Sunday, March 31, 2013

chores & routines, updated

The changes we made to household chores and routines for the kids last week have been a wonderful success overall.  The kids are (so far) (still) enthusiastic about doing their jobs.  They ask for popsicle jobs at times of the day besides when they're required to do one, and they get disappointed if they draw the one that says "day off!"  Eager little beavers.  I'm thrilled with the results!  This week, my glass coffee table got cleaned, my glass back doors got cleaned, my kitchen chairs got wiped down, the coloring table got straightened before it became a total mess of shredded paper confetti.  Success!

I did notice, however, the need for some more cleaning supply organization and accessibility.  I was not keen on spending 10 min after rest time finding cleaning supplies for the various popsicle jobs.  Let's face it, poor cleaning supply organization and accessibility is probably a large part of why I wasn't ever getting around to the small tasks I have now assigned to my children.

I'm hoping that today's work will remedy that.  I took a trip to the dollar store and the grocery store and set up these little baskets.

There is one for "main areas" (in front) and one for each bathroom (left and rear).  Everything that is needed to do any jobs in those rooms except for vacuum cleaners and such is organized and easily available, either under the bathroom sink or in the pantry floor.

In the bathroom baskets, I have:
all purpose (surface) cleaner (50/50 vinegar/water with a squirt of dawn)
clorox wipes
small bottle of dawn (I use it in showers, potties, and sinks)

In the main areas basket, I have:
all purpose (surface) cleaner
clorox wipes
washable dusting mitts from the dollar store (VERY cool)
paper towels

I'm trying to cut down overall on my reliance on clorox wipes and paper towels, but I don't mind using them occasionally.  If I struggle to remember to grab and wash and rotate sponges, we'll go back to near full reliance on disposable products.  We'll see.  It's a price I'm willing to pay for easy household maintenance.

I'll tell you, I feel sort of silly owning 3 bottles of windex and 3 bottles of all-purpose cleaner.  But if it helps make these little jobs easier to get done, it'll be worth it.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the planting bug

My mom kept saying it would happen, that I'd discover the joy in growing things.  I didn't honestly expect it to, but she may be right.  I spent the better part of the last two weekends working on the front flower bed and the back yard garden, and I don't want to stop!  Whether or not I have any skill at growing things is still an unknown, but I have found that I feel a similar satisfaction to finishing a knit or sewing project when I put some plant in the ground, water it, and then step back to admire.  It's so fun. Very satisfying, indeed.

Today, I bought a spirea shrub and planted it by the mailbox.  Around the block from our house in Sugar Land was a house with a spirea beside the mailbox.  I loved walking past it in spring and summer when it was full of white blooms.  I remember emailing my mom a picture of it and asking her what it was.  Ever since, when I see spirea in a nursery, I think back to that one and remember how much I liked it.
Then we moved into this house with its horrible mail box.  Seriously, I call it the toddler mail box because it's huge, plastic, and made by Step2, the same company who made our choo-choo wagon!  It's really bad.  When I saw a spirea in Home Depot today, I decided to go for it--plant it by the mailbox, and maybe make me feel better about the giant plastic monstrosity by the curb.  
It's not much to look at yet, but it will be lovely when it's in full bloom!

Garden update!

We have a garden in place!

Last Saturday morning, the five of us got elbow deep in a trio of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite, as we made our Mel's Mix, the recommended soil for our Square Foot Garden.  Aunt Carrie was still in town and snapped this (horrible) picture (of me still in my pjs).
Then on Sunday, we put in plants and seeds! The twins helped me do the planting and watering, and now we wait, water, and watch things grow!
We put in grape and cherry tomatoes and bell peppers from seedlings (back row), since we were right on the edge of running late to get those in the ground as seed.  Elsewhere, in no particular order, we have cilantro and parsley, squash and zucchini, swiss chard, an early lettuce, bush beans, and cucumbers.  We left a square for okra and will put it in next week, since its seed pack said to sow in April or May.

We're very excited!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

chores and routines

I spent all morning working on firming up some routines and creating some visual aids to help with chores and daily tasks for my children.  My kids do a lot of housework for their ages, in my opinion. And in general, they're very happy to do so.  There were some things that I was finding myself asking them to do every day, though, that I wanted to make routine and cut my voice out of the equation.  There were also some other things that I thought they could do better or more of, and I wanted to create new times in our day to accomplish those things.  

