Northern Ireland 

As we drove from Dublin towards Belfast, it was rainy and overcast.

By the time we reached the town of Drogheda, about an hour away from Dublin, the sun was out again.  We saw a pub named “Darby O’Gill’s” sharing its name with a movie we had watched before our trip.  A castle tower was in the middle of the main street.  Danny asked if the castle broke down and that’s why it’s in the middle of the street.

We visited the town’s church, famous as the home of Oliver Plunkett’s severed head, on display in a glass case.  Some of his bones are on display in a separate case.

From Drogheda we headed to Carlingford.  Some of us enjoyed the beautiful water views and some of us napped. 

We spent the night in Belfast, at a gorgeous house, rented through Air B&B.

The boys especially loved trying on a helmet the friendly homeowner had purchased last year in Rome.

While we were out for dinner that night and waiting for our food to arrive, I read to the boys from the guidebook about how volcanoes had formed the Giant’s Causeway.  A nearby diner interrupted to say, “That’s not the real story though.  Would you like to know how it was really formed?”  And of course the boys did.  He told us the story of Finn MacCool, an Irish giant who had built a causeway between Northern Ireland and southern Scotland so he could walk across without getting his feet wet.  


Finn then walked across the causeway and saw, up close for the first time, his rival Benandonner.  Seeing that Benandonner was a larger-than-expected hulking giant, Finn was afraid and ran back across the causeway towards home, losing a boot on the way (more on that boot later) as Benandonner chased him.  Finn arrived home and asked his wife Oonagh to quickly hide him before Benandonner arrived.  Oonagh cleverly disguised Finn as a sleeping baby and put him in a giant crib.  When Benandonner saw the size of the giant “baby” he immediately fled in terror, scared of the size of whatever massive creature had sired such gigantic offspring.  As Benandonner ran back to Scotland, he destroyed the causeway to prevent anyone from following him.  

Danny and Patrick loved the story and couldn’t wait to see the causeway and look for giant babies and a giant boot!

For dinner I had seafood chowder and crab claws (which the boys thought were witches’ fingernails).  Poor Kev was feeling a bit sick and slept in my arms while the rest of us ate.

The next morning we drove around downtown Belfast.  We saw where the Titanic had been built and although we did see the famous murals painted on the sides of Belfast buildings, there was too much fighting and screaming from the back seat, so I don’t have any mural pictures!

We left Belfast and stopped at Carrickfergus castle where we found even more rain.  

We continued our drive and visited the famous Bushmills Distillery.  Brian and I split a small taste of 12-year old single malt whiskey, sold only at the distillery.  The boys had apple juice, sold everywhere. 

Patrick and Danny had fun playing in the British phone booth.

Bushmills is so famous it’s even on the money!

That night we stayed in Portrush, right on the water, in an apartment with a view of an amusement park.  We had a nice dinner and I made the stellar decision to order a slice of cheesecake to go which I enjoyed with wine and Brian after the boys went to bed. 

The next morning, after much anticipation, we headed to the Giant’s Causeway.  Although it rained before and after our visit, it was thankfully dry while we were actually there. 

The Giant’s Causeway is made up of about 40,000 interlocking pentagonal and hexagonal stone columns formed from an ancient volcanic eruption or a legendary giant, depending which story you believe.

The boys were happy to see Finn MacCool’s lost boot on the shore.  This boot-shaped rock feature is aptly named “The Giant’s Boot” and in the proportions of a modern adult male, the boot would be a size 93 1/2.  Danny found a snail in the grass and asked me to take a picture of it.

Another famous feature of the Giant’s Causeway is “the organ” – a peninsula of interlocking rock pillars that resemble a church pipe organ.


Although the boys spent a fair amount of time looking for a giant dressed like a baby, they didn’t find one. 

All three boys enjoyed playing with the handheld audio guide.


After walking all around the Giant’s Causeway, we had lunch at the hotel restaurant on the property.  The menu featured a few things we couldn’t decipher (goujons, camps, floury bap) and Brian joked that we would probably understand the menu better if it had been written in Spanish.  Brian and I went with what we knew – Guinness and Irish stew.  Goujons, it turns out, are panko-breaded chicken pieces, and they soon became a staple of the boys’ diet on our trip.  Baby Kev was finally starting to feel a bit better and he ate two sugar cubes before his lunch arrived. 


After lunch we continued our drive along the Antrim Coast.  


