Monday, May 31, 2010

Gaelic Guatemalans

Chicago's massive Irish population was for a century or more as divided as the island nation itself! The Northsiders were originally from the west side of Chicago and besides being part of the Cubbie Nation they tended be the musicians and scholars. The Southsiders were die hard Sox fans and were the sportsmen and entertainers. The Southsiders outnumbered the a lot! When it became ridiculously evident that such a large diaspora of Irishmen needed some kind of cultural center that also served as a social center, the two groups fought over where to locate such a place. This battle also raged over the fund raising and which group would control the checkbook. In the end, they agreed to disagree!!

The Northsiders raised their own funds and bought an abandoned city college building which they've turned into a cultural and social center with it's magnificent library and knotwork painted meeting rooms. The Southsiders used their fundraising efforts to purchase land. For years the land had only a small little building which acted as a locker room/bar. As more cash built up in the coffers, the Southsiders bought up adjoining properties. Finally it was deemed time to erect a proper facility with banquet halls and meeting rooms on the land so the Southsiders decided to sell 'shares' in the new development. The then single and carefree Patrick Mahoney decided, as a loyal Southsider, to invest in two shares of this proposed 'Gaelic Park".....great move!!!! The building became an instant success with it's banquet hall book for years out and many athletic teams renting it's facility for their playoffs and championships. Now as shareholders we aren't exactly seeing any cash payouts! The 'profits' are always reinvested into expanding the building and stadiums and practice fields. But we do have one nice passes to events!

The biggest event in the Gaelic Park schedule is their annual Irish Fest held every Memorial Day weekend. Hundreds of entertainers come as well as vendors and that makes for one heck of a party. Oh, and did I mention the all you can ride carnival?

Now the big bit of back ground information you would need here is that Memorial Day weekend in Chicago challenged!!!! Irish Fest has a notorious reputation for being held in the extremes of weather conditions. Most notably THE RAIN!!!! We've worn everything from winter parkas to tank tops and Wellingtons to sun screen at past Irish Fest festivities. For the past two years the weather was horrific on Memorial Day weekend so we gave our passes away and skipped the event all together. 

This year the weather was simply perfect! With a little bit of a nudge from Auntie Peggy, we opened our summer festival season with the Irish.

We heard great fiddle music...

and many a balladeer!

We even gave Patrick a few minutes listen since he had to work 
instead of party!

There were fireworks.....

and lots of shops selling Irish themed items... 

and did I mention the carnival rides?

The BFF/Cousins had a blast well into the night....

even if two of them are Guatrish...or Irimalan...or Gaelic Guatemalans?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Twice in One Day!!!

See?!?! Told you I'd find time to catch up with my backed up posts! Here I go for the second time in the same day.

Now this post is a fairly brief post...but mighty in content! Alyssa graduated!!!!!!

First things first. The yearbook was issued to the eighth graders a whole week earlier than the rest of the school....

and my little miss just couldn't wait! Poor Alyssa had to try and see past that big mass of black hair. Mari is thrilled to have made it in FOUR of the candid picture displays. Alyssa is just gloating that the eighth graders photos get to be in color.

Alyssa looking all grown up in her graduation dress!

Which spent the rest of the night being covered by the stylish blue graduates gown.

Grandma was up to the event and lasted right through the night!

Program was a tolerable length with a cute video tribute to the class of 2010. Julia was ready to go as soon as Alyssa received her diploma though (:

Godmother Peggy was beyond proud of how lovely a teen Alyssa has become. We all are very proud! Have fun in high school Alyssa!!!!

Now On a Lighter Note...

So as I told you in the last post, we've had a complete range of emotions this week. There was no time to wallow in the sadness of Mari's was waiting for us to live it to the fullest...warts and all!

I can now officially announce that I am no longer a room mother! I am retired with no plans to ever apply for that position again. The final duties of the room mother involved organizing the teacher's gift and planning and hosting the year end picnic. 