I do want to point out that I expect my children to do a lot around the house largely because we are a homeschooling family.  There is no 40 hour a week break from my children using our bathrooms, eating in our kitchen, getting out their toys in their bedrooms and in the back yard, or their art supplies in the dining room.  Our home gets used harder than some of my friends' homes who lose some or all of their children to school 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.  I simply cannot keep up with all of the maintenance on my own, so my kids get to step up and help.  And like I said, they really don't seem to mind.  They just need some help remembering how they can be helpers and some routine times of the day to do it in.

Disclaimer: Some of this has been in use for some time, and some was just conceived this morning in a massive brainstorm session via IM with my best friend in Houston.  Thanks, Karla!  I have no idea yet which of the new things I'm trying will work and which will need tweaking or be thrown out all together.  There will certainly be some trial and error involved.  Feel free to ask me for an update in a few weeks!

Before Breakfast

We need to get started on school work as soon as possible after breakfast.  Losing momentum because of too many things to do after breakfast makes starting school more difficult than it needs to be.  We have been lazing around for 30 minutes or so after getting up, then eating breakfast, then I have been sending kids off to brush their teeth, get dressed, and put away their pjs.  After that they were supposed to come *back* to the kitchen for kitchen jobs.  This was not working.  I was losing them to playing in their rooms when they were supposed to be getting dressed, and everyone always whined about coming back to do kitchen jobs.  Enter, the "before breakfast" jobs, a new part of our day.

Each kiddo now has magnet chart like this one in their bedroom.  Before I feed them, they are supposed to do those three things--get dressed, make their bed (and I'm no stickler for this--I want their pillow and lovey(ies) off the floor and blanket reasonably straight), and take care of their pjs (either feed them to their pajama monster, or if they've been worn twice, take them to the hamper).  When that is done, they can eat breakfast!

After Breakfast--Kitchen Jobs

We have had this wheel in use for some time now, and it works really well for us.  We rotate kitchen jobs weekly.

After breakfast, one kiddo empties the dishwasher (only the things that they can reach to put away), another wipes off the table, and the third sweeps crumbs.  The same routines can be done after lunch and dinner (the dishwasher kid can help load instead of unload at those times).

After Rest Time (or, Before Snack)

The biggest change I am making is the addition of responsibilities after rest time.  We have had a hard time figuring out when best to have kids clean their rooms and help with bigger household cleaning tasks.  My kids spend 1-1.5 hours every afternoon in rest time, so the addition of afternoon chores tied to getting up from rest time seemed a logical way to incorporate that in our day.  I figure it'll be easy to say "You can have snack after rest time when your jobs are done."  Having a statement like that in my back pocket has proven magical in the past.

The after rest time jobs will be to tidy their rooms (in theory, the smart ones will do this DURING rest time), put away their laundry (if applicable--I don't always have laundry for them to put away), and to do a popsicle job.  I wrote out 20-something jobs on popsicle sticks and hung them in the bucket on the refrigerator.  On the popsicle sticks, I have jobs like "dust one room", "wipe down the dining room chairs", "windex the coffee table", "clean the trash out of the van", or "pick up toys in the back yard".  They are small, yet meaningful, jobs that can easily be carried out by four and five year olds, with a little instruction and supervision.

Helper of the Day

This is something else we've had in place for a while (maybe 3 months?).  I started this helper-of-the-day rotation when I realized that there were certain privileges that my kids fought like crazy to do.  I wanted to cut out the fighting by having an easy answer for who got to do them.

Who gets to water the garden? The helper of the day! Who gets to push the elevator buttons when we go to the pediatrician? The helper of the day!  Who gets to choose which show we're going to watch on Netflix?  The helper.  Who gets to select the board game? The helper.  Should we get out paints or beads or play doh today?  Let the helper decide.  It really has helped knock down the competition and crazy in our house.  If you have several kids close in age, I highly recommend this little management tool.