Patrick and Danny spent a lot of road time arguing over whose side of the car had more cows and then regularly tried to change the rules of the game to their own favor.  “Windmills count as 10,000 cows.” “Sheep count as twenty-nineteen-ten cows.”  “Plants and flowers count as thirty-one hundred-million cows.”  This went on for hours.  Weeks, actually.

Our next stop was Dunluce Castle, a dramatic seaside estate perched high on cliffs.  Danny, knowing that at some point on our trip we’d be staying at a castle with my parents and siblings, asked us, “Is this the castle where we are going to stay with our cousins? This place doesn’t even have a roof!”  Patrick saw the castle ruins said, “This place is so, so, so cool!”  Finally, it was sunny and gorgeous after a fair amount of rain the previous few days.

Danny and Patrick had fun with the dress-up and pretending to do a little excavation in the welcome center.

It was a stunning property and in pretty good shape considering it was built around the year 1500.

The windows in the castle, especially the large two-story bay window, were really impressive.

Kevin was dead-set against us taking a nice family picture here.

Patrick and Danny were particularly interested in the remains of the old fireplaces.

We continued our drive and stopped at the Drumskinny Stone Circle for everyone to stretch their legs a bit.  All three boys enjoyed running around and climbing.

We spent the night at a B&B fishing lodge owned by an older couple who had four adult sons, one of whom died last year when a tree fell on him.  The B&B owners are now raising his kids.  The owners work all day on their farm and B&B, and then at night head to town to work at the restaurant/pub they own.  They sure work hard all day, every day.

We had dinner at the family’s pub.  Patrick and Danny were interested in Guinness.  Don’t worry- they didn’t actually drink any!  I had delicious salmon.

The next morning, we visited the Belleek Factory.  It is in Northern Ireland, just across the river from Ireland.  Do you see the Irish flag on the other side of the river?

Incredibly the boys touched and broke nothing in the Belleek store.  Patrick and Danny were both happy to be photographed next to a large Belleek statue of St. Patrick (only minor complaints from Danny about the lack of things named Daniel in the store).

Stay tuned as we continue on our journey heading back south to Ireland, towards Westport.

Our European Adventure Begins!

After planning for months, Brian and the kids and I were excited to finally kick off our 19-day European vacation.


We got our bags all packed and ready before leaving on our early morning flight to São Paulo a few days before Memorial Day weekend.  


We were right on time leaving Paraguay and had about six hours at the airport in São Paolo waiting for our next flight to Madrid.  We walked around the terminals, getting something to eat (at about four different restaurants), watching the planes, and visiting the shops.  The time passed quicker than we thought it would, which was great.


We boarded our flight to Madrid and the pilots shared some interesting statistics with the passengers before takeoff:  the 11-hour flight to Madrid would average a speed of five seconds per mile, the plane weighed 231 tons, and would consume nearly 100,000 liters of fuel on its flight to Madrid or almost 372 liters for each of the 269 passengers.  

The flight was long but the kids did well, spending much of the time on the overnight flight sleeping or watching movies.  


We arrived in Madrid around 7am and with our luggage checked straight to Dublin, we took a taxi to a hostel near the Plaza Mayor.  We had reserved a family room with three sets of bunk beds and a crib.  We left our carry-on bags in our room and headed out to explore the neighborhood a bit.  


We walked around the plaza stopping for breakfast at a place I had visited during my time in Madrid after hiking the Camino de Santiago last year.  I ordered churros and chocolate and no one but me seemed interested in eating them.  I was fine with that!


We returned to the hostel for family nap time which we all enjoyed.  Our room overlooked a courtyard with an interesting hanging garden.


We woke up in time to head to lunch at a cafe in the plaza.  We had Spanish wine, octopus, and tortilla Española while enjoying the people watching.  


There was a lot of activity in the plaza.  The boys especially liked seeing the colorful goat that excitedly danced every time he received a coin from a visitor.  Danny and Patrick were both thrilled to give the goat a few coins and watch him dance!

One of the plaza highlights was “Gordo” or “Fat” Spider-Man who encouraged plaza visitors to do a bit of play acting with him, alternating between bad guys who Spider-Man had apprehended and good guys who aspired to be just like Spider-Man pretending to shoot webs and climb buildings.

After lunch, we took a taxi to the airport for our quick flight to Dublin.  The Madrid airport even had a playground not far from our gate and the boys loved it.


Once in Dublin, we picked up our rental car and drove to the Westbury Hotel.  

