Heneghans Abroad

Corrie, Mary, and Mike are living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cooking With Chef Mary

Mary likes to help out in the kitchen as much as possible: making pizza dough, stirring the chili, ripping up the lettuce. Today, she fully takes the reigns to show us how to make one of her new favorites, pesto!

Mary Teaches Us How To Make Pesto from Mike Heneghan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Teaching, Part I


While in our school's library the other day, the most recent copy of TIME caught my eye. There was a picture of a big yellow school bus on the cover, with the title, "What Makes a School Great". It immediately set my mind in motion: What has been great about the schools I've been to or worked at? It's hard not to first think of teachers: the good, the bad, and the so many that fall in between. My list of memorable teachers, like your own I imagine, is peopled with imaginative, bright stars who are good educators for a host of reasons: she was so bright, he was so funny, he helped me figure out trigonometry, she really seemed to listen to my ideas, he helped me to write from my heart, etc. Being a teacher myself, I also get the somewhat rare insight into teachers as peers, not just as one of their students. It doesn’t take long to do an inventory. Take 2 minutes. You’ll very quickly create your own playlist of Greatest Hits. My own:

Ms. Kennedy was my middle school math teacher. She was notorious for her strict demeanor, her Suburu Brat she drove to work everyday, and her skill at getting snotty little boys like me to like and succeed at math. And chess!

Mr. King was a storyteller and football coach. His stories about his own personal exploits enthralled us, and before we knew it, he had surreptitiously taught us US History too.

Mr. Powell was an icon at my high school. He’d taught there since the beginning. Literally, from the inception of the school almost 50 years ago. He cruised along on one lung, teaching philosophy and religion, keeping hoards of disinterested seniors interested in Plato and Hinduism.

Terry Kirts was a writing professor from my university. He stands in unique company as being both passionate about his subject AND a good teacher. Something I’ve found to be rare in the ivory towers of academia.

Mary Pat Sharpe is one of the principals I've worked with, and one who led by example. She directed the enormous surge in spirit and academic results at a previously low performing urban grade school. She was an incredible leader who displayed empathy both for her students and her staff, including me as a young teacher (she also set me up with a girl named Corrie Conner, who ended up having a kid with me, which is nice).

Sue Schneider impresses me not only for her ability to wrangle third graders, but for her wisdom in not teaching down to them. She constantly raises the bar for her students. I also see her as a model for those who want to transition into teaching after first having had another career. I don’t think she taught until she was well into her forties.

My sister Beth Brogan I admire for many reasons, but as a teacher, it is primarily for her advocacy for students who may learn differently. She never makes excuses and always seems to find a way for those students to express their abilities and succeed.

Brett Marshall is one of the math teachers who I currently work with. The guy is a routine machine! He is always giving of his own time to help students, and even better, he finds ways of getting the kids to help each other.

Lisa Schalla, my department head, is the rare lecturer who does it so well, that her students are wholly engaged and learning. This is no small feat.

Marika Baren is another teacher I work with who is young, bright and accepts nothing but the best from her students. She is effective and has only been teaching for a handful of years. She gets it, and she is not a product of education schools.

After reading the articles in that September 10th issue of TIME, I can see that much of of the recent national discussion on schools and teaching has been prompted by (among other reasons, of course) the release of the documentary “Waiting for Superman”. The movie, which I haven’t yet seen, focuses on the stories of five families who must enter a lottery to try to “escape their neighborhood public schools for higher performing public charter schools.”

I plan to make this a 2-3 part blog post on some of the ideas and feelings swirling around in my own head on these issues of school and teacher effectiveness. One of the reasons I started with these accolades for my former teachers and colleagues is because they stand out as difference makers to me. It’s not that they are the only good teachers I’ve encountered, or that if you didn’t make the list you sucked. Not at all (though there certainly are some that would fit that description). I just see the impact that bright, talented, hard-working people make and I hope that more good people enter into this profession. Or that those who are already in it are trying to get better.

So much is at stake.

To be continued...


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


After having lived here in Vallarta for a year, we've really come to think of this town as home too. We know which buses to take (stay on the blue and avoid the slow, green ones), what the best restaurants are (still hard to top the shrimp burrito at Barricuda, the tacos at Carboncito's, or the ribs at El Torito), or who has the best playground for Mary (Benny's or PizzaPianeta).

