Because it’s always about the hair…

So, I’m switching things up for a moment, because this blog is as close as I’ll ever get to a scrapbook and so I’ve gotta document this for the record (and for me ever feeble mind).

So, redirect your attention away from our more recent lofty topics of religious life and the pondering of vows and prayer and an intentional life…and let’s have some girl talk.  Let’s talk about  hair! Because, if you’re a girl, and if you’re a girl of curls…well it’s ALWAYS about the hair.  Right? Right!

Now, having five kids with curls of all types, we’ve been talking about, learning about, practicing, doing, and stewing about hair for, oh….almost fourteen years.  That’s right.  So, some might say that I’m an old hand at this…meaning a ‘seasoned pro.’  Um, literally, I AM an old hand at this.  But, I am no hair gal/pro. I’m just a mom.  A white mom even, which can well be considered a handicap.  And I’ll take all the “cut me some slack” points I can get, ok?  One of my daughters, in particular, has had an intensive hair journey, complicated by her, um, complications…. but even so, we’ve done just about every hair style that I can think of, short of color or wigs (and that I will leave to her purview when she’s geriatric)….

She’s gone from baby puffs, to baby twists and braids and clips and bling…to bigger girl ponytails and plaits and bangs and press and freestyle and on and on….

Some of  you may remember when we loc’ed our Sarah’s hair.  That was a big decision; made for many private reasons, but mostly because her hair was breaking like mad and it was the strongest safest way to get her hair to grow, and not have to fuss with her about it.  It let her be her without fooling too much (read: beyond her ability to deal) with her head all the time  And it worked!  The locs grew and looked terrific.

But, eventually, she became a preteen and wanted to conform a bit more, fit in, not be different.  So, since she already had that “feeling different” thing pegged/built in (being an African American girl w/ a half white family), I felt it was only fair to let her enter her teens on her own terms.  Now, most of the time when you step away from locs, you CUT them off.  You go back to the TWA (teeny weeny afro).  The big chop.  Because, all that hair, it’s, um, LOCKED together.  But the big chop….that was not on her wish list. A tough gig for a middle school girl.  So, I took them down. It was a job.  You can read about it here.

Then she wanted to do the press and curl thing.  So we did.  Every few weeks at the ever wonderful Mary’s hair salon.  Then she turned 13.  And you know, that’s a Teen.  Capital “T.” Yeah, makes me shiver too.  But, that meant that she wanted to flip her hair, do it herself, pull it back easy for sports, and so on.  So. I caved. I let her get the perm.  And, of course, she looked beautiful (tho I missed the locs at this point).  But, she always looks beautiful, because she is.  But, sooner rather than later, her poor fragile hair started breaking.  My heart started to seize because all those years of growing with locs and then taking them down and not cutting, the babying the hair….gone in an instant.  You don’t spend over 40 hours taking down locs to be happy when that hair breaks off.  Sigh.  Her hair is just too fragile to perm.  And IF, IF, she could manage it and baby it and take extra tender loving care of it…then maybe, maybe, she could perm it.  But she can’t.  And, before you swing your fingers to point at me, asking why I don’t do the hair care for her….she WON”T LET ME.  It’s that teen fussy thing, ok?

So over this past spring I just delayed, on purpose, the touchup of her perm.  Then I started talking to her about growing it out.  Her sister had already long decided against any more perms (though she can manage her own hair, easily, with only occasional braids from me).  Finally she agreed that she wasn’t happy about the breakage and didn’t want any more perms and maybe it was best to ‘go natural.”  And so, that is now the next step along this lifetime hair journey for my sarah.

She chose to go natural.

She is transitioning.  NO.  She WAS transitioning.  All summer.  But transitioning hair is incredibly fragile too and at the line between permed and growth it just wants to break. It’s super hard to manage.  The different textures fight with each other, in styling, in care….and the hair loses.  We limped along through the summer with lots of protective braiding and conditioning and just being easy in the summer.

But, finally, sweet Sarah, who resisted the big chop for many weeks, said, “Mom, you can cut, it, if you think I have enough new growth.”  So.  We measured.  We checked with mirrors.  And, then, we both took a deep breath and I…snipped.  Slowly.  Bit by bit in front of the mirror.  Every cut, she okayed.  “Here?” I asked.  “Yeah.”  She said.  And that is how our Sarah got her second, but better and longer, big chop.  But her big chop this time had just about 3+ inches of growth.  And it wasn’t a teeny weeny afro at all! It was a small to middle size beautiful afro.

