“You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.”


Approaching St. Patrick’s Day this year, I found myself lacking a bit of inspiration and oomph to make the holiday memorable. St. Patrick’s Day has always been a minor holiday for me, a bit too close to Easter on some years, and since Bill and I do not ever drink alcohol, we find ourselves a bit on the sidelines of the modern St. Patrick’s Day ethos. Curiously, the kiddos have strong Irish lines on both sides of their family: Bill has traced his ancestry extensively. The first William McGaugh in America was from Ireland, a farmer who fought alongside George Washington. My strawberry blonde, blue and hazel eyed babies seem to preserve some of this lineage, and so it is a wonder that we aren’t a little more into the holiday. In some ways, we celebrate Irish culture a bit more around Christmastime.

Still, over the years a bit of a tradition has developed for the wee McGaughs: we make Irish soda bread, a rainbow fruit salad, and broccoli soup (we don’t much go in for the corned beef and cabbage—I like it all right, but am mostly vegetarian-minded now, and the kiddos and Bill don’t care for it) and watch The Wizard of Oz. We usually do an Irish craft and listen to our St. Patrick’s Day playlist.

I had the makings of our dinner, but no other inspiration this year until seriously the last possible minute. I had the start of a cold, my mind is focused on my 15K this coming Sunday (very important to me, a big test in my mind of my training and hard work), and Katie happened to be scheduled for her back teeth sealants on St. Patrick’s Day morning.

So it wasn’t until lunchtime, over a cup of Irish tea and a slice of Dubliner cheese, that I started thinking more in earnest about our St. Patrick’s Day dinner plans. We had invited my mom and dad over to share our bread, soup, fruit, and mint chip ice cream, but I had no table laid out and no crafts ready to go. Katie and I brainstormed together about how we could decorate. I had been stressing a little bit because I was wishing I had gathered some St. Patrick’s Day decor for our table and planned a bit more, but then I decided to delve into the challenge of decorating without buying anything new and to enjoy the creative process that comes from setting such parameters. Something she said sparked the idea of “I am thankful and lucky because…” placemat making. We found our leprechaun hat we made from a couple of years ago, and put it on a green serving plate. We cut out shamrocks, and I pulled out my light green runner. We happened to find a long dark green Williams-Sonoma ribbon that was exactly the length of the table, and we put it on top of the runner. Happily, I had some orange cups leftover from Eric’s first birthday party, and they held our markers. In February we had just purchased green tapers from our favorite candle makers up in Idyllwild.

In short, it all came together. I am usually the anti-procrastinator, but I have learned that waiting until the last minute sometimes works quite well, too, as it forces creativity out in a different way.

And it was merry.


Eric and Katie made Irish soda bread together, while we listened to Celtic music as well as old favorites like The Proclaimers, The Cranberries, U2, and Damien Rice.


We made Blarney Stone friends, watched some information on the Blarney Stone, and talked about the gift of rhetoric (I had written a really nerdy paper on the Blarney Stone in college, looking at some primary source documents).



The kiddos and the other adults decorated their “I am thankful and lucky because…” placemats while they waited for dinner to be served. Our rainbow fruit salad is a favorite every year.


Laughter and smiles for Katie and her Amie

And the truth is? I am still not personally much into St. Patrick’s Day. Wearing a bit of green would be enough for me. But St. Patrick’s Day means something to my children, and that’s enough of a reason for me to enjoy it at this point. Who doesn’t like the magic of a little extra-special day once in awhile? Katie talks about our St. Patrick’s Day dinner and traditions as soon as it becomes March, and those traditions are one way to anchor their childhood for them. For now, I want my children in the land of dreams and light, a place where magic moments can happen, the lullaby of their young lives:

“Somewhere over the rainbow/Way up high/There’s a land that I heard of/Once in a lullaby/Somewhere over the rainbow/Skies are blue/And the dreams that you dare to dream/Really do come true…”