Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mocha Christmas 2012!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Mg2!

My birthday birth stories began with you so I won't repeat it again.  The other day, you mentioned that out of all your siblings, you're in the absolute middle of the family.  You said it with such satisfaction. The thought stayed with me until I realized, you really are!  In more ways than you think!  You're in the middle of our hearts.  We're grateful for your sweet and kind ways--God often uses your generosity to center us.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Mocha Baby!

"Can God do it again?"

I asked myself this question over and over from the moment I realized I was pregnant with Mocha Baby.  I was painfully aware of what a blessing it was to have healthy children.  God had already given me four.  Was I pushing it to expect any more?  If I was faced with special challenges, would I be up to the task with 4 other children to care for?  I knew I'd take the job regardless, but I wondered if I'd be able to do it well.

I think I fell prey to this kind of thinking because I was older than 35 when we conceived Mocha Baby, and the pressure to do more prenatal testing and be "extra" careful implied that something could go wrong for us now more than at any other time before.  I appreciated the support if a challenge developed, but I felt robbed of a peaceful pregnancy.

I empowered myself by building up my support systems.  I worked at accepting help from my friends.  I hired a doula who offered pregnancy counseling, prenatal advice and availability for labor and two post partum visits.  Most importantly, I worked hard at praying, believing and trusting God that whatever he gave me would be right for me.  I tried not to worry.  I was up and I was down.  It was definitely a process.

My cup overflowed with Mocha Baby--as you can see she exceeds my hopes and expectations.

On this day, I'm reflecting about how much my heart can grow and stretch to love each child I'm given like they are the only child I have.  To God be the glory!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Mg3: A Birth Story

For some reason I was really worried about Mg3's delivery.  Looking back, I'm perplexed as to why her delivery made me so anxious.  My support system had improved from what it was like with previous births. We were finally living in our hometown where I could access my relatives AND friends.  Perhaps it was because, our lifestyles had changed so much.  People were busier and more difficult to access in NYC.  People around me always seemed to be running.  Their lives stretched them so much.  I didn't think they were available, though I never doubted they loved me.

I worried a lot about who would be around to take me to the hospital, and if everything would work out for someone to stay with my 3 older children.  If my husband was at work when labor started, I realized that under the best of circumstances it would take him a minimum of  ninety minutes to reach me.  Everyone worked, so I kept replaying this scenario over and over with everyone I knew.  Maybe I could ask a fellow homemaker? What about their kids and routines?  Would they get to me in time?  For some reason, all of this became a huge deal to my pregnant mind.

I should have exhaled, because God has always shown himself faithful to me.  I never know the details in advance, but things work out.

I started having labor contractions at 1AM on a Sunday morning.  I stayed in bed for as long as I could.  They were easy contractions.  Everyone in the house was sleeping peacefully.  The pain wasn't bad at all, but around 4 AM, I decided to get in the shower because it was soothing.  I had been training myself to relax through an all natural birth and had a midwife waiting for me at the hospital.  The shower really relaxed me and sped things up.  By 5 AM I was certain I was having strong productive contractions, so I woke my husband up and called the midwife.

She picked something up in my voice in the midst of a contraction because suddenly she shouted, "WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING AT HOME???"

I called my sister who lived in the same development.  In fact, I could look at her front door from my living room window.  They agreed to come and stay with the sleeping kids while my husband and I rushed to the hospital.

When we arrived I was almost completely dilated.  The pain of the contractions didn't challenge me until it was time to push.  I thought I'd never make it through, but after several pushes Mg3 was out.

No meds.  

Absolutely nothing.

For the first time I realized what a woman's body really feels like after pushing out a baby.  Minus the epidural....everything was throbbing.  I remember being really puzzled by this and asking the nurse if something was wrong, but she laughed and reminded me that I had just passed a baby through a spot that's not generally so stretched.  LOL!  I was sooooo happy.

My first impression of Mg3 was awe.  She was so alert.  She stared at me with eyes that were communicating a message.  It scared me a little.  This was no senseless blank slate.  She looked at me like, "Hi Mom!  So this is what you look like."  


She seemed to be studying me as intently as I was studying her and I was struck by the reality that I had been given another person to cherish.

