Aoife, ever creative and unintentionally hilarious, is always full of new ideas. An ongoing theme over the years has been the birthday party. So last night, pondering the fantastic pinata that had been the highlight of one of Liam's end-of-year events, she created her most amazing birthday party idea yet. Folks, I'm thinking of patenting this one, so please don't use it yourself unless you give Aoife the credit for the copyright.
"So, Mimi," she says. "I've been thinking of a few ideas for my next birthday party".
"Mmm hmm," I answer absently, having heard so many ideas and knowing I have eight months to plan.
"The theme I'm thinking of is war."
My ears perk up. I look at her, and my head is probably tilted to the side the way a dog's does when he hears a strange noise. "War?" I ask her.
"Yeah, war. I'm going to have this huge pig pinata, and it's going to be made of wood. Daddy's going to carve it. We'll carve the pig and fill it up with some kind of red liquid. Then the guests will stab the pig with wooden spears, stab it until holes are poked all in it and the red liquid oozes out all over the place... "

So there you go, folks. If any of you think I'm not raising a creative little girl, you might have to think again about this one. As to her understanding of what war actually is, I am pleased to realize she is still blissfully unaware. She seems to be confusing carnivores with warriors, and while bacon has always been one of her favorite things to eat (and she'll even joyfully exclaim such disturbing things like, "Pig tastes great!") she seems to imagine it takes a great deal more strategy and planning to get the bacon from farm to table.

And, just as an FYI, she knew she was being hilarious. This isn't an expression of pent-up anger. She's just... well, a ham. (sorry)


Summer is here. We've been on summer vacation for a week now. I could not be happier.

I love having my children home, and I love having the weather beautiful and us all outside. I love the sudden liberty of being able to stay in our pajamas or cross the street to the river or eat from the gigantic glass jar of Whoppers that Aoife won at a birthday party (for guessing the right amount, 220) at 9 in the morning if we feel like it. Yesterday Aoife and I went to the grocery store and bought a package of Bubble Yum bubble gum so I could teach her how to blow bubbles. That's how good it feels right now. Organic lettuce from our farm share, beef from our neighbors, the chickens roaming in the backyard, and some good, old fashioned Bubble Yum, which may or may not have been on the shelf of the grocery store since the 1980's (which was the last time I chewed Bubble Yum). Sometimes you just have to wow your kids with the power of YES.

I love this so much, yet to me, vacations feel to me like springtime in New England: I love this freedom and this ability to live life on a whim because I am scheduled the rest of the time. I can remember the end of last summer feeling grateful for the clock and the ritual of getting up, getting dressed, sharing breakfast, and heading off past the green fields and winding river to our sweet little school every morning. During the school year I love hearing the stories the children share with me, and knowing that they are independently developing themselves in a place that is only theirs. I am incredibly grateful and lucky to be able to have them in a school where they can operate as independent learners, where they are met at their own level, where they investigate and explore and laugh and run around and sing together every single day. I love the privilege of their school life, but I also love the privilege of this. Of being here, together, with absolutely NOTHING to do.

Today, Greg joined us on summer vacation. He's done for the summer. It was a hot, hot day. We gathered the troops, threw bathing suits into a bag, peanut butter, jelly, bread, and watermelon into a cooler, and headed up the hill. There is a beautiful lakeside park, nestled in the hills among tall pines, with hiking trails, campsites, and a busy, bustling beach. We arrived early and staked out prime real estate by the waters edge, where a little creek runs out of the lake. Maeve and Fiona puttered around in the shallow water, the big kids swam and laughed and met friends and explored the creek, and we were all just happy together. We tried not to worry about who wasn't napping when, and when everyone had completed their trip to the cooler and their dunks in the lake and we were feeling hot and fried we moseyed back down the hill to home, where the little girls snoozed away the afternoon and the rest of us quietly escaped the hot sun.

This has been a challenging year. It's why I had to stop writing completely. There are moms who say they have no time. Most of them actually do have time. This year I actually didn't. The combination of the most extreme sleep deprivation I've ever met with and two very busy little girls who have to be watched like hawks at all times and never, not ever, not once nap at the same time, left me so breathless I had to carve everything except taking care of the children and family out of my life (and that's not really even factoring in the other two children, who are lovely and well behaved and who I'm desperate to gift some of my time). It was hard, but I knew it would be short lived. And now that summer has arrived, and Greg is home, and I am determined to nap the girls together come September, I feel a lifting of sorts. I can breathe now, and think about maybe working on a photo album, and posting on the blog, and pulling a few weeds with one hand while I shovel dirt out of Maeve's mouth with the other hand.


The family marches on.

Greg and I had a real day of reckoning on Charlotte's ninth birthday. It was an emotionally charged day, I need not say, and so it came to the surface finally and all at once how completely and totally burnt out we both were. We were parenting like crazy, each of us, almost separately under the same roof. Our four children, all different ages, all different needs, were running us ragged. We had neither time for ourselves, nor time for each other. Something needed to change.

Was it really that something changed? Or did we just say the words, and suddenly things seemed easier? It's true that things have felt hard. Having four children (or is it that the two little ones were so close?) seemed easy for the first five or six months. Maeve was an easy little baby, content to snooze in a wrap or be toted around in a sling. But once she started to need naps in bed, a bedtime routine in the evening, and started to crawl like a girl with a plan at around eight months, things became much more busy. Suddenly the little girls were ripping things off the shelves much faster than I could pick them up. I was juggling and jostling schedules of two, small, relatively inflexible people. I had them napping on an alternating schedule so that I could not leave the house. This was intense. Just writing it down makes me realize that much of the frenetic pace was the result of the 18 month gap. The two older kids were constantly having to wait. I felt insufficient.

Things feel better. Things feel streamlined. We've started to go out on dates. Imagine that! And we're trying to give each other time to do what we want to do. Life is good.

The kids are super.