When doing good goes wrong

Thanks to my post-election doldrums and the holiday season, my family has been trying to do a lot more good deeds lately. Unfortunately, sometimes doing good goes wrong.

Take, for example, the time a few weeks ago when Peeper and I baked cookies to bring to our town’s firefighters, along with a handmade card. But just as we arrived, they left with sirens blazing, so I ate the cookies. Later we tried again. No one answered at the fire house. So I ate the cookies. I decided to try once more: I bought a dozen cookies from the grocery store and took the kids to the fire house. Still no one there. So—you guessed it—I stress ate four gingersnaps on the drive home.

We live in a quiet little town outside Portland—not exactly arson central. So either these fire fighters are avoiding me and my baked goods or they’re posing for some sexy fire fighter calendar.

I’m hoping for the latter.

But seriously, all these attempts to do a little good are compromising my resolve to eat better.

Sometimes doing good goes wrong, especially when you give back with kids. Don't give up; try again! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Why I give: Helping children and reuniting families in Syria

Our Thanksgiving was a little bit crazy, a little bit mellow, and a little bit oh my gosh I can’t believe I ate pie at three meals today. The entire Ryan clan convened at my parents’ house, so we did a lot of game playing, taking walks in the rain (so Oregon!), eating (obvi) and snuggling.

All that together time made me a whole lot of grateful. And as I gave my girls extra hugs, played with my baby niece, had actual face-to-face conversations with family members who live across the country and took ridiculous photos to commemorate our time together, I gave thanks for our good fortune to spend time together.

I’m still riding the high of our rare days all together, especially since the last time we all gathered was at my brother’s wedding three years ago. I’m also remembering that many families—way too many—don’t have the privilege of coming together at home. So today, on Giving Tuesday, this is why I give to a cause close to my heart: to support families who have left their homes to escape danger, poverty or war.

On Giving Tuesday, this is why I give: to support kids and families who want to build a better future. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

(See my post from yesterday on more about Giving Tuesday and donating on any budget.)  Read more

Stretch your holiday charitable giving: Donate on any budget

My family isn’t unlike yours, I bet: Our budget is always tight, especially during the holidays, when we face extra expenses like Christmas presents, travel and OH MY GOSH CANDY CANE JOE-JOES. (Don’t deny it; you stock up, too.) But that doesn’t mean we scrimp on our holiday charitable giving.

Generosity and a commitment to helping others are central family values in this house. For us, that means giving to nonprofits throughout the year, but we always increase our donations during the holidays. (The giving spirit is in the air—or wait, maybe that’s pumpkin spice and evergreen scent!)

When it comes to our holiday charitable giving this year, I want to get the most bang for my buck. I’m betting you do, too. So no matter if your budget is super tight or as expansive as Bill and Melinda Gates’, here’s how to make the biggest change with your money.

This Christmas, make sure every dollar makes the biggest impact with your holiday charitable giving. 10 tips to make generosity and charity possible for any budget. Read more

Keep your kids busy on the plane: DIY travel activity kits

The last time I flew with the girls, I was by myself. So I schlepped two kids, a couple of carry-ons, Peeper’s lovey and a whole bunch of anxiety onto a plane. I was, understandably, worried about flying with kids solo.

How do you keep your kids busy on the plane—especially when you only have two hands? I wondered.

With luck, and the kindness of a few understanding strangers, we survived that flight. I learned a few lessons, though, that I want to share here: tips on building travel activity kits we’ll be using when we’re doing road trips and flying with kids over the holidays. With Thanksgiving, Christmas and the busiest travel days of the year staring us down, we could all use some ideas to travel as a family.

Looking for ways to keep your kids busy on the plane, too? Want to limit their screen time? Want to survive the flight without the rest of the passengers threatening to throw your family out an air lock?

Learn from my experience—and be prepared. You’ll stress less at 30,000 feet in the air when your kids are happy with these travel activity kits!

Traveling on the busiest travel day of the year? Keep your kids busy on the plane—or on a road trip—with DIY travel activity kits. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Fill a stocking for the homeless: Kids doing good

“Everyone has a home, right, Mom?” Peeper asked me the other day.

“No, sweetie. Some people don’t have homes.”

Peeper’s question opened the door to talk about homelessness—and what, exactly, it means. Even better, it inspired us to do something.

Her question prompted us to fill a stocking for the homeless with the most in-demand items that help people without reliable housing. We’ll give the stocking, which was sewn by volunteers at the local nonprofit Fill a Stocking, Fill a Heart, to a business collecting them for people who don’t have enough. When reading about Fill a Stocking, I learned that the stockings go to lots of people, including homebound seniors and kids in foster homes. I also learned that many of the people who receive the stockings won’t get any other present this holiday.

For at least one person, my kids and I will give back this Christmas.

