5 Surprising Ways Essential Oils Can Make Your Home Life Easier + a Giveaway

By Angela Baker

Are you using essential oils? It seems that everyone and their neighbor has started hoarding these tiny bottles. I started learning about essential oils a year ago, and the natural approach to wellness and housekeeping immediately appealed to me. The more I learn, the more it seems that keeping a stash of essential oils in the home is a smart move when you consider the many practical uses.

Practical and smart ways to use essential oils in the home. Easy recipes (directions) for making homemade, natural pest control spray, all-purpose cleaner, shoe deodorizer, and hand sanitizer using essential oils.

Pest control

You suspect you have a pest problem, but you’re not ready to call the exterminator and spray your house full of who-knows-what. Try a homemade pest control spray with essential oils instead. Peppermint oil naturally repels many of the most common pests, including mice, ants, spiders, house flies, and some other things you don’t even want to think about.

To make a natural, indoor-friendly bug spray that’s safe around kids: Fill a small spray bottle with water and 10-15 drops of peppermint oil. Spray around the affect area. For greater coverage, spray the entire interior and exterior perimeter of the house.

Even better, many essential oils have properties that naturally repel mosquitos and other outdoor pests. Essential oils are derived from the part of the plant that produces the aromatic compounds that protects it from natural predators and other environmental threats. Using the oils as an insect repellent means you are harnessing the natural defense system of several different plants, and using them to boost your own defenses. TerraShield Repellent Blend is safe for the whole family and naturally repels mosquitos when diffused, blended with water to make homemade bug spray, or applied directly to the skin.

Less mess = Less stress

Lemon oil has a multitude of household cleaning uses, all of which will save you from purchasing separate products for specific messes. Among the cleaning problems solved by lemon oil: scud marks, tarnished silver, grease marks on the range hood, and hard water build-up, along with your everyday, dirty kitchen counters and bathroom fixtures. Lemon is safe on practically any surface, including stainless steel appliances and granite/natural stone counters.

To make a homemade, all-purpose cleaner: Add ½ cup white vinegar, 1 ½ cups water, and 5-10 drops of lemon oil to a glass spray bottle. Use to safely clean surfaces throughout your home.

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Deodorize summer shoes

Sometimes parenthood stinks in the most literal sense. Potty training? Aggressive diaper pail odor? Stinky shoes? Essential oils don’t just mask odors — they neutralize and replace some of your home’s most offensive smells. And tiny, sweaty feet can produce some of the most impressive shoe odor in the summer. Rather than trashing the offensive shoes, deodorize naturally with essential oils.

To remove the stench from a favorite pair of shoes: Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 5 drops of DoTERRA’s Purify blend (or your favorite citrus oil). Dump one tablespoon of the mixture in to the heel of each shoe, and shake it down to the toe area. After sitting for up to 24 hours, shake out the excess powder, and voila, de-stinked shoes.

Immunity boost

As a parent, I would do anything I could to avoid my children getting sick. And yet, I don’t want to keep them locked in the house to avoid contact with potential runny noses.

Essential oils can support your effort to keep your family healthy by boosting the body’s natural defenses and curb the spreading germs through the house. Just like essential oils are the natural defense system of the plant, they are also the immune system. The aromatic oils of a plant keep it healthy and protect it from environmental threats. By applying appropriate oils, you can harness the power of plants to support your own immune system.

To make homemade hand sanitizer: Mix 5 tablespoons aloe vera gel, 4 tablespoons water, ¼ teaspoon Vitamin E oil, and 8-10 drops OnGuard protective blend. Pour in to a small squeeze container.

Shaken, not stirred

Parenting goes down easier with a chilled beverage. Enhance your bedtime celebration with an infused cocktail. No need to keep a fully-stocked bar. Essential oils make it easy to get creative when mixing up drinks. A drop of lime oil pairs nicely with a gin and tonic. Or ,give your mojito an extra punch with a drop of lime and a drop of peppermint.

