Crying Girl
Blogger Matt Walsh talks about how he finally stopped caring about his little kids’ crying in public after an epiphany he had 33 feet above the ground.

Every parent’s been there: That dreaded moment when the airplane door closes and you send up a silent prayer that your toddler won’t throw any conniption fits for the next however-many-hours you’re going to be confined to a metal tube hurtling through the atmosphere with a bunch of strangers. Or you’re in church and your baby begins to wail at the most sacred, quiet moment. Or you’re anywhere other than your house or car and your children decide to, well, act like children.

It can be hard to strike the right balance in our response: Parents today seem either to be overly anxious and apologetic about their kids’ noise (to the point of treating them like second-class citizens in public), or else they let their kids rule the roost and seem unaware or unconcerned about how their children’s behaviors might affect others. Add to this the fact that tolerance levels differ from person to person, and it can be hard to hit on the right response in any given situation.

I agree with Matt that children have the same right to be in public that adults do — but that doesn’t mean they get to entirely co-opt a public space. Boundaries, manners — even policies when necessary — go a long way toward ensuring that public spaces are pleasant for everyone. But I also agree with him that, generally, society today is not kid-friendly. There is less tolerance for children and their spontaneity and unpredictability; there’s an expectation that children should act like adults, or else they shouldn’t be out and about.

I think the fewer people that have children in our society — or at least sufficient experience with children — the less tolerant we become of little ones. If we’re a culture that truly values children, we see them as important people in their own right and accept what they bring to life, even when it inconveniences us here and there. At the same time, we need to bring back an emphasis on manners and respect for others, being mindful as parents about where the lines should be drawn when it comes to our kids’ behavior.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. When your kids melt down in public, how do you respond? If you’re not a parent, how do you feel about children in restaurants? Airplanes? Places of worship?

Image: via Pinterest

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Goodbye Idiot Dad?

August 5, 2014

Everybody’s talking about this new Cheerios commercial, and I can see why. I think it’s pretty great. We’re all sick of seeing dads portrayed as idiots or deadbeats in ads, sitcoms, and movies, and it’s about time for more positive messages about fatherhood.

I realize it’s just an ad for cereal, but it’s fun, funny, relatable, and taps into something we don’t hear enough about: that most men take their fatherhood seriously. They aren’t just bringing home the bacon (in fact, they’re often in the kitchen cooking the bacon); they’re loving co-parents, involved in their kids’ lives.

Although the ad seems geared toward dads, Cheerios knows that moms still do most of the food shopping and are likely to respond really positively to an ad like this — one that doesn’t treat their husbands like clueless oafs or depicts parenting as one long, thankless slog. We don’t eat much cereal in our house, but I’d be more likely to give Cheerios a second look based on this commercial alone. (Plus, did you notice there are more than two kids in that family? More points scored for that in my book.)

Cheerios has gotten lots of attention for other ads that reflect what more and more families look like today, and it will be interesting to see if this trend of depicting positive images of modern fatherhood begins to spread — and where it might go next.

What are your thoughts on the ad? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Are you a fan of pushing social messages through commercials?

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Natural Deodorants
You might not want to come near me after I tell you this, but I quit using antiperspirant a few years ago. Something about aluminum and various kinds of chemicals seeping into my pores every day was starting to freak me out. The problem was, I don’t exactly smell like violets blowing in the breeze without deodorant (much to my super-smeller husband’s disappointment), and my journey to find something natural that actually worked wasn’t so easy.

For years I toyed with various natural deodorants. I’d spot a new one at Whole Foods or a natural food store and give it a try, but nothing really did the trick. I began to wonder whether I was just too stinky for anything to work and I was destined to be smelly, wash my armpits every hour, or go back to antiperspirant.

I’m stubborn, though, and eventually, through some online reviews and personal recommendations, I found a few great products that actually work — even in the summertime heat or when I’m active. Sometimes I may need to re-apply them if I’ve worked up a sweat or I’m going out for the evening, but that was often the case with conventional products anyway.

