November 2012

Advent Candles

Rather than have gifts be the focus of Christmas at our house, B and I want to instill in our girls the understanding of what the season is really about, and that begins with celebrating Advent — which begins this Sunday. I love Advent; It offers an alternative to getting swept up in the commercialism and fast pace of the holiday season. It also makes the Christmas season all the more meaningful and fun.

We haven’t decided how best to celebrate Advent this year, given the fact that we can’t teach or explain much because of our limitations with language. I think, however, that some of the symbols and colors of the season can make an impact, such as an Advent wreath with candles, and perhaps a violet table runner or tablecloth. (I was thinking of an Advent calendar, but I sense that might cause a few problems.) We may also decorate for Christmas a little earlier this year — partly for time-constraint reasons, but also to get the girls involved.

Although Advent is a Christian season, the themes of light, hope, waiting, and preparation are great for anyone who wants to enjoy this time of year a little more. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be intense, and Advent makes for a little more sanity and mindfulness.

If you celebrate Advent, what’s your favorite part of the season?

Despite the fact that my computer was in the shop for three days, I managed to find a few links this week that I thought you might enjoy:

Have a slow weekend, and see you back here on Monday!

Image via Pinterest at The Transplanted Baker


by Margaret Cabaniss

I was a little torn about posting a Christmas gift guide today. On the one hand, I could rant long and hard about the commercialization of the season, the pressure to buy more and more stuff, and the inevitable creep of Black Friday gift buying (which, apparently, now starts before the Thanksgiving plates are even cleared). It’s not even December yet, for pity’s sake.

On the other hand, holiday gifts are fun! What’s more, I’ve noticed that the sooner I get my Christmas shopping done, the more I can relax, slow down, and enjoy the season — which is, ostensibly, what this site is all about.

So, in that spirit, I’ve put together a little SlowMama Holiday Gift Guide, featuring unique natural or handmade items for the men, women, and kids on your list — fun things you can feel good about giving (with a few gifts that give back). Wherever possible, I’ve linked to small, independent vendors (read: lots and lots of Etsy shops), though “locally made” will vary depending on where you are. And, of course, there’s a bit of self-selection bias here; I understand that not every gal would be thrilled to get her very own spool of baker’s twine for Christmas, but if the women on your shopping list are anything like me, you should be golden. If nothing else, I hope it inspires you in your own gift-giving this year.

On to the recommendations!

For the Ladies

CB I Hate PerfumeGuaranteed to win over any girl who has ever had a hard time finding perfume that she liked (ahem). These perfumes contain no alcohol — just oil, water, and fragrance — and the scents are light, lovely, and unique. My personal favorite is “M. Hulot’s Holiday,” though I’ve always been drawn to “In the Library”…seriously, who doesn’t want to smell like a stack of books?

Recycled Stackable RingsI love how these bands made of recycled silver and gold manage to look delicate without being girly. Wear them separately or pile on a great whack of them; they look great both ways.

Baker’s Twine. No, I’m not kidding. Do you know how stoked I would be to find this in my stocking? There is nothing you can’t do with baker’s twine. Give me 2,300 feet of it, and stand back.

Theo Caramels. I toured this fair-trade, organic chocolate factory when I visited Seattle and wanted to take up permanent residence there. Buying women chocolate may be a cliche, but I’m all in favor of cliches that taste this good.

Punjammies. Yes, they’re cute pajama pants, but they’re also so much more: Punjammies are handmade by women living in after-care facilities in India who have survived a life of forced prostitution. The organization offers these women security, healing, and training in a marketable skill, helping return to them their sense of dignity and self-worth. How’s that for a Christmas gift?

Natural Edge Wood Cutting Board. Camille, the woman behind these beautiful cutting boards, is a mother of two living off the grid in Oregon; she salvages all the wood used for her boards and finishes them each by hand. (While you’re at it, check out her fantastic blog about her back-to-the-land lifestyle.)

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. A quick perusal of the SlowMama recipe archives should give you some idea of how obsessed we all are with Deb and her amazing recipes. Guaranteed to be a hit.

Kinfolk Magazine SubscriptionA beautifully photographed lifestyle magazine centered around the pleasures of small gatherings. Lovely in every way.