When using essential oils in your drink, make sure you are using the highest quality oil available. Not all brands of essential oils are safe for consumption, and the bottle will let you know if yours is safe. DoTERRA oils are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade, which means that many of them are safe for consumption. Look for the nutrition facts on the label if you’re not sure. Other, less pure and concentrated brands have a warning label instead: Not for consumption.

Of course, essential oils offer many, many more possibilities for home use. These are just a few of my favorites. What’s your favorite way to use essential oils?

Angela Baker is a mother of two daughters, natural living ATBenthusiast, and DoTERRA wellness advocate. Her blueberry sourdough pancakes are better than you can imagine. Follow her on Facebook at Naturally Easy Living to hear more about essential oils and ways to keep things simple at home.

DIY EssentialOil Shower Bombs Try these five strategies to help you feel more balanced throughout the day. Perfect for overwhelmed moms who feel like they don't have time to center themselves. All of these take less than an hour a day (and some save you time). My Natural Skincare Routine | Oil Cleansing | Homemade Skincare Products

How to Simplify Your Toddler Birthday Gift Giving

I remember the first 1-year-old and 2-year-old birthday parties I attended — they were B.E. (Before Emme), and I had no clue what kind of gift I should bring for a baby-child. For one of the parties, I  ‘phoned a friend,’ aka I called a friend of mine who was already a mom — one of the few ‘mom friends’ I had at the time — and said, ‘What kind of gift should I get for a 1-year-old?” She recommended this toy, which did not cost upwards of $150.00 at the time (seriously, WTF is up with that?). But for other toddler birthday gifts, I wandered aimlessly around Toys “R” Us, lost and confused in a sea of Bratz dolls, Lego sets, and age requirements that somehow always seemed too old or too young.

Emme's First Birthday - Toddler Birthday Gifts - Ideas and Tips

I wanted a Pinterest-y first birthday photo of Emme. She would have none of it.

These days, the process of toddler birthday gift buying must be simplified for the sake of saving things… things like time and sanity. And, as the mom of a young child who has thrown a birthday or two for her kid (two, to be exact), I have some additional insight into the toddler birthday gift giving dilemma.

So if you’re stuck, start here.

5 Tips that will simplify shopping for toddler birthday gifts. Toddler birthday gift ideas and tips to make your shopping trip easier.

Set a budget.

For young kids, I do my best to stay under $25. There are more than enough gift options for toddlers in this price range — from clothing to toys to books to art supplies. Set a budget and stick to it.

Have a ‘signature’ gift.

Just like the signature cocktail you had at your wedding — only legal to give to a child. A signature gift basically solves every problem ever when it comes to giving toddler birthday gifts. You choose a gift and that’s what you give at every birthday party you attend. My sister does this, and to make it personal, she gives a name train, which is completely adorable and universally loved because every child is obsessed with trains at some point.

Ask the parents what they would like the child to have.

This is my m.o. Why? Because most young kids do not actually need anything, and, especially if they are among the only grandchildren in the family, they probably have plenty of toys. Trust me on this one (I know). If you ask the parents, they can tell you exactly what the child can use or what they would like the child to have. Problem solved.

Shop boutique or local toy stores.

Toys “R” Us is overwhelming. There are too many options, especially for the novice toddler gift-giver. Find a local or boutique toy store, and breath a sigh of relief. There will be less options, the toys will typically be higher quality, and the clerks will be able to help you because they will actually have knowledge of the products they sell.

When in doubt: Pajamas. Seriously.

Most party guests will likely gift a toy, so stand out from the crowd a bit with pajamas. Cute pajamas for kiddos are available at every price point. And at this age, sizing shouldn’t be too difficult since sizes correspond to age. To be safe, size up — buy 18-month pajamas for a 1-year-old; buy 2Ts for a 2-year-old. If they can’t wear them to bed immediately post-party, that’s OK. They’ll grow into them, but include the gift receipt just in case.

How do you handle birthday gifts for young children? Do you have signature gift? Are you good about sticking within a certain budget?

