Monday, August 29, 2011

Fair Warning!!!

Midwest drivers be alerted.....

....after successfully passing the exam and filing all necessary forms and fees...the State of Illinois has issued a learner's permit to cousin Alyssa!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Auntie Peggy is the designated supervising adult...and will be for the Mahoney girls as well as this Mom does not sit in the passenger seat...EVER!
[The above picture was edited for privacy reasons...the State of Illinois does not actually put cartoons on their permit applications!!!]

Consider yourself warned!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What the Cats do while the Mice are away!!!

Right about now the average blog reader is coming upon post after post by Moms wistfully commenting about how emotional they are about their 'babies' heading back to school. As Julia would say, "NOT so much!"....nope, uh-uh, this Mom is no way in any shape or form upset to see the kiddos strap on the book bags and head out the door in the mornings!

We are a completely UNdisciplined family...Auntie Peggy can now go to get a rag to clean the diet Coke she just spit all over her computer...and that may even be a tad of an understatement. Routines...regiments...schedules...just don't seem to take hold here without an exterior force exerting pressure. School is a life saving exterior force that puts this family back onto a healthy schedule of sleep and diet and we are all better people when school rolls back around in the fall. Don't get me wrong!! My free spirit loves the haphazard happenings of summer break and I firmly believe we need time to just experience life as it comes BUT we also need the school year to make sure we learn the things we need to succeed in life.

So this Wednesday morning marked the 5th day of waking to alarm clocks and packing lunch sacks and ushering two little ladies out the door to school. Wednesday....almost every one had been spent at the lake house this past summer...Wednesday....the day our little community hosts the Farmer's Market which we had missed all summer as we swam in the lake! It is only a bit under a mile from our house and the day dawned glorious bright if a tad humid so while the mice were away the cats ......

...rolled their wheels out of the back of the garage and cycled their way to the market!

Longtime readers of my blog can clearly note I've been packing on the pounds in this past year. Frankly I was not even sure I was still in good enough shape to cycle! Last year's rides had been difficult and I had decided that my shoulders could no longer take a mountain bike...and I need to address this bulky I'm now the excited owner of a good old fashioned cruiser style bike WITH A BASKET!!! It's the little things sometimes.Even the 4th of July garland that Patrick blissfully maintains on his cruiser compliments of the girls brings us a smile. The bigger smile was saved for  the sense of accomplishment I felt when I pulled up to the bike rack with no fatigue!!

Seems they added a new feature for the tots this year! Can I say it is also not a point of sadness for me that I no longer had to take a toddler by the hand and turn AWAY from the jump house in order to head into the market!

Okay, this is a Chicago suburb so the 'farmers' are not exactly next door neighbors and the stalls are more in the craft fair mode but the wares...

are real ...are fresh....

...are irresistible!!!

I love our little farmer's market (<;
Patrick loves the 'good old produce' like from his childhood on the farm BUT not really convinced on the need to pay a premium in price to get fresh and organic just yet.
We both love walking around and catching up with the news from neighbors we meet there.
We both love the baguettes sold by the French speaking nuns.
Today was bread, cheese, apples, and....

tonight there will be roasted BRUSSELS SPROUTS!!!

The cats really enjoyed uninterrupted discussions to and from the market.
The cats enjoyed not having to fend off plays by the mice to buy more.
The cats savored the moments with the breeze blowing in their sweaty faces as they rode home.
The cats enjoyed the fruit, cheese, and bread brunch.
The cats enjoyed the chance to curl up on the couch and nap....
because at 3:00pm the cats start chasing after the mice again!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Fair to middlin'..."

Grandpa is famous in our family for 'having sayings'. You know the type? The one who will tell you they are hungry by saying, "My stomach thinks my throat's been cut!"  Well one of his sayings when asked how he is doing is "Fair to middlin' and on my way to medi-achin' are you?" Frustrating to very literal little girls but getting more humorous as we age. This morning if you were to ask me how I was doing I very well may have popped out with Grandpa's come back!!

