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

Tell me a story

Tell me a story grandpa granddaughterEvery night, Peeper’s wind-down routine is the same: Last Play with a timer. Negotiations to get another Last Play. Teeth-brushing. Stalling to get out of teeth-brushing. Jammies. Book. Song.

And recently, after the lights are turned out, she has asked for a story.

***

When I was growing up, my dad loved to tell us kids stories. He’d invent characters and a plot then string them along in drawn-out dramas. He told us a scary tale about a ventriloquist’s dummy that came to life and a mummy who chased a bunch of explorers—but just because he wanted a cough drop.

He’d tell us these stories in the car, mostly. The tales kept us enthralled between point A and point B—but he’d impeccably time a cliffhanger to the moment he turned off the Shempmobile, his blue Dodge Caravan. He always left us wanting more.

It’s legend, in fact, that one summer he stretched a story about Fluffito, the world’s fluffiest dog, to last a road trip spanning a dozen states. He told about Fluffito’s adventures as he made his way up from local to regional to national to finally international  fluffy dog competitions. But, unbelievably, he didn’t finish by the time we returned home.

Before I could hear the end of the story, in fact, my sister ruined the punchline:

“He’s not so fluffy!”

(Yes, we waited 3,000 miles for that.)

***

I can’t help but think of my dad’s storytelling when Peeper curls up on my lap, waiting for the tale to begin. They’re significantly shorter than my dad’s yarns, but Peeper listens just as raptly as I used to.

Every night Peeper asks for essentially the same story. She wants to hear about how Finn lost his bark. My challenge, then, is to invent a new twist every night—how his bark froze when he was walking to the North Pole, how a crab pinched his nose at the beach and made his bark disappear, how he jumped so high on the trampoline that his bark bounced out of his throat, how a wave from the river splashed into his mouth and made his bark too wet.

Peeper enjoys them all, I think. But every so often, I spin a winner.

“Oh, that’s a good one, Mom,” she’ll say as she slides off my lap and climbs into bed.

Maybe my stories will become longer and more complicated as Peeper grows older. I doubt I’ll ever tell an epic of the same caliber as Fluffito, but you can bet I’ll continue to imagine ways for Finn to lose his bark.

Tonight, and tomorrow night, and every night she asks me, I’ll begin. “Once upon a time…”

Happy house-iversary

One year ago we moved into our West Linn home, which, thanks to Peeper, we still call New House.

We’ve been here long enough that people have stopped asking us how we like our “new” neighborhood, house and town. But I’m just as grateful today as I was on that first day we moved in.

Toddler trampoline Read more

My peach

pregnancy and peaches

A blog I follow, Mama Said, just posted a poem that shot me back in time.

This summer I went to the orchard with my mom and Peeper. I was almost 8 months pregnant, and the baby girl growing inside me kicked and stretched, making me wince—and smile.

We had come for the cherries (and the farm animals, which Peeper simultaneously loved and feared), but it turned out that peaches were in season, too. We made a short detour on the dusty road, pulled over and found ourselves under a canopy of trees buzzing with sweetness and potential.

I didn’t have a bucket or a spare bag, so I balanced the peaches I picked on my belly. And I couldn’t resist—I bit into one (or, ah, several). I ate them surrounded by branches heavy with fruit, and the juice dripped down my chin and stained the shirt stretched taught over my big belly.

They tasted full—alive, vibrant, practically bursting with flavor.

Peeper was less interested in fruit picking than she was in feeding the goats, so we left not long after that. I drove us home, my sticky hands leaving smudges on the steering wheel, as Kiwi squirmed inside me and Peeper sang “Old MacDonald” in the back seat.

My life felt like those peaches—full and vibrant in the sweetest way.

23 months

Toddler adirondack chairLately I catch myself staring at Peeper. A lot.

I look up and there she is, and suddenly I’m overcome.

After she goes to sleep, I lose myself scrolling through my Instagram feed or flipping through photos on my phone. I can’t get enough of her, and then I realize I’ve been smiling at her pictures for the last 30 minutes.

Perhaps it’s a side effect of knowing our second child is on her way. The coming arrival of Kiwi makes me savor this time with Peeper even more.

But my absorption with her goes beyond soaking up these last minutes of her as our only child. She is just so damn wonderful.

Toddler yoga downward dogToddler bench Mary S Young Park sheep loveyIMG_1044 IMG_1113 Read more

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

Happy Mother’s Day!

Last year was my first Mother’s Day, but in the last year I’ve come to appreciate what the holiday means even more.

Living what it is to be a mother—the millions of choices and actions and books read and songs sung and car seats buckled and tempers checked and lunches fixed and owies kissed every single day—underscores everything the mothers in my own life have done (and continue to do).

mother and daughter moustachesMy own mom believed in me fiercely. She encouraged me to turn every interest or passion into a business, certain that someone would want to buy tiny animals sculpted out of wire or t-shirts covered in my angsty teenage poetry.

Graduation with in-lawsMy mother-in-law has always been unequivocally welcoming and accepting. Her hugs, confidences and phone calls made me feel as if it were a given that I am one of the family. I will never, ever, ever forget or take for granted the way she embraced me as one of her own.

Argentine host mom meets babyMy mama argentina, my host mother when I studied abroad in college, welcomed me as a stranger into her home. Ana and I chatted every night as she made dinner or as I sipped a submarino—a hot chocolate—at the breakfast bar. I left, four months later, as part of the familia and continue to love that collection of characters from afar—even as they expand their families.

great grandma grandpa and grandma with babygrandma Bessie sunflowerfour generations women grandmasAnd my grandmothers, of course, whose mothering I feel through the generations. These strong, beautiful women raised families amid less than ideal circumstances without complaint. My Grandma Hawkins, for example, loves to tell me about the moment when she discovered she was pregnant with twins—my mom and Uncle Steve.

She already had one baby at home and not a whole lot of income or support, but when she got back from the doctor, she stood in the middle of the kitchen and hugged her just-starting-to-expand belly. Then she threw her arms out and spun around. She couldn’t contain her happiness and couldn’t believe her luck that she was carrying twins—twins!—a secret wish she’d always carried.

These are the kinds of moments that make up motherhood. Yes, parenting is also colored with frustrations and peanut butter stains and pooplosions and sleepless nights, but it’s the joy and reward and unending gratitude that stick with us.

day-old newborn with mom hospitalThat gratitude stretches in both directions, toward both generations. I cannot express how thankful I am to my daughter and this growing life inside me for choosing us as their family. I am also thankful to the long line of women who wiped noses and corrected homework and spun in kitchens so that I could be here.

So I’m sending love to all the mamas in my life—the ones who helped raise me, the ones who brought up my loved ones, the ones who I’ve known since they were kids, the ones who struggled so hard to become pregnant, the ones who are celebrating their first holiday as moms. You all deserve to be celebrated every day, but these 24 hours are dedicated to you.

Happy Mother’s Day.