Posted in From The Altar, Out Of My Head, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

40 Holy People: Week One

40 holy peopleThis first week is a short week, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time of reflection, a time to recenter our lives. We look around, see what is necessary and what is extra. We give up some comforts and excesses. And we learn to thank God for enough. We deny ourselves and find we can see God a little more clearly. Each day brings us a little closer to the Cross. As we look at the lives of these extraordinary individuals, remember that, had they not focused on God, they wouldn’t be extraordinary. Extraordinary begins with steps outside the ordinary.

Day One: John the Baptist — Preparing the Way of the Lord

john-the-baptist fx

It is fitting that we begin this season of fasting with John the Baptist. Clothed in camel hair and eating locusts and honey in the wilderness, John the Baptist knew giving up worldly pleasures. John the Baptist was far from normal. His birth was foretold by angels. He was born to a barren couple. He was set aside from birth for a holy life. He was the one who prepared the way for Jesus. While still in the womb, he leapt at the presence of His Savior. He was “the voice crying in the wilderness”. Can you imagine that being the thing said about you? He preached of the coming Savior, and crowds followed him. You can read about John’s ministry in Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John 1. Even after John baptized Jesus, he continued to be the wild-haired desert preacher. He made some people very uncomfortable, even made some mad, but he continued to spread the word he’d been given. John the Baptist spoke the truth, and that isn’t always easy for people to hear. In Matthew 14, we read of John’s death, which was far from pleasant.

What worldly pleasures will you give up during this season of Lent as you prepare for the Lord?

What truth has God given you to share? How can your life point more toward Christ?

Coloring Page

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Day Two: Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Courage for the Sake of Others

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born February 4, 1906, in Germany. He was a pastor, theologian, and martyr. When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, Bonhoeffer spoke out against them. At the urging of friends, Bonhoeffer left his home for the United States, to escape persecution by the Nazis. However, he soon regretted his decision and decided to go back home to his people and stand with them. “I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose, but I cannot make that choice from security.” Bonhoeffer returned to Germany and continued to rebel against Nazi power, even helping in forming assassination attempts against Hitler.

On April 5, 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned. In 1945, he was moved to a concentration camp. On April 9, 1945, two weeks before the United States liberated the camp he was in, Bonhoeffer was executed. “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” (Eberhard Bethge, witness to the execution)

Bonhoeffer could have easily stayed in America, safe from the evil on the other side of the world. Instead, he chose to stand up against evil– to stand with his people. He suffered for it, but ultimately, it was the right thing to do. He insisted, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” (Eric Metaxas) [If you’re interested in learning more about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I recommend reading Eric Metaxas’ biography Bonhoeffer.]

Day Three: Amy Carmichael — Showing the Love of Christ

Amy_Carmichael_with_children

Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 in Ireland. She was the oldest of seven children. As a teenager, Amy started a Sunday morning group for mill girls which grew to over 500 participants. Amy first became a missionary to Japan but fell ill and had to return home after 15 months. She then went to Ceylon and finally to India, where she found her life’s work. She mainly worked with girls and young women who were forced into a kind of slavery to earn money for pagan temple priests. Children in India seemed drawn to Amy; when asked why, they would often say it was because of her love. Amy started a home for children in India, saving them from bleak futures in forced pagan temple service. She rescued more than 1,000 children in India. Amy died in India at the age of 83. Instead of a headstone, the children she rescued put a bird bath over her grave and labeled it “Amma” (the Tamil word for ‘mother’).

“One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”

-Amy Carmichael

“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that’ll burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

-Amy Carmichael

How could you show others the love of God?

How have you felt the love of God through someone else?

Map of India

Optional Craft: Make a bird bath. Using a terra cotta pot and a pot base (or you could use a glass bowl), paint or decorate the pot, remembering that it will be used upside down. Glue the pot base or bowl onto the bottom of the terra cotta pot. If your pot base has a hole, you’ll want to take some caulk or putty and cover the hole. Once the putty is dry, fill your bird bath with some water and put it outside for the birds to enjoy.

Day Four: Stephen — Love Your Enemies

the-martyrdom-of-st-stephenIn Acts 7, we read about Stephen, who was the first person to die for His faith in Christ after Jesus himself died. Stephen proclaimed the Gospel to those who had persecuted Jesus. He wanted them to see that the Messiah had come. They were angry with Stephen for what he said. When they drug Stephen out of the city, Stephen looked into the Heavens and saw Jesus standing next to God the Father, and he told them what he saw. The elders became even angrier, refusing to listen. Instead, they picked up stones and stoned him to death. While Stephen was dying, he prayed that God would not hold his death against those who were killing him.

We easily say, “Love your enemies,” but do you think loving his enemies was easy to do in Stephen’s case? His enemies were killing him, yet he still showed love.

How can you show love to those who wrong you?

Coloring Page

Optional Craft: Get large river rocks and using paint or Sharpies, write on the rocks, “Love your enemies.” It will be both a reminder of the love shown by Stephen and a reminder to love those who are against us. For younger kids, you may want to write on the rocks and then let them decorate with paint, stickers, or glued on gems.

Posted in From The Altar, Out Of My Head, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

40 Holy People

For Lent this year, our family devotional is centered around holy people… people that used their lives for others, people that inspire us to be more. Since there are 40 days in Lent (not counting Sundays), we’re looking at 40 Holy People. Some are Saints, some are missionaries, some are evangelists– all are examples of what we can do in Christ. I’m praying that the lives of these 40 individuals inspire my children (and honestly, myself) to get out of our comfort zones and do something for God, to deepen our faith, and to press us toward holiness.

40 holy people

Links will be updated throughout Lent.

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven

Posted in Under Our Roof

Where Do I Even Begin?

By now, you’ve certainly heard about essential oils. You’ve likely got a friend or two (or five) that rave about them on social media daily. You may be wondering if they’re up to all the hype (depends on what you’ve heard). You may be wanting to check them out yourself. But where to even begin?

There are really two ways to begin this journey. You can buy one or two oils at a time and ease in gently. Or you can buy a handful of oils and jump in both feet first. There are pros and cons to each way and neither is really right for everyone.

eo begin

Easing in- You’ll buy one or two oils and slowly start building your collection. You’ll likely want to start with lavender, lemon, or peppermint. Those are the common oils that can treat a whole slew of maladies and complaints. Rub lavender on boo-boos. Use peppermint for heartburn or as a pick me up. Use lemon to clean, kill offensive odors, or help wake you up in the morning. You’ll find dozens of uses for the basic oils.

There are pros and cons to this method. You’ll spend less initially. You’ll be able to grab the same two or three oils across several brands to compare them if you wish. You’re not putting a lot of money into the start up. The downsides will be that you’ll be less likely to spend money for a diffuser, which is an awesome way to use your essential oils, since it will only add to the initial cost. You’ll not get into the habit of reaching for an oil to help. You’ll likely find you want an oil for coughing, but only don’t have one on hand or you’ll want an oil for deodorant and none of the few you’ve got are adequate. You’ll find yourself a little frustrated at the lack of variety. And you’ll be running out of oil and having to replenish it eventually, slowing down your accumulation plan. Essential oils in an amber bottle should never expire. Exposure to heat will lessen their effectiveness, but they won’t go bad. They’ll survive the apocalypse with you. A bottle of essential oil lasts me anywhere from 6 weeks to years, depending on the oil and what is going on in our household. The common oils you’re likely to buy in the beginning will run out faster than obscure oils simply because you’re using them more often. (I find cheaper oils don’t last as long, because I’m having to use double or triple the number of drops for the same strength.)

Jumping In- This is how many people prefer to go about it. You can usually buy a starter kit that makes the overall “deal” better than wading in slowly. For example, a Young Living Premium Kit contains 11 oils plus a diffuser and some samples for $150 (plus tax and shipping). My DoTerra Family Physician Kit contained 11 oils for $150. If this doesn’t seem like a deal to you, know that lavender, lemon, and peppermint oil alone from either company would be over $50. So, you get more bang for your buck.

