Family

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Let’s be honest. Most of us treat our smartphones like an extra appendage. We check them when we wake up and before we go to bed, and use them for everything from grocery lists to driving directions, social media, gaming and everything in between. So it’s understandable that our kids — even young ones — will want to join the fun.

But giving a pre-teen or even a teenager a smartphone for the first time can feel like handing over the keys to the kingdom. All of a sudden they’re walking around with the whole world in their pocket. My 9 year old has proven very responsible with a smart phone, but I know that’s not the case for every child. So when Walmart asked me to try Virgin Mobile Custom, a new smartphone plan that puts the control in parents’ hands, I couldn’t wait to try it.

How does Virgin Mobile Custom work?

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Having tried a variety of cell phone plans, I couldn’t help wondering what is so special about this one. Well, Virgin Mobile Custom, which is available only at Walmart, doesn’t require a contract, which means if your smartphone experiment with your child doesn’t work out, you can easily cancel without fear of huge fees. What’s more, though, you can actually customize your plan down to the last minute and text. A basic plan starts at just $6.98, which includes 20 talk minutes and 20 text messages. That doesn’t sound like much to those of us who use our phones all the time, but that’s just the starting point. The cost steps up incrementally as you add minutes, texts and data, and there is an unlimited talk option for $18 and unlimited texts for $10. Data starts at $8/month for 250 MB, and you can get up to 15 GB for $131.50. To give you an idea of the in-between cost, 2 GB of data will run you $28/month.

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In a word, this is awesome! You can really fine-tune your plan based on how you or your child will actually use it, rather than being forced into services that you might never use. Think your kid will text more than talk? Choose unlimited texts, but a small number talk minutes. If social media and online gaming will be used a lot, opt for a large data plan, but scale back on the other services. Plus, you can change those options at any time if you realize the plan isn’t working for your needs.

The Parental Controls

Once you’ve chosen a plan, the customization doesn’t stop there. Custom allows me to control not just the plan on my daughter’s phone, but also how she uses it. I can set a curfew if I don’t want her using her phone during school hours or after bedtime. I can limit who she is able to contact, block apps with the ability to allow specific ones, or turn data off altogether. For example, during the school day, my daughter can’t get on the internet or use any apps, but she can call her dad, myself, or her grandmother or aunt in case of an emergency.

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And while I can control all of this by logging into my Custom account from a computer, there is also an app for iPhone and Android, so I can do all of this from my own phone, in addition to making plan changes or payments.

My daughter received the Android-powered ZTE Emblem, and as smartphones go, it does what you’d expect. She can check her email, play games, text her family and friends, log into her school’s website to check on and complete assignments, and more. It’s a great first phone for a child who is learning how to be responsible, and the Virgin Mobile Custom plan will definitely give parents peace of mind when they hand over that responsibility to their child.

What do think of a smartphone plan that gives parents total control? Moreover, what do you think about giving a child a smartphone?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Veteran’s Day is always a special time for my family. My grandfather, husband, and brothers-in-law have all served their country, and my sister-in-law is still serving. I can easily recall many their stories of service both domestic and overseas, though I will never really know what it is like to potentially sign away my life in service of another.

My handsome hubby during his time in the Army.

My handsome hubby during his time in the Army.

Today, their service was made even more special by a program at my daughter’s school during which all veterans present — my husband included — were honored in song. They were all asked to share the length and branch of their service.

Hearing those veterans speak so proudly about their service and seeing some of them tear up at the genuine thanks offered by everyone in attendance was a poignant reminder of how important it is to honor the men and women who put their life on the line so that the rest of us can enjoy all the freedoms that come with being American.

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Walmart is continuing to use its Wall of Honor to do just that. It is an online community where anyone can share photos and stories of the veterans we know and love. You simply post a photo, video or just text update on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the #WallofHonor hashtag, and your post will show up at walmart.com/wallofhonor. Take some time today to honor the vets you know, and look at the stories shared by others.

Commitment to Hiring Veterans

You also may recall that a while back, Walmart announced they would hire 100,000 veterans over a 5 year period. This program guarantees a job offer to any honorably discharged veteran within the first 12 months of separation from service. Well, to date, Walmart has connected more than 67,000 veterans with employment opportunities throughout the nation.

