Monday, September 30, 2013

Raising a Reader...Without Electronics

My girls are both November babies, and my son was born in January, so as you can imagine November, December, and January involve lots and lots (and lots) of gifts.

Every year, my kids receive some sort of toy that will apparently help teach them their numbers and letters.   And each year, I return these gifts.  


1:  Electronic toys annoy me.  There's enough noise in this house without hearing A A A A A A A A A A A A A (you get the point).

2:  Electronic toys eat up batteries.  Batteries are both bad for the environment and expensive.   And who here can I get an amen from when I say that most toys that take batteries are crazy-difficult to open?

3:  Electronic toys serve as a mediocre replacement for creativity, parents teaching (interacting, holding, speaking to, and listening to) their children, and children learning through natural play.

4:  Electronic toys are addicting.   Right?  I mean, I greatly enjoy my Twitter, Facebook, blogs, e-mail, texting, etc., but really, they do not ultimately fulfill me or make me happy, and they are incredibly addictive, creating isolation from the people sitting right next to us or right in front of us.

So, how can you cultivate a love of reading in your home without the use of electronic toys?

1:  Place books everywhere.   We have "potty" books in the bathroom (like Bear in Underwear and Dinosaur vs. The Potty), book baskets by the kids beds (which contain their favorites), a basket of library books in our living room, bookshelves (one for hardcover and softcover books, another for board books), and in the car.     Make the books accessible to your children at a moment's notice.

2:  Read yourself.   Yep, you are the best example.  It doesn't matter if you read a magazine or a book, but let the kids see reading material in your hands.

3:  Make reading a daily activity in your home.   Whether you read a book to your kids before bed or sit and read to them during the day (or both!), make reading a predictable, expected activity.  Use funny voices, pause and ask questions, do movements, whatever you need to do! 

4:  Have letter-friendly toys.   Alphabet magnets and a cookie sheet, letter puzzles, even a letter footstool (where the kid's name is spelled out) is a great way to teach them how to spell their own names.

5:  Make up songs.  I can't sing very well, but I have, since my kids were little, made up a tune that spelled out the letters of their name.   (As I would sing it to them, I'd point the letters out on their walls---you know those popular wooden wall letters).

6:  Play word games in the car, before bed, when sitting in a waiting room.  Try the rhyming game (you say a word and the kid says as many words as he/she can that rhyme with that word); don't forget to be super silly when playing this!  But if the child says a word that isn't an actual work, it's ok to tell him or her.   Have a letter of the week where you ask your child to say words that start with that letter.   You can also point out where that letter is on signs, in magazines, etc.   Practice writing that letter and sounding it out.  You can also teach your children vocabulary words in every day conversation.   It's so cute to hear young kids use big words in the right context!  

7:  Have children dictate letters (or e-mails) to you that you send out.  For example, on President's Day, we wrote a letter to the President.   During Women's History Month, we wrote letters to strong women we knew.     During Black History Month, we sent a letter to Ruby Bridges.   Allow kids to also illustrate something from the letter to include.

8:  Encourage your child to create art.  This helps them develop fine motor skills needed for writing.   Scissors, glue, crayons, markers, pencils, paint brushes.    Let them cut out letters from old magazines.

9:  Take your kids to the library.  Often.  Let them get to know the library staff.  Go to free story times.   Let them check out gobs of books, books on CD, character puppets, etc.  Borrowing reading materials gives kids a chance to learn about whatever they want (not limited to the books in the home) and learn how to treat loaned materials in a respectful manner.   Make reading-places happy places.   Go to local bookstores.   Get the kids a hot chocolate inside the bookstore.  

10:  Pretend play is a great way to learn letters and practice writing.  Play restaurant, and let your kids take your order.  Give kids a spare keyboard so they can play office (locating letters).  

11:  Use pictures as inspiration for comprehension and creativity.  One of my favorites is the eeBoo story cards.  The matching games are great, too.  (For younger kids, play that matching game with the cards face-up).    Though there aren't letters on these items, the discussions increase vocabulary.

12:  Take your kids places.  Any place can become an opportunity to learn about reading.  The grocery store is full of signs (including numbers).    And don't limit yourself to kid-specific places.  Take them to a museum, a festival, a farmer's market.  

13:  Let kids read whatever they get their hands on that is appropriate and interesting.  The cereal box?  Fine.  Shampoo bottle?  Fine.  A board book when they are six?  Fine.   Any love of reading is better than none at all!