So that's it!  Chores and routines--some new, some time-tested.  Just a peek into my continual quest for order in this circus of a family.  Thanks for reading!

editing: Kristin asked for a list of my popsicle jobs.  Here's what I've got so far, and I'm sure I'll add and amend as we try them for a few weeks.

windex back door
windex front door
windex TV cabinet doors
windex coffee table (glass top)
empty bathroom trash
wipe front of bathroom cabinets
wipe fronts (outsides) of washer/dryer
sweep front porch
straighten game closet
wipe school table
wipe bar stools
wipe outside of fridge
wipe fronts of kitchen cabinets (lower only)
wipe outside of kitchen trash can
wipe dining room chairs
straighten shelves of kids' books
straighten coloring table
straighten shoes/hang jackets in mud room
pick up toys in back yard
clean trash out of car
sweep under/around pet rats' cage
vacuum one room (I have 3 of those in the bucket)
dust one room (3 of those)
wipe 5 light switches
wipe 5 outlets/plugs
wipe 5 doorknobs
clean 3 doors
dust 3 baseboards

Monday, March 25, 2013

Easter sewing

I took the plunge and sewed a real garment!  I fell in love with this pattern when I went on my 18" doll pattern buying spree at Joanns during their 5 for $5 pattern sale.  I thought I should try to make an outfit for Hazel for Easter and a matching one for our American Girl, Jess.  We don't go to a dressy church (most Sundays I wear jeans or a casual skirt), so we have no need of frilly Easter dresses.  I wanted something fun that Hazel could wear to play in through the summer instead of a one-time wear sort of deal.  I talked to her about it and she was excited.  She requested "pink and purple stripes".   Yikes.  I had no intention of sewing ANYthing with pink and purple stripes.  I had a bold floral or damask with a coordinating geometric print or polka-dot in mind.  I set in out in search of fabric, hoping we could strike a compromise.  I think we did!  Pink and purple, bold floral, no stripes, coordinating geometric print.

I appliqu├ęd neckties onto tshirts for the boys to match, and then rounded out the set with a dress for Jess.

They're all going to looks so adorable! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


A friend sent me some plain green longies (knit wool pants used with cloth diapers in lieu of a cover) that her two boys had worn and asked me to "girlify" them.  She just had a beautiful baby girl, and no plain green pants were going to do!  This project was SO FUN!

She sent me the pants, a skein of dark pink yarn, and the remains of a ball of light pink yarn that she had something else knit with.  I changed the drawstring from green to pink, added the pink edging to the legs of the pants, and embroidered some flowers (a first for me, and a super fun new skill!).  She also requested a coordinating hat.  The hat pattern is this one, one of my favorites.  I used up the rest of the yarn making a few flowers.  She can use them to embellish whatever she pleases, put them on clips or headbands, etc.  

Yay for girly! and welcome to the world, baby Lily!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jack, our American Guy

So I confessed to my American Girl love, right?  And you know I can't leave well enough alone.  I had to customize.  Meet Jack, our American Guy.

I had seen several custom dolls online, turned into boys with wig and wardrobe changes, and wanted to do one!  I started watching Ebay for a good deal on a "needs TLC" AG doll, preferably with a classic face mold and brown eyes.  Took a few weeks of watching, but I found one!  Here she was before, a TLC Kailey doll, with loose floppy limbs (still need to fix those), a scratch on her nose (no biggie--my boys always have random scratches!) and a scraggly haircut (no problem--I was taking her hair off anyway).

First thing to do was take off her girl wig.  I followed these instructions, and had no trouble removing Kailey's old hair.  She was scary looking bald!  I did take a picture at some point, but I guess I deleted it?  Can't find it now to share with you.  Your nightmares will thank me.

Then we had to get him some boy hair.  I ordered two wigs, a brown and a blonde, from an online doll shop (not AG brand wigs).  We tried both on, swapped them back and forth, and did a lot of debating.  I liked the brown wig, but I got outvoted.  My kids all preferred the blonde one, because he looked (a lot!) like Charlie.  Glued on his wig, put him in boy clothes, and he was officially Jack!

He is every bit as loved as Jess.  My kids have dubbed them brother and sister.  Works for me!

dressing like Jack
Jack needs some more wardrobe.  Kids want pajamas, a bathing suit, some shorts and a tshirt, etc.  We'll work on it.  I'll keep you posted.

Wrap Up: the Tale of Peter Rabbit

Last week we rowed the Five in a Row title The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  Like many of the timeless classics included in FIAR, this was one we owned before we started the program and had read many times.  It's a favorite, though, so I knew we'd enjoy a week of more detailed study.  

