4 Tips to Get Your Child Ready (and Comfortable) for the First Days of Preschool

It’s hard to believe that summer is basically over. For us moms, it’s even more bittersweet because our little ones are heading back to school. With my daughter starting second grade and my 3-year-old son entering pre-school this week, mixed emotions are running high in my household.

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Me and my little MJ. I love him to pieces! I’m sure he’ll thrive in preschool despite his current anxiety.

While my daughter is beyond excited to go back to school and socialize with her friends, my son is expressing just the opposite. He’s scared, uncertain and downright sad about this new transition in his young life. If your child is also showing signs that he’s not exactly thrilled to spend his days coloring with other kids and participating in circle time, don’t worry—I’ve got you covered.

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Here’s a list of things to do that will hopefully make the transition smoother for you and your child:

  1. Read to your child. Carve out time to read books about preschool in the days leading up to his big day. Books focused on the first day of school will give him an idea of what to expect in the coming days, while giving the two of you quality time. “The Night Before Preschool,” by Natasha Wing is an excellent choice!
  2. Reinforce self-help skills. Now’s the time to let them exert their independence. Encourage them to use the bathroom alone (hand-washing and properly wiping after using the toilet included), put on their shoes, open their snacks, etc. By allowing them to do these things on their own, boosts their confidence and gets them ready for this big stage in their lives.
  3. Start a special routine. Kids love consistency. Create a fun routine that doesn’t take too much time in the morning, but still reassures him that you’re there for him and will continue to be. Whether it’s allowing him to set the table for breakfast or encouraging him to draw a picture before drop-off, the regularity will help him feel secure.
  4. Encourage self-expression. In many cases, this is your child’s first time in a setting where you won’t be present. To a preschooler, that’s frightening. Embolden them to talk about their feelings and why they feel apprehensive or fearful. Knowing that you’re listening and supportive will make them feel safe and loved.

Retail therapy may not be the antidote to your preschooler’s back-to-school jitters, but it definitely won’t hurt. To get your family in the pre-fall, back-to-school spirit, I’ve partnered with Hanes for a fun back-to-school giveaway!

**One lucky reader will win a $50 Visa Hanes gift card, along with 3 back-to-school styles (socks, tees and underwear) from Hanes. The contest is only open to U.S. residents and will run until September 18th, 2017. To enter, simply leave a comment or tweet me with how you plan to make (or made) back-to-school fun for your child. A lucky winner will be notified via email or Twitter by September 20th.

How do you plan to make (or made) back-to-school fun for your child? 

3 Reasons to Love the Disney Wonder Cruise

Last month my family and I went on our first Disney cruise and I can’t stop thinking about our wonderful experience. We sailed on the newly renovated Wonder, which is an absolutely stunning ship and one of Disney’s four vessels in their cruise line fleet.

For three nights and four days, we sailed from Orlando to the breathtakingly beautiful Bahamas and docked at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. I’m still daydreaming about endless eats and turquoise sea. Our cruise was truly a trip of a lifetime. Even though we went as part of Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration, the average cruiser would also be blown away by the amenities, activities and outstanding dining options.

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Incredible Eats

Who doesn’t love good food? Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, carnivore, or somewhere in between, the food options onboard the Wonder are endless. The ship boasts three fine dining restaurants: Tiana’s Place, Animator’s Palate and Triton’s. The food at each restaurant was top-notch, high-quality cuisine. From southern classic shrimp and grits to scrumptious pastas to delectable desserts, my family enjoyed everything that was served. Plus, for those midday and late night nibbles—Cabanas, a casual dining option on the top deck provided quick bites like chicken fingers, French fries and tacos. Oh and did I mention 24-hour room service? We ordered from the extensive menu each night, including warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. The outstanding service and delicious food exceeded our expectations every time.

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Southern classic, shrimp and grits served at Tiana’s Place.

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MJ eating breakfast at Cabana’s.

Grilled Garlic-marinated shrimp served at Animator's Palate.

Grilled Garlic-Marinated shrimp served at Animator’s Palate.

My daughter, Ava, is allergic to eggs so the chef at Triton's served this special egg-free ice cream sundae to her delight.

