Posts Tagged ‘Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families’

Questions of identity

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

There’s a trope in writing that the part of the story we read, the part we write, is only the tip of a gigantic iceberg. So much is happening below the surface. So much is unsaid, underneath. Isn’t the same true of our children? They may not talk about struggles with racial identity–about who they are and how they fit into their worlds–but that doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about it.

The older my children get, and the more they walk in the world without me, the larger identity looms in their lives. My job is to acknowledge their challenges in navigating complicated identities, to encourage conversation about those challenges, and to listen.

In this video produced by Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families, Sam Severn, a young man born in South Korea and adopted to the United States, offers powerful and profound insights into his identity journey. He got me at the first lines: “The worst transition of my life occurred between middle school and high school… I saw myself as what I saw: white.”

The video is a great reminder of what may be going on in the minds of our kids, especially those who are of color and growing up in white families. It’s worth watching.


Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Registration for Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families (in Colorado) opens on February 23. We’ve attended many times and loved the experience. Two years ago, we went early and drove around Colorado–from Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, up to Estes and through Rocky Mountain National Park. Stunning! Last year, a girl Olivia met the first year we attended visited us in California and Olivia flew up to Oregon to visit her. Friendships made there, last. And not only for us. I’ve heard the same from other families.

Heritage Camp is a specific experience–different from traveling to birth country, absolutely, but, in my opinion, equally valid, equally identity-affirming. You walk in at registration and look around, and every family there feels like yours. A realization comes over you: “We’re not alone. We’re part of a great big beautiful group. And here we are together.” I’ve learned a lot from attending the workshops, especially those that include panels of youth and adults born in Latin America and adopted to the US. The speakers are candid, and the discussions, educational.

My kids love Heritage Camp, and maybe yours will too. Here’s the link.


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. ~



Heritage Camp registration opened today

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Hi Friends:

If you’re thinking of attending Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families in Colorado this June, register soon. The deadline is sometime in April, but the camp fills up fast.

We’ve attended four times, and have loved every minute. As I’ve written before, the camp provides a very specific experience—that of being a child of color, from a different country, adopted to parents who often don’t look like you, among other children and families who share that specific experience. It’s not the same as visiting one’s home country—which Mateo and I are doing now—but in its way, is equally valid. Everyone I know who has attended raves about the camp, and plans to go back. That’s why I urge you to sign up today. ~

Here’s the link.




Missouri and Moguate Summer 2011

Friday, August 19th, 2011

My mother reared five children and I still don’t know how she did it. Around this time of year, she likes to remind me of her favorite cartoon from that era: The final frame depicted a mom throwing flowers at a departing school bus as it carried her children to their first day of school. I laugh every time she tells me.

Which is just another way of apologizing, yet again, for being delinquent in posting. Summer! It’s nonstop! And we’ve been all over the place. Believe me, I have loved every minute of school vacation–the kids are the perfect age for traveling, filled with wonder and enthusiasm, up for anything and everything–but our activities haven’t left much time for blogging.

Here are a few photos. The one above, taken by adoptive dad Mark Acker, is of the group from Moguate, a gathering of families with children from Guatemala. The name derives from Missouri, where the organization is based, and Guatemala, of course. Founded by the hilarious and charismatic Cindy Swatek, Moguate is held at the Tan-Tar-A Resort on the Lake of the Ozarks the first weekend in August. If you live anywhere nearby, I suggest you go. The weekend’s main activities are ripping down the waterslide, cooling off in the giant swimming pool, and eating pizza. But in the meantime, we adoptive parents share life stories, and in their own way, our kids do, too. In a summer of wonderful activities, Moguate stands out as a highlight.

While you’re in the Lake of the Ozarks, check out the kid-friendly activities in the area.  One of our favorites was the Meramec Caves in Stanton, Missouri. The hour-plus walking tour ended with a recording made by the late great chanteuse, Kate Smith, belting out “God Bless America.” We didn’t try the zipline, but we did sample the dark-chocolate homemade fudge. Outstanding.

I insisted we drive to Branson, and because our kids are fascinated by books about the Titanic, we visited the Titanic Museum. The exhibition included vintage photos, letters, and objects, as well as a re-creation of the ship itself. I don’t know who enjoyed the experience more–the kids or my husband and me. For those few hours, the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage felt very real.

Driving back to the airport in St. Louis, we stopped at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City, to view the newly restored and spectacular murals by Missouri-born artist Thomas Hart Benton (above). The excellent guide at the Capitol tipped us off to a locally famous ice cream parlor, the Central Dairy. In honor of my southern-born mother, I ordered a double scoop of her favorite flavor, black walnut.

That one cone alone made the trip worthwhile.


Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave in Colorado

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

We landed in Denver, Colorado, a day after an unusual storm dumped a few inches of snow on the state. Living as we do in California, we don’t get such dramatic weather. So a few inches didn’t bother us.

Enroute to our first destination, Winter Park, we swerved off the highway when I saw a sign announcing the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave in Golden.  At the turn of the twentieth century, William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917), founder of  Wild West Shows and Medal of Honor winner, was the most recognizable celebrity on earth.

After paying our respects, we checked out the model teepee, where Mateo couldn’t resist playing the role of Buffalo Bill. Olivia was most fascinated by a poster that showed the names and locations of dozens of Indian tribes that once inhabited the American West. For a while anyway, those long-ago days seemed a little less distant.

At breakfast this morning at a cafe in Winter Park, Mateo said “I don’t want to eat any more pancakes. I want to go outside and do cartwheels.”

That sums up today.  Outside, doing cartwheels.  Time to rest up for tomorrow.~


Summer Vacation

Monday, June 20th, 2011

No lunches to make, no bus to run for, no shoes to find, no  totes to pack. The kids are sleeping late.

Yes, today is the first Monday of summer vacation.

Last night, Olivia and Mateo rode bikes and scooters until dark while Tim and I shot hoops–as in basketball. When’s the last time we did that?

This week, we head for Colorado and Heritage Camp, where Mamalita is the book club selection–available on Kindle and Nook for easy downloading–and then I go to the fabulous Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City to read on Tuesday, June 28 at 7 p.m. My friend, Gretchen B. Wright, will meet me there–Gretchen and I met at a writing workshop at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala–as will other friends through adoption.

But first, a few photos. The playground at Mateo’s school, alive with students and teachers dancing to the Slumdog Millionaire anthem, Jai Ho. Olivia and Mateo presenting Tim with his Father’s Day gift, a miniature skateboard handmade by Mateo in a woodshop class, against a backdrop of their own design. And finally, Mateo drawing during his last day as a kindergartener.

Another year, gone.