Having seen firsthand how difficult it can be to make the transition from military life to being a civilian, I understand how important it is that veterans know there will be employers who will respect and appreciate their service enough to give them an opportunity. To make this happen, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have doubled their initial commitment by pledging an additional $20 million through 2019 to support veteran employment and transition programs.

For more information about Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment please visit:www.walmartcareerswithamission.com and follow on Twitter @WalmartVeterans.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Baby Juliza: Month 10

I feel like I start every one of these updates in exactly the same way: Disbelief at how fast my little jellybean is growing up. So why break with tradition? This one will be no different.

The one year mark is creeping up on us slowly, but surely, and I can’t deal. My baby is 10 months old today!

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It’s getting harder and harder to take these monthly photos, because my little wiggleworm will not sit still. I even tried taking a photo standing up this month to accommodate all her energy and show just how big she’s gotten. Except she wouldn’t pay me any attention.

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Yeah. That didn’t go so well.

Anyway, I am trying not to freak out about a couple of things this month. Juliza’s first birthday is coming, and I’m wishing that I could pause life, at least for a few more months so I get to enjoy her cuddly infant goodness a little longer. But the rest of my trepidation is about something slightly more immediate: the prospect of her walking.

Why is it so immediate? Well, there’s this.

A video posted by Jennae (@jennaepetersen) on

I made that video yesterday morning, and since then, she’s been taking tons of tentative steps. The most I’ve seen her take is five in a row. And earlier today, she was able to take three steps, stop, find her balance, and take two more. Which means that full on walking is no longer some far off prospect that will happen “one day.” That sentiment now has to be revised to “any day now.”

On top of that, she can already climb all the way up the stairs. She started small, with just one step.

A video posted by Jennae (@jennaepetersen) on

Soon though, she proved to my husband and I that not only can she climb to the second floor — she can do it really quickly, with little hesitation and no fear.

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Before you worry, know that we only let her climb the stairs when my husband or I are really close behind.

Other things she’s done this month:

  • Celebrated her first Halloween, dressed as a flower for trick-or-treating at the mall
  • Figured out that she’s seeing herself in the phone when we take a selfie
  • Cut her fourth and fifth teeth
  • Learned to drink milk from a sippy cup

All of these milestones she has hit mean that she is really becoming a little girl. Not just a baby. It’s exciting to watch her hilarious little personality emerge, and she’s already a spitfire. A gorgeous, cuddly spitfire with envious eyelashes.

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A spitfire who still refuses to sleep in her own bed for the whole night, and who preys on the fact that by the time she wakes up crying at 3 a.m., I’m too bleary-eyed and exhausted to fight with her for an hour to get her to stay in her room. This part of infancy? I won’t miss it at all.

There are some things I am enjoying though. Her hair has grown a lot. Well, everywhere except the back and right at her temples. But it’s long enough to style now, when she sits still long enough to let that happen.

A photo posted by Jennae (@jennaepetersen) on

I also didn’t anticipate just how tough it would be to work from home with my wonderful little one underfoot all day. It’s genuinely challenging, and I’m doing everything I can to work with our new normal, even if it means that I’ve had to slow down a bit.

So while this tenth month has left me alternately wistful, excited and frustrated, there is one thing that can only be described as awesome. She finally said mama! Also, her new favorite word is “up!” Said emphatically. But “mama” is still the best.

And I’ll leave you with that…

New motherhood can turn a person into a product junkie. With my oldest daughter, there was a lot of trial and error. I was a first-time mom and was learning by experience. Plus my daughter had a sensitive stomach and sensitive skin. If I could go back and do it over, I would breastfeed her for longer than 2 days — and that may have solved both problems. Since I didn’t know the value of nursing, though, we spent months trying to find the right formula, the right products to use on her skin, the right laundry detergent, etc.

That was fun. Not really. But it was expensive. So when I found out about Walmart’s new Baby Box service, the first thing I thought was how much time and money I could’ve saved trying a variety of baby products without having to fully commit right away.

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So what is Walmart‘s Baby Box? Well, given that each stage of pregnancy and new parenthood comes with different needs, you can receive samples of products sold at Walmart (or Walmart.com) that are relevant to your stage of pregnancy or your baby’s age. The best part? All you pay is shipping & handling, just $5, to get products that make sense when you need them delivered to your home. Think of is as your favorite beauty box (or hair or food), just for you and baby.