We had been in a minor heat wave in the 90's in the days leading up to the picnic and we all were dreading being outdoors...the adults I mean! A call was put out last minute for more donations of popsicles to keep the kids cool and hydrated. Then the night before a storm moved through and the actual day dawned cool and comfortable in the 70's!!!!

We had hot dogs and pizza ready and waiting in the park adjoining the school as the lunch bell rang. All three 3rd grade classrooms poured out of the doors and burst onto the fields with excited exuberance. Parents were allowed to bring blankets and lunch baskets and join the fun as well!

Julia was as excited as the rest of the class but also made a point of coming up to me for several hugs saying how glad she was that I was a room mother....sweet kid!

She ate and played with her friends....

and then we broke out a craft area that I had packed for 'just in case'. Thinking it could help pass the time should the weather get a little on the wet side or for those children not into the sporting activities that ruled the day.

They were supposed to be Chinese fans! I took the idea from an on-line craft site...guess I should contact them about the length of paper actually needed to get the fan to open fully?!?!?

But the kids went with the flow as we suddenly were making Chinese hats (: Auntie Peggy had stopped by on her way past [as she was running errands] to snap pictures for us and was pressed into craft duty as my two hands could not keep up with the  onslaught as word filtered across the field that there was a craft option!! Another couple of Moms were pressed into duty as well!
[P.S. Guess who's pictures are the nicely focused and the right color??? Somehow my camera had gotten onto an underwater setting?!?!?]

Then the picnic closed with the presentation of the scrapbook and gift. Guess you can see Julia was a tad excited when the teacher got to her page in the scrapbook?After this the children followed the teachers back inside to end the school day and we cleaned up the mess....emphasis on the 'mothers' part of the title! And with that my obligations ended and I RETIRED!!!! Happily, my daughter thinks I was the 'cool' room mother....I do not know how that happened?!??!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

She Ain't Heavy...She's My Sister

Well I weighed my options about how to 'catch-up' with the multitude of posts that are backed up and waiting. I really leaned towards another monster post in which I put it all and caught up in one fell swoop. This seemed the most appealing because I know my tendency to get 'busy' again and the posts get lost forever! However, I think the long weekend will allow time for me to get all my work accomplished and still leave time for posting so here we go with the beginning of my past week......

As you will soon see, this week was filled with all the emotions possible in a human being! It began bad...heart breaking for a Mom in reality. Even more heart breaking for the Mom of children adopted from another culture. I could take off on my rant/rage about the current state of racism being cloaked in political robes that currently permeates our country but I try to keep my blog family friendly. I especially long to preach at those fellow adoptive parents who are delusional that their mantle of 'whiteness' and most excellent neighbors/neighborhoods will protect their children of color from the negative impacts of racism!! But as I've learned, that is a lesson best learned the hard way....sadly.

So this is the story, with a small 'pre-quel' to set the stage..... My girls live in a most excellent, upper middle class community that prides itself on being intellectually superior and racially diverse. We've discovered that the diversity is actually quite limited and the acceptance/understanding of other cultures is rather superficial. The 'good' thing we can say is that our neighbors' manners are such that we've been spared their actual opinions/attitudes as they would rather die than be perceived as being ignorant or racist! Disappointing to discover but as we look around and talk with other adoptive families in similar communities it seems to be common. A 'post racial' society is a loooooong way off for America.

Little things that we easily brush off as ignorance rather than racism have occurred on a regular basis in their life. Minor things like the pre-school children who asked why my girls didn't "wash off their dirty skins" are handled and accepted with no deep psychological scars in our house. As I've posted before it also goes the other way with Latino looking people approaching the girls and asking them in Spanish where "their real parents were"! But lately the darker and uglier manifestations of racism are appearing with more frequency! Our seminal lesson learned hard involved Julia, who at only 7 years old, and away at GIRL SCOUT CAMP faced a racially discriminative act without any of us there to talk it out and comfort her. Her childish joy at jumping from bunk to bunk with her tent mates cut short when one child stopped the fun by refusing to "touch a dirty spics bed" and too easily convincing the other tent mates to join in her racial slur! As I sat with the sobbing Julia in the car at pick-up and comforted her while starting the first lesson on all the possible racial slurs she would hear in her lifetime was the first visceral and emotional empathy I had with all of the Mothers to children of color who've had to sit and SERIOUSLY teach their children about how to behave in the presence of a policeman! 

