My Minimal, Mostly Natural Hygiene Routine

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Also, please do your research on essential oils if you are truly interested. Read this post for more.

When I started looking into essential oils for my anxiety, I learned A LOT about the amount of STUFF that is in beauty and hygiene products; so much of that stuff is really awful for us. 

Chemicals, dyes, perfumes... 

When I really took stock of what I was putting on my skin and in my mouth, I was shocked!

So, in the last couple of years, I have been making changes to have a more natural, chemical free life.

But I'm gonna keep it real.

Here is the other side of my bathroom counter:

I fully intend to dye my hair next week after I get a hair cut. Baby steps, right?

Oh... and jelly beans, 'cuz potty training.

Let's talk tooth paste.
I was worried that natural wouldn't cut it. After all, there's no fluoride in it. Well, let me tell you a story. The first time I went to the dentist after I started using natural tooth paste, the hygienist asked me, 

"Are you doing something different since your last visit?"

My first thought was OH CRAP! I totally lied and said no.

Her reply was that I need to keep doing whatever I was doing, because the number of "deep pockets" (whatever the heck those are) had gone from 17 at my last visit to 8.

She didn't even lecture me on flossing, 'cause well... I don't... very often... like once a week... or maybe once every two. Did I just admit that?!

When she told me this, I *suddenly* remembered to tell her that I was using a home made toothpaste. 

Here is what I use for my toothpaste:
1 part coconut oil
1 part baking soda
1/3 part hydrogen peroxide (optional for whitening)
Appropriate ratio of peppermint essential oil

Now, I'm not gonna lie, the first time I used this, I was NOT A FAN. It tasted so salty and bland compared to the minty, Aspartame (yes... ASPARTAME) sweetened toothpaste I was used to, but I was determined to stick with it. After just a few days, I was used to the taste and thoroughly impressed by how clean my mouth felt after every brush. I'll never go back.

Facial Care:
I don't have time or patience for any more facial steps than cleanser and moisturizer. 

I use a simple Neutrogena bar cleanser (not totally natural ingredients though) if I wore make up that day. If I didn't wear any make up, I just use my body cloth from Norwex. 

I moisturize with a mixture of 50% Jojoba oil and 50% Rose Hip oil. I add to that an appropriate 2% ratio combo of Tea Tree essential oil  and either Lavender or Frankincense essential oil. 

Six to 8 drops on my face is all I need for all day moisture. Oh, and don't freak out if your Rose Hip oil is yellow... it absorbs colorlessly ; ) Seriously, the container I have right now will last me a year for sure!

Body Care:
Again, soap and moisturizer only for me and actually, I rarely ever use lotion on my body other than my hands. I need LOTS for my hands especially during winter.

In the shower, I wash up with Dove bar soap for sensitive skin, and exfoliate with my Norwex cloth mentioned above.

My lotion is 50% coconut oil and 50% shea butter and then 2% ratio of your favorite essential oils. I am currently using Spearmint and Eucalyptus. 

This lotion is so thick and creamy. It takes just a tiny amount to do the job, and I really only need to re-apply after I wash my hands.

Hair Care:
I used to use shampoo and conditioner, but not any more. I found this bar soap and I LOVE it. 

I did a whole ton of research on the "no poo" method and all kinds of DIY shampoos. It just seemed that home made shampoos that were actually PH balanced (do your research on that) had to be mixed right before you used it or refrigerated or lasted only a few days. 

This shampoo suds up nicely which isn't always the case with natural shampoos. It also rinses totally clean. 

I use this on my kids too, even my daughter's long hair. There is no need for conditioner, and her hair is no more tangly than it was using the popular store bought kids' shampoos.

A few times, I have used regular shampoos while we've traveled and stayed other places. I notice every time how slimy they leave her hair, like the shampoo never rinses out. It just feels like build up in her hair.

Finally, for control of my pixie cut, which can be affected by major cowlick action, I use this recipe by Robin Konie of 

Less chemicals. Less time. Cost effective. All of these things are a win for me!

Have you thought about the ingredients in your products before? It's worth a look. Share your experiences in the comments!

On Grief -- Death Anniversaries Aren't Ordinary Days

Last week, I mentioned that it was the two year mark of my mother's passing. 

