Archives for May 2011

Giveaway: Salon Grafix hair product

(Updated to add:   Winners of this giveaway are Wendy #5 and Judith #14!  I have contacted you via email)

My oldest two Ethiopian daughters (both teens) have both had their hair ‘permed’ (relaxed)– very cautiously — by me with a kit you can buy in the store.  We used two boxes of relaxer for each girl, and probably should have used 3 boxes for my older girl– she has a TON of hair and the cream barely covered her whole head. I am very cautious with the relaxer because of the potential to badly damage hair.  We’ve done it once a year or so for my 15 year old, and just once with my 13 year old.  (The rule around here is that you have to be 13 to have your hair relaxed.)  So far their hair has still looked good.  The perm relaxes the curl to a moderate degree, making their hair much easier to comb through, but does not remotely take all the curl out.  Most of the time they still style their hair in ponytails or cornrows.

But occasionally they will use a flat iron to get their hair all the way straight. Since relaxer weakens hair, and the flat iron has the potential to damage and weaken hair even more, when I was asked to try out a new hair product from Salon Grafix I jumped on the chance. It is called Maximum Heat Protect Spray and it is designed to be used with flat irons and curling irons. We’ve used it several times now, by spraying it directly onto chunks of hair just before flat- ironing each section.

It works best on dry hair, and helps the flat iron glide more smoothly through the hair.   It also seems to speed up the flat iron process.  It goes on dry-feeling, and adds shine to the hair without being stiff or greasy feeling. In general the girls were pleased with the product and how it worked in their hair.  I’m not sure how to evaluate the ‘protective’ properties of the product.  But it does seem to help with the flat iron process.  I’m still trying to decide if we will be buying more of this– it will probably depend on how much it costs in the store– but initial tests with it are favorable.

This week I am giving away two bottles of Maximum Heat Protect Spray.  If you’re interested in trying this product for free, just comment below and  tell me either a favorite hair tricks, or a current hair styling challenge.  I will pick a winner early next week!  Also, stay tuned for my Father’s Day giveaway, coming soon.

(Note:  I was given a free sample of the above product in exchange for this review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.)


Other hair posts I’ve written:

Easy hair beads

Older girls’ haircare

A good conditioner for curly hair

Braiding and braiding and braiding



What’s happening at the Owlhaven

I’m definitely still catching up from vacation over here.  Here are some of the last pictures we took there– I’ve been meaning to edit them for quite awhile!  As usual, you can click on them to enlarge.

Life is hopping around here. Our son turned 13 last week, and our daughter turns 9 next week.  Both of those events require celebrating.  Shopping.  Ice cream. Cake.  Some has been accomplished.  Some must still be done.  Must get on it.

Yesterday I got to go running on the greenbelt with my friend Shana and several of her friends.  Good fun! One of our kids is getting braces next week and needs a tooth pulled.  We’ve had three consult appointments already to begin all that. Tomorrow I get to visit with my sister Sophie, and the wonderful Dr. Mary, who works with Sophie in Ethiopia.   Muchly looking forward to that.

I’m speaking at the CHOIS convention this week in Nampa, so I’ve been going through my talks from the Oklahoma convention, removing and improving bits, and adding ideas that I wanted to say in Oklahoma.  I’m excited for the opportunity.  Our 16 year old son will be going along with me to help with my book table.  If you’re at the convention, stop in and say hi to us, OK?

Planning has begun for a June wedding reception for our daughter Erika and her hubby who got married in Chile in March.  It will be great fun, and we are looking forward to it.  Also, as usual for this time of year, I’ve begun planning church camp food.  Five days in the mountains with 100 or so people.  My friend, my sister and I will be shopping.  Which, as you might imagine, takes a heckuva shopping list and hours of planning before you ever even enter the store.  Not to mention, some serious time in the camp kitchen, even if you delegate.  Which I will. I am trying not to twitch just thinking about all there is to do.  One thing at a time.  It will all get done and it will be lovely, I am sure.

Thanks to everyone for your book recommendations– I am enjoying reading them.  Perhaps later we should work on a similar booklist for girls. But now, off to bed.  Sleep is important when one needs to be productive.  Locking myself away from facebook might also help.   If I could force myself to do it.  Goodnight!



Good books for boys

(Note:  the winner of the book “Praying for Your Future Husband” is commenter #35,  Whitney.  Congrats, Whitney!)


