7 Days of Kwanzaa Crafts With Black + Green Mama | Day Two: Kujichagulia

So, we’re crafting our way through Kwanzaa this year. This morning, Babygirl woke up, bolted into the living room, then ran to me, “Mama, we can do another candle in the Kinara now!” So we did. Then we got to crafting.

DAY 2: Mkeka
On the second day of Kwanzaa, we meditate on the concept of Kujichagulia (Self Determination). We decided to create a Mkeka, a woven mat. It’s a bit more difficult than yesterday’s candles, but still easy enough for little hands to handle. And it’s great for developing fine motor skills. Babygirl was into it, but she definitely lost focus after weaving the fifth strip. Of course she ran back over as I taped the last strip in place, so there’s that.

After she repeated the cutest version of “Kujichagulia” ever, we talked about how it is important for us to define ourselves so that others won’t do it for us.

Me: What would you say if someone said to you, “You’re a monster poopy head”?
Babygirl: I’m not a monster poopy head, I’m Saa!
Me: Yes! And that, Saa Saa, is Kujichagulia. You say who you are—not anyone else.
Babygirl: Poop!

2 pieces of construction paper (You’ll probably want to use some combo of red, black and green, but Babygirl wanted to use pink and white. And since the day’s lesson is about defining yourself, I applauded her for making her own choices and kept it moving!)

Decorate both pieces of paper however you like. Babygirl drew us both on the first sheet (Umoja!) and a monster on the second one (“He has five eyes and no mouth, mama!”)

Cut one of the pieces of paper into one-inch wide strips, horizontally. Tip: Number the strips so that your picture will be intact after you weave. I speak from experience—they won’t stay in order if you don’t!

Fold the other sheet in half, horizontally. Then cut it into one-inch wide strips, leaving a half inch space uncut at the edge. This makes it easier to keep the mat together.

Now weave the loose strips into the second piece of paper, using tape to secure the ends. The last strip will be a bit too large to fit into the remaining space; cut it down to fit.

That’s it! Display it or use it as a homebase for your Kwanzaa celebration—your Kinara, Kikombe (Unity cup) and Muhindi (one ear of corn for each kid) will look great on it.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Black Breastfeeding Week | August 25 to 31, 2014

August 25 through 31 marks Black Breastfeeding Week. As anyone who has seen me (and my boobs) knows, I am a huge advocate of giving our children a head start with breast milk whenever possible. Join the celebration on Twitter and Facebook by sharing your breastfeeding tips, triumphs, photos, and questions. And check out the #WellnessWed chat today at 2pm ET.


Best. Breastfeeding. Video. Ever.

Seriously, watch it. It’s catchy and informative!

7 Days of Kwanzaa Crafts With Black + Green Mama | Day Five: Nia

Oh, snap! It’s day five of crafting our way through Kwanzaa! I semi-randomly decided to drive to see my family two states away this morning, so today’s project happened in a Hyatt Place, proving that you can celebrate Kwanzaa anywhere ;-) (It also explains why Babygirl was crafting in her car PJs and overnight hair, lol.) Let’s get it.

DAY 5: Vision Board
On the fifth day of Kwanzaa, we meditate on the concept of Nia (Purpose). Inspired by a goal setting and vision boarding workshop that I run for nonprofits, we decided to create a mini vision board. I know, when you think vision boards you think of Oprah, The Secret, and grown women sitting on the floor swigging wine (or maybe that’s just my friends). But even toddlers have a view of what they want their future to look like, and pictures are a good way to get a glimpse into their thoughts. Babygirl covered hers with a group of dancing ladies (“They dance like me, and Beyoncé.”), a beach (her favorite place), jewelry (because she is fancy), a dog and a cat (because she be begging’ for pets), a house (I like how she thinks), and a mama and her daughter dancing (awwwww!). 

Nia means purpose, and today we think about what we want our future to look like and how we will get there. It’s a time to reflect on how we are using our talents and to assess if we are on track (and how we can get there if we have wandered into the woods). A vision board helps us put into the Universe that which we wish for ourselves.

-1 sheet of paper (Used is fine, as you’ll be covering it with pictures.)
-Old magazines (Anything that might have images your child can relate to; I specifically made one of them a Black title, so she could find people who look like her.)
-Glue stick
-Optional: Crayons/Pastels (Your kid might cover everything, or leave space for writing. Babygirl actually drew on a couple of the pictures.)

Let your little one go crazy scavenging the magazines for pictures that represent things they value. I was worried that my three-year-old wouldn’t understand, but she got it immediately. Say something like, “Look for pictures of things that you want to do, and things that you want to have one day.” Tip: Younger kids might do better first ripping out the pages, then cutting the items out later. Opt for making boxes around items instead of doing intricate scissor cutout work if your little one is still working on those fine motor skills. Cutting straight lines will still give them great practice, without upping the frustration factor.

Glue the pictures to the paper. Every kid will have their own style; Babygirl opted for a collage, so she glued pictures on top of other pictures to get all the ideas in there. Let them do what they like.

Talk about the images they picked and why they picked them. Guaranteed you’ll learn something about your kid that you didn’t know before. And you will both be focused on making those dreams come true. Nia!

Happy Kwanzaa!

"What Prenatal Vitamin Did You Use?"

