Monday, January 14, 2008

How not to curl your hair

It was Saturday night. All of my girls took their shower or bath to get ready for church the next day. As each was done, they came down to where I was reading and I brushed their hair for them. It's one of those things that they usually just don't take the time to do well. I made sure that each of them had smooth, tangle free hair.

Just about the time that the oldest should have been coming down for a kiss good night, I heard her come down the stairs. "Help!" "What did you do?" "I tried curling my hair with my comb." Oh my! I have no idea how many times she twisted her hair around her comb, but it was firmly attached. I knew what my wife would do. She'd just cut it off, and take her to the hair dresser on Monday to get it "fixed", which would probably result in shoulder length hair.

I approached it as more of a puzzle. I slowly tried to unwind a little bit of hair. Having a tough time with the fine tooth comb, I pulled out a toothpick to be able to guide a few strands at a time. My girls think I use toothpicks for everything. I'm sure one of these years I'll get a box for my birthday. I'm not like either of my grandfathers who often had toothpicks in their mouths. But I do use them to mix epoxy for gluing back together Polly Pockets or to shim wheels for pinewood derby cars or for filling in holes to redrill later for a screw or placing down Perler beads or ... Ok, enough.

The toothpick helped, but the hair was not budging. I tried soaking the hair with detangler spray. Still no luck. Everynow and then I'd be able to get enough undone to unwrap it once, but the gap between what was twisted on her head and the comb was shrinking and the comb was long enough that I couldn't get the hair around the end anymore. I was just getting to the point where my wife would have started (ie. cutting it off) when inspiration struck. I tried to break the teeth off the comb to ease the detangling operation. Darn unbreakable combs. By this time my wife had come down to see how I had progressed. She knew I had much more patience for these things.

Since my wife was there I asked her to go fetch the wire cutters I got her for Christmas (yes, that's two times I bought her tools as gifts in 2007). I started systematically pruning the comb, unwinding the hair and pushing it over to allow another cut to further make the comb smaller. Once the comb was completely destroyed and removed from her hair, it didn't take long to slowly work out the tangles (especially since it was already saturated with detangler spray).

My daughter learned an important lesson, hopefully her sisters will learn from her, and I learned that a toothpick is not the be-all-to-end-all tool my daughters would have me think it is.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Finding that perfect gift

Each year I try to find an ornament for all of the girls (including my wife) that fits with something at least half way notable from the preceding year. I'm not sure why I started this tradition, it seemed like a good idea at the time. This is the only gift that I really sweat about as it takes a lot of leg work trying to find the right ornament. That said, the effort is worth it; each year when we decorate the tree the girls look fondly back on these small symbols of yesteryear.

My wife is probably the hardest to find the right ornament for. My daughters are always into something new and usually it's not too hard to find something appropriate. As they get older and get past the Disney princess phase, it will become more difficult. But for my wife its difficult just coming up with the appropriate theme, let alone an ornament to match that theme. Sometimes I have had to be somewhat clever (e.g. finding a mini Clue board game ornament the year she wrote a murder mystery play put on by our church).

This year the theme was her new book. Finding the right ornament was going to be tough. One year I did the Snoopy at a typewriter ornament, but what to do this year? I finally had to resort to making it myself. This was especially apt as one portion of her book was about making gifts for people using a small budget.

I measured her book and reduced the dimensions down about one third and cut a piece of wood to that size on my table saw. If I had thickness planer I would have used that, but I don't. My father-in-law has one, but I was trying to do this without her realizing I was up to something. Anyway, I painted this small block of wood white. For the cover, I took three of her books (we have plenty lying around the house waiting to be sold. If you want one, we'd love to sell you one), and placed them on our scanner so that I could recreate the cover in one image. Since my wife does plenty of scrapbooking, I was able to find a ribbon that matched the colors on the cover of her book. How fortuitous. I affixed that to the spine of the block with double sided tape and glued the cover on with a spray adhesive. I had to be careful not to over spray it and saturate the paper. I actually made two of these. The first I didn't paint the wood completely, and overdid the spray. Good thing I didn't wait until the last minute.

Needless to say, I think this ornament was one of her favorite gifts this year. Whew!