Switching to Safer

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A lot of things changed within me when I had a daughter. I'd like to say they changed when I became a mother, but something about having a daughter really did me in. I started running, eating more plant based whole foods and I began the arduous task of transitioning our household products to safer, non-toxic options.

I've received a lot of questions lately about how we made the switch and what products we use instead and honestly, it was a long road full of a lot of frustration, disappointment but ultimately - unparalleled peace of mind. And as a mama of almost 4, I need all of that I can get!

First a look at ingredients that are found in a lot of common household products. These can be found in things like cleaning agents, soaps, lipsticks, deodorants, shampoo, candles, and more. Basically think about things you keep in your kitchen cabinet for cleaning, your bathroom cabinet for personal care, and your laundry room - most of those traditional products contain any number of gross ingredients that can be harmful to our health.

Ethanolamines - found in fragrances, sunscreens, mascara, dry cleaning solvents, paint and pharmaceuticals. It's been linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption

Formaldehyde - used as a preservative in cosmetics and I'm sure you've heard about this article about the dangers of it and it's link to leukemia and other ailments so I probably don't need to share much else.

Oxybenzone - used in sunscreens and moisturizers and has been linked to irritation, sensitization, allergies and hormone disruption.

Parabens - found in shampoo, face cleansers, body wash, lotions and foundations. These are endocrine disruptors (hormones again) - not good.

Phthalates - found in anything that's had a fragrance added - air fresheners, dish soap, even some toilet paper. This is another endocrine disruptor. When it's absorbed it goes straight to your organs.

Triclosan - Found in dishwashing detergents and anything that's "antibacterial" - *hint* the more claims something has on the bottle, the worse it probably is for ya* - overuse of anything antibacterial can lead to overuse and how microbes develop resistance. It may also disrupt endocrine function and it's a known probable carcinogen.


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I really don't want to overwhelm so I'll leave it there for now. But do a quick google search for 'household toxins' and you'll find enough to convince you to start thinking about a switch to some safer options.

It may be tempting, after reading all of this, to run to your cabinets, toss everything and replace it right then and there. And while replacing everything is definitely ideal, it's not really the most cost-effective or eco-friendly way to go about it. I started slow in our home. I made a master list of everything we had that I wanted to swap and did a TON of research to find better options to add to my home. But I didn't go out and replace them all right away. I went through and found items from my list that were close to or past expiration - mascara, lipstick, sunscreens were easy targets. Then I replaced those with safer options. The rest of the things I waited until we ran out to replace. Some things, like shampoo, took a long time but things like all-purpose cleaner or laundry detergent went quickly. As each item ran out and was replaced, I added that info to the master list. Sometimes the new product I swapped with didn't quite work out (DIY dishwashing detergent - not a good move), so I'd update the list with something else I tried.

Eventually, we got to the point where nearly everything has been swapped for a safer option (aided by the cross-country move and one cross-town move - easier to move without all those products and movers won't usually pack cleaning stuff!) and I feel so much more at ease when the kids want to help with the dishes or laundry or play 'dress up' with my makeup now that I know there's not a bunch of junky chemicals lurking around. 


HOW TO SWITCH

1. Make a master list of all the items you want to swap in your home.

2. Start your research (I've linked a bunch of my favorite products below to help you get started) and find safer alternatives to your current products.

3. Go through your current products and see what's expired or close to an expiration date (I find this helps get the ball rolling so you don't forget about starting the swaps now).

4. Replace the expired products and add the safer swap to the master list to keep track.

5. Wait until products get used up or expire and begin to replace those as they do so. Add safer swaps to master list.

6. Adjust and rework. If a swap isn't working, find another option! Either wait until it's all used up or go out and get a new swap right away (if, say, your DIY dishwasher fluid doesn't wash at all - go find another option and suck up the sunk cost of the DIY stuff, it's not working anyway!)


SAFER SWAPS

CLEANING //
All of the household cleaners in our home are either Thieves products from Young Living or DIY using vinegar, water, olive oil, alcohol and essential oils. You can find 5 DIY household cleaning product recipes HERE

COSMETICS // 
I honestly don't wear much makeup anymore but what I do wear comes from Beautycounter. I like their mission and trust the products and they really work. Young Living also recently launched a makeup line and I've tried their mascara and it's AMAZING. 

