Health

I admit it: I still use traditional toothpaste. I switched to a natural brand a few years back, but I was not a fan of the taste at all. So we switched back, and Colgate is still our go-to brand. Their teeth whitening products are among those things I’d always wanted to try, but never had a chance. So when Walmart asked me to try Colgate’s new whitening product, I figured now was the time to give it a shot.

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I’ve never liked the idea of having a whitening product on my teeth for hours at a time, and that was my perception of how the process worked. Colgate’s new Optic White Toothbrush + Built-in Whitening Pen turns that idea on its head. It is the first toothbrush to come with a built-in whitening pen to make application really easy.

I love the fact that I could use this when brushing my teeth, so I was able to just add the whitening step to my normal routine rather than having it be a completely separate action. After brushing, you simply twist the whitening pen to squeeze out the whitening gel and swipe it onto each tooth.That’s it. Maybe a minute or two added to my daily brushing routine.

It promised to deliver whiter teeth in just two days, and maybe I’m just excited, but I feel like I can already see the difference in my teeth. I do wish there was some sort of color comparison chart included so I could easily see where I started out and where I wound up. Still, I really like this product, and I plan to keep using it because it’s really that easy.

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You can find thhe Brushing and Whitening Pen for just $12.96 at Walmart.com or at your local Walmart store with all the other Colgate Optic White products.

Colgate is also giving one lucky person the chance to win a three-day, two night trip to Los Angeles for a makeover with Jeannie Mai, or one of hundreds of first and second prizes, including Walmart gift cards and Colgate products. Every person who enters will also receive $3 product coupon. Enter now through April 19 at www.OpticWhiteStyle.com.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As much as I love the spring — the newness, greenness and freshness of it all — I have to say I am not a fan of the return of allergy season. Funny, because noone in my immediate family has any serious allergies. Why, then, do I dread it so? Well, because I live in Georgia where the pollen count during the height of spring will make even the most hardy among us let out a sneeze or ten.

For the past few years, the pollen has coated Every. Single. Thing. Even us. Being outside for more than a few minutes at a time meant being covered in a fine green film. We’ve had to cover our bikes with a dropcloth to keep them from turning green. Even hosing down a car in the parking lot or power washing the building meant leaving a telltale trail of green pollen running down the street.

Pollen counts in the tens of thousands will make anyone sensitive. Which means that though we’ve never suffered from allergies, both my daughter and I had to keep Zyrtec on hand to avoid itchy, runny eyes and scratchy throats.

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Walmart has some great tips for minimizing your allergies this year, including:

  • Spring Cleaning: I never really look forward to this, but it must be done. Adding an air purifier helps too.
  • Stock Up: If you know you’re prone to allergic reactions, keep allergy medicine on hand. You’ll be thankful when you can nip the symptoms in the bud before they make you really miserable.
  • Get Some Sun: While this may sound counterintuitive, apparently, spending time outside can help reduce the impact of seasonal allergies, as well as colds. Why? Well, Vitamin D, which our bodies produce when exposed to sunshine, may help reduce symptoms.

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My own favorite tip for reducing the number of allergens in your home is simple: Take your shoes off at the door. We’ve done this for years, and it helps keep the carpet and floors cleaner, and reduces the amount of dust and allergens you track throughout the house. If, like me, you hate the idea of a pile of shoes at the door, you can set up a simple station with ample room to store shoes. Check out what we did over at Green Your Decor.

And visit Walmart’s Allergies Wellness Center to check the pollen count in your zip code, determine whether your symptoms point to allergies or the flu, and many more resources the help you make it through the minefield that is allergy season.

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.

In theory, I think we all know that heart health is important. But that theory became all too real for my family a few years ago when I got a call that my mother was in the hospital. I’m still not sure exactly what to call it, but she had a “heart attack-like event,” if I’m remembering the doctors’ words correctly. And it scared the crap out of me.

My mother, who I’d known to be relatively healthy, all of a sudden wasn’t. And there was nothing I could do but pray that she would be OK.

Thankfully, she was, and is. But it was a scary reminder that though we can’t see it and probably rarely think about it, we have to do what we can to take care of our hearts. Especially given the fact that heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women.

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Walmart understands this, and for American Heart Month, they’ve dedicated a section of their website to helping us all be heart healthy. In addition to tips for people who already have heart disease, there are also general tips to help everyone pay better attention to heart health.

For example, did you realize that the best thing you can do to prevent heart disease is to eat a healthy diet? Good nutrition can help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar, in turn reducing the risk of heart problems. Taking supplements like fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, fiber, coenzyme Q10 can also help reduce your risk.

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And my favorite tip? There is evidence that eating dark chocolate (yum!) may lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, which both help prevent heart disease and strokes. I have no problem taking that advice!

