An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 1st Birthday

My dearest Isabella,

Today you are 1 and I feel robbed. A day that should be full of celebrations has my eyes tinged red as tears flow down my face. My newborn is gone. My toothless, non-babbling, laying still little person has disappeared. Yes, I am excited for your growth and it is nothing but pure joy to see you become the little person you are meant to be, but my heartaches wishing you were my tiny baby just a little bit longer. See, you’re our last baby. The last one we get to bring home from the hospital and the last one that we get to stare at in awe of just how awesome God is. So yeah, mum, as you call me, is quite sad today.

But I’m also amazingly satisfied and proud. You are 1 and sassy. People that meet you say “she doesn’t take any stuff, does she?” and you don’t. Not from anyone. You stick up for yourself against your big sister, and you give your daddy and I a run for our money. Your giddy smile makes my heart want to burst. It’s contagious. I can’t be melancholy when I look at you. That smile races through my body wrapping me up in the heat of your pure joy.

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Some say you look like me, a few say you look like your daddy, a lot say you look like your grandma Sylvia, and that makes me so proud. I pray you always resemble her, keeping her memory alive. Before I knew I was pregnant I had a dream that on a sunny day in a building in DC I stepped out to meet her. She handed me a stack of baby clothes and some money. She was so happy. I asked her if she wanted to come in and meet Johanna but she said she couldn’t, but she was so happy to give me that stack. I had no clue that she was trying to tell me that another miracle was headed my way and to get ready.

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Since that day you and I have gone through a lot, including laying up in George Washington University Hospital together. I was so worried about your life, and mine. I had really bad anxiety and panic attacks due to being stuck in one room looking at the same 4 walls every day, rarely allowed to leave since I was on pretty strict hospital bedrest due to preeclampsia. But you still had your nightly dance parties in my belly and they let me see you via ultrasound at least once a week. A lot of times you were sleep, sometimes you turned your back on us, but one time you were laying there just blinking at me as if to say hey lady, when does the party really get started? I’m ready to bust out this joint. And eventually we both did. You had a short stay in the NICU my little IUGR baby, pulling out your feeding tube every chance you got until they finally decided not to put it back in. A fighter. You’ve always been a fighter, a survivor. Now I’m watching you thrive.

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You’re still petite and look younger than most 1 year olds, but you are fierce. You are also very loving and compassionate. If your sister is crying you go rub her leg and check on her. Sometimes when I’m upset you’ll lay your precious head in my lap. You could afford to be a little kinder to Pepper though. I know you like him and are intrigued by him, but there are better ways of loving on him than pulling out his fur/hair and chewing on his ear.

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Isabella. I named you Isabella because one day God told me I was going to have a daughter named Isabell… I couldn’t figure out if he was saying Isabelle or Isabella. I hate the nickname Belle so I went with Isabella. Oddly enough when I was pregnant your Grandma Sylvia showed up in a dream to your Aunt Carol telling her you would be named Isabell…Aunt Carol wasn’t sure if it was Isabella or Isabel either. But I knew you were meant to be and seeing the meaning of Isabella I knew that you were special and that me having the opportunity to raise you was going to be a great gift that I should handle with care. Isabella – Devoted to God. What a powerful name for such a powerful baby.

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I could go on and on reminiscing, thinking about all the great things that make you YOU, but you see, it’s 9am and you are smacking your sister in the face trying to wake her up. Next you will sit on her head, as you normally do, but this morning you’ve already pooed and I just can’t let you do that to her. But I’ll end this by saying I adore you. Thank you for giving me another chance to be a mom to a newborn. Thank you for allowing me to give breastfeeding another shot, even if it still didn’t work for me. Thank you for allowing me to witness a baby’s firsts again. What joy that has brought me. Thank you for the gift of you. You’re unlike anyone I know and I love that. I pray that this year as you grow, I grow too, and that we continue to learn a lot from one another. That you continue to laugh hard and embrace the love that surrounds you from us every day. Happy birthday, Isabella. You’re amazing.

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A Blessed Heritage- History Curriculum Giveaway!

When I was in Elementary school I hated Social Studies. It was unbelievably dry, boring, and full of facts I simply did not want to commit to memory. As I moved on to high school things didn’t get any better. Boring wars taught by boring teachers after lunch. Spare me! In fact, it wasn’t until college that I began to love history. I met a professor that made history come alive. I remember thinking to myself back then that if I ever had kids, I pray they get a teacher like Dr. Hancock who can make history jump off the pages!

