DIY Toilet Bombs-turned-Tub Cleaner

Are you looking for a cheap, easy, and more eco-friendly way to clean your pipes? I have these tiny little toilets and tiny little pipes that often drain slowly or will back up at the threat of three-ply tissue, so I was. I happened across a recipe on Pinterest awhile back that had a zillion repins so I thought I'd give it a go. It was twofold in its utility: I got to attempt a homemade concoction to replace something I'd formerly turn to nasty chemicals for, and I had an opportunity to engage Birch in a clean and entertaining sensory activity in the process. We made two dozen of a slightly altered version of these DIY toilet bombs. While the jury is still out on whether or not they work on clogged toilets (ours actually seemed to cause a bigger backup when we attempted to use them there), I found them to work wonders when cleaning up the bathroom after the Dough Boy adventures late last week. Since one little muffin-sized bomb disintegrated all evidence of flour fun time in the tub I promised to share the dirt on cleaning the dough, so here you go!

2.5c Baking soda
8tbs Dawn dish soap
2/3c Epsom salt
several drops lemon essential oil

Mix with your hands until you have the consistency of wet sand, adding more or less of each ingredient as needed. I would be more specific here, but did I mention I made these with a three-year-old? He is a great "pourer," "stirer," "mixer" and "cooker," but not always the most patient "measurer."
Pat into muffin tins. We used paper liners because we had them on hand but if we make them again I will use silicone. The colors of the print leached into the bombs which somehow made them appear less, well, clean. Then let them dry completely, overnight or longer.
Pop them out and package them in an airtight container.

After the flour play, the showers, and the bath, I threw one of these bad boys in the base of the tub and jumped in with a sponge for my own shower. Within moments I was in a sea of clean smelling bubbles, happily scrubbing without fear of my sensitive ladybits being chemically burned. The grease-cutting action of the Dawn totally ate through the doughy smears on the walls of the tub, and the salt and baking soda certainly seemed to help shiny things up a bit too. While they may not be the perfect toilet bomb, they will certainly clean the hell out of a tub and you probably have the ingredients on hand already. Bonus!  

The Dough Boys

Yesterday I happened across a photo in my feed that caught my attention. It was a picture of a toddler outfit, stained and sopping wet, hanging over the side of a bathtub.
Our scene is often similar, and sometimes even extends all the way to the banister on our front porch depending on the day's activities like a celebratory flag letting our neighbors know life has happened in our home today. 
So it wasn't the photo that caught me so much, but actually the caption. It declared a sincere frustration that the nanny had allowed the child to spoil another outfit in "filthy" play. Wait. What?

Is there any other way for children to fully engage in their world? What is learning if not the soaking in of lessons about the world around us with our minds and bodies fully engaged? And finally--and please, parents out there, correct me if I'm wrong here--aren't toddlers the only people on the PLANET that can find a way to completely obliterate the most seemingly benign of snacks or articles? Everything is messy for them. How else can I explain the transformation of the tiny snack cup of Cheerios into the new taupe color dusted across the entire house? Or the way that one piece of newspaper print to buy me exactly four minutes and seventeen seconds of quiet turns into a paper mache nightmare plastered against the front window? Once outgrown, most of us never get back to that stage of fully engaged learning again... Those activities are priceless and so, SO important, not to mention almost entirely unavoidable with young children.

Now, I don't dare call myself an expert for fear of appearing to be on a shaky soapbox or anything, but according to my education and experience as, ahem, an EDUCATOR, I have to say I think it's a damn shame we don't get dirty more often. People retain, demonstrate, and build on skills learned experientially at a higher rate than those attained through other means. Plus, dirt is good for kids. Like really, really good for them. I can understand frustration at the clothes being trashed by someone who doesn't have to pay for or launder them though, and offer this simple solution: Hit a thrift store and designate $10 worth of play duds as exactly that. Problem solved. Messy play ensues and the child is freed from oppression brought on by clothes he or she didn't select for themselves in the first place!