There are pros and cons to this way, too. You’ll be putting more money in up front. And say, you wanted an oil for thyroid function, well, that isn’t in the kit. You’ll have to add that to your collection. The kits generally contain basic, widely used, oils. Oils for relaxation, immune boosting, boo-boos, skin care, coughs, etc. They aren’t going to have the more specific oils like myrtle, helichrysum, ocotea, myrrh, etc. You will  build the habit of using oil when you have this many, though. You’ll find ways to use it. You’ll likely find you have an oil on hand for most things you find you need. And in some cases, you’ll also have a diffuser to diffuse oils, which is an awesome way to use them. (You can also buy essential oil diffusers on Puritan’s Pride and Amazon for relatively low prices.) But the initial cost is going to be more. For some people, that means they’ll actually make themselves use it. For others, they don’t want that much money investing in something they aren’t sure they’ll enjoy.

So which oils should I try?

Lavender is the most common, basic oil to have on hand. It is especially good when you’ve got kids, since it is a good first aid oil. It can be used on cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, stings, and more. Some people (The Pastor included) report it helping reduce allergy symptoms. It is also calming, helping you relax and sleep.

Lemon oil is also very common. It can be used in cleaning, both your house and yourself. It makes your house smell clean. It uplifts your mood and helps you focus. It is great to use in the morning to help wake you up. (This really goes for all citrus oils. They just smell so uplifting. It is a great scent to start the day.) Can be used to help smooth the skin on your feet. It can also help in the dishwasher for those with hard water. You’ll find so many uses for lemon oil.

Peppermint oil is very common with many uses. Of course, you know it will freshen your breathe. The smell can also help uplift you and help with nausea. Peppermint is also good for heartburn. Many people use lemon and peppermint together to help them on their weight loss journey. Peppermint is also of great help for people with headaches. Use it to help keep you awake and alert.

Thieves/On Guard is an oil blend. Most oil companies carry some version of this oil. (Clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary) Also similar is just straight cinnamon bark oil. This is the oil used for immune boosting and germ killing properties. Many people get into essential oils for this blend. You can use is for cleaning (I personally mop and clean my counters with cinnamon bark oil), homemade hand sanitizers, diffusing to kill germs and boost immunity, rubbing on your feet to help boost your immune system, on toothaches, and as a natural air freshener. Some people drip it in their vacuums or rinse their carpets using a steam cleaner. This blend is what makes many fall in love with essential oils. (If you get a food grade version, know that a couple drops in a simple sugar glaze makes an awesome addition to spice cakes.)

Melaleuca (Tea Tree Oil) is also a great starter oil. You’ll want to be cautious with this one with pregnant women. (Well, you always want to be cautious with pregnant women and kids. Check oil safety and dilute them!) It is great for cleaning! Use it in your steam cleaner, mop water, counter spray. You can use it on your pets (and sometimes kids) for lice, fleas, and ticks. It is also a good oil for fungus and parasites, like yeast and ringworm. It is also great for skin issues like razor burns, athlete’s foot, and other skin conditions. You’ll find so many ways to use it. There are several different varieties of melaleuca. Melaleuca Alternifolia is the common “tea tree oil” variety. Other varieties may be milder or better for specific issues.

Frankincense is another common oil that is all the rage. You may be curious about this one, since it was a gift for the baby Jesus and all. And most people aren’t really sure what on earth frankincense is even good for, or what it smells like. It is great skin care. I personally use it in my hand cream. It has healing properties and kills germies. It is calming, and meditative. It can help reduce the appearance of scars. Seriously, skin LOVES frankincense. It helps with anxiety, stress, sadness, and moodiness. It helps boost your immune system. It soothes itchy skin. It can help back and joint discomfort. This oil is so soothing. You can use it on scrapes, and I do, especially if they are on the face. There are also lots of stories about frankincense being used by those with cancer. You’ll have to search for those personal stories, since I have none personally to share.

Those are the most common oils. There are others than many would argue are more important than those above, like thyme (great for congestion), eucalyptus (there are several varieties), oregano, patchouli (a personal favorite), valerian, tangerine, orange, lime (another personal favorite, dubbed “happiness in a bottle” by me), cedarwood, copaiba (there is a Wild Kratts episode about Orangutans that talks about copaiba). The lists just go on. Really, any essential oil is going to have its great uses and its own cautions. What becomes your household favorite remains to be seen. Then there are blends by various brands for anxiety, stress, depression, energy, grounding, etc. I found the Young Living blend Joy is one of my favorites. Right now, I’m also digging Gentle Babies by Young Living. I loved DoTerra’s InTune blend, as well as their Balance and Slim & Sassy blends.

What essential oils are not.

Essential oils are not going to make you loose weight while you eat cheeseburgers on your couch. They can help you crave more wholesome foods and help give you the energy to get started on that work out plan you’ve been saying you’re going to start.

They aren’t going to make up for years of bad decisions. They’ll help balance you. They’ll help with your symptoms. They’ll help get you on the road to better health. But they aren’t going to erase years of damage overnight.

They are not the be all and end all. There are other things you need for your health. Essential oils are one preparation of something. You might need something different for different issues. You may find dandelion tea is much better for your water retention than lemon essential oil. Essential oils are just part of a healthy lifestyle. They’re not the whole thing. We still use herbs, tinctures, teas, vitamins, food, and when needed, pharmacologicals in my house. Things have their place.

They are not a scam. Essential oils have worked for centuries. Just because we in the west have forgotten does not mean they aren’t valid and useful. Sure, some oil quality is better than others. You’ll find a slew of info floating around the internet about various oil quality issues. But they do work. They’re not going to be a miracle cure for every ailment. But they can help alleviate some of your discomfort and address many of your issues.

How not to use essential oils. 

One drop is good, so ten drops is better, right? NO! Wrong! Less is more when it comes to essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated. And yes, some oils are such quality that you will have to use more, but you work up to that. A single drop of oil on a boo-boo is all you generally need. 4-5 drops of oil in a diffuser is usually plenty. You don’t have to douse yourself in it for it to work. You can use too much.

Dilution makes it weak, right? Wrong! Dilute 2 drops of essential oil in 2 drops of vegetable oil and you still have 2 drops of oil. Sometimes dilution HELPS the oil work. It helps it absorb slower, which is a good thing. It can help your skin absorb the oil better. It can add soothing properties to your oil. Always dilute with kids. Always dilute if you’re not sure about dilution. If an oil isn’t working the way you want, don’t add more oil, dilute the oil and see how it helps. You might be surprised.

Do not ingest all oils! Some oils can be ingested. There is a lot of debate on when, how much, what, and who should be in charge of these things. But some oils are edible. But not ALL oils are edible. If you don’t know, don’t eat it. And ingestion isn’t the best way to deal with every problem. A cough is better helped by diffusion. A cut is better helped by direct contact. A tummy ache is better cured rubbing diluted oil on the outside of your tummy. Where ever your research with ingesting oils takes you, be cautious. (And actually do the research!)

How do I even use essential oils?

There are several ways to use essential oils. You can diffuse them. A machine puts the tiny oil droplets into the air where you will breathe them in and enjoy their scent. Diffusing is great for many oils and many issues. You can rub them onto your skin. Some oils need to be diluted (see above). You can rub them onto the troubling spot, be it a sore neck, upset tummy, scraped knee, etc. You can rub them on your feet (this is an especially good option for kids). You can look at a reflexology chart and see where on the bottoms of your feet corresponds with which body system. You can add them to your homemade cleaning products and personal care products. (That links to some recipes I posted.) Some people ingest them, adding them either to water, milk, or empty gelatin capsules. (You want to research that option fully and make sure the oil you purchase is a quality that is edible. I wouldn’t ingest any oil from a company that says not to.) You can add a drop to a damp cloth and place on a sore muscle or over your chest. You can place a drop or two in warm water and cover your head with a towel to inhale. You can add a drop or two to your scarf, to smell while you’re out and about. (I especially like to do this with mood uplifting oils.) You can put a drop in your hands, rub your hands together, and inhale from your cupped hands.