As I was researching curriculum for the 2017-2018 homeschool year, I thought about why my college professor succeeded in making his students hungry for history. What did he have that others seem to be missing? because they all seemed to have the passion, but it didn’t translate well in their teachings. Then it hit me – he didn’t use textbooks; He used living books! And not only did he use living books, but he used diverse living books. I could see people that look like me in quite a few of them, something that was rarely possible for me in my high school history books.

So obviously I began searching for books just like that to share with Johanna. I wanted a curriculum filled with living books, but that I didn’t have to put together. I’m a big fan of not reinventing the wheel. What I know for certain is that history textbooks seem to be very White washed. If you believe what you read in them, then African Americans were first barbarians, then slaves, then hey MLK Jr., Rosa Parks,  Malcolm X, and Barack Obama! That’s all we amount to in many books, and Native Americans were just happy to break bread with pilgrim folk.

If you’re a person of color, or just a parent wanting to make sure that history is presented to your child as authentically as possible, that’s pretty frustrating. So you know I was beyond excited when I came across a history curriculum written by an African American mother that was inclusive of people that look like me.

A Blessed Heritage is a curriculum put together by Belinda Bullard. Right on the front page of her website she explains that they offer “a more diverse portrayal of American history for a more diverse generation of students.

Once I read that and perused the website, I knew exactly which history curriculum we would be using for the upcoming school year, and I just had to speak with Mrs. Bullard. I was blessed to be able to interview her via email to give you all some insight into how this curriculum came about:

H+C Mama: How long have you been a homeschooler? What made you decide to homeschool?
BB: We are entering year 15 or 16 (it’s been long enough that I have forgotten how long it has been!) of our homeschooling journey. I wish I could say that I responded to the voice of the Lord via some burning bush or a calling that kept me up at night, but in truth, our story is far less awe-inspiring and much more practical! We were both the epitome of urban professionals, chasing the American dream and realizing the consequences thereof to our family dynamic as well as our time and energy. When our oldest was a baby, we met a couple that were homeschoolers, but otherwise, we had little exposure to what seemed like a great concept–just not for us. When we found out we were expecting our third child, we started thinking seriously about making changes that would allow us to spend less time traveling for our careers and more time being a family. Memories of that homeschooling family we met earlier became more and more a part of our discussion about what should change, and a month after our third child was born, we “officially” became a homeschooling family.

H+C Mama: Why did you create A Blessed Heritage? Did anyone inspire you to do so?
BB: A Blessed Heritage was the result of my own passions regarding how I wanted to educate our children. Specifically, my hope was to accomplish the following:

1) to help them understand who they are in the larger picture of life
2) to instill pride in them regarding their past, present, and future as African-Americans
3) to point them continuously back to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior

Having said that, if there was a primary inspiration, it would be our three children. As I began to put resources together, however, different people would come to me (as confirmation, I believe) that there was a larger need for these types of products. Most of us have to do the same leg work to create what I often refer to as inclusive history, and so I saw our history series as a one-stop shop. Additionally, I was a training manager for several years before I walked away from corporate America, and I continue to teach students locally and long-distance. All of that curriculum design training and experience served me well in putting together the curriculum that is now in place. Finally, I saw the opportunity to share multi-cultural history in light of what is God’s plan. I did not want to leave whole eras and people out based on comfort level, as traditional curriculum do; I did not want to present our history in a vacuum, or present it from a place of anger or hatred. I wanted to integrate the story we all know, featuring our presence and the presence of other races and ethnicities who go unmentioned in traditional history curriculum, and tell that same story from a Christian worldview.

H+C Mama: How should blessed heritage be used? As a spine, a supplement?
BB: Each volume of our products (we now have a 2-volume set for elementary, middle school, and  high schoolers) is created to be a stand-alone, 1-year history curriculum. At the elementary level, we do not use a spine, but instead tell the story via living books. The purpose at that level is to introduce American history and acquaint young students with people and faces that will become increasingly important as they uncover deeper truths. We do use a spine at the middle school level, where we delve deeper into American history and begin to think more critically about what happened and why. The reading list is more comprehensive and challenging, and the activities are geared more toward independent research and understanding. Finally, we refer to the same spine used in the middle school level, but the expectation is that children generally know the outline of American history when they reach high school. That curriculum is presented more so in survey format, highlighting key eras and events, and engaging students in more critical thinking and writing about this country, how we arrived in our current situation, and what role each of us plays in changing our future.

