Category Archives: childcare

Tell Me No Lice

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

About a week ago I noticed that my head was itchy. Like, crazy itchy. Particularly around the nape of the neck. This was concerning, as lice had been going around the first grade at MJ’s school for awhile. We’d dodged it so far, but I knew that couldn’t go on forever.

I checked with MJ to see if she was feeling it, too.

“Yes!” She replied. “It’s been driving me crazy forever.”

I looked at her with an alarmed expression. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shrugged, and turned back to her game. She’s created a whole imaginary land in a corner called “Fairyarea.” I find her there muttering and singing all the time. There’s something vaguely demonic about it, but also cute.

MJ was off school, and Mike was planning on taking her to work with him. Let them go, I thought. I’ll check my head when they leave. Probably just being paranoid…I’m sure we’re all fine.

Amazing that I could still believe that about anything, but denial is a powerful force.

They left; I showered, and broke open a lice comb I’d purchased months ago. It only took a couple of passes to find that, indeed, I had them. Lice. Because apparently a cockroach infestation and an electoral apocalypse weren’t enough for one early autumn.

When I was done swearing I called Mike. “We have lice,” I announced. “Or I do. Which means that MJ does. And probably you, too.”

There was a surprisingly long silence on the other end. Like, a one-man Quaker meeting. Finally Mike sighed.

“Okay.”

“Don’t panic,” I said. “I’ll come get her and take her to the salon. You’ll have to come, too.”

The salon I was referring to was Hair Angels, one of several lice removal places in the L.A. area. Hair Angels does no cuts, no blowouts, no dye-jobs. It’s just four unflappable women at pink stations banging lice combs into bowls of water. And, lest you think this is too small of a niche for a business, they’re busy all the time. We’ve been there twice for false alarms in the past; there’s always a crowd.

We headed there that afternoon. And it did, indeed, turn out that MJ and I had lice. Mike, even with his long hair, did not.

“The dads almost never get it,” my technician said matter-of-factly. “Doesn’t matter if they have long hair or short. Lice just don’t like ’em.”

“Typical,” I muttered, as she pulled another section of my hair through her comb.

MJ and I were there for over two hours, but when the treatment was done the lice were gone.

“Just like that?” I said.

Our gal laughed and nodded. “Just like that.”

Curious, I asked how long she thought we’d had them.

“You, not so long,” she said. Then she jacked her elbow towards MJ, who was now muttering over an ad-hoc Fairyarea in the waiting room. “She’s had ’em for about two weeks.”

My eyebrows shot upwards. “Two weeks?”

She nodded and shrugged. “Sometimes it’s hard to know until you’re fully infested.”

Once I was done being grossed out I did the math and realized that two weeks prior would have brought us to…election day. How ironic. And how perfectly fitting. Why wouldn‘t the worst day of my life also involve household pests?

But with a bit of time I’ve decided that the lice were a blessing. First of all, they pulled me out of my slough of despond. You can’t mope on the couch all day when the furniture has to be vacuumed. You can’t lie on the floor in a fetal position when there’s eight loads of laundry to do. You can’t stay in bed when all the bedding needs to be washed. You have to get up. You have to get busy. You have to deal.

Because lice suck, but they’re treatable. They have to be addressed; they can’t be ignored. But the idea of them is worse than the reality. Because the idea is that they’re impossible to defeat. The reality is, we have the knowledge, the expertise, and the equipment. We have Hair Angels. We know how to eradicate them. So, one nit at a time, we do.

This is true, I tell myself, for many kinds of unpleasant phenomena. Fear is the greatest enemy. It makes things seem unbeatable that aren’t; immobility ensues. Hysteria is unhelpful; footwork is all-powerful. Most infestations can be cleared; patience is critical, perseverance, too.

And vigilance, as any Hair Angel will tell you, is the absolute key. So I, for one, will be keeping my lice comb handy.

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Fear Factor

Not to be a spoil sport, but I’m glad Halloween is over. There’s too much fear in the air as it is, without adding zombies, vampires, and a bunch of homemade Pikachus to the mix. Not to mention the scarier stuff, like the slasher victims, Evil Clowns, and Headless Men. I mean, Jesus. When did Halloween get so dark? And I’m not talking Daylight Savings, either. It’s starting to feel like a low budget horror film out there. With a bunch of overly zealous production designers and waaaaay too many extras.

