Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Birthdays...

Hi, it's Mari. I'd just like to share my vacation on here for you. Ok, so for every cousin that's around 13 my Aunt Peggy surprises them with a vacation somewhere cool for their 13th birthday. But you just don't know when and where. In my case, she surprised me with a cruise in the Bahamas. I was sitting doing homework when my mom said: "Come on, pictures!" She had my backpack and suitcase already packed and in the living room. I'm like: "What?" Then Auntie Peggy says: "Come on, you've got a plane to catch!" Well, I thought I was going to an orthodontist appointment but turns out I was missing school and going on vacation. Thank you Auntie Peggy!

In this picture I told them: "Am I being punk'd or something?"

I said goodbye to my cousin, sister, and Dad. Then me, Mom, Auntie Peggy and Alyssa drove to the airport. Yipee!

 Mom made me pose for this one.

 At the airport...I kind of felt like crying when I said good-bye to my Mom but I sucked it up so Auntie Peggy and Alyssa wouldn't think I was a cry-baby.

 Me reading the two magazines Auntie Peggy got me. 

 Were on the airplane now...notice I'm still reading. I really, really like to read!

  The next day, I'm in Florida. (That's where our boat "Monarch of the Seas" is docked) It's 13 stories high. WOW!

 I got a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup from the staff because it was close to my birthday.

 Me with a display of the wheel of the boat because Auntie Peggy thought it would be a good pose.

 The rooms were very small. At first, I felt claustrophobic, but then I got used to it.

 Me looking at ALL 13 floors!

 I made it up 30 feet out of 33 feet. But I got too scared. I could almost ring the bell!

 Our view of Nassau, Bahamas!

 I went snorkeling...kind of. I jumped in then came right back out because I panicked. I thought the propellers of the boat might hurt me! Meanwhile, Auntie Peggy was worried thinking that I got lost. Sorry! Turns out, I was just sitting on the boat...waiting for HER!

 Our feet!

Then we went para-sailing...

 Hold on tight, Auntie Peggy!

WEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!! Apparently, Auntie Peggy thought this was a little much for her as she made us sit on the beach for a whole hour afterward! I loved being up in the sky!

It was very windy that day and my bangs were giving me problems sooo...

We fixed that problem.

 I got my hair braided.

 We had a great dinner. I tried Ox-Tail Soup. Which was good. And little did I know that Escargot was not fish, it was indeed snail. HA HA MOM AND AUNTIE PEGGY!

 The staff at Royal Caribbean was so nice and helpful. Look what our state-room guy did for us!

 Me and Auntie Peggy on the last night at sunset.

 They also had a midnight buffet too. Auntie Peggy called this: "Mari's Table" because I loooove bread. I ordered three or four pieces at every dinner. Soon, the waiters started giving me two at a time.

 There was a pig they set out too. I mean I love meat but not when it looks like this!!!

 Surprise, Surprise I'm on my phone again. But little did I know that since I was out of the country, it cost way more than usual. My Mom was sort of upset but she said she liked to hear from me so that Dad and her will pay the big bill.

There was a fruit table. Notice the carved watermelons? Cool right?!?!

 There was a huge Iguana on a branch of a tree. So of course, Auntie Peggy took a picture of it.

 Me on a beach in CoCo Cay. (a private island owned by Royal Caribbean)
Thank you, Auntie Peggy so much for such an awesome vacation! I will always remember it!!!

Promises, promises...

Yes, I know I'm always promising to get better about blogging. Yes, I'm a procrastinator. Yes, I will with the help of a guest blogger catch you all up to date with our crazy busy past couple of weeks. She hopes to have her post ready tonight...if I get the pictures uploaded that is! There are LOTS of pictures though...cruise, Thanksgiving, birthday party, Cousins Chat party....

The guest blogger is also considering a post or two addressing the emotional impacts of middle school and adoption on a 13yo. Was that a big enough hint?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Whoa there!!!!

At the risk of burying my last post I do feel an overwhelming urge to make this post tonight!! If you had not noticed I'm a tad emotional over the events of this past weekend. It's not gotten any better now that Mari is home safe and sound and HAPPY! You see they came home bearing the following photos taken by the ship's photographer......

Here is my dear sister Peggy as she arrived on the ship with my baby.

Then my baby started to change...

and change....

and change some more...

and then WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How the heck did this happen???? Who the blazes is that teenager in the picture with my sister??????????????????????????

I mean could a child be any more beautiful [okay I may be a tad partial but really!?!?]? So I'll leave you with this picture of my very soon to be teenager as I head off to load and load and load their pictures and try to collect myself......

Clear as mud...

As I sit here on the computer watching the flight status of my returning daughter I've decided it's time to open up a bit on a difficult topic. Saturday was National Adoption Day. Many, many of my Facebook friends felt compelled to post cheery, up beat messages thanking the birth families for their "gift". Four or five years ago I would probably have been one of the herd of adoptive Moms typing a similar glib blurb. Why was this year different?

