Essentially: on our sweet smelling medicine cabinet

One of my most frequently asked questions is about our use of essential oils. I am learning as I go here (and obviously not a medical professional) but thought I’d share a bit about our use of oils, particularly to treat the flu last week. There’s an epic giveawy down there too! Additional resource, a piece I wrote for eHow: 9 Ways to Use Essential Oils to Improve Family Health.

:: :: ::

Like most kids in the 8os I ate antibiotics with breakfast. Anytime I felt any way other than great I feel like I took antibiotics. Noticing that my kids have each had antibiotics one time and that medicine in general seems different than it was when I was a kid, I asked my mom about it. Because my mom knows everything.

Me: What was medicine like when you were a kid? Did you take prescription medicine preventatively like I did when I was a kid?

Mom: No. When we were sick, my mother started with humidifiers, mustard packs, Vick’s VapoRub. She pushed fluids. We rested and ate popsicles on the couch and she kissed our foreheads.

Me: What is a mustard pack?!

Mom: Oh they were wonderful! I don’t know why I never gave them to your brother and you. Your dad grew up with them too, to treat his allergies. Hold on. Let me google it. Here:

Mustard Plasters (also known as Mustard Packs) have been used for centuries throughout the world as a natural folk remedy. Although they have been used to treat maladies from gout to sciatica, today we will focus on its usefulness in treating chest & lung congestion. As we enter the cold and flu season, if you get sick and can feel or hear phlegm in your lungs when you cough and you are finding it hard to cough the phlegm up and out, the mustard plaster can help.

Mustard is a rubefacient, which means it stimulates blood circulation through dilation of the capillaries, which, when applied over the lungs will help open them up and encourage expectoration of mucous that may be trapped. One of the reasons you want to stimulate coughing and moving the phlegm is that it can help prevent infection in the lungs and conditions such as bacterial pneumonia & bronchitis.

You mix dry mustard and flour and warm water and apply to cheesecloth and wrap the torso.

Me: How did your experiences with being treated for illness when you were a kid translate into your mothering of Travis and me?

Mom: I think when I was little I was taught by my mother (who was an RN) and my dad (pharmaceutical rep) that doctors where to be revered, almost God-like. Not to be questioned, we just accepted one person’s knowledge as the only solution. When you were sick I took you to the doctor to fix it, to make you feel better. I took my childhood reverence of doctors into motherhood. I didn’t really ask about other possible treatments when I was handed a prescription. It’s just what we did. My mom also worked her magic with some holistic healing – which I believe in all of us deep down – and I also took this into motherhood. I believe modern medicine definitely has it’s place, but Mother Nature’s medicine is also very powerful!

Me: Would you have done things differently if you knew what you know now?

Mom: Yes, some. There is power in learning, in understanding how bodies work, how medicine – eastern, western and everywhere in between. I have had many changes in my thinking as I have grown older: I now question information and seek different opinions. I am bold now. I am not timid in my questions. Today, your generation has the benefit of easier access to information and different opinions which I think gives you greater access to your confidence and greater trust in your intuition.

Me: So it is different but mostly the same: we do the best we can with the information we have. Thanks mom. You’re the best.

Mom: Love you Burb. See you on Sunday!

(my mama is coming to town for my birthday)

:: :: ::

Ruby had influenza last week. Honestly I probably wouldn’t even have known she had the flu because I wouldn’t have taken her to our doctor had she not been exposed to strep. If she had strep, we would have indeed given over to the power of antibiotics. She had a decent fever but I tend to let fevers run their course when possible. I asked my dear, old friend Dr. Julie Lyons her opinion on fever treatment:

I say treat the symptoms around the fever. If your child is in pain and miserable then fever reducing can be good. But there is nothing inherently wrong with a fever as long as it resolves within five days for most kids. It’s a sign of a robust immune response to a pathogen. The number one call I get at night is in regards to fever. I also see many unnecessary visits to the emergency room for fevers alone. I think education is key. It’s the symptoms that matter.