Or maybe it’s the same as always, and I’m just seeing it through my kid’s eyes. MJ hates scary stuff. She was a Mermaid this year. Mermaids don’t kill anything. Except for maybe fish, and that’s debatable. They’ve got to live on something, I suppose, but seaweed probably suffices, as long as they chew it really well.

Whatever the case, my daughter’s Mermaid was definitely of the non-violent type. She had a beautiful, high crown, shells on her “bra,” and a long, shiny, blue fin. No fangs, no blood, no entrails. When MJ marched in her school’s Halloween parade she looked many things—proud, happy, slightly clumsy—but scary wasn’t one of them. Unless you were kelp.

In other years she’s chosen equally harmless costumes: a horseshoe crab, a puppy, a skunk. (OK, skunks aren’t harmless, per se, but as long as you give them space they’re fine. Not something you can say about Jason or Freddy.) Once she was a Nature Fairy and  looked disturbing, but that was because she painted herself green, like a flu victim.

I wish I’d told MJ’s teacher about her fear-averse nature before Halloween came around. She decided to kick October off with a reading of “age appropriate” ghost stories. One of them, a tale of a girl with a severed head held on by a purple ribbon, sent MJ into paroxysms of fear. She cried for hours after hearing it, and hasn’t been able to sleep well since.

“I keep seeing those pictures in my mind,” she’ll say to me at three in the morning when she calls me from my room.

“What pictures, my love?” I ask, whispering hoarsely.

“Of the ribbon girl.”

I inwardly curse her teacher, like an underslept sailor, and imagine, for one moment, beating her on the head and shoulders with her “age appropriate book.”

Then I take a breath. “There’s no ribbon girl. That story is made up. Those things don’t happen.” I try to sound cheerful, without being unduly perky. It is, after all, three AM.

Myra-Jean clings to me pathetically. She cries some more. And then ends up in our bed.

If only we could afford private school.

Anyway, I’m thrilled to see November come. No more cockroaches, nor falcon parties, no decapitated lasses trussed like chickens…

Except…oh, God. In six days…deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Well, December could be nice.There’s Christmas to look forward to…

We’ll wrap without ribbons, of course.

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The Widening Gyre

The roaches appear to be gone. We haven’t seen one in over a week; and have begun using the dishwasher again without mishap. It’s a slow journey back to recovery for some of us–OK, for me. I still jump backwards every time I open a drawer, shriek at the stray  raisin, and squeal at every shadow, but at least I’m in the kitchen. And cooking, even. After a month of eating takeout Whole foods salads and microwaved Trader Joe’s burritos, it’s nice to have home cooked food again. Although I did enjoy the burritos profusely. I could eat one for every meal and be pretty much fine.

I’m a routine eater, like my child. Left to my own devices, I’ll eat the same thing over and over again, happily, for years on end. When Mike and I started dating I had one type of food in my kitchen: an obscure brand of organic turkey chili. Of course, I had enormous quantities of it, but that’s because I ate it for pretty much every meal. I used to clear the shelves of it at Whole Foods. Until Mike and I started dating. At that point I slowed down on my consumption, and soon after discovered that Whole Foods had stopped carrying it. I soon realized that I, and I alone, had been keeping that chili company in business. It was hard to contemplate the jobs lost, the lives disrupted, simply because my love life had taken a turn for the better, but it’s a guilt I’ve learned to live with.

I digress. The point is, I could eat TJ’s burritos for every meal, but because the roaches are gone I don’t have to. It’s luxurious to have the choice. Plus, Mike would rather shoot himself in the hand with a nail gun than eat a frozen burrito for dinner once, let alone ten times; if we’re going to dine together, I have to be willing to expand my menu.

Speaking of expanding menus, I forgot to give Mina her Frontline last month, and now she’s infested. This means that in the last month we’ve had roaches, ants, and now fleas. All of them killed with pesticides. This makes me wonder, first, if we’re going to get cancer, and second, if some new type of bug is going to come into our house to eat all of the insect corpses we’re generating. I really can’t think about this, though, because I’m too busy worrying that MJ is going to get bitten by a flea and come down with the plague.

When I don’t think about that I dwell on Donald trump and become sick with fear.

And when I’m not incapacitating myself thusly? I’m planning MJ’s 7th birthday party.

This is a source of stress, too, as she’s decided she wants to have a “falconing” theme. What this means, in her little, curious, brain, is that she and her friends will hold stuffed birds, wear gloves, and run after “flesh-colored” bags filled with “carrion candy.”

What it means to me is planning hell. Let me tell you, falcon-related party favors are not a thing. There are no falcon plates, cups, or napkins. No falcon toys. No falcon anything. Google falcon party. You’ll see. Get ready for a lot of Angry Birds.

I went to Michael’s today to find flesh colored bags. There I thought for sure I’d at least find some falcon stickers to put in with the candy. After all, Michael’s has stickers in every possible theme: beer, Ireland, dalmatians, snorkeling! But not, it turns out, a single bird sticker of any kind. Except for owls. Since bringing owl stickers to a falconing party is sort of like bringing a kielbasa to a PETA brunch that’s not going to help.

I decided to try my luck in the plastic toys section. There I found packages of dinosaurs, fish, horses, kittens, even vegetables! Vegetables? Surely there would be a falcon set. Or at least a bird of prey collection. Eagles? Birds of any kind? A god damned chicken? Nothing.

So, aside, from the “find the flesh bag” game, plus an amorphous activity called “pin the falcon on the glove,” we’ve got nothing. I did, though, find a bakery that will make me a falcon cake–for an indecent, breathtaking amount of money. The sort of John-Edward’s-Haircut amount that would quickly take down my career if I were a politician.

Other than the cake, though, this party is going to be about as falcony as a DAR potluck. Which is to say, not at all. Hopefully the kids will bring their imaginations, because they’re going to need them.

In the meantime? I am dreaming of “days after.” The day after the party, the day after the election, and maybe—should Trump win—the day after the apocalypse, when the roaches will emerge from their hiding places, nibble on falcon cake, and say “who needs a theme? We own it all!”

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Roach Trip

Day 21.

It’s been exactly a week since Corky’s came for their “follow up” appointment. Since then we’ve seen only three or four roaches, all dead. Or mostly all–one was doing a pretty convincing zombie imitation, but he became dead quite fast. After Mike smashed him with a paper towel, that is.

And for the last three days, nothing. Dead or alive.

Except for the imaginary roaches. Pesticides, apparently, don’t work on those.

This invasion has clearly taken a toll on my mental health. Now that the real roaches seem defeated, I’m seeing phantoms everywhere–in the cabinets, on my leg, in the bath mat, at the park. I’m like that guy from “A Beautiful Mind,” but with little brown bugs. Who don’t talk. But still. I’m haunted by the specter of these horrible insects, and God only knows when it’ll stop.

Just the other morning, for example, while getting MJ’s lunch together for school, I saw two giant specimens on her snack bag and shrieked at the top of my lungs. They turned out to be pictures of bees. That had always been there. Mike and MJ got a good laugh out of that one, and understandably enough. My anxiety can be quite comical.

But I could tell this morning when I screamed at a hair clip under the toaster that my freak-outs are wearing thin. Even MJ is rolling her eyes. And Mike? He’s going to have me committed. If only Corky’s had a spray for that.

Maybe things will improve when we finally use the dishwasher. Which we can, in theory. Mike has done his checks for days now and found nothing. Still, neither of us can bring ourselves to turn it on. Too soon.

Not to mention, if I’m seeing roach ghosts where roaches have never roamed, imagine what I’ll see when I go back to the scene of the crime. I’m not sure my heart can take it. Or my family’s ears.

So there’s the conundrum: I’ll feel better when we’re using the Bosch again, and I can’t use the Bosch again until I feel better.

Welcome to being in my head.

But not in my dishwasher. Maybe next week.

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Striking a Bad Cuord

“I’m a good mother,” I thought, as I pressed “place my order” on the Mini Boden website.

I was buying Myra-Jean some leggings to replace the ones she owns that are too short, too tight, or have holes in inappropriate places. Kids’ leggings are a constant challenge; they wear out in seconds, their sizing is bizarre, and, unlike other clothing types, you rarely find nice ones used. So I have to shop for them. Which I dislike.

This is mostly due to my inclination towards overwhelmedness. There are too many options; I don’t know where to go. I’m trying to avoid H&M, which used to be my go-to place for kids’ gear. They have great stuff, but their labor practices are an issue. Especially for Mike. Every time I shop there he asks me how it feels to buy clothes for a six-year-old that were made by…a six-year-old. It’s a real buzzkill.

