Archive for February, 2016

Latin American Heritage Camp

Monday, February 22nd, 2016
Registration opens today for Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado. The dates are June 23-June 26; the setting is a rustic and charming YMCA in the magnificent Rocky Mountains.
We’ve gone several times and each of us enjoyed the experience for different reasons: the kids because, first, every family there looks like ours, and they sense instantly the deep comfort of that; and second, because it’s fun. They’re outdoors! There’s a pool, and a campfire, and one year, a hayride! The older kids hike and zip-line and compare adoption journeys. Everyone eats together and dances and talks and listens and talks some more. We share a bond, we families through adoption. Everybody feels it.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that more than any other workshop or seminar, Heritage Camp informed the way I approach adoptive parenting. In particular: the panel discussions by older adoptees opened my eyes to what it feels like to be a person from Latin America adopted to the US. As the teens and young adults shared their stories, they discussed what worked and what didn’t, what they know now that they wish they could tell their younger selves, and offered suggestions for how we as a community of adoptive parents can learn from the past and move forward. I took notes and heard, and vowed to incorporate the lessons learned into the lives of my family.
It’s never too late to go to Heritage Camp. Maybe this is the year? xoxo


Certificate of Citizenship, again

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Certificate of Citizenship, again. Because possessing one is that important!

My friend Caroline Tiffin posted this and gave me permission to share. From Caroline:

I am both an adoptive parent and a former agency founder/director. Over the years since adoptions closed I have been contacted by many adoptive parents who either misplaced their children’s adoption documents from Guatemala or wanted additional certified copies. Some of them had not secured their child’s US citizenship. This week the Adam Crapser case is again in the news – he was adopted to the US from South Korea at age 3; the first adoption disrupted and he was adopted by a second family. Neither secured his US citizenship. He is now facing deportation to a country he does not know with a language he does not speak. I post about this from time to time – PLEASE make sure your child is a US citizen AND that they are recognized as such by the Social Security Administration.

In short, if your child came to the US on an IR-4 visa – meaning if you are a single parent you did not visit him/her in Guatemala before finalization there, or if married, both did not visit, then your child is NOT A CITIZEN if you did not subsequently adopt him/her in the United States.

Adult adoptees are on this page – if you do not have a copy of your certificate of naturalization or citizenship, it is imperative that you talk to your parents and get this. You are an adult and entitled to have it. Leave it with them for safekeeping for now if you want, but you need to eyeball it yourself. If you discover you are not a citizen, contact me privately and I will do my best to assist you.

Adoptive parents – if you need any adoption documents in order to secure your child’s citizenship, or just want some extra copies, I am offering to assist at no charge to you other than what my facilitator in Guatemala charges to retrieve and certify them. I will be traveling to Guatemala in mid March, returning in early April. I am willing to bring documents back with me to save adoptive parents the cost of having them Fed Ex’d from Guatemala.

Here is how it works:

You send me an email with scans of the documents you want, to (If you don’t have copies to scan ie you have misplaced your originals given to you in Guatemala, explain to me what you need and I will see if it is possible to get them anyway.) Please title the email Adoption Document Retrieval. I will forward this information to the facilitator and she will respond with a quote. If you agree, you send this payment to me. I will bring the documents back from Guatemala and Fed Ex them to you, whereupon you will reimburse me for the Fed Ex.

Available documents are:

- Certified copies of the birth certificate as filed at RENAP, the national vital records department. Generally the cost to retrieve and certify two identical copies is about $60.00 – 75.00
- Certified copy of the Protocolo, which is the last document signed by the birth mother, which finalizes the adoption. Some refer to this as an adoption decree but it’s really not since it is not issued by a court, but, it serves the same purpose. This can only be retrieved if the adoption lawyer properly registered the Protocolo with the government archive; if s/he did not it would be necessary to contact the lawyer, hope they still have their file, and convince them to register the Protocolo.
- Copies of the birth mother’s cedula
- Please inquire via email about any other documents

Note that you can always file, free of charge with USCIS, Forms G-339 and G-884, to get back original documents (and sometimes photos). You can download the forms at

Feel free to ask questions [to Caroline at her email,] but I cannot give any quotes except as explained above. If you want to ask me a question privately, please do so via email, not PM. If there is a large response to this and the facilitator will not have time to fulfill all requests in time, I will prioritize ones where the child is not yet a citizen. I will be going back possibly in May, definitely in July and could bring back any remaining ones then.


At the Library

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

My son Mateo and I stood checking out books at our local library when a very tall, elderly white man hobbled by using a cane. The old man stopped in front of the Returns slot, opened his tote bag, and began slipping in books. But in the process of negotiating tote bag, books, and cane, the old man lost his balance, and although he grabbed hold of the counter to right himself, his grip loosened on the cane and it clattered to the floor.

The old man sighed with a sound of frustration, as though wondering how on earth he was going to fold his six-foot-five frame into the shape necessary to bend down to retrieve his cane, and once successful, get back up. My parents are 87 and use wheelchairs and walkers, and because of that, I’m hyper-aware of mobility challenges. Quickly, I rushed over and scooped up the cane and handed it to the old man, waving away his thanks by explaining my folks are 87 and I was happy to help.

“Myself, I’m 94,” the man said, the twinkle in his eye showing he knew “94” was bound to impress.

“Good for you!” I said, and meant it. The man’s gaze traveled past me and landed on Mateo, who had finished checking out his books and was arranging them in an orderly stack. “How old are you, young man?” he asked.


“A marvelous age,” the man said, and left it at that.

