Thursday, June 24, 2010

California Trip

We had a blast on our trip to California this past week. We spent five days at Disneyland/California Adventure Parks, and then three days in San Diego. The trip was jam-packed with activities so I wouldn't use the word "relaxing" to describe it, but it was definitely fun :)

The kids loved Disneyland and CA Adventure. I think that meeting the characters was a favorite activity for both of them. They both got autograph books this year and collected over 20 signatures from characters of all sorts: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Ariel, Belle, Tiana, Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Pooh, Tigger, just to name a few... :) Eli's favorite ride was the new 3-D Toy Story ride at California Adventure - we went on it three times! Micah and I had fun competing for the high score on that one as well, but I unforunately I think I always lost. Mikayla's favorite ride was Thunder Mountain Railroad which she rode 3 or 4 times (thanks to FastPasses). She calls it "the fast train," which it was. Eli even rode that one twice, and they both enjoyed seeing the snow monster on the Matterhorn bobsleds. We pretty much rode every ride in each park that they were tall enough to ride!

Thanks to the research-based route maps (no joke) from THIS AWESOME BOOK, we didn't stand in any line more than 20 minutes. Except for the time we chose to ride Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan at night (when Fantasyland was really busy), and when we chose to stand in line for Toy Story in the late afternoon hours. I recommend that book to anyone who is visiting these theme parks - FOLLOW IT. You will be so glad you did. (They republish a new version each year so it is always updated) If you are a Type A personality like me, you will love the book. If you are the opposite of Type A (like my husband), you will love your trip more if you force yourself to follow the book... just ask Micah, he's a believer! :) We really made the most of our time by riding everything in the early morning hours, then going back to our hotel for naps/lunch, and then returning to the parks for the evening shows and parades later in the day. It was fabulous.

Mickey's Fun Wheel

Silly Kids

Thunder Mountain ("Fast Train")

They kids loved the Disney Parade... this year the theme of it was a "dance party" in the streets, and they allowed kids to be a part of it by having them go out and dance with the performers.  You can see Mikayla and Eli below joining in the conga line.

Meeting Mickey and Minnie :)  We participated in Minnie's Character Breakfast one morning, and the kids had a great time scarfing down Mickey-shaped waffles and meeting a ton of characters.

Alice in Wonderland

Of course we had to ride Dumbo!

Mikayla met one of her heroes... Princess Tiana!

I do not like spinning rides, so Micah had the task of taking the kids on the Tea Cups.  They yelled, "Faster! Faster!" the entire time and kept their arms up in the air. LOL.  Micah actually spun it so fast he felt a bit sick by the time he got off. 

Cinderella LOVED Eli!  She gave him a big kiss, and you can tell he is just so proud :)

The name of this train car says it all...

Riding the raft to Tom Sawyer's Island (now called "Pirate Lair")

Toy Story 3-D ride

After day #5 at Disney, we headed south to the San Diego area where Micah's parents had rented out a beautiful house overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  We joined them there for three nights, and spent time at Old Town, the beach, and Sea World!

The view from our house... rough life, I know :)

We had a great visit to Sea World.  Mikayla told me that when she gets big she wants to "learn how to pet dolphins, and whales, and be a princess."

 Hanging out in Old Town San Diego.   Eli loved playing ball on the green grass... a luxury when you are from the desert.  The kids also thoroughly enjoyed the candy shop!

 The kids loved the beach!  Eli spent tons of time jumping the waves.  For a kid who is usually so timid of things like that, I couldn't believe how brave he was :)  Mikayla loved building sand castles.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yarn Braids!!

Well, we did it... only took ALL DAY... but the yarn braids are in!  I like how they turned out for the first try.  The most difficult part was trying to start the yarn as close to the scalp as possible.  A couple of mine started further down then I was hoping for, but hopefully they will stay in okay.  I will be happy if this holds well through our vacation next week, but I'm honestly hoping these will last for a good 4 weeks or so. 

The cool thing about yarn braids is that we will be able to do a variety of styles very easily while these are in.  Since all of the parts are already there, we'll just add headbands, hair bows, barrettes, etc., in order to change it up a bit. 

