Waterfall
Over the summer, I reflected a lot on the past school year with my girls, and one thing became very clear: I was doing too much. There were no catastrophes, mind you, and I managed to keep everything going more or less as it should be, but it was just a lot; at times I didn’t feel like anything was getting the full attention it deserved. Homeschooling is almost a full-time job, and when you add in caring for children, doing paid work, managing a household, keeping a blog going, and all the other stuff of life, it’s a lot for one person — or, at least, it is for me.

One of the major themes of this blog is living “slower,” and given my desire to practice what I preach, I’m making a few changes this fall to help reduce the rush factor in my life.

To begin with, our homeschooling schedule will be a little more structured, allowing me more time for paid work, which we’ve determined is important for our family right now. I haven’t worked much since the girls came home, and it’s tough to live on one income where we are (unless one person is making mega bucks). My work will be flexible, so I can put in hours around homeschooling and caring for the girls, but it will require a good chunk of time each week.

For that reason. I’m taking a small step back from blogging this fall. Not a big one — I like it here too much! — but instead of posting every weekday, I plan to post around three times a week (sometimes it might be little less or more, depending). I’ll start scaling back in the next week or two.

You can still expect the same kinds of posts from me: I’d like to write more about homeschooling, feature more books, maybe wade into some tougher issues that are on my mind, as well as share more inspiration about living meaningfully and mindfully. I also plan to continue with my “Parenting Against the Grain” series. (If you know anyone who you think would be a good fit for it, drop me a line!)

I plan to have occasional guest posts, and my contributors will still be here, too: Ann took a break for part of the summer, but will soon be back once a month, and Margaret will be here every other week starting in September. And I’ll still be posting to Instagram (my favorite social media platform) and Facebook, as well.

I’ll evaluate all this as I go along; I’m hopeful that, by organizing my time differently and slowing my blogging schedule a bit, I can be more present to each thing on my plate.

As I consider my posting schedule over the next few months, I’d love to know if there any topics you’d like to read about on SlowMama this fall. Please let me know in the comments! Are you planning any changes in the upcoming year yourself?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Internet Menagerie

August 26, 2014

Dragon Head
It’s time for our monthly trip around the web. There’s a little bit of everything here, so I hope you find something of interest. I’d love to hear your latest internet finds, so do share in the comments!

  • Why a beloved, experienced kindergarten teacher finally quit her job. (Washington Post)

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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At the Playground
Earlier this summer, I mentioned Christine Gross-Lo’s book Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, in which she says (among other things) that American parents are too overprotective. A few readers agreed but added that, as much as they’d like to give their children more freedom, they’re fearful of potential repercussions.

Sadly, I don’t think this is unwarranted. There are so many new stories these days about parents — mostly moms — being arrested for what would have pretty normal 20 years ago. Now it’s just assumed that children must be supervised at all times and in all places. Not only that, but if you’re not actively trying to prevent every bump and bruise on your child, there’s something wrong with you as a parent. My friend Lauren over at Crumbbums just wrote about how she has consciously chosen to allow her young sons to take physical risks at the playground, and what kind of reaction she’s received from other parents.

It would be great if we could all give the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of  each other’s parenting, but we can only control our own choices and reactions – and the truth is, I don’t always trust strangers around me to use common sense or make the best judgements. And it really does seem that people today seem quick to jump to conclusions, criticize, and call in law enforcement if they see something that bothers them.

I know there are many good and reasonable people out there — and many supportive parents. But I guess I’m wondering if there’s anything parents can actually do about this new tendency in our culture to be suspicious of parenting styles that favor giving kids more freedom and independence. If you believe it’s safe for your ten-year-old to walk a half mile to school, or for your seven-year-old to stay home alone for 45 minutes, how do you do that without being afraid of serious repercussions? And where are the fine lines in your opinion? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

August 22, 2014

Family
This morning is our “re-adoption” ceremony at the Baltimore courthouse. Our daughters were already adopted, of course, and when they landed on U.S. soil, they were citizens. But this “re-adoption” is the only way — at least here in Maryland — to obtain U.S. birth certificates, and birth certificates are the surest way of getting passports for them. So several months ago, I filled out more forms, dug out some old paperwork, and submitted our case for a re-adoption hearing. We’re not making a big deal of it, since it feels like such an afterthought, but B took the day off work and we invited my brother and his family to join us. We’ll dress up and take some photos. (Keep an eye out on Instagram later!)