I smiled because the old man, even at 94, was very tall, and Mateo, at eleven, hasn’t had his growth spurt, and in fact, may never be a giant. Recently, a woman in the paint department at Home Depot had asked Mateo his age, and when Mateo told her 11, the woman turned to me and said, “He’s short, isn’t he? I would have guessed nine.”

The episode confirmed my belief, solidified since becoming a mother through adoption, that people will say whatever they think, other people’s feelings be damned. I was grateful to the man for not mentioning Mateo’s height. He leaned over and looked at Mateo’s stack of books. “What are you reading?”

“History.” Mateo held up his books shyly. “The Revolutionary War.”

“History was always my favorite,” the man said. “Especially the Revolutionary War.” He looked at Mateo and then at me and back to Mateo. “I was adopted. My parents were English, and my birth mother was a Scot. Of course, I’m an American.”

Mateo beamed, and although I was tempted to tell the man we’re an adoptive family, I didn’t. At eleven, my son is old enough to share his story if he chooses. Besides, I was sure the old man figured it out for himself. Instead, Mateo told the old man we’d visited Lexington and Concord and the sites in Boston, and next were going to Gettysburg and Philadelphia. The old man said that sounded splendid.

We said our good-byes, and as Mateo and I walked to the car, he said, “Did you hear that, Mom? He was adopted too.”

I didn’t say, “He probably noticed we don’t look alike. He probably knew without our telling.” Instead, I held my son’s face in my hands and kissed his cheek. “I did hear, Mateo. That is so cool.”


Book: Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren

Friday, February 12th, 2016

An excerpt from Jillian Lauren’s memoir of adoption, Everything You Ever Wanted,  is posted on the Adoptive Families website. I read and loved and recommend the book. Jillian Lauren’s voice is thoroughly engaging and real, and the story of becoming a mother through adoption is, of course, one of my favorite subjects. The AF website requires a log-in to read the excellent interview with the author, conducted by my friend Sharon Van Epps, but you should be able to access the excerpt here.


An orphanage in Vietnam

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

A friend from San Francisco, Cindy Bailey, has done what many fantasize about doing (at least I do!), which is sell everything, pull up stakes, and travel around the world with her husband and two young children. Cindy documents her journey in her terrific blog, “My Little Vagabonds.” This week, she wrote about her family’s visit to the Vung Tau orphanage in Vietnam.

Cindy reports that Vung Tau director, Le Thi My Huong, was adopted to Australia at age 5 during Operation Babylift. Very unfortunately (in my opinion), My Huong’s adoptive parents told My Huong her parents were dead, and forbade her to speak of Vietnam. Having been 5 when she was adopted, My Huong remembered a different truth, and returned to her village at age 35 to search for and find her birth mother and family.

In this week’s blog post, Cindy Bailey describes My Huong’s journey–including her own adoption of two boys from Vietnam, now 5 and 13–as well as the mission and workings of the Vung Tau orphanage. It’s a fascinating read.

Vietnam is now a signatory to the Hague, so adoptions to the US are allowed, with restrictions. I personally am not conversant on the terms between our two countries, but My Huong says this: “In 2009 we had 110 adoptions. This year, none, because of those international laws. Kids have to be adopted from within their country first, and the Vietnamese don’t believe in adoption unless it’s within the family.” A link in the article will direct you to the US State Department website for more information.~


My mother

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

We’ve moved my parents to an assisted living facility in San Diego, near where one of my sisters lives. My mother now needs assistance with almost everything–standing, sitting, moving in any way–although she can still lift a spoon to her mouth and sip through a straw. It shocks me every time I see her, to know three years ago she did Pilates twice a week and chair yoga on the other days. That five years ago, she could kick over her head and place her palms flat on the floor, and ten years earlier, danced six shows a week in the Palm Springs Follies.  At 72, my mother earned an Associates Degree at Palomar College. Her degree was in Dance, and she was the school’s oldest graduate.

How quickly it happens, everything goes away. We don’t think it will, but it does.

The assisted living facility provides occasional entertainment for the residents, and last week, the ‘Rhinestone Grannies’ came to put on a show. In the photo below, you can see Mom in blue, front and center. Somehow word leaked out my mother was a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette–at events such as these, it always does–and the cast members insisted on posing with her. Mom loved the costumes and choreography, the singing and tap dancing. And of course the attention. Those things keep her alive.

Seeing my mother fade away continues to teach me lessons, and to want to grab hold tighter to this life — so small and brief, but so glorious, too.


Pat Goudvis: When We Were Young There Was A War

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

A friend in Guatemala sent me the link to a website designed by Pat Goudvis, When We Were Young / There Was a War. Some of you may be familiar with Goudvis from her documentary about adoption from Guatemala, “Goodbye Baby.”

The site features archival interviews with children whose families were affected by Guatemala’s armed conflict, and reflections by those children, now adults, 20 years later. Text on the site describes the conflict, with a link for teacher resources. My 13-year-old daughter watched the interviews of the children from Guatemala, and was moved by the testimonials and footage. Below is an excerpt from the introduction.

“… As I visited people and communities in Guatemala and El Salvador during and after the civil wars, in the 1980s-90s, I wondered about the experience of the children. That led me to make a documentary film in 1993 called “If the Mango Tree Could Speak,” featuring ten adolescents from those two countries, telling their stories of growing up in the midst of war.

When We Were Young / There Was A War continues the story of those same people today, who are now adults, many with children of their own. I’ve kept in touch with most of them over the years and filmed them again in 2012.”