Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Centering amid the Chaos

~Ok, the house doesn't actually look like this anymore, but it is how it feels a lot of the time still.~

The stress of remodeling is still upon us. Even though it isn't quite as messy as it was, it's still pretty cluttered and chaotic.

I haven't been talking much about the renovation and everything we're going through with Harmon because there is a lot going on that I'm not sure I really can talk about right now. Which feels like a violation of my rights. I should be able to express my own feelings, thoughts, and opinions. And shutting me up is a pretty hard-core thing (many people will attest to that), so it's been .. well, hard. I will post more when I know it is ok to though, I promise.

But among this hell, life must go on. You can't dwindle in it, you can't feel sorry for yourself. I've been following the updates from a gal I know who has cancer. She is so upbeat and positive and surrounded by love and support, that whenever I feel down I read her latest updates and feel grateful and empowered. Thank you Decca, you've always been an inspiration and you continue to amaze and inspire me.

But when the stress does get to me, I simply look at this:

I can't help but smile. I love Shannon's cocky expression, sure that all is well in life; and then there is Tristan's sweet face, but with tattoos on his arm lest you be fooled that he isn't a hellion too.

And looking at them, I know I can't let anger and frustration prevail. I must find a way to center myself and my world and be calm.

So, last night I broke down and splurged on two magazines. I did try to find their info online, but couldn't, so buying the magazines became justified. Some gals find sanctuary in Cosmo or Vogue, but I went to Lowe's and got a special publication from Better Homes & Gardens (yes, I'm obsessed with that magazine) called "Storage" ~ With promises of bright colors, not clutter, no tumbleweeds of dog hair, and lots of wicker baskets, they assure me that life will be ok.
My second splurge was for a "This Old House" magazine ~ "57 low-cost makeover ideas!" "15 paint schemes ~ 9 outdoor rooms ~ 11 kitchen upgrades ~ and more!"

Although magazines aren't usually a way to center oneself, I found these helpful. We're drowning in clutter and even some simple advice is helpful. Of course, I won't be rushing out to buy the $899 Stow & Go Hobby Cart from, but the idea of ottomans that double as storage is nice. And even those can be found for less than advertised, if not made at home. I also liked seeing different ways to store items bound for recycling. Currently we use old pickle buckets, but I feel like it looks like buckets of trash rather than "ooh, recycling!" ~ So there are lots of ideas to be gathered and time to mull them over, and this helps me re-group and find balance. To know that all is not lost, there is hope, and if you take your time you don't have to spend as much as they (those tricksy advertisers) want you to.

Other ways I've been trying to center myself involve the medicine cabinet and the kitchen. I read an interesting blog post ( the other day and have been seeking out kid-friendly, kid-approved cod liver oil supplements. We don't do flu vaccines around here, but since we do belong to the Y now I worry about the general "Y Bug" with cold season approaching.

This has taken me into re-examining our medicine cabinet. Along this path I stumbled upon another blog post: Aren't blogs awesome? Passionate Homemaking, sounds good to me!

And, looking into the kitchen, I find myself yearning to get a huge stock pot of chicken stock going. ~ This is one of my favorite things to make. There is something soul-satisfying in taking things that would normally be tossed out with the trash in our society and turning them into something that will heal and restore us. I love it.

There is lots of chaos around us, but we must not give in to it. We must look it in the eye, smile, and stay calm & grounded. Chaos feeds on chaos. Center yourself and the chaos will prove not much more trouble than a cloud in the sky.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Losers

~Yea .. not those Losers. We aren't that cool. Or that buff ... *sigh*~

It's a really wonderful moment when you realize that you are the Losers of your family. I've been getting hints for a while, but after today I know it for sure. And it's a wonderful moment.

I mean, just our mere presence makes everyone else in the family instantly look better. We're like the ugly fat chick for family gatherings. The poor, white trash of the uppity uppity crust of the uber cool family members.

