Friday, May 29, 2009

Home Made Love: Screamin' Mean Collard Greens





When Mommy was growing up, collard greens were usually made for special occasions—like big Sunday dinners when company was coming over, or on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s, when black folks ate them for good luck with their money for the coming year. Mommy thinks people didn’t make them a lot because you had to find fresh collards in the grocery store, and then soak them in the sink to get the grit (that’s southern for “dirt”) off the leaves, roll them, cut them into thin strips, then soak them some more to make sure they were absolutely, totally, positively clean. That was hard work—who wanted to do all of that for a meal on a Thursday night?! These days, though, collard greens come in bags, already clean and cut; you just pour them into a pot and a few hours later—voila!—you have a delicious, steaming, heaping pot full of one of the most delicious veggies ever. Now, our mommy makes them all the time, no matter the day—and we enjoy them, too. We especially love them with fried chicken. But they taste best when Mommy puts a few spoonfuls in a bowl with pieces of turkey meat, right out of the pot. They're just not right without hot sauce, so make sure you have a bottle on hand to put out with a great big ol’ heapin’ serving of these greens. Simply dee-vine.

What You’ll Need:

1 bag of collard greens
2 smoked turkey legs
1 small can of chicken stock
1 tbsp hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Lawry’s seasoning salt

To Cook:

1. In a large pot, cover turkey legs with water and boil at least 40 minutes, until meat gets a bit tender. If the water boils down, add more.
2. After 40 minutes, add half of the bag of greens to the pot.
3. Add half of each of the seasoning to the top of the greens in the pot.
4. Layer the second half of the bag into the pot, and put in the rest of the seasonings.
5. Add chicken stock.
6. Cover and let simmer on medium until greens are tender; taste to adjust seasonings. The greens should be ready in about 2 ½ hours.

This recipe is from the MyBrownBaby series, "Home Made Love: From The Chiles Girls' Kitchen To Yours," the cookbook in which Mari and Lila share special memories behind the beloved dishes they create in our house.

This Home Made Love series is sponsored by The Young Chef's Academy of Sandy Springs, GA, a cooking school for children. Learning food preparation skills is the main ingredient at YCA, and each class adds a heap of kitchen safety, a scoop of etiquette, a handful of table setting, a pinch of menu planning, and laughter to taste. To find out about classes, summer camps, and more at The Young Chef's Academy of Sandy Springs, click HERE.



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Thursday, May 28, 2009

MyBrownBaby Redux: Damn that Lil' Wayne--Now I Have To Live Without My Radio.



Black radio apparently is facing an uphill battle against a bill that would charge radio stations millions of dollars in fees to play music for the masses, and a few outspoken station owners are sounding a rallying cry for listeners to stop the measure by fighting the powers that be. I have to say that though I respect the history behind black radio, I'm finding it ridiculously hard to grab picket signs, show up to hearings, and call my local congressman to implore folks to save the institution, particularly when it seems the institution really doesn't respect or care about me as a listener. I wrote this post, about why I've banned black radio when my kids are in the car, when I first started MyBrownBaby, back in Fall 2008. I think it stands to reason that not much has changed. Much respect to black radio, but if you want my help, maybe you need to consider making some changes. I'm just sayin'.


By DENENE MILLNER

So I’m in the car on my way to Target with my daughters when I realize I pulled out without my pack of homemade kid-friendly/mom-approved CD mixes. Now, this isn’t an issue if I’m driving alone—I simply tune into talk radio (Warren Ballentine has my ear during morning errands, Michel Martin’s NPR show Tell Me More is on in the afternoon, and I smile all the way to my exercise torture… er, African dance class listening to Farai Chideya’s News & Notes in the evenings). But Mari and Lila neither understand nor appreciate the finer points of intelligent black thought on the RNC convention and the Kwame Kilpatrick fiasco (hey, they’re nine and six—have an exhaustive talk about SpongeBob, Raven-Symone, or snot, and they’re all in). So I turned on the radio. It was nine in the morning. I live only about five minutes from Target. “How bad could it be?” I asked myself as I punched in my local R&B station.

And wouldn’t you know—on comes Lil’ Wayne’s “Mrs. Officer,” with Bobby Valentino contributing a chorus of police siren noises and dirty talk about what he’s going to do to the lady cop when he gets her in the backseat of her ride. It took Lila, the 6-year-old, all of three seconds to tap into her inner Beyonce and join along: “When I get all up in ya/We can hear the angels calling us/We can see the sunrise before us/And when I’m in that thang/I’ll make that body sing/I make it say Wee Ooh Wee Ooh Wee…” she sang with much gusto and way too much glee.

When I tell you I almost crashed the ride into a ditch trying to change the station?

A rambling black-out lecture immediately followed—I think the words “inappropriate” and “mommy’s not mad, really,” and “since you’re not grown,” tumbled from my lips. But mostly, I remember the look of confusion and fear on my baby’s face. Why, I could tell she was wondering, is my mother bugging out over a song?

Here’s why: Because Lil’ Wayne with his “Lollipop” and Bobbi Valentino with his “Wee Ooh Wee Ooh Wee,” and black radio, with its devil-may-care playlists blasting in the afternoons for all of the Elmo set to hear, are k-i-l-l-i-n-g this generation’s ability to hear and appreciate good music. And frankly, I’m tired of it.

Now don’t get it twisted: I love Hip Hop and R&B. I’m a product of it in every way—sat by the stereo in my parents basement every Friday night listening to Red Alert and Mr. Magic; blasted Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Rakim from my stereo in my college dorm room; got through my year living away from home and on my own listening to A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Mary J. Blige and Jodeci and; covered some of the greatest lyricists and singers ever as an entertainment reporter for The Daily News in New York. I’m prone to blasting Jay-Z, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, T.I., Ludacris and music by countless other artists whose lyrics are astounding.

But the babies don’t know nothing about them.

That’s grown folk music.

And I just wish that somebody who has control over what’s played on my local radio station when I’m driving the kids to school, or picking them up from swim practice, or driving them to Target would act like they know this, too. I mean, I distinctly remember as a teenager listening to legendary radio jock Frankie Crocker explain why nobody would ever hear Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” before 9 p.m. on his watch. The subject matter, he said, wasn’t for the kids to hear. I didn’t fully comprehend what the big deal was, but then, Crocker wasn’t talking to me, right? He was helping out my mom and dad, who, while at work, just didn’t—and couldn’t—control what my brother and I were listening to on the family stereo.

Sadly, there are no Frankie Crockers, it seems, on the scene today—just deejays who are quite happy to tell moms like us that they just play what the audience wants to hear and if we don’t like it, oh well.

With apologies to black radio, and at the expense of sounding like a played-out mom too old to recognize cool when I hear it, I’m just going to go on ahead and tune out when my girls are in the car, thank you. And for other moms considering the same, I’m attaching a list of kid-friendly, mother-approved R&B and Hip Hop hits both you and your kids can enjoy the next time you’re in the car, without fear (all of these can be downloaded off iTunes). If you want to add on to this list, go on ahead and do it in the comments section. Happy listening!

