DIY Backyard Waterfall

Okay, so it's not a revolutionary idea or anything--it's been pinned a zillion times--but this is how WE made our very own backyard waterfall to help us beat the heat. It's been in use for almost a week now, and we are definitely getting our money's worth. In all this project cost us $1.29, which I actually spent last summer as this pool noodle has been in the garage all damn year.

Easy-Peasy Instructions

1 pool noodle
1 plastic cap from your recycling
3 strips of duct tape

Using a skewer, knife or other sharp object, pierce the pool noodle numerous times.
Next, plug one end of the noodle with the plastic cap. 
Then, duct tape the capped end closed. 
Finally, stuff your hose into the end of the pool noodle and you are ready to go. 

As you can see in the pictures, we enjoyed ours suspended between two trees in our backyard. It could also easily hang from a deck, balcony or single tree, or even be placed on the ground. We had some of our good friends over this morning to enjoy a little a.m. backyard waterpark action and it was a total win!

I just set up the kiddie pool underneath the waterfall and then lay out some good old fashioned soapy visqueen, and my kids (and the kids of friends) can play for hours.

How do you beat the heat? I want to hear all of your secrets!

My Boy, A Man.

In less than 24hrs I will put my firstborn son on a shuttle that will carry him to a flight, which will then carry him to Anchorage, from where he will drive to a remote town on an Alaskan peninsula. He will live, work, and soul search there for one month. This will be the longest he and I have been apart from one another in 17 years. While I am notably anxious to send him off, especially as I watch the hours pass and the send-off become more and more imminent, I am finding myself excited and hopeful for his journey. There are many reasons for this, but for brevity's sake I will focus on the top few here. I don't want to bore you by gushing about how awesome my kid is as he grows into a man, but it needs to be said.

First, the boy loves to travel. He has been taking solo flights around the country for a decade already, and has found himself in several other states on various adventures over the years. This trip will be his most independent of them yet. I expect that, in addition to learning copious things about himself, he will come back bearing plenty of lessons about work ethic, dependency, technological reliance, nature, and his place in the world.

Second, the last year has been ripe with transformation for Koa. He left school a few months ago, and since then has secured a fun and interesting volunteer position at the local Alternative Library, earned his GED, and finished Driver's Education. He has begun to explore and imagine a variety of career options and pathways for his future, and to discern and articulate what it is he wants most from life. This trip couldn't come at a better time insofar as helping him distill his dreams.

Third, he is staring down opportunities and has support I didn't myself feel as a teen. This notion is not insignificant, if only because I believe every parent's wish is to see their children have greater opportunities than they themselves had. After I left school and home at 15 I was on my own. For Koa to have our support and help in planning this adventure. for him to know that his bed will still be here, his seat at the table will be here, his family will be here, and his life will be here when he returns, he is receiving more than logistical backing... He is also getting affirmation that whatever he wants for himself in this world, his parents and loved ones will be here to support his work in achieving it.

And finally, he totally deserves it. Koa is a great gift to our family. He is compassionate, funny, smart, playful, thoughtful, loyal and talented. My son, the boy, has always been all of these things. My son, the man, deserves to find himself amidst all of the greatness that he has shared of himself with others. He deserves to feel the self-compassion in processing the difficulties he has surmounted this year, to internalize all of the growth, to challenge himself and see what he is really capable of independent of our immediate assistance, and to feel the freedom that an adventure like this is sure to provide. The constraints of the stress of teenage life are as real as they are in any other phase of life, and everyone deserves a break once in a while.
Dear Koa, I will miss you more than I want you to know. And yet, I am so excited to put you on that bus tomorrow morning. My son, young man, you have made me so proud to know you and grateful for the chance to be your mother. Travel safely, work attentively, and return wholly. We can't wait to hear all of your adventures along the way and upon your return, and to see the sick mustache you grow while you are away. We will be here waiting!

(love Mom)

Gone Campin'

I remember camping during the summers with my parents in the high deserts of the Southwest as a child. I remember hiking the Grand Canyon, sleeping in the back of my dad's pickup truck, stargazing at the expansive displays overhead, and waking to do things like explore ruins of ancient civilizations or picnic at nearby rivers. I remember the awe those contexts provided me.

As a teen I experienced camping in a variety of scenarios, from living in tents in the woods and sleeping in cars to spending time with the Rainbow Family at a gathering outside of Fort Collins, CO.

And finally, as a young adult, I met the man I would marry and he just happens to be one helluva camper. I've been told he was even an Eagle Scout, and though I tease him about it, I totally love that about him (not to mention I was a Girl Scout).
I fell in love with him camping in the month of March on the Oregon Coast. I married him next to a shining lake while our friends took over the campground nearby; our son Birch was born from fire embers next to that same lake years later. We have taken our tent to the Redwoods, packed full of boys and babies and beautiful memories. I have slept next to rivers, oceans, lakes, waterfalls, inside rainforests, at music festivals, on logging roads, and in backyards in that tent. I have come to love that tent because it is a physical manifestation of the life I am living with a person I love dearly. We are raising our children to understand the importance of sleeping outside now and again, and to feel the ways in which the earth on their feet propels them toward deeper understandings of themselves.

So now, in my thirties, I can comfortably take four children camping on a solo trip over the Pass. I can set up and take down my own tent, hang a hammock, cook delectable dutch oven food, comfortably go days without a proper shower, hike packing a 35lb child/pack combo, chop wood and build a raging fire, build a cooler in a river, dig my own holes, pack light, hang a straight shot on ladder ball, stop my own bleeding... you know, camp stuff. Here's to my first camping trip of the season, one which I happened to tackle alone because Brian had some serious work to crank out. Four boys, three days, two nights, one Mama... We joined a circle of friends (thank heavens, because seriously, that whole "it takes a village" thing is real as daylight), set up for the long haul, and never even had to be cold or break out the super-glue.
 I think everyone, but especially women and their children, should go camping. Get out there. Get dirty. Explore. Feel the dirt, the water, the leaves of the trees. Watch for new birds, fish, squirrels. Find bugs, talk to other campers, make a meal in tinfoil. Curl up in comfy feathered sleeping bags, tell stories in the woods, stare at the stars, take a deep breath. Remember that you are made of stardust, too. And then, when it's time to come back home, shine with the rejuvenation communing with nature provides.
If you are in the Pacific NorthWest and looking for a choice spot, allow me to share a few of my favorites:

Silver Lake: This is where we were hitched. It is approximately 1hr outside of Bellingham, WA, down the infamous Highway 542. Paddleboat and canoe rentals, fishing, swimming, and abundant grass fields are some key features.

Rasar State Park: Just outside of Conrete, WA, this park boasts rivers, kid-friendly hikes, warm sandbars you can walk onto, two large and fulfilling playground areas... Need I say more?

Deception Pass: Gorgeous, lots of hiking, best sunsets around. Easily accessed, though surrounded by water.

Fort Ebey: Saltwater shoreline for miles, old battery forts to explore, and the best place imaginable to fly a kite.

Are you a camper? Where do you go to commune with nature? Bonus points if the spots are in the PNW, because proximity, obviously.