Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are we reading to our kids enough?

We spend so much time trying to pull negative things out of our kids, but how much time do we really spend purposefully offering them a desirable alternative. When it comes to promoting a healthy self image in our daughters (and sons), I'm learning that I really need to be proactive. I need to present to my children the norm I want them to have.

If you're reading this blog, I'm probably preaching to the choir--clearly YOU read-- but we really need to be reading to our kids. Some of us are juggling so much and I know it can be hard even to find a moment to breathe, but we must read to our children. I believe it is a highly effective tool to foster rich discussion about a plethora of issues.

I always marvel at how much my kids are drawn to images. Are you sick of listening to them watch their favorite video over and over yet? If we give them the opportunity, kids will do the same with books they love. I often find mine staring and thinking. What if the image they are so focused on is conveying an important message? A positive message, while they're doing it quietly... are you sold yet?

Here are some things I do to keep my family reading you may want to try:

1. Study your child so you can choose books tailored to your child's interests. Two of my daughters love all things girl-y. It would be easy for me to walk into a library or bookstore and head straight for anything pink, but I have one daughter who is fascinated by the human body. If I want to hold her attention, we need to move toward the science section--and not necessarily in her age group. Don't be limited by where the store expects you to find things.

2. Read to your child regularly. I start reading to my kids while they are in the womb. Once they are born, I find my babies are so much fun with books--especially when they're teething. As they grow older I schedule a daily story time. I commit to reading two short books or one long book aloud. This time quickly becomes their favorite time of day. Not only do they enjoy a tale of their choice, we snuggle close together and share precious cuddles. You can also reinforce your reading times by taking your child to public story times. They are often free and available at your local library or book stores like Barnes and Nobles. Sometimes a simple craft is offered at the end of the story. When my oldest was a baby, I cherished story time at the library as an opportunity for me to interact with other moms in the middle of my day. I made some valuable friendships and forged a good relationship with the library staff. I want to be heard if I make a recommendation or share a concern about what's being offered to my kids.

3. Read during a meal, snack or at bed time. You can also offer your child a coloring book, puzzle, play dough, blocks, or paper to draw on while you read to them. I've noticed that if I keep their hands busy, my kids will listen to me read for a long time.

4. Read a chapter or a few pages at a time. Even my five year old will sit still and listen to me read a book to her that has NO PICTURES in it! As long as her hands are busy, or she's cuddled in my arms, she can tune in for at least a chapter. Unfortunately, in this media crazed society we're living in, it has become a talent to sit still and pay attention. This is also great for the busy parent who is struggling to fit in a reading time. Little by little and chapter by chapter can become something you both look forward to. I think 15 minutes a day is a nice place to start.

5. Let your kids see YOU reading, and choosing recreational activities that celebrate reading. I love to read in bed at night after all the kids have gone to bed, or behind closed doors during the day while the baby is napping. I have had to force myself to bring my books to the family room instead, where I'm easily seen as everyone moves through the house. My husband reads anything and everything--no matter where we are. On a lazy Sunday afternoon after worship and a big meal, we'll get really enthusiastic about hanging out a Barnes and Nobles. Everyone gets to choose a book and we may share chocolate chip cookies or shakes after. I'm learning that no matter what we say to our kids as parents, they are eager to do what we do.

6. Encourage others to gift your kids with books. When the grandmothers ask what would make a good birthday present we often recommend a gift card to our favorite bookstore.
If this is hard for you to imagine right now, be encouraged that your child's eyes can light up to receive such a gift, if you foster an environment that celebrates reading.

Check out my review of Say No and Go by Jill Urban Donahue. I think it's a good book to use to facilitate necessary discussion with your child about stranger danger, while conveying the unspoken message that nappy hair can be the norm for everyone in a family.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ASK Mocha Mom: Summer Hair

I received a question on the fanpage too long to answer in that tiny box we get. I've decided to start an ASK Mocha Mom feature to this blog. I'll still answer your questions in the comments, but if I don't have a blog post I can refer you to, or my answer is too involved I'll answer you like this so we can all benefit from the discussion. Here's Pam's question:

CMD, how does the texture of hair change with the change of seasons? We are going into warmer months and I was wondering what does that mean in relationship to my daughter's hair?

Good question Pam!

