That's the thing about bananas...

A few weeks ago I asked Facebook followers to tell me what they wanted to see me write about and two topics prevailed:
Parenting Adventures & Why I Can't Eat Bananas in Public
No joke. "Parenting and kiddos, yeah, that's great, but we really want to get to know the real you." The latter suggestion got the most "votes"--which means my readers are as nuts--or should I say bananas? harharhar--as I am. I recently posted the most awesome summer DIY hack possibly ever to check off the parenting adventures request. Now let me tell you the thing about bananas and why I can't eat them in public.

The short answer: Politics. 

The slightly more informative and interesting answer, in list format of course:  
This is pretty much my husband and I as bananas.
  • I devoted an entire quarter of my undergraduate studies to learning about bananas through a critical feminist lense. I learned where they come from, how they get to my grocer, who picks them, who pays the pickers, and more importantly, what the industry looks like for those pickers. The adage "ignorance is bliss" never held truer than the changes I've felt morally and socially obligated to in my relationship with the sweet yellow fruit. I am as embarrassed to eat a Dole banana in public as I am to eat a Big Mac.* 
  • I am a woman. I have been subjected to lewd comments and leering eyes while eating in public on many more occasions than I care to recount. I am not sure where one musters the mindless moxie it takes to actually vocalize something disgusting like, "Mmm, that's it, real deep now..." to a complete stranger as she tries to scarf down lunch while waiting for the approaching bus, but if there's a risk it might happen I'm not a betting woman. I'll almost always leave the fruit at home.   
  • I always forget to take the peels out of my car. They end up as shriveled, utterly unrecognizable forms of their former glorious selves, and emit a spectrum of odor that goes from grossly sweet to compost in a day or two's time. It's disgusting, and sometimes comes with fruit flies.  
So there you have it: my banana-oriented idiosyncrasies. I know I'm not the only one with strange hangups with certain foods. I know some people who can't drink store-purchased chocolate milk because of rumours of pus-filled yuck milk comprising a great deal of the dark, rich goodness. I know a man who won't eat cheese if it crumbles when he cuts it. My little sister won't eat "green things" on her food (i.e. parsley) and strains them out of her ramen flavoring packets. Obviously people have their things. What are yours?

*If you want to know more about the numerous issues surrounding the banana industry, I recommend the following resources: Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politicsthis article from The Economistthis banana blog; or this great piece from the Science Creative Quarterly.

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.

Crying over spilt milk.

In my circle of friends and among my family members I am recognized as an "attachment parent" or an "unconditional parent," otherwise understood as one who takes careful measure to secure the bond between myself and my children through practices like breastfeeding until my children are ready to self-wean, wearing my babies close to my body in carriers, co-sleeping, and practicing gentle parenting practices. When I reflect on these practices I feel a sense of pride, because these are the acts that bring on oxytocin rushes and that create conditions where my children feel safe to grow and explore with a feeling of confidence and an air of support from me as their guide.
First Mother's Day in WA, '04.
I  became a mother half my lifetime ago, giving birth to Koa when I was just barely 17. I started my parenting journey like many first-time parents do: somewhat ill-prepared, parenting in the framework of my own childhood, and fumbling through the early days inept simply hoping to see my child reach his first birthday relatively unscathed. My parents ran with a punitive parenting framework, which in many ways made it difficult for us to connect. Reflectively, and after a lot of therapy, it's pretty easy to see why. When children are simply acting, as a friend of mine so elegantly puts it, like "developmentally appropriate assholes" it is our job to support them, hold them accountable, and to guide them through those phases toward stronger, more confident, authentic versions of themselves. This is hard to achieve under a punitive model that forces apologies instead of seeking understanding of motive, that grounds and revokes privilege, and that is founded on a deep-seeded distrust risen from unresolved mistakes in the past. I hardly place blame on my parents, who were young when they acquired me following my biological mother's death and suddenly found themselves the stewards of a fragile and conditioned 6-year-old, but I do wish it could have been different a little earlier in my life. So, like any other parent, I am simply trying to right the wrongs I felt growing up by approaching child-rearing in a way that feels right for my own children.
In my house, years ago, a pound of milk on the floor like this would have sent me over the edge. My boys would have likely spent some time in their rooms, crying and trying to understand why they were locked away from me when they simply acted on the age-appropriate impulse to dump it out after I left it in reach. Years ago, I would have denied my own culpability in the situation and instead take out my ill-placed rage on the most vulnerable and reliant people in my life--my boys. This is embarrassing and heart-wrenching to admit publicly, and is among my biggest personal regrets in life. I have a salient memory of expressing my frustration to a 6yo Koa, saying, "When you act like this you make it hard for me to love you." Simply typing these words out has me welling with tears for his little heart; the impact of something like that is so painful and deep... Not to mention a bunch of bullshit. I don't know if he remembers it, but I have never forgotten and have never ceased to regret saying such hateful, frustrated words of anger to my precious child. I admit this here because I think it illuminates the distance I have come, thankfully, for my children, and hope that it shows others that it is always possible to work toward different, more positive relationships in life.
Sushi Date with Koa (16)