It was only TWO days with back-to-school alarm clock wake ups this week...felt like forever. This first weekend was simply not long enough to recover. In a feeble attempt to yank back on the reins of two wild, sun swept fillies I rolled out of bed kind of early this morning and began making those annoying 'Mom wants you to wake up" noises. The clang the cabinet doors as you drag out ingredients kind of noise...the turn Mom music on the radio kind of to Dad in full voice kind of worked (<;

What was unintentionally evil is they dragged their sorry tired behinds out of bed because they were CONVINCED that the cabinet door slamming was a pancakes for breakfast signal! Tricked them! It was the Mom has two zucchini that need to get cooked cabinet door slamming!!!!!!!!! So while one bailed in favor of cleaning the bathrooms so she can collect this week's allowance before school on Monday, the other became the baking assistant.

Standards are not high this weekend....she did not dress or brush her hair but helping out Mom always earns you bonus points.
[For my photographer friends -pictures involving people are coming out grainy lately. Did clean my lens after this mornings photographs and reconfirm my settings for 'portraits'...could it be my memory card getting old?? Why just shots with people in them and not my food/landscape shots?]

Now before you raise an eyebrow or check your calendar, the shamrock cupcakes where in honor of the BIG GAME! You would be pardoned if by remembering my youngest daughter's fascination with the University of Notre Dame you thought I was referring to the opening game in their 2011 season because that would not be THE big game in our life. Today was the semi-final match in Irish football between arch-rivals Kerry and Mayo....what you missed this tidbit?!?!?!?
Things are VERY American in this house! Only in America would two Guatemalan born girls be able to tell you why their Kerry born dad went off to work whistling a hornpipe. Only in America will two Guatemalan born girls be up early on a Sunday morning in two weeks to see whether Kerry will be playing Donegal or Dublin in the ABSOLUTE ONLY GAME worth anything to their Irish born father...The All Ireland Football Finals, OF COURSE!

The baking did show signs of having been conducted by a baker not on her A game....

at the request of the junior baker I added butterscotch chips to one batch of the zucchini muffins. Then, forgetting that a less than alert senior chef FRIED the microwave on Saturday by running it empty....because she thought she had set the kitchen timer function instead of the cook function...we miss set the old egg timer and upon seeing the molten chip eruptions quickly snatched them from the oven...without inserting a test pick...leaving us with a dozen semi-solid sweet dough balls!!

We are fair to middlin', thank you!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to the Books!

Today was the girls' first day of school for the 2011-2012 school year. Suppressed screams of delight inserted here We were all filled with excitement! Earlier in the week they each had a 'meet and greet' day where they could go set-up their lockers and bring the haul of supplies from the 'list'! Now Mari is simply too hormonal cool and mature to need her Mom and I willingly stepped back and let her handle the whole process with her friends. 8th grade is nearly full grown don't you know?!?!?

5th grade is a different far! Julia is still very cooperative with the whole picture taking expectations. She is very up for this year as she got the teacher she had hoped for all summer long!!

Largely based on the fact that he is a renown Scooby-Doo fanatic just like Julia!!

I am happy just to still have one who isn't too old to walk home from school with the old lady Mom!

Today dawned bright and warm and we took pictures...

Ones together....

Ones alone.....

Good moods prevailed...

...and according to all reports the new 5th grader "made points"  by wearing her new Scooby Doo top.

Don't want to jinx anything...but all the signs are pointing towards a great school year. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Darn Little Buggies...

Summer vacation is going out with a whimper....

Mari is a day or two ahead of Julia with a virus that renders them achy in body and throat! Low grade fevers and mucous flowing like waterfalls have laid them low. The only positive thing I can say about this bug is that I'm glad it came early enough as to be cleared up before the first day of school!!!!

Mari has been a tad...shall we say moody of late. For a couple of days I was forbidden to take pictures and especially forbidden to post any pictures of her to either Facebook of the blog! Teens being teens means that the moods ebb as quickly as they peak and I was asked to PLEASE take some nice shots of she could change her profile picture on Facebook....HAH!!!!

