Posts Tagged ‘adoption from Guatemala’

A hotel lobby story

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Like many adoptive parents of children born in Guatemala, I have my own “hotel lobby story.” Why a hotel lobby story? Because a hotel lobby is where I held each of my babies in my arms for the very first time.

In 2006, deep in the struggle to write Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, I attended a writing workshop led by Joyce Maynard at her home in San Marcos, Guatemala. I knew the arc of my story. I had lived it. But what was my point of entry? Was it the moment my doctor informed me I’d never have children? Or did it happen during the five-day, 400-mile bicycle trip I took over Christmas 1998, when my now-husband Tim said he was open to the idea of parenthood through adoption? At Joyce’s workshop, another writer, Andi Sciacci, who also teaches writing, asked me a very simple question. She said, “Where does the story start for you?”

I had found my opening scene. (more…)


Language and belonging

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Recently, I was telling another mom at Mateo’s preschool about some of the valuable lessons we learned at Heritage Camp, especially about incorporating elements of our children’s Guatemalan culture into our daily lives. One of the most important ways my husband and I can do this is by helping our children to learn Spanish and to learn Spanish ourselves. When I fostered Olivia in Antigua in 2003, I studied Spanish. This fall I’ve enrolled in a class to refresh what I learned. Olivia herself will begin Spanish in the upcoming school year. We’re lucky because in our California district, children take Spanish from Grade 3.

The mom at Mateo’s preschool, “Ms. G,” agreed that speaking the language is an important way to stay connected to a culture, but, she quickly added, speaking the language doesn’t mean you necessarily “belong” to the culture. She used her own life story to illustrate. (more…)


Adoption in Real Life

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

A friend sent me a link to an episode on The View that ran on Friday, June 16. The subject was international adoption, as it was experienced by adoptive parents who are not celebrities. Guests included blogger Kristen Howerton, mother to four children—two biological and two adopted (one from the U.S. and one from Haiti). Other guests were Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute; a single mother; and a gay couple. (more…)



Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

When I had the idea to rip out the 20-year-old ratty carpet downstairs and replace it with hardwood floors, I forgot that someone—read: me—would need to pack into boxes every single item and carry them upstairs. The problem is that the downstairs has become our house’s de facto floor-sized closet, the black hole into which I throw everything I lack the heart to throw out. By which I mean every sheet of paper on which my children have inscribed a pencil mark, every tempera paint hand print, every shaky capital letter “M” for Mateo, the note from Olivia that states: “I lov yu no maddr whut” or the one over my desk: “Yur the best momy ever.” The packing job is taking days.

I am a woman who owns three pairs of blue jeans and two pairs of sneakers. My makeup routine consists of a swipe of L’oreal lipstick I buy at CVS. Except for my books and Guatemalan handicrafts, I collect nothing.  But give me a face drawn with marker on a paper plate, a paper towel drenched with watercolor, or a Valentine’s card like the one Mateo gave me (inscribed, mysteriously, with “we love carrots”), and I figure there’s always another plastic storage container to be bought, another box to be scavenged from Safeway. Somewhere, I’ll make space. (more…)


Learning Spanish

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Everyone assumes that because my children were born in Guatemala they speak Spanish. They do not. Am I proud of this? Of course not. To the contrary: I worry about it a lot.

Neither my husband nor I speaks Spanish fluently; when I lived in Antigua, I studied for a few months, enough to make myself understood and get by (as long as I was speaking in the present tense). Home now for almost six years, the little I learned is rusty. I don’t get enough practice. A good role model I am not, not that I haven’t tried.

For one year, we had a live-in au pair from Ecuador; Olivia attended an after-school program for two. But none of that is the same as speaking day-in, day-out, hearing it, living it, being immersed. Even more of a challenge is that neither Olivia nor Mateo shows any interest in the language.  Olivia, especially resists. A second grader, she studies violin after school and attends religious instruction. Spanish feels to her like one more burden, something else (groan!), she is forced to do. (more…)