Archive for April, 2012

Writing contest open to children from adoptive families

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

A friend on Facebook sent me a link to a writing contest that looks interesting. Called Young Writers for Adoption, the competition is open to youths who are adopted and/or their siblings. 

The contest is broken down into age categories and involves cash prizes:

Four age divisions:

10 and under
ages 11-13
ages 14-18
ages 19-21

Cash awards for winners in each age division:

1st place =$500
2nd place=$300
3rd place= $150
4th place=$50

Entries can be prose or poetry; submissions may be up to 500 words. The deadline is June 1, 2012. There is no fee to enter.

Click here for further details.

Good luck!




Flower fields. San Diego

Friday, April 20th, 2012


For more than a decade, every April, I’ve driven past the ranuncula fields along the 5 freeway in Carlsbad, California without stopping, first when I was single and living alone and motored south from Los Angeles to visit family, and now, as a married woman in San Francisco, with husband and children in tow.  

Last week, at the tail end of our April Spring Break visit, I told Tim and the kids I wanted to drive north on the 5 to Carlsbad, but this time, I actually wanted to get out of the car. After all these years, I yearned to walk through the 50 acres of blooming ranunculas and see the flowers up close. As luck would have it, the Friday we decided to go, San Diego experienced one of its rare and drenching downpours.  When we showed up at the ticket booth, dripping wet and dressed in all the clothes we were able to scrounge from the back seat of the minivan, the attendant asked “You’re here today? Are you crazy?!” 

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, we probably are. That aside, we had driven north to see the ranuncula fields–we’d even parked and gotten out of the car!–and by golly, that’s what we were going to do. 

Here’s a series of photos I took, of Mateo and Olivia posing in front of a sand castle “surfing gnome”; a lovely red tractor; a sculpture of a kneeling girl wearing a sunhat; and a pre-Disneyland era play house.


 I have to admit, the adventure started with groans and protests–let’s just say my children never relish the prospect of being uncomfortable and wet–but after it was over, as we sipped warm hot chocolate at home, the kids pronounced the fields ”awesome” and the rain “not so bad.”

I’ll resist the impulse to say anything about stopping and smelling the–you know the rest.  ~




San Diego. A day at the beach.

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

The house in New Jersey where I grew up sat a block from the Atlantic Ocean, close enough that the air smelled like salt water, and I could walk there barefoot whenever the urge struck to dig my toes in the sand, which for me as a young girl, happened almost every day. Something about the repetition of the crashing waves and the long view of an endess horizon hypnotized me. No matter what else went on in my life, I left the beach calmer and happier than when I arrived.

I’m a grown woman now, the mother of two children, but at heart, I’m still the same girl. I’d rather walk along a seashore than do almost anything else. Lucky for me, my family feels the same.

One day, Mateo and I discovered a shopkeeper originally from France who bakes old-fashioned, handmade pretzels, which reminded me of the ones they used to sell at the Asbury Park Boardwalk in Convention Hall. These pretzels are labor-intensive: first kneaded, then boiled, and finally salted and cooked. The taste was just as I remembered it: chewy and slightly sour, with just the right sprinkling of dense, chunky salt. Heaven. 


Hope for the Guatemala900 and pending adoptions?

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Will President Otto Perez Molina go down in history as the official in Guatemala who finally resolves the more than 300 adoption cases that have been pending since the shutdown in December 2007? If I were a parent waiting for a child whose case had been in limbo for more than four years, would I dare to hope?

An article in the Associated Press seems to indicate that the new President is willing to take action after meeting with Lousiana Senator Mary Landrieu, a tireless champion of international adoption. Hopes have been raised before. Will this time be different? From the AP article:

Guatemala’s president says he’s willing to speed up 350 adoptions by U.S. couples that were in process before his Central American nation suspended adoptions by foreigners in 2007 following allegations of fraud and baby theft. President Otto Perez Molina said Wednesday he hopes to resolve those cases after meeting with Sen. Mary Landrieu. The Louisiana Democrat has been traveling to Guatemala to push for the adoptions to go through.

Since I started blogging two years ago, I’ve logged some 25 posts about the adoption shutdown and families whose cases have been stuck in the pipeline.  One in particular stands out: Stalled more than 4 years. One family’s adoption story.

May change occur soon.


In San Diego on the Midway

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

This past Saturday, we drove 10 hours from San Francisco to San Diego to visit family for Spring Break. We’ve made the trip down the 5 freeway so often we know every rest stop, fast-food joint, orange grove, and billboard along the way. (Shane P. Donlon, anyone?) Not that I’m complaining. Part of the adventure is the journey.

On Tuesday, a friend of Tim’s, a former Navy doctor on the USS Ranger, gave us a guided tour of the aircraft carrier Midway, for years the largest ship in the world, and now parked in San Diego Harbor. From the Midway website:

“Commissioned a week after the end of World War II, the USS Midway embarked on an unprecedented 47-year odyssey that set new standards in naval aviation. More than 225,000 Americans took part in the odyssey that ended after Midway served as the Persian Gulf flagship in Desert Storm. Longest-serving U.S. Navy carrier of the 20th century and largest ship in the world, 1945-1955.”

