How to Raise the Perfect Child

At every major stage or milestone of my son’s life, I always call another parent who has just experienced this stage or a parent who has experienced it multiple times with their own children, to hear their thoughts on how I should proceed.  I go in expecting to get very sound advice, specific steps on how to get through this stage alive and advice on alternative methods.  Generally, I find that my expectations of myself and my son are too high.  The reality of what is to come is something that cannot be pinpointed to any particular plan that will make the next few weeks or months easier or perfect.

I asked my friend about potty training and she advised me that children will do anything for one M&M.  That put my entire experience and expectation into perspective.  Potty training is not easy, or a science and different for all children.  I realized that I just have to find what will push my son to go to the bathroom consistently and eventually he will form a habit that will become his norm.

The more I talk to other parents about their experiences, I realize I have to just relax.  Children are very smart, but they have not figured out every little thing just yet. Duh.  It takes time to get them to fully comprehend things that we assume we learned easily.  Everyone is looking for the answer to questions that have no answers to them.  What works for one family, may not work for you because the dynamics in your household is different, or your schedule is different or your child is just on their own timeline.

I see a friend’s daughter who articulates so well and suddenly it is my mission to get my child to articulate well.  Someone tells me that their child was potty trained at 18 months and suddenly I am on a mission to get my son potty trained before his 2nd birthday.  I hear of a child who has learned 4 languages by four and suddenly my son needs to be put in an intense class to make sure he has another language on his baby resume. There are specific skills that your child needs to acquire to ensure that they are hitting their milestones & that they are ready for the next stage in their life, but much of that comes with time, patience & allowing them to evolve naturally.

All of these anxieties come with trying to raise the “perfect child.”  We want our son to experience everything that we did not and give him opportunities we wished we had growing up.  In the haste to make his life experience greater than ours, we have to make sure that we are letting our child be perfect in his own right.  Everyone thinks that their child is perfect because they are.  They are all special in their own right and it is the little things that make you smile that makes them perfect.  That is why this little gift was sent to you.  Not for you to control their every move but for you to watch the beauty of life evolve through their eyes.  Their perspective on life and things are so different and the hope that they inspire for a better tomorrow is what we all need to survive some of our hardest days.

My child is already perfect.  The person who needs to work on becoming a more perfect person is me.  Be you. Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Shaming Victims Empowers Abusers

Today was an emotional day for all of the wrong reasons.  I caught wind of some statements made by Stephen A. Smith on his show First Take.  He and his co-host were covering the 2 game suspension of Ray Rice due to his highly publicized domestic violence incident with his wife. Despite very few people knowing the exact details of what occurred in the elevator, Mr. Smith decided to glide into the discussion of domestic violence.  His statements have been transcribed and the two-minute clip is easily accessible.

The words that hit me in my gut were “let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions” and “And I think that just talking about what guys shouldn’t do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn’t happen.” followed by  “we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. “Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way.”

I immediately read the entire transcript of his statements again.  I stopped to think about what I just read and decided that there was no way this man could have said these words on national television, so I read the transcript a third, fourth and fifth time.  I wanted to be clear about what was said, the context in which his words were used and to affirm any disbelief that I had of these words being used against victims of domestic violence.

I am not here to discuss the scenario that these comments stemmed from or to discuss how many women “provoke” men to hit them.  I am here to simply say that these types of statements, made by powerful people with platforms, based on extremely complicated & damaging situations are overly simplified.  They are overly simplified by dismissing the severity of a man hitting, punching, slapping, grabbing, shaking, pushing or verbally abusing a woman.  It not only shames victims, but it empowers the abuser.  Everyone is clear on the old saying, keep your hands to yourself, but no one has the right to dismiss a persons uncontrolled temper as simply actions that were caused by someone provoking them.

I shared a piece of my own story of watching my mother being abused as a 2 year old and it took me to a place of pain, because I know a man who used to say that she provoked him.  That something as simple as not speaking loud enough, looking away from him or not being where he wanted you to be, when he wanted you to be there was what provoked him to leave a boot print in her back.  So when a man says that you should not provoke a man to abuse you, I ask how.  How can a woman not provoke a man who has already resolved to abusing her? To controlling her? To making sure she knows her place in this world and in his house? How can she avoid the abuse when she is not working and has children to feed? How can she avoid the abuse when she does not have any transportation to flee from her abuser? How can she stop the abuse when everyone around her is in denial and refuses to help her?

