Springtime family activities: Portland’s rhododendron garden

We are getting a handful of summery days in the forecast—my weather app is looking positively perfect—and all this sunshine is making the blooming rhododendrons outside look even more gorgeous! When I was looking for fun springtime family activities in Portland while my mother-in-law was in town recently, I found the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. We made plans to go.

I woke up that morning not feeling well. The girls hadn’t slept much and were fighting over a pair of Anna and Elsa figurines. “Are you sure you still want to go?” Eric asked me as I brushed my teeth. “WE’RE GOING,” I said. And I’m so glad we did!

Crystal Springs Portland rhododendron garden: A perfect walk and hiking destination for Oregon travel with kids. Ten Thousand Hour MamaCrystal Springs Portland rhododendron garden: A perfect walk and hiking destination for Oregon travel with kids. Ten Thousand Hour MamaCrystal Springs Portland rhododendron garden: A perfect walk and hiking destination for Oregon travel with kids. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Feathered friends: 5 ways for kids to help birds

Peeper loves her some animals, and birds are no exception. I once called a bird that landed on the telephone wire a blue jay; she corrected me: “No, Mama, that’s a stellar jay.” (#schooledbyatoddler)

In a book she adores that has photos of pretty much every animal on the planet, she points to the birds with silly names and giggles uncontrollably as I recite them: plain chachalaca, hoopoe and the blue-crowned motmot.

And she has loved some of our recent projects to help our neighborhood’s resident birds.

ways for kids to help birdsWe were inspired to learn how kids can help birds by a recent suggested service project from Giving Families, a monthly mail subscription that sends kids ideas to help others. It included instructions on how to help birds build nests, making a cozy home for all those chirping chicks that will be hatching this spring.

Peeper didn’t want to stop there. If your kids want to help birds, too, here are a few super-easy, way quick ideas to support our feathered friends. Read more

Egg thief

This was the first year Peeper truly did an Easter egg hunt—and she made up for lost time.

Our friend had hidden dozens of plastic eggs in her back yard. We let the kids loose, and Peeper delighted in each egg she found.

At first, she put them all in Eric’s pockets, since we forgot to bring her a basket. (Noobs.) Then a one-year-old friend lent her his, and all bets were off.

Peeper ventured into the baby area, where eggs were simply strewn across the lawn. “I found SO MANY EGGS!” she yelled, showing her full basket to anyone who would listen.

Toddler Easter egg hunt Ten Thousand Hour MamaToddler Easter egg hunt Ten Thousand Hour MamaThen it began to rain. We all went inside to say our goodbyes and eat a last deviled egg (or eight). But Peeper did not bother with such trifles.

Instead, she found another kid’s basket and without any hesitation emptied the entire thing into her basket.

You gotta admit, she’s resourceful.

To all who celebrate, happy Easter!

Happy Easter Ten Thousand Hour MamaSisters Easter bunny ears Ten Thousand Hour Mama

A bug’s life up close

Peek in a creek - Ten Thousand Hour MamaSpring has come early to Portland. All week the sun has been out, sparking thoughts of running through the sprinklers, popsicle-sticky fingers and sipping wine in the afternoon sun.

Yesterday I threw open the windows and door to the deck. Peeper, of course, darted outside to play in the sun. I took advantage of her independence and Kiwi’s nap to do some dishes.

“What kind of bug is this, Mama?” I heard Peeper ask from outside.

I stepped onto the deck. There was Peeper, lying belly-down on the porch, her nose mere inches from a beetle.

“I don’t know, sweetie. What does it look like?”

“Hm. It’s kind of black and kind of white. It’s very interesting,” she said.

Together, we watched the beetle march up the side of the house. Then it must have tripped over an invisible thread of a spider web. Suddenly, a tiny spider—maybe a tenth of the beetle’s size—darted out. The spider crawled over the beetle, leaving iridescent strands over its hoped-for prey.

Peeper and I watched the drama. Would the beetle escape, or would the spider catch a giant lunch?

The beetle ended up breaking the spider’s hold. After another minute, Peeper pushed herself up off the deck and went back to playing basketball in the planters.

I returned to the dishes. But I smiled as I scrubbed oatmeal from a pot. For a few minutes, Peeper had invited me into her world. I watched the age-old struggle of eat or be eaten with the wonder of a child.

As Peeper notices the smallest of details, she inspires me to see our world anew. She pushes me to ask questions and, when I don’t know the answers, to find out—or at least imagine what could be. She makes me want to get down and examine life nose-to-nose.

Get dirty and scuff your knees

We’ve been getting phenomenal weather here in Portland this week. I’ve been heading outside as often as possible to take advantage of the sun and soak up some much-needed vitamin D.

Yesterday a friend and I had planned to meet at the Oregon Zoo—that is, until I arrived and witnessed the mayhem that $4 admission day involves. After hunting for a parking space for altogether too long, we scrapped our plans and met at the park instead.

Peeper was probably just as happy playing on the lawn than she would have been looking at the elephants and cheetahs (although she’s really into animal books lately, especially the wonderfully interactive Dog and My Giant Fold-out Book of Animals). She and her buddy zoomed around the small patch of grass we claimed.

IMG_3632_2IMG_3622Peeper picked up leaves and grabbed dandelion petals. She toppled downhill—she’s clearly not used to crawling down an incline—but just looked around, surprised, when she righted herself. She paid no heed to sticks and muddy patches as she crawled here and there.

By the time we left, her hands and bare feet were all dirty, and the knees of her leggings were smudged with grass stains.

During my baby shower, friends and family took turns saying things they wished for my soon-to-be-born child. My mother-in-law wished that Peeper would be unafraid of getting dirty and take time to get acquainted with bugs. I carried the idea behind that blessing with me since, partly because I, too, love the idea of raising a child who won’t let a little dirt get in the way of her curiosity.

Extra scrubbing at bath time and stain remover are a small price to pay for the freedom of exploration. Grassy pants and dirty hands are proof of a day well spent.