My parenting philosophy now rests on drastically different premises. Over the last several years, since Birch (3.5) came into our lives, I have spent a great deal of time and effort reflecting on the way I want to raise my boys. I have subsequently made moves to repair my psyche so that my own baggage doesn't weigh them down, taking special care to deconstruct my earlier experience as a young mother and to reframe this period in my motherhood as something more positive and healthy. Koa and Cedar have been incredibly resilient, and have worked with me to repair the damage in our bonds from my reactive parenting in their formative years. It is the greatest gift they could ever give me, that forgiveness and openness to a new type of relationship.

So much has changed since they were little. When Aspen toddled over and gleefully poured his brother's cup of milk everyfuckingwhere yesterday while I was engaged with Birch in the back room, I was able to simply scoop him up, smile as he rubbed his milk-covered hands and feet all over my body, and simply say, "Oh man, that looks like fun. Let's get you in the bath so you can splash in clean water instead of milk!"

No tears. No struggle. No regret, no guilt, no shame in myself. And for Aspen nothing but a mother supportive of his creative (albeit sometimes overwhelming) exploration efforts, unfaltering in her display of love for him. No son, we will not be crying over spilt milk in this house... and we will all be better for it.

I am a phoenix.

Trigger Warning: This post speaks further on domestic violence and it's effects. Readers sensitive to the subject should be cautioned.

Yesterday marked an important anniversary date for me. On May 3, 28 years ago at 6:15 in the morning, as the sun was rising over the Texas sky and the heat was setting in for the day and the world was abuzz with news of a terrorist bombing on an Air Lanka flight and the wedding of Annette Funicello, in a small hospital room in San Antonio a young woman took her last breath. Her heart stopped pumping, her lungs finally collapsed on themselves, her body convulsed only slightly, and then it just... let go.
Like a condemned building tumbling into mere dust or a person walking away forever.
This woman was my mother, and my latest grassroots work is her legacy. That is what she left for me: a few tattered memories, more questions than answers, and a whole lot of work to heal from the losses and traumas throughout the years following her death. This year's efforts have been especially useful in that way, igniting the spirit of generosity among my neighbors, providing needed items to an organization that is working to help people like my mother and me, and allowing me to share my experiences in a way that gives a nearly justifiable purpose to the suffering my mother went through in her final three weeks on this Earth.

Some strange and unlikely occurrences have unfolded over the last three weeks of this drive. For example, my mom was apparently called the Yellow Rose of Texas by friends and when she died funeral attendees showered the scene with yellow roses. The day after I announced From the Heart to the Hands, a photo of a tattoo a friend of mine had just finished on a client showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was a yellow rose draped in a purple ribbon, the color used to signify domestic violence. Another is the random text a girlfriend received the other night from a stranger. She shared the details of it with me, and it was a horrifying statement of abuse and control wherein the sender recounted the many ways he had hurt other women, including shooting one out of jealousy. There was also an incident recently where a local man intentionally hit his girlfriend with his car, and another just yesterday where a man bound and stabbed a woman and then shot himself in the head following the police chase that ensued. Lastly, and perhaps this is the most poignant of all of them, we received a box of strawberries on our doorstep yesterday as part of our Fruit of the Month club membership (remember? The grapefruit bomb-diggity DIY cleaner?). This is not remarkable on its own; however, my mother was attacked for the last time by her lover on the eve of their date to the Poteet Strawberry Festival. As I unwrapped the insulated packaging and held one of the chilly, perfect berries in my hand I moved momentarily to the memory of the coldness of my mother's hands on the day of her burial. Suddenly my mind was overflowing with memories from that day, countless and small, like the seeds on a strawberry. It's been a long time since I said goodbye to her; like, a really, really long time. I've never held such cold hands since. The warmth of childhood bliss froze for me that day.

There have been days where my whole universe was on fire because of my mom's death. Days where everything familiar and comforting fell down around me, engulfed in flames and melting away to ashes, burning me with the embers and making it hard for me to breathe because of the nerves and desperate palpation of my heavy heart. I have felt the intensity of the heat, the lack of control in situations along the way, the damage caused in the immediate of those moments and in the aftermath, and at times I could see nothing but a scorched and partial framework left where there once resided the fullness and hope only found in small and wondrous children. Domestic violence will do that to those who live it. But today, I am a phoenix.