Not sure if I can articulate my feelings yet. That's one of the reasons I've never addressed the topic before. That and the fact that Mari is in a stage of conflict on the subject and I want to respect her feelings of not "blabbing about my adoption". Still I feel that there are things that I've learned, or experienced, or am processing that may be of value to another adoptive Mom just behind me on this journey....

These are the things I'd like to share at this point in time. In an attempt at brevity, let's just start from the point in our story that we had progressed through nature, fertility, and one disrupted adoption using a working template that we NEEDED children to have a 'perfect life'. As we approached the girls' adoptions we were not quite ready to let go of that template though we had modified it several times along the way. Actually, we were in a serious period of self examination on the topic of the "need" for children when Mari's picture popped up in an e-mail from the agency that had supervised the failed domestic adoption. I'd like to lay the full blame on them for the justifications we used to proceed with the adoption but I can't...the agency touted the complete and total severance of  the birth mother's rights during the adoption process...and to our hearts still bleeding from the disrupted domestic adoption that sounded like balm. Yes, here is the point where I can now say that it was all about US. All about our rights. All about our wants. All about our needs. At the time we adopted we were in a very selfish state of existence. I will also honestly say that in that state I could not or would not have heard the other voices that speak so eloquently [and some not so eloquently!] on the inequality in the adoption triad. Then we went to Guatemala.....

Ironically, that trip to Guatemala to collect OUR daughter and bring her HOME was the start of our awakening. Initially all we saw were the horrible conditions [using our American measuring stick of course!] and a sense that we needed to do something more for the people of that country. Sadly we were still in a neophyte stage and thought that adopting more children to "get them out of those conditions" was a very logical option. We had only the barest perception that others were experiencing 'inconsistencies' with their adoptions back in 1999 when we were 'in process'. It was during Julia's adoption that the VERY REAL FACTS of adoption corruption became personally clear to us. Now don't get me wrong. I'm NOT saying if I had it to do all over again I would NOT adopt Mari or Julia! I am comfortable with the fact that we did what we knew best at the time. What I am saying is that as I know/learn more I must change. I cannot be the selfish and naive 'good girl' who espouses all the wonders of adoption anymore...because I now KNOW it is not so wonderful for two of the three sides of the adoption triangle.

My daughter's birth mothers did not make their choices because they wanted to give me a "gift". They were loving women caught in tragically complicated circumstances where adoption looked to be the best decision they could make at the moment. How horrible to know that your life is in such a state that sending away your children is the "good" choice?!?!? On this topic I am the least evolved and I expect that as I continue my journey that this will continue to grow in its complexity. I leave this to another time though because right now I am focused on the not so wonderful effects it has on my children.

Contrary to the Susie Sunshine posts and Knights in the Defense of Adoption there are varying degrees of impact on every child in an adoption. We have some effects in our children. Doesn't mean they aren't lovely young women who will lead very productive lives but it also doesn't mean that they are whole. One is more wounded than the other which makes it hard. Ironically the one with the more intact family and foster family structure in Guatemala is the most scarred! We are no longer so selfish....but we are not yet selfless. We are working on it.

Right now I have to hop in the car and head off to the airport. My baby is coming home...again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stand-by for breaking news....

Regarding the post below:
Dateline- The Bahamas

So far so good!!!!!!!!!!!! There is limited cell phone contact in the evenings and she's called every night so far...the bedtime prayer and poem routine were maintained (:

There's been snorkeling in Nassau because the para-sailing was canceled due to high winds. She also has impressed the table mates by ordering escargot, ox-tail soup, lamb shanks, and shrimp ravioli! Though the shrimp ravioli was sent back in favor of a steak....she didn't realize the shrimp would be ground into the stuffing cheese. Oh, and she thought escargot were "some kind of tasty French fish"....not sure when we're going to break that one to her. Auntie Peggy reports not knowing this "vibrant and conversational" teen that is traveling with her!! Okay, yes I'm nearly giddy now too.....thank you God...we really needed this right now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Surprises and Separations!

Just posting this so I have a memory. Read on if you wish but there aren't any meaty details or enlightening pictures. There will, undoubtedly, be a follow up to this post later next week. Later next week because that's when I'm going to see Mari again and hopefully have tons of pictures for documentation!

The immediate family are well aware of some of Mari's little quirks. Since they are baggage she carries as a result of her adoption, which she is not ready to air in public, I will not be specific. Just suffice it to say that adoption in general and international adoption of a toddler in particular results in wounds and scars not easily healed.

