Friday, July 30, 2010

Traveling In Color: Finding Diversity and Opening Minds on a Paris Vacation with Kids

I remember going on only one vacation when I was a kid—to my aunt’s house in South Carolina. Shortly before we left, I caught the chicken pox from my brother and broke out on the airplane, and then spent two weeks laying around on the couch at my auntie’s tiny house, cramped to the max with auntie’s eight daughters who made it so very clear they didn’t want my cooties.

I was five.

That would be my last vacation until college, when I could pool my money with friends to take weekend driving trips to a few nearby states. And since I was flat broke until well after I got my first real writing gig, I didn’t leave the country until I was well into my 20s (Cancun and Kozumel were my first forays across America’s borders), and I had no need for a passport until my honeymoon.

Of course, I hold no ill will toward my parents for this; they simply couldn’t afford vacations for four to anywhere, much less a foreign country. But I promised myself that things would be different for my babies—that they’d grow up having known the excitement of exploring a new land and learning about a new culture and eating exotic foods and taking in the beauty of a people unlike themselves. This week, Nick and I made good on that promise when we took our babies to Paris.

Taking in The City of Light during an evening cruise down the River Seine
Lila, Mazi and Mari "frolicking" through the grounds of Marie Antoinette's chateau

Denene enjoying a stroll through the "Little Africa" section of Paris
Basking in the Mona Lisa afterglow at The Louvre

Now, I’d been to France twice and so I must admit I wasn’t as excited about traipsing down the Champs-Elysees with three kids for a week. I wanted to be laid out on the beach somewhere in Puerto Rico, getting chocolatey and knocking back fruity drinks. But from the moment the airplane touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Mazi, Mari and Lila’s excitement was palpable—infectious. And they were on 100 the entire trip, racing up the Eiffel Tower, floating down the River Seine, traipsing through the gardens of Versailles, keeping top-eye out for the finale of the Tour de France, stomping up more than 200 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, marveling at the wonder of Notre Dame, reveling in the history we learned during a black history tour of the City of Light, and eating their way through warm croissants and sugary coconut-less macaroons and meats topped with all kinds of fantastic sauces.

It. Was. Magical.

What to do if you're overlooking the River Seine in a fancy dress? If you're Lila, you twirl!

I can’t express how incredible it was to see this city through my children’s eyes, not only to feel their excitement but especially to know that on this trip, we opened a door for them—showed the babies that the world is so much bigger than our tiny sliver of Georgia and that finding refuge in another country, another language, another culture, another people is possible. And incredible. And beautiful.

It’s a lesson we’re constantly trying to teach them—by encouraging them to do everything from surround themselves with a diverse group of friends to immersing themselves in eclectic music, food, art and languages. The best part of this is that Mazi, Mari and Lila truly enjoy the journey.

Hanging out at the ultra-hip museum, Centre Pompidou
Mari posed up in the middle of the Champs-Elysees, in front of the Arc de Triomphe

Indeed, on the way back from the airport, Mari vowed to do research on Josephine Baker, the legendary singer/dancer/pilot/French spy who wowed Parisians with her beauty, talent and flair and Lila couldn’t wait to tell her best friend Maggie about her trip to a real-life castle. But what made my heart flutter was Mazi graciously thanking us for taking him to Europe just weeks before he heads off to college. “I can’t believe I went to Paris,” he said. “That was awesome.”

Mission accomplished.

Editor's Note: This piece was written exclusively for's The Parenting Post. For more great stories on raising and caring for kids, visit the MyBrownBaby page on Stay tuned, too, for more pictures and highlights of our MyBrownBaby trip to Paris. 