A reader recently asked me for recommendations of good books for young boys who are just getting good at reading on their own:  engaging interesting books, free of ‘teen’  themes. I thought this was a great question.  Here are some of the books that my boys and I came up with:


  • Childhood of Famous Americans (excellent series of interesting biographies)
  • The Narnia series
  • Johnny Tremain
  • The Hobbit  (the least intense of the Lord of the Ring series)
  • Farmer Boy (the one Little House book featuring a boy)
  • Homer Price (series)
  • The Bronze Bow
  • Babe and Me (baseball book)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • Eager (a book about a robot)
  • Henry Reed Inc
  • Hank the Cowdog (series)
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Outstanding in My Field (a baseball book)
  • King of the Wind (a horse book)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Swiss Family Robinson (more challenging reading level)
  • Rascal
  • Tree Castle Island
  • Bluefingers (ninja book, some fighting/injury/violence)
  • Sea Legs (kids, pirates and a cruise ship)
  • Fast Green Car
  • Holes

I got some of these books from  Sonlight curriculum booklists  —(here’s one)— a favorite source of mine for book ideas. Also, here’s a post I wrote awhile back about good books for little kids.  I’d love to hear other wholesome book ideas specifically for young boys.  Please feel free to chime in!


Too long have I lived in the shadow of shame
Believing that there was no way I could change
But the one who is making everything new
Doesn’t see me the way that I do

He doesn’t see me the way that I do

I am not who I was
I’m being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy and I’m dearly loved
I am new
I am new

Seeing the redwoods

This year we chose to stay on the southern coast of Oregon, for two reasons.  First, we were hoping for sunshine and warmer weather—we definitely had some lovely weather while we were there.  And second, we wanted to be close enough to take a day trip to the California redwoods.

The day that we decided to go started out dumping rain.  But by the time we made it to northern California, there were patches of blue sky and the rain had stopped.   We made our way through the Jedediah Smith National Park, sometimes driving on a single-lane gravel road, and sometimes walking along some really gorgeous hiking trails, exploring and snapping pictures.

By the end of the day, I think the kids were a little bored with trees.   But they were good sports, and we all enjoyed the lovely weather and the many different plants.  Late in the day we spent a little time on the beach in Crescent City.  When the tide came in, we almost got stranded on the lighthouse island and squelched our way back to the car with wet jeans and wet shoes.  We ended the day with a trip to the dollar store where the kids each got to pick a treat, and dinner at a rather expensive (but yummy) pizza place in Brookings, OR on the way back to our house for the night.   All in all, a lovely day.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Beach time

(Click on photos to enlarge.  Don’t miss the one in the 4th row, right side.)

Vacation rentals for a large family, 2011 edition

Last week we had the great fun of a trip to the beach. Years ago we discovered that the most affordable vacation lodging for our big crew was a house rental. OK, I admit, camping would be cheaper. But after a decade of camping with kids, I threw in the towel and begged for accommodations that would leave me feeling like I’d had a vacation too. My husband, who spoils me entirely more than I deserve, OK’d the rental of a house for our vacation ever since.  Most of the time we vacation ‘off-season’ to take advantage of lower rental rates.

Three years in a row, we stayed in a nice 5 bedroom, 2 bath, 4 level home just south of Newport, OR. It is currently renting for $900 a week, off season. It has a nice view of distant ocean, and is about a 10-minute walk to the beach. After staying there once, the next year we were graciously given permission to bring our dog there, outside only. The only down side of the house for us was the bathroom situation. One of the two bedrooms is completely open to the master bath, which meant anyone wanting privacy has to kick everyone out of the master bedroom to use the bathroom. For practical purposes, that meant all the kids in the house used the one public bathroom. There was a lot of waiting for bathroom space.

Last year we wanted to try a new locale, and stayed at Tillamook, OR in a newer 5 bedroom, 4 bath home. It was $1400/ week off season, and except for the excitement of the stove catching on fire one day, it served our needs beautifully. It had two complete master suites, and two other bathrooms that can be used by everyone else. Bathroom heaven! The kitchen is big and beautiful, and the great room area has nice ocean views. The down side of this house is that the walk to the beach was a good 20 minutes, down a steep trail and across a fairly busy road, but we really enjoyed the space.  We may opt to stay there again sometime in the future.