1. Alright, Ledisi
2. UMI Says, Mos Def
3. Mi Swing Es Tropical, Nickodemus & Quantic, featuring Tempo
4. Summertime, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
5. Mind Control, Stephen Marley
6. Still In Love, Kirk Franklin
7. I’d Like To, Corinne Baily Rae
8. Honey, Erykah Badu
9. Let Go, Lalah Hathaway
10. Sittin’ In The Middle, Raul Midon
11. Teenage Love Affair, Alicia Keys
12. Golden, Jill Scott
13. Get By, Talib Kweli [Note: Get the “clean” version; there is some cursing on the explicit one, but it’s a great message song you’ll appreciate the kids hearing.]
14. Need U Bad, Jazmine Sullivan
15. Magic Touch, Robin Thicke
16. Ordinary, Wayne Brady





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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

MyBrownBaby MOM OF THE WEEK: Tara Pringle Jefferson



Honest to goodness, I'd pay top dollar for just an ounce of Tara Pringle Jefferson's energy. The wife and mommy of two is one of the hardest working bloggers on the set, keeping up interesting and insightful discussion on her The Young Mommy Life, even as she holds down a full-time job and contributes regularly to the lovely site, Black and Married With Kids. She is a self-proclaimed lover of the written word--admits that she's wanted to be a writer since the day she learned that "B comes after A and C comes after B." But it's her passion for giving voice to the 20-something mom experience that caught my attention; she, along with the extraordinary Akilah of Execumama and Future Mama of Baby Makin(g) Machine, really do a fantastic job of laying claim to the joys, fears, and frustration of being young parents and parents-to-be, even in an age where 20-somethings hardly ever get a chance to have their say in the parenting debate. Indeed, just last week, Tara wrote a controversial post about how her doctor refused to tie her tubes after she had her second child, arguing that she was too young to make such a permanent decision for herself; I admired her insistence that naysayers recognize she's a grown woman with a husband, kids, a mortgage, and the right to exercise her reproductive rights. "Popular culture would love for you to believe that young, smart, responsible moms don’t exist," she writes on The Young Mommy Life. "But they do. I’m proof." Love. Her. You will to. Check out what goes on in this young mommy's life:

My name is… Tara Pringle Jefferson.

I live in… a lovely part of Ohio where LeBron James lives. (It’s a great time to be a Cavs fan.)

My brown babies are… so magically delicious. My daughter, Ayanna, 2.5, and son, Thomas Jr., almost 1, both have the same chubby cheeks, big eyes and nibble-worthy button noses.

I make a living… in the nonprofit world by day. By night, I transform into freelance writer mama extraordinaire.

The last time my kids cracked me up was... when my daughter refused to hand me the Vaseline until I admitted it was “petroleum jelly” – yes, my daughter knows the difference between store brands and name brands.

The last book I read with my kids was… "Pooh and Piglet." I think my son looks like Pooh.

My favorite place to take them is… the grocery store. We go every weekend and I point out all the fruits and vegetables and whatever they want out of that section, they can get. If they want to try zucchini, or eggplant, or rhubarb, I’ll let them.

My proudest mom moment was… when I introduced my daughter to her new baby brother in the hospital and she was (and still is) the best big sister I could have asked for. She held him gently, gave him the nickname "Chubby Boy," and watched over him every second he was awake.

My most embarrassing mommy moment was the time when… my daughter peed all over the mechanic’s desk at the auto repair shop.

The thing I most want my children to know is… there are no limits. Do what you love and you will be a success.

The one family tradition I hope my kids continue when they grow up is… cooking in the kitchen. I love having my daughter pull up a chair and my son in his high chair and I talk to them while I cook.

If I could invent one thing to make being a mom easier, it would be… a “Mommy needs a break” remote. When your kids are climbing up your last nerve and you need to get out the house before SOMEONE gets hurt, just press the little “Me-time” button. Time freezes and you have one hour to do whatever you wish. Hit the button again and time resumes.

The best invention for kids ever is… the fruit punch juice boxes where the juice is CLEAR. I no longer freak about purple and red stains on my gray carpet. Hallelujah!

The kid snack I’m most likely to get busted eating is… not a kid snack but banana baby food? DEE-licious. Yum.

The most important life lesson I want my kids to learn is… they have a responsibility to give back. Whether it’s giving of their time, money or talent, they have to look out for those less fortunate.

The one thing no one knows about me is… I’m the biggest nerd you’ll ever meet. I get excited about new fonts. I read more than any one person should.

The thing I lost as a mom that I wish I could get back is… my pre-baby boobs, if we’re talking physical. Other than that, I’d love to get my energy back.

My “I’d Rather Be…” bumper sticker would say…I’d Rather Be Reading. I’m kind of low-key in that way.



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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

MyBrownBaby Presents asha bandele: She's Something Like Beautiful



I’ve met author asha bandele only once in person, yet we've gotten on the phone a million times and talked for hours about everything—our daughters, collard greens cook-offs, bullies, Spades—as if we’d known each other a lifetime. She’s easy like that—infectious. I’ve loved her forever—first as an author, freelance writer and poet who penned the astoundingly haunting, The Prisoner’s Wife, and the richly moving novel, Daughter, and later as a terrific friend. Every conversation with asha is deep, funny, spiritual, crazy, a little nutty, a lot smart, and I always hang up the phone so very glad to be counted as her sister friend. I’ve gotten to know her better through her memoirs, and of late, I’ve been thoroughly engrossed by her lasted work, Something Like Beautiful: A Single Mother’s Story. A follow-up to The Prisoner’s Wife, asha’s memoir about falling in love with and marrying a prisoner she met while working in the system, Something Like Beautiful is a fitting, beautiful testament to the life she’s built and the struggles she’s endured as she raises her daughter Nisa, alone. I asked her if I could share an excerpt of Something Like Beautiful here at MyBrownBaby, and she graciously obliged. Here, asha’s lovely words (yes, this is a long post, but every word is worth it, I promise you):



This is the hour I live for. This is the hour I live. I am here in the hushed dark and I am watching my daughter sleep. I am watching her deep, full breathing, her arms outstretched, her face wearing the look of peace and content. And her face, the one I can stare at and lose myself in. I lose myself in the smooth and round and beauty of her face, buried and breathing now into my breast.

The day has been long, it has felt impossible, it’s felt immeasurable, but it was not and we are here, survivors on an aching planet, but both us and the planet. But both of us are still pulsing with life. And in this hour and in this moment with work and school and plans and lists, and everything, everything that was to be done actually done, we are here, and we are together and we are at peace.

And peace is what I always feel when I am with her, with Nisa, the clown, the freely affectionate, the lover of strawberries, sushi, spaghetti and ginger ale (though not in that order).

Nisa whose sense of joy and mischief could be marketed.

Nisa who is silly and bossy and demanding, although she does work very, very hard at sharing. She really, really tries.

Nisa, my little Aries, my fire sign who spits fire, born as she was in the Year of the Dragon... Nisa, my self-defined abstract artist and singer in the tradition of Beyonce, Nina Simone, Hannah Montana and the Cheetah Girls depending on the day, depending on her mood.

Nisa who loves cotton candy, cucumbers, Coney Island and being from Brooklyn.

Nisa who wants a dog and who does not understand “lease provisions.” Her, that girl.

She is never my problem, never the struggle, never the one who disturbs my peace. I tell people that when they offer assistance, offer to watch her for an hour or two. She is not my problem. She is my joy.