You don’t want to heat the oil. A candle warmer isn’t a great diffuser. (Believe me, I tried using my Scentsy warmers to diffuse oil before buying a diffuser. It just doesn’t last long and the oil get broken down by the heat. If you insist on trying it anyway, add water to the warmer, then a drop or two of oil. You’ll only get 5-10 minutes of scent. Though therapeutic range is 15 minute intervals of diffusion, so it is something, I guess.) You don’t want to add it to a simmering pot on the stove. You won’t get benefits from cooking it into your soups or stews. (If you want to add it to cooked items, add it post cooking. And make sure your oil is edible and don’t use too much! A drop of oregano oil IS NOT equal to a pinch of dried oregano. It’s more like an entire oregano plant up in your spaghetti!)

How do I decide who to purchase oil from?

I used essential oils from the natural food store for years. I used their tea tree oil in my carpets and for my kids who just had a diaper rash his entire time in diapers. I used their eucalyptus oil to make shower soothers when I had a cold. (15 drops of their oil on a wet wash cloth in the bottom of the shower.) I’d add a couple drops of their thyme to the kid’s bath water when they were snotty. I was fairly happy with it. I didn’t always get the results I wanted, particularly from their lavender, but overall, I was pretty content. The Pastor used their patchouli for cologne for quite some time. You may find yourself happy with these brands, too. You may find that they are enough for you. That you don’t mind 15 drops of eucalyptus for your cold to be too much. You don’t mind the carpets getting cleaned with their tea tree oil. You’ll likely find the lavender doesn’t do anything people say lavender does, but it’ll smell nice at least.

You may want to try a company like Plant Therapy. Their prices are low. They aren’t a club or multi-level marketing set up. You just go on the website and buy oils. Simple. Their quality is better than I found at the mass natural food store. So, it is a step up from that. But they aren’t quite as good as DoTerra or Young Living, in my opinion. However, you’ll find some oils, like vanilla, that DoTerra and Young Living don’t have. There are other companies like this one. Eden’s Garden, Native American Nutritionals, Rocky Mountain Oils, etc.  (Note that I have not tried any of those companies. It is on my to-do list. But I cannot speak to the quality of those oils.)

You may decide you want to buy in bulk from a company like Liberty Natural Products. Their prices are extremely low and you can buy a lot of oil! Think of the oil you could split in a co-op! My midwife recommends this company. I haven’t had an opportunity to try them yet. They also have various bottles and containers you can purchase for your oil concoctions.

You may decide you want to try one of the current big two: Young Living or DoTerra. They are MLM set up, but both offer wholesale membership instead of insisting on you being a distributor. The ordering is a bit more complicated. You’ll have to do things like give them your social security number (for taxes, since you have the potential of being paid by the company). They both now have pretty minimum order limits per year to maintain your “membership” or distributor status. They get all complicated with the MLM set up. But the oil quality is really there. (I personally found Young Living to be slightly better than DoTerra for my needs.) Both have great kit set ups if you want to go the “jump in” route. But both are MLMs, and that turns a lot of people off. Just know, you’ll be personally giving part of the money from your kit to your distributor, if that makes you feel better about your initial purchase. (I personally get about $50 from every $150 kit that someone buys with my member number 1650325. Just to give you an idea of how much of your purchase is going to help a family out.) I found this to be a great way for me to go, especially for the kits,  but know it isn’t really for everyone.

Ultimately, it is up to you who you choose to purchase oil from. There are also likely herb shops in your community that sell oils. (Though many sell oils from one of the other places I listed above.)

Posted in Under Our Roof

Make It Yourself

I have started making more and more for our home. It seems like every week there is a new report coming out about which chemical in what product to be on the look out for and avoid. It is getting where buying shampoo is a major label reading hassle. So what is a mom to do? Well, start making stuff yourself. You know what you put in your lotion. Plus you’ll save a ton of money! So, here are some of my recipes for things you can make yourself for your house and your family.

MIYourself

Before I begin, a note about essential oils. I list suggested oils, but you can really use any oil you choose. If you choose a lower quality oil, know that you’ll need to AT LEAST double the number of drops of oil. That is one big reason I buy higher quality oils. I noticed that with cheap eucalyptus oil, I was using 20 drops to make a decent shower steam. (Drop the oil on a washcloth and drop in the shower. Great when you have a cold.) With higher quality oils, I need maybe 5 drops. That is a big difference and certainly makes up for the higher cost of better oils. If you’re making things for your kids and they are under 5, you’ll need to be aware that there are some oils you shouldn’t use on them. (Eucalyptus and wintergreen come to mind. You’ll want to research this yourself and determine which oils fit your comfort level.) Also, if you are pregnant, there are certain oils you should avoid. There are a bazillion articles and pins out there, you just have to determine your personal comfort level. An oil to avoid could mean you don’t open the bottle at all. Or it could mean you just don’t rub it on yourself directly. Or it could mean you simply use it in moderation and don’t ingest it. I’m not going to tell you what to do, since I am neither an aromatherapist or your medical provider. Just be aware that essential oils have therapeutic effects, even if you aren’t using them for that reason. All the blends I mention are Young Living blends, since that is what I use.

Deodorant

On the shelf, traditional deodorant (and antiperspirant) really creeps me out. There is just something weird about making yourself not do something you are biologically designed to do. So, I’ve been looking for alternatives for years. I finally settled on this recipe, which is a deodorant only.

Fill a 4 oz. spray bottle with vodka or rubbing alcohol. (The rubbing alcohol has a higher alcohol content, so it is going to burn more, particularly for women who shave under their arms. But it is a stronger version of this deodorant. The vodka is less alcohol and doesn’t sting. But it also isn’t as strong, which will be perfectly fine for some people.)

Add 20-30 drops of essential oil. I think Joy (a Young Living Blend) is my favorite. Right now, we have Patchouli, which is also a nice smell. Light scented oils (like bergamot) just don’t work as well, since you really do want it to smell a little.

That’s it. Put the lid on, shake it up, spray it on. I use 2-3 sprays per arm. The Pastor uses like 5-7.

Countertop Spray

I love Mrs. Meyers countertop spray, but it is so pricey. I knew I could whip something up that was much cheaper. And the bonus is that I make it smell like I want it to smell! (Though the Mrs. Meyers bluebell scent was divine.)

Put one squirt of castile soap into a spray bottle. Add 20 drops of essential oil. Fill the rest of the way with water. Give it a shake before use.

My personal oils picks for this are cinnamon bark and spearmint. It smells like Big Red gum. Cinnamon bark kills almost anything. (The FDA won’t let me tell you any specifics, but the studies are available should you choose to look.) I use this spray on my counters and my tables. I do 18 drops of cinnamon bark and 2 drops of spearmint. Other oils that would be good to use are tea tree oil (melaleuca), lemon, Thieves, purification, lemongrass, orange, lime- the list really goes on.

Mopping Solution

I hate using chemicals on my floors. Dogs, crawling babies, kids wallowing- I just don’t want everyone covered in chemicals! So, I have gone super simple in my mopping. I use this solution in my steam mop, but you can use it with a traditional mop, as well.

12 oz. hot water with 5 drops cinnamon bark oil. That is it. That is how I clean my entire floor.  In my steam mop, I don’t have to heat the water, since it does it. But that is it. It smells amazing. My floors are clean and not sticky. I use it on vinyl flooring (fake linoleum), wood flooring, and ceramic tile flooring. It works beautifully.

