August Highlights

Just Add Water

One thing Patrick and I continually wish we had in our lives were siblings. I know not every family is close-knit, but I have a hunch we’d be the type of people to get along with our bro and sis. Family vacations are something we don’t really have childhood memories of, and thus into adulthood, we’ve both felt a little shortchanged on the experience. Adding our little girls to the mix has made a huge difference, but there’s still the lack of other adults in the family make-up.

So, one can imagine our excitement after booking a seaside rental at York Beach with the Romo’s and their 3 daughters. Spending a week with FIVE little girls underfoot might not sound like fun to everyone, but we had a blast. No one was bored, no one was whiny, and no one was EVER hungry…

We had trips into town for special treats, dining al fresco from our second floor deck, lots of Hendrick’s Gin, Olympic watching, hermit crab racing, boogie boarding, castle building, and copious amounts of sand in the unlikeliest of places. Us McGowan’s also got up to Stockton Springs, about 3 hours from York, to see my dad’s newly built cape where he plans to permanently relocate in the next few years. The girls had their first sailing experience, and minus Acacia’s hatred of her most-essential life jacket, I’d say they really liked being out on the sea.

The week flew by much too quickly, but of course that’s the best sign of a great time. I’ve got loads of pictures, of course, but here are some of the favorites (on Flickr, as there were too many to post here):

Under the Addis Sky

Acacia’s Luau (aka, a way to celebrate both her first AND second birthday in one bash) was planned for the weekend after we returned from York. I didn’t have much time to get things in order, and the forecast of “heavy thunderstorms” didn’t make the planning any easier. Thanks to our friend Keely, I got some cooking done while she entertained the girls… but my entire vision of the party derailed upon accepting that the weather was going to be less than favorable.

The party was to be by my dad’s pond, but that’s a good hundred yards from the house. Instead, we used the overhang of our old horse stalls and a few easy-up canopies to create enough cover for 50 people. My dad was a champ and moved his hand-built, cinderblock grill from the pond up to the side of the house. Our friendly neighbors provided an extra canopy to cover the cooking area, and we were set. Of course, all the repositioning meant I was hardly waiting with a drink in hand when our friends and family arrived. We ourselves were about 5 minutes late to our own party from attempting to let Acacia get a good nap in. Minus forgetting to put out the non-alcoholic drinks altogether (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing!), and failing to put all the burger fixings in a noticeable place, I think we pulled it off well. It was definitely chaotic, but that’s how we have to do things these days.

Funny enough, the rain actually ended up working in our favor. It came in bursts, so when the kids weren’t in the kiddie pools, they were zooming around under Mother Nature’s sprinkler. And when the sky really opened up (which happened a good 3 times and added some excitement) the whole thing felt rather intimate. Not to mention how reminiscent it was of the daily thunderstorms we witnessed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Fitting.

We had enough of a clear spell to light the bonfire as planned. My parents kept telling me how nice all our friends were, and how amazed they were by how well the kids played together, and how hard they partied!  Both of mine slept until 10AM the next day – a true testament to a fun night. 🙂 It was very important to me that Acacia be able to look back and see our family’s effort to celebrate her first birthday here with us. I did not get very many good pictures due to a faulty flash and more pressing hostess duties, but she’ll get the idea. I also assume she’ll hear about it from those who were able to join us and make it such a special evening.

Before the Rain

Pineapple-Coconut “Sunshine Cake”

Acacia’s Extended Family, with Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins all meeting her for the first time. (Special thanks to you all for coming!)


Just a note to self here how much we’ve all been enjoying the bird feeder this summer. The nuthatch, junco, titmouse, cardinal, finch and chickadee have all joined us for breakfast the last few months. Acacia never tires of shouting “BIRD!”, and they’ve all gotten used to our noise enough to decide we aren’t a threat. The hummingbirds are my favorite, and we’ve been lucky enough to have one female regular that shows up a good twenty times a day to drink the nectar we put out, as well as enjoying what collects in the blossoms on our mint and coleus plants in the window box. I finally solved our squirrel problem by putting out these super hard corn logs that claimed to replace 1-2 dozen regular ears of hardened corn (a popular way to deter squirrels from feeders). Funny enough, we are going through pounds of seed due to our growing clientele of feathered friends. Despite the extra expense (and the droppings on our deck stairs), it’s been well worth it to feed the birds this year.