Ruby didn’t have strep but our doc did swab for the flu and the test was positive. It was good information. Particularly, that she was contagious for seven days — this was key because she was feeling well after two days and had I not known it was the flu we would have been out and about. We stayed home and dug into our illness arsenal: essential oils, rest, baths, movies, books and hydration.

So, the flu. We kicked the symptoms in two days and nobody else got sick so I am declaring a victory! Our protocol:

> Ibuprofen. During the initial 24-hour period, Ruby’s fever was consistently around 104. And she was incredibly achy and lethargic. We gave ibu every eight hours on that day to knock it back and it was so helpful. And awesome to see her spunk return for short bouts.

> Oils. We used: Oregano, Thieves, Lemon, Purification, Peppermint, Peace & Calming, RC, Melaleuca.

Our entire family applied Oregano and Thieves to the soles of our feet several times a day. Oregano and Thieves are antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic.

We put lemon oil in our water. Lemon is antiseptic, antiviral, invigorating.

I diffused oils 24 hours a day. I alternated between Thieves, Purification (antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, sanitizing), Peace & Calming (reduces stress and tension) and RC (assists with respiratory congestion, colds, sore throats), Melaleuca (antiseptic, soothing). We have this diffuser.

I applied peppermint oil on Ruby’s belly when she felt tummy blech. Or to a warm bath. Peppermint oil on feet is also successful at reducing fevers.

Morning baths with a few drops of Peace & Calming, RC and Melaleuca.

I applied RC to Ruby’s chest every few hours. RC is wonderful for respiratory relief. It is also my kids’ favorite scent so they like to smell it when I am applying their least favorite scent (Oregano).

> Smoothies, Tea and Lipton Brothy Soup. Pretty much all Ruby wanted to eat. Andy picked the Lipton soup up at the store and I told him that was what my mom always gave me when I was sick. “Yep,” he said. “Me too.” We avoided dairy. Smoothies contained a variety of frozen fruit, a banana and almond milk. I am a big fan of these lids and straws for smoothies.

> Fresh Air. We didn’t go far those first few days but it always feels good to get out, for the sick and the caretaker.

Essential oils have changed my family’s health, our lives. I write that and I want to reword it because it just sounds so SO. But I only tell you the truth and that is a true statement.

Our little box of oils are pretty much all we use for everything that ails us. From bruises to fevers to cuts to anxiety to colds to cold prevention to dry skin to sleeplessness to back pain to nausea to headaches. Everything. They work.

And The Reference Guide for Essential Oils is my favorite book. Mabel approves.

I was introduced to oils by my friend Erika (we did this post and this post together a while back). She is incredibly knowledgable about essential oils.

Erika sells Young Living Oils and is has some awesome offerings for you chickens! Plus she’s just a generally rad human.

  • A free Lemon Oil to anyone placing a $50 order during the month of February.
  • Sign up for the Premium Starter Kit HERE and you will receive a free reference guide.
  • Like Mama Loves Oils facebook page and leave a comment here for a chance to win an Essential Oil Starter Kit, valued at $163! Thanks, Erika. xo (comments closed and winner announced on Saturday, Feb 7) Winner: Lucky #47! Congrats Laura.

  • A free webinar! Beginning Essential Oils: a basic intro course on how to use essential oils for personal and family wellness. Meeting time is February 19th at 7pm (Mountain Time). The class is limited to 15 participants. Sign up by messaging Erika through her facebook page or via email: erikavosshickey @ gmail . com

Need help ordering or have questions? Contact Erika directly or ask away in the comment section here.

Also an important part of healing: big sister snuggles. We are doing research for a road trip next fall. Oh yes!

