When On Earth Did She Turn Into This Not-So-Little Lady?

Beautiful Bri
Beautiful Bri

Beautiful Bri

I briefly mentioned Brianna’s shoe size in another post, but in the last week or so, I’ve just been sort of blown away by the changes in her. Seriously, she’s almost as tall as I am. I’m 5’3″ and she’s got to be hovering right around 5′. With her size nines on, she’s just a hair shorter than me. She also has these moments where she slips into woman mode and absolutely takes my breath away. She doesn’t know she’s done it; she looks at me like I’m insane and tries to hide from the camera when I whip it out (me, desperately needing to capture that moment). I have to beg her to let me take it, explaining that I’m not trying to embarrass her, but that she is just. so. beautiful. She tends to relent a bit at that point, but has a hard time letting down her guard so I can take a natural picture. That’s why I take about 50 in a row – so I can catch the real moments hidden between the nervous smiles.

I remember those desperate and uncomfortable moments. They extended well into my 20s until I managed to find some peace with myself, some confidence in my own brand of loveliness, and an increasing acceptance in my very different, post-babies body. I never really managed to love my pre-babies body, and I just find that so unfortunate and sad. It’s such a waste of precious time, and I pray that she appreciates her own beauty, and embraces her curves and her shape well before I could appreciate mine.

We had a girl’s afternoon on Sunday, with legitimate excuses to get out…am I the only one that sometimes needs a legitimate excuse to force myself out with just one child? I should make a point of doing it for absolutely no reason. Anyway, she needed a new bathing suit (she won’t stop growing!!), and a couple other things. We always have such a good time while we are out, like 2 demented peas in a pod. We have similar goofy senses of humor, and without all the distractions and drama of the other 3 kids, we inevitably reconnect in a way, and remember that we truly like each other. I hope you understand what I mean by that; I love Brianna and all my children with a deep ferocity that cannot be explained in words. It’s in my guts and my soul and my heart and that will never change. The love is never the problem. The like can be more difficult to remember amid the constant bickering and shrieks and attitude-filled protestations on everything from chores to school work. It is so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day shenanigans of life and forget the things we love about each other, and so I absolutely treasure the times like this past Sunday afternoon, when we are reminded of those things over cold Starbucks drinks and lots of girlish giggling. We did have a time! Look at this girl!

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Essential Oil Spotlight: Juniper Berry

dōTERRA Juniper Berry Essential Oil

dōTERRA Juniper Berry Essential Oil

I’m writing this today, because last night Miss Fiona had a night terror and it was like an unpleasant flashback to the days when these were a frequent occurence. She was getting them at the end of 2014, and at that time, I stumbled onto the wonder that is juniper berry essential oil. Thanks to this oil, we haven’t seen much in the way of night terrors since we started using it. It turns out, for whatever reason, Fiona didn’t get her juniper berry oil last night! Lesson learned.

Anyway, back to December. After some research, I found that multiple people had experienced results when using juniper berry essential oil for nighttime issues. I figured that it was worth a shot, because night terrors are seriously for the birds. It’s awful having a miserable, freaked out, and completely incoherent child screaming and thrashing in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Children can’t be reasoned with or calmed down when they’re like this. It’s a waiting game for her to snap out of it, and then she’s fine (her mother, however, tends to be a little worse for the wear after one of these episodes).

Side note: I went through this with Eli, too. That was pre-essential oils, and his episodes lasted for what seemed like an eternity. His were hardcore and frequent, and I wish with all my heart that I had known then what I know now!

Also, something that I’ve noticed is that these episodes seem to come about much more frequently when the kids have played extra hard outside during the day. They both seem to experience (Eli experienced – past tense) leg discomfort during these times, like growing pains or restless leg syndrome. So, I try to address any leg pain when the episodes happen.

Our new routine is to apply diluted juniper berry and lavender to the bottoms of her feet and down her spine every night before bed. I have 2 separate roller bottles that I have on hand always, one with juniper berry, and one with lavender. Each 10 mL bottle has 10 drops of the oil and then the rest of the bottle is just fractionated coconut oil. In the first 2 weeks that we tried this, Fiona woke once during the night, and instead of having a night terror, she was calm and reasonable. I count this as maybe my best essential oil success story, because our nights were so disrupted and terrible when these episodes were happening frequently. And now? The improvement is astounding.