To get started, when you subscribe, you’ll have to share your current stage, based on your baby’s due or birth date: 2nd Trimester, 3rd Trimester, infant, baby or toddler.

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I received the 2nd trimester box just so I could see what the Baby Box could deliver. Here’s what I got:

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I’m glad to see that breastfeeding was given a presence in this box.  I actually use both those Lasinoh products already, so that was a great surprise. While I may not use the other products, since my baby is older, I will happily pass them on to a friend who is expecting soon.

I’m also crossing my fingers that Walmart plans to include samples of the natural products they carry, like Shea Moisture, Seventh Generations and Burt’s Bees baby products, since there are a lot of parents like myself who are either very particular about the products they use for themselves and baby, or who could benefit from a low-cost introduction to these awesome, eco-friendly brands.

So what do you think? If you’re expecting or have a baby at home, would you try the baby box? Would you give it as a gift to a friend with a baby?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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I love breastfeeding. Really I do. Baby Juliza and I have been at it for almost 10 months now with no sign of stopping soon. I can honestly say that it has been one of my best experiences as a mother. So what’s the problem? Well…this nursing relationship has left baby Juliza really, really attached to me — day AND night.

This was completely understandable when all of her meals literally came from my body, especially since she started refusing a bottle altogether when she was about 4 months old. However, how that she’s a bit older and trying new foods, I knew it was finally time to loosen the chokehold reins, just a smidge. When Walmart asked me to try their USA Kids sippy cups, I thought I’d take the opportunity to try getting her to drink from something other than me.

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Why Do I Like These Cups?

There are a couple of features of USA Kids’ cups that make this green mama happy:

1. They’re made in the U.S.

Outside of plastic and stainless steel, there aren’t many materials from which sippy cups can be made. If I’m going to go with plastic, I’m thankful that these are made in the U.S. (hence the brand name), where safety standards can be carefully monitored and jobs can stay here where they are needed.

2. They’re BPA-free.

I also need any new plastics I bring into my home to be Bisphenol A (BPA)-free. The problem is that BPA can leach into food and drinks from containers and cause health problems in animals, and possibly people. Because I have no desire to make my baby a science experiment, this is a genuine deal-breaker for me. So I’m thankful that these USA Kids cups do not contain BPA.

3. They’re recyclable.

Not all plastic can be recycled, so this is a pretty sweet feature. It means these cups don’t have to end up in the landfill once they are no longer useful to us (though I’d probably try to reuse first).

Of course, this particular product test isn’t as much about me as it is about Juliza. So how did it go? Check out this video.

If you couldn’t watch the video, let’s just say she was tentative at first. I pumped and gave her some breast milk in one of the cups. She has used a soft-nipple cup a few times, so cups with a hard spout are still very new to her. I’m glad to say, though, that after a while, she got the hang of using the USA Kids cup.

She didn’t drink very much milk from it, in part because the source (ie. my boobies) were just inches away from her head. But the fact that she drank any at all gives me hope that if I will soon be able to leave the house alone for more than a few hours, and she’ll be able to drink pumped milk from a cup. As much as a really dislike pumping, it will absolutely be worth it if I can gain a little freedom and detach Juliza from me for a bit.

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Anyway, while she was hesitant to drink my milk from the sippy cup, she had absolutely no problem drinking water or juice from it. No problem at all. She was only too happy to have a bit of control with those fluids.

Speaking of which, the best part of these cups — aside from the cute designs — is the “No-Leak” valve.

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In addition to the cap, there’s a plastic piece that goes inside the cover, which creates a nice seal. This means that Juliza can turn the cup over or even hold it upside down without any spillage. Given that she hasn’t had much practice with a bottle, this is a good thing, because she’s been turning the cup over a lot as she learns to use it.

So what’s my takeaway? Well, the cups are cute and work well. So I think $10.94 for a 4-pack is more than worth the autonomy I’ll be gaining. I bet you’ll feel the same.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Baby Juliza: Month 9

Wasn’t I just pregnant? Like yesterday or something? I was, right? And yet somehow, the child who was in my belly is now a 9-month-old crawling, standing, biting machine!

