Monday, January 31, 2011

Help Get Books Into the Hands Of Black Children: Buy One, Give One at

I've loved books forever. I mean, I can remember spending hours tucked away in my room in my childhood home, digging into The Little Princess and The Secret Garden and Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret and Beverly Cleary's Ramona series, giggling and crying with the characters and wishing I could be a part of their worlds—or at least tuck little pieces of them in mine. Those books, they were my friends. I didn't have many in my collection—my parents couldn't afford my book habit and so the library was my go-to spot—but the books I did manage to own, I treasured. 
These days, Nick and I have so many books we hardly have places to stash them. And as an author and a lover of the written word in general and black books in particular, I've made it my business to make sure that my children love—and have a vast collection of—books, too. But I don't just stop with my babies; everywhere I encounter kids and the adults who teach and raise them, I'm singing the praises and power of books. I don't care if you're a reluctant African American male reader or a website full of new parents, I feel it's my duty to share the joy that comes from a good book.
In keeping with my love affair with and recognition of the importance of books, I recently signed on to help launch, a new online book store featuring books for, by and about people of color. The folk at had me at black books, but what really made me want to lend my name to their project was the site's irresistible promise: for every book sold on, will donate a book to a child of color who has neither books nor quick access to them.'s motto is, "Buy One, Give One"—and I'm thrilled to help put books in the hands of our children.
Today, I call on the MyBrownBaby community to check out—take a look around the site, read up on its mission, register for the newsletter, and most important, make a difference by buying some books. 
Check out the video Nick and I put together to introduce the site—starring Mari, Lila and Teddy our spectacular dog. And after you do that, please make a point of telling all your friends on Twitter and FaceBook and becoming fans of the site. 
And... buy some books!

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Friday, January 28, 2011

{On the Parenting Post} My Kid: Queen of Band-Aids & Boo Boos

I’m not sure why we always fall for the okey-doke. I mean, the kid is all drama all the time—bumps into a chair and acts like she broke a kneecap, purposely Jim Carey falls on the floor and screams like she fell down a Chilean mine shaft. She gets a splinter and demands a sling. And runs through Sponge Bob band-aids like she owns stock in Johnson & Johnson. No blood required. By now, we should know not to take Lila’s frequent and frantic “Kid down—someone call 911!” antics so seriously. But somehow, we got suckered into a three-hour visit to the ER last weekend. We should have known better than to get suckered by the Band-Aid queen. Alas, we did. And three ER room hours, two doctor's examinations and on X-ray later, we feel like Bobo the Boo Boo Fool. 
Click here to read all about our ridiculous and ridiculously expensive trip to the ER room with the Queen of Boo Boos on the MyBrownBaby page on's the Parenting Post. And if you're so moved, leave a comment about your kids and their crazy boo boo antics!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

[Wordful Wednesday] Attack of the Killer Lemons

Occasionally Mari, Lila and I test the waters in the produce aisle at the grocery store, making a point of picking up fruits and vegetables that look weird or interesting or pretty. Sometimes we'll even buy some of whatever we stumble across and giggle as we taste—cracking up at the scrunchie faces we make while discovering if the produce is sour, bitter, salty, juicy, dry or sweet or whatever. (Remind me to tell you about the time we bit into a handful of kumquats.) 
Anyway, I was strolling through Whole Foods recently when I came across these—Buddha Hand Lemons. And I just couldn't resist bringing one home for the girls to try. Of course, before I could get it out of the bag good, the two of them dubbed the fruit The Killer Lemon With the Deadly Fingers.   

Mari's nose didn't stand a chance.

Alas, Lila lost the battle with the Killer Lemon With the Deadly Fingers when it wrestled her to the ground with its sour smell and funky disposition. I got retribution by shredding its sweet little skin and using it as zest on our sauteed shrimp and garlic dinner. Recipe coming soon!   
That'll learn killer lemons to take out my babies, doggonit. 
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Monday, January 24, 2011

The MyBrownBaby 2011 Bucket List

Here’s the thing: Resolutions just aren’t my thing. I mean, I’ve made them before—promised to stop cursing (I curse like a New York City reporter—which is, like, five gazillion times worse than the raunchiest sailor), promised to be better about my finances (I’m not Suzie Orman, trust), promised to dress up and wear make-up more often (seriously—Lawrence from the Real Housewives has better M.A.C and ready-to-wear game on the daily than I ever will), promised to stop eating junk and work out more (uh huh—yeah. Chocolate and cake will always be my BFFs—aerobics and that doggone treadmill, my mortal enemy).