My own story is not one that I share alone, but one that was echoed by many women over my timeline.  This story was shared by men and the abuse their mothers endured.  Domestic violence has left many women dead.  Domestic violence has left many children motherless.  Domestic violence has damaged many people’s self-esteem, life and livelihood.  Domestic violence is not a casual conversation to be governed by a PSA from a sports newscaster.  Domestic violence is not a topic that can be simplified and a general band-aid placed on for your comfort.  Domestic violence is real.

As we speak women are enduring the abuse of a man.  As we speak someone is being murdered for attempting to leave their abuser.  As we speak the search for an abuser who left a child alone while he killed their mother is happening.  Everyday.  We hear the same story over and over, but somehow we come right back to pointing fingers at the victim.  She created this problem.  She stayed.  She is dumb.  She should have known.  She, the victim is not worthy of our empathy because clearly she provoked him.

I want to go so much deeper into my own story, but to wade in those very dark waters would take me to a place I am not ready to go to.  To all of the men that decided that verbally abusing me on Twitter would convince me that all women provoke men, know that I am unbothered and will not waver in standing up for victims of domestic violence.  If you know me, than you know I do not play.  If you do not know me, come for me when I did not send for you on a topic that is too real to me, and you will find out quickly that you cannot stand toe to toe with me on a topic I have experienced and can back up with numbers.

This is the beginning of a deeper conversation.  One that many of us are afraid to have because although the wounds are not visible, for many, they still remain.  To those who have endured abuse, survived abuse, know someone who may have even died, I pray for you and know that you cannot be silenced.

If you are a victim, you should not be ashamed.  Shame on your abuser. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

 

 

One Teacher’s Love Changed My Life

I read this story (see link below) that popped up on my Twitter timeline and felt a flood of memories and emotions come rushing into my head that were invoked by the similarities to the incident that this mother has endured. She describes an incident of her child misbehaving at school and immediately being suspended.  This incident was followed by a few more instances of inappropriate behavior and more 1 day suspensions by not only her 4-year-old, but also her 3-year-old son who was in the same school.  The story proceeds to discuss her own experience of being suspended from preschool and the damage it did to her psyche when the teacher admonished her and labeled her as “bad.”

I immediately relived my own suspension at 3 years old at my small private Catholic school in Connecticut.  Although I cannot blame it purely on race, I know that the entire situation traumatized me and remained ingrained into my brain forever.  Thankfully, the teacher who recommended that I be suspended retired and a new pre-school teacher took over her class.  As many years as it has been since I was in that room, I remember the smile and spirit of the kindest woman I have ever known.

This time, as a 4-year-old, my experience was different.  I know me now, so I can only imagine then that I wanted to be the center of attention and show off all of my knowledge.  Ms. Eddie saw this and instead of suppressing my boisterous spirit, she encouraged it.  She would let me sit in her chair and read to the class or allow me to work with other students who may have needed help learning their ABCs.  And from that year on, I rarely had any disciplinary problems in school.  I fell in love with learning and always excelled because I had confidence in myself and I didn’t have my past mistakes following me from classroom to classroom.

When I matriculated to the next grade, Ms. Eddie would always request that I come to her room and read to her new class of students.  Her actions made my other teachers notice how I learned and they too allowed me to be who I needed to  be to succeed.  When I got to the 2nd or 3rd grade, my teacher allowed me to teach a new student who had arrived from Poland how to speak English.  That was my assignment, to sit in the back of the classroom and work with her on the very basics.  It was one of my proudest moments in life, to see my peer read an entire book in a language that I helped her learn.

Over the years, my father would beg the teachers to give me extra work so that I would not ruin the classroom environment for everyone else.  When they didn’t listen, I would distract others who were moving “too slow” or act in a way that I am even ashamed to type about.  My scariest moment in school was when I was laying across the desk and I saw my father’s head peep into the window and I thought my life was over.  He walked in as the class was leaving and asked my teacher why she allowed me to be such a distraction and proceeded to discipline me in the bathroom.