However, another thing that my husband and I personally like to do as well is to keep an eye on our blood pressure, as we both have family histories of hypertension, which can put stress on the heart. So whenever we’re in the pharmacy area of Walmart, we stop and check our pressure at the in-store station. And when we’re with my mom, we use her at-home monitor.

If you really want to be proactive, you can find affordable blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, aspirin and more to really keep your heart in check. (aff)

Now that I have a family history of a heart problem, I try to be proactive about taking care of my own. What do you do to take care of your heart?

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.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its client. As usual, all stories and opinions completely honest and my own. #HealthcareClinic #CollectiveBias

Given my husband’s love of basketball and the fact that he played extensively in his youth, I shouldn’t have been surprised when my stepson said he wanted to try out for his school’s basketball team. And the boy was serious about his mission, too. He’d go to the gym regularly and practice his shot, handles, free throws — all of it. I bet he didn’t consider he might end up in a healthcare clinic because of this mission, but alas…

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…his hard work paid off, and he made the team.

But though he might not have considered anything but his goal, I admit that under my excitement, I was a little worried about health care. We’re still in the process of getting him insured with us. As an aunt of three nieces who are all athletes, I’ve seen how necessary affordable health care is for kids who play sports.

We got our first reminder of that when the coach told us my stepson be required to have a sports physical before he could play in his first official game. Compounding my stress was the fact that the coach didn’t mention this until late in the evening on the day before said game. Yeah. Thanks, coach.

That created two problems for my as yet uninsured stepson: We needed to find a place where he could get this sports physical affordably, because we couldn’t afford to dish out hundreds of dollars on such short notice, and we needed to find a place where he could be seen right away.

Thankfully, I remembered that Walgreens offers clinical services at Atlanta area clinics, including flu shots and health screenings. I gave the nearest location crossed my fingers that physicals were among the services offered and that we could just walk in.

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Score on both accounts! And not a moment to soon, either.

Not two hours before tipoff for my stepson’s first official basketball game, we rushed him to the nearest Walgreens Healthcare Clinic. I didn’t have high hopes that we’d get through quickly, but after just a 5-minute wait, a healthcare provider was able to see him and perform his physical. About 20 minutes later, we were out the door, certification in hand. And the best part? It cost us just $60, even without insurance.

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So our basketball player got to play in his first game (which they won!), and we got to breathe a sigh of relief.

Honestly, I don’t know what we would’ve done had we not found the Walgreens Healthcare Clinic. He likely would’ve had to miss his first game until we could find somewhere else to take him on short notice. And now that I’m aware of the services offered, we know there’s a place we can go if we ever run into an issue like this again.

To be honest, I never really make New Year’s resolutions. At least not ones related to fitness or weight loss. Because honestly, my history with these resolutions is that I give them up inside a month. And this year, weight loss was the last thing on my mind, since I expected to be pregnant until the end of January.

Of course, my little lady surprised us a few weeks early, and now I’m starting to think about getting back in shape. You may recall that I lost more than 60 pounds last year, before I got pregnant. And while I’m not going back to a strict weight loss regimen since I am breastfeeding, I do need to start working out again to rebuild strength. So when Walmart challenged me to choose some new, affordable workout gear, I knew I could use it.

For me, working out means dancing. Usually in the form of Zumba or challenging dance routines from the Just Dance and Dance Central video game franchises. However, I’ve learned that dancing barefoot usually leads to ankle pain later. But most sneakers don’t work on top of carpet. So I set out in Walmart‘s shoe department trying to find a comfy pair of shoes that would work for this purpose.

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I really loved all the sneaker options from Avia, a brand I’ve been familiar with for as long as I can remember. Even the most expensive pair was less than $30, and I loved the fact that the insoles were made of 70% recycled materials, including plastic bottles. (aff)

However, when I tried on several pairs, they didn’t really work for me. The styles available in my size, were more on the running shoe side with thick rubber soles. I knew they would have no slip when dancing on top of carpet. And since my feet — umm — expanded while I was pregnant, I’m between sizes. And the fit on the Avias just wasn’t quite right for my purpose.

Instead, I opted for a pair of Danskin workout sneakers. The thinner soles will work better for dancing, and the fabric upper is really comfortable. Plus, the colors just make me want to dance :)

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At just $16.88, I really couldn’t pass them up.

But my shopping wasn’t done. Post-pregnancy, I’ve also found myself in need of some new sports bras. Breastfeeding has created the need for roomier, more comfortable cups, and most of my existing bras just don’t fit right any more.

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I found these Danskin Now 360 sports bras for just under $10 that are flexible, but supportive and offer good separation, unlike many sports bras that just squish the “ladies” together. (add)

Now, once I get over the inevitable sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn at home, I’ll be ready to get my dance on and get my leg and core strength back.

