New Me… New Look – The 411

The “big chop” or a unit?

With all of the change going on around us, now was a good a time as any to change my look for a while !

What do you think?

Thanksgiving 2020 – The 411

2020 has been a heck of a year. We had hoped to host dinner this year, but covid cases started spiking and the CDC strongly suggested that no one gather.

I cooked a big dinner and made dishes for our elderly friends. One of my sisters rented an oceanfront condo for the weekend with her family nearby so we did mask up and drop off a full meal to them, since I cooked two pans of everything so that they could have a meal upon arrival at the beach.

She’s my sweet potato / I yam
Cousin Love

We were able to keep some normalcy in our lives, as we have a tradition of going to the drive thru Christmas light show. My mom and I picked up my sister, her daughters and grandson and we went to the light show. This kiddos enjoyed it.

I cooked dinner for the family on Saturday and my sister and family came over to pick it up. We spent the weekend relaxing. I watched movies and caught up on a few shows I recorded. This morning, I have to go to storage take the remainder of the boxes over and have to follow up with the movers to find out what time they are coming to the storage units tomorrow and Wednesday.

I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving, even though this year was a lot different.

Pandemic Move – The 411

Lakefront View

With everything going on in the world, can you believe I went on a house hunting trip ONLINE?

I have sorta grown tired of the beach after five years of snowbirding and two years of being there year round. For the past few years, I have been dreaming of buying a sprawling lakefront house in a warmer climate to spend the Fall through Winter in. It has become increasingly colder at the beach during Fall/Winter. It actually snowed and had ice storms last year THREE times ! I could stay in NYC if I want to be cold all Winter.

2020 has been a year of the JUMP for me. I have jumped out on faith and put forth effort to do things I had shelved. 2020 represented reflection of the past and perfect and clear vision of the future. With the devastation of the pandemic, it was clear that life is promised to none and it is a time for action.

I hired a realtor in two different states of interest and put them to work finding the perfect dream lake house for our little family. My kiddo has been so excited ! I think having a pool and setting her playroom back up is what excites her most, lol.

After viewing several listings, I opted for one area over the other, mainly because it is much warmer, climate wise, in one locale, which was my main reason for wanting to find a seasonal home. One Sunday, the realtor sent some listings that had me jumping up and down ! Finally, we were on the same page. I selected five homes on the list and put them in order based in which I liked most. I started with #2 because I had hoped they would come down off the price, but they would not and wanted to sell with the furnishings, which I do not want nor need. I then went with #3 because of the price point, although my heart really wanted #1 but it was much more expensive, but nearly the same size as the others. I had the house inspected but was not happy with the list of minor repairs needed plus one major one. I walked away and pulled my offer off of the table. I then prayed and sought God for guidance and in my spirit, I felt that house #1 was THE ONE and meant to be for me. I sent a late night text to the realtor and said I want to put an offer on house #1 but I want to offer $10k less than what they want for it and also I do not want the furniture.

The homes in this neighborhood are a lot of vacation rentals. It is an exclusive gated, resort style community. Most homes are sold with furniture. Fast forward to the next day, MY OFFER WAS ACCEPTED !!! I called the home inspection company back and told them that I had changed my mind and want to go with a different home. They scheduled an inspection and all was well. We had a few minor things to repair, but they were easy fixes. When the appraisal was done, the house was being offered for sale over value. Because people are buying homes at record levels, the owners are jacking the prices up but then having to adjust them after the appraisal comes in ! The owners dropped the price down to $1000 over appraisal and I accepted. I closed on the house two days before Thanksgiving and even got $4000 back at closing. I am having the house painted prior to the movers arriving, so that was a perfect surprise!

Things have been going great with my new transportation and logistics company so I am in the processing of scaling the business up. I applied for a loan to buy three more trucks for the fleet and was approved and will also be speaking to my bank today about an SBA loan. We are looking to go after government contracts, so that SBA loan will definitely come in handy to grow the fleet to 10-12 trucks.

I am excited to start this new chapter of my life and am grateful to God for how seamless all of this has been. I feel like God is smiling on me and everything I am doing. I have had no real snags and things have been falling into place.