Happy Birthday Mg3!  You're still the same and I'm so grateful God trusted me with you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Passing on the vision for natural hair

"I want a relaxer"!

I've been prepping myself for the possibility of one of my girls coming to me with this request for a long time.  I thought I'd consider their motive from every angle.  I thought I'd be ready.

I was wrong.

I've recently been in conversation with HmG about this very issue.  You've watched her hair grow and flourish and flourish.  She has ALOT of hair.  I think it intimidates her.  Sometimes it intimidates me!!!

She says she believes natural hair is beautiful.

She says she likes the look of natural hair more than the look of relaxed hair.

She asks me anyway, "Can I relax my hair?"

I shout WHY?

She says, "Because I just can't see myself spending all that time doing my hair!!!  It's not worth it to me.  I just think a relaxer will be easier."  She finished by saying that the risk of damage to her hair is a risk she's willing to take.

I was floored.  I JUST wasn't expecting that to be the reason. 

I've spent several weeks reflecting on how HmG is feeling.  It has been a lot of work for me managing 5 natural heads of hair but at the end of the day, there are many aspects of grooming I genuinely enjoy.  It never occurred to me that a daughter of mine could possibly have no interest in working with hair.

I was disappointed.  I'm being honest.  I was also honest with HmG and she had no trouble directing me back to my own videos and my own words about letting her spread her wings with my full support.

I've given her my answer.

When HmG is financially able to afford the maintenance of a relaxer, and can take herself to her appointments, I won't stop her.

It's HER journey.

I've given her the best of what I know and must have faith that her journey will be just as meaningful as mine.  My resolve has come from the mistakes I've made, I'm realizing my daughters may not choose to learn from my mistakes.  They may need proof for themselves.

In the end, I believe HmG will exceed my expectations, no matter what. 

Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Let's Twist Again!

I enjoy playing around with twists! 

HmG had a dance competition and was wearing her loose hair in a high bun.  She has another competition coming up soon so I didn't want to give her a head full of small twists--while they are easier to take down than braids, I'd still have to plan a time in our busy schedule to do it.  Half a head of large flat twists is MUCH easier to work with.  Her hair gets a break from being loose and we can enjoy her massive bun a little longer.

Mg2 is the queen of twists.  I honored her request to keep it flowing and free.

Mg2 wants what her sister wants.  Ordinarily, I encourage her to pick braids over twists because her hair knots up easily if left too long in twists.  She got me this time.

Mocha Baby surprised me.  I thought I'd get away with a couple of puffs but she kept looking at her sisters and wanted to know when I was doing her hair for real.  I was planning to cornrow the front and gather the back into a puff but she wasn't having it.  She wanted some swing time like her sisters.  So Mocha Baby is sporting the back in twists!  If I had known I'd go this route I would have twisted the ends of her cornrows.  I love the end result.

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Loc 360

My hair is fine. I have a lot of strands but when I weigh my hair down with a lot of product, I lose the volume. The longer my hair got as a loose natural, the harder it was to keep my hair looking as BIG as I like. I can't believe how thick my locs look. When people tell me how thick my hair is I can't believe they are talking to me. This is definitely a lock perk.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Nappy Bun makes the grade!

So you already know that my oldest daughter HMG has a passion for ballet. Well, for the first time this year we decided to try having her compete, because she wanted more opportunities to perform. Our first competition is today, but it's been an interesting experience so far.

After all of these years in the same school, where nappy hair was never an issue--it became an issue for competition.

HMG wears her hair in braids/twists/cornrows 99% of the time. Her hair is always styled in small braids or a combo cornrow and box braid style for recitals. I've never tried to style her hair loose, because a variety of hairstyles has always been required in costume. HMG had to be able to move from the sleek bun, to loose hanging hair, to updo styles in short minutes. I don't use heat--EVER...and she has A LOT of hair.

I'm not always close enough to help her when she's backstage. The braids were always easier and the school never complained.

To be clear they never officially complained for this competition either.

My daughter had a simple conversation with her teacher, during which she was asked whether she had ever considered relaxing her natural hair. She was wearing medium to large box braids at the time.

I am so proud of my daughter.