What I’ve found, though, is that resolutions have been a big fat waste of time for me. Like, seriously—they fade away faster than my Chocolate Martini-laced New Year’s hangovers. So over the past couple of years, I haven’t bothered. Near Year’s comes, I toss a few back and I head on into the next 365 days with no expectations—simply happy to be me. After all, at this age, at this station in my life, I’m good. I like exactly who I am, I’m happy with my hustle and I’m living my life like it’s golden—chocolate, cusses, comfortable clothes and all.

But this year, after being asked by Weight Watchers to write a post about my personal goals for 2011, I decided maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to set my sights on something more than writing, blogging and doing my everyday thing. So I decided to put into words some of my biggest wishes for the year—things that I really want to do for myself and my family. This list isn’t about fixing or giving up anything; instead, it’s about rewarding myself by promising to do things that I know will add to my happiness. I call it Denene’s 2011 Bucket List. My plan is to tick off each one of these bad boys over the next 12 months and give you updates here on MyBrownBaby as I accomplish them. If they happen, great. If they don’t, *shrugs*. The sun will still rise, the Earth will continue to spin and I’m still going to be all right with me.

So, without futher ado, my 2011 Bucket List.

  1. I’m buying myself a piece of art. I absolutely adore it—particularly works by African-American artists. I’ve been itching to buy a piece from one of my favorite Georgia-based galleries—Avisca Fine Arts. Maybe something by CharlyPalmer? Or Karen Powell? Or maybe I’ll take up a collection and write, like, 50 eleven more books so I can afford me one of those Romare Bearden pieces. Whichever it’ll be, I’m getting me a piece of art this year.
  2. I’m going on vacation by myself—even if just for a long weekend. Sometimes a lady just needs a little time to herself to think, reflect, plan, and be quiet. No kids. No man. No phone ringing every second. No dinner to be cooked. No deadlines. Just me, my iPad, some spa treatments and… peace.
  3. I’m taking two Mommy/Daughter sleep-away weekends—one for each daughter. This one is a no-brainer. One-on-one time with my daughters would be an awesome way for us to really enjoy one another sans the drama that comes when there’s a sister around competing for mommy’s attention. I’m thinking a night at a fancy Atlanta hotel, room service, a movie, pedicures and a little shopping. Oh yeah!
  4. I’m going to the beach. Last year my family and I traipsed all over Paris for a super fantastic vacation. But this year, I want to go lay out on the beach, get chocolatey and have cute boys bring me cocktails. Oh. Yeah. (And yes, Nick can have cute girls bring him drinks, too. I'm generous like that.)
  5. I’m going to a Broadway show and a Summer Stage concert in NY. I don’t know what I’ll be seeing on Broadway—maybe Driving Miss Daisy with James Earl Jones or  Black Angels Over Tuskegee or something else good on the Great White Way—but I know whatever play and concert I choose, I won’t be disappointed. I miss the theater and especially those free concerts in Central Park.
  6. I’m going to a concert at Chastain Park. I don’t need to fly into New York to get some good entertainment; the open-air concert hall here in Atlanta is gorgeous and, with its generous policy allowing concert-goers to bring picnics and tables and candlelight and liquor, it’s the perfect venue for a romantic night out with Nick. We saw Stevie Wonder, George Benson and Raul Midon there a few years ago, but last year, I missed Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Dwele and a few other favorites. Won’t happen this year, though. I’m going to a good concert with my super awesome picnic basket. Word.
  7. I’m going to watch more sunsets. I truly am in awe of the wonders that God creates every morning and every evening. I see the sunrise every morning while I’m getting my kids to school, but I never take the time to enjoy the wonders of the sunset. It’s beautiful, it’s free, and it's an awesome reminder that God brought me through another day.
  8. I’m taking a photography class, doggonit. I’ve been threatening to do this for ages, seeing as I have a fancy camera and don’t know how to use it. I take decent pictures thanks to the tips at one of my favorite photography sites, I Heart Faces. But if I knew what all those buttons and knobs and things are for on my Nikon D50, I’d be cooking with oil.
  9. And after my class, I’m going on a photo taking tour of New York City. It’s my favorite city in the world and I can’t think of a better place to test out my skills than the Brooklyn Bridge and Harlem and Broadway and Central Park and more.
  10. I’m going to plant a container garden on my deck. I’ve been doing this every year with my babies, and this year will be no exception. We do herbs, cutting flowers, plants, and even a few vegetables. This year, we’re going to do it up big and actually plot and plan it out so we can get some hummingbirds and butterflies to make our garden home. I can’t wait to see the beauty.
I’m super glad I have all of my 2011 things to do written down so that I can remind myself to have a little fun this year. Good looking out for the encouragement, Weight Watchers! I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, if one of your New Year's resolutions was to lose weight, I have a special treat for MyBrownBaby readers: a 14-day free trial to Weight Watchers Online! After the free trial, you'll be charged for a three-month subscription unless you cancel before the trial ends. After the first three months, subscription automatically renews monthly at standard rules. Click here to sign up for this great offer from Weight Watchers. The offer ends on January 26, 2011. 