There are endless ways to help your child celebrate letters!   It doesn't take much effort at all to work these teaching moments into your daily routine, and the reward is great! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why My Kids Play Outside

I know, seems like a silly title, right?   I mean, don't most kids play outside?

Well, I don't think they do.

Two days ago, after my daughter got out of school for the day, we headed to our local park.   It was a gorgeous, I mean GORGEOUS, day.  Blue skies with puffy white clouds.  Mostly sunny.   75 with a breeze.   Stunning.  It was about 3:00 in the afternoon.   On the way there, my four-year-old says, "We're going to make some friends at the park!"  For an hour the kids played.  We fed the fish.   They swung.  They sat inside a tee-pee style rock wall and ate a snack.  They meandered around, mumbling to themselves, taking silly steps, and daydreaming.  

The entire hour and twenty minutes we were there, no one else besides a group of teenagers, came by.    The park's many attractions (water feature, lake with hungry fish, playground, basketball and volleyball courts, dog park, and walking trail) didn't lure any other guests, despite this park being a favorite play spot for babysitting grandparents and stay-at-home moms of many young children.   The park is in close proximity to many neighborhoods chalked full of children.  

Where were the kids?  

I'm not a lover of the great outdoors, necessarily.  Unless I'm on a beach or in a swimming pool, the outside isn't my favorite place to be.  For one, mosquitoes adore me (must be all the sugar in my blood).  For another, I get hot VERY easily.   And when I get hot, I get irritable.   And finally, I'd rather be on my couch, curled up with a good book and a mug of herbal tea. 

But I grew up playing outdoors.  My fondest memories include making birdseed pies with my siblings, swimming, riding bikes.   (I swear all my outdoor play gave me the space to embrace and cultivate creativity.)     

So imagine my disdain for all the books at my library and at bookstores that are to teach parents how to take their kid outside.  Like 200 pages on what to do with kids outside.    I mean, it's really simple.  Just go outside.  

So, in no sort of order, here's why I take my kids outside:

1:   Kids are made to move and go.   What better place than the great outdoors?

2:  Kids are made to make messes.  Outdoor messes take care of themselves.  

3:  Kids NEED physical activity to avoid diseases like type 2 diabetes (which, by the way, 50% of minorities kids born the year 2000 or after will end up with type 2 diabetes, a disease that is heavily influenced by lifestyle choices).

4:  Kids need the freedom to play without adults directing them on who/what/where/why/how they should play or learn.    I teach composition to college freshman, and I cannot tell you the number of students who cannot brainstorm and expand their ideas.   They've been in so many classrooms and adult-directed activities their whole lives, that they are crippled when it comes to thinking for themselves, creating new ideas, and expanding on why they feel they way they do.    (I remember seeing a book at the library a few years ago.  The title was something like How to be Creative.  How sad!!!)  

5:  Parents need a break.    So many parenting books push parents to be on top of their kids 24/7, directing them, teaching them, correcting them, and guiding them.   Parents, listen up.  It's ok to grab a good book or magazine, plop in a chair, and just enjoy some time while your children play nearby.  (As my kids' former nanny shared, one day she was at an open-gymnastics play session with her son, and so many parents were standing over their children showing them exactly what to do and how.   Our nanny was the only one who was off to the side by herself, doing yoga poses while keeping an eye on her son who was toddling about).     You deserve a break!

6:  Kids need the freedom to meander.   If they are poking trees with sticks, or making a pile of grass, or hoping in place, for the love of God, do not interrupt them!    When kids meander about, they have space to think and learn and grow and feel.   They learn that stress-free time is important.  They get to see the beauty in nature.  They get to feel the presence of God and admire His creation.   Parents, they are learning very important life skills that will cultivate in their hearts a love of relaxing and relishing in beauty.

7:  Kids who play outdoors learn to cooperate and share.  They can push one another on swings, catch a friend coming down the slide, play hide-and-seek or tag, wait their turn.    They can learn these things organically. 

8:  Taking kids outside is almost always free.  A sculpture park, a friend's back yard, a walking trail, a playground.  

I'd love to hear from you on the Great Outdoors! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Agencies Need to Start and Stop Doing: Ethics (Again)

Three adoptions. 

Three agencies.

Dozens of phone calls and e-mails.

Hundreds of books, blogs, and articles.

And here's what I've gathered.