Some people don't like yarn braids because they aren't appreciating the "natural hair."  I am not too hung up on that stuff.  I love Mikayla's natural curls, and even today after we put these in I talked to her about how fun it will be to take them out later and see her curls again :)  Mikayla's head was shaved twice when she was in the care center in Ethiopia, and I now know how traumatic that was for her, based on how much she has talked about it since then.  There is nothing she has wanted more than for her hair to grow long.  She is fully aware that this isn't her "real" length of hair, but it's definitely worth putting them in just to see the smile that was permanently plastered on her face all day.  It made all the time and effort completely worth it... even if they don't end up lasting long due to my amateur attempt.

Friday, June 11, 2010

One Year Ago Today...

We were #18 on our adoption agency's waiting list, and out of the blue we receive an unexpected phone call... a little girl was waiting for us on the other side of the world.

All we had at that point was a picture and disconnected pieces of information... but it was enough to change our lives forever.

(You can read the story here)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

110+ degrees = Craft Time

This has really been the first week I would classify as "pretty darn hot" here in the Phoenix area.  Usually the "true heat" begins in May, but we had a very mild month of May and now the high temps are hitting in full force!  I am hoping this late arrival of the heat doesn't imply that it will last until Thanksgiving...

I don't mind the heat too much... I grew up here so I'm used to it I guess.  When I go to cold places I tend to freeze :)  The nice thing is that there are always ways to escape the heat around here.  Swimming, is obviously one of them, and we have already had our fair share of that!  The other is just to stay inside and do exciting ART PROJECTS!  This past year has been the first year that Eli has really gotten into doing crafts, coloring, etc.  I'm not sure if it's because he's a boy or because he just finally reached a good age for it, but he never seemed to care much before.  Mikayla wasn't into any kind of art project or craft (not even coloring) when we were in Ethiopia or when we first got home.  We tried some things a few different times, but she would just get bored after a few minutes of working on something.

Now they have both turned a corner and a daily question in our home is, "what craft can we do today?"  And it's commong to find them both coloring at their little card table many times throughout the day.  Here are a few glimpses of some of our "craft experiences" over the past couple weeks... 

Painting mini-canvasses for their walls

They love these bead projects where you place all the little beads on the
pegboard and then iron them to hold them together in the correct shapes. 

This morning they painted little bird houses. 
Of course we hung them on the tree outside because the birds are just flocking to move in!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hair Care, Skin Care

After deciding to adopt from Ethiopia, I spent a lot of time researching how to care for black hair and skin.  I found many blogs, youtube videos, websites, and articles that provided tips and insight in regards to what to do and how to do it.  Since coming home with Mikayla, we have tried various products/techniques and through trial and error have setted on some favorites that seem to really work for her hair and skin types.  I wanted to share what we do, in hopes of providing tips for others who might be on the same journey... and still trying to find something that works. 

Honestly, this one has been easy.  The first products I tried are the ones that I stuck with... and they are readily available in any grocery or drug store.  Drum roll please.... ready for it? 
We lather Mikayla's skin up twice a day with Lubriderm Intense Skin Repair body lotion. 

After baths, we use Johnson & Johnson's Baby Oil just for added moisture. 
That's it!  Mikayla has regularly seen a dermatologist for the past 8 months, and every time the derm. comments on how moisturized and healthy her skin looks/feels.  Now that the weather has been heating up around here, we have been swimming on a regular basis which definitely takes its toll on her skin, but these two products continue to work their magic and haven't let us down!