With that in mind, Mari is veeeeery soon about to turn 13. Auntie Peggy has a tradition of 'kidnapping' her nieces and nephews for a special 13th birthday trip for some quality one on one time with the newly minted teenager. Given some of Mari's quirks this had the potential to go south...and with her Latina temper we're talking way south way fast! Coupled with the fact that for Mari's trip Auntie Peggy had decided on a CRUISE we both held our breath last night when the 'kidnapping' commenced.

As they rose from their homework on the call to head over to religious  education class we stood at the front door. In the bottleneck of the vestibule we shouted for everyone to turn and give Mari a hug and kiss good-bye as she would not be attending RE this night....she had a plane to catch! As the older ones who've had their moment began squealing and shouting Mari's face went blank. I must admit I had a moment of dread when I saw her cocked head and furrowed brow but with the revealing of each detail she smiled just a little wider until there was a full fledged GRIN.  My sober and serious type A daughter came as close as she has ever come to GIDDY! 

In the hour long car ride to the airport she interrogated us within an inch of our lives on just how we had arranged and packed everything without her noticing. Trust me, it was NOT EASY!! Mari has always been a 'watcher'. She is the one who sits in the back of the room and observes EVERYTHING without bringing much attention to herself. No haircut goes unnoticed and she is the first to see a new outfit/purse on a friend. It's a good thing she goes to school for 8 hours everyday.....

Anyhow, she did not completely act out of character by being all giddy and excited. There was the panicked question, "What if it's like the Titanic????" to which I assured her that there were no icebergs in the Caribbean. One thing I can say as it is sooooo very common knowledge is that if worrying were an Olympic sport, Mari would be the Gold Medal winner....hands down!!!! Had she known about this cruise last week, when the news was filled with stories of spam and pop tart dinners for the stranded passengers on the Pacific liner that had the engine room fire, she would have insisted on me packing her an extra bag with food. Not kidding, really, she's like that!

But to the point of this post for which I would like to have it recorded for posterity....Mari gave me a hug good-bye at the airport and after a peck on the cheek and a whispered, "I'll miss you Mom. Love you so much!" she turned and walked into the terminal. No tear streaked sobs. No trembling lips and petitions to change our minds and let her go back home. No frozen to the sidewalk panic. No angry slamming back into the car and fighting tooth and nail to hang on to the seat belt. No "Mayan thunder clouds" look. They've been coming less and less lately. This night they did NOT come at all!!!! I know it's a very fragile scab but I really think the separation wound is starting to close. I've seen it ripped back open a time or two but this time I think it's different. This time she willingly left. She knew there would be five bedtimes without our routine. She knew she was going out of cell phone range. She knew she was going to foreign countries... and she went! 

I'm a tiny bit of a wreck. Glad to be drama free for a couple of days but so assuming her mantle of worry as I hope that this is the best trip of her life!!! This so needs to be the memory of a life time....a positive memory...not a trauma. Please God, it's me Suzanne and all I'm asking is for this one little favor.....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mindful of the Magic in Mundane

 "We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." > Thorton Wilder

Been busy living this past week. Yep, just living. Regular, everyday stuff that happens to regular families...that's all. Or should I say THAT'S ALL?!?!? 

It happens to all of us every now and again. A quiet little voice that reminds us on just how 'special' everyday life really is in the Big Picture. Sometimes that voice belongs to the littlest Mahoney when she isn't even speaking....

Can one ever be too old to find joy in playing....with/in a cardboard box???? We have finally decided to do a 'semi' remodel of the last un-updated bathroom in our circa 1956 brick ranch. Time and money not being in a surplus at the moment has us buying some stock items which come from Home Depot in rather large boxes. Julia was in absolute awe of their size. She giggled with delight at the thought that she could again fit into a box and .......play.....just play. I got the message! 

Properly reminded I will now show you two more events in the past week. Not even remotely equal in their "specialness" but in the current moment of enlightenment they are both examples of how the mundane, everyday routine....isn't.
The lesser of the two events is reeeeaaaalllly ...lesser. The setting...Thursday night's family dinner. The mundane take of the picture....just more spuds needing to be peeled for the crowd of hungry Irishmen and tweener cousins.

I've peeled about a bazillion potatoes in my life so far. This is the FIRST time I have ever come across potatoes of this shape....FOUR TIMES in the same 5 pound bag!!! I took the picture when I just thought it was 'weird'. Now, in the current moment of enlightenment, I see the magic in the miracles of Mother Nature which sculpted such special spuds and the blessing from God that I have such food and the family who  shares it with me!

The faaaaaaaar more important event has actually happened 14 other times. Potentially boring and mundane to have a 15th repeat???

Not when it's Alyssa's BIRTHDAY!!!!!! We celebrated with.....

a birthday dinner......

followed by a girls night out at the theater!! An absolutely marvelous production of  7 Brides for 7 Brothers which left us craving more musical theater....soon I'm thinking....real soon!!! [Mari was in a picture boycotting mood  by this point but did attend AND enjoyed the play immensely]

This boring, old, working Mom with her mundane life has been charged with spreading the reminder....

be conscious of your heart's treasures! Sometimes life sends you clues....you might want to check your lunchbox.....