I am starting my search for a surrogate again and hopefully can find someone who will carry for me so that my daughter can have a sibling. She has been asking for a baby for months now, but she is so jealous, I am not sure how that will work lol.

This time next week, the movers will be almost there to deliver the contents of 5 storage units and we will be officially moving into the new house.

New Business Venture – The 411

BIG RED !! (of course I gave her a name !!)

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to hustle and I am all about generational wealth and passive income. I am only one person, so I have mastered the task of building a straight path to wealth through multiple streams of passive income.

I learned about another investment income strategy from other real estate investors and hustlers that I work with and network with. I took a leap of faith and took a comprehensive study learned all that I could.

I set up my business, got a Madison Avenue office in Manhattan, filed all the pertinent documents and license applications, and voila !

I purchased my first Freightliner Cascadia tractor from Mercedes Benz/Daimler Corp and “Big Red” was delivered yesterday.

I have launched a logistic, transport, and storage company which will provide transport for major companies like Amazon, Walmart, other 3PLs ( third party logistics companies) and provide transport services for Fema and under Federal contracts. I am very excited about this new venture and my baby girl can not wait to take a ride in her new 18 wheeler with our driver !

We plan to expand our fleet by adding another two tractors over the course of the next two months. I have an aggressive goal in mind, but I have only revealed that to God. Watch Him work !

#BlackFemaleBusinessMogul #BlackOwned #FemaleRun #VeteranOwned #FamilyOwnedBusiness #BlackExcellence

Pandemic Birthday Bash 2020 – The 411

Six months of being stuck in the house due to the pandemic has passed. There seems to be NO end in sight. 200,000 deaths and counting… People in the US being complete CovIdiots and not adhering to guidelines because their privilege extends so far that it can infringe on the rights of other citizens NOT to contract covid. There are a lot of people who think the pandemic is a “democratic hoax”… some who refuse to wear masks … a whole bunch of imbicil leaders who feel that we can “learn to live” with a plague, while other countries are doing what it takes to eradicate the virus. I digress.

With everything going on in the world, I refuse to hide out in a corner and let time be stolen from me. We only have so many days on Earth as is. I worked diligently to plan the most exciting “pandemic birthday bash” with social distancing that I could plan.

I rented a huge three floor house on the oceanfront complete with an elevator. The home had three huge open air porches on each level so I leased cocktail table and chair/stools, vibrant colored linens for tables and hired a party planner to come pull everything together. A balloon company put up a balloon wall and marquee and my daughter screamed in excitement when she came in and saw it.

My family, who have all been quarantined since March came with the kids so of course the cousin reunion was a blast for the three kids. My daughter’s Godmother flew in and our elderly friend who I have been cooking and shopping for were all able to come. My other friends who are back at work or who have not been quarantined were upset that they did not get an invite. My daughter’s Godfather contracted covid after attending his Aunt’s funeral, so he was not able to come.

I decided to go with an adult menu, as there were only three kids so we ordered a pizza for the kids and the adult menu is below… surf and turf !

Here are some pictures of the party…

The day after the party, I donated the balloon wall and marquee to the PICU at the hospital. The children were excited to get them !

Starbucks Expands Fertility Benefits -The 411

Employees at Starbucks now have access to broader fertility benefits.

Starting this month, the coffee giant is bolstering its benefits to reimburse for surrogacy and intrauterine insemination not covered by health insurance. Workers will receive reimbursements of up to $10,000 per qualifying event, with a lifetime maximum of $30,000.

Lifetime maximums for fertility benefits are also increasing under Starbucks medical plans — to $25,000 from $15,000 for fertility services, and to $10,000 from $5,000 for prescription drugs. All full- and part-time benefit employees who work at least 20 hours per week are eligible for the benefits.

A company spokesperson told Employee Benefit News, Starbucks wanted to update its Family Expansion Reimbursement program to assist employees whose needs are not fully met by health insurance.

“We made this change to assist partners whose needs may not be met by their healthcare insurance company, such as same-gender couples looking to become parents or individuals seeking fertility services,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an email.