Purl Soho’s Learn to Knit Kit. Purl Soho in New York has the most beautiful yarn products; this handy little package includes everything a beginner needs to start knitting, including needles, two skeins of yarn (offered in 12 different colors), and three scarf patterns.

Art Print. 20×200 strives to offer “art for everyone,” releasing limited-edition prints by emerging and established artists that won’t break the bank.


For the Menfolk

Moultrie Flag Print. If you have a Southern boy on your list, just about anything in the Old Try shop is bound to be a hit. I particularly love this print of South Carolina’s Fort Moultrie flag.

Root LiqueurI’ve talked about Root before; it’s the perfect gift for anyone who likes his history and his booze. Truly delicious stuff.

Cast Iron Skillet. The only piece of kitchen equipment that gets better with age. If he likes to cook, this will become his new work horse. Lodge makes all their great cookware at their factory in Tennessee; I love everything I’ve ever bought from them.

Scarf. There are so many places you could get a beautiful, functional winter scarf, but this lovely Irish lambswool number from L.L. Bean is a great start.

Collapsible Camping Coffee Filter. The pour-over coffee method is nothing new, but it’s suddenly popular again in all the hippest coffee shops. He gets to be rugged and cutting edge at the same time!

Red Wing BootsRed Wings are made to last a lifetime right here in the USA; odds are your dad (or even his dad) still has a pair kicking around his closet. They’re definitely pricey, but when you consider that he’ll likely be wearing them for the next 10-plus years, they can absolutely be worth the investment.

Walnut Wood iPad Stand. Turn that tablet into a piece of art.

Portland General Store Sampler. A selection of all-natural shave creams, shampoo and conditioner, and cologne, packaged in old pharmacy-style bottles and a cigar box. So much cooler-looking than women’s bath products.

Leatherman Multitool. Every man needs a good pocketknife.


For the Littles

Toms ShoesThey’re trendy, which the kids will like — and for every pair bought, Toms sends another to a needy child, which you will like.

Soy Wax Crayon Rocks. Perfect for little hands.

All-Natural Baby RattleIt’s never too soon to start teaching your little one about the benefits of buying organic.

Superhero MaskAdd a bath towel for a cape, and they’ll be set for hours. (I stumbled on this item — and the cape below — via the Etsy Blog, which has tons of other gift guides to peruse…)

Woolen Cape. Etsy is a great place to look for one-of-a-kind pieces like this. How sweet is this little cape?

Wooden Steamroller. I love toys that don’t make mechanical noise. The kids add their own sound effects, and mom doesn’t have to spend the rest of her Christmas budget on batteries and aspirin.

Natural Wood Fairy Wands. Now with 100% less Disney branding.

Antique Wooden ScooterMore Etsy awesomeness.

The American Boys Handy Book. A classic of American childhood, written by one of the founders of the Boy Scouts over 130 years ago, and still as engaging as ever. Perfect for when your boys (or girls!) complain that “there’s nothing to do.”

Felt Stuffed Animal. If I were actually to buy this guy, there is a better than even chance that I’d end up keeping him for myself.

*     *     *

Looking for even more ideas? Check out Zoe’s gift guide from last year (part one and part two), or my list of handmade gift items from 2011. Anything in particular you’re hoping to give or receive this year? Know of other great vendors or worthy causes that deserve a look this holiday season? Leave them in the comments!

Opening image by soultga. All others sourced from their respective links.


Giveaway: YoBlocks

November 28, 2012

Giveaway Blocks!

I have a fabulous giveaway today.

On Monday, I mentioned how I’ve become more intentional about my holiday gift-giving, and I know I’m not the only one. Today’s giveaway is a product I can totally get behind.

From the moment I heard about YoBlocks, I thought they were great. These are personalized blocks, handmade in Brooklyn using only eco-friendly materials — untreated wood from domestic, sustainable forests; organic, biodegradable paint; and water-based sealant. Christine Mladic, the creator of YoBlocks, was inspired to start her company after making personalized blocks for her niece and nephew. You can read her story here. (By the way, her niece and nephew happen to be the children of a cool mom I’ve interviewed previously on SlowMama.)


YoBlocks come in two-inch wooden cubes, and you can email favorite photos for your personalized set or choose from a gorgeous online photo collection. I can think of all kids of neat images I’d put on these blocks for our girls — scenes of Ethiopia that they recognize; or perhaps the faces of all the aunts, uncles, and cousins who live far away and have yet to meet; or even objects that can help expand their English vocabulary. The blocks are great for kids with a multicultural heritage, but also for visual learners. Plus I just love how beautiful they are.

