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This may be my shortest "review" post ever and I'll tell you straight up, it's a hearty product endorsement.

I get a lot of emails, facebook messages, blog comments (maybe even instagram comments? can't recall) asking me about this light. The most recent arrived in my inbox yesterday.

So I just need to bite the bullet and put up a small post on the blog I can refer back to instead of re-typing the same response over and over.

My phototherapy light, which I also call my Happy Light because it's written on the lamp, is made by Verilux. Damien did the research on different brands and models and we chose this one (from what was available at the time) for its high intensity, fast session times, and large surface area.

You can find this model at amazon.com or amazon.ca. I'm sure you can buy phototherapy lamps at Best Buy and similar stores, I've seen smaller Verilux brand models at the Costco I frequent. If you're in Canada you may be interested in Northern Light Technologies.

Before making the investment to buy this light a few years ago, I did all kinds of research on what the light did, how it worked, etc. I read enough to be convinced to try it. Here are two short reviews on phototherapy from WebMD and Dr. Andrew Weil.

This is my third winter using a therapy light. The first winter I used it, there seemed to be a noticeable difference for me. But that was also the winter we were prepping for our thru-hike, a lot was different that winter, there was no control, in the scientific sense.

Last year I also experienced an improvement in my mental health. However, my winter wellness strategy is multi-faceted and involves supplements, outdoor exercise/skiing, enjoying the season, burning candles - the whole works. So it's really hard to separate the light from everything else, it's a holistic approach to health.

I use the light almost every morning for 1- 1.5 hours. I start in November and continue as long as I feel I need it. I think I packed it up in April last year.

Here's how I'd summarize my experience with my Happy Light:

  • I use it religiously.
  • I recommend it heartily.
  • It's part of a holistic winter wellness strategy.
  • Practical note: I store it during the day and take it out for my morning "therapy".
  • I bought mine at amazon.ca. At the time I bought it, it cost me $190, not including tax.
  • It's not pretty, it's doesn't photograph well like a soft candle, but it works.

If you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or intense winter blahs, these other posts on the blog (listed in order of publication) may be of interest/helpful to you:

This post has affiliate links.

My cousin is getting married this weekend. The wedding is in Chilliwack, British Columbia and I have arrived, a couple days early, to spend time with my aunts, cousins, and grandparents who live in the lower mainland.

I haven't been to a wedding, nor have I visited with my west coast family for ages. This trip has been months in the saving, planning and scheduling and I'm so happy to be here.

I don't dress up much, nor do I wear makeup very often so these are two things I'm a little anxious about in going to a wedding with all my stylish aunties and cousins. Most of my cousins are beautiful young women in their twenties. My aunties are older, obviously, but they are stylish and sassy, all six of them. They get it from my grandmother.

The first grandchild, the oldest niece, the oldest cousin, I've always felt most comfortable on the casual side of the spectrum.

But a wedding calls for something more than casual. I have the sparkly black dress, the open-toed, high-heeled black shoes, and jewelry on loan from my mom. I even have some makeup.

Regular readers know that Brienne is the big makeup wearer in our house. I don't share her creative interest in this area but I can appreciate her passion for beauty and self-expression. I have the same passions, I just express them in other ways.

Brienne LOVES makeup, she studies what is good for skin and hair, she researches products, and creates her own. It's just her thing. As for me, because I don't wear makeup very often I don't own any makeup, and because I don't own makeup, I don't wear makeup. But I've been wanting to re-route this loop, to actually own some makeup so when the need or desire arises, I have something to play with. (I've been borrowing from the girls for the last couple years.)

So when Simple Beauty Minerals contacted me to review their products I knew this would be the perfect project for Brienne and I to do together. I needed some makeup and Brienne "needs" more makeup.

Simple Beauty Minerals sent Brienne and me four products for review.

Brienne received a mineral foundation and mascara. I tested a lipstick and mascara.

Our first impressions upon receiving our makeup was that we liked the packaging. There was a certain "bling" to the presentation which really resonated with Brienne who loves all things sparkly and girly. From the purple gauze bags to the rhinestone adorned contact card, Simple Beauty Minerals makes you feel special and pretty before you even put the makeup on.

Simple Beauty Minerals asked us specifically to test their mineral foundation. I was most interested in the mascara and lipstick so we choose a foundation for Brienne to experiment with.