The kids were all exhausted and by the time we arrived at the hotel, all three were asleep in the back seat.  It was dinner time in Ireland and about 38 hours after we had left our house in Paraguay.  We checked into our rooms and the boys were excited to find gifts from the hotel of teddy bears and fresh cookies in our rooms.  We ditched our bags and enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant.  Brian and I each had a delicious and well-deserved Guinness with dinner.  

With the kids exhausted and Brian getting a cold, everyone went right to bed after dinner and I had to drag them all out of bed the next morning at 10:20 so we could make it to breakfast before the restaurant closed ten minutes later.  The boys, in their matching monster jammies, loved riding in the elevator with its mirrors and leather bench.

After breakfast, we did a Viking-themed duck boat tour around Dublin.  Boarding for the duck is in the order in which the tickets were purchased.  Since we only bought our tickets the night before, we were the last to board and the only ones sitting in uncovered seats.  It was pretty wet and rainy.  We got drenched!

Kev was all smiles at first but quickly fell asleep and took a nice nap under a rain poncho and curled up on my lap.

We saw the highlights of Dublin.

Patrick and Danny had been very excited about traveling in a vehicle that can go on both land and water and they loved watching the duck head down the ramp and enter the water.

On the boat ride we went past U2’s recording studio and saw the new one they’re building.

After we got off the duck boat tour we were all cold and wet and went back to the hotel to change into dry clothes.  Once we were warm and dry, we went to a pub for lunch where Brian and I enjoyed Guinness and beef stew.  The boys love chicken but since there was no chicken on the menu, we ordered them fish and chips.  The breaded fish looked just like the breaded chicken that the boys eat all the time in Paraguay.  After Danny and Patrick sampled the fish they said it tasted funny.  We told them it was “special chicken” and encouraged them to eat the rest.  

This We walked around the city and did a little shopping. 

Do you see the towel on Kevin’s stroller?  It was so wet from the rainy duck boat tour that we had to put the towel down to keep Kevin dry!

At the end of the day after having toured all over the city, Patrick’s main observation was, “Why does everyone here speak English?”  That night we got Burger King for the kids and left them with a babysitter.  Joanne – the niece of Rita who works for my parents – watched the boys so Brian and I could go out alone without the little darlings.  Leaving the boys in the capable hands of “Aunt Joanne” as they called her (confusing the babysitter’s name with that of my mom’s sister, my Aunt Joanne), Brian and I went to McDaid’s for a Guinness, to a Mediterranean restaurant for dinner, and then to O’Donoghue’s for some Irish music and one more Guinness.

On Sunday morning we headed to Dublin’s Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.

The Book of Kells is an incredible Latin manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament along with related texts.  It was created in a monastery in Ireland around the year 800 A.D.


Danny and Patrick both insisted on having Spanish language brochures about “El Libro de Kells”.  

We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Danny had a bit of a meltdown perhaps caused by jet lag combined with frustration over the large number of things named Patrick (everywhere we looked!) and the lack of things named Daniel.

On the grounds of the church we saw a marker reputedly near the well where Saint Patrick had baptized local inhabitants in the fifth century.  Baby Kevin took a good stroller nap as we walked around.

We visited the Molly Malone statue.  We heard her referred to as “The Tart With The Cart.”

We went back to the hotel, checked out, and loaded up the car.  We drove past Guinness brewery and saw more stuff named Patrick (don’t tell Dan).

We started our drive to Northern Ireland, which Kevin was really excited about. 

Up next: our adventures in Northern Ireland!

Family Day

Patrick’s school recently hosted a family day to show off student projects.  Festivities for his class began with a short play called Stone Soup featuring a few cute songs performed by the kindergarten kids who had been divided into five groups – three groups of soldiers (red regiment, white watch, and blue brigade), a group of adults, and a group of children.  Patrick was in the group of adults (because he’s so mature?).  The kids sang about hungry soldiers dreaming of food to eat and asking villagers – both adults and children – for food.  The soldiers end up eating Stone Soup made with rocks and other items from the villagers.

Patrick took his role very seriously and was quite dramatic with his expressions.

Next to Patrick is his best friend Tommy.  Keep reading to learn about the nicknames the two have for each other!

After their play, the kindergarteners gave their parents a book they had illustrated and written in English and Spanish.  Patrick was very proud of his work and was excited to read it to us. 