So what happened today that made me really realize this? Well, it wasn't the usual comment of "No, no, no ... you don't give people presents" (cuz, you know, we're too broke for that). Or, when I mentioned I had only gained 18 pounds while pregnant with Tristan, and a certain grandmother replied "Well, I was told to only gain ONE POUND per month while pregnant!" -- Gee .. and I bet they told you to smoke and drink too, didn't they?

No .. today wasn't really that unusual. It was rather normal actually. Justin and I were outside. He was cleaning out the front garden beds. I was sitting on our new front porch furniture (finally, something that doesn't fall apart when you sit on it!! WOO HOO!!), cutting up old clothing for future use -- crocheting into rag rugs! The kids were inside, taking naps, though they came out and joined us, riding their bikes, when they woke up. Sounds fine, right? --- Yea ... apparently you aren't from here.

Like I said, we got new front porch furniture this year. It was a bitch browsing for it all online. It isn't called porch furniture anymore .. what we got is now referred to as "Chat Sets" -- but that's the rub of it all. Apparently you aren't really supposed to sit out on your "chat set" ... especially not doing anything ... having a drink and doing something "uber yuppie" might be ok .. but really, REALLY all you are supposed to do is chat ABOUT your new chat set. That's the only appropriate thing to do. So .. by using our "chat set" we've completely ruined it's good standing and we might as well have an old couch and recliner out there now. TOTALLY UNWORTHY.

I was greeted with a "hi there" hug from a relative whom I supposedly have a lot in common with. Wouldn't know .. he won't really talk to me. Anyway, the first comment I got from him was how I looked like it was hot out. Or something like that. Pretty much a "aren't you sweaty and stinky and not looking lady-like and dressed up" type of comment. Gee .. thanks, good to see you too. -- FYI, I am Southern. These types of comments are nothing new in my world and I've been known to dish them out too. I call them "Complisults" -- compliment + insult .... you get it, right?

Justin's yard work was looked upon as worthy and something to be proud of. My cutting up old shirts was given a quizzical look. When I told them it was for crocheting into rag rugs it was given a mild nod of approval, but without that "hmmmm" that follows with something that is more tolerated than approved of.

The overall visit lasted less than 10 minutes. More a tour of the horror of renovations gone wrong than a visit. I call this type of thing "Pretending to Be Family."

I could imagine them running from the house, seeking sanitizer as quickly as possible, as well as air conditioning. Perhaps even one of those sticky-tape rollers that gets any hint of animal hair or stray hair or life off of your clothing.

So .. to my very big family .. you're welcome. You're welcome that we're the Losers. We make you look so fucking cool. Because .. you know, we actually do our own yard work. And our house isn't spic-n-span all the time, and our kids run around outside so they aren't spic-n-span all the time either, and we work on things and don't have AC so we might actually look like we've been working in the yard .. as opposed to some ad that shows happy, unsweaty people working in pretty matchy clothing -- you know, Martha Stewart kind of people.
And, it doesn't matter what else we do. It doesn't matter that we upcycle and re-use things. It doesn't matter that our meat is pasture-raised and local. It doesn't matter that we put our own food by. It doesn't matter that we didn't learn these skills through highly priced foodie classes but from digging through old cookbooks and websites and etc. It doesn't matter that we get by on one income, and that we've done so since Justin graduated from college and got his first job out of college. None of this matters.
One Christmas, several years back now but still infamous, I made a very special gift for everyone. Chateau Morrisette makes a Cabernet Fudge Sauce that you can buy for $16 (this was several years ago, I don't know the price now) in a tall skinny bottle. It is devine. Anyway, I go online and research and research till I find a recipe and reproduce it and give it away as gifts. And people look quizzical and ask "what is it for?" "What do I do with it?" I am guessing it is still in some cupboards if it hasn't already been thrown away. -- The truth? If it came with a fancy label from a winery they'd brag about it. It's like some weird status symbol. They don't really know what to do with it but they can brag about it because none of their friends do either.