This time we visited Bandon, Oregon and went a totally different direction house-wise. We rented a 5 bedroom 2 bath home that is 100 years old and used to be a store. It was $1300 for the week in May, and is as low as $950 a week in the winter. The pictures of the house were lovely, and it had several good reviews. Counting Erika and her husband, there would be 12 of us in the house. I was concerned about down-sizing to two bathrooms again, esp since it looked like one of the bathrooms was attached to the master suite. But it was billed as a short walk to the beach, and was right across the bay from the Coquille Lighthouse. Hopefully it would be fun.

The drive to Bandon is quite a long trek from our house. We left home around 8 AM. Five stops, one 40-minute (wrong turn) back-track, 12.5 hours, and 600 miles later we arrived in Bandon. Our first impression of the outside of the building, not surprisingly, was that it was an OLD house.Walking in the door I was reminded of the smell of my grandma’s house, but more so. Not terrible, just old-smelling, and maybe a little damp. I tried not to be too worried. The living space was huge and surrounded by windows, with a lovely old scarred wood floor. The front of the house had store-front style windows, with airy panels of fabric to allow a bit of privacy in the house. There were two large bedrooms on the main floor, both big enough to have sitting areas, connected by a good-sized bathroom with a shower.

Upstairs I was surprised to discover that the ‘master’ bathroom was completely open to the staircase—no privacy there. The second (tiny) bedroom was accessed by walking through the master bedroom. To access the third bedroom, you had to walk through both the ‘master’ and the tiny bedroom. Yikes. Fortunately the very serviceable upstairs bathroom was right at the top of the stairs, which basically made it a public bathroom, and the downstairs bathroom was also easy to access, thanks to having two doors. But how to maximize bedroom privacy?

After a little thinking, John and I decided to claim one of the downstairs bedrooms, and gave the 4 youngest girls the other one. The ‘master’ bedroom upstairs would serve well as the 4 boys’ hangout. It was huge – big enough for a king size bed, a futon bed and a hide-a-bed and then some.  And the boys didn’t really mind people walking through their space to get to the other two bedrooms up there. The ‘end’ bedroom in the line of three made a good space for Erika and Israel. And with that arrangement we didn’t even need the tiny walk-through bedroom.

Once I figured out how to make the place sleep us all, I started liking it better.  The kitchen is large and really nicely equipped:  top quality pots and pans, etc.  The many windows make it a lovely light space.  And the views of water out many of the windows are great.  Probably thanks in part to the laid-back vacation lifestyle that week, our 6 year old declared partway through the week that she wanted to live there always.  I’ll share more pictures soon!


We’ve been told that the heart is just too far gone to save
but grace tells us another story
Where glory sends hopelessness away
oh grace tells us another story…

Sturdy affordable swimwear

Looking for good sturdy swimsuits for kids?  I sometimes find good ones at Costco for reasonable prices. has a nice selection of suits. has an excellent selection as well.  Their rash guard swimwear is a great solution if you’re looking for modest swimwear or swimwear with good sun protection for your kids.  And I love their Dolphin ‘Uglies’.  The patterns of these suits are actually really cute, and they wear like iron. Several of our Uglies have lasted 2 or 3 seasons swimming in chlorine nearly every day.

Speaking of swimming, I just peeked under our pool cover, and was thrilled to see that the water doesn’t even look dirty.  A good dose of chlorine in the next week or so, and we should be set for a summer of swimming.  (Go here to read the story of our affordable pool!)  I love summertime!

Attend a homeschool convention without leaving your living room

If you’re in need of some homeschooling encouragement, but don’t have time to get to a conference,  you might be interested to know that ALL of the talks from this year’s Oklahoma homeschool convention (including the talks that I gave on affordable food and time management) are available right here on the OCHEC website on CD or MP3, whichever you prefer.

And if you happen to live near Idaho and are in the mood to go to a conference, please consider the Idaho homeschool convention in Nampa on June 3rd and 4th.  I’ll be speaking there, and I’d love to meet you!  Topics I’ll be discussing include:

  • Guerilla Grocery Shopping:  price-booking for harried mommas, saving money without coupons, shopping at multiple stores without going nutty, finding space for bulk buying and storage, and finding recipes that your family will love.
  • The Balancing Act: juggling homeschool and housework, prioritizing time, working smarter, and evaluating activities with the long-term goals of your family in mind.