What do you do to motivate yourself to work out? Does buying new gear help get you in the mood?

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.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias Social Fabric community. I have been compensated to share my experience with you by Collective Bias and their client, Mastercard.

Cancer is still not one of those things I like to talk about — not even nearly four years after my daughter’s initial diagnosis and more than a year since she has been off treatment and officially cancer free. Truth be told, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to talk about it freely. But every once in a while, I find I’m able to use my voice to help other people — other families — who might be facing the same and not knowing what to do or where to turn. This time, I’m lending my voice to MasterCard and their efforts to help Stand Up to Cancer. As a MasterCard holder, I was really proud to find out that they are donating up to $4 million to the organization, and anything I can do to assist in that effort is the very least I can do.

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You see, my daughter was just four years old when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, also known as ALL. It happened out of nowhere, and it rocked us to the core. Even the doctors’ assurances that this was the most common form of childhood leukemia, or their reports that the cure rate hovers around 85% didn’t help. Because this was cancer. That dreaded C word that always happens to other people, but never to us or the ones we love.

My husband and I beat ourselves up, wondering what we possibly could have done to cause this. What we could have done to prevent it. Why God was punishing us. Because it couldn’t be happening. Not to us.

But during her treatment, something special happened. I watched my daughter, four brief years old, endure pokes, prods, medications and surgery that would make the average adult moan and complain. I watched her do it with grace and strength that I never would’ve thought she possessed. This little girl — this sick little girl — taught me more about life in the two years after her diagnosis than I could’ve learned in a lifetime.

Case in point? Here we are on the day the doctors surgically removed her port, officially marking the end of treatment:

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Here she is the next day, on the floor, as if nothing had happened, drawing a picture.

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Strong doesn’t begin to describe my baby.

Nearly four years after that potentially devastating diagnosis, she is cancer free, and the average person would never know what she had gone through if we don’t tell them. And thought the memories and emotional scars of fighting cancer may never completely disappear, thankfully, there are no visible physical scars or lasting side effects of her treatment. For this, we are thankful — to God and to her medical team.

She was treated at the #1 hospital for pediatric cancer in Georgia; a place where innovation is rewarded, and treatment is delivered on a child-by-child basis. My daughter also participated in a study throughout her treatment, which hopefully will help other children who are battling ALL in the future.

All of this is why it took exactly 2 seconds for me to fall in love with Stand Up to Cancer, a wonderful organization that was created to push innovative cancer research and get new therapies to patients quickly. They’ve managed to bring together the best researchers and encourage collaboration among the cancer community instead of competition. The ultimate goal? To save lives right now. Today. Not at some distant time in the future.

So how can you help? Well, you can do what my husband and I did. You can go out on a lunch date.

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Or have dinner with friends or grab breakfast at your favorite diner.

We had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants after an early showing of the new Hunger Games movie. Who knew that a big plate of the best chicken fried rice I’ve ever had could help save lives?

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Well, most days, it couldn’t. But today, my delicious lunch — paid for with my MasterCard — helped do just that. When you use your MasterCard card to pay for a meal that costs $10 or more, MasterCard will make a donation, one precious cent at a time, to Stand Up To Cancer. They’ve pledged to donate up to $4,000,000.

Four. Million. Dollars. Think about how many lives that could help save. And all you have to do is use your MasterCard next time you eat out. It’s quite literally that easy to Dig in and Do Good for cancer research. Will you help?

Pssst! And while you’re at it, tell your friends that they can help too!

NOTE: It is Black Breastfeeding Week, and although I have never successfully breastfed a baby, my current pregnancy means that I have an opportunity to try again. This issue is important to me, and I figured this is a great time to share my passion and failed experience, in hopes that it will help other women.

The last time I was pregnant was 8 long years ago, and I knew little about being pregnant and even less about breastfeeding. I suspect that this is true for a lot of African American moms and moms-to-be.

I can’t remember ever seeing a woman in my family or my community breastfeed while I was growing up. Formula was the norm. I never even thought about the fact that there was a choice until I was about to become a mother myself. And as I mentioned, this was 8 years ago, before I found my path to green living and just genuinely wasn’t aware enough to try doing better.

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As a result, I told myself I’d “try” to breastfeed my daughter, based on a few paragraphs in a few books I’d read, never thinking of it as worthy of any concerted effort. It didn’t help that no one at the hospital where I delivered seemed at all concerned about whether I would breastfeed. In fact, I had to say repeatedly that I wanted to try, and the nurses were still quick to hand me a bag full of formula and coupons for more.

My attempt to breastfeed lasted exactly 2 days. It hurt, and I had no idea if my baby was latching on properly or getting enough milk, so I stopped. The bottle of formula sitting at the ready seemed a whole lot easier. I gave up. And looking back on it, I wish I could have a do-over.