Since I know there are others like me out there who’d love to go natural but can’t find effective products, I wanted to share my finds. Of course, all body chemistries are different, and one person may have better luck with one deodorant than another. Also, it’s important to remember there are no natural antiperspirants: If you’re looking for something to actually reduce your perspiration (not just neutralize its odor), deodorants aren’t going to do much. But keeping all that in mind, here are three products I want to tell you about:

Real PurityI came across a blogger a while back who praised Real Purity natural deodorant up and down, saying she had tried tons of brands and this was the only one that worked. Something about her review made me want to take the chance, so I ordered some. It was the first product that actually worked for me, too. I like that it comes as a roll-on, but the down side is that if you don’t use it for a while, the roll-on ball can get stuck. Still, I felt like a hit the jackpot when I discovered this one.

SoapWallaSoapWalla was the second natural deodorant I tried (that worked), and it soon became my favorite. At first, I didn’t like that it was a cream; something about applying it with my fingers wasn’t very appealing. But I got used to it, and even came to prefer it. This one gives even longer coverage than my roll-on, and I dig the herbal scent. Each batch is made to order, and the testimonials on the website will probably sell you if my own pitch doesn’t. I really love this stuff.

Primal Pit PasteMy friend Jamie kept raving about Primal Pit Paste’s deodorant cream, so even though I was happy with my SoapWalla, I ordered some. I really like it, but next time I want to try a scented one — maybe the lavender or orange creamsicle. Primal Pit Paste gives me about the same strength and length of coverage as SoapWalla, but what sets it apart is the texture: It’s very smooth and creamy, making it ideal for applying right after shaving.

I can’t promise that you’ll have the same good luck with all of these products, but in my experience, they’re hands-down better than most of the natural deodorants you’ll find on store shelves.

Would you switch to a natural deodorant? Do you have any products or brands to recommend?

Please note: None of the companies that make the deodorants above asked me to review their products, nor did they know in advance that I’d be writing this post. I just like these products and wanted to share them with you!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

August 1, 2014

S with Styled Hair
When we arrived at camp last week, hair braiding was offered for the kids. Both S and H wanted to do it, though I wasn’t quite sure how it would go, as their hair is still pretty short. Both of them sat for a long time, taking the pain like pros, as the stylists combed their hair out; eventually, though, I spotted the face of my tender-headed little S and knew she’d had enough. As I approached to ask if she was okay, her bottom lip began to tremble and she burst into tears in my arms. Not the way I wanted her to start camp! I pulled her out of there, Daddy gave her a lot of love, and she recovered.

I made a point to watch what the stylist was doing with H’s hair, and later I asked S if she wanted me to try styling her hair. She did, and it ended up pretty cute, if I do say so myself. Not as professional looking as H’s, but at least S felt like she had fun hair, too. H’s style lasted three days — I just spruced up her loose locks in the back each morning. The hair bands bothered S when she laid down to sleep, so I took them out and she wore colorful headbands for the rest of camp, which she was very happy with.

H's Hair Style
Of course, then there was my hair, which I have never been good at doing much with; my new fall-back is to throw a hair band on it to distract from the fact that I haven’t showered for a while. At camp one day, I peppered my scalp with a little lavender body powder for a sort of dry shampoo, but that made it look like I have more gray than I do. Oops.

S and H
Here’s S (on the left) and H, sporting their new ‘dos. Too cute, huh?

For our Friday happy-hour chat, I’m offering an enlightened mud slide; the name made me smile when I saw it on Tasting Table. Grab one and tell me about your high and low of the week! Here’s mine:

Low: Re-entry day on Monday, after our family time away, was hard on everyone. We also had some sickness in the house this week. And, as I wrote about Wednesday, so much tragic news.

High: Hmmm, not sure… I got to see Margaret’s lovely face one day while she was in town; I had success using my new dutch oven; I had some sweet moments with my favorite girls.

Bonus question: Do you spend a lot of time on your hair or your child’s hair? Got any favorite styles or tutorials online that you love? 

Enjoy your weekend, friends, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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by Margaret Cabaniss

Last week I took my own advice and went on a little road-tripping adventure; today I’m recovering from all that fun, so I thought I’d bring another post out of the SlowMama vault. I ended up picking pounds of blueberries and blackberries while on vacation, which reminded me of this glorious pie I blogged about last summer. There’s nothing better you can make with all those berries, trust me.