Last night, because we were in the midst of a full on night terror, instead of doing our normal proactive protocol, I went with something slightly different. I just put about 2 tsp of fractionated coconut oil in my palm, along with 2 drops of juniper berry, 2 drops of marjoram (to help with leg pain), and 2 drops of Serenity (dōTERRA’s calming blend), and massaged the mixture into her lower legs, feet and knees. I would normally have only used a drop of each oil, but things were chaotic, as you can imagine. It worked like a charm, and she slept peacefully the rest of the night.

I can’t recommend these oils highly enough. I have used them for years, and finally became a Wellness Advocate last year. I have no idea what took me so long! If you are interested in trying this oil or any other, let me know. Or if you already know you want oils and you need help getting started, I can help with that, too. I’m happy to share my time, oil samples, and information, anytime! You can contact me through the site or just email me – valeries.doterra.essentials at gmail.com. xo!

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An Update to the Best Homemade Deodorant Ever

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So, the old recipe worked fabulously well for me in Indiana, home of frigid snow-filled winters, where we kept our thermostat set ridiculously low in the summer and the deodorant never really melted. Fast forward to life here in the Sunshine State, where we’ve adjusted our thermostat up a bit to save on energy costs (we keep it at 80 during the day). Once we arrived, that tub of deodorant never solidified again. A big tub of liquidy brown stuff wasn’t really cutting it for me, so I did a bit research to figure out how to keep it at a reasonable consistency. It looked like beeswax was going to be the key to my success, so I ordered some, puzzled out how much to add to my existing recipe, and dug in.

I used a double boiler this time, in order to get the beeswax melted and to ensure everything was well combined. Everything was pretty quick and easy, though once the deo mixture starts to cool, it gets a little tricky to remove the from the whisk, pan, etc. Prepare for some vigorous clean up!

I stuck with my same recipe, except that I changed up the essential oil composition a bit and added the beeswax. I have a larger variety of oils on hand now that I’m a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate, so I figured I’d play just a little. Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Quick, Easy & Soothing Deodorant (That Really Works….AND Stays Solid!)

  1. Melt the coconut oil, sunflower oil, and beeswax in a double boiler and stir to combine.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Whisk them into the melted mixture in the double boiler and continue to whisk until well combined. There shouldn’t be any lumps!
  3. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Add the essential oils and mix together.
  5. Spoon the mixture into empty deodorant containers (I used these from Amazon and they worked very well). Make sure the bottoms of the containers are all the way down before you put the deodorant in. Once filled, smack the bottom of each container against the top of the counter a few times to settle the deo into the container and remove air pockets. Level out the top and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to help it set up.

Note: This recipe made enough to file 2.5 of these deodorant containers.

I’ve tried the deodorant once (I just made it yesterday), and I can testify that it hasn’t melted. However, it is still slightly soft. I applied it from the container and it went on thick enough that I had to smooth it out with my hand. I’m glad that it’s mostly solid, but I’d prefer a firmer deodorant, so I’ll just have to continue playing around with my proportions! In the meantime, it works.

As a side note, this deodorant might stain the pits on your shirts. Between the oils and the clay, there is potential for that. It doesn’t adversely affect me, and I’d rather have stained shirt pits than have aluminum absorbed into my skin. Consider yourself lovingly warned. xo!

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Updates and Life

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I’m just going to go ahead and gloss right over the fact that I’ve been M.I.A. for practically a year, and get right to the good stuff. Here are some updates.

We live in Florida now!!!!

Yep, you read that right! We moved to the north side of Orlando, where Brian got a great job with opportunities to move up and over (perhaps to the coast eventually). We found a perfect house to rent and we’ve been busy exploring Florida. There are kids galore in the neighborhood, and my urchins can’t help but make friends left and right. Brian and I even took up kayaking! I can clearly see where all my money is going for the next few years…see below. Mom moved down with us (so grateful and happy about that), and she’s loving it, too.


The kids have been growing like weeds. Bri just turned 12 and is wearing larger shoes than I do. Eli is 9, Fiona is 4, and Sabrina is 2. They all love Florida <3

Not that life is *all* sunshine and butterflies – only something like 95% actually is (ha). I think it was our second day here that we were sideswiped at an intersection by a box truck. Thank GOD he only killed our mirror – my life sort of flashed before my eyes while he just drove away. It scared the crap out of me and I’ve been a little wary ever since, but seriously, life is good.

So, stay tuned for pictures and updates from Florida, DIY product recipes, and essential oil goodies from time to time. It’s good to be back!



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Best Homemade Deodorant Ever. Seriously.

