Children

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The summer break is almost over and my daughter is due to go back to school soon.

Beyond clothing and books, an important part of getting ready is ensuring that she has the right tools to take the right foods to school.

As you know, we try to eat healthy and this is also true of most of the foods that she eats at school. However, it can be a daunting task to pack up healthy foods for school. Especially with a child like mine that actually likes to eat cucumbers, tomatoes and other perishable veggies and fruits. 

To give a good picture of our challenges, you will need to know that her lunch bag is packed just before 0600hrs and the food has to stay fresh for at least 6 hours from that time. She eats at about 0900hrs and again around 1100hrs. Sometimes, she leaves some things until after school and eats them in the car on the way back. So, there needs to be a solution for keeping some food cold and keeping some warm.

Water

She has run through all of her water bottles now. It is either they break or she misplaces them. They look like this:

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My criteria for choosing water bottles is that it must be easy to wash thoroughly. No parts should be a hard to reach or built in such a way that they are not easily dismountable. I do not allow straws because they are hard to clean and an easy vehicle for bacteria.

These bottles are built for water as I do not typically give my daughter juice for school. Juice will need a Thermos and that is something I do not have right now.

I usually buy these simple water bottles at Iponri Market. However, it is so difficult to find BPA free ones that have no straws, without walking around the market for at least 15 minutes, that I am going to buy them on Amazon this time. #Aintnobodygottimeforthat

Hot Foods

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We have had this (the pink one on your right) for 2 terms now. I bought it at Iponri Market and while they are quite good at keeping food warm, my challenge has been that it is a bit too wide for her lunch bag and school bag.

I am now going to purchase this model as it is longer and not as wide as the aladdin food flask. 

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It is a Thermos so I can still expect it to keep food warm. The downside is that it has no compartments, so that means that we will only do soups and one plate meals in them. Shouldn't be a problem at all!

Dry snacks and Fruits/General Hold all

I have just purchased this.  It is not even here yet, so I can't take a picture of mine, hence the stock photo. There are 3 sections, one large one to the left and 2 smaller ones to the right. The bowl is leak proof from section to section so I can pack things like crackers, tomatoes, carrots and even a little yoghurt in there…all in different compartments at the same time.

It is quite easy to clean and also quite cheap at approximately $6.

 Ice Packs

This is essential for keeping fruits and other perishables cold until my daughter can eat her snacks. I had to stop giving her bananas because they would just go soft and inedible in the humid darkness of her bag before lunch time. I have several ice-packs and move them from freezer to bag. These (pictured above) are the type I have. They are bendable which enables me to wrap them around the Ziploc bowls as I wish.

You can buy ice packs in most pharmacies. They typically have the ones in rigid plastic though…not flexible like the ones I use.

Insulated Lunch bag

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To put all these things in, we have this bag which I bought online at Land’s End.  This will then be placed in her bag...yes the current one is big enough to hold it all. 

That is it for now. Cutlery is plastic cutlery that I bought from Ikea years ago. We are going through it one spoon and fork at a time. When it runs out *a.k.a all misplaced* I will buy another one.

When school opens, I will share with you what actually makes up school lunch. 

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I wrote in this post how much my daughter wanted to have long flowy hair like her Caucasian friends'.

I am pleased to provide a positive update on the situation. My daughter not only accepts her hair as being natural, she now loves the texture. Her only wish is that it would grow longer, faster. I can only guarantee that I will do all I can to make it healthy - I should do on a post on how that is going (not as well as I would like, sigh!).   

So how did we achieve this change of heart?

  • I speak to her constantly about accepting her hair amongst other things. I don't just dump the information on her. I gently and consistently give her several reasons why SHE is beautiful the way she is. 
  • I bought her a DVD (Happy to Be Nappy) which tells stories that  make even an adult stop to think. It helps one accept people and things for what they are. The fact that she watched it over and over and over and over showed that she loved it. By the way, what I loved most about it was that it did not focus on only Natural hair but spoke about other things like how to deal with people poking fun of you, or how a child that is born with dwarfism yearns to be seen as normal too. It was totally worth the money I spent on it.

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  • I don't know if this helped, but her Aunts went natural too. Both my sisters BC'd in the last few months.
  • Last, and I suppose most important of all, is that my girl is growing up. She has started accepting that Caucasians and Blacks are different in some ways and will always be. 

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It is time for children to go back to school and it just occurred to me that I can kill two birds with a stone by discussing lice. It will be a good segue from the last post – remember that scary picture of the louse holding tight to a strand of hair? It will also be a good Back-to-School post in keeping with the season.