Many of my posts are spurred by questions I get from moms and moms to be. Yesterday, I received a question from a woman who is preparing her quest for conception: “What prenatal vitamin did you take before you got pregnant?” Here’s my response (as always, I am not a doctor and you should consult your midwife or OB/GYN when making health-related decisions):

On the advice of my doctor, I took straight folic acid (folate) before I got pregnant, then switched to a prenatal after conception. I was on 1000 mcg of folic acid a day for nine months before we got ready to even start, though the baseline recommendation is to start on at least 400 mcg a day for 30 days before you start skipping the birth control. Why so early for me? One, I was am a little crazy and wanted to be sure I did everything I could to ensure my kid had an awesome brain (folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects that impact the brain and spine) and my doctor and I were on that page together. Two, I was preparing to move from NYC to the DC area and was losing my health insurance; this was one just one of the things I did to get my health life in order before it got too costly to do so. I had a prescription from my doc, but you can buy 1000 mcg pills of folic acid over the counter.

When got pregnant, I switched to a prenatal. I went with New Chapter’s Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin after talking to a few moms and reading a bunch. It’s more expensive than some other brands, but I like that the micronutrients are derived from organic veggies and herbs, you can take it on an empty stomach, and it is easy to swallow and keep down (at least it was when hyperemesis wasn’t kicking my butt). I stayed on it the whole time I breastfed Babygirl, too. Whatever prenatal you pick, you can save by ordering from Amazon via the Subscribe & Save program, which gives you at least 5% off each order (more if you have enough other subscriptions running concurrently).

I also took fish oil, as the omega-3 fatty acids it contains are linked to improved cognitive and visual development in little ones, and helps decrease the likelihood of premature delivery and preeclampsia. Docs recommend two 6-ounce servings of low-mercury fish per week to get your fill, but I had a hard time eating fish or anything else through a large portion of my pregnancy, and I wanted to be sure I got enough omega-3 in my belly. I used the store brand from my local organic store (Mom’s), 300 mg/day.

When my hyperemesis was at its worst, I couldn’t even keep down water, let alone a pill. My midwife told me to take a chewable children’s vitamin, but I found the old school Flintstones joint so disgusting tasting that I couldn’t keep that down either. I ended up taking L'il Critters Gummy Vites Complete Children’s Multivitamins until I could handle swallowing my prenatal again. They are the same ones I give Babygirl now, except I buy them for cheaper at Trader Joe’s.

What supplements did you use during your pregnancy? Share in the comments.

Combating the Worst with the Best

This post and accompanying digital care package from the awesome Dr. Yaba Blay is the best thing ever. You probably heard the heartbreaking story of Tiana Parker, a seven-year-old girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was sent home for wearing dreads, saying her hair was unacceptable according to their dress code. 

In a touching display of love for Tiana, who is being taught by the world that her natural texture makes her less than the beautiful young lady she is, Blay created this book of 111 photos of and messages from women who proudly wear locs. Please click through to view and share it widely with the children in your life who need to know that they are beautiful, too.

And while you’re at it, sign this petition calling for the school, Deborah Brown Community School, to apologize to Tiana and her family.

Do What You Can

I was GChating with my homegirl about her adorable new little one, and as often happens with moms, we got on the topic of not feeling like we’re doing enough when it comes to our kids, our homes, our work, our lives.

I told her I feel terrible when I don’t update this site, and she said, “Girl, do what you can. All the mamas understand.” She was 100% right, if no one else understands how hard it is to do everything on your list, it’s other mamas. And beating myself up for not posting certainly won’t free up time in my schedule. Then she told me she feels guilty about the busyness and seeming lack of sanity that comes with being a working mama, and I shot her advice right back at her. As my bestie would say, “Touché, bitch, touché.”

If you strip away the sucky guilt, the core of the issue is a disconnect between how we pictured our days with kids, and our actual days with kids. It can be hard to reconcile fantasies with realities. Lots of moms probably saw themselves working out first thing every morning, making dinner and dessert from scratch daily, banning television, devoting 2.48 hours each evening to getting on the floor with their little one for tummy time, leading daily lessons on Spanish and Chinese starting at one month old,  and having spontaneous sex with bae at least every other day.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Homegirl’s simple reminder to just focus on the things I can do and not get caught up in the regrets of what I don’t get to really resonated with me. Here’s hoping it helps you, too.

Book Spotlight | Of Thee I Sing

So, last night’s State of the Union address has me feeling all patriotic today, and…psyche! Naw, not really. But it did remind me just how much swag our president has, just how much he has done so far with his presidency, and just how much more work there is to do. It also reminded me of the first time Babygirl had any clue that he existed, which was on election night, 2012, when we shot this adorable video, just after the election was called in his favor (“I won both of them”).

That said, I figure President Obama earned this week’s book spotlight fair and square. He published Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters back in 2010, but he wrote it before he took office, as part of the 2004 three-book deal that spawned The Audacity of Hope. Beautifully illustrated by Loren Long, it uses his gift for the poetic to interweave a sweet message to his girls (“Have I told you that you have your own song?”) with profiles of 13 inspirational Americas, from Jackie Robinson to Billie Holiday. Proceeds are donated to a scholarship fund for the children of disabled and deceased veterans. We’re adding it to our collection today.

Web Love | BlackAndGreenMama Featured on RedTricycle

Mom Kenrya spent so much time waxing poetic about the virtues of pocket diapers and why she can’t live without her baby carrier that she decided to compile her thoughts and tips into one handy eco-minded blog. She feels that being a Black mother who has worked in media for more than a decade gives her a unique perspective on the green movement and she strives to help others realize their “hippie” potential. She hopes you can pick up a couple tips to make your parenting journey easier, healthier, greener and more fun.”