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I’m a crunchy, natural-stuff-loving girl, and I’ve been buying aluminum-free deodorant, or making my own, for a few years now. I’ve experienced results ranging from instantly odorous pits to flaming pits of fire and agony. I recently ran out of my last batch of homemade stuff, which I had okay results with, but I wasn’t so wowed that I wanted to make it again. Plus, I was feeling lazy.

I went to the health food store to pick up the clay-based deodorant that I’ve used and liked in the past, but they were out of my flavor. I went with citrus blossom instead, and within a couple days, I was again a member of the Flamin’ Pits Coalition. Back to the drawing board, because apparently, this girl’s pits dislike citrus.

I decided to try homemade again, but I wanted to make a couple changes. First, when using coconut oil, the finished deo can be quite hard, so I was hoping for a recipe that turned out a bit softer. Also, there were definitely times when my underpit skin got itchy and irritated, so I was hoping to make this concoction a bit more soothing. With that in mind, I googled around for deodorant with sunflower oil in it, as I have some lying around. I came upon a site I’ve visited before, Crunchy Betty, and her post about soothing deodorant. Ding ding, we had a winner. However, she did a whole multi-week infusion process, and as I’m fond of saying, ain’t nobody got time for that. So, I came up with my own recipe, and I’m going to do my best to remember it so I can share it with you. I have to share it, because it actually, seriously, not-even-joking, WORKS. Like at the end of day 2, I’m barely even a teensy weensy bit smelly. And I’m a girl who can go from 0 to PEE-YOU in 5 seconds flat.

Quick, Easy & Soothing Deodorant (That Really Works!)

  • 5 Tbsp coconut oil, melted but barely warm (I used Nature’s Way)
  • 3 Tbsp sunflower oil (I used Plant Therapy)
  • about 10 drops each melaleuca and lavender essential oils
  • 5 Tbsp bentonite clay (I used Redmond Clay)
  • 4 Tbsp baking soda (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 4 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  1. Mix the 2 oils thoroughly.
  2. Add the essential oils and mix.
  3. Gradually add the powders and stir very well. You don’t want any lumps of concentrated baking soda especially, as this can irritate your skin later.

The mixture was pretty goopy at this point, and I poured it into a smallish plastic container to store and use. Once the coconut oil cooled completely, it was a pretty solid mixture, but it’s easy enough to swipe some onto your finger, so it works fine for me. I simply apply a little glob to each pit and proceed to not stink for far longer than I ever thought possible. I love it!


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Smart Puppy, Happy Family

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Behaving like a perfect gentleman at the in-laws on Easter Sunday. They were so impressed!

Behaving like a perfect gentleman at the in-laws on Easter Sunday. They were so impressed!

Update on Auggie: he’s terrifically smart. Apparently, I formerly equated extreme stubbornness with stupidity, but if I judge myself and MY ENTIRE FAMILY by those standards, we would be classified as The Dumbest of All The Dumb Things. Now that I’m working with this dog, purposefully and lovingly, I’m able to see how flipping intelligent he is, and I’m so grateful that God opened my eyes on this one, and more importantly, changed my heart.

Brian was off last week, and we had a lovely time having him home with us. School looks much more like Unschool when daddy’s home, and last week there was lots of outside playtime (thanks to some finally gorgeous weather), helping us clean out the garage, playing Dragon Box (awesome app that quietly teaches algebra concepts), learning HTML (Bri, using Code Avengers), writing poetry and blog posts on her own little website (Bri), reading a million books aloud (me, to the 2 youngest), and reading books to himself (Eli, delving into reading on his own, for fun!). We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Yesterday was Brian’s first day back to work, so we all went through a sort of withdrawal, in addition to the normal Monday icks. I wasn’t as on top of the dog training stuff yesterday, nor was I all that engaged with anyone. I guess I was quietly mourning the loss of all that extra time with my husband.

Today was fantastic, in contrast with all the mediocrity of yesterday. We did some actual school. I took Auggie out for a couple of different training sessions in the yard, as well as some fetch, which he loved. He is now ignoring the kids when they play on the sidewalk outside the fence, whereas last week he would constantly bark at them as they walked by on the other side of the fence. So ridiculous the difference a week makes. We also worked on being out there and being peaceful while school was letting out. We live very close to an elementary school, so every day there are scads of kids and parents walking and riding bikes past our house. He ignored a lot of the commotion, and I was prepared for him to flip out, so when he did, I got him under control immediately and we worked through it. We also worked on having the kids give more commands, like making him sit before they would throw the ball for him, and we’re teaching him “drop it”. The kids were having a blast with all this, and Auggie handled the chaos of 3 kids and me all kind of talking over each other and being a little nuts. He’s like a different dog. I can’t even express how grateful I am for the change in the entire mood of the household and the tremendous shift we’ve had from utter chaos to relative peace.

