Family 5k Race

Patrick’s school recently hosted a 5k run and he was very excited to participate in the event.

We put the boys to bed early the night before the race, with Patrick and Danny dressed in their race clothes.  Patrick didn’t want to take his shoes off before bed, but we made him!

The next morning, we were up early and out the door with our double jogging stroller.  We figured that Kevin would ride in the stroller the entire race and the second seat would be available for Danny and Patrick should they get tired during the run.

Before the race we did some stretching and got ready to run.

The kids did a pretty good job in the race and we finished in about 32 minutes.  Danny rode in the stroller about half of the time and Patrick about a quarter of the time.

Here we are with other Embassy families from the school who participated in the race.

After quick showers at home, we went to church, and then out for lunch at a Korean barbecue place.  At the restaurant, Danny wore his race medal and asked me, “Isn’t everyone in the restaurant so proud of me?”  I assured him that all restaurant patrons and staff were indeed very proud of him.

After nap time Kev, in his cute little elf jammies, wanted to be just like his big brothers wearing a race number and a medal.

When we laid out their clothes for school the next day, the boys each proudly added a race medal to their pile!

The boys did a great job running and Patrick even told us that next year he wants to do the 10k instead of the 5k!

Summer is on the way!

After a busy Saturday morning of playing at the park across the street from our house, the boys were filthy and needed baths before lunch.  They’d been busy doing boy things like finding snails (and giving them clever names like Patrick, Danny, and Kevin), lining them up, and racing them.  Every time that human Danny and human Kevin weren’t looking at the snails, human Patrick would move snail Patrick ahead in the race.

With temps in the upper 80s, Danny and Patrick were sweaty and eager to jump in the pool to get clean.  They developed a game where they stand across from each other on opposite sides of the pool and then jump into the water towards each other at the same time in an attempt to make an extra big splash by landing in the water at the same time.

They added a variation, which they called the “turbo spin” which Danny told us sometimes involved jumping and twisting in the air, and sometimes just jumping in normally and then spinning after landing under water.

While the big boys played in the big pool, Kevin enjoyed his baby pool and the garden hose.  He grabbed the hose and happily played with it while trying to fill up his “congrejo” (crab) pool.

Kev wanted to jump into his own pool after watching his brothers jump into the big pool.

When the big brothers moved into Kev’s pool, he tried to jump on them.

These boys sure have fun together!

Taco Tuesday (on a Saturday!)

The boys have been talking a lot recently about wanting to eat tacos, so Brian took them to the grocery store, actually about four different grocery stores, to try to find all the ingredients.  The only thing he couldn’t find was crispy taco shells.

At Danny’s suggestion, he and Patrick each first ate a “plain taco” which was really just an empty soft shell.

Kevin wouldn’t eat a taco (and strangely also won’t eat pizza), but he did eat a few tater tots and some taco meat mixed into his favorite food, pasta.

Patrick and Danny loaded up their tacos with rice, tater tots, taco meat, and cheese.  “My hands are getting juicy!”  Danny told us as meat juice ran down his wrists.

We all made delicious tacos just how we wanted them.

Including their plain tacos, Patrick and Danny each ate three tacos and can’t wait to celebrate Taco Tuesday again, no matter the day of the week!

We got a hammock!

Brian recently went on trip to the United States, escorting nine Paraguayans to a training.  While he was gone, the kids and I visited a new park with a few friends.  Kevin loved climbing on the play structure and going down the slide.

Patrick climbed a tree and Danny climbed a net.

Meanwhile, Brian was dealing with things like a barracks with 38 beds (two working dogs slept in there too) and communal bathrooms.  Don’t worry – these weren’t the only or the main bathrooms, just the bathrooms out in the field.

After the class, as a thank you gift, the Paraguayan students gave Brian this hammock, from a small Paraguayan town known for its handmade hammocks.  Brian hung it on our back porch with help from Danny and Patrick.

We have all loved swinging in it.

Patrick and Danny are not always very safe on the hammock, often swinging too hard or are unbalanced, and they have flipped over in the hammock and fallen out a few times.  Kevin, having watched his brothers climb into the hammock, dragged the picnic table over to the hammock (do you see the picnic table in the lower right corner of the pictures below?), climbed on top of the table, and then tried to jump into hammock.  That kid is fearless!