I found out a few years that using relaxers on the hair checks the growth of lice as the relaxer kills them off.  For those of us with natural hair, we have to be extra careful to avoid getting lice in the first place. Have you seen lice/nit combs before?

See the difference between a wide toothed comb (which is what is recommended for natural hair) and the nit comb.

 It is not a joke…I have no doubt that folks especially those with natural hair will lose a lot of hair if this comb us used to comb through their hair.

Here are a few tips that may be helpful.

Essential Oils

Lice hate some essential oils – perhaps Rosemary most of all. To use this, put a few drops into the shampoo, conditioner or even oils that you use on your children’s hair (boys and girls alike).  Essential Oils are potent things and should be used carefully especially where children are involved. I would use no more than 5 -7drops in 100ml of carrier oil, shampoo, conditioner or whatever medium you choose to use. Don’t feel tempted to be generous. Another essential oil you may use is Eucalyptus. A combination of both is also quite good. 

Cleanliness

Never share combs, especially with the public. If you go to salons, take your own combs. It is easy and cheap enough to buy your own set. If you have a stylist who diligently disinfects her tools after each use, lucky you. However, I find that this is not usually the case. Your children should have a salon bag with all the essentials in it.

Regular Checks

Regularly part your child’s hair to check for lice eggs and adult lice. There is an assumption that the presence of lice will cause incessant itching/scratching. That is not always the case so find the time to search through their hair. Do this in a well lit room. Use a flashlight if necessary.  Check eyebrows too.

Preventive Treatment

You can still carry out preventive treatment by following the advice in a link I will put at the end of this post.

If your child has lice, it is really your responsibility to do something about it immediately. If possible, pull that child out of school so that you can treat that child without infecting others.

Good resource: http://www.parentinghints.com/head_lice.html

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I really want to know what you think about this one:

I was listening to the World Have Your Say podcast on the BBC website a few days ago. The topic of discussion was: How many children are too many children? (Link is only temporary). Guess where they shot the program? Lagos Island Maternity Hospital – go figure! They are not-so-subtly telling us something about the Nigerian population.

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Anyway, this topic stemmed from the much discussed 7 billion population mark the world achieved recently. The presenter gathered a few women who had just given birth as well as a doctor and a nurse and a listener posed a few questions. I found them entertaining (considering the Nigerian way of thinking) and would like to throw them to you. I have paraphrased them, of course.

  1. Did you consider the impact on the nation’s economy when you planned to have children?
  2. Did you consider the impact on the country’s resources when you planned to have children? Do you think there a moral obligation on you to have fewer children because of scarce natural resources like energy, water e.t.c?
  3. Did you consider the Nation’s population growth when you decided to have children?

Interestingly, someone wrote into the show and stated: I think more than 2 kids per family is irresponsible. 2 kids per family is fair, two kids to take their parent’s spot in the world.  

I consider myself an educated Nigerian and I cannot say that I would ever have considered these questions when planning to have children. My biggest worry would be my ability to financially cater for the number of children that I plan to have. As a Nigerian, I assume I am able to capably emotionally cater for them. I may think about the nation's population but because the country is already somewhat expensive to live in and rear children, any urge to generously contribute to that figure would have been naturally curtailed.

Your take?

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A few years ago, a friend drew my attention to a really sad story.  Her neighbour had gone to an orphange, adopted a young girl (about 9 years old) with the promise to love her and treat her as one of her own and then brought her home to act as an unpaid housemaid.

This woman had about 6 grown children who had moved out of the house. Most were married and had their own children. It was thought that the reason why she adopted was not only to have company in her old age, but also to help a child in need. She enrolled the girl into a public school (her children had attended expensive private schools) near her house and then set her to work as a cleaner, dishwasher and laundress. Naturally, her duties extended to cleaning up and taking care of any visiting grandchildren. After a short while, she stopped attending school and started facing her tasks at home fully. According to my friend, this went on for about 18months and then she suddenly stopped seeing the young girl in the area.  She believes that she went back to the orphanage but is not sure.

My friend's greatest regret is that she stood by and watched things unfold and did nothing. She feels that at the very least she could have approached this woman and threatened to report the situation. According to her, it was her lack of belief that the Nigerian Police would do anything constructive that stopped her.

I watched the CNN Freedom Project documentaries the other day and couldn't help but think that a lot of the people that make a difference are ordinary folks like you and I.