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enough space / kitchen reno

We have been living in a kitchen remodel since we moved into our home three years ago. Little by little, as we cam swing it (punny!), we have knocked out tile, a wall, another wall. We installed light fixtures, a dishwasher, a range, fridge, a sink. Currently, our counters and cabinets are cut up pieces of the original counter and cabinets screwed together. The counter we installed after taking out the south wall is our old bedroom closet door. We have several holes in the floor. It’s a mockup version of what we want. It functions great. Sure, I wish we could afford to just bang it all out in a month like all those homes my husband works on. But I’ve grown to really appreciate living with the mockup, living with the daydream of what it will someday be.

A few of the benefits of living with the mockup:

  1. We have changed our minds. We are testing it out and have found that things should move a bit from our original ideas.
  2. Waiting has allowed us to score some pretty awesome things. Like, last summer, we were given some leftover (gorgeous, designer, sea glass-looking) tile from a job my husband worked on. Enough to tile one entire wall and a backsplash. Like the range and sink (click links above).
  3. We are good daydreamers.
  4. We feel lucky now. When it is all done, we will value it more than ever.

I’ve not shared much of our progress here because I wanted to share it when there is the big, fancy before and after. Because who doesn’t love a good DIY before and after?! Truth is, our home renovations aren’t seamless and quick; they are not wave-a-wand-voila! There are a lot of guts between before and after. So, our before and during:

Looking south. Living room is back there.

Looking in from front door.

Looking north. The green door is our front door.


Looking west.

We lost a quite a bit of storage when we took out the south wall. It was the greatest change for us; that dark corner is now a bar counter with two stools (our girls favorite spot) – it is where all the kitchen action happens. Having limited storage space has forced us to choose what we really need. Seven pie plates? Five mixing bowls? Four spatulas? Two salad serving sets? Don’t need them. We store a lot of bulk food and kitchen items (like pressure cooker, serving dishes, extra wine glasses) in our garage.

This isn’t to say that things don’t get bananas in those few cabinets. We aren’t the most organized bunch. Every so often – when things have felt crammed and messy for a few months – I get a wild hair to sort and purge. It usually happens when I have coffee in hand and several other very pressing things to do.

During this process I always re-remember that we have enough space. There is always more than enough space.

As I consolidated and organized our pantry (a slender freestanding cabinet in our living room) recently, I took this photo. I will reference it the next time I say we don’t have any food in the house.

One of most-used pantry items is pancake mix. Thought I’d share our go-to recipe.

Pancake Mix

4 cups flour
1/2 cup ground flax (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make pancakes, use 1 cup mix, 1 egg and 1 cup milk (almond milk is our favorite; any milk will work). Even if I am using 1/2 cup mix and 1/2 cup milk I still use one whole egg.

These cakes can be altered in so many ways. A few of ideas:

* add 1/2 cup almond butter and one mashed banana
* add yesterday’s leftover oatmeal
* add 1/2 cup cottage cheese (might need to add a bit more flour)
* add a few spoonfuls of jam

This year in the kitchen we hope to replace the vinyl floor. (so wishing the original linoleum could be saved!)

Next will be cabinets. Counter. We took the doors off one our current cabinets to see if we’d like open shelving for the stuff we like to look at – mostly handmade mugs, colored glass and vintage lovelies. We like it and plan to install thick wood bracketless shelving there. But it could all change, by the time we get to it. I’ll continue to dream and pin and enjoy the enough-space we’ve got.

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hump day nuggets: 2015 will be awesome

hump day nuggets: bits of the season in photos and words

Q: If Nuggets are started on a hump day but finished days later can they still be considered Hump Day Nuggets?

A: Yes.

My 20 year high school reunion is next year. It feels unbelievable to me. That I have now spent more of my life after school than the 18 years before it. Those 18 years were broken up by school years so long that I grew feet taller, summer breaks so long we had time to get grounded forever and still have lots of time left. What happened to that wagon-train time? When did it evolve to light-rail time?

Time is what I think about when I turn the calendar to a new page. This time last year. This time five years ago. Or was that seven years ago? Time is naturally very organized and predictable, except it isn’t at all in my brain.

