Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Hate Halloween!

Halloween is my least favorite holiday of the year, followed closely by Easter and then Christmas. I have nothing against the holiday itself, it's the trick or treating that I hate. And the candy in the Easter baskets. Christmas is easier to manage.

My children have life threatening food allergies. Peanuts, tree nuts and all legumes and the big culprits. My oldest has reacted from simply being in a small room where a peanut butter sandwich had been left out. And he's wound up in the ER after I made gluten free muffins for my youngest. Garbanzo/fava bean flour was the culprit.

Now, you may think it easy to avoid peanut butter kinds of candy. And it is, especially when they are hermetically sealed in their own packages. We simply recycle the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, the Snickers, etc. But many candies are made in facilities with peanut/tree nut candies, and they have to be crossed off the list as well. Jelly Bellies, for instance. Nestle's chocolate chips used to be safe, now they aren't. M&Ms, even the plain kind, are not safe. It's easier to list the candies that are safe: sweet tarts, dum dums, double bubble.

Tootsie rolls are safe for two of my kids, but not the youngest. With him I have to avoid wheat, dairy, eggs and many other things. Yesterday we had a costume party with our friends and he ate a lot of corn syrup items. In the evening they went to another friends house and the little man threw up all over himself. He had several more vomiting bouts before the night was over, but seems fine today. I'm guessing it was too much corn syrup. I read the labels of everything he ate and there was no egg, dairy or wheat. No nuts, peanuts or other legumes. He's only recently been able to tolerate processed corn like tortillas.

I went to the gym this morning and have had lot of energy for pumpkin carving this afternoon. I hope my energy level remains high enough for the night of vigilance ahead. My oldest two will trick or treat with friends for the first time this year. Mark is on second shift and someone has to stay home to hand out the toys - we don't hand out candy. Plus, the little guy still gets frightening by skeletons and such, so he'll want to stay close to me. It should work fine, my oldest two don't eat anything without a label and know how to inspect the labels. And I've told them no to touch anyone's hands in case they have eaten a peanut butter item. But I have to steel myself for the disappointment when half of their loot gets tossed into our bin to hand out.

It will all be over tomorrow. We had fun carving the pumpkins today. And they will have fun in their costumes. And I'll let out my breath when we are all safe at home tonight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Two Hike Weekend

It was a two hike weekend. Every year it seems we try to cram in as many hikes and bike rides a possible in before the snow falls. This year we'll just have to suck it up and go out on hikes in the snow and ice.

On Saturday Mark took the kids to a favorite haunt - The Little Red Schoolhouse - while I stayed home to work on the bunny costume. Unfortunately, many of the trails were closed for maintenance, so they didn't get to say hi to the snapping turtle, but did lose themselves to autumn in the woods.

Sunday we again turned to the Palos Forest Preserves and literally got lost (we like to say disoriented) when we turned onto an unmarked trail that simply died about a half hour in. The bickering of the morning vanished as we walked the trail. When the little guy wasn't on one of our shoulders, he busied himself dispersing seeds and slowing down the rest of the family. The older two ran on ahead to explore on their own, or even - gasp! - together. You just can't be as loud with each other in an open meadow or nice wood. Or maybe it's that you can be loud, but it doesn't have the same impact. Then again, it could be that their loudness doesn't bother me as much when we are out in the middle of nowhere.

My parents used to take us all on a hike to the slough near our house each weekend after lunch. They probably did it for the same reasons. Yesterday I kept looking for the bittersweet my mother made us climb to collect. She would keep it in rustic vases while it dried beautifully. I'll have to ask her about it when we see her next weekend, I couldn't find any in the woods.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


We found this guy on a walking path yesterday.

Mark is about to embark on a horrible, strenuous work schedule. He'll be working second shift 12 hour days, six days a week right though Halloween and, probably, Thanksgiving. We will see him in the mornings and he will be increasingly exhausted as time goes on. It can't be helped, but we dread this time each year. It's a strain on him and on the family.

He wanted to take the full day off yesterday, his last work day before the outage schedule begins, but he was scheduled for a meeting he couldn't get out of. Then we decided to meet for lunch and go to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. It's hard to be spontaneous as a family when our schedule is so full - our homeschooled children are so well socialized we had to pull back this year!

Midewin is a work in progress. It was first prairie and occupied by Native Americans, then it was farmland after the Blackhawk War in the 1830s. During World War II, the land was appropriated by the government for an ammunition plant and storage facility. They built huge cement bunkers, filled them with arms and planted grass over them to conceal them from spy planes. In 1996 the land was acquired by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. The army cleaned up after years of TNT manufacturing and the prairie is slowly being restored. It's a huge area - over 19,000 acres - and a huge project. Only a small portion is open to the public.

We hiked along what seemed to be a old property dividing line, judging by the row of osage orange trees. The kids really liked the oranges, calling them brains. The Little Man objected strongly to calling them oranges because they are green. The place was literally hopping with crickets and ladybugs. Buddy spotted the praying mantis on the path before we all almost tramped over it.

It's good to let our hair down and do things on the spur of the moment every once in a while!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Anti-Procrastination Day

Here's my oldest making paper at our workshop this week. Paper making, knitting my square and my blanket, dreaming up new projects - these are all things I've been doing instead of what I should be doing.

Flylady has designated Wednesdays as anti-procrastination day. If you don't know about Flylady, check out the website at She has changed my life by giving me routines to keep my house from becoming a disaster zone. It falls into disaster mode regularly, but is fairly easy to recover from.

Once or twice I've worked my Wednesdays as anti-procrastination days and today is one of them. Our open enrollment for medical, dental and prescription coverage ends tonight at midnight. I still had HOURS to procrastinate, but decided to jump on it as soon as the coffee kicked in this morning. We have 10 months of medical bills accumulated that I had not submitted because I was worried they would be denied for preexisting conditions. Rather than pick up the phone, I've been worrying about it and not doing anything. We needed to decide today if we want to continue with the PPO, which may not have covered our out-of-network Chinese doctor or go back to the HMO, which definitely didn't cover her, but offered cheaper prescriptions.

It took a 25 minute phone call the answer all my questions, during which time I had to referee a few arguments between the older two kids. They can go all day without needing me for anything, unless I pick up the phone. The good news is that we will have coverage, the bad news is that I need to gather all our bits of paper and submit them.

And the even better news is that I picked up the phone, got over my inertia and my procrastination. I've put an anti-procrastination sticker on the calendar for each Wednesday for the rest of the year. We'll see if it helps.

Why do I procrastinate? And not finish anything? I'm highly distract-able, like Little Missy. She can go upstairs to brush her teeth and come down 20 minutes later without having done it. That's because on her way up she sang herself a song about an elephant, went into her room to find a stuffed one and a plastic one. The she made a pile of hay out of kleenex for them to eat. Then she found a book about elephants on her shelf, read it and the one next to it about ballerinas, took a twirl in the upstairs hallway and noticed the pigs hadn't been fed yet. So really she only came downstairs to feed the pigs and gave me a blank stare when I asked about her teeth.

She has a lifetime of stickers and reminders ahead of her too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finishing Projects

Here's my square. It's going to be part of an afghan our library knitting group is making for a member who is recovering from surgery in the hospital. It will be more square after blocking, but I think they are all going to be blocked together.

Now I'm on a bender to finish projects, because I like the idea of squares so much, I want to knit quilts for my kids beds out of strips of fabric. A different knitting pattern for each square, maybe. My basement is full of old clothes too worn to donate. Knitted fabrics do well for knitted projects, woven fabrics I save for weaving. I have so many plans! The log cabin blanket for our bed I've been working on for a couple of months and stashed in a cleaning frenzy one day. I'm going to weave a stair runner out of the old jeans I'm saving in the basement. I had visions of knitting myself a poncho, but that may take a back burner to the other projects. I also want to sew myself a skirt or two from Mark's old pants.

I need to sew the bunny costume. Little Missy went to Girl Scouts today with the help of my village of friends. My oldest has a cold/fever/cough thing I don't want to share and the youngest is just fine. Today may be my sewing and getting little bits of fuzz all over the house day. In the meantime, I'm working on paper making frames to make gift tags for our Christmas presents.

It's really hard for me to finish one project before starting the next. There are just so many plans in my head, I guess. And I get bored with the finishing of one while contemplating another. When I first met Mark, I never finished anything. I'm getting better as time goes on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What was I thinking?

This is what my living room floor looks like. To a lesser extent, the whole downstairs floor looks like this. Little white bits of synthetic fur everywhere. The stairs are carpeted, so it's blended in better there.

"This is going to be messy," the woman who cut the fabric said. But my girl was with me and she had just changed her mind about her Halloween costume. She wants to be a rabbit. A white rabbit, like our own Cooper and Fiona. So, we got the ears and tail, the fabric and the pattern. Really all I need to make is the jumpsuit and mittens. Shouldn't be too hard. But why can't they want to be easy things for Halloween? My oldest was a moose when he was four.

I started cutting it out on Sunday, but life has gotten in the way and we haven't cut out the rest. And now I need to clean it up to get ready for our family reunion weekend. And it's all over the house. The fur clogs poor roomba, so we need to use the other vacuum. The problem is it sticks to your feet, socks, pants and flies in the air until it has left a fine coating on just about everything. Just like the real rabbit fur!

I'll post a picture when it's done, should be cute. And the house will recover. I really should finish one creative project first, but never do. We started at paper making class with a homeschooling mom artist - check out her website at So, now I have card making stuff out too. And a friend called last night to say we library group knitters are making an afghan for a knitter in the hospital. Now I have some knitting out too. But I'm not, of course, working on the blanket I'm knitting out of cloth strips that really needs to be done before it gets too cold. Aside from that, I've had a rug on my loom that hasn't been worked on in a year and a toy wombat on needles somewhere in my knitting stash in the basement.

I guess I have creative clutter.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day on the Environment

As a family, we try to be good environmental stewards. It's often not easy to do so. Take food as an example. We try to buy locally produced food, organic when possible. I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this spring and got Mark to read most of it too. So, when the farmer's markets opened up in June, I was all over it. We had already been getting our raw milk and organic meat from a farmer in Wisconsin, so we added fruits and vegetables to the mix. I have a mongo food dehydrator, and we were buying locally grown things to preserve for the winter as well as to eat.

The kids and I had great fun going to local markets. We went a couple times a week. After all, why should our pet rabbits have lettuce from California when we could get some grown right here in Illinois? Do the rabbits and guinea pigs really need to have a carbon footprint as well? We still had to buy Elliott's gluten, egg, dairy, nut free food at Wild Oats or Amazon, but other than that we were doing it local. We have been shareholders at Angelic Organics for nearly ten years now, so this wasn't a huge leap for us.

And then we hit a budget crisis. Our food bill for the month of July was over $1500. For a family of five! One of whom eats less than a bird. We couldn't sustain our family spending so much on food, no matter how much better we felt about our impact on the world. We've managed to bring our food budget down to $800 a month, which is still high but probably reasonable given our allergy challenges. (Try buying a loaf of bread without corn syrup!)

So, we've focused our efforts to help the environment on labor. We volunteer with the Cook County Forest Preserve District at a preserve near our house. I've written about it before. It's a wonderful, exhilarating experience for the family to get out there and do what needs to be done. Until recently there was a moratorium on work being preformed in these preserves because a local, vocal group of citizens did not like their preserves without buck thorn. The CCFPD stopped all work - all clearing of invasive species, all prescribed burning, all work that can restore and preserve wooded and open areas to their original glory.

A wood without buck thorn is a thing of beauty. I believe many people have never seen dappled sunlight on the forest floor through the trees. They have never seen native wildflowers and grasses growing on the forest floor - and some, when they do see it, think they are weeds and should be poisoned! This local, vocal group is calling for action again to stop the restoration of our Chicago Wilderness.

Native plants have a whole host of useful properties. When our natural areas are properly maintained, when the damage our species has caused to them is reversed, such as through the removal of buck thorn and the safe prescribed burns - birds, butterflies and helpful insects return. Imagine a life with less mosquitoes! I can tell you first hand, if you plant native in your landscaping, you will get less water in your basement and back yard.

I may not be willing to spend money we don't have on food we can't afford, but I am willing to get out there an help. Go out, walk in a preserve with a corps of volunteers and see what they have been doing. Breathe the air, smell the place, touch the ground - yes, you can do that now that the invasive brush is gone. Then let the forest preserve district know you appreciate efforts of the volunteers. 800-870-3666. Email your aldermen. And go to the website and see where you can volunteer.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mountains and Mountains of Things

My only connection with the local public elementary school is their consignment used clothing sale. It happens twice a year, fall/winter and spring/summer clothing. I always volunteer to work so that I can go to the pre-sale where it isn't as crowded.

This year we didn't need much. Pants for Buddy who seems to grow a quarter inch an hour, shirts for Little Missy who has a spilling problem and a winter coat for the Little Man who has been the same 28 pounds for the past 18 months. He's a teensy bit taller and a lot skinnier, so he wears a belt.

For my $111 dollars, I lugged home: 1 coat, snow pants and hat set, 13 shirts and sweaters, 11 pairs of pants, 2 sweater/pants outfits, 3 leotards and 4 pairs of PJ's. Three items still had their tags on and were never worn. I could have bought so much more! As I sorted through the items I pulled off the racks, I put back at least half as many items as I purchased. The entire gym was filled with clothes on racks, each labeled by size and gender. Racks and racks of coats, Halloween costumes and clothes. My girl wont wear dresses, but there were lots of really dressy things hanging in her size.

It's all more than a little gross, this excess. How many clothes do we need, really? I do laundry almost every day and the kids have their favorite, usually not matching, things to wear. Do people out there buy their kids' clothes new? The only thing I buy new regularly is shoes, socks and footie PJs at Christmas.

I'm going to work wrap up for the sale today. This is where we gather the clothes by seller for those sellers who want their unsold clothes back, instead of donating them to a charity. It's a fast paced job, but the amount of clothes that doesn't get sold is almost as astounding as the amount that does. The sheer volume of unworn and unneeded clothing is overwhelming. Everyone has clothes in their closet that they don't wear, but seeing all the excess in one place is depressing.

As I pulled the items off hangers and took the safety pinned tags off, my three cherubs glanced up from their computer game and shouted things like "Wow!" and "Awesome!" as I called their names to show them their new clothes. They are well trained to show appreciation. I hope they can learn the value of not living a life of excess.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Math again!

Sometimes when we're stuck inside it's good to look at pictures from a time when we were outside. It helps with the cabin fever. Here's the little man desperately hanging on to acorns in his pocket

We haven't been stuck inside for long. Yesterday our colds were starting, today they are full blown in some of us and creeping up in others. The poor little guy's face has erupted in eczema, his nose is running and he's generally miserable. Everyone else is just sneezing. And now the temperature has finally turned and we are in sweaters.

So, it looks like another day will pass when we wont to go see the new baby wombat at the Brookfield Zoo. And we've been inside reading, writing and developing our newly found love of multiplication at It really is a great program. It doesn't have you doing more and more of the same problems, but automatically moves you along as you master it. They are still worksheets, but it has a game like feel to it. No graphics, just math. My two are responding to it very well.

I remember Dorothy Werner saying that the third time a child is taught the same thing in school, he starts to forget that knowledge. That's what the math programs we have tried in the past have been like. OK, you know 6x7? Let's ask you that a zillion more times because we don't believe you! No wonder kids learn to hate math.

Anyway, we also are reading Through the Looking Glass, which is fun and learning about the Chinese zodiac. I'm not sure what else is in the cards today, we'll see what happens. Little Missy has her dance class and we may just snuggle in with a movie for tonight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Roomba has lost his voice!

This is where the little guy hides while Roomba is working nearby.

Roomba is the hardest working member of our household. He's that little round robotic vacuum cleaner. He vacuums the kitchen each morning and the dining room and living room each evening. Most days he does one other room too. The only thing we have to do is pick up the stuff on the floor, particularly cords and slipcovers hanging too far over the edge and start him up. He goes right under the couches, tables and chairs, picking up an incredible amount of dirt each day. We set him off when we go up to bed at night and sometimes when we leave the house in the morning. He doesn't need company, doesn't need constant reminding to do his job.

I'm not sure why Roomba is male, but he is in this house. When he starts up, he makes a little three or five note song to indicate he's got the message and wants to get to work. If he chews up a cord, large lego piece, coins or has a mile of hair wrapped around one of his brushes, he gets stuck and signals it with a lower, less cheerful two tone call. The best thing is that when he's done and made it back to his charger, he sends out a six note cheer - one of the happiest sounds! There is a whole series of beeping sounds he makes to indicate a problem and solution.

Now he makes no sound and it's very sad. Probably through over use, his voice was weakening over the last few months and is now completely gone. I really miss his satisfying cheer. And I miss deciphering his beeps to know what is wrong with him when we find him not moving somewhere in the house. Worst of all is when he's stuck under a piece of furniture - he used to emit beeps every few minutes to make it easier to locate him. Now we have to go on a Roomba hunt.

I hope there is an easy fix, a quick replacement voice box for Roomba. That's going to require some googling, I'm sure. And some time. When I lose my voice I write notes to the kids and get their attention better than when I can speak. Maybe that's what it's like for Roomba now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

So, How's it Going?

The oldest came down stairs this morning, his arms laden with light sabers, saying he couldn't find the blue one.

Me: We don't have Girl Scouts today, honey.
Him: Why not?
Me: Because they went camping over the weekend.
Him: Yeah, but they came back!

Our schedule has changed dramatically this year. Mondays we have an afternoon playgroup. Tuesdays are still Girl Scout days and my boys play with the siblings of the leader's scouts. Thursdays we have Writer's Workshop and Fridays we have Roots&Shoots. Then we have dance classes locally three nights a week. Aside from that, we are working at home.

This is the first year we've required things like spelling, grammar, handwriting, literature, history, and kept track of the time they spend on their work. They've always done reading and math and have always had a love for science. We did science and math classes through our homeschool group last year. We have actual structure to our days. The kids do seem to like being on task, but they complain about how long things take. We are usually done by noon or early afternoon. We've also been making a field trip every other week to museums.

They still have plenty of time and opportunity to explore their own interests, which speaks to the unschooler in me. Before we went to bed last night, PBS cued up a program about Christopher Columbus - we didn't make it through the whole program before falling asleep. But I remembered that Little Missy wanted to do a BrainPop ( about Columbus and asked her about it. She said "Oh, I did Solar Energy instead!" and worked her eyebrows up and down to show her excitement.

The kids have had input into their spelling, math, grammar, history and literature programs so it's not imposed on them. They like the sense of accomplishment and the lack of busy work.

What they have a hard time understanding is how their schooled friends can be gone all day and come home with more work to do. Why didn't they just do all their work at school? I can't explain homework either.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Great Finds

Our Little Missy went on a weekend camping trip with her Girl Scouts troop and had a wonderful time. While she was gone, Mark and I cleaned her room. We had her permission, she was excited about the prospect. When she and I try to clean together, we lose patience with each other. Her room was beyond capacity with stuff and it was physically impossible for her to clean it. She was very frustrated. I was very frustrated.

She left Friday morning, but I procrastinated until Sunday to get started, which is why Mark had to get in on the act. The poor girl has the smallest bedroom and the collecting abilities of both her parents. She agreed I could toss broken toys, pieces to something we don't know where the rest is, and things she was not likely to play with again. I also sorted out all the old pajamas, t-shirts and leotards that no longer fit. She has three neat clothes bins now.

Little Missy has two rolling drawers under her bed for toys. When we ordered these, I briefly had the fantasy of storing extra linens in them, but she filled them with stuffed animals as soon as they were put together. I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I made it through those drawers! Then Mark pulled them out into the hallway and we peered under the rest of the bed. Disaster. We had to rake it all out and go through piles on the floor.

Here is a list of some of the more interesting items we found:
  • Five socks, stuffed with items and tied in a knot at the top. One of those was stuffed with another sock and filled with broken toothpicks. Others had toys or Kleenex.
  • A wooden shish-ka-bob skewer with a bead on the end, plunged into her wall.
  • An extensive, scattered collection of rocks, shells, bits of cement and asphalt.
  • A dehydrated orange segment that had not been in the kitchen dehydrator.
  • Kleenex. Little bits of Kleenex made into dolls, Kleenex wrapped around her little animals as toga-like clothing, Kleenex in Lego pieces, in her dollhouse as covers or people, Kleenex everywhere.

When we were done, we rehung the canopy in front of the bookshelf and arranged the Build-A-Bears inside it. This will not only provide a play space for these favorite toys, it neatly camouflages the overflowing bookshelf we have to tackle on her next camping trip. Our little girl was thrilled with her new room, didn't glance twice at the HUGE black garbage bag waiting to be put on the curb and slept peacefully after a busy weekend.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Prairie Sweat

We had such a great day yesterday, I just can't stop thinking about it!

We've been taking our Roots&Shoots group on work days at the Theodore Stone Forest Preserve in Cook County. It's a magical place with three distinct prairies, a savanna and the most remarkable volunteer stewards you could ever hope for. Trust me, I've heard panic in the voice of volunteer coordinators when I've explained my desire to bring out a group of homeschooled boys on Friday afternoons. Granted, a lot of stewards probably have full time jobs as well and can't make Friday afternoons, but the thought of a group of boys could be enough to scare some off!

First, let me explain that it was nearly 90 degrees in the hot sun on the prairie - in October! The kids and parents gathered seeds from the prairie plants, each picking one individual species. I failed miserably in my efforts to collect nodding pink onion (for which Chicago was named), but mainly because I had 28 pounds of the little man on my shoulders. While we were doing this, I had one of the boys explain in great, eloquent detail, all about dragon flies, damsel flies, crickets, grasshoppers and katydids. Other kids just lost themselves in the task, some worked in pairs.

Having worked up a good sweat, we went back into the woods where we had previously cleared a lot of buck thorn and brush. There we separated the seeds from the hulls, if needed, and mixed them all together. With all the clearing, the sunlight will come though and allow them to germinate and grow. Have you ever seen a group of homeschoolers being told to line up? It's pretty funny, they just aren't used to it. We spread out in a line and spread the seeds more or less evenly in our clearing.

After that, we got the saws and loppers out to do some more clearing. We had some children joining us for the first time and their faces just lit up at the prospect of using real tools to do real work! And work they did. We emerged about 45 minutes later, drenched in sweat and exhausted.

This is what it's all about for me. To get these kids out in the wilderness, let them explore while providing a real service to the community, seeing them get in touch with their natural environment. You can't really hear the traffic noise back there, it's all earth, flora and fauna. It is often a real pain in the neck for the parents to get their children to the preserve. Yesterday's effort required tremendous coordination, driving, and kid swapping as most of our girls are off on a Girl Scouts camping trip. But for those who are able to make that effort, they are truly rewarded with children who have benefited from the experience. In Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv describes an eighth intelligence of "nature smart" in his heroic effort to encourage parents to get their children out of the house.

The stewards have invited our little group to pilot a Chicago Wilderness program as part of the No Child Left Inside initiative. Each child was given a nice passbook and will collect stamps from the participating forest preserve once they record their observations and activities. Our children responded well to this, I hope we can eventually visit all five preserves and perform work days there. Most of those will be even farther from our homes.

Here's a website for everyone to go to and find out when your family can participate in a work day near your home if you live in the Chicago area. If you don't, try googling for volunteer opportunities in your area. Get out there, get sweaty, enjoy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I offer this as Exhibit A to all those who say "Isn't it about time to cut his hair?" I mean, just look at that hair! Freshly washed and combed, little boingy curls that will surely vanish once the scissors are put to use.

My brother threatened to buy me scissors for Christmas when I saw him last. I know I have an issue with my kid's hair, and am OK with that. My boys are continually being mistaken for girls. Once when my older two were two and three a grandmotherly type at the grocery store said "What beautiful girls you have!" Buddy responded by standing up in the cart and announcing "Yes, but I have a (insert male specific body part here)!"

Maybe because my own hair is pitifully straight and thin, I relish my kids hair. I had a mother at park once ask me how long I had been with my children, she thought I was a nanny. It's so other-worldly to me, this whole curl thing. I've finally learned that curls are dry and need constant moisture to be combed. We go through a lot of leave in conditioner.

Little Missy once had her hair cut into a nice, cute little bob. And she lost all her curls for a time in the process. We had such trouble combing the poor child's hair that it felt almost abusive. And she looked like a little street urchin most of the time with her tangles. We had gone on vacation and rather than ruin our mornings with combings, I french braided her hair, left it in the whole week and cut her braids off when we got home. She hated it, grew it out and has had it long ever since. Her curls came back, just at the bottom few inches, once it got longer.

I'm pretending to let them make their own hair decisions. Just ask the little guy if he wants a hair cut, he'll say no, loudly.