Nothing but bliss.
Stomping together.
In honor of the Always Clean Kid, I made sure my kids got extra messy yesterday. We began with a muddy, mucky, throwing-rocks-and-ourselves in the puddles walk up to Birch's Dirt Kingdom (several piles of landscaping materials at the edge of the devel-opment up the road). Then Birch and Aspen played with dirt and rocks and sticks and decomposing leaves and sand and pebbles and bark and garden soil for an hour. Watching them fully engage with the world is a gateway to unfiltered joy.  

I polled readers on their favorite messy activities to do with their preschoolers, and a friend suggested flour and trucks in the dry tub. This sounded like an awesome way to follow up the outdoor play, so after peeling the sticky layers off the boys we headed into the bathroom with a selection of cooking utensils and a full bag of flour.

They had a blast! After over an hour of naked flour chef play (what?) I swept out 2/3 of the flour and added some water, and the Dough Boys continued to enjoy the sticky mess for another hour.
This eventually morphed into showers to wash the bread out of their hair, cracks, and crevices, and was then capped by a relaxing bath and simple water play. Incredible.
All in all we spent about .30 and got four hours of awesome sensory goodness. The cleanup was easy to boot. I used a simple homemade cleaner on the tub to clear any crusty remnants and to ensure total clearance of the drain. I'll post the recipe later this week.

How are YOU getting messy with the children in your life today?        

We humans are tool users.

Birch and Aspen have been absolutely miserable the last two days. Between teething, the snots, and simply being the ages they are (3 and 1 respectively), there has been no rest for the weary in the House on the Hill. Brian and I were holding fast to the last vestiges of our health as the boys each succumbed to his own round of illness. We have washed our hands raw and spent the last few days flushing our systems with Emergen-C, but our numbers finally came up today. He thrashed with fever all night, my throat is afire today; we are a motley crew, haggard and short on energy and patience.

This, of course, means the kids and the cosmos are aligned against us.

10 minutes of preschool labor
When I wake up and this is my life I have to say yes to baking cupcakes when I am asked. Actually, I feel that way every day because I know there will be a day when none of my little men are around to ask me to make cupcakes with them. When that day arrives I will surely celebrate (and look for a home abroad or somewhere awesome that only fits two people), but the next day and intermittently forever after I'll likely be pretty torn up about it. I am already hoarding saving housewares and life tools for Koa's imminent departure as I find them on sale, and every time I think of him making his own crockpot food or french press of coffee I feel my chest start to tighten a little. Aspen is just one now and the same exact thing already happens when I look into his eyes and know he is the last baby my body will ever deliver... Then I remember the french press is a super-nice Boddum one I scored off Amazon for a killer deal and I get a little excited at imagining how much he'll enjoy using it to make his tea. As a man. With his own life path. Who washes his own chonies and has his own address. Yes! I can't wait to pass him my favorite crockpot pins and recipes and invite myself over for dinner and tea!

Anyway, today Birch asked to make "chocolate muffin cakes with power pellets inside them" for his two closest friends. Yes came quickly and we gathered supplies. I opted for a box mix due to simplicity and lowered patience levels all around. When I reached into the pantry I found an adorable reminder of his innovative thought processes. The holes in the boxes are covered with scotch tape. I had nearly forgotten documenting the original incident altogether until this afternoon's request, but the story is worth remembering.

It happened like this (and I'll warn you now that it's nowhere near as interesting it seems like it might be): I was doing laundry in our hallway washroom a few days back--riveting, I know--and returned to the kitchen to find Birch using a straw to siphon chocolate dust out of one of the boxes while the other lay nearby like a dying soldier, with a pencil stabbed in it's center and a light dusting of cocoa covering the entrance wound. Turns out we humans are tool users, a sentiment Brian offered me over a bottle of wine a decade ago in some conversation about the setup of our campsite. I don't remember the joke that sparked the comment, but here I am a decade later watching his son prove it in the most adorable and creative ways imaginable. After snorting a few grams of the fine chocolate dust Birch was understandably amped, so needles to say there were no "chocolate muffin cakes" made that day. He'd already had enough of the good stuff.
Watch it, Dough Boy.
Today, on the other hand, has found Brian and I too weak to argue reason with the tenacity it can require in a round with a three-year-old. Spongebob marathon? Sure kid. A sixth bath today? Eh, ok. All you want to eat is chocolate muffin cakes for dinner? You know what, kid, I've had days where all I ate for dinner was chocolate muffin cakes... Sit down, let me get you a plate.