A great adoption agency, one that is ethical, one that is truly a ministry (first and foremost), one that is supportive of all parties before, during, and after a placement (or parenting, too)...well, it's pretty hard to find   If not nearly impossible.

Agencies are run by humans.  Humans make mistakes.  Humans are subject to directors and boards and lawyers.   Humans are incurably flawed. 

But to me, there are some glaringly obvious changes that need to take place in the adoption agency realm.

Starting with:

  • Agencies need to require families to carefully consider and justify why they are choosing transracial adoption.    Agencies need to implement training sessions for families adopting children of color.    These trainings need to not only create awareness, but prompt families to action (action that NEVER stops).    There are too many White couples adopting kids of color who think love is enough, the world is colorblind, and it'll all be just fine.    And the agency never questions their motives and asks how they plan to embrace and create their child's racial identity.  The same goes for special needs adoptions.

  • Agencies need to push families adopting newborns (and, of course, older kids too) to learn more about attachment and ask them how they plan to implement those practices into their parenting.    There needs to be more education and support around adoptive nursing, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, crying-it-out vs. "spoiling" the baby with immediate responds to crying, etc.   Newborns aren't blank slates. Newborns have needs.  Newborns come to the adoptive family with trauma from being separated from the birth mother.  

  • Agencies need to stop giving adoptive families so many choices.   Bi-racial OR "full" African American?   Um, color is color.   A bi-racial baby can look African-American or White.   A bi-racial baby is still part-color.   This colorism business is disgusting.   What sex do you want?   Boy or girl?   (I remember when our profile was shown to one birth mother we know, and several families said they didn't want their profile shown because at the time the mom didn't know the sex of her baby.)   Listen up, yo.  A BABY ISN'T A SUBWAY SANDWICH WHERE ADOPTIVE PARENTS SHOULD GET TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT'S INCLUDED.   Agencies need to put this firm belief in place, so that adoptive families get it out of their heads that they get to pick because, after all, they are paying the big bucks---and instead focus on heart-issues, not financial.  

  • Agencies need to stop charging fees based on a family's income (adoptions don't cost the agency more because the family makes more money---hello!) and/or the child's race (charging less for a child of color's adoption lures less-wealthy families to parent children they may not prepared to parent or accept children who are "second best" to White kids).  Agencies need to charge reasonable fees for their services.  $20,000+ for a domestic infant adoption is baby-selling. 
  • Agencies need separate representation for an expectant or birth parent and the adoptive family, both within the agency and legally.  It's too messy otherwise.

  • Agencies need to hire quality workers who know about adoption and have an education and have experience in counseling.   Agencies need to pay these workers a reasonable salary for the work they do.

  • Agencies need to support moms whether they place or parent.    And train adoptive families to do the same.  

  • Agencies need to clearly convey to adoptive parents that a match isn't a promise of a placement.  Expectant and birth parents have rights.  And so does the unborn child. 

  • Agencies shouldn't minimize the birth father's rights and role.   

  • Agencies need to have open adoption agreements, even when it's not legally enforceable, so that adoptive families and birth parents take agreements (promises) seriously.   But, of course, first there needs to be more open adoption education.

  • Agencies, even where it's legally allowed, should stop asking adoptive families to pour more and more money into "birth parent expenses" which ultimately just puts pressure on the expectant parents to place and/or encourages the occasional manipulative expectant parent to prey upon willing and desperate adoptive families, draining those families financially.  Paying birth parent expenses simply shouldn't be allowed.  Ever.   It's too tit-for-tat.  Messy.    Agencies should work to get expectant parents on public aid and in programs that are set up to help those in need of them.  

I want to hear from you.  What would make the adoption agencies better?   What needs to happen? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Open Adoption: The Guide You've Been Waiting For

I get asked, quite often, about open adoption.  How does it work?  Am I not fearful the birth parents will want to take their children back?  What would I do if a birth parent showed up at my door?  Won't open adoption confuse the kids?

I have my own responses, but I admit, I'm not an open adoption expert.    We have three open adoptions.  I'm very thankful for them:  the relationships, the access to information, the possibilities, and yes, even the challenges.      I do enjoy being part of Open Adoption Bloggers, but when people come to me asking about open adoption, I usually point them to resources like The Open Adoption Experience.

And now, yay!, a hot-off-the-press book on open adoption written by an adoptive mom and featuring her daughter's birth mother.  What an impressive and important combination!   I devoured the book in a day and contacted the author to learn more.  