While nearly all (87%) employers cover some kind of infertility benefit through their health plan, companies are expanding their benefits to cover different services such as surrogacy and egg freezing, according to data from the National Business Group on Health. Of that group, some 71% of employers cover in vitro fertilization, 69% cover artificial insemination and 34% cover egg freezing.

Fertility services are often expensive — the average IVF cycle costs $12,000, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Benefits that cover some of the cost can help to ease the burden on workers. Large employers including Microsoft, Cisco and MassMutual all offer fertility benefits to workers.

Starbucks has been making big changes to its benefits. Last year the company said it would spend $250 million on new employee benefits including a pay boost for domestic workers, in the wake of the federal tax overhaul. In September, the company updated its employee assistance program with a new long-term initiative that includes an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers, which will begin in the second quarter of next year.

“We brought 12,000 store leaders together for an unprecedented session on mental well-being and emotional first aid,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement about the updated EAP program. “That was just the first step in a new long-term initiative to take a stand, help break the stigma around mental health, and get even more partners and their loved ones the support they need.”

Starbucks offers a number of other family-friendly benefits including parental leave, employee and family sick time, and backup child and adult care. It also provides tuition reimbursement to workers looking to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“We are consistently evolving our benefits as we continue to listen and learn from our partners (employees),” the company told EBN. “It has long been our belief that when we put our partners first.”

Adventures in Positive Parenting – The 411

As we get closer to the magical age of TWO… the dreaded TWO aka Terrible Twos, I find myself becoming anxious.

I have been working on “positive parenting” and have fallen off the wagon twice. It was then that I realized all I learned about positive parenting was indeed true. I do not want to spank or pop my child and she is a stubborn one who intentionally locks in and gives you back what you give her. Imagine that ! A stubborn child… I wonder where she gets that?

She does not like loud noise and fussing frightens her so I get down on her level, in her face, and talk to her and explain what she is doing, that it is not acceptable and I help her correct it.

It is A LOT of work to do this and you end up repeating yourself a million times ! In some things, she now tells you the rule before she is about to do something… like “just eyes, no fingers.”

As an only parent, it makes it so much harder because I am the only one with her every day all day. I have to balance being a disciplinarian with being her loving, supportive Mommy. I remind myself that I am merely here to guide this child through life and help her become her best self and not here to mold her into who I want her to be. I am here to encourage her strengths and find ways to help her cope with and move beyond any weaknesses.

My baby is headstrong and very determined to do things her way. She has a temper and a half when she can not have her way.

I am now watching for triggers to help avoid meltdowns. She normally falls out with me about my cellphone or my mom’s iPads. She would watch YouTube until all devices are dead if she could.

Now that summer is over, after our trip to the UK, we will be homeschooling using A Beka and Your Child Can Read programs. I am taking away use of technology and encouraging consistent use of books, crayons and pencils. I purchased a car seat contraption that slides over her and is a desk. I think once we get into a more structured routine, she will be more engaged in creating versus watching educational videos on YouTube.

I would love to hear from other Moms who use positive parenting in lieu of spanking.

I grew up getting spankings. It was effective and my mom is all for spankings but I do believe that I can achieve the same level of discipline without hurting, shaming, and beating a child into submission.

Prayers Please !

Baby Led Weaning – The 411

Image result for baby led weaning

What is baby led weaning (BLW)? (From Mamanatural)

First coined by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett in their book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods, Baby-led weaning is an approach to introducing solid food where baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon. For those of us in the US, baby led feeding may be a better term as BLW is not about weaning babies off breastmilk or formula, but is weaning them onto solids. (Although, anytime we introduce food, we are in a sense starting the weaning process, as baby will naturally start to decline her breast milk consumption. But with BLW, the baby is in charge.) BLW babies:

  • Are encouraged to join the family at mealtime and self-feed appropriate finger foods.
  • Choose what, how much, and how quickly to eat.
  • Are given the freedom to explore new tastes and textures without the pressure to eat a set amount or a specific food.
  • Continue to nurse (or receive a bottle) just as often. Solids are to compliment milk, and baby is trusted to know when to increase solid feedings and decrease milk (usually later in the first year).

When is baby ready?

