Sunshine to melt your blizzard blues

Unless you’ve been taking a social media/news/talking to people cleanse, you’re all too aware that much of the country is dealing with the fallout from a major blizzard. Much of the Northeast is buried under two feet of snow, but here in Oregon, we’ve been enjoying our signature mellow weather.

Whether you’re digging out from under the blizzard or just bemoaning winter’s grey skies, here’s a little dose of sunshine to brighten your day, courtesy of Peeper and me.

Sunshine Popper from Catherine Ryan Gregory on Vimeo.

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A request to strangers: Please quit your judging

Why do I let myself get so wrapped up in a stranger’s judgment of my parenting?

The other day I had a doctor’s appointment, and Peeper came with me. It went long, and then it turned out I had to get blood drawn. Peeper had been a champion the entire time, but I didn’t know how much longer her good behavior would last.

Peeper creates art wherever she goes—including the doctor's office.

Peeper creates art wherever she goes—including the doctor’s office.

As the phlebotomist was taking my blood, Peeper played in the little room, which was shared with other patients. She was entertaining herself quietly and I couldn’t believe my luck. When she got down on the floor and started scooting around on her belly (“Pool! Swimming!”), I didn’t object. I figured pretend breaststroke was better than her throwing a fit or my ineffectively telling her “no” while literally hooked up to a needle.

Another phlebotomist walked in and scowled. “The floor is dirty. The floor is really dirty,” she said to no one in particular.

I was incensed.

That kind of passive-aggressive judgment is unhelpful and presumptuous. I can’t think of a single parent who needs to be informed that the floor is dirty. Common sense tells us that, but if we let a child play on the floor anyway, there’s probably a good reason—like the fact that there’s an empty vial stuck into one’s vein.

On the other hand, Peeper and I went to lunch the next day at Whole Foods. She finished eating, but I still had half a sandwich to go. She got down from her seat and had pushed our cart next to the silverware station.

When another diner got up to put away his plate, I went to move the cart. “Don’t worry about it,” he smiled. “Kids will be kids.”

The stranger’s compassionate understanding made my afternoon. I hadn’t been feeling great, Peeper had been bopping me in the face with her new balloon, and all I wanted was to finish my meal.

Maybe it’s a new(ish) mom thing, but I spend more time than I should worrying that my child is inconveniencing others. A certain level of courtesy should be standard, of course, but I so appreciate it when strangers extend that courtesy to her.

Peeper, as an 18-month-old, is learning about the world every second. Today’s lesson was in moving a shopping cart back and forth, not in making sure a lane was open for strangers to throw away their forks. She also saw someone shrug off a minor inconvenience and offer a smile instead of snark. That has to teach her something, too.

Perhaps the lesson I need to work on is not gracing the rude comments of others with my attention. I have too many other worthwhile things to think about—why waste my energy on the negativity of a brief encounter? (I’ve been working on this one a while—see my earlier post Swearing Off Parenting Advice—and I’ll likely continue to struggle with it.)

While I work on that, I’ll soak up the oh-so-welcome kindness strangers pass to this often-harried mama. Thank you, guy at Whole Foods. And thanks to all you others who smile or laugh or assure me my whirlwind of a daughter isn’t bothering you. On a rough day, it means the world.

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Toddler good deeds: Handmade cards for Meals on Wheels

Volunteering has always been a part of my adult life. I have played with orphaned cats, peddled veggies at farmer’s markets, taught kids to read, helped build a house, assisted at a veterinary office for homeless people’s pets and planted a garden.

I haven’t pitched in as much lately, but the holiday season made me want to make volunteering a regular part of Peeper’s life, too.

When I looked up volunteering opportunities on The United Way, I found only one event that was appropriate for toddlers, but unfortunately it was right during Peeper’s nap time. And no one wants an overtired toddler at a volunteer party, no matter how lofty your intentions.

We ended up recreating the do-gooder moment at a recent play date. All the kiddos made holiday cards to deliver to homebound seniors through Meals on Wheels. (We used this tutorial to make reindeer handprint cards.) I was thrilled with the activity because it’s something you can do on your own timetable, kids can participate at whatever level they want, and—most importantly—it makes the world a better place, if only by a little bit.

