Monday, June 29, 2015

Video: Keeping My Summer Guests Comfy with Charmin

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Charmin. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation. All content and thoughts are my own.

This summer is already off to a whirlwind start, and if we're not in town here in Portsmouth, NH then it means we have guests staying with us. Our family calendar literally looks like a bed and breakfast schedule! I love playing tour guide and still being a tourist here in our new town cause there is just so much to see and do, plus we have much more space up here than we did in NYC-metro to host guests.

Whether having houseguests or lots of friends over for play dates, one thing I make sure to have on hand is plenty of toilet paper and Charmin, a brand I've grown up with, was generous enough to supply me with several soft, fluffy yet strong rolls to kick-off the summer. Check out this quick video I made about my new stash:

I've always had a bit of a fear of getting stuck on the toilet without toilet paper and admit it's happened to me before, requiring me to humbly yell for more (c'mon, it's happened to you too!). I definitely don't want that happening to my guests though! I've taught Nia how to refill the toilet paper stand in her bathroom which double as the guest bathroom; it's a great little chore for her,  but we have to keep an eye out for Grayson who's latest joy is unrolling the toilet paper! What's awesome about Charmin is that a little goes a long way plus it's the only toilet paper to have the Roto-Rooter stamp of approval. We've dealt with clogs in the past due to certain over-zealous toilet paper users, but with Charmin there is a clog-free guarantee and it's septic-safe making it less likely you'll have to call your plumber.

With the July 4th holiday coming up, we'll be taking in the local historic sites here in Portsmouth and will be out and about for other festivities, but we're already looking forward to having more family come up in the next few weeks from NYC.  Of course the Charmin will be stocked and ready for them when they arrive, but I just might have to steal a few rolls for my master bathroom. My guests can't have all the comfort!

To learn more about Charmin be sure to visit their website and follow on Facebook and Twitter for the latest product news!

Are you entertaining houseguests this summer? Any tips to share for keeping them comfy?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's a BIG Week for the Lovebirds!

We have so many amazing things going on over here (I'm bursting at the seems to share but I can't yet!) and I looked up and saw I haven't blogged in a week. Oops! I think this means that summer is off to a strong start so far, agreed?

The most challenging part is coming off of Nia's previous school's academic calendar in Jersey City, she's now been out of school a full month before she was in Pre-K 3. I was away on my cruise during her end of the year program, but Mr. Lovebird was on picture duty and captured a few special moments including this one:

I went through a brief moment of panic, then mostly thanks to my local mom friends and our library's resources, I've found a good summer schedule for Nia. She's doing a bit of everything just like we did last summer: swimming, circus camp, vacation Bible school and piano lessons for now then hopefully adding some horseback riding and soccer towards the end of the summer. She's such an active girl already and has a lot of energy to burn! 

At our local library's summer reading kickoff party
Over the weekend we celebrated Grayson's 1st birthday (at the time of me writing this it's 2a.m. and I just ordered his thank you postcards!). His official birthday is actually this Saturday, but we're heading out of town tomorrow for a long weekend so we enjoyed early festivities. We had been singing "Happy Birthday" to Grayson for a few weeks so he'd be ready when it happened for real - it turned out SO cute, and I can't wait to share the video soon!

Friday will be mine and Uka's 6th wedding anniversary (as of this fall we've known each other 17 years!). We're officially closer to 10 years than not! We don't have anything special planned and will actually be happy to hang in nature this weekend with our kids up in Maine. Speaking of Maine, remember when I wrote about these cute cottages? I'd still like to stay there someday. . . 

For our anniversary Mr. Lovebird asked what I most needed then answered his own question: "I need help." I really truly do. Not only from him, but from outsourcing a few things around the home, mostly domestic duties, so I can focus on the kids, my business and this blog. I'm juggling so many balls at once and if a few domestic responsibilities can be outsourced that would be great! He's not always physically here due to his work schedule and when he is here he crashes really hard - he hustles hard to provide for our family and in this post-Father's Day week I feel so blessed that we're not only best friends but in this family journey together. I made this collage over on Instagram as a tribute:

Going back to our trip to Maine, it's a "camp" of sorts that's mostly business, but since the families get to come too there is some pleasure. The kids will be in "camp" and while I'll attend a few activities be catching up on work, I'm looking forward to exploring a bit especially since we'll be by Acadia National Park. There's even a formal night and I posted a teaser on Instagram as I'm super excited for another chance to dress up. Hooray for Rent the Runway, and if I could just wrangle my hair!