I swear her hair sprang soft and smiling in thanks.  She did too.  She found her earrings, she found her headbands, she put her hands through her hair…and she smiled.  A few days later, she even said to me, “I think my hair looks good.”  It does sweet Sarahbird.  It really does.

My daughter.  She is strong and brave and all about the fashion….I think she rocks her afro and looks simply gorgeous.  She has amazing beautiful hair, naturally.  And that is the way it will stay…..(fingers crossed against teen crazyness)……

Teen Green….

Nope, not talking about cash. That’s what many, my girls included, would think of first. Nope. Talking about that green eyed monster: Jealousy.

In our big messy house, we’ve been running into a lot of jealousy. I have. I am telling you that this spring, but oh my goodness even more so, this summer, every time I turn around one or another of my girls is jealous of a sister. As they say here in the south, “You can’t swing a dead cat” without hitting a jealous sister. I know, yikes!

Jealousy. It’s the grown up, breathing, creature risen from the little kid version of sibling rivalry. This has morphed from little kid “gimme’s” and grabs to a stewing breath of resentment and envy. It’s jealousy. I think especially for girls, it’s a serious monster that waits in the closet, needing only a crack in the door to step out. Especially for teens. Especially when it comes to teen sisters. {And there are many who can/will point to the idea that we/I haven’t ‘formed’ them well enough….maybe. But I think this is part of our human nature, and it peaks in the toddler and teen years. And with the complexities in our family and it’s forming, well, I’m not sure how we could have sidestepped this entirely…But maybe I’m just being defensive; it could happen!}

Now, most of the jealousy ’round here centers around time with me. Which, on one level, is grand. They like me! Or, more to the point, they need time with me. And they WANT it! But on another level, it’s tough. It’s a pressure. Because I do make a point of trying my best to make sure each kid gets time with me, one on one, face time, checking in, sitting by them, ears and heart open…etc etc. Typically, the jealous version plays out around the idea of…wait for it….shopping. No surprise that, eh? If one of them needs something from the store: another pair of shorts, a new sports bra, heck, more conditioner…… then if I take them to the store to shop and/or get it…..then I can be quite certain that when I get home one or several will now be “jealous.” {Which explains why I try to do a great lot of the shopping alone, when they are in school….but it’s summer…..yeah, circling back to the problem now….} Heck I can lay money on it. They don’t seem to be nearly as jealous of time spent with me chopping vegetables for dinner….hmmmm…

Michael D. Edens, “Jealousy”

It’s wearing me out.

So, this is a post to ask for ideas from anyone who has multiple teen girls at home: How do you soothe and settle the green eyed teen? How do you address the cries of “H first! (no fair, me jealous),” “It’s just that I NEVER get to go with you.” “You NEVER get me stuff.” You only take/buy/do for ____fill in the blank____?” All of these statements have a fractional basis in reality – in that I cannot buy for every single child every single time another needs something. We’d go bankrupt. And I cannot take every child every time; nor can I take every child every day or week. I’d simply drop dead from insanity or sheer exertion.

I have four teen girls right now. I love them so. Each of them is an amazing individual; each with so many great qualities. But, collectively? The sisters, the hormones, the drama, the JEALOUSY?? It’s making for a LONG summer. And summer has only begun….

Moms?? Experience, tips…anything??

Eyes Open: Marking the Reading Good

So, I have done a few posts on “marking the good.” I call these posts “Eyes Open” because too often I run around with my hair on fire and I forget to open my eyes to see the goodness abounding or the small flickering glimmer.  So, now and then I luck out and it runs smack into me.  

The other day (I would’ve put this up sooner, but again, hair on fire, crazy busy w/ the freight train slow savor of summer) this bit of good literally barreled into me as I stood, per usual, folding clothes.  Marta rushed over to me from her room, carrying a book I had handed her just the day before.