A lot of housemaids in Nigeria are little more than slaves and forced to work under inhuman conditions. Some are even raped by several members of the family they work for. If you know anyone that is maltreating a housemaid or someone in their care, please report it to NAPTIP or  to the police. If you are doing maltreating anyone please stop.

Let us stop modern day slavery in Nigeria. You and I know that it happens.

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For hairstyles that require definition (like twists) or those that require slicking down hair (putting hair in a ponytail) one may want to use a hair gel. I have found that the best natural alternative to the gels in the market is flaxseed gel. As a matter of fact, calling it an 'alternative' does not do any it justice as flaxseed gel is not just good for holding and slicking but is also full of Omega 3 fatty acid and other nutrients which are beneficial to the hair and body.

I made a batch recently to use as a setting gel for my daughter's hair.

My raw material and some equipment

I used:

  • Whole Flaxseeds (not ground)
  • Water
  • Sieve
  • A Pot

Pour a handful of flaxseeds into a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil.

That is the gel forming

After it has boiled for a while, pour it all into a sieve.

Move it around on the sieve until all the gel goes through into a bowl below

Just like this:

Gel

Finished product

You can add some aloe vera gel to this gel for an even more nutritious  and moisturizing mixture. Use immediately or refrigerate. It will keep in a fridge for about 2 days after which you should throw it out. Due to the fact that it does not keep well, the best thing is to make just enough to use for one application.

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Natural hair's best friend is moisture. As such, I deep condition my daughter's hair every week. You may already know that I am not terribly comfortable with the ingredients in most store bought products like shampoos and conditioners so I make my own conditioner myself, using a lot of ingredients that can be found in the kitchen.

Some of the benefits of deep conditioning are that it makes hair softer, shinier, more manageable and super moisturized. Depending on what ingredients you use, you may also address specific problems like hair loss, dandruff or an itchy scalp.

Here's one such deep conditioner that I made. I went over the top (I admit it, lol) with the ingredients but they all had some property that I wanted to draw into my deep conditioner. I made this when I first started making my own "conditioners". These days, I use less ingredients and keep everything simple. I wanted to use this as an example for this post so that you can see the variety of ingredients that can make up a home made deep conditioner.

I will try and talk about the ingredients one by one.

From L-R: Coconut oil, Vegetable glycerin, Eggs, EVOO, Honey, A clean glass bowl

 

I seperated the yolk from the white. If you include the white, you will be picking egg out of your hair all week.

Eggs acts as a protein treatment for hair. Your hair is made of protein so it follows that eggs strengthen the hair follicle. Eggs contain sulphur which promotes healthy hair. Eggs smoothen the hair, making it less prone to tangling and therefore easier to comb.

Seperate the yolks from the white. You want to use the yolks only if not you will be picking out egg from your hair all week.

I told you I went over the top with this deep conditioner mix...I spied these bananas in the kitchen and threw them in.

I added some banana at the last minute. Just because I already had it.

Bananas are rich in potassium and vitamins (among other things).  They help to protect hair elasticity  which keeps breakage and split ends at bay. They also strengthen hair at the roots. Bananas impart shine and softness to hair. They even help to control dandruff.

I mashed the bananas and put them into the glass bowl with the eggs. I also added half the tin of coconut milk. I usually do not use things from a tin but I quite like this TRS coconut milk. I bought this from the indian store in Iponri. The ones in Ilupeju do not appear to stock it.

After whisking, it still looked lumpy so I put it all in my Vitamix and blended

Then I remembered that I had not added any Aloe Vera. We have several  Aloe Vera plants at home, so I went "harvest" some.

Aloe Vera gel is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti- viral. It is also anti-puritic which is great for relieving an itchy scalp. It balances the pH level of the hair and defines curl pattern in natural hair. It prevents excessive hair loss, acts as a moisturizer and leaves hair soft and shiny. With such powerful properties, it is definitely a player you want on your side.

Cut all the green bits off the Aloe Vera so that you are left with this "solid" piece. I threw this into the blender too.

I then added in a teaspoon each of the oils, half a teaspoon of glycerine and a heaping tablespoon of honey and stirred the mix for the final time.

My daughter presented herself for her conditioning treatment:

Coated her entire hair (and scalp) with our DC mix

Sealed it in with a cap.

We love pink!

And then it was off to bed. The following morning, we rinsed off the DC and the result was soft, curly, manageable hair.

