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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Learning to Care for Your Child's (African) Hair

I readily admit that when we first adopted our sons from Ethiopia, I didn't know very much about caring for their hair.  I had read a few things here and there - but since we weren't adopting little girls, I didn't pay too much attention. 

I knew that taking care of african hair was different than taking care of my hair, and that instead of washing it regularly, I should only wash their hair once a week or so.  (Our hair needs to be washed regulary to keep it from looking oily, whereas that same oil is needed in african hair to keep the curls form drying out and breaking.)  Since both of the boys' hair was kept shaved at the orphanage (because of lice), we really didn't yet know what their hair was like once it would grow.  So I expected to learn as we went ... and we did.

Here's what I have learned over the past two years ...

Our sons have very different hair.  Jayden has a tighter curl that dries out very quickly.  I have tried twists in the past, but he prefers his hair cut short (and I agree with him, it looks best that way) - which I do at home whenever it starts to look too long. 

I use a Wahl shaver, set at either 1/8" or 3/16", whichever we prefer at the time.  Before I shave it, I spritz it with water and run a brush or comb through it so that the shaver does not pull his hair.  To get a good clean cut - I run the shaver front-to-back, then ear-to-ear and then diagonally across his head.  Running my hand across his head between cuts to "fluff" up any stray hairs and make sure they all get cut. 

His hair care routine is this:  Wash with shampoo once a week.  Spritz with water each morning and then rub a leave-in conditioner into his hair and head to keep it moisturized.  We use TresEmme Curl Moisturizing Conditioner.  It's light (very inexpensive) and leave's no oily look or feel afterward.  Pillows and chairs don't show any residue when they come into contact with it. 

Just for fun - Jayden likes me to cut designs into his hair.  I don't plan anything - I just start cutting and we end up with a different design each time.  Maybe next time when he's not looking, I'll give him a paisley design! :)

Wesley's hair is completely different, it's a looser curl and holds moisture longer.  I cut his hair for the first time today - and I decided to cut it myself rather than let anyone else tug on those cute curls.  (I have zero experience cutting hair but I was willing to give it a try and I think it turned out great!)  Wesley has been home with us since December 2008 and he got his first ever haircut TODAY (over 2 years later!).

When Wesley's hair was shorter, I used to try to moisturize it and then comb/pick through it every day (in order to keep the curls from getting matted and tangled).  It was only after I went back to Ethiopia for 10 days that I discovered that his hair faired better WITHOUT regular combing.  I was gone for 10 days and when I came back home, Wesley's hair was in all these wonderful, tight coils, and in surprise, I asked Jay what he had done to get his hair to do that.  His answer ... "Nothing."

So after much trial and error, here's Wesley's hair care routine:  Wash with conditioner only, once a week.  I never use shampoo on his hair, it strips it of moisture and dries it out too much.  I use the same Pantene conditioner (in the shower) that I use on my hair, to wash his hair.  (This is often referred to as "co-washing" or washing with conditioner).  When Wesley sleeps, his hair gets flattened and crushed on whatever side he slept.  (The girls affectionately call him "Flounder" in the morning because one side or the other is completely flat.) 

Each morning, I spritz his hair with water, and then rub my hands with leave-in conditioner (TresEmme Curl Moisturizing Conditioner), and then pat it on top of his hair. 

I then gently but quickly pull strands of his hair through my fingers to coat his ringlets with conditioner. This also fluffs his hair and pulls out the flat spots. With him too - our main leave-in conditioner is TresEmme Curl Moisturizing, and we go through A LOT of it. I use about 2 large squirts in the palm of my hand each morning.

Another adoptive mom, Mel Harpold, recently told me about Shea Moisture products in the African American hair section at Walgreens.  Watch the ad circulars because they occassionally offer this as a bogo (buy one get one) which is a great deal.

I used the Deep Treatment Masque to deeply condition Wesley's hair before I cut it.  It enabled me to get a brush though his hair so I could cut it.  The Curl Enhancing Smoothie worked well to scrunch the curls back in after combing through them.

But what I have really come to like is the two products shown on the right - the Curl & Style Milk and the Hold & Shine Moisture Mist.  These 2 products work great for every day - they are not oily and they smell great.  But they are expensive compared to the TresEmme conditioner.

Pictured above is what I use for every-day care.  The spritzer with water, the leave-in conditioner and the paddle brush that gets used only on the ends of his hair on the rare occasion when I need to comb through a tangled or matted curl.

The photos below are from the past 2 years.  I wanted to look back to see the change in his hair and thought you might enjoy these photos too.

 This photo was taken in Ethiopia the first day we ever met Wesley, just over 2 years ago.

A few months later as his hair started to grow longer.

 Wesley's hair last summer, with long, loose ringlet curls after swimming.

 Wesley's curls about a month ago, starting to get heavy and needing a cut.

Wesley's curls after I cut his hair (this morning) for the first time in 28 months! :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sneak Preview of Geraldine Brooks' Newest Book to be Released in May!

I jumped at the opportunity to get an advance copy of Geraldine Brooks' newest novel, Caleb's Crossing, and write a review for BlogHer.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genre's and her latest book was everything I expected and then some!  The book will be released in May ... Click here to read my review on BlogHer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

For Mother's Day, Help Drill a Well in Ethiopia!

