How your family can help kids thrive in school

I’m still riding the enthusiasm and excitement from the back to school season over here. Peeper is already adjusted to her half-days of pre-K (no tears, just a quick squeeze before we say goodbye!). And Kiwi just started homeschool preschool—more on that later! But not every child has what she needs to excel in school.

Back to school season is exciting - but not every child has what she needs to succeed. Here, 4 things your family can do to help. Ten Thousand Hour MamaBack to school time is exciting, but many kids don't have everything they need to succeed. Here are 4 ways your family can do good. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

School supplies lists can get expensive (the average family spent $100-200 on the required pens, pencils and binders, according to a national study), and that’s not even factoring in other expenses like clothes, electronics (required by many schools) and other items.

I wrote about how we can help ensure all the kids in our community start school ready to learn and thrive in my latest column for PDX Parent.

In it, I explore how even families with little kids—who don’t have many opportunities to volunteer in the traditional sense because they’re too young—can pitch in.

Your kids may be too young to volunteer, but any family can do good in their community by helping all children thrive in this back to school season. Here, 4 things you can do to help! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Portland hike to the Witch’s Castle with kids

Lately Peeper has been on a mystery/spooky story kick—a predilection I could attribute to my own childhood love of scary stuff but is mostly due to her Grandpa Shempy’s long made-up mysteries about something called the Monkey’s Paw. So when I had a free morning and the kids miraculously ate their breakfast on time and without protest, I decided to try hiking Portland’s Witch’s Castle with the kids.

Hiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

I originally heard of Portland’s Witch’s Castle in Forest Park from my blogging friend Renee. She wrote about hiking to the castle with her teens, and I’ve wanted to do it myself ever since then—but with my littler kids, of course.

Since the day’s forecast called for some rain, I wanted to choose a forested hike so we wouldn’t get totally drenched if it did drizzle. Forest Park, with its immense Douglas firs, provides quite a bit of shelter from the Oregon rain—but as luck would have it, the skies stayed mostly clear. (Thanks, weather!)

Rain or no rain, though, the hike was gorgeous—and the Witch’s Castle lived up to its spooky, and awesome, reputation!

Hiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour MamaHiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Mama truth photography: Beauty in the everyday crazy

Mama truth photography: Beauty in the everyday crazy

The morning Portland family photographer Ashley of Weeno Photography was scheduled to come to our house for a Mama Truth Session, I nearly called it off. Eric had been out of town for days. It took me two hours to get the girls to sleep the night before. And then they woke up at 5. But I didn’t cancel. Instead, I thought to myself, “Ashley is about to get more truth than she bargained for.”

Lately, the girls have been challenging. They’re chronically tired and we have been struggling to ensure they get more rest. They fight over ridiculous things (“I want the yellow bowl.” “No mine lellow!”). Kiwi cries and throws epic tantrums that we can do nothing to soothe.

So I’m not entirely sure why I thought I wanted a Mama Truth Session, where photographer Ashley LaMattino-Perlberg comes to your house to hang out for a few hours and captures whatever happens, from making a snack to soothing a booboo.

I think it was our initial contact. “The beauty in the everyday is always there,” she said. “And yet it’s so hard to see it ourselves. That’s why these sessions are so important!” Her words resonated deep within me. And it turns out she is so right.

A Mama Truth family photography session from a Portland photographer showed me the beauty in the everyday crazy of motherhood. Ten Thousand Hour MamaA Mama Truth family photography session from a Portland photographer showed me the beauty in the everyday crazy of motherhood. Ten Thousand Hour MamaWhy mamas deserve candid photos of themselves—and not only staged family photography—to show the everyday beauty of motherhood. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

I’m so grateful we did a Mama Truth photography session, which Ashley did for free for my family. The photos are beautiful, yes. Even more, though, the photographs showed me the beauty of my everyday life with my kids. And get this: Below, you can enter a giveaway for a chance to win half-off a Mama Truth Session with Weeno Photography. And anyone who mentions this blog post by the end of October will get $100 off a Mama Truth family photography session. Read on to find out more and enter!