Seeing the boys’ obsession with swinging, our nanny Maria made them two swings using pieces of wood she found and then hung them with rope left over from hanging the hammock.

The boys have lots to keep them busy in the backyard!


Abasto Market and Popsicles

I recently visited the Abasto produce market in Asuncion.

It is a large sprawling market with hundreds of vendors selling lots of fresh fruit and veggies in stalls in large warehouses.  

Restaurants and street vendors stock up in the mornings at Abasto. 

Everything looked and smelled so fresh, and I loved all the bright colors.

I bought watermelon, bananas, pears, pineapples, mandarins, and purple grapes.  The boys were thrilled with all fruit I brought home.  They love to eat fruit and being silly.  Danny, for example, has been known to occasionally sport “banana hair.”

With most of the fruit we used our juicer to make popsicles.

The boys love them!

Just two weeks after my visit to the market, there was a terrible fire at market.  Although no one died, many vendors lost thousands of dollars in merchandise.

Hopefully the market will reopen for business again soon.

First Day of Spring

To celebrate the first day of spring, Danny and Kevin’s preschool instructed the boys to come to school dressed in bright colors.  Danny chose a silly clown costume and Kevin wore Hawaiian clothes.  Both were very excited for school!

The kids walked a runway at school to show off their colorful spring outfits!

The next day, the boys went on a field trip to a plant store with their classmates.  Each student picked out flowers which they took back and planted at their school.  Danny especially loved the outing.

Still in the spirit of planting and digging, we went to the Embassy that weekend to play in piles of mud at the construction site where the new Embassy buildings will be built.

After baths for the messy boys, they went right to bed!

We can’t wait for summer!

Ratón Pérez 

In Paraguay, the tooth fairy isn’t a fairy at all, it’s a mouse.  His name is Ratón Pérez, and according to one our nannies, he is a Mexican mouse since Pérez is not a common last name in Paraguay.

For quite awhile Patrick was desperate to lose a tooth and he often asked when he’d start to lose his teeth.  Once he finally had a loose tooth, he was thrilled and constantly asked us to touch it and check to see how loose it was and when he might lose the tooth.

Danny was excited about this news too and suspiciously claimed to have also developed a loose tooth, though it didn’t seem to move when we checked it at his insistence.  And Kev pretty much likes anything Danny likes, so both were happy for Patrick to finally have a loose tooth!

For our 13th wedding anniversary, Brian and I went away for two nights to a small town with a great hotel about 90 minutes from Asuncion.  I only took two pictures that weekend, both which I thought the boys would like – a truck overloaded with tires and a frog with a fatal head wound. (#momofthreeboys). 

When we got back home, there was a surprise waiting for us – Patrick’s tooth had fallen out and Ratón Pérez had come to visit!  Patrick was so excited and proud. 

In our absence, Ratón Pérez had left 10,000 Guaranies (the equivalent of about $1.75) under Patrick’s pillow.  That night when we were getting the boys ready for bed, Brian happened to see a piece of paper under Patrick’s bed and he asked Patrick to get it. It turns out it was a note from the Tooth Fairy with a $1 coin attached to the back.  Apparently both the Tooth Fairy and Ratón Pérez had both visited! 

Patrick was really happy!

Another tooth is loose so stay tuned for another visit from everyone’s favorite mouse!

Good Times in Chicago

Danny and Kevin and I were scheduled for a 1 AM flight leaving Paraguay, heading to Chicago via Panama for a three week trip.  Brian and Patrick graciously offered to drive us to the airport.  Unfortunately, due to “bird migration” in Panama, our flight was delayed about 90 minutes.  Finally though, it was time to give goodbye hugs to Daddy and Patrick and board our flight.

Once we were on the plane, Danny quietly and happily watched a movie on his tablet and then fell asleep for a few hours.  Kevin was another story.  He screamed for about four hours.  We were not very popular on that flight.  I was hoping Kevin would sleep (so I could sleep), since it was the middle of the night, but apparently he preferred crying and didn’t fall asleep until just before we landed.