Hand Cream

I feel like I spend a ridiculous amount of money on salves and creams for hands, especially in the winter. I finally decided to make something myself.

You’ll need to whip (with you hand or stand mixer) 4 oz. shea butter, 2 T coconut oil, and 30 drops of essential oil. Whip it to get it all mixed up. Put it in a container. You have hand cream. You can add more coconut oil, which has awesome healing properties, but it will make it a little more greasy, which will just require you to rub it in a little better.

For the oil, since the shea butter already smells kind of woodsy, I went with that instead of trying to fight that smell. I did half frankincense and half cedarwood. You could also do something calming like lavender.

Lip Balm

I was a little nervous about making my own lip balm, but it turned out pretty simple.

I put a small metal bowl over a pan of boiling water to melt my ingredients. I used half bees wax and half coconut oil. Melt these together, remove from the heat, and stir in 10-20 drops of essential oil. Pour into lip balm pots or tubes.

If you’re using plastic pots or tubes, don’t use citrus oils. They can break down the plastic. You can use lavender, Stress Away, peppermint, spearmint, birch- whatever you want, really. The Pastor says this lip balm is better than Burt’s Bees.

Bath Salts

Soaking in a warm tub of essential oil infused water is a little bit of heaven. Make them for gifts or just for yourself (or even your kids).

2 cups epsom salt

2 T coconut oil

20 drops essential oil

Put all that in a bowl and smash it together with the back of a spoon. Pour it into a jar and put the lid on it for storage.

You can make this when your family has a cold. Use eucalyptus (on older folks, myrtle for younger ones), thyme, lemon, or Thieves (or a combination) for a nice comforting soak. You can make this just to relax. Use Peace and Calming (a personal favorite soak), Stress Away, Lavender, or Cedarwood. You can make it smell like Christmas. You can make it whatever you’d like. Mix it up. Try Orange and Lemon. Patchouli and Ginger. Peppermint and Citrus for a wake up bath. Make it your own. I use about 2 T of the mixture in each bath. You could use more or less, it is up to you.

Body Spray

Similar to the deodorant recipe, but for use as body spray. Fill a 4 oz spray bottle with vodka and add 15 drops of essential oil. You can add more oil as you wish, if you want a stronger smell. These also make great gifts. Like Bath and Body Works minus the chemicals. Oil choices are really up to you. Stress Away, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Orange, Tangerine, Ylang Ylang, Joy, Geranium, Goldenrod, Patchouli- really anything will work. What do you want to smell like? Making the oil into a body spray also makes the scent last longer. It distributes it further and isn’t quickly absorbed by your skin.

Bug Spray

Oh, we went through so much of this over the summer! Even my neighbors were asking for my recipe because their kids were coming home with it on and they loved it! (I keep my bug spray bottle on my front porch all summer. The kids can douse themselves as they wish.)

12 oz. vodka

12 oz. water

30 drops of essential oil (the blend matters this time)

Mix it all in a spray bottle. Spray on to repel bugs.

You’ll need to choose bug repelling specific oils. Purification is what I used all summer. It had all the anti-bug oils mixed right in. If you make your own blend, look to use citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, lavandin, myrtle, tea tree oil, and maybe even some peppermint. Other companies also make bug repelling blends you can try.

Garden Spray

I don’t like using chemicals on my garden. My kids are known to eat the tomatoes straight off the vine. I don’t want to have to worry about them not washing the chemicals off the food we grow here. So, I made my own garden spray this past summer to keep the bugs away. You’ll need to spray at least 3 times a week, more often at times. But that is also a good kid job.

Add a squirt of castle soap to a spray bottle. Add 15-20 drops of peppermint oil. Fill the bottle the rest of the way with water. You could also add 15 drops of Purification oil, if the peppermint alone doesn’t seem to cover all the bad bugs in your garden. We had aphids and spiders, so the peppermint alone was perfect.

Relief Spray

I initially made this spray for The Pastor when he was playing on a church basketball team. Then I found that I loved it post run, too. So we kept making it for post-exercise relief. The kids then started using it on super hot days during the summer because they said it kept them cool.

12 oz. water

12 oz. vodka

20 drops PanAway essential oil blend

Put it all in a spray bottle. When the kids started using it, I cut the vodka in half and added 6 oz. more water. I didn’t want them spraying it in their eyes, but they really can’t be trusted. You can also try it with any mint, lavender, helichrysum, geranium, etc. The mint helps with cooling. Then you’ll want something for inflammation (lavender, helichrysum, geranium). The PanAway has all of that already in the bottle. DoTerra’s version is Deep Blue.

Dishwashing Detergent

I’ve tried this a few ways and have found the way I prefer. So, that is what I am giving you.

Mix one box of borax powder with one box of washing powder. Add 20-30 drops of essential oil, mixing it together well. Use one scoop in the dishwasher. (I put it in the detergent drawer thing. Some people kind of sprinkle it around.)

I usually use lemon oil. I have also used Purification, lime, orange, and Citrus Fresh. You just want something bright and clean smelling. You can really use anything you want. I like using something that kills germs.

Dryer Oil and Laundry Detergent

I make my own laundry detergent, but that really isn’t the best place in the process to add oils. You really want to add the oil at the end of the wash and dry process if you hope to smell it at all.

Laundry Detergent- Grate about 12 oz. of soap. (We use the regular bar soap we buy. I knew my kids weren’t sensitive to it, so it made sense. You can also use laundry soap like Fels Naptha or Zote. I really think any soap will work.) In a large pot, melt the grated soap in boiling water. Pour into a 5 gallon bucket once the soap is all melted. Add 1 cup borax powder and 1 cup washing powder. Mix well. Fill the bucket the rest of the way with water. Put the lid on the bucket. Let it sit for at least 8 hours before use. We fill an old laundry detergent container with the liquid detergent to make it easier to use. I just know I’d spill that 5 gallon bucket if I had to open it all the time. I use half to 3/4 cup (the little cup on the old detergent bottle) of the liquid per load of laundry. Some people prefer to fill the detergent container half full of detergent and half with water to dilute it and then use a full cup.

Dryer Oil- After your clothes have dried, put 2-5 drops of oil onto a washcloth (you can reuse the same cloth each time) and toss into the dryer with you clothes and tumble for a few minutes on low heat. If you heat the oil, it is going to disappear. You want the heat on low.

Linen Spray

Another option for making your clothes smell nice and like oil is to make your own linen spray. You can spritz it on clothes before ironing or you can spritz it on your bed when you make your bed. Just make sure to do it enough in advance so your pillow isn’t wet when you lay your head on it.

Fill a spray bottle with water. Add 20 drops of essential oil. You can pick any oil you’d like. Lavender would be traditional. You could also try Stress Away, geranium, Peace and Calming, or patchouli. Really, any oil you like the smell of would work. Though some oils (like Peace and Calming) are colored, so you may want to either skip them or lessen the amount used. My sheets are bright colors, so it doesn’t really matter. But if you have white sheets, daily spritz of blue oil just might turn your sheets a bit blue. (Though they will smell amazing!)

Posted in Out Of My Head, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Enjoying The Holidays

The Holidays are upon us. Your calendar is already filling up. You’re likely already searching for the perfect gift. It is still early enough, that you’ve still got visions of a perfect holiday season this year. This will be the year your kids remember. It’ll be great! Fabulous! Everyone will be commercial quality happy and the holidays will be filled with fun activities, cute outfits, and grateful children.

Of course, the reality is far less shiny. You fill your calendar to capacity and never find time for the gingerbread house. You max out your gift list and budget and find yourself so focused on the hole you’re digging, everyone better have the proper level of enthusiasm for your gift! You’ve volunteered for one too many activities and your kids are spending way too much of the season doing the same stuff they do the rest of the year! This was supposed to be Hallmark quality and you’re getting Griswold quality!

