New American® Girl Character Encourages Girls To #LiftYourVoice

This post is a collaboration between TheYoungMommyLife.com and American Girl.
American Girl dolls are recommended for girls 8 and up. 

I want my daughter to be able to see herself in her world.

Since she was born I’ve searched high and low to surround her with images that make her happy to have brown skin and big, brown, curly hair—I’m talking books, dolls, clothes, movies, bedding. (I might have gone overboard a bit in decorating her room!)

It’s important to me that I build my children up. I want them to leave my house and be fortified. When she was a toddler, my daughter would light up when she saw a doll with the same features she saw on her own face. “Mommy, she’s brown-skinned like me!”

Her reaction is a bit more muted now, but I can see the twinkle in her eye when she sees that she’s represented somewhere.

This is why I’m pumped that American Girl is adding a new character, Melody Ellison™,  to its BeForever™ line. Melody is a hopeful 9-year-old girl from Detroit, Michigan, during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, with a voice like an angel.

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Staying true to the era, Melody’s story is about how she uses her voice to speak out against inequality and injustice. It’s a perfect match for the today’s climate today as I talk to my children about the issues they see in the news.  To help the conversation, American Girl also has downloadable discussion guides available, which explore themes and issues from the 1960s.

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When my daughter first met Melody, she smiled and said, “She looks like me,” and she hugged her tight. I think Melody is definitely a winner in this household.

American Girl is inviting you to visit American Girl retail stores across the country for a chance to live in Melody’s world from August 26-28. Attendees will have an opportunity to listen to some Motown, eat some special block party food, enjoy free crafts and receive a free Melody-inspired doll tee while supplies last. Check your specific store location for exact details and event timing.

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In each of Melody’s three stories, penned by the award-winning author Denise Lewis Patrick, she fuses her love of singing with her desire to see change in her community.

To celebrate the fairness and equality theme of Melody’s stories online, American Girl has created Lift Your Voice with Melody, a campaign that encourages American Girl fans to share their photos and videos of how they’re speaking up to make a difference. Watch the Lift Your Voice with Melody video and then share your own inspiring videos and photos, using the hashtag #LiftYourVoice.

The Melody doll and related products will be available on August 25, 2016 at americangirl.com; at all American Girl retail locations nationwide; through American Girl’s catalogue; at American Girl specialty boutiques at select Indigo™ and Chapters™ locations in Canada; and at El Palacio de Hierro in Mexico City. The Melody books can also be purchased through retail and online booksellers.

Tackling My Emotional Eating Habits In The Quest For Better Health – #LifeIsWhy

 This post is sponsored by American Heart Association, but all of the opinions and stories are my own.

Heart Balloons

“Mommy, how come every time we go to the grocery store we have to stop in the bakery section?” my daughter asked me a few months ago.

I stopped drooling over the chocolate fudge cupcakes and cinnamon rolls long enough for my attention to snap to her. “What?”

“We always stop right here,” she continued. “You must really like sweet stuff.”

Until that point, I didn’t think much of my sweet tooth gone wild. I like cookies and cakes and pies and brownies. Sue me.

“I do like sweet stuff,” I told her as I picked up a six-pack of cupcakes and put it in the cart.

Her words — “why do we always have to stop in the bakery section” —stuck with me for the rest of the day. Until that point, I hadn’t realized I was eating dessert (very good dessert) every night, and it was usually the highlight of my day.

I didn’t think it was a big deal. I don’t smoke; I don’t drink. Surely one, or five, cupcakes wouldn’t kill me, right? I ate brownies the way other women have a glass of red wine after a rough day. It’s a reward, a treat for making it through drop-offs and pick-ups, making dinner, checking homework and nighttime reading.

Truthfully, I am an emotional eater. I let my sweet tooth call the shots when I’ve had a stressful day or am faced with something I’d rather not confront. It is easier to cut yourself a slice of cheesecake than it is to admit your marriage is in trouble, or your career isn’t progressing as fast as you’d like. It’s easier to inhale the calories and stuff them down on top of those negative feelings, so you don’t have to deal with all the ways you feel like you’re failing.

I quickly realized I was setting a poor example for my kids. I want my children to be strong enough to go through life without crutches. I want them to be strong enough to handle what comes at them without diving into the nearest carton of ice cream.

Not only was it setting a bad example, but it was taking its toll physically. In the midst of keeping up with a busy work schedule and producing my first national event, I gained 10 pounds in the blink of an eye. I realized the “fast-ish” metabolism of my 20’s was slowing down, and I’d have to be intentional when it came to making my health a priority.