The English version of Patrick’s book is called “My Famuli” (or family).  The kindergarten students, most of whom are bilingual, are encouraged to spell phonetically and their writing is often full of spelling mistakes, Spanish pronunciations and spellings of English words, or direct translations from Spanish that are not quite correct in English.  Some of the writing is hard to decipher so I have written below what he was trying to say, correcting spelling errors. 

Above, lower right: I have six years old and my name is Patrick.  I am scared of toads.

Above, top left: I like to play with Thomas. I really call him Tomate (which means “Tomato”, and by the way Tommy calls Patrick “Pepino” which means “Cucumber”).  And it is fun.  And I like track.  Top right: I have five people in my family.  My dad, my mom, and my brothers.  Above, lower left: My mom’s name is Eileen and I like to play with my mom at the Embassy.  Lower right: My dad’s name is Brian.  I like to play with my dad’s iPad.  He is 40.

Above left: My brothers are Danny and Kevin.  I like to tease Kevin and I like to play with my brother Danny.  Above right: My family is special because my mom and my dad loves me.

Here is the Spanish version of his book:

Above, lower right: Yo tengo seis años y soy Patrick (“I am six years old and I am Patrick”).

Above, top left: A mi me gusta comer helado y es rico (“I like to eat ice cream and it’s good”).  Top right: Mi familia tiene cinco personas en mi familia (“My family has five people in my family”).  Lower left: A mi no me gusta cuando tengo que esperar en el avión (“I don’t like when I have to wait on an airplane”).  Lower right:  A mi me gusta nadar en la piscina (“I like to swim in the pool”).  

It’s a very cute book and Danny has especially enjoyed us reading this book to him at bedtime.  


In addition to the play and Patrick’s book, Family Day also included an art show displaying a musical instrument and a family picture both made by Patrick.

The text in the lower left picture says, “I love my family because they love me.”

Coming soon: kindergarten graduation!  

Danny’s concert 

Starting in about March, Danny came home from school every day for weeks talking about a concert that would take place at his school.  He was so excited about it.  He alternated between inviting us all to attend the show and selectively disinviting those of us who had upset him in some way (Patrick who didn’t share with Danny or Brian and I for punishing Dan).  After about three weeks of incessant concert talk from Danny and no news about the event from his school, I called his teacher who told me the date of the concert had not been set but would take place in about two months.  

Over the next few weeks Danny did lots of practicing and gave us a few previews of the show.  His over-the-top excitement was really cute.  He told us about his classmates and their different roles in the show.  And he constantly begged us to play “La Bamba” for him since he had a full choreographed dance for the song.

When the night of the concert finally arrived, Danny was thrilled.  His preschool courtyard was beautifully decorated displaying artwork from the kids and snacks for the visitors.

The evening’s program began with introductions and brief remarks from the teachers.

For their first song, the kids wore rabbit ears and sang in Spanish about bunnies that hop forward and back and eat carrots and blow kisses.

The highlight of the show was the performance of the song La Bamba.  
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The kids recited a Mother’s Day poem comparing their moms to flowers that had been picked by their dads.  

The kids also sang a song about the Paraguayan flag and sang in English about hugs and kisses, but with a heavy Spanish accent it sounded more like “hoogs een keeses”!  


The whole show was darling.  Kevin had fun at the concert too.  The Paraguayans were entranced by his beautiful blue eyes! 

At the end of the show, Danny gave me a bag decorated with his handprints arranged as flowers.  

It was a really fun, cute night. 

Mother’s Day 

This year we celebrated Mother’s Day with a picnic on the Embassy grounds.  The boys were very excited about it and beforehand spent much time talking about what to bring to a picnic, what to do at a picnic, and what to put in a picnic basket.  When they realized we didn’t own a picnic basket, they were very cute and secretive about an idea they suddenly had for a gift.  On Mother’s Day morning, they were very excited to give me a picnic basket which we loaded up with all our picnic food.  We packed roast beef sandwiches made from a beef tenderloin I had cooked the night before and sliced with our meat slicer.  The boys also asked for yogurt, pretzels, chips, cupcakes, and juice boxes.  We packed a few kites and two picnic blankets too.

We broke into our stash of California wine for the occasion, enjoying a bottle of Benessere Phenomenon.  The boys, happy to be picnicking, were a bit silly.

After we ate, Patrick and Danny ran around the Embassy grounds with their kites.  Rather than fly the kites in an open area, the boys insisted on flying them next to the playground in a area with many trees.  Not surprisingly we had to rescue the kites from trees a few times.