SKINCARE //
Skincare has been so tough but, again, I really like Beautycounter if you wanna go all in. I've been really minimal lately and simply use a couple drops of Frankincense oil on my face after cleansing and that's all! For lotions and moisturizer I use coconut oil and an essential oil or shea butter and oil (like on my pregnant belly!)

TOOTH CARE //
I use the Thieves toothpaste from Young Living and a Quip electric toothbrush. I'd love to swap to bamboo but I have overactive salivary glands and need to visit the dentist every 3 months for cleanings. A regular toothbrush just doesn't keep up with the buildup in my mouth - TMI - so I really like the Quip because I'm only ever swapping the head of the brush and I have the metal base not the plastic one.


That's pretty much it! I'm by no means an expert and I'm always learning, replacing, and reworking. This is just a small look at what's worked for us so far and how we got here (it took 3 years!). 

**WHERE TO BUY
I love the Young Living products so much that I ended up signing up and getting the starter kit (definitely what I'd recommend - most of the oils I use for cleaning and facial care are in there!) because of the 24% discount. It also means you can use THIS LINK, shop for your own kit. I used the kit for a looong time and then ended up getting on Essential Rewards to earn credit for my purchases and still get the discount on other products like detergent, toothpaste, cleaners, etc. 

You can sign up to receive your essential oils starter kit here and I will add you to a community page where I've learned so much about how to incorporate them in to not only cleaning but wellness as well - stress, hormones, respiratory support just to name a few! It's so helpful to have a place to drop some questions and get some answers.

Homeschool Planning - 1st Grade

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Education is a tricky thing.

On the one hand - academic success is generally akin to professional and financial success as adults - on the other - childhood is precious and fleeting and shouldn't children be allowed to play as long as possible?

Or maybe there's a way to combine the hands. Create an atmosphere of play and exploration surrounding a sound academic education.

That's where find ourselves. With a 6yr old, 4, 2, and preparing for a newborn, we long to give the children more time for play and exploration and being wild and free. But I'm not naive. I know that this society puts academics on a pedestal and reveres high test scores and high achievement with success. And I'd be lying if I wasn't proud or impressed when William gets a math problem correct after struggling for a bit, or when Charlotte reads a new book. But I'm even more proud and impressed when they find a new insect in the yard and together go running for the field guide (this week it was a tomato horn worm), tucking it in the bug viewer and grabbing a magnifying glass. That's the kind of exploration/education that fills my heart and allows me to breathe a sigh of relief - ah, we're doing alright.

This year William will be entering 1st grade - for technical purposes - but really it's just a continuation of the foundation laid last year. That's the beauty of home education - we can go at our own pace. Repeat math sections, breeze through reading, and keep chugging along with history with breaks to visit the museum when the King Tut exhibit comes to town.

I'm always fascinated with what other families are choosing to guide their home school and now that we have a solid plan (best intentions to follow and plenty of room for free play and exploration, and identifying horn worms and the like), I knew I'd share in hopes it brings some other homeschooling family inspiration or peace-of-mind or a little commoradery.

OUR HOME SCHOOL // Classical with a dash of everything else
We follow a classical style of schooling for the most part. It works for our family for now and we thrive on the structured but not-too-structured way of going about educating. My main resource when planning is The Well Trained Mind and we use a few of their corresponding workbooks as well. Since we live where we live and the weather is *almost* always beautiful, we also do quite a bit of nature exploration, hikes, nature journaling and animal identification. I suppose our 'physical education' is simply the exercise that comes from chasing lizards at the hiking trails and rock climbing over tide pools.

READING/WRITING //
Phonics + Grammar - We're continuing with The Well Trained Mind First Language Lessons. We'll probably finish the first book soon and move on to the second about halfway through the school year. This one both William (6) and Charlotte (4) work through together and both thrive on.

In addition, we have plenty of manipulatives like these Montessori sandpaper letters to continue to explore with Charlotte and Theodore. 

Handwriting - For handwriting we're using Handwriting Without Tears and it certainly lives up to it's name. William flew through the 1st grade book so we're on to the second but will wait to start the cursive parts until next year. My instincts tell me Charlotte may thrive with a different approach but for right now, she's too young to start a workbook (other than the second hand one she uses for fun) and we simply use objects to practice letters and short words like Chalk Full of Design boards.

