Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Mali to Maryland: Shea Radiance is everywhere!

Photo from the Global Shea Conference in 2010
In March 2010 I attended a global shea conference held in Bamako, Mali (hosted by the West Africa Trade Hub and the Global Shea Alliance). One woman I met during the conference was Funlayo Alabi who owns a shea butter business called Shea Radiance. I was excited to meet her because my host mom, Annie, and I spent a lot of time talking about shea butter - from how to make it to how to sell it to how to use it. 

After I learned more about her product line, Funlayo and I started talking about our origins and she told me she was from Nigeria. She asked me where I was from and I said Virginia Beach, VA. Now how many people do you think have heard of Virginia Beach outside of the United States? Or even outside of Virginia? Funlayo had not only heard of Virginia Beach, she had lived there! She told me that she received a degree from Regent University and that now she was based out of Maryland and traveling back and forth to West Africa for her shea business. I thought, wow, what are the odds that at this conference in Mali I would meet someone from Sub-Saharan Africa who had not only heard of my hometown, but had lived in it?

Flash forward five years later. I left Mali. I got married (twice!). Abdoulaye and I bought a house in Hyattsville, Maryland and we had a baby! Our baby girl is what brings me to this blog post today. While Abdoulaye and I share many of our parenting ideals, there are a number of ways we're approaching this new adventure that are different simply because of where we grew up. And while I love shea butter as much as the next Returned (Environmental) Peace Corps Volunteer, I hadn't considered it as a staple for my baby's medicine cabinet.
Keeping my baby's nose clean since 2015
Abdoulaye, on the other hand, saw shea butter as a non-negotiable and so I began my search for some. But I didn't want just any shea butter - I wanted the good stuff. No additives. No perfumes. No chemicals. No words I couldn't pronounce. All those requirements led me to Yes! Organic Market in downtown Hyattsville, a short walk from our home. While searching the aisles, I found what I was looking for and picked up a small tub. I looked at the label to make sure it was 100% shea butter and imagine my surprise when I saw the name of the brand, Shea Radiance, Funlaylo’s company! I made a noise to match my surprise and told a man who worked at the grocery store standing nearby the story of how I had met the owner of the company. He nodded and said, oh you know Funlayo? I said, do you know Funlayo?? He nodded his head and kept going on with his business - I kept standing there letting my head shake with my jaw dropped.
The face of a happy shea butter baby
From Mali to Maryland - it looks like shea butter is here to stay in my life and I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Butterfly Baby

Our little girl is just over 12 weeks and filling out her rolls a little bit more every day. We're still adjusting to our new sleep schedule (Lillie Foulé is, too, it seems) but a flexible work schedule for Abdoulaye and a long maternity leave for me are making it all doable. I'm thankful to be settled in Hyattsville for a spell after a number of trips along the East Coast and grateful for our warm home on snowy days like today.

I've been looking back at blogposts from my time in Mali - including ones from when Abdoulaye and I were dating - and I can't help but shake my head at all that's happened in the past few years. I wake up in the morning to this little cinnamon roll who is smiling at me with her gummy grin and I feel this swelling of my heart. Don't get me wrong, her fussy spells - and she definitely has them! - can be exhausting and draining. But when she snuggles her head into the crook of my left arm or sees me smiling at her and then smiles back at me and sometimes gives me a laugh, I get a boost and a little baby high. 

In the past few days, Lillie Foulé has started to grab onto things with some real force - her little fingers curling tightly around toy rings or, when it's within reach, my poor hair. She's still sleeping in her bunny bed/co-sleeper and not loving the crib but at least she's sleeping! Bath times are a highlight of the day as Abdoulaye gets the lint out of her crevices and I smile on as he goes through the parts of the body in Susu. 

As I write, LF is waking up from a long nap. Her little hands are stretching up and over her head and she's figuring out how to stick her fingers in her mouth with her eyes shut and little toes kicking out of the bottom of her blanket. If there's one thing EVERY parent says to me, it's that these moments don't last forever and to cherish them while they're here. I'm going to give my butterfly baby a snuggle and do just that.

sweet headband from Grandmother Shellnutt

rolls for days

Monday, February 2, 2015

9 states (and the District!) before turning 9 weeks

In between grabbing cloth inserts for her diapers and giving Abdoulaye kisses goodbye, we were able to snap a few eight week pictures. Our little bunny is growing! After returning from our trip down the Eastern Seaboard, Lillie Foulé and I had a couple days to hang in Hyattsville before my mom drove up to our home and then flew with us to Memphis, TN en route to Tupelo, MS to see my cousin! 

While it was a quick turnaround, I'm also aware that this is a unique time in our life - it won't be this easy to travel with her ever again! Of course, people have varying opinions when I tell them about our travels. Some say 'I could never do that!' and others say 'Do it while you can!' Thankfully (for me and the other passengers on the planes we've been on), Lillie Foulé is a great little traveler and snoozed through the take-off and landing for all of our plane trips thus far. 
Lillie Foulé loves Mississippi and maroon does look quite nice on her
 Waiting for us at the gate were my cousin, Martha, and her sweet husband, Matt. I'm lucky to have a cousin like her since we not only share blood & kin :) but also interests. She's got a pretty super sister, too - I loved reminiscing by checking out her wedding post from 2012 (!!).  Coincidentally, the last time I was in Mississippi was in 2008 for Matt & Martha's nuptials! Mom and I were way overdue for a visit.
Not sure if the sound hole is actually for a face but Lillie Foulé's fits perfectly!
When we arrived, Matt & Martha were waiting for us at the gate and then drove us directly to their gorgeous home about an hour and some change away. After getting acquainted with their pups, we snuggled right into relaxing on their couches and that's where we stayed for the long weekend - delightful! While LF and I have been moving around a lot, we've also been relaxing once we get to where we're going - and that's been great. Martha spoiled us with homemade meals (including cinnamon rolls ohmahgoodnessss!) and is the ultimate hostess with bathrooms filled with all the products (full-size I might add) you may have forgotten at home. I felt like a queen with a double-sink vanity to myself!
We all have the same nose! I love this picture even with the countertop in the foreground. 
When we ventured out of the house on Sunday, we went to Bishop's BBQ, which was divine, and then (after some retail therapy) went to Bop's Frozen Custard. After getting my oreo malt, I attempted to engage the high school student manning the cash register in a conversation just to hear his sweet southern accent. Oh Mississippi.
Then we headed to Elvis' birthplace and Martha took my new favorite picture of my mom, LF and me in front of the house he was born in that was built by his father. We got there too late to tour the museum but had fun wandering around outside before the cold sent us back into the car and home for more Gilmore Girls.
Thank you very much.

Sweet, sweet photo taken by Martha. 
On our way to the airport we stopped in at Lost Pizza, Co. for our last Tupelo meal of the trip - we weren't disappointed! Mom and I shared the Happy Hippie pizza (like a mediterranean) as we reminisced about our trip with our favorite Mississippians. With a direct flight to Memphis, I hope our next visit to Tupelo won't be so far away!
Sunset in Memphis (trying to wear her out before the flight to avoid a fussy bedtime like she'd been having - it worked!) 
As for traveling with my little dumpling (at 8 weeks), the Ergo carrier was a must for us and I just needed to stay hydrated and fed so I could feed her. I also loved the snap n' go stroller for her car seat - it makes moving around the airport a breeze when I can't hold her!
Airport diaper change - Granne is so talented!
More pictures from our trip here!
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