Losing a loved one is hard. Like... really hard.

I miss my mom.

On the actual anniversary date of her death, I was kind of a wreck. I made it through the day with the kids, but after 5:00, I was done. Thank God I have an amazing, supportive husband who asked me what I needed. He was able to give me the rest of the evening and night to just be.

I dropped the kids off to him at the park and ran into a dear friend who is grieving the very recent loss of her husband. What a God send at that moment in my life... for she knew. I felt totally comfortable telling her I was not okay and that I just needed to go home and mourn. 

I was feeling a bit guilty leaving my kids and leaving an activity that usually brings me great joy every week, but my friend said these words to me: 

"What strength." 

I'm paraphrasing now, but she was telling me that knowing my limits and taking time for self care shows great strength of character.

When I got home, I cried.

I thought.

I realized something rather profound. 

Death anniversaries aren't ordinary days. 

I was desperately trying to go on as normal. After all, the day before I was fine. Why should this day be any different? I was having a hard time justifying my sadness, because why should the number on the calendar dictate my mood?

But then, I thought about my wedding anniversary date. I thought about birth dates. I thought about adoption dates. I thought about sobriety anniversary dates. I thought about all kinds of happy anniversary dates that we celebrate with joy. 

Those aren't ordinary days either. We remember and we celebrate. We go back to the emotion of the date.

For some reason, because this date is related to a sad event, I didn't think it was okay to remember, recognize, and feel. 


I will never forget the day my mother died (nor any of the days leading up to it). It will remain with me for the rest of my life. It was impactful. It was hard.

I'm not going to ignore those hard things.

I'm not going to ignore the loss of a strong, graceful, classy, loving, person. I'm going to remember her and make sure that she is known. 

And that does take strength.

Other Me's -- My dad's caregiver experience with Lewy Body Dementia

Today marks two years since my mother's passing, and I've shared a little about her battle with Lewy Body Dementia. Well, my dad just published a book about his care giving experience. 

It was the most difficult read of my life.

It was also the most beautiful love story I've ever read.

If you are fascinated by the brain and/or psychology, you should read this. If you work with or are interested in working with dementia patients, you should read this book. If you are a care giver for anyone with dementia, you need to read this book.

It's an eye opening experience to read about. I'm sure many will read it and relate, feeling not so alone anymore. 

Here is the synopsis:

Other Me's is a detailed, personal account of how one man and his family dealt with the effects of Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinson's Disease during the last two years of his wife Diane's life. Using reflective daily journals and memory care facility notes, Jim Adams chronicles the progression of Diane's physical and mental symptoms, including Capgras Syndrome, which caused Diane to believe there were multiple versions of her husband of 52 years including several malevolent imposters.

Commence Home School -- Why We Choose Home Education

When my daughter was born, I vaguely thought about her education; it was so far away... right?

When she was three, I was like, "Kindergarten is still two years away... I got time."

Suddenly she's four and some months, and I'm all, "how did this happen?! I have to decide on her schooling. I thought I had so much time!"

Little brother just couldn't be left out!
I think deep down, I always knew I was going to home school, but I really didn't tell many people I was even thinking about it until the last couple of months. Why? Because I have this tendency to fear what others think of me.

There. I said it.

While most people are completely supportive, some people just can not comprehend why anyone would choose such a path. There are many people that assume all home school families are the same... secluded, socially awkward, and sheltered. Or there is assumption that all home school families are anti-public school. (I will address these myths in another post).

Not only do I fear what people think of me, I also fear that people with think I am judging THEM on their schooling choices, as if I think that home school is the best way for every child to be educated. Or that only the best parents home school.

All of this. So. Not. True.

So, why are we home schooling? Because, it's what Mike and I feel is best for our family.

Our circumstances are such that home schooling works for us.

More specifically:

Financially, we are able to sustain ourselves with my husband's job and both of our free lance incomes. That means, I am able to be home with my kids full time. Not everyone has that or even wants that.

It's actually our free lance lifestyle that tipped the scales for us. Since becoming so, Mike and I have relished in the flexibility of our schedules. We have become quite used to being very choosy about how we spend our time, and the thought of having someone else (a public school system) telling us how we should spend or time is totally unappealing.