For social studies, we colored the flag of the United Kingdom.  This was our 3rd unit set in England (the summer olympics and Mr Gumpy's Motorcar were the other two), but we had never done the flag. We talked about English gardens, and discussed the reasons why mamas might have rules for their kids.  They all thought it was horrible that Peter would blatantly disobey his mother and go to the garden since his father was put into a pie there (!) but had a harder time generalizing that to this mama's rules about not acting like an idiot on the trampoline.  Go figure.  

For science, we germinated some lima bean seeds in clear plastic cups.  The kids had such fun watching them change and grow.  We followed instructions from a blog post I read, and it worked well.  They've been in the school room window, and most every morning there has been a shout from the first kid to wander in there, "EVERYBODY, come see the BEANS!!"  I didn't take pictures of the beginning, but here they are as of this morning--in desperate need of transplanting if we want them to keep growing! Maybe we'll do that this afternoon.  

We went off-manual for our applied math lesson with this unit.  I printed the "Where's the Trowel" game from the Homeschool Creations Preschool Garden Pack.  It was a great game for working on place value and counting inside of 20.  My kids still struggle with 13-19, so it was fun and great practice! 

For art, we looked at all of Mrs. Potter's lovely watercolor throughout our Beatrix Potter treasury (includes Peter Rabbit, plus many of her other wonderful stories).  Then we got out our watercolors and painted a picture of Peter in Mr McGregor's garden.  The kids were cracking me up throughout this whole activity.  SO serious!

For language arts, we reviewed onomatopoeia.  The kids remembered the term from Mr. Gumpy's Motorcar, and had no trouble identifying the "scriiiiiitch, scratch" of Mr. McGregor's hoe and the "lippity lippity" of Peter's walk as such.

We also had a delightful conversation about animal fantasy stories.  We talked about books that use animals who act like people, wear clothes, cook dinner, etc, which they think is soooooo silly.  Then I asked them to each go choose another animal fantasy story from our bookshelf to read before rest time that day.  They had no trouble there, either!  Jonathan chose a Paddington Bear book that David brought us from his last trip to London for work.  It even fit the England theme!  Charlie, of course, lost no time finding his all-time favorite book Richard Scarry's What do People do all Day?  I can't remember what Hazel chose that day, but she's been pointing out every animal fantasy story we've read since, and it turns out we read a lot of them!

And finally, we read several children's library books on gardening and started planning our first every backyard garden.  So far, all we have accomplished is watching Daddy build our square foot garden box.  The plan is to get soil into our box and plants in the ground in the next week.  I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dr. Seuss Day

We joined the masses of kindergarteners nation wide celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday earlier this month. For our Dr. Seuss Day, we ate green eggs and ham for breakfast, while we read Green Eggs and Ham.

After that we read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  I used the opportunity to teach the /sh/ phonogram.  We then spelled and sounded out some words with /sh/ in them.  fish and its rhymes, and other short vowel words with /sh/ like ship and shut and the like.  We then did this little fish bowl craft.

That was it for our formal study, but over the course of the rest of the day we read some other Seuss titles, including The Foot Book, The Star-Bellied Sneeches, Oh! The Places You'll Go, The Cat in the Hat, and then after rest time we watched the Grinch (the old animated one, not the Jim Carey one).  A good time was had by all!

Wrap-Up: Louisiana, swamp, NOLA

Around Mardi Gras, we took a several week vacation from Five in a Row to do a little unit on Louisiana, New Orleans, local flora and fauna, etc.  We did all the usual things for this type of study.  We mapped the state, found major cities, the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico.   We learned the state bird (brown pelican), mammal (black bear), reptile (alligator), crustacean (crawfish), tree (bald cypress), flower (magnolia), symbol (fleur de lis), etc.  We colored a picture of the flag and now point it out wherever we see one out on the town.  We talked about some things that make our city special like our street cars, our Spanish and French heritage, our local foods, and Mardi Gras.  Much of this was sourced through some wonderful picture books that I can't recommend highly enough: 

P is for Pelican by Anita Prieto
Down in Louisiana by Johnette Downing
Today is Monday in Louisiana by Johnette Downing
I Spy in the Louisiana Sky  by Deborah Kadair

Any "output" (maps, coloring pages, etc) escaped the notice of my camera, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  The field trips, however, did not!

We took a trip to the aquarium the day after we talked about swamp animals and the Gulf of Mexico to see the fishies and alligators.