People say, and I believe them, How can I help? I say nothing. It’s not that there isn’t any help I can use. But who would I or who should I turn to when my stress is born of a sudden 40% increase in the cost of my rent and no concurrent increase in my income level?

Who can hold me down if the bottom line is this: I need to work outside the home just a little bit less so that I can make dinner for my daughter just a little bit more?

Who am I supposed to call about… a healthcare system that was just affordable and accessible? If someone wants to make me an offer, then be warned: these are the things I could really use help with... perhaps a public education system that doesn’t take a one size fits all approach to teaching children; or operate on a fear-based discipline theory even when who they’re scaring are people who are five and six years old, seven and eight and nine years old.

I would like a nation of school houses that actually look like school houses and not detention centers where even now, today, too many first graders are walking into their schools and their initial encounter is with cops and sometimes with metal detectors and so in case those children didn’t know it before, they know by the time they’ve walked through years of detectors, been watched by years of police officers, seen years of bars on windows, that whatever anyone told them, dreamed for them, they know their real destiny in this world is to one day be a prisoner. I could use that change.

I could use a country where no child really ever did get left behind. I could use an end to the war in Iraq, the conscription of children into armies, the genocide in Darfur and the persecution of women in Afghanistan. I could use police who cared about my well-being and the well-being of my children and the well being of children of mothers I know and I don’t know… I could use a grocery store in my neighborhood that sold organic foods. I could certainly have used a different response to Hurricane Katrina.

I could use a media that reflected in relatively real time the world it claims to cover. I could use a little more courtesy when I’m out in public. I could use far less concrete. I could use my daughter’s father home from prison. I could use many fathers and mothers home from prison.

I could use an end to child abuse and rape and sexual harassment and male domination and white supremacy and all the other isms that keep us hobbled and hurting.

They disturb my peace, those things do, but not her. Never my Nisa.

Even on the days when I have sat there just stunned watching her, Nisa, launch into a third straight hour of talking, of jabbering, on and on about absolutely nothing, but the sound of her own voice delights her even if it does make my eyes water up and cross. Even on those days, those endlessly noisy exasperating days, she does not disturb my peace.

If I have any peace at all it is because of those days and these nights. And this is what I’m thinking as I stroke her hair lightly and watch her as she sleeps and then without warning her small body jumps. She jerks in her sleep and I am suddenly afraid, my fears are so constant, so present, even in this hour when I think I’ve banished all the negatives away.

Put to the test, I go right there: Something terrible must be happening inside of Nisa’s head and I am waking her gently but urgently from the nightmare that I’m certain has gripped her sleep because too often they have gripped my sleep and before I can remind myself she is not me, my experiences have not been Nisa’s experiences and they will not be, she may never have nightmares; before I can tell myself any of that I am calling her name, I am whispering it into her, Nisa, Nisa baby, wake up, wake up.

I am asking her this as her eyes open slightly, then shut again tightly. Nisa baby, what are you dreaming, what are you seeing when you close your eyes? Are there monsters, is there something wrong, you jumped in your sleep. And she pauses before she answers, this child who is free and I swear I do not want to put my stuff on her, my hurt, and I curse myself for having just done it again and I make another silent promise that I will stop. I will stop right now. And as I am making this promise with my arms around my child, Nisa says to me quietly but deliberately and just like this:

I’m dreaming of rainbows Mommy. Go back to sleep.



Excerpted from asha bandele's Something Like Beautiful: A Single Mother's Story. Please consider supporting asha's work; click HERE to read reviews of her books and to purchase her work.



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Monday, May 25, 2009

Just Call Her Little Nikki Giovanni: My Brown Baby Tries Her Hand At Poetry



Have mercy, school is over and there's an avalanche of graded papers, old school supplies, and random art/science/social studies projects cluttering literally every surface of the kitchen counters. Slowly but surely, I've been sifting through the collection with the hope that I'll have a stable of places to stash all of it sometime before August, when the kids go back to school. (Yeah, right. Jesus be a Container Store gift certificate so I can get a handle and a clue.) Anyhow, there are some pearls in the piles of papers that I'm seeing for the first time, and one touched my heart so that I just had to share it with you; it's a poem my Mari wrote in her 4th grade class. It's astoundingly beautiful (I say this not only because I'm her mother, but because it's really good); I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.





MY SUNSET
By Mari Chiles


I dream of the sunset
My sunset
With seagulls flying high

I dream of the sunset
My sunset
A color spectrum in the sky

Angels floating around me
With the ocean as far
as the eye can see

I dream of the sunset
My sunset
That is what I dream.


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Friday, May 22, 2009

Make a Splash and Save a Life: Teach Our Babies How to Swim



I’ll never forget the first day I took my baby girl, Mari, to see the ocean. She was so tiny—couldn’t walk yet without my holding both her hands, but insisted on letting those sweet little twinkle toes sink into the sand. She was fascinated by it all, and scared, too—so scared, indeed, that when we stood at the edge of the sand and the water rushed toward us, a warm trickle of baby nerves flowed right out of her Little Swimmers… down her leg… onto her toes… into the sand. It was as if, even at a mere 10 months, she was yielding to the power of the ocean—wide, vast, imposing. For Mari, the towel, further back—way back—on the sand was the place to be.

The water would have to wait.

But Nick and I knew Mari’s relationship with water couldn’t wait for long. We were living in the suburbs, right next door to a dear friend and neighbor who had a pool, and we often vacationed in places where water is revered. The girl needed to swim. And so swim, she did—in classes at the local YMCA and at the local pool at first, and later on the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard and Jamaica and Cape May and the Hamptons.

And when Mari fell in love with water, she fell hard.

These days, we have an entire pool of Chiles fish dipping in and out of swimming holes all across town; Mari swims like a shark, as does her little sister, Lila, who, too, took swim lessons starting at age three. Their big brother, Mazi, is a lifeguard at a local public pool. Oftentimes—too often—they are the only little brown children in the water.



Sadly, there is an explanation for this: According to a 2008 study by the USA Swimming Foundation, six out of 10 African-American children don’t’ know how to swim, nearly twice as many as their white counterparts, while 56 percent of Hispanic and Latino children are unable to swim. Why, you ask? Well, it’s because we parents don’t swim. Black and Latino children are six times more likely to be part of a family in which neither parent nor child can swim, and in those families, a whopping 91 percent of black children and 70 percent of Hispanic/Latino children will NOT learn.

What’s worse is that those sobering statistics are leading to all-too-many of our brown babies becoming statistics. Indeed, African-American children drown at a rate almost three times higher than white children in similar age groups—all because they don’t have the skills they need to survive the water.



Oh, but there’s hope, people, and it comes in the form of a 6’ 5” (hottie) U.S. Olympic gold medalist who’s passionate about using his fame to raise awareness on the issue and ensure more kids learn to swim—particularly in urban communities. Just as pools across the nation open this weekend for the summer season, Cullen Jones, the freestyle sprint Olympian who is the first African-American to hold or share a world record in swimming, is promoting the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Initiative, which provides low- to no-cost life-saving swimming skills to kids, particularly those in urban communities.

Jones will travel to Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle, Kansas City, Denver, and Los Angeles to meet with community leaders, parents, and children to spread the message that the ability to swim is a life-and-death issue that needs to be addressed not now—but right now.