Indianapolis will always be where we're from, though, and we are proud Hoosiers. This summer, we savored making cookies or pizzas with our little nieces and nephews, and riding bikes to the farmers market. Cookouts with lifelong friends and their children. Dinner with our moms and dads, and beers with our brothers and sisters. This summer reminded us why we love both places so much. Here's a short ode to both Indy and Vallarta: our homes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

More Diary from Yelapa

Easter Sunday

I love the buying by the piece here in Yelapa. "Need some diapers? How many you need?" The lady at the little tienda asked me this as she reached into an open bag of Huggies. "How about six?", she said. "One for each day?" This with a straight face. She reached into the bag and pulled out how many I needed--more than 6 for sure--at six pesos a pop. Need some hot dogs? How about four?

We did not go to mass today. No good reason either. This is just the capper on a pretty embarrassing church-going record for us here in Mexico. In our defense, at least for this Yelapa trip, this village doesn't have its own priest and had to import one for the occasion (sound familiar?). 9pm start date sealed the deal that we wouldn't make it.

I think I stated before that most of the restaurants in this little place are only open on certain days, during certain seasons of the year. Sunday's hotspot was 'Pollo Bollo'. Very crowded, but the BBQ ribs made it worth the wait. With Mary and Corrie back at our casa, I'd brought plates with me, and they were more than happy to wrap it up 'para llevar'. Half orders, even, were huge and were the deal of the week at 60 pesos. Magical, unexpected side: mashed potatoes.

Monday, April 5

Probably our best day in Yelapa. First, Mary was just in a stellar mood from start to finish, something that's been lacking. "Mary, don't you understand? We're on vacation in paradise. Get with the program!" Great breakfast at pier-side Cafe Bahia, with yummy pancakes and homemade vanilla syrup. Lulu and Scruffy the dogs underfoot. A tomato-avocado-cheese omelet. Bacon. Coffee and fresh-squeezed OJ. The cherry? Mary stayed in her chair the whole time and ate everything.

The sky was cobalt today and the waves were whitecapping. Really nice time at the beach. Mary hung in the current where the Rio Tuito met the ocean. When she tired of that, she dug in the sand with her new toys. Corrie hunted for the infamous Yelapa pie lady--Lemon custard, banana, and pecan pies in a bowl balanced on her head. Not a wisp of a cloud today. Kids cavorted in the surf and the crazy parasailers brought out the longest rope ever invented and presumably looked down on us and the mountains and smiled.

Butler lost in the final of the NCAA tournament by 2 points. We had a last second change of venue. Teri Jo--our bud from work--had a friend who had offered to let us watch in his house. Seemed like a sweet man. Hours before tipoff he tracked us down at our casa and explained that there could be no game at his place: he forgot to pay his cable bill.

No worries, as he hooked us up with a local taqueria with a TV. Good tacos and a close game. F***ing Duke! Good luck to Gordon Hayward in the NBA next year. Glad Coach Stevens will be on the sidelines for the Bulldogs next season too.

Lastly, just some random comments from our last days of peace and rest:
  • Mary zooming down the narrow alleyways during the Butler game, even stepping inside the glowing doorway of someone's home.
  • Hoards of Mexican kids, many of whom were fascinated with Mary's Curious George sticker book.
  • Great stroll around town, "ballena"(40 oz. beer) in hand, Mary running, Corrie chasing, dogs fleeing.
  • Lots of popcorn on this trip. Made on the stovetop, just like when we were kids.
  • Super delicious shrimp fajitas for a late lunch. Prepared at home, served on our patio, the waning sun there too.
  • Fernando, the proprietor of our property, pointed out manta rays just below our patio. Black with yellow spots, and just hovering among the shallow rocks.
  • Quote from Corrie: "Rural trash is different and somehow more acceptable than non-rural trash." I agree, but I'm not sure why. Plenty of it here.
Let's end on a high note: After ignoring Mary's crying during a nap--"Oh, she'll go back to sleep."--I entered her room to find that not only had she shit the bed, but she had shredded her copy of "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" and wiped her ass with it.

Tough critic.


Corrie, the Bear, and Mike

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Diary from Yelapa

Some of my thoughts during our Spring Break trip to the Village of Yelapa, Mexico.