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My hubby and I thought this photo was the most accurate representation of how mischievous she is these days. And here’s another to show how increasingly difficult it is to get a photo of the child while she’s sitting still.

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I have entirely too many photos of her in various versions of this position from this month’s photo shoot. She’s crawling like a bullet, and will sit still only for food or when she’s really sleepy.

And speaking of sleep, we’re facing issues with that too. This time last year, I was feeling karate chops and kicks in my belly, trying to get a comfortable night’s sleep. Now, I’m still feeling those chops and kicks, trying to get a comfortable night’s sleep, but that’s because Juliza often refuses to sleep in her own bed. My hubby and I are left fighting for what little space is left in our bed. And in our bed, she sleeps like a champ. A beautiful, angelic, torturous champ.

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#babyjuliza is even more beautiful when she's asleep. 😁 Playing around with a few new camera apps on my iPhone6. Loving it so far. #POMELOcamera

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We’re working on it, and I think a lot of the issues stem from the fact that she’s teething again — cutting her two top front teeth this time. Still, I hope we work it out soon, because as much as I love snuggling with my jellybean and I have no problem nursing her at bedtime, mama really can’t function very well after too many nights of crappy sleep.

She’s been doing better of late, so let’s hope the trend continues.

In other news, she’s standing up on her own really well! She’s even taken a couple of tiny steps, though she promptly fell on her butt.

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She's getting her balance down! She does this all the time, and I try so hard to get her on video, but she's usually not having it. I don't think she noticed I was doing it this time. She's also taken a couple of steps. #mamaisnotready #babyjuliza @rfahrenhyt

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I’m excited that she’s progressing really well, but I don’t know that I’m ready for a walker. As it is, I spend half the day chasing my speedy little crawler to every corner of the house, and we’ve had to get creative about boxing her into a smaller area. I can’t even go to the bathroom without being followed. When she starts walking, all bets are off.

As it is, her newfound ability to pull herself into a standing position often leads to unexpected results — though those results sometimes lead to really great photo ops:

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Someone found her reflection in the mirror! #babyjuliza

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The crazy thing is that even as she works toward all this newfound independence, she’s simultaneously become really clingy. Like scream every time I walk out of the room, clingy. Or cry because she can see me, but not touch me, clingy. I may be going slightly crazy as a result. As fortunate as I know we are to work from home and have JuJu with us all day every day, that also means she has little to no interaction with other people on a regular basis. My mom, sister and nieces came over the other day, and she barely even let them touch her.

Like many other things about babies, I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that this is a phase, and she’ll find her way out of it eventually. Still, once we finally get her to take milk from a sippy cup, we may put her in day care at least half-day so she can get some social interaction with folks other than us.

My baby is growing up, and I’m trying to heed the advice to enjoy this while it lasts. Because Ja’Naya is proof that Juliza will be a baby today and a big girl tomorrow.

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This time Juliza has her sister’s footsteps to follow. Ja’Naya takes her big sister role seriously, and it makes my heart soar daily to see how much they love each other.

Until next month…

Baby Juliza: Month 8

I’m a little late with this month’s photo and post, mostly because I’ve just need to relax a bit and I haven’t been in the sharing mood for the past few weeks. But I actually really love this ritual of taking Juliza’s photo in the same place every month. It’s really nice to be able to look at all of them and see how much she’s changed in this short time.

So with that, here’s my 8-month-old big girl!

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You may have noticed those two teeth right there in front. Well yes, they’re in, and amazingly enough, she hasn’t bitten me yet. This is what I was most worried about with our continued breastfeeding, but it hasn’t been a problem thus far. And JuJu is only too happy to show off her teeth with big, cheesy smiles. My child smiles with her whole face, right down to the wrinkled nose and squinted eyes. And I can’t help but smile back at her. Every. Time. It’s irresistible.

In new developments, Juliza is crawling. She still seems to prefer rolling across the room — and I’m still in shock at how fast she does that — but she can crawl and will do it when she feels like it. At the moment, her favorite activity is pulling herself into a standing position when she gets a good grip on any and everything, from the sofa cushions to mommy’s hair or daddy’s face. Whatever works.