Experts agree that solids should be delayed until the middle of the first year of life. This is when baby’s digestive system is mature. Some babies may seem ready at 5 ½ months, while others may not be ready until 8 months of age. It’s important to take into account ALL readiness signs for each individual child. As always, consult your child’s pediatrician if you are unsure or have questions. Signs of readiness include:

  • Baby can sit up well without support.
  • Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (automatically pushing solids out of mouth with tongue).
  • Baby has developed the fine motor skills to self feed. Development of a pincer grasp (baby picks up food between thumb and forefinger, not palm and fingers) typically happens at around 6 months, but sometimes as late at 1 year.
  • Baby is willing to chew, even if he has few or no teeth.
  • Baby shows interest in participating at mealtime, and may try to grab food from your plate and put it in his mouth.

What are the benefits of baby led feeding?

It’s easier

  • Purées are time consuming. It’s much easier to adjust what the adults are eating to suit baby instead of having to get out the blender or potato masher.
  • BLW babies aren’t pressured into eating. They are trusted to know when, what, and how much they need to eat. Therefore, there is less stress and everyone can enjoy mealtime. (No more airplane spoons 🙂 )
  • Babies feed themselves, so you can eat at the same time! Baby led weaning gives moms the chance to relax and eat themselves.

Baby develops good eating habits

  • Baby (continues to) learn self regulation, which may set the child up for a healthier BMI in the future according to this study.
  • Self selection of food has even been shown to increase weight in underweight babies, therefore supporting a healthy weight in most babies.
  • Since BLW babies experience a wide range of healthy foods early on, they may be more likely to continue to enjoy those foods later in life.

It’s educational

  • Babies learn to safely handle food (they learn to chew THEN swallow)
  • Babies learn to manage different textures, tastes, sizes, and shapes of food.
  • Babies get lots of hand eye and fine motor practice by learning to grasp food and move it to their mouth.
  • Babies learn best by observing and copying. Eating meals together (and eating similar foods) gives her many opportunities to learn about food.

How to get started with baby led weaning?

The great thing about baby led weaning is that you really don’t need much to get started. The first thing you need is a safe place for baby to sit. A highchair is a great choice, but a parents lap is just as good (remember, baby should be able to sit up unassisted at this point). The next thing you need is healthy, appropriate finger foods (covered below). A BLW baby is offered a variety of healthy whole finger foods (as well as a small amount of water) to choose from and explore. Follow your baby’s cues. Begin offering solids once a day, and gradually increase as the child shows he wants or needs more. Baby-led weaning families are encouraged to make family mealtime a habit. One reason is that baby learns best by observation and imitation. When everyone eats together and eats the same food, baby feels included, and mealtime is a fun experience rather than a battle. If eating meals together doesn’t work for your family, consider eating a snack while baby has his meal.

What foods can I feed my baby?

Baby’s first foods should be a selection of fresh fruits, soft cooked vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, and fats. Think soft and easy to gum and swallow. When given a variety to choose from, baby will naturally choose the foods that meet her nutritional needs.

Baby led weaning BLW finger foods carrots apple Mama Natural

Baby Led Weaning First Foods

Some great first finger foods for baby are:

  • Avocados
  • Banana
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Soft cooked apples
  • Soft cooked carrots, green beans, zucchini, and beets
  • Very ripe peaches and pears, plums, and melon
  • Pumpkin
  • Green beans with the skins removed
  • Egg yolk
  • Meat or poultry
  • Liver
  • Slices of sprouted bread, cooked pasta, brown rice (Some decide to wait until molars come through before introducing grains. Wheat is recommended to be avoided until later in the first year.)

Baby Led Weaning foods to avoid:

Some of these are common sense (popcorn for baby?!) but some good reminders when practicing baby led weaning.

  • High choking risk foods like: grapes, cherry/grape tomatoes, nuts, whole hot dogs. (You can find a full list here.)
  • Allergic foods like: gluten, egg whites, nuts (peanuts), seafood, and citrus, especially if you have family history of sensitivity
  • Added table salt* or sugar
  • Unhealthy and processed foods like: chips, popcorn, sugar-containing foods, breakfast cereals, gum, and hard candy.
  • Honey
  • Stimulants: like chocolate or sugar

* Small amounts of high mineral sea salt can be added with the approval of physician

Baby Led Weaning Safety

There are obvious safety concerns with introducing solids to your baby. Assuming that baby has shown signs of readiness and can sit up unassisted, it’s then important for parents to be vigilant and never leave baby alone when eating. It’s equally important that only baby put food into her own mouth.

