What I wish I had known about motherhood: Real mom wisdom

What I wish I had known about motherhood: Real mom wisdom

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the nearly five years I’ve been a mother, it’s this: Fellow mothers are the best source of no-BS, tell-it-to-you-straight mom wisdom you’ll ever hope to encounter. The trouble is we don’t always ask the right questions (or even know what they are), and you probably don’t have other sources telling you the straight-up truth about TMIs like post-birth constipation and just how world-rocking having a baby is. Nearly everyone has at least one “what I wish I had known” detail—so I’m sharing those tidbits of been there, done that know-how from a whole tribe of mom bloggers.

Below, you’ll read about everything: the good (the overwhelming love of your bubs!), the bad (mastitis—need I say more?) and the ugly (postpartum depression and anxiety are real—and all too common). So before you have a “what I wish I had known” about motherhood moment, read on. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll learn something from this mom wisdom—I know I did!

What I wish I had known about motherhood, from breastfeeding to postpartum depression: Mom wisdom from 20 mommy bloggers. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

9 things I wish I knew about weaning

Just a few weeks ago, I weaned Kiwi. Although I had a goal to wean her by her second birthday, I thought it’d never happen: She asked for milk all day, every day. Yet bit by bit, we decreased the amount she breastfed. Finally, there came a day when she didn’t nurse at all. And then there was another no-milk day. And just like that, weaning was complete.

Pretty much. (More on that below!)

It’s no secret around here that I’ve both struggled with breastfeeding and loved it. I nursed Peeper until she was 15 months old, and Kiwi until she was almost 2. But even though we’d semi-accidentally become an extended breastfeeding family, I was ready to wean.

Yes, I was ready to wean, but I wish someone had clued me in to some details about weaning I’d never heard—or read—about.

9 things I wish I'd known about weaning, 'cause stopping breastfeeding is a big deal. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

The $2 hack to make my kids sleep on vacation

“Vacations are so relaxing and easy!”—said no parent of young kids. Ever. We recently spent four days in Newport, Oregon, which was lovely but not restful in the least. On top of all the prepping and packing and passing back of 18 varieties of snacks on the drive to the central Oregon coast, neither kid sleeps that well away from home. Somehow, though, despite feeling a bit run down on vacation, my creativity remained intact, and I am now obsessed with the parenting hack I pulled off to make my kids sleep on vacation.

Like on most vacations we take, I couldn’t make my kids sleep on the first night. Although I had brought noise machines and loveys and special blankets, we didn’t have the blackout curtains we rely on at home. Once morning dawned, with both kids wide awake, I knew I had to try something different.

My protests of “it’s too early” didn’t cut it.

Family travel can destroy sleep habits. Fortunately my $2 hack to make my kids sleep on vacation totally worked! Zzzz - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Peeper opened the blinds and begged to differ. “Look mama, it’s sunny!” She said. “It’s not too early!” So we spent the early-early morning semi-conscious on the couch, praising the geniuses who invented Saturday morning cartoons.

Then on my way to the drive-through coffee shop (OMG CAFFEINE THANK YOU), I stopped at the dollar store down the street. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I dropped $2 on aluminum tin foil and pulled off one of my best parenting hacks yet—which not only helped make my kids sleep on vacation but also stopped me from swearing off family vacations entirely. (Win!)

This $2 hack to make my kids sleep on vacation is a game-changer for family travel and vacation! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

In her own words: Raising a multilingual child

Ever since she was a toddler, Peeper has had the gift of gab. She was making puns, telling stories and naming all her letters before she turned 2. I had always dreamed of raising a multilingual child—but that vision has turned out a little differently in reality. (You’re shocked, right?)

Now that she’s nearly 4 (?!?!?!?), Peeper is using language in ways that make us laugh—and translate more words online than I ever thought I would.

The most hilarious way this kid uses language: According to her, she is multilingual.

Sign language for kids

English is her first language, of course. Her second is sign language. Teaching my kids to sign seemed a reasonable place to begin raising a multilingual child.