I’m proud to team up with the American Heart Association for its #LifeIsWhy™ campaign, mobilizing moms to get active and lead their families to better health.

After watching their video campaign, I decided to make a few changes.

First, I had to tackle my emotional eating.

I made three rules:

  1. I only eat dessert on the weekend
  2. Whatever I eat, I only have a single serving
  3. It has to be something I am really, really craving. No more mindless cookie chomping just because it is in the house.

I recommitted to 3-4 days of exercise each week (I feel like a regular at the gym now!), and I’m bundling the kids up to let them play outside in this crisp fall/winter weather. I’ve been saying that having a healthy family is a priority, but I haven’t been treating it like one.

I want to be around for a long time, to hug and kiss my great-grandchildren. That legacy starts with the actions I take today.

AHA

Join me by visiting LifeIsWhy.org and sharing YOUR why on social media using the #LifeIsWhy hashtag.

Shop Cricket Wireless This Holiday Season + A Giveaway!

This article is sponsored by Cricket Wireless. All opinions are 100% my own.

I don’t know what it is about the holidays (maybe it’s all the gift-giving and get-togethers?), but without fail I start thinking about my budget and how I can save money everywhere I possibly can.

One area that has been a pain in my side over the past year has been my cell phone bill. Remember when it used to be so simple? Most people paid under $50 for their lines, we didn’t worry so much about texting and data limits, and picking which phone to use wasn’t such a hassle. Now we have all these two-year contracts (I never know how much longer I have on my contract) and complicated plans (reading my bill is such a headache) that it is something I’d rather not even deal with!

Cricket Wireless is trying to bring us back to the days when your relationship with your cell phone carrier wasn’t so combative. Remember that?

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At Cricket Wireless, you get reliable 4G coverage that covers 98% of Americans (more 4G LTE coverage nationwide than Sprint, T-Mobile or MetroPCS) without needing an annual contract — plus taxes and fees are included which means there’s no surprises on your bill. In addition to no annual contract (ahh, don’t you hate those two-year contracts?), you can even receive a bonus for switching over to Cricket this holiday season!

When I was in high school, the pay-as-you-go phones were usually the cheap ones with no features, but with Cricket you can get brand new smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime™, which you can find in stores and online.

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Bigger families with lots of teens (or even those with adults who still remain on the family plan) can switch to Cricket to realize a ton of savings. Adding additional lines at Cricket can save up to $100 a month. (Switch now and you can use those savings for your 2016 holiday spending!)

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Cricket Wireless makes at least one bill of yours simple and allows you to get in and get out with no hassle. You can keep your phone and your number, plus see bigger savings. What’s not to love about that?

This holiday season, you can get the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime for $29.99 when you bring your number to Cricket.*
‘Tis the season to save money! Looking at your wireless carrier and making the switch to a cheaper (and more reliable!) plan might be the way to keep your bank account looking cheerful.
To celebrate, Cricket Wireless has offered one lucky reader the chance to win a limited edition plush Barry doll, retailing for $14.99 at your neighborhood store. To win, just leave a message telling me who you would give it to (or if you would keep it for yourself!).
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*Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime Offer: Offer ends 1/7/16. New lines only. Porting number required.  Excludes ports from AT&T. First month svc charge due at sale.  Cannot be combined with Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime Mail-In Rebate Offer. Activation Fee: Up to $25/line. Taxes, fees, charges & restrictions apply. Restocking Fee: Up to $25. Pricing, terms & restr’s subject to change and may be modified, or terminated at any time without notice. Coverage & svc not avail. everywhere. See store for offer details.

 

Three Ways Husbands Can Support Their Wife’s Transition To Natural Hair

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When I was pregnant with my son seven years ago, I decided to stop getting relaxers and start rocking my natural hair texture. I had no idea what my natural hair texture was, but I remembered that the last time I wore my hair as it grew out of my scalp,  I was teased relentlessly by my eighth grade classmates and begged my mom to let me get a perm.

But now I was concerned about the health implications of slathering that creamy crack on my scalp every six weeks. So I stopped. I don’t know if I told my husband what I was doing, but one day he came home to a wife in the bathroom with a two inch Afro and relaxed hair all on the bathroom floor.

To his credit, he didn’t freak out at how different I looked. If I remember correctly, he just reached out and patted my hair and told me it looked nice. That was the correct response. LOL. For many women I know, having your partner’s support makes a huge difference in the decision to go natural.