Thursday, April 1, 2010
Holy Thursday

Arrived in Yelapa by boat. Saw dolphins along the way. The porters joked as they helped us into our "panga", a water taxi, the only way to get to Yelapa, as there are no roads. A Mexican flag served as the roof for our humble transport. Bright clear day. It's an hour trip, with Mary in her outsized life jacket laughing at Peach the dog. She closed her eyes, preening in the sun like the pretty girls at the front of the boat.

Best way to get a tip if you're a porter? Ask for one.

No Fernando, our host, at the pier in Yelapa, but Corrie recognized our place just up the hill from the pictures she'd seen. There are no true streets here, only very narrow alleys, like in a Hong Kong gangster movie, as the heroes race away on motorcycles. The trails spider web in all directions.

We found our place, only 10 minutes from the pier. Amazing view of the whole bay: villagers fishing, water taxis at anchor, and the Marietas islands far in the distance. Waves are the constant soundtrack. Almost deafening, we're that close.

Exploring our new pad for the week. The find that excited Corrie and Mary by far the most: the monster bathtub!

After unloading, we decided to explore the environs a bit. We followed the sounds of chanting and found a large group of women--only women. After listening for a bit, we figured out they were saying the Hail Mary, all of them perched around a large front patio, with a small wooden table covered in pictures and statuary the focus of their prayers. We respectfully passed by, feeling like we were intruding a bit.

We ended our day by meeting up with our friend Terri Jo, the closest thing we had as a guide to this pleasantly odd little place. We shared beers, waves, and popcorn made on the stove as the sun slipped behind the wall of the bay.
Friday April 2, 2010
Good Friday

Cloudy day, mostly. Maybe the coolest we've had.

In the evening, we turned a corner and we very nearly ran over Jesus Christ. Cross and everything. Terri Jo had warned us that the Yelapans would be doing a processional through town. It only occurred to me later, after seeing Mexican grandmothers putting out little tables with white linen table clothes, adorned with fresh flowers, that they were preparing for a town-wide Stations of the Cross. I noticed, uncomfortably and guiltily, that I didn't automatically put my hands into a praying posture.

Mary was good, passed as she was from us to a senora, to the willing hands of a cute little nina. The large crowd pressed its way through town, praying and smiling, and holding our own little Mary.

Back at our bungalow hanging on to the side of the hill along the beach, I noticed some teens swimming up to one of the numerous small fishing boats just a ways from shore. Struck me as a little odd. Four swam out, but only two boarded, flopping into the deep well, nearly out of sight. The other two patiently waited along the side of the boat. Wonder what that's all about? Took me another minute or two to realize I was unintentionally a voyeur as these two kids began to explore each other. Some things just don't change.

Saturday April 3

Trouble sleeping with all the sounds, even and especially the waves crashing. Bright and glorious today.

Mary and I shared french fried potatoes on our porch. Can't say enough about our view, complete with hovering birds playing in the gusty updrafts. This must be what draws the paragliders to Yelapa too. Next door, snapping in the wind, was a flag with a picture of one of these hippy daredevils spiraling down from atop the surrounding mountains.

Tried our new umbrella on the beach today. A stray dog with mismatched eyes seemed to love the shade it provided. It also proved to be a nice spot to taste the lemon pie from the pie lady. In Yelapa, there is a lady with a big bowl balanced on her head filled with pecan and lemon custard pies she's made that very morning. Our new favorite beach treat.

Mary insinuated herself with a bunch of ninos playing in the sweet spot where the ocean meets the Tuito River. Day trippers from Vallarta disgorged from bigger boats. Our dog dug in a little deeper to cool himself in the damp, chilly sand and continued dozing.

Terri Jo made another appearance and invited Mary to an Easter egg hunt, something not very typical for Mexico, I understood. It's hard to do justice to the kind of woman Terri Jo is, but as just one example, she is that special breed of person who would hard boil eggs, paint them with a bunch of children she hardly knows, hide them, and just stand back and watch the glee and pandemonium unfold.

After the daily siesta, we went off in search of a place to watch Butler take on Michigan State in the Final Four. It turned out to be one of our more unusual basketball watching experiences. Corrie headed out first, trekking deep into the jungle to find Los Manguitos, a restaurant along the river which is owned by the in-laws of our host. We were promised they'd have the game on satellite. After Mary's nap, I strapped her on my back to join Corrie.