Like many families, we used sign language with Peeper before she could talk. And when we used ASL with Kiwi, Big Sister picked it up again.

My kids use sign language to better communicate // raising bilingual children. Ten Thousand Hour Mama
When we didn’t know a word in sign, we’d look it up. The whole family’s sign language vocabulary grew and grew. The girls continue to sign even though they can speak with their words just as well.

Then one night while I was putting Peeper to bed, I could barely keep my eyes open as I sang her Frosty the Snowman. Yet my supposed-to-be-sleeping preschooler was jiggling and wiggling in the bed.

I opened my heavy eyes and saw her hands were flying around, flitting this way and that as I sang.

Soon enough I realized she was “signing” the words to the song. The movements of her hands matched the action of Frosty—and her little face was intent with concentration. She stacked her fists atop one another for “snowman” and tapped her head for “hat.” My favorite of her made-up signs: for “dance around,” she’d shimmy and boogie under the covers.

Her interpretation of Frosty the Snowman may not be understood by anyone who uses real sign language, but I certainly followed along—and appreciated her creativity.

Learning Chinese in preschool

Next step in raising a multilingual child: In Peeper’s school, the kids learn a bit of Mandarin, starting as early as preschool. They sing songs, learn basic words like colors and “friend” and count in Chinese.

In an attempt to become multilingual myself, I studied Mandarin briefly in middle school when I lived in Singapore. It was hard. Granted, Peeper and her classmates aren’t learning to write characters (which was the most difficult part for me!) but even still, Mandarin isn’t the simplest language.

Learning Chinese in preschool: Raising bilingual children. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Yet Peeper is soaking in this new language. Sometimes I hear her counting in Chinese, and I swear she can count higher in Mandarin than in English.

The other day Kiwi and I picked her up from school. As we walked down the hallway, my multilingual child pulled on my arm.

Wo ai ni,” Peeper told me. “I love you.”

“Oh honey, wo ai ni!” I replied.

One of the school’s teachers, who is Chinese, walked by at that moment. She was almost as thrilled as I was!

The rest of the way home, Kiwi practiced some Mandarin of her own. “Ai ni ” she repeated over and over.

“Kiwi is saying ‘ai ni!'” Peeper praised her sister the entire way home. Before long, Little Sister will be listing the reasons she simply will not go to sleep or wants the Paw Patrol sippy cup, not the Cinderella one—in Mandarin.

A child’s version of Spanish

The final language Peeper “speaks” is Spanish. You’d think raising a multilingual child with Spanish would be easier, considering I used to be mostly fluent and am now conversational. But I hardly spoke Spanish with her, despite knowing that raising a child to be bilingual or multilingual has tons of benefits, including a boost in school performance, empathy, executive control and an appreciation of diversity.

Even still, we sprinkle a few words here and there. “That’s how you say ‘let’s go’ in Spanish,” we’ll say, or “that means ‘where are you?'” We often check out books with Spanish sprinkled throughout, so Peeper has picked up a number of palabras en español. She’s definitely picking up on the fact that you use different words to talk in different languages.

Proof: One afternoon Peeper got our attention.

“Want to know how you say ‘yes’ in Spanish?” she asked with her too adorable lisp on her s’s.


Instead of saying “,”—or anything else for that matter—she wiggled her eyebrows up and down like Groucho Marx.

So now that’s how we say ‘yes’ to each other.

Eyebrow wiggles from Catherine Ryan Gregory on Vimeo.

“Do you want some bunny crackers?”
“Should we go to the playground?”
“Did you just konk your sister on the head with that block?”

Eyebrow wiggle.

The humor in raising a multilingual child

My host parents and host sister from when I studied abroad in Argentina have been in town this summer. We haven’t seen them since Peeper was just two months old, so it’s been nearly four years since I last saw them in person.

Recently we met up in Salem. It was wonderful to see them again after so long and for them to spend time with the girls, especially Kiwi, whom they had only met on Skype and Facebook.

