Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Minimalist living, hygiene items

Tim and I have in the past few years embraced a mantra of minimalism. We still have a long way to go until we achieve the lifestyle we are striving for, but we are working on it thanks to our favorite blogs like Zen Habits and Life Edited. This summer, we have reduced our need for hygiene items, using some products for multiple uses and eliminating some altogether. I have discovered that with a little castile soap, coconut oil, vinegar and baking soda, you are completely set.

Not like we used a lot of beauty products before, but now we have no need for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. Our friends, the Lees, introduced us to Dr. Bronner's castile soap, and we fell in absolute love. We have only bought the peppermint and eucalyptus, but they are both delicious. Tim uses used Dr. Bronner's on his hair, and I do occasionally as well. It dries mine out a bit too much. We also use Dr. Bronner's soap for washing dishes (not in a dishwasher, never tried that), washing clothes (a tiny amount goes a long way in the washing machine), cleaning bathrooms (makes everything smell so fresh), hand-washing (you can put a little soap with some water and put it in a foaming handwash container). I can't say anything bad about this soap. It seems pricey at first, but it lasts FOR.EV.ER. We bought a gallon of the peppermint when Atticus was born, and he's almost three and we used about 3/4 of the container, and we use it on everything, as I said before.

For washing my hair, I started using baking soda and vinegar. It sounds weird, but it has made my hair really nice and quite soft. If you can get over smelling like salad dressing, that is. I like it, Tim not so much but he doesn't complain. I've read you can use white vinegar instead, so I think I will try that next time.  The way I do it is put a little baking soda in a small Dr. Bronner's bottle, then add water to the top. I squirt it in my hair, starting at the scalp, and massage it in well. I rinse, then spray on some apple cider vinegar, let it sit for a bit, then rinse it out. My hair is not greasy, shiny, and curls nicely. I don't think I will ever go back to shampoo... I used a little at the beach because I didn't bring my supplies, and my head got so itchy and dandruffy. Now that I'm off shampoo, my head NEVER itches. It used itch all the time! I read somewhere else that our scalp problems are kind of a new phenomenon since Vidal Sassoon convinced women they needed to wash their hair every day with chemicals that strip it of its natural oils, thus leaving it unseemingly greasy when you don't use it for a few days. My hair never gets "greasy" anymore (well, it might, I haven't gone longer than 9-10 days yet...) It has been such a happy discovery for me.

Minimalism with kids does get slightly more complicated. We do not currently wash our kids hair with baking soda and vinegar and the Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap is a little too tingly for baby skin... for now, I have a bottle of baby wash that I received as a baby shower gift. It is made with essential oils, and smells delicious. We also have some bath oil, diaper cream, lotion and massage oil from the same brand. It is all wonderful, but when we run out, we probably will switch over to something like Dr. Bronner's baby soap, as it's a lot cheaper. So, that's all the baby stuff we use.

I haven't made my own deodorant, but plan to when my current one runs out. I'm using a brand called Jason, and it is the tea tree oil variety and it works quite well, better than the Tom's I used in the past. We also use store-bought toothpaste, but I'd like to try making our own of that sometime too.

So, there you have it! Any other suggestions, tips, etc. for natural and minimalist hygiene products?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Anniversary Post

With anniversary posts it is easy to turn them into gushing posts about the spouse, for which you'll have to wait for December 5th. Anniversaries are more about the marriage as a unit rather than as individuals though. So, I am going to use this post to talk about how proud I am of our marriage.

Our marriage has had a challenging year. We've weathered a new baby who now hogs the bed, the end of our life in Provo, two major moves, an extended stint with the in-laws/parents (no offense guys), a three year old gaining some major personality and willpower, Cait beginning grad school, an accompanying transition from sharing equal time away from home to Cait being away much more,  a faith crises, a finnicky car that was hard to trust to get us across the country and Mitt Romney.

After all that, I am happy to report that our marriage is in a great place. We are constantly learning about each other and continuing to grow. FOUR MORE YEARS!