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Searching for a TRUE Media Image of Black Moms and Kids


It was a playground ditty as melodic as Miss Mary Mack, but much more ugly—menacing, even:

If you’re white, you’re all right
If you’re brown, stick around
If you’re black get back…

The message, which, sadly, was promoted and reinforced by my African American friends and family members, was clear: Little girls who looked like me, with my dark skin and my short, kinky hair, needed to play the rear—to acknowledge and embrace the universal truth that no one with my features should expect to be seen, heard, or, by God, think she was cute. I spent a lifetime getting “back”—receding and retreating and hiding, all the while feeling ashamed that my skin couldn’t be lighter and my hair couldn’t be longer and straighter. That I couldn’t look more white to be more “right.”

It took me a long time to step forward—to face myself in the mirror and actually embrace me. Dark skin, kinky hair, thick lips, black girl hips and thighs and booty. All of me. Indeed, it was my guy friend—a true friend, not a love interest—who coaxed me out of my shell. “Look at you!” he demanded, holding a mirror up to my face. “You are beautiful, Denene. I can see it; why can’t you?”

Today, with a few more years under my belt, a lot more confidence, and a specific mission to make sure my two chocolate girl pies don’t ever feel ashamed of that which God gave them, I can look in the mirror and really appreciate what I see. Shoot—a touch of mascara, a little lip gloss, and a cute shoe is all I need to strut like I’m a supermodel on the grandest of catwalks. And walking right next to me are my two beautiful little girls—both of them chocolatey and all natural and still, thankfully, oblivious to the “black get back” madness that haunted me for way too many years to count.

Still, I feel the need to do damage control whenever my daughters flip absentmindedly through my magazines or stumble across a questionable music video or even see a simple TV commercial featuring black girls, because it’s all-too-clear that the “white is right” ditty is still very much ingrained in the mindset of the editors, producers, and ad agencies. Don’t get me wrong: I think we’ve come a long way when we can turn on the TV and see African Americans in ads for popular products, stores, and services. But I kinda take it personal when practically every black female—both child and adult—in videos, commercials, and ads has brownish-blonde curly hair or long hair that stretches well past their shoulders, light skin, and hazel eyes, European features that make them look more “other” than black. It’s not exactly screaming “black get back,” but to me and mine, it certainly whispers, “closer to white is preferred.”

Read the rest of this blog post, HOW ABOUT A TRUE MEDIA MIRROR, exclusively at DOVE.COM. 

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Home Made Love: I Love New York Cheesecake


For the past four summers, our mommy has sent us to cooking camp at Young Chef’s Academy, where kids learn how to handle themselves in the kitchen, plus get the 411 on some great recipes from all around the country and the world. We’ve learned how to whip up some great dishes, some of which we share in our Home Made Love Family Recipe Book, a cookbook we created at home and often share here on MyBrownBaby. When camp is over, we almost always give mommy a list of ingredients to pick up at Kroger so that we can put to practice what we’ve learned at camp, and mommy usually skips right to the store (hey, if we’re cooking, it means she’s not!).

This summer, we learned how to make some pretty awesome regional dishes from Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and Chicago. We really loved making the New York-Style Cheesecake, especially since we knew it is one of our Papa Jimy’s favorites. As a special treat for our granddad, we whipped one up on the last night of his summer vacation here at our house—and, of course, mommy pulled out her trusty Nikon D-50 to get all the fun on film. Here, we show you how to whip up a home made cheesecake and decorate the plate so it looks really fancy. You’re going to love it!


What You’ll Need:
5 TBSP butter, melted
20 square graham crackers, crushed
¼ cup sugar

4 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
4 egs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 TBSP vanilla extract

How To Cook It: 
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Combine graham crackers, butter and sugar mixing well. Press into the bottom of a spring form pan.
  3. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy
  4. Gradually Beat in the condensed milk, beating until smooth
  5. Add eggs, flour, and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pour into crust.
  6. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until slightly browned.
  7. Cool before serving.
  8. Drizzle strawberry syrup or caramel on a plate; arrange a slice on top of it, then top with whipped cream and a strawberry slice or two and enjoy!
(Store leftovers in the refrigerator; makes 10 servings.)