Grayson's birthday was in such an idyllic setting not far from us and the locale reiterated the feeling I get that we're on perpetual vacation up here. It is such a beautiful city and is making up for the awful winter we experienced. Here's one of my favorite pictures from the weekend - I'm so blessed my sisters were able to come up to visit us!:

Here's what I'm excited for the rest of the summer:
  • An historic July 4th - it's so quaint and typically New England lately as everyone is sprucing up for the holiday; I need to hurry and get outfits for the kids!
  • Catching up with my blogger buddies at BlogHer
  • Taking both kids for the first time to the Jazz Age Lawn Party - this year is the 10th anniversary and unlike last year I already have my ticket! (Check out the recent pictorial coverage in Newseek)
  • Grayson's first visit to my hometown of Columbus, Ohio and going to the Ohio State Fair (hooray for the butter cow!)
  • Keeping up with my fitness - I've supplemented my regular workouts at the Y with PiYo class thanks to my fab, fit, mommy friend Courtney, and it's kicking my butt in a good way!
  • Catching up on tons of blog posts: awesome reviews (including Disney SMMC On-The-Road in NYC), giveaways and updates (including Grayson's 1 year recap which I'll have ready next week!)
What are you looking forward to next summer? Can you believe it's already July 4th...NEXT WEEKEND?! We're just hanging out here in Portsmouth taking in all the historic festivities. What will you be up to?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Picking the Right School With Private School Innovator

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Private School Innovator. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation. *UPDATE: This company is no longer in business effective June 24, 2015*

Ahhhh! Talk about throwback!
Counting preschool through college, I attended private school for 18 years - more than half of my life thus far. Growing up in Columbus, OH I started out at a Christian school then transferred to an all-girls school followed by an all-women's college. My parents sacrificed a lot for me to have a top-notch education and now that I'm a parent Mr. Lovebird and I have discussed schooling for both our children, Virginia who will be 5 years old in August and Grayson, who will be 1 year old next week. 

Moving up to New Hampshire from New York City-metro has been quite an adjustment and while we were thankful for the subsidized preschool program Virginia attended when she was 3 years old and started at for Pre-K 4, we were thrown for a loop when we had to scramble to find her a school after the year had already started. I went about the process long distance and it was quite daunting. In the end we selected a private school for her, but have kept our options open for future schooling especially as New England has a wealth of outstanding private schools.

Making this process easier for parents, Private School Innovator is a free, private school matchmaker tool that assesses each family's needs, the child's learning style and traits to match you to the ideal school. I've started this process for Virginia and look forward to sharing more about the outcome but here's how the process works:

Prospective families simply visit the Private School Innovator website, create a profile and answer a detailed questionnaire. It was a very straightforward process and it's not just an app - there are real people behind it! I really like how clean the website is from the outset. It's easy to read and simple to follow the steps:

Once you answer the questions a representative follows-up with a phone call to discuss your specific needs including confirmation of some of the answers you provide (ex. geography, religious affiliation, single sex, tuition limits etc.). While New Hampshire isn't yet included in their database, we're close enough to Massachusetts that we're using it for our selection criteria for now. So far it's been a very warm experience and I'm excited to see the selections for Virginia!

I especially like how the steps are laid out visually - it really is a 1-2-3 step process allowing you to customize a thorough profile for your child, receive matches then connect directly to the schools you choose:

Having attended private school as well, Mr. Lovebird and I understand the nuances of the experience as students but now as parents we feel thankful to have an ally like Private School Innovator on our side. We want to be sure to make the right choices for our children and similar to how I grew up, Mr. Lovebird and his siblings didn't all go to the same school. Every school isn't for every child and having the ability to make a choice in schools for our children is something we're very thankful for. 

My high school graduation day
Looking back on my years in private school, they were a truly special experience. I appreciate the community feel of the small schools I attended and still go back to them and have such fond memories (remember when I took Virginia to my middle school/high school?). I look forward to my children having a similar feeling when they think back on their school experience. 

To learn more about Private School Innovator be sure to visit their website and Facebook page and Twitter for the latest news!

What was your school experience like? Did you or your children attend private school? 

Monday, June 15, 2015

General Mills/Star Wars Giveaway Winner!

Happy (laaaate) Monday friends! I was in NYC for the day for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration "On-The-Road" and although my 2a.m. wake-up was painful and super rainy, I was thankful to make the drive with my friend Alwina who was up from NYC for the weekend! I'm working on a full recap, but for now you can see a few teasers on my Instagram feed

Anyway, on to announcing the the winner of my General Mills/Star Wars giveaway before I crash in bed:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats Austin! I'll be in touch via email so you can receive your prize. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why I Took My Husband's Last Name (And No, It's Not Heroic)

Growing up I loved my last name, Sloan. I was given the name Quiana Rachelle Sloan at birth, and being the nerd that I am, growing up I geeked over the fact that my initials were alphabetical. I remember getting my LL Bean backpack in middle school and wearing my initials proudly throughout my school's hallways. I hadn't given much thought to marriage and what I'd do about my last name when I got married until I attended Wellesley College. I took an anthropology class, Marriage, Women and Family, and it really opened my eyes to issues I had never considered growing up in Ohio. Sure, I went to an all girls school but as an adult at an all women's college I really felt convicted about the importance of feminism. 