Not my best parenting moment but clearly his mastery of tool use is a sign of developmental advancement suggestive of an otherwise stellar job on my part... right?  

What's in the box??

Did you ever see the movie Se7en? Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt involved in what is arguably one of the most graphic and mind-fucking serial killer/detective cat and mouse games to date. Good flick if you're into that sort of thing. At the end of the movie as Kevin Spacey continues to be, well, Kevin Spacey, Pitt goes off on this freak-out about a package. I don't want to give out any spoilers in case you've been living under a rock or are 17 and haven't seen this decade-old thriller, but suffice it to say that the breath-holding and anxious tooth grinding I do when I watch that flick is totally for naught every time I get to the scene at the end where Pitt asks Spacey “What’s in the box?” over and over. Seriously, it’s just such horrible acting. I actually get annoyed when I get to that part of the movie and I end up mad at myself for how bad it is.    

*Update: I just checked IMDB because it’s important to check facts before blabbing them on the internet, and Se7en came out in 1995. First, that’s practically twenty years ago. Second… TWENTY YEARS AGO?? Why are the things I love—namely music and movies in this case, and maybe some fashion here and there—from the mid-90s time capsule? When I was a kid I used to roll my eyes when my Pops would sing along with his classic rock station idols. My insatiable need to impart my expansive knowledge of the 90s scene on my teenagers is some sort of laughable penance I will apparently pay until Gwen Stefani is old enough to have a solid gig singing on the Strip in Vegas.
Rabbit Cape

Anyway, I found myself in my own messed up version of that scene a few days ago. As you may come to discover (and either love me, hate me, or find yourself totally disgusted by me for), I am dabbling in taxidermy these days. I took Aspen and Birch with me to select a pig from the farm to stock our freezer with recently. What started as a simple drive with the Indie Children’s Pandora station on in the background ended up a heated discussion on the subject of environmental ethics with my three-year-old.

So cuuuuuuute!
“Don’t tell your friends you eat meat,” Birch warned me from the back seat as we drove out to the country. “Why shouldn't I tell my friends I eat meat?” I wanted to know. "Why do you even eat the animals?" he asked, "Don't you know they just have to stay in their habitats? That is very important to the ecos [ecosystem]. And they are just so cuuuuuuute." Some people complain that their children will only eat McNuggets or hot dogs; Birch hasn’t knowingly put meat in his mouth for twenty-nine months now.

The farmer was only slightly taken aback when I asked if it would be possible for me to collect the head to try my hand at jarring a wet specimen, but assured me I’d receive a call once the butcher had done the first part of his job. Fast-forward to this afternoon to find me driving out to collect the head of a pig, and then working in my garage at dusk with the rolling door wide open to move the heavy bag into a Styrofoam cooler full of ice until I’m ready to work on it. If my neighbors didn’t already find me strange enough, they probably now find themselves lying in bed or peeking through their blinds trying to get a glimpse of my garage floor, thinking of the dripping, heavy trash bag they saw me carry from the van to the cooler and wondering, “What’s in the box?” 

Adios, Crazy Cat Lady!

So there I was just searching the internet for crazy cat lady pictures when something went very, very wrong. Kind of. It was also hilarious. As part of the Great Purge of 2014 I found myself highly motivated to get rid of all the cat-related items still lingering in our garage and then, when I wasn’t looking for a reminder of any sort, I was hit in the face with a banner reading “Mother of the Year.”