She respectfully told her teacher, "Not really. It would be very damaging to my hair."

Her teacher agreed, but continued on to say that in the dance world, HMG shouldn't be surprised--should HMG choose to pursue professional dance--if she is asked to chemically relax her hair.
They will want you to look like everyone else. Everyone is expected to look the same.

HMG's teacher told her it was fine for her to wear the braided style she was wearing--though this had never been a thought of mine for the competition in which only the classic bun is required. She merely suggested HMG position her bun higher.

I commend HMG's teacher for giving her the choice to wear even large fuzzy braids for the competition. I really appreciate her respecting our way with HMG's hair.

HMG did infer--whether right or wrong--that her teacher wished her hair was straight.

I had mixed feelings.

As always I felt frustration that this even has to be a discussion. I wondered if the recommendation of a PERMANENT chemical process would have been made to anyone else other than a person with nappy hair. I lay no accusation against her teacher though...perhaps she didn't know the different options we have to achieving a straight look.

I felt frustration that straight is once again the order of the day.

Finally, I chose to concentrate on the satisfaction burning inside of me at the very mature way HMG handled herself. I'm so proud of my daughter. It wasn't easy for me to make that sort of declaration as an adult, but she handled it with such grace and quiet confidence.

Since the classic bun is the ONLY style required I had always intended to style HMG's hair loose. Her ballet teacher has never seen her hair this way. I decided to unveil the style at dress rehearsal.

I washed and detangled HMG's hair, smoothed it back soaking wet using a natural boar bristle brush and molded it in place with olive oil and Fantasia IC gel. I fashioned her ponytail with a satin ribbon (too much hair for a ponytail holder) and pinned the ends under into a donut-shaped bun with a ton of bun head hair pins. I set the style with a satin bandana...for an hour.

Her hair was wavy perfection. Full of sheen. Texture UNALTERED. Long and lush nappy hair styled in a bun.

Her teacher's reaction was HUGE. She loved it and stammered over and over that it was so beautiful--as did HMG's classmates. HMG's teacher also remarked that she didn't know HMG's hair
could do this, and asked her HOW were you able to do this.

That's when I understood.

Sometimes we perceive the demand that we ought to straighten our nappy hair as a statement that what we have is less than desirable.

I was offering HMG's teacher, the exact same hair--TEXTURE unaltered. I styled her hair soaking wet! The teacher loved the result--which looked nothing like relaxed hair.

If I had run to straighten HMG's hair, thinking I had no other choice, I would have lost the opportunity to show HMG's teacher (a person with the authority to make changes) that there are multiple choices for a person with nappy hair. Nappy hair is fabulous hair--we can mold it in so many ways. A permanent texture change is not necessary.

We DO have choices. We don't have to sacrifice our hair.

It is beautiful...and you don't need special eyes to see it.

Give it a chance.

I could have blown her hair out, coated her hair with heat protectant and flat ironed it.

I could, but if I don't choose to take that route---I shouldn't feel as though I am being forced by circumstances to do something I'm not comfortable with.

In this case, the teacher doesn't have all the power--it's my choice and more importantly HMG's choice to make sure all the possibilities are on the table and to choose with resolve.

Have I mentioned that I'm proud?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

HMG's Birth Story: Happy Birthday!

The first time I saw her, she was laying on her stomach, with her face delicately resting on her two hands. It was like a rosy glow surrounded her. I thought she looked so feminine. Definitely a girl. I HAD A GIRL!!!!! But she was too big for her incubator. I knew she couldn't be, but wasn't she cold? She'd been without me for so many hours. I wanted to hold her.

I cried.

HMG was 4 days late! At about 30 weeks of pregnancy I began to have strong contractions. My doctor was concerned I'd deliver early and quickly put me on bed rest. I was instructed to lay on my left side perpetually. I could stand to go to the bathroom and make myself a quick sandwich or set up prepared food for the baby--but that was all. I was advised to avoid the stairs as much as possible. My initial thought was,
I'll finally get some rest!

Our son was 15 months old at the time, and I was truly exhausted chasing him around with my big belly and low energy. My husband was working 2 jobs! One to pay the bills, another for the experience which would enable him to shift his career in a new direction. One job was local, the other involved a two hour commute round trip. My relatives lived at least 6 hours away. Thank God for very good friends.

