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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Don't blink

You know the saying: "Don't blink or you'll miss it."  It can be used literally in the event of an anticipated quick moment.  It is more often used as hyperbole to emphasis the fleeting nature of a situation, such as how quickly children grow.

Experts say our eyes are drier in this digital age because screens keep us from blinking enough.  The irony is those periods of not blinking are actually making us miss the small but important moments in our lives.

I have this illusion that sitting in the same room as my kids, looking up from my computer frequently, is going to keep me from missing those moments.  I know I still miss some, but what's worse is knowing how I'M KEEPING THEM FROM HAPPENING.

There is the obvious lack of my participation: games I could play with my children, moments of cuddling and stories we could enjoy.  Then there's the part I feel lucky to have noticed early on, before it became habit.

My children, as most children, have a certain (somewhat irritating) phrase at the ready at all times.  That phrase is, "Mommy, look at me!"  Some might argue here that of course my children are literally crying out for my attention; I'm on the computer.  Most parents know that children will use this attention-getting technique in any situation, even when you are right there interacting with them.

So what does it mean when your kids stop saying, "Look at me?"  They must be secure enough playing on their own that they no longer need your constant attention, right?  Maybe they have grown out of that phase. It's just a toddler and preschooler thing, right?

What if they stopped asking because you weren't responding?

Does that mean they don't need or want your attention?  Absolutely not.  It means you've lost their trust.

Now here is where someone is going to say I'm blowing this way out of proportion.  How can "look at me" be compared to safety and fulfilled needs?  IT'S JUST BASIC HUMAN PROGRAMMING.  Search the Internet.  You'll find all sorts of reputable experts and institutions stating this and the proof.

Lucky for me (or should I say "Thank God"), I put this all together and realized I need to be not only responding to my children when they say, "Look at me!," but I need to be responding immediately.

Since I discovered this, I've been working on training myself to immediately drop everything and look at my child.  What have I noticed?  My children are happier, nicer to each other, nicer to our possessions, and MORE WILLING TO WAIT when I need them to.

I definitely have moments and even days when I am too busy or not in the mood to be at my children's beck and call.  Through these moments I've learned something else: my children can accept this IF I EXPLAIN IT TO THEM.  What a concept, eh?  "I have to make some important phone calls, so I can only help you if it's an emergency, okay?"  "I'm not feeling well, so I need you to help me out and give me some space.  Do you understand?"  They are happy to entertain themselves (once in a while) if I just ask.

I can't take the credit for these moments of enlightenment.  Elizabeth George, in her book A Woman After God's Own Heart, talks about creating Five Fat Files, five areas of expertise for your life on which you spend most of your time and brainpower.  This concept was liberating.  I wanted to read mostly books on marriage and parenting and a few other limited subjects, but I was afraid I was going to miss something important.  She said it's impossible and impractical to read everything, so we should focus on that which will most affect our lives.

One of my five is parenting.  I've been reading books and blogs and articles and websites...everything I can find.  I even have an Internet bookmark folder called "Five Fat Files," in which I place websites and articles I've found useful.  I've been practicing scripts to use in - and adapt to - certain situations.  Boy, has that been a good use of time and brainpower!

Now I can hear someone saying that I'd be better off spending less time reading about parenting and more time doing it.  That's like saying you'd be better off throwing ingredients together instead of learning to cook or at least reading a recipe.  Or hammering pieces of wood together instead of learning the necessary construction skills or at least watching a YouTube video of how to build whatever you are building.

It's not like there are specific instructions or techniques for parenting, but there are tips and tools and ideas that you can store away for when you need them.  A chapter at night before bed, a few articles while the children are happily playing or a blog delivered to your email daily that you can read on your phone whenever you have a spare two minutes are all ways to expose yourself to this invaluable knowledge.

It is this research that has helped me become more aware of my children, their needs, their wants, their love languages, and so forth.  Constantly pumping myself with these parenting ideals is changing my instincts, my reactions, my reaction time.  It's making me more aware of my areas of opportunity, in all areas of my life!

(Please, if you use the terms "weaknesses"  or "shortcomings" or the like in reference to anything animate, especially people, please, please change your way of thinking to "areas of opportunity" or anything else more hopeful.  This change of heart will affect you and everyone around you - your spouse, your children, your friends - in a positive way.  It completely changes your attitude.)

Our children are only children for a short while.  Why not work as hard as you can to be the best parent you can be by learning all you can about how to be the best you for your individual child?  Be knowledgeable and be present.  The rest will fall into place.

So I'm not asking you to not blink but rather to blink.  Blink to break your focus on the screens.  Blink to change your view of your surroundings.  Blink (and take a deep breath) to remind yourself to look inward as well as outward.  Trust me when I say the blinking will open your eyes so you don't miss a thing.

Monday, March 25, 2013

No Poo Update Week 10

After desperately using shampoo and suffering far worse for it, I decided to try applesauce.  (A lot of people use that instead of baking soda, apparently.)