This post was written as part of a web-wide conversation around Weight Watchers and New Year’s resolutions. To participate, Weight Watchers gave me a free three-month subscription to its online program. 

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Friday, January 21, 2011

{On the Parenting Post} Smack Talking Over the Michael Jackson Wii Dance Game

I’ve kinda always been of the mindset that letting the kids win is a self-esteem booster—a feel-good strategy that gives kids the confidence they crave while they’re learning how to be competitive. And oh, it’s also a nifty way of avoiding teary outbursts and tantrums and stuff. The kind that no mom wants to deal with when the whole purpose of the fun, friendly, feel-good family game night was to be fun and friendly and whatnot.
But then, Michael Jackson came into our lives. More specifically, the new Michael Jackson Experience for Wii game. It’s got a sparkly glove and a “Workin’ Day and Night” routine featuring MJ when he was cute and fresh and not weird and I wanted to be his girlfriend. Plus, you get to do crotch-grabbing and lots of random twirls without having to explain yourself. Crotch-grabbing and twirls, people! I’m just saying, when that music comes on and the Michael Jackson with the afro starts strutting across the screen and I get to waving that Wii controller and the points start racking up? Yeah—I don’t really care if you’re eight or 11 or I pushed you through my loins or your mouth is poked out because Mommy, who watched and danced to the original “Remember the Time” video with Eddie Murphy and Iman, like, a gazillion times, has a distinct advantage over the little people in the room. 
It is what it is. Get your weight up, son! Mommy’s the dance master. Take notes.
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After a few weeks of super heavy essays on controversial topics, I figured I'd write something fun for the Parenting Post today. Read the rest of this story on the MyBrownBaby Parenting Post page to get all the dirty, sordid details of how I creamed my kids in the Michael Jackson Wii Dance Experience game. Word. *Insert picture of Denene twirling and grabbing her crotch here*

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

{MyBrownBaby Redux} Yeah I Ate the Snickerdoodles. And?

[Editor's Note: I was tooling around the MyBrownBaby treasure chest when I came across this post, written by the hubs two years ago. It STILL makes me giggle. And um, yeah—ain't much changed. Love you, boo! Muah!]


Like many children of the 1970’s, I had my visions of fatherhood formed not only by my own Dad but by the fatherly icons that marched across my television screen every week. Characters like James Evans on Good Times, Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch, Tom Bradford on Eight Is Enough, even that knucklehead George Jefferson on The Jeffersons. They were strong, (sometimes) decisive, and they were undoubtedly the Alpha Males of their households. As Alpha Male, part of the deal was that no one messed with their stuff—their favorite chair, their newspaper, their prized collection of fill-in-the-blank. Sometimes there would even be a show constructed around the hilarity that ensued when one of the kids messed up their stuff. When dinnertime came, in the words of Chris Rock, they always got the “big piece of chicken.”