I have not done justice to the benefits any of the ingredients used here. Please Google them individually to get a better picture of their benefits. You can come up with your own DC mix depending on what is locally available. After some time, you will come to realize what ingredients your hair responds to and you can then stick to those ones.

 

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In my post Shampoo Day, I mentioned that I had stopped using store bought shampoo and had switched to black soap. I invited anyone who wanted to know why I had made that decision to leave a comment saying so. That was because as I did not want to make the Shampoo Day post too long by explaining my transition to black soap. Adaeze left such a comment so here's the post.

In my journey as a "naturalista", I find that I am constantly adjusting my choices. One such adjustment was the decision to stop using commercial shampoo for my hair. At the time I made this decision, I was using Motion's Lavish Conditioning Shampoo.

Here are the ingredients that this shampoo contains:

Aqua, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PPG-5-Ceteth-10 Phosphate, Disodium Cocoamphodipropionate, PEG-30 Glyceryl Cocoate, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Hydrolyzed Silk Serica, Cocotrimonium Chloride, Glycol Distearate, Sodium C14-17 Alkyl Sec Sulfonate, Propylene Glycol, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate , PEG-12 Dimethicone, Polyquaternium-10, Citric Acid, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea, Linalool, Fragrance Parfum.

Although, I dumped this product because of almost all of their ingredients are unsafe, I will just take a minute to talk about the ingredient highlighted in red: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).  I will also speak on its close relation: Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).

They are  known skin and eye irritants. They are also known to be drying to skin and hair. You may ask why manufacturers still use them in formulating body products since they are known irritants. The quick answer is that SLSs and SLESs are used because they are cheap surfactants. They give you loads of suds for a penny. For that reason, any concerns regarding the health of consumers are chucked out the window.

There have been several published reports in scientific journals about SLSs and SLESs. They are known to make the proteins on the skin more soluble thus leaving the skin more permeable and making the skin a corridor through which environmental contaminants get into the body. That is like leaving the door to your house open for all and sundry to come in at will.

SLESs are less irritating than SLSs but stay in the body longer because they cannot be metabolized by the liver. Just by gaining contact with the skin, they enter the body and maintain residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain. This is scary when one learns that SLS and SLES are also linked with a known carcinogen (a substance or agent causing cancer) called 1, 4-Dioxane.

Now if you are merely interested in the beauty side of things especially regarding shampoos, SLSs and SLESs dry your hair out by stripping it of its natural oils. This leaves hair weak and may even cause hair loss.

By the way, if you think that washing off the shampoo really well will save your hair, the very next ingredient on the list: Cocamidopropyl Betaine is what is known as a penetration enhancer which means that its work is to ensure that the active ingredients (along with other ingredients of course) are delivered efficiently to hair/skin. That way, the product is not just left on the hair shaft, it penetrates into the hair shaft.

Here is a short list of products that contain our SLSs and SLESs.  You will begin to get a real idea of how difficult it is to avoid them because they are in:

• toothpaste

• soap

• laundry detergent

• skin and facial cleansers

• children’s soap and shampoos

and much much more.  Also, they can be listed with different chemical names depending on the manufacturer. I believe SLES and SLS have about 150 other names they are known by.

There are now shampoos commercially available that do not have any SLS or SLES in them. These are however not available in Nigeria (at least I have not found any here).

I use black soap (which is a great soap) as a shampoo and for bathing. It is sudsy without the help of irritating SLSs and SLESs and best of all it is all natural. Barks, stems and leaves of plants like plantain, cocoa are used in the preparation of black soap and they impart their goodness to the soap.

I tend to buy the local one that is wrapped in paper and then mix it with ingredients that I specifically want in my soap, depending on my mood when I am mixing. The last batch I made, got some coconut oil, aloe vera gel and lavender essential oil mixed in….smells good and feels great on the skin.

References: Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF TOXICOLOGY, Volume 2. Number 7, 1983.

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The weekends are hair time! My daughter gets her hair loosened, shampooed, conditioned and woven into cornrows. This typically happens from Friday to Saturday.

I wash her hair with Black Soap. If you want to know why I don't use commercial shampoos anymore, let me know in the comment section and I will do a post on it. Just before I stopped using commercial shampoo, I would spray her hair with a mix of coconut oil and some conditioner, loosely braid her hair in 4 to 6 sections - detangling (with my fingers or a wide toothed comb) while doing so and then shampoo section by section.

Now that I use black soap, which is not as stripping as commercial shampoo, I do not always bother with the pre shampoo (a.k.a. pre poo) step. I may pre poo if I think that her hair needs the extra moisture.