Her texture won't change but her hair will certainly behave differently if the climate where you live changes in the summer. The primary factors are heat and moisture. Hair is dead, but you'd think it's alive because of the way it reacts to water. I'm sure you've noticed that when you wet your daughter's hair, it probably stretches out a little because of the weight of the water, but tends to contract, curl, or shrink up as it dries. This type of action also happens when tightly coiled hair encounters moisture in the environment. If you live in a place where your summers are humid, prepare for you're daughter's strands to
come alive.

Her strands won't suddenly become living organisms, but you'll notice lots more fuzz and frizz as they rise and move towards the moisture in the air. I see Fuzz as the motion of textured hair to move and bend according to it's natural shape in response to moisture.

If your summers are hot but dry, you may notice more dryness in your daughter's hair. Moisture may be sucked from your daughter's strands. We're told to wear sun screen to protect our skin, but exposing our dry hair to the hot rays of the sun can actually be extremely damaging and drying to our strands.

Here are my summer tips:

Embrace the fuzz and freedom! Wet sets including twist-outs and braidouts are great but you may notice a quicker loss of the curl definition you have worked so hard to achieve. Unless you are using an effective holding product, the moisture in the air may make your daughter's strands move away from the shape you've tried to freeze it in. I save myself the trouble by choosing styles that work well with fuzz. My favorite summer style are afro puffs! I think of it as maximizing the poof. I fluff them out with my fingers and since I'm not altering the natural curl pattern of my daughters' strands they looks mostly the same no matter how much moisture they encounter. This is a great time to experiment with your daughter's natural texture. I prefer manipulating their puffs with my fingers to using a pick. If you try using a pick, be sure to apply it to damp hair and finger detangle first. Pick gently from the ends up, just as you would with a comb/brush.

If you want define your daughter's strands with a wet set, accept that it may not last as long as it would in other seasons. Set the hair wet, being sure to lock moisture to the strands with a good oil/butter. Set your style with a good holding product or coat the strands with something that will block moisture from the air temporarily. I find that my shea butter mix works well for this. Be advised that shea butter can make loose hair look a little dull. Castor oil is another good choice. Whatever you choose, use it sparingly to avoid the look of greasy weighed down hair. If anyone wants to chime in about their favorite holding product I'd appreciate it. I typically put the style in without worrying too much about how long the set will last. As it morphs into a more natural afro look I just go with it.

If your climate is hot and dry, imagine that your daughter's hair is perpetually experiencing the stress of having the moisture pulled from her strands. You will have to work to put it back in. Style her hair damp and seal the moisture in with a good oil/butter. If her strands feel dry, you may want to spritz it frequently with an oil and water mix. I'm sure you can find a recipe on YouTube or search (nappy hair forum). I'm personally not much of a spritzer. My daughters get their daily spritzing experience when they bathe. We don't cover our heads with scarves and shower caps. Their styles fuzz up more quickly but I no longer struggle with dry and brittle hair.

Whatever you do with your daughter's hair, make sure she doesn't let her hair stop her from enjoying fun summer activities. If you welcome the fuzz, the shrinkage, the big-ness or tightness of nappy hair, you won't be ruining any of your hard work with water. In fact, water will bring it all to life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mocha Mom Speaks about Length Retention and Protective Styling

My hair on the day I put in my Braidlocks before the shrinkage set in.

I considered making another video, but opted to return to my first love--writing. I've been reflecting on the many responses I've received on my Hot Topic: The Tangle Teezer is Breaking my Hair video. I've been wondering if there's a little more to my success story.

There was a time my daughters' hair remained the same length year after year. I thought their hair wasn't growing or had reached terminal length--meaning their hair had grown as long as it could possibly grow. It never occurred to me that their hair was breaking off at the ends as quickly as it was growing in from the roots. Culturally, as people of African descent, we do many things to our hair that's death to our ends.

I never set out to retain length. Something changed in me during a completely unrelated experience. I talk about it in detail in my post Her mother needs to do her hair!
When my expectations changed about the appearance of my girls' hair, some of my practices were abandoned. We've all heard of protective styling which is founded on the principle that by manipulating the hair as little as possible we can minimize breakage. We maximize protective styling by keeping our strands moist and tucking away the ends which are the oldest and most fragile part of our hair. Many of us have adopted protective styling but are still doing some things highly celebrated in the Black culture which may be sabotaging our efforts. If you want to see more length retention you may want to consider radically reducing or completely eliminating the following expectations:

1. My daughter's hair isn't done unless her style is smooth at all times. I enjoy a smooth style as much as anyone but I've learned to appreciate my girls' styles in three stages. I enjoy the smooth stage of when I first do the style and it looks perfect for the first day or the first week depending on which daughter and which style I have done. I've also grown to enjoy what I think of as the fuzzy stage, when the style isn't quite as perfect anymore but still looks neat enough to be worn a little longer. Nappy hair doesn't stay smooth for long, it wants to be fuzzy. We're always rushing to fix it because our perception of neatness is based on a straight hair aesthetic. I've noticed this is true for many races and hair types. I'm determined to stop trying to make our hair do what it wasn't designed to do, because what it does do naturally, is beautiful.