So I asked my husband to jump in and give some words of encouragement to the men who love a woman who’s newly natural. I’ll let him take it from here:

Support: Going natural is a process that is not going to be easy for many women. Having your support will go a long in helping them deal with the process. Support is very individualized, and as her husband you will know the type of
support she needs through this process. Let her know you like her curls, as she might be stressed about how to style and manage her hair.

Embrace: It’s not enough to support your wife but you have to embrace this process alongside with her. No wife wants to feel like she is on an island with a major decision and does not have her husband there by her side to walk along with her. There may be days where she may feel that she made a mistake or gets discouraged but you will be able to reassure her that she is beautiful.

Adaptation: If you were used to your wife having relaxed hair, or even braids then there is going to be an adaptation period for you. The texture of your wife’s hair may change. Your wife’s hair is going to look and feel different. She may not want your fingers in her hair. The bathroom might get cluttered with products as she tries out different conditioners and cleansers. No matter how your wife’s hair may change, your reaction to the adaptation during this process will be critical to the relationship you have with you wife.

With the process of going natural, remember just like our wives, going natural comes in all shapes and sizes. Some women will be like my wife and wear her hair out in big beautiful curls. Other women may choose to have their hair cut short. No matter what your wife decides, by following the steps above you will able to help show your wife that you love and support her and that she is beautiful both inside and outside.

This post is part of a series on behalf of Dove Hair’s #LoveYourCurls campaign. You can download a personalized “Love Your Curls” ebook at Dove.com/LoveYourCurls to gift to a curly cutie in your life and you can also download the new #LoveYourCurls emojis—used in all text and messenger apps (i.e. iMessage, SMS/text, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, etc.)—in the App Store or on Google Play to add some curl love to your conversations!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dove. The opinions and text are all mine.

#TreatYoSelf: 25 Gifts Under $25 To Gift Yourself This Holiday Season

I know so many of us are running around crazy, trying to ensure everyone else has a lovely holiday season. Prepping menus and racing to stores (maybe doing a little online shopping?) — whatever it is, it’s keeping us busy. And while many of us are happy as long as our kids are happy, it’s always nice to treat yourself during the holidays.

I’ve rounded up 25 items (from personal care to personal development!) all $25 or under that you might want to slip under the tree on your behalf. As a plus, most of these are small business owners, which means you are supporting folks like me and giving them a little extra morale boost (that entrepreneur life can be rough!).

Happy holidays, everyone! :) 

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  1. Head Wrap Girl Tee from Sucka Free Tees, $20.00

2. HRDCVR, a new hardcover culture magazine, $25

3. Raspberry body scrub from Loving Hands Soap Shop, $10

4. Citrus Fusion Sea Salt Bath Soak from Layers of Me LLC, $5.99

5. Vanilla Citrus Whipped Hair & Body Meringue from Blaine Lorenn, $18

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6. Pineapple studs from PeaceImages Jewelry, $18

7. “Drink UP” Purple Water Bottle from FunFIT , $13.95

8.“Kiss From A Rose” Silk Red Rose Lined Crown from Adorned by Chi, $24

9. To Be Loved: Chamomile And Rose Facial Scrub from Jolie Bloom, $10

10. Strength Courage Wisdom Copper Earrings from Alexandria’s Authentically Made Jewelry, $24

work hard dream big planner

11. “Work Hard, Dream Big” 2016 Planner by IceyDesigns, $21

12. Forget Me Knot Midi Ring from Brave Chick, $24.00

13. Hand Toning Creme from Ginger + Liz, $18

14. Wonder Woman Print from Loft 817, $8.50

15. BeFree Life Workbook from the BeFreeProject, $15
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16. The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, $15

17. Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be by Christine K. St. Vil and Julian B. Kiganda, $15

18. Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton, $16.50

19.  Crochet Coffee Sleeve from Hook Smart, $7.95

20. Caress Bullet Vibe from V for Vadge, $19

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21. New American Dream mug from Keep Chasing the Stars, $19

22. #DivaDefined Red V-Neck from the Divatude Collection, $15

23. Stunning Braids by Monae Everett, $14.47

24.  Luxe Tassel Necklace by Sakura Luxe, $25

25. Tea Love Gift Set from Plum Deluxe, $17

Happy shopping!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Find Time To Bond With My Daughter Every Week

I used to fret about getting quality time with my daughter, as she is at the stage where she prefers being curled up in the corner with a good book (she is my child for sure!) versus hanging around her mom all day. Sob.