We explained it to the girls so they won’t be surprised by anything. They told us, “If they ask, ‘Do you want them to be your parents?’ we’ll say yes, because Daddy is funny, and Mummy is pretty funny, too!”

Great reasons, if you ask me. Hopefully they’ll stick to that story.

Anyway, the end of another step in this unending process of jumping through adoption-related hoops calls for a celebratory drink, and this two-ingredient pina colada caught my eye on The Kitchn recently. Grab one and tell me about your week! Here’s my high and low:

Low: Answering the doorbell to find a sheriff standing on my step, serving me papers to show up and explain myself (or be fined or arrested!) for a jury duty service I missed. I won’t get into the boring details, but it involves me not even knowing I had jury duty (never mind that I’m called in every year and always show up). I’ve got a decent paper trail verifying what happened and will hopefully get an understanding judge — but if I’m suddenly missing for 90 days, you’ll know what happened!

Oh, and the news this week… Does it ever get better? So many horrible things going on in the world.

High: I think today is my high of the week: B is home, we’ll all be together much of the day, we’ll spend a bit of time with family. A good start to the weekend!

Bonus question: What’s your go-to special occasion drink? I think mine is a vodka martini, dry, with extra olives, but I actually don’t drink that much, so I often just go for a tall glass of sparking water on ice, especially at this time of year.

Have a slow and wonderful weekend, friends, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image taken by a friend at Ethiopian Culture Camp

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by Margaret Cabaniss

kids_in_car
I have no recipe or DIY project to share today — not even a simple household hack — just a plea for help. My family is set to take our annual lake excursion in a couple of weeks, and while we’re all champing at the bit to get there, one of us is a little apprehensive about the trip: That would be my sister Jen, who has to make the 10-hour drive with two kids under two. Their previous road-trip record? A measly two hours.

Flying with toddlers is one thing: It isn’t necessarily a picnic, but as you’re not the one steering, you can give the kids your full attention when they start getting antsy, without having to pull over — and most domestic flights aren’t too terribly long anyway. But driving? With you at the wheel, and your kid strapped in the back, for ten hours? How do you do that?

Jen’s first decision was, well, not to do it: She and her husband will break the trip into two legs over two days, which should help considerably. With a little luck in their timing, they might even get the kids (ages two and seven months) to nap for part of it…but it’ll still be longer than either of them has ever had to ride in the car.

So I’m turning to you, O Seasoned Veterans: How do you make road trips more manageable with small kids? So far the plan is to introduce a few new toys and books once they’re underway – and Dominic does love to sing, so I imagine lots of Peter, Paul, and Mommy on repeat. Oh, and snacks. Just…all the snacks.

What else have you found helpful? Frequent stops? No stops? Leaving early? Leaving late? Earplugs? (Just kidding about that last one.) (Mostly.) I’m assuming that stacking the kids like cordwood in the trunk is frowned upon these days… Hit me with your tips in the comments!

Image: via Pinterest, source unknown

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Oil Pulling
As if it weren’t enough that I stopped using antiperspirant a few years ago, I’ve also been oil pulling on and off for the past year. Oil pulling is a folk remedy that’s been around a long time, but I only read about it a couple of years ago on some natural health blogs. It’s hit the mainstream, though, since popular bloggers like Design Mom have written about their experiences with it over recent months.

While there are no studies proving its effectiveness as far as I know, fans of oil pulling say it improves oral hygiene, freshens breath, and can even whiten teeth. (Some have claimed it’s even healed cavities and toothaches.) Most people use organic coconut oil, but I’ve heard of people using extra virgin olive oil, too (sesame oil is traditional in Ayurvedic medicine).

I’m always looking for natural ways to freshen my breath and whiten my teeth – and I like experimenting with stuff like this! – so giving oil pulling a try was a no-brainer. Some people have a hard time with oil in their mouths, but it doesn’t bother me, and I think you can work your way up to it if you start with smaller amounts.

Oil Pulling 2
Here’s how it works: You take a spoonful of oil (a teaspoon to a tablespoon), let it melt in your mouth, and then swish it around vigorously for 15-20 minutes before spitting it out. (I have no idea why that’s the recommended timeframe, but the way; as far as I’m concerned, you could start with 5 minutes and work your way up.) You do it once a day, usually in the morning in place of brushing — though I still floss and also brush with baking soda before bed.

