Archive for May, 2010

The Graduate

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

We have a giant sunflower in our garden that grows so fast that when I check it in the morning after not seeing it for twenty-four hours, the stalk seems to have gained three inches. Right now, watching Mateo develop feels like that. Seemingly overnight, he knows the letters in the alphabet, can count to 100, and, when urged, can brush and floss his own teeth. One day he can’t buckle himself into his car seat; the next, he’s hopping into his booster and secured while I’m still fumbling in my purse for my keys.

Yesterday, Mateo achieved another milestone: He graduated from preschool. As he marched up to the microphone to introduce the ceremony with his one line—“We hope you enjoy it!”—I couldn’t believe he was the same little guy enrolled in remedial speech class for a year. Later, as he ran across the stage to receive his diploma, I saw no signs of the timid toddler who once clung to my side. 

The photo here is of us with his teacher in the “Cheetah class,” Ms. Sveta. We’re grateful to her and all of Mateo’s teachers and school administrators for their love and dedication. In just a few short months, Mateo will begin kindergarten. I know my son is ready.


Showing up

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

I once heard someone say that 90% of life is showing up. I think about that line every time I go to my daughter’s class room to volunteer during Math Centers or Story Time, or to watch the Halloween Parade or the Fall Concert. “Showing up” is part of my job as a parent. My kids are still young enough that they look for me in the audience, and when they locate my face, they wave. But these last few weeks have been more overloaded than usual, and no matter how early in the morning I wake up, I always feel behind. Some things I’ve had to let slide.

Tuesday was Olivia’s Spring Sing, an annual school-wide event for grades K through 2. For the past two years, faithfully, I’ve gone. But this year, on Tuesday, I simply had too much to do. I knew that if I went to Spring Sing, the ten others tasks I needed to accomplish before nightfall would not get done. My best and only choice was to opt out. But all morning, I felt terrible. (more…)


Art Gallery

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

For years before I became an adoptive mother, I worked in art museums. First in Los Angeles, then in San Diego, and finally, before I quit my job and moved to Antigua to finish Olivia’s adoption, in San Francisco. One of the benefits of working in art museums is that all day you are surrounded by beautiful and challenging things: Walking through the galleries, in conference rooms, even in the most ordinary office corridors. Everywhere you look are paintings and sculptures, photographs and prints, installations and drawings. I miss it. (more…)



Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Every time my husband travels and I’m home doing everything myself, I realize two things: First, how much my husband actually does around here. And second, how hard it is be a single parent. To anyone who is rearing a child or children alone, for whatever reason, I say: My hat is off. You have my respect. Single parenting is not easy. 

Tim is back now and I can finally take a breath. Yesterday, I took myself to see the new movie about adoption, Mother and Child. Talk about intense. The film showed adoption from multiple points of view: birth mothers, prospective adoptive parents, related family members, and the child who is adopted. The story and performances were so believable that in many parts the film was hard for me to watch. The movie drove home the complexity of adoption—the deeply felt loss and pain, and how that coexists with joy and new life. Many scenes will remain with me for a long time. I recommend Mother and Child to anyone with an interest in adoption. Go prepared to be affected.  (more…)



Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Olivia turned eight and we celebrated with a bowling party. She’d been to a few bowling parties this year and had a great time. Maybe that’s because these days, lane management seals the gutters, thus eliminating the primary bowling experience of my youth—the gutter ball. The “no-gutter-ball” strategy was successful enough that Olivia and several of her friends scored spares, a feat they celebrated with whoops, high fives, and lots of sliding on the polished floor into an imaginary home base. 

My sister Patrice was there. She brought a dozen cupcakes decorated with Olivia’s favorite animal, the mouse, and gave her a skein of yarn—pink—with a set of knitting needles to indulge my daughter’s latest passion. I know nothing about knitting, but Patrice, luckily, is a willing and patient teacher. Already, Olivia has created five multi-colored scarves using only a spool and her hands. There’s no telling what she will do with real needles.

 After the kids bowled for almost an hour, they chowed down on pizza and sang “Happy Birthday.” Then Olivia blew out the candles and we ate cupcakes—chocolate with chocolate icing, the favorite of Olivia and Mateo, both. My son was on his best behavior. Every single one of the children was polite and nice. When their parents came to pick them up, I told them they should be proud. I’m so happy that my daughter belongs to such a delightful group of friends. 

It was a small party, but on the way home, Olivia declared it perfect. Year eight is off to a great start.