When my kids met my study abroad host parents, they communicated through the universal language: laughter. Ten Thousand Hour Mama
About halfway through the day, though, Peeper told me, “Mama, stop talking like that.” She of course couldn’t understand our conversation in Spanish. (Reason #589 that I should do a better job of raising a multilingual child.)

“Honey, that’s the language Abuela and Abuelo speak,” I explained.

Then I told my host parents that Peeper could say “” in Spanish. They looked at Peeper expectantly.

Peeper, who had gone from hiding behind my legs to holding onto Abuela and Abuelo’s hands, didn’t hesitate. She wiggled her eyebrows up and down, looking at my host parents all the while. The whole table—including Peeper and Kiwi—cracked up. Then Peeper and my host dad took turns wiggling eyebrows at each other, barely containing their giggles.

As it turns out, laughter sounds the same in every language.

According to my preschooler, she is not only bilingual—she speaks four languages! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Clingy phase 2.0: Extreme toddler face melds

If you’re looking for Kiwi, she’s busy trying to literally merge herself with me. Because she does nothing halfway, she’s taking the clingy phase to new extremes.

What, your toddler doesn’t try to smash herself into you with such force that you suddenly become one person instead of two? Isn’t that attachment parenting?

Oh, my bad. I thought that was totally normal behavior.

Oh my gosh, the clingy toddler phase is taken to the next level: She wants to smash her face into mine! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Oh my gosh, the clingy toddler phase is taken to the next level: She wants to smash her face into mine! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Meals for new moms: Bring just what they need (& want!)

Everything you need to make delicious meals for new moms - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

When each of my girls was born, the steady delivery of meals was an enormous help. I couldn’t figure out how to breastfeed, much less feed myself, so the food friends brought nourished me in a way I deeply needed. In addition, their visits proved to be a much-appreciated and reliable contact with the regular adult world whose primary concern was not how many wet diapers the baby has had today. So if you’re considering making meals for new moms, I say to you: DO IT.

Since my big girls are no longer babies, I’ve had the opportunity to pay everyone’s kindness forward. I’ve brought quite a few meals for new moms and their families, and in the process I’ve learned a lot about what to do—and what not to do—when delivering meals to new moms.

So if you’ve signed up for a meal train, YOU ARE AWESOME. Know that by making a meal (or bringing takeout—that’s totally not cheating!), you are showing this new mama that she is loved, supported, cared for—and that her village will help lift her up as she undertakes the most monumental change of her life.

She is a new mom, and you are helping her become the best mother she can be.

(And that’s a big deal.)

If you’re not quite sure what to bring or what to do, though, you’ve come to the right place. When it comes to making meals for new moms, I share these 12 tips to help you make life easier for the family more focused on umbilical cord scabs than dinnertime.  Read more

DIY Mother’s Day gift for a mom-to-be: Pregnancy journal

This DIY Mother's Day gift is great for pregnant moms! A pregnancy journal with prompts. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

When I was pregnant with Peeper, and then with Kiwi, I did my best to record my thoughts, feelings and hopes for them. My journaling success was hit or miss with them—some nights I wrote long entries about the fluttery feeling of a tiny baby moving inside me; some nights I was too exhausted to do anything beyond flopping into bed. This year, I wanted to make a DIY Mother’s Day gift for some friends who are expecting so they, too, could remember this incredible time.

After some thought, I made a DIY pregnancy journal for two friends who are expecting their second babies. I know from experience that when you’re pregnant with Baby #2, you’re just not as focused on the pregnancy—after all, you’re too busy memorizing Daniel Tiger songs and ensuring your little daredevil doesn’t dart into the street. So I came up with these 30+ journal prompts—questions that will encourage a mom-to-be to reflect on her hopes and thoughts during pregnancy.

A DIY pregnancy journal makes a personal gift for a baby shower or Mother's Day. Plus it takes less than $5 and 15 minutes to make! Free download. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more