So, before we embark upon the Holiday season, let me give you some of my tips to slowing down, chilling out, and actually enjoying the Holidays.

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1. Learn to say no.

“No” is my automatic default answer come Holiday season. From mid-November through the beginning of January, I say no, and then I decide if I’m sticking with that. It is a big relief to not have to feel like I have to do everything. I don’t end up agreeing to anything out of obligation or because I didn’t think things through. At first, people seemed a little put out at my no’s. I still come across someone who doesn’t like my automatic no response. But that is okay with me. I keep my calendar much lighter by saying no first.

2. Decide on your priorities early.

Things don’t usually just happen. If family time with your kids and spouse is what you really desire during the Holidays, you really have to commit to that early to make it happen. Family time easily gets crowded out by a busy schedule. If teaching your kid’s about Jesus is high on your priority list, know that some good and fun things might get left out. You only have so much time and energy to give. Make sure you’re giving those where you want to be giving them and not just living in default setting.

My family has never done Santa. Not because there is anything wrong with the fat guy. He’s cute and fun. But we really wanted to teach our kids about all of Advent. We really wanted to focus on God with us. Additionally, we wanted to teach our kids to give. There just isn’t time or energy around here for Santa or the creepy Elf. Yes, my kids would have fun, but it would easily crowd out the more important priorities we have for them and for us. We made priorities and we stick to them. There are an infinite number of things you can do throughout the season. There are a number of fun things, good things, things other people prioritize, that just may not fit into your priorities. And that is okay. Just make priorities early and stick to them. You’ll definitely be happier with your Holidays when you are living your priorities.

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3. Staying home for the Holidays is an option.

Everyone wants to be the host with the most for Holidays. To be the host with the most, you need guests. Your invite isn’t always about you, it is often about the host painting their perfect holiday. If you can make it, if you want to make it, great- go for it. But you don’t have to.

Some people seem to want permission to tell family that they won’t be playing Holiday Hop. It can get tiring. It makes it even worse when every family member seems to think the actual holiday is the only acceptable time for your presence. While it’d be nice, the reality is usually not so Hallmark. The reality is being out late on Christmas Eve for one family gathering. Waking up at the crack of dawn with excited kids. Rush to a Christmas morning breakfast with the inlaws. Head to Mom’s house for lunch. Over to Aunt Sally’s for afternoon dessert. Swing by Sister-in-law’s for dinner. And finally home to crash way after bedtime. If you dream of an entire Christmas Eve and Day in your own home with zero driving- this is your permission to go for it.

Our families live far apart. We decided when our first child was born that we’d be spending Christmas- all of it- at home. At first, you could tell there was some disappointment, that things were not unfolding quite as all parties wanted them to. But, here we are, 9 years later, and we’ve been home every single Christmas. And it is perfect for us. Our priorities would be toast by now if we hadn’t decided to stay home. We invite everyone to join us every year. While they don’t usually take us up on it, we still offer. (And the invitation is completely sincere. If family wants to celebrate with us, awesome. If they don’t, that is absolutely fine, too.) And some people love the family hop holiday plan. And that is absolutely fine. If you’re not enjoying it, please try something different this year.

4. Christmas doesn’t end on December 25th.

December 25th is the beginning of Christmas. Before that, we have Advent. But utilize the 12 days of Christmas. The kids are usually out of school for some of it. It buys you 2 extra weeks to celebrate! You’ll be able to fit in the cookie baking you always hope to accomplish, but never do. You’ll be able to cram in some more family carol singing. You’ll be able to do Christmas crafts you missed. That gingerbread village will get built! Don’t stop Christmas on Christmas day. Keep the celebrating going. Not only is the gingerbread village kit going to be 70% off, but you’ll have much more family time. And more time is a win!

December 25th is the beginning of Christmas. Before that, we have Advent. But utilize the 12 days of Christmas. The kids are usually out of school for some of it. It buys you 2 extra weeks to celebrate! You’ll be able to fit in the cookie baking you always hope to accomplish, but never do. You’ll be able to cram in some more family carol singing. You’ll be able to do Christmas crafts you missed. That gingerbread village will get built! Don’t stop Christmas on Christmas day. Keep the celebrating going. Not only is the gingerbread village kit going to be 70% off, but you’ll have much more family time. And more time is a win!

People usually get burned out because they begin the celebrations too early. You start Christmas right after Halloween and skip Thanksgiving and yeah, by Christmas, it gets old. But if you spend your Advent preparing for Christmas and the the 12 days celebrating Christmas, you won’t get burned out. And you’ll actually get a Thanksgiving!

5. Scale it back!

My kids’ absolute favorite Christmas Tree was this tiny, potted, emaciated 4 foot tall tree that would barely hold ornaments. They loved that tree. Our regular ornaments wouldn’t hold at all, so they made paper chains and paper ornaments for this tiny tree. It looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. And it was their favorite. They ask to replicate it each year.

I’m not saying get rid of your 10 foot crystal covered tree. If you love it, by all means, go for it. But if all the decorating, shopping, and just doing stresses you out- scale it back! Simple handmade decorations get you family time and decor- even if it won’t be on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Simple gift giving is completely acceptable. Don’t stress yourself trying to afford this grand entire Toys ‘R’ Us catalogue Christmas for your kids. Less is more. Really. Ever notice that when you give them a ton they go into zone out mode and don’t actually play with anything, but flit from gift to gift?

In our house, each child buys a gift for one another. The kids spend weeks thinking and carefully selecting the perfect gift for each sibling. And they are actually really great at getting one another exactly the right thing. I usually choose for the baby, since he’d likely grab them toilet brushes, since he deems that the toy supreme right now. The Pastor and I will then usually buy each child a gift (usually books from us, we’re boring like that). If we have leftover Christmas budget money, we’ll buy them all one gift together. (Last year, it was a slack line. The year before, a zip line. The year before, they didn’t get this gift because the budget ran out.) So, each kid is looking at getting 5 gifts. That may seem ridiculously tiny to you, but they really enjoy it. And they always seem beyond thrilled. Some families do one gift per child, knowing that getting one thing you really want is enough of a treat. Some do the three gift thing. Whatever you choose, choose something that works for you, your priorities, and your budget.

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6. You don’t have to be doing!

You don’t have to fill every second of every day with magic. You don’t have to have every Saturday from now to Epiphany jam packed with awesome. Give yourself some leisure time. Some people have to write leisure time on the calendar, if that is you, do it! Just make sure you take the time to sit and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. Watch your favorite Christmas movie. Just slow down and don’t pack every single second full of stuff. Christmas memories can be made over hot cocoa on a cold night. It doesn’t have to be the Christmas tree farm, reindeer petting zoo, and every Santa in the city.

7. Do some things you like!

Along the same lines of number six, do some things you like to do this Holiday Season. If grabbing a peppermint mocha just FEELS like Christmas to you, do it! If you like festive nails, take the time to make it happen! If sitting around the fire and knitting feels like the holidays, then sit and knit! Everything doesn’t have to be for the kids. I’m sure they’ll treasure their memories of sitting at your feet while you knit or stealing a swig of your mocha while you’re not looking. Live the Holiday you love, too.

8. Don’t stress gifts!

Learning to be a good giver is something we teach our children. It doesn’t have to be lavish. It doesn’t have to be the best. This is especially true when we’re talking about gifts for teachers, coaches, friends, and extended family. You pick a gift within your budget that is thoughtful. That is about as far as you can go. You can’t make people gracious recipients. It doesn’t matter than you gave your kid’s coach a box of homemade cookies and another kid gave him a 60” plasma TV. You give the gift you want to give. Extravagance is not a necessity. And you don’t have to get every kid in the neighborhood, your cashier at the store, your barista, 5 teachers, 2 principals, and a regular and weekend postal worker a gift. You don’t have to. Those lists of “have to’s” get long. And our resentment gets high. Give the gifts you want to the people you want. End of story.