My daughter, Ava, is allergic to eggs so the chef at Triton’s served this special egg-free ice cream sundae to her delight.

Kid’s Club fit Kings & Queens 

If you have a child over the age of three, the Oceaneer Club will be their favorite hangout. Admittedly, I didn’t think that we’d use this drop-off service during our time aboard the Wonder, but boy was I wrong! Like many paranoid parents, I was hesitant to leave my toddler and 7-year-old in a giant playroom in the middle of the ocean without us around. The impeccable security put all of my fears to rest. Plus, the staff was incredibly personable, friendly and patient—all of the things you need to be when dealing with children. The space was truly a child’s dream: interactive games, arts &crafts, food, movies, slides, iPads, character appearances and more. I literally had to bribe my kids to leave because it was that much fun!

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High-Caliber Productions

We live in New York City, home of the Great White Way. So we’ve been to a couple of Broadway shows, but let me tell you, they aren’t cheap. For a family of four, ticket prices can soar upwards of $800 for a popular musical. That’s why we were so impressed by the shows performed onboard each night. They were comparable to multi-million dollar productions that keep theatergoers coming back to Broadway time after time. During our cruise, we were lucky to see “Golden Mickey’s,” “Dreams” and last but definitely not least, “Frozen.” Each of the shows displayed high-energy performances, awesome storylines, and amazing sets & costumes.

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If you’re Wonder-ing if you should take a Disney cruise, the answer is “yes!” The memories you’ll make with your family will be priceless. We’re already planning our next cruise. Maybe we’ll see you real soon too!

Have you ever sailed aboard a Disney cruise? If so, what was your experience? If not, do you have plans on taking one?

IT Cosmetics’ New Serum Foundation Puts Your Best Face Forward

When it comes to foundation, I’m not the biggest fan. Sure, I have my fair share of blemishes that need to be masked, but concealer has always been my coverage of choice.

That all changed when IT Cosmetics launched its new Confidence in a Compact last month. See, I’ve been obsessed with the brand’s Confidence in a Jar moisturizer for a while now. So, when I heard that they were formulating a foundation that was infused with the moisturizing serum, I had to give it a try.

I’m always stressing the importance of packaging and the vital role it plays in winning me over. Well, IT Cosmetics always delivers in that department. The chic, luxe compact is impeccably designed in a shiny silver case that conveniently holds the makeup sponge on top of the foundation. Plus, unlike most foundations, you don’t have to worry about messy drips or spills because of its sold-to-serum formula.

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Confidence in a Compact™ with SPF 50+ available here, $38 (sold separately).

The scent was the second thing I noticed, it had that same fresh lemony fragrance that I loved from the moisturizer. One of the reasons why I never got into foundations was because of the heavy, cake-y, overly made up look it typically creates, but this one goes on so translucently that it’s like a second skin. The virtually weightless, anti-aging formula can be applied with the accompanying sponge or brush for full coverage. Since I’m still not big on full-face makeup, I do like to blend it with my concealer using my fingertips.

Oh and it keeps skin hydrated without making it greasy or overly shiny (I have super oily skin so I swear by mattifying primers). Available in seven complementary shades, there are four that cater specifically to melanin-rich skin.

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If you’re looking for a convenient foundation to even out your skin tone, definitely get with it – get it? “It” as in IT Cosmetics!

Do you wear foundation on a daily basis or simply for special occasions?

Product Review: Dark and Lovely’s Au Naturale Anti-Shrinkage Clumping Curl Crème Gel

There’s a lot of trial and error that comes with finding the right hair care products that work for both my daughter and me. We have two different curl patterns and usually what works well for her, doesn’t work for me. While she has fine, looser, easily tangled curls, I have denser, zig-zag coils and kinks that require tons of moisture.

Well, to my surprise and delight, Dark and Lovely’s Au Naturale new Anti-Shrinkage Clumping Curl Crème Gel is a godsend for both of our hair types. Formulated with two of my favorite hair care ingredients: argan oil and coconut oil, it provides ultra hydration while instantly eliminating frizz. For my daughter a small dollop defines her curls, creating perfect ringlets. While for me, it elongates and makes my hair easier to style. Also, in case you didn’t know, “clumping” refers to the process of hair strands binding together to create a natural, bigger and better curl.