Since that day there have been more tears over racial taunting or the more subtle exclusions from activities based on their race. We've gone through several emotional periods in which they've begged to have their gorgeous tans "bleached or whatever Michael Jackson did to his skin" and pleas for changes in hair color. It hurts because I thought I had 'done all the right things' in reading them books designed to build self-esteem and how to handle racial diversity. We have celebrated their culture and racial differences in all the most positive ways as well. Sadly, the rest of the world wasn't in the same program! I now know this is going to be a much longer and dirtier road than I first believed when I embarked on an international adoption....and together we are traveling down that road. We will continue to handle each pot hole as it appears to the best of our ability while hoping that the rest of the country will get their act together and repave this road with true 'post racial' sensibilities.

So this week's pot hole....
...a wavering voice calling on her cell phone asking me to come and get her from a planned movie outing with friends. A call that used key words that we had worked out recently to signal to me that she was in a distressful social situation...that I thought would be used in cases of alcohol or drug use...and she wanted out before things got out of control. As I raced to her all I could do was worry about how alcohol or drugs had already made it to the middle school level!!! She walked to the car with composure....but lost it as the door closed between her and the 'friend' who had been waiting with her on the sidewalk. Wailing in the kind of emotional pain that rips a Mother's heart wide open she cried, "Why don't people like me because of my skin!!!!!!" Seems that some members of the group planning to attend the movie together objected to the fact that Mari was included in the plans.....they didn't want to be seen uptown with "any spics"............

 and after a trip through McDonald's drive through for some ice cream comfort, I find the two sisters who love to fight over every little thing, snuggled together on the couch, under a blanket...where Julia's big (but carrying the battle scars of racism) heart loved on Mari until a smile could be coaxed back onto her face! Ahhh, to hate them....until someone else dares to and then it's "game on jerk"!!

Sadly, I'm sure other incidents will happen...thus is our life in a mixed race/culture family in 2010 America. We do what all such families must with it and move on!

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Year New Song!

Last year I was whimpering and whining about the awful spring weather we were having here in the Chicago area. This year....not so much!!! Today we were well into the nineties!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The weekend was so gorgeous that Auntie Peggy decided to give a lonely Julia some quality one on one time at Brookfield Zoo. Lonely? Well her most dependable playmate has begun to stretch her middle school wings and was off at the movies with friends while her second most dependable playmate had a dance competition! Not feeling particularly guilty about leaving Mari and Deirdre behind, Julia popped into Auntie Peggy's car and left in a heart beat.

There was cool starfish to see.

 Saw the California Condors open their wings completely for the first time ever!

Saw the lions acting A LOT like Mom and Dad do on hot days.

Went to the newly opened Bear Grotto and saw the polar bears cooling off!

Posed on a few statues around the park.

Took some pictures of Mom's favorite animal so she could see what she 
had missed!

Took more pictures of her favorite animal....but of course!

Then closed out the day with a trip around the carousal!!

Only 4 1/2 days left of school until the 'real' summer vacation begins. At this rate the summer weather looks like it plans on joining us for summer vacation!

P.S. Speaking of stretching her middle school wings.....

Alyssa gleefully showing off her new HEELS!! 8th grade dance was on the past Friday and graduation this Friday meant time to get dressed up! She was lovin' her new found 'height' (:

Me and Mini-Me on dance night!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Who would have known?

As June nears I start fielding calls from relatives wondering if I am going to be bringing the family tree to the family picnic again this year? Now I've been doing it for 7 or 8 years and really enjoy working with my Family Tree Maker software. I plan to keep on being the keeper of the family tree. I like genealogy.