This donation drive helped to lift me out of those ashes, a break from life as a fiery creature engaged in a cycle of burning and being born anew from the remnants of the painful struggle. Today this bird flies on wings made of crayons, journals and tampons, on grocery gift cards and play-doh and cookie cutters and baby carriers. These simple items and so many others which have been given to me for this drive have made a tremendous impact on me, and on my community. I am uplifted by these gifts of hope and healing for the people who need them, and am elevated by the privilege of acting as a community hub for their dispersal. This time around my rebirth is one of reflective and meaningful purpose, and that feels pretty enlivening.

Thank you, Tiny Town, for doing what you do best: sharing the love. You are one bunch of generous citizens and I cannot wait to share all of your donations with DVSAS. Thank you, thank you, thank you. On Wednesday they will receive the following and so much more:

  • hundreds of dollars in gift/phone cards and cash
  • approximately 500 diapers
  • a fresh paint job for the DVSAS offices
  • 6 baby carriers
  • 2 jumperoos
  • quality fresh coffee for a year for the office
  • a highchair
  • lamps
  • a mirror
  • trunk full of costume items
  • craft, home & office supplies 
  • and, lastly, my favorite: gift certificates for families to get new portraits devoid of old memories

I asked. You came out in droves, arms full, again. You shared your stories of trauma and survival with me. Your participation in these grassroots efforts is helping me create a movement of individuals inspired to perform random acts of inspiration, giving, and kindness, and the impact is tangible in my community and beyond. I've said it before, but don't you ever stop. Ever!

The staff at DVSAS wrote my name on the sign, but only because all of yours wouldn't fit!
{Rest in peace Mom. I'm not sure what comes after this life, but I hope your spirit can feel my love for you in whatever form your energy has taken.}

Inside-out Swimming Pool!

It's been hot here in Tiny Town this week. Now I'm not one to complain, since we will barely blink and the drab gray rain that cloaks the majority of our days will return, but I can hardly stand it. When the curls on Aspen's head are kinky and wet with sweat, the food sits untouched on the table and the notion of being anywhere indoors seems laughable, it's time to get outside and do some waterplay... but what?

Today's project? An inside-out swimming pool!

6mm painter's plastic drop cloth (I bought a 10'x25' roll, but you can choose your own size)
parchment paper
non-steaming iron (or one with a no-steam setting)
duct or gorilla tape
foam shapes to add in (obviously optional)

Similar projects have been done before by a large crowd of people ala Pinterest, but I hadn't seen it before today. I gave it a try and ended up wowing my boys and cooling us all down--win! My experience was not flawless, but for the $20 I spent and the amount of time it busied up the boys it's still worth sharing for the hot days ahead.

Punk rock domestics FTW!
I started by unrolling the plastic and cutting a large piece off. After matching the edges of the plastic sheet I set my iron to its highest setting, set up a towel folded multiple times to serve as an ironing board on the floor, and tore to large sheets of parchment paper.

Folding the parchment paper evenly around the edges of the plastic as I went, I ironed along the edges. Since the paper sheets were only 2' long, I was able to work in manageable sections and alternate to let each sheet of paper cool in between. I made quick work of the edges, about 20 minutes of work in all.

Before sealing the third and final edge (since one of them is made by the fold in the plastic) I put a set of foam alphabet letters inside the bag. Then, after sealing the third edge, I took the bag outside to fill it.

I cut a slit in the top to accommodate the hose, and then let it fill until it resembled the waviness of a water bed (remember those?). After it was full I just stuck some gorilla tape over the hole in the plastic and let the kids go to town. This larger than life reverse swimming pool was a total hit, and I expect it to be the first thing they ask for in the morning! As much as the little guys liked it, Cedar also gives its supreme cooling powers a 10/10 rating.

Cedar cooling down after school.
For added fun you can drizzle a little dish soap and water on the surface, put some food coloring in the water to create an ocean or a purple cloud or whatever you can dream up, or add other soft buoyant objects or foam shapes to the inside. The alphabet worked as a great mini-lesson; Birch looked for certain colors and letters, and even spelled out a few words. If you end up making your own inside-out swimming pools I'd love to see what you come up with!

What's the weather like where you are? 
How do you beat the heat? 
Tell me all your hot-weather secrets!