Playing with YoBlocks

YoBlocks was written up in The Huffington Post, and you can visit their etsy store to see pre-designed block sets. There’s also a great video on the web site.

Today, Christine has offered one lucky SlowMama reader a set of six personalized blocks, each with room for four photos (that’s a total of 24 pics you can have on your blocks). A big thanks to Christine for providing SlowMama this great giveaway right in time for the holidays!

To enter, leave a comment telling me a favorite gift you remember from childhood. (And apologies, but Christine is not yet set up for international shipping, so this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.) I’ll pick and announce the winner next Wednesday, December 5. Good luck!

By the way, this week only, Christine is offering 20% off YoBlocks sets and gift certificates, so be sure to check it out!  There is also free domestic shipping through the end of November.

Images from Christine Mladic/YoBlocks


by Abby Scharbach

St. Nick Supplies

As soon as Thanksgiving ends, seven very excited kids at my house begin to count down the days until December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas. Drawing on the many European traditions celebrating St. Nicholas Day, our family shares a special, early-morning breakfast in the dining room, where the kids find full Christmas stockings at their place at the table. It’s become a much-anticipated part of Advent for all of us, and I love that we can enjoy stockings and the St. Nicholas story apart from the hustle and bustle of Christmas day.

This year, filling the stockings has proven to be a bit of a challenge. While we’ve never eaten as much sugar as the Joneses, I would usually suspend the rules for Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. But this year, as it turns out, I have an unprecedented level of buy-in from my kids: We’ve been eating gluten- and dairy-free since the summer, and my kids — getting older and more label-savvy — have been sending not-so-subtle hints that they are ready to forgo Willy Wonka and Hershey in exchange for something a little more wholesome. A mother’s dream come true, right?

So, I thought I’d share the stocking stuffers that I’ve come up with so far. I had three criteria for treats: They had to be labeled with a short list of recognizable (and acceptable) ingredients, easy on the budget (everything is multiplied by seven around here), and easy to find locally for a time-crunched mama.

My kids love the dried fruit at Trader Joe’s, so I purchased each of them a bag of our favorite dried mangoes. (When you are one of seven, your own anything is a treat!) And since they also love a summer fruit salad, I decided to buy a number of bags of freeze-dried fruit, mix them into a “salad,” and repackage them in candy bags from the craft store.

Dried Fruit Salad Bags

If you love peppermint and chocolate, you have to try Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Honey Mints. They’re on my daughter’s candy wishlist and only have three ingredients: chocolate, honey, and oil of peppermint. These peppermints aside, it’s actually hard to find chocolate without soy or corn, so I also decided to make a simple chocolate bark of my own. I poured melted chocolate over trail mix, let it cool, and voila! Corn-free, soy-free chocolate bark.

Chocolate Bark

To round out their stocking treats, I added a handmade candy cane from Whole Foods, natural beef jerky sticks, and GoNaturally hard candy. I also plan to put a pomegranate in the foot of each stocking (it was a huge hit last year).

Besides the sweet treats, I usually put one or two small but useful gifts in their stockings, too. Some things we’ve done in the past are cozy socks, mini coloring books, stickers, and fun hats and mittens; this year, I’m on the lookout for hacky sacks and maybe some cute fingerless gloves. I think I’ll top it all off with a note from my husband and me — because the most important thing we give them, of course, is our love and care!

What are your stocking ideas this year?

Images: Abby Scharbach. Abby is a homeschooling mama of seven based in Baltimore, MD.


Rethinking Holiday Gift-Giving

November 26, 2012

Christmas Gifts

My friend Jamie recently posted about her family’s decision to forego Christmas presents this year. She has two young boys and enjoys lovely things as much as the next girl, but she wanted to get back to the meaning of the season and focus on what’s important to them.

I also posted this article on Friday, in which the writer advocates banning all gift-giving — except perhaps to immediate loved ones. He says festive gift-giving has lost its meaning: People spend more than they can afford, obligations are created to reciprocate (again, often beyond our means), landfills are clogged with more unnecessary stuff, and the whole thing teaches children to be retail snobs.