Reindeer Handprint Cards - Ten Thousand Hour Mama Continue reading

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How to take your toddler for a hike

As all parents know, doing anything with a child automatically bumps it up into a new category of difficulty.

Ran out of milk and bread? Good luck buying groceries when all your toddler wants to do is push your cart into other shoppers.

Packing for a trip? Oh, how nice, but your little one is tossing every item of clothing out of the suitcase. You didn’t really need to bring underwear, anyway.

Taking the dog out for a walk? Luckily, I just wrote a column for Metro Parent, Portland’s parenting magazine, with explicit instructions on just how to take your toddler and pooch on a hike. Zip over here to read the step-by-step instructions or pick up a free copy around town. Be sure to comment with your own suggestions on how to take a munchkin out for a walk. I could use the advice!

Peeper refusing to move an inch on the trail.

Peeper refusing to move an inch on the trail.

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Toddler adventures: Portland Japanese Garden

Raising a toddler is typically anything but meditative. But as Peeper and I wandered the Portland Japanese Garden, the serene space nudged me toward a more Zen mindset.

When Peeper wanted to tromp across a bridge over and over and over, I savored the extra time to admire the peaceful pond. When she plopped herself down to sift gravel through her fingers, I stared at the view of Mt. Hood.

She enjoyed the garden in her way, and I enjoyed it in mine.

“A Japanese Garden is not only a place for the cultivation of trees and flowering shrubs, but one that provides secluded leisure, rest, repose, meditation, and sentimental pleasure… The Garden speaks to all the senses, not just to the mind alone.” —Takuma Tono, designer of the Portland Japanese Garden

“A Japanese Garden is not only a place for the cultivation of trees and flowering shrubs, but one that provides secluded leisure, rest, repose, meditation, and sentimental pleasure…
The Garden speaks to all the senses, not just to the mind alone.” —Takuma Tono, designer of the Portland Japanese Garden

In 2015, members of a bunch of Portland-area attractions can see the others in the alliance throughout the year. (Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of where you can go when.) We are members of the Oregon Zoo, so I wanted to check out January’s attraction—hence our adventure to the Portland Japanese Garden. Continue reading

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18 months: 10 things about Peeper

Peeper is now closer to her second birthday than her first. As much as this gives me whiplash and makes me think, Wha?!, it makes complete sense: She is hurtling forward, both figuratively and literally, every second of every day.

Chicken whisperer - Ten Thousand Hour MamaWith as quickly as she changes, I wanted to record a few Peeper gems to celebrate her half-birthday. Continue reading

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When failing at Christmas is the best Christmas yet

This Christmas we did not get a tree, and we did not hang stockings.

I haven’t yet bought a gift for anyone in my immediate family. (Sorry guys, they’ll come… eventually.)

I frosted precisely zero Christmas cookies.

I keep pinning, but let’s be real. I’ve crafted next to nothing.

There have been no chestnuts roasted on an open fire, sprinkles snitched or eggnog-flavored drinks drunk.

But that’s ok. That’s not what Christmas is about.

We have safely traveled to see relatives in far-flung places—and were reminded of the saintliness of strangers on the plane. (Exhibit A: Our seatmate who let Peeper play with his iPhone when she was this close to Meltdown City.)

PDX Portland Airport carpet selfie - Ten Thousand Hour MamaWe visited the Oregon Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo. (Peeper looked at me like, YOU NEVER TOLD ME THERE WAS MORE THAN ONE ZOO!)

Peeper learned important new words like “snowman” and “jingle.”

We visited family—including some new additions whom I hadn’t yet met, and many of whom had never met Peeper.

Ryan Family Christmas 2014_2And Peeper has found her new calling as the Chicken Whisperer.

Peeper the Chicken Whisperer - Ten Thousand Hour MamaI’ll just go ahead and call this Christmas so far a success.

Peeper Christmas dress - Ten Thousand Hour MamaMerry Christmas, all!

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