At the age of 4, our marriage enjoys:

Anytime we get to ourselves.
Any stress free time we all get together as a family, which still happens often.
Kindles x2.
Sharing Instapaper articles with each other on our kindles.
Whenever we get to share a bed alone together.
Whenever Atticus goes to sleep easily.
Long walks in the local nature preserve.
Making new friends.
Exploring deep ideas together.
Talking about our future together.

At the age of 4, our marriage doesn't enjoy:

Having left all our friends behind.
Racking doubt about the best course for our lives.
Long times apart.

Here are most of the pictures I could find of us as a couple from the last year, in no particular order.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


It's ironic that I wrote a post about how frequently I've been blogging, scheduled it for Saturday, and then didn't blog all week. Oh well. Here's a summary of the last few days:

Long days at school for Cait on Wednesday. Failed playgroup as everyone left right as we got there to avoid the rain. Thursday Atticus had school and Cait and I semi-celebrated our anniversary by leaving Atticus with some of her fellow grad students and going together with Lula to a lecture about violence against women in South Africa.

Friday morning I took Atticus to the library and then we went to a ward campout at night. Little did we know that it had been cancelled and we didn't get the email because we are less active and thus not on many email lists. We had fun cooking hotdogs and eating smores, but decided that the bad weather that cancelled the campout would send us home as well.

Saturday we went to a local Skeptics of Madison potluck, where they had very good food. It was quickly approaching nap-time and it was cold, even in the enclosed park pavilion we were in. So we came home and cleaned and Cait made some delicious chicken tortilla soup, which hit the spot.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blog design

It seems that a lot of people might be waiting for further word on my faith crises (especially you, mom, sorry). That will have to come in time, as I am measuring very carefully the posts I am writing about it. In the mean time, I have redesigned our blog. Mirrored on Cait's sister Lauren's blog (which is private) I have slowly moved it toward a more simple design without a lot of clutter along the sides of the posts. Websites are just so cluttered these days. I also added a big picture of the family, because when I get to a new blog, the main thing I want to know is what the people blogging look like. It just makes it hard to imagine the people posts are talking about if there is no whole-family picture, or if the picture is intentionally obscuring of faces. I understand why people want to protect their privacy, but I didn't feel the need, personally. I originally had the picture really big, but that made it hard to see if any new material had been posted without scrolling down, so I shrunk the width of the blogging space. I also renamed the blog "tim & cait & guy & lula" to get everyone included. Also a color design change. We've also taken off all restrictions on comments, and, oddly enough, spam comments have dropped off, at least so far.

I've also, you noticed, picked up the pace of my posting. There are a number of reasons for this, including a desire to be a more thorough blogger, drowning out upsetting faith posts for those upset by them, and trying to reach out to the internet world in a meaningful way.

I know there is nothing more boring to blog about than the logistics of blogging, but I am wondering if any of our loyal readers *resist the urge to talk about how few there are* have any opinions about the design and pace of posts. If they really bugs you, I'll change it just for you, I promise.

Here's a picture of Atticus nursing baby Isaac:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Back in February, a few weeks prior to the birth of beautiful baby girl, my amazing, gracious, wonderful friend Austin threw me a mother's blessing, or blessingway. I know this is a little late, but Jen already wrote such a beautiful blog post on the afternoon that I completely forgot that I never did. A mother's blessing is: 

"...a special ceremony designed to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate a woman's journey into motherhood. Surrounded by some of the most important women in her life she will gain a sense of power, confidence, and support that will help her before, during, and after the birth of her child."

A Navajo tradition that has been commandeered by the hippie-granola crowd of young mothers in my generation, a mother's blessing celebrates a woman at a pivotal moment in her life: bringing forth a new child into this world. When I told Austin what I had heard about blessingways, she was completely on board with being the thrower of the gathering, and she bought a book on the subject and made the event one I will never forget.