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Dark and Lovely Au Naturale Anti-Shrinkage Clumping Curl Creme Gel (L) and two of my other faves from the brand: Easy Twist Gel N’ Butter and the Clumping Curl Clay Cleanser.

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In addition, I love that this gel comes in a convenient mess-free tube. I don’t know about you, but packaging can make or break a product—and unlike many crèmes and gels, this one is designed smartly. Plus, did I mention how good it smells? The tropical scent takes me back to my recent trip to the Bahamas.

If your curls needs to be awakened, run don’t walk to your nearest Target or other mass retailer to pick up this product. Trust me, it will breathe new life into your hair.

Have you tried Anti-Shrinkage Clumpling Curl Creme Gel ? If not, what’s your favorite Dark and Lovely product?

The Mane Choice Founder on Growing Her Hair Care Empire

They say necessity is the mother of all creations. For Courtney Adeleye, The Mane Choice founder and CEO, that statement rings true.

Unable to find adequate products to meet her hair care needs, the Alabama-based entrepreneur took matters into her own hands—literally— and concocted various products to treat and care for her hair. Through sharing the results of her homemade mixtures, Adeleye’s videos attracted a large following and gained the trust of countless viewers.

In less than four years, The Mane Choice, which offers a wide variety of multi-cultural hair care and bath and body products is sold in several major retailers including Target, Sally Beauty, CVS and most recently Walmart. In fact, the brand made history by being the first hair vitamin to be featured in the hair aisle (they’re usually reserved for the vitamin aisle). In 2016, the company garnered over 6.5 million dollars in sales, making Adeleye a self-made multi-millionaire seemingly overnight. But we all know that it takes a lot of hard work, determination and business skills to make it to this level.

Earlier this month, I caught up with the nurse-turned-entrepreneur to talk about her rise through the hair care ranks, advice for entrepreneurs and more.

Courtney Adeleye

CEO/Founder of The Mane Choice, Courtney Adeleye

Below, check out our Q&A:

BGG: Describe The Mane Choice customer.
Courtney Adeleye: Here at The Mane Choice, we pride ourselves on providing premium healthy hair care products at an affordable price. Our mission is to create the best solutions for all hair care challenges and total body needs in the beauty space. Like our comprehensive approach to hair and body care, our consumers are very knowledgeable about products and look for items that can remedy multiple hair care concerns. We are just happy to be their main choice for a solution.

BGG: Was working in the beauty/haircare industry a lifelong goal? 
CA: No, I didn’t have an interest in working  in the beauty industry. My background is in science–nursing, specifically. As a YouTube personality, I created a video showcasing my length and shared my deep conditioner recipe, which was partially responsible for my length. I received SO MANY responses and feedback suggesting that I sell my deep conditioner. I had no intentions of doing that, but long story short, I eventually did. One order became two, three, and so on…

BGG:  Did you take any supplementary business courses as a result of pursuing entrepreneurship?
CA: No, I did not formally take any business courses. However, I did my homework on the industry and took what I learned from my nursing background to get to where I am today.

BGG: Did you have mentors in the business prior to launching The Mane Choice? If so, how has their mentorship impacted your business?
CA: Other than past experiences, working closely to the owner/CEO at my former jobs and studying how other business owners conducted business, I didn’t have any mentors prior to launching mine. In my experience, my faith and family were two of the biggest impactors on my business. I have been blessed with a powerful support system and a committed team at The Mane Choice. It becomes easier when people support and buy into your vision. I am especially thankful.

BGG: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner?
CA: I strive to commit to having a positive outlook on life and my company, and focus all of my energy on new ways to best serve The Mane Choice customers. However, doubt from others, not myself, can often try to negatively impact how you view your success and what you’re striving towards.

BGG: What advice would you give a fellow entrepreneur who suffers from self-doubt?  
CA: If there is someone who feels doubted, I would tell them to be so good that they can’t ignore you! I think it’s especially important to focus on and hone your strengths and abilities. Always strive to be the best, the hardest working, and the most knowledgeable. It’s hard to ignore value. I would also remind he or she that in times where there isn’t a way that there is always the option to make one. I think the evidence of this is shown through the multitude of girl [and men] bosses around the world.