Enjoy reading, friends! 


Tell me about yourself: personally and professionally. What's your adoption connection?I'm a mom to my tweenagers Tessa and Reed, and with my husband we live in Denver, CO. I come from the world of academia and I've been freelance writing for several years. My book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, written with my daughter's birth mom, was published in hardback by Rowman & Littlefield in the spring. I'm embarking on a 4-state speaking tour with a workshop called "Don't Split the Baby!" -- about embracing openness no matter what degree of contact you have (or don't have) with your child's birth family. We're excited that adoption agencies around the country are beginning to use our book in their training curriculum. By now everyone seems to know why it's important to "do" open adoption; our book guides parents how.

Your book's co-author is your daughter's birth mother. Tell me about including Crystal's perspectives in the book. What was it like writing a book with her?

Crystal and I talked for years about how we might help others develop the kind of relationship we stumbled into with each other. First we had to take a look at what we did and didn’t do and what has made our efforts a openness successful. For years we have taught classes in the Denver area. More than anything we say in these sessions, people seem to get a lot just out of seeing a template for how an open adoption can look.
The framework of the book is mine. Crystal and I had extensive interviews about her thoughts and emotions at various points of our journey, as well as her own deconstruction of how we got to where we are. For a book that is largely about how adoptive parents and birth parents can be on the same “side,” rather than the traditional concept of competition between the two sides, it seemed important for us to work together on this book.

People have asked us which came first, her words or a space for her words, and it was mostly the former. We had a few jam sessions in which we put as much on the table as we had in us. I took notes and the book began to take shape. Sometimes the book fit around her words and sometimes her words fit into the book.

I suppose in that sense, the way the book took its form is much the same way Crystal and I have taken our form.
Define open adoption.
I think the de facto definition, what everyone seems to agree on, is that "open adoption" means some sort of contact with a child's birth parents or birth family. We have a construct, an open adoption spectrum, in which people see zero contact on one end and full contact on the other.
But contact is only part of the picture. And the measure of contact can leave out families formed by international and foster adoption, and families in domestic infant adoptions who want contact with birth family members but are not able to have it.
So instead, I'd like to talk about openness in adoption. When we add a second dimension we turn the spectrum into a grid, and then we see 4 quadrants. While we have only partial control over the degree of contact we have with birth family, we have full control over the degree of openness we parent with. Whereas "open adoption" addresses the relationship between the adoptive family and birth parents, "openness in adoption" is more about how open-hearted we can be with our children as we parent them, as they process their adoptedness over the years.

On page 5, you talk about open adoption being a "heart-set." Explain what this means.

We encourage parents to move from an Either/Or mindset to a Both/And heartset. With the former, the child may be split between her two clans because one set of parents is legitimized and the other is negated, one is considered "real" and the other isn't.

In the latter, both families -- the one by biology and the one by biography -- are valued and integrated into the child's forming identity. To make this shift we must also call on our hearts. We can't always think our way through adoption moments as our child grows, but often we can feel our way through, love our way through. The brain divides; the heart unites.

On page 21, you quote Luna, an adoptive mother, who expresses her decision to open her heart up to an expectant mother she's matched with, even if it means the mom parents and Luna experiences pain and sadness. Personally, I know many adoptive parents who choose International Adoption over Domestic Adoption to avoid any sort of pain, relationship struggles, confusion, or involvement with the child's biological parents. Can you speak to those who are on the fence, thinking about choosing IA because of birth parent fears?

If someone is pulled toward international route with the conscious (or subconscious) reason to avoid those pesky/scary birth parents, then that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. As it’s been pointed out, the birth parents are there, in the child, whether one wants to acknowledge that or not. There is no avoiding the birth parents, for they are carried within every cell of the child. To deny that influence is to deny part of the child.

The more an adoption path can be planned mindfully, with hidden motivations exposed and examined, the better these one-day parents will be able to deal with What Is for the child they eventually parent. It’s OK to have thoughts and feelings that come from fear – we all do – but by shining light on those fears, we can choose how to act in a given situation. It’s the action that comes from subconscious motivation that is likely to lead to trouble.

It's my wish that anyone setting out on such a monumental adoption journey would educate themselves on what it’s like for the others in the adoption triad, specifically the child in an adoption as well as the first parents of that child (if living). Ways to do this include reading books and blogs by adult adoptees, being guided through exercises that put you in the shoes of another, and talking with people who have held a different position in an adoption triad than the one you hope to occupy.