Speaking of shifts, Fiona has started showing up in our bed in the middle of the night lately, and she insists on playing a koala bear and attaching herself to my side. She somehow manages to push me toward the middle of the bed, and the baby is generally already between me and Brian, so the poor man ends up hanging on by a thread to the edge of the bed. I made a deal with her tonight that if she stays in her bed all night, she can have a bite of her chocolate bunny for breakfast (dollars to donuts she takes a hunk off the bunny’s bum). I make exceptions for bad dreams or other frights, but she still has to go back to her bed after getting some snuggles for comfort. We’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping for some sleep and maybe the ability to roll over in my own bed without dislocating my shoulder. Pray for me.


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Our Dog Auggie, and Also, Kids Are Awesome.

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We almost got rid of one of our dogs. I was almost a huge jerk.

I’m not one of those people that thinks of their pets the same way they think of their children. They just aren’t the same to me. I got as far as contacting no-kill shelters in town to find out if they could take him. They couldn’t, but they were happy to help spread the word about him to try to get him adopted. The entire time I was going through this, chatting with these people, and contemplating this huge change, I kept having the same thought: “It would be so much easier without him here”. That was always followed immediately by another thought: “That’s an irresponsible way to handle this problem. It’s not fair to the dog”. I didn’t know what to do.

Things had been out of control with the dog pretty much ever since we took him in. My mom got him while she was in a relationship. The relationship turned out to be not great, and it ended with threats and police and lots of really bad feelings and memories. Unfortunately, and unfairly, the dog was tied up in those memories, both for my mom and for me. She was going to give him up shortly after the relationship ended, but upon discussions with my husband, we decided to take him in ourselves. We’d always talked about getting another dog.

Of course, at the time, I was pregnant with our fourth child. I’m notorious for nonchalantly making huge decisions while pregnant. The result of taking him in while pregnant (and homeschooling and working from home and all the other things) was that I didn’t have the necessary time or energy to train the dog. He was potty trained when he came and knew some basic commands. But without further training from us, and lacking consistency, he just got more and more out of control as he got bigger, and oh so very stubborn. I found myself hating him. It was so unfair and miserable for everyone involved.

When things started to get real with the potential adopters, I brought it up to the kids, and was shocked by their responses. When I said we were trying to find a better home for Auggie, they both responded the same way: “WHY?”

I should mention that these kids haven’t particularly enjoyed Auggie, either. The adults have had bad attitudes toward him from the beginning, and the kids definitely picked up on those attitudes and acted accordingly. Even so, it seems he is still family to them. I thought overnight about their reactions, and the next day asked them if they wanted to keep him. Without hesitation, they said they did. So, I resolved to fix the mess I had made.

Some of the intolerable behavior includes:

  • obsessively chasing the cat (though he would never hurt her)
  • barking, loud and ferocious, scary even, and nearly constant. He would bark at everyone that walked by, and we live in town, with sidewalks, and people are always walking, running, riding bikes, etc. We live near a school, and kids were always out and about. He would bark and snarl and be ridiculous while outside at the fence, scaring people to death, and while inside, thus disrupting the entire household multiple times every day. I’m one of those people that cannot stand loud, sudden noises beyond a certain point, and I reached that point months ago.
  • running over the little kids
  • running through the screen door (the screen is just flapping in the breeze at this point – he completely ripped it, and we are loathe to replace it until this problem is under control)

These things had all built up to the point where the task of training him felt insurmountable, and the only thing I felt I could do was give him up. Now I had to rethink the whole thing, and figure out how to help him be a good dog.

I started by giving him a bath. This made it much more pleasant to pet him, and since a huge part of the problem was that he was craving some attention and love, this was a concrete and relatively easy step to take. I talked to the kids about how things were going to have to change, and that Brian and I would be leading the change. We needed to officially make him a part of the family. We needed to love on him and play with him and teach him how to be part of the household. They were on board. The bath certainly helped :)

Next, I put him on a leash and kept him beside me constantly. I didn’t let him pull on me. I made him obey constantly. He had to sit and lay down and watch out for other people. I took him walking in our yard and helped him learn that people walking by aren’t a threat. I played with him and threw the ball and the stick for him. I scratched his back and took him for walks. The walks were tough – a definite challenge and a huge test of my patience. But he picked up on the rules pretty quickly, and this gave us lots more chances to get him used to strangers and to train the incessant barking out of him. I worked on teaching him that the doorbell doesn’t mean armageddon and a knock on the door is no reason to bark his fool head off. He proved his intelligence over and over, by learning quickly and behaving better than the good old dog.

on guard

On the lookout!

guarding the kids

Guarding the children <3

All of us at the playground

We took over the playground…

The house has been so much more peaceful than I ever thought possible. He lays down and relaxes much of the time. He doesn’t bark at every single noise. He comes up for love and attention and we give it freely. Instead of trying to launch himself into our laps for fear that he will never get another pat, he happily goes and lays back down.