The next week, we picked a sunny day to do the same thing at the zoo.  We spent more time than usual in the "Louisiana" section of the zoo, pointing out all of the animals that we now knew some more facts about.  Here are the kids in the "kid trap" (akin to a crawfish? crab? trap--I didn't pay enough attention, apparently!).  

But the best field trip was the one we saved for Grandma and Grandpa's visit!  We went on a swamp tour!  This was wonderful.  To be out in the swamp, seeing alligator, wild boar, great blue heron, snakes and turtles in their natural setting was a fantastic way to finish our study of Louisiana.  

It just happened that the kids' music class (Musikgarten, cannot sing its praises enough!) was studying the marsh as well.  Their teacher, Ms. Carla, organized a field trip to the Barataria Nature Preserve, part of Jean Lafitte National Park, about 45 min south of New Orleans.  The field trip was scheduled for the same weekend the grandparents were here, so they got to tag along for a double dose of swamp!  

You can't read the sign in the background, but it says "Cypress Knees", which is Hazel's favorite natural landform. ;)

The day was sunny and warm, perfect for a hike over the boardwalks through the swamp.  We saw no alligators, but plenty of snakes and lizards.  Jono evaded my camera, spending most of his time running ahead of the pack with Grandpa or Dad on his tail.  If you've never been down to Barataria Nature Preserve, go! It's free, has a really nice visitor's center with information about the local wetlands, and miles of boardwalk to explore through the swamp!  

We really do love living here!!

American Girls

So, I've been bitten by the American Girl bug.  I was just a little bit too old to have experienced American Girl dolls as a child.  Their first dolls came out in 1986, which was the year I got my last baby doll for Christmas.  I've known about the dolls for some time, but never had any experience with them until last December (3 months ago).  In December, a friend whose daughters have AG dolls, and who herself buys Ebay and Craigslist AG lots to fix up and resell (at quite a profit!) tipped me off that there was a sale going on, for one day, on the two historical American Girls whose stories are set in mid-19th century New Orleans.  I have always loved dolls, I love our city, and I figured that if I could get one of the NOLA girls for half of the regular $110 price, that was an offer I couldn't refuse.  I already had my Christmas shopping complete, but I bought Marie-Grace and figured I'd stash her for Hazel's 5th birthday coming up in June.  She arrived, I ooohed and aaahed over her, pulled out her book and read it, but kept her hidden away.

Two weeks later, we went on our Christmas trip to see my family in Texas.  I had been to my step-brother Mike and his wife Anne's house several times, but had never paid any attention to their daughters' collection of American Girls before now.  My nieces have six dolls between them and I spent one whole day "watching the little kids in the playroom", but really playing with dolls.  They are so fantastic!  I started to see the differences in their little faces, and enjoyed dressing them and styling their hair.  Marie-Grace had not grabbed me, but some of Corinne and Colleen's dolls did.  I loved Kanani and Emily.  Nellie was cute.  Ivy, Julie, and Elizabeth didn't do much for me.  They all seemed to have their own little personalities.  I was still thrilled about giving Hazel Marie-Grace, but I wanted one of my own so that I could play, too. Ha!

So I did it. At 35 years old, I bought myself a doll.  I spent some of my Christmas money on Jess, the retired Girl of the Year from 2006.  Of all the dolls I had seen pictures of, Jess was the one I found the sweetest. So, there you go.  I have an American Girl.  Hazel and Charlie play with her all the time.  She's well loved by the whole family, but I'm the only one who gets to do her hair. LOL

Of course, half the fun of having 18" dolls around is all of the sewing and yarn crafting opportunity!  I immediately started pinning some tutorials and ideas on pinterest.  I picked up some patterns at Joanns.  And here are the outfits I've sewn so far:

The first was upcycled from an outgrown outfit of Hazel's.  This tank showed me really fast that I needed to work on my sewing-with-knits skills.  After reading a thousand online tutorials and gathering some better supplies, my next attempt was much, much better.

This little skirt and tshirt came out well, I thought!  The tshirt let me practice my new knit strategies, with my better results.  

Here's Marie-Grace, out of her box briefly, to try on some pajamas that will be hers.  My Jess came with pjs, so naturally, all of our dolls will need them. ;) I stashed these pjs to come back down when she makes her appearance.  The other clothes we've made are in the basket with Jess's clothes, and will be shared when Hazel gets her doll.