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nominate MyBrownBaby For A Black Weblog Award (Or Four)


The 2010 BLACK WEBLOG AWARDS NOMINATIONS are going on right now. Be a dear and head over there to nominate MYBROWNBABY for Best Personal Blog, Best Writing in a Blog, Best Parenting Blog, and Blog of the Year.

Why nominate MyBrownBaby? Well, because mama works hard to advocate for and celebrate black moms and moms of beautiful brown babies in every single post that makes its way onto this site.

From calling out the injustice of thoughtless teachers (like in this piece about the little girl kicked out of her gifted class for having smelly natural hair) and demanding justice for victims of police brutality in predominately black and Latino communities (like in this post about the police raid that resulted in the death of Aiyana Jones) to waxing poetic on Salma Hayek's breastfeeding tatas and the simple joy of embarrassing the hell out of my daughters in the grocery store aisle, I try to use my love of the written word to inspire,teach, commiserate, inform and profess my profound love for beautiful brown babies and the joy of parenting them. I hope I’m fulfilling the mission.


If you think I am, show your support by clicking on the Black Weblog Awards 2010 Nominee button and make MyBrownBaby the most nominated website in the Best Personal Blog, Best Writing in a Blog, Best Parenting and Family Blog and Blog of the Year categories. You’ve got until midnight July 25th to cast your vote (but you might as well go on and get it done now); each vote gets me thisclose to the August finals, which will have the most nominated blogs duking it out for the crown.

Please know: I ain’t too proud to beg. MyBrownBaby won two Black Weblog Awards last year; I’d like to get more of that art for my sidebar. Yup, I’m fancy like that.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Picky Eaters Plus My Dinner Table = A Recipe For Disaster

I. Can’t. Stand. Them. 
Picky eaters, that is. 
They work my nerves with their empty forks and their “I don’t eat that” declarations and their turned-up noses, acting like I just placed a steaming pile of pooh on their dinner plates. What kind of madness is this, kids inviting themselves to dinner and then sitting down to my table, announcing what they will and will not eat, even as they watch me stand over that hot stove, preparing a healthy, kid-friendly home made feast? When did this become acceptable dinner table etiquette? 
What’s got me in a tizzy?
Yet another one of Mari’s friends stayed for dinner a couple nights ago and promptly ran down the list of stuff on my stove that she wasn’t going to eat. Apparently, smothered chicken and sautéed string beans were going to make her hurl a lung. It didn’t matter that she’d never tasted it before, or that both my girls were insisting it was, like, the best meal ever. She was just all, “No.”
“I’m only going to have the rice, please, with lots of butter.”
I mean, I get the three-year-old who only eats beige food and the occasional peanut butter-smothered carrot stick. I had one of those. If it wasn’t a chicken nugget, a french fry, applesauce or popcorn, she wasn’t eating it. But we put an end to those shenanigans around age five; by then, if she wasn’t eating some version of the same meal the rest of the family was eating, she wasn’t eating. By age six, she was subjected to the same rule as every other kid in the house: You have to try it at least three times in three different meals before you decide you don’t like it. (Almost always by the third try, they’re total fans, trust.) And even if you don’t like it, oh well, then you don’t eat. I’m not hiding vegetables in your sauce to get you to the magical number of daily servings; I’m not cooking something separate from what everyone else is eating; and sitting at my table without eating your veggies, protein, and healthy starches is not an option.
And from now on, I declare before Sweet Baby Jesus and 10 episodes of Jamie Oliver’s “Food Nation” that the same rules will apply to visitors. Because here’s what I’m not figuring to do: I’m not short-order cooking for your kid because you allowed her to go through 11-years-worth of dinners without so much as tasting salad and turning down all 300 of the Earth’s vegetables, and empowered her with the right to tell grown-ups what to put on her plate.
Yeah, I said it.
I’m a foodie, see? I appreciate that the world is full of beautiful food and incredible flavors and delicious aromas and eclectic textures, and I happen to think my kids should be blessed with that knowledge, too. Mari, Lila, and Mazi are on their way, for sure: They eat sushi and okra and Jamaican ackee and codfish—ox tails and brussel sprouts and all kinds of fish drizzled with fancy sauces. The little ones are enrolled every summer in our local Young Chef’s Academy so that they can learn their way around the kitchen and try out some new recipes and pick up a few more stove skills, and together, we catalogue our recipes in our Home Made Love Family Recipe Book so that they can document their favorites and keep them for meals they’ll make with their own families someday.
Turning down a dish because they don’t like the way it looks or smells never occurs to them; if it’s food, they’re going to try it and most likely like it and want to add it to the repertoire (if you can cook, of course). Suffice to say, they’re not going to be the kids who go to another country and bypass the world’s best cuisines for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Ain’t happening.
And I’m not hardly about to entertain anybody else’s little one running my kitchen and my dinner table and driving me up the wall with their requests for something other than what I’ve put on their dinner plates.
So if your kid is a picky eater, let her get her grub on before she comes over to the house, or be prepared to come pick her up before dinner time, m’kay? #sooverit.