This book was one where had she rolled her eyes at me.  I had been on a jag of pulling books and old homeschool materials out of the bookshelves, working up a lather on getting the kids to ‘get busy’ during summer.  The freaky slow simmering fire drill of many kids loafing around the house, bored or soon to be bored, or not nearly  bored enough because they were finding ways to maim themselves was already on my nerves.  So I had started a minor rampage through the house.  When she protested against that idea, stating firmly that there was no homework for her over the summer I just grinned a big grin and said “Oh yeah!”  And when she said her teacher only said “Read” during the summer months I said, “Okay!” and loaded her up with a few books to take.  Like, five small ones.  If I had dumped all of the books I might have in mind on her small self she would just shut down.  I got a glare and a sigh and a big eye roll.  Then she disappeared and the books with her.

I forgot all about it, went about my day or two putting out fires, folding laundry, cooking, swapping laundry, cooking, picking up towels, folding laundry and cooking.  But, as I was, um, folding laundry and thinking about what to cook for dinner, Marta came darting over to me, holding out a book with a grin and jabbering.  I had to slow her down, take the book and examine it and then grin at her.  I asked her to tell me about the book.  She did. I asked her if she read it.

She said, “Yes! Very good book! Black girl, very sad, last {page of} book very nice, so nice very happy.  Black people white people girls very friends.  Very good book!”  I dropped my laundry, I hugged her tight and told her how cool that was!!!

Now, I don’t want to make too much of this….ok, forget that, this is big.  Huge.  I know that she read more of the key words and skipped a few others. I  know that she looked at the pictures to help decode the story.  But, um, I believe that way back when I was a “Miss” that was still called ‘reading!’  That is the whole process: decoding, using cues, figuring out  meaning through context, bringing it all together to  make sense.  And, that, that is exactly what she did.  My Marta, read a book and followed a story arc.  I don’t think she was or has read this book before.  Not by me.  (Adrienne? {-her teacher} Let me know if you see this…).  So, you could quibble and say, she didn’t read every word and understand every single word.  But here’s the deal: Marta read the book, she understood the story.  She got excited about it.  She totally related to that scared little girl, which is a whole ‘nother post, I know.  Still.  Let me say that again: She got excited about it.  I mean, LIT up.  Which lit me up.  We knuckle bumped, we high fived, we hugged and grinned stupidly at each other.  And I was simply thrilled; as much as she was.  Seriously.

So, I am proud of her.  I want to go on record and mark that good. It’s SO good.  Reading is power.  No  matter who or what, thats the bottom line.  Reading opens up your world.  It empowers, excites, helps.  It’s huge.

So what’s next? I don’t know. {Yes, I do: more laundry and cooking and reading!}  But I do know I promptly got on Amazon and ordered all the copies (used, this is an old series) of the Scholastic First Biographies I could find.  I’m excited. I’m marking the good with a big shout out.  It’s an” Eyes Open to Read!”

Going Visiting: Feast day!

It’s the Feast of the Visitation!

I love this feast (Ok, I love most any feast!)…because I really think of it as a girl feast, in a way.  It’s about how we girls support each other.  We women, we support each other.  Sometimes it takes getting past those crazy younger years maybe, when there is that weird competition thing going on (do you all still have/do that?).  But, we women are there for each other.  And it’s one of the great riches in life.  So on this feast day I think about that.  Mary went to her older cousin, Elizabeth, and stayed with her to help her as she approached the end of her amazing surprise pregnancy (carrying John the Baptist).  It’s what we do when we can and it’s such a vital part of being a woman that we see it even in the mother of God.  Cool, huh?

I think on this day of all my great good girlfriends and sister and how they have helped me up when I’ve tripped or messed up, listened to me ramble, cooked and cleaned for me and watched me sob to the point of puffy eyes and running snot.  They’ve listened through gulping tears and through seemingly endless venting and pondering and navel gazing rambling.  And that was all just yesterday!!  Kidding…  Still… They’ve consoled and cheered me on in more ways than I can count, saved my marriage and assisted my kids.  This is a feast, in my mind at least, for all of us gals. So, let’s celebrate, lift a glass of something cold and yummy and toast the women and girlfriends, sisters and  moms.  We’re some of each other’s best gifts.  Thank you for that, ladies!

Mariotto Albertinelli
1503 – Oil on wood, 232 x 146 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence {I saw this with my own eyes! Gorgeous, one of my favs!}

Happy Feast Day!

Girl Feast: the Visitation

Today is the Feast of the Visitation!