I have to admit, when I’m consistent with it, I start seeing the effects: My teeth feel great — smoother, cleaner – and I dare say they look a tad whiter. And my breath is better, even first thing in the morning. But it’s that consistent part that’s hard. Finding 15-20 minutes in the morning to swish doesn’t always happen — it’s typically a busy time with my kids, and inevitably, as soon as I put that oil in my mouth, my voice is required for something. Over the last few days I’ve been trying to get back to it, though. I hear the longer you do it, the more benefits you experience.

I’m curious: Have you ever tried oil pulling, or would you? Does the idea intrigue you, or does it seem too far out there to bother with? I’d love to hear what you think! In the meantime, if I manage to stick with it for more than a few weeks at a time, I’ll have to give you an update!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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fashionABLE-+-ALT-Vote-for-your-favorite-square
I’m kind of obsessed with Ethiopian scarves: I have quite a few of them, but I’m always on the look out for new styles. When we were in Ethiopia, I bought scarves for all of my sisters, sisters-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, and a few friends. (That’s a lot of scarves, people!)

All of which explains why I just had to post this contest. It’s  a collaborative effort between fashionABLE, an organization helping to create sustainable businesses for Africans (especially women), and ALT Summit, a resource for design and entrepreneurial bloggers (who also run amazing conferences). ALT put a call out for scarf designs and choose ten finalists from 100 submissions. The designs were then made in Ethiopia and sent back to a panel who picked their top three – and here they are! The winning scarf will be manufactured in Ethiopia and then available for sale on FashionABLE.

Last year, this scarf won the contest. I kept meaning to order it and never did, but I still love it. I know the scarf so well, in fact, that when I saw a woman wearing it at Ethiopian Culture camp last month, I blurted out, “Oh, I know that scarf!” before I even knew the poor woman’s name. She probably thought I was nuts.

Anyway, on to this year’s contest: Which one gets your vote? I like them all for different reasons, so I’m thinking I should choose the one I’d most want to wear. Blue is my best color, so this one would be a no-brainer:

fashionABLE-+-ALT-Design-Contest-Scarf-1

But I’m really digging this modern design with the yellow stripe. It’s unlike any other scarf I have:

fashionABLE-+-ALT-Design-Contest-Scarf-2

Then again, this one is so feminine and lovely, and I think I like the texture best of all of them:

fashionABLE-+-ALT-Design-Contest-Scarf-3

I’d love to hear which one you like best — maybe it will help me make up my mind! (You can vote here. Contest runs until August 20th.) If you want to share this contest on your own blog or social media channels, you’ll have a chance to land yourself a winning scarf — plus a free ticket to ALT Summit’s winter conference in Salt Lake City, where all the cool, creative bloggers hang out (who are also apparently super nice). You can go here for more details.

A quick note: No one asked me to post this contest — I just love promoting Ethiopian goods and I like both these organizations. Also, I’d love to win any one of these scarves, and I’ve always wanted to go to an ALT conference! :-)

Images: fashionABLE

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Franz Kline, Black, White and Gray
Adopting transracially has changed so many things in my life, not least of all how I experience news events like the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Before I had two brown-skinned daughters, I felt sad and confused about such tragedies, but they didn’t cause me anxiety. I chalk that up to my “white privilege” — a loaded term that can mean different things, but for me includes the fact that I don’t have to think about or deal with certain kinds of issues because I don’t have a lot of melanin in my skin.

Back when we were still in the adoption process, I remember a (Canadian) relative of mine asking, “Aren’t you worried about being a transracial family in the United States, with its ongoing racial tensions and history?” I acknowledged that it had crossed my mind but that it didn’t overly concern me. I do remember another conversation, though, that left me more unsettled: I was sitting with some friends around a dinner table, and one of them said, “I think it’s really courageous of you to be adopting black children. I know a lot of white couples who are open to adoption, or in the process, and they’re willing to adopt any child but a black one.”

What to say to that? He thought he was paying me a compliment, but I just felt sadness, anger, and anxiety well up in my heart.