NOTE: This piece originally was written for my column at's The Parenting Post. To see the rest of my columns there and to enjoy great mom-to-mom advice on raising children, visit Parenting's MyBrownBaby page. 

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Black Moms and Ghetto Parents: They Are NOT One in the Same

Five years ago, Nick and I traded in our home in a lovely, comfortably upper middle class neighborhood in New Jersey for a house in an equally beautiful neighborhood in Georgia that just happens to be a stone’s throw away from a town full of working class/blue collar Georgians who have, shall we say, some interesting child-rearing tactics.

They cuss around and at their kids in the middle of the cereal aisle.

They fight with their significant others in public, in front of their kids, and slap the little ones when they get out of pocket, especially if there’s an audience to witness their discipline.

They let their kids roam the streets until somebody else’s mother tells the kid to go home.

They ride around in their cars with the windows rolled up, chain smoking while their babies bounce around in the back seat, sans seatbelts and boosters—their little lungs taking in a lifetime of carcinogens, their little bodies one sharp brake from flying through the back window.

When it comes to showing up for parent/teacher conferences, or sending in donations for a teacher gift, or chipping in at the PTA-sponsored events, they’re nowhere to be found.
This is bad parenting—messy, sickening, wrong. Now, close your eyes and conjure up an image of the mothers and fathers who go all in on their kids like this—who exhibit the worst kind of parenting acumen. Who do you see?

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell would have you believe that these are characteristics of “ghetto parenting,” a phrase she coined in a recent column about a trio of black brothers whose lives were turned upside down when, Mitchell writes, their drug-addicted mom’s bad parenting led to the tragic death of her 5-year-old son and last week’s murder conviction of her 23-year-old son. Mitchell’s claims the boys are victims of “ghetto parenting,” and, in her column, "Ghetto Parenting Dooms Kids," she goes on to explain exactly what that is:
Ghetto parenting is cursing around, and at, a child. 
Ghetto parenting is brawling with your man or your woman in front of your child.
Ghetto parenting is letting your child roam the streets until somebody else's mother has to tell the child to go home.
Ghetto parenting is putting your child off on friends and relatives because you want to hang out in the street.
Ghetto parenting is getting so hooked on substances that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has to remove your children and place them with strangers.
Now, where I come from, “ghetto parenting” would be considered code for poor, urban black and Latino moms and dads who are real good at making kids but who suck at raising them, leading to a never-ending cycle of poverty, abuse, crime and broken lives. The word “ghetto” falls right in line with the clever and really subversive evil game people play with adjectives to describe black people in the harshest, most stereotypical ways.

So in the course of a 700-word column, Mitchell racialized bad parenting, essentially intimating that falling down on the job as a mom or dad is “ghetto”—i.e. negative and black.

The hell?

