Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Dawes Talks Family, Healthy Eating and Her Legacy

I remember 1996 like it was yesterday. I was a sophomore in high school and can vividly recall being transfixed by the Olympics. It was the first time that I watched the world’s biggest sports spectacle on TV and one gymnast in particular was responsible for my fascination—Dominique Dawes. The gold-medal winning champion looked like me and that was mind-blowing to see, even in the mid-1990s.

That year, Dawes and the rest of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team (often referred to as the “Magnificent Seven”) took home the U.S. gold. She also won the individual bronze medal—becoming the first African-American to win an individual Olympic medal in women’s gymnastics. These accolades and ground-breaking records inspired countless young African-American girls and women (myself included) to pursue their dreams in sports and beyond. So, you can imagine how excited I was to meet her at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration earlier this year during the GoGo squeeZ activation.

Now a mom of two, the former gymnast is a GoGo squeeZ Goodness Ambassador where she helps further the applesauce and yogurt brand’s mission of making it easier for kids and families to be a little healthier and happier every day.

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I recently caught up with Dominique to discuss food, family and of course winning the gold! Check out our Q&A below:

BGG: What’s your favorite meal to prepare for your children? Why?
Dominique Dawes: For my two kids, I must be creative, but I have some picky eaters. One day they will love my mac and cheese with roasted cauliflower added in and then another day they won’t even touch it.  My girls do love Brussels sprouts and broccoli so I have made a few different renditions of those vegetables. Roasting, sautéing, adding garlic, twist of lemon, and a few other ingredients that will attract their last buds. And anything that provides protein, fruit and/or veggies is a win in my book when it comes to snacks. Bonus points if I can take it on the go, like GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ or peanut butter and a banana.

BGG: How do you incorporate GoGo squeeZ into your daughters’ meals? Do you have any fun recipes that you make with the applesauces?
DD: My girls love granola bars, so one of our favorite things to make together are my YogurtZ Bars using GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ. We make them using Strawberry or Banana GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ, fruit, nuts, and a few other simple ingredients. They take just 25 minutes to make, and the GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ gives them 4 grams of protein and a good source of calcium and vitamin D. I add that to their lunch to balance out their meal. They feel like they’re having a treat, but it’s something I feel good about them eating!  Also, I love to add GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ to their smoothies!

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BGG: How do you instill healthy eating habits in your children at such a young age?
DD: I provide them with a variety of different healthy options and I love spices and fresh herbs that add to the flavoring of all types of foods that I make for my girls.  They have enjoyed going to the farmer’s market and we talk about the different foods and how they are grown.  For the past two years, we have had a small herb and vegetable garden on our deck so my daughters feel like they have some ownership over the food that we make. Weekly, they will cut fresh herbs or a vegetable from our garden and add it to a dish that we make together.

BGG: How do your daughters inspire you?
DD: They remind me what’s important in life. It’s about enjoying the little things.  When we will go for a walk and they will stop to pick a flower and comment on its fragrance, to pick up a caterpillar and inspect every spot on its back, they will stop when they hear a bird chirping and wait patiently for it to fly from a tree…I am amazed to see life through the eyes of my daughters because that is when I realize that all the things that I worry about are not important.

BGG: What’s the biggest misconception about motherhood?
DD: That motherhood is routine. Every day is different from the next.

BGG: I know you started taking gymnastics classes when you were six, did you always have dreams of becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist?
DD: My dreams of becoming an Olympic wasn’t until I was around 11 years old.  I won a local competition and the journey began soon after that.

BGG: As the first African-American to make the national women’s team and the first to win an individual medal in women’s gymnastics, what advice would you give to aspiring young gymnasts of color?
DD: Well, the beauty is that Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles have continued to pave the way for young girls of color to see the sport of gymnastics as an opportunity for them to excel. Having positive role models that are examples of a strong work ethic and never giving is key.

BGG: If you weren’t a three-time Olympic champion, what kind of career would you have pursued?
DD: FBI agent.

BGG: Would you ever want your girls to become professional athletes?
DD: No, I want them to have a more well-rounded childhood and not make the same sacrifices that I did.