So is it no wonder when the show "Who Do You Think You Are" first aired I became hooked! I'm no Naive Nelly here and was well aware that had an ulterior motive in sponsoring this program. With each viewing of their commercials I found myself starting to think "well I wonder how much it really costs to subscribe" and then "I wonder if there really are the records available that they claim"? I decided to go to their site and check it out! There was a 14 day free trial but the catch was you had to subscribe [meaning give them your credit card and info.!] and then cancel your subscription before the 14th day ended. I reasoned that if it wasn't as advertised I would cancel but if it was good I'd enjoy the subscription. As I entered the easy information into the beginning of my family tree those little flashing leaves suddenly started popping up!!! It's no commercial gimmick!!! 

Now not all of the records listed under those flashing leaves are actually your relatives....especially if your relatives have common names! The users still need to do due diligence in sorting through the information but man it is laid right out for you see with no technological skills required.

Now all my family tree data to this point has been my mother's side of the family. To be specific it has been my maternal grandmother's family as they are the ones who gather annually. My maternal grandfather's information is decently fleshed out thanks to his foresight to write things down for my mother sometime before his death in the mid-1950's. I've drawn my interest in genealogy clearly from my Mom! Not only has she purposely worked our whole lives to teach us our relatives and the nature of our relations but she surrounded us with pictures of "the ancestors".

 Her parents' wedding picture from 1925 hung prominently in my childhood home. 

Pictures of her cousins stood in frames on coffee tables around the house as well! 

She even had this picture of her grandparents, The Patriarchs as I refer to them, who are the oldest members on that family tree. 

But it's a vastly different story with my Dad's side of the family! Not only is my Dad decidedly uninterested in 'the past', he came from a very SMALL family who seemed to share his lack of interest in their past and I have nothing in writing to steer me through the complicated world of genealogical research. Once I saw how very helpful was I decided to type in what little I knew about my Dad's relatives. Most specifically I was hoping to break the wall that seemed to surround my grandfather's mother....the only one NOT to have come from Ireland....she came from Scotland! Okay, well she always told them she came from Scotland but since there was a lot of other facts of her life shrouded in secrets and doubt we've never just been too sure how much to believe?!?

All I really had of her was this picture, her maiden name and several of her married names. Yes, I said SEVERAL! It's complicated....really complicated but try to follow along. My Dad's father, my paternal grandfather was born during her first 'marriage' (one of those very uncertain bits of the story according to family lore) but has the last name of her second husband!! Seems when she remarried he [my grandfather] was just about to enter school so they just entered him under the current family name and thus it stayed especially as little brothers and sisters started arriving. Not wanting to jeopardized the family privacy I will just say that my grandfather's original last name was a very EASY and recognizable Scottish name while the adopted last name is a VERY DIFFICULT German name. So, thinking I might have more success in finding information about the great-grandmother I typed in her name using the German last name. Imagine my growing excitement when a leaf immediately appeared next to her name!!!!!!

Amazingly she had TONS of historical documents available on line as well as several other people researching her family line!?!?!?! The most stunning thing for me was when I opened and read the 1900 Federal Census record as SAW WITH MY OWN EYES her listed with her FIRST HUSBAND and my infant grandfather! They had been married!!!! So then I wondered "how true is the story of why they got divorced"? After way too many more nights poring over I came upon another one of those "a ha" documents. The kind that tie up so many loose ends to so many stories...and make more loose ends of their own.

There in June 1904 of the Ellis Island Passenger Registry I find my answer! The family 'story' was that she had brothers who had emigrated to Iowa and had become very successful farmers {found them on and info. accurate!} and that one summer she had taken my grandfather to visit with her brothers in Iowa and she "wouldn't come back so he divorced her" as it was always put. We were never very clear on her whole family dynamic because my Mom clearly remembers hearing great-grandmother brag about how she was "made a ward of Queen Victoria because we were too poor". So if she's in Iowa what does the Ellis Island record have to do with the story, you asking? Right there, in black and white is the record of BOTH her parents as well as four siblings arriving on Ellis Island as immigrants sponsored by their now successful farmer sons! Seems pretty darn obvious to me that a grown daughter who had left her family sometime between the age of 10 and 14 to become a domestic servant and who then at the age of 17 sailed across an ocean to try out a new life in America would want to go and spend time reuniting with her parents and siblings who had just arrived from Scotland!!!!! 

