Sunday, October 31, 2010

When Two Worlds Meet

As is obvious to even the casual reader, we are not a cookie cutter family in the 'traditional' understanding of that phrase. In reality we are sooooooo very much a 'normal' American family but just not quite the Norman Rockwell painting one-dimensional version! From date one Patrick and I tried to navigate a path we could both be comfortable walking through life on given he was born in Ireland more than a decade before I was born in Chicago. It is actually an easier feat than would seem possible on first consideration. Even though he is a first order farm boy and I am a city girl...even though he left school at 13 and I studied constantly for 22 years...even though he wants burnt meat and mashed potatoes every meal and I'd rather enchiladas suiza or pork lo mein...we had a huge foundation in common. We were both "raised Irish"....

This phrase means so much more than leprechauns and Guinness. It means a lifestyle where family comes first no matter what especially in the worst of times.The race of people who developed and refined the concept of foster-care and blended families. A lifestyle where the spoken word is revered and 'visiting' always means hours of conversation. A lifestyle that not only weathers the emotional extremes of life but embraces the emotions of life. A lifestyle where the strong of mind stand equal with the strong in body no matter their gender. The race of people who epitomize the way to emigrate and blend into their adopted lands. Upon this foundation we happily started our life together.

Then the road presented us with a fork. A choice we needed to make. Do we stay on this well graded roadbed but travel it as a couple alone? Do we head off down a road of uncertain terrain but do it as a family of four? Well it's obvious that we "put a good leg under us" [as the Irish say!] and headed down that uncertain road!! And it is not anything near a smooth stretch of asphalt. It's not just the usual rockfalls that come with children but a slip-sliding, sand shifting path over which we are trying to bring four different families and three different cultures together into one. One of the ways we are trying to make this trip happen is by staying flexible on how we get there...meaning sometimes we do things the American way, and sometimes we do it the Irish way, and sometimes we do it the Guatemalan way! No one choice is "right" or "better" it's just the choice that works at the moment. Take for instance....Halloween. A holiday, that as practiced in the US, takes most of it's traditions from the ancient Irish druids beliefs about the relationship between the living world and the dead! Christianity reshaped the pagan practices and linked them to the feast days of All Saints and All Souls. Then the Christians set out to the New World and again reshaped the existing Mayan traditions to conform with the feast days. And us Mahoney's ?????

Well we DO IT ALL!!! As seen in the previous two posts, we dress up and trick-or-treat like Americans,  carve jack-o-lanterns and go to church like the Irish, and like the people of Guatemala we.....

decorate typical Americans that is!

We gather flowers and candles and set up an ofrenda!

We place food and drink out for the ancestors!

But we 'blend' the Irish and Guatemalan too! We place the mortuary cards of our dearly beloved along with worry dolls and skeletons and Celtic crosses. It make us happy so therefore it's the right way!

Then we light some candles and incense and turn off the lights and sit on the couch and reminisce about those who's cards adorn the altar.  The world of the living meeting the world of the embraced by a family knitted together by the 'worlds' of Ireland, Guatemala, the United States, childhood, adulthood, and adoption! It makes us happy so therefore it's right!!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

'Wickedly' Good Night!!

Hands down Halloween is our family's favorite holiday!!!  Couple that with the knowledge that 'traditions' are also very important and you get the ingredients for a picture packed post.

It's been a kind of crazy fall and while I got the harvest themed outdoor decorations up in a timely manner I slacked on the Halloween ones. The years of emphasizing 'traditions' are starting to show fruit!!! I came home from work drained and dragging to be met by an exuberant Julia. I had mentioned, very briefly, that today was going to be a good day for getting our Scary Men out and posed on the porch. As only a child can, she doggedly pursued me around the house questioning when the activity would commence...and all I wanted was a nap!!! I told her that while I was taking a very desperately needed nap to 'recharge my batteries' she could drag the Scary Men from their shelf in the garage in preparation. When I woke up I found that Julia and Mari had decided that the decorating was within their skill set.....

All that was left was for me to take the pictures!!!!!!!!!