Anyway .. this is how we became the Losers. Or at least one of the ways. They might try to gussy it up and say that we're hippies, perhaps bohemian (although I don't think we're artsy enough in their minds to qualify .. and I simply just do not look good in black). Something like that. But the truth is what it is. And I would be hesitant about blogging about such and issue, but the funny thing is that no matter how much they may brag to me about my writing talent, unless I post it on Facebook or I tell them directly to check out this blog, there is a very, very, very slim chance they'll ever read this.

So .. the only question that remains is this: if we're The Losers, then who am I?? Am I Clay? Jenson? Cougar? Pooch? Roque?? The chick? hmmm..

Monday, August 16, 2010

Week 2 of the No Poo Challenge

~ Are you sure we're not at the beach?? Cuz all I see are some serious waves! ~

We're now officially into Week 2 of the No Poo Challenge. As you can hopefully see from the photo above, it's not going too bad either!!! Hello hair!!

Since my last post though it's been an interesting ride. The boys' hair looks fantastic, I don't think they've had ANY transition issues at all!! Lucky little turds.
My hair on the other hand has been through a lot of changes. From dried and fried to otter-oily. I've had to say farewell to my beloved Mason Pearson paddle brush (for straight, fine hair) and learn to brush my hair like I brush Shannon's: wet it down first, brush gently, keep it damp & then let it air dry.

There have been a couple days where I spent most of the time it seemed day-dreaming about shampooing my hair. I seemed to have a greasy/oily spot near the crown of my head on my right hand side and it REALLY drove me up the wall. I have no clue why it was there, it just was and I hated it. I hung in there though and didn't shampoo.

From the posts I've read though of other people who've gone through this I've decided to try and wear my hair down and loose as much as I can, which isn't easy with the recent weather we've been having. It seemed that the people who this challenge didn't work for wore their hair up for most of the challenge ~ hence my decision to wear it down as often as possible.

Like I said earlier, I've also quit washing my hair everyday. This is something that was a definite and absolute must-do before this challenge. Now I wash it roughly every other day. I also have changed up the baking soda ratio a little, as well as how I make it. Originally I was going with the 1 TB baking soda per 1 cup water, which was working out 2 TB baking soda per bottle (I'm using an old shampoo bottle), pouring in the baking soda & then filling the bottle with water & shaking it all up.
I realized a couple of things though: 1) the bottle holds a little over 2 cups worth of water & 2) it's a white bottle, which means I can't tell how well the baking soda was mixing with the water versus just collecting on the bottom of the bottle.
So now I fill the bottle mostly full with water, then I add 3 TB baking soda, then shake. This seems to be working out much better for me and my hair feels much nicer to boot.

And now .. well, it's looking good!! My hair feels normal, and looks great. Justin commented on the waves the other day, saying that it looked like I had just come out of the ocean and let my hair dry & how much he liked it.
I've also noticed that my hair is taking curls in general better. If I wrap my hair around my finger and hold it for a while I'll wind up with a nice little spiral curl for a bit. I'm really tempted to try out pin curls now, something I wouldn't have dreamed of trying before because I know they wouldn't have stayed or likely even taken.
My ends still feel dry, but then again I was thinking how I was about due for a haircut while we were at the beach .. at the end of June!! I haven't had my hair cut in a long time. So long I don't remember when it was. Early Spring maybe?? Yea, I think that's when it was. Ok, 5 months, so I guess it hasn't been that long, but still .. I'm due for a trim. And, as far as the ends go, I've also dyed my hair blonde (month or two ago), been out in some serious sun, been to the beach, and spent lots of time in the pool. I can't really say that the ends being dried has anything in the least little bit to do with this experiment.

So there you have it. Going into Week 2 I'm really loving this challenge. It was hard to see light at the end of the tunnel and some days I longed to shampoo my hair, but I am glad I didn't. This is awesome.

Monday, August 9, 2010

No-Poo Challenge - Week 1

No photos here, just a quick update on the no-poo challenge.

So .. I washed my hair this morning with the baking soda mixture & "conditioned" it with my homemade conditioner. I think the last time I did this was Friday. Between Friday and today all I had done was rinse my hair with water.

