Category Archives: Hair

More than you ever cared to read about my fingernails.

I decided that as a 40-year-old mother of six, it was time to grow up and stop biting my nails.

I’m not actually either 40 nor a mother of six, but I will be both in about four months.

I don’t think my lifelong nail-biting habit is a nervous one;  It’s just more of a compulsion… Especially when I read.  But even if it’s a nervous habit, I figure it’s better than Xanax.

I have a friend who is older than me… Not quite old enough to be my mother, but definitely older than me.  And she bites her nails.  That always made me feel a tad better.  It shouldn’t have, but it did.  Until I glanced at her hands recently and saw that they had been nicely manicured and she said it had been some months since she’d bitten them.  She still hasn’t resumed.

I have a number of problems with NOT biting my nails, in addition to the whole habit/compulsion part of it:

  1. I play guitar, so they can’t be long anyway.
  2. If I want to stop biting my nails, it really helps if they’re painted;  that’s quite a deterrent.  However, as a chemical-avoidant person — any kind of chemical, for any reason — it chaps my hide that nail polish is one massive bucket o’ chemicals.  BAD ones.  Ones that, under pretty much all other circumstances, I wouldn’t expose myself to.  I felt like a hypocrite, buying nail polish at Target earlier this week.  I had to, though, because all my other nail polishes were 5+ years old and gooey;  they wouldn’t dry.
  3. If I want to stop biting my nails, it’s best if I just IGNORE them.  But, when one has nails, there is a whole, new, mandatory hygiene regimen associated with them, and they can’t be ignored.

It seems almost like I’m doomed to fail before I even begin.

But, vanity and a bit of shame compels me — the shame part as described above:  “I’m too ‘mature’ to bite my nails.  What is wrong with me??”

And the vanity comes in when, on a near-daily basis, on the Birth Without Fear blog, I view the multiple awesome pics of mamas triumphing through labor, with joyful relief as they’re now holding the tiny one they’ve waited so long to behold… and can you imagine if you see the mama’s hand, cradling the perfect newborn, and there are gnawed off stumps where the fingernails are supposed to be??  Yuck.  I’m not saying that a birth story and accompanying photos of mine will ever appear on the blog.  And I’ve never had a birth photographer present for any of my births.  I’ve never even had a friend or family member take pics of the process!!  But, if I did… Would I want to see the remains of what should be my nails, but have been chewed into oblivion??  No.  No, I wouldn’t.

And so, it has been two weeks since I’ve bitten.  In my world, that’s a long time.  I can’t quite call it “triumph” yet, but it’s a good start.


I don’t even like this color. But, it was on clearance. $3.84 — which still seems crazy-expensive — for this color, or $6-9 for nicer, less pink and frosty ones. And, no, I won’t buy $1 nail polish, because I need it to dry and need it to not chip off. Still, if you’ve seen me in real life and have thought, “That’s not a color I would have pictured on Karen,” you’re right; it’s not a color I would picture on myself, either.  I have to find somewhere local to buy Zoya nail lacquer, because apparently, it’s the only brand that is actually free of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).


Now, all I need to do is color my hair — WITH HENNA — again.  There goes the vanity again:  I think I’m the grayest pregnant woman ever and it just doesn’t seem right.  But, that’s a story for another day…

How I cured my itchy scalp.

So.  I can’t say that my scalp never flakes, but I don’t really have dandruff.  However, I have had an itchy scalp, um, forever.  I have used dandruff shampoo since childhood, and assumed that it would be part of my routine forever.

I had discovered that salicylic acid-containing shampoos (like Neutrogena T-Sal) work better than… uh… whatever makes the blue dandruff shampoo blue.

