Friday, January 29, 2016

The New Barbie: It's a Start #TheDollEvolves

In high school I worked at my local Old Navy in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. I'll never forget when walking the store I encountered a preschool aged girl who was staring intently at me as her mother pushed her cart. I greeted the little girl who didn't reply but just kept staring. Her mother explained sheepishly, "Oh excuse her - she's never seen a black girl before."

I was completely baffled. It wasn't like Columbus is devoid of black people and in my mind I wondered how could this have happened. Over the years this encounter stayed with me, and I've pondered if that mom ever showed her child diverse TV programming, sought out friends of color for her daughter or even bought her baby dolls of color. We are in the modern era and there really are no excuses! 

Now as a mom I'm very careful how I curate my children's toys and while the majority are gifted to us, early on I made a premature decision that I wasn't going to purchase Barbie dolls for my daughter or let her watch mainstream princess movies. Well, that went out the door quickly as Barbies started trickling in as gifts and others showed her princess movies when I wasn't around. And guess what? We're still alive!

I figured out it's not just about giving children dolls, but having conversations too. As a parent I have a role to play in how these things shape my children's self-image, and I understand how a lack of diversity in their toys, books and programming impacts them. I'm even more sensitive to this now living in an overwhelmingly homogenous state.

When I heard the news about yesterday's launch of the redesigned Barbie, I was excited that a major, worldwide brand was stepping up but I also saw it in context of the specific challenges I've faced in introducing dolls to my daughter as we're part of the African diaspora.

I shared my thoughts in an AP story published yesterday - here's a snippet:

The full story is here

Mr. Lovebird and I have discussed early on how to introduce both of our cultures and family history to Nia. As his family is Nigerian and mine is African-American we represent the enslaved and non-enslaved aspects of the African diaspora. As I mentioned in the article, the American Girl doll Addy was present in my childhood home, and while I have my childhood Samantha doll in our basement, I'm not sure how I feel about Nia playing with either. At least right now.

We've only purchased two dolls for Nia so far (remember the baby boy doll we used to do a gender reveal video with her?), and one of them is a Queens of Africa doll:

Image via Queens of Africa
Last year the brand made headlines when they overtook sales of Barbie in Nigeria. Incredible! I'm happy to hear this and support African businesses. 

Image via Natural Girls United
In addition to Queens of Africa, another brand representing the diversity of the African diaspora is Natural Girls United - I may have even considered some of these dolls hairstyles for my own next hairstyle!

While Nia enjoys playing with all her dolls, Barbie AND Queens of Africa, I was also inspired by Kelle Hampton's Barbie-themed 6th birthday party for her daughter. I may have geeked out a bit when she favorited my tweet (she's one of my favorite bloggers!):

I could see a party with a diversity of dolls for Nia being a hit - boys included! Grayson loves to play with Nia's dolls when she's away at school and refers to any Barbie as "meh-maaade" (mermaid). It cracks us up but we're all for it! 

Curious about the process behind how Mattel redesigned Barbie? Check out this video:

What are your thoughts on the redesigned Barbie? A step in the right direction?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Mall Family Photo Edition

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My First Talk of 2016: The Art of Copywriting at Digital Portsmouth

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter saw my feed was buzzing last week when I gave my first talk of the year at Digital Portsmouth's The Art of Copywriting

(A huge thank you to Amy G. for capturing this shot!)

I've recapped below a few moments from #DigitalPorts on Twitter via Storify - thank you to those who tweeted!:  

Thank you to The Music Hall and Alpha Loft as well as my wonderful co-presenters Anna Goldsmith of The Hired Pens and Crystal Paradis from Vital. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

No Snow (& a Winner!)

My favorite shot from the weekend
While we didn't have snow up here in Portsmouth over the weekend, I was in touch with my sisters who were hit hard in NYC. Can you believe they barely  missed their record for most snow ever? My brother in Nashville got snow as well and being the big sister that I am checked in on him too. My parents in Dallas were thankful they missed the dumping that happened in their previous city of Baltimore and I've been furiously checking our forecast to see if any white stuff is coming our way any time soon.

Despite all this I know there were several lives lost in the snow storm including the tragic death of the husband of a fellow mom blogger Kita, in my virtual community. She's supported my blog for several years and I was devastated when I saw the alert posted in my Facebook bloggers group. I left the coloring group I was attending yesterday at my local library and found Uka in the kids'  section with tears in my eyes and showed him the news and GoFundMe page that was set up. Would you please take a look and consider donating?:

My heart is heavy for Kita and her family, and I'm keeping her in my prayers. 

I know so many families were snowbound and suffering from a bit of cabin fever so today I'm sharing the winner of my Chuck E. Cheese's giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats Nicole - I'll be in touch shortly so you can get your prize. Thank you too to everyone who entered - it was fun reading all the cheesy memories!

Here's wishing everyone a safe and warm week. 

Did you get snow where you live? How are you managing?