Trying to figure out all the lighting quirks! Facing her into the sun to get her face out of the shadows gives me funky squinty I'm going to play with these in Photoshop and see if I can do anything with the shadows.

This would be the kind of picture that gets me into trouble with her these days! Just thought I'd give you a peek at just how my lady survives at the lake house. While we were out on the end of the dock trying to figure out the whole fishing thing....she rode up on the scooter and plunked down in a chair and pulled out her phone to catch up with the gossip!!!!

As usual the 'family' garden up at Auntie Peggy's has become...

Auntie Peggy's garden!!

Our saving grace it that she cannot eat it all by herself!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Parents are always complaining about how their children are such 'picky' eaters. I would NOT be one of those parents! So far this month my girls have eaten at Guatemalan, Ethiopian, and Japanese restaurants...and they don't order the Mac n' Cheese either! Today we closed up the lake house for the summer [sniff, sniff] and we marked the occasion with one last cook out.

Grilled rib eye steaks with Montreal Steak Rub crust.....yum!

Even BETTER with mushroom and onions drizzled with garlic flavored olive oil and seasoned with lemon pepper and baked in a foil packet!!!

Made perfect with Roasted Brussel Sprouts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You read that correctly! Today my girls did not even blink when I set the tray of roasted sprouts on the table. They did ask what they were. They did ask what the white flecks were. [Parmesan cheese] They did ask if one ate them with butter and salt like cabbage. They DID just dive in and EAT them!!

I do not know just what I did differently or how I lucked out to have TWO epicurious daughters? I may have said once or twice that "I do not make or serve poison so open your mouth and eat!" I may have said more than once, "Tough luck, this is your choice take it or leave it!" I may have said more than a few times that "Dessert only comes when the dinner is eaten!" But I have friends who have said the same kind of things and their kids still only eat chicken nuggets or mac n' cheese!?!?!

Yes, I'm bragging! C'mon, my kids LOVED brussel sprouts!?!?!?

Kicked the Bucket....

Remember my 'epic failure' at zip lining I mentioned in a post a few weeks past? Those moments of pure panic really did a number on my psyche! Now the summer has been emotionally draining for a million other justifiable reasons but that one incident has trampled my self-confidence to its core and left me feeling like a very old and un-hip Mom! It was with a sense of duty that I dragged my sorry, pitiful, woe-is-me self out of town and back up to Aunt Agnes' lake house so the girls could have one last 'Hurrah' before summer officially ends with the 'First Day of School' next Thursday. In one last act of desperation to engender some "My Mom is so cool" vibes I convinced Patrick that we needed to head on over to Lake Geneva and hire a speed boat.

You remember?!? My raised on an island but terrified of the water husband!?!? Who sat safely in the back of the boat with his life vest securely strapped into place the whole time we were out on the lake, husband!?!? But I also know I've mentioned a time or two how much the man adores his daughters and SPOILS all of his women so of course he agreed. There was a couple of runs at trying to stay on shore while we went but I TOTALLY pulled the whole guilt trip thing on him and he went "for the sake of the family memories".

I did mention ...spoiled, right?
Actually we all stretched out in the sun and enjoyed the ride!

Did I forget to mention that we had also arranged for the speedboat to have a tube on board?
Mari, it can safely be said, has a well hidden dare devil side to her that makes one heck of a wicked appearance once strapped into a live vest! My hates nature and worries about everything lady finds tubing to be the most fun thing she has ever done and the driver tried every speed and maneuver to see just when she would cry 'uncle' or fall off the tube. At one point he even was shocked as we unexpectedly hit some wake waves generated by a huge sight seeing boat and she bounced so high in the air we thought the tube may take off like a kite....but no, she landed back down on the water still hanging on tight!!

Would have posted one of Julia showing off with her one handed, fish tailing maneuver but her face was in such shadows and I don't have the skill or time to edit one tonight. She is usually my dare devil but was more than willing to let Mari take the lead on this activity. Did not take long however before she too was pumping her thumb up in the air which is the signal for the driver to pick up speed!