For my daughter's second birthday, we threw a party at Peekaboo Playroom in Oak Park. Peekaboo Playroom is one of my favorite indoor toddler play spaces. Gift Ideas to Celebrate Baby No. 2 How to Throw a Baby Sprinkle

An Interview with Kelley Kitley, Therapist & Business Owner | Work Life Mom

Sometimes when you’re a blogger, you receive email about your blog. Often, these emails are random and shady, and I’ll be honest, I tend to automatically side-eye everything that shows up in my inbox. But sometimes, I receive a legit email from someone who sincerely feels a connection to what I’m trying to do doing here and wants to contribute in a way that is incredibly beneficial for me, as well as you, the reader.

The email I received from Kelley Kitley after I published my interview with Abby Brennan of Brennan Spa was the second kind of email. Kelley is not only a mom to four adorable kiddos, she’s also a therapist specializing in the treatment of postpartum depression, anxiety disorders, and couples. And (AND!), she is passionate about helping women navigate the transition to motherhood.

Serendipitous, right? 

Funny you should say that…


After a few emails back and forth, Kelley and I had a fantastic conversation about the possibility of collaborating. Her passion for helping moms and her holistic approach to mental health and wellness completely resonated with me and the mission of Mommy Sanest. And profiling her for the Work | Life | Mom series seemed like a no-brainer because she is in the process of launching her own private practice, KELLEY KITLEY SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY. I hope you find her honest and thoughtful responses as helpful and inspiring as I did — I found myself wanting to virtual high-five her as I edited this interview!

Lou: Can you tell us about your family?

Kelley: My husband and I met 15 years ago at my parent’s business. I was bartending while I was an undergrad at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and Ryan was in graduate school at DePaul. He was one of my customers. We have four children with vastly different personalities. We are blessed to have two healthy boys and two healthy girls ranging in ages from 3-9.


Can you talk a little bit about your career as a therapist?

I knew I wanted to be a psychotherapist at a young age after having gone through some of my own personal struggles and receiving amazing help throughout my journey. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, and I am a licensed clinician with experience working in child welfare, hospitals, residential treatment centers, schools, and community mental health. I am a cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in the treatment of depression and anxiety (with a special niche in postpartum), addictions (including substance abuse, eating disorders, and sex/infidelity), parenting and self development, and couples counseling. I have worked in group private practices for the past eight years, but owning my own practice has always been a goal of mine. I am excited for the transition to independence.

Can you talk about why you decided to pursue opening your own practice? What has the process of opening a business while juggling multiple other priorities, including continuing to see patients at your current job, been like?

Balance is something that is important to me. I strive for it daily, but can get tripped up when I have so many plates spinning in the air.

Before I started KELLEY KITLEY SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY, LLC, we had a “family meeting” about what my commitment would look like. I told the kids I would be working more, which would mean less time at home. They asked questions and were supportive.

The entire household has stepped up to the plate. The older kids go grocery shopping with us and help put away their clothes. They take care of each other. I spend extra time at night snuggling, talking, reading, and tucking them in. Family time is important on the weekends.

My mantra is, “One day at a time.” Sometimes it’s one hour or one minute at a time. If I anticipated all of the energy, time, and dedication that the past year would have entailed, I’m not sure I would have signed up. But when I broke it down, it was manageable.


If another mom were to ask you for advice about opening a business similar to yours, what would you tell her?

You absolutely can do it! Create a vision board and identify what you want your business to look like. Put it some place where you can see it daily to inspire you to reach your goal. You also have to network and self-promote. For the past year, I have been out in the community giving talks on mental health and self-care. I have set up several meetings a week with other professionals to collaborate. I would rather use wall phones and tape recorders, but I bit the bullet and joined Facebook and LinkedIn. I serendipitously found an amazing office space. Once I opened myself up to the process, and let go of the fear of failure, my stars kept aligning.

And remember, we are all connected and can help each other out in the most incredible ways. I am forever grateful for the powerful women in my life who led the way.