Not only have I found records on great-grandmother showing her and her 12 siblings and their MANY descendants [half of Iowa I think!!] but I've been able to trace her tree all the way back to 1770!!!!! So the family tree that wasn' is in full bloom and I went from 'sort of' knowing about my great-grandmother to now knowing my great-great-great-great-grandfather and that he was a ploughman in Wigtownshire, Scotland. 

By the way, I didn't cancel the subscription on that 14th day (-:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spring Fever

Our poor Julia spends most of the spring being 'sick'! Her multitude of allergies coupled with asthma usually mean it's upper respiratory.

Today it was the belly ): More correctly it was last night....all night! Today was spent resting and re-hydrating. In the first eight months of school she missed four days...three of them for our spring break trip to Florida. She's missed three days in the past week!! There are only seven more days of school.....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reasonable suspicion......

While taking advantage of today's gorgeous sunny weather by taking pictures

of some new items to list on my Etsy site I noticed something.

There in amongst my fading tulip stems and burgeoning day lily beds I noticed a plant that looked very 'foreign'. This plant was clearly not like the 'real' flowers in my garden! The spikey, hairy leaves looked like those weeds that sneak across my border edging and ruin my beautiful garden. I'm sure those egg shaped pods are filled with loads of little seeds just waiting to crowd my flower beds and steal all the fertilizer and water!

See!! Obviously I can say there is 'reasonable suspicion' that this weed snuck into my garden and I now need to pull it up and throw it out before those pods open up and drop their seeds!!! Only 'real' flowers are welcome in my garden!!! I guess this flower didn't sneak into my garden after all? But how was I to know if it had snuck in or was given permission to be here? I  mean one could reasonably assume.....

These precious flowers did not sneak in either!!!! Guess you can surmise that the Mahoney Family will not be traveling to Arizona anytime soon....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Annnnnnnd we're off!

Found this quote the other day, " Working mothers are guinea pigs in a modern experiment to study the effects of sleep deprivation". Hmmm, might explain the 'mood' I'm in of late! So why do I push the envelope and stay up tonight trying to get a mega-post up when I must be at work again in the morning? Because I've finally downloaded the pictures for the month of May and if I do not act on my resolution to give my daughters the gift of memories via this blog the whole month may be lost to posterity!!

May is the month for horse races in this house and I feel very much like a thoroughbred with the gate about to open before me! For the reader with ADD you may just want to do a quick scroll down the page to look at all the pictures because this is the beginning of a looooong post! No 1/2 mile sprint here....this will be the full 1 and 3/4 mile race through our month of May.

So I've already covered the Kentucky Derby but my Cinco de Mayo and Mother's Day coverage was a tad skimpy. Here's a slightly beefier accounting of those two events....

Cinco de Mayo would seem a rather unusual holiday to garner so much attention in this family. The plethora of Irish ancestry (more later on my current obsession with!) that resulted in the Mahoney family would logically lead the reader to assume that a minor Mexican holiday would not rate very highly. No, the two latinas have nothing to do with our love of any reason at all to eat Mexican! They're Guatemalan NOT Mexican!!! We've just developed a passion for the food of our Southern neighbors!!!!

Now get real! We are American after all, so flame seared tortillas come from the gas range not an open cook fire.

Even Grandma adores the Mexican cuisine and joined the crowd for some 'guacamora' old Irish ladies adorable merge of two cultures. You know....where guacamole meets Glockamora?!?! 

Baby brother Kelty is always hopeful that he is allowed to join in some burrito or even watermelon rind eating...but alas he must settle for.....

his big sister giving him some a very "short, wash your hands after, and where's your inhaler" kind of way!