After traipsing upriver into a very rural looking area--five horses, many mules and a donkey along the Yelapan standard 2-donkey-wide trail--we found Corrie at the restaurant. It sat next to a nearly dry river bed which was dotted with wires, hoses, and pumps sitting on plastic chairs and tables to keep them dry. These snaked up and down the entire path, presumably delivering water and electricity to parts unknown.

No game. Corrie said the channel wasn't working, but we could get periodic updates, as the channel's picture and sound would fade in and out. Disappointed, I settled in to try langostinos for lunch. These are river prawns, as far as I was able to figure out. Mary loved this place, as there were dogs, pigs, chickens, and horses running around freely. We were, in fact, able to "watch" the final five minutes of the game, peering through the family's front door into their living room. Picture. No picture. Sound bites. Little more picture. It made the very close game excruciating to watch, but strangely exciting. 2 point win for the Bulldogs!

More to come,

Mike, Corrie, and Mary

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I love this place.

I love the sunshine and seeing mountains every morning.

I love not having a car.

I love walking to the store, restaurants, parks, and the beach.

I love the bus. And I love that Mary loves it. I even love that she asks to ride it everyday.

I love the friendly nature and warmth of Mexicans, especially towards kids.

I love when people touch my baby’s blonde hair turned green by pool chlorine and call her “chiquita.”

I love that the playgrounds here have metal swings, slides, and teeter-totters that are screaming hot in the sun and so dangerous. Just like a K of C growing up, minus the monkey bars and merry go round.

I love that we have a nanny who loves Mary so much she calls her “muy inteligente” every time she comes over. Though I don’t think Mary’s ability to jump up and down while screaming really warrants calling Mensa. Sorry Ya Ya.

I love the slow pace of life here and how it forces you to be present.

I love not being able to buy more at the store than you can carry home as you walk. I don’t even know what buyer’s remorse is anymore.

I love our tiny apartment. Too small to hide from each other. Forcing you to speak your mind. And mean it.

I love that you can get ice cream here basically any time of the day and probably find someone else eating it too.

I love that most restaurants have playgrounds or bounce houses for kids.

I love that kids are welcome everywhere and no one gives you a dirty look when your kids screams and hollers for 20 minutes.

I love seeing cruise ships every week. I’m fascinated by them.

I love the pizza at Costco. Seriously.

I love that I’m trying to cook. So what if I can only make meals that have yellow, red or orange peppers in them. At least I’m trying.

I love the new friends we’ve made here.

I love that being away has made me appreciate my family and friends even more.

Most of all, I love this place in my life.

I love watching my daughter grow into a little person . A person who is freakishly like my husband – friendly, outgoing, quick to laugh, busy, and very, very energetic.

I love that Mary knows how to throw up her arm to flag down the bus and does so daily, whether or not it’s the right bus.

I love that Mary thinks the word for “water” in Vallarta is “Ciel,” Coca Cola’s brand of bottled water here.

I love that Mary hugs the security guards in Marbella and they hug her back.

I love that Mary hugs random kids on the street and parents laugh and the kids hug her back (usually).

I love that Mary says, “hola” and “adios” to everyone, everywhere while waving her hand vigorously. And that she yells her greetings louder and louder until people respond.

I love that Mary is starting to sprinkle Spanish into her everyday language. It’s fun to hear even though she saves most of her Spanish practice for Ya Ya.

I love that Mary loves swimming. Thank God.

I love watching people at the pool in awe of Mary’s fearlessness. I wish we could take the credit. She just decided she would swim; we didn’t have anything to do with it.

I love that Mary can make a morning of watching cars and trucks from our bedroom balcony, waiting on pins and needles for the “water truck” aka the truck that waters the flowers to drive by.

I love that Mary has shown an adventurous appetite, trying any type of food we put in front of her. Truth be told, I still think she likes Diet Coke the best.

I love watching Mary make new friends and actually start to play with them, kind of.

I love that Mary tells me “I do that” (translation: I’ll do it – NOT YOU, MOMMY!) about 100 times a day. I love it even when I hate it on the 101st time before 9am.

I love that we’re the kind of family that puts on music and sings and dances together. Even in front of other people. And I love that we’re not embarrassed.