I tried it last night.  My hair was super sticky again, no matter how much I scrubbed and rinsed.  I had a light bulb moment: the problem wasn't the baking soda; it was my own sebum (oil) caked up in my hair.  I tried spraying on ACV and combing through with an almost-fine-tooth comb, and I got some of the residue out, but my hair was still gross.  I set off to do more research.

I discovered that hard water is the problem.  It basically creates soap scum in the hair.  (This isn't a problem with shampoo, which is a detergent, not a soap, and works with any water.)  The top recommendation is boiling the water to soften it and mixing in the baking soda while the water is still hot.

This great post describes my problem exactly.

I was going to try this, but I discovered that boiled water takes forever to cool (but does make the BS fizz like nobody's business!), and I couldn't wait that long to wash my hair.  I decided to try ACV in the shower, treating it like shampoo.  I used water as hot as I could stand to wet my hair.  Then I added full-strength ACV and scrubbed for a couple minutes.  My hair started to feel slippery, the way it should feel during the BS stage, but not the acid stage.  I figured I must be breaking up some of the residue and releasing BS that was stuck in my hair.  I rinsed and rinsed.

Happy that my hair was in no way sticky, I stopped.  My hair still felt slippery, and it left a slippery coating on my hands.  I tried to rinse again with even hotter water.  I got much of the slippery feel out, though it was still pretty slippery where I'm normally most oily (my temples and the back of my head).  Satisfied that I did the best I could for now, I thought I'd see what it was like dry.  It's still drying, and I can tell my hair's still questionable, though much better.  I left my boiled-water concoctions in the shower and might try again tonight.

It's going to be a pain in the rear if I have to boil my water every time (or buy distilled water), but if my hair goes back to the way it was a few weeks ago, it'll still be WAY better than shampoo.

Monday, March 18, 2013

No Poo Update Week 9

Update as of three-four weeks ago:

I use a couple tablespoons of baking soda (I totally dilute the BS in water and use a sport-style bottle to squirt it on, then I massage my scalp well before rinsing VERY well), which I'm sure is more than I need, and I just spritz on the ACV after I get out of the shower. I have long, thick, curly hair, and I learned not to put the BS more than a few inches from my scalp; my hair was SO full of static! What I read said most people use about 1 tablespoon of BS to a cup of water and 1 tablespoon of ACV to a cup of water.  My hair has been AWESOME. It's soft, smooth, mostly tangle free, static free, easy to braid. In fact, three or four days in was the first day I'd worn it any way besides down, and I'm usually in a pony tail by then.

Update two-three weeks ago:

There is a residue on my hair for the first time since that unfortunate bath tub washing.  I thought I was really thorough with my rinsing, but apparently not.  My hair's not too different otherwise, though, still easy to manage.

Update one-plus week ago:

My hair was greasy very early in the week.  I attribute that, at least in part, to my hair being past the too-long point.  My hair always reaches a needs-to-be-cut point where it is very tangly and greasy and yucky no matter what.  Since I was growing out my hair for Locks of Love, I wasn't getting it trimmed.  My scalp also protests violently at this point, and my scalp was itchy and raw.

I finally got a chance (thanks, Mom!) to go get my hair cut.  My scalp already felt better immediately after the cut, but it still had its issues.  The next day I washed it my hair, and it felt GREAT.  The day after that, however, I felt a bit of residue again.  My hair was a little stringy looking but not too bad, again.

I decided to wash it a bit early because the residue was causing some scalp irritation.  I couldn't rinse out the BS at all.  My hair was sticky.  I thought maybe it was just my hands feeling funny, but I touched my hair with my totally-clean forearm, and it became sticky.  I tried to rinse more, but nothing was changing.  I knew vinegar would probably take care of it, but shampoo was right there, so I used it.  My hair felt wonderfully clean.  The next day, however, it started to get oily.  Two days later (yesterday), my scalp started to itch.  Today my scalp is a raging mess, and my hair is an oil slick.

I definitely can't go back to shampoo, but I can't use BS, either.  I found a site that lists alternatives for the BS and ACV, so I'll try something there in place of the BS.  I'm bummed, but I'm determined to find something because shampoo is DEFINITELY not me-friendly.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

No Poo Update Week 5

I meant to update weekly.  Whoops!  Here's the original post in case you missed it.

Week 1: My hair stayed easy to untangle the entire week.  It started to get oily at the same time as usual, but it never got AS oily.  I did have static issues, but, as I mentioned, I forgot to use my apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse.

Week 2: My hair was very dry and tangled easily.  I'm definitely using too much baking soda.  No amount of ACV could help me.  My hair was still full of static, too.  Again, my hair got oily around the same time but never got as oily as before.

Week 3: I cut the baking soda in half.  My hair was much less dry.  This time I used too much ACV, which left my hair smelling like vinegar after it dried.  (The smell usually goes away once your hair is dry.)  I did try the spray bottle for application, and it was very nice.  My hair was very full - not in a good way...my curls and waves were all broken, but I was able to wear my hair down after wearing it in a pony tail for a day.  That's something I've never been able to do.  In fact, my hair was smoother that day.  Crazy!  My hair was easier to brush again this week, but still not as awesome as week 1.  Again, I got oily around the same time, but this time I was way less oily than before.

