“Swimming all over place”

Puerto Vallarta beach toddler - Ten Thousand Hour MamaThere’s no denying it: This child is a water baby—or, in the Ryan family lexicon, a water weasel.

Peeper loved swimming lessons from her very first trip to the YMCA. If she had her way, she’d spend hours in the bath, pouring water from a toy watering can and holding onto the sides of the tub to kick as hard as she can. It’s a constant battle to keep her dry at the Oregon coast. And she makes any unsuspecting water source—a sidewalk puddle, the dog’s dish—into an instant source of fun.

But her love of water at home has nothing on the passion she uncovered on vacation.

Waterslide Grand Mayan Nuevo Vallarta - Ten Thousand Hour MamaNuevo Vallarta Mexico - Ten Thousand Hour MamaToddler in ocean - Ten Thousand Hour MamaSplashing in ocean - Ten Thousand Hour MamaDuring our vacation in Mexico, Peeper spent almost every waking minute in the water. After breakfast, we headed to the pool or beach. Then bath and nap. After waking up, we returned to the pool or beach. Then bath and bedtime.

Rinse, wash, repeat. Continue reading

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World Water Day: Gratitude

Somehow, I heard it over the Super Bowl.


The spigot connecting the hot water to our new washer was spraying water all over the laundry room. A puddle quickly turned into a flood. We used every towel, sheet and bath robe we owned to try to sop up the deluge, but despite our efforts, water soon began to leak downstairs.

In some (very) small way, the leak might have been a blessing: I was too busy mopping up a puddle and googling 24-hour plumbers to see the infamous one-yard-line play call that cost the Seahawks their national title.

At any rate, we spent most of the next 48 hours without any running water, and it took me a frustratingly long time to get a contractor to fix our problem. (“Yes,” I informed way too many people, “no running water with a toddler in the house does constitute a plumbing emergency.”)

We’re back online now, so to speak. The temporary inability to wash dishes, hands, clothes and a toddler who loves to finger paint made me even more grateful for what we too often take for granted: clean, potable, accessible and affordable water.

Sunday was World Water Day, a global event that marks the importance—and scarcity—of clean and accessible water for every human, community and ecosystem. According to the United Nations, “748 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion do not use an improved sanitation facility.” Unfortunately, untreated water and the lack of hygienic toileting are a major source of disease. Continue reading

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Spoonful of sugar

I hate feeling like the overreacting mom who calls the advice nurse for nothing. I hate wasted copays. I hate dragging my daughter to the doctor, where she bursts into tears the second the nurse calls her name.

Know what I hate more, though? Wondering if Peeper is sicker than I’m pretty sure she is.

Peeper has had a cold since February and a cough for half that time. Lately, she sometimes coughs until she gags or cries. This crud is going around Portland, but I called her pediatrician’s nurse anyway. They scheduled a check-up, just in case.

Why aren't adult hospital gowns this cute?

Why aren’t adult hospital gowns this cute?

Thankfully, Peeper’s lungs are clear and her ears are healthy. The doctor diagnosed a sinus infection, though. I’ll take that over whooping cough any day. Yes, Peeper has been vaccinated, but with childhood diseases like measles making such a comeback, I fear the same illnesses my great-grandparents did.

Anyway, we were sent home with two whole bottles of antibiotics. After lunch, it was time for Peeper’s first dose—5.5 milliliters. Now that sounds like a tiny amount, but for a child who refuses any medicine, it was like asking her to please drink the entirety of Lake Michigan. Continue reading

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Front-row seat to my daughter’s dreams

Forgive the blurriness—I didn't want to use flash, for obvious reasons!

Forgive the blurriness—I didn’t want to use flash, for obvious reasons!

It’s not often Peeper falls asleep on me. I usually put her down when she’s still awake, babbling to herself or reciting entire sections of Once Upon A Potty.

But the other day, she dozed off while I hummed You Are My Sunshine, part of our normal going-to-bed-routine.

And here’s the thing: I didn’t put her down.

As a work-at-home mama without consistent, out-of-the-home childcare, I end up cramming work into spare corners of the day. If I wake up a little early, I check my email from bed to see if a source has written me back. I turn in copy at times most other people are asleep. And most of all I work during Peeper’s naps, scheduling interviews and meeting deadlines in that somewhat-reliable hour-and-a-half break.

While in Mexico, I still had deadlines to meet, articles to write and pitches to investigate. But on this afternoon, I let that work idle.

I felt my toddler’s breath as regular as the surf outside. I admired her curls that seem to go even curlier during naps. And as she sprawled on me belly-to-belly, I felt her twitch in her dreams even as a tiny life inside me turned and kicked.

Lulled by the overhead fan and the warmth of her slumbering body, I began to doze off. I set Peeper down in her crib and crawled into bed for a snooze, too. I fell asleep before too long—another luxury I rarely enjoy at home, when writing, dirty dishes and my growling stomach demand I get up and go.