I invited a few close friends whom I knew would appreciate the slightly pagan and ritualistic feel of the afternoon. I am so happy we kept it a small gathering, though we missed a few people (Ani and Sara V. and Melissa, especially), the women who did come all have beautiful, free spirits who all love and appreciate the mystic and magic of the pregnant female body and the joy and sanctity of birth.

Charla assisted Austin in the planning and execution of my blessingway, namely bringing delicious and healthy food choices (as well as photographing the event, see below). We gorged ourselves on mangoes and blood oranges and oatmeal-flaxseed cookies.

We began the afternoon by sprinkling salt water on ourselves to cleanse ourselves from the outside world, entering the room in the order of our own births. We chanted prayers to the mother goddess:

 "She is earth herself, her body reflecting mountains and valleys, fields and rivers. Her palpable sensuality is a celebration of physical existence. She represents the waves of primordial waters from which all life and consciousness arise... She is peaceful in her body and her truly miraculous power--as woman, as earth--to create life."

We then threw herbs in the fire to burn up our fears (mine included my newborn baby being taken away from me right after birth, a fear that was fortunately not realized post-Tallulah's birth).

After we dispelled our fears and rid ourselves of negative energy, I was presented with gifts from all of my lovely friends. They were all perfect, and included beautiful, soft blankets (which we have used every day since she was born), a gorgeous handknit winter cap (can't wait to use it in Madison), and various play items to keep Atticus occupied while I was taking care of Tallulah (which I definitely pulled out of the closet during the move when Tallulah was a few weeks old!) I was so ecstatic to receive such personalized and thoughtful gifts that I love so much from women and mothers that I love so much (I am especially also excited for Charla's gift, not yet received, which will be a printing of a  beautiful poem to be hung on Tallulah's bedroom wall, reminding her of the power and glory of womanhood).

Everyone also brought a bead to string together in a necklace for me to wear during the birthing. I wore it the entire time, and it helped me have a focal point during the intense contractions during the end. I kept it, and I plan on making it into a bracelet or necklace for Tallulah when she gets a little older. The beads are beautiful, and melded together perfectly on the flaxen cord Austin strung them on.

After I opened the gifts, everyone gathered around my chair and I received some much-appreciated pampering. Austin was a little nervous when she was planning the blessingway, and kept asking me if I would feel awkward to have my guests rub my feet and do my hair. I said HECK, NO! Bring it on. It was amazing, and I would gladly do the same for any of my friends on the verge of birthing. I. loved. every. minute. of. it.

Post pampering session, we did more sacred rituals to prepare ourselves for the impending arrival of Tallulah, and to connect ourselves in such a way as to involve my friends in the birth. The women formed a phone tree, in which everyone was notified when I was in labor, and would again be notified when Tallulah arrived. We also wove string around our wrists and made matching bracelets, that we would wear until Tallulah was born (which we all did minus Tallia, who had to have nose surgery a few weeks later). I loved having a symbolic reminder of the love that surrounded me during this time, and I knew that my friends were thinking about me and Tallulah every time they looked at their wrists. All the women there also took home a candle to light when I was in labor, to send their positive energy and prayers for the safe and beautiful birthing.

Following the beautiful ceremony Austin prepared, my wonderful cousin Nessa came and bestowed upon us her talent and gift for henna. It was probably my favorite part. I loved my henna belly, and it made me love my pregnant body even more than I did before. It gave me power in the coming weeks, and quite frankly, made me feel dang sexy. I would recommend a hennaed belly to any pregnant woman who is feeling large and unattractive.

"We are the flow, we are the ebb, we are the weavers, we are the web."

Tallia expelling her deepest, darkest fears

Nessa is seriously amazing

How adorable is this little hat!? Organic cotton, knit by Raquel

Atticus went bowling with Tim, Jon, Alice and Harrison; he came home and got a cool dino tattoo

Birthing necklace

Jen's gift: activities for Atticus

The final prayer before we departed each other's company was uplifting and inspiring:

"Today we have succeeded in forming a beautiful, sacred space for Caitlin's blessing. The power of the feminine spirit has been unveiled in each of us today. Let us stay connected to Caitlin, creating a cradle of support, as she awaits her birthing day and beyond, as she learns to mother her new baby. This has been a powerful day."