Our full bath was upstairs, so I continued to sleep in our bedroom. We set up a mattress on the floor in the living room of our small townhouse. Every morning after showering and getting dressed (the most exciting moments of my day for 6 long weeks), I lay on that mattress. We gated the stairs and doorways to the kitchen. We tried to keep the bathroom and basement doors closed. I had a stack of books, toys, magazines, videos, writing paper on one side, arranged snacks and beverages on the other while facing a tiny 13 inch TV. Occasionally I would turn my head to enjoy our common lawn and the pretty city view from our double doored balcony. Thank God our complex was on a lovely hill!

At first it was wonderful...though the baby ran about freely and dropped crumbs EVERYWHERE, and the piles grew like sand dunes in the desert because
who could vacuum? His many toys were like an obstacle course all over the floor.

Though my husband was gone for long hours and when my friends visited I wondered what I was missing.

Though my mom was so far away and my sister called almost everyday until it felt like she was there but she wasn't.

Though I was eating so much processed food, it no longer tasted like real food.

Though I was watching so many movies
, reading so many books/magazines and doing all the crafting I never had time for before.

I was getting so much sleep!

Then, I just couldn't take it anymore because....

The baby ran about freely and dropped crumbs EVERYWHERE and the piles grew like sand dunes in the desert because who could vacuum?
His many toys were like an obstacle course all over the floor!

My husband was gone for long hours and when my friends visited I wondered what I was missing!

My mom was so far away and my sister called every day until it felt like she was there but she wasn't!

I was eating so much processed food, it no longer tasted like real food!

I was watching so many movies, reading so many books/magazines and doing all the crafting I never had time for before!

I was getting so much sleep!

I don't even think my doctor got the complete sentence out of his mouth at 36 weeks when I was able to resume normal activity and stop taking all of that medication. I thought for sure HMG would fall right out on our very first outing.

She didn't...though I chased her brother around and took him to all the places I felt guilty that he was missing for 6 long weeks.

Though I sat at another toddler birthday party, on another padded floor, too low to the ground for my girth, in a position I was too awkward to manage.

Though I walked the malls like someone was paying me.

Though I hoped and wished and prayed.

Though I was crabby, sore, exhausted and all the things that make our final days of pregnancy
so special.

HMG was coming on time--just not my time.

Finally, I gave up. I would be pregnant forever.

What a joke! I had spent 6 weeks fearing I had taken too long to make a sandwich, because now I was contracting too much so we were at the doctor's office AGAIN being monitored to see if today was weeks too early for a baby.

Yet after doing all of that and more....no baby.

Four days after my due date, I was on my way home from a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. banquet when I had my first REAL....
this is it....contraction! They were coming strong and hard. I knew we didn't have much time because I remembered those kind of contractions from my last delivery.

We dropped our son off with close friends and flew to the hospital.

My husband and I had trained hard and even taken classes to have an all natural, unmedicated birth. We had chosen the Bradley Method and were all set to deliver HMG at a birth center attached to one of the biggest teaching hospitals in town. We were doing everything we had learned and it was working.

Within 2 hours of arriving at the hospital, I was fully dilated and ready to push HMG into the world. My husband gave me a high five, we were soooooooo excited.

We were disappointed that my doctor wasn't there. His back up was on the way but wouldn't make it in time. I was at the mercy of the attending physician.

My scene wasn't any different from what you see on TV with the nurses shouting at you to push and your happy but anxious husband trying to help but knowing there's not much more he can do.


I thought I was doing a really good job, but suddenly, the monitors went crazy! The nurses stopped smiling and the doctor started barking orders.

Nobody told me anything.

The next thing I knew, they were flipping me over and ordering me to stay on all fours. The doctor used his hand to hold HMG in place. She wasn't far down enough to come out but she was moving down. My body was pushing her down, but the doctor was holding her up. The monitor was screaming and we were all running.

Well, they were running and pushing my bed out of the birth center and into the hospital.

Destination: SURGERY.

I was screaming. The pain was horrific. I had asked for no pain medication. It would have been OK had things progressed naturally, but what the doctor was doing was NOT NATURAL!