Again, all Blessed Heritage products can be used as stand-alone products, but I have a number of customers who love the curriculum they have and simply want to add our curriculum as a supplement. This is also easily done, as we have a reading list and activities that can be incorporated into another history study without too much manipulation.

H+C Mama: Can we expect more African-American focused curriculum from you?
BB: Absolutely! There are other history products in addition to our core curriculum, including our line of podcasts. The podcasts are what I call “history shorts,” geared to edu-tain those students and families who love auditory tools and might not prefer an extended session over books and notebooks. They “hook you in” with life lessons from some people you might not have heard of, like Bill Pickett, or A. Philip Randolph, or Madame C.J. Walker.

Beginning in 2017, we will also introduce a number of other supplemental products that will continue to broaden our knowledge of people of African descent. Plus, I will revise our elementary curriculum to include more skill sets and activities for little hands. I only wish my fingers kept up with my mind in getting all of the ideas out and published, but with the Lord’s help, I will get there! Keep watching for new products on our blog, and on our website.  Also, our newsletter subscribers get the earliest sneak previews and our subscriber discounts!
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I hope that interview left you as excited as I am because thanks to A Blessed Heritage, one of you will win volume 1 of Our History, HIS-Story ! Enter thru rafflecopter below and the winner will be announced on Friday, July 28 at noon! Good luck!

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Navigating Badlands Play Space

I love summer, I really do. However, when it is 90 degrees outside I have very little interest in taking the kids outside to play, and frankly they would prefer to not get burnt by the sun as well. Because of this I am always looking for really shaded playgrounds, or indoor play centers that will allow Johanna to run wild and free without me worrying that she will get a heat stroke. That is why I was beyond elated to hear of a brand new indoor play space in Rockville, Maryland called Badlands. I immediately googled it. I loved what I saw so I immediately posted about it in my DC area homeschool field trip group and set a date.

What I did not love was the price. It is a whopping $22.50 per child over the age of 3 ($12.50 if they are between 1-3)! My immediate response after choking on my Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha was wait, what??? But looking at that open space I just knew Johanna would love it. I had to say goodbye to at least 5 mochas for awhile. So off we went.

The space was pretty. It was everything an indoor girl like myself could dream of. Rock climbing, tall trees, grass, and tunnels all indoors. You know, away from the brutal sun, the biting mosquitos and all the other creepy crawlers that live out in nature. And there was air conditioning my friends. Air conditioning! This mama was happy.

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Badlands also offers 4 party pavilions, which are super cute! If you book your next party there you will get a party host as well as an activity leader. You cannot bring in outside food, except for your cake. This is because Badlands also has its own cafe! Huge mommy perk right there. Isabella and I enjoyed some vital vittles while big sister rock climbed like a boss. There is also a Workshop where kids and adults can use real tools to make all the things, a Builders Room, Ropes Course, Screening Room, and an Exhibit that will change what will be featured every 3 months. For our visit it housed butterflies! It’s an interactive exhibit which makes it very, very cool.

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So, I’m going to sound like a total weirdo when I say this, but one of my absolute favorite areas of Badlands was the bathroom area! Behind quite a few doors (I didn’t count, but there were at the least 5) there were individual bathrooms that smelled amazing and looked sparkly clean. Right outside of the bathrooms was a nice, clean, sterile looking waiting area. There is nothing worse than going to an indoor playground and finding the bathrooms to be completely disgusting…except port-o-potties. I don’t think anything beats those for me. Yack!

Johanna thoroughly enjoyed her time at Badlands. She played for a solid 3 hours and still wasn’t ready to leave. I was though. Adult A.D.D. is real. While I found just a couple of areas that could use improvement, I really did enjoy it overall.

Obviously Badlands won’t be a regular part of my life at the current price and with it being so far from me (Rockville is quite a hike for us), but I’m so glad that I enjoyed it, and I can see us having a party there in the near future.

To see more of our adventure at Badland, checkout my latest youtube video. Don’t forget to subscribe and give it a thumbs up!