We spent two hours exploring below-deck and above, and finished with a new understanding of the phrase “tight quarters.” On the Midway, sailors slept in bunks three deep; on other ships, we were told, they can be stacked in layers of five. The second photo shows a “zebra door” or “Z door,” water-tight when closed; in the bottom photo, Olivia and Mateo navigate one of the ship’s maze-like hallways, climbing over a small steel lip referred to as a “knee-knocker.” 

The ship is one-fifth of a mile long, a distance felt on the flight deck.

A peek  inside the captain’s area (can’t remember the technical name) stands out as a high point.

We didn’t try the flight simulator, but the teenagers who emerged after turning upside down and around seemed to relish the experience. A trip to the Midway: Fabulous! ~


Alfombras and cascarones

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

I’ve never spent Semana Santa in Antigua, but someday!

However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, our trip to Guatemala this year coincided with Ash Wednesday, and we were lucky enough to view a few spectacular alfombras, or sawdust carpets. I’ve posted photos here, taken at the churches in San Felipe de Jesus (above), at La Merced, and La Cathedral (below).

At the very bottom, you’ll see a photo of Olivia with bits of paper in her hair. This Ash Wednesday tradition is known as cascarones, where children take hollowed-out eggs filled with pica pica, or small colorful bits of paper, and smash them against each others’ heads.  Last year, we celebrated Ash Wednesday in Panajachel, where we noticed teenagers smashing real eggs all over each other. Not sure if that’s unique to teenagers, or Panajachel, but our children loved watching the oozing yolks. 

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Sacred Season!


Joyce Maynard writes about adoption

Friday, April 6th, 2012

This week, writer Joyce Maynard publicly announced the disruption of her adoption of two girls from Ethiopia in a letter posted on her website. No doubt many people have an opinion on disrupted adoption in general, and this one in particular. As a person who knows Joyce as a teacher, mentor, and friend, I urge you to read her letter.

I also urge you to read KJ Dell’Antonia’s thoughtful analysis of Joyce’s announcement in the New York Times Motherlode essay, Joyce Maynard Announces Failure of Her Adoptive Family. Here’s an excerpt:

Adopting a child — a small, confused person with an identity and a sense of herself as a part of a family or a community that isn’t yours — isn’t simple. No matter how good the intentions are on all sides to become a family, it doesn’t always work — and “doesn’t always” is more often than you think.

Some experts estimate that as many as one in five adoptions of children over the age of 6 end in disruption, for complex reasons. A newly adopted child is apart from everything she’s ever known. She’s without any firm touchstone from her past, and her future is nothing but a promise — a promise of “forever” and “family” from someone who’s taken her from a life she never truly realized was anything but forever itself.

This is a truly difficult dynamic to surf… I know that I couldn’t really apprehend what had been taken from our daughter until she became our daughter. As convinced as I was that I understood what we were both getting into, I really had no understanding of how hard it would be for us to come from our different places and fall in love. There were moments when I thought it would never happen.


[Joyce] is sure to be the subject of … criticism… But I suspect very little of it will come from those who have a bone-deep understanding of the complexities of adoption, or how difficult it can be to blend a family from the mixture of emotions and motivations and intentions and actions that we all bring to our little tables. When adoption is successful, it is at best a phoenix: it rises from the ashes of a tragedy. It is never the life we hope for when a baby is born. When it works, it’s wonderful.


In February 2011, after the highly publicized case involving adoptive mother Torrey Hansen and the 7-year-old boy she sent home to Russia, I posted about the difficulties faced by some adoptive families, stressing the importance of finding a community and asking for help. I reiterate that here. As an adoptive parent, I have faced, and continue to face, challenges I never imagined, never could have imagined. From my conversations with other adoptive parents, I know I’m not alone.

I’ll end here with a line from Joyce’s letter: “Until I walk in someone else’s shoes, I try not to suppose I know her story.”

Wishing peace to all. ~


“The Kid with a Bike” and “A Gate at the Stairs”

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Last week, I saw a new film, The Kid with a Bike, which I loved. Here’s what I wrote about it when I posted on my Facebook page:

A disturbing, powerful, and ultimately hopeful movie, about a boy abandoned by his dad (no mention of his mother; maybe there, but I didn’t catch it), living in a group home, who is eventually fostered by a single woman, a hairdresser, and preyed upon by a local tough. Addresses hard issues like attachment, loss, and parenting the hurt child. Watch the trailer and see it if you can. In French.

I recently finished Lorrie Moore’s book, A Gate at the Stairs (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009 and Vintage Contemporaries, 2010)The New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, among many other publications, named A Gate at the Stairs one of the ”Best Books of the Year.” Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review.

However, according to reviews posted on Amazon, readers’ reactions vary widely, with about the same number of people giving the book five stars as gave it one. One of my friends, a voracious reader, hated the book, or more specifically, hated the depiction of one of the main characters, Sarah Brink. (Sarah, like author Lorrie Moore, is an adoptive mother.) I must confess that at first I didn’t much like Sarah, either–her character seemed brittle, aloof, and self-centered–but by the end of the book, I understood her, and with understanding came deep admiration and empathy. A few weeks later, Sarah Brink still haunts me, which is why I’m recommending the book now. But be warned, A Gate at the Stairs is not a particularly fun or easy read.

My goal for 2012 is to read more books. If I find any other great ones that feature adoption themes, I’ll let you know.