On one hand, it’s what my relative said: This country still struggles with prejudice and segregation. In some ways and in some places, there’s been progress — but then you watch the news or listen to some people’s experiences, and you realize we have a long way to go. A white parent-in-waiting might balk at the idea of dealing with those issues; then again, that very attitude — “any child but that one, please” — is one of the reasons for the mess in Ferguson. (There are others, no doubt, like the militarization of the police, but that’s another topic.)

I’m grateful that my daughters are still only six and don’t watch the news. I can’t shelter them forever, but I can build them up while they’re young and innocent, and while they see the world as it should be, so they’re better equipped for the day they experience being judged differently. To say I dread that terrible awakening is an understatement.

I’ll tell you what would make me even more anxious, though, and that’s if my girls were boys. Adorable brown-skinned little boys turn into teenagers and young men pretty quickly, and those boys are really not going to be treated or judged like their melanin-challenged peers.

There’s more I could say about this, but I’m still trying to figure out my thoughts and how to put them into words. For now, here are two blog posts that have stayed with me over the past week and are worth a read: Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks on how Ferguson affects her, a black woman married to a white man with a biracial daughter; and “what they didn’t teach us in adoption classes about raising black children.”

I know these issues are sensitive ones, but I welcome your thoughts. Do you and your family talk about stories like Ferguson?  Have you ever experienced prejudice or discrimination based on the way you look?

Image: Black, White and Gray by Franz Kline (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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Pull Up a Chair

August 15, 2014

Pattypan Squash

Do you know what to do with these? They’re called pattypan squashes and when I got the first batch in our CSA share a few weeks ago I wanted to make something great with them — any vegetable that looks like an adorable mini spaceship deserves nothing less in my books. Someone told me they could be roasted and I was hopeful, but they were…blah. Instead, perhaps I should have sliced them like yellow summer squash and sautéed them? If you’ve cooked with these little things, I’d love to hear your ideas because I have another batch in my fridge and don’t want to waste them.

It’s Friday again and it’s a bit alarming how much is on my August to-do list — mostly prep work for fall. I’d like to just lounge around for the rest of the month, but I also know that if I don’t start checking things off my list each day, I’m going to pay for it later. A friend and I laughed at the fact that most moms can’t wait for school to start again, but homeschooling moms don’t want summer to end. Not sure how true that is across the board, but I’m one homeschooling mama who loves “vacation” time and feels anxious about the start of the school year. I have grand plans about making it more organized and manageable than last year.

As for our drink today, I spotted this apricot coconut prosecco punch the other day and quickly stuck it on my list of “beverages I must find an excuse to serve.” But hey, why not make it our virtual drink right now? Grab one and tell me about your week! Here’s my high and low:

Low: An unwelcome, inappropriate comment from a neighbor about my daughters. The mama bear in me wanted to lash out, but I didn’t. It made me sad, though.

High: Is it terrible that I can’t think of one? It wasn’t a bad week at all, but nothing stands out as a “high” at the moment. Here’s to decent weeks, though — I’ll take them!

Bonus question: What vegetable can you live without? For me it’s turnips, hands down.

Have a great weekend, friends, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

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by Margaret Cabaniss

Your Daily Dose of Perspective
Anyone following the news these days would be forgiven for thinking this has been a pretty depressing week. Maybe that’s why this post over at Momastery really resonated: The opportunity to adjust my perspective and be thankful for the little things in life was a welcome change of pace.

Glennon began by mentioning that some of her readers had offered tips on how she could update her kitchen; here’s how she responded:

…as I lay down to sleep, I remembered this passage from Thoreau’s Walden: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” Walden reminds me that when I feel lacking- I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have. So when I woke up this morning, I walked into my kitchen wearing fresh perspectacles. Here’s what I saw.

You guys. I have a REFRIGERATOR.

This thing MAGICALLY MAKES FOOD COLD. I’m pretty sure in the olden days, frontierswomen had to drink warm Diet Coke…. Thank you, precious kitchen. 

Those frontierswomen were the real deal. More, beneath a picture of her coffee maker:

I can’t even talk about this thing. Actually, let’s take a moment of reverent silence because this machine is the reason all my people are still alive. IT TURNS MAGICAL BEANS INTO A LIFE-SAVING NECTAR OF GODS. EVERY MORNING. ON A TIMER. 

Truly, what more could you ask for in life? Head over to Momastery to read the rest and see the before and after pics she posted of her lovely kitchen “makeover.”

What little things are you seeing with new eyes today?

Image: Vadim Trunov

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