Darn cloud cover just as I finally had them in the viewfinder! May I also add that trying to take pictures of a bouncing tube from the back of a speed boat is a bit of a challenge?!?!?

So to get to the point of this post, which I am notoriously bad about doing in any kind of succinct manner, I must now break one of my personal photography rules....

I must show myself in a swimsuit...ugh! 
Just like our expedition out to the zip-line course, I donned all the necessary gear to go tubing. With a fierce determination [and my omnipresent competitive nature] I was not going to let another panic attack stop me from sharing a waaaaaaaay cool experience with my daughters!
And then this is where I have to admit I again failed.....

NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is really me out on that tube and those are actual waves splashing up at me!

See, double proof ! 

Now I can say I've been tubing! I can feel a little less old and stogy than I have been feeling of late. My girls now have another memory of their Mom being 'cool'.
Now all I have to do is be super clever in how I pop the ibuprofen all day tomorrow for my aching arms and shoulders.....

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rebel in pants!

Part of our Family Dinner Nights is story telling. Usually they are stories that involve incidents with the cousins when they were babies. Sometimes they are stories by Patrick of life growing up on an Irish farm in the 1950's. Occasionally there is even a story or two about Auntie Peggy and I as children!

One of the stories that has had requests for repeated retelling is the "How Mom and Aunt Peggy Were Rebels in Pants". Short version...we were born in the early sixties...very early sixties...okay I was born only THREE months into 1960!!! In the late 1960's and early 1970's, in suburban Chicagoland, girls did NOT wear pants to school PERIOD! As a matter of fact, in our school district it was against the 'Dress Code'.

What, you may ask, about our brutal Midwest winters? Can you say snow pants???? Ugly, stirrup legged, scratchy wool things that you had to try and gracefully pull off from under your dress as soon as you can in the building and recess and final bell there was the gyrations trying to pull them back up without flashing anyone!! Well one particularly frigid winter week when I was in 6th grade, my mother had had enough and she sat down at her sewing machine and made Auntie Peggy and I each a rockin' stylish wool plaid JUMPSUIT!!! The morning after they were finished we found them laid out with darling new turtleneck sweaters waiting to be put on for school. Even though we were both excited to have a new outfit there was some bit of trepidation at the thought of being 'rule breakers'................okay, so Peggy had the trepidation and I was ALL IN for the ensuing confrontation!!!

Funny thing happened that day. Two other girls from my class showed up in pants as well! Now you would suspect a parental conspiracy....except they were the two 'popular' girls one of which was my arch-rival for academic supremacy of the grade. We were all called into the hall by the principal and I could detect Peggy's near nervous breakdown. So once told that we were NEVER to show up in pants again I boldly said, "My mother said to wear this and she is in charge of what I do so you will need to call her to discuss this matter."

I was always a bit cheeky.

You might even say bold.

Exclusively related to my insanely competitive nature, of course! I've known for ages that I got that from my Mom. She took the principal head on.

The dress code....well let's just say I wore pants everyday from there on....(-;

So, I'm over at my Mom's last night putting away groceries and I come across this picture laying on her kitchen counter.............

This would be my grandmother in the middle, my Aunt Vonnie on the right, and YES...that would be my mother on the left in her navy inspired ensemble!!! She's guessing about 1941 ish. Wearing the 1940's....on an outing to downtown Chicago...the ORIGINAL rebel in pants I guess??

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Found time!

I love 'found time'! That is the time that was originally committed to some errand or appointment that suddenly gets given back to you by a cancellation. Last night I had 'found time' and I had a chance to turn it into a Mom & Me outing!!

Julia and her BFF/Cousin decided to extend their play date which became a sleepover at my house into a double header ...but this time at my sister's house. Friday is my day to check in on my Mom and bring her dinner. It is the way we try to help Uncle Peter, who is her primary care giver, from getting worn out. I restocked her fridge and picked up her prescriptions. Mari and I arrived with loaded arms and worked quickly to put it all away and get her dinner served up. We expected to stay and visit...but my Mom was engaged in a lively telephone conversation and she waved us off saying she was fine.

