2a/3a lots of fine hair - please lord help me

I have had straightish hair my whole life until I had kids. It has gotten progressively wavier and curlier in parts over the 6 years since I had them. I honestly didn't realize it was curly until a few months ago, even though I wondered why it was getting progressively harder to blow dry and straighten my hair. I had beat into almost submission. Anyway... It is now a layered long bob, cut to bring out curl. It is very 3a underneath, with these big voluminous ronald mcdonald curls. On top it is almost straight, super frizzy and I can diffuse it to be wavy. I have a ton of hair but each strand is fine in texture. I've been using different methods of applying product, and ultimately plopping it for 10-30 minutes, then diffusing it, and then air drying it to bone dry. I use curl keeper and then garner fructose curl gel spray. My canopy will do nothing without gel except frizz, but any gel I've tried seems to make me have these horrible stringy curls and it gets matted from middle layer down. I scrunch out the crunch various ways, but it either stays crunchy and stringy or goes right to flat and straight. I hate gel. What am I doing wrong? Also, I tried cowashing for awhile and it made it looks so much worse. But ultimately gel seems to make my hair just feel spikey, dry, stringy. Could I just use a cream or something? Also, I feel like my hair needs weight to help the ends compress because they get so fluffy. My ends are way curlier than the rest of my hair, which looks ridiculous. If I could keep my curls clumped, I think that I wou'dnt mind the gel so much, but my hair doesn't clump no matter what method I've tried. Especially at this length.

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