Spelling - William's been working through Spelling Workout Level A since about halfway through last year and we'll continue with this workbook until it's finished. We may not use another spelling workbook after that - I feel we get enough from our narration work and simply reading lots and lots of literature. 

Literature/Reading - Most of our literature will come from either our history lessons or from free reading time and books picked up from the library. As well as audiobooks. Twice a week we read a history lesson and do a narration page on that lesson with William copying between 1-5 sentences from his own narration. On top of our history spine, we're reading corresponding stories about topics like The Trojan Horse, African Folktales, Aesop's Fables, and Green and Roman Myths. We do quite a bit of read aloud as well and I have a few things picked out but it's getting difficult to find novels that hold everyone's attention. William's reading and comprehension level has far outrun that of Charlotte and Theodore's so I plan to reread The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr. Poppers Penguins for all of the kids and continue reading Harry Potter with William for a more advanced text. 

 

HISTORY //
I touched on it up in the literature section but we use The Story of the World and it's corresponding activity book. William thrives on simply reading the chapter with me and doing a narration page. Charlotte loves reading the lesson and completing the activity in the book. Usually a map or coloring page (she's the artist in the family) They each absorb the information in their own way. One of the most rewarding things to witness and one of the best gifts I can give my children. William, the wordsmith, and Charlotte the artist, both thriving in these history lessons in their own way. 

In addition, we'll read stories that go along with the era in which our history lessons reside. For these ages, we start with the ancients - the nomads to the earliest emperor - so ancient myths, stories, fables, and greeks + romans are all covered. I have a handful of books picked out to read through but we always find more on our weekly library visits and, of course, the children are welcome to and encouraged to grab books outside of the topic we're studying.

 

SCIENCE //
I've been back and forth with how to approach science this year and have decided to pretty much go our own way. We do so much of what would be considered 'science' within our play and outdoor exploration so I'm not concerned about bookwork or benchmarks. Simply letting them explore the world around them.

In that vein, we'll be following the interests of the children. One week we'll read a leisure book about a given topic (starting with the animal kingdom then moving on to things like the human body and space), find information in either a science spine or field guide or encyclopedia or even good old Google, then do a project based on that topic (for example: if our topic is 'hawks', we'll read about hawks, then go to the nature preserve and try to spot some). The following week we'll read another book about the same topic, do a narration page and then fill in a page in our science notebook asking a question and then answering it. (ex: How fast to hawks fly?)

Sometimes science will look like that - sometimes it will be baking in the kitchen or burning holes in leaves with a magnifying glass (last weekend's leisure fun). Right now it's about learning how to examine the world around us with a fresh eye, appreciating the Earth and how it works, and learning how to ask questions and discover answers.

 

ART + MUSIC //
A couple times a week (or more), we'll do an art project while listening to classical music and nature journal. William has been really in to writing and illustrating his own stories as well as poems he's memorized so we'll continue with this as part of our art, reading and writing (isn't it amazing how they all meld together like that?!). 

William is taking private guitar lessons and Charlotte attends ballet class weekly. As far as anything else extra, we've decided that one activity at a time is how we'll approach it. For one - with 4 small children, that's a lot of shuttling back and forth, and two - it's overwhelming for the children to have too many things on their schedules. I'd rather fill their play time with outdoor free play, visits to the beach or museums, or going on nature walks.

 

RELIGION //
I would be lying if I said it was easy to be a secular homeschooler. Our history spine has a few bible stories in the beginning and it's been lovely to read through as a piece of our history. I could go on and on about religion in homeschool but it's really important for me to expose the children to a whole host of world religions as well as present them with historical and societal context. My personal spiritual beliefs aside, religion has shaped most of the world time and time again and I would be remiss if I didn't incorporate it in to our studies. 

 

And that's it! I'm using this Erin Condren teacher planner to keep track of everything - I'm a pen and paper girl - as well as these printable schedule cards from Robyn Oakenfold.

How to Be Healthy - Really

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Recently someone asked me why education wasn't enough to help someone through a behavior change? Why isn't the knowledge that diet and exercise are really enough good enough to make people change? 

We all know deep down that's the simple answer. How to lose weight? How to feel healthy and strong? How to BE healthy? 

The answer has always and will always be diet and exercise.

So why then are we always reaching for the latest pill or powder or extreme diet/juicing/deprivation trend? Why do we skip pass the balanced diet and exercise and go find something else?

We want the quick fix.