I’ve always had cats, my whole life, as long as I can remember. The first cat I had as a child was a ragtag black cat with hints of rusty red in her fur, a crooked half-tail, and all the patience in the world who we found at a gas station somewhere between San Antonio and Santa Fe. I called her Cinderella Lauper—Cindy—after my then-favorite Disney movie and the only natural progression for the mind of a child in the 80s, the seeker of all things fun, Cindy Lauper. She was an affectionate cat all the way until the feline leukemia took her. Fast-forward twenty years to find me offering every remaining cat-themed supply in my possession up on an internet group designed for free exchange of goods and services, preparing to load some random accompanying image from Google to add a laugh, and discovering a video of obvious pornography on my husband’s laptop when I go to retrieve my image.

A quick glance at the properties showed me that the video was actually a very brief file of a nude woman doing leg lifts… like the exercise—am I the only one who thinks it’s odd that this would be arousing? like, to anyone, ever?—from  a site called After an intense bout of laughter at the thought of such... dare I say deviance, and a few clicks to delete the evidence, my husband and I pondered which one of the boys had made the accidental click that no doubt ended in a frantic closing of all browser windows and an immediate deletion of search history. I think we’ll leave that one right in the recycling bin my son(s?) imagines it was put in years ago, a hilarious and endearing reminder how bizarre adolescent inquiry is for everyone.

Suffice it to say (and without further embarrassing the children) I had cats when I was a kid and pretty much every day thereafter and now I don’t. All of the pet things I hoped to give away were weighted reminders of the companionship of animals I can’t currently house. Though having a box of shit in my house to tend to would most certainly put me over my edge, I still miss each of the cats I’ve had in the past. With one kid pretty much anaphylactic due to the dander, however, remaining pet-free is no question for me. Giving these things away empowers me to let go of the distant and impatient longing that comes with refusing to fully let go of my life as a crazy cat lady. This is clearly a step in the direction I need to be heading right meow.    

Why the Warmth Wagon had to happen.

Sometimes memories live in our minds. Other times they live in our bones.

More from Jen
They rise to greet us unexpectedly, at times unwanted and others welcome, triggered by some acute perception of our senses. A breeze carrying a long-forgotten scent; a stranger with familiar eyes; a sudden loud boom. That is exactly what happened on Monday morning as I opened the back door of my comfortable abode in Tiny Town. My deck overlooks a sunken yard with a grassy trail boundary, lined by bamboo and the most remarkable cherry tree I have ever seen. I was enjoying a steamy hot cup of dark coffee when the chill grabbed me. I stepped out back to recycle some refuse and unexpectedly shook a series of memories loose from my bones. The air smelled of frost and fire, my eyes ached from the coldness, and my hands quickly grasped my mug again, thankful for the heat and caffeine.

I immediately took to social media and asked people to meet me in the parking lot of a vacant grocery store and bring cold weather items to disperse to the most needy of Tiny Town. Within 24 hours the event had been joined by over 1,400 locals. I collected hundreds of coats and dozens of sleeping bags and blankets. Then, simply, I took to the streets and charitable organizations to help people feel warmth. Everyone deserves to feel warmth and it was easy to manifest for both recipients and donors.

15: hungry and homeless.
I was a homeless for a year before I got pregnant with my son Koa. At the age of 15 nearing the end of my freshman year I learned what it was like to feel hungry but have no access to food; to long for a safe bed; to wish for a shower, a toothbrush, clean clothes; to dig in dumpsters for resources; to beg restaurant staff for the day's leftovers; to hold signs for change. I slept on the couches of friends and acquaintances, on benches, in tents in the woods, on bathroom floors of interstate rest stops, fireside in the reading room of a small private school I had insider knowledge of, in countless vehicles, and even a brief stint as a resident at one of my teacher's home (until I stole and wrecked his daughter's car). That time period afforded me perspective that most thankfully do not have to gain, and created in me a willing advocate when it comes to other people living lives in transition. All people deserve to be warm and to feel safe no matter their life choices or circumstances, where they come from or where they are heading. I had nights where I felt neither warmth nor safety, where I curled up with nothing but a fear and hopelessness I would wish on no one--not even those who could be humbled by such lessons. It is uncomfortable for me to revisit a lot of the memories created during that time, but because of them it was not uncomfortable to approach the homeless population and offer them compassion in the form of a hug and a coat to keep them warm.