I am blessed that none of my teachers ever labeled me, recommended suspensions or publicly humiliated me in front of the entire class.  I see so much of myself in my son and I know the type of environment he will need to thrive.  So many family members and seasoned parents have told me to observe classroom’s prior to enrolling my son in school, because boys are different.  Their attention spans, the way they react and interact may be different, but it does not have to be labeled as difficult.  I have always realized that Ms. Eddie was one of my many angels.  She gave her life to her students, but more importantly she gave them unconditional love.

We have to get back to a time where students are not treated like factory workers, but instead individualized people with individualized learning styles and habits.  This article reinforces my search for the perfect environment for my mini me.  I hope that he never has to experience the humiliation of a school suspension at such a young age and it is my job to try to prevent it.

For our futures.  For our sons.  For our daughters.  For a better education system.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/24/my-son-has-been-suspended-five-times-hes-3/

To Do List: For Parents Looking for Things to Do with Children Under 2 (DMV Edition)

In a few days I will transition into being a full-time stay at home mom while I continue my search for a job.  Despite this being one of my biggest fears and something I did not expect, I am welcoming this opportunity with open arms! I will finally be able to spend guilt free moments with my son, without work, school or any other major responsibility looming over my head.  Although I hope this is only temporary, I want to make sure I make the most of this hopefully rare moment in our lives!

I started to get excited and started looking for things to do with my soon to be two-year old.  I began at the local recreation center, but they did not have anything for his age group.  I know of a few other child friendly places, but they were pretty expensive, and we are trying to have the most fun, using the least amount of money possible.  So, I did a little research and found plenty of inexpensive things to do in the DMV area with children 2 or around that age.

1. Your Local Library

Many of us remember going to the library as a kid, but as we grew up and the information age expanded to in home computers, iPads and endless cable channels, we forgot about this FREE gem that is the center of many communities.  Check your local library for age appropriate weekly events for your child and some may have special events that make spending time at the library even more fun.

We will be attending Toddler Story Time and a special event with a magic show and balloonery coming up in early August!

2. The National Children’s Museum at the National Harbor

The National Harbor is a work in progress, but one thing that they already have that is perfect for young children is the National Children’s Museum.  This museum focuses on engaging and educating children 8 and under through activities and programs that spark the imagination.  Although it is not free, it is moderately inexpensive with $10.00 tickets per child and adult.  For those who are local and may find themselves there a few times a year, a yearly membership for one adult and one child is $75 and $155 for a family of 6.

Thinking of investing in a yearly membership to get the most out of all the events that they have to offer.

Link: http://www.ccm.org

3. The Carousel and Playground at the National Harbor

There is more fun to be had at the Carousel and Playground at the National Harbor.  This activity is only $5 for your child and free for the accompanying adult.  Your child can enjoy unlimited time on the carousel and even more fun at the newly built playground that is bound to wear them out.  This site also has a nice set of picnic tables, if you want to pack a lunch and make it a full day at the Harbor.

This is high on the list of things to do when I need him to take a good nap for the day, so that I can get a few things done around the house!

Link: http://nationalharbor.com/things-to-do-in-dc/carousel/

4. To Be With Me Playseum

This amazing and interactive place was created by a mom who could not find places to go with her young children where she could stay and be involved.  Out of her void came a unique place where children can create, play or read and parents can connect or read books while their children are nearby.  General admission is only $7 per person, but they have a daily happy hour full of deals that fall within everyone’s budget! There are two locations, one in Barracks Row and another in Bethesda.

We will be frequenting this place with our DC friends and saving money by using a Happy Hour special!

Link: http://www.playseum.com/calendar.html

5. Great Waves at Cameron Run Regional Park

Who knew that there was a water park in the metro area?! I have never heard of this place, but I am super excited to get in at least one day at a fun water park with the kid! Especially since I heard he was uncomfortable this summer when our family took him to one down south.  Well, here is my chance to introduce him to the fun in the sun and water at Cameron Run! They have an age appropriate Kid Zone and the prices are not out of this world, $11.50-$15 for weekday or weekend passes.