All of this got me thinking about my own general approach to Christmas gift-giving — and what to do this year. I have, for a long time now, tried to de-commercialize the season by not venturing into malls; buying local and handmade, or making my own gifts; and being intentional about what I buy and where. Gift-giving and receiving definitely fits in with the meaning of Christmas, and I think it’s a lovely tradition; it’s just that it’s gotten out of hand everywhere you look.

My biggest dilemma around holiday gifts continues to be the amount of loved ones I have — all of whom live far away. I have nine siblings, fourteen nieces and nephews (and counting), two parents (who are divorced and have significant others), many in-laws, four godchildren, a couple of relatives I like to acknowledge, and numerous friends with whom I enjoy exchanging gifts — not to mention a husband, and now two little girls. All of this can amount to a lot of gifts and high shipping costs, when you consider that 90 percent of it has to be wrapped, boxed, and mailed well in advance.

Whenever I’ve thought about who I can eliminate from my list, though, it doesn’t seem to work. I end up staring at each name and thinking, “Well, I can’t forget her.” Or, “He really deserves something.” Even when I’ve decided to keep gifts super small and inexpensive, it adds up — and the mailing costs are still there.

It makes it easier that my family members do not expect anything at Christmas. (Although it would feel weird not to at least acknowledge my parents.) My husband is an only child, so we can’t forget his parents — now just his mom. My friends always understand if I say I don’t plan to give them a gift, but I have to say that exchanging something thoughtful with them — especially in person — is fun. I started a tradition of sending my godchildren a small ornament each year so that each will have his or her own collection when it’s time to leave home and set up a Christmas tree.

It’s not that I feel pressured or obligated to give any gifts, I just like doing it. Nevertheless, for lots of reasons — time, finances, and focusing on the real meaning of the season — it’s important for me to continually revisit how to best handle this  part of Christmas.

In our own little household this year, we’re sticking to the same theme we’ve been living by lately: simplicity. We’ll buy the girls a couple special things and space any other gifts they receive throughout the 12 days of Christmas so that they aren’t overwhelmed and will better appreciate each item. B and I will probably treat each other to a couple of small things, but not much. (I always need some dark chocolate and he always needs a book, after all.) My mother-in-law will be here, and we’ll make sure she’s not forgotten — but she certainly won’t expect or want much. Someday, I’d love to do something interesting as a family — a service project, a meaningful trip, host a needy family. For now, though, it will be a relaxed, cozy celebration at home — our first as a family.

What is your approach to holiday gift-giving? Has it changed over the years? What will you be doing this year?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul


Thanksgiving Pie

What you see above was the extent of my Thanksgiving cooking this year. I had to do something, so I made a pie. It was originally going to be a sweet potato pie, per B’s request, but then he decided to request his second favorite instead — a Southern-style chocolate pudding pie — since the girls like chocolate and might be inclined to eat it. (They’re my daughters, after all.) We’ll probably find out today, since we didn’t get to it yesterday after stuffing ourselves with Ethiopian food.

If you’re relaxing today, after a day of feasting and family time, I found a few items you might enjoy checking out…

  • In case you want to put some new Thanksgiving recipes in the queue for next year, here’s what Garden & Gun picked this year. Definitely a few of these Southern recipes calling my name.
  • In case you still haven’t had enough pumpkin. (I so want to make these, but I’m afraid they won’t get eaten around here.)
  • If you’re a blogger, can you relate to this humorous post by Claudia? (I could — and for the record, she’s one of my favorite bloggers).
  • My African girls hate the cold and would look so cute in these!
Hope the rest of your weekend is slow, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image:  Zoe Saint-Paul


Giving Thanks

November 22, 2012

S Walking In Fall Leaves

While I may not be enjoying turkey with all the trimmings today, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to pause and be grateful, and I’m grateful for so much right now!  I love lists, so I hope you don’t mind if I share some of what I’m giving thanks for today in list form…

