Dear Betina - tips for parting unruly hair:
It helps a lot that Carly's hair has grown out somewhat. When she was Ivy's age she didn't have much to work with and so I settled for one neat part down the middle on the top. The back is only just now getting long enough for real pony tails, braids and twists. Also, combing it when it is wet really helps, plus some good detangler and hair moisturizer (I have tried a few different kinds of moisturizer and I haven't really noticed a big difference between them...anything that puts moisture in is fine imo). Also, a cheap plastic comb works miracles for getting a (somewhat) crisp line, in my experience having a long handle on it doesn't really matter. I don't know how often you are washing Ivy's hair now, but I wouldn't recommend more than 1 time a week unless it gets really dirty or smells funky. It goes against every white girl's intuition to only wash hair one time a week, but trust me, if you are washing it more than that you are only drying it out. And crispy hair ain't pretty. One time, a black woman at one of Josh's school events almost thrashed me for the state of Carly's hair. But this was pre-relaxer and on a day I just didn't have it in me to fight the fro into submission.
A distraction is a MUST, for this hair session Carly was watching pictures of herself on the computer's screensaver. Also, my friend used a relaxer for kids on her hair a while back and that made my life so much better. My friend is a professional hairdresser, I'd never try to do something like that myself, and there is still a lot of curl in Carly's hair - A LOT - it just happens to be comb-able now.
I know you live in a mostly white area but if you have a black girlfriend, enlist her help in finding a store that sells stuff black people actually buy for their hair. Carly's godmother Michelle (who edumacates me on all things for a proper diva) finds some of the stuff for black girls/women at the local stores (like Target, etc) laughable. (Even barrettes.)
From what I have read and seen on your blog, you are doing just great with little Ivy's hair. Truly, all the adoption paperwork and classes in the world can never prepare you for the enigma that is puffy, scrunchy, squishy, delectable black hair. Give it some more time and length and soon your parts will be bringing you satisfaction.
Hope that helps!