She’s entering that tween stage where she is exploring who she is, who she can trust, who is in her crew, and how she wants to express herself. We have a pretty good relationship, but I know the teen years are coming like a freight train and I want to solidify her trust in me. That I’m here for her, I can offer advice and a shoulder to cry on as she navigates what can be a particularly confusing and trying time.

I try to get in a few days of one-on-one time with both my children every month and I’m still juggling how and when to split my time. But I realized that Sundays are the best days for quality time with my daughter, when we take a good couple of hours and do her hair.

Our ritual begins in the aisles of Target or Walmart, selecting deep conditioners with lots of nourishing ingredients like Dove Hair’s Quench Absolute collection. Once we get home, I deep condition her hair, reminding her how beautiful her hair is, asking her about what’s going on in school and with her friends. She melts into my hands when I wash her hair, opening up in a way that makes me think my hands are magic. (But really, scalp massages are just God’s gift to us mere mortals.)

Then we sit and I moisturize each curl, turning off my phone and taking my time. Sometimes we pick out a movie to watch together (she’s on a “Princess and the Frog” kick lately) and we laugh and giggle together while making her crown beautiful. She is kind and patient as I try my best to learn how to cornrow and flat twist, reminding me that this relationship goes both ways. She pours into me as well.

I hope the lesson she takes away from our hair ritual is that she is beautiful, her curls are beautiful and her mother loved taking the time to play in her hair.

I have been following Dove Hair’s #LoveYourCurls campaign all year, and I received a physical copy of the Love Your Curls book (penned by the extraordinary Taiye Selasi) to share with my daughter.

(This piece pretty much sums up how I feel about my curls!)

Dove Hair #LoveYourCurls

You can download the ebook and personalize a message for the curly girl in your life at Dove.com/LoveYourCurls.

You can also download the new #LoveYourCurls emojis—used in all text and messenger apps (i.e. iMessage, SMS/text, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, etc.)—in the App Store or on Google Play to add some curl love to your conversations!

Tell me: How do you make sure you get one-on-one time with your kids?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dove. The opinions and text are all mine.

Don’t Be Scared To Show The Real You

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Last week was a difficult week on many levels. Personal challenges were coming at me left and right and at one point, I burst into tears in public, sobbing quietly on my way to the car.

I went home to do what I always do — get in the bed and cry privately, hoping somehow that the tears would be cleansing enough for me to be functional by the time my kids got home from school.

But something was different that day. Instead of holding it in, I called a friend and asked her to sit with me as I sorted through my emotions. “Of course,” she said, her voice calming and reassuring. “Tell me what’s going on.”

And we talked. And talked. And talked.

It was so soothing to my soul and by the time we hung up, I was on my way to feeling better.

That was new to me, as I am usually the person on the other end of the phone, reassuring everyone else, giving advice and encouragement to those who are struggling.

But as I am now staring 30 in the face, I am realizing that I do not have to wear “the mask.” I can let my guard down and show who I really am — a woman with a full life and a full range of emotions who sometimes needs support to make it through the rough times. It’s quite simple.

So I ask you: Who’s in your corner? Who cares about your well-being? Who supports you when you need to borrow some of their strength?

We weren’t built to move through life alone. If you don’t have any sister friends who can hold your hand through your darkest moments, get some. It can make all the difference in your life.

“Mommy, She Looks Like Me!” The Dove Hair #LoveYourCurls Campaign Shows Why Representation Matters

“Mommy, that little girl looks like me,” my daughter says, excitedly, tugging my arm to get me to turn my head as we cruise down the aisle of Target. A cute black girl with a halo of tight curls is featured on the signage in the girls’ department, decked out in a brightly patterned outfit that my daughter would definitely wear.

“I see,” I tell my daughter now. “She has hair just like you, huh?”

She nods but doesn’t say anything else. When we get to the toy aisle, again, she scans the shelves looking for dolls that “look like her.”

When we’re watching TV, she’s looking for young girls who “look like her.”

When we’re out at community events, she’s looking for young girls who “look like her.”

She’s seeking that representation everywhere. Representation matters. Nothing will grab my daughter’s attention faster than seeing a young black girl with big natural hair.

My daughter has big, big hair with perfect curls. It’s all I can do not to be jealous when we sit down to wash, condition and style her hair every Sunday. I’ve spent a good chunk of her life trying to instill in her that her hair is beautiful, that it is magic and she is lucky to have it.

“See how your hair grows up, away from your scalp?” I ask her. “Your hair can’t be restrained by gravity! That’s a superpower!”

