Posts Tagged ‘transracial adoptive families’

National Adoption Awareness Month

Friday, November 9th, 2018

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and today I’m thinking of ways adoption has affected me personally.

I was completely under-prepared to be an adoptive mother. Even if someone had tried to tell me what to expect—and no one did—I would not have understood adoption’s complexity until I was inside it, and inside it for many years.

Adoption is the most complicated relationship I’ve ever been involved in. And every year, as my children grow and move into the world more independently, it becomes more complicated.

I never imagined that the country of Guatemala—its history, politics, people—would inhabit my brain the way that it has. Maybe I should have anticipated this, but I didn’t.

At its root, adoption is loss. Loss is within, behind, beneath everything in adoption. It never goes away. Understanding that at a bone-deep level has helped me evolve in my role as mother to my children.

Adoption is also trust, hope, effort, and steadfastness.

Adoption is family, close and distant. Adoption is love.

ShareThis

New Year 2018

Monday, January 1st, 2018

I have so few photos of our family–all 4 of us–that I feel compelled to share this one, at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. (Mateo figured out how to use the camera timer.) I’m (over)dressed for the Arctic, while Olivia’s in shorts. The other photo is of us with my youngest sister, Deanna, in front of the fountain in Balboa Park.

And Olivia and Mateo.

Happy 2018!

ShareThis

This happened

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

This happened that hasn’t happened in a while. A cashier at a café looked from me to Mateo and back again and asked: “Where’d you buy him? Macy’s or Nordstrom?”

Sometimes I’m not up for the teaching moment and this was one of those times. Mateo was out of school because of his concussion. A big hot chocolate with whipped cream was going to be his treat for being so brave during the EEG. The best laid plans.

During nights that I’m organized, I write in my journal about what occurred that day, and find I often write about comments made to my kids, or things they heard, that they tell me–about adoption, about being from Central America, about our family and their birth families, about building a wall. These things have become my obsessions because whatever affects my children affects me.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and, speaking for myself, this is my awareness: there is not one facet of my life that is not affected by adoption. Adoption permeates my thoughts, my behavior, my subconscious.

Adoption awareness cannot be contained in a month. Adoption awareness is forever.

BTW, Mateo is fine, recovering nicely. xoxox

ShareThis

Quinceanera

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Sunday we celebrated the Quinceaneras of three girls in our group of adoptive families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Glorious! Quinceanera is a celebration of a young Latina woman’s 15th birthday, acknowledging her transition from girl to womanhood. Customs to celebrate Quinces vary from family to family and may include a Catholic Mass, Courts and Groomsmen, mariachis and dancing. The parents in our three families incorporated traditions that resonated for us:

  • The changing of footwear from flat shoes to high heels. (The girls entered in flats and the three mothers helped them change into high heels, a symbol of adulthood.)
  • The exchange of a favorite stuffed animal for a tiara. (The letting go of “childish things.”)
  • A speech addressed to each daughter, delivered by her mother.

I’m grateful to my co-Quinceanera parents, Marie + Ralph and Miriam+ Allen, for contributing ideas, balloons, decorations, cake, and, above all, joyful spirits.

Thanks, too, to adoptive mom Ginny Curtin, for her fabulous photos to record the event, and to everyone in our community–parents, kids, significant others, friends–for sharing this special day. And always, to my husband Tim. xo

Below is the speech I wrote for Olivia.

THOUGHTS ON QUINCEANERA

Back in 2012, Olivia’s birth sister, Lucia, celebrated her Quinceanera. We were in Guatemala on our annual visit and wanted to do something special for the occasion. As is our custom, we went shopping together in the local market, and there we bought for Lucia her Quinceanera outfit: a wraparound skirt, called a corte, woven with hearts; an embroidered blouse called a huipil, made with fine fabric and fancy gold thread; and four-inch high heels I don’t think Olivia’s birth mother was thrilled about, but Lucia absolutely loved.
The experience impressed upon me the importance of Quinceanera, a rite of passage our daughters share with young Latina women around the world, including their home country of Guatemala. It reminded me of the multiple identities my daughter holds: Guatemalan, Maya K’iche, US citizen, person who is adopted. How impressively she navigates all of them—with confidence, intensity, and grace.
Olivia, so many people have helped you become the person you are: compassionate and wise, intelligent and creative. Today we remember and thank them: Your birth mother and father, your grandmother Abuela, the long line of ancestors who have lived in the highlands of Guatemala since before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Your two foster families, our friends in Guatemala. Your aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, neighbors, grandparents, teachers, coaches, counselors, religious leaders. Our community of adoptive families, gathered here to mark this occasion.
Olivia: As you go forward and walk through life, stand tall and stay strong. Be who you are. Be true to yourself. Remember that many hands hold you up. Don’t let anyone dim your light.
We love you. ~