I assure you black moms and Dads—impoverished black folks in particular—don’t have a lock on bad parenting. Indeed, the incidents I described at the beginning of this post were all meted out in and around my predominately white neighborhood here in Georgia by white parents. The first time I saw a white mom draw her hand back at her baby, and drop the “F” bomb in front of her little ones—and mine!—in the middle of Wal-Mart, and let her kids wander in my yard to play without any knowledge of where her kids were, I got real clear on this one simple truth: A bad parent knows no color, no economic level, no background, no class. And sometimes, what we consider a hot ghetto mess is actually just a mess, and not indicative of anybody’s ghetto (where, by the way, for every bad parent who clogs up the system, there are 20 good ones doing right by and their best for their babies, despite the statistics, despite the odds).

In other words, Mitchell needs to go back to the drawing board on that “ghetto parenting” phrase. It ain’t working. And it’s insulting as all hell. It’s hard enough trying to escape the stereotypes and labels and boxes society hangs on black moms—I’ve written passionately about those stereotypes in my posts “Black Moms Are Different and That’s Okay” and “Can You Name One Positive Portrayal of Black Moms in Hollywood?”—without a fellow journalist—an African American one, to boot—hanging her hat on stereotypes of a whole group/class/color of black moms.

Bad parenting is simply bad parenting.

What’s being ghetto—and black—got to do with it?

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Kirk Franklin's The Blueprint

My super-talented husband, Nick Chiles, recently realized his dream of being a New York Times best-selling author when a book he wrote with Kirk Franklin, The Blueprint: A Plan for Living Above Life’s Storms, hit the Times’ Best Selling Hard Cover Advice list. Words can’t describe how proud I am of my man, not only for this fantastic accomplishment (perspective: with literally tens of thousands of books published each year, earning one spot on a list of 20 books on a New York Times best seller’s list is truly like winning the lottery), but for the knowledge and wisdom he was able to help Kirk capture in the pages of The Blueprint. I don’t count myself as a religious person—I know Jesus and consider myself to be spiritual, but I have serious issues with “church.” Still, I really appreciate the perspective Kirk brings to life’s lessons. I was already a HUGE fan of his music, but the truth Kirk speaks in his book really made me think. Today, I share with you one of my favorite passages from The Blueprint.
So shortly after arriving on Planet Earth, we begin preparing for the hamster’s wheel. Life becomes the pursuit of happiness and happenings marked by accomplishments and awards. From your first child’s baptism to your mother’s funeral. Then you retire with your little pension and 401(k) in place, grow older, and rest your head, only to return to the ground. Just part of the circle of life. But life was never meant to be a wheel. And you, my friend, are not a hamster.
And it was never meant to center on you. When we focus first and most on ourselves, it should be no surprise that our country—the richest and most influential one on the planet—is plagued by vanity, pride, ego, and arrogance. A preacher who says, “God wants you to have it all” is a danger to all who hears him. He ignores the full message of Scripture and misleads the sheep.
Something happened to me in 2002 that made me realize I had managed to get to a different place, to step off that hamster’s wheel by focusing on the important things. I had released an album that year called The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin that had received such great reviews and accolades in the gospel community that everybody was calling it the classic album of Kirk Franklin’s career. But when the Grammy Award nominations came out, my name wasn’t on the list. The Rebirth had not been nominated. Everybody around me was extremely upset, including my record company. I had a phone call with the record company executives, who are Christians. I said to them, “It’s cool that I wasn’t nominated. That’s not why we do what we do.” 
I realized I had become hungry for real things, meaningful things, not these tangible, material things. The album had gone platinum and was considered a classic, but here was a lesson on how you never should put too much value in the things the world puts value in. You can pay honor to them, but never let them make you become a slave to them. Sure, I would have liked to have been recognized in that way, but I wasn’t going to let that one experience own me. By my reaction, I realized something in me was changing.
These days everybody wants to get paid; everybody want to be the star. And no one wants to be in the supporting cast. Not surprisingly, that kind of self-absorbed “me” leads to a society in which major corporate CEOs spend millions to redecorate their offices while at the same time they are laying off hundreds of employees. When you make “you” the center of life, your motives will be selfish. And others will be affected, kicked to the curb as you strive to either fulfill or overcome the words spoken during your youth. But at the end of the game—even with all the accomplishments and material gains—the question still remains: What have you really gained? And what did you lose to gain it? As a wise man once asked, What does it profit us to gain the whole world if we lose our souls? (Mark 8:36). 