We talk about her hair so much because earlier in her life, that self-love wasn’t quite present. I almost cried when she came home in second grade and told me she was upset that all the other girls in class had straight hair. “Why doesn’t my hair look like theirs?”

Again, representation matters.

I’m thankful to Dove Hair, which not only offers products specifically for different curl patterns with its Quench Absolute line, but now the company has also started a conversation about curly haired representation. Their new #LoveYourCurls emojis (and GIFs) literally add curly hair to the conversation.

(To download them to your phone, find it in the App Store or on Google Play.)

These emojis can be used in all text and messenger apps (i.e. iMessage, SMS/text, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, etc.), addressing what has been a crazy oversight all these years. Three out of five women say they cannot accurately depict how they look using emojis—in 2015. I’m so happy that number will change now with these new Dove Hair emojis.

After I downloaded the emojis to my phone, I immediately sent off a few texts and showed my daughter. Her smile grew wide. “Mommy, she looks like me!”

Indeed she does, baby. Indeed she does.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dove. The opinions and text are all mine.

Do You Wanna Be Happy? (The Secret Might Just Be Easier Than We Think)

Every day for the past two weeks, I’ve listened to one song on repeat: Kirk Franklin’s newest single, “Wanna Be Happy?”

If you’re tired of being the same
If you’re tired of things not changing
It’s time for you to get out the way
Don’t get stuck in how you feel
Say Jesus take the wheel
He knows the road that you need to take
(But it only works if)
If you wanna be happy
(Look at yourself and say)
Don’t you wanna be happy
I just wanna be happy

This song is SPEAKING to me because yes, I just wanna be happy. Sometimes it is just that simple.

Do you wanna be happy?

Sometimes it feels like life isn’t set up for all of us to experience happiness. It feels like we’ve got to fight for even a shed of happiness, and even then, the feeling is fleeting. But instead of fighting and clawing our way to happiness, maybe the real solution is to let go. Maybe the stress and the push and pull of trying to be happy is what’s keeping us from our joy.

Instead of trying to do more, let’s work on doing less.

Worrying less.

Complaining less.

Saying “yes” when we really mean “no” less.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s the key. Try it just for this week and let me know how it goes.

[GIVEAWAY] 4-Ticket Family Pack To The Great Lakes Science Center

I was provided full admission to the Science Center for my family and four full admission tickets for a giveaway to my readers, by Great Lakes Science Center. As always, all opinions are my own.

As my children are growing older and their schoolwork gets a little more challenging, I feel like I’m working overtime to keep them engaged with their work and trying to find new ways to make learning fun.

My daughter told me once that math was her favorite subject because it was hard and it challenged her. (I almost cried tears of joy, y’all.) My son, who excels at math but gets frustrated if he doesn’t understand something right away, told me he likes math and science, but his favorite “subject” is recess.

Both of them were excited when we went to the Great Lakes Science Center for its new 2theXtreme: MathAlive! exhibit. Designed for children in grades 3-8 (but can also delight people of all ages), this math-focused exhibit features approximately 40 unique, interactive experiences, exposing visitors to concepts from design, engineering, technology and science.

Math Alive at GLSC

Visitors can design and play their own video games, take the controls to master engineer various aspects of a modern city, edit their own animated movies, compete against others in a mountain bike race, jump into a ‘binary dance party,’ or program and control Curiosity, NASA’s next Mars rover.

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My kids loved the snowboarding game (which was harder than it looked!) that taught them about angles and velocity.

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They also enjoyed the rock climbing wall, an exhibit where you build an amusement park to withstand hurricane force winds (we failed! LOL) and more. 2theXtreme: MathAlive! runs until Jan. 2, 2016.

While we were there we also got a chance to see an OMNIMAX movie, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean, which took viewers to the bottom of the sea, to explore how the smallest forms of life ultimately make it possible for all of us to live. Beautifully shot and narrated, this film taught me so much about the ocean and made me realize how little of it humans have actually seen. With its six-story high domed screen, watching an OMNIMAX movie always feels like a treat. There are three movies in rotation now, with a new one—”Robots,” coming November 27—that my son insisted I take him to see.

Omnimax

You can get in on the fun (the science center is a great way to spend a fall or winter day) by entering the giveaway. The Great Lakes Science Center has offered one lucky winner four (4) full admission tickets to Great Lakes Science Center (which includes general admission to the science center plus four tickets to the OMNIMAX theater) to use this fall/winter.

A winner will be selected November 6. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find visitor hours, prices and more at www.GreatScience.com, and visit the Great Lakes Science Center on Facebook and Twitter.