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

ShareThis

A gathering of families

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Last Sunday we hosted our third annual cook-out for local adoptive families with kids born in Guatemala. About 65 people attended, half of them children, with lots of trampoline jumping, eating of hot dogs and hamburgers, and bonding among friends old and new. The photo above shows one of the cakes we served for dessert, decorated with the Guatemalan flag, and made by my friend the baker at Safeway, who always threatens “I don’t know if I can do the quetzal…” and yet, every year, manages to do just that. I received lots of lovely thank-you notes from families who attended, but the truth is that I love the party more than anyone. Looking forward to next year! xo

 

Image credit: Marie Lappin

ShareThis

Our front door in Antigua

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

 

Olivia and I in Antigua, and the front door of the house where we lived when I fostered her in 2003.

Us in 2003.

For us, no visit to Antigua is complete without a pilgrimage to this place.

So happy to be here! ~

ShareThis

Mateo’s new suit

Friday, March 1st, 2013

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I’m Catholic, and my husband and I are raising our kids Catholic. What does that mean, exactly? A lot of things, which I won’t go into here because I believe every religion is valid and to be respected, as is the choice of no religion at all, by the way, and I’m not telling this story as a platform to discuss my faith.

No, my reason for bringing up Catholicism is to share the experience of buying for my son Mateo his very own First Holy Communion suit, from the charming purveyor of First Holy Communion suits in the photo above, who practices his fashion genius somewhere in the depths of the municipal mercado in Antigua, Guatemala.

In February 2012, Mateo and I had bought a suit from the same distinguished gent, intending to save it for the Sacrament this April. What we hadn’t counted on was Mateo’s growth spurt, which  steered the original suit pants and jacket dangerously toward clown costume territory.

But try finding the same tailor in the maze of the mercado! My remembered directions sounded like this: “Walk down the right side aisle, through the section with the pirated DVDs, past the candles and flowers and soccer balls, turn left at the section with the raw meat hanging, through the wrapping paper and baskets and candy, past the shoes and wallets and leather belts, beyond the place with the sacks of rice and beans and the guy who sells machetes. Somewhere around that.”

Fortunately, the lady in the First Communion dress section knew exactly where the tailor who sold First Communion suits was headquartered, and she kindly escorted us to the proper stall. Success!

Not shown here are the suit’s handsome complementary items: the white ruffled shirt, the black bow tie. For that, we’ll have to wait for Mateo’s First Holy Communion “big reveal.”

Stay tuned. ~

ShareThis

Guatemala, Guatemala. February 2013

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Last Saturday, Mateo, my sister Patrice, and I arrived in my favorite place on earth, Antigua, Guatemala. It’s insane how much I love Antigua—the colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, the ring of volcanoes, the churches, the Square. We’ve been visiting Antigua since I fostered Olivia there in 2003, and every trip we discover something different. This time, we climbed Volcano Pacaya, an extraordinary adventure that deserves its own post, and will get one soon. We also spent two days at Lake Atitlan, my other favorite destination. Olivia’s Girl Scout troop collected some 75 pairs of gently used kids’ sneakers, soccer cleats, and shoes, which Mateo, Patrice, and I lugged down on the airplane, and hand-delivered to Mayan Families, an organization we support that serves indigenous families in the region. Pictures on that adventure to come, too.

This trip, we connected with three other adoptive families visiting Antigua, two with eight-year-old boys, and one with a younger girl. The girl’s family I had met virtually, through our mutual membership on an adoption listserve; I know the boys’ families through our local adoption group. I mention this as another benefit of forming adoption networks—when you visit Guatemala, you can meet up with friends. Mateo loved sharing meals and fun with all three kids. And let me tell you, for an active, eight-year-old boy, scaling Pacaya with two other active, eight-year-old boys qualifies as downright awesome.

The fabulous Nancy Hoffman, who has lived in Guatemala for more than a decade and is known to most of you reading this as the founder of guatemalareservations.com, helped us with arrangements. If you’re planning to visit, contact her at Nancy@GuatemalaReservations.com and she’ll set you up.