The Blueprint: A Plan for Living Above Life's Storms, by Kirk Franklin, with Nick Chiles, is available wherever books are sold. Click the picture to order a copy on 

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hennessy In My Starbucks Cup

Isn’t this just the most delicious book title? I can’t claim it; it belongs to my friend and fellow author Kimberly Seals Allers, who wrote THIS thoughtful, humorous post on Mom Logic about all of the white mom Parenting While Drunk (PWD) books flooding the market. In the piece, titled, "I'm Fed Up With Drunken White Moms," Kimberly lists no less than 10—count ‘em, 10!—books with titles extolling the virtues of raising children with cocktails in hand, and laments that black moms would NEVER, EVER, NEVER EVER EVER get to joke, much less write about,  PWD in our own parenting books and blogs, lest we’re comfortable being labeled unfit moms. Here’s her take on the double standard:

The reason it works for white women is, it's assumed that a white woman is educated, capable of drinking all the time and still parenting and is really only joking... 
If a black mother joked that she drank all the time while parenting, somebody would call Child Protective Services in a heartbeat. White women are safe. There is no stigma attached to their drinking—in fact, there is even a trendiness, and some lifestyle cachet. My drinking would scream "unfit mother" in glaring lights.
Because black women are barely viewed as smart, savvy moms in the first place, the thought of us touting and even celebrating drinking-on-the-job would be preposterous. And we certainly couldn't build a marketable and profitable branding platform on the idea. Nobody, not even I (and you guys think I'm pretty bold), would go there. I'm not foolish enough to assume I have that luxury.
I’m with Kimberly on this one. Indeed, the whole reason I started MyBrownBaby was because of the parenting double standard of which she writes; there is a dearth of parenting information for us moms of color (and moms of children of color) when it comes to rearing our kids, and what little there is out there is often so negative and beyond our reality that it’s not worth paying it any attention. Wouldn’t it be lovely to read a book about Parenting While Black that doesn’t have anything to do with poverty, drugs, poor education, absentee fathers and the like, but speaks specifically to the joys, challenges and wonders of raising our kids (even if some Hennessy is involved) from a moms of color perspective? I’ve got one up my sleeve. Would you read it?

Kudos to Kimberly for pointing out the inequity and making it plain. Of course, the non-moms of color are all in a tizzy over her piece and leaving some pretty nasty comments (as usual, whenever the hated call out the hateful/blissfully ignorant on their mess, people can’t help but act the fool in the comments section). CLICK HERE to read her piece and leave a comment of encouragement for her!  