Simple Beauty Minerals offers many foundation choices for different skin types. So that was our first task, to figure out Brienne's skin type. Once you know your skin type you shouldn't have any problem finding a foundation from the many options at Simple Beauty Minerals.

Brienne tested the Warm 2 Perfect Cover Mineral Foundation. At first, she didn't think it was the best match for her skin tone but after a couple trial applications Brienne noticed that the color blended well with the skin tone under her eyes. Overall, Brienne likes the medium coverage this foundation provides.

I tried the foundation also. Brienne and I have very similar skin types and I wanted to see for myself what a foundation layer would look like on my skin. This is a mineral powder foundation and I like the matte effect on my skin but it looks too dry under my eyes. So Brienne, who loves to experiment with makeup, came up with a makeup hack to solve that problem.

The girls and I use straight Argan and/or Jojoba oil to moisturize our skin. Brienne mixed some of the foundation powder with a drop of jojoba oil to create a moisturizing foundation for under my eyes. Voila. The effect was much improved over the straight powder application.

I don't know that this is how the product is intended to be used but it works for us.

Both Brienne and I love the Simple Beauty Mineral mascaras we were sent to try. The Jet Black Ultimate Healthy Mascara is perfect for my needs. As I've mentioned, I rarely wear makeup but there are some occasions, like my cousin's wedding this weekend, that I want to add a little ummphf to my appearance.

"Buy a healthy mascara" has been on my to-list for at least two years now. It's been years since I've purchased mascara and the last time I bought one there were very few "healthy" options on the market.

Healthy is a subjective word so here's how I define it. I use the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to assess the skincare products our family uses. Because of Brienne's keen interest in cosmetics this has become a valuable research tool in our home.

Sometimes the product is in the database and a simple search for the product name will bring up a rating for the exact item. It's not a perfect assessment tool, many products are not in the database and you have to search by ingredient, and there is limited data available for many ingredients.

For a small company like Simple Beauty Minerals, whose products aren't yet in the database, I searched by individual ingredient to figure out what the rating was for the mascara.

According to my research, the Jet Black Ultimate Healthy Mascara gets a slightly better rating than the Black Magic Healthy Mascara, which is what Brienne is wearing, but both end up with a low hazard rating based on the concentration of ingredients in each.

This is my definition of a "healthy" product, if it gets a green low hazard rating from EWG.

I really like the mascara, it highlights my eyes and if I want more emphasis I can add another layer. Brienne concurs, in her words, "the mascara looks natural but makes eyelashes darker and longer, and it can be layered." We both agree this probably isn't the ideal mascara for you if you want a really dramatic look, but it's perfect if you want an enhanced natural look.

In addition to mascara I have been trying the Sweet Spiced Berry Mineral Lip Color. I'm out of the loop with makeup styles. I don't know if bold is in, or maybe the look is muted these days. In my opinion, if I'm wearing lipstick I want it to look like I'm wearing lipstick, so I went with a darker color.

I was disappointed that the "stick" broke at the base on its second use, perhaps natural lipsticks are more prone to that, or maybe I'm just a brute. It reattached well but I'm more gentle with it now.

I like the color and the lipstick goes on smooth but I think if I was to get really serious, i.e. more regular, about wearing lipstick I'd benefit from using a pencil or some other lip liner.

I'm much more comfortable wearing mascara than I am lipstick. I feel self-conscious wearing lipstick and I worry it's smudged on my teeth or is "bleeding" around the edges. I suppose a pencil would help that. And I think I look older wearing lipstick, not younger. Maybe I'm choosing the wrong color? Maybe muted is best?

Here's where I feel makeup is fraught with too much uncertainty for the very-casual wearer like myself. For someone like Brienne wearing makeup presents the opportunity to experiment, an artist's palette to play with. For me, it feels a bit like a minefield, not knowing if I'm making the right step, is this too bold? to understated?

I think the most important thing is to find the place, or the look, where you are comfortable in your own skin, that place where you feel good about yourself (as cliche as that sounds). For me that is an unadorned state, whereas Brienne prefers a look that is more embellished.

Even though I'm not personally confident with makeup in general, I'm confident about the quality and care of the products created by Simple Beauty Minerals. I love that when I do want to wear makeup, for a bit more color or so I don't looked washed out in family wedding photos, I have skin-healthy products I can use and safely recommend to my daughter.