How'd the weekend go?

Well, my hair is definitely in the transitional phase of it all. It doesn't look greasy or weighed down, which is really surprising because before all of this I had to wash it daily or it WOULD look like that.
By Sunday evening though I could see my roots beginning to look greasy, and by this morning I was wanting to wash my hair. But only because of the roots looking funky.

The overall length of my hair has been a different story. If I brush it out it becomes very "poofy" and "fluffy" (what a friend of mine described it as today ~ very kind and diplomatic of her!). I think it looks frizzy and a mess. I've had to brush it out a couple of times if I want to be able to pull it back properly (short layers won't stay back otherwise).
I had it up today and took it down to show friends how it was going. Hence the above comment. They were kind friends. I then proceeded to have one of my dirtiest hippie moments yet where I went to the water fountain and .. no I didn't stick my head under it .. but I did scoop several handfuls of water onto my hair to try and show them what it looked like wet & not so "fluffy." -- the wet hair was a bonus as the park was HOT today!!

When it is wet it feels completely different. I can feel the natural oils beginning to coat my hair. I'm trying to appreciate it, but it's difficult to get used to.
1) I remind myself (or something like that) of a sea otter or something. Water rolling off my hair rather than being absorbed into it. It makes me wonder if my hair was just truly stripped and dried out before, begging for moisture. I can definitely feel more water dripping off my hair than used to though. It's odd.
2) When I'm rinsing through my hair I can feel the oils on my hand. This part I'm not so thrilled with and I have to keep talking myself through. I'll admit, I did wash my hands with soap after doing that in the shower this morning. -- But on the other hand, I've washed my hands after I've come home from getting a haircut and have been running my hands through my hair. For that matter, I usually come home and wash my hair too because they make my hair feel greasy. ~ So .. which one is right? What is normal??

The transition phase really isn't so hard, but it does make me wonder if I'll get through it and my hair/scalp will get back to natural. It's always hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel I suppose.
I'm glad it is Summer and I can wear my hair up. I do like how my hair looks when it is down and hasn't been brushed. That is a completely different thing for me. I was "Marsha Marsha Marsha" about brushing my hair with my Mason Pearson hair brush. No more. It is bittersweet and I am not 100% in it yet.
I've been trying to leave my hair down though as much as possible to try and let it be natural. Bundling it up close to my head doesn't seem to be the right thing. Gotta let it breathe and live.

As for the boys. They look fantastic, particularly Shannon whose curls are eating this up. Guess years & years of damage hasn't been done to their scalps yet. But even Tristan's hair hasn't looked greasy or flat or anything like that. And, for the record, they get their hair washed on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

I'll post photos soon, I promise.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Got Ants?? PB&J to the rescue!!

You know you're livin' la vida natural when your kids mark the Seasons by the critters that invade your house. It's only slightly embarrassing when they write to their penpals about it ...

Anyway, ants are the pest du jour. And toxins aren't our cup of tea. Ant traps can sometime work, but it's still a toxin. DE (diatomaceous earth) works ... at least eventually. So what are you supposed to do till then?? How about some PB&J??

~August 2nd, 10:30pm ~ Oh yea .. there is some serious snackin' going on there!!~

PB&J Ant Solution:
*Equal parts peanut butter, jelly, & borax
*Mix together well, set in a bowl in the ants' pathway.
*VERY IMPORTANT -- KEEP AWAY FROM KIDS & PETS!! Borax is natural but deadly!!

We noticed the ants in the kitchen (and other windows) after we had our windows professionally cleaned. They had vacuumed up the DE that was in the windowsills and the ants returned, trying to reclaim the land they thought rightfully belonged to them. Those ant bastards.

So .. we mixed up the pb&j mixture. There weren't any ants around the container immediately. The above and below photo were taken about 2 hours after we had set out the bowl!!