Kevin, eager to be just like his big brothers, ran around with a big leaf pretending it was his “kite”.

The kids, especially Kev, had fun on the swings and slide at the playground.

Patrick and Danny made strange faces while they ate their cupcakes.

The boys spent time in the afternoon giving Kev bike rides on the back patio.

The boys gave me cute homemade gifts and cards.


Danny and Patrick gave me a framed picture they had drawn.  They had lots to say about it.  Patrick was quick to point out that he drew the two pictures on top and the one on the right is me.  He noted that after his friend Ricardo showed him how to draw hearts, he got good at doing it himself.  Patrick said he wanted his drawing to include hearts and smiley faces, because we love each other and we are happy.  At Danny’s request Brian drew a heart on the lower half of the page, Danny’s half of the drawing.  Danny also asked Brian to write, “I love you so much, I made a picture frame.”  This upset Patrick who noted Danny did not make a picture frame, he only made a picture.  The picture on the lower left Danny said, is me on a windy day so my hair is standing up.  The picture on the lower right he said, started out as Aconcagua (a mountain in Argentina, the tallest in the hemisphere, where we visited with my parents in January of this year) but then he changed his mind and instead drew Machu Picchu (which we visited last year).  We had a nice Mother’s Day together, but we forgot to take a picture of me with the kids! 

 

Easter Bunny Visit

A couple weeks after Easter, the Embassy hosted a “spring” party with an Easter egg hunt for kids.  Since it’s fall here, it didn’t really make sense to call it a spring party.  Brian suggested a better name would have been “come to a fall party where a rabbit will hide eggs for some unknown reason that is totally not related to a religious holiday, even though we all know that it is.”  That’s a mouthful though and didn’t catch on.

On the morning of the party, I couldn’t find large Easter baskets in the house for the kids, so I let them use Halloween trick or treat pumpkins which they loved.  (Surprisingly, I was not the only mom to do this.)


Kev liked playing with the eggs but wasn’t very good at finding the hidden ones.


The Marine security guards on the compound tracked down the Easter Bunny and the kids all got a chance to talk to him on the radio before he made an appearance at the party.


While the big kids chased after the Easter Bunny, Kev was happy to have the bouncy house to himself.


(Side note: lately Kev loves taking his pants off every chance he gets but since he hasn’t yet cracked the code of overalls, he’s been wearing overalls everyday.)
Once he arrived, the Easter bunny was a little creepy but the kids (other than Kev) had fun with him.

To round out the weekend, we went out for lunch the next day at Johnny Rockets, a new restaurant in Asuncion.  The boys had fun with the hats they got from the waiters!

They liked the statue in the park of the kids sharing a drink, and Patrick disgustingly put the straw in his mouth.  But they had fun!

God Save the Queen!

Sometimes for work I get to go to fun and fancy events.  I recently attended a lunch with the visiting Acting Assistant Secretary of State and high-ranking Paraguayan government officials.  We used the Embassy’s fancy dishes, glasses, and place cards, all with the seal of the United States.

Later that week, I attended a fun party to celebrate the 91st birthday of England’s Queen Elizabeth.

In front of the party venue there were a few iconic British things like a red double decker bus, and British motorcycles and jeeps.

Decorations inside featured portraits of the Queen and flowers in vases that look like the signature red British phone booths.

Outside was a spacious patio with a stage and backdrop made of large fabric woven into the British flag.  There were little flag banners and cutouts of British palace guards. 

Waiters served British drinks including beers, stouts, and ales.

There were also gin and tonics (which I tried and loved) and lots of whiskey (which I didn’t touch).

The formal program of the evening began with British military drummers, two of whom were female.

The military officials raised the British flag and posed for a picture with the Ambassador.

The musical entertainment for the night was a British pop cover band. They were great!  


Brian and I ended the night by taking a stroll across Abbey Road.


We had fun at the birthday party!

Easter 2017

The boys were excited for Easter this year!  Patrick’s school was closed for fall break during Holy Week off school, though he completed this “Easter Bunny Application” the week before.  (At the bottom he wrote, “I like the chakulet” – or chocolate.)

Danny had school for three days during Holy Week and came home with this bunny.

Danny and his classmates made chipa one day at school.  Chipa, an artisanal Paraguayan bread that looks like a bagel, is enjoyed year-round in Paraguay though making chipa is a traditional Holy Week activity.  In addition to the typical circle shape, Danny also created a chipa in the shape of an alligator.