Four or five months ago, though, I learned about the “no ‘poo” movement:  People “washing” their hair with baking soda, and using apple cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse.  I already buy my baking soda — which I use for everything — in 13.5 lb bags from Costco, and apple cider vinegar (raw, organic, unfiltered) in quarts.  So, I had the supplies on hand, and was already a fan of them.  Plus, I am always on the lookout for ways to make our household more natural.  I suspected that my normal regimen of Suave clarifying shampoo for the first wash, Selsun Blue Naturals for the second wash, and Herbal Essences None of Your Frizzness conditioner didn’t meet any benchmarks for “more natural”, and on my low-priority list at the back of my mind, I’d been wanting to figure out a replacement for them.  Win-win, all the way around, right?

So, I did no ‘poo for a few weeks and hated it.  It’s not so much that it didn’t work, exactly.  It’s because I have so much darn hair — it’s thick and reaches the small of my back — that the process took FOR-EV-ER.  Working enough baking soda into my hair to wash all of it required a LOT of baking soda and a LOT of time.  Then, it’s hard to rinse out.  The apple cider vinegar rinse helps with that because the acid neutralizes the soda.  However, I am already trying to minimize my water usage in the shower;  I could languish in a hot shower pretty much perpetually, but know that it is wasteful.  All that water draining as I’m trying to get enough soda into my hair to wash it, then enough water in my hair to rinse it…  I just could never get all of the soda out, even using up an entire water-heater full of hot water in the process.

As a consequence, my hair would feel heavy afterward, and I hated that.

I had read that there is an adjustment period where your hair needs to get “used” to not being stripped of its oils, etc., like normal shampoo does, and thought that, maybe, that’s what was happening to my hair.  But, I find myself suspicious of this because:

  1. Baking soda strips stuff of oil.  That’s one reason it’s an effective household cleaner.
  2. I deeply suspect that the “adjustment period” is not your hair balancing out, but you, as a person, finally getting used to how weird your hair feels after “no ‘poo”ing.

So, I shelved that idea.  Chalk me up as Not a Convert to No ‘Poo.

One thing I had noticed, though, was that my scalp was NOT itchy, at all, while doing “no ‘poo”.

I had already recognized that at least one of my children (Audrey) is “allergic” to Suave shampoo.  It makes her head peel.  I’ve know that for years.  Literally, about four years.  With a slowly-dawning “duh”, I thought, “Maybe my shampoo is what is making my head itch.  Maybe I need to switch shampoos.”  For nearly my whole life, I have used a clarifying shampoo as my first wash — I am not looking for frou-frou in my shampoo;  I just want my hair clean.  If I’m going to splurge, I save my $$ for conditioner.  Therefore, I use the cheapest clarifying shampoo I can find:  Suave.  Hmmm…  If it makes Audrey’s scalp peel, maybe I have the same problem, and that’s why my head itches.  <facepalm>

I shopped for various natural shampoos, to give it a go.

Lemme tell you, I hated that.  The cheapskate in me CRINGES over the per-ounce cost of natural and organic shampoos and conditioners.  And, I had a reasonable fear that I’d plunk down my $15-20 dollars for two bottles of stuff that

  1. wouldn’t clean my hair,
  2. would make my scalp still itch, and
  3. would totally waste my money.

Finally, I settled on Everyday Shea, mostly because I liked the info provided on the bottle, and it was 32 ounces, and about $10, which is a fair price for such a large bottle.  I’ve read some glowing reviews of it, but I’m here to tell you that stuff is CRAP.

  • It doesn’t clean worth a darn,
  • I had to use a good quarter to half-cup of both the shampoo and conditioner each time, to get a good lather on the shampoo, and to feel like the conditioner was being spread through my hair.