Julia is in the Ham Bone phase right now, could you tell???

While Mari is still in the Avoid the Camera When Possible phase.....

Then we gathered in my kitchen with all our pumpkins and carving gear.

To the rousing tunes from the original cast recordings of Wicked [foreshadowing!! more on this later] and The Adams Family and knoshing on pizza as we worked, we had CarveFest 2010!! Again, Julia had the whole 'tradition' thing down cold!

First you clean off the table and island and put out LOTS of layers of newpapers.....

Then you wash and dry the pumpkins!

Cut open the tops...with adult supervision of course!!!

Then comes the fun part....

or not ? 'Cleaning out the pumpkin guts' was a challenge this year as the Mahoney's pumpkins were clearly cross bred with a spaghetti squash!!!

As demonstrated by the guts to seed ratio!

Then, while I washed and prepped the seeds for roasting, Auntie Peggy helped them draw out their designs and pin them on the pumpkin for marking.

Julia is only 9 and 5/6ths after all! Can't expect a complete maturation especially when you discover that pumpkin guts can be smashed into slimy balls with which to torment your sister and cousin!

But she was all business when it came to carving!! It took a lot for me to stay at the other end of the kitchen while she wielded knives but several incidents this past year have made me realize that I have to step back and let the girls 'grow up'!

Alyssa is nearly all 'grown up'....well she does turn 15yo next weekend BUT Mother Nature decided that 
4' 10" was as UP as Alyssa is going to get so she made extensive use of the bar stools while working on her pumpkin.

Mari was here too....

Concentrating on her design and carving! But she'd rather not be in too many pictures...well that is today's mood anyhow! It changes on a dime and I still haven't caught on to the warning signs.

The smiling for the camera thing throws me! I take that to mean you're "happy to be in the picture"...but to a 12 and 5/6ths year old it means "Don't take a picture of me"?????? [p.s. while it is chilly out lately it's NOT hat weather just yet...this is another teen thing I'm needing to wrap my brain around...the wear 
what you feel like phase I guess??]

Finishing of the traditional pumpkin carve with the "lid trim"! 

And the pick up and leave the mess for Mom to clean tradition!

Then we streeeetched the tradition a wee bit this year...we all piled on my couch in the dark and reminisced about our favorite Halloween memories while we watched the pumpkins giving off their flickering show.

Which we just may have to add every year from now on! It was a special time until Alyssa decided to ask me just what I had carved in my pumpkin??? As I told her that it was supposed to have been a mournful ghoul to go along with the glow-in-the-dark worms I had crawling out of his face she cocked her head and looked funny. "Oh, she said because all I see is Jesus holding his arms around a big heart!"

Since I don't know how to do one of those cool picture programs that lets you overlay a picture I'll just try to describe it...and I promise you that as soon as you "see" it can only see the Jesus and not the ghoul's face!!!!! The very top glowing opening is, as Mari called it, his Crown of Thorns. Just below that in the middle [the upside down V shaped area] is his forehead and face while the DARK just below that is his beard. The dark pieces curving out towards the side are his arms as they wrap around the 'heart shaped' glowing section in the middle of the bottom row. Took her getting up and tracing it with her fingers for me to 'see' it but as soon as I did I could not get my brain to switch back and 'see' my original design!! 
Guess all the catechism is starting to show fruit as well.......

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bring on the parties!!

Can you say procrastinator???? I am the definition of that word....sort of...most of the time. Anyhow, in my usual fashion I have indeed finished the costumes in time for the weekend dances, parties, and trick-or-treats...JUST in time but in time.

Julia picked her's out weeks and weeks ago but was the last one finished. Santa's newest elf was suited up and ready for this week's dance class party!

This pose wasn't good enough for her and she insisted I let her repose in her choice of poses....

if you all could know how very much this IS JULIA!!! Sweet and funny and generous to a fault!!!!!

Then there is Alyssa......

who decided to break out a wig she has had since she was three. Not sure she will carry through and wear it to school tomorrow but she has her map and Boots!!!

This weekend I'll try to snag pictures of the other costumes. Let's just hope the wind and rain are gone for good!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Caught AGAIN!!