The Embassy was closed Thursday and Friday since they are national holidays in Paraguay.  To keep the kids entertained over the four-day weekend with no nannies, we made big plans filled with lots of activities for the kids.  Unfortunately poor Kev woke up a little sick on Saturday.  He had thrown up in his crib during the night and then fallen back asleep.  He had bits of dried vomit on his face and in his hair when we went to get him from his crib Saturday morning.

Poor Kev just wanted to snuggle with mama all day.

Danny and Patrick invented something called “apple sandwiches” which they ate for a snack.

One of the most anticipated activities of the weekend for the boys was watching the movie “Hop” about a human who wants to be the Easter Bunny and a rabbit – slated to be the next Easter Bunny – who would rather be a drummer.

While watching the movie, we enjoyed eating popcorn cooked in the popcorn machine my aunt Mary had given us for Christmas.

My friend Ellen stayed over at our house on Saturday night and helped us dye Easter eggs that afternoon.

We made a bunny cake to share for dessert with our friends on Easter Sunday.  Using two circle pans, we made the head, two ears, and a bow tie.  At the request of Danny and Patrick, we used chocolate instead of vanilla frosting for the bunny.

We used pretzel M&Ms (picked up in the international terminal at O’Hare airport on our way home from Paudh’s wedding) to decorate the bunny.

The boys were really happy to be having homemade pizzas for dinner on Saturday night.  Kev was feeling a little better by dinner time so we gave him some bread which he happily ate.  Danny and Patrick had cheese pizzas they made themselves.

Brian and Ellen and I added onions, peppers, prosciutto, Jimmy Dean sausage, and arugula to our pizzas which we enjoyed after the little darlings had gone to bed.

On Easter morning, Patrick and Danny were eager to start our backyard Easter egg hunt.

On the back patio, the Easter Bunny had left a note for the boys in chalk letting them know where to look for their eggs.

After finding their Easter eggs (but leaving sleeping Kev’s eggs in place), Patrick and Danny tore into their Easter baskets.

They were excited to eat the candy they received.  Danny was happy to get a “fruit by the foot” but was confused about the name and kept saying, “I’m eating a big foot!”  

The Easter Bunny gave the boys a book in Spanish about Noah’s ark and a small ceramic figurine (from an artisan market in Buenos Aires) of the ark full of animals.

Kev, who was still not feeling great, slept past 10am and missed the fun of the Easter baskets and egg hunt.  Once he woke up, we got everyone dressed and ready for Mass.  Danny and Patrick each wanted to be an “Easter Elf on a Shelf” and asked to be photographed while perched on our headboard.  Kev was not having it.

It’s tough to get a good picture of three active boys and this is the best we could do.

I guess Patrick and Danny are starting to get too tall for little kid clip-on ties.

We had a fun dinner with friends and the bunny cake was quickly devoured at dessert.  Danny was thrilled to snuggle a bit with Roxy, a dog that had temporarily stayed at our house.

We were home early, and got our tired little bunnies in bed by seven!  

We had a fun Easter weekend home together!

Wedding Day!

Paudh and Amy’s wedding day had arrived!

On the morning of the wedding, I enjoyed a couple hours gloriously alone in a beautiful hotel room overlooking Lake Michigan with a delicious room service breakfast of crab benedict while I got some work done, loving the peace and quiet of a few child-free hours.

I stopped by Jay and Michele’s place to check on Kev and Danny, and then headed off to meet my sisters to get our hair and makeup done.

I then headed back to Jay and Michele’s so the boys and I could quickly dress and head to the church.

Jay and Michele gave Danny some posing tips.

We took a few pictures at the church before the ceremony began.

Danny had fun with uncle Brian.  Kevin, who seemed to cry whenever someone other than me tried to pick him up, had fun with a little ball tied to a ribbon.

In the pocket of his tuxedo, my brother Kevin found a leftover party favor from New Year’s, and Danny loved playing with it.

At the church, I got to meet Pierce, my sister Maureen’s adorable six-month-old son.

Six of my sisters who would be singing during the mass practiced their songs and warmed up their voices.

Paudh and Amy’s wedding day – April 1, 2017 – was the 73rd anniversary of the wedding of my my maternal grandparents, married when my grandpa was on leave from his duties as a soldier during World War II.  In memory of my grandparents, my brother Kevin wore cuff links from our grandpa.  (Watch this space in late August when Kevin, my sixth sibling to have gotten engaged since I moved to Paraguay, marries his fiancé Matty!)