Yes, yes it was.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Today, Cait once again had a long day at school after a long night at home with two kids that wouldn't sleep (Lula with her cold and Atticus missing dad, who was at the homeless shelter). Atticus went to school in the morning, just getting over his cold. I went for a run with Lula after dropping him off, and then played with her until it was time to pick Atticus up. Lula was quite sick, so we played inside until mom came home, making a jolly mess. Cait came home and we started making dinner, which was lentil soup. Atticus was trying so hard to help, but he cut himself on a butter knife while cutting potatoes and had to go to the hospital for a few stitches. We all came home exhausted and just tried to get everyone in bed.

Beach Photos and background footage

I'm having a hard time believing that we haven't posted these photos yet, but I can't seem to find them on the blog anywhere. Either way they are worth reposting. All photo credits to Cait's talented sister Lauren.

Here are a few things that I know have never been posted anywhere before (except the youtubes):

Yesterday: Atticus and Lula both woke up sick. Cait was in school for most of the day. We did get a good run in and some good naps. Cait came home and I tried to make quinoa and rice stuffed baked apples. It didn't turn out. Cait studied and then I went to one of the local churches to stay overnight with the Road Home mobile homeless shelter. I'll probably post about that later.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Vacuum

We got a new vacuum and it has a great setting that allows it to lower down to Atticus size. He loves to vacuum and is really good at taking turns with Mom and Dad, but not Tallulah. Sorry for the terrible pictures.

Yesterday: The day was taken up almost entirely by a trip to a Brewers game that we will likely blog about later. If we don't just know it was fun. We came home for dinner and I talked with Charity on the phone for a while, which was nice.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Atticus' Birthday

The party for Atticus' birthday actually started the night before, as Cait and I worked late into the night to assemble the bed we had bought earlier for the guy. We're probably going to be here, or very nearby, for quite a few years, so we wanted a bed he could grow with the whole time. It's a pretty nifty loft bed that you can flip over and have on the floor with an awning-type thing above. Whatever. It's cool. It was also a pain to put together. It was Ikea, which usually makes things pretty easy to assemble, but there were some crappy design choices that made it tough that I wont go into here.

And then we decided we wanted it in the other room. Thinking we could just take a few parts off to get it through the door, we kept taking part after part off until it was completely disassembled. We got it into the other room, and then realized putting it there was a terrible idea for boring reasons related to ideal furniture layout. So back into the original room we put it back together. Oh well, lessons learned. The guy really likes it and it seems to help him to have a defined sleeping space to fall asleep on his own, which he isn't very good at yet. Here's some pics of the first night's assembly.

Here's the guy enjoying it. We got a better mattress a little later.

The actual birthday consisted of Atticus going to school, where I don't think anyone realized that it was his birthday and he painted this:

Then we played lots of Arthur game. He still has not gotten tired of this at all:

Then lots of fried food for dinner, which he loves. Don't worry, mostly they were organic broccoli patty dinosaurs.

And then Cait made vegan flaxseed cupcakes (more like muffins) for dessert. We might have made him a cake, but we had no butter or eggs.

Atticus tried to share one with Lula when we weren't looking.

Atticus got a package from Grandma Betsey in the mail with some Curious George books and a George doll in homemade pajamas.

In addition to a soccer ball, a small mater car and the new bed, those made up all his birthday presents.

In conclusion, we are terrible at celebrating birthdays at all levels. As long as we're consistently terrible, however, we hope no one will notice.


Late sleeping in for Cait, long nap for Tim, still sick guy. Then I took the kids on a run. They both fell asleep and I went to the library to pick up some movies we had on hold. We played outside for a while, Cait made dinner, I made cookies. Lula went to bed and I played lots of Arthur with Atticus outside, while he hoped some other kids would come play to, but they didn't.