Celebrating Mother’s Day with the Rookwoods

Celebrating Mother’s Day with the Rookwoods

For Mother’s Day we spoke with Dan and Sam Rookwood who live in Portland, Oregon with their three children, twin girls Indigo and Rosie (who are celebrating their fourth birthday on Mother’s Day this year), and baby boy, Alfie (age eight months). Dan is Senior Global Editorial Director for Nike and a member of the MR PORTER Style Council. Both originally from the United Kingdom, Sam and Dan met in 2003. Since then, they’ve lived in London, Sydney and New York before moving to the Pacific Northwest. Read on as the family shares how they plan to celebrate this Mother’s Day while they create new traditions and memories at home. 

What are you and your family doing to stay busy during this time aside from work? Have you done anything new and creative?

Sam: We’re lucky to live in Portland which is full of beautiful spots where you can be in the middle of nature and not see anyone else. The girls are learning to ride a bike and it’s nice to have time to do that. We’ve been doing some family work-outs with Joe Wicks to try and stay active and start the day on a positive note. 

Dan: Our neighborhood is extremely lush and green and people really look after their gardens so we regularly go on nature walks and collect wild flowers and leaves. We’ve been learning the names of all the spring plants. (We bought a book and have downloaded an app called Picture This to help us identify various plants and trees.) 

Sam: We’re also doing a lot of baking at home. Absolute chaos but lots of fun.

How do sound and music play a role in your family or work life? Favorite songs for productivity? Favorite songs to sing with your children?

Dan: I start each day by putting on my headphones and doing 10 mins of Headspace meditation.   

I don’t have a home office (yet!) so noise-canceling headphones are essential when working from home in a house full of three kids. I’m a writer and listening to music helps me get in the zone. I tend to choose something fairly ambient like Tame Impala, Khruangbin or Kaytranada.

I wear wireless earbuds when running my daily 5K – I usually listen to the New York Times’ podcast The Daily or maybe an Audible book. I just finished Haruki Murakami’s excellent memoir ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ which is about the parallels between long distance running and the creative process.  

Sam: Music is a big part of our family life. If we sense the mood needs to be lifted or some energy needs to be burned off, we might have a “one-song disco” in the kitchen. And every night before lights out, the girls each get three songs to sing along too. 

Dan: This is my favorite part of the day. The girls have pretty good taste in 80s classics. Current favorites are Sade, Prince and David Bowie. Rosie is quite shy so prefers just to listen but Indigo is quite the extrovert. She’ll often sing herself to sleep and I record it at her door. I’ve started putting these recordings on my Instagram Stories in an occasional series called ‘Covert Karaoke’. She’s not the most tuneful singer if we’re honest, but she has a good memory for lyrics.

Describe your style. What or who are your influences?

Sam: The style in Portland is very relaxed so we tend to dress casually – especially at the moment when we’re hardly leaving the house. I do miss the style of New York and London to be honest. Dan used to be the editor of Mr Porter in New York so he has far more clothes than I do, and grooming products too. He definitely likes the finer things in life. And now that he works at Nike, his sneaker collection is out of control.  

Dan: I’ve always loved Sam’s style – it’s the thing I first noticed about her. She has a natural elegance and has a cool capsule wardrobe of quality basics in a good color palette of white, blues, greys, camel and a lot of stripes. 

Sam: Having been together for 16 years now, I’d say we have pretty similar style when it comes to interiors. We tend to go for a mix of mid-century and modern, clean lines – white walls, blond wood, grey furnishings. And we like pop art. 

What are some of your favorite Mother’s Day traditions, and how will you and your family be spending it this year at home? 

Sam: This year Mother’s Day happens to fall on May 10 which is our twin daughters’ birthday – they’re turning four. So I have a feeling the day will be all about them. 

Dan: No, it won’t!

Sam: I do normally get a bit of a “lie in” and breakfast in bed. The girls like to make handmade cards which is always lovely. I suspect this year will be dinosaur-themed since that seems to be the current obsession. 

Dan: I just asked Indigo what she thinks Sam would like for breakfast and she said “Avocado toast… and wine.”