Summer Berries
I don’t even care that it’s a million degrees out this week; summer berries are in, and I am happy. I’ve already picked my weight in blueberries at the farm down the road, and whenever I get the chance, you can find me skulking around my sister’s garden, filching from her cultivated blackberry and raspberry canes, or hunting around the edges of her yard for the wild black raspberries and wineberries growing there.

Summer Berries
I keep thinking that I should do something with all these berries — bake a cake, make some jam, something — but mostly I end up eating them before I can reach any kind of critical mass for a recipe. Frankly, I think that’s the best way to enjoy them: There is nothing more delicious than perfectly ripe, just-picked berries — particularly if you find them growing wild, in which case it just feels like Mother Nature is giving you the most perfect “sorry for the heat” present ever.

But.

Triple Berry Pie
This mixed-berry pie recipe might be the one exception to the no-bake rule. Though in fact, it’s not baked at all, which is what gives it its really astonishing fresh flavor: Rather than cooking all the berries down into some indistinct pie filling, it starts with a graham cracker crust that you fill with a custard-y base of sweet berry puree, then the whole thing gets topped off with a mountain of glossy fresh berries — more like a berry tart than a pie, and all the better for it. It is one of the more delicious things I have put in my face all summer.

And it’s definitely a make-it-now kind of thing: Buying these amounts of berries any time other than when they’re in season would be prohibitively expensive — not to mention not nearly as tasty. If you can’t find all three types of berries, you can make it with blueberries and raspberries only; just increase the amounts accordingly.

Serve it with some blackberry lemon verbena soda, or maybe a blackberry gin fizz — or just a handful of fresh berries on the side. You really can’t have too many.

Summer Berry Pie
via Baking Illustrated

Mixed Berry Pie
For the crust:

  • 9 graham crackers (5 oz), broken into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm

Preheat the oven to 325. Process the graham crackers in a food processor (or pound in a Ziploc bag on the counter) until evenly fine. Add the sugar and pulse a couple of times to combine. Continue to pulse as you slowly add the melted butter, processing until the mixture looks like wet sand.

Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate, then carefully press into the bottom and sides of the pan to form your crust. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and beginning to brown. Set it aside to cool completely.

Mixed Berry Pie
For the filling:

  • 2 cups raspberries (~9 oz)
  • 2 cups blackberries (~11 oz)
  • 2 cups blueberries (~10 oz)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red currant jelly (apple jelly will also work)

Carefully rinse your berries, then spread them out on a paper-towel lined baking sheet and gently pat dry. Transfer 2 1/2 cups of berries to your food processor and blend until smooth and completely pureed, about a minute. (Don’t skimp on time here; the longer you process, the more juice you’ll extract.) Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer, scraping the seeds and pressing as you go; you should have about 1 1/4–1 1/2 cups of puree when you’re finished.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt to combine, then whisk that mixture into the berry puree. Heat the puree in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When it just reaches a boil and is about the consistency of pudding, remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, stirring to combine. Set it aside to cool slightly.

Mixed Berry Pie
Place the remaining whole berries in a bowl. In a separate small saucepan, melt the red currant jelly over low heat until completely liquefied, then pour the mixture over the berries and gently toss to coat.

To assemble the pie: Pour the berry puree into the crust, smoothing the top with a spatula, then carefully add the berries, pressing down slightly to set them in place. Loosely cover the pie with saran wrap and allow to set in the fridge, at least 3 hours and up to one day. Serve with whipped cream.

Mixed Berry Pie
Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Water Off A Rock
There are always terrible things going on in the world, but some weeks the bad news really weighs on me. I’m feeling it these days: Planes shot down, rising tensions with Russia, elevated violence between Israel and Palestine, Ebola virus spreading (and sickening or killing those trying to help), over half a million Iraqi Christians murdered or driven out of their homes as we speak.

Then there’s the stuff closer to home: A pregnant young mother of four (an alumna of a university I attended) just died of an aneurism following complications from a wasp attack. Our saintly pastor has stage four lung cancer. And this, while not tragic, is unsettling all the same: A family I know picking up their new children in China was stuck there for six days because of a worldwide computer meltdown affecting the U.S. embassy’s ability to issue visas. It all boggles the mind.