“I didn’t learn how to swim to become an Olympic champion,” Jones says. “I learned how to swim, because when I was five years old, I almost drowned. Every summer these tragedies happen and we talk about how they could have been prevented; yet every year the statistics remain the same. I am committed to a real solution.”

Jones, in conjunction with the USA Swimming Foundation and ConocoPhillips, will also encourage increasing funding for learn-to-swim initiatives across the country; he'll be soliciting donations to the Make a Splash/Sponsor a Swim Lesson program, an online giving program that provides the public an opportunity to help fund free or low-cost swim lessons for kids who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn.

Since its inception in 2007, more than 37,000 kids have gone through Make a Splash swimming lessons; currently, there are 68 providers giving free or low-cost water safety instruction across the country. For more information, or to donate or sponsor a swim lesson for a child in need, click HERE to check out Makeasplash.org.

And for goodness sake, get your kids some swim lessons. Even if you don't want any parts of the water (trust me on this: I DO understand the significance of ruining a a fresh press and curl in pool water), your baby deserves this life-skill. It's easy enough to find low-cost lessons at the local public pool; make it happen, save your child's life. It's as simple as that.



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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Disney's First African American Princess Is Frame-Ready!



I wrote back in February about how it's going to be a whole new world at Disney with the debut of Princes Tiana, Disney’s first black princess. First in the year-long roll-out for the holiday 2009 movie were toys and costumes featuring the chocolate face of Princess Tiana. And now, the official The Princess and the Frog movie poster--get into it!

Want some more? Below, too, is the official Disney trailer of the movie, due for a soft release in late November, and a wide release in early December. Take a peek and tell me what you think. Around these parts, it's considered pretty doggone cute; my girls can't wait to see the real deal--a princess who looks like them--up on the big screen. Frankly, neither can I.

Press play and enjoy!





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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The SITStahs Are In The MyBrownBaby House!



It’s a par-tay over here y’all—MyBrownBaby is droppin' it like it's hawt because it's a MyBrownBaby SITSday! The lovely ladies at The Secret is in the Sauce, the fab website that turns bloggers into comment junkies, chose MyBrownBaby as its featured blog, and I'm doing the happy, happy, joy, joy dance in appreciation for the love. Thank you Heather and Tiffany for all that you do; I've made some wonderful SITStahs through your website, and am quite tickled that I'll be making even more new friends thanks to your hard work and dedication to bloggers. It feels hella good to be appreciated, recognized, and loved in the midst of such a wonderful, warm community. *Insert image of Denene applauding wildly here!*

If you’re new to MyBrownBaby, here’s the quick and dirty on the site: I’m Denene Millner, a 15-time author, contributing editor and Mom Squad member at Parenting and Essence magazines, the Real Talk mom at Momtourage, and associate editor at the travel magazine, Odyssey Couleur. My latest book, “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man,” which I wrote with the comedian Steve Harvey, has been No. 1 on The New York Times Hardcover Advice Best Sellers List for 14 consecutive weeks, and was featured on Oprah twice. I also just pushed the "send" button on a memoir I penned for Nene Leakes, star of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

More importantly, I’m a mom of three beautiful kids, the wife of an awesome magazine editor/writer, the proud owner of a spectacular Goldendoodle, Teddy, and ridiculously giddy for no good doggone reason. Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimist, but I try to remind myself every day how blessed I am for good health, a sound mind, strength, and above all else, the good, hearty, everlasting love of a beautiful family. Mary put it best:



Feels so good,
When you’re doing all the things that you want to do
Get the best out of life, treat yourself to something new
Keep your head up high
In yourself, believe in you, believe in me

Having a really good time, I’m not complaining
And I’m a still wear a smile if it’s raining
I got to enjoy myself regardless
I appreciate life, I’m so glad I got mine

So I like what I see when I’m looking at me
when I’m walking past the mirror
Ain’t worried about you and what you gonna do
I’m a lady so I must stay classy
Got to keep it hot, keep it together
If I want to get better
You see I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just…
Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine… WHOO!


Yup—I’m just fine. So come on in and take a look around. Check out what I do to FIND ME-TIME, and how me and my girls KICK IT OL' SCHOOL. Check our what legendary actress DIAHANN CARROLL whispered in my ear, how I feel about BLACK DADS, PLAYING IN THE SUN, and SOLO VACATIONS. You’ll also find some great music here, too, including videos from artists like INDIA.AIRE, ANGIE STONE, and LEDISI, as well as some great recipes from my daughters’ “Home Made Love” cookbook. You’ll find, too, that I don’t mind speaking my mind, particularly when the NEIGHBORS GO WILD, BET GETS LOW, and I get nervous for my AFRICAN AMERICAN SON. No conversation is off-limits, and sometimes it can get a little ROWDY around here. But every post is meant to give voice to black moms looking to get in on the parenting debate, and certainly to invite ALL moms, regardless of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or background to talk about what we love to talk about most: motherhood.

So crank up the tunes—Mary J. Blige is getting it hot up in here! Then check out the site, and introduce yourself in the comment section. If you're interested in contributing posts to MyBrownBaby, email me at denenemillner at gmail dot com. I’m SO happy you stopped by!

(Note: Sugar Shack, the iconic painting featured at the top of this post, is by the revered artist, Ernie Barnes; he died earlier this month, leaving an incredible legacy of grace, elegance, and beauty. Paint fantastic rainbows with the angels, Mr. Barnes.)


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MyBrownBaby Loves The Bernie Mac Show



And this is exactly why I love me some Bernie Mac—foul mouth, tart tongue, “this is some bull” brashness and all. I was on deadline yesterday—had my Haribo gummy bears, Double Bubble bubble gum, my MacBook, and the remote, and stumbled on an old episode of The Bernie Mac Show. Made me suspend time and laugh out loud, that fool—had me wanting to hi-five his behind through the screen. His kids, you see, had brought on a serious case of momnesia, and Bernie was all jacked up over it:

I can’t think no more—they make my brain hot
It’s like I got a George Forman grill in my head—I gotta drain the grease
If they keep it up, I’m o loose my mind.
And I know they’re gonna keep it up.
You know it too…

His solution for overcoming hot brain? Well, his wife, Wanda, told him to write everything down, of course:

She’s right: I just need a little help on keeping things straight
I’m not going to let those little devils kill my braincells, oh no.
See that’s where technology come in.
(he holds up an electronic note thingamajig)
Check it out: It got a to-do list, a address book, and a section where I can write my little reminder notes, like, kill Jordan, and kill Vanessa—tell baby girl her sister and brother ran away
Yeah… I need to get that down.

Yeah, um, didn’t work. Does it ever? Instead, Bernie tries to dull the pain—his gas pain, his back pain, his brain pain, and his butt pain. And resigns himself to the fact that those damn kids will win every time.

Trying to fight on it makes you look foolish… now go on America, I need to get my rest.




Okay, um—seriously? Every time that man opened his mouth on that show, it was like he was taking notes in my house. Bump what you heard: Bernie Mac was, by far, one of the realest TV ‘rents on television—funny, no nonsense, vulnerable, irrational, smart, hapless, incredibly introspective. Real.

I appreciate(d) that about him and his The Bernie Mac Show—one of the few sitcoms my kids and I could sit down and watch together and laugh until our sides split. And we still consider even the re-runs must-see TV.