Sam: Sounds good to me!

Dan: I have a few plans up my sleeve but if I say what they are here, it will give the game away. But Sam is very good at sending me oh-so-subtle links to things she’s got her eye on. She is a heavy hinter.

Sam, what are your favorite activities with your kids? What are some things about parenting that you’ve learned along the way? 
The girls love arts and crafts. Most mornings we sit out on the balcony off of our kitchen and paint or draw. I’ll grab a coffee and if it’s a sunny morning it’s such a nice and peaceful way to start the day (although that doesn’t last long!). 

We love nature walks around our neighbourhood, or the girls will ride on their bikes or scooters. We love reading books, listening to music, having dance parties in the kitchen, baking cookies (and eating them), making cards to send to family and friends in the UK. 

This enforced time at home hasn’t always been easy, but it has been so nice to be reminded that kids don’t need much. It’s the simple things that bring them the most joy. We made a castle out of a cardboard box and they played with it for days until it fell apart. Free fun.

They love being at home and having Dan and I around all the time. Perhaps a lot of the rushing around to various play centres, classes, and activities that we were doing before was unnecessary and I think even when this is all over we will continue to do more at home and embrace the slower, quieter pace of the last few weeks. 

Motherhood changes you in a way you could never imagine before having children. Having three young children is pretty intense. 

I’ve learnt so much about juggling the needs of three children, trying to be patient and give everyone what they need. I’ve also learnt not to be too hard on myself and know that there are good days and bad days and that’s OK. I’ve learnt to trust my instincts as they are generally right. It’s one of the most challenging jobs in the world, but also the most important and I feel so grateful to have three healthy, happy little ones and try to remember that every day. 

Dan, what makes Sam a great mother, and what are you especially grateful for? 
I honestly couldn’t wish for a better friend, partner or co-parent. We tried for kids for five years and eventually had the twins via IVF so they were much longed-for. And we feel so grateful because we know parenthood isn’t possible for everyone.

Sam is very loving, affectionate and maternal. We make a great team and, for the most part, we enjoy the craziness that comes with having three kids under four. Sam is more patient than I am. One of Sam’s little sayings is “These are the days” which is her constant reminder to live in and appreciate the moment. The days are often long but the months fly by.

Sam has a remarkable capacity to do multiple things simultaneously and single-handedly – because she’s often holding Alfie, our 8-month-old, in the other arm. It’s meant that my relationship with both girls has really deepened. 

She is even-tempered and level-headed, even when sleep-deprived and contending with a triple meltdown (quadruple if I’m losing it too).  Everything is done with minimal fuss and maximum efficiency. 

But she doesn’t present herself as some kind of super-parent. I think we both keep it pretty real. We try to give each other a break when needed. And thank Walt for Disney+. 

Coffee helps first thing, as does a glass of wine once the kids are in bed. 

What advice can you share with other families celebrating special moments and creating memories while staying home?

Sam: We do a lot of arts and crafts. The girls love to stick their favorites to the fridge and then I’ll save some in a box folder and write their names and the date on it. We send it to a company (called Artkive) who then turn this art into a book, which is way easier than trying to remember to scrapbook along the way.  

We’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves to schedule a comprehensive home school curriculum. The girls are learning through play and through natural curiosity. It’s funny hearing the things they come out with every day. And I think now that they’re not at school surrounded by their American friends and teachers, their English accents are coming back. 

Dan: Sam tells me I’m on my phone too much (which is true) but I take endless pictures and videos of the kids. We often love looking back to this day a year ago, or two years ago, and seeing what they were like, what they looked like, what they were saying. Everything changes so quickly.  

I do think we’ll look back on 2020 in years to come and remember it as a very special time of family bonding, when we weren’t rushing around taking the kids to  their various classes or to different activities. Sure, there are days when we’re all climbing the walls and going stir crazy but we have tried to make the most of this opportunity to spend time as a family unit, to play, to read, to sit at the table together at mealtimes. Before this happened, there were often days when I left for work so early and got home so late, I’d barely see the kids, or Sam. This has been a cherished time of family togetherness. Most of the time.

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