Hello ice cream truck, goodbye summer

“Hey, what’s that noise?” I asked. Peeper looked up, her eyes wide. She turned to look out the window. “Let’s go see!” I said. I figured we had to do this one thing before we said goodbye summer.

As quickly as I could, I got our shoes on, picked up Kiwi and dashed outside. The metallic tinkling tune was fading as its source moved farther away. Undeterred, I hurried us along the quiet street.

Then, to my relief, the cheerful song got louder. And then we saw it: the ice cream truck.

Visiting the ice cream truck and saying goodbye to summer inspires me to take stock of what I learned about my daughters—and myself. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

A few times this summer, the ice cream truck has stopped in our neighborhood. The driver must have known about the groups of kids who rove through our block. They play chase, ride scooters, flirt and let the summer afternoons drift by as if time did not exist.

Yet I hadn’t taken my girls out to have their first ice cream truck experience. The truck always seemed to come right before nap time. Or, more honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with the sugar buzz, no matter the time of day.

But summer is coming to a close. Before we said goodbye summer, I wanted the girls to say hello, cream truck! Read more

My literary comfort blanket: Roald Dahl’s The BFG

This post contains an affiliate link to the book The BFG. Please see my policies and disclosures page for more information.

Growing up, Roald Dahl’s the BFG was a BFD. I seriously loved that book.

Scratch that. I love—present tense—that book.

When I'm stressed, I turn to children's books and literature to relax. Roald Dahl's The BFG is my go-to title. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The BFG (which stands for the Big Friendly Giant, for all of you not in the Roald Dahl know) was my favorite book for years. Over and over I read about how Sophie befriended the BFG and together with the Queen of England’s help rounded up all the mean, children’s bone-gnashing giants.

I laughed at (and gobblefunked with) the BFG’s hilarious words (snozzcumber!!!) and wondered what dreams he’d trumpet into my room each night.

So today, on Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, I say thank you to my all-time favorite children’s book author. Read more

Pure summer: How to make a wildflower crown

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Nothing quite says summer like strolling, picking wildflowers and weaving a crown. Don’t believe me? Make one and see for yourself.

Want to wear something DIY that's pure summer, either for yourself or your kids? Here's how to make a wildflower crown! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Read more

A portrait of working moms

I am honored to be a part of A Well Crafted Party‘s series about working moms! Writer Jenni Bost’s story about me is up on her site—check it out!

Catherine Ryan Gregory portrait of working moms
Beautiful photos by the inimitable Mary Boyden from Momma Bear Magazine

As I told Jenni, I want my girls to see me working—for the ups and the downs.

“I want them to witness the excitement, passion, even frustration it sparks in me,” I told Jenni. “Because no relationship is perfect, including the one with your work. Seeing that I can be angry or aggravated by work but push through it and stick with it is a great example of how life works.”

I also want my girls to grow into the independence and creativity I had when both my parents worked when I was a kid.

“When I grew up, both my parents worked. Having a lot of free time on our own made me and my siblings invent fun for ourselves. We spent hours imagining ourselves as fairies or orphans or alligator wrestlers. We dedicated weeks to turning our play room into a haunted house. We made up songs and ran around outside and skinned our knees and broke windows (though not too often, thankfully),” I told Jenni. 

“I want my girls to have a similar childhood – one that’s not micromanaged by me.”

Are you a working mom or dad? How do YOU make it work? If your parents worked, how did that color your childhood?

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

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

Advice for my daughter // raising girls // Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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. Each page contained one piece of advice for my daughter, and as you can see, Peeper—and anyone else lucky enough to read it—will definitely be the wiser from it.

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 Read more

The three sweetest words

Toddler says I love youThe sun shone down on us in one of those perfect spring days that makes you wish you could stop time. Peeper had insisted on wearing her sunglasses “like mama,” so she was looking especially cool as she flew back in forth in the swing and stomped over a bridge.

Later, she climbed into a shaded play structure—the ones in the sun were too hot—and was crawling through the tunnel that led from the stairs to the slide. I ducked below the tube and popped my head up to the tiny windows in the tunnel. “Peekaboo!” I exclaimed, and I blew raspberries at her.

She giggled, squealed and looked for me again and again. Soon enough she was blowing (much spittier) raspberries back at me.

Then, out of nowhere, she told me, “I love you.” The unprompted declaration took my breath away, but in a flash the moment—and my daughter—were gone. She crawled the rest of the way through the tube, and I had to rush to take my place to catch her at the bottom of the slide.

“I love you”—the three sweetest words in our language, especially coming from a tiny voice that can’t pronounce its ls yet. Granted, she had spit bubbles dripping off her chin, but that lack of pretense made her gift even more special.

Even now, my heart catches remembering that simple phrase. Strangers and friends remark on what a talker my daughter is, and she spouts fully formed sentences with correct pronouns and tenses all day long. But those three words—“I love you”—were more precious than anything she’s uttered so far.

I love you, too, sweet pea.