I saw this in the Uffizi, one of my fav's

That means that today we celebrate and remember when Mary went to her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the soon to be born John the Baptist. I love this image, I love this whole concept.  It’s one of my favorite mysteries of the rosary….and I’ve wondered why it speaks to me so.  But I think, really, it’s that whole connection thing, once again.

The connections that we make, especially we women, are so important.  They mean everything, in a way.  It took me a long time to get there, way past the awkward high school years and the striving driven, boyfriend focused, college years.  But as I’ve grown older and into the woman I am now in middle age and hopefully was meant to be (mostly), I have grown also into some of the richest relationships: friendships with women.  My girl friends are such a support; even the virtual ones through email, phones, and blogging…the support gained and given through these friendships with other women give me such strength.  They have pulled me out of deepest indigo blues, they have encouraged me forward in burnout and despair, they have brainstormed with me in mom dilemmas, they have brightened days with a good laugh.  They have called me out from my selfishness, they have told me when the swimsuit is just too tired and for pity’s sake go buy a new one.  They have listened to me vent and cry and rage and brag; saved my marriage a few times and my child’s backside as well.  They are generous, genious, kind, caring, prayerful gals…..and I hope and pray I have returned the favor more than once and can continue to.  In person, blog, email or phone, it all counts.

I think that is why I love this feast so.  Mary did it first.  She found out she was with child, and in her first trimester she journeyed to her cousin.  Now, we all know what that first trimester is like: such exhaustion, illness, hunger, sleepy fatigue. And Mary set out on a long journey to be with her dear friend, her cousin.  She didn’t get to hop in her comfy BMW, she had to walk or use the donkey.  I would’a griped about traveling in my comfy Honda (oh, right I think I did, way back when I was in first trimester’s.  oops).  But she went.  She went to help, not to get her own comfort, but to help.  Because Elizabeth was older and was in the end (third trimester?) of her pregnancy.  We all know what that’s like too: exhausted, feeling big as a whale, swollen, uncomfortable, maybe a tad irritable, just…done.  So, Mary went to help.  And they embraced when they met, like friends/family who miss each other do.  And Elizabeth blurted out “Who am I that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”  She didn’t say, “Mary! Wow, what a surprise, what are you doing here?” and start fretting about if she had enough kefir or whatever to add to lunch or if the house was clean.  No, she instantly felt the baby flip around and she had those words out, I suspect, before she even really understood them, fully.  That’s how it works, I think. It’s all grace.  This feast is all about the grace and we see it in that painting, up there, one of my favorites.

Our friendships, the support we women give each other is unlike anything else.  And it is all grace. It really is, when it’s good.  We can  undermine each other like nobody’s business if we choose.  But when we choose to give, it’s like nothing else….except, like Mary..and Elizabeth.  And that, just that, is why I love this feast day.  It’s a feast about connections and grace and giving.  It’s a girl feast.  Because we rock and we do this better than anyone; when we open ourselves to this grace. Mary and Elizabeth did, so long ago.  They show us the way, even now.

>Take down

>The locs, I mean.

Yup, after years, like four, we are taking down Sarah’s locs.
It’s a bittersweet transition.
It’s been long pondered discussed contemplated researched stewed over.
By both of us.
But, Sarah has wanted her locs out for more than a year…..even though some days she wanted to maybe keep them too, as they were getting long enough to pull up and that was fun.
So the idea of going back to  her natural hair (not that locs are not natural, of course they totally are, but her non-locked hair) has been pulling at her but the idea of having to go back to a teeny weeny afro has not been so appealing.
Because going from locs to non-locs is a drastic change, and often requires just cutting them off.
That’s the easiest quickest way, to be sure.
Now, Sarah’s hair grows like wildfire, and she has a LOT of  hair.
But even so, no eleven year old girl really wants a teeny weeny afro.
So we researched and consulted, talked and thought about it all, for a really long time.

Now, locs are a commitment.
All the way around.
A commitment to put them in, grow them, care for them, and a commitment to take them down.
It is a big decision; not like we can just change our minds if we don’t like it after all.  Thus the hesitation.  Also, we originally went with locs because some med she was on made her fragile  hair extra triple fragile and locs were the strongest hairstyle we knew.  And they were.
I think she looks great in them!
But an eleven year old girl doesn’t want to look and feel so different.  And it’s easy to say, “just teach her to be strong, how unique and special she is!” Yeah.  I know.  We do, we are.  But even so, sometimes it’s nice to just be normal too.  Especially when  you’re eleven.  Sarah already goes to a school that is different than her sister, because of some learning needs.  If she wants to blend a bit more, finally, to sport a hairstyle that is less radical…I think it’s her call.  It’s her hair.  Ultimately, it’s just hair.  (Now, don’t flame me, I know the politics of hair, I really do, but really, it’s HER hair, and I’d like it be just “just”  hair for once for her if she wants that).  