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9. Don’t forget the Bible.

Clearly, I’m talking to Christians here. Much of this advice could be used for other holidays, but I’m coming from a Christian perspective. If you’re celebrating Christmas as a Christian, don’t neglect to seek God during Advent and Christmas. We tend to loose the reason we celebrate trying to make a Hallmark Christmas. We want pithy bumper stickers proclaiming that Jesus is the Reason for The Season, but our actual holiday practice certainly doesn’t reflect it. We want to get angry at the rest of the world for leaving Christ out of Christmas, when we are the biggest offenders.

Thank God for His blessings and provisions on Thanksgiving. Move through Advent preparing your heart for God with us. We often get so busy, we tell a story to our kids about a baby in a manger and we forget to dwell on the ourself. Holidays are holy days. Keep them holy in your home. Read through the prophesies foretelling of the coming Savior. Read the nativity story in the Gospels. Christmas isn’t just for kids. We need to be reminded about the awesomeness that is this Holiday. We need to be reminded that God became flesh and dwelt among us. Don’t make the mistake of skipping the manger and heading straight to the cross, either. There is time for that. It’s coming. This is the season to dwell on our helplessness and God coming to us. To really embrace that He became one of us. And then when you move through the 12 days of Christmas to Epiphany, you can follow the story of wise men coming to Jesus, of the presence of Christ becoming known to the world. This is the Holiday we Christians celebrate. Do the fat guy, the creepy elf, the lights, the show if you want. Just make sure to park yourself firmly on the real reason we celebrate in the first place. God with us.

10. Show grace.

People get so testy around the holidays. You might be angry with me currently for using the word holiday so much. We want to make it an “us” vs. “them” thing. Don’t tell me “Happy Holidays!” “Keep Christ in Christmas!” “Don’t write X-mas!!!” Pretty sure we all miss the mark when we get so wrapped up in the trivial. Be Christ-like and show some grace. The reality is that not ALL your neighbors are Christian. Not ALL your neighbors celebrate Christmas. Not ALL who celebrate Christmas are Christian. That is the reality of the world around you. That is what makes it so easy to get swept up in the reindeer, Santa, elves, mistletoe, etc. Because what is around you isn’t necessarily Christian. So, instead of getting angry at your culture, show them what Christians mean by Christmas. Show them what God with us means. Show them some grace. “Happy Holidays!” is appropriate. It covers Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. (Bam! Three Christian holidays in one!) “Keep Christ in Christmas!” by keeping Him in Christmas in your home. X-mas, well, that one is a lesson in Greek. You’re basically using Christ’s initials instead of his name, much like those adorable matching PJs you’ve been eyeing for Christmas Eve.

We could also show one another some grace. Santa isn’t Christian or not Christian. My family chose not to participate in the game. Your family might. And that is okay! We can celebrate the same thing in our own way. I make a million cookies. It is my thing. That doesn’t mean you have to make a million cookies. We can celebrate the same thing in different ways. So, cookies, stockings, St. Nick, Santa, Advent Calendars- as long as we Christians are celebrating the birth of Our Lord, let’s rejoice.

Philippians 1:18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

11. Don’t compare!

In keeping with number ten, next we have “don’t compare”. The mommy wars are very real, but they are usually of our own making. So you see my super awesome tea cakes on Instagram, don’t beat yourself up because you’ve got some Chips Ahoy going right now! I’m sure you do plenty of things I don’t do. And your kids will love telling the stories about you and who you are just as much as mine will some day. The Pastor still waxes poetic about canned cranberry sauce like his grandmother used to open. We all have our own gifts, interests, and talents. When you post your manicure that looks like little Santas, I promise, I’ll only be jealous of the kid free time you got while doing it! We share to share our joy, not to make others feel bad or to make ourselves look like super mom. None of us have capes. Glean ideas from one another, but not guilt.

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12. All traditions do not have to be kept.

Your parents started a tradition with you of buying you a new Hallmark ornament each year. That was their tradition. You don’t have to continue it. If you want to, cool beans. If it doesn’t work for you, let it go. Our lives can quickly devolve to chaos when you’ve got two families of tradition meeting. If you try to hold them all, you’ll have no room for your own things. Choose and change what traditions you want to keep. The Pastor gets ridiculously insistent about which foods should don a Thanksgiving or Christmas table. But his meals growing up looked much different from mine. Instead of having this ridiculous 10 family meal for the 7.5 of us, we instead each choose our favorite couple things and go with that. We don’t usually have my family’s cucumber and onions. We don’t have two versions of dressing (stuffing for those that don’t speak Southern). We don’t have two cranberry sauces. We don’t have turkey and ham. We make our own menu and our own “traditional” meal. We cut Santa. I don’t hide gifts for a Christmas morning scavenger hunt like my mom did. You make your own traditions. And you don’t feel guilty about it.

13. Ask your kids what they want to do.

One of my favorite things is learning from my kids what our family traditions are. For example, I did not know that I always put gold chocolate coins in the kids’ stockings until 2 years ago when I overheard the older two talking about it and how much they loved it. Who knew?! I also didn’t realize until I didn’t do it last year, that making paper chains or popcorn chains are their favorite part of tree decorating. So, talk to your kids about what they think the family traditions are and ask them what things they want to do. Mine usually ask to drive around and look at lights. They ask for hot cocoa and Christmas movie night. They ask the name the Christmas tree. So, ask them! You’ll enjoy doing things they love and they’ll love doing the things you love! Let them share in some of the planning.

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14. Keep charity in mind, but don’t feel compelled to do it all.

Particularly around the holidays, people feel the need to be charitable to one another. And I am not knocking that tendency. Yes, there are needs year round, but we will all admit that those are most magnified around the holidays. So, do be charitable! But with the plethora of charities available to you, don’t feel like you have to participate in everything. You just can’t. There is only so much YOU to go around. So, talk it over with the kids, pick something you can all get involved in, and get involved! You may find your kids have a heart for the homeless and want to get involved in a supplies drive and distribution for them. They may decide to knit hats and scarves for them or for orphans in the Ukraine.

My kids have a big heart for foster kids. We participate in our local DFACS Secret Santa program. The kids in foster care make their Christmas wish lists (3 items) and we buy them. Our oldest daughter was actually the one who picked this charity. She said she wants to show foster kids that someone loves them. The gifts have ranged from bikes to MP3 players to nail polish to a dictionary for school.

Whatever charity you decide to participate in, do so with a glad heart and not out of obligation. But know, you don’t have to do it all. There are lots of charities to choose from and you’d run out of time and money before you even got through a fraction of them. So, pick your pony and ride it, as I tell my kids!

15. Slow down and enjoy the little things you’ve been missing.

There are some things that just smell like Christmas. Stop and enjoy those this year. Remember your love as a kid of driving around and seeing all the lights. Take time to actually look at them this year instead of list making in your head as you drive your kids around. Those cookies your grandmother used to make are worth the time this year. Just stop and enjoy the celebration going on all around you. If you get stuck on this, look at your kids for cues. They still see the wonder and will be happy to show you if you stop for a second to enjoy it.

And seriously, Happy Holidays!

Posted in From The Altar, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Announcing “Frankie”

our family

We are expecting! Again. It is exciting for us, even if you “knew this was coming” or are kind of over the every other year announcement. We’re having number 6. The Pastor, the kids, and I are all excited. (I think the kids are the most excited!) This birth brings with it some big changes. For one, we have to buy a new vehicle. Goodbye minivan, hello church bus.