This holiday, it's easy to do good and give back—with your kids. Fill a stocking for the homeless with the most-needed items, like a blessing bag. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Kids volunteering at home: Little Loving Hands

I received a free craft kit from Little Loving Hands to try out. As always, all opinions here are my own.


My Peeper, she has one of the kindest, most empathetic hearts I’ve ever known. She brings Kiwi’s favorite toys to her when Little Sister is crying. She covers me in kisses if I stub my toe (including the time a few weeks ago when I’m pretty sure I broke my pinkie toe—ouch!). She gets choked up if a character in a book is sad.

So it’s natural that she wants to help others.

Volunteering with kids at home is as easy as making crafts for homeless children. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Volunteering opportunities for preschoolers and younger kids are slim pickings, though. I keep an eye out for children’s volunteering activities but rarely find a way to bring her along.

So we create our own volunteering opportunities at home. We make cards for Meals on Wheels. We do the monthly activities, like cleaning up the nearby park and making bird feeders, sent to us by Giving Families. And recently, we made a craft for a homeless child living in a shelter with the kit from Little Loving Hands. Read more

Mt. Hood family hike: Little Zigzag Falls

One of my favorite things to do as a family is head outside and walk around in the woods. Peeper, who is now 3 years old, loves it too—but she also loves to ride on Dad’s shoulders when she gets tired. (She’d be able to hike a lot farther if she didn’t ping pong back and forth on the trail so much: She’s like an overexcited dog who runs and runs and runs once she’s outdoors!)

The catch: If Eric doesn’t join us on the hike, I can’t carry her because I’m wearing Little Sister.

On a recent late-summer morning, though, we found a perfect compromise with a Mt. Hood family hike, without Dad. The girls’ grandparents and I took the kids to hike Little Zigzag Falls, just outside Government Camp, Oregon. It was the perfect short hike for kids.

Oregon's Little Zigzag Falls is short, easy and has a gorgeous waterfall: Perfect for kids and families on Mt. Hood! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Small effort, big payoff

When it comes to hiking with kids, you can’t just walk up a mountain, motivated by the faraway view at the top. No matter what that now-legendary marshmallow experiment says about kids delaying gratification, no small child will hike miles and miles for the promise of a long-off scenic outlook. (Well, at least mine won’t.)

Just a half-mile from the parking area, you'll hike to Little Zigzag falls: a hike perfect for kids & families on Mt Hood! Ten Thousand Hour Mama A half-mile hike to Little Zigzag Falls on Mt Hood is easy for kids and the whole family in Oregon. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The Little Zigzag Falls hike was the opposite of that: The Mt. Hood family hike is short and quickly comes to a beautiful, impressive waterfall.

Kid-friendly hiking trail

Turn left on the trail at the gravel parking lot (which also has a porta potty: another bonus for kids). This begins the hike, which is just a half-mile long each way: a perfect length for little kids and recent walkers.

Even Kiwi, who started walking just a few months ago, hiked much of it!

The trail is level without a ton of roots to trip over. It meanders up within sight of the creek but not so close that kids can easily fall in—an important factor for children who are a little wobbly.

The path also weaves under and around tons of deadfall. Kids will love walking beneath a giant fallen tree and spotting logs in the creek. Ask them why no one has removed the trees “blocking” the creek—you may be surprised what they think! This can be a wonderful opportunity to teach about ecology, how different animals like different habitats, and our hands-off relationship with nature in parks.

Reaching Little Zigzag Falls

At the top of the trail, you’ll reach Little Zigzag Falls, which crashes down just over 40 feet. A rustic wooden bench off the side of the trail is a great place to pause for a snack and rest. Once kids have regained their energy, they can clamber over logs to a mini-beach just below the falls to throw sticks into the creek.

Tip: This spot just below the main viewing area is a perfect vantage point to shoot a photo of the group still in the main clearing. You can capture the entire falls and the whole family!

Looking for a Mt Hood family hike? Little Zigzag Falls is short with a big waterfall payoff. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The falls marks the point where you turn back toward the parking area. Adults and older kids can hike up above the falls on a little off-shoot just down-trail of the bench. Be careful, though: This trail isn’t well maintained and has muddy spots. You can, however, see the falls from up above: pretty cool!

Little Zigzag Falls hike: Details

Directions: To get to the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead, head east out of Portland and Sandy toward Government Camp on Highway 26. Turn left (north) on Kiwanis Camp Road, just west of Government Camp. You’ll reach the parking area at the trailhead after about 2 miles.

Features: Waterfalls, shade, small canyon, creek, old growth forest

Good for: Families, kids, babies in carriers, rugged strollers

Must-know: A picnic table just off the trail several hundred feet from the trailhead makes a great place for a snack or lunch.

A short hike—and a picnic!—will get you to Mt. Hood, Oregon's Little Zigzag Falls. Gorgeous! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Do you have recommendations for a Mt. Hood family hike? Have you ever been to Zigzag Falls?