While I could share several stories about the individuals I met in the process, suffice it to say that they were all human beings and all worthy of so much more than I could give them. As for me, I was given too much praise for what was actually not that much work. I was called saint, amazing, most inspiring. The truth is I'm kind of an asshole. Why, after all that good work and all those people's lives touched, would I say that about myself? Simple. It took me little to no time, little to no strenuous effort, and little to no money to pull off something that helped hundreds of people. The real saints are the people who shared the event and showed up on short notice with so many wonderful donations. The real amazing ones are those whose generosity roused deep appreciation from the amazing people who received these items. The most inspiring are those who are out there trying every day to make their lives and this world a better place to be. I met a woman homeless for five months now, on dialysis, who literally melted into my arms as she wept while sharing her story and the story of her partner who had a stroke on the way to one of her appointments. I could see her big toe through her tennis shoe. "I need a room," she said. "I don't have one of those unfortunately, but do you need any warm layers? A sleeping bag?" "Have you got any socks? He could really use some socks."
That's some perspective I have carried all week since. When I feel like bitching about my floor needing to be vacuumed, the dishes piling up, the food left out on the stove, the fucking laundry pile that never. ever. ends... I find myself seeing that woman's face, remembering the warmth of her tears as I wiped them away. I'm overwhelmed because I have too much to take care of, and she just needs socks for the love of her life. 
Tiny Town, you really came through. You brought the highest quality duds and helped to outfit our homeless neighbors in brand names I cannot myself regularly afford: Columbia, Helly Hansen, GAP, London Fog, Burton, kuhl, REI, Patagonia... Some, brand new. Here's to the best dressed homeless population in the nation, and to the warmth those layers provide them. To those of you who wish you could have participated or would have heard about it sooner, it's ok. Just throw an extra pair of gloves in your car and give them to someone who looks like they need them. They went faster than anything else.

History, you are different now. The lingering feeling of hopelessness from that era is nearly evaporated now, as countless examples of efficacy and good continue to add up in my jar. I am confident I'll never return to that place, though for years I feared going back there. Security and perspective are both great gifts.

Boys and Brian, thank you for indulging another one of my big ideas on the fly--you really made it possible to pull it off because of your flexibility and willingness to jump on board. I hope you boys feel some of that humanity sink in because I would like you to be the type of people who engage in random acts of community service throughout your lives. Also, thanks for not flipping me too much shit when our garage looks like this. (Although I did hear Brian murmur,"This is how it all starts, this is it..." as he stared at the piles and began to help me sort.) I promise not to land us on one of those reality tv shows about hoarding, despite what the garage looks like from time to time.

The Warmth Wagon in Numbers

Crappy paper banner #2
First, my apologies for not having these numbers on the blog faster--but seriously, I'm a mom to four boys and have done an incredible amount of work single-handedly in the last 72hrs, so I'm doing the best I can. I really appreciate your sticking with me to see the full results and reflections, though, so here's what you need to know about how things panned out:

Monday night, after only one hour of impromptu collecting in the parking lot of a vacant grocery store here in Tiny Town, Koa, Cedar and I hit the streets. In thirty minutes we gave out 52 coats, 15 sleeping bags, 47 hats, 22 pairs of gloves, 36 pairs of socks, 26 sweaters, 16 thermals, 7 thick blankets, and a large grocery sack worth of snacks and handwarmers. I repeat, IN THIRTY MINUTES. It just so happened that we came across a large group waiting in line and lingering about the general area of one of Tiny Town's most beloved cafes, The Little Cheerful, for the Monday Night Soup Kitchen they offer to the community, and this unintentional intersection made it so easy to access a large number of recipients. Bless the people behind the soup kitchen effort, as it was a hoppin' place to be. The windows were covered by the steam of hot breath coming in off the frigid street, and it would have looked like a restaurant full of typical patrons if only I couldn't see the dirt, the exhaustion, the large backpacks and tired eyes each of the guests carried with themselves. As we drove away the boys and I discussed the spectrum of responses we gleaned, reflected on the many blessings we have in our own lives, and blasted the heat in the Warmth Wagon all the way home.