I know I don’t usually write about heavy subjects here, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how much I should immerse myself in bad news, and how much I should focus on good news — or at least just my own life. There’s a balance to be had, and it can be hard to find in a 24-7 internet media world. Here’s what I tend to do when I encounter tragic or overwhelming news:

First, I ask myself if there’s anything I can actually do to change or help the situation, practically speaking. Most times there isn’t; sometimes I can send money, sign a petition, write a letter, or bring awareness by sharing it with others. Oftentimes, the only thing I can do is pray.

If I feel like I’m starting to get obsessed with bad news, I’ll decrease my consumption of media, including social media: I take a break from the news for a day or a couple of days, or simply don’t read every article about an event. Staying away from Facebook for a while helps, too!

I focus on my personal responsibilities. There are people who need me, people who depend on me; I try to give my attention to situations in my inner circles where I can actually make a difference — friends, family, work, church, neighborhood, city, the organizations I support, etc.

Most of all, I make an extra effort to be grateful, live in the moment, and cherish my loved ones. Every day is a gift; nothing is guaranteed, I know. I have first-world problems. When I remember this, it helps center me and live the best I can, which is all any of us can do in this beautiful and sometimes tragic world.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by bad news?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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 Me and My Girls
Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp was great — beautiful location, well run, lots of fun…a truly edifying experience. I expected it to be all that, but I was surprised at how emotional and thought-provoking it was, too. While the children were in activities, the adults attended workshops, talks, and panel discussions of our own. B and I took cooking and music classes; had the opportunity to listen to an artist and author talk about their experiences in Ethiopia; and heard many interesting perspectives on transracial adoption, race issues in America, culture, traveling to meet birth/first families, and more.

I’m still processing it all, but I thought I’d share some of the takeaways that are foremost in my mind at the moment. Many of these aren’t new thoughts or ideas, but they were solidified or affirmed for me this weekend.

1. We are all Ethiopian now.

When we adopted our girls, we adopted everything about them — including their birth culture and relatives. My own country of origin, cultural influences, and heritage — as well as B’s — are now part of our daughters’ story, and theirs is part of ours. Even our extended family members are now linked to Ethiopia because their grandchildren/nieces/cousins are Ethiopian. I knew this on a certain level before, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I understood more deeply what that means. (Now if only I could arrange to inherit my daughters’ eyelashes.)

At Heritage Camp
2. Best to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

As a number of speakers pointed out, adopting transracially and transculturally is bold. Society doesn’t understand it (and in many cases doesn’t support it). Issues like race, discrimination, adoption, identity, and cultural integration are hard enough to talk about let alone having these issues intimately affect your parenting. Families like ours can help create change, but we also need to be prepared for the discrimination, prejudice, and misunderstandings that we — especially our children — may face.

3. I’m very grateful that my parents were (and are) countercultural.

I’ve appreciated this for a long time, but this weekend it struck me again that the way I was raised gives me confidence in my parenting. The issues were different for my family of origin, but there are parallels to draw: We stuck out; we were different; my mother was often the Lone Ranger, going against the grain, voicing unpopular views, or challenging the status quo. I developed a strong sense of confidence and self-awareness without having to be like everyone else; I hope my daughters can do the same. My own family, my daughters, don’t have to follow any path but our own.

Music & Dancing at Heritage Camp
4. I can’t fix everything for my kids, and I can’t prepare for everything, either. 

I know this intellectually, but I’m a fixer and a planner. Hearing other parents’ stories at camp, I was reminded that, as much as we’d all take bullets for our kids, we can’t always fix their pain, erase the hard parts of their past, or anticipate everything that will come their way. Being a warrior for my kids and accepting that I can’t make everything okay is a delicate dance. All parents contend with this, but adoption adds its own layers.

5. My instincts are good.

I could tell myself this before, but I guess I doubted it sometimes. Every parent does, right? The camp challenged me and gave me some new things to think about, but I left feeling like I’ve got a decent grasp of what we’re doing well and where we can improve.

At Heritage Camp with Friends
6. Ethiopians are the loveliest people. 

This camp is run by Ethiopians, directed by a dynamic woman and staffed by volunteers, many of whom were young Ethiopian women who are great role models for our daughters. As a past event planner, I was impressed by how well-organized the program was, while still feeling very laid back and relaxed. Most big events have a hard time finding that balance, and it struck me as part of the Ethiopian touch. As diverse as they are, Ethiopians are generally kind, gentle, dignified, humble, strong, resilient, and determined. They value family and children, faith, tradition, community, education, and celebration. It was meaningful to connect with wonderful Ethiopian Americans who want to enrich the lives of children, talk about hard issues, and celebrate adoption and family. (And they are gorgeous people to boot.)