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reaching back...

After a recent visit with my Mom, I found myself in possession of another bag of her old photos. She's pleased to know that I am able to scan them digitally and therefor save them for posterity. There are all sorts of styles and many generations of pictures in every stage of deterioration meaning I must necessarily take it slow and careful...not my strong suit! So as I sit waiting for the scanner to 'read' each photo I find myself with time to sit and study the images waiting their turn to jump into the digital world. A funny thing is beginning to happen to me....what with all the genealogy research of late and now these piles of photographs of those people who's names I've been researching ...it's a hard thing to articulate but it's growing in strength. I'm beginning to feel like I've known these people who've died a long time before my birth!!! Not just 'know about them' but really feel an emotional connection similar to that I feel for my husband and children. Tonight I 'met' my maternal grandmother who died 5 years before I was born.....

As best I can tell, this is the oldest picture I have of Grandma Margaret. There she sat in the back row of a group of her friends as they all enjoyed an apple a piece. One of the only ones who was not wearing an exaggeratedly huge hair bow...the one second from the right in checks. Born in 1895 and guessing her to be about 12 in this picture would mean this picture was taken around 1907!!! That alone puts me in a state of reverence when I hold this picture in my hand. I just see that tall forehead rising up over the serious looking face and feel acutely the salty flavor of discomfort that creeps up the throat of a near adolescent who desperately wishes she could just fit in with the group of girls wearing their quiet  fabric dresses and loud bows. The girl who was probably wearing the puffy sleeved, loud, checkered hand-me-down dress of one of her three older sisters. I take comfort in knowing that the girl in the center front became a life long friend who appears in another picture in this post!

Clearly the family was not destitute poor since we have this studio portrait of her confirmation! But they were not wealthy either. I know this from the many stories I've heard from my Grandaunts of their childhood. I look at those long sausage curls and I am transported to the night before this picture was taken. I can feel the tears trickling down the cheeks as the long, wet  hair is combed out and then rolled tight to the scalp with the last knot of the rag invariably pinching a hair or two. I can feel the discomfort of a bunch of rag knots digging into her head as she tried to sleep...sleep in a bed with two sisters who's curl free heads slept peacefully while she couldn't find a single comfortable position!

Here she is with her lifelong friend Mae! Now a 'thoroughly modern' woman with a job and enough money to buy yourself a beautiful, white lace gown and pin your hair up with a rhinestone hair clip  bringing a smile...sort of  to your face. In the movie Beaches there is a scene where the dying friend sits and cries over pictures in which she sees her mother's hands....grabbing my tissues now....because usually I would be focused on the faces but all I see here is her bare arm and the  back facing hand. I've seen this arm and hand before many times on my own Mom AND my sister Anne Marie!!! The rest of us turn our palms in towards our thighs but Mom and Anne Marie's palms face backward when they stand relaxed....now I know why!

 I just feel that this picture links me to my grandmother in a cosmic way! I never had the idyllic trip to the beach with my grandmother. She was already dead. But I look at this picture and see a happy and relaxed woman who has been kissed by the magic of the sun and waves. A woman who went to the beach with a v-neck bathing dress and bare arms in those pre-sunscreen days even though she had fragile Irish skin!! Oh dear Grandma Margaret, if you could only have known that seasonal affective disorder existed and that many trips to the beach would have cured the doldrums.

Luckily she felt compelled to sit for portraits...fairly regularly! I see a woman growing in confidence. A woman getting 'comfortable in her own skin'. I see a woman who didn't 'need' to get married...but obviously she did! Again I feel a bond. A bond to a woman who met her life's love later than her peers and who was well into her 30's when work gave way to parenting!

I chuckled as I studied this picture thinking of the number of times I had to 'hug Mari ' so we could get a family picture. That is my Mom squinting over her new little sister's head while Grandma Margaret 'hugs' her. What amazes me about this picture is the knowledge that it was taken in the height of the Depression! One could understand if they were drained and serious looking but clearly the new little family was focused on their blessings in this period of stress. It is with this picture that I also see clearly why my siblings and I are blessed with excessively tall foreheads...thanks for that George and Margaret!!!!

This one induces sadness. You would think the cute mother/daughter dresses would bring a smile? My Mom seems happy. My aunt and uncle were co-operating by sitting nicely if not outright happy. My grandfather seems as proud as he is happy. My grandmother looks serious and/or stressed. Just what could have happened this sunny day to rob her of her happiness? I just feel like I need to reach back and give her a hug...an encouraging word...a quick kiss on her cheek and assurance that because of her there are dozens of happy grandchildren and great-grandchildren living lives of great joy. Love you Grandma Margaret!