That's not to say, we don't respect being timely and responsible about meetings and appointments. Our schedule is loose, but we still have things to do and places to be.

Also, I am a learner and a teacher at heart. These are gifts that God has given me and that have been nurtured in me all my life. I'm not diluting myself, I know there will be times of utter frustration while teaching my children, but I feel I have the ability to teach and the patience to endure home schooling.

If our circumstances were any different... if I had to or wanted to work more, or my gifting was, say engineering or cooking or calculating rather than learning and teaching, my kids would be going to public school.

We started school officially on July 11. I know. I know it seems cruel to make kids do school during "summer vacation," but my kids don't know what it means to have summer vacation! Summer lends itself to SO MANY learning opportunities that I don't want to miss out on. So, I am going to take full advantage of them not knowing what they are "missing out" on.

Starting in Summer to do a year round schooling schedule will allow us a four day school week with plenty of vacation opportunity as well. Many smaller breaks with a more relaxed weekly schedule suits me better than a few longer breaks. I'm hoping it will cut review time too, because, really, kids forget a lot of what they learned during the summer break.

This is definitely NOT going to become a home school blog, but I do look forward to sharing some fun projects with you as well as some joys and struggles of this lifestyle.

Did you (or do you) struggle with decisions about your kids' education? Share and support each other in the comments : )

Coping with Anxiety -- Your Circle of Control

* Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase, I make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting Little Things, Love... and Reality.

There is one major theme when it comes to the anxiety issues in my life: CONTROL

or... lack of it. 

Whenever my symptoms arise (nausea, stomach pain, shaking, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, etc.), the lack of control I feel is terrifying, which only causes the symptoms to get worse. It's a vicious cycle. Very quickly my body becomes sensitized, and basically I feel anxiety over my anxiety and the lack of control over my symptoms.

I have learned that when I feel symptoms, I try to control them. I try so very hard, always to no avail, to make them go away. I fight them with all my might, which actually only makes things worse. 

I can not tell you what a difference it has made in my life to just give into the feelings of anxiety. If you have been on this blog before, you know that I love Dr. Claire Weekes. Please read her book. It will explain more in depth what I mean. 

When I feel anxiety and the symptoms that come along with it, most of the time it's about something over which I have no control. 

Loved ones, getting sick
My husband's work/job
Choices that other people make in their lives (like addictions or even choices about money and relationships)
Tragedy around the nation/world
These are just a few examples.

I want to fix things. I want to make choices for people. I want to right wrongs, and because I can't (or really shouldn't) I feel anxious. 

In reality, I just need to let that sh*t go. (Insert Frozen sound track here.)

A friend of mine introduced me to Susan Goss awhile back. She came to our church and spoke about anxiety. When she gave her "circle talk," a big light bulb went off for me. 

I am a very visual learner, and it really took seeing it mapped out in this way for me to "get it." 

If you don't watch, here is the main idea of the circle talk:

Here I've added a just a few things of my own:

I think it's pretty self explanatory, right?

It's a daily process of letting go.

Daily, when I feel myself getting anxious, I ask myself whether or not this "thing" is in my control. Most often it is "not in my circle."

"Not in my circle" has become sort of a catch phrase among my friends, because I have shared this strategy with all of them and now, I hope it will help you!

What are things you know are not "in your circle" but still want to control? Share in the comments!

That Time When I Said, "No Big Birthday Party This Year"

Last year, I threw a STELLAR birthday party for my kids. They both have May birthdays so, I hosted one big party for adults and kids. I *thought* having adults over would be cool because I like all the people I hang out with, right?

Well, everyone had a blast! People told me for weeks afterward what a great party it was. The thing is... I didn't enjoy it. I was so busy "hosting" that I missed out on any relaxing visitation with said people. 

I know it's not about me. The kids had a terrific time. I loved watching them (for a few stolen moments) have a ball with their friends and family. But, there's just got to be a better way! A way for me to help give happy memories to my kids as well as for me to ENJOY doing so.

Every week, I host a "mom's group" at my house. Six moms, 12 kids. I don't know what I would do without these women in my life! Their kids are my kids' friends and would be the friends we'd invite to a party anyway. Why make another day to schedule? Our family is trying hard to take a stand against being busy. So... mom's group party it is!