7. B is better at traditional Ethiopian dancing than I thought. 

Just hoping that the adult dance competition segment from Saturday night doesn’t end up on YouTube. Enough said.

******

Anything you’d like to know about culture camp? Ask away!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul and B

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Internet Menagerie

July 28, 2014

Ethiopian Heritage & Culture Camp
I’m still unpacking from a terrific four days at culture camp, but I wanted to share some of my internet finds from the past few weeks. If you’ve spotted anything interesting, inspiring, or just plain fun, do leave it in the comments!

  • Hard to believe this gorgeous home is outfitted largely with Craigslist finds. (Design Mom)
  • Slightly sweetened, dairy-free fudgsicles. (Elana’s Pantry)

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

July 25, 2014

Coffe Ceremony in Addis Restaurant
Today I’m in the beautiful state of Virginia with B and the girls at a four-day Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp. The girls have been so excited for it! The camp is in its sixth year and brings together families raising Ethiopian-American children for activities, workshops, and cultural experiences. I’ve heard about it for years — long before the girls came home — and always wanted to go.

Despite the name, we won’t actually be camping; the on-site accommodations were booked by the time we registered, so we’ll be roughing it in a nearby hotel. But it has a pool and gives us a place for some down time, which my introverted husband will no doubt appreciate. I also left my computer at home so I could take a brief technology break; I’ll have my smart phone and might post a few shots on Instagram, but otherwise I want to focus on being with my family and experiencing all the camp has to offer.

In honor of my daughters’ birth culture, this week I’m offering a virtual glass of tej — a honey wine drunk in Ethiopia (and sometimes Eritrea) that’s brewed with powdered leaves and twigs and a hops-like agent. (I even found a winery in California that makes and sells it called ENAT.) My high and low this week are pretty straightforward:

High: Coming to heritage camp! (It sure is pretty down here.)

Low: An extra rough day on the parenting front this week. Ugh.

Bonus question: What’s left on your summer bucket list? Well, the one thing on my list this summer — getting home to Nova Scotia — is not happening, so there’s nothing else in particular on my list except to make sure we mix lots of fun stuff in with the projects and preparations I need to tackle in August. What about you?

Enjoy your weekend, friends, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Summer Road Trips

July 24, 2014

by Margaret Cabaniss

Summer Road Trip
It’s officially high summer, which means it must be time for me to start daydreaming about road trips. I get a tiny bit obsessed just about this time every year; it seems all my favorite travel memories involve some amount of time on the road. I still remember lying in the trunk of my parents’ AC-free station wagon (because there weren’t enough actual seats to go around), driving all the way from Woodstock, NY, to the Florida panhandle in the high-summer heat when we were little; it was sweaty, crowded, long, and glorious.

With those trips in mind, I may have been perusing a few “best road trip” articles this evening, just to see what’s out there…

Richard Barnes/Otto
Outside 
Magazine offers up their 10 All-American Summer Road Trips, complete with scenic stops and adventures along the way. It’s funny to me that the most exotic trip — the “Road to Nowhere” on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula — is the only one on their list I’ve actually done. Definitely the summer trip of a lifetime.

Summer Road Trips
A little closer to home, my favorite drive, hands down, is the Blue Ridge Parkway. I still can’t believe that something so beautiful is so easy to get to (well, for us East Coasters, at least).

Summer Road Trips
Garden and Gun
helpfully lays out a few must-see Southern pit stops — including such gems as Graceland Too and the grave of Stonewall Jackson’s arm. God bless America.

Summer Road Trips
This is the kind of pilgrimage that’s going on my bucket list: driving North Carolina’s historic barbecue trail. (Or maybe the Tennessee barbecue trail; I’m not picky.) You always seem to find the best food on the road… Better start training now!

What about you: Any favorite road trip routes or memories? Driving anywhere fun this summer?

PS — Some summer road trip music (and yet more music), and the best apps for planning a road trip.

Images: 1, Margaret Cabaniss; 2, Richard Barnes/Otto; 3, Unknown; 4, See Rock City; 5, Peden + Munk

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