After a six-hour flight to Panama, we scrambled through the airport to make our connecting flight to Chicago. Thankfully the bird migration that had delayed our flight to Panama also delayed our flight from Panama.  We got to the gate just in time to board the plane. The boys were pretty good on the flight. They liked looking out the window, napping, and playing with tablets and Kev had fun feeding Danny little snacks.

Once we got to Chicago, we had fun seeing family, visiting a few sites, and eating food we can’t get in Paraguay.

Baby Kevin had minor surgery a couple days after we arrived and he handled it like a champ, though he did throw up all over me after waking up from anesthesia. After that, all he wanted was snuggles from Mama and I was more than happy to oblige. Thankfully surgery was a success and Kev recovered quickly!

One night during our trip, we had a nice dinner at the newly-purchased home of my sister Sheila and her husband Mike.  Mike cooked burgers on the grill, telling us that though they had only lived in the house a short time, they had already used the grill for steaks, burgers, brats, and chicken.  Danny was especially excited for the s’mores we had for dessert, cooked over Mike and Sheila’s fire pit.

After dinner, Danny and Kevin put on a dance show for Sheila and Mike, performing to the boys’ favorites including La Bamba and Despacito.

While on a break from dancing, Danny come over to me and asked, “Right that we don’t hurt animals?”  I assured him that he was correct, and we should not hurt animals.  With a look of concern, he said to me, “But Uncle Mike said he put a chicken on the grill and that probably hurt the chicken, right?”  After I explained to Danny that Mike had cooked a chicken breast from the store and not a live animal over fire, Danny was relieved. He must have been worried about that all throughout dinner!

During our trip, the boys enjoyed playing with and eating the harvest from my dad’s garden, especially the giant zucchini. Some of the zucchini was even larger than my nephew, Barrett!

We also had lots of nice lunches with my sister Sheila who often has lunch at my parents’ house, since she works nearby.

One of the trip highlights was the total solar eclipse which was partially visible in suburban Chicago.

The boys were especially excited about their special eclipse glasses.

The eclipse was really neat to see.  It was a cloudy day, so it was difficult to see anything without the glasses.

Danny kept clapping his hands and saying, “This is so exciting!”

Danny and Kevin enjoyed lots of play time with their cousins while we were in town. Kevin and Evelyn were very cute holding hands with each other while on a walk one afternoon. Kev had fun playing shirtless with cousins Griff and Jack.

Evelyn, Pierce, and Kev had lunch together one afternoon.

Kevin had lots of kitchen sink baths during our trip.

Kevin and his cousin Evelyn took baths next to each other one afternoon.

Kevin and his cousin Pierce took a bath together another afternoon.

One afternoon, Kevin insisted on taking a chicken leg with him into the bath.  My sister Colleen commented, “How come it’s cute when he takes a chicken leg into the bathtub but it’s disgusting when I do it!?”

Danny visited the eye doctor and got a new prescription for glasses while we were in town.

Danny and Kevin were excited to give a wedding gift to Uncle Kevin and Aunt Matty who celebrated their wedding during our trip.

Meanwhile in Paraguay, Patrick and Brian kept busy doing big kid stuff, like going to a golf tournament.  Patrick was so excited when a golfer tossed him a golf ball as a souvenir. When Danny and Patrick spoke via FaceTime, Patrick showed Danny the golf ball and Danny showed Patrick how big his muscles were getting.

At Patrick‘s request, Brian took him to eat at TGI Friday’s and they sat at the bar. They also went grocery shopping, but decided against buying a product called “barfy burgers”.

Brian and Patrick also went to check out a fire in the neighborhood.

Danny and Kevin and I sure had a nice three weeks in Chicago, but we were glad to get back home to Brian and Patrick in Paraguay! Danny gave Patrick some superhero pajamas we had picked out just for him.

The boys were glad to be reunited and Brian and I were happy to send them off to school on Labor Day especially since the Embassy was closed and we both had the day off.