It is with sheepish embarrassment that I must admit that  October 26th was well underway before Auntie Peggy had to AGAIN remind Patrick and I of the significance of the date. Jeesh, it's really not a fact of not CARING!!! Those of you who know us as a couple know how much we love each other and in the Irish vernacular... "are well suited". It's just that we don't really 'celebrate' any holiday in a very big way so why do our anniversary any different?? I mean our Valentine's Day consist of a kiss at the most. Father's Day and Mother's Day might rate a 'special' dinner meaning we cook the honoree's favorite meal. Corny but most sincerely true is our feeling that we are each others best gift EVER.

So at Peggy's suggestion we had a 'special' anniversary dinner. In a very typical Mahoney fashion we ate out at what could best be described as our "comfort food" joint....Portillo's!!!!

For the girls' benefit we recreated the exchange of rings and then very practically ate them!!!

Some of our favorite family members joined us for the occasion.

We even showed the girls how old fogies do the traditional cake share picture.

Thus passed the 14th anniversary of our marriage. The 15th will probably look much the same and I'm fine with that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

And by the children we are led!

Just had to brag!!!!!!!!! Today as we cleared these.....

it dawned on us that we had not yet gotten our pumpkins for the big Saturday carve up! After dropping Mari.....

[or should I say Lady Gaga???] off at her dance class/Halloween Party, Julia and I headed out to the store to re-enact the annual ritual of choosing the "just right" pumpkins for our celebration. While I went to the door to get a shopping cart, Julia dove into the pile of gourds. As I wheeled up to her she was standing cradling this warped and dented specimen. Immediately I blurted out, "Remember we are looking for good strong skin and a shape we can fit a face onto to carve?" Her words struck me with more force than a train at full speed!

"But Mom, probably a million people have said how ugly he is and nobody else wanted him. I think he needs to be loved by someone!"

I cry at Kleenex commercials so imagine the effort it took to hold back my tears at that?!?!? Every cliche in the world in which the gist of "Out of the mouths of babes..." applies full force here. My mind ran down two parallel tracks at once. The first was replaying "A Charlie Brown Christmas" while the second was imagining the number of times I participated in debates about the ethics of letting adoptive couples "choose" and thus dictate what constitutes a 'desirable' child. So I smiled at Julia and said, "You are so very right and we are going to give him one heck of a Halloween!" 

 Gosh, just how lucky can a Mom be to have such a great kid?!?!?


Wedding Antics

Where does the time go?? 

This week that phrase holds more weight than usual! Not only does it refer to my obvious neglect of this blog but it also refers to the arrival of another wedding of the next generation in our family. In that never ending cycle of life, I went to the wedding of a cousin who's MOTHER'S wedding was the first one I was officially invited to as a guest back in the day!!!!!!! How different the emotions between the two filling me with giddy, excited anticipation and this one with just simple pleasure at the privileged to witness the joy and hope of a newly formed family.

Now the actual day's events are going to be coming in a future post. Peggy and I still need some time to merge our two sets of pictures! But this much I'm ready to share with my readers...if there are any left? Please sit back and enjoy this series of pictures I took to show just how the youngest guests felt at witnessing such a momentous event.

The flower girl was textbook perfect! I've been telling her mom that she needs to get into pageants as she has radar for the cameras in the room. Happy and confident and ready to perform her duties.

Pfew! Glad that's over so I can get to some serious snacking!

If I don't look at him I don't have to share...right?

Hmmm, I think there's someone trying to tell me something...

Forget it! She's not going to share but maybe if I flash my Grandma a cute look she'll find a treat deep in that purse of hers?

Oh please God hurry this along won't you????

 Hello Grandpa, can you take me out of here?

Alright, I'll stay if I have to but you can't make me look at that mushy stuff.

I can't stand this any more!

Glad that is over! A guy could die of thirst during a wedding you know?!??!

Hey, you! Lady with the camera. Did you notice how perfectly still I sat? Shhh, it's a secret but I heard there's going to be a party after this is all done.