Archive for July, 2013

Guinness World Record to Guatemala

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

The Guinness Book of World Records has bestowed on Guatemala the award for “Longest Sawdust Carpet,” reports the Prensa Latina News Agency. Back in April, we visited Guatemala for our first-ever Semana Santa, and I wrote about our trip here. Watching the artistry and dedication involved in creating the carpets, and then witnessing the religious processions that follow, ranks as one of the most moving and memorable experiences of my life.

Spectacular, Guatemala. Congratulations!




“Extended Family” documentary by Jill R. Hodges

Friday, July 12th, 2013

At Heritage Camp this year, I joined a large group of adoptive parents who viewed Jill R. Hodges’  moving and thought-provoking documentary short, Extended Family, which tells of Hodges’ search for her son’s birth mother in Guatemala. The film effectively conveys the reality of life for some Guatemalan women who have relinquished a child for adoption—the secrecy and the shame, and the judgment to which they are subjected.  One particularly effective segment shows an interview with one such birth mother (not Hodges’ son’s). I was fascinated to watch the young woman’s face go through a range of emotions as she discussed her decision to place her child for adoption. Also fascinating were the frank conversations with a few of the well-known “searchers” who facilitate contact between adoptive and birth families. Viewers may learn a lot by hearing these women share their insights, gained over many years. Finally, the film illustrates the everyday challenges faced by many rural Guatemalans as Hodges and her seacher travel by van through the rain over muddy, winding roads to reach her son’s birth village.

Ultimately, Hodges meets her son’s extended birth family, although not his birth mother, who was unavailable to attend the reunion. Those scenes especially will interest anyone who wonders what first meetings may be like. At the end of the film, Hodges’ son is shown in a photo with members of his Guatemalan family.

The screening sparked a lively and wide-ranging discussion, as audience members shared their thoughts and experiences on birth family contact. Subjects included whether or not parents should initiate the process, or wait for their children to ask to establish contact, and when such meetings should occur.

If you or your group are interested in a screening of Extended Family, contact Jill Hodges via Facebook at Extended Family, or through her website,, where you can also view the trailer.

Image credit: Jill R. Hodges





Summer in San Diego

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

We’re in San Diego for a while to visit my parents and siblings who live here. Before I met Tim, I lived in San Diego for years, so visiting always feels like coming home. One of our favorite San Diego traditions is the Fourth of July Parade in Coronado. My sister “A” wakes up at 4:30 AM to secure us a spot curbside, competing with the large crowd of similar-minded locals who also are jockeying to claim parade-viewing real estate by throwing down blankets and setting up chairs. When the rest of our family saunters up hours later and sits ourselves down in the primo location my sister has claimed, I think of her waking before dawn to ensure that we—and our kids especially—experience July Fourth front row and center.  Thank you again, selfless sister of mine.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the beach, where Mateo endured his first brush with a jellyfish. I spent my childhood swimming in the Atlantic, where we dodged jellies all the time, but I’ve never sighted one in West coast waters. We administered vinegar (a trick we learned in Australia), and Mateo recovered quickly. The close encounter didn’t dampen our spirits, though: While I alternated between actively boogie boarding and passively being hypnotized by the sound of the crashing surf, the kids darted up and down the beach moving wet sand in buckets, and running from breaking waves. There are few places on earth as endlessly engaging as an oceanfront.

My parents are at the age where more health challenges are beginning to reveal themselves, and I’m glad we can be here together, while we can. More than ever, each day feels like a gift.


Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

We just returned from six days in Colorado, the main purpose of which was to attend Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families. I love our life, but a part of me wishes we could live in that supportive, insulated world forever. This is our fifth year attending, over the past six years: The first time I flew alone from California with Olivia, when she had just turned five, and from the moment we walked together into the big gathering hall filled with more than 100 adoptive families with kids born in Latin America, we looked at each other with disbelieving eyes. Was this place real? Even at five years old, Olivia, perhaps more than me, sensed we had discovered something special.

I’ll try to put into words why I love Heritage Camp. It’s the feeling of being at home, among friends, among families who also get stared at, everywhere else they go. Of not needing to explain anything to anyone. Of our family being in a large social situation, and in a very deep and rare way, feeling relaxed. It’s watching the teen counselors, most of whom are camp alumni, as they interact with our children–so caring and empathic because the teens are also adopted, with parents and other family members who don’t look like them, and they’ve already endured years of that, and have come out the other side, which gives me hope my children will, too. Of dancing at the Fiesta on Saturday night and realizing every child on the dance floor is adopted, not only mine, and what a relief that must feel like to my kids–for once, being like everybody else. Of listening to a roundtable discussion by a panel of adult adoptees, and learning from their experiences about ways I can try to do better. About ways we can all learn from each other.

I sometimes feel like a broken record, the way I constantly promote Heritage Camp, Heritage Camp, Heritage Camp! But then at dinner our first night, I asked an attendee from Illinois who was sitting at my table how she’d learned about Heritage Camp, and she said, “I read about it on a blog I follow, Mamalita.” Even better, she told me she definitely planned to return next year.

So I’ll say it again. If you haven’t ever attended Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families, think about it.  That’s all. Think about it.

Thank you. ~