I feel horrible for waiting so long to do this, but man. Things are sure looking up.


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I’m Healing! There’s Hope!


Not to be overly dramatic, but I kind of doubted if I’d ever recover from this knee business. I just felt really old and broken, and after such a short time of run/walking, that’s discouraging. Very discouraging. I’m going to share the 3 things that have gotten me quickly on the road to recovery, in case you’re ever in such a situation.


It turns out that my chiro, who I hadn’t seen in about a year, just had a baby (yay!), so her office referred me to another chiro. I felt like approximately a zillion bucks when I left her office. I had all kinds of things “out” in my back and hips – it’s no wonder I was in so much pain, and why I probably had issues with my knees in the first place.

2. Take glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM.

I don’t know whether it was one or all of these supplements (or none?) that helped. But they certainly didn’t hurt. The bottle says to take 1 pill 4-6 times a day, and I did. I was popping them like candy the first couple days. I used this one from Natural Factors.

3. Wear a knee brace. Or 2, if both knees are toast.

I just grabbed a couple of stabilizing knee braces at the store, because after the chiro, I felt like my knees were just all over the place. I needed some extra support, especially because the kids had 4 soccer games over the weekend, between the 2 of them. The braces made my knees look very rotund under my jeans, as well as quite sweaty, but they definitely served their purpose.

Even though it has felt like my knees were broken for approximately 4 years, it was really just over a week. I know, I’m a total weenie. When I woke up this morning, I felt notably better. Not stiff or sore or anything bad. I handled the stairs a couple times today without making things worse. There were some twinges while going up or down the stairs, but nothing insurmountable. I feel very hopeful that with some regular strengthening exercises and yoga, I’ll be back on a run/walk/5k program in a few weeks. I’m excited!

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Flying Caterpillars and Monkey Babies


My littlest monkey is now climbing up on All The Things, including the thing we use to keep her safely enclosed in the living room. It’s a tote full of books, and her new favorite thing to do is wiggle herself up on it, stand up, and look around proudly to see if anyone is noticing. Her father is less enthusiastic about her new skill, but I think it’s pretty awesome. We started putting a basket full of socks on top of the tote of books, which is successfully thwarting her for now. On a related note, am I the only one that has totes and baskets full of things that most people have on shelves or in drawers? Hmm.

She also enjoys climbing up and standing on the raised hearth of our fireplace. This is a bit more troubling due to all the sharp edges and corners, but again, her absolute joy at being in such a forbidden location seems to really thrill her to no end. She’s figured out how to scoot off and land on her feet (most of the time). It’s all very enjoyable to watch, when it’s not terrifying. My mom often chooses not to watch.

Sometimes, when she tries to break the glass front of the bookcase with a hairbrush, and I prevent her from doing that, she does this:

She’s also a favorite pet of the 3 year old. Watch what happens when Fi plays with the baby…

There have been multiple days this week that were warm enough for the kids to go outside for many hours on end. It has been amazing. AMAZING. The baby even spent some time out with the kids, walking around in the now soft grass and mud, picking up things to examine, and waving and laughing at me as I look at her from the window.

Charlie Brown otherwise known as a wooly bear

Yesterday, Fiona got irate with Eli, because he told her to put down a charlie brown that she found and she wouldn’t. For some reason, he was all fired up about her putting it down, and when she wouldn’t, he took it from her and threw it. The shrieks were intense, as was the snot-faced distress of my little girl as she came in crying to me and screeching about how “ELI….DID FROW…..MY CHARLIE BROWN AND I’M NOT FORGIVE HIM!” It was heartbreaking and adorable. I made Eli go search for that thing, and bless his heart, he did. He couldn’t find the little guy, so he brought her some pretty rocks. She pretty staunchly snubbed her nose at them, but her heart started softening after he sincerely apologized. These are the fights that happen when it’s warm, and I much prefer them to the alternative. I’ll take it.

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