Speaking of feminism . . .

I cringe when people, especially women, staunchly proclaim they are not feminists. A feminist believes that men and women are equal. I cannot fathom why anyone wouldn't want to believe this. Men and women are different, yes, but we are equal. 

Now back to my love story:

When I met my husband Uka in college and he shared his full name I was especially curious about his last name, Agbai. I didn't know where it was from so I asked. It's Nigerian, Igbo, to be exact and when we started dating in 1999 and then married in 2009 it wasn't even a discussion to be had: I knew I would become Quiana Rachelle Agbai.

Here's why:

Sloan, my maiden name, is derived from Ireland. I am of African descent and perhaps some day I'll do one of those cotton swab tests to determine exactly where (I'm obsessed with Finding Your Roots). Like most African-Americans, my ancestors in this country were slaves and Sloan came from an Irish slaveholder. While I do have ancestors of European descent who were not slaveholders, the surname Sloan in my family is from slaveholders. 

My husband's family can pinpoint exactly where in Africa they are from: Nkporo and Ohafia, Nigeria. We took our daughter there when she was 16 months, and it made me very emotional to be there and stand on the soil, breathe the air and meet my family. Even now I cry easily at the thought that my grandparents never stepped foot on African soil. It is life changing to go to Africa, regardless of your heritage.

When I got married I knew I'd want to exchange my slave name for an African name especially for my children. I knew that I'd want them to know where they are from, to appreciate their Nigerian heritage. I also knew that if I kept my surname or did a hyphenated name that the surname Sloan is ultimately from a man. For me it was never an issue of being empowered by keeping "my name" because it's still a man's name. What's more important to me is where a name comes from vs. whether it belongs to a man or woman. 

Lately, while our society is quick to describe certain celebrities as "heroes," I think it's more important to be strong in your own convictions for living the life you believe in instead of trying to be "on trend."  I applaud Zoe Saldana's husband for taking his wife's name if that's what works best for their family; it definitely opens up a conversation for people to explore marriage traditions and why we do what we do. Also, I hope never to follow something blindly without examining the underlying foundation behind it (if you're interested in learning more about marriage history I highly recommend Marriage, a History).

Here's to six years (and counting!) as Quiana Rachelle Agbai.

If you're married did you discuss your surname decision with your spouse? If you're not married yet have you considered what to do about your surname?

Winner: $75 Zutano Gift Card

Morning! This is how we're spending most of this week:

Before we head out to enjoy the weather for the day I wanted to share the winner of the Zutano $75 giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats Bianca - I'll email you shortly so you can get your prize! You were a tweeting powerhouse too - so enthusiastic!

If you didn't win this one don't forget I have two other giveaways running too: General Mills cereal/Star Wars poster giveaway and State Farm's $25 Visa gift card giveaway

Good luck and enjoy the sunshine today friends!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Get in the Groove with State Farm® for a Chance to Win a Trip to the Essence Festival 2015!

Disclosure: The following giveaway promotion & content has been sponsored by State Farm®.

Photographer: Julie McGee
I have a strong Type A heritage in my family, so when I reached 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I thought I knew all there was to know about becoming a mom for the first time. From feeding, sleeping and diaper care, I had researched well before becoming pregnant. As my husband endured the endless forwarding of parenting articles I came across (often time-stamped at 2a.m.), little did I know what lie ahead on my journey as a mom. 

Meeting Virginia that Thursday afternoon on August 12, 2010 was the most thrilling experience of my life. As my husband and I held her together and cried, all that I could continuously get out of my mouth was, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" I was truly grateful for that moment. As I helped her breastfeed for the first time, the bond was instant. All that book knowledge made way for a heaping dose of heart knowledge, and in those first few weeks I felt something growing: my confidence.

I've since given birth to a son, Grayson, who is rapidly approaching his 1st birthday. While there are so many familiar stages, it's definitely a new experience in some ways. It's a new kind of confidence I have and although I can say, "Oh yeah, I got this!" there are moments that completely throw me for a loop - he's added a completely different dimension to baby-proofing!

If you're feeling confident and want a chance to show it off for a chance to win a trip to Essence Festival 2015 in New Orleans courtesy of the State Farm contest “Get in the Groove”, then check this out:

Now through June 15th you can head to the State Farm “Get in the Groove” contest page HERE and simply upload an Instagram photo or video showing off your dance skills. You don't have to be a dance star to win - all you need is confidence The winner will receive an awesome prize package including round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations and VIP tickets for two to Essence Festival as well as bragging rights!

As a bonus, I’m giving one lucky Harlem Lovebirds' reader a chance to win a $25 Visa gift card by entering your Instagram handle on the comment widget below!

*This giveaway is closed as of June 15, 2015 and the winner has been chosen and contact privately. Thank you!*

Good luck!

Disclosure: I received compensation for this sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of State Farm. The opinions and text are all mine.


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