We received a free family photography session in exchange for a blog post. As always, all opinions are my own. Read more

Kids’ mini mural crawl in North Portland, Oregon

Kids’ mini mural crawl in North Portland, Oregon

This summer I’ve fallen in love with street art. I think it started when two blogging friends and I hit up some of our favorite murals in Southeast Portland, Oregon. Lisa from This Beautiful Day, Jenni from A Well Crafted Party and I caught up (and goofed off) in front of some of the city’s most dramatic street art. Just about every chance I’ve gotten since then, I’ve made detours and special trips to visit Portland murals—and have been bringing my kids along, too. One of my favorite trips was a mini mural crawl in North Portland that both kids joined me for.

This mural crawl for kids was one of the most fun family activities I’ve done recently, partly because it was even more enjoyable for me than it was for the girls. (Pretty sure I’m not alone in planning 99% of our family activities around what the under-5 set wants to do—but not this time!) That said, Peeper and Kiwi really got into the kid-friendly mural crawl in North Portland. (See the photos for proof!)

A mini mural crawl with kids in Portland, Oregon is an awesome family friendly activity when you travel to Portland. Ten Thousand Hour MamaThis kid friendly mural crawl in Portland, Oregon is a super-fun outdoor activity for the whole family when you travel to the Pacific Northwest. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Part of the fun was the novelty of the family activity: We’d never done something quite like this. Peeper loved directing me and Kiwi so she could take a photo. (She has a good eye, doesn’t she?) Plus, the girls were fascinated by street art. Their wide eyes seemed to say, “Wait, you mean artists can paint giant pictures outside? I thought you said we couldn’t paint on walls!”

Uh-oh, I might live to regret this Portland, Oregon mural crawl. Oh well, it was worth it!

This kids mural crawl in Portland, Oregon is a great family travel activity! Plus, you'll get incredibly family photos in front of street art. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Handmade camping dolls make for an unforgettable summer

Handmade camping dolls make for an unforgettable summer

When Eric’s parents were visiting Oregon this summer, we took a camping trip at Milo McIver State Park. It was the girls’ first camping trip of the year, and I wanted to help make it special. (Yes, I know the very fact of spending all day outside and roasting marshmallows make camping special without any extras. But still.) I pulled inspiration from one of our favorite books, Lulu & Pip, and made camping dolls for the girls.

The camping dolls were an instant hit. The dolls went with us everywhere, from a hike to the camp chairs beside the fire. They got dirty. They got chewed on. They earned their title of camping dolls.

And my hope was realized: The camping dolls helped make our camping trip unforgettable.

Handmade camping dolls made a recent family camping trip even more fun! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Happy 2nd birthday Kiwi!

A love letter to my daughter on her 2nd birthday. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

On the morning of Kiwi’s 2nd birthday, our brand-new two-year-old woke up and wanted to snuggle in Mom and Dad’s bed. Minutes later, Big Sister Peeper woke up and joined us. Not to be left out, our dog Finn hopped up onto the bed, too. So the first thing we did on Kiwi’s 2nd birthday was snuggle in a big family pile. I can’t think of a better way to start any day, but especially the birthday of our youngest.

Mornings are understandably hectic, thanks to two working parents trying to get ready for their jobs, two kids who would rather goof off or read books than eat breakfast or get dressed, and one dog who takes his sweet time doing his business on our walks. But on Kiwi’s 2nd birthday, we let the usual morning hubbub take a backseat. Spending a few minutes together as a family, undistracted, didn’t come with a ribbon or fancy wrapping paper. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful gift.

A love letter to my daughter on her 2nd birthday. Ten Thousand Hour MamaA love letter to my daughter on her 2nd birthday. Ten Thousand Hour MamaA love letter to my daughter on her 2nd birthday. Ten Thousand Hour MamaA love letter to my daughter on her 2nd birthday. 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