 

Badlands Play Space
301.618.0009
5200 Randolph Road, Rockville, MD 20852
Open 9 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday (Closed Mondays)

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A Little Bit of Patience, and a Whole Lot of Grace

3 years ago I was in a job that caused me great turmoil. My coworkers were amazing. The mission of the job was incredible. My boss was a nightmare! The company perpetrated itself to be something other than what it was. It was becoming increasingly hard to get up in the morning. When I left from that very weird environment in June, I did so with the intentions of finding another job in my field by the end of summer. However, summer was gone before I could even really feel the heat, and then I blinked and it was Turkey eating time. Johanna and I found ourselves at odds. School for her ended in June and by mid-July I was teaching her. I figured she had to do something during the day. I couldn’t have her just sitting there watching that God awful Caillou all day. That’s when I came across  easy peasy online homeschool and unbeknownst to me at the time, our homeschool life was born. By February I had long stopped actively trying to find a position, and my husband had given me the green light to homeschool seriously. For 2 years I homeschooled like a boss! And then…I had another baby.

Isabella changed everything.

I came home from the hospital when coop had already been in full swing. My MIL was taking Johanna for me every Friday since obviously I couldn’t. I didn’t even return to coop until sometime in October. My teaching was sketchy at best. Some days we got through our full curriculum. Other days I was just happy we were able to do math and reading. Isabella shifted our entire world.

Isabella is a light sleeper. She also has constantly been ailed. We’ve been to the emergency room far more times than I would like to recount. She’s had more issues than most babies I personally know. Is it because of her being a preemie or IUGR? We don’t know. Maybe. But it has been rough. It has been rough mentally, emotionally, and physically. There are many days when I am completely drained and just want to throw up my hands. It’s only by God’s grace that we finished out this school year. Unfortunately, it has left Johanna inbetween grades because mommy just could not parent or teach some days. One of the kids was sick every month, including a time between february and march when Johanna had the worse fever of her life and I was scared crapless.

I spent a lot of this school year scared crapless. It caused me to be paralyzed and unable to fulfill my duties as a homeschool mom this year.

This summer I have an almost 1 year old and a 6 year old. Johanna will still be between 2 grades by the end of august.  Currently she is kindergartner/1st grader in reading and a 1st grader in math. She will probably be in 2nd grade math by the time September rolls around, as well as art and health, and 1st grade reading.

We have somewhat found a rhythm again. Isabella has 2 scheduled naps, so we work around those for the day. Sometimes she still requires me to hold her, so it’s not all smooth just yet, but I’m prayerful that in the coming months the kinks will be worked out. Johanna has calmed down a bit. Having a sibling has brought her great joy, but it has also been a hurdle for her to jump. For awhile she started acting like a bratty 4 year old again, and that made my husband and I lose it! I tried to be understanding, but honestly, I just wanted everyone to shut up and get over whatever was ailing them. Did I mention that I was mentally, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted?

Being a homeschooler of one child was already a little bit of a challenge. I was constantly praising those that homeschooled 3+ kids. Miracle workers you are. Homeschooling means that you have to figure when to switch mommy off and switch teacher on. We are still working out those kinks. It also means dealing with your childs rainbow of moods while trying to help teach them important stuff. It’s making the executive decision to homeschool via netflix for the day because both of you have sucky attitudes and nothing good could possibly come of it. It takes a level of patience and grace that I didn’t know existed until I stepped into this world.

But I still love it. I’m still so glad I chose it even though it means that when it comes to my wants, money is tight. That I have to be selfless 24/7. That in some ways even my very identity has changed. I still love it. Today I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but ask me again when Isabella enters the terrible 2’s. My tune may just change.

Whether you’re stepping into homeschooling for the first time, or doing it with a new baby, know that yes, it is hard! But it is also very rewarding and it does indeed get better. Take some time and remember that you are not on this journey alone.

Let Jesus guide you. He’s there, willing and waiting.

Find your community, whether in real life, through a coop, or in a facebook group. A tribe is waiting to welcome you, embrace you, and help guide you. You just have to look for them.

Remember why you homeschool. On days when you just want to give up and throw in the towel (I had at least 8 of those this year) remember why you do it and remember that God’s grace is sufficient.

Yeah, this was a super rocky year, but I still feel very blessed to be able to live the homeschool life.

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Summer Reading Giveaway!

Like a lot of a parents I worry about my child losing very necessary skills during the summertime. I’m all for having time off, but I also feel like the learning train for math and reading should not stop. Because I am blessed to be a homeschooler, I am able to homeschool year round, and that’s just what I do. However, I do just focus on very specific things, and any teaching that is done only lasts an hour or two, then Johanna is free to go about her day as she likes.