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Confident Black Girls

I get why my mother did what she did. When you’re overworked and way underpaid, and you’re of a generation that thinks kids are to be controlled, rather than reasoned with; and you’re afraid of having to deal with the cascade of hormone-driven adolescent problems that come with being the mom of a girl child, you search for silence. Demand it, even. Talking about tween stuff like periods and first kisses and confidence and beauty wasn’t an option for her, because speaking about it somehow condoned and encouraged a flurry of inappropriate behavior—invited her daughter to be difficult.
Let’s just say difficult wasn’t an option for my mom.
Of course, her no-nonsense parenting style had its plusses: I stayed out of trouble and it kept me focused. But her be-quiet-and-do-only-as-I-say approach gave me a wicked case of low self-esteem—made me uncomfortable with my body, with the opposite sex, with the accolades that came with my successes.
Coping with these things is still a struggle, but I promised that it would be much less so for my girls. From the moment I found out Mari is a girl, I made the conscious decision to help her square her shoulders, walk with her chin held high, be comfortable in her skin, and appreciate who she is, no matter what.
And I work hard at this every… single… day.
For instance, every morning, I lean in and kiss my girls—Mari, 11, and Lila, 8—and triple dog dare them to be brilliant. “Who are you not to be?” I ask. They are, after all, smart girls. And their dad and I invest a massive amount of time and cash on art and music classes, academic enrichment programs, science camps, even Mandarin lessons, to show our girls that our world is huge, and that they don’t have to be average when culture, class, and yes, brilliance can take them places their parents and grands have never gone.
It is these constant reminders—those high expectations—that not only keep the A’s coming, but make my girls proud of their smarts. They are trying to please their parents, sure. But they’re also impressing themselves—planning to be great. Something I was too afraid to do when I was their age.
I was also profoundly uncomfortable with my looks; my kinky hair and my dark skin and my curvaceous body seemed always to be a study in what was wrong with, rather than what was beautiful about, me. And so, ashamed and terribly shy, I hid—always tucked myself into the shadows of my prettier friends, avoided talking to boys at all costs.
I don’t want this for my girls, so I tell them they’re beautiful—every inch of them—everyday. I also make it clear that there is true beauty in being different—kinky hair and plump physiques are just as amazing as any other characteristic pop culture serves up as an ideal. Knowing this not only makes my girls comfortable with their loveliness, but encourages them to forgo judging others because they don’t fit whatever “ideal” others serve up. Do I run the risk of creating conceited monsters? Maybe. But there is honor in loving oneself—in appreciating you, even others don’t.
The most important thing I teach my girls every day, though, is...
To find out  the most important lesson I give my girls, CLICK HERE to see in its entirety this post, written exclusively for Unilever's Don't Fret the Sweat campaign. For tips, confidence-building tools and stories about how moms are helping their tweens navigate those sweat-inducing "moments," check out

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Home Made Love: Strawberry and Cookie Crumble Sundaes

From their Saturday morning bacon, scrambled eggs and biscuit breakfasts to the pans of Gamma Bettye's 11-cheese macaroni and cheese they whip up for our Sunday barbecues, my girls are constantly showing anyone who pulls up a chair at our table that they know their way around a kitchen. I don't mind bragging: They get their training during summer camp at our local Young Chef's Academy of Sandy Springs, and their kitchen intuition from their mama—skills that give Mari and Lila quite a bit of confidence in the kitchen, even at ages 11 and 8 respectively. So when they told us last week that they wanted to whip up a dessert based on a recipe they found in the latest issue of American Girl magazine, I let them have at it. They sent Nick to the store for the ingredients—all we knew was that chocolate, strawberries, vanilla pudding and whipped cream was involved. And in a half hour after dinner last Saturday, they turned this...

Into this...

And it was absolutely delicious!

I promise you that this dessert is easy peasy—simple enough for kids ages 5 and up to make (of course, the little ones will need your help; older kids, ages 11 and up, can handle it on their own so long as you supervise). There is no ice cream involved; each of the sundaes are made pudding and an assortment of dry ingredients layered atop each other to create a colorful dish. Enjoy!



Pound cake, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 box of vanilla pudding
crumbled vanilla cookie sandwiches
white chocolate chips
whipped cream
strawberry syrup
four sundae dessert bowls or red wine glasses


Strawberry Shortcake Sundae

1. In the bottom of your dish/glass, layer a handful of pound cake
2. Layer strawberries on top of the cake
3. Spoon vanilla pudding atop the cake and strawberries
4. Top with whipped cream and strawberry syrup

(Note: For a super sweet twist, Mari and Lila added chocolate kisses to my Strawberry Shortcake Sundae.)

Cookie Crumble Sundae

1. In the bottom of your dish/glass, layer a handful of pound cake
2. Spoon vanilla pudding atop the cake
3. Layer cookie crumbles atop the mixture
4. Top with whipped cream and vanilla chocolate chips

Makes four servings.

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