I just knew that when I eventually became a dad, my household would surely be an exact replica of these TV standards (though I’m sure I hoped the house looked a lot more like the Bradfords’ on Eight is Enough and a lot less like the Evanses’ on Good Times).

Cut to December 2008 and the actual, real-life version of the Chiles household. We are somewhere in the early evening of Wednesday, December 3, in the kitchen, about four feet southwest of the kitchen table. I am making my way away from the refrigerator when I find myself staring at the snarling, irate visage of my lovely wife, (the talented creator of this website, known to me as MyBrownWifey) who is clutching a bag of Pepperidge Farm’s Snickerdoodle cookies, the delicious cinnamon-spiced favorites of my 9-year-old daughter.

“Who ate Mari’s cookies?!”

With the cookie crumbs still visible on my t-shirt, I fight off my first impulse in this situation, which is to shriek like a little girl and run from the room in terror. I even manage to fight off my second impulse, which is to blame my teenage son. (When confronted with the mystery of suddenly missing food, you can’t go wrong blaming the 16-year-old.) But then I get a flash of James Evans, standing proud and strong in that old tired-looking kitchen on Good Times. Surely James wouldn’t run from the kitchen, shrieking like a little girl (or like his son, Michael).

I square my shoulders and look MyBrownWifey in the eye. I summon the ghost of George Washington and, in my deepest baritone, I say, “I ate the cookie.” I see her eyes narrowing, so I feel compelled to add, with more mumble than baritone, “But I only had one.”

As I make my way up to my bedroom a little later on, trying to understand why the scene in the kitchen has left me a bit queasy, as if my testicles have shrunk a few inches, I see that my side of the large king-sized bed in our spacious master bedroom is being occupied by the lean, wiry little body of my 6-year-old daughter. In the sitcoms of the 70’s, one of the TV children in such a situation would have scurried from the bed in a flash, horrified to be caught so conspicuously enjoying the comfort of Daddy’s favorite spot. In the real-life Chiles household of 2008, my darling little Lila casts a skeptical eye up at me, making not even a minimal effort to get the hell up from my spot. Her facial expression says it all: “What?”

When I tell her, with that same baritone, that the “What” is that she needs to move her narrow behind from my spot, she rolls her eyes and proceeds to scoot over maybe six inches, as if that should be enough to satisfy me. MyBrownWifey manages to pull her gaze away from her laptop (Hey, the care and feeding of this blog is more than a full-time job!) long enough to suggest sweetly to her youngest that perhaps she might want to move over a bit more so Daddy can lie down.

Right here is where I give you the point of this whole exercise. With each passing day, it has become much clearer to me that I ain’t James Evans. Not even Tom Bradford. I don’t know when was the precise date that it occurred, but the household has changed quite a bit for the modern dad. One day we woke up and discovered that not only were our households no longer our dominions, but we were lucky if we could get hired as manservants or court jesters up in these joints. The rulers of my world are the tiny people who march into our bedroom in the mornings and tell us they are ready for breakfast. Mom is the queen who bestows them with greatness, the warrior who defends them to her last breath and the handmaid who takes care of their every need. I am that dude who busts into the room just when the show is getting good to tell them they have to go to bed.

What am I going to do about this? What can I do about this?


I know they all love me and adore me and all that, and this is what counts, I guess.

As long as I stay away from their cookies.

About Our MBB Contributor:
Nick Chiles, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestselling tome The Blueprint: A Plan for Living Above Life's Storms co-written with gospel legend Kirk Franklin. 
Nick also writes for several publications including Essence, where he pens stories about fatherhood and manhood.
He loves Snickerdoodles, and has been known to eat them while watching football—when he can commandeer the TV from his brown babies.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Lila and her best friend, Maggie

Even as our country feels more divided than ever in my lifetime...
Even as Governor Paul LePage says "Kiss my butt" when NAACP officials question why the state of Maine won't be represented at a respected and long-held statewide Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration...
Even as Wake County, North Carolina dismantles its nationally-hailed school integration program, paving the way for a 1950s-styled resegregation of black and poor students...
Even as the recession slams African Americans at an alarming clip, thus solidifying Martin Luther King's insistence that the fight for economic justice was just as important as the fight for racial justice...
I'm reminded every day that this part of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream—"that one day... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers"—is necessary, possible, happening...
And beautiful.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Take the time today—if only for a moment—to reflect, believe, inspire and serve someone who is less fortunate than you. It is our duty. It is what Dr. King wanted. And it is only right.  
Peace, then love.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

{On the Parenting Post} My Mom Is Better (And More Gangsta) Than Yours

I don’t know—maybe her balls were just hanging low that day. How else to explain how easily it rolled off her tongue? “You’re not like all the other black men. You go to work and pay your bills. You’re not lazy like the rest of them.”
That was the pearl that Ms. Pearl, our former nanny, dropped on Nick one cold winter morning, as he stooped down to kiss our Mari and rub my pregnant belly and make his way to his job as the editor-in-chief of a travel magazine. Surely, Nick’s back stiffened. I know mine did. Silence clung to the air between us like a nor’easter—thick and frigid and heavy and gray. This sweet little old Guyanese lady, charged with caring for my African-American girl pie while we, the married, loving, accomplished parents toiled away our day earning cash to pay the mortgage and the nanny's salary, had managed to, in one breath, slap the crap out of us (and black people in general) with insult, stereotype and backhanded praise. 
Like, how do you even begin to respond to a “you’re not like the rest of them” statement and then leave your baby in your insulter’s care? And if she was willing to say that to the faces of her employers, what other stereotypes—certainly more bruising in their insult—did Ms. Pearl have tucked away in the recesses of her brain? And how much of it seeped out of her mouth when we weren’t around—in earshot of our impressionable little black girl?
Let's just say that Ms. Pearl's services ended soon thereafter. But even in firing her, we struggled with how to deal with the immigrant perception that Americans in general and African Americans in particular, suck at parenting.

I wrote this piece in response to the flap over the Wall Street Journal excerpt of Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which homegirl claims Chinese kids are smarter and stronger than their American counterparts because their mothers have more parenting gangsta than ours. Uh huh. See what I've got to say about it over on the MyBrownBaby page at's The Parenting Post. If you're so moved, leave a comment.

Happy weekend!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

{Wordful Wednesday} We've Been Snowbound For Three Days :: Send. Help. Now.

We're snowbound. Again. Being held hostage by all the ice and a bunch of people who can't drive on said ice and a city that has absolutely no plan for removing it beyond "waiting," as my hilarious sister-in-law/BFF Angelou put it, "for the sun to come out." In the meantime, my kids are eating us out of house and home, bouncing off the walls, k-i-l-l-i-n-g me with the "I'm bored" and the "Can I."
God bless their teachers—one and all.
I do not know how they do it.
I promise you, I've kicked them out the house more than a coupla times. Nope—I don't care how cold it is. Get out. Do something. Rollerskate on the ice. Build a snowman. Take your camera out and get some pictures of nature in a deep freeze. Breathe heavy on the windows and draw your name in the steam. I don't care. Just. Get. Out. And take the dog with you. 
This is them being cute in the snow. Just before Nick and I locked them out the house.
Maybe we'll let them back in.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Help Raphael Saadiq and American Express Support Youth Music Education

Be clear: I’m a Raphael Saadiq stan from WAY back. Like, “Little Walter” and “Feels Good” way back. One of these days, maybe I’ll tell you all about the time my high school besties and I dressed up like Tony! Toni! Tone’! for Halloween and put on a three-song lip-synch concert for my girl’s mom and her friends (tragic). Or the time I interviewed the group in person and literally had to give myself a talking to before I saw them face-to-face so I wouldn’t get all Beatles fan on them when I was supposed to be professional and serious and working (The talk worked. Kinda.). Yeah.
No matter that. Today, I want to tell you about yet another reason why I heart Raphael Saadiq. In addition to being an incredible singer, producer, musician, songwriter and the mastermind behind some of my favorite songs—“Just Me and You,” “You Should Be Here,” anything by Lucy Pearl and his entire “The Way I See It” album—Raphael has a huge heart of gold. Specifically, one that loves the babies. And, with the help of SPIN Magazine and American Express, he’s putting it to awesome use on behalf of The Roots of Music Program, a New Orleans-based non-profit program that gives music education, tutoring and lots of other goodness to students from The Big Easy. From now through January 28, 2011, American Express will donate $1 to The Roots of Music Program every time someone watches THIS VIDEO INTERVIEW FEATURING RAPHAEL SAADIQ visiting New Orleans and The Roots of Music Program while he gives the 411 on the impact of music on the lives of children.
For sure, The Roots of Music Program is servicing a huge musical need in the lives of brown babies in the Crescent City, where marching bands once were an integral part of middle schools until Katrina. Today, through The Roots of Music Program, more than 100 students are getting a free after school music education in history, theory, instrumental instruction and ensemble performance, and serving it up in a full marching band that’s been parading the city since Mardi Gras 2009. So popular is the program that it has a waiting list for new students. And every penny The Roots of Music Program collects means something to the children it serves.
Helping the program is easy: Just click on this link and watch Raphael, and American Express will automatically donate $1—up to $50,000—to the program. So worth it.  

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Monday, January 10, 2011

{Bringing Up Boogie} Single Mom Dating Is Confusing And Kinda Sucks Ass

I’ve been single since before Boogie was born. I was not with his father while I was pregnant or any time after that. I’ve dated since he was born. I’ve met people I liked but I’ve never introduced him to any of them. It didn’t seem necessary. None of them lasted that long and I didn’t want to complicate things that weren’t that complicated to me. I’ve even hung out—dated is a strong, strong word—with a few single fathers; we’d talk about our kids, but I didn’t want to meet theirs and they didn’t need to meet mine. Plus, I wasn’t sure what was appropriate anyway. Like, do you intro your kid after two dates? After two months? After sex? And if I already knew going in that whatever it was I was doing with this guy wasn’t a “long term thing,” then what was the point of an introduction anyway? Had I met someone that felt like relationship material, I would have been screwed because, really, I didn’t know how to respond or react to that. I figured I’d burn that bridge when I got to it. I haven’t been to it yet. 

Not even close.

But there was this man I met about four or so months ago. I actually liked him a lot. He was a single father and his son was his entire life and everyone else who was in his life knew his son, too. That was weird for me because I didn’t think it made much sense to meet his son if we weren’t actually in anything. It makes sense for Boogie to know my friends. I mean, everyone that’s in my life has met or will meet him if the opportunity arises. I guess it says a lot about my mind (and why I remain single) that I separate my friends from “men I like.” This particular man didn’t have such divisions.

We set up a play date that consisted of our two boys playing in the living room while we sat and talked and drank wine. I wrote about it last Halloween in my Bringing Up Boogie post, "Pumpkin Patches, Pumas & Play Dates: When Parenting Solo Takes On New Meaning." It was all too “family-oriented” for my taste. That situation has since run its course. Very recently actually. And I’ve been thinking about what happens now. Boogie absolutely adored him and his son and still speaks of them both—always asking when we’re going to see them and if he can call the son and invite him to go to the library with us. 
See, this was exactly what I was trying to avoid. That attachment. I change the subject or say, “Oh, he’s with his mommy now and they don’t live around here.” Or make up something else.
The man in question is an amazing father and he was very good with Boogie. There was no weirdness. I was weird because as a mother, I wouldn’t want some random woman being all Carol Brady with my child, so I had more of a hands-off approach the first time I met his son. Plus I’m kind of scared of other people’s children. The next couple of times (there weren’t that many) I tried a bit harder to not be so scared of the idea of interacting with them. It’s a fine line and I was anxious about crossing any. But I did watch as Boogie grew wide-eyed with this idea of a “not uncle and not grandpa” with whom he got to wrestle around and play Nerf guns (God help me) and hide-n-seek.
The last time the boys were together I noticed that Boogie was getting very comfortable with them and that worried me because there was no sign that this “thing” was really going anywhere.
I don’t want to put all my business in the street but even that last time was a weird space and part of me regrets ever bringing Boogie into the picture because now what? And I mean that for myself, too: “Now what?” I kinda got attached my damn self. I realized that the “hanging out” I was doing prior to this was because I was too scared to really get involved with anything or anyone. I was making subconscious decisions about men/boys that I knew weren’t a long-term match just because I wanted to avoid that inevitable confusion. I’m the kind of person who sees the end before I see the path. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