On page 25, you share that it's unnecessary to put nature and nurture in any sort of hierarchy. Talk to me about this idea. Why do people feel the need to choose between nature and nurture when it comes to adoptees? What should adoptive parents do as they struggle to work through ideas surrounding nature and nurture?
This is such a great question. And it speaks directly to the Either/Or mindset I mentioned above and also why I preach so much about mindfulness.
Deep down, I think that parents on both sides have a fear of not being considered real by others -- and maybe even by themselves. Birth parents have historically been told to move on as if they hadn't had a child-ectomy. Just forget about your baby. He has another mother now. Her place as an integral part of her baby/child/tween/teen/adult is forgotten, buried, negated.

Adoptive parents also may carry a kernel of doubt about their legitimacy. An adoptive mother carries the knowledge that she isn't the Only, that there is another mother out there somewhere. And what adoptive mom hasn't had someone inquire about her child's "real mom"?
So when we are acting from this place inside in which we feel small and scared and resentful of sharing the role and not "real," we may have an unconscious desire to prove our legitimacy. A strategy that's often used to build oneself up is to tear the other person down. We do this without thinking. We are on automatic, just trying to get our need met, our need for everyone to know just how "real" and how legitimate we are. How WE have the prime position in our child's life, not that other woman.
I tell a story on page 89, one that took place on my son's 9th birthday. He told me that day, "You're one of my favorite mommies!" I could have taken that in one of two ways. (1) I am in competition with his birth mom and I'm not out-and-out winning (a hierarchy), or (2) my son has a heart so big and loving that he can fit us both in it. One way fills me with pain and jealousy; the other fills me with joy and pride Which would you choose if you stopped to make a conscious choice?
It's through mindfulness that we are able to choose the response that best serves, the response that doesn't split our baby. (Side benefit: we heal and find wholeness for ourselves, as well!)

What's next for you? What are you currently working on? How can readers get in touch with you?
Besides the workshops I'm delivering this fall, I'm practicing to improve my sirasana pose as I still have fear around trying it away from the wall. I write regularly at and currently I'm freelancing as I find opportunities.

On Twitter I'm @LavLuz and my book is available in hardback and Kindle on Amazon (as well as with other online booksellers, and many local libraries). I can be reached by email at lori at lavenderluz dot com. I enjoy hearing from people who are exploring openness in adoption.

Monday, September 16, 2013

To The Kind Lady at the Goodwill Store...

This past weekend, our family ventured out to our local Goodwill to purchase a large framed canvas to Pinterest into a magnetic board for the kids.     As I was browsing the frames, my son took the opportunity to spit up (more like chunk-up) all over his Gymboree polo and the overflow hit the floor.  My husband rushed out to our car to grab the baby wipes.  Meanwhile I stood straddling the puke while whisper-yelling at my girls to NOT touch the glass figurines on the child-level shelves. 

A Black twenty-something female employee approached us and was admiring the girls' hair (to which my girls usually act some sort of weird because they just don't like strangers giving them attention about something they simply don't care that much about).   Then she smiled and asked my oldest, "Are you girls sisters?"    (For more on my #1 adoption pet peeve...check out my recent post on Rage Against The Minivan).   My girls didn't respond to her and kept doing made-up dances and closing their eyes and poking one another about two inches from the closest glass figurine.  

My husband returned and we wipe-bathed our son and then the floor...and moved on to more frames.   As we were making our final selection, an older woman, perhaps in her seventies, pushed her cart behind me and caught my attention.   She held three one-dollar bills in her hand and pressed them into mine.   "I don't have grandchildren to buy things for," she said, catching my gaze.  "Take this and let the kids buy something."  

I was dumbfounded at first.  Should I take the money?   Should I hand it back?

She then said, "How long have you all been a family?"

I smiled and relaxed a bit.    I shared a little about our crew, and then she asked what the kids' names and ages were. 

Her questions were those you might ask any family.

Her compliments weren't race or adoption-specific.  (Yes, it's nice to sometimes hear that I did a great job on the girls' hair, but when people approach my kids and constantly say, "Your hair is so cute!" and the kids find the attention embarrassing, even insulting, perhaps...).

She didn't thank us for "saving" the "children who need a good home."

As she walked away, I watched her, and whispered a prayer.  

It was really cool to see how my children blessed this woman, touched her heart, made her smile.