Tuesday morning after Koa and Cedar had left for school, I loaded up Aspen and Birch for another round of street deliveries, followed by a second brief collection period during the lunch hour. This time a longtime friend and photographer, Jen Owen, stopped by to drop off donations. She hung her camera around her neck and stopped periodically, as she was sorting through incoming bags helping me to organize items, to snap some incredible photos. I'm grateful to have evidence of the generosity of my community, as I was too busy to do much more than snap a few pictures with my phone after a while. By the time the thirty minutes was up my van was full once more. (Tiny Town, you are incredible!)

Two more street delivery rounds brought us to four homeless camps, countless individuals as we encountered them, and the doorsteps of the Drop-In Center and other known homeless hangouts. Beyond that, I was able to connect with several local organizations to make large donations of items of immediate need. The YWCA and the Back to Work Boutique, The Interfaith Coalition Men's and Women's Extreme Weather Emergency Shelters, The Lighthouse Mission, Northwest Youth Services, and the Mission Drop-In Center all received overflowing bags. Some received me with warmth and gratitude, others with skepticism and an air of inconvenience, but all in all I am confident in the ability of these organizations to ensure that nothing goes unused.

  • Men's coats: 133
  • Women's coats: 75
  • Teen coats: 16
  • Vests: 22
  • Sleeping bags: 29
  • Blankets: a million
  • Thermals: 2 large bags
  • Sweats: 1 large bag 
  • Men's tops: 1 large bag
  • Women's tops: 1 large bag
  • Sweaters: a GIGANTIC heap (and I'm pretty sure they multiplied overnight)
  • Hats and other head warming gear: 150+
  • Scarves: 50+
  • Children's coats/warm clothing: 9 large bags
  • Coffee cards: 2
  • Hand warmers: 150+
  • Hugs: 33 from donors, 8 from recipients
  • Smiles and good feels: too many to count     
Seriously. So. Many. Hugs!
 Next up... the motivation and reflection piece. Stay tuned for more! 

The Warmth Wagon

A Community Support Flash Mob

There is a great heart in my Tiny Town. The humanity is palpable here, and once again when I asked for help I received it in spades. I am awed and humbled to be connected to so many generous individuals through my networks. Let me tell you what happened...

Monday morning, 10am: I am drinking hot coffee in my warm house, reading facebook posts of friends while my children play nearby. A friend posted a link to the NOAA Severe Weather Alert for our area, promising record-breaking low temperatures for days and nights on end. People die in weather like this.

10:15am: Talking to my partner on the phone, we discuss the weather warning briefly. After my phone call I open the back door to put out some recycling. The chill of the air on my skin and the way the frigidity swept my breath away triggered a somatic memory. For those of you who don't speak academia-ease, this type of memory is one stored in the body. My body shook from the chill when I shut the door, and my mind suddenly returned to place I've been before but not for a very, very long time.

10:16-10:27am: Pace the floor, nurse Aspen, and contemplate whether or not I could actually pull off my next big idea. Decide that, yes, I could.
Initiate Community Support Flash Mob!
10:28am: Begin drafting facebook event post.

11am: Start to share event with friends and facebook groups and watch it spread like wildfire.

