Last weekend, we successfully negotiated our first weekend of camping, all six of us. It was a delightful graduation of sorts, and while there were deep breaths and compromises, it felt deliciously thrilling to be doing something all together.
The campground is one of pristine beauty just twenty minutes from our house-- gorgeous pine and deciduous forest surrounding a small mountain lake. The campsites are wooded and private, situated along a mostly paved driveway which is perfect for kids and bikes. There is a private beach for the campers and, best of all, it's twenty minutes from our house. Did I mention it's only twenty minutes away? This relieves us of all concern that the camping trip will be a bust. Because if, at any point, any individual seems ill-suited to camping, she can be buckled into the car and delivered home in twenty minutes. This can happen at 7 PM, 11 PM, or even 2 AM.
Initially, I had intended to send Greg and the older kids up on Friday night and stay home with the little girls until they awoke on Saturday morning-- which would put me at the campsite at about 6:30 AM at the latest. It seemed worth missing the excitement of Friday to ensure the good sleep that would happen at home. Friday morning was dreary and rainy, and I even questioned if perhaps all of us might delay until Saturday. But then the sun came out, and steam began rising from the grass and trees. The afternoon became a beauty and suddenly I didn't want to miss out on even one minute of the trip, even in exchange for sleep. So at 4 PM on Friday, just an hour before our girls were "scheduled" to eat dinner and go straight to sleep, we began to frantically throw things into our two cars (yes, we brought both-- only ten miles away!) to send six people camping for two nights.
The best thing about car camping ten miles from your house is that you can bring whatever you want. Things from the cupboard were chucked into milk crates and sweaters and fleeces were stuffed into grocery sacks and a few bags were packed. Sleeping bags and air mattresses and pillows took up one whole back seat. Fiona's entire mattress from her little bed went into the trunk. I called the cafe along the way and ordered two pizzas for us to bring up to the park. At 5:30 we were off, and by 6 we were at our picnic table in our campsite eating gourmet, wood fired pizza while crickets chirped and birds sang overhead.
And now, for the best, best part. There were eight other families we knew coming up for the night, all with kids our kids' ages. Oh, the joy! The running, the biking, the shrieking. Our family had both the eldest and youngest children of the crew. Everybody's huge car-camping tent became the fort, every fire was game for another s'more. The alcohol prohibition at the campground was strictly ignored. Wine was poured, marshmallows were roasted, and the babies stayed up until 9:30. It felt so incredibly liberating. No bath, no books, no stories, no songs. The routine had been abandoned. It felt amazing.
The next morning the girls slept until 5:15, which felt like a major victory. Sunrise now is just past five, which puts first light at just past four, which was when I was planning to wake up. So I was pleased at this "late" sleep, and our morning at the campsite was relaxed, lazy, and quiet. Maeve pushed her doll around over the roots in her stroller and we ate Cheerios and bananas and brewed coffee and it was quite a joy. At 7 AM the campground came alive (quiet hours over) as the kids began flying between campsites. The coffee clatches began and pancakes were shared.
By 10 we were at the beach for what ended up being a rather windy, chilly morning, but children being children they enjoyed every minute. Between the families there were a canoe and kayak, which the children delighted in. I delighted in the company of so many other amazing women friends and loved watching my children just basking in their element-- hoards of other kids having fun. We returned to the campsite at around noon for lunch which was followed by a group-ish hike up to a fire tower with 360 degree views. We could see five states. It was so amazing. Fiona hiked over two miles on her own and Maeve nearly a mile.
That night we were able to get the girls down somewhat earlier, around 8, and the bedtime was much simpler due to their extreme exhaustion. There was one moment of panic in the night when Maeve awoke, hysterical, at midnight and carried on for four or five minutes. I thought I might have to take her home... but suddenly she quieted. We all lay there for a while, listening to a pair of Barred Owls hooting back and forth, and drifted back to sleep until a quarter past six the next morning. I awoke feeling absolutely victorious-- two nights in a tent with my whole family, with no white noise. We had done it.
Predictably, that morning was consumed with packing up all the things we'd hastily thrown into the cars two days earlier. Fortunately our children were extremely well entertained by all the other kids. There was a pack of six-year old girls desperate to be responsible for Maeve and Fiona, which felt just dandy to me. They were thrilled and I could actually organize our things so the chaos was slightly diminished when we arrived home. At just past noon, we left. She-who-never-sleeps-in-the-car fell asleep immediately and remained asleep in our driveway for an hour and a half after we arrived home. It was cloudy and overcast and we let the older three collapse on the couch in front of a movie about leprechauns. We sorted the things into thirteen loads of laundry and began washing.
It was a beautiful weekend.
And now, tomorrow, the last day of school. My first and third graders will become second and fourth graders. These tiny children, these little babies of mine are growing so fast.


Tonight is the night-- the first night in seriously I can't remember where I finished the jobs and it was still light out and the kids were in bed and I thought, "What should I do?"
Lately there has just been an endless list of tasks-- thank you letters for donations given to Empty Arms, sewing projects for nieces and sisters, birthdays to organize, meetings to run, choruses to sing in, summer clothes to pull up from the basement and the endless task of making room for them in the drawers, laundry, laundry, laundry.....
But tonight, I really didn't have anything hanging that made me cringe. So I wandered outside and I weeded my garden, and I talked on the phone to my sister about her newborn baby girl, and I felt swimmingly happy. I poured black, wet mulch on the spots I'd weeded and my garden, which has been untended for two summers now, began to take shape. I smiled in the semi-dark as I emptied my weed bucket and said goodnight to that project. And now, I write.
Aoife had a small bout of mono earlier this month which was very sad, she was just flat on the couch and devoid of energy. It felt so sad to see her little body so weary and sick, hot with fever, day after day after day. I spent lots of time with her but with the girls underfoot it never felt like quite the quality of time one might want to spend with one's sick daughter. A few times I was lucky enough to farm the little ones out and that made for some nice, long hours tucked in bed with her reading. She is making a good recovery but still feels tired almost every afternoon. We only have 10 school days left and I'm happy that she will soon be able to sleep until 8 every day (which she loves to do, unlike my other early birds).
Liam is just joy, joy, joy. The boy is always happy, no matter what. He never complains, he is rarely rude to his sisters, he's always nice to me. He loves all the kids he meets. He plays street hockey by himself because I'm too busy to play with him and he doesn't mind. It breaks my heart, but he's happy. I need two of me. It's hard having big kids and little kids.
The girls are a whirlwind. Having a baby and a toddler is hard, but having two toddlers is just exhausting. They are playing together so adorably-- from puttering on the driveway together in twin Cozy Cou.pes to pushing dollies in the swings to cuddling up under the covers of every bed they can find they are just so darn cute. That being said, Fiona doesn't nap anymore and there is always a moment sometime after five. You know, a moment. She has been such an easy girl we've pretty much avoided moments until now, but we seem to be getting them more and more. Alas, but oh, well, carry on. Maeve's coasting with the very clear exception that every time we get in and out of the car she pitches a royal temper tantrum wanting to do up the buckles of her car seat (without her in the seat). Despite the fact that I now religiously NEVER let her do this, she screams and carries on every time. I need a dummy car seat for inside the house to satiate her.
Here's where I am at. Not fine writing, but just something for me to remember tonight by.