The bride and her entourage arrived at the church.

The ceremony began with the procession of the mothers, and then the three sisters of the bride were escorted down the aisle by the three brothers of the groom.

The mothers lit taper candles to be used for the unity candle.

And then, here comes the bride!

It was a beautiful ceremony!

Paudh and Amy were so happy!

All of my siblings had a role in the mass.  The boys were groomsmen and the girls either sang or did readings.  Clingy Kev came with me when I did a reading. 

Here are the new husband and wife!

After the ceremony we took pictures with the happy couple.

Ever since a waiter at the luncheon following my grandmother’s funeral four years ago told Rita that her “husband” (a.k.a., my brother Paudh) had been overserved and should probably go home, it has been a joke in our family that Rita and Paudh had been “an item” until Amy came along.  Rita played this up in a few funny pictures with Paudh and Amy!

On the way out of the church, my weirdo brothers checked out the limo for the newlyweds.

While the bridal party took a few pictures around the city, I ditched the boys with Jay and Michele.

Danny was completely exhausted, had a major meltdown at the prospect of me leaving him, and passed out of the couch about a half hour after I left after some extreme sobbing.  He slept straight through the night and didn’t even have dinner!

The reception at Spiaggia began with cocktails and passed appetizers.


My mom’s brother George was the wedding photographer and he joined us for the reception.

Here are the beautiful and unique wedding rings, designed by a friend of the couple.  Patrick had a braided gold band and Amy had two diamond bands – one above and one below her stunning engagement ring.  

Guests dined at five different tables, named for funny or significant memories in their relationship – the swim team where the two met, the bride’s sister’s broken foot that reconnected them, the fire alarm the groom pulled to give the bride more time to study for a high school exam, the song the two danced to at a grade school swim team banquet, and the torrential downpour in Madison, Wisconsin when the two got engaged.


The evening ‘s menu was delicious.

Nearly every single guest gave a toast to the happy couple!

There were lots of laughs!

When the reception ended, there was an after-party at the bar at the Whitehall Hotel, with lots of singing and story-telling.  For the first time possibly ever my mom wanted to go home before my dad did.  We all stayed til they kicked us out, about 90 minutes after last call as there were turning off the lights.

I spent another night at the hotel enjoying solitude, room service breakfast, and lake views.  I picked up the boys from Jay and Michele and we drove back to suburbs.

 

While Danny and Kevin and I enjoyed the weekend in Chicago, Patrick and Brian were having a good time in Paraguay.  At Patrick’s request, they went to TGI Friday’s and sat at the bar, accompanied by Jiggly Bear, a small stuffed animal teddy bear with a bell inside.  Patrick was thrilled to run into his classmate Tommy at TGI Friday’s and the two read the newspapers together.  Patrick also rode his bike at the Embassy and convinced Brian to have a bonfire in the backyard.  What more could a six-year-old want?  

Danny and Kev and I spent the next few days enjoying things we don’t have in Paraguay, like first-rate medical care, family, and bacon.  And I stocked up on a few things t bring back to Paraguay with us.

Danny went to the White Sox opening day game with my brother Kevin.  When they passed through China Town on the L, Danny told Uncle Kevin, “This reminds me of the movie Kung Fu Panda.”  

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and the game was canceled due to rain. Danny was happy to have enjoyed popcorn, cotton candy, and time with his uncles!  Danny ended up going back to my brother Kevin’s apartment where they ate chicken nuggets and watched Zootopia.

Our flights back home to Paraguay was long but uneventful. The kids slept a little and were mostly well-behaved.

The next morning it was backto the grindstone for a long day of work which included an evening reception at the Ambassador’s house.

I am already looking forward to the next wedding in August!

Bowling for Love

Last week, Danny and Kevin and I traveled to Chicago for the wedding of my brother Patrick.  Since our flight left Paraguay in the middle of the night, we put the kids to bed for a couple hours before we left.  Danny and Patrick hugged goodbye before bed.  Maria stayed home with a sleeping Patrick while Brian took me, Danny, and Kev to the airport.

Kev stayed busy on the six-hour flight to Panama by taking lots of short naps.  Danny kept busy by watching “The Incredibles” for four hours before he finally fell asleep for the last two hours.


We landed in Panama around 7am as the sun was coming up and we boarded our connecting flight to Orlando.  In Orlando, we took two trains (Danny loved it!) to our gate and boarded our last flight to Chicago.  Kev had a disgusting and disastrous diaper failure as we boarded that flight.  It was gross.  Kev got a new outfit and I had some wine.