In a society and, really a world, where faster is better, we've been conditioned to want better, more, NOW. And the same goes for our health. When we notice a breakout on our face we don't sit back and think about our hydration levels and the foods we've been eating. We grab the closest cream that promises to 'zap zits fast!' and call it a day. When we notice our jeans are fitting a little more snug than they used to we don't go to the gym or hit the trails for a run and take a closer look at our diet. We go on a juice cleanse and stop eating carbs. 

We look for the easy way out.

But here's the thing - the easy way? While it may work for a bit and that juice cleanse does look great on Instagram, it's not serving you or your health in the long run. Finding the quickest, easiest way to anything usually isn't the best. And when it comes to our bodies and our health ... shouldn't we want the best?

Yes, it will take longer to get a thorough look at your diet. It might be a little painful or awkward to keep track of your food for a few days and see all of the things you're actually putting in your body. It might feel slow and weird to start a new exercise routine and say 'no' to the extra scoop of ice cream but IT. IS. WORTH. IT.

The slow way is the best way. Not only for our bodies but for our minds. If we keep masking the problem with a cream or a juice we're not really understanding where it came from. Getting deep to the source of what's hurting us and understanding our bodies better is one of the greatest ways to cultivate a deeper sense of self-worth, self-love, self-understanding. Knowing that 'oh, my body doesn't react well with dairy' can open up a whole new world of appreciation for your body and your awareness of it. 

I've worked with women who've tried 'all the diets' and EVEN the ones who say their extreme diet worked tell me that they still didn't feel comfortable with their health. They didn't feel ease within their body. Not until after a few sessions with me and my MIND + BODY + FOOD program did they begin to understand how their body works, what their true motivations and roadblocks were, and how to regain a sense of ease and simplicity when it comes to food and exercise.

We think we want the quick fix and the easy way out. But what we really want is to understand what's going on, how to overcome it and how to move the f*ck on and enjoy our lives! You in?


I'm booking clients for my MIND + BODY + FOOD coaching this summer.

If you're sick of the diets and can't look at green juice anymore and wish someone would just give you a piece of bread, you're in the right place.

My MIND + BODY + FOOD program is 6 weeks of nutrition + exercise coaching from not only someone who's been there, but someone who's been in your shoes and then went and got the big girl training to help you get out of there. A certified yoga instructor and MS Nutrition candidate and member of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, I know not only the nerdy nutrition and biochemistry but also the mindset, stressors and behavior change steps it takes to truly make a difference in your life for the long haul.

Working with me for 6 weeks will get you off the diet train for good and get you actually loving your body. Let's repair your relationship with health! Fill out the form below for a complimentary 30 minute consultation to see if coaching is right for you!

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4 Benefits of Practicing Yoga at Night

Raise your hand if you have trouble falling asleep at night?

Raise your hand if you realize as you're heading to bed that you haven't worked out yet today?

Wanna know how yoga can help get you ready for bed?

1. Yoga is a really great way to get in a little extra workout at night and get a restful, deep sleep. The practice of yoga engages the parasympathetic nervous system which is what's responsible for "rest and digest" functioning in your body. If you can practice yoga before bed time you can end up sleeping more soundly, drift to sleep faster and stop waking up in the middle of the night.

2. Yoga has also been well-studied in its effects on stress relief and coping. At the end of the day, yoga is a fantastic way to kind of wipe the slate clean and destress after a long day.

3. Stretching before bed helps soothe tension. You're probably sitting at a desk all day or bending over chasing after 2yr olds which can cause a lot of joint pain and minor injuries to the body. Stretching it all out - getting oxygen to the muscles - before bed can help ease that pain and not exacerbate it during sleep. 

4. Ever take a yoga class and at the end feel like your mind is less cluttered and lighter? It's not just you - it's a real thing. Along with that stress relief - yoga can help to quiet all that extra noise happening in your mind which will help you ease in to sleep quickly.

I love practicing a 15 minute simple routine each evening. It helps me to slow everything down and really prepare for bed after a long day. I notice on days I skip it, I have trouble falling asleep, my mind is racing and I'm grumpier in the morning when my kids wake me up - not fun.

If you're looking for a good routine you can incorporate at bed time, watch this special class I recorded for you! You'll feel rested, relaxed and ready for a good night's sleep!

This class is safe for:

  • all-levels
  • prenatal + postnatal
  • any injuries

So really there's no excuse not to try it ;)