Sometimes I'll let my daughters' hair slide into the final stage, where some folks may be saying, her mother needs to do her hair--and I will, but not until I know I have positioned myself to be able to do the job right. Meaning I've got the time to finger detangle. I'm calm and ready to work patiently through the process without sabotaging all my hard work. I also want to make sure I am communicating the right message to my daughters about their hair. Even when we don't say a word, our frustration comes through. I don't want my girls to think their hair is a burden to me and a hassle to handle. Their strands are indescribably beautiful and precious. As you can imagine, I can live with a lot of fuzz. I've developed some tricks to make the hair pass inspection even when it should have been done over. I demonstrate one of my tricks in my video Maximizing Old Twists.

2. My daughter's style isn't perfect until I hang some beads or barrettes off the ends. I've shared a small portion of my bead collection with you, so you know I enjoy beads as much as anyone. I also have giant tubs full of barrettes I've collected over the years. I've learned that anything hanging from my daughter's ends for a prolonged period of time is death to their ends. Mocha Baby has never had anything suspended from her ends and the difference in her hair compared to her sisters' at that age is monumental. My kids all have the same mother AND father and are drawing from the same gene pool. I've learned that my method makes all the difference.

I'm not saying don't accessorize. I prefer to stick the barrettes anywhere but on the ends. I also love headbands. As for the beads, I've found a safer way to use them.

3. It's a special occasion and my daughter will be so cute if I flat iron her hair and curl it or blow it out. I no longer use heat on my girls' hair. EVER. I have very little experience using heat on my girls. I'm an expert on my own hair, but the only daughter who has ever received a blow out is HmG. I tried it when she was about 5 years old because I was curious. Wanted a change. Her hair hated it. I didn't even bother to move on to the flat iron because it looked dull and brittle and angry to me. I know hair is not alive, but I actually felt like her hair was screaming, "What are you doing???"

Please don't receive my experience as a judgment on what you choose to do. I've said I never use heat. I think heat is damaging. I prefer to develop styles that work with my daughter's natural texture. I think nappy hair is appropriate and beautiful in every situation. I am NOT saying that because you do what you do--if it is different from what I do--- you believe the opposite. I am saying that by doing what I do I am celebrating what I believe. No one doubts that using heat stresses the hair or there wouldn't be a market for heat protectants. I'm not a fan. I think it's Russian Roulette.

3. My daughter's braids last so much longer and look so much better if I get her some braid extensions. I have never added artificial hair to my girls' braided styles. Ever. I have been tempted with Mg3 because her hair is fine and her styles fuzz up within the first day and often look sparse. I don't do it because I doubt her hair can't handle the added weight and friction. I cringe when I see a little girl hauling around more hair than her poor neck can bear. Some girls have too much fake hair added AND too much length....the result is more breakage, Traction Alopecia
and as I've been saying--death to the ends.

Many of us think that once we put in those extensions we're done. Suddenly the hair doesn't need to be washed as often or moisturized regularly. The result may be dry and brittle hair. I've also seen horribly flaky and irritated scalps. I can speak for days about this because the damaged scalp was my own.

I have no doubt that braid extensions work well when installed and maintained properly--I've used them on my own hair for years. They worked beautifully after I made some changes. However, be advised that your daughters are still developing and their tender strands may not be ready for all of that yet.

I hope the above helps someone. Breakage and hair damage can be gradual and accumulate slowly over time. Sometimes we don't notice all the little things we are doing that are counter productive.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Natural Beauties in the City Episode 9 - The Children's Episode!

I entered the Mocha Girls in the Identity Pillow Giveaway! You can watch our video entry here:

HotTopic: The Tangle Teezer is Breaking my Hair!

I share my tips for using the Tangle Teezer here, and address some of your concerns.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


You could win a free original Tangle Teezer OR Magic Flower Pot (Tangle Teezer for girls). I share the details here.

