Nap hikes: The gift of silence

When Baby wouldn't sleep, I set off into the woods—and she fell asleep! Nap hikes are a blessing for both of us. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

We recently went camping for the first time as a family of four. It was Kiwi’s first time sleeping in a tent. And as I feared, my notoriously terrible sleeper slept pretty much not at all.

We stayed at Stub Stewart State Park just one night—a compromise to our usually longer trips since we figured sleep would be such a nightmare—and it’s a good thing, since I sat upright in our Forester with Kiwi alternately breastfeeding and dozing on me the entire night. I didn’t even attempt to get her to nap in the tent because I was tired, not insane.

So for each of her naps, I buckled her into my baby carrier and set off on a hike.

But even in my bleary, exhausted state, I treasured those nap hikes. Read more

Peeper is 3

It’s hard to believe that 3 years ago, my beautiful Peeper made me a mom.

I will never forget that day. Early that morning I woke with contractions. A bit later, Eric, my sister, Finn and I went for a hike. My water broke on the car ride home. At the hospital, I endured excruciating back labor that made me wild with fear. But just after 9pm, I met the tiny person who had grown from two joined cells to an entire person, and my life broke open in the most joyous way possible.

This preschooler is 3 years old and brings me so much joy. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Peeper’s third birthday marks a division in my life—a clear before and after. But she continues to rock my world every day we spend together. Read more

Family camping at Stub Stewart State Park

Family camping at Stub Stewart State Park, less than an hour outside Portland, Oregon, is great for families new to pitching a tent with kids. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

What better way to celebrate Father’s Day than a family camping trip? That was my thought when I booked a campsite at Stub Stewart Park, an Oregon state park less than 45 minutes west of Portland.

As soon as I committed us, though, I had flashbacks to the last time we went camping. (I wrote about my sleepless nights in the tent for PDX Parents’ Happy Campers, a guide to family camping in the Northwest.)

This trip—made slightly more complicated by the addition of a second kid who, btw, wakes every few hours even in the controlled, sound-machined environment of home—didn’t disappoint in the Lack of Sleep Department. But the memories we made camping as a family of four at Stub Stewart more than made up for the dark circles under my eyes.

family camping at Stub Stewart State Park setting up tent

If you’re looking for kid-friendly camping spots near Portland, here’s the lowdown on family camping at Stub Stewart State Park.  Read more

7 must-dos for a kid-free business trip

7 must-dos for a kid-free business trip
Original photo by Jeremy Sternberg, creative commons

You’re on a kid-free business trip, so you’re probably feeling equal parts guilty and giddy. Chances are, you haven’t been away from home and kids in so long that the prospect of dealing with traffic and the TSA, crossing time zones, working long hours and eating what passes for a continental breakfast sounds positively like a vacation.

It’s also likely that you might not know what to do with yourself. I’ve been there, though, so I’ve done you the solid of making a little list of all the things you must do on your next kid-free business trip.

While you’re gone, drop me a line and tell me all about your kid-free extravagances like eating in a restaurant with no play place and sleeping on an un-jumped-on bed. Read more

Not a box: Open- ended cardboard box activities

Just about every parent, auntie, uncle and friend has bought a present, watched a child tear through the wrapping paper and waited as she uncovered the gift you so thoughtfully chose for her—then scratched your head as she ignored the toy to play with the cardboard box it came in. The preference can be baffling, but it’s also enchanting: Kids can make playing with a cardboard box the highlight of their day. 

You can give a kid a box and let their imaginations run wild—and you can jumpstart the fun with these cardboard box activity prompts.

10 open-ended cardboard box activities Read more

Happy Independence Day – the meaning behind the 4th of July

Happy 4th of July! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Happy Independence Day!

My aunt and godmother just sent around this photo. My Grandpa Ryan is the tyke in front with the flag. He was also a WWII veteran.

The email from my aunt came shortly after I was complaining about fireworks. Our neighborhood is full of kids, which I absolutely love: They play tag, ride bikes and zip in and out of each other’s houses from breakfast until dusk. They even knock on our door to see if Peeper can play, and they take turns jumping on our mini-trampoline with her. We have a beautiful community.

But they also light fireworks. Perhaps the local fireworks tent had a buy-one-get-five-hundred-free deal, but good grief the explosions. Read more

Make the most of new moms’ group

When Kiwi was three weeks old, I packed a diaper bag, strapped her into her car seat and drove to a nearby new moms’ group. I felt shockingly good for being just a few weeks postpartum. I had put on mascara. My nursing tank was clean. I felt ready to meet new people, build a village in a relatively new community and offer the wisdom I’d already gained, having done this whole newborn thing once before.

In the coming weeks and months, though, that I can do this! attitude crumbled under the weight of sleep deprivation, Kiwi’s silent reflux and my own postpartum depression.

In those months, the new moms’ group became a lifeline.

Joining a new moms' group can offer support, ideas and the amazing friendships that will last your kids' entire childhood. Here's how to make the most of it. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Why join a new moms’ group?

A friend of a friend who was expecting once scoffed at the idea of a new moms’ group. “Why would I ever pay to join a group where people would tell me what I already know?” she asked. I didn’t know her that well, so I kept my mouth shut.

But here, I’ll tell her what have gained going to a new moms’ group, both with Kiwi and Peeper. I got:

  • Unconditional support. My fellow mamas were there every week, and they listened to me no matter what.
  • Ideas. I have a new question nearly every week, from how to transition a baby out of a swaddle to how to make sure your cruiser doesn’t faceplant in the tub. Brainstorming ideas with a room full of experts—aka moms—gives me more tips to try.
  • A chance to help others. Especially now that Kiwi is older, we have been through much of what moms with younger babies are struggling with. I, then, can chime in with what worked for us.
  • A reason to get out of the house. Having a newborn can feel like living under house arrest. It feels good to leave the house—and even better if you get to interact with people other than the checkout lady at Target.

Joining a new moms' group offers a lifeline in one of the most challenging parts of your life. Here's how to make the most of it. Ten Thousand Hour MamaThe families you meet at new moms' group will become your village—and your baby's besties! Make the most of the group you join—here's how. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Win at new moms’ group

Not all new moms’ groups are the same, but I have been unspeakably fortunate to have found the communities within the moms’ groups for Peeper and Kiwi.

That said, it takes a little effort to make the most of a new moms’ group.

New moms group night out

Based on my experience, I offer these suggestions to connect deeply and build your village.

  1. Be vulnerable. Motherhood is not easy. No one expects you to be that uber together mom. (Does she even exist? I don’t really think so.) And, as the wonderful facilitator who runs my new moms’ group says, “Being vulnerable is a gift. By opening up, you allow others to be vulnerable, too.”
  2. Start a Facebook group. Crises always seem to strike at 3am, and having a place to vent/ask questions/post a picture of your baby’s weird poop—at any hour of the day—helps you stay sane.
  3. Don’t leave without getting someone’s number. Exchange numbers with at least one person each time you go to new moms’ group. Then don’t be shy to text.
  4. Keep a standing date. Every week after new moms’ group, a handful of mamas and babies go to lunch together. There’s no strict commitment—we attend as our schedules (and kids!) allow—but we know the option of grabbing a bite or heading out for a picnic is always on the table.
  5. Plan play dates. Every so often, one mom hosts a play date. The get-together gives our kids a chance to play/poke each other’s eyes and gives us a chance to catch up.
  6. Introduce your families. In new moms’ group, we see our mom friends and their tiny babies. Most of us have a partner, and some of us have older kids, too—none of whom come to group. Meeting the whole family, like we did for a holiday party and a giant brunch potluck, strengthens our ties. Some of the dads are becoming friends, too!

All the babies! Joining a new moms' group will build your village when you most need it. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

I’m still friends with many of the women I met during the new moms’ group I attended when Peeper was born. It’s been a beautiful experience watching their babies grow from tiny peanuts into preschoolers.

I feel so fortunate to have built this community—this village—of moms. But don’t take my word for it. If you have a new baby, test out a new moms’ group for yourself. It’s in your power to create a nurturing, supportive, loving and fun community to raise your baby—and yourself as a new mama.

Did you find a supportive community when you were a new parent?