Collins Ups The Price 

Since Brian and I moved to Paraguay just over four years ago, six of my siblings have gotten married, the most recent of which was my brother Kevin to a darling girl named Matty last weekend.  Other weddings include my brother Patrick marrying Amy in April of this year, my sister Maureen marrying Jonah in June 2014, my sister Sheila marrying Mike in July 2015, my sister Nora marrying her college sweetheart Dan in November 2015, and my brother Matt marrying Noura.  The Collins family is continuing to grow and we were thrilled to celebrate the marriage of Kevin and Matty.

The happy couple met two years ago through a dating website called Bumble.  For their first date they went to a whiskey bar in Lakeview called The Barrelhouse Flat.  Kevin later said it was the best first date he’d ever had.  Matty and Kevin soon started dating and got engaged in December 2016 during a “staycation” at Chicago’s Langham Hotel.   

This good looking, well-dressed couple could have walked right of the pages of a Ralph Lauren or J.Crew catalog.

The night before the big day, the wedding party gathered at the church for a rehearsal.

The rehearsal dinner was held at Glen Rowan House, on the campus of Lake Forest College.  

It was a beautiful old building.

The passed appetizers were great – shrimp cocktail, tomato caprese crustini, bacon wrapped scallops, and a raspberry brie tart.

In honor of the fact that the bride and groom met on the Bumble dating website, all my other brothers (the three co-best men) wore ties with a bumblebee on them.  And my brother Matt wore a pin left over from the bachelor party featuring a picture of Kevin, “looking like a predator” according to my other brothers and wearing a baseball jersey from his “Bumble Bees” baseball team.  The pins marked his “last priceless night,” a play on words with the bride’s maiden name, Price.

We had a fun cocktail hour on the patio.

Here are the parents of the happy couple!

Dinner was delicious – a great salad, and then an entree of filet and crab cake served with potatoes, green beans, and carrots.

The bride gave beautiful blue stone Kate Spade earrings to me and my seven sisters.

There were many fun toasts and roasts throughout the night.  Siblings and friends of the bride and groom had funny stories, jokes and even songs to share with the group.

Father Patrick Dorsey, the priest who married me and Brian and baptized all our kids and who would be the co-celebrant at Kevin and Matty’s wedding, was present at the rehearsal dinner and gave a blessing.

One of the cutest and most creative toasts was from my sister Nora who wrote a parody song to the tune of “Jack and Diane” changing the words to fit the happy couple and their hashtag of #CollinsUpsThePrice!  Here’s a clip of the video with Nora teasing them for marrying someone who looks like their siblings:

My mom gave the bride a sugar and creamer set that had belonged to her own mom, my late maternal grandmother.

Speeches continued while guests enjoyed an amazing dessert buffet.

The bride and groom participated in the traditional exploding of the Collins family cannon, with the bride doing the honors using a hockey stick.

The evening continued with a few more toasts and for some reason my brother Patrick thought it would be a good idea to partially disrobe and get in the small pond on the patio.

There was an after party at The Lantern in Lake Forest.

The next morning everyone set about getting ready for the wedding.  I had time for a quick stop at Clark Street Dog for a gyro and cheese fries for lunch.

We were all excited for the wedding!

Once we were all ready for the big event, my family and I all met at the Deer Path Inn for pictures before the ceremony.

Everyone looked great in their fancy dresses and tuxedos and my sister Nora’s baby boy Barrett looked particularly darling in his special outfit.

Danny was adorable in his mini tuxedo and loved being a big kid with his uncles and my dad.  I’m disappointed I didn’t get any pictures of me and Danny together but I know the photographer did, so I’ll have to wait for those!

Annie was running a bit behind schedule for pictures!

As soon as she arrived, we took a few family pictures with the siblings and then added in the spouses and grandkids who were present.

We loaded onto the trolley and headed to the First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest for the wedding ceremony.

Danny had lots of questions before and during the ceremony.  “When are they going to kiss? Are they going to kiss on the mouth? Are they in love? What color dress do you think Matty will wear? I think it’s going to be dark green.” When I told him I thought it would be white, he said, “We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”

The program for the event, as did many of thoughtfully orchestrated details throughout the day, featured the couple’s monogram and the colors blue and green.

The ceremony began with the procession of the mothers, escorted by their sons.  The mothers then lit candles on the altar, escorted by the head usher.