Won’t my baby choke?

Choking is a real concern with any supplemental feeding, which is why close supervision is necessary. That said, there needs to be a distinction between gagging – which is a safety mechanism that safeguards against choking by bringing large pieces of food forward to be chewed – and real choking. As baby grows, the place in her mouth that triggers the gag reflex moves further back towards the throat. According to Rapley, this is one reason why baby led weaning is valuable, because baby learns to chew and swallow when this reflex is still very close to the front of the mouth. Of course, for all parents, understanding the signs of choking and knowing how to respond is very important. Here is online education… but better yet, contact your local hospital or community center to find classes.

Will my baby get enough to eat?

Breastmilk (or formula) will make up the majority of baby’s nutrition from 6-12 months of age. The main purpose of solids in the first year is to introduce baby to new tastes and textures while teaching her to chew and swallow food. If baby is gaining normally and thriving, then she is getting enough to eat. Baby-led solid feeding trusts that baby knows when she is hungry, when she is full, and what she needs to meet her nutritional needs. If she is struggling with low weight, you can certainly add in some smoothies, purées, or extra fats like avocado and butter. That’s the beauty of baby led weaning. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Work with your physician to determine what is best.

Will my baby get enough iron without iron-fortified baby cereal?

Yes, if she is breastfed. The iron in breastmilk is absorbed at a percentage of 50-70% while the iron in iron-fortified cereal is absorbed at a rate of 4-10%.  According to Kellymom.com, “Healthy, full-term infants who are breastfed exclusively for periods of 6-9 months have been shown to maintain normal hemoglobin values and normal iron stores.”Breast milk is actually a perfectly sufficient source of iron.”

I would add letting your child’s umbilical cord pulse and wait to clamp for at least 3 minutes after birth helps tremendously since the baby gets 1/3 of his blood supply back! It also probably helps if a breastfeeding mama consumes her placenta and eats red meat a few times a week to replenish her stores.

Formula fed babies may also get enough iron from iron rich finger foods such as:

  • Meat & poultry (especially beef and liver)
  • Winter squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sea vegetables
  • Greens
  • Beans
  • Egg yolks

If there is a concern about baby’s iron level, have it tested before supplementing.

Tips for BLW (baby-led weaning)

SaveMama NaturalBaby-led weaning allows and encourages baby to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon. Here’s how and why to practice it.39115Mama NaturalMama Natural ☝ Blog Posts
  • Hunger can create an unhappy experience for everyone. Be sure to nurse or bottle feed baby up to an hour before offering solids so that his tummy isn’t empty.
  • Forget about expectations and let it be a learning experience. Baby probably won’t eat much at first, and that’s ok!
  • Realize that it may be a slow process. Babies can take a longer time when they’re in charge. As they get the hang of it, feeding time will be quicker.
  • It will be messy. Many parents find a naked baby is easiest to clean up afterwards.
  • Don’t serve small pieces of food but instead serve pieces of food large enough for baby to grasp easily. Some families find cutting food with a crinkle cutter or rolling pieces of food in oat flour can make pieces easier for baby to hold.
  • If food can be smashed between your finger and thumb, it’s probably appropriate for baby.
  • Don’t put more than a few pieces of food on the highchair tray or table at once, so baby won’t get overwhelmed (or have as much to throw!)

Progress Not Perfection

Keep in mind that you can always do a hybrid approach to feeding. Super soft foods like avocado and sweet potato might be better served with a spoon. Let your child play and try to feed herself using the utensil. You’d be surprised just how well she can imitate you! Some moms let baby gnaw on soft pear slices, but prefer to spoon feed foods like puréed meat or bone broth. I know some parents who make smoothies, which a baby can drink through a straw if the family is on the go. Just know that you can experiment with feeding approaches that work best for your family and lifestyle. (Although it’s best to probably stick with a few set routines so your baby doesn’t get confused.)