I had to stop using it, which made me groan at the waste.  I tried using it a few washes even after I knew it wasn’t working for me, just to try to get my money’s worth, but I just couldn’t continue.  Then, I tried — ahem — passing it to my children, because maybe their standards were lower than mine.  But everyone — husband and children included — uniformly reported, “This stuff is weird.  It’s so watery.  My hair doesn’t feel clean.  Do I have to use this?”  Now, the bottles — FOUR OF THEM, mind you, because I thought that if one variety of it didn’t work, maybe another did — are just sitting around my house (and yes, that’s $40 worth of crappy shampoo and conditioner), because I can’t bear to throw them away, but neither could I, in good conscience, give them to anyone.*

Nature’s Gate, which, while somewhat expensive on the outset (about $6-7), at least comes in healthy-sized 18 oz bottles, so the cost per ounce was lower than most of the other options.  It’s not organic, but it is sulfate-free, paraben-free, butylene glycol-free, and more.  I’m not sure — at all — which of those — if any — is what was making my scalp itch.  But, I thought it was likely to be at least one of those things.

I must say that, initially, I didn’t want to buy Nature’s Gate because I bought some, years ago, and the stuff smelled exactly like Old Spice, and it was a SSTROOOONGGGG scent.  So, I’d smell distinctly like a man whenever I used it.  That’s a no-go, even though I liked how it worked.  But, in the store, I noticed that there were several new varieties of their shampoo, and it had that chipper “New Improved!” graphic, and I hesitantly picked it up.  I opened the cap to smell.  Wow!  It smelled GREAT.  I plunked two bottles in my cart.

I’m happy to report that, a few months later, after using both the Aloe Vera and the Jojoba versions of Nature’s Gate shampoos and conditioners that

  • It cleans my hair, on ONE wash, even if it’s been several days since I last washed my hair.
  • I don’t have to use a ton of the shampoo, just a normal amount.
  • The conditioner conditions well, and even with my long, thick hair, I don’t have to use a gallon of it, either.  It’s thick and rich.
  • It doesn’t make my scalp itch.  I am itch-free, and no longer need to use dandruff shampoo.
  • And it smells great.  Not like a man at all.  But, my hubby likes it, so it doesn’t smell girly, either.

Overall, I’m very happy with Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner.  It’s still pricier than my penny-pinching self likes to pay.  BUT, it’s cheaper than dandruff shampoo.  And, I have been pretty successful buying it on sale.  Locally, to the Phoenix area, the everyday price at Bashas’, of all places, is LESS than at Sprouts, $6 vs. $7-something.  But, from the 25th of April (today) through the 2nd of May, all of Sprouts’ vitamin and bodycare goods are 25% off, so if you’re interested, it might be a good time to buy…  (And, NO, I’m not paid by Sprouts to say this;  I just like shopping there.)


*Although, if anyone I know IRL is reading this, and wants to try it, even after my thumbs-down review, you’re welcome to.  I’ll give you my bottles.

Things I thought I’d be able to do while my husband was in Northern Ireland for a week

Things I thought I’d be able to do while my husband was in Northern Ireland for a week*:

  1. Read a lot:  Finish the book I’m working on, plus read the next one in the series.
  2. Blog more.  Maybe every day!
  3. Color my hair.
  4. Clean the whole house.
  5. Take my kids out for the day to the river.

Things I actually got done:

  1. Color my hair.
  2. Take my kids (plus one friend) out for the day to the river.

I don’t know why I thought I would have so much free time on my hands.  It totally didn’t work out like that.  Most nights found me collapsing somewhere at 9:30 or 10, too tired to even think enough to read.  But, I couldn’t sleep.  Most nights, I was up until 1 or 2 a.m., just tossing restlessly, or trying to read.  The whole week my husband was gone, I read a grand total of about 20 pages in my current book.  I blogged once.  I barely got the house straightened up for him, and didn’t deep clean anything.  We were doing school the whole time, and I still had other responsibilities — like leading worship in small group on Thursday night and in SuperChurch on Sunday morning — and we did spend an entire day at the river, so it wasn’t like I was sitting around doing nothing.  But, still.  Looking back, I’m not sure where I expected to find the time to do all the stuff that I thought I could do.

The whole time that he was gone, I wasn’t really tired, even though I was existing on 5-6 hours of sleep per night.  He’s been home two nights, and I’ve gotten 7-8 hours of sleep each night and am now EXHAUSTED.  I’m so tired.  I think it was that when he was gone, mentally, I just knew that the buck stopped with me, since my hubby was out of the country, and I had to be on my game.  Now that he’s home, I think I’m breathing such an internal sigh of relief that my body just wants to go hibernate.


*He was leading worship for several meetings/seminars/church services/etc.  He rocked.

Out of the mouths of ba… almost-4yo girls

This morning, Audrey balked when I announced what was for breakfast.  I must admit, I pretty much ignored her, as she protests anything that isn’t lollipops or smothered in jam.  “I don’t want that!” she wailed, “I can’t eat it!”

When I put the plate of skillet-grilled toast, in which I had cut a hole and cooked an egg, in front of her, she looked puzzled.  Then, with visible relief and a nervous giggle, she explained, “Oh!  I thought it was a real toad!”

Wesley, age 8, sagely told her that “Toad in a Hole” was just a name.


Later, as I was braiding her hair, in order to win her cooperation, I said, “It would really help if you could be as still as a statue.”

Sweetly, she protested, “But, Mom, I can’t, because you’re wobbling my head.”

I burst out laughing.  “You’re right.  I am wobbling your head.”

“Repeat!” she exclaimed.  (Lately, when someone does or says something that she particularly likes, she hollers, “Repeat!” makes a squeaky rewind sound, and tries to immediately re-create the situation.  I have tried to explain that it never has quite the same effect, the second time around.)  Mimicking herself, “But, Mom, I can’t because you’re wobbling my head.”  — pause — “OK, now, Mom, you start laughing again really hard.”


Another gem:  “I sure am happy it’s almost my birthday, because on birthdays, I can get everything I ever wanted.”  😕  This, she says to the mother who gave her for Christmas:

  1. An upcycled doll high chair and crib.  I literally got it for FREE from Freecycle, repainted it, washed the crib’s canopy, and sewed new ribbons on it.
  2. A pair of $25 Skechers (very expensive for us), to which I hot-glue-gunned rhinestones, because I wouldn’t pay the $40 for real Twinkle Toes.
  3. Nothing else.

I do not know where she has gotten this “everything I ever wanted” idea.  When I tried to dissuade her, she protested, “But you’re just joking.”  Part of me is delighted in her faith in birthdays and in her parents’ provision, part of me is dreading her potential heartbreak when reality does not match the dream, and part of me balks at her sense of entitlement.  I’m not sure which sentiment is winning, at the moment.

Four scarves, three tiaras, my heels, and a "ballet" dress from Grandma. All at once. With a spontaneous catwalk pose.

Art, birds, bread, and Fiala’s skin

  • I brought my camera to the kids’ art class today… except there was no art.  There was some sort of miscommunication* with the teacher;  she thought we were canceling because most kids are on Spring Break this week, when we moms had all voted and all of us wanted to do art regardless.

    So, the kids all played together in the park, which I think they’d rather do anyways.

    My eyes always flit up to the streetlamp poles, looking for hawks…  Close to our house, I exclaimed, “Up ahead… big hawk… wait a minute… is that a golden eagle??”  It was.  We got pics — not great ones.  And, now I can’t find the cable to upload pics from my camera.  Well, now I have my Sibley’s guide out, and maybe it’s a dark Ferruginous hawk, which would actually be more cool, because I’ve never ID’ed one of those before.  It would have been great if I could have seen him fly;  that would answer my uncertainty.  But, he stayed aloft the streetlamp.

  • In other “news,” my attempts this morning to produce the perfect loaf were again, unsuccessful.  I’m not out of ideas yet, though.  I’ll try again tomorrow.  🙂  Each time I make the recipe, I’m now making three loaves — two small and one large — because some breads work better in one or the other.  One nice thing about having a family of seven is that we can EASILY polish off three loaves of bread per day, so it’s not like my flops (eleven, so far) are going to waste.
  • Fiala’s skin finally started to look CLEAR yesterday.  We’re still continuing Septra today, but I sent an e-mail to my friend who is a doctor to see if we could stop after today, which is day 11.  I’m sort of bummed about her being on it for another eleven days, but at least it wasn’t five weeks, like last time.
  • Sort-of related to the first bullet above, I spent a few minutes taking pictures of myself (which always feels extremely odd) this morning.  I got a few good shots of my new hair, but again:  no cable by which to upload.  A couple of homeschool moms at art today did not recognize me!  Obviously, it’s much different than it was, but I didn’t think it was that different.
  • * The spell-check on WordPress is telling me that “miscommunication” is not a word.  I use it frequently.  Am I alone in this???  I just Googled it, and it’s on several online dictionaries.  Hmph.

Haircut, a missed opportunity, vegan bread, Percy Jackson, and other stuff of VAST importance ;)

  • I got a haircut, the first one in nearly a year and a half, since BEFORE Fiala was born.  I like it, mostly.  Its about at my collarbone now, which is about a foot shorter than it was, but I wish it was a bit shorter.  I also rather wanted bangs, but the guy who does my hair (the last heterosexual male hairstylist in Scottsdale, almost certainly, and the only person who has cut my hair in my 15 years of marriage) said that it would make me look too “soccer-mommish” and that every 30-something mom has chin-length hair with bangs, so he wouldn’t do chin-length-with-bangs on me.  He says that now, my hair is “sophisticated” but it’s not quite the funky kind of style I was looking for.  I gave him too much artistic license.  I knew my hubby would like the cut, though, and he does.
  • Pantene detangling spray is WELL worth the 80¢ above the price of Suave kids detangling spray.  Take it from my 3yo daughter.  I mean, take her word on it.  Don’t take the spray!  (I think it must have been on sale… it was $2.59 at Target, but online, it’s selling for $4-5 or so.)
  • My Dad is coming to stay with us for a week.  He arrives on Wednesday.  It’s a mostly-business trip, so we won’t see him during the day.
  • Kicking myself for a missed opportunity:  I saw a former good-acquaintance/almost-friend who works part-time at Costco, and we chatted a bit.  I asked her what was going on, and she said, “Well, I’m just trying to figure my life out.”  Golly, what an open door!  Did I ask her about her relationship with Jesus??  No.  Did I invite her back to church??  No.  Did I even really express interest in who she is and how she’s doing??  I hope so, but I thought of 13 billion other/better/different things I could have said or asked, after I left the store.  Bummer.
  • I like Chopped.  I also really like America’s Best Dance Crew, but I don’t often get to watch it, because my hubby is extremely careful to not watch anything with scantily-clad women on it, and some of the outfits are pretty spare, to be certain.  It’s also on at 11 p.m. here, so I should be in bed, instead of watching TV.
  • We’re doing “Spring Break” this week.  I’d rather do EASTER break, but I didn’t want to wait another 2-3 weeks until we had a break;  I need one.  Plus, my boys always appreciate when their breaks are concurrent with the neighborhood kids’.  Today, I spent cleaning and working on the book I’m ghost-writing.  It was a really good day, actually.
  • I am working on a bread that is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, corn-free, plus-other-random-stuff-that-Fiala-is-allergic-to-free.  I based it off of a recipe I found, but my results, so far, are not nearly as attractive as hers.  Still, I have been highly encouraged at the taste and texture of the bread I’ve produced;  it’s actually good.  Now, I just need to get the exact right amount of moisture, so that it will poof up like real bread, and not be flat across the top, a là banana bread.  I’ve baked seven loaves so far, experimenting with varying ingredients and pan sizes… I’m close!  I’ll post a recipe, once I get it perfected.
  • On Friday, on the way home from the library, I was talking with my 12yo son who was sitting up front with me in the truck.  “That’s the problem with new libraries, I guess:  They’re mostly stocked with new books, and most of the newer literature for kids and teens…”  I paused, looking for an adequate-but-kind word.  “Are junk,” he helpfully filled in for me.  Yes, junk.  That’s the bane of the popularity of Harry Potter:  LITERALLY 80% of what is on the library shelves right now are books and series that are Harry-Potter-wannabes, all full of evil and sorcery and disaffected kids looking for POWER in all the wrong places.  😦
  • Sort of along those lines, I took Ethan to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians last night.  We both THOROUGHLY enjoyed ourselves.  There were several suggestive parts — looks and turns of phrase — that I would have rather my almost-13yo son not see, but other than that, it was so good.  Knowledge of Greek mythology:  very helpful.  “Who’s the guy who ferries souls across Styx?” I asked.  “Charon,” he immediately answered.  On our drive to the movie, I told him how I would SO much rather him see a movie based on Greek mythology — which is obviously not Christian — than to have him immerse himself in the quasi-spiritual, morally relativistic, yin-and-yang, subversive, “let’s all be friends with our enemies” crap of Avatar, which was his first choice.


Took an hour and a half, but Ethan’s hair is finally cut.  It’s always a toss-up between money spent at the “haircut store” and the hassle of bringing five kids on errands, and the exorbitant amount of time it takes me to cut his hair.  I’m happy with it, he’s happy with it, and my hubby is happy with it, though, so that makes it worth it.  I think.

(Previously, his hair was BELOW that tee shirt collar.  It was the longest ever.  So, now it has just a wee bit of length to it.)


Sincere, but a wee bit crushing

I have a natural bent;  I avoid chemicals, and I like thing to be the way God created them to be.  Plus, I’m just… low-maintenance.

I didn’t used to be low-maintenance;  I had to buy my first alarm clock when I was 14 because my mom wouldn’t wake me up at 5:30 to get ready for school, when we left the house at 7:45;  she would wait until a more reasonable hour, as she thought 2+ hours for me to get ready was excessive primping time.

But, being a mom of five kids now, I have to be very careful how I distribute my time, and personal care, while not exactly falling to the bottom of the list, isn’t on the top any more.

Lovely hair....

I love the look of ladies in their 50s or 60s, with thick, healthy, silver hair.  Seeing an older lady with unnaturally dark brown or auburn, chemically fried hair is an instant reminder to me, instant motivation: “That is SO not going to be me.”

All of that leads me to where I am now:  36 years old and graying, with nary a bottle of color in sight.  I haven’t colored my hair since I was in college and I semi-regularly tinted my short locks black.

Still, it’s not like I’m HAPPY that I’m graying.  I feel like I’m way too young for gray hair.  Yeah, I’m not 22, but golly, I’m only 36!  I have a baby!  It seems like babies shouldn’t have mothers that have gray hair.

My husband has tried to silence my worries:  “No one can even SEE your gray.  I can’t see it.”  I suspected his perspective were through his eyes of love.  Now, I know that’s true, all because of a compliment I received from a friend’s husband.

He’s a great guy.  I know him well;  their family is a near-perfect match for ours — all the grown-ups get a long well, and all the kids do, too.

After church, he said to me, “I hope this doesn’t come out wrong, but I love all your gray hair.  I think it looks great, and I hope you never dye it.  I’m trying to convince [my wife] not to dye hers, either.”

Me:  stunned silence for a moment.  Then, ~oof!~  (That was the air being socked out of whatever remained of my pride over my “no-one-can-even-SEE-it” gray hair.)  Then, I made a quick recovery, saying that I am so looking forward to being 60 or so and having longish, healthy, silver hair, and that I loved that look — but it was the getting-there part that was a little difficult, that I feel a little young to be graying so.

He smiled the whole time, showed me his graying beard that used to be red, and repeated that he thought my hair looked great.  “Glowing.”


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