We have to get one day in here just to say we went!

Link: http://www.greatwaveswaterpark.com/features-attractions/the-lagoon/

6. Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake

Annapolis is a unchartered territory for many of us DMV transplants.  Even with a car, we can’t seem to find a reason to go “all the way” to Annapolis for anything.  But from what I hear, the food is amazing, the views are priceless and they even have fun things for the kiddies.  Jake and the Neverland Pirates is one of my son’s favorite shows and this would be an awesome adventure for him to experience.  Although I would love to say I went to Annapolis this summer with him, I think I am going to save this experience for his 3rd birthday party! Great location,  decorations provided, perfect theme and a moment he will hopefully cherish through memories or pictures.  (I will take it either way!)  This activity is a little more on the pricey side, but not completely out of reach.  General admission is $20 and $12 for children under 3.

Link: http://www.chesapeakepirates.com/party-room-update/

7. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The Zoo is an interesting place, but I am not sure how well a 2 or 3-year-old will do in such large crowds, mostly outside and around animals they may have not been introduced to yet.  Some parents may think this is a great idea, but I am going to lean towards waiting a little while longer before we experience the Zoo.  The admission into the Zoo is FREE but the parking costs $22.  There are two metro locations that are within a 1/2 mile but taking the metro with a child in a stroller is an adventure.  An adventure worth taking is up to you to decide.

When I Want to Give Up, I Remember the Why

Over the past 9 1/2 weeks, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions.  It all started with the excitement of beginning the first steps to completing the final hurdle to complete freedom.  This soon glided into the endless feeling of being overwhelmed with the amount of information that I needed to consume daily, which then lead to mental exhaustion that made me fly back to feeling overwhelmed.  Then a sudden breath-taking drop came with the death of my grandfather, followed by the slow progression back to a level of focus that I needed to be productive and progressing towards being polished.

During many of the unproductive, completely overwhelmed and paralyzed due to exhaustion days, I wanted to throw in the towel, close the books, stop writing essays and stop practicing multiple choice questions, because I clearly was not going to make it to the end of this process better prepared than when I started.  I did not see the progress.  I felt that I was getting the same types of questions wrong and missing the same issues on the essays.  I decided that I would just go back to my old life, my old career, because I was never going to be ready for this daunting exam.  I kept telling myself everyday, “You are behind. You will never catch up.”  When I needed to rest all I could think was, “I am behind. I can sleep when I pass!”  I was angry at myself, at my lack of progress and at the idea of having to tell people that I quit.

Then after going months without seeing my son and days where he wouldn’t talk to me on the phone, we were able to connect with him on the iPad and I saw his precious face.  “Hi mommy. Hi daddy. Mommy. Daddy. Daddy. Mommy.”  In that moment, all of my stress, anxiety and fear melted away.  The only thing that was important was our special gift.  His smile, his laugh, his kisses…all of the things that I missed and the exact thing I needed to see to get my mind back in order.  After speaking with him and seeing his face, I realized that I cannot quit because I have someone watching my every step; basking in my successes and pushing me through my failures.

My son is my WHY.  For some people it is a car, a job or a vacation spot. For others it may be their mother telling them that she is so proud of them or standing next to their father who was sworn in as an attorney at the same place 30 years ago.  What your WHY is does not matter, knowing what your WHY is does.  If you do not have a WHY, you will give up during a breakdown MOMENT, instead of waiting a MOMENT longer and reaching your breakthrough.

After refocusing on my WHY.  I stopped telling myself that I was behind, and instead I told myself that I was where I needed to be.  Suddenly a burden lifted from my shoulders and I had renewed energy to make my WHY proud and complete the mission I set off to accomplish.  When you reach that moment where you cannot go on anymore, stop focusing on the negative, pessimistic or potentially disastrous outcomes and focus your energy on the positive, optimistic, and successful outcomes that you have worked hard to reach.  Focus on your WHY.  Keep pushing for your WHY.  Never give up because your WHY is waiting for you on the other side.