And standing up usually leads to this:

She loves to walk, with help, of course. And she also loves to dance. Thanks to mom and dad, that usually happens to the beat of reggae or soca. You may want to turn down the volume before you watch this one:

My island baby already knows what life is about :)

We’re just a few short months away from her first birthday, and I’m already getting wistful about it. But at least I’ll always have these posts to look back upon with fondness. I just wish I had done the same with my older daughter…

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August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and there have been events going on all month long to help promote and normalize breastfeeding. This week — August 25-31 — is Black Breastfeeding Week.

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Sounds innocuous enough, right? A week to encourage black moms to nurse their babies. I even wrote a post for Black Breastfeeding Week when I was pregnant last year and planning to nurse. In fact, though I knew I wanted to try nursing with baby Juliza, this event is what helped cement in my mind that I really needed to breastfeed. That it was important and life-saving and necessary. Reading stories from other black women who felt the same offered a type of solidarity that was genuinely encouraging.

Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of women — specifically white women — who have taken offense to this. Who insist that black breastfeeding week is racist, that it only serves to divide the breastfeeding community and that it’s exclusionary. Who insist that if there were a “white breastfeeding week”, we’d all be up in arms.

Well, here’s the thing. The breastfeeding community is already divided. The numbers tell us that. White women are statistically a lot more likely to breastfeed than black women. They are also more likely to continue extended breastfeeding beyond 6 months or a year. The result? The rates of infant mortality and low birthweight in the African American community are higher.

The point is that it’s super important that we all work to encourage more black moms to nurse — for our health and the health of our babies. This isn’t about excluding anyone. White women who have a problem with this, I’m going to address the rest of this post directly to you:

It’s really sad when breastfeeding advocates can’t see the importance of speaking to women where they are — even if that means targeting their race.

If you feel excluded from this week, imagine how moms of color feel in every other conversation about breastfeeding. Realistically, the face of breastfeeding in this country is white. It always has been. When you walk into a La Leche League group, chances are most, if not all, of the members and the leader are white. The lactation consultant at your hospital or birthing center? Probably white. The posters in the WIC office, magazine ads or commercials about breastfeeding? Probably feature white women.

So if you want to go there, “white” breastfeeding week is every week.

And images like this one, featuring black women feeding our beautiful brown babies the way nature intended, are rarely included in breastfeeding advocacy:

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Yet, you get to assume that when white women are featured and included, that everyone is included and invited to the conversation. That may be true in intent, but it’s rarely true in execution or outcome. And that’s called white privilege.

The whole point of Black Breastfeeding Week is to show black moms that we breastfeed too, and that there is nothing wrong with it. To combat the perception that breastfeeding is just something that white women do. Because unless we actively seek out other black breastfeeding moms, it can certainly look that way. To combat a culture that would tell us to “take that baby off your titty” or question if you’re only breastfeeding because you can’t afford formula. To combat a culture that would call you a sexual deviant for breastfeeding a toddler or tell you you’re going to make your son gay by breastfeeding him. To encourage women who may never have seen anyone in their family or larger community breastfeed, ever.

And yes, breastfeeding moms of all races face some of these issues. But can you imagine if your whole family — whole community — was largely ignorant about the benefits and necessity of breastfeeding? If even your doctor and nurses assumed you didn’t plan to breastfeed and pushed formula on you simply because of your race?

This matters. It matters to see women who look like us proving that breastfeeding is OK. That it’s natural and normal and beautiful and life-saving, no matter what anyone else might say. It matters to have people who understand your experience as a black woman saying these things to you.

Please, spare me the crap about how “talking about race encourages racism,” or how we’re the ones who are “making things about race” because that makes no sense. Race is a factor, whether we talk about it or not. Your whiteness allows you to ignore that fact because it’s not something you have to deal with on a daily basis. Contrary to what you’d like to believe, talking about it attempts to make the issue less taboo so we can actually FACE our racial differences instead of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending they don’t exist.

But Lord, if I had a dollar for every time a white person said “talking about race just breeds racism”, I’d be rich. The only way we’ll get past racism is to talk about it in real, honest terms and actually LISTEN to each other. Negating the experience of a person of color just because you can’t relate is a glaring example of white privilege.

If you take offense to that, I strongly suggest you look inside yourself about why. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about you. Period. If you call yourself a breastfeeding advocate and you can’t be an ally and support black moms in our breastfeeding efforts, however we choose to do so, then just stay out of the conversation, because your bigotry is not welcome.