After much deliberation and prayer, we have decided to go for our second home birth. Of course, the only “problem” with this plan is paying for it. With buying a new vehicle to fit cute little number six, we know our funds will be very limited. So, we’ve decided to go out on a limb, a leap of faith, and ask our family and friends to help us out with the birth costs. We have never done anything like this before. But it occurred to us that people don’t know what we need unless we tell them. And our great need for this pregnancy is money to fund the medical expenses.

http://www.gofundme.com/eywd4o – This is a link to a newly set up GoFundMe site for us. Since I am asking for your help, I’ll be glad to tell you how the $4,000 breaks down.

$2800 for prenatal care and delivery expenses to our home birth midwives.

$180 for an ultrasound and consult with a perinatologist who will provide back up care should I need to transfer into the hospital.

$750 for doula fees.

$120 for newborn exam and tests after the birth.

$150 for lab work throughout the pregnancy. (Likely, this won’t be enough to cover it all, but I wanted to make the number nice and even.)

So, if you are wanting to help us out, head on over to the GoFundMe site. Of course, we’ll take money sent directly to us, but I won’t be giving you my home address on the blog. We are really trusting that God will provide through His people. We’re stepping out on faith to see that happen. Follow along here and on the GoFundMe to see the progress. What we’re asking is nothing short of a miracle.

Posted in Under Our Roof

Why I Chose Young Living Oils For My Family

diffuser

I have used essential oils for several years, but the ones I purchased at the health stores just never did quite what they promised. Eucalyptus to open sinuses required me to liberally pour 20 or more drops of the stuff out to get any therapeutic use. So, I started looking into oils a little more and realized the quality of the oils I was using was really low. They were basically perfume grade. So, I started looking for better oils.

Being initially turned off by Young Living’s dated marketing, I turned to DoTerra. I bought their Family Physician Kit for $150 which included 11 oils. These oils were significantly better than the previous health store oils I had been purchasing. But I still was not feeling that the oils were the best. I thought they were good, a huge leap better than the perfume grade, but I still didn’t feel that I could really count on them fully when it came to therapeutic results.

A friend invited me to an oil class she was hosting, which I found out would be Young Living. I thought I would check them out, and if nothing else, buy a bottle of Orange Oil to support my friend. I was so surprised by the quality of Young Living oils. I was also intrigued by the way the oils were presented vs. the way they were presented by the DoTerra rep. (And this isn’t a company standard or anything, just a rep vs. rep which says very little about the company.) But the Young Living oils were presented in a Christ centered way. The oils were made from plants, given by God for our healing. Applying the oil with prayer was something that hadn’t even crossed my mind until the Young Living rep suggested it. (At that point, I had not tried the oils, so I was simply determined to use their advice with my DoTerra oils.) After smelling the Young Living oils, I decided to buy their Premium Starter Kit. For the same $150, I got 11 oils, plus a diffuser, plus samples, plus a roller bottle top. I decided to do a side by side comparison since I’d have both oils. My initial plan was to buy the oils from the cheaper of the two companies.

dt vs yl kit

(Pricing for both companies is very similar. I really don’t understand either side trying to make the case for cheaper oils. Some are cheaper here. Others are cheaper there. It really does even out in the end. Although, the Young Living Kit is clearly the much better value.)

DT vs. YL prices

As far as marketing, DoTerra wins that hands down. Their look is better. Although, since DoTerra is essentially an off shoot, and they’ll not like that I called them that, but whatever, of Young Living, the colors, catalogues, and reference books are ridiculously similar. The bottles are clearly different, but the rest of it looks like an updated Young Living. It is even comical how closely the wording in the reference books were. (And both companies have reference books specific to their products that never mention the company’s name and try to look third party which is annoying.) The DoTerra website is prettier and easier to use.

Young Living Customer Service has proven to be far more helpful than DoTerra’s customer service. Young Living goes above and beyond to make things right. DoTerra is efficient and gets the problem handled, but has never seemed to try to exceed my expectations.

The oils themselves- on my personal smell and usage comparison, Young Living is far better than DoTerra. This is purely anecdotal and not scientific at all. But when I put a Young Living oil on, I know I am going to get the desired effect. Not so for DoTerra. The DoTerra peppermint oil smells like candy canes. Young Living peppermint oil is strong, knock-your-socks-off peppermint. The DoTerra lemon oil smells like lemon drop candy. Young Living lemon oil smells like concentrated lemon peel. For DoTerra, 3-4 drops of peppermint in your water made it refreshing. Young Living, seriously only try a single drop! I found I could use less Young Living oil for better results. A smell test at my house with my friends, and most said of the oils that were different, they preferred Young Living. They agreed the Young Living smell, feel, and act stronger, or more concentrated.

DoTerra does not offer nearly as many oils as Young Living. The blends are so similar is is comical and makes you understand the lawsuit between the two companies. (Breathe and Breathe Again. DiGize and DigestZen. Thieves and OnGuard. Deep Blue and PanAway. All so similar.)

So, when it was all boiled down, did I want flash or a consistently great product. I chose to take the lame labels, quirky website, greater variety, and greater quality offered by Young Living and fully switch. (Which you’ll recall was not my initial plan or my second plan.) I now buy only Young Living oils and recommend them highly to my friends. My friends that are happy with DoTerra, I think that is great. If you find yourself in need of one of the many oils DoTerra doesn’t offer, I’m here. If you’re using health food store oil, you’ll be amazed by either company. I just personally chose Young Living for my family. I can trust the oil to do what I need it to do.

Shameless plug: If you don’t have a Young Living rep, consider using my link  and my number is 1650325 and supporting my family. If you have a Young Living or DoTerra rep, go buy from them.   (Please know that I have the ability to sell DoTerra, as well, I simply choose to buy and sell Young Living based on my personal use and interaction with each company.) If you have any questions about my experience with either company, feel free to ask.

Posted in Out Of My Head, Under Our Roof

Carpet Cleaning with Young Living Thieves Cleaner

Some of you recall that I have posted about carpet cleaning before. Once again, I’m telling you how to clean your carpets. I now have 5 kids ages 7 and under. We homeschool, so we spend most of our days here in this house on this cheap rental home carpet. (Still dreaming of owning my own home one day so I can be rid of carpet- at least in the main areas of my home.) I also have 2 dogs. (One is small and is now senile. He has taken to marking his territory in the house. Fun, right? Anyone want a small senile dog? One is a large English Sheepdog. He tracks in mud on his massive, hairy paws.) I clean my carpet often. Way too often. (Spot cleaning constantly thanks to the senile dog and the toddler.) And while my Oxiclean system works really well, I always holdout hope for a more natural product. (Especially since I have a little one crawling around on it all the time.)

mainI was introduced to Young Living oils a few months ago. They have an all natural cleaning product called Thieves Cleaner. (That is a link to my personal Young Living site where you can find Thieves cleaner to purchase.) It is a multi-purpose cleaner for everything from countertops to hands to floors to windows to laundry. It does it all. Of course, my first thought upon buying a bottle was, “I’m going to put this in my steam cleaner and see what it’ll do for my carpets.” I’ll go ahead and give you my pros and cons up front and then go step by step though carpet cleaning with Thieves Cleaner.

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First, this cleaner is all natural. No chemicals. No harsh fumes. No RINSING necessary. No worries about baby crawling around on it.

Second, because of that no rinsing bit, this is much faster than my traditional OxiClean route.

Third, your carpets will feel softer when they dry using Thieves Cleaner than using OxiClean.

Fourth, it smells amazing.

Fifth, it kills germs and viruses and fungus.