One section down, four more to go!

 

From the picture you can see that I had completed one section. I find sectioning very helpful because
  • Her head get a really good wash as doing the wash section by section helps me pay adequate attention to her entire head.
  • It minimizes tangling of hair. If you don't wash carefully, you may end up losing a lot of hair per wash which is an unnecessary waste.

I loosen each section to wash it. Depending on my mood, I may either put it back in a loose braid to rinse or not re-braid and just rinse everything out altogether. When I use the latter method, I am careful not to manipulate her hair much. I just let the water run through until it runs clear.  

Clean hair that is approximately 99% tangle free!

Some good guidelines are

  • Don't wash with your fingernails, just use the pads of your fingers and thumbs.  This is because you do not want to scratch at or irritate the scalp. You want to use massaging motions to loosen the dirt on the scalp so that you can rinse it away easily.
  • Don't scrub your hair like you would wash clothes. Remember your hair is delicate - treat it with care. The rubbing motion on your scalp is more than adequate for loosening dirt. No need to yank your hair from side to side, scratch your scalp with your nails like they do in salons.
  • If you do use commercial shampoo, dilute your shampoo. 3 parts water to one part shampoo is a good mix.
  • Make sure you get ALL the shampoo off when you rinse. Leaving it in there can cause your hair to be dry, flaky and itchy.  
  • Lastly, don’t rub your hair when you are drying it. Just dab.  Rubbing tangles the hair and damages the cuticles. Tip: An old T-shirt actually works better than a towel. It may be less absorbent but it is also less damaging.

When done right, shampooing will stimulate blood supply to the scalp and hair follicles – actions that promote healthy hair and growth.

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Our natural hair is usually described with words like coarse, kinky, knotty, rough and hard. A word that is scarcely used is delicate. It may surprise most but our kinky hair is delicate and should be handled as such. Handling it otherwise leads to tangling and breakage.

The purpose of detangling/ combing hair is to remove shed hair so that it does leave your hair a knotty nightmare. You shed hair every day and this shed hair does not necessarily fall out. Shed hair generally settles amongst other hairs on your head….a tangling party is always going on on your head. That is the reason why it is important that we take time to detangle/comb our hair every so often.

One of the easiest ways of committing hair suicide is to use the wrong sort of comb. Even when you do have the right sort of comb, over-combing is not a good idea as our hair does not like a lot of manipulation. Natural hair really does not need more than 2 -3 types of combs and perhaps one brush.

To make things easy, here are the combs that I would recommend and a few tips on selection and use.

Wide-toothed comb

This is the most important comb in your arsenal as it is very versatile. It can be used for styling, detangling and making lines in the hair.

Rat-Tail Comb

For parting your hair precisely, either to place products on your scalp or in order to style your hair, you can use the tail part of a rat tail comb or the local wooden comb. I personally use the local wooden comb.

Don’t ever feel tempted to use this comb to detangle or style your hair. You may as well just hang nooses around each individual hair and kill them (I can be soooo dramatic, lol!).

If you don’t have a rat tail comb or a wooden comb, you can use a chopstick or even your fingers to part your hair.

Fingers

This is hands-down the best way to detangle your hair. However, it takes a long time as you have to section your hair properly and then section into smaller sections that you can work with. With each mini-section, you run your hair from root to tip and detangle. Patience is a virtue when using this method. The pay-off is that you have almost no hair loss. You get rid of the shed hair and that is it.

Let me share with you some other combs/brushes that are popular among those with natural hair:

Ouidad detangling comb

Denman brush

I do not own any of these so I cannot really comment on them.

Tips for choosing a comb

Run your fingers around the comb and make sure that it seamless. If it has any excess plastic bits, don’t buy it as these will snag on the hair. You know how it is when you have hang nail and you run your fingers through your hair? Yeah, you have hair getting caught on that nail. Imagine doing the same thing with a comb that has excess plastic or wood hanging out of it. It will grab a hold of a lot of hairs and yank them out of their roots. Apart from the fact that this can be painful, it is also an unnecessary waste of beautiful hair.

Also, ensure that the teeth of your comb are equally spaced apart. There is no point buying a wide-toothed comb that has its wide teeth set close together. It totally defeats the purpose of using a wide toothed comb.

Whatever method you choose, please remember that you absolutely should not detangle or comb your hair while it is dry (a post on this later). Always have conditioner in your hair either in the form of a leave in conditioner or a real thick conditioner.

All pictures of combs/brushes came from this source.