Your WHY won’t ever let you give up, so don’t give up on your WHY.  Why you do this.  Why this matters.  Why failure is not an option.  Why you can.  Why.  Stay the course.  Persevere.  Push through the pain.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Maybe I Am Doing This Thing All Wrong

Today I was mentally exhausted and decided to take a midday rest, despite being exactly 1 week away from my BIG EXAM.  But in these quiet moments I started to think, “Maybe I am doing this thing all wrong.”  I am attempting to fight so many wrongs on so many different fronts, and I am not being as productive as I can be.  I want to change what is already in motion.  I want to change things that are outside of my control.  I want to change people, and we all know that changing people by just your words is impossible.  So, I started to think of how I can work smarter and not harder.  How can I fight the injustices of the world that are being waged against every single woman, man, or child? How can I fight the injustices that are based on race, gender or sexuality? How can I make this world better for those here and those to come?

I don’t have the answer to any of these questions right now, but I decided to stop using my energy to fight those who are stuck in their beliefs and instead use all of my energy to shine a light in this world that may not change them, but will help develop others.  Every chance I get, I am going to be the best me, give 1000% and make sure that I am leaving every place better than it was when I came.  I can’t divide my attention between those who choose to hate and those who need love. I have to solely focus on those who need love, so that they can be edified and grow into beautiful beams of light.

We don’t need fewer people that hate, but more people who love.  We don’t need fewer people that aren’t racist, we need more people who can appreciate people for their differences.  We don’t need fewer people who are more tolerant, we just need more people who will encourage people to be themselves.  If we outnumber those who hate, who are racist or who are intolerant, soon those on the other side will simply conform to the notions of the majority.  We cannot feed into the vicious cycle of trying to recruit the enemy, but instead we have to gather our allies and show them our strength and power.  I have been doing this thing wrong for a long time, but today I have decided to take the steps to do it the only way that makes sense to me.

Legends are known for doing something extremely well.  How do you want to be remembered? What do you do well? Note it.  Know it. Do it.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own stories. On your own terms.

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork: 5 Ways to Best Support Your Child’s Teacher

On this second installment of Guest Room, an amazing teacher shares some tips for parents on how to best support their child’s teacher to ensure academic success.


 

I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. The kids are pretending NOT to see it. Displays for school supplies are popping up and kids are looking down. As we prepare to enter into the new school year, let’s keep in mind five easy peasy (lemon squeezy) ways you can support your child and your child’s teacher.

 

1. Meet your child’s teacher. Sounds easy enough. But the number of people that send me their baby and have no idea who I am or what my philosophy on teaching is would surprise you. Teachers are people. We get busy schedules. We get conflicting Open House schedules. We get limited job flexibility schedules. We get ALL of that. But we do NOT get not (yes, double negative) placing your eyes on the person responsible for helping to mold your little person. If you cannot make Open House, the ideal time to meet and greet, consider sending an email with a day and time that does work for you. Teachers want to meet you. We want to have a chance to speak with you and hear about your precious child from you. We want to start the year off with an open line of communication. If Thursday is the only day that works with your schedule, most teachers will make a way to meet with you on Thursday despite that being their hot yoga day.

 

2a. Do not withhold academic information. “Well we just wanted him/her to have a fresh start…” I understand the fear of labeling and preconceived notions. But some information ABSOLUTELY needs to be shared with your child’s new teacher. Accommodations do not mean your child can’t learn. Accommodations mean your child learns differently. If I am unaware of how they learn best, I cannot give them the best. Teachers want to see your child successful. In a class of at least 20 students, we understand someone will not always get it. Someone will need extra time. Knowing how your child learns or struggles your child has helps us to differentiate the material. Parents are often too concerned with the product. Teachers are more concerned with the process. We have 180 days (if government funding hasn’t been cut) to prepare your baby for the next grade. The process to the product is different for most students. Trust the process.