I also appreciate Simple Beauty Mineral's unique stance against photo shopping images of women on their site. The photos in this post, as with all my published photos, are edited for white balance and color correction but I don't "touch-up" or otherwise change the photo to enhance features.

In addition, Simple Beauty Minerals is a small family business founded by a homeschool mom. What's not to love?

If you are interested in trying Simple Beauty Minerals sign up for their newsletter to get your 20% off coupon.

It's been a long time since I've written anything substantial about homeschooling and I'd like to do something about that.

Since I've been quiet on the subject it could be inferred I've lost some of my passion for homeschooling or that it's not going well. (My kids are teenagers after all.) Thankfully, neither is true.

These are some of our best homeschool years yet. I still LOVE homeschooling my kids. And our kids (mostly) still want to be schooled at home. The energy and tenacity of older students, when they are working toward their own goals is a real beauty to behold. (I just gave you a real big hint as to why homeschooling is still working in our home.)

A significant area of contention in our homeschool life is that we have limited community resources at our disposal to support our anglophone childrens' growth, development, and interests. (We live in rural Quebec.)

For two years we went without good library service. We finally solved that problem by joining the library system in New Brunswick, which is the province next to us. Thankfully, our nearest library is only one hour away.

The most difficult thing though, is that we've gone nearly four years without a homeschool support group or homeschool community. We have two teenagers and a social, extroverted twelve year old who want to connect with kids like them and so the situation has to change. And it will, very soon. (That's code-speak for "we're moving" but I'll get to that announcement soon enough.)

Although I haven't written much about homeschooling on the blog, homeschooling is as near and dear to my heart as ever it was. To be sure, my long term sights are on what comes after this first vocation of mine (what kind of career do I want after my kids aren't the center of my universe?) but finishing well is where my focus is right now and for the next three to five years.

I spend a lot more time now, than I did when the kids were little, investing my energies into the "homeschool" part of my job description. When the kids were young I invested a lot of energy into establishing our homemaking systems and teaching the kids likewise. I was banking on the belief that if I laid that foundation well I would have more physical and mental energy to help guide their studies in the intense middle to high school years. At that point I could only hope that my efforts would yield the fruit I see today. I have not been disappointed.

I have a lot to say about homeschooling in these years and I want to spend some time in March, all of March actually, writing about homeschooling, and I want to do it as openly as possible.

I've got a little side project going on called The Kitchen Table, many of you have joined me there. I am blown away but what's happening around the table. And I'm getting glimpses of the work I want to do post-homeschooling but mostly I am simply hanging out and sharing my heart, as you share yours.

I have been given so much already in the short time I've been facilitating that group, but what strikes me the most is seeing FIMBY readers, who I've always considered friends, for who they are: real people.

You are a real person and it's likely you're a real homeschooler. You have real kids in a real home. Real-ness means we are beautiful but at times feel wretched. It means we love our kids to death (and we would die for them) but God help us if they don't drive us to drinking some days. Real-ness means we have our spectacular homeschooling days but also days, months, seasons where we wonder if we're not failing our children, crippling them for life.

I want to write about homeschooling in our home with all this in mind. I try to be honest in my writing but when I don't hear the voices of who I'm writing to it's hard to be open. Not because I don't want to, but because without knowing who you are (dear reader and friend) I'm writing into a void. And in that emptiness I wonder, who the heck cares about these particular details, this triumph or this struggle.

As it turns out, you care and you want to know. You may not contribute to comments, nor do I expect you to, but you're reading and you want to know what it really looks like to homeschool older kids. And I want to share that with you.

I started this blog eleven years ago. Brienne, our youngest, was a toddler. You can read my first homeschooling-related post here. It's about hiking, what else?

You might also like this blast from the past post about our early school days, published ten years ago, almost to the day.

I didn't start to post regularly to this blog, which wasn't even called FIMBY at the time, till Brienne was five.

Our kids are now 12, 14 and 15. What does it look like to homeschool kids these ages? Does it look how I thought it would as a starry-eyed, interest-led, newbie homeschooler?

Do our kids still want to be homeschooled? Are they still eager to learn (like they were as adorable eight year olds)?

Will they go to highschool? (If you've been reading my blog for a long time you'll already have a clue to the answer.)

What are we doing to prepare for university? Will our kids go to university?