It's nice when humanity pleasantly surprises me.   When we are treated as we are:

a real family.  With kids with real feelings and listening ears. 

What a joy to have a gentle conversation with a stranger that didn't involve judgement, defense, insults, lingering stares, assumptions, or inappropriate questions.

So, to the kind lady at the Goodwill store,

thank you. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Starring...Brown People!: Must-See Films

If you are struggling, like many of us do, to find family-friendly movies starring people of color, check out these:

Cinderella (starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, and many more).   I LOVE this version of the story because of the diversity!  The prince is Asian, Cinderella is Black, the Prince's parents are a bi-racial couple (Black and White), the step-mother is white, one step-sister is Black, the other is White, the fairy godmother is Black.   The songs are catchy.   

The Wiz (starring Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and more).   I'm not a Wizard of Oz fan, myself, but if you are, here's another version of the story with a strong Black cast. 

Polly and Polly Comin' Home (starring Keisha Knight Pulliam, Phylicia Rashad, and more).  The film not only tells an adoption story, but a story of a hopeless optimist (Polly) who overcomes many hardships. 

Please let me know what other popular films have been replicated featuring actors of color.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Most Popular Posts + Random Goodness

Occasionally, I check my blog stats.  According to the page, here are some of my most popular blog posts.  I thought I'd share them with you all, especially my newer readers. 

The most popular is a post on adoptive breastfeeding.

The second shares our big news:  our second child arrives

Next, beating winter blahs.

And finally, a recent post on adoption ethics

Happy reading/re-reading...

And while you are at it, here are some recent fantastic posts that have stirred my heart and mind:

Adoption Is Not Like Purchasing a Prada Bag

A new-ish adoption documentary called Somewhere Between

I'm Not Done Yet

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Must-Reads: I've Got Ya Covered

There are so many fabulous blogs out there, and I've been saving a list of must-read (fairly recent) blog posts for you to curl up after you get your kids to bed.  :)   So, here goes!

Why I Let My Adopted Preschoolers Nurse
---It's a topic many of my adoptive mama friends talk about, but often don't have the courage/conviction/confidence to do.  Nurse when you make no milk?  Nurse when your child is in preschool?  What-what?   Love Zoe's honesty in this post on her blog Slow Mama. 

Nurture and Structure
---Another topic that many of us in the adoption world know about, but we have a hard time explaining it outside of our "safe circle":  the very-difficult parts of adoption.    Beyond the adoption aspect, any mother can relate to the hardships we all face when things don't go as they are "supposed to."  Read this fascinating post on It's Almost Naptime. 

Laters Into Nows
---Most people have a plan of some sort.  But what is one to do when that plan is altered by circumstance or situation?   Take the plunge!  This author's faith-journey is surprisingly simple, yet profound.   And yes, it involves adoption!  Check it out on the Created for Care blog. 

And, a tear-jerking video:

So, old news, Oprah has a sister who was placed for adoption.  New news:  How's it going?   In a recent Where Are They Now? episode on OWN (set your DVR to see the whole episode), Oprah and her sister talk about their relationship, and in particular, the sister discusses what it's like to find out who her family is.   What fantastic insight into the world of adoptees:  loss, joy, confusion, and possibilities. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Slow Mama, Adoption, Breastfeeding: Oh My!

I recently had the opportunity to promote my book on my new favorite blog:  Slow Mama.  

I discovered Zoe, Slow Mama's primary author, through a FB group I belong to.   Another mama had posted a link to Zoe's very popular post called "Why I Let My Adopted Preschoolers Nurse."  When I read the post, I was incredibly impressed with Zoe's heart-on-her-sleeve approach to a typically taboo topic.  As if breastfeeding isn't weird enough (saith many), adoptive breastfeeding PRESCHOOLERS (GASP!) to a whole new level.  Her post spoke to me in a way no other blogger had managed to do.  In fact, I included her post in my own recent expressions on the topic of adoptive breastfeeding, which quickly became one of my top five most popular blog posts.   I knew I had to interview this gutsy girl!

So, readers, meet Zoe Saint-Paul---and adoptive mama with zest, wisdom, and authenticity. 

Zoe, Tell me a little about yourself: career, family, likes.

I am first and foremost a wife to my best friend, Brian, and a mother to two incredible little five year-old girls who were born in Ethiopia and adopted in the fall of 2012.