This time, I saw the end and it didn’t look that bad. Actually, I liked it. I let myself get comfortable with it. For good reasons.  I’m not sure how much I’ve spoken about my post pregnancy body here, but while I was pregnant with Boogie, I also had ten pound growth/tumor/mass/whatever in my uterus. It was a very high-risk pregnancy and there were times when—well, let’s just say it wasn’t fun. I had the mass removed when Boogie was two months old, so between the time he was born and the time I had the surgery, I still had a ten pound mass in my uterus. I looked six months pregnant AFTER I was pregnant. It was dicey and embarrassing when I was out with an obviously newborn baby and still looked like I was carrying another one, and I became very uncomfortable with my body. And after I had the surgery to remove the mass, not only did I have this ugly scar down the middle of my belly, I also had this flabby and stretched mark lump of skin. I’m a small person—about a size 2/4 in dresses. But no matter what I do, that skin isn’t going anywhere. Because of that, I avoided intimate situations. Not to say I didn’t have them—a girl’s got needs. But I avoided getting too close. I kept at least a T-shirt on at all times. I never ever got naked. I avoided mirrors and hated looking at myself without a shirt on. It made getting close to men very difficult because there would always be that barrier—something disconnected.

I bring this up because this last situation, he wasn’t having it. The others just accepted it and didn’t talk or touch or whatever, but this one made me feel beautiful for the first time in years. I didn’t feel disfigured or ‘broken.’ He was very comfortable with the scar and often placed his hand on my belly as we slept. I didn’t realize how much that meant to me as far as my personal need to feel loved that way. I thought I could go the rest of my life avoiding that and then here comes this person who challenged me and challenged it. I mean, we had actual conversation about this scarred elephant that I’ve avoided for four years.
So here I have this man that’s met my son and met my scars and didn’t run from either. And then there’s me who loves to run and hide. And as soon as I started getting a little comfortable, things ended. There’s always a reason. 
This one is too complicated and too personal to really get into, but the same way that Boogie felt “something” with this new friendship, so did I. You would think that it would make things easier moving forward—you know, now that I’ve been here and now that I know what it looks like, I should be ready for the next one. But it doesn’t get easier. And I’m not ready to go there again. If anything, it makes me wish I hadn’t even been there. I’m not one of those, “It’s better to have loved and lost” people. Fuck that. Don’t show it to me if I can’t have it.

I guess Boogie and I have even more in common than I thought.

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About our MBB Contributor:Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic. She’s half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the left over bit is a caramel creme center. She’s also the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi. Get more Bassey at

If you would like to be a featured contributor on MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas/blog posts/rants/musings to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Princess Boys: Should Boys Wear Dresses and Sparkly, Pretty Things To Kindergarten Class?

This little boy who fancies hot pink dresses and remarkable ruffles and sparkly, pretty things—he makes me giggly and hopeful and wishful that the world could be as evolved as his mama and his daddy, who allow him the indulgence of prancing like a princess not just in the family playroom but out on the playground at his elementary school.
But mostly, he makes me worry. Scared even. And when I’m not applauding her for going all the way hard for her son’s right to just, like, be, I’m wondering just what in the hell was she thinking buying pink dresses, purple tutus and ballet slippers for her son and telling the whole wide world he’s a “princess boy?”
Yup—I went there. Watch the video below, then hop on over to the MyBrownBaby page on's The Parenting Post to see my take on the cross-dressing 5-year-old whose mom lets him wear tutus and sparkly stuff to kindergarten class.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Do You Win the War On Childhood Obesity? Plant A Vegetable Garden With Your Kids


Childhood obesity is now the nation's disease—an ailment crippling the body politic. The long-term health effects are well-established and include early onset diabetes and premature hip and joint problems. American children are prematurely aging, suffering from sicknesses that were once the provenance of older adults. Old has become the new young.