The doctor barked, "Why are you screaming? Bet you won't do this again."


I remember gasping the brief prayer,
I don't think I can take anymore.

I didn't have to because the moment we reached the operating room, they put me under.

I woke up to my husband's happy and excited face. He kept shoving a polaroid under my nose, covering my face with sloppy kisses, and yelling
she knew my voice!

The drugs made me so groggy. I was in out. I was confused and scared. Where was the baby? Why was my husband showing me old pictures of our new born son? It hurt!

I finally had some clarity hours later, after a long night on a morphine drip I controlled by pressing a button if I was in pain.

It was terrible pain management. I don't know what was going on with that hospital. A couple of the Percocets they sent me home with, would have done the job much better. I know that now.

They had all these rules about what my body needed to be able to do before I could see the baby. I was frantic to pass all of their tests. I had an irrational fear that there was something wrong that no one was telling me, though my husband assured me repeatedly that HMG was doing well.

The attending visited me and apologized profusely about his inappropriate remarks and the scarring I'd have because of his hack job attempt at an emergency c-section. He also apologized for his attitude toward me.

"You look young," He said, "Like all those teens who keep coming back for more. I keep hoping the bad experience will keep them away."


Um...I was 27 years old...but either way I was having some serious problems with what he was saying. Seriously?

I forgave him, but maybe I should have sued.

When my doctor FINALLY showed up, he cut through all of the red tape and walked me through the hospital himself to see HMG for the first time.

She was in the Neonatal ICU in an incubator. They were monitoring her closely because her breathing was super fast from a small amount of fluid in her lungs. I couldn't nurse her until her breathing slowed to their satisfaction, but was free to hold her as much as I liked. HMG was huge compared to the others and perfectly formed.

I cried for the joy of seeing her, and shook all over at the evidence of our near miss.

I was so grateful.

I still am.

She was so beautiful.

At 13, she still is.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Potty Training: What I've learned after doing it 5 times!

Mocha Baby is potty trained!

Be sure to watch my YouTube video above on the subject. I won't repeat in detail what I shared there, but wanted to focus on my step by step approach of getting Mocha Baby to understand the steps.

In the past, I followed the model from the book Potty Training in Less than a Day by Nathan H. Azrin and Richard M. Foxx.

When I bought the book for training our son, I imagined he'd be a master at going potty and never have any accidents once we were done. Despite the clever title, the book lets the reader know up front that accidents will happen, but it does a good job of laying out a step by step method of communicating to your child what is expected and helping parents to have realistic expectations of what their child may be able to do. I still recommend it.

In following that book, we would set aside a day for potty training and select one parent to stay with the potty training child while the other parents leaves the house with the siblings for as long as it takes. We also got friends and grandparents to agree to be ready to offer praise by phone when we called them about a success with the potty training child. We followed the process exactly--complete with doll that wets, and massive amounts of snacks and drinks.

It worked well for us. Each child we used it with grasped what they needed to do and we were happy to have a model to follow when accidents happened later.

I just didn't have it in me to pull out the book again for Mocha Baby.

I was in no hurry to potty train.

Diapers were working fine for me.

Mocha Baby had other ideas. She started to talk about the potty a lot! She wanted to go like her sisters. She wanted to be a big girl. I ignored her, because I loved the fact that she was still my baby. I don't like potty training. I had made many mistakes with her siblings and wasn't ready to stumble around again. I wasn't ready for the accidents.

When your child is ready, she's ready! I had to listen when Mocha Baby started taking off her diapers and pants. When I found her sitting on my couch with her naked bottom I realized I had to take action. Accidents were happening anyway.

I was still not interested in the potty training book, we couldn't find it anywhere and we no longer had a doll that wets. I still remembered the basics of the approach and decided to make some changes.

1. I sent my husband out to Walmart for Pull Ups and 2 big packs of pretty panties. We decided we would let her wear the panties in the house and use Pull Ups when we leave the house and diapers at bed time.

2. While my husband was gone I washed out all of my old potties and made a note to pick up one more. I wanted to be able to put a potty on every level of the house.