I've worked in many fields over the years, including the performance arts, communications, PR, event planning, and publishing, and I have a Masters degree in counseling. I'm currently a writer, blogger, and certified life coach and I do freelance consulting work for non-profits, start-ups, and media projects.

I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, the eldest of 10 children. I'm big into health and food, fascinated by travel and other cultures, and inspired by people who brave their fears and serve others. I love artisanal chocolate, dancing around my living room, reading narrative non-fiction, body products that smell like the forest -- and sleep.
I first discovered your blog through who a friend who shared a must-read blog post you had written called "Why I Let My Adopted Preschoolers Nurse." I was fascinated by your courage to share your experience with your readers. Tell me about why you decided to write that particular post.

I wrote it for two reasons: to encourage other adoptive moms who might face a similar situation; and to add my voice to the growing movement trying to normalize breastfeeding. I hesitated to write it since my story is so outside the box, but a friend -- a breastfeeding advocate and adoptive mom herself -- encouraged me to do it. I've also got a bit of rebel streak so that helped me put it out there! I was amazed by the response -- to date, tens of thousands of people have read that post. Most surprising, the majority of the comments have been positive and supportive.
I have found that once I brought up adoptive nursing with adoptive moms, many have said they had a feeling it would be good for their children, but most have never had the courage to do it. Why do you think there's such fear (shame, confusion, etc.) around adoptive comfort-nursing? And what can we do about it?
Well, most of us -- in North America, anyway -- still assume that breastfeeding is solely for nourishing infants who are biologically born to us. But breastfeeding is much more than that… it's a key way for mothers and children to attach, and children come into the world wired to associate their mother's breasts with nurture and comfort, and that includes adoptive mothers. I think as the public becomes more comfortable with breastfeeding in general -- and breastfeeding children beyond infancy -- adoptive nursing (whether for comfort, nutrition, or both) will be easier to do and accept. But getting there means many of us have to step out of our comfort zones, tell our stories, and correct misinformation and misconceptions.

You've adopted internationally and transracially. Tell me a little about your adoption journey. What parts of adoption have brought you the most joy, and what's brought you challenges?

My husband and I were always drawn to international adoption and when we started the process to adopt from Ethiopia, it was estimated to be a 12-18 month wait for a sibling group, with one trip to Ethiopia. Instead, our adoption journey took over three years and required two trips, which wasn't happy news for a fearful flyer like me. The constant surrender and letting go of expectations throughout the process was a huge challenge. And I absolutely hated all the paperwork.

Our greatest joy is the fruit of our efforts and waiting: our precious daughters. They're incredible human beings and suit us to a tee. We marvel at all they've been through and the incredible progress they've made adapting to their new life. Those first few months after they came home were tough. My husband had to go right back to work and I was on my own with two four year-olds who did not speak or understand English, were having tantrums, and wanted to be held constantly at the same time. I had no family close by and I was sick for about two months straight from all the stress and lack of sleep. We got through it one day at a time. My focus during this first year has been on attachment and bonding -- I knew it was key to everything else.
You talk about adoption on your blog, but you write about many other subjects (as do your other bloggers). Tell my readers what they can gain from reading Slow Mama? And define Slow Mama.
The name "Slow Mama" is a bit tongue in cheek -- an oxymoron, really. But it was inspired by the reasons I launched the blog: First, I wanted to write, and that included writing about my journey to motherhood -- which was happening at a snail's pace. I was so encouraged by reading other adoption blogs and hoped my words could offer the same to others.

Additionally, so many of my life coaching clients were complaining of the speed of their lives and expressing a desire for more meaning. I realized that many of the ideals of the Slow Food movement (with which I was involved) were relevant to a richer life in general: simplicity, quality, community, connection, beauty, craftsmanship, sustainability, traditions. So my blog addresses these themes directly, but many posts are just about my life as a parent, an adoptive mom, and an observer of life. I try to integrate it all together and make SlowMama a fun, informative, encouraging place to visit. My contributors add so much -- I love working with them. I know I'm not alone in my struggle to slow down and live a more grounded, connected life, and a "slow" mama is essentially any woman who's trying to live this way. (For the record, there are plenty of men who read SlowMama, too.)

Is a book in your future? If yes, what about?

Yes, I think so, but the jury is still out as to the topic. Maybe something about slow living, but I'm also interested in exploring issues related to race and adoptive parenting. Stay tuned!
Where else can my readers connect with you? (FB, Twitter, etc)?

Besides SlowMama, I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn