I Wasn’t In The Market, But If You Insist…

When I was pregnant with O3, and only had S-then-1, I drove a really cool four-door Jeep Cherokee. It had a little suspension lift and modest off-road tires, a roof rack that conveniently carried our skis and kayaks, four-wheel drive (which I used often, baby) and a nifty trailer hitch. I drove that truck for about 7 years. I loved that truck. But when we found out baby #2 was on the way, we knew it was time to look for something a little more family-oriented, especially since only one carseat could fit on the back bench.

A few months before O was born, we sold the Jeep and bought a minivan. The quintessential now-you’re-really-a-parent purchase, I quickly learned why it’s the vehicle of choice for many American families. With large, sliding doors and a foldaway rear seat, I could easily maneuver squirmy bitty bodies into carseats and haul home the groceries without breaking a sweat.

Our minivan, which is now three years old to us (but 11 years old on paper), runs well, but there are a lot of little things wrong with it. Most of them are just annoying, like the rear brake adjustor that squeals for no apparent reason (even after it’s been taken apart three times and tweaked and oiled and who knows what else). Some of the flaws are cosmetic, like the lemonade I spilled in the back hatch and which seeped into a strange and hidden crevasse of carpet and then promptly turned to a staining mildew, until it was discovered months later (too late, of course). A few things are actually broken, like the busted passenger sliding door-handle, or the tape deck that is now a jukebox (literally: the kids put all the coins from the coin organizer into the tape slot). (And, yes, my van is old enough to have a tape slot.)

Still, I hadn’t considered looking for another van, not yet. I had pretty much planned to drive this van until it croaked, figuratively or literally. But then my mom called to say that she and her husband were thinking of doing the patriotic thing and buying a new car. DH and I rolled our eyes at each other when we heard this. Her van is a 2005; mine is a 1999. Why she thought I would be sympathetic to the idea was beyond me.

But then she asked us if we were interested in buying her old van. Here was something we hadn’t even considered. And while it seemed silly at first, the idea grew on us, and we carelessly poked around at prices and values and Consumer Reports reviews and the like. But in the end, we decided that the blue book value (our price, should we accept) was a fair deal, but not a good deal, and with DH having some of his work hours cut back it seemed frivolous. We thanked my mom for asking us, but declined.

This morning, at approximately 9:32 AM, my mom called to say that they had found a new van and were going to purchase it. They had planned to trade in her 2005 van, but she wanted to check again to see if we were interested in it before they did. The price to us this time around was significantly less than blue book value, since she was now going by what the dealer was offering them for their trade. I told her DH and I would discuss it and said I would call her back.

At approximately 10:15, we called her back to ask a few questions about maintenance issues, logistics of getting it up here from Florida, etc. We said we would discuss some more. I asked her when she needed to know for sure. “Oh,” she said casually, “DH will be back around noon and we’re headed over to the dealership then.”

Well, shoot.

Normally I would just refuse to make any sort of decision like this in such a ridiculously short amount of time. But this deal was thousands of dollars less than a comparable van would sell for. Not only that, but we knew the history of the van (seeing as it’s my mother’s and all). We’ve driven the van. We know more about it than any other used vehicle we might look at. And our current van is in pretty sad shape, even though it runs well. We waffled. We wavered. We discussed. We ate breakfast.

Finally, at noon, I called her back to say we were interested. If things worked out on her end, we would like to do it. She said she would let us know after she talked with her DH, the bank and the dealership.

I didn’t think very much about it this afternoon, to be honest. We went on some errands, did some chores, started dinner. Then at 5:30 my mom called to say we were the proud owners of a 2005 Chrysler Town & Country.

Hoo boy.

So I asked her how she wanted to handle getting the van up here. I figured they would drive it up in August, when they were already planning to visit anyway. “Oh,” she said casually, “I’m leaving Saturday morning to drive it up there.”

Well, shoot.