Miss you, Bernie. Thanks for the good times.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

They'll Wear The Armor: Guarding My Babies From The "N" Word


He said it as simple as “pass the salt” or “may I have another slice of apple pie”—“My mom said we can’t play with niggers, so…” I was 11-years-old and brand new—the child of two southerners who, in integrating a virtually all-white, working-class neighborhood in Long Island, thought it more prudent to embrace racial progress than harp on painful pasts. No one had told me that the word was supposed to hurt, and so I didn’t sweat it—was more sad about the 8-ft fence my neighbor’s mama had built around their house and her orders to her children to stay away from me and my brother than some word whose meaning was still tenuous—blurry—to kids like us.

The meaning and the sentiment behind it was crystal clear, though, the next time I heard it. I was riding my bike one block over from my parents’ house when the daughter of my Girl Scout troup leader shouted out from her front lawn full of friends, “Nigger want a watermelon?” I was 12. I never went back on that block or to another Girl Scouts meeting—not ever. That’s how I dealt with that. And years later, when a fellow student barged into my dorm room, shouting about how “the nigger down at the front desk” wouldn’t let her in without showing I.D., I was too scared to do anything other than accept her apology and tell her it was cool. I’d only been on that college campus for about 30 minutes—the tears from saying good-bye to my parents were still wet on my face. And the word “nigger” was already ringing in my ears.

I had a few choice words and a couple middle fingers for the people who called me the “N” word once I grew up and got some nads—for the guy at the CVS who thought he should get to skip the line where I was waiting to buy Pampers for my baby; for the guy in the parking lot of the Best Buy, who thought I should pull out into oncoming traffic because he was in a rush; for the angry Puerto Rican who cursed me in Spanish but knew enough English to call me “nigger” after I almost rear-ended his car trying to avoid hitting a stalled one in my lane.

I remember every… last… time.

And each incident still makes my blood boil.

And I wait on pins and needles, needles and pins for the day that someone will say that ugly, searing, poisonous word to my daughters. I wonder under what circumstance they’ll hear it—if it’ll be on the school bus, or at the mall, or in camp, when there is no grown-up within earshot. Maybe it’ll be at college, on their first day, while their faces are still wet with tears.

I try to figure out what I’ll say to them—how I’ll explain such vitriol—such contempt—conferred from one stranger to another. I see such innocence in their young faces; at age six and nine, they don’t know much about the harsh lessons black children faced over the years. Selma. Four Little Girls. Ruby Bridges. Back of the bus. Separate and unequal. Those babies had to have armor, you hear? And we did, to some extent, too.

But not my babies—not really. In this post-racial world, where the most powerful leader on the planet is a black man with two daughters who look just like them, and it’s not a thing for little black girls to have white friends and Asian friends and Muslim friends, and it just doesn’t matter as much what color you are or what religion you practice but what kind of person you are, my girls don’t have to put on the armor. Their expectations of others are pure.

They can just… be.

Without fear.

Even here in Georgia, in the seat of the confederacy, where just a generation ago, children who looked like them witnessed unspeakable atrocity.

Still, I can’t claim racial progress with a whole heart. Black president and First Mom aside, we still see Confederate flags snapping in the Spring winds. And it’s only a matter of time before someone curls that ugly word around the tongue and launches it in my babies’ direction.

Some days, I feel like I should warn them.

Most days, I want my black butterflies to enjoy the innocence—to avoid having to put on the armor just a little while longer.

Just a little while…


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Friday, May 15, 2009

Home Made Love: Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies





We like peanut butter cookies but we love them with the sweet sugary chocolate on the top. We like to lick the kisses off when the peanut butter cookies are still warm--it looks like a regular chocolate kiss, but when you put it to your tongue, it's all warm melty chocolate. We gave these cookies to Santa Claus and he really liked them. He ate three out of the four cookies. Of course, he only had four cookies because we, along with our cousins Miles and Cole, and our next door neighbor Cheyenne, ate about 30 of the cookies all by ourselves before Mommy rescued the four for Santa.




Now that it's summer time, we can eat ALL of the cookies without worry. Maybe we'll eat them out on the back deck on a hot, sunny day, with a nice, tall glass of freezy cold milk. YUM!






Ingredients:

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® peanut butter cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
1 package Hershey's kisses

Directions:

1. Combine ingredients.
2. Use a melon scoop to create balls of cookie dough.
3. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes (you'll have to do about three batches).
4. Top each cookie with a chocolate kiss as soon as you remove a batch from the oven.

Makes about 40 cookies.

ENJOY!!!


This recipe is from the MyBrownBaby series, "Home Made Love: From The Chiles Girls' Kitchen To Yours," the cookbook in which Mari and Lila share special memories behind the beloved dishes they create in our house.

This Home Made Love series is sponsored by The Young Chef's Academy of Sandy Springs, GA, a cooking school for children. Learning food preparation skills is the main ingredient at YCA, and each class adds a heap of kitchen safety, a scoop of etiquette, a handful of table setting, a pinch of menu planning, and laughter to taste. To find out about classes, summer camps, and more at The Young Chef's Academy of Sandy Springs, click HERE.





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Thursday, May 14, 2009

And the No. 1 Reason Why Live Animals Don't Make Good Party Favors Is...





This is M&M.

He's a 23 cent goldfish.

In a bowl with accessories totaling $40, purchased for the 23-cent goldfish named M&M because the original bowl was much too small and M&M was way too lonely and plus, M&M really likes flowers and caves.

This is a picture of M&M three days after he came home from the party and moved into his new digs.

Exactly.

Thanks, Mari's friend's mom.

Thanks a lot.




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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Where's The Media Frenzy When Brown Babies Go Missing?



Late last month when I wrote a blog about the delicious site Black And Married With Kids, one of MyBrownBaby's followers, Kat of The Kat Lee Reader left a sweet, passionate comment about another site she stumbled on, Black And Missing. What she wrote touched my heart:

...it shows many African American children that are missing that I've never seen on the news. My first thought was, "How did these kids go unnoticed?" I immediately found myself back here [at MyBrownBaby], in a weird way looking for an answer. Why doens't the news show the children on this site? Your blog has such an integrity--a connection with the reader. What is the answer?

I was pretty blunt with Kat--told her that children of color who go missing rarely show up on the news because they simply aren't valued by these news organizations like white children are.

...we can not dismiss that, whether intentional or not, our brown babies simply get treated as if they are less important/valuable than their white counterparts. It's infuriating. Sad. Frustrating. Wrong.

Perhaps the families of the missing black kids don't have the resources/publicity arms needed to get the word out. Or maybe the editors who decide what's newsworthy are desensitized to the pain and agony black parents face when their children go missing. Whichever the case, SOMEBODY should do better by brown babies.

I encouraged Kat to be an advocate for change--to point out the injustice to family and friends, write letters to and leave comments on the sites of neglectful news organizations, and to blog about it, which she did (click HERE to see what Kat wrote).

Not more than two weeks later, one of my favorite New York Times editorial columnists, Bob Herbert, picked up where Kat and I left off; in his column yesterday, Herbert lamented the recent killings of some three dozen children in the Chicago Public Schools system, and the lack of coverage and attention the deaths have gotten in mainstream media. A veteran journalist, Herbert opened his piece reminiscing about a news meeting he attended as a young deputy editor at the Daily News, in which a white editor questioned the color of a murdered baby to help determine whether a story about the child's death deserved "big play." He went on to write that he was reminded of that old story as he followed "the lavish" coverage given to the murder of a 21-year-old Wesleyan University student, allegedly at the hands of a former fellow student, while coverage of the murders of the black and Latino Chicago school children went virtually ignored.