I love that Mary’s favorite song is “I Gotta a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. Really.

I love that I’ve fallen in love with my husband all over again.

I love that we have regular date nights.

I love seeing my husband’s charm and personality through new eyes, watching him make friends and tell his stories for the first time to new people.

I love having time – to think, to dream - even if the thoughts are sometimes scary.

I love that I’m a better person, wife and mother now.

And I love that Mike has diligently encouraged me to draft a blog post, never giving up hope that I’d actually do it.

I love this place.

My love to all of you.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hat Trick: At the Mexican Rodeo

"Hey Fernando, did you make love last night?" This from the announcer at the charreada, a kind of traditional Mexican rodeo. The guy would do a pretty lively rundown in Spanish during all the different events, but would bust out some intentionally funny stuff in English every once in a while, usually at the expense of a sunburned Canadian tourist, who always good-naturedly took it in stride. This was about as racy as things got at this thoroughly family friendly event.
Corrie took the day to do some work, so the Bear and I were chaperoned by our friends Meredith and Kylie, both of whom were decked out in cowboy hats, Meredith even sporting the boots. Mary, being the jealous type, somehow insinuated herself with the Texas-born Meredith and scored her own--Colts blue, naturally--cowboy hat by the end of the day.
After making our way through the tunnel of food stands getting ready for the day and the stalls selling saddles, belts, charro (cowboy) hats, lassos, and leather goods, we climbed up the tiered, circular stands to the sounds of a 10 piece Banda group. It was breezy and pretty cool for Vallarta, but it only dawned on me hours later that these guys in full orange corduroy outfits were belting out their lively music all day long in the full sun. No small feat.

The charreada is an event that celebrates the traditional skills of Mexican charros. Some of my favorites were Cow-Tripping, Lasso Show Off then Trip the Horse, and Bull Riding. Cow Tripping consisted of a frightened cow running away from the charro on horseback who had to grab its tail, twist his leg around it, and leverage the cow into flipping end over end. In my view, Lasso Show Off then Trip the Horse was the best event. In this one, the charro--sometimes on foot, sometimes on his horse--would show off his lasso tricks while his buddies chased a horse around the circle. After a few minutes of the showing off, he'd attempt to snag the horse's feet with his rope, yank back, and try to trip it, sending the horse flipping end over end. See the theme?

Mary and I were able to do some exploring on the grounds, including making our way to the practice area for the charros. This was great, as we got to see the charros practice their skills, and let me be clear: these guys were bad-ass. Mary agreed and she definitely had her favorite charro. His name was Francisco and he was a sincerely sweet man. As Mary was perched on the wall, doing her best cowgirl, he rode up on his horse. We talked a little, and Mary was intensely interested in his caballo, one of her favorite animals. Tentative at first, Francisco coaxed Mary into touching the horse's mane and ears. If that didn't seal the deal for Francisco, his next move did: he rode off and came back with a Fresca for Mary.

As the day wore on, more friends arrived and the charros seemed to get more into the competition. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the liter sized styrofoam cups they were carrying, the edges rimmed with dried chilis. Heating up, Mary and I headed for some freshly prepared tacos, salsa, and a Modelo. At a similar event in the States, you'd be eating something from Sysco, but even at the simplest stand here, they are cooking the meat right there. They were cutting up the fresh onion, radishes, chilis, and tomatoes, and preparing the salsa right in front of us. This, plus a good half hour of hanging with the Mexican kids in the Bounce House (Mary prefers to go shirtless), and you have a recipe for a lively dad and a soon to be napping daughter.

Before we left, Mary and I wanted to get closer to the action, so we headed down to the narrow aisle that runs around the ring. This was a very manly area and we were a bit out of our element. There were only men here, and these guys knew what was going on, as I think a lot of them were current or former charros themselves. At least Mary had her cowboy hat, which shortly came in handy. In Mexico, when doing the Lasso and Horse Trip, you get three opportunities to do so. If you snag the horse all three times, you are showered with hats from the audience. I knew this already from when Bugs Bunny would defeat the bull, but it works at a charreada too.

After success on all three attempts, a small, blue cowgirl hat rested in the dirt at the feet of the champion charro.

Love and horses,

Mike, Corrie, and the Bear