I'm in quite the hurry for Marie-Grace to come play, too.  During Mardi Gras, I started reading aloud the book series for Marie-Grace and Cecile with Hazel.  We are thoroughly enjoying their stories, being that they're set here in New Orleans.  Even in the mid-1850s, the girls go to familiar places (Jackson Square, the French Market) and do familiar things (eat pralines, celebrate Mardi Gras).  I am toying with the idea of giving Hazel her dolly when we get to the end of the book series instead of waiting for her birthday.  That would free up her birthday to give an accessory that would be well loved, like Marie-Grace's dog, Argos.  Hazel does always love animals more than dolls anyway.  We'll see how fast we get them read!  

So yeah, totally bitten by the AG bug.  Make fun of me all you want.  I'll just go sit in the corner and sew a new dress for my doll.  

some recent yarn work

I haven't posted much knit or crochet lately.  Here are a few things I've done in the not-too-distant past.

These two hats were an order for a newborn baby girl.  Mama let me surprise her with colors, so it was a fun one.  I am now officially obsessed with bonnets and want to work up a BUNCH more!

I make hats for the new mamas in MOPs.  We depleted the supply I started out the fall with, so I made a few more to get us through the spring baby boom. 

This was my first ever knit sweater! It knit it intended for our American Girl, but it came out a little big. It fits Scarlett the Build-a-Kitty perfectly, though!  

And this mermaid tail was a baby gift for a MOPs friend who is expecting her first girl in a few weeks and is mermaid CRAZY!  It was a really fun, satisfying pattern to work up.  The yarn cooperated beautifully, and it was MUCH easier than it appears.  Can't wait to see it in newborn pictures!

Besides that, I've been keeping my fingers busy with a few preemie hats here and there.  I decided I'd like to do more NICU hats this year, and not all in one lump right before Hazel's NICU day in June, so I've been working one up whenever the mood strikes and the fingers are itchy.  I've done one on average of once a week or so, so we should have a nice stash ready by time to deliver them!  

I've also been stashing some things that I wanted to work up for fun in the "I might maybe someday open an etsy store" pile.  I'm still mulling that over.   

Thanks for looking!

Belle's Spa Day

I brought home my friend Cristina's daughter's Belle doll after a visit one day, because her hair made me cringe.  Cristina said I was welcome to play around and see if I could make it less of a terrifying rats' nest.  I had been reading some blogs and Pinterest pins on how to revive tangled messes of American Girl doll hair, and I decided to practice some of what I had been reading on Belle.


I wrapped Belle up in a towel and a plastic Target sack to protect her cloth body.  Then I filled a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of water and liquid fabric softener.  I bought a free & clear variety (Target's store brand, I think).  Then I completely saturated her hair.  Dripping wet.  I slooooowly combed it out, in small sections, from the bottom up.  (note: Belle did not have open/close eyes.  If you're working on a doll that does, please tape some cotton balls or a washcloth over the eyes to protect them, too.  Water inside of eyes like American Girls have can rust and ruin them.)  Belle definitely shed some hair, but overall, this was much easier than I feared, given the mess we started with.  

Important tip for doll hair: don't use your brush!  Most brushes that people use have plastic bristles.  Those, when used on synthetic (plastic) doll hair, cause static, frizz, and mess.  Use a metal brush on doll hair.  And don't use the metal brush on people hair in between doll stylings.  Your hair oils aren't good for them, either.  I used a metal wig brush from Sally Beauty Supply. They're cheap.  Go get one for your dolls.  American Girl also sells them, but they're spendier.  You can also use a metal toothed pick on dolls with curly hair.  That would have been a nice tool for Belle, but I didn't have one.  

After a first brush out, this is what she looked like.  Yikes! No more curl!  Yes, we had to sacrifice some curl to eliminate the knots.  I left her to dry overnight.

The next morning, she had sticky hair from the fabric softener.  I rinsed it thoroughly in cool water and then brushed it out again.  MUCH better.  As her hair dried, a lot of the curl bounced back.  I can't guarantee that this will always happen.  Cristina and I had agreed, though, that a straight haired Belle was better than a ratty haired Belle, so it was worth the risk of curl loss to us.  If we had wanted to put the curl back in, there are many many tutorials on how to curl doll hair.  Usually it is called a "hot water perm" if you wanted to google for method.  

After Belle's hair dried a second time, I styled it, dressed her, and she was ready to head back home!