BGG: It’s been 21 years since you won the Olympic gold, other than winning, what stands out to you the most about that time in your life?
DD: What stands out most is that even after 21 years of making history people still come up to up to me to talk about that historic moment.  They remember where they were and the emotions they felt.  Just the other day two young kids came to my door for a photo because their dad and grandmother told them about my career.  So, I showed them my gold medal and they both lit up and talked about my performances that they looked at on YouTube.

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BGG: What fun activities do you and your family enjoy doing to stay healthy?
DD: We are a very active family.  My girls don’t care to sit still of long so we are always out walking, at the park, biking, going to open gym at a local gymnastics gym or just dancing at our home.  My husband loves to have dance parties with the girls and both my girls love performing gymnastics moves in our living room so there is never dull moment at home.

BGG: Do you have a workout regimen to maintain your healthy lifestyle?  
DD: My workout regimen today is being active and engaged with my girls daily. It’s incredible how two toddlers can put me through a much more rigorous workout keeping up with them than a fitness class.

BGG: What do you want your legacy to be?
DD: I would like to be known as a mother that put her faith and family first.  Inspiring others along the way either it be through my Olympic accomplishments or philanthropic endeavors (encouraging others to live a healthy lifestyle) would be icing on the cake.

Do you remember watching Dominique Dawes during the 1996 Olympics? What healthy snack wins the gold in your household?

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? 

Product Review: Baby Dove + GIVEAWAY

When it comes to trusted health and body care products for me and my family, Dove is always top of mind. In case you didn’t hear, the 60-year old brand recently released a line dedicated to our littlest family members: babies.

Yep, the brand behind the celebrated Beauty Bar is now bringing its skincare expertise to infants with its new Baby Dove line. Developed for babies with normal to dry skin, this mild hypoallergenic array of products including Body Wash, Body Lotion, Face & Body Wipes, Shampoo and Baby Bar soothes baby’s sensitive skin and moisturizes effortlessly.

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Baby Dove products are available here, starting at TK  

Although I’m no longer a mom to babies, I do have a toddler whom I’ve tested these new offerings on. However, when my 7-year-old daughter blurted out that these products were for “babies,” my son wasn’t too pleased. I assured him it was also for big boys and that it would make his skin smooth and smell yummy—and I was right. As expected, it smelled fresh and clean, but not too fragrant.

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Plus, the body wash hydrated his skin like no other cleanser I’ve ever used. Usually, after bathing, his skin looks super ashy and dry as if he’s rolled around in baby powder! Luckily, after using the new body wash, his skin appeared and felt moisturized—even before applying lotion. The rich formula reminds me of the regular Dove Body Wash that I swear by, which leaves my dry skin super soft after just one shower.

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While I could skip the lotion with him, I still rub it on because it locks in moisture and provides an added layer of hydration. Plus, it amplifies that baby fresh scent that I love.

If the positive results I’ve experienced with my 3 ½ year-old son are any indication, this innovative formula would work wonders on babies with even gentler skin.

**GIVEAWAY**Have you used the new Dove Baby line? If so, what are your thoughts? I’ve teamed up with Dove to give one lucky reader the chance to win the entire line along with a few Beauty Bars (for moms). The winner will be randomly selected and announced on July 5th. This contest is only open to U.S. residents

How do you make bath time fun for your children?

CVS Pharmacy Removing All Sunscreen Lower Than SPF 15

Summer is almost here, which means even more time to spend out in the sun. Sure, Vitamin D is a good thing, but soaking up rays without the right protection is a no-go.

That’s why CVS Pharmacy’s new Long Live Skin campaign is aiming to increase awareness around skin health and the importance of proper skincare. We brown girls have to do away with the notion that our melanin is enough to safeguard us from harmful UV rays because it’s not. In fact, melanoma tends to be more deadly for us African-Americans according to a July 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. While the incidence of melanoma is higher in our Caucasian counterparts, we tend to get diagnosed in its later stages leading to the lowest overall survival rate.

That’s why I’m so impressed that CVS Pharmacy is the only national retailer to remove all sun care products with SPF lower than 15 from shelves and has added more than 30 new SPF+/broad spectrum products to sun care sets that either meet or exceed FDA standards. That’s a commendable step in providing consumers with the best information so that they make smart, informed purchases. Plus, the Skin Care Foundation has certified CVS Health brand SPF products with a Seal of Recommendation.