*The best potty I've ever purchased is the Fisher Price potty. I got it from Target for $12. Watch my YouTube video above, for details.

3. I stood Mocha baby up in front of me and asked her to show me that she could pull her pants up and pull them down on her own. Then we worked on pulling the pants up by themselves and then the panties. Finally she practiced pulling the panties up first and then the pants.

4. I prepared myself to let her be in control of her own body. I would lead, guide and direct but I told myself I can't make her do anything.

5. I told Mocha Baby I had to go potty and she could come too if she wanted. Here's where I moved in a different direction from the book. According to the book, we would use the doll to demonstrate what needed to be done. I used myself and modeled for Mocha Baby what was expected. If you are working with a boy, or feel uncomfortable about your child seeing your body then you may want to GET THE DOLL THAT WETS and model the following with the doll:

I said something like now I'm sitting on the potty, I'm going to pee, can you hear it? Good! Are you peeing? (She may say yes whether or not anything is going in the potty...I'm only concerned about her registering the steps). Good! (I say good a lot because she likes to be praised.) Then I say, "now we wipe." I stand up and have her put her soiled paper in the toilet. Good! "Now we pull up our panties." (I keep it simple by just letting her wear only panties at first--no pants/skirt. I make sure her shirt is not too long so it won't get in the way of her sitting and using the potty). Good! "Now we dump!" (This is where I steel my nerves and let her do it herself if she shows any resistance to me holding the potty with her. I can always clean up later.) Good! "Now we flush!" I let her flush. "Now we wash our hands!" (I train her to allow me to squirt some soap in her hands and I keep the soap out of her reach. Mocha Baby loves to play with soap. Here is where discipline is an issue. She listens to me because I have trained her to listen. She is in control of her body but I am in control of what happens with the soap.) Good! "Let's dry our hands!"

We walk out of the bathroom together.

6. I call the above a successful trial whether she actually released anything into the potty or not--because that will come. The final step is PRAISE! I praise her profusely for following all of my steps and doing such a good job and being such a big girl. If you are doing a good job of praise, your child will be beaming and looking forward to trying it all again. After I praise my child, I tell Daddy about it. If he's not home we call him so that HE can make a big deal about it. Then we tell all the siblings and they get really excited about it!

7. After that I allow Mocha Baby to practice as much as she likes. I keep an eye on her but let her wash her hands over and over etc. This part is tough but I've learned that if I just leave the child alone he/she will get the practice they need and tire of playing potty. However, they will be ready to do the steps when necessary.

I tell myself there will be accidents and quickly clean them up while telling Mocha Baby in a "matter of fact" tone (never angry) that she had an accident. I point out she should stop and go potty quickly. "Where do we pee?" I wait for her to repeat the right answer. "Where should we make a stinky?" When she answers correctly I praise her. Good! I ask if she would like to try to go potty now. She will usually say yes. If she doesn't I leave her alone. I clean her off and Mocha Baby is especially happy when I offer her a clean pair of pretty panties and pants/skirt. Again, I don't become angry, yell or spank my child for having an accident. We are learning and mistakes are part of the process. If your child is rebelling and clearly having accidents on purpose to provoke you--you may be dealing with a broader issue involving discipline. You will need to take steps outside of potty training to improve the discipline situation.

Until my child is a master at using the potty I clothe her in simple pants and tops that stay out of the way when she is going through her pottying steps. I stay away from long shirts which could dangle in the potty or dresses which would be a challenge to maneuver. I also stay away from tights which could be difficult to push down or pull back up. I want to cause my child as little frustration as possible.

Within 2 days Mocha Baby was having few if any accidents. She'd go the entire day with the same pair of panties I offered her in the morning. We couldn't believe it! If she has an accident we take care of it quickly with very little drama.

Don't be discouraged if it takes your child longer than it did for Mocha Baby. Potty training is a process and if we keep repeating the above steps until the child is proficient, the process becomes such a part of our lifestyle that it stops being mechanical.

I also encourage Mocha Baby's father and siblings to partner with me in praising her, the girls will allow her to join them in the bathroom if she likes, and everyone knows that Mocha Baby is in control of her own body. Messes happen and we can clean them up later.

It's been working really well.