How do we (attempt to) meet the needs of three diverse kids? Are our kids weird homeschooled teenagers? (My oldest daughter and her friends like to be weird so this is a tricky question to answer.)

I've got a good chunk of these posts already written. I've been plugging away on a "homeschooling through high school" series since last fall. That should answer all the high school related questions. But I'm guessing you may have other questions. (Or maybe you have a very specific high school question you'd like to see answered in the high school series.)

I'd love to hear your homeschooling questions. Feel free to post them in comments below or email them to me.

I can't promise to get to each one, but as much as possible I want to try to work my answers into the posts I have planned for the month of March.

I'm not a homeschool guru but after ten years at this vocation I'm still happily doing it and the kids haven't mutinied yet. In truth, we all really enjoy each other, there's a flow of learning through our days and excited plans for the future, so I probably have something of value to add to the conversation.

A civil discourse disclaimer and why I write our story, in spite of the risk.

A dear blogging friend of mine was recently attacked on a blog post she wrote about her daughter's homeschooled high school experience. The comment was offensive and mean-spirited (I didn't read it) and my friend felt compelled to un-publish the post as well as change her plans to publish follow-up posts related to high school, record keeping, transcripts and the like.

In all my years of blogging I have received one spiteful comment on a homeschool post. I deleted it and I updated my comments policy, which I'm certain no one reads. I've had less than a handful of mean comments at FIMBY and only one that was about my kids.

I have a zero tolerance policy for attacks on my kids on the blog, or mean stuff in general, regardless of who it's directed at. I don't mind honest discourse, thoughtful questions and questioning, but kindness is the rule, just as it is in our home.

(We've had very few "rules" for our kids. I'm sometimes inconsistent with the ones we do have. All those parenting books that stress consistency make me feel like a failure, so I don't read them. And the kids, Brienne especially, know they can negotiate their way around most "rules". But kindness is non-negotiable, it is the rule we enforce.)

All of this to say, homeschoolers and people who blog about parenting and family life in general go out on a limb sometimes in sharing their experiences. And so you might wonder why I share publicly at all?

In my case I do it because it's what I want to read.

I want to read about healthy, vibrant, loving, and real family life. I want to know how to homeschool my kids through high school. I want to know how to have close relationship with them through their growing years and into adulthood.

I want to read about families who live with hope and kindness, joy and vitality. I want to know how to raise amazing kids who will bring the light of Christ into the world and affect positive change in their own circles of influence.


talk about breaking the rules, or in this case the law: there is a great (scary at the time) story behind this not-so-stealth campsite in Harriman State Park, NY

I want to know how to hold on and then let go. I want to know how I can build community with my children so we might live communally as adults and experience third, and fourth (with my parents) generation family life. I want all of this in a culture and society that seems to tear families apart and isolate us from one another.

I want nothing short of an amazing family life and it's sometimes hard to find models for this, in the context of our current culture. I don't identify as much with books written by parents who's kids are grown and gone, raised before the internet and iPads.

Also, most of the current books available (and a lot of healthy family life blogs) seem to be about farming, homesteading families, and we are definitely not that.

We are a technology family who's members love gaming, sci-fi movies, design, fashion, and computer programming, as well as having fun in the outdoors together (and we can be pretty hard core about that.) I am the natural-living inspired mom and spouse to this tech savvy crew. I figure my earthiness keeps us grounded whereas Damien's geeky engineering bent keeps us technologically "in-the-game". Something I especially appreciate with teenagers in the house. I may be clueless about the latest and greatest, but their dad isn't!

I love to read blogs about families (homeschooling families since that's what I identify with) finding their way into into healthy, fulfilling, and vibrant lives.

Our family is not the model. But we're doing stuff that works for us (and sometimes trying stuff that doesn't), and I want my voice, our story, to be part of the collective "this is how families do it" narrative that is being written on the web. Not because we're perfect parents, perfect spouses, or perfect kids. But because we love each other, and we love life, and we love Jesus, and we love our neighbors and the world needs love, period.

It's a love story, and you may question and ask "what about...?" but hurtful comments directed to our family, or each other will not be tolerated. It's a house rule.


(A note about the photos in this post. I don't take many photos of us "doing school" so I don't have a lot "visuals to illustrate" this post, or the posts coming this month. This seems like a perfect opportunity to start publishing trail photos. Already, the kids have grown so much since these were taken last spring and summer on the Appalachian Trail.)

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