It's a morning group so, I made up a simple waffle bar. That morning I set out the toppings, and poured batter (which I made the previous night) and put waffles in the oven to keep warm. Basically, I cooked ONE thing. Amazing.

Throughout the week, I prepped a couple of easy crafts and snacks for the kids to take home. Gwenyth and Reuben helped with all of them so, it wasn't stressful but a fun way to work together.

After eating waffles and dissolving dinosaur eggs, the kids played as normal and the mom's chatted as normal. I felt relaxed and happy... not like I missed out on the good time!

Birthday candles on birthday waffles -- just make sure the waffles are cool! I learned that the hard way last year with birthday pancakes : )

All of these are ideas I found on Pinterest. Words can not describe my love of Pinterest!

I did throw a "family only" party that weekend. Cake and ice cream. That was it. I think everyone actually appreciated the simplicity.

Simple. Sweet. Enjoyable!

Simple can still be super awesome.

What are some things you've simplified because you learned the hard way? Tell me in the comments!

Exercise... when You are Anxious About Exercise

NOTE: I am definitely NOT a doctor. These are personal experiences that have helped me. Please consult a doctor before beginning any work out or exercise program... blah blah blah.

I know that everyone goes through a mind battle during a work out. Your brain is screaming "I can't do anymore!" but, the truth is you can. Your body is able.

For me and for others that struggle with anxiety, the mind battle when exercising is intensified. For one thing, anxious people experience the symptoms of fight or flight all the time without exercising: Racing heart, weak muscles, it's hard to breathe etc. so, putting our bodies through that PURPOSEFULLY is hard to get past.

Here is a summary of what I think in my head when my anxiety rears its ugly head. 
"Okay I'm gonna run. It's gonna be okay. I can do it. My mind will say I can't, but really I can." 
(See I KNOW this stuff. I really do).
"Whew, yeah, this is hard work. It's hard to breath, my muscles hurt. My heart feels like it's going to pump out of my chest. What if this is more than it should be? Am I going to give myself a heart attack? I should slow down. Oh, I am pretty far from home. What if my muscles give out? What if my heart is pounding too much and I actually give myself a heart attack. What if I collapse right here on the street? I have no phone, no ID on me. What if no one is around to find me? I could DIE right here on the street."
(Again, this is a succinct version; the battle goes back and forth for awhile)

As outrageous as I KNOW it is, the cycle of thinking doesn't stop. Before I know it, I am walking my way home to recover from my "work out" which didn't come from aerobic exercise as much as fight or flight responses that plum tucker the body out.

But no one can deny the positive effects of exercise. It is a fact that when I am in a routine of exercise, my anxiety and depression are a gazillion times better. It's just a matter of finding ways to work out that keep the overwhelming anxious thoughts at bay.

Here are a few things that work for me:

1) YouTube
I LOVE YouTube. There are endless workout videos FREE on YouTube. You can find every kind of work out style in every increment of time. Type in, "15 minute yoga" or "30 minute walking workout" or even "Bollywood dancing workout" and you'll find tons of options to choose from.

* When you are recovering from any type of breakdown, sometimes 5 minutes is all you can handle. I have been there. When starting over, there is no shame in a 5 minute walk or a ten minute beginner workout. I would search for LOW IMPACT workouts... even typing in "exercise for seniors." You gotta start somewhere. Eventually you'll work your way up!

YouTube is Free, can be done in the privacy of your home, and offers unlimited variety!

2) Use your staircase
I set up my laptop on the fifth step and turn on my favorite show. Grab a set of weights (huge 2 lbs!) and step up and down from the floor to the first step over and over and over again... alternating legs every now and then.

It's mindless movement and I am distracted by whatever is happening on the Bachellorette.

3) Dance it out
One way that I get some exercise in with my kiddos is to have a dance party. There are multiple benefits to this. You move, they move, we all giggle, and it's great one-on-one attention time for them which makes it easier for them to play on their own later so, you can get some stuff done.

What are your favorite workouts right now? Share in the comments : ) Right now I am doing mostly yoga.