When you become a mom, did you take time off work? Did you take a “normal,” 12-week maternity leave? How did you decide that going back to work was right for you and your family?

I am a fee-for-service provider, which means I was paid when I saw clients, so my maternity leave was never “paid time off,” which created some financial anxiety. We were always able to make it work short-term; however, not going back to work for an extended amount of time was not an option. But, I’ve had four c-sections, so I never took less than six weeks. When you add nursing and sleep deprivation, I’m not sure how I managed to form sentences returning to work eight to 10 weeks postpartum with my mommy brain. In my professional opinion, it would be ideal for every woman to be on paid leave for a year, but I know that is not most people’s reality.

Can you describe your “typical” work day?

I work four days a week and have clinical hours from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. I am a morning person and always found the work hours between 3-5 p.m. to be grueling, so I have been fortunate to create this schedule. My office is located in downtown Chicago at 737 N. Michigan Ave., so I accommodate a lot of professionals before they start their work day. I teach a graduate course in social work so one day a week I head over to UIC after seeing clients.

How do you and your partner manage childcare and the “business” of running a household?

Ryan is so supportive. We are lucky in that we work different hours, but it often times feels like solo parenting as we high five each other at the doorway when I am coming home from work and he is leaving.

We work very hard to keep the lines of communication about our needs open, so we can ask for help in a non-accusatory way. I think we own the household responsibilities that fall on our “shift.” For example, I do school pick up, homework, dinner, pack lunches, laundry, and bedtime. He does mornings, school drop off, all of the maintenance around the house, with the cars, and the bills. We alternate grocery shopping every other week.

We are respectful of keeping the house in somewhat of an order for the pass off — the garbage is taken out, the dishwasher is loaded. We try to leave things better than we found them. As two working parents, we attempt to manage a 50/50 split to help avoid burnout. We also have our sitter, who is a graduate student, with us 20-30 hours a week when there is overlap in our schedules. We also use her once a week to go on a date and reconnect.


How do you fit in self-care, seeing friends, and staying connected to yourself outside of your professional identity and identity as a mother?

I start my day by lighting a candle, writing down what I am grateful for, and what I need to work on. This activity sets the foundation for my day. I find peace when I am alone in my car, and during my commute, I blast music and sing at the top of my lungs. There is a Starbucks across the street from my office that has become my social escape. I meet a friend or family member there either before work, on a break, or after work several times a week. I try to put my phone in a drawer when I get home from work until after I put the kids to bed so that I can be present with them. I’ve given up exercise on the days that I work because it is an added stress to try and fit it in. I go to spinning classes or yoga 3-4 times a week on my days off. A walk around the block or taking the stairs gives me a pep in my step.

On the weekends, Ryan has a few hours in the morning to do something for himself on Saturdays, and I do the same on Sundays. I am a firm believer in putting the oxygen mask on me first (as they say in flight on an airplane), so I can then take care of my babies to the best of my ability.

In general, does the balancing act you’ve describe work for you? If you could change one thing about how you balance work with other areas of your life, what would be?

I immensely and genuinely LOVE the life choices I have made and how I choose to spend my time, but there never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish all that I have set out to do. The past six months have been chaotic for my family as I open my practice, write a book, and teach. I could use a couple of more hours in the day. I have to shout at myself to take a deep breathe and slow down. I often give myself time-outs. My kids will also remind me when I need a time-out.

You speak at workshops for Bump Club and Beyond in Chicago about the transition to motherhood. Can you provide a few tips about how to make the transition to motherhood smoother?

Accept help: As women, we try to do it all. Practice getting comfortable with saying YES if someone offers to come over and watch the baby so you can take a nap or go to the grocery store alone. In the first few weeks, a trip to Target might feel like a vacation.

Accept imperfections and limitations: I used to internally beat myself up if I couldn’t get everything done on my to-do list. The more children I had, the easier it was for me to say NO because I am not naturally wired this way. My external barriers gave me clarity of what I could accomplish.