So my mom is coming in on Sunday at some point to bring me my new van, which is very exciting, albeit very sudden and spur-of-the-moment. The girls are very excited about buying Nana’s van, because, well, because it’s Nana’s, and anything that belongs to or belonged to Nana or has anything to do with Nana whatsoever is extremely exciting for them in any case.

I have already promised DH I would not spill any lemonade ANYWHERE, and the children have been banned from using markers or stickers in the new vehicle (seeing as there is evidence of both markers and stickers in quite a few places in the old van, this seemed prudent). I find it amusing and sweet that hubby is more concerned with me trashing the inside of the van than he is with me wrecking the outside of it. That says something very significant about our relationship, I’m sure.

Oh- and to my friend L, if you are reading this and wondering whether or not I cut-and-paste most of this blog post from my earlier email, the answer is yes, and while it has been edited for content and privacy the truth is I was just too damn lazy to retype the whole thing after writing it once already, so sorry about all that. But you get what you pay for, ya know?

No Poo For You

Well, I am proud to report that I have not used commercial shampoo for one whole month.

No, really! And I don’t have dreadlocks, either. In fact, my hair is the softest it’s been my entire adult life, not to mention it feels thicker. I would suggest that it’s easier to style, except I don’t really style my hair. But it does have a little wave to it that I haven’t seen in decades.

Back in the days when I haunted the Mothering boards, I remember reading about No Poo in the Natural Family Living forums. It sounded interesting, but I was too tired to drag supplies from my kitchen pantry and into the shower. I was generally too tired to drag myself into the shower, truth be told. Maybe I did go a little bit No Poo in those days, but it wasn’t a planned regimen, and it didn’t have quite the same effect.

Now, I’m all about the No Poo. It’s awesome. I’m also No Deodorant (I’ve been No Antiperspirant for about five years). It feels so good to keep all those chemicals off my skin. It’s also very self-satisfying to make my own cosmetic/hygiene supplies, but that’s just the homesteading geek in me.

As for the No Poo, it’s so easy to do. All I’ve done, really, is to stop washing my hair with industrial solvents and switch to a gentle baking soda scrub with a cider vinegar rinse. That’s it. And instead of washing my hair daily or every other day, I do it twice a week. The other days, I simply rinse it in cool water, and brush it well every morning & evening. Taa daa!!

Why no poo? Well, it’s simple, really. The whole notion that you have to clean your hair with shampoo is a stroke of marketing genius. We’ve been conditioned (haha- get it?) to believe that our hair is not clean unless it has been scrubbed and scoured daily with a smelly bottled substance. And as long as you use conventional shampoos, you’d be right. This is because your hair “cleaner” is actually a hair “stripper”, stripping the natural oils from your hair and scalp. Why do you think we have natural oils on our hair and scalp? Mother Nature is not wasteful. Well, okay, maybe the gall bladder is a little passe’ these days. But, generally, she doesn’t do things without a reason. The reason you have those oils is to protect your hair, and also to repel bacteria, dirt, and other undesirables from your scalp. Your body is smarter than you are, and it knows that you need those natural oils. So, after you get your head all “clean”, it goes into panic mode and produces more oil to protect you from yourself your head. It’s a supply-and-demand thing. The more you “clean” your hair, the “dirtier” it will be, because your body will just keep making more and more oil to keep up.

When you first kick the shampoo habit, your body will be confused. It is smart, but you are being unpredictable, so it will take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months for your head to catch on to this new way of doing things. Don’t give up. I almost caved into the shampoo temptation several times, because I decided to quit shampoo in JULY, when it is rather warm and humid and when I sweat like a fat man on a hot roof in a most unladylike manner. But I stuck it out, and am now enjoying the softest, healthiest hair ever.

The Method

Actually executing the No Poo Process is ridiculously simple. Go to your cupboard or pantry. Pull out your baking soda, put a couple teaspoons (maybe a tablespoon, if you have a big head) into a small cup or container, and mix enough water into it so you can pour it over your scalp. Hint: use warm water, or it will be quite the shocker when you are in the shower. While you’re in the kitchen, fill another small container with some cider vinegar. If you have long hair (shoulders or longer), you’ll probably want about 1/4 cup or less. If you have shorter hair, maybe 1-2 tablespoons. If you’re butch, use your best guess. If you’re bald, you can skip this step completely, because it’s to condition your ends, not your scalp.