Peeper often napped on me when she was a baby—sometimes that’s the only way she’d sleep. I’m grateful she’s comfortable drifting off on her own now. But I savor the rare occasions I get to witness her exuberant self completely surrender to sleep.

It won’t be long until there’s a newborn who needs my attention even more than editors. Kiwi will surely take her share of naps on my chest, but as Peeper grows, she’ll sleep on me less and less.

I find myself wondering how our lives will change once Kiwi arrives. That unknown—and the adjustments we’ll all have to make, both major and minor—reminds me to adjust my priorities on days like this one. I can’t always sit immobile with a toddler sleeping on my chest, but every so often, I will. I won’t mind the drool-damp spot on my shirt or my arm that fell asleep. Inconveniences are worth the chance at a front-row seat to my daughter’s dreams.

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Pregnant at the beach 2

Burned belly button - Ten Thousand Hour MamaI just wrote about how I prefer to wear a bikini even though I’m pregnant. I think my growing belly is beautiful, and I don’t mind letting other beachgoers see.

Another pro to wearing a swimsuit while pregnant: You can eat a giant burrito and not worry about slipping into a tiny suit. You can be all, “Hey, that’s totally my baby bump!” and it’s true.

But as I’ve discovered, bikinis while pregnant are not all fun and games. The inside of my poor belly button, which has pretty much never seen the light of day, is a bit sunburned.

So along with putting vinegar on the tops of my feet (gah! I always miss that spot!), I’m using the sunburn-soothing home remedy on my belly button, too. Now I smell like Easter eggs from belly to toes.

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Pregnant at the beach

Back in high school, I worked at my town’s country club in the pool snack bar. I spent two summers flipping burgers and mixing milk shakes for members’ kids (most of whom were wonderful, excluding one brat who ended an order with, “And make it snappy.” Wish I could’ve served him a slap upside the head alongside his fries.).

From the deep fryer-scented cubby of the snack bar, I had a great view of the pool deck. Even though at that time in my life I swore I’d never have kids (the thought of childbirth completely freaked me out), I admired the pregnant moms who lounged in the sun or chased after sunscreen-streaked little ones. I especially admired the mothers who bared their bumps in itsy bitsy bikinis.

For some reason, that image of beauty stuck with me. A big ol’ belly sticking out for the entire world to see says, I am confident. It says, I am growing a whole new life inside me, and I don’t mind who notices. It adds, I may have stretch marks and a new outie, but I don’t care.

So when I was pregnant with Peeper and outgrew my suits, I bought a new, bigger bikini. I loved wearing it in my prenatal water aerobics classes and to the river in the sweltering days before my July baby was born.

I’ve loved wearing it on vacation this last week, too. I’ve alternated with a more modest tankini suit, too, but whenever the little stripey number isn’t too sandy or wet, I pull that on to play at the beach or pool.

Pregnant at the beach - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Pregnant on the beach - Ten Thousand Hour Mama Continue reading

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Kiwi on the way!

2015 is shaping up to be a big year for us: We bought a house, Eric will finish his first full-time year of teaching and he’ll graduate with his teacher’s certificate and another master’s, and—drum roll—we’re expecting another little bug!

Kiwi, as we’ve taken to calling Baby #2 (Peeper Jr. just didn’t seem right!), is due mid-July—right after (but hopefully not on) Peeper’s second birthday. So far the pregnancy has gone very smoothly, as long as you don’t count feeling horribly ill for three months straight.

Peeper Mama BeachPeople keep asking me if being pregnant is different the second time around. The most striking difference, I’ve found, is that I got bigger way faster—I’m showing about a month sooner than I did with Peeper. I was also a bit sicker in the first trimester and felt more tired, but that could have been because I was busy running after a toddler and so couldn’t rest as much.

Now, at 21 weeks, I’m smack-dab in the middle of the pregnancy—and the second trimester honeymoon period. I find myself thinking, “What the hell were we thinking?” a lot less often these days. Not that we don’t want Kiwi 100%—it’s just that when your first child is a hot mess and you haven’t eaten anything that wasn’t beige in like two months and you are tired enough to lie down on the kitchen floor and never get up, the thought of adding a nurse-all-the-time, sleep-none-of-the-time newborn into the mix sounds like a lot of crazy. Peeper bump hugSo I’m fully enjoying my in-between trimester. I love feeling Kiwi kick and can’t wait for the first time Peeper feels her little sister move. Sometimes Peeper waves hello at my belly, greeting Kiwi. And in the last week, she has taken to lying with her head on my growing bump as I rock her during wind-down time.

Peeper’s still too young to get that she will soon relinquish her only-child status, but I like to think that she and Kiwi are already forging their sister bond. My siblings and I grew up casting each other in elaborate make-believe games, arguing over whose turn it was to bring down the dirty laundry and relying on each other for pretty much everything. I can’t imagine life without them. And I can think of no better gift than to give Peeper a sibling.

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