...the press is still very color conscious in the way it goes about covering murder. Editors may not be asking, “What color is that victim?” But, on some level, they’re still thinking it.

...It’s a searing double-standard that tells us volumes about the ways in which we view one another, and whose lives are considered to have value in this society and whose are not. Another disturbing aspect of the coverage is the extreme prurient interest that drives it. The press goes wild over stories about murderous attacks on women who are young, attractive and white.

A closer look at how and why the news media covers some of these stories is overdue...

I encourage each of you to read the rest of Bob Herbert's column and then do your part by leaving a comment for him and the Times's editors, thanking Bob for bringing attention to this issue, demanding that the media do better by brown babies, and perhaps hipping them to Black And Missing if they need help finding worthy stories of children who've gone missing. Let your voice be heard. Do it for James Richardson, and Megan Mills, Randy Alana Elliot, and Devin Allender, and Alisha McKinney, and...



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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What Bad Knees, Good Drugs, and Teenagers Are Made Of





So the boy jacked up his knee doing some ungodly, torturous exercises called the "clean and jerk," and "squats" in his weight-lifting class, and more than $8,000 in hospital bills and thousands in rehab later, my stepson, Mazi, is finally getting to the point where his leg kills only a few of the day's 24 hours, and maybe only six out seven days of the week. He's been a trooper about it; the first few days after his corrective surgery, the boy was in such pain he'd use his cellphone to wake us out of our slumber just down the hall to bring him his pain killers; I could hear his half-moan/half-anguished cry through Nick's Samsung, the pain so apparent, so searing, it made my doggone knee hurt.

Thank goodness for the drugs.

Now Mazi, trooper that he is, was back at school a few days after surgery, limping on his sad little crutches on his broke-down knee. For sure, the crip walk gained him a bit of attention. Just not the kind we expected.

"You know, you can sell those painkillers, dude."

That's what more than a few of his friends said to him when they got a gander of his crutches and gimp. They didn't bother asking him how his leg was, how long he'd be on crutches, whether the surgery hurt, or if he'd be able to play football in time enough for the recruiters to check out his game on the field.

"You know, you can sell those painkillers, dude."

Now, Nick and I are no dummies--we know there are kids up to no good up there at that high school. I wrote earlier this year about the astounding number of students expecting babies at Mazi's school, which means they're not really listening to Bristol Palin and her mama and them about the whole abstinence thing. And of course there are kids who smoke weed and drink, too, and get suspended for dumb stuff that high schoolers tend to do. But good grief, for some reason I just didn't latch onto the whole "prescription drugs=candy" thing.

Not familiar? Check out the PSA I found on The AntiDrug.com, titled "All My Pills."



Great... one more thing to add to my worries.

Does it ever get easier?

[Note to my I ♥ Faces visitors: Thank you for stopping by! The picture illustrating this post is of my stepson Mazi; he started giggling like a loon when I commanded him to "look hard." Yeah, right. This is about as hard as he gets.]


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Monday, May 11, 2009

What Would You Do For A Ticket To BlogHer ’09?



Would you do it Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards style, and bathe in green goo? Maybe deliver dinner for four every night for a month to the front doorstep of Christie “The ChatterBox” Crowder (My Life - A Work in Progress)? A haiku, perhaps, for Lorraine of Ask Wifey?

Well, those are just a few of the things I might consider if I were trying to hitch a ride to BlogHer '09 with The BlogRollers. Lucky for me, I already have a seat in the brand new Chevrolet they'll be rolling in to the July conference. But Christie and Lorraine, the brains behind The BlogRollers, think it would be a blast to invite one more blogger on our big road trip, and today, they're over on The BlogRollers site dusting off a seat in the Chevy, waving around free Saturday registration to the sold-out conference, and dangling keys to a free hotel room to one lucky blogger in their The Fourth Wheel Contest.

The Fourth Wheel will join The BlogRollers and me, Denene Millner of MyBrownBaby, on our special quest to take the business (and pleasure) of blogging and social networking to the streets in unique and entertaining ways. Our goal is to raise awareness of the power of female bloggers and our impact on the economy, as well as promote the brands that support us.

Want to roll? Head over to The BlogRollers for details on how to win--not now, but right now!

See you over there,


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Friday, May 8, 2009

The Sun Always Rises: A Gift to Mothers



By NICK CHILES

Like an all-powerful deity, she hovers over our lives from the very first breath we take. She feeds us, nurtures us, becomes irreversibly imprinted on our souls. Before we have the power to select or to resist, she becomes our lifelong muse.

As a writer, I take the idea of the muse very seriously. The ancient Greeks knew what they were talking about when they created the goddesses of artistic inspiration. It is the force that pushes me to tap the keyboard, to keep the words flowing, the thoughts brewing. Without a muse, my screen is blank. I am nothing.

But the power of my motherly muse has always extended beyond the computer screen. One day it dawned on me that her power actually had no limits. It was elemental to my life. In essence, since the day I was born, everything I have ever done has been with the sole intent of pleasing my mother.

And I don't think I'm all that unusual. I think most of us, if we step up to our reflection and grapple with the truth, will admit that she continues to compel us, no matter our age or station in life. When the game is over, the curtain is drawn, the award is presented, she is the first place we run. The glory of accomplishment isn't real until we share it with her. Even if it's just a thought deep in the recesses, an impulse that we don't immediately act upon, it's there: I need to tell my mother.

So what it all means is this: she is the Earth's most powerful force, the humanly equivalent of the Sun, providing the planet's inhabitants with the energy to keep this thing going. If we could trace the source of human triumph, the key to our greatest discoveries, our most remarkable victories over the mysteries that confound us, the cord would lead us all directly to Mommy.

This is not to say that each of them are perfect—surely there have been mothers over time in need of a few maternal remediation classes. But that proves the enormity of her power—even when she is bad at her job, she casts a monstrous shadow. The bad mother creating the bad person is one of the most enduring of our well-worn crime narratives.

But, oh, when she is on her game, when the mom goddess is a maestro directing her charges to greatness, it is like a gift to every one of us. Inspired by the motherly muse, that boy grows up to find a cure for AIDS, that little girl grows into the greatest writer of a generation. And of course when that superstar wide receiver catches the winning touchdown pass, we all know the first person he will thank.

But let me not get too abstract here. I tend to get a bit carried away when the topic is moms. I am still amazed by the influence mine has over me, 43 years into my time here. By now it has become clear to me that the influence never wanes. Even when I am not thinking about her directly, her words, her voice, her conscience, her wishes, her dreams, are directing my actions, moving my feet to walk into my child's room to have that serious talk, pushing my hands to help the old lady load her groceries into her car, forcing my fingers to fly over the keyboard to finish that great book proposal. I couldn't shake her even if I wanted. She occupies a part of my brain, resting sometimes, prodding at other times. So I have begun to think of us as a team, my mother and me. We have been confronting every challenge for the past 43 years. Kicking ass together. No matter how many more years we have together on this mortal coil, I know that she will never be gone from me. I will never be without my muse. To you, mother, I say thank you. I love you.

