Friday, July 9, 2010

Learning Curve - G's Story, Chapter 1

I had already been doing Snapaholics for about 5 months when I went to pick up G at the end of November, 2006. I gleefully took a bunch of hair accessories with me in anticipation of wowing myself and my new daughter with a cool girly, beady hairstyle. I had been a member of the Yahoo Adoption Hair and Skin Care Group since May of that year and felt that I had a basic inkling of what to do with her hair, and I was looking forward to taking over all the caregiving duties. At this point, in November, she was about 3 years and 9 months old. I was in Haiti for about a month, staying at the creche. Unfortunately it was during a very dangerous time there, and none of us went out really at all for about three weeks. So, there was TONS of time, just OODLES of time to do hair. To practice, to learn, to bond. I had been staring at all of these hair goodies for months now and I wanted to use them! I brought extra because I knew some would disappear....goodies that you bring always do.

There is something odd about time in Haiti. Perhaps you all, in your comments, can tell me if this same phenomenon exists in other countries....there is all the time in the world to do everything on your list when you are hanging out there, because all you are doing is sitting around with your child…and yet the day finishes and you realize you didn't get to anything you had planned. Days go by. You think, "what did I do each of those days?" and you cannot remember exactly what you did, but while you are IN the day, there is hardly any time for anything. Maybe between clingy kids, searching for rolls of toilet paper, being thirsty, getting your first taste of what a real, in-the-flesh, not-someone-else's-kid "tantrum" is, wiping sweat, taking naps, being too hot to get out of your chair, and being fed ridiculously large plates of rice.....somehow the time just slips away from you. It's the strangest phenomenon. All the time in the world, yet no time to do anything.

But back to my good intentions: now the only hair product of choice in Haiti, at least at the creche, was a big ole jar of Vaseline. Biggest jar of Vaseline I had ever seen. The nannies whip their fingers in and out of that jar so fast you can't even see them. I scoffed at that petrolatum...that goo would no longer touch MY baby's head, thought I. I had big plans, you see, of lovingly shampooing and moisturizing G's hair with the products I brought as we took a leisurely (cold) bath, and oh wouldn't it be great to start her out right away at least getting healthier hair!

Yeah, right. I think the products rolled around the bottom of one of my duffel bags and leaked. In fact, G stuck Vaseline in MY hair and somehow (that time vortex thing again), it took me until late the next day to wash it out! Anyway I don't think I saw my bottles of all-natural product the whole time we were there. Bathtime consisted of G gleefully chattering and pouring about 8,000 cups of water all over both of our heads and me working up a sweat IN the bath trying to scrub the grime off of my feet (I always wondered why I was so filthy all the time and the Haitians seemed to be so clean!) I think one night I managed to get some lavender scented baby lotion on G after the bath , which was cool because she had obviously never smelled lavender before and she sat quietly on my lap in the rocking chair for a long time, as if she was drugged.

Mental note to self: Self, stock up on lavender baby lotion!

What I am really trying to say here is that I got no hair done. None. Zero. I have no idea why. By the time we got to the end of the stay and we had our visa and were leaving the next morning, on Dec. 23, I had one sad ole busted-open, half-pack left of red and white heart snaps, so I handed those to the best hair braiding nanny, Dada, and asked her to put in small braids all over with the snaps on the end. I had realized that this Mommy thing was going to be kind of overwhelming and I wanted the style to last as long as possible. Cope now, bling later, was my new motto. So Dada put all my snaps in while G slept. And that is how she arrived in the USA. Notice that the sections are fairly good sized, but the braids themselves are quite small.

Truth is, G's hair was pretty thin and sparse. Those braids you see coming from the crown of her head were about as thick as they got. The top was much longer than the back above the neck. The back was also much coarser than the rest of her hair. This is very typical. Oftentimes babies and even toddlers are nearly bald in back, or patchy, and the hair on top is quite long. It's just from the rubbing as they lie down so much. The texture of hair they are born with or have as babies/toddlers is not necessarily what they are going to have when they get older.

I let Dada's style go as long as humanly possible, so we could focus on US (I highly recommend that!). I changed the snaps from red/white to multi colored pastel hearts (remember those, all you old-timer Snapaholics out there? Ahh memories...) and then finally, when it could just NOT get ANY fuzzier looking, i took them out and did my first style. I hadn't looked at this photo in a long time, but now that I see it it's amazing how far her hair has come. She still doesn't have, and just genetically WON'T, have super dense hair, but it's SO much thicker now than it was. In fact, the photo on the bottom was taken just about one year later. Crazy what nutrition and good products will do!

Here are some things I learned in the first year of doing her hair. I hope you find them helpful!

1. Do not pull the hair too tight with rubber bands. It leads to small pimply bumps from pulling the follicles nearly out! I found that one out on my second hairstyle, above. She wound up with little whiteheads around her hairline. On fragile, brittle hair, too much rubber banding can lead to breakage. Try to use them infrequently, not too tight, and with some caution. Also, the small thin silicone bands that you think are going to be so great and non-damaging....they disintegrate within seconds or minutes with all the oils and moisturizers on the hair. In any event I did really get the hang of two strand twists and was giddy about that. Good two strand twists should look like rope.

2. Please, for the love of Pete, use bling wisely! When I look back at this style, which I now call “Carnival Crazy Hair” or alternately, “Delusions of This-Actually-Looks-Good,” I dope slap myself and say “what was I thinking?” I SO LOVED the cubes I was selling, loved everything about them, that I went completely wacko on her poor head. Of course SHE didn’t mind. Her motto was: the blingier the better.  I mean this is insane. Never do this. You can't even tell she has any hair in there, except for her scalp!

Live by this rule...just because you HAVE all that bling doesn't mean it has to go in their HAIR all at once....(Stephanie!)

3. Her next style was back to basics, the simple hanging box twists, with one bead and a snap. MUCH better! She could shake her head around without having so much hardware knocking her scalp! And did I make the poor girl sleep in all those cubes? Course, she never complained! So...moral is...K.I.S.S.U.G.G.M.H. (keep it simple Steph, until G grows more hair!)

4. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the awesomeness of the basic afro puff! We did LOTS Of puffs. I love G with the height at the back of her head. Here is where your big crazy ballies will really shine! That, or hang something fun from the puffs that they can swing around. Puffs are fast and darling. If you cannot fit all the child's hair in the back up into the puff, do one or two smaller puffs in back or do box braids. It took awhile for G's coarser hair in the back to grow long.

5. Another thing I learned was that sleep caps are your FRIENDS. She never had an issue wearing them and they have been great. They protect the hair, reduce fuzzies, and allow you to put extra moisturizing on their hair before bed if you want, without getting residue on the pillowcase. I will still apply extra coconut oil to her hair and scalp before bed and make sure her sleep cap is on. If your child will not keep a sleep cap on, you can also get satin pillowcases. Consider also hanging an old slip or piece of satin over their car seat. Lots of head rubbing goes on in the car!

6. Now this one is gonna seem as crazy as the Carnival Do....but G absolutely loved it. Yarn falls. Similar to yarn extensions, only easier. It's just a fake ponytail of yarn that is attached with a ballie to her small puff or bun. I made her a few when she was 4 and 5, but she has just recently asked me for another one of these, in the photo. It was the gaudiest one of all...the Little Mermaid ponytail! This one had Ariel buttons made into a ballie, red yarn with aqua and purple ribbons, metallic beads, the works. She wore it for a LONG time. You may be thinking, "oh my gosh my child would get teased to death!" The fact is, G did not. I think the other girls were envious. It probably just depends on where you live, and the personalities of the kids they are around. Where we lived, it was a hit. They really are fun! Girls love hair to swing around, and this is one crazy over-the-top way they can get it.  At this age, there is no such thing as "too tacky."

When your little girl feels like this, who can argue? I can teach you how to do them in a future post, and you can see a few more of the ones I made in the gallery.

7. If your child tends toward thinner hair, especially around the hairline, be VERY careful with the following, or you might lose some braids/twists/locs. Over the three years she has been home we have lost some to:

Wearing a towel twisted on the head. We lost one when the towel toppled over and the braid and beads were caught up in it.

Too many heavy beads on thin braids. When in doubt, combine that braid with the one next to it.

Other kids who may yank on the hair. We lost two or three this way.

If they lie down on something that has slats/holes in it and are wearing beads, it could become caught and rip out. We lost one this way on a large mesh-type picnic table.

Mad cats. Yep, we lost one to the cat's claws! At least it wasn't her face!

G has grown in bangs a few times over due to these incidents!

Well, I have covered more than you ever wanted to know about G's first year or so at home, but feel free to ask any questions! Next installment, I will talk about putting in her braidlocs...or as I like to proudly call them, Mommylocs!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. So very interesting. I have two adopted daughters, 4 and 6. I have been a long time fan of snapaholics and the utube videos! So fun that you guys are working together. Thanks!!

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I'm beyond excited that you wonderful ladies have started this blog! I have a daughter who is 10 months old with hair just like what you posted where G's hair is sorta patchy I guess you could say. What kind of products did you use? Any other tips on caring for it? Does it eventually grow in? I'm slightly concerned on what to use, or how to manage it, because my other daughter has a very thick, full head of hair, and didn't experience this and I don't want to make it worse. Thank you for any help! Once again, thank you for starting this blog, I am a long time fan! :)

  3. @Ashley...thanks for visiting us! Make sure to become a follower :)
    Yes 10 months is still a baby, her hair will change over time. You don't need to do much to it except maybe puffs on the top? if the back is really short just keep it spritzed and you can finger detangle. Put the top in puffs or box braids. At the beginning I used Jamaican Mango & Lime because their stuff smelled heavenly and it was all natural. They have since changed their formula and it's full of unnatural stuff :(. Now I use Taliah Waajid and one of our readers is about to send us something to test out that sounds DIVINE! The conditioning spray reads like the ingredients of a smoothie! We will be doing a product review on that. Yes it does eventually grow in, don't fear! Take a look at G's first style there in my post, then scroll to the bottom and look at her locs now. Quite grown in wouldn't you say ?:-D Feel free to send us a photo of her hair, the back and front!

  4. Steph...thank you so much for sharing your story about your journey when you first got "G", and I love your hair journey! Thanks for showing pictures and giving out tips! Everyone assumes that if you are African-American (or multiracial) like me, that we automatically know how to take care of our children's hair. As a child, my mother chose to press my hair with a pressing comb, so I knew nothing about natural styles until about a year ago. You and Katie have taught me so much, and my daughter are having fun on our hair journey. Thank you for having the courage to do what you do. It is greatly appreciated!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! This blog has been so helpful to me as a mother who didn't know where to start in making my daughters' hair 'right'.

    I hope you are able to post how to make the yarn hair things soon! My girls would give anything for something so cute like that. Thanks!


  6. I am SOOOOOO excited that you guys have put up a site!!!! I am a FAITHFUL watcher of Katies UTube...I love watchin new ideas. My daughter is bi-racial, and has very coarse, dry, but very curly hair. Everything dries her hair out, and some things are just to heavy for her her because she is after all part white. I do her hair all myself from braids, twists, etc and am self taught as well. You guys are such a blessing and an inspiration not only to adoptive mothers, but to biological mothers as well. I will be a faithful follower not only on Utube, but on FB as well!!!! ~1 of yal biggest fans ~ Melany Garvey


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