Caring for Mikayla's hair has been a bit trickier than the skin. In my opinion, the two essential items needed to care for black, natural hair are: 1) a good conditioner, and 2) a great daily hair moisturizer.   Here is our routine, including products we use and like:
  • Daily - On a daily basis we use a hair moisturizer (also referred to as "hair milk" or "hair lotion).  We moisturize Mikayla's hair three times each day: in the morning when she wakes up, after her nap in the afternoon, and before bed.  This is probably the most important part of our hair care routine.  I am currently alternating between these moisturizing/detangling products:
    • Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Leave-In Conditioner.  This product smells wonderful, and I use it sometimes as an all-over spray for detangling/moisurizing, and sometimes just to target those spots prone to lots of tangling.  Many times I use this product in combination with the next one...
    • Blended Beauty Curly Cake Shake.  Love this stuff.  Mikayla's curls look gorgeous every time we use this.  I typically defer to this moisturizer when we are going out somewhere, because it gives the best immediate results.
    • Taliah Waajid Protective Mist Bodifier.  This stuff is a bit thick, so I usually pour it into a separate spray bottle and dilute it with distilled water.  I like to use this product when I want to get Mikayla's hair a bit more damp, so that I can comb and detangle certain areas on non-conditioner days.  This is used most often when she wears her hair in a loose style.  I love the smell of this product - very tropical!
    • Coconut Oil.  Yep, pure oil... works great!  This is wonderful to put on her hair overnight - the hair is always so soft the next day.  It is also helpful to use prior to bathing or swimming, because it helps the hair retain moisture in the water.  And of course it smells great!  We always laugh because our dog follows Mikayla around everywhere she goes when she has this stuff in her hair :) 
  • Every Other Day - We typically "co-wash" Mikayla's hair every two days, when she is wearing it in a loose style.  "Co-Wash" is a term that means washing the hair with conditioner (versus shampoo).  We regularly use these two conditioning products:
    • Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner.  This product smells yummy, and leaves the hair very soft and silky.  I actually think it works just as well as the Blended Beauty products... and it's cheaper!  Yay!  Once we finish the BB products, I will probably just continue to use this conditioner due to the cost savings.
  • Weekly (or more) - Every week or two (or three) I wash Mikayla's hair with actual shampoo.  We are sure to use extra moisturizer on the nights we use shampoo, since typically it dries the hair out quite a bit.  The shampoo that we use is:
    • Blended Beauty Silky Swirls Shampoo. Both of these products are fabulous. The Tug Me Not can be used on a daily basis, and the Herbal Reconditioner we use every now and then to get a really deep condition.  It's a very gentle shampoo, and the bottle is lasting FOREVER since we only use about one pump of this every couple of weeks. :)

  • For Styling - I have found two products that I tend to "fall back on" every time I put Mikayla's hair in any sort of style that needs to "hold" (such as braids, puffs, twists, etc.).
    • Taliah Waajid Lock It Up Gel.  This is a pretty light formula (for a gel), and I find it especially helpful to use when I put in braids or cornrows because it holds all the little pieces of her hair in the braid.  This type of gel may not be necessary as her hair gets longer/thicker, and might possibly hold itself better.
    • Darcy's Botanicals Avocado & Honey Twisting Cream.  This product is great because it acts as a hair moisturizer, but is a thicker cream and therefore great for helping hold styles.  I enjoy using this product to hold in all the "fly away" hairs when I put in puffs or pigtails.

A few products we have tried that we DON'T really care for are:
  • Carol's Daughter Hair Milk - Many people LOVE this product, but it just really doesn't keep Mikayla's hair moisturized.  It also has a weird smell (in my opinion), so I don't like it for that reason alone. 
  • Curls Products For Kids - Again, many people loves these products, but they just don't do the moisturizing job of the other products we regularly use. We ordered the trial kit and are still using it up so as not to waste the money, but I am glad I didn't spend money on any of the larger size products. 
A couple of my favorite "hair" websites are:
  • Happy Girl Hair - This site has lots of great tips on anything and everything about black, natural haircare (mainly focused on kids).  The most recent posts are actually on "Yarn Braids"... a style we are definitely considering trying out this month since we'll be going on vacation and I want Mikayla to wear a style that will last and be EASY!  Mikayla will love it because the yarn acts as "extensions," and makes the hair longer :)
  • Katlynylyn's YouTube Channel - Everyone laughs when I tell them that I learned most of my styles from YouTube... but it's true!  And in my opinion, this is the best channel for learning :)
Here are a few pictures of "the princess" herself, modeling various hair styles we have tried over the past months...

First attempt at styling, other than headbands... Puffs!

All-over box braids with flower clips

Two-Strand twists with flower clips (Mikayla wore this style for Easter this year)
Multiple styles in one... cornrows on top (first attempt), held with bantu knots, box braids in box with our first-ever use of beads!

And the style we still fall back on for loose hair... a super cute headband that shows off Mikayla's beautiful curls!

And yes, in case you are wondering from the above picture... she did lose two more teeth recently!  We are now up to a total of four and I think we may have another two out before long.  The tooth fairy is going broke around here! :)  But, teeth or no teeth, she still wins the "cutie patootie" award!

Thanks for reading our post about hair and skin!  Leave comments and let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for products, styles, websites, etc. that you have learned from or enjoy!