Next came the bridesmaids and two very cute but rather unwilling two-year old twin sister flower girls.  One sprinted down the aisle to her dad (a groomsman, brother of the bride) and the other was carried up the aisle by her mom (matron of honor, married to bride’s brother).

As a string quartet played the Elvis song “Can’t Help Falling In Love” Matty walked down the aisle with her dad.  As soon as Danny saw her, he told me, “You were right, Mom, her dress IS white!”

It was a nice ceremony, with both a Presbyterian pastor and a Catholic priest, a reading by a friend of the couple, and singing by sisters Nora and Sheila.  Matty was a gorgeous bride.  The couple exchanged rings and vows and lit a unity candle using the taper candles lit by their mothers.

And then it was official!

As the new Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Collins walked out of the church, my sisters and I sang Mairi’s Wedding, an Irish song.

We took more pictures outside of the church.  Matty and Kevin were so happy!

We boarded the bus and headed to the reception.

The reception was held at Conway Farms Golf Club.

Cocktails and appetizers were served on the patio.   

There were many delicious appetizers – candied bacon, shrimp cocktail, chicken flatbread, seared ahi tuna, and my favorite: fried macaroni and cheese. 

A table on the patio featured pictures of Kevin and Matty’s parents and grandparents on their wedding day.

With a light rain falling a bagpiper played, signaling that guests should move to the dining room for dinner.

The golf course leader board listed seating assignments for the wedding guests.

Dinner and dancing were held upstairs in large tent erected for the BMW Championship (formerly known as the Western Open) golf tournament to be held at the club a few weeks later.

It was a huge two-story tent.  We saw a beautiful sunset on the 18th green.

Inside the tent was beautifully decorated with lovely floral arrangements and a large head table.

The bride and groom entered the tent and cut the wedding cake

We heard funny and touching speeches from father of the bride, the maid of honor, the matron of honor, my brother Matt.

Dinner was great. 

I sat at a table with some of my cousins and siblings next to a very powerful air conditioning vent which made for a few funny “Marilyn Monroe moments” for unsuspecting wedding guests in flowing dresses, or funny guests like Annie and Rita who continued to walk over the vent knowing exactly what would happen.

Matty and her dad shared a dance.

Kevin and my mom next danced together.

Matty and Kev danced to “Make You Feel My Love” sung by my sister Katie who joined the band for the number.

The dance floor was declared open for everyone!

The groomsmen and ushers all wore tuxedo shirts Kevin had given them, featuring their monogram on the cuff.

My great aunt Mary Edith- 98 years old, older sister of my late paternal grandma, was one of the most impressive guests.  She chatted away at the cocktail reception and then danced up a storm after dinner.

Guests were treated to party favors of beer coozies, flip flops, and sunglasses with the couple’s hashtag of #CollinsUpsThePrice.

There were some entertaining dance floor shenanigans. Kevin and some of his friends build an impressive tower of men, some of the bridesmaids tied their dresses together for the limbo, and oddly some of the guys danced with a chair around the dance floor.

Waiters served guests a late night snack of mini burgers and fries.

The band, who was amazing and didn’t take a single break, played until 12:15.

Wedding guests then gathered outside lining the path with sparklers for a fun send off for Kevin and Matty.

Kevin and Matty left in a Bentley driven by a friend of Matty’s dad who owns a nearby dealership.  Rather than entrust the car to a hired driver, he bought a chauffeur hat and drove the car himself.  

The next morning Danny, who had gone to the hotel with a babysitter after the ceremony, was excited to go swimming with Mike and Sheila.

As we checked out of the hotel, Danny performed his La Bamba dance for my aunt Mary.  He also requested I take a picture of his room at the hotel (one of two bedrooms in a two bedroom suite) which had its own tv.  Danny thought that was pretty cool.

We left the hotel and headed to brunch to rehash the wonderful night before.  Matty’s diamond wedding band is below her engagement ring.  Above is a diamond and sapphire ring Kevin gave to her as a wedding gift.

Danny was happy to see his aunts and uncles, and especially enjoyed “playing” the Pac-Man arcade game.  Even though we put no money in the machine and the screen flashed “game over” Danny told us he won “so many times!”

