed). And they didn’t know about the various disparities that exist (until I turned them into mini-criminal justice reform and human rights advocates).

But today starts a new day. November 9, 2016. The day after the Clinton-Trump election.


One of their 8th grade school mates this morning took to Snap Chat to tell everyone to calm down; he said the presidency doesn’t even affect people their age. Ah, how sweet. And naive.

My son will endure whatever Trump brings for the next four years. He’ll be 18 at the end of his term. My son will have endured Trump’s heinous verbal attacks on minorities (and maybe worse). He’ll have watched more police killings of Black men. And his chances at attending college may be negatively impacted. How great for my son’s self esteem as he enters adulthood.

And for my sassy, “nasty woman” child: she will be in the most formative of her years as a teen entering womanhood. But she will endure a president telling her that her body is not, in fact hers to make decisions about. She will be led by a president who has taken advantage of women, disrespected them, and allegedly abused them. What a great message to my daughter.

So, yeah – the presidency DOES affect kids!

Lucky for these two, (and really, it’s not lucky at all), their mother has overexposed them to life. I’ve allowed them to watch the “Purge” movie series which gives them a peek into humanity’s hatred. I’ve made them watch “13th,” Ava DuVernay’s documentary comparing mass incarceration to slavery. I have serious discussions with them weekly, if not daily, on the harsh realities (and beauties) of being Black in America – or any other country for that matter. And next month, they will, for the first time, visit the new National Museum of African American History & Culture to give them a complete understanding of the Black experience.

So, they are armed. They are ready for the next four years. I’m not so sure I am, but I feel like they have a good foundation. My preference, like many others have threatened, is to move. To run away. To seek refuge. But my son doesn’t want his schooling and friendships disrupted. He’s at a great place that respects him. A place that makes him feel like he has a voice. A place that genuinely allows him and all other students to be unique and comfortable in the skin they’re in.

My daughter, however, is down to leave. She says we can leave the guys stateside, and we can find refuge together abroad.

But one thing’s for sure: these two are not backing down, cowering, or jumping on the bandwagon. Nope, Not These Two. They’re ready, aware and equipped for what’s to come. I just wish I could say the same.

Here’s to another chapter of child rearing. Can’t wait till it ends already …

[Repost] Jay Smooth: Trump’s America–This is What Happens Now — NewBlackMan (in Exile)

” … Hate won … ” says Jay Smooth in this two-minute #ElectionNight2016 aftermath video. My words have turned into tears, thus, my writing, my thoughts are unable to make it into sentence, paragraph form. But Smooth sums up what many are thinking. Take a listen as I grieve for my children: my Black teenaged son, my woman child, the country I was born in and reside in – for now.

Jay Smooth of “Trump’s America.”

via Jay Smooth: Trump’s America–This is What Happens Now — NewBlackMan (in Exile)