The Saturday before we left, we visited friends who live in one of the small villages surrounding Antigua. After a lovely afternoon, on the way back to town, we passed local residents creating alfombras (carpets made of sawdust and various materials) outside their homes and businesses for the village’s Lenten procession later that night. The artists kindly indulged us by letting me take pictures while Mateo inspected their handiwork, delighted to take part in the local tradition.

Our trip consisted of dozens of such small, unexpected moments, which already have entered the realm of treasured memories. To me, those treasured memories are what give life meaning. I feel lucky to share them with my son Mateo, in his beautiful birth country of Guatemala.

ShareThis

Our adoption peeps

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

One of the best parts of writing a book about adoption is that I get to meet a lot of people connected to adoption. Two years ago at Heritage Camp in Colorado, I met my now-friend, Caroline, who said she, like me, lived in the Bay Area, and would I be interested in attending a meeting of her adoption-group book club to discuss Mamalita?

Naturally, I accepted. (And by the way, if you live anywhere remotely close and would like me to talk with your book club, please send an email because of course I will!)

When I arrived, the most lovely, smart, and interesting array of women welcomed me into their fold for an afternoon chat-fest. The conversation started with my book, but soon drifted to their stories and journeys; feelings about parenthood, children and families; and our lives now. You know how, occasionally, you meet someone and you just ”get” each other? This rarely happens for me. When it does, I pounce.

“Are you accepting new members?” I asked. “Because if you are, I’m in.”

Tim, Olivia, Mateo, and I have been meeting with the organization for more than a year now, once a month, usually at someone’s home. Everyone brings food to share. We mingle, nosh, and catch up for about an hour while our children run around, then a small band of hardy souls—Dads, mostly, but also Moms–herd the kids to a backyard or playground for another two hours while the book club dissects the latest selection. Afterwards, we re-assemble for dessert.

The absolute best part of belonging to the group is watching our children’s friendships develop. Both Olivia and Mateo love to play with the other girls and boys, not only because they’re all adopted from Central America, although that’s a wonderful benefit, but because they have fun.

Last Saturday, one of our number, Michele, hosted our big annual gathering at her family’s church. Another member, Dara, constructed a homemade pinata to represent a Guatemalan bus, and everyone brought food, crafts, and good cheer. Our fearless leader, Sheryl, organized.

Wherever you live, find a community! If one doesn’t exist, create one. That’s what my friend Cindy Swatek did in Missouri, with her fantastic MOGUATE. Trust me: the effort, schedule reshuffling, and travel time will be forgotten as you sink into the comfort that comes from being among people who share the specific experience of being touched by adoption.

 

 

ShareThis

Nature girl

Monday, January 28th, 2013

For years, I’ve known that my daughter Olivia, more than the average kid, loves bugs, flowers, birds, and trees. My husband appreciates nature, too, but his interest veers toward the scientific— “How much sun exposure do we need to optimize our strawberries, raspberries, lemons, and tomatoes? What level of water?”—while, I alas, remain hopelessly suburban: the one who hikes on the marked trail that ends at the warming hut, and opts for the cabin instead of the tent.

No, Olivia’s love of nature is DNA-deep. It comes from her biological family. On one of our first visits with Olivia’s birth mom and grandma, I watched with delight as three generations laughed out loud at the antics of a small hopping sparrow, and clapped their hands at the beauty of a rock formation. One possible explanation is that, in the small highland village where her relatives have lived for centuries, careful observation equals survival. Another could be that they are a family of natural-born artists. Whatever the reason, that keen ability to see is hard-wired, and Olivia possesses it.

I became more aware of this special talent last weekend, when my friend Nina invited us to Slide Ranch, a self-sustaining farm perched on the jagged cliffs of the Northern California coast. We kids and adults enjoyed running around, checking out the chickens and goats and bee hives and compost pile, and searching for hidden objects on Nina’s scavenger hunt. But as Nina observed, the wild, dramatic setting and fresh salt air opened up something new and different in Olivia. It felt as if  simply being there allowed my daughter to settle into a place of deep peace, a reverie of happiness.

As an adoptive parent, I’m reminded often that our children are who they are. They come to us that way. Part of the joy of being my children’s mother is discovering, and honoring, each new layer.

ShareThis