From the Heart to the Hands: The Final Push

Trigger Warning: This post is part of a series related to domestic violence. The truth is that domestic violence is ugly, uncomfortable, and often brutal. This will read much along the same lines. If you are sensitive to the topic you might just skip to the bottom of this post.

If you have been following along throughout the From the Heart to the Hands donation drive (in honor of my biological mother who was killed by her partner when I was a girl), you know that Domestic Violence and Assault Services of Whatcom County serves thousands of people in my Tiny Town every year. Consider that the number of phone calls and direct services they handled amounts to roughly 10% of my hometown's population... and that's just those who find their assistance. My mother saw no relief from the unrestrained effects of her lover's tendency toward violence. If you've been following along, you know that healing from the tragedy losing my mother in this way is just one part of my motivation for this donation drive.
The other is my firm belief that all families deserve to feel safe and to be healthy. People working with DVSAS are heading to brighter futures framed by these premises, and I want desperately to provide this organization--which does so much for my community--respite from the constant need that nonprofit organizations typically face. Providing them several totes of items directly from their published list of wants and needs will help to seal financial gaps in provision, while also painting silver linings on the experiences of the clients they will distribute them to during some very challenging times.
When my mom died and my dad and stepmom (neither of whom I knew) got custody of me, I was given a coloring book to occupy me as they drove me "home" across state lines. I am 34 years old and still remember coloring pictures of Cinderella; tracing the sections with careful attention, gently etching back and forth with the crayons, focusing on something other than my dead mother and all of the uncertainty ahead.
I want every child who needs one to have a box of crayons and a coloring book to sink into when the grownups in their lives create heavy things for them to process. I want for every woman who will feel the sting of her face breaking under the pressure of her lovers' knuckles to have a journal to record both no-contact order violations, and the journaled words that will eventually come to heal her. I want for the staff at DVSAS to have the printers, thumb drives, and other tools they need to perform their invaluable work. And I want, perhaps more than anything, for the results of this drive to illustrate that my mother's life was not lost in vain. Here, her death helps others.
By the start of week two of her three-week hospital stay my mother had the entire left side of her body casted from the shattering force of her collision with the car her boyfriend crushed her with. Her lungs were collapsing; she developed pneumonia. Her liver was fighting to function; her kidneys were failing. She had a tracheotomy tube, several blood transfusions under her belt, and the blessing/curse of periodic consciousness through it all. Because her brother was born deaf, my mother and our family were fluent in ASL. We each had the opportunity to visit and speak with her this way before she died. We learned the events of that night and about the pain she was in, and then we said goodbye. The severity of her injuries took her at the age of 25. She left behind two daughters who came to understand life filtered through violence and colored by the repetition of our own experiences with it.
It makes sense that I would go on to do this work for other women.
This is the last image ever recorded of my mother. In it, you can see the tangible effects of violence in her life and therefore in mine. It is devoid of the color, the life, the emotion, and the personality that Lynn carried with her in her short life. It fails to convey the passions she enjoyed, the devotion she had toward her daughters, and the love she carried for her friends and family; nor does it illustrate her beauty, her will, or her strength. But I can assure you, she encompassed all of these things.
So now I am asking readers, community members, friends, and strangers to help me through one final push in my mission to collect the needed items for DVSAS. Please follow the facebook event here, LIKE the blog's corresponding facebook page here for updates, and support the work of similar organizations wherever you may find yourself if you are so inclined. I will be at the collection spot during these remaining time slots: 
Wednesday, 4/23, 5-7pm
Friday, 4/25. 5-6:30pm
Saturday, 5/3, 11-1pm
Consider taking a look at the list of needs in this post to get an idea of what would be useful. Thank you to all of you who have come out already, to those businesses who have offered incredible gifts, and to all of you who have shared with me your stories of tragedy, healing, and hope. Your gifts are varied and vast, and your resilience commendable. 

In peace.   

Something Better to do with Peeps than Eat Them.

It's that time of year again. In addition to fake plastic grasses that will kill your cats, the brightly-colored overpriced plastic crap from China packaged in cellophane, the Easter Bunny that shits out little jelly bean eggs (gross), and the disgustingly sweet descendance of the Cadbury Creme Egg, it's time for grandparents the country over to send their little lineages packages stuffed with the sickest of sugary treats... Peeps.
When I was a kid I would devour them. I loved the way the sugar left furry little sweaters on my teeth, the way the grains of dyed sugar crunched between my tiny teeth, and of course, surreptitiously biting of the tiny chocolate dotted eyes. Now, however, as an adult with dental insurance and a fondness for oral hygiene, I can't stand the thought. When I see them lining the endcaps at the stores I shiver. For just  $1.29 you, too, could have kids foaming at the mouth, getting the sugar shakes, and leaving a sticky trail of destruction in their wake. A confectioner's manifesto incarnate, those little bastards are a mother's worst nightmare.