One of my favorite places to find learning material is in the Target dollar aisle. From maps to flashcards, I’m always surprised at what I find there. I was recently alerted that they had a ton of education materials currently in the dollar section and I jumped on it. Mmmm but in my excitement I ended up getting a book I already own, and then I turned around and went to the Scholastic warehouse sale and did the exact.same.thing! So my loss is your gain! I’m giving away 2 books and a couple of other surprise goodies on my youtube channel that I think elementary aged kids will enjoy. This giveaway is very short as I want to get it mailed out before I get too busy. Visit my youtube channel for the rules. Good luck, and happy reading!

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Mommy En Blanc: Simply Magical

You know, sometimes being a mom is just downright magical. Picture it, a Friday evening in June near downtown Washington, DC. 50ish beautiful African American moms and their children stroll onto the waterfront wearing all white, turning heads and leaving folks with questioning yet admiring eyes.

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The night before I was nervous. I have actually never been to an all white event. I’ve always opted not to go because honestly, me, in white? Are you out of your mind? Just give me 2 minutes and I’m guaranteed to add a little spice to that white, usually in the form of sauce or marker. So I was stressed all the way out trying to figure out what to wear. I settled on an off the shoulder white shirt from Boohoo and white jeans from old navy. I was headed to a mommy and me playdate with Johanna. I try to go out on dates with her from time to time, just the two of us, like it used to be. And I was super geeked because District Motherhued was having their first ever Mommy en Blanc event.

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I had been sitting back and watching District Motherhued for a few months. Looking at the events and seeing if the bonds were real. In May I had just decided that yes, they were, and the events looked amazing! I had to be apart of it! So I was super geeked when they announced Mommy en Blanc! Mommy en Blanc is a play on Diner en Blanc, but it is much more relaxed. However, the heart of it remained the same. The location was a secret, you had to wear all white, and you had to bring your meal. And it was beautiful.

 

We elegantly stormed onto Yards Park on the waterfront  with our kids strolling beside us. Some of us pushed strollers to our destination. No, seriously, it looked like a whole sea of strollers. I loved it! We took our places on the grass to listen to a live jazz band, enjoy our vittles, and get to know other mom’s. The kids got their faces paint, played with their balloon art, while the adults enjoyed a glass of wine and a cupcake or two.

I honestly was shocked at how quickly I bonded with other moms.  It was a breath of fresh air to be apart of a group that made you feel like you were one of them. And it’s because I was. Motherhood was our bond. NO matter what our background was, we all connected as moms and it was simply delightful.

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Photo Credit: @shutter_to_think_photo

What’s in a Name?

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When I started this blog I was going through the toddler blues with Johanna, and man were those tough times. She ran us through the wringer for a while and it was then that I knew that we would only have one child. I never really wanted kids until I met my husband and agreed to go for at least one. She still showed up as a total surprise. So imagine my shock when 6 years after her birth I’m sitting here with a 7 month old too! It wasn’t in our plans, but it was in Gods. With our new addition things have changed, naturally. We’ve had to bend and twist, trying to find a groove that feels right. Things on the social front have changed for me too, like the name of this blog. Obviously I outgrew Johanna’s Mama.

That’s so bittersweet.

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Johanna’s Mama is my baby. Being just Johanna’s mama is something that I mourn. Don’t get me wrong at all, I am over the moon about Isabella and I wouldn’t trade her for anything. Her laugh is pure gold I tell you. But Johanna is my first baby. Emotionally it has taken some adjusting to her not being my only baby. Mentally it has taken me time to be ok with Johanna’s Mama being something I have to let go of because I’m simply not just Johanna’s mama anymore. I’m Johanna and Isabella’s mama. But as I settle down into my new normal , I realize that I’m more than that too. I’m a woman that fiercely loves Jesus and his word. I’m a lover of fashion, makeup, cultural events. I’m a friend, a wife, a confidant, a planner. That’s what I had in mind as I created the name Holy + Chic Mama. I felt like it wrapped up all of my flavors nicely.

I know this post has been long overdue, please forgive me. As I changed the name over here, I also decided to dedicate myself to a youtube channel. That put me right at the beginning of VEDA (Vlog Every Day in April), which has consumed my life. Editing videos every day has been quite challenging, leaving me with barely enough gas to plan the next days events, let alone blogging! But I will not quit blogging. I love this outlet of mine over here. I pray that you will join me on youtube as I start that adventure, but stick around over here too. Just don’t get sick of me!

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