So we took advantage of the 'found time'!!!

Sorry for the quality of the picture but since I wasn't expecting the lovely evening out with Mari I did not have my camera...or my cell phone!?!? I had left it at home on the charger. So the dinner photos are courtesy of Mari's cell phone. Miso Seared Scallops and a Mango Margarita for Mom (-;

Sesame chicken and spring roll for the Me...aka Mari! She's a whiz with the chop sticks. Guess all the ethnic dining experiences are paying off as she asked what country was going to be our next Mom & Me date?!?

Then a funny thing happened on our way to the theatre!
Neither of us cared for a single offering!!!
So we decided to curl up on our own couch and watch a classic...

So who can name this movie???
Mari had NEVER seen it before and it made me feel a bit old.
Especially as she scanned over the DVD case and informed me that I was 3 years old when it was released! Funny how different it is to watch this movie that I can practically quote whole scenes from through the eyes of my 13 yo daughter who not only has never seen it but who did not even know who John Wayne was by name!! She kept calling him "that guy Grandpa likes to watch in McClintock"....sigh....sigh...feeling very, very old! 

Well we have one last week of vacation before we head back to school. Guess where we will be most of next week???
The lake of course!

Hoping for a campfire every night!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Full Throated Rant!!

I try to keep this blog mostly as a memory journal for my daughters future....BUT today I am so it is actually a stronger emotion than peeved for which I cannot quite put a name that suits ...about a discussion that is in full flames on one of the adoption forums of which I am a member!
 It all started with the publishing in US papers today about the ruling made by a judge in Guatemala regarding a case that has been brewing since November of 2006. A ruling in which the Guatemalan judge ordered an adopted child returned to her biological parents by her Missouri adoptive parents.....

To say this is every adoptive parents nightmare would be such an understatement! Except that the article left out A LOT of details. It has been known since at least 2008 that this adoption had 'irregularities' as the jargon calls possible negating factors. Ah adoption jargon....

Back when Patrick and I decided to pursue adoption as a means to have a family we were so NAIVE! We just wanted to be parents. Then came our first adoption....can you say emotional train wreck?!?! After weeks of jumping through every hoop the social workers and birth mother asked we were handed a beautiful little girl in the nursery of the hospital where she had been born only moments earlier. We spent a blissful week together and then reality crashed through the glass ceiling and we found our selves driving to an attorney's office to hand her  back into the arms of her birth mother who had found it just too impossible to complete the plan she had initiated. Our hearts and souls were so scarred that we backed away from the idea of adoption...until our social worker with an extremely well known and 'reputable' agency lulled us back with promises that seemed like a perfect adoption....where the birth parent rights are already terminated and the adoptions are closed before you even go to meet YOUR CHILD....this big brown eyed innocent looking back at you from the computer screen! Yes, the agency always uses that irresistible hook...YOUR CHILD is waiting for you to come and bring her home. Safe and above board especially because Guatemala and the United States required the birth mother to present at a lab to give a DNA sample to prove she was willingly placing her child for adoption....UGH!!!! You cannot even imagine the number of times I told that to friends and family who questioned why we chose Guatemala and if we were sure we weren't getting a "stolen baby"!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'd like to think the vast number of Americans who elected international adoption were like myself. Scarred victims of failed fertility and adoption attempts who put on blinders so we could focus on that beautiful child in the picture who was going to fulfill our dream for OUR CHILD....who with the tincture of time and an level of intellectual curiosity was able to see the murkier edges to the sunny adoption landscape. By the time we were in process with Julia's adoption we had personally met and knew of children adopted from Guatemala who's "stories" were very clearly just that STORIES. We tried as best as we could with the knowledge we had to authenticate our daughters' stories. I cannot exactly say just what it was about Patrick and my upbringing that put us both on the same page but we both knew that we would have to return a child or end an adoption that was not moral or ethical. But how are naive Americans to really know all the right questions to ask or how to ferret out the deceitful answers from the truth? Were these two women who claimed to Guatemalan social workers that they were too poverty stricken to raise another child...really just poor or were they being coerced by money or threats?