And to the rest of you mothers out there, as you accept your Mother's Day gifts and smile until your face hurts, know this: You are the most important person in every one of our lives. You are the Sun.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

With love,

MyBrownBaby


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Thursday, May 7, 2009

MyBrownBaby Redux: I'll Always Love My Mama



Mother's Day is a little tricky around here; it makes me incredibly happy to celebrate motherhood with my family and friends, but incredibly sad, too, because I'm reminded in a big way that my mom is gone from here. This will be the sixth Mother's Day I'll have without her, and though I anticipate it'll be nowhere near as painful as the first, I'll still wake up Sunday morning wishing I could hear her voice, see her smile, wrap my arms around her waist, and tell her one more time how much I adore her. I've been thinking a lot about the following post, which I wrote months ago, when I first founded MyBrownBaby; I thought it would be nice to run it in honor of Bettye Millner. Happy Mother's Day, Mommy. I love you.

By DENENE MILLNER
I’m not sure what made me think about her today. I was in the grocery store, smelling the over-priced strawberries when my mother suddenly popped into my mind. It happens like that, you know—I’ll be doing something absolutely mundane, and there she’ll be, standing in the bathroom mirror of my childhood home, putting on her lipstick and adjusting her church hat; or standing over me and my Dad, watching us eat that extra sweet potato pie she baked just for us, because she knew we wouldn’t be able to keep our hands off the two she made for Thanksgiving dinner; or singing a silly song to my Mari, which, even loud and off-key, always managed to make my then-baby girl fall fast asleep. Sometimes, the memories make me giggle a little. Sometimes, I can’t quite control the tears, and I’m blinded by overwhelming sadness.

A lot of times, I just miss her so.

Bettye went away from here six years ago—suddenly, surprisingly, heart-achingly. Mari was three, and so she couldn’t quite understand, really, why she wouldn’t be able to lay in her “Gamma’s” arms anymore. Lila was barely two months old, and so all she has is a few pictures of my mom holding her in her arms, nuzzling Lila’s fat cheeks. I was a young mother, trying to figure out how to raise two girl pies and be a good wife and hold down a challenging magazine gig and write books and run a household and live a fulfilled life. None of us was ready for her to go. We needed her.

I needed her.

Still do.

I didn’t always appreciate the mother that Bettye Millner was. She was old school—strict and a little mean and definitely one of those moms who thought children were to be seen, not heard. She reveled in making her kids do chores (I spent so much time scrubbing, vacuuming and doing laundry during weekend high school events that I seriously considered changing my name to Cinderella). She chauffeured my brother, Troy, and I to church every Sunday, faithfully, and with a smile. And most certainly, Bettye believed that any child who stepped out of line had a sound whooping coming right to ‘em (her weapon of choice: a fresh, thin, sturdy switch from the tree in the front yard). She was tart-tongued and quick to tell you about yourself—fiercely protective and ridiculously private (she’s somewhere on the other side clutching her pearls over me writing this blog about her, I’m sure!). And she prayed for us even when we didn’t know it—even when we didn’t deserve it. Especially when we needed it.

I expected her to be a similar kind of grandmother—to apply those strict, old school traits to the way she would love my babies. But she was different with them—all googly and sweet and swooning. She would snatch Mari right out of my arms before she or I could get through the door good, and rush her away to a room full of gifts, and a plate full of food, and a VCR full of kid movies—just waiting for her grandbaby. She’d read to her and sing to her and talk to her and welcome Mari to talk back. She’d dress up her grandbaby and sport her down the church aisle American’s Next Top Model style, showing her off to anyone with eyes. And she’d fall asleep with Mari snuggled next to her in her bed—my father banished to the basement couch to make room for the little girl child she loved so.

And just as she revealed a different side of Bettye as “grandmother,” my mom revealed a different, softer side of herself to me, too. Suddenly, we became fellow moms: Rather than tell me what to do, she encouraged me to do what I thought was right; instead of holding her secrets close, she shared them with the hope that they would help me be a better mom; rather than reprimand me for my childcare decisions, she trusted my judgment. I’ll never forget the day when I came to her distraught because someone very close to us criticized my decision to keep breastfeeding Mari past six months. Honestly, I expected her to agree; after all, what self-respecting, black working mom kept her ninny in a baby’s mouth past a few months when there was work to do and baby formula at the ready?

“Mari is your baby,” she insisted when I came to her, overwhelmed and a little mad at the judgmental mom who questioned my decision. “You’re not ever going to hear me questioning how you’re raising your child. You’re going to make mistakes—all of us did before you, and many will after you. You do what’s right for you.”

What I would do to have her here. To order. To direct. To encourage. And pray for me and mine. There are so many things that I wish she could see—Mari and Lila’s fierce competitive spirit on the soccer field, the rows of A’s on their report cards. I know she would love Lila’s mischievousness, and Mari’s curiousness. She’d hang their artwork up on her refrigerator, and brag about her grandbabies to her friends, and sit them right up there in the front pew, so they could pay attention to the preacher, and the other deaconesses could give them mints and pinches on their cheeks. And my mother would be overwhelmed by my daughters’ beauty—proud of the young ladies they’re becoming. Excited about who they’ll be.

I do wish, too, that she were still here so that my daughters could see first-hand the incredible woman their grandmother was.

We are all missing out on something special now that Bettye Millner is gone.

I’ll tell Mari and Lila about her, though—keep her fresh in their memories.

And I’ll wait for her to come to me again—a lovely, sweet, heartbreaking vision in my mind.



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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In The (Gift) Bag: A MyBrownBaby Mother's Day Shopping List



Before anyone (*ahem* my husband) reads anything into this, please know that Nick is a fantastic gift giver. He knows what I like, has fantastic taste, and never, ever has to print out internet order receipts or sneak out to the CVS to pick up last-minute gifts for special occasions (like *ahem* his wife). I'm hardly, if ever, disappointed by what's under the wrapping paper.

That said, I still think it's okay to let folks who soon may find themselves searching for a special occasion gift know what's on the "I'd Love To Have It" swag list. It cuts down on confusion. And gets you what you want (or at least something similar to it). Here, in no particular order of importance, is a homage to the items that would make me very happy if they found their way into a bag with, oh, say, "Happy Mother's Day" written on it.

From top left, clockwise:
1.The pleats on this leather Treesje Tristan purse in pumpkin are ill; I'm convinced this bad boy would look right nice on my wrist (Piperlime, $665).

2. April Harrison is one of my favorite contemporary fine artists, and this piece, titled "God Bless America," gets this Obama Mama in a really patriotic mood (Avisca Fine Arts, $600).

3. If I get nothing else on Sunday, a little--okay, a lot of--peace and quiet, full control over the remote, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed between naps would make mommy very happy. (Dream Essence™ Lavender Scented Aromatherapy Eye Mask by Dream Essentials, $24.95).

4. I'd definitely be more inspired to go to the park if I had one of these bad girls! (Cannondale F7 Feminine Women's Bike, REI, $599).

5. A spa day at Bliss Spa Atlanta would be fantastic, but I'd definitely settle for this at-home facial care set (Bliss, $95).

6. Come on, now: A girl can never have too many shoes--especially if they're as flirty and sexy as this BCBG sandal in Amaretto (BCBG, Piperlime, $110).