Me, breasts painfully engorged with milk after I gave up on breastfeeding my daughter 8 years ago.

Me, breasts painfully engorged with milk after I gave up on breastfeeding my daughter 8 years ago.

No one in my circle of friends and family had ever breastfed (to my knowledge), so I didn’t have anyone to ask for advice or support, and I’d never even heard of a lactation consultant or La Leche League.

All of this to say that 8 years and lots of self-education on health and green living later, I know better. And now that I’m pregnant with my second, I plan to do better.

I have surrounded myself with women who have breastfed, and who are advocates for breastfeeding. I currently have a doctor and midwife who specifically asked if I plan to breastfeed and enthusiastically encouraged me when I confirmed that I do. I have a husband who gets it and who knows that this is important to me. And, since I’m a card-carrying punk when it comes to pain, I am mentally preparing myself for the knowledge that yes, breastfeeding will likely hurt, at first, but that the benefits to my and my baby’s health will be worth it. I accept that I may not always know what I’m doing, and I may question myself sometimes, but it will be worth the effort.

And frankly, even if all that were not enough, I’m just looking forward to avoiding the expense of formula, because that stuff isn’t cheap.

I Realize That I’m Fortunate…

I recognize my privilege here. I know I’m in a good position to have a positive breastfeeding experience because I work from home and don’t have to worry about what will happen when I have to go back to work outside the home. A lot of women are not so fortunate.

And while I wouldn’t consider myself militant, I’m also the type of person who would dare anyone to have anything crazy to say about ANY of my personal choices, from my decision to wear my natural hair to my decision to breastfeed, at home or in public. My friends and family members know this about me and tend to respect my choices even if they disagree, so I don’t anticipate any of them will have anything unpleasant to say. If strangers do, they will likely get an earful.

However, a lot of women don’t have my personality or the same type of support in their personal circles. In the African American community, there is often stigma attached to breastfeeding, particularly if you do it for longer than 6-12 months. While I’ve never personally witnessed anything like this, I’ve heard and read all too often about women who’ve had their mamas or aunties or girlfriends tell them to “take that baby off their titty” or all manner of other ridiculous things.

This can make breastfeeding tougher for black moms, particularly in a wider society that already views it as a radical parenting choice and something that should only be done in private or while covered with a cape. A society that thinks this contraption is a viable alternative to just discreetly letting your baby feed by unhooking a nursing bra:

Yes. This is a thing that exists. No, I don't get it either.

Yes. This is a thing that exists. No, I don’t get it either.

I also know that among African Americans, breastfeeding rates are lower and rates of infant mortality, low birth weight and childhood illness are higher. While I have no idea how to fix those problems overnight, I will do my part by letting the women around me see that breastfeeding is a viable option in hopes that seeing it more often will normalize it. And I will do this without judging women who formula feed out of choice or necessity. After all, my formula fed baby was healthy and happy.

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But I just want more black women to know that breastfeeding is a choice too.

Check out these resources if you’re interested in learning more:

Also, the awesome and inspiring Denene Millner of MyBrownBaby.com (@mybrownbaby) will lead a twitter chat for African American parents tonight at 9 p.m. EST using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Check it out. I know that I will.

Linking up with Confession Time at Agape Love Designs.

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You may remember that a few years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, and she officially completed treatment last summer. During the two and a half years she was on treatment, she had to take a long list of medications, mostly in pill form. This started when she was just four years old.

As you can imagine, ever since then, she’s been pretty put off by the idea of taking pills for any reason. Not even chewable vitamin pills which — let’s be honest — never really taste so hot. And while we try to eat a lot of fruits and veggies to get our vitamins and minerals naturally, both my husband and I still take multivitamins and wanted our daughter to do the same.

She’s been seeing the commercials for Disney’s new gummy vitamins on TV for weeks, so when Walmart offered me an opportunity to try them, I was only too happy to oblige. (aff)

To give you an idea of the nutritional value involved, the vitamins contain more than 10 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B, C and D, which will help boost eye health, energy and immune strength, and they contain no artificial flavors or colors. There is also a new fiber gummy vitamin that contains 3 grams of fiber per serving, along with a sugar-free option.

I never thought she would get excited about vitamins, but lo and behold, as soon as I opened the box, she wanted to try one. She chose the Monster’s University themed gummies and took one with dinner.

Let me just put it this way: She wanted a second one. She said they are really juicy, though they’re not super sweet, which makes them feel like a treat. And every day since, she’s taken a gummy vitamin without me having to remind her. I’d say that makes them a win.

In addition to Monster’s University, we received, Phineas & Ferb, Mickey and Avengers themed gummies — enough to last us for a long while.

I’m honestly just thrilled to have found something we won’t have to force her to take.

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.