BGG:What advice do you have for women, particularly women of color, who want to pursue a career in the beauty/haircare industry? 
CA: My advice would be to strive to be the best at what you do. Do your research and make sure the presentation is just as great, or better than the product or service that you offer.

BGG: Is there any significance behind “purple” being incorporated into your brand or is it simply just a design choice?
CA: We chose purple because it is a regal/royal color. Royalty is what our brand embodies. Royalty depicts the consumers we represent.

BGG: What’s the single most important thing a woman can do to promote healthy hair growth?CA: Consistency is key. Developing a healthy hair growth regimen is paramount to a successful hair growth journey. Using quality products made with quality ingredients, such as The Mane Choice, and adopting great hair care practices will get you to your goals in no time!

BGG: Outside of the hair vitamin, what’s your most popular product? Why do you think it’s a top seller?
CA: Our 3-in-1 is next in line. There’s no other product on the market like it. It’s co-wash and detangler that you can leave-in. Talk about a game changer!

BGG: What makes the Mane Choice different from similar products on the market?
CA: As many may or may not know, my husband is a physician and I am a registered nurse. Together, our backgrounds in science have helped us to formulate our products based on extensive research, for all hair types and textures by infusing each product with vitamins, Biotin, and nutrients. We have successfully developed a comprehensive array of products that can cater to a multi-cultural demographic.

BGG: Describe the most rewarding aspect of your career thus far.
CA: The most rewarding aspect of my career and leader of my company is knowing that The Mane Choice has made such and impact in the lives of others! That impact has created such a demand for our products that we’re now in over 16,000 stores.

BGG: What’s next for The Mane Choice?
CA: You’ll just have to stay tuned. Trust me!

Have you ever used The Mane Choice? If so, what is your favorite product(s) and why?

An Enchanted Experience: Cirque du Soleil—Toruk

Some things are just so beautiful that they take your breath away — leaving you searching for the words to fully justify their magnificence.

That’s exactly the case when it comes to describing the experience that is Cirque du Soleil: Toruk—The First Flight.

I had been looking forward to attending the show ever since the invitation popped up in my inbox a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the days preceding opening night, I had fallen ill with the flu. Thankfully, the night of the show I was well enough to make the three-block trek to the Barclays Center.

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Photo Credit: Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

From wondrous waterfalls to lava spewing craters to amazing acrobatic feats, the show was packed with fanciful performances and stunning sets. The light displays and set designs were so spectacular that my daughter incessantly asked if what she was seeing was “real.”

Photo Credit: Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Photo Credit: Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Plus, the costumes and masterful puppetry were spellbindingly good. The show was akin to a beautiful dream coming to life right before your eyes. It’s no secret that the imagination and sheer talent needed to bring this show to life had to be extraordinary. I tip my hat to the entire team who made the experience an evening to remember.

Photo Credit: Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Photo Credit: Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Despite the show being the night before my daughter’s first day back to school, the late night was well worth it in so many ways.

If the show comes to a city near you, get your tickets now! Click here for tour dates and more information.

The Moodsters: Teaching Preschoolers All About Emotions

Dealing with everyday emotions as adults can be difficult, but for children and toddlers, it can be even trickier.

Thankfully The Moodsters, an educational line of toys and books designed to teach preschoolers about emotional intelligence makes learning about their feelings fun.

Through engaging storytelling—love, fear, sadness, anger and happiness are all personified via friendly characters that go on a quest to help discover and navigate the ups and downs of emotions.

Founded by Denise Daniels, an award-winning broadcast journalist and parenting and child development expert, The Moodsters are the perfect back-to-school gifts for your preschooler.

My almost 3-year-old son adores these books and accompanying toys. He enjoys pointing to each character and muttering their roles: “scary, happy, angry…” The books are really helping him understand the range of his emotions—and we moms know that their moods can change in a millisecond!

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Available at Target and Amazon, these books will be a great addition to your little one’s library and toy chest!

How do you help your child understand and communicate his feelings?