Like Flying

Monday, May 17th, 2010

On Sunday, for the first time, Olivia rode a pink, two-wheeled bicycle. This weekend we celebrated her eighth birthday, and she asked for the bike as a gift. Up until now, my daughter had tooled around on a smaller bicycle fitted with training wheels, showing no interest in riding without them. But Sunday after lunch, she announced she was ready to graduate.  Tim took Olivia to our local bike shop so she could choose the spiffiest model. When they returned, Olivia showed off the bike’s features: knobby white tires, a handy kickstand, and pairs of reflectors on the spokes. 

We live on a hill too steep for a bicycle, so the four of us piled into the minivan and drove to the nearest playground. Of course I brought my camera. I’ve missed recording many of my children’s milestones, but my daughter’s maiden voyage on a bike was not going to be one of them.

Tim, Mateo, and I cheered while Olivia zipped around the playground, her balance becoming steadier with each revolution.  “It feels like flying!” she said as she pedaled toward me.  Her face was open with a giant grin. Mateo jumped on his Razor scooter to follow behind his big sister, and together they formed their own parade. Learning to ride a bicycle is a huge milestone, and both kids felt it. At eight years old, Olivia has left the ranks of little kids and is becoming a big girl. I’m still getting used to the concept.


Talking About Adoption

Friday, May 14th, 2010

As an adoptive parent, I’ve heard a statistic that for every one time my child mentions the subject of adoption, he or she is thinking about it ten times more. I view “adoption talk” as an iceberg: a huge mass under water that is unseen; the actual discussion is merely the tip. 

My children seem to think about adoption in waves. Days will go by with no questions or comments, and then suddenly, adoption will be all they want to discuss. That’s been the case this week. On Monday, Olivia announced: “I need extra copies of my First Holy Communion photos so I can give them to people in Guatemala.” I assured her that would not be a problem. On Wednesday, Mateo said, “When I lived with my old mother, I had a hamster.” He usually calls his birth mother by name, so I was surprised to hear him say “old mother.” Finally, last night as she was brushing her teeth, Olivia said, “I’m really supposed to speak Spanish. Everyone who lives in Guatemala speaks Spanish and that’s where I’m from.”  (more…)


Picture yourself

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Years ago, before yoga was all the rage, dance studios in New York City and elsewhere offered classes in high-impact aerobics. This was in the 1980s, the decade I lived in New York, when people wore big sneakers and sweatbands and other now-unthinkably unfashionable garments in which to work out.

I had moved to New York to study dance, but after a few years of learning alongside professionally trained dancers who were Broadway and ballet-company-bound, I realized I would be better off laboring behind a desk as an assistant editor at a magazine. But I was still not the kind of person who liked to exercise at a gym, so I switched my routine from dance to aerobics. (more…)


Olivia’s First Holy Communion

Monday, May 10th, 2010

On Saturday morning, Olivia received her First Holy Communion along with 53 other girls and boys in our community. She wore a white cotton dress made of fabric handcrafted in Cobán, Guatemala, and a veil her godmother, my sister, Patrice, bought for her in San Francisco. 

For the past two years, Olivia has attended after-school religious education classes to prepare for the big day. Several of her classmates also attend religious ed, so Olivia never complained about going (which happens with other after-school activities). Besides, her teachers—volunteers from our church congregation—make the lessons meaningful and fun. In addition to teaching biblical history, Olivia’s teachers reinforce the message of “love one another.” In my opinion, that particular message can never be taught too many times. 

The same evening, we attended the Bat Mitzvah of the daughter of good friends. Maybe because the two events were so closely juxtaposed, I was struck by their similarities. An atmosphere of closeness and good-will pervaded the congregation in each setting. Throughout each service, I felt a profound sense of connectedness, to my family and the people around me, to the world and to the universe.  (more…)


The First Strawberries

Friday, May 7th, 2010

I grew up in New Jersey, the Garden State, but as a child knew very little about plants. We had trees I could identify—sycamore and oak and maple—and a Rose-of-Sharon bush grown from a cutting started at my mother’s girlhood home in Virginia. Other than that, though, nothing. I was a girl from the suburbs: Peaches arrived in cans and carrots existed in deli coleslaw.

Tim, on the other hand, spent his formative years on a farm in Texas. His parents grew berries and peas and corn and squash. As a boy, Tim worked alongside his father, watching what his father did and learning from it. Now as an adult, my husband tracks rainfall the way other men follow pro sports. In the ten years we’ve been together, I’ve learned a lot from Tim.  I, too, love to get my hands dirty in good soil. I worry if we plant seedlings too early; I fret about water levels. (more…)