P.S. Thank you to everyone for the on and offline support of my Digital Portsmouth talk last Thursday. It went really well and I'm working on doing a Storify to post here (1st time ever so be patient, please!). 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tonight! Digital Portsmouth: The Art of Copywriting

As the East Coast gears up for the most epic snow storm since last winter, I'm in awe that we're getting spared, but I'm sending safe vibes everyone's way as the storm approaches. 

While I won't be battling snow, tonight I'm excited to present at Digital Portsmouth: The Art of Copywriting. This is also the 1st day of Alt Summit and while it's been 2 years since I've attended (my epic recap is here), I'm waiting with baited breath to hear where next year's locale will be as they've decided to leave Salt Lake City going forward. I'm crossing my fingers it'll come out East. 

So between the hashtag #DigitalPorts for tonight's talk and #AltWinter2016, there's a lot of great info about to be passed down. Be sure to follow along!

Are you prepping for snow where you live? Stay warm friends! 

P.S. Have kids in your life? Don't forget to enter my fun giveaway here - it's perfect for snow days!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Giveaway: Celebrate National Cheese Lover's Day with Chuck E. Cheese's!

Disclosure: I received a giveaway for one reader in exchange for this blog post; all opinions expressed are my own.

Remember when I shared about our first Chuck E. Cheese's experience a while back and how delicious their new pizza recipe is? Well in honor of National Cheese Lover's Day take a peek at what happened when Chuck E. Cheese's took to the streets of NYC to do a taste test of their new recipe:

It really is that good (and I got a behind the scenes peek and can vouch that it's handmade)! Well it's been on my mind lately because with our trip to Nigeria later this year we're home-bound for Nia's upcoming winter break so we've been pulling a list of fun local things we want to do. Chuck E. Cheese's made the cut as did ice skating, an indoor water park visit with our cousins in MA as well as bowling. It's going to be a fun week!

I'm sharing Chuck E. Cheese's love with one Harlem Lovebirds' reader who will win a Chuck E. Cheese's guest pass good for 1 large pizza, 4 fountain drinks and 30 tokens

The giveaway starts today, Wednesday, January 20 and ends Sunday, January 24, midnight EST, with the winner announced on Monday, January 25 (open to U. S. residents, adults 18+ only).

Enter via the Rafflecopter wide below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! 


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

MLK, Jr. Day 2016: A Family Day

This morning I dropped my mom off who came up for a 36 hour visit - a short detour from her trip to NYC where she was visiting my sisters. It was whirlwind for her (and just in time for a dumping of beautiful snow), but fun as usual! A few snapshots from our weekend (Mr. Lovebird's not pictured as he was under the weather, but thankfully is on the mend!):

(and yes, those are PJs Nana sewed for Nia's Christmas present - there's a mermaid tail blanket to match too!)
My mom finally got to partake in the wonder that is PiYo with me - it hard, but fun!

This is what happened when I told Nia to show me her "cake face!"
Back at the Children's Museum of NH for the first time since the Jingle Bell Express
Surprised she even knew how to use this!
He's obsessed with light switches lately so this was a dream come true.
Picked up a few crafting supplies for projects - a must when Nana's in town. 

Last year I posted this on my Instagram for MLK Day which is still timely; this year, I shared this:

You can see Shuan King's full album here, and the Lovebirds' first trip to the MLK memorial in Washington, D.C. here (including Lil Lovebird's special tribute when she was just shy of 3 years old!)

Hope you had a thoughtful weekend!

Monday, January 11, 2016

10 Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2016

Thank you again to my BFF Julie for our family photoshoot.
Now THIS is the most wonderful time of year!

The turn of the calendar from December to January makes me so excited, and I've spent the past couple weeks mulling over what I'm looking forward to this year (including revisiting my previous years' posts), and I think I got them locked down. 

Here we go:

1. Visiting Nigeria (at last!) - We were on hiatus for this trip and this year it's a go; can you believe we've already started Grayson's vaccinations? I can't wait to see if he looks as unbothered as Nia did in her passport pic!

2. Recommitting to Toastmasters FOR REAL - I couldn't get on the ball with it last year, but I'm determined to this year. I was halfway through the Silver level and I know I can do it! 

3. Blogging conferences - While I'm bummed to miss next week's Alt Summit for the 2nd year in a row, I'm thrilled to see two of my favorite bloggers will be there (Luvvie and Krystal) and I can't wait to see where they plan on moving it to going forward

4.  Big things for TMG, the business I run with my sisters; we recently celebrated our 1 year anniversary, and after our fall retreat we have some exciting things on deck

5. Sharing our 35th birthday milestone with my homeyloverfriend! Uka turns 35 in May, and we're thinking that last postponed trip to Last Vegas is in order (now if only Life is Beautiful will announce this year's dates...); it'll also be a good reason to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary!