Now. Into the bath or shower you go. Wet your hair like you normally would. While you’re doing this, take a last look at that plastic bottle of industrial solvent that you are never again going to pour onto your sweet little scalp. Go ahead, give it a sneer. Stick your tongue out at it, or make some other insulting gesture if you like. This is important, because you are freeing yourself from the shackles of commercial consumerism (not to mention taking a huge chemical load off your body). Once your hair is completely wet, grab your container of (hopefully warm) soda water. Pour some on your scalp, just a little bit near the crown. Set the bottle down. Use your fingertips to massage your head. Make little tiny fingertip circles, don’t just rub back-and-forth (you’ll tear at the hair follicles). Start at the crown and work your way out. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but find a consistent routine so you don’t miss any spots. Some people suggest outlining a circle on your crown and then filling it in. Me, I am greasiest at the hairline, so I work from my center part out towards my ears. Then, I rub from my center part back. If you get to a spot that doesn’t feel a tiny bit gritty from the soda, pour on some more. The soda is a gentle cleanser whose job is to clean your scalp.

Once you are thoroughly massaged, you can rinse out the soda. It will rinse faster and easier than any shampoo you’ve ever tried. Once it’s out, take your cider vinegar. I like to dilute mine with an equal amount of warm water. Pour it over the ends of your hair (not onto your scalp). Since I have shoulder-length hair, I pile all my hair on top of my head and then pour the vinegar over it. Scrunch it in. Then, proceed with the remainder of your shower routine while the vinegar conditions your hair. Some people leave it in for an hour. I find three to five minutes is plenty long. I wash the rest of myself, shave my underarms, and then rinse out the vinegar. The smell is completely gone once you rinse it out, so don’t worry about smelling like a pickle.

That’s all there is to it. Of course, your hair will continue to produce oil at industrial rates for a short time, until it adjusts to the kind and gentle No Poo routine. If you find your hair is intolerably greasy during the transition period, you can give it an extra wash. Use more soda, or play around with the amount of vinegar you rinse with. You can also try brushing your hair out with a comb, which will pull oils from your scalp and onto the hair shaft (actually very desirable). For me, the first two weeks were…. well, I’ll be honest. They were pretty gross. I felt good the day I washed my hair, but in between, I felt like a dirty hippie. It didn’t help that I had been working out in the garden a lot and getting pretty dirty and sweaty. The third week was much nicer, though. And this last washing, which marked A Whole Month Of No Poo, my hair felt like silk in my hands. I’m glad I stuck it out.

Besides being good for your skin, which is your largest organ and a direct route for chemicals to infiltrate your body, going No Poo has other tangible benefits, too. It’s economical, for one. A really expensive bottle of ACV – like Bragg’s, for example – is about $5 or $6 in my grocery store. I can get baking soda for about 79 cents for a one-pound box. This means that it literally costs me a couple of pennies every time I wash my hair.

I also love finding ways of doing things that don’t require industrial products. While you might argue that baking soda is an industrial product, it is, at least, an edible one. I could take a swig of my shampoo and probably not harm my insides too terribly much. I can bake muffins with my shampoo.  Who doesn’t like muffins? And, if I were really industrious, I could probably ferment my own apple cider vinegar. This gives me the satisfaction of (a) avoiding mainstream manufactured products whose production is harmful to the environment, and (b) avoiding mainstream manufactured products whose ingredients are harmful to me.

Don’t worry. I will still love you if you grab the Garnier or pour on the Pantene. But seriously, folks. Challenge your world view of what is *truly* necessary for a healthy, clean and satisfying life. Take control of your health and hygiene, and you may find it not only cheaper, easier, and healthier, but possibly better, too.

And if you find that No Poo is Not For You, it’s alright.  You can still put that baking soda and cider vinegar to good use in your kitchen.