No flan or sopapillas for dessert though...too rich for our stuffed bellies. Instead we willed in summertime with a watermelon!! Andrew has quite the sense of humor and this was how he let us know that his portion was too small for his liking (:

Love this picture of Mari with her piece of watermelon...she begs to differ calling her look "soooo weird"....sigh, how much longer before she gets through this phase??? Biting my lip hard since we seem to have had a veeeeery short stage make-up phase and she's discovered her 'look' and all it entails is a little eye liner!!     

And this is what Mexican food does to a gaggle of cousins!!!

Next up is the answer to my brother on why my wicker basket of hats and gloves is still parked just inside my front door!

[This is also a reminder to my children on why Mom is always begging Auntie Peggy to "come and take pictures'!]  Spring soccer, in May, always involves freezing rain!!!

Now I see Julia out on the soccer field through the drizzle....and decidedly out of focus picture, don't you?

Nope, the focus never did work that day  ): Probably had a lot to do with the camera operator wearing gloves and shivering?!?!?

Then came a 'big' birthday!!!!

Andrew turned 13 on the 8th of May!!! So exciting, yet agonizing as he knows that his 'kidnapping' has been planned but no one would crack and tell him when and where. I began the panic that day as it meant that Mari was bearing down on 13 too quickly for my liking! Funny how your brain can hold two opposing emotions in the same thought...I went to the ends of the Earth to become a Mom but never planned on having a teenager...not yet anyhow!!!

Andrew and Alyssa's painfully shy and camera phobic little brother Ethan loves his big brother more than he hates cameras here! Hey Peggy, getting the hint here???? "Forgetting" your camera isn't allowed anymore!!!

Then we were back at Auntie Peggy's house the next day for Mother's Day!! Uncle Peter was in charge of the turkey......

which also means guarding the skin from the family of addicts we have! Note between the above picture and this one, who managed to snag the first piece of skin?

Once the others saw her munching there was no need to make the call to dinner! 

Today, Kelty took matters into his own paws!! Not content with his usual crumb patrol, he waited for us to get seated at the dining table and then helped himself to what he felt was his fair portion! Luckily it was the less desired dark meat. Bought him time in 'basement jail' as the girls called the confinement behind the closed door.

My sister arrived with her children to visit Grandma. Since their Dad was already on his way to his Mother's house they were only 'supposed' to visit and take off to see the other Grandma....but the pull of turkey aroma coupled with the full compliment of cousins resulted in a 'slight' change in their became obvious when Daniel arrived at the dining table with a plate full of food and asked where "his chair" was?!?!?

This is my Mom after a day of being loved on by her family....and thus my melancholy of the Mother's Day post below. 

Patrick's birthday followed Mother's Day on May 13th. Review last year's post on the topic of his birthday and you will recall that he's not 'comfortable' with my family's tradition of gathering for cake and tea no matter your age. 

Except that this year, when I had not properly prepared for the day, he asks me "so, is anyone coming over?" Guess he's finally warming up to the attention after 14 years of marriage? [PS. I did manage to pull together a big ham with cabbage and turnip 'comfort food' dinner with guests!!]

Then our talented cousin had her band concert....

.....and there was another horse race. Deirdre inherited the original scrub top as Julia did receive a new one that fits over her head!! Julia's winning streak came to and end with the Preakness....her horse came in SECOND?!?!?

The "end of the year" crunch is now upon us at both of the girls' school! As room mother, I get the honor of organizing and attending the class picnic for Julia's 3rd grade class. It is the same day that Alyssa graduates from 8th grade.... in anticipation of being crazy busy and stressed that day I have worked with Julia on some of her 'projects'. These are her pages that will be included in the teacher's gift which is a scrapbook  [to accompany the gift card to a local spa!]. 

Now if I could only get Auntie Peggy to upgrade her camera so I can claim her 'old' one as the feel of it in my hand is so natural...hint?