Now, this is not going to get your carpet as super duper white as OxiClean, Dawn, and TTO. If you’ve got thick gummy gunk in the carpet, you may want to go the OxiClean route. I personally now view the OxiClean routine as my heavy duty carpet cleaning and this Young Living Thieves oil as my routine, most-of-the-time carpet cleaning.

beforeStep One: Clear out all the furniture. Yes, you need to. And this picture is why. I found about a dozen empty fruit snacks wrappers from some sneaky little person. I also found random toys, papers, rubber bands, buttons, change, a glow stick, a straw, several crayon nubs… you get the picture. If you don’t move your furniture, all that stays hidden. Also, if you have pets- they tend to mark their territory on chair legs, table legs, side of the couch, etc. So, if you don’t move the furniture, you won’t get to all of that. Plus it is just easier to clean a big empty room than clean around stuff.

before 3

before 2

Vacuum. Note my before picture. You’ll see chocolate milk stains, turmeric stains, jello stains, slime stains, muddy dog feet stains, dog pee stains (it wasn’t set in, fresh, yay- see my sarcastic font?), something red, and something blue. And yes, I cleaned this carpet in full less than 2 months ago.

cleanerNow, add one capful of Thieves Cleaner into each fill of clean water in your steam cleaner. It does foam a little, so add the water (preferably hot) and then the cleaner. Steam clean the entire room. I used 4 fills of my steam cleaner (4 capfuls). Then I used my upholstery attachment and spot cleaned the stains that didn’t want to let go. (This is different from my OxiClean routine where I scrub the spots with Dawn.) Since this is an all natural cleaner, it leaves no residue, so I have no reason to rinse the carpet. And I’m done. Like that. That fast.

after

after 2

Chocolate milk stain- gone. Senile dog pee- gone. Slime and jello- gone. Tumeric- still there. (This turmeric has been in my carpet for over a year now. Even a professional carpet cleaner couldn’t get it out. Moral of the story- keep turmeric laden foods off your carpeted areas.) Red stuff- gone. Mud- gone. Blue stuff- gone. Bright and shiny carpet again.

Let your carpet dry fully before you put your furniture back.

Now, more shout out about this Thieves Cleaner- I used it to then clean my brick fireplace, baseboards, windows, back door, outside windows, kitchen countertop, and coffee table. And I cleaned all that with one capful of cleaner. My bottle is still about 3/4 full! Now that is awesome.

**Disclaimer- Using any cleaner in your steam cleaner other than the brand your steam cleaner company makes will void the warranty. I want my carpet clean and don’t care how I have to get it that way. Warranty schmarranty. You, however, might care. And now I have informed you. Do as you wish with this disclaimer. **

Posted in Under Our Roof

Declutter Challenge

I am participating in a declutter challenge and ask that you join me. Don’t need to join me? Color me jealous. Moving on the the rest of you! Here is how we roll:

– 40 days

– 40 boxes or bags

– You determine your bag or box size. (Or give yourself a time goal. “I will spend 10 minutes each day decluttering.”)

– Get stuff out of your house quickly. Trash can go out that day. Donations should be taken weekly, at least.

– Keep a list of all the things you are getting rid of. (This is optional. But it keeps you focused and will help you see how awesome you’re doing.)

– Get accountability.  Go to the blog’s Facebook page  and tell us there! We’ll all be cheering for you. (I’ll be posting my daily declutterings there, too!

Let’s do this thing!

Posted in Out Of My Head, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Babywearing: A Personal History

bjorn 2We decided to wear our baby before our first was born. I loved the idea and thought it’d be so much easier than maneuvering a stroller everywhere we went. When our first was born, we were still in youth ministry and just knew a stroller wouldn’t really suit our lifestyle. So, off to big box baby store we went. And we registered for the most expensive, “nicest” carrier they had. The Baby Bjorn.

bjornWe quickly realized that was a mistake. Though at the time, I thought it was just babywearing in general, since I did buy the best and all. (Ha!) My hands would go numb within 30 minutes of wearing the carrier. See how narrow the seat is on that thing? Yeah. You had to turn her back and forth to keep her comfortable. Poor little hips.

bjorn 3We didn’t use it at all with our second. It was just too uncomfortable. For our third, we needed our hands! So, we dug the Baby Bjorn back out to give it another shot. I’d been reading and researching baby carriers and I knew there were much better ones than the big box baby stores carried. I just didn’t know if I could justify the price tag. I was looking at spending double what I paid for my Bjorn! And would it be worth it? Or would my hands still go numb and the baby still have to be rotated like a roasting chicken? Finally, we decided to go for it. We NEEDED to be able to wear the baby. We had a baby and two toddlers. Something HAD to work. I ordered my very first Beco Butterfly from Carrymeaway.com.

beco in savannahFinally! We had our hands back! (And they weren’t numb!) Why didn’t we do this sooner? That first Beco was worth every single penny I paid for it. We used it so much more than the stroller we paid way more money for. It made our life so, so, so much easier!

beco beachFinally! We could easily manage two toddlers and a baby!

beco sees flamingosWe even learned we could still carry the toddlers in the Beco Butterfly! Anytime someone got tired at the zoo, we could load them up and carry them without wearing our arms out.

beco colar bear(My kids, for the longest time, thought a polar bear was actually called a “Cola Bear” because of this guy.)

beco butterfly

Suddenly the baby carrier became our one must have item. You could forget diapers at home. You could forget an extra change of clothes. But DO NOT forget the Beco or we’re turning the car around!

first becoIt worked so perfectly for our life. Suddenly we were much more flexible. Even church camp  became easy to tackle. (The Pastor is teaching a class with Emery in tow.)

empty beco(I think he is missing something.)

there's baby!(Oh! There he is!) dinosaut k'tan

When our fourth was born, I bought a Baby K’Tan carrier. It worked wonderfully for the newborn stage- keeping baby snug and cozy against mom. I used it daily- at home and out.

beco ff aquariumWhen the new Beco Gemini came out, we’d been discussing becoming a two carrier family, so we decided to go for it. We knew we’d get our money’s worth out of it. It ended up being The Pastor’s favorite carrier. (In the photo, you can see how much longer it is than the Baby Bjorn. You can also see how much wider the seat is, even with it snapped into the “narrow” position. It is ridiculously more comfy for baby and parent!)

out of beco museum

 

beco gemini pierWe got so comfortable being a double babywearing family that when I broke the buckle of my Beco Butterfly (I slammed it in the van door), I just knew I had to replace it right away. (Should have checked, because you can buy replacement buckles on Beco’s website.)

beco butterfly newSo we bought another Beco Butterfly.

church super bowl party becoAbsolutely worth it!

thumbs up

DITL- Momma BBThe Beco Soleil  joined our family earlier this month, and once again, we’re in love. We now own 4 baby carriers and I can tell you every single one of them was well worth the money.

soleil close upWhat makes them better than the cheaper versions? Well, quality, when we’re talking about something you wear, is always going to matter. The quality is simply not there in cheapo carriers.  You’re also dealing with a company that consistently makes a good product- always important when talking about baby items. The good carriers (if you don’t have any clue what a good carrier is, check out this site and browse around. They only carry good ones.) also last a really long time. Through washings, beach trips, zoo trips, being shoved in your bag, grocery runs, and ball games- these carriers hold up.  Good carriers have much higher weight limits! The Baby Bjorn maxes out at 25lbs. The Soleil maxes out at 45lbs.  That is a big, big difference! (And I can tell you from experience that the comfort level of a maxed out Bjorn is nil- while a maxed out Soleil is still incredibly comfortable and easy to carry.)

I’ve been asked frequently about the price of carriers. If you’re truly strapped and cannot spend more than Baby Bjorn price for a carrier, check out a wrap. They are going to be much more comfortable than a cheap carrier for both you and baby at the same price. You can still have a great carrier on a limited budget. If you’re expecting- you’ll use the carrier way more than the stroller, pack and play, exersaucer, etc. So invest the money in the carrier! I have never regretted the money spent on my carriers.

beco christmas tree * Note: You’ll notice that most of my carriers (the Baby K’Tan is the exception) are buckle carriers. There are plenty of other kinds of awesome carriers out there! Here is an article to help you decide which carrier is for you.