We spent the next two days hanging at my parents’ house, going to doctor appointments, getting the boys haircuts (Kevin’s first!), and spending time with family.  Danny got to see the movie “Beauty and the Beast” with Aunt Sheila (in the picture they’re both pretending to be the Beast).


Finally it was time to kick off the wedding weekend celebrations in honor of my brother Patrick and his fiancée Amy.  

The two lovebirds met when they were 10 years old and on the swim team at Butterfield Country Club.  They went to high school together at Hinsdale Central and continued to be close.  One night in fact, they stayed up on the phone chatting all night and the next day Patrick, worried that the late-night conversation would negatively affect Amy’s performance on an exam she had that day, lovingly decided to pull the fire alarm right before the test in order to give her more time to study.  During high school Paudh and Amy were planning to go to a homecoming dance together, until some of Patrick’s misdeeds resulted in severe grounding including a prohibition on attendance at the homecoming dance.  Amy’s parents called to try to convince my parents that the punishment was too severe since it also punished their daughter who had already bought a dress and made plans for the night.  My parents remained firm and refused.  (I think Amy’s parents have only recently forgiven my parents for this.)  After high school, the two stayed in the Midwest for college, with Patrick in Minnesota and Amy in Michigan.  One weekend the pair met up with family and friends at a Notre Dame football game for a tailgate.  Patrick, a talented chef and eager to impress Amy, went way beyond the typical burgers and hotdogs and brought an elaborate spread including marinated lamb chops.  Over the years, the two remained in contact here and there and dated others.  On Christmas Eve 2014, Amy’s twin sister fell and hurt her foot.  Amy, remembering that my dad is an orthopedic surgeon, called Paudh asking if my dad could help her sister.  With that phone call, they were reconnected, and began dating soon after.  The rest, as they say, is history.  In July 2016 Patrick proposed to Amy who happily said yes.  And look at the gorgeous ring.  Nice job Paudh!

On Friday night, we started the wedding weekend celebration at Holy Family Church  (the same church where Brian and I got married 13 years ago!) for the wedding rehearsal. On the way to the church, we drove past the tv show “Chicago Fire” being filmed.

Unfortunately, the church wedding coordinator got the time of the rehearsal wrong, and showed up 45 minutes late.  Since I had two very active, less-than-patient little boys with me, we ended up leaving the church before the rehearsal started.  Before we left, the boys had fun with their aunts and uncles and Danny loved Aunt Mary Kate’s selfie stick!  Holy Family, the second oldest church in the city, is beautiful.

As we left the church, we drove past the condo where Brian and I lived when we were first married.

On the way to the dinner, I dropped Danny and Kevin off with Brian’s brother Jay and his wife Michele.  Danny was very excited about eating pizza at their house and playing with them after Kevin went to bed.  Poor Kevin, exhausted from the travel and a bit stressed to be without me and Maria and Mercedes, was not the best guest.  Danny couldn’t have been better behaved, thrilled to be playing Connect Four with Jay and Michele and helping them to take care of Kevin.  Jay and Michele put Kevin in the crib at 730pm, but he didn’t go to sleep for about three hours.  He spent a fair amount of time rolling around and whimpering in his crib, and eventually got up and started running laps around the crib while yelling “goal!”  Finally, the little guy fell asleep and started snoring.  By 630am, the boys were awake and ready for a new day.  Jay and Michele were ready for a nap!


While Jay and Michele had their hands full with Danny and Kev, Brian and Patrick were at home in Paraguay monitoring the news there, after a secret congressional vote regarding presidential reelection led to unexpectedly violent protests. 

Here’s Patrick’s take on the news of the day.

Meanwhile, I was having lots of fun at the bowling alley, where Paudh and Amy had a really fun rehearsal dinner. 

We had eight lanes reserved for our group. 

The “guest book” for the night was a bowling pin signed by all of us.

My sister Nora, due next month with baby #2, was not the only one with a nice round belly!


We had a fun couple of hours bowling and eating pizza!


For the first time in a long time, my parents and all of the siblings were together in the same place at the same time.  The bowling shoes really add a nice touch to this picture, don’t you think?


In honor of a song they danced to at a swim team banquet more than 25 years ago, the two lovebirds danced to “Killing Me Softly.”


We had a fun night together and were all excited for the wedding the next day!