 

2b. Do not withhold (all) personal information. Unfortunately our kids are seeing and experiencing waaaay more than we did at their age. I am interested in more than just the academic growth of your child. I am interested in their social growth as well. If past experiences could potentially limit your child I need to know. Details aren’t necessary. But a general idea can help me relate to your child. Two years ago I had a student who came from an environment where domestic violence was the norm. Loud noises made him shut down. Loud noises in my class very seldom mean things have gone awry. Generally, we are doing a class cheer or having a little silly transition time. This student shut all the way down and I had no idea why. Thankfully, the older sibling was able to provide insight. He didn’t give details. He simply said, “He doesn’t like loud noises.” That was enough for me to taper class activities he was involved in. (He has since adapted to loud noises and he is no longer in that environment.)Much of the hidden curriculum teaches “life stuff.” We need to know how far to push a child to present a project, are there any sensitive subjects, are they easily embarrassed or frightened, do loud noises adversely affect them? Information about your child helps us to better reach your child. Please share information.

 

3. Communicate. In this fast paced world, face-to-face communication can sometimes prove to be challenging. (i.e. meeting your child’s teacher) However, communication can be easy IF the lines of communication are open BOTH ways. I am an early childhood educator. I send home some form of communication every. single. day. It may be a note jotted at the bottom of the behavior sheet, a SHOUT of praise in the agenda, or a “we need to talk at your earliest convenience” message on pretty stationary. Whatever the form of communication may be, please acknowledge it. Sign the daily behavior sheet or agenda. Write me a note telling me you all tried the math homework but were stumped with numbers 4 and 7. Write me a note saying she’s checking out early and it would be helpful if she went to lunch with her backpack. Write me a note saying his beloved dog of eight years died and he might be a little sad as he deals with his first loss. Just write me a note. We do not have to wait until parent-teacher conference night to talk about six weeks of school. Let’s communicate throughout the year.

 

4. Trust the teacher. This is general but it applies to many areas. Trust the teacher is a professional who is trained in child pedagogy and current on best practices. Trust the teacher wants the best for your baby. Teaching is a labor of love. We are trained professionals. Some of which have student loan debt that far exceeds yearly income. We are not here for the money. (Not here to be poor but that’s another topic for another time.) We are here for the kids and need you to know we are NEVER rooting against your child, we are hoping and praying for their growth and advancement. “We never have this problem at home.” I believe you. But you also don’t have twenty-one other students at home. Your child treats us the way they see you treat us. Trust us and treat us with respect. If you promise not to believe everything they tell you happened at school, I promise not to believe everything they tell me happened at home.

 

 

Cherelle Jones is a public school educator in a Title I school in Georgia. She is the proud leader of Jonesville, a small, quaint community of learners being positioned to change the world.

Bar Prep Mantras

I have tried to keep myself encouraged through this entire process, as well as encouraging others who I know may be just as anxious as I am.  I started to stick Post-it notes on my wall to remind me of mnemonics, but I realized that I need some positive affirmation to remind me to PUSH through this process. I sent a few to a friend who returned the favor with a few that touched my heart. I hope that everyone I know and don’t know who are preparing for the bar has an amazing support system like I do to help get them through these last few days. 

Mantras of Affirmation

I WILL pass the bar! 

I will take the bar and not let the bar take me. -Shemer Instructors

There is no Fear in Faith! 

Stay focused!

You will win!

Don’t Give Up! Don’t Ever Give Up! -Jimmy V.

Stay strong, you are almost there.

5 Deep Breaths! 

I read carefully. I think. I spot issues. I use facts. I pass. -Shemer Bar Prep

I am a UNICORN. I will pass! -A dear friend who I love

Can’t stop. Won’t stop. -Diddy

Hold on, don’t quit. God’s on your side. -Mississippi Mass Choir 

My amazing friend sent me these today:

I am smart. I am strong. I am ready. 

You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you. 

The more you fail today, the less you fail tomorrow. 

We will pass! 

 

Walking Through the Word: Lessons From Proverbs

As I sit at my red desk grasping the fact that the end of bar preparation is coming near, I am trying not to hyperventilate because I do not know what is next.  So I challenged myself to stop a few times a week to walk through the Word to help ease my spirit and quell my anxiety.  I choose Proverbs because it always enriches my mind and reminds me of the important things that I need to focus on, instead of harping on the immediate chaos, fear or confusion.  Here is a short list of somethings that I have noted.  This list will grow as I continue Walking Through the Word.

The things that matter most:

  • Loyalty and Kindness
  • Trust
  • God first
  • Wisdom
  • Common Sense