So what's on your Mother's Day swag wish list? (Hint: Leave links in the comments section, and then casually show your husband/significant other this page if you have to. Welcome.)



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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Here's To The Good Times: Missing the Baby Onboard



By YAKINI

I was 36.4 weeks along in my pregnancy when it began to sink in that it was nearly over. My doctor wouldn’t let me go more than a week past my due date without inducing me, and so there were anywhere from 3 ½ to 4 ½ weeks remaining.

With the realization that the time had nearly come, I spent a considerable amount of time mulling over the idea that the tiny little being who had been such an intimate part of me for nearly 10 months would soon leave my body. Oh, how quickly the time had passed! I couldn’t help but to feel a little sad when I looked back at the many sweet, special moments I’d experienced during my pregnancy.

This is what I miss, even to this day:

•Feeling his movements throughout the day and night—reassuring me that he was healthy and strong. He was a wildly active boy, and sometimes I would just pull up my shirt, sit back in my chair, and watch him kick and do somersaults.

•Strangers on the street smiling warmly at me as I pass, or striking up conversation

•The people who would get so excited when they felt the baby kick. To see the joy that I am feeling on other people's faces was so moving. Overall, sharing my experience with others was amazing.

•The camaraderie with other pregnant ladies. I loved being able to strike up a conversation about pregnancy or first-time motherhood with perfect strangers, and talking endlessly about everything baby-related

•Oh goodness, having no periods! Heaven.

•Co-workers bringing me delicious food and gifts for the baby. Whether they were new items or hand-me downs, it felt wonderful receiving gifts that were so obviously heartfelt.

•Knowing that I was part of a miracle. Imagine the amazing fete it takes to have a tiny person growing inside of your body. I'll miss the mystery surrounding it all.

•The linea nigra that runs down the center of my belly. I remember being in awe of this same line on my mom when she carried my two younger sisters. This line symbolizes so much to me.

•I'll miss the closeness between my husband Derek and me during this time—the waiting and wondering and fantasizing as we enjoyed couple's time together in the evenings. Having so much alone time with him, planning our life together, and anticipating our new family was priceless.

•Handwashing, folding, and so tenderly putting away baby's socks and onesies and matching outfits and caps, and reading and arranging on my baby’s shelf books filled with dedications from the people who love us.

•Having people quickly bend down to pick things up for me when I dropped something. In general, everyone is so protective and caring, even to the point of hovering. But I didn't mind!

•The anticipation of meeting the baby! This had to be, by far, the most exciting time of my life.

•Eating as much as I could, without worrying about calories, feeling fat, unhealthy, or guilty.

•The bond I share with my baby, and talking quietly to him when we're alone together.

•My pregnant body. I've felt incredibly beautiful and serene throughout this entire pregnancy. The glow is real!



•My co-workers! Oh, how fantastic they'd been to me! They were so excited and involved in the pregnancy; even more special is the fact that they shared the entire pregnancy with me from beginning to end.

•The look of pleasure and wonderment on Derek's face when he interacted with our friends' little children who are bright and loquacious. I couldn’t wait to see him look at our son like that.

•Maternity clothes! So super cute!

•The feeling of carrying the child of the man I love, and who loves me back. There's nothing like it.

•The waddle. Yes, I'll even miss the pregnancy waddle (and the teasing from my co-workers because of said waddle)!

•Eagerly awaiting and reading my weekly BabyCenter.com newsletter, delivered to my inbox on Sundays, and tracking my baby's weekly growth and progress. Joining BabyCenter.com is a MUST for any expectant mom.

•The excitement of going to our third ultrasound appointments—and getting a sneak peak at our baby!

•Knowing that my life would change forever, and the feeling of transitioning into the job title of a lifetime: mother.

Of course, I realized that the greatest gift of all would come at the very end of this long journey, when I got something even better and more precious that anything I could have experienced while pregnant. His name is Chase. And I am in love.


About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Yakini is a clinical psychologist and freelance lifestyle writer who is the editor-in-chief of the online lifestyle magazine, Girly Home Webzine. She lives in New York City with her husband and their four-month-old son. Check out Yakini's blog, Welcome Baby Chase, and connect with her on Twitter @♥ Chase's Mommy ♥.

If you would like to contribute to MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com.



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Monday, May 4, 2009

MyBrownBaby Cause: A Mother's Love Giveaway



To celebrate Mother’s Day and say “thank you” for being one of their mom ambassadors, The March of Dimes sent me a beautiful necklace from Red Envelope—one with a pendant rendered from a single, unending loop of sterling silver. The Red Envelope description says it’s meant to be a unique interpretation of mother and child caught in an eternal embrace.

I wanted to brag on the gift—show it off and wear it well and tell you that it reminded me of the “push gifts” my husband gave me when I birthed his two daughters almost 10 and 7 years ago respectively (I reminisced about my beautiful sterling silver necklaces last week when my blog friend Future Mama wrote a post on her terrific site, Baby Makin(g) Machine, about the push gift she’s angling for when she becomes a mom).

But when I clicked over to the Red Envelope page to see details about my gift, I saw a simple message telling me that 10% of the proceeds for every sale of the Mother’s Love Necklace will go to the March of Dimes, an incredible organization that has worked tirelessly to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature, birth, and infant mortality through research, education, advocacy, and community service. And suddenly, my keeping the gift for myself didn’t seem as important as letting my readers know about the importance of doing what we can to help The March of Dimes continue its important mission of helping mothers and babies in need.

Particularly moving was the symbolism of the pendant—“the mother and child caught in an eternal embrace.” It made me think of my fellow March of Dimes Mom Ambassador Heather Spohr of The Spohrs Are Multiplying, who recently lost her beautiful one-year-old daughter, Maddie. She’s been blogging about life without her child, and, true to what the words “eternal embrace” laid on my heart, I found a post Heather wrote last week about how much she misses hugging her child:

My arms tingle, and I remember that I’ve had this sensation before. When I was on bed rest, my legs would ache and tingle. I mentioned it to my Obstetrician, and she said, “those are your legs muscles atrophying. It is an unfortunate side-effect of bed rest.” My arm muscles are tingling because I am not picking up Maddie. I am not lifting her up, holding her weight, feeling her cheek against my chest.

I want my baby. Oh Maddie! I need you!

No mother should have to ponder life without the embrace of her child—to have to face Mother’s Day without her baby there to touch her cheek and climb into her arms and say, simply, “I love you, Mommy.”

But there are many more Heather Spohrs.

The March of Dimes is doing its best to help stem this tide. It is my sincere hope that MyBrownBaby’s readers will help, too, by supporting The March of Dimes. You can do this by donating directly to the organization, or by purchasing a Mother’s Love Necklace for yourself or for a Mother’s Day present for someone you love. ProFlowers, the corporate owner of Red Envelope, is also donating $10 of every order of Mother’s Day flowers to the March of Dimes, in support of programs in communities throughout the United States.



To inspire you to give, I’m giving away my Mother’s Love Necklace to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what you love most about your child’s embrace AND click over to the March of Dimes website and tell me something you learned about the organization. Your offering MUST include both comments to qualify.

Please leave your comments by 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, May 5th, 2009. I will choose a winner via Random.org and announce the winner Wednesday, May 6th, 2009.

Good luck.



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