  • For my husband, who continues to impress me with each new phase of our life together, and has already proven what a great father he’d be.
  • For the great privilege of being able to adopt. Yes, it’s hard in these early weeks, but I can’t think of a more meaningful thing to be doing with my time. And for these particular two little girls — who, despite what I’ll call their ongoing adjustment — are cute and funny and smart and fun, and have already changed us.
  • For my family, which I always especially miss during holidays, because they are The Best. (Trying not to tear up…)
  • For generous friends, in particular those who, over the past few months, have given us so much support — practical help, meals, encouragement, advice, financial contributions, prayers, etc. What would we do without you?
  • For the internet. Honestly, if it weren’t for the blogosphere, the listservs I’m on, and email, I’d never have connected with some of the most fantastic adoptive moms who have enriched my life so much and helped me tremendously. Crazy that I could feel so close to women I’ve never met in person, but I do — and I have the interwebs and this blog to thank for it.
  • Speaking of this blog, I’m grateful for you — my readers. You make showing up here worthwhile. Your comments add so much, and I’m grateful to you who’ve offered congrats, suggestions, and support in the comboxes over the past couple of months. And if you read but don’t comment: I love you, too, because you’re just as much part of this little virtual community even if you’re the shy, quiet type.
  • For all the little things I take for granted, which aren’t really little at all, especially when you’ve just traveled to a developing country… For clean water, a toilet, a shower!, a full pantry, fresh veggies, a house that stays intact during a hurricane, domesticated dogs, traffic rules, dark chocolate, wine, clean air, and so much more…
I could go on, but you’ve got better things to do today… like making a list of your own blessings, and eating double helpings of all that turkey dinner. Happy Thanksgiving, Slow Mama readers!
Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


Guest Post: One Big Chicken

November 21, 2012

by Kathleen O’Beirne

I can still remember watching with fear and trembling as a child whenever my mother prepared our large Thanksgiving turkey. The bird’s raw, pasty flesh lying helpless on the rack sent shivers up my young spine as I silently went over my list of names for the poor little guy. Christmas was no better, as I mourned Wilbur’s remains served with mustard and rolls.

Since my earliest childhood, I’ve avoided large pieces of meat as much as possible, and something about seeing a fully intact animal, dead and uncooked, continues to terrify me even now. I’m happy to whip up something delicious with a few chicken breasts or filets of fish, but whole birds, fish, and racks of meat send me into panic mode. I start worrying that I’ll either a) char some expensive piece of meat or b) undercook it and die of trichinosis and be buried in a pauper’s grave like Mozart.

The other day, as I listened to a few other moms talk nonchalantly about their weekly roast chicken dinners, I had a revelations of sorts: Normal, every-day people all over the world cook whole animals and are not only living to tell the tale but enjoying themselves in the process. I realized that the only thing standing between me and my homemade chicken stock, or my smiling children pulling apart wishbones on Thanksgiving, or a house filled with the mouthwatering smells of roasted meat, is my own fear. I just kept thinking: I am bigger than the bird. Literally. It’s now or never.    

So I finally did it: I marched into the grocery store and bought the meanest-looking three-pound chicken I could find. That bird was going down — and seeing as how she was already dead, the clear advantage was mine. That is, until we got home, and I saw her lying there on my counter, naked as the day she was born (technically, chickens are quite fluffy when born, but that’s beside the point).

At that moment, I felt my determination waver.  Thankfully, my maiden voyage into Large Meat Land included my trusty Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame.  Her recipes never fail me, and I knew I could rely on her in my hour of need.  I chose Ina’s “Engagement” Roast Chicken — so named because several of Ina’s friends evidently received marriage proposals after cooking this recipe for their boyfriends, and I figured that boded well for me. After reading over her recipe several hundred times and digging out my never-been-used meat thermometer, I felt confident that I could not mess this up.

After removing the innards and rubbing the bird with olive oil and lots of salt and pepper, I stuffed the bird with a head of garlic cut crosswise and some quartered lemons. I had a bit of trouble both tying the legs and tucking the wings under the body, but after a bit of finagling I had the chicken settled nicely into her nest of lemon and onions.

I wish I could tell you that the chicken came out perfectly — and that I didn’t have to cook it a few more minutes to eliminate any pinkiness after I already started carving it — but I can’t. It packed a lot of flavor, but I wish it had cooked a bit more evenly. Ina cooks the bird at the same temperature throughout the roasting process, but next time I think I’ll try Mark Bittman’s strategy and give the chicken an initial blast of high heat breast-side down (about 20 minutes at 500° F) and then turn her over for an hour at 325°F.