4-5pm: Greet 25 adults and 9 children and thank them for the things they deliver. Challenge older man in parking lot who tells me my "crappy paper banner isn't doing much for [my] cause," by replying: "My crappy paper banner is doing more for our community than your cynical apathy." I notice how nice his rig is, how warm and happily retired and taken care of he looks, and realize that he couldn't possibly empathize with someone sleeping on the ground in these temperatures because he couldn't even sympathize. I decide everything I'm doing is important and commit to doing as much as possible in the next 24 hours to help my cold neighbors. Again, being homeless in weather like this can actually kill people. I don't have money to buy all the cold weather gear myself but I have time, a facebook account, and this sweet ride:

Stay tuned for more on what happened next!

Meet the Boys!

“A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.” Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte, 1984. 

One of my most salient roles is that of Mother. I’ve had children for half my life now even though I’m only in my thirties. For you English majors out there I had my oldest son when I was 17, and thus began the only consistent part of my life since then: raising boys.

Sending my "baby" off to Homecoming! 
Koa, 16 Born to me when I was still a child, my oldest son and I have pretty much grown up together. Just as every eldest child in every family, his life has been galvanized by the ineptitude of my first-timer fuckups; however, he is remarkably well-adjusted, exceptionally empathetic, and a borderline genius according to the test scores despite my (many) missteps. Every sunset draws us closer to his life outside the safety of my nest, a day he and I will celebrate and mourn when it comes, yet I remain optimistic that the separation will be buffered by his compassionate sense of loyalty and my late blooming efficacy as his mother. If I am lucky I will still find him hanging around, washing laundry, raiding the pantry, and sitting at my table for many moons to come. In the meantime I relish in seeing him interact with his younger brothers, feeding him lots of home-cooked food, and listening to his ideas about the world as they shift and evolve.

A quiet moment of reflection on top of the world.
Cedar, 11 Easily the most like me of all of my boys, Cedar is wise beyond his years and feels everything in stereo. He is often an equalizer in our family, though his affect is all that is required to light up or shut down any party. He is quick-witted, intuitive, forgiving, and attentive to detail in superhuman ways. He will enjoy a lucrative future in sales, creative advertising, business management or any number of awesome opportunities if he uses his power for good; grifting, strong-arming, or transnational criminal activity if he uses his power for evil. The kid is clever, super charming, and totally heading full throttle into the teenage years. His future remains to be told, but I look forward to celebrating the adoption of his first teenage son down the line—a plan Cedar has talked about enacting since he was five. If there was ever a kid with a softer heart I wouldn’t know.

SUPER hero!
 Birch, 3 Birch started as an idea over artisan beer with my husband and quickly became a redheaded second wave of sleeplessness, diapers, developmental milestones, and parenting faux pas in our lives. Currently enjoying his place as the oldest of the little ones, every day is a Saturday for this guy. Conducting experiments, exploring his world, and looking for Yes as often as possible are among his favorite activities. His biggest challenges right now are an extreme aversion to meat of any kind, the cutting of his younger brother’s teeth and the maniacal laughter that follows his bites, and big emotions that are every bit as heated, beautiful, and attention-grabbing as a metro firework show on the dawn of a New Year. His expressive vocabulary and the depth of his self-awareness are among his strong suits, creating ever-entertaining dialogue and the need for frequent reminders that he is still just three—a tiny person trying stuff on—even with some of those words coming out.

This is a gift I get every day.
Aspen, 1 My youngest son filled my heart, my vehicle and my dining room table to max capacity so he will forever be the baby of the family. As gleeful and adorable as he is with his wild dark curls and impish dimpled smile, I’d be playing impossible odds if I continued the game of temperament roulette. It just doesn’t get better. As of late he enjoys basking in the attention of his adoring brothers, waving to friends and questionable strangers alike, and eating cereal snacks out of his shoes. In his first year he has undergone numerous evaluations and physical therapies, watched a regrettable amount of Sponge Bob Squarepants, taught us about unfiltered joy, and demonstrated a clear and remarkable love for books. He was born at home in the most triumphant and nonchalant of births, a peaceful and powerful experience… that I quickly followed with a Number 1 Big Mac Meal courtesy of my Doula as Aspen lay next to me on the bed and my husband drained the birth tub into the front yard. This sort of duality will mark his life forever, lucky little guy.