6. Winning - This is all-encompassing, but I believe 2016 will be a victorious year, and while yes, I do win a lot of stuff (someday I'll get motivated to re-type my tactics post that I lost a couple years back on my broken tablet), it's not just about material things

7. Having two verbally competent kids -  At first glance I know this seems odd, but there is a certain peace and release that comes from being able to understand your children when they speak, and I'm not quite there with Grayson (so far he sounds like a mix between a Minion and an Ewok!); I know by the end of this year I'll be able to understand him more and this will bring comfort in being able to be away for extended periods of time, especially if Mr. Lovebird and I take a long distance trip

8. Getting down to Tennessee to visit my brother - He's been there 6+ years, and I'm finally going down for a visit this spring

9. Getting Brand Quiana in order - Between my blog and business re-org under one umbrella (I see you Squarespace) as well as other aspects of defining who I am, I'm excited for the continuation of my 35th through 50th years of life as my "go hard" years; I just posted this on Facebook, and while it's quite alarming it reiterated the fact that this life is not a dress rehearsal! 

10. More books - I'm still being challenged by Lisa Bloom's talk at the last S.H.E. Summit I attended based on her book Think; I simply to do not read enough long-form books and while older mothers in my life have told me it's temporary based on my life stage with small children, it irks me. I'm doing what I can to change it including making good use of my tablet, which I've found helps me stay awake to read, vs. traditional books which cause me to fall asleep (am I the only one this happens to?!)

What are you looking forward to this year? 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Introducing My Kids to Princess Cupcake Jones

Disclosure: I received a book for review purposes; all opinions expressed are my own. 

Nia's a pro at Kindergarten so far, and her reading skills are constantly surprising me and Uka! I strive to find books that reflect diversity and have been happy to find several at our local library, which we frequent, but it's important for us to have diverse books that we own as well. 

The Princess Cupcake Jones series has been on my radar for a while now and while I've had trepidation with princess culture, we've come to embrace in our household especially as there's been a shift towards showing princess as empowered heroines. 

Princess Cupcake Jones definitely fits the bill!

{Image source}
We read Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu. It tells the story of a misplaced item and follows Princess Cupcake Jones on her journey to find it all the while teaching kids how to pick up after themselves and take responsibility for their belongings. 

Having shared my thoughts on my kids' New Year's resolutions and goals, one of the things Mr. Lovebird and I gave Nia for Christmas was a responsibility chart and a cleaning tools set to share with Grayson. Having reinforcement from Princess Cupcake Jones definitely helps!

What I really like about the books are the colorful engaging illustrations, and the fact that a special word is embedded in each page creating a hide and seek experience for kids. 

Uka's read the book with us too during bed time (he's the one taking pictures for this post!), and he's expressed his delight with the story as well. A personal bonus? The author, Ylleya Fields, born in South America, currently lives in my home state of Ohio with her family. I think I feel the connection!

Check out the series and explore the website too - there are fun coloring and activity pages for kids which I printed out and stapled together to make Nia a packet to keep her busy on our flight to Texas. It was also her first time playing me in tic-tac-toe and it was quite emotional! 

Be sure to follow Princess Cupcake Jones on Facebook for more fun!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Celebrating 2016 with a First Day Hike

We started 2016 as a family with what I hope is a new tradition: a First Day Hike. I mentioned it a couple posts back and came across it on the NH Parks & Recreation website. As with many events that I quickly add to my calendar, I tend to overcommit double-triple book and harbor such lofty ambitions of plans with my family. It doesn't mean things always come to fruition, but when New Year's morning came and the weather was pretty mild (especially without whipping wind), I figured we were good to go. 

I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend January 1, 2106:

We made the (FREE!) commemorative hats look good ;-)

What's your family's New Year's traditions? Anyone else participate in a First Day Hike?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

From Toddler to Teen: Setting New Year's Resolutions with Your Kids

I've partnered up for another CoLab post with blogger Arnitris of Blessed be the Tie to present our tips on how to set New Year's Resolutions with your kids. We have kids ranging from toddlers to teens so we thought this would be a helpful post for you, especially as many of you move beyond resolutions and do actual goal-setting with your kids. 

I'm covering off on the todder/early elementary aged segment and Arnitris' tips for older kids are here.  

Here we go!

1. Assess – as the parent, reflect on how the past year has gone and what you want to accomplish in the new year: reading more books, increased family outings, regularly having dinner as a family etc.. While your child’s verbal skills may still be developing, it’s important to have conversations with them (as this demonstrates)! Try showing them pictures of themselves and talking about what’s happening.

2. Use resources – bringing in tools such as calendars and clocks to help explain time is a great tool especially for early elementary school-aged children. Melissa & Doug has several options to help your children understand the passing of time and in turn can help them set goals.

3. Engage – especially if you have an older sibling, bringing them onboard to get their input will help them feel empowered and have increased responsibility for their younger sibling(s). Ask them what they’d like to see their younger sibling do in the new year and turn it into an art project to make it hands on.

4. Be accountable – have a time to regularly check in and talk about your resolutions and accomplishments; set up a bi-weekly family meeting to talk about your project and look at your progress. Making an ongoing online photo album is a great way to commemorate your resolutions!

5. Show it & celebrate – set up a designated space in your home to showcase your goals; it can be on your refrigerator, or on the back of your children’s bedroom door. Hand-drawn images and affordable drug store prints are easy ways to visualize young children’s progress.

Happy New Year! Do you set New Year's resolutions with your kids or do goal setting? What works for your family?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

P.S. Our previous New Year's cards are here!


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