Week 4: I used the same (half) amount of baking soda.  This definitely seems to be the right amount for me.  I used much less ACV, and I didn't notice a difference, so I guess less is more.  My hair is still too full, but it's more manageable, so I'll take the trade.  My hair got oily around the same time but was even less so than last week.

Week 5: I washed my hair in the tub instead of the shower.  Mistake.  I couldn't get it wet enough nor rinse it well enough.  I walked around for a week (it's hard to get around to washing my hair) with chalky/oily hair.  BUT it was STILL nowhere near as oily as before.  And who knew baking soda could leave your hair feeling chalky?  The only other bad part was I developed a lot of buildup on my scalp.  Yes, I do have problems with that normally thanks to eczema, but this was extreme.  I don't blame the no-poo routine, though.  I blame not enough water.  The rule is - and this is true for washing your pets, too! - make sure to wet the hair and skin thoroughly before applying shampoo (or baking soda, in this case) and rinse it out completely.

Today I washed my hair properly, in the shower, and it felt great.  My scalp came clean quite easily, and my hair has returned to its full-but-more-manageable state.  I do hope the full part goes away some, but I'll take easy to brush, et al.  I'm hoping to make it to Great Clips this week to donate my hair to Locks of Love.  My hair is always extra full after I chop it off.  This should be interesting...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No Poo: Day One

No, I'm not writing about bowel habits.

Let's talk about hair, baby!

My four-year-old and her ridiculously-gorgeous hair

Did you know you can keep your hair clean, soft, shiny and manageable with only baking soda and vinegar? I first heard about "no 'poo" (as in "no shampoo") many months ago, but I wanted to use up my current shampoo first because I paid for it.  What I should have asked myself when making that decision is what the real cost of that shampoo is.

I've never been happy with my hair.  It's thick and unevenly curly/wavy.  It's always been hard to style or even keep in a pony tail!  In high school, I looked like Alice from the Dilbert cartoon: frizzy poof on top, flat around head, frizzy poof at the bottom, creating a triangle.  Now that I'm a mom, my hair has gotten extra oily, too, so it's always flat on top but still frizzy and/or stringy at the bottom.  I cannot wash more frequently than once a week because I get so frizzy (and no anti-frizz product can even hint at taming it), and then I move to oil slick spontaneously overnight, like flipping a switch.  Natural shampoos don't help - but probably don't make it worse, and commercial shampoos completely torture my hair.  Last week I brought a tub of baking soda into my bathroom for use in the tub.  A couple days later, I finished off one of my bottles of "natural scalp care" shampoo and decided it was perfect timing.  (Which reminds me: I need to throw the other bottle, a salon shampoo, in the trash.  Hair poison!)

There are many people talking about "no 'poo," and there are many recipes and methods out there.  I decided I liked the idea of mixing up the baking soda and water in a wash bottle instead of in my hand.  I'm glad I did.  It was so easy to squirt it through my hair with one hand while sectioning my hair with the other.  I have a lot of thick hair, so I have to apply it in sections (picture someone getting their hair colored with foil wraps).  I didn't measure the baking soda or water, which I realized, after the fact, was not smart.  Now I won't know how much to use next time!  I also left the vinegar downstairs, so I skipped it.  I did not have a smooth start to this process.

The standard recipe is 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar to 1 cup of water.  You have to find the recipe that works for you, using more baking soda and less vinegar for oilier hair or less baking soda and more vinegar for drier hair.  For each step, you leave the mixture on your hair for a minute or two and then rinse well.  Some people don't rinse out the vinegar, treating it like a leave-in conditioner.  (I've thought about putting the vinegar and water mixture into a spray bottle and using it after I get out of the shower when I comb my hair.)  Either way, the vinegar smell should go away as your hair dries.

Here is one of the blogs I found especially helpful.

Despite omitting the vinegar rinse, I noticed distinct differences in my hair.  When it was first drying, it was smooth and soft instead of frizzy and coarse.  The more it dried, the shinier it got.  I used a wide-tooth comb on it, and it went right though.  That's unheard of.  Then I (bravely or stupidly) took a fine-tooth comb to it to stimulate my scalp, and that went through, too!  I am AMAZED.  This is only the first wash!

I am interested to see how my hair handles the adjustment period.  Most people experience very oily hair for the first few days or weeks because their scalps are in high-production mode thanks to the drying effects of traditional shampoo and over-washing thanks to the same oil problem.  It's a vicious cycle.  Since I don't over-wash, I wonder if my hair will be oily sooner after washing than it is now.  I'm hoping the "no 'poo" method tempers the oil slick when it is time to wash.

I'm also interested to see how my hair handles being pulled back.  Currently, as soon as I wear a pony tail, my hair becomes oily, and I have no other style options until I wash.  The no-poo blog posts I've read (there are many great ones out there!) have reported alternating up dos with long styles without a problem, so only time will tell.

I'll try to update in a week or so with how it's going.