So I’ve been shopping elsewhere, with varied success. MJ is tall and has the hips of a grasshopper (I don’t know if grasshoppers even have hips. But neither, effectively, does MJ.) She’s also extremely sensitive. If the elastic is too tight she says the pants are “choking her waist.” So much for Crew Cuts. If the seams are too thick she rejects the pants as itchy. Adios, GAP Kids. Where to try next?

One of my mom friends suggested Mini-Boden, so last week I ordered three pairs of leggings from them. One was a digression from my usual choices: a vivid orange “stretch corduroy” that I was almost certain MJ would reject. “Screw it,” I thought. “Returns are easy. Finding decent leggings isn’t.”

To my surprise, the corduroys were the biggest hit. Myra-Jean wanted to wear them immediately. Partly because of the color, and partly due to the novelty of the material. We tried them on briefly; they seemed fine. The waist wasn’t too tight; in fact, it seemed relaxed. The leg part was snug, but within acceptable bounds.

“You sure these are comfortable?” I asked?

“They’re awesome.”

We were running late. No time to waste. Off to school she went, day-glo legs blazing in the morning sun.

When I got home from work at the end of the day, MJ didn’t seem up for her usual jumping-on-the-bed routine. This was strange; she always hits the mattress at 6:30 sharp. Tonight she just sat listlessly on the edge of the bed and watched me change out of my work clothes.

“How was your day?” I asked her. “Great, bad, or indifferent?”

MJ wrinkled her face. “Indifferent.”

Surprised, I asked why.

“Those leggings,” she said, “can NOT be worn on school days.” It turned out they had fallen down all day. Especially when she bent over or squatted.

“And I squatted a LOT today, Mama. We had drama class!”

“Oh, buddy,” I said, taking her hand. “I’m so sorry.”

MJ made a pained face. “Two girls were laughing at me on the playground. They said my butt was showing. It was really awful.”

When things like this happen I want names and phone numbers. Not that I’ll do anything. Just so my rage can fester.

“Who were the girls?”

MJ named two kids I knew. One of whom she’d had play dates with. “I thought she was my friend,” she said sadly.

“Oh, honey.” I wanted to kill them. I also wanted to kill those pants. Corduroy leggings. Idiotic concept. What was I thinking?

There was nothing I could do but make sure it didn’t happen again. “I’ll return them tomorrow,” I said adamantly.

MJ raised her drooping head to look at me, horrified. “No!” she cried. “I like them. I just can’t wear them to school.”

I didn’t have the heart to contradict her. Not after the day she’d had. But man, do I have it in for those leggings. I haven’t returned them, but only because I can’t stand to touch them yet. They’re sitting on the toy chest in our hallway, where I can shoot them evil glares every time I walk past them. Call it a sartorial purgatory.

And I will return them. I may not be able to punish those little schoolyard rats, but I can sure as hell wreak havoc on the Mini Boden returns department.

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Crying Fowl

Sometimes it sucks being a working mom. Like when you say to your incredibly excited daughter, who is dressed in her home-made Condor shirt and ready to leave for the zoo two hours before it opens:

“I wish I could be there today.”

And she says, simply, “Then come.”

It never gets easier.

“I can’t.” My voice is as cheerfully apologetic as I can make it.

“Why not?”

She knows I have to work. I’ve been working Saturdays since I went back to retail three years ago. This is not a practical question. It’s an existential one, and I can’t answer it to her satisfaction. “Because I have to sell diamonds to rich people” won’t do, that’s for sure.

“I just can’t.”

“Why don’t you call work and tell them you’re sick?” She says this like it’s a brilliant, unheard of solution.

“Because I’m not sick. So that would be like stealing from them.”

“No, it’s not.”

We clearly need to do some work on her moral compass.

“Honey, I have to go in. You’ll have a great time with Daddy.”

She’s not happy, and neither am I. But it’ll have to do. I’ll hear about everything tonight, in the half-hour we have together before she goes to sleep.

In the meantime,  I’ll imagine her at the zoo in her handmade shirt, holding Mike’s hand and skipping to the “World of Birds” show.

And I’ll try not to be too grouchy with the people, featherless and bland, who inhabit my world today.

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Back to the Vulture

Holy Carrion, Batman!

Tomorrow is International Vulture Awareness Day at the L.A. Zