Happy campers

Happy campers family camping toddler tentS’mores, winding down around the camp fire and more stars in the sky I’d ever seen: Camping while I was a kid became one of my favorite family activities.

With the Memorial Day weekend just hours away, I’ve been thinking about those experiences in the great outdoors and planning a few for our family this summer. With Kiwi due in July, we’ll likely be keeping our ambitions modest, but still—our tent and hobo pie makers are calling me.

I wrote a guide to family camping in this month’s Metro Parent (see it here in a link or PDF!) with suggestions of the Northwest’s best yurts, car camping sites and backpacking trips. I also gathered great advice from family camping experts on how to make outdoorsy trips fun for the whole crew.

My favorite tip, from Bonnie Henderson, author of Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon:

“Hiking with kids is all about having them have an experience outside, so it’s not about how far you go or the destination. When you go with the kid agenda, it’s about just being outside and having fun.”

I wanted to soak up all the advice, considering our own first family camping trip had its share of ups and downs.

In preparation for this year’s camping season, do you have any tips for family camping? Please share!

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Not your usual breakfast in bed

The other day, I read a post from the food blog Hummingbird High about an amazing-looking chia seed pudding with pistachios and kumquats (oh my gosh, right?). Michelle wrapped up the post by asking what readers’ dream breakfasts would be. The question made me realize that I had been getting my own perfect breakfast-in-bed for weeks—though it looks pretty different than how you might imagine.

Peeper goes through phases in her routine. She’ll wake up asking for a book for weeks on end then all of a sudden switch one day. For a long spell, she wanted nothing more than “raisin toast”—a cinnamon-raisin English muffin—as soon as I got her from her crib.

We developed an AM ritual. Eric would toast and butter a muffin and leave it for me on the bedside stand when he kissed me goodbye at 5:30. I’d sleep until Peeper woke up, and the breakfast would be ready for us.

Peeper and I would crawl back into my bed. We’d each grab a half of the English muffin and nibble while I read book after book to her—as many as lasted through my daughter’s appetite.

I kept a stack of books in the bedroom just for this reason. Peeper would snuggle into me and slowly wake up; I relished not only the closeness but the extra rest it gave me as I struggled through the tail end of morning sickness.

Sure, I had to sweep out a small mountain of crumbs from the sheets every day, and our comforter has butter stains now, but that was a small price to pay in return for the sweet wake-up routine.

One day, Peeper decided she no longer liked raisins. Just like that, she had switched allegiances to “triangle toast”—just toast cut on the diagonal, which apparently tastes completely different than toast cut in rectangles. Now we skip the books in bed entirely; she’d rather play while I cook our morning oatmeal.

I’m grateful to Hummingbird High for reminding me of that beautiful and crumb-filled stretch of breakfasts in bed. In the years to come, we might end up celebrating holidays by bringing pancakes or waffles (or chia seed pudding, dare I hope?!) back into bed, but something tells me I’d rather share cold English muffins and a few stories with my firstborn.

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Thundercats, hooooooo!

Toddler playing with Thundercats Batman action figuresGrowing up, my older sister, brother and I would play Thundercats (my younger sister was still in diapers and didn’t quite get the concept of fighting Mumm-Ra and his villain lackeys until later). As the kid with no seniority, I was usually relegated to play Snarf, the goody two-shoes who tagged along and tried to protect Lion-O. We spent hours running around, protecting Third Earth and its berbils.

Years and years later, Cartoon Network began showing reruns of the 80s cartoon. I rushed home every day after school, popped a blank tape in the VCR and hit record with the opening song. We copied every episode.

Flash forward again. My brother recently cleaned out a storage unit when he moved back to Oregon. Among the boxes of books, old furniture and high school yearbooks he unearthed two child-sized suitcases of action figures and Matchbox cars.

“I’m not sure if Peeper will like them,” he began when he brought everything over one night and trailed off.

But he needn’t have worried. The moment Peeper laid eyes on the treasures, she was smitten.

Ever since, she spends hours playing with “Mama’s old toys.” She has learned most of the names of the Thundercats and the Batman villains who live alongside them in the suitcase. She scolds Batman for not wearing a helmet on his “bike” (aka Batcycle). She brings Kit to the grocery store and dentist, and she clutches tiny trucks and racecars to her chest when I read books to her. “Fast car read a book, too!” she’ll say.

She has never seen an episode of Thundercats or Batman, but that doesn’t stop her from imaginative play. “Touchdown!” she whispered the other day when playing with Jaga, his arms raised in the air.

Watching her reminds me of the countless hours I spent sprawled on the carpet, directing miniature dramas between He-Man and Barbie or Panthro and Pretty Ponies, and of the breathless play with my siblings and the rest of the neighborhood kids. We’ll see if she loses interest in the toys or if, like me, she’ll foster a lifelong love of snappy cartoons and their memorable characters.

Of course I hope for the latter. After all, I want to play, too. She’d just better not make me be Snarf.

Toddler playing with Thundercats Batman action figures

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Advice for my daughter (that you’ll definitely want to read, too)

Last week Peeper received a package from her Aunt Bootsie, and the book inside was one of the most touching gifts she’s ever gotten.

Advice for my daughterEach page contains a snippet of wise (and sometimes wise ass but true) advice from her sage aunt. In fact, the pearls are timeless enough that I found myself nodding along. (Was some of the advice secretly for me, too?)

Advice for my daughter Continue reading

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Last year was my first Mother’s Day, but in the last year I’ve come to appreciate what the holiday means even more.

Living what it is to be a mother—the millions of choices and actions and books read and songs sung and car seats buckled and tempers checked and lunches fixed and owies kissed every single day—underscores everything the mothers in my own life have done (and continue to do).

mother and daughter moustachesMy own mom believed in me fiercely. She encouraged me to turn every interest or passion into a business, certain that someone would want to buy tiny animals sculpted out of wire or t-shirts covered in my angsty teenage poetry.

Graduation with in-lawsMy mother-in-law has always been unequivocally welcoming and accepting. Her hugs, confidences and phone calls made me feel as if it were a given that I am one of the family. I will never, ever, ever forget or take for granted the way she embraced me as one of her own.

Argentine host mom meets babyMy mama argentina, my host mother when I studied abroad in college, welcomed me as a stranger into her home. Ana and I chatted every night as she made dinner or as I sipped a submarino—a hot chocolate—at the breakfast bar. I left, four months later, as part of the familia and continue to love that collection of characters from afar—even as they expand their families.

great grandma grandpa and grandma with babygrandma Bessie sunflowerfour generations women grandmasAnd my grandmothers, of course, whose mothering I feel through the generations. These strong, beautiful women raised families amid less than ideal circumstances without complaint. My Grandma Hawkins, for example, loves to tell me about the moment when she discovered she was pregnant with twins—my mom and Uncle Steve.

She already had one baby at home and not a whole lot of income or support, but when she got back from the doctor, she stood in the middle of the kitchen and hugged her just-starting-to-expand belly. Then she threw her arms out and spun around. She couldn’t contain her happiness and couldn’t believe her luck that she was carrying twins—twins!—a secret wish she’d always carried.

These are the kinds of moments that make up motherhood. Yes, parenting is also colored with frustrations and peanut butter stains and pooplosions and sleepless nights, but it’s the joy and reward and unending gratitude that stick with us.

day-old newborn with mom hospitalThat gratitude stretches in both directions, toward both generations. I cannot express how thankful I am to my daughter and this growing life inside me for choosing us as their family. I am also thankful to the long line of women who wiped noses and corrected homework and spun in kitchens so that I could be here.

So I’m sending love to all the mamas in my life—the ones who helped raise me, the ones who brought up my loved ones, the ones who I’ve known since they were kids, the ones who struggled so hard to become pregnant, the ones who are celebrating their first holiday as moms. You all deserve to be celebrated every day, but these 24 hours are dedicated to you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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10 Ways I’m an Awesome Mom

Take a sample of parenting blogs out there and you’ll read a lot of bloopers.

We mothers, especially, are quick to point out our failings and our foibles. Perhaps it’s easier (or more cathartic) to confess the time you melted a Tupperware lid in the dishwasher, causing poisonous fumes to fill the apartment, than it is to reflect on the millions of other times you scrubbed plates clean without incident. After all, washing the dishes without a hitch—or, for that matter, the millions of unremarkable moments of motherhood—aren’t particularly newsy.

But in anticipation of Mother’s Day (coming up this Sunday for anyone who’s forgotten!), I’m stepping out of the self-deprecating, self-questioning rut I sometimes fall into.

I’m celebrating what a wonderful mother I am.

Here, then, are ten aspects of motherhood I totally have down.

mom helping toddler walk Mexico Continue reading

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22 months

crazy toddler hairThroughout the month, I’ve collected little vignettes of Peeper being Peeper. I wrote them down as they happened, not wanting to forget the ordinary yet remarkable moments that make up our days.

I just read over them, and it struck me that most of them revolve around Peeper talking.

As she turns 22 months, she continues to bowl me over with her gift of gab. Whether she’s telling us what she remembers the zoo animals doing at our last visit, repeating nonsense words to herself or telling me she loves me, her mouth is motoring nearly all day.

She wakes up talking. “Change your diaper. Lots of pees in there!” she’ll say as I pull open the blinds.

And after I put her in the crib at night, we hear snippets of toddler monologue through the monitor.

I’m glad I wrote down these interactions—they’re the silly little things I’ll want to tell her about when she’s older. I thought I’d share them on the blog, too. Here, then, is a glimpse listen into Peeper’s world. Continue reading

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