It's hard to believe, but Mother's Day is 1 1/2 weeks away! One of our sponsor families, Alisa Martin, has created special Mother's Day cards and will donate 100% of the proceeds to drill a FRESH WATER WELL at TREES OF GLORY care-point in Ethiopia!!  So far, nearly $2,400 has been raised with the Mother's Day card fund-raiser for the well at Trees of Glory!!

Trees of Glory is located 2 hours north of Addis, in the beautiful rolling hills of the Ethiopian countryside. 100 orphaned and destitute children come to this care-point every day for nutritious meals, medical care, safety and a Christian education.

Presently, the staff at the care-point walks to the nearest spigot to collect clean water and they carry large yellow jugs of water back to the care-point on the backs of donkeys.

A very labor intensive process to provide clean drinking water along with water to wash before meals and after the toilet. Can you imagine caring for 100 children without running water???

About a decade ago, there was a well on this property but when the previous occupants left the site, the well was filled-in and vandalized. Children's HopeChest is currently getting bids from several organizations to re-drill the well - and to fix the pipework and plumbing that runs from the well to the buildings. It's very unusual to have working showers, toilets, sinks and faucets - but amazingly the Trees of Glory property used to have plumbing to their buildings.

The pipework needs to be fixed and the plumbing fixtures need to be repaired and renovated. A cistern needs to be purchase for water storage and a generator is needed to pump the water. Trees of Glory care-point will be able to serve and care for 200-300 children once they have access to fresh water on the property - and they will become even more of a resource for the people of the community.

Don't wait until the last minute to purchase a Mother's Day card for your mom!! You can order a card in her name today - and Alisa will hand-craft the card and mail it for you (to your mom) the week before Mother's Day. The best part - is that 100% of your donation (in any amount - $10, $20, $50, $100+) will be donated to Children's Hopechest for the fresh water well project at Trees of Glory!

Please click HERE for Alisa's blog. You can securely order cards online and provide her with your mother's name (or your mom-in law, sister, aunt or grandmother!) and mailing address. Alisa is taking orders for Mother's Day cards until April 30 (this Saturday) and the cards will be mailed next week!  Please help us spread the word to friends and family - and provide clean water for Trees of Glory care-point in Ethiopia!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Go Fly a Kite!

A reasonably warm spring day, an open field with no trees, and a little wind ... and you have the perfect recipe for flying kites! 

We had a recent weekend with all the cousins, so my sister-in-law Becky picked up kites for the kids at Walmart.  They had a ball and it occupied them for a few hours!  Who knew flying kites could be this much fun???  If you haven't flown a kite with your kids lately ... GO FLY A KITE!! :)



Friday, April 22, 2011

Maybe one day ... he'll be able to love me back!

About a month ago, Joey Austin lead a team from St. Joseph, MO to Ethiopia to spend time with the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory.  Last year, Joey lead a team to Ethiopia and visited Kind Hearts for the first time and her heart was captured by the kids and the very dedicated staff. 

Joey serves on the school board at St Joseph Christian School, and her school made a committment to Kind Hearts to raise funds for a fresh-water well.  One year later, as that dream is about to become a reality, Joey had another very important reason to visit Kind Hearts - her sponsor child, Hyder!!

Here is the note I received from Joey after she met Hyder for the first time  ...

The first time I read my sponsor child’s name, I loved it. Hyder. Very cool...very different! Little did I know that when I actually got to meet him, I would love him even more!

This is Hyder's profile photo and the first photo Joey saw of her sponsor child.

Before leaving for Ethiopia, our family carefully shopped for Hyder. First on the list--a Missouri Tigers t-shirt...a must, of course! Next--a colorful hat (all Ethiopian kids LOVE anything bright and cheerful). Then pants--I’ve seen way too many holes, and pants that are too short and worn for too many years on children in Ethiopia. The kids added granola bars, crackers, a ball and bubbles and our gift bag was complete.

I was so excited to meet Hyder and knew our time together would be extra special! However--I forgot to look at it from Hyder’s point of view. Hyder didn’t really understand who I was and why I was there. In fact-he was terrified and wouldn’t come in the room to receive his present. Fikre slowly got him to enter the room and his big brown eyes surveyed what was going on and he tentatively drew closer to us.

He checked out his bag and put his shirt on (the shirt he was wearing had more holes than cloth), and also chose to put his hat on.

After encouraging him to pose for a few pics, Hyder left the room with his goodie bag clutched tightly to his chest...and cast a sideways glance as he left the room. Not a smile. Not even a small one.

Here’s the bottom line--it wasn’t a fairy tale “sponsor meets sponsor child” moment.

Sometimes I think we forget just what these children see on a daily basis and where their level of trust is. Hyder could have had a very difficult beginning...frankly I don’t know that much about Hyder. He may have had people come and go in his little short life and those moments may have made him not trust. He could have seen people come and adopt his friends and that makes him not able to process faces that come with shiny presents and colorful hats.

This is what I know: I love Hyder...and I don’t need him to love me back. I need him to be comfortable in his surroundings...I need him to love his school, and WANT to be wear his uniform with pride...and to LEARN in a caring and loving environment. I need him to look forward to eating a meal every day. To love learning about the love of Jesus with his HopeChest disciple leaders. To grow. And maybe one day...when he understands what a sponsor is and what our role in his life is...he’ll be able to love me back.

And I’ll be right here waiting. :)   ~Joey