~August 2nd, 10:30pm, close-up ~ Before this, we had only seen about 10 ants here!!! Start counting if you want, but there is WAY more than 10 here now!!~

It's an ant smorgasborg!!! Immediately the ants began swarming to the Pb&J bowl. It was really kinda amazing.

~August 3rd, 8:20am ~ Where'd the ants go?? Is the party over??~

This is what we awoke to the next morning. The party was over. As the hours passed on, the ant numbers dwindled. Some of the ants in that photo are already dead (closer to the pb&j), some are alive (running around the rim of the dish). But the party was over.

We've used this solution before in the bathroom, where we really had a stream of ants coming in from the window. We've actually placed it back in there. No, doing this won't keep them away forever. Take away the bowl and eventually the ants will come back. This recipe will solve your current ant problem. If you keep it there, it'll attract the ants and the borax in the pb&j mixture will kill them. If you take it away though, eventually the ants figure it out and come back.

But .. till then, it DOES work. If you have cats who like to check out your windowsills I may not recommend this. We keep this stuff perched up high and out of the way of nosy critters -- dogs and kids alike. You could likely cover it with some mesh wire or screen, but know your pets and use your instincts.

Till then .. cats aside, here's an eco-friendly alternative for ant control.

Friday, August 6, 2010

No-Poo Photo Documentation

Obviously this wasn't meant as a photo of my hair. This is me holding Foster. But the photo was taken on Saturday July 31st, the first day of my no-poo challenge.

The rest of the photos were taken today, Friday August 6th:

From the front: my hair up with my kick-ass cool hair fork. You can see my roots ~ not looking too greasy. (Photo was taken without the use of flash)

Hair still up. You can see the hair fork a little better. This photo was taken with the flash on.

Here's my hair down. Note that there is a fan directly behind me. (See that first photo of my hair up). Like I said, I am impressed with the shine I've seen today, it's been a while since my hair has been shiny. Plus, the green streaks from the pool seem to be finally fading away .... I don't miss them.

The boys, their hair still wet from baths. Both had their hair "washed" with the baking soda & water mixture. Tristan got a little spot of his head washed with the Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo just because of that little cradle cap spot that won't go away (but is starting to finally!!).

*More No-Poo photos to follow as the days go on!!

Taking the No-Poo Challenge

~Herbal & healthy?? I don't think so. Bye bye Shampoo!! ~
I was hesitant to write about this. I've just started and wasn't sure if I should write about it now or later. Hmmmm ... what to do??? What the hell, I'll start now.

You may be aware that there is a lot of talk going on about ditching the shampoo & going truly natural. A quick search online will yield a number of sites, blogs, articles, and even videos. Here is a link to the one that made me take the plunge:

Since there is SO much info out there, I won't go into a lot of the why details here. But I will share with you a few that really made me willing to try this:

1) I'm a fan of history and I think most answers can be found by looking to the past to see how things were done then. At least the general day to day stuff. I found this great article online - ~ Did you know the first commercial shampoo wasn't even invented until 1930?? It was Breck. Now, think of all the old photos you've seen of people with very gorgeous hair & hairstyles. Arguably much better hairstyles than we see now a-days too! I think they may have been onto something...

2) Toxins In - Toxins Out. ~ There are some really scary things in shampoos!! Shampoos are detergents. It used to be that people could safely & effectively wash their hair with soap because it can remove dirt without removing important oils. However, when water in civilized areas began becoming more alkaline (mineral heavy), soap quit working as well. The combination makes scales on the hair stand up, making it rougher & weaker. Soap in alkaline water leaves soap scum. So ... detergent "shampoo" to the rescue.
But there are lot of other chemicals in shampoo too! Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLFS) are lathering agents found in most soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, and even mouthwashes. They're also known eye & skin irritants. And, just because you're shopping the organic aisle don't think they're not there. I'm looking at my bottle of Nature's Gate Herbal Shampoo & there they are!! Don't believe me?? Here's their website:
Trying to figure out some of the ingredients led me to these websites:

.... known carcinogens, skin irritants, eye irritants, stuff that leads to increases of kidney and liver cancer, and so on and so on. And you want me to put that where?? And use it on my children!?!?!?
We're trying to lead healthy lives, natural lives, safe lives. This isn't what I signed up for.