The little girl in the news story today...was kidnapped at 2 years of age from her family's front yard!! Her birth parents have been pursuing her and the kidnappers from moment ONE. The adopting family have known this adoption was not right from the moment the DNA test came back as not being a match in 2007...and they looked the other way while the attorney took the child to a 'friendly court' and had her declared abandoned and the US Embassy accepted the court finding and let them bring her home in 2008. The family took the gamble that the birth parents were too poor or too incompetent to find the child and when it was made very clear to them that there was a very likely chance that their new daughter was a kidnap victim how did they respond??? They refused to have her retested by the DNA labs suggested by the Guatemalan authorities OR the ones encouraged by the US government and they went to ground. She was THEIR CHILD who was assuredly 'better off' with her wealthy [by comparison] American adoptive family than with her poor Guatemala birth family.....sigh.

Today the forums were filled with adoptive mothers vehemently supporting the adoptive families actions! One woman even went so far as to say she would "Go Branch Dividian" to hide her child from Interpol [whom the judge has called upon to find and return the child to Guatemala] because "I am the only mother he has known since he was a baby and he is MINE now"....really? I cannot even believe the number who are of the opinion that the grief of the biological mother at having her child kidnapped was NOT of equal value to the grief they would feel at having the child returned. REALLY?!?!!? How long can you keep your head in the sand? How long before you open your eyes and see the number of children kidnapped to satiate the desire of wealthy foreigners? More so, at what point do you EVER acknowledge that just because a birth mother showed up to court and DNA appointments is not an absolute assurance that she was WILLINGLY participating in the adoption? I can state with personal knowledge that at least TWO children of which I am more than just an acquaintance were placed by birth mothers who were blackmailed into completing the the threat of having bodily harm done to family members! Yet countless adoptive parents deny the possibilities and claim absolute rights to THEIR CHILD.

What to do now? I'm no King Salomon...but I do know that an adoption that starts with such a crime as its foundation is forever flawed! Everyone is a victim to varying degrees...but we adopting parents do really have to face the fact that just because we sat through hideously invasive psychological testing, FBI background checks and fingerprinting, life savings and world wide searches does not always mean we get to claim the full rights to call them OUR CHILD. I am in an uncomfortable place right now on this topic...we have found Mari's birth family and have been assured by BOTH birth parents that while they adored their daughter they just could not see any scenario by which they could raise her and they willingly made the conscious decision to place her for adoption in the hope that she could find a family who could raise her.....but we have yet to find Julia's birth family so we wait....with our hearts very near the surface hoping against hope that we hear the same assurances. Even as I try to stuff the fears down deep I simply CANNOT justify any adoption that comes as a result of kidnapping....PERIOD! Knock on wood, prayers to St. Gerard, and every other possible actions that we do not find this with our Julia BUT I could not deny another mother's grief in deference to my own and I would sincerely hope that I would have the support of friends, family, and mental health workers to sit down with this other scarred heart and find a path that we could walk together that would really be in Julia's best interest....and not just my own while 'claiming' it was for Julia.

I am no longer the naive adoptive parent....and I still have much to learn I'm sure but I am the parent of a teen and a tween and I do know they can Google their own name and read! How can any adoptive parent hope for a solid loving relationship with a child who reads that they have biological parents who have been begging for their return and that they took actions to hide you from your first family? How does this child develop any self image...any sense of who they are, could have been, should have been when so much was done in deceit? For those that believe in a God and a here after....just how do you stand before him knowing that you could have righted a wrong and you chose to be selfish instead?....and this is only today's story....there are 17 children from Vietnam now living in Italy as a result of fraud and kidnapping that was in last week's news...the stories of Ethiopian adoptees kidnapped and placed for adoption are mushrooming...karma is strong stuff...just saying...

Now to reward the reader who made it through that whole convoluted tirade I offer the following visual treats....

They seriously grow up too fast!!!

Who needs Disney World when there's a lake, a dock, and enough fishing poles for the both of you?