So, go ahead, have fun in the sun, but be sure to spray or lather on the sunscreen!

Below, check out some of CVS Pharmacy’s SPF offerings:

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Aveeno Active Naturals Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen available here, $11.80

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Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen available here, $10

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CVS Pharmacy Kids Clear Sunscreen Spray available here, $9.50

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Promise Organic SPF 30 Coconut Sunscreen Stick available here, $10

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CVS Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lotion available here, $8.50

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CVS Beach Guard Clear Spray available here, $10

Do you use sunscreen every day? Do you have any fun for the Memorial Day holiday weekend? 

GIVEAWAY: My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Fashion Runway Playset

I don’t know about you, but growing up, Easter was by far my favorite holiday. Sure, Santa Claus, countless gifts and yuletide carols made Christmas wonderful, but old Saint Nick didn’t have anything on the Easter bunny.

See, I love the spring. Trench coat weather, flowers in full bloom, pretty pastels abound and of course, Easter! What’s not to love? My penchant for Easter and spring has been passed down to my kids too.

From egg dyeing to backyard egg-hunts, I make Easter fun and hopefully unforgettable for my family. This year, I’ve partnered with Hasbro to make my daughter’s candy-filled Easter basket even more special. The popular toy brand has recently released, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Rarity® Fashion Runway Playset, that I know my daughter will fancy. She’s been obsessed with My Little Pony since she was four—I am an ‘80s baby so I totally understand—I grew up collecting the adorable ponies too.

The fashion-centric playset comes with 3 super cute clip-on outfits and 7 hair and fashion accessories. I know my daughter is going to flip when she sees this in her Easter basket on Sunday. I’ve never put toys in there before so I’m sure this will be a welcomed surprise. Now, I have to figure out what toy the “Easter Bunny” will place in my son’s basket!

MLP Rarity Fashion Playset - In-Pack

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Rarity® Fashion Runway Playset available here, $20

What are you planning to put in your children’s Easter baskets this Sunday? Since it might be two late to get this playset in time for Easter, it would still be a pretty awesome just-because gift that I’m sure the little girl in your life would adore. Simply leave a comment below sharing your most memorable Easter growing up (or as an adult) or tweet me @BrownGirlGumbo.  Two lucky winners will be randomly selected and notified via email on or by Thursday 4/20/2017. This giveaway is only open to U.S residents. 

New Victory Theater’s ‘Something’ Has Something for Everyone

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Living with two small children under the age of 8 can sometimes make my apartment feel like my own private circus. Every night I get the pleasure of sitting ringside watching my kids in action—the nonstop acrobatics, tricks and constant stunts seem to transform my living room into a stage of never-ending antics.

So, when I heard about New Victory Theater’s new show, Something,” I knew that it was something that my kids would love! This past Saturday we headed to Times Square to see the contemporary Italian cirque (circus). Featuring awe-inspiring aerial acts, dance, and physical comedy, the show was jam-packed with entertaining bits throughout. Comprised of an incredibly talented troupe of seven, the 60-minute show was perfect for my two kids. My 3-year-old son couldn’t stop clapping while my 7-year-old daughter’s looked on in amazement.

From colorful balloons seemingly lifting a performer into the air to a foot-tapping game of poker, the fun props, costumes, silly sets and scenes set the stage for an enjoyable afternoon. In fact, some of acts didn’t end at the theater—for me; many of the scenes were “recreated” the rest of the weekend back in my living room. The only thing that was missing was the popcorn.

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New Victory Theater always offers complimentary arts and crafts that complement the performance before and after each show.

New Victory Theater always offers complimentary arts & crafts and educational activities that complement the performance before and after each show.

New Victory Theater always offers complimentary arts & crafts and educational activities that complement the performance before and after each show.

New Victory Theater always offers complimentary arts & crafts and educational activities that complement the performance before and after each show.

“Something” runs into April 16, 2017. Click here for tickets and more information.

What’s the last live show you’ve seen? What’s your favorite Broadway or off-Broadway show?

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?