Magic Flower Pot: A Tangle Teezer for Girls!

When I saw this I contacted Tangle Teezer about trying this out so I can share it with you! Of course I taped my trial. You can see it here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Want more Cherish the Momma?

I'm working on some more Cherish the Momma segments. Our girls watch us, imitate us--we're leading by example whether we're trying to or not. I want to pass on as many positive things as I can. I also want to break bad habits. For example, my entire life I've hated to sweat, but sweating is good for our bodies in so many ways. Not only are we eliminating waste through the body's largest organ, we are promoting hair growth with all the circulation our sweating process brings to the scalp.

Let's get moving for ourselves and for our daughters! The benefits are endless.

I find it easier if I'm doing something fun. Here's another one of us--check out Pam's quick
Zumba workout video on YouTube. Try it! In my enthusiasm, I worked up a nice sweat.

I also enjoy her blog, because of her insight on raising fit kids.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mocha Baby get's her hair washed for the first time... the kitchen sink! We video taped it to share with you here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cherish the Momma: The Stay at Home Mom

Choosing to stay at home can be difficult for many of us. For those of us who want to pursue a higher degree of education or have already spent years earning a professional degree, it can seem like a waste. Check out the video response I made to Chocolatetresses--a fellow subscriber who posted a video about her struggle with her recent decision to focus her energies at home.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Using Classics with a Different Spin to Teach a Positive Message

What a unique spin to an old favorite! I think the relationship emphasized in the story Ponyella is sweet and a really positive message to share with young girls. Check out my book review video here.

*Also--I have set up multiple playlists on the YouTube channel to help make it easy to find what you may be looking for.

For discussion: Have you come across any new versions of classics you like?

I really like some of the animal versions, but I also like the people versions with a special twist. Ever watched the movie Penelope? I don't recommend this movie for young girls, because I'm not interested in introducing my girls to a lot of romance at an early age. Also, I'm not sure that the way Hollywood does romance, sends the best messages toward helping people to develop realistic and wholesome partnerships. That said, I enjoy a good chic flick as much as any other woman, but it's getting harder and harder to look the other way at the questionable content. Anyway...I enjoyed the ending of Penelope--which has a Beauty and the Beast plot twist.

Penelope is born with the snout of a pig instead of a human nose because her family line has been cursed. She's told she will only receive a human nose if she can get a blue blood to marry her for love. Her mother feels responsible and tormented by her daughter's condition and goes to extreme measures to deliver this blue blood. However, Penelope is constantly challenging the frenzy and wondering why she can't just go on with her life despite her snout. Finally, she escapes into the world she's been hidden from, and is embraced by the public--much to her mother's surprise.

While a romance does develop between Penelope and a VERY imperfect man who is not a blue blood and tormented by his inability to lift the curse. The two only share about 2 or 3 scenes together in the entire movie. The man is caught in his own web of deception, and is actually inspired by Penelope to get HIS life together. The movie focuses on Penelope's development and her mother's struggle to understand that helping her daughter is about more than finding her a pretty face.

I really enjoyed the ending, and I won't spoil it with too much details. We are left with the message that imperfections may be overblown. I actually grew to like Penelope's face despite the snout. Penelope developed more and more self confidence. Others accepted her because she accepted herself. Everything she needed was within her. I also enjoyed the resolution of the struggle she experienced with her mother. Through it all, Penelope remained kind and respectful toward her parents. Though her mother crossed the line repeatedly, Penelope's response was exceptional. She challenged their assumptions without tearing them down and took her stand with a resolute dignity. The fact that her mother's transformation wasn't perfect was all the better! It reminded me that perfection isn't always a necessary part of success.

I give it a thumbs up and would definitely watch and discuss this with my teen. Again--not one I'd share with little girls.

Friday, April 8, 2011

African Threading: With a little practice...

I've been a little anxious about taking down Mg3's hair after our last experience. You can watch how it went here. This one is super short, but I'm so excited to share my progress!

One thing I found helpful was using the sharp end of a sewing needle to pry apart the knot at the end of her hair. The end of my rat tail comb was too fat.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

African Threading: Taking down Mg2's hair after a month!

Yes ya'll! I left this style in for a month! You can find out why and how the take down went here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hot Topic: "Girl I can't stand those natural nazis!"

Why should my stance on my hair make you feel bad about your stance on yours? I dish about it here.