The lineup of culprits includes school vending machines, latchkey children, the endangered home-cooked meal, vanishing physical-education classes, fried everything, supersized portions, sedentary hours spent zoned out in front of the computer screen, nutritional ignorance, misleading labeling and more. But whatever and whoever is to blame, it is surely not kids. We cannot expect children to make the right food choices when healthy foods are out of reach and nutrition-smart role models are not in evidence.

The saddest thing about childhood obesity is that it's unnecessary. It's inexcusable that in the breadbasket of the world American children are eating so much lousy food. First lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative, "Let's Move," represents a  welcome beginning to what will have to become a nutritional revolution.

As an agriculturist and horticulturist, I believe that the answer is simple. As parents, educators, nutritionists and marketers, we have to imbue our children with the love of—and consumption of—the most beneficial food for growing bodies. This means fresh vegetables and fruits, whether store-bought or home-grown.

As kids, we imitate our elders, who teach most effectively by example. Right now, adults aren't doing a good job of modeling good behavior. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 26% of adults have three or more servings of vegetables a day, a number that includes those who deem a tomato slice or lettuce on a burger as a "vegetable serving." In other words, roughly 80% of U.S. adults scarcely eat any vegetables at all.

Liking vegetables is not a given: Every food other than breast milk is an acquired taste. But children can easily learn to enjoy eating their greens. It's simply a matter of education and familiarity—as in "family." 

Children will happily eat squash, artichoke or broccoli, to the delight of the parents who taught them to do so. As for fruits, children can gobble them up, but like vegetables, they must be at the ready, at least as available as all the junky alternatives. Kids imitate their elders, who teach most effectively by example.

In our research at Atlee Burpee, we have found that kids who grow vegetables alongside their parents eat them regularly and with gusto. Peas, green beans and raw carrots—the very vegetables that kids are told to eat, their parents' admonishing fingers wagging—are particular favorites.

While not all American families have the benefit of a sun-filled backyard for a vegetable garden, companies like Burpee offer many vegetable seeds and plants that you can grow easily in containers. You can grow beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, which can be plucked from the stalk well into winter.

Eighteen years ago, as president of the American Horticultural Society, I initiated a children's gardening program. Our annual symposium drew thousands of educators and community gardeners with the goal of educating and inspiring children to grow gardens in their school and neighborhoods. The results were heartening: Thousands of churches, schools and community centers sprouted new gardens.

Yet no single institution is sufficient; fighting a problem of this sort requires a multifaceted effort. Churches could do much more to inspire families to grow vegetables. Public and private botanical and community gardening groups should augment efforts to lure neighbors into their educational demonstration gardens. Most families, whether in the city or suburbs, can plant at least a "starter garden"—involving pre-teen children in the planting, tending and harvesting.

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About our contributor: George Ball is a past president of the American Horticultural Society (AHS) and the current chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee & Co, the largest, most progressive garden seed company in the United States. This piece originally appeared on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal and was reprinted with permission by Mr. Ball. For more information on gardening with children, visit Burpee's Kid's Gardening page.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

{Wordful Wednesday} Black Snow Bunnies: My Babies and their Granddad On Christmas Vacation

There is absolutely nothing more peaceful to me than spending time with three of my favorite people in the world: My daughters and my dad. Where he lives,  there is peace. And around this time of year, a bit of snow, too—something my girls don't get to see much down here in Georgia. So, as you can imagine, it was no time before they were out rolling around, licking and throwing the white stuff—just as I was putting my new iPhone Hipstamatic app to good use. Here, some of our favorite moments in the snow. Enjoy!

Footprints in fresh snow

And it wouldn't be good, clean fun without some snow angels!

This child has been eating the white stuff since her first snow at eight months. We taught her early: Stay away from the yellow snow. 

All that chocolate in snow ought to be illegal!

My Mari, keeping her head to the sky

Did I mention that my father NEVER played in the snow when I was little? The man will do anything for his granddaughters—even take some cold ones to the dome. Ha!

My Mari took this shot. Made me look pretty.

My Daddy, with his handsome self.

How could you not find peace on such a beautiful piece of land?

My people.

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