Sarah gets to have her hair, her choice, now and as she grows.  She’s entitled.  Period.

Yesterday, after going to school to meet her new teacher and see her new classroom (We are both very excited, love the new teacher, it’s gonna be a good year, starts tomorrow!)…..Sarah said, “Could we try taking down a loc or two and see if that would work, not cutting?”  
I said, “Sure.

 So, we did.
And it worked.
Ok, it’s not easy, it’s laborious, and time consuming and you have to go slow and be gentle and extra patient.
It makes your fingers cramp after awhile.
It makes her backside sore after sitting awhile.
We take breaks.
Emmy is helping because she is a good egg and likes doing hair too, so we are taking turns.

After researching how others have done it, and some trial and error, this is how we do it:
We turn on the tv (critical…).
We get the tools, here (simple).

We soak a lock or two in this concoction (conditioner, water, olive oil).
And then, we pick out the lock, slowly, from the bottom up, with this comb/pick – combing the free hair as we go.  Now and then we have to snip the very bottom tip of the loc off to get the untangling going, but then, it’s just the job.
We are managing to keep a good bit of the length; though without the loc itself holding the length out, it pulls up when dry of course. 

We will give her whole head a good DEEP condition once we are all done.
It’s gonna take a few days, though we are kinda hoping for a marathon today (including the good start of yesterday) because it would be wonderful to be done in time for school tomorrow.
We will see.

A new school  year.
A new grade, a new start…new hairdo.  Fun!
Make no mistake: no matter what hair, she is still and always will be my beautiful girl.

>My Girls on a Saturday Morning


Here is a picture from a few years ago, not that long, of my three girls:
Sbird is on top of this pyramid, with Divine Miss M,
and Bananas (appropriately enough, in yellow) below.

This picture makes me smile because this picture pretty much sums up this pack of girls.

They are kind of a force of nature, the three of them combined. Not always in the best sense, often enough in the sense of a swirling hurricane, with winds blowing here and there of moods and wildness; even leaving destruction in their wake. But when the three of them join forces for good on a project they are like a sudden rainstorm, pounding it out with noise and commotion but afterward a happy new success, clean and shiny. They can make their brother crazy; he walks through the house shaking his head in dismay. He doesn’t understand them. They are messy and loud and moody. They can make me crazy too. That whole girl-mom mood thing is a whole ‘nother deal as well – yeah we can push each others buttons.

But changes are afoot.
These girls are stretching their wings, learning new skills, having new interests.
I am getting glimpses into the future, here and there.
And it’s lovely.

So, it’s early Saturday morning. I am still waking up, a bit stiff and still quiet, moving slow. It’s just me and the girls and little boys this weekend, Coffeedoc and Booboo are out of town.
And as I walk downstairs I smell coffee. Mmmmm. Coffee? The only one up, before me or at the same time, ever, is Sbird. But sure enough. Bananas made me coffee, set to perk right now, before she came upstairs last night. What a treat!!!

Then after I putter through a couple morning chores I wander to my computer to check email. Miss M wakes up and comes downstairs (she’s so quiet coming down, she always surprises me when all of a sudden, there she is!). She asks to make a smoothie. I say ok and she and Sbird skitter into the kitchen happy and noisy about this task. As I listen to them clanging around I hear Sbird say, “Mom needs some too.” And sure enough, in a moment, I have a glass of a yummy fruit smoothie (and they make it with no milk, since I can’t have any, they think of that!) brought to me with a smile. And I smile back and say “thank you!” and drink.

It is so good.
So, this Saturday morning. I want to go on record. I want to say and remember, before another girl hurricane hits this afternoon (and they do, and will) that having these girls is so great. How lucky am I? I have three girls, soon to add another, right in there – agewise – with this bunch. I have four daughters. And I am grateful.

And so this Saturday morning. I want to remember it and savor. It is so good.