We were all happy to see my sister Maureen’s son Pierce who conveniently sat in front of a fire truck with the same name.

The happy couple then left for Tahiti for two weeks to enjoy the islands of Bora Bora and Moorea.  We had a wonderful wedding weekend celebration!

And in case you are keeping track, there are now eight married siblings leaving just four single siblings.  Applications are now being accepted for those who think they might like to marry into this large Irish family.  Act quickly though, at least three are already dating someone!

Ross Castle

We spent the week with my family at Ross Castle, a 16th century castle just outside of Galway city on a117 acre property.  The primary castle buildings consisted of a large main building (inhabited by the castle owners) and three smaller buildings (for castle guests).  The main building, although it looked like a three-story structure from the front, actually had five levels.  

The property suffered disasters fires in both 1770 and 1930.  In reconstructing, the buildings were reconfigured a bit, with the walls remaining in place and changes made to the roofs and the layouts.  The current owners of the castle bought the property, in complete ruin, in 1985 and set about restoring it.  

The three buildings with guests quarters are adjacent to the larger main building and were constructed in a u-shaped around a square courtyard.   A chapel, a stone wall, and an arched gateway made up the fourth wall surrounding the courtyard.  Courtyard buildings – St. George Hall, Catherine’s Hall, and Park Hall – were built in 1590, 1670, and 1770, respectively.  Notice the various heights of the ceilings – they seem to have risen from century to century. 

The chapel was small but beautiful.

The stained glass windows were brought from United States.

We spent almost every night hanging out in the various sitting rooms in the courtyard buildings.

Everyone wanted to hold Baby Barrett.


The three courtyard buildings had a total of 20 guests bedrooms.  Danny and Patrick were thrilled to have a fireplace in their bedroom.  They repeatedly asked if we could return to Ross Castle for Christmas since they figured their odds of seeing Santa Claus would increase if they slept in the same room as the fireplace Santa would use to enter.

The boys also liked watching the centipedes in their room and playing with the snails in the courtyard.

The castle pub was a popular place.  That week, we drank two kegs of Guinness and two kegs of Smithwick’s.

We mastered the art of pouring the perfect pint of Guinness.  Padraic, the castle caretaker, told us to hold the glass away from ourselves at a 45 degree angle, filling it three quarters of the way.  After the Guinness has a few minutes to settle, he told us to hold the glass level and fill it to the top.  After another rest for the Guinness to settle, it is ready to be enjoyed.  It was delicious!

While Danny and Patrick may have been drafted into service as Guinness delivery men, we did not actually let them drink any Guinness!

There were multiple kitchens in the castle guest quarters and we ate most of our meals in the kitchen with the largest table.

The castle also had a billiards room.  My sister Annie was still able to enjoy the room even after a small ceiling collapse due a malfunctioning, leaky washing machine located directly above the billiards room.

The kids’ favorite feature was the indoor pool.

Danny and Patrick especially loved being thrown through the air by their uncles.

Look at this excellent form by Danny as he’s launched by my brother Kevin!

The castle gardens were large and really beautiful.

We spent lots of time in the courtyard.

There was a large scenic lake on the property. 

Patrick and Danny loved the boathouse next to the lake.

We took advantage of the gorgeous setting and the family togetherness to have professional pictures taken.  Here are the matriarch and patriarch of the clan.

Here are me and Brian with Patrick (6), Danny (4), and Kevin (17 months).  

Mary Kate and Dirk and their three kids – Haley (14), Mara (7), and Emmett (5).

Patrick and his wife Amy.

Maureen, her husband Jonah, and their son Pierce (9 months).

Sheila and her husband Mike.

Kevin and his fiancée Matty.

Matt and his wife Noura.

Nora, her husband Dan, and their kids Evelyn (15 months) and Barrett (2 weeks old).

Brian and his girlfriend Alyse.

The Three Little Girls: Katie (23), Annie (25), and Colleen (21).

The 12 kids with Mom and Dad.

When spouses and kids are added in, there are 31 people.

Here are all 33 of us, adding in Alyse and Rita.

Here are Grandma and Grandpa with the eight grandkids.

Up next: a few more days at Ross Castle with horseback riding, family dinners, and falcons!