This quote:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ― Maya Angelou

I really love those words and it is what I am thinking on a lot right now in my life – both in those I choose to interact with and listen to and in the impact I hope to have during my lifetime.  It’s simple enough – like the golden rule with wings.


:: Thank you so very much for your love and support always, but especially this last month since Alice died. I listened to your wisdom and felt your care. You all are the very best. Thank you.

:: Two little reindeer waited for our family to arrive on Christmas Eve.

:: We have a new puppy. I was certain we would get another adult dog. I never in a million years thought we’d get a puppy. But that is exactly what happened. Even when we went to look at the puppies I didn’t think we’d get a puppy. Andy was the most skeptical but then the ENTIRE litter crawled on him and only him. It worked! We fostered her (from the Humane Society) for two weeks – to make sure our brood of pets and people were a good fit for her and she for us. We finalized adoption last week. We named her Mabel.

:: Andy and I try to take two weeks off together every December-early January. We take it without pay so it requires some commitment, budgeting and planning. And every year we are so grateful we do it. After a few high-intensity months with both of our work lives, we settle into a staycation. I always think I will catch up…on laundry, photo organization, repotting plants, cleaning the spilled coffee grounds out of the tupperware drawer. But I never do get much of that done.

:: Ruby skied her first black diamond run at our ski hill. It was one of those moments – like buckling her own carseat, not needing a nap anymore or swimming without sinking – where Andy and I exchange a mental high five at this next phase of mobility and ability.

:: All I wanted for Christmas was snow, mostly so I could sled with my niece who was visiting from Portland. Christmas Eve delivered two tiny inches. Just enough to pull our snow pants over our pjs and head out in the morning. And then it continued to snow.

:: There was something especially wonderful about our holiday this year. Twenty two people came here, from near and far. Our home was overstuffed and loud. I didn’t take many photos. I did take it all in.

:: Margot made a prediction for you all this year. Let’s make it true. xo

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white space

I didn’t really get into tree skiing until I was 20 and my fear was firmly in tact. All I saw was trees. Lots of begging my quad muscles to stop my body to avoid the giant trees that were committed to my eventual concussion. I was arhythmic and awkward. And I wanted it. I watched my husband and our friends glide through woods, one hundred percent aware of their body width, speed, ability; giving in to pitch, sailing with the precision and confidence and grace of a low-flying bird.

I’m still not a great tree skier but the trees are a favorite place to be. It’s always quiet, with the occasional bright blur to the left or right – a vibrant, alive low-flying bird doing its thing. I like the challenge. The immobility of the trees – the invitation of the inconsistent, alluring space between them. The altitude, the puzzle, the dare. The commitment, the euphoria when turns match breath, the frustration when nothing aligns. The fun of it alone, the fun of it with friends shrieking a few trees away. Laughter echoing among trunks and roots and canopies older than we are.

There’s this philosophy about tree skiing: that if one focuses on the space between the trees, the body will go there; if one focuses on the trees, the body will go there. So the SECRET to smooth, confident, fluid tree skiing is peripherally, barely noticing what you don’t want (tree collision) and focusing your entire self on what you DO want (floating through wintery portals).

I want my daughters to ski trees. I want my daughters to see the white space between the trees.

I want them to know the adrenaline burst of standing before an unknown plot. I want them to begin by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting place. I want them to trust their choice. To push their shins against their boots. To aim their heart toward the next thing. To feel their very own earthly support. To know the support of their family. To lean into gravity, point toward fear and need and want and trust and thirst and naivety and importance and fallibility. To carve a turn through giant obstacles, like a swift thread through a needle. To follow another’s path. To forge their own. To bury their face in snow so bright they can’t breathe for the joy of it all. To fall gently. To fall hard. To feel what they feel. To hurry. To take their time. To do it again. To stop when they feel like it’s time to stop.

To begin again by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting, white space.

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Feel it. Love what you love. Trust. Be devoted. Give in.

Last Monday at noon I went to my first yoga class in several years. For whatever reason my yoga practice vaporized from my agenda when I had my second kid. It went from daily to nada. I’ve missed it and blabbed about missing it but didn’t do anything about it.