UNLESS... You make Peep-Doh with them. This fully edible (though my boys seemed way more interested in playing with it than eating it) activity is an exercise in science, art and cooking, took literally five minutes to make, and even leaves skin feeling silky soft (weird, right?) afterward thanks to the secret ingredient. Aspen and Birch played together with the Peep-Doh for an hour this morning, and I hope your kids enjoy it too!
Coconut Oil
Powdered Confectioner's Sugar
Glass bowl
Sprinkles, chocolate chips, food coloring, or other edible add-ins are optional
First I let the kids pack the Peeps in the bowl. Next, we added about a tablespoon of coconut oil and popped the bowl into the microwave for 30 seconds. Next, let cool until the melty birds are lukewarm to the touch. Once cool, begin to add powdered sugar. This is a great sensory based activity where kids can do it all. Birch smooshed and squished and squeezed the concoction until it was the perfect doughy consistency, and Aspen and I worked together to make his. If it's too sticky, just keep adding sugar. If it's too dry, add more melted coconut oil. Add some cookie cutters, a rolling pin, or other kitchen gadgets to the mix and you've got a whole new way to enjoy Peeps that's actually, you know, enjoyable (because those things are actually disgusting).
Peeps post-meltdown.

Well that's ironic.
Once it's all done, simply spray down the surface with some DIY grapefruit cleaning spray and you're good to go. Enjoy!

When Life Hands You Grapefruit...

When we received word we'd be getting a delivery from a Fruit of the Month club as a holiday gift from a friend, though it was slightly reminiscent of the Jelly of the Month club bonus Clark Griswold received and we couldn't tell whether we were being punked at first, we were excited about having a box of fun food delivered to our doorstep. So far we've recieved pears (which I made crockpot GAP {ginger apple pear} Butter with), pineapples (which we grilled in a delicious teriyaki glaze and enjoyed with chicken), oranges (plain devoured), and six plump, deliciously sweet grapefruits. I have made it my goal to waste as little foodstuff as possible so the grapefruit found itself first devoured in fleshy, juicy bite-size chunks, and then I turned the byproduct into FOUR awesome life-extending creations.

The first one was a simple stovetop simmer of grapefruit peels, cinnamon, and water. I left it on the range for hours, turned to the lowest degree simmer possible, and let it fill my house with the smell of clean comfort.

The second is a byproduct of the byproduct simmer... Is that like a double negative? Anyway, blending the aromatic pulp down to a puree makes it a perfect addition to any number of inexpensive body scrub recipes I utilize. The smell creates a great pick-me-up in an energizing morning shower, while the cinnamon helps to reduce acne-causing bacteria and exfoliate dead skin cells.
 The final two creations come in tandem, and are an incredible blend of house cleaning awesomeness fit for the dirtiest jobs. Using simple nontoxic ingredients and a little bit of leftover citrus, you too can create this easy cleaner that your children can literally drink if they wanted to--which they won't, unless they happen to be weirdos with a constant hankering for pickles doused in citrus air freshener, and who has that?
Rinds of six citrus fruits
Cinnamon oil (if desired)
1 gallon distilled vinegar
Airtight glass storage containers (I use mason jars)
Spray bottle(s)
Cheesecloth (though I found a mesh produce bag worked well)
Total cost: < $3
Simply stuff the rinds into the jars leaving headroom to fill with vinegar. Secure lids and put it somewhere safe to sit for two weeks. Every few days shake each jar vigorously to release the citrus oils. Once the two weeks are up simply strain the vinegar through the cheesecloth or mesh bag, taking care to wring the pulp. Reserve the pulp for the next project. Add cinnamon oil if you like the combination (I think it's wonderful), and bottle the citrus vinegar using a 50/50 ratio with water. You are now ready to clean up your act, your kids' act, your dog's act, or any other "act" you might find stuck to your counters, floors, appliances, toilet or walls. My favorite use so far? Whatever that shit is that's plastered to my dining room table. Whatever it was, it's gone now. You will have plenty, so save it for refills or put a cute bow or homemade label on it and drop it on the porch of a sweet friend to brighten their day! To use, simply give the bottle a little shake to enliven the oils, spray, give it a second to work it's magic, and voila! Wipe off the grime with ease.

As for the vinegar pulp, pulse blend it until it is nothing but small lumpy chunks. Store it in an airtight container, and simply mix a small amount with a dash of baking soda for a good extra-strength cleaning scrub for the extra-tough jobs!