In the end, though, the chicken tasted great, and despite a few glitches, my family enjoyed our very first home-cooked roast chicken. This baby step certainly whet my appetite for more big bird recipes… Who knows? Maybe I’ll be the one making the Thanksgiving turkey this time next year!

So, slow mamas, am I the only chicken with embarrassing food phobias? Or do you have a few culinary dishes you’ve been reluctant to conquer?  Maybe we could start a support group!

Images: Kathleen O’Beirne. Kathleen is a mother of three in Northern Virginia and writes at The Boring Blog.


My Favorite Side

November 20, 2012

by Ann Waterman

Deciding what dishes are going to make the cut for Thanksgiving dinner has become a yearly dilemma, generating some heated arguments discussion between my husband and me. There are so many good ones, but there simply isn’t enough room on the table — or in our stomachs — for all of them. After some back-and-forth negotiations, we usually agree to a few mutual favorites and promise that passed-over dishes will make it on the list for another holiday, or for next year’s Thanksgivings day menu. What can I say? We’re passionate about food in this house!

The one dish we always agree must be included, though, is sweet corn pudding. It’s scrumptious, appropriately calorie-laden for a feast, and ridiculously easy to make – a real plus on a day when you’re juggling so many other dishes. Guests always love it and help themselves to seconds — if there are any left.

To make this super-easy side (adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1999 via you’ll need:

  • 4 cups frozen corn kernels (about 19 ounces), thawed (I really like to use Trader Joe’s Pacific Northwest Super Sweet Cut White Corn)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 and butter an 8x8x2 baking dish. Add all of your ingredients — in no particular order — into a food processor and blend until almost smooth. Pour batter into baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes, until edges are golden brown and the middle is just set. Let pudding cool for 10 minutes before digging in. Didn’t I tell you it was easy?

What’s your favorite must-have Thanksgiving side?

P.S. Last year, I wrote this post on how to host an easy Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve got one more tip to add: Eat out the day before Thanksgiving. You want to keep that fridge as empty as possible for all those Turkey Day fixin’s and give yourself a little break from cooking before the big day.

Image: Ann Waterman


Gender Stereotypes in Action

November 19, 2012

S in the Park

I’m the kind of woman who swore that no daughter of hers would be a princess in pink. If I had any say, frilly things would be passed over in favor of art supplies and wooden tool sets. My girls could certainly play house and tea party, but they’d surely be just as inclined to build cool structures from blocks, collect bugs, and toss a ball around.

Then real life happened, and now there are two little girly-girls living in my house. Their favorite color is pink. Their second favorite color is…another shade of pink. Sparkles, frills, lace, and bows couldn’t delight them more. The very first thing they did when they walked into their new bedroom was gasp at the clothes in their wardrobe and start trying everything on. (Keep in mind, these girls were lucky to have one mismatched outfit to their names before they arrived Stateside.)

Their favorite thing to do is strap one of their babies on their backs (usually with one of my scarves or a blanket), like the women do in Ethiopia, or push the babies around in their buggies. The three of us are quite the sight walking down the street — the girls looking like S in the photo above, and me with the double stroller and a few extra stuffed animals in it (as well as extra jackets, mittens, and hats, since the girls haven’t quite grasped that they now live in a place where it is not 80 degrees and sunny all the time).

S and H Out For a Stroll

If the girls see me apply any makeup or lip balm, they want some, too. When they put something on, they’ll often turn to me and ask — in their own language — if they look pretty. They like dresses. They like tall suede boots and Mary Jane shoes. They have tea parties pretty much every day.

To round out the picture here, they do like to wear brown, orange, purple, and white. They will occasionally kick a soccer ball, and they’re learning to hold a drawing/coloring utensil (children don’t learn to color in Ethiopia, for some reason). They will play with their blocks if I get down on the floor with them. But they typically prefer traditional “girly stuff” — which fascinates me, because I don’t know where some of it comes from, given their background.

I’ve read a fair bit of research on nature versus nurture over the years, and I know that gender differences are a product of both. As the oldest of ten, I can vouch for the fact that not every girl likes pink dresses and fairy wings, and not every little boy is rough and loud. But clearly, in many cases, gender differences can show up pretty early; at least, that’s what I’m seeing in our house…

Do (or did) your children exhibit traditional gender preferences? Did it stay that way, or did they change?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul