Monday, January 18, 2016

When You've Got the Gray Hair Blues. My 4 Top Tips for Getting Through the Hard Times!

Negative! Whoooo ME!!!? (Yes.)

It hit me right after New Years. This little voice inside my head that started saying: "I just wish I had a hair color like everyone else." "I don't want to be different. I don't want to be a gray-haired lady." Then the negative thoughts included what-if questions like: "What if it really really ages me?" and "what if it just looks terrible?" 

Probably most damaging, I then started to hyper-focus on all of my hair flaws- the yellowing ends, the frizz, the way it was white on top but a muddy brown on the bottom. I was in the rut of all hair-ruts. I had a bad case of the gray hair blues.

What followed was a frantic Pinterest search for women who made their gray hair look great. I was going to try to gleam some tips off of them. This was followed by a sudden and impulsive decision to cut my hair into a pixie cut again. I emailed Jon at work, I called my Mom at home. Should I do it? Should I do it!? Jon was supportive as always, and my Mom begged me not to, being in her opinion that my gray hair was too pretty to cut off.

I'm glad that I came to my own decision that I wouldn't be any happier with a short style, and that I was being rash, before I had time to schedule an appointment at my salon. That said, WHAT WAS GOING ON to cause these sad feelings of hair hate all the sudden!!? This June will mark the 5th anniversary of deciding to start this gray hair journey. For the most part, even through the toughest, early stages, I've stayed pretty positive. What was eating at me now?

I thought about all this for a while, and I realized that it has been the recent lack of care and attention that I've given to my hair! I know this sounds trivial, but my first tip is:

1.) You have to realize that having gray hair takes just as much, if not MORE care and attention than your dyed hair color did.

In September of 2014 we unexpectedly became the parents to a little 9-week-old puppy. Nearly overnight my world changed for quite a while. Instead of taking the time to blow-dry and style my hair each day, or schedule regular trims and hair glazes that removed the yellow, brassy tones, I stayed home. I was chasing a puppy who needed to go out to pee every 30 minutes and who wanted to chew up my house. There wasn't a lot of self-care going on, especially with my hair. 

Without the time and attention to drying my hair properly and styling it, due to my hair's texture, you're just left with a frizzy, poofy mess. Without regular trips to the salon, my white hair tends to yellow on the ends over time, from heat styling and product build-up. It's kind of a vicious cycle. If I don't take the time to make my difficult hair texture presentable, I look unkempt, but if I do use some of the products or heat styling tools, then I look yellowed.

The point is, I kind of let me hair care go to the wayside for a while, and ended up cutting a whole bunch of length off, twice, because I couldn't stand it. What I SHOULD have done was found the time to care for my hair's needs. 
Fast forward to this summer and fall. Once again I became very busy. This time with Noah, his busy summer and then school refusal in the fall. Now I'm a homeschool Mom, and it would be fair to say that once again, I've kind of put my hair care on the back burner.

I've come to suddenly realize this, and I think it is precisely  the reason that I've been having the gray hair blues! Yes, I've been using gray-hair-specific shampoo and conditioner, and styling products that don't seem to leave deposits behind that yellow.  Still though, it's not enough, I haven't been to the salon in, gosh, seven months or more. I've found that going about every 3 months to trim the old, brassy ends off and having a clear glaze with a very slight  purple tone, it does wonders to make my white hair brighter and helps with the unruly texture. I'm long overdue.

Ok, so practical tip - (one which I intend to follow up on ASAP)- be sure to schedule regular "maintenance" with a trusted and loved professional. Whether that be tiny trims just to keep your ends nice and a good shape to your cut, or a conditioning treatment or shiny glaze. It doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming or full of chemicals. It can be the basics. Find an establishment that works for YOU and your needs.

2.) When you're feeling blue, reach for the blue. First things first, when I'm feeling like I don't love the look of my hair color, I make sure that I've recently tried a gray-hair-specific shampoo and conditioner, which are usually tinted blue or purple. These can work wonders in just an application or two, to brighten up your whites and possibly your whole outlook on things. I talk about my favorite gray hair shampoos and conditioners HERE! There are several in different price points. Some are more natural too. Sometimes this little boost is enough to get you back on track. It's quick and easy too.

3.) Go the extra step. Don't just resort to your old stand-by. If your hair is long enough, nothing is easier than a quick ponytail. That ponytail is my go-to hairdo when I'm sad about my hair. It just kind of pulls everything up and away from my view. The catch is, wearing a ponytail, for me personally, doesn't make me feel pretty or good about myself. I feel rather sloppy. I have yet to be able to make one of those fancy, sleek yet perfectly volumized ponytails on myself. 

The thing is, if you're not feeling good about the way your hair looks, you need to stop what you're doing and try something different. This is when I take down my ponytail and go back to my set of rollers. The heat styling isn't great for my white hair, but it gives me bounce and body and volume. I also took another step. I didn't want my hair hanging in my face and I wanted to try something fun to raise my spirits. Enter barrettes! Barrettes and cheap, easy to find, easy to use. They add some youthfulness. 

So you see, changing the way you style your hair, taking the time and making the effort to do something different will really really help to hopefully change your feelings. From a new styling cream, to voluming rollers, barrettes, headbands, A NEW PART ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE, they can all work wonders! 


They say that positivity is a choice (I think they say that about happiness too), and I think in REASONABLE circumstances, everyday circumstances, this can be true. When I had my last, allergic reaction to hair dye and couldn't find a natural dye that would work to cover all of my gray and the henna had turned my hair bright red and brittle, I knew I was pretty much out of options. I was the 33-year-old Mom of a six-year-old and I had a giant skunk stripe of shockingly white hair coming in. I realized that I had a choice. I could stay scared and bummed and grasping, grasping at anything that could help. Like homemade concoctions that only stained my white hair a pale yellow, not back to it's original dark brown. Or, I could not give up, but surrender and JUST GO WITH IT! See where this new journey would take me!

When you surrender and you just float down stream, you start to relax. And, when you start to relax, a lot of the time we begin to feel calm enough to see things from a new perspective- a more POSITIVE perspective. My gray hair STRUGGLE became an ADVENTURE! An interesting adventure at that. I decided to see it as:"Oh boy! whaaaaat IS my REAL color underneath all that dye? How exciting that soon the big mystery if my color will be revealed." I also looked at it as: "Woo Hoo! My own, little chance to be a social deviant! Ha! Defy convention. TOWANDA!!!" The other, most amazing thing that came from this positive outlook that kept me on this path - I MET ALL OF YOU MY SILVER SISTERS!!! I would have never ever met all of you and would never have been the recipient of so much love, encouragement and support in my life, had I not gone gray and connected with all of YOU!  We've connected with each other, here, on Facebook, in  our respective groups and with our friends and family. Our silver is a "conversation piece" that has fostered all kinds of talks and reaching out and the making caring relationships. Now isn't that worth it!? :)

It's fine and NORMAL to have our down days. I sure do! Nobody is constantly positive. Then you'd be a scary Stepford wife or a humanoid robot only programed for "perma-smile." That's not real. You're real. Just know that over the years, I have learned time and time again, that my attitude about this whole journey has been one of the biggest helps or hindrances to my happiness regarding my gray hair.

Until next, know that ALL THINGS MUST PASS. You'll feel better soon if you just use a bit of TLC and positivity. You can do this Silver Sister!!! \(^-^)/
P.S. PLEASE, stop by any time to my Facebook page and feel free to join and share your stories or pictures with our other Silver Sisters! I love hearing about your "adventures too." 

Friday, January 15, 2016

How I Easily Set Up and Now Organize Our Homeschool In a Small Space for Less!

*This post contains some Amazon Associate links. I just wanted you to know that I haven't been paid to talk about any of these products and none have been gifted to me. I simply like the following items and would love to share what I've found with you! To see my complete disclosure, please see HERE! Thank you! :) *

You don't need a lot have a lot of space or spend a large sum of money to get your homeschool up and running and to keep it organized.  In this post, I wanted to briefly explain how I easily organize our school, and show you that it doesn't have to be stressful or complicated, but just fun!

I'm hoping that this is the first in a short series of posts about homeschooling and our curriculum. Each time I write, I'd love to share with you the books, videos, online resources, games and activities that have worked the best to make each of our subjects fun and engaging. I absolutely adore curriculum and the hunt to find materials that bring learning to life! I spend many an evening scouring online reviews, homeschool groups, homeschool blogs and listening to homeschool related podcasts for their top picks in educational materials for all of our different types of learners.

Oh! And by the way, you don't have to be a homeschooling family to learn a few good nuggets of info from this series. Any parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or person with children in their lives, will find many an interesting enrichment book or quality, educational gift here. 

First things, first. I was what they call an "unexpected homeschooler." That means that I didn't expect to be a homeschooling parent. I am also a "suddenly unexpected homeschooler" because I was surprisingly and suddenly thrown into the homeschooling world during the second week of school in September of this year. The only reason that I bring all of this up, is to show you that anybody can pull together and organize their  learning environment and all of the necessary accouterments with minimal notice. It's doable and doesn't have to be stressful.

Also, our home is not a big one. We don't have one of those nice, extra "homeschool" rooms or a finished basement or a dining room table to take over. What we do have though, is a solid, sturdy, wooden table with a bench in our kitchen, and that has become a perfect place to learn! You can make do with any amount of space, truly. Sometimes we sit and do school work on our couch in the little family room. I've had a similar Wooden Lapdesk to this one for years. (Mine has a bean bag pillow on the bottom.) When we learn on the couch, Noah uses the lap desk to do his work on. It's nice.
Oh, and did I mention that I store everything in the tiniest closet you could think of? But guess what? It works really well and didn't take much to get organized!

I consider us "Eclectic Homeschoolers," that is, I don't follow one exclusive boxed curriculum or homeschooling style. I pull from several curricula, both in books, online programs and through hands-on learning that best suit Noah's needs and learning style. As they say: "Eclectic homeschoolers pull a little from here, a little from there." If you want to hear more about Eclectic Homeschooling, I really like THIS article. What this means is that we have many different types of educational materials to organize and store. Don't worry though, it's still easy and you can find so many homeschooling resources for FREE! Look at these wonderful Pinterest boards for hundreds of free resources. So, Noah and I have reference books and classic novels and textbooks and workbooks and worksheets and educational card games and board games and manipulative's and hands-on experiment kits and puzzles and pens and paper and bookmark after bookmark of online learning sites and programs all to organize!  (Not to mention about ten online and local homeschool groups that are always hosting activities and a big handful of homeschool podcasts that I follow and lots of blogs that I read. I will leave all of this digital homeschool organizing for another post though.)

So, beyond a table to work on, here are my top two general organizing tools......

1.) A good lesson planner. I just love my spiral-bound Lesson Planner . I purchased it on Amazon for just $8.99. They have so many different planners to chose from, it's unbelievable! The reason I went with this one is because in addition to the standard student roster, schedule section, seating chart, year-at-a-glance etc...etc...that most planners contain, this also has a weekly schedule spread across two pages with very generous space to write. It's my life-saver! Each weekend I sit down and plan or revise our week to come. There are eight columns for up to eight subjects, a large space for notes and an inspiration quote. There's so much space in fact, that in my planner, I record both our lesson plan for each subject each day, and I also then write notes on what we accomplished and what we still need to work on in each subject as the day progresses. My lesson planner has been one of my best and most used purchases.

2.) A supply caddy. Has anyone seen my post from 2013 where I made this supply caddy for just $3 !? Yep, all you need is something like this shower type caddy. They often go on sale in the fall after kids go off to college. They come in handy with communal bathrooms in the dorms I hear. At any rate, I filled mine with a couple of ball jars that I had to house pencils and pens and paper clips. There's space for stick-it notes which I use as school day bookmarks and to make reminders for my lesson plans. I also have scissors, tape, glue, a calculator and protractor and some stickers. Noah's favorite thing is the small collection of "fidgets" that I placed in his caddy. You'd be surprised how much more some children can concentrate when they have something to fidget with and keep their hands busy.

Now I'd like to show you how I organize and store our materials. Remember that little closet that I told you about? Well, here it is. This is the closet in our teeny, tiny front room. It has a bar for hanging coats on and one shelf at the top. I took a day to declutter this space, recycling old, shopping and gift bags that I've never re-used and rolls of wrapping paper with two inches left on the. There was a lot of purging and packing and reshuffling. Not only was it worth it, but it felt great! Jon and I investigated building more wooden shelves in this closet. Then we looked into an adjustable shelf system. I just didn't feel great drilling into the walls for all of this. After that I researched metal storage racks, drawer units on wheels and rolling book carts. Most were too wide or not tall enough or very expensive. I almost settled on a wire, modular drawer unit from Ikea. It was stackable as high as you wanted.

Instead though, while walking through Target and stumbling upon their storage sale, we ended up coming home with two sets of very similar to these, ClearView 3 Storage Drawer Organizers by Sterilite. I don't see our exact version on, but they might have them in-store still. The drawers work perfectly, although I think I may need a little more storage space soon already! I can simply add more drawers as we go. Each drawer is a separate subject, and soon I'll label them like THIS ! Pretty cute! You can even purchase and download her labels.

Beyond that, I have extra books, mostly reference and puzzle books and some novels and enrichment materials lined up on either side of the drawers. While the drawers have enough space to store some of our educational games, I can always use the top shelf of the closet (not seen here) to hold those boxed items. I took our BEAUTIFUL Janod Magnetic United States Map and hung it over a few hangers, hanging from the closet bar. Something about the rainbow-ness of this puzzle. It almost looks like a water color, but it's a bit more vibrant. It makes me happy every time I see it. :)

For Christmas, Jon and I received some money from my parents as a gift. We decided to spend some of it on a new printer. We've had our old dinosaur of printer for about ten years. It was huge so we could only store it in the basement and it wasn't compatible with my computer. This CANON MG7520 Wireless Color Cloud Printer was a HUGE DEAL, and it's STILL ON SALE! $65 for a quality, general purpose ink-jet printer, copier and scanner in one. I know it's not super fancy, but it has done a great job printing off all of the workbooks and worksheets that we've been using. The wireless feature is really nice too. I can be in our kitchen teaching, realize that Noah needs more practice in a certain topic that day or that I need to find a specialized worksheet, and all I need to do is find one and send it to our printer in the front room! It's been great.

Finally, as dorky as this may sound, I have been swooning over my new Smead Cascading Wall Organizer, gifted to me by my Mom. There are six different folders, each with its own color and subject label. This is where I often store our worksheets for the week to come. It started as a way to foster a bit of independence and accountability in Noah. I asked him to be responsible for checking his folders for work each day. My only complaint is as you can see, the little sticky labels don't stick so well. That's easy to fix with some tape or glue or other standard labels. This has been a great help to my organizing. 

(Here's my little closet again just because I LOVE MY CLOSET!)

Ok, and that's enough about organizing today! I'll leave you with one, small craft. After New Years we quickly put away our holiday decorations. I didn't want to get behind on clean-up this year. Over the holiday break, I took advantage of some of the time off to get a head start on my front window decorations for January. The lack of snow really had me crossing my fingers and hoping that we'd soon get some, which we did! I decided on a cute snowman and mittens theme and got to work. Here's how it turned out.

I hope it brings a little smile to people who pass by. Not long after, as I've mentioned, we got the snow! With each new inch, I shovel more onto Noah's snow mountain. He's happy and so am I. :)

Until next time,  have fun organizing!!!