And then Alice died. I haven’t hiked or ran since. Well, I did once and felt like an anvil sat on my heart the entire time, pushing buckets of tears out of my body. I was not ready to be up in these hills without her.

One late night last week I got out of bed to look up yoga schedules in Missoula. I found a class time that worked for me and promised myself I’d go. And then I saw the teacher’s name. Marina. She’s my old teacher. In fact, the last time I went to this particular studio I was eight months pregnant with a breech Margot. Marina helped me through giant-bellied handstands and headstands until my bug swam herself 180. Marina!

People say dogs don’t live long enough. This statement is true in human brains. For dogs, I think they feel just right. Because they always do feel just right. Always.

Alice dies on Thursday night, November 20. It is a shock. We just – two days ago – ruled out the kidney failure diagnosis we had mourned. We have a new vet we love. We release ourselves into an ocean of relief and optimism.

She falls over in the living room. She recovers. My kids think she slipped on their paper snowflake scraps. A short while later, her back legs stop functioning. I am on and off the phone with vets, neighbors, my husband. She wants to drink endless water, she wants to lay in the snow. She is scared. She looks into me for answers. All I have is love.

The day before – the day of the glorious blood and urine work news – we ran together. She gained four pounds back in two weeks. Moments before the episode I took a picture of my new boots to send to a friend. She pushed her wet nose into my hand. I called her into the kitchen for a treat and she bounced into me to be sure I remembered.

Four bucks stand 15 feet away, staring at us. One is impossibly noble. I see his breath in the cold air. Alice lays in the snow and can’t get up.

Fuck. Is this happening?

I carry her back into the house. I feel calm and alert. My kids are playful and hungry. I manage it all and notice that I feel emotionless. Alice vomits everything she ate that day, undigested. I clean it up with a dust pan. I make dinner.

Andy walks in and says hey, girlie like he always does. Every day for 11 years. She softens. She wags her tail.

We have a few normal hours with her. We wonder if she ate something weird. We sit with her and it feels like it always does. There is a shift. It is subtle, calm, peaceful even. We feel it. We know. She leans into me and closes her eyes.

As she is dying in my arms in our bedroom, she tells me a few things.

Feel it.

Love what you love.


Be devoted.

Give in.

My husband looks old when he wraps the brown fleece blanket around her body. I remember his smooth face. I remember 16 years old. I remember not a thought beyond that moment of our first kiss.

We hold her. Her breath changes. We FEEL her life leave. It is so visceral I may even see her life leave.

I remember roaring when in labor. It shocked me. Not because I am a quiet person but because I had no control over the noise bellowing from my guts. This is the same. I howl. I gag.

When I arrive to the yoga studio Marina lies flat on her back on a mat in the middle of the floor. She slowly rolls toward the entry and giggles. She tells me I look tall. We hug.

She asks for updates about my body that might help her during practice. I tell her about my knee injury last winter. I tell her I am really sad. I say I might burst into tears during practice. She says, well we all might do that dear.

It’s a hatha class but I expect options for movement and intensity. I think I want intense, that I will elect for the “if you want to take it one step further” options. We sit and breathe for many minutes. We lay down. Marina reminds us that the earth is entirely responsible for supporting our bodies and we can give in to it. With those words I feel a fracture into my sadness. I try to grab it. I can’t. We stretch our toes. I stretch through spiteful cobwebs in down dog. I feel my shallow, arthritic breath. I try to push it down into my belly. I remember that satisfying, oxygenating, alive feeling. I want it.

I can’t wait for the sun to rise. It rises. We tell the kids in our bed, when they join us as they do every morning. Margot arrives first.

Where is she? Margot asks.

On her bed right here, we say.

Can I go to her? Will you come with me?


She is cautious. She places a flat palm on her body and feels the coolness, the bones.

Can I listen to her heart? she asks.

You can, I say. But it isn’t beating anymore.

Does her brain still work?

No. All her organs have stopped working.

Will she remember us?

Oh baby. Yes I believe so.

Ruby wakes. We are all crowded under the down and wool. Andy tells Ruby.

Where is she? Ruby asks.

On her bed right here, we say.

Can I go to her? Will you come with me?


Ruby rolls into her. She stares into her open eyes. She lays on top of her and says what feels different, what feels the same. I am astonished at her inhibition.

She hugs her. She pushes her fur back and forth. She peeks under the blankets. She cries.

The morning is gray. It is the day before Ruby’s birthday party.

Margot asks where Alice is now. Can she feel? Does she know us?

We talk about spirit. We look at her body together and notice her spirit isn’t there. I wish for a tidy answer about god or heaven but I don’t have one. I ask what they think.

Margot says I am pretty sure I get it. It looks like she’s somewhere else. It feels like she isn’t loving us right now even though she is right here. But, like, she’s not really right here. She’s out there.

Andy calls me outside to choose a place. He uses a jackhammer to break the first foot of frozen earth. The sound pierces the silence in our home. Then he digs. We stay inside. Soon he is shoulder deep in earth, in a t shirt. His breath, tears remind me of the bucks in the field the night before, of Alice in our room, of funerals and birthday parties.

The kids write words, draw pictures, gather things for our ceremony. They seem so content and I feel like enforcing how sad it is. I feel like telling them to stop laughing. I don’t. I appreciate how nothing is off limits to them. Nothing is inappropriate.

We wrap her in a white piece of fabric. My husband carries her from our bedroom to her grave. She looks small.

We cut rope and tie it around her body so we can lower her the six feet. The kids weep. Margot climbs the garden fence in protest. Ruby sits on the frozen mud. Andy and I stand opposite each other, across from the cold hole, our eyes heavy and swollen.

It is messy and the air is so saturated with every bit of our selves – physical and spiritual – that I feel like we could manifest our own storm.

We lower her onto a bed of pine boughs. We place our objects in with her, each dropped a few seconds after the last item. It seems foggy but it isn’t. It seems warm but it isn’t.

Margot wrote a letter that reads My dog died and we don’t know why. I love her. Ruby brought the magnet from her chore chart, the one that means she gave Alice snuggles. She holds that magnet until the end. I didn’t know she had grabbed it. She throws it up in the air like confetti and sobs I love you Alice.

The kids also add her favorite peanut butter treats, her collar. I read a letter I wrote. I toss in my running shoes. We couldn’t find her leash and Andy rightly points out how appropriate that is. We could never find her leash. He curls toward the grave and drops a bunch of dried lavender. Three earth worms emerge from the walls of the grave and fall in.

He asks to bury her by himself. Margot cries and grabs at my pants. Ruby panics, tells us she doesn’t want to leave Alice outside all alone because she never did like being all alone. I sit on the snow with my daughters and we settle into it. Ruby’s wet face pushes into my sternum. She says At least Alice has the wormies with her now.

Margot runs upstairs and into the house. I follow and find her on Alice’s bed. She rolls dog hair between her fingers and moves it around on her leggings. Ruby joins her. Together they sit there for hours.

At the end of yoga, we do this slow series of rolling across a pillow on the floor, first lengthening our side, our back, our other side. It sounds easy and relaxing, like a cooked buttery noodle draped over a fork. Marina asks us to take our time, to move when it feels good. I start on my right side. I am awkward and sticky. Al dente. My breath weak.

I wiggle and adjust. I breathe. I roll. I curl my spine up and then down. I broaden my shoulders. I breathe. I breathe a little deeper. I stiffen and squirm. I wish I was open and willing. I fill hollow, painful places with breath. I grow. I try.

Ruby turns five. She asks for her cake to look like Alice. Margot gets up early, gets dressed in her snow gear and goes outside. Later, I find her footprints lead to Alice’s grave. And there is a snow angel on top.

Feel it.

Love what you love.


Be devoted.

Give in.


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