3) The Benjamins & the Lincolns ~ Let's face it, you can pay a pretty penny for "good" shampoo. Good shampoo that is all natural. That will make your hair vibrant and full. If you've read any of the above links you've already figured out a couple of things: 1st - things aren't as natural as they claim to be; AND 2nd - shampoo your hair, you need to condition it, then you need the styling products, and then you're gonna need that shampoo again. It's a vicious and EXPENSIVE cycle. And I'm just talking about the costs you spend in the hair-care aisle of the grocery store, not the long-term, hidden costs!! Don't know about you, but I have better things to spend my money on.

So there are my main reasons and motivators.

But .. how is it going??? First off - my hair is thick but fine. Typically I can't go more than one day without washing it. Often I can feel it getting greasy by the end of the evening. Bedhead in the morning is a must-wash-out! My hair is also fairly straight, though thanks to pregnancies I now have some slight waves.

Saturday July 31 ~ My first day with no-poo. I used the baking soda mixture to wash my hair and rinsed it with conditioner we already use (beer, chamomile tea, and lemon juice). My hair was actually feeling really nice after this.
Sunday August 1 ~ I dyed my hair this day with some henna dye. I broke down and used the shampoo/treatment & echinacea conditioner that came with it.
Monday August 2 - Thursday August 5 ~ My roots have been feeling good, not greasy at all. However, the rest of my hair has been feeling dried and fried. Luckily it is Summer & my hair is up, so it isn't noticeable. I skipped washing my hair on Thursday, thinking I could maybe go a day without now. I could, but by Thursday evening my roots were greasy & I was beginning to freak out a little. Was my hair fried from that last time I dyed it blonde?!? Was I doing something wrong? I went online for more research. -- Deep breath .. your hair WILL go through a transitional period. I heard of other people going through this and how it eventually went away. I decided to take a nice bath and relax. While soaking, I laid down with my hair under the water and worked my fingers from scalp to ends repeatedly. When I got out of the bath I immediately noticed a difference. My hair that had been feeling fried wasn't anymore. I think I can persevere through.
Friday August 6 ~ This morning I went to the gym. Nice & Schweaty. Got home and noticed some dandruff on my scalp. Ok. Washed my hair with the baking soda mixture & rinsed it with my usual conditioner (though I have added a little bit of apple cider vinegar to it). My hair is no longer feeling fried, which is nice. The roots are still feeling a little greasy, but not in the "normal" way. My roots aren't glued to my scalp and looking nasty as usually happens when my hair is greasy. I actually have volume! A quick look in the mirror reveals shiny hair, something else I've been lacking for a while. Definitely not looking like "dirty, greasy, needs-to-be-washed!" hair!!
I've read people talk about feeling a "coating" on their hair, where the natural oils have begun to return and coat hair as they're meant to. I'm guessing, hoping, this is what I'm feeling now. We'll see.
There ya go though. I'm a little under my first week of the no-poo challenge. I'll update again as I continue on. I plan to give this challenge, at the very minimum, two weeks. I've read where people advise giving it 4 - 6 weeks though, and I think I'll really shoot for that. If it works out, it'll become a way of life.
And, yes, for the record, the kids are going on this challenge with me. When camping last year we noticed that Shannon's hair looked better and better the longer we went without shampooing it. Tristan's hair is more like mine or Justin's. He has a cradle cap spot that has never gone fully away, so I had broken down and bought some Nuetrogena T-Gel shampoo (which DID get rid of it!). But we're working on switching him fully over too. Justin hasn't been convinced ... yet. I'm not going to force him to switch. I might try to convince him, but I won't force him. At least not until the shampoo supplies completely run out. ;) hahaha

Have you taken the No-Poo challenge?? How did it work? How long a transition period did you have to go through? Did you like you hair? I wanna hear from you!!