Picasso’s Envy

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” – Pablo Picasso

Finally, finally, finally… I have been (impatiently) waiting for Zinnia to do more than scribble, draw shapes, and color stuff in. There’s no shortage of imagination in her, but something freaks her out when faced with a blank page. She told me she doesn’t want to try to draw things like people or animals simply because she “doesn’t know how.” Then again, I guess I know adults who feel the same way. I felt it unfair to push her into art, but once I took a coaching approach, she started to gain a little confidence. She still won’t draw a picture without guidance – she’d rather just color – but this is what we’ve gotten so far with a little encouragement from the sidelines. I’m sure every mother feels the same about her kid’s work, but I am still in love with the way she moves her marker. 🙂

Zinnia’s “Superhero.” His superpower is being able to take his body out from under his shirt. Even better, his body (left) has two eyes! The blue blob on the right is the “power.”

A much less complicated concept: Butterfly.

Lucky #7

8/19 marked seven years as a hitched duo. We got a chance to get away this time around, as our dear friends Mike and Keely generously hosted a sleepover for our little ones. We got massages, ate at Mint Bistro (delicious!!!!), found a band to dance to until the wee hours, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast out the following day before collecting the beasts – I mean- beauties.  😉 THANK YOU, Mike and Keely… it’s so amazing what a novelty it is to do something without the kids now. And, it’s even better to see that we really do miss them when they aren’t around. Our home becomes just a house again… those girls bring so much life to our lives.

Seven actually seems like a low number to me, as we’ve been together since Y2K. I used to kinda scoff at people who said how much marriage changes your dynamic as a couple. I thought, “We’ve been together for 5 years, and we’ve always shared our bank account. What’s to change?” I have to admit, marriage does remove that element of recklessness and spontaneity… if you let your new status steer you in a traditional direction. And, we did. House, kids, 40+ hour work weeks, etc. There’s been a lot of learning in these past seven years of how to shift priorities, be less selfless, and how to truly operate as a team. We were a good team when it was just us, but we’ve proved to rise to a new height now that we have dependents. And, of course, welcoming our daughters into the family has brought us through so, so many experiences, with each girl obviously having her own unique effect on life as we know it today.

Reflecting back on our wedding, I’m still so proud of the way we managed to keep the sentiment at the forefront, and forgo all the hoopla of dress fittings and cake tastings, florists and DJs and photographers… Every last detail was something we had a hand in, or was a contribution of our talented friends. My dad saved countless coffee cans that I painted silver and black to serve as the centerpiece containers. We picked our own flowers and assembled everything down to the boutineers ourselves. I made the invitations, the place cards, and the “tower” for my mom’s million little wedding (cup)cakes. We put together CD’s of music (oh, to have had an ipod back then!) and recruited 3 of our musically inclined buddies, along with my vocally gifted cousin, to entertain everyone before dinner. It was nothing short of perfect, and it was actually fun- from the proposal to the after party at motel 6.

I like to think we’ve lived our lives similarly. Drawing upon existing resources, and our own creativity, to make things work. It’s a good way to live. And, everytime I get caught up in wanting something new or extravagant, I remember how much joy it brings me not to discard and replace what I don’t want, but instead to take what I have and find a way to make it better.

Photograph by Dan McCarthy… I think we were the first wedding he ever shot. Pretty amazing for the first crack, I think.

Wedding cupcakes: A collaborative effort.


Some other random, noteworthy milestones:

Zinnia is no longer in diapers. Acacia is following close behind. I am thrilled 🙂

Zinnia entered pre-school, and Acacia started in the toddler room at the World of Discovery. Both of them are doing great. With Zin, I’m not surprised. With Acacia, I thought it was going to be a rough transition. Boy, was I wrong. She loves it, and has settled so well from what I can tell. She’s happy when I leave, and happy to see me when I come back… thus I’m really glad we started her (just one day a week) for the sake of socialization. And, I get a morning to myself, now. (Hence finally finishing this blog post.)

There are still more events and get-togethers that I consider highlights for the month of August, but I’d spend another month getting the write-ups and pictures together. It’s been a very fun summer, and while I’m sad to see it end, I anticipate good times ahead as we start enjoying leaf pile jumping, apple picking, and getting ready for Halloween. As long as we don’t see another Snowtober, I’m looking forward to it. 🙂



  1. I miss you.

    — Peg

    1. Ditto, Peg. I hope something besides our daily leapings “off the edge of reason” (as you then called it) brings us together again soon!

  2. I love reading these highlights. I think that one of the benefits of blogs is that they help to fill the gaps between visits, which hopefully will get shorter! (The gaps, not the visits)

    1. Agreed, on both accounts!

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