Perfectionistic/overachievers are at higher risk of developing depression and anxiety symptoms postpartum. Having a child/children is absolutely life changing. Try to enjoy the transition, you will find your groove.

Connect with your partner: In the hierarchy of priorities post-baby, many of the men I have worked with report that they feel they are at the bottom of the list for their wives. Nurture that relationship with emotional and physical intimacy. It is a strength that can help you be a team player and get the support you need.

A big thank you to Kelley Kitley for giving us a glimpse into her busy life as a therapist, small business owner, mom to four, wife, and, you know, person. If you are looking for mental health services in the Chicago area, please check out KELLEY KITLEY SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY, LLC. And this likely won’t be the last you’ll see of Kelley on Mommy Sanest. You can look forward to her popping up on the blog from time to time, lending her expert opinion and advice to some upcoming posts.

Want more working mom inspiration? Check out interviews with Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of Flexjobs and Abby Brennan, owner of Brennan Massage and Spa.

Tough Questions: Talking to a Young Child about Baby No. 2

by Gena Kittner

Ellie: How is new baby getting out of your tummy?

Me: I’m going to wiggle him out.

I was just about to pat myself on the back for what I thought was a snappy, non-graphic, on-the-spot answer regarding delivery of our second child, due in July, when my 3-year-old came at me with a follow up:

Ellie: How did it get in there?

Oh boy.

How to talk to your Young Child about baby #2

Ellie is super excited to be a big sister, in fact I’m pretty sure it’s her favorite topic of conversation. She alternates between what toys she thinks “new baby” (as we’ve coined him) will like, and which ones she plans to hide.

She’s also had lots of questions. In the beginning, when I’d started to show and we told her mommy had a baby growing in my tummy, Ellie decided she had a baby growing in her tummy, too.

She’s since abandoned this idea as I’ve continued to expand and she hasn’t. Now she’s more concerned with the details of her brother’s arrival.

In the true preschooler mindset, everything must happen immediately. Almost daily she asks if new baby’s here. I tell her he has more growing to do and will be born when “it’s really, really hot.”

Ellie Is your baby giving kicks?

Me: No, I think he’s sleeping now.

Ellie: Why is he sleeping? It’s morning time!

But back to the tough question at hand — how he got there to begin with. In the end, I took the easy way out.

Me: You know when we plant tiny tomato seeds and they grow into big, tall plants? Well, mommy has a small seed in her tummy and it’s growing into a baby boy.

Ellie: Oh, OK … (But) he’s going to be too big to get out of your tummy.

Yeah, no kidding.

A couple days later, I went online to see how other moms approached this topic, figuring I could always improve my answer when I’m inevitably asked again.

But I didn’t find anything I really liked. I’m the first to admit I’ve taken the easy, not-anatomically-correct route. But I’m just not ready to get that real with my 3-year-old. Some Internet commenters suggested watching a video of puppy or human births. But as truly awesome as I think the miracle of birth is, even I don’t want to watch it on video. Plus, Ellie tends to get scared during tense moments of Sofia the First. I don’t want to scar her with, literally, blood and guts.

So I’m still on the hunt for better answers.

Mommies of multiple children — how did you answer inquiries involving the arrival of your “new baby”?

Gena is a Midwest transplant living in TucsoGena Kittnern, Arizona with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, Ellie. When not killing scorpions, Gena writes about food and family. Follow her on Twitter @genakittner, and check out her previous posts on Mommy Sanest.

Winter Isn’t Over Yet

I really had to work hard not to put a sad face emoticon in that headline.

If you live in Chicagoland, then you probably woke up Monday morning, looked out the window, and felt your heart sink. I mean, you heard that it was going to snow, but you didn’t think it would snow that much. And, after several days of spring-like weather and outdoor fun at the park and the zoo, what do you do with a young child when you’ve spent a long winter exhausting all your indoor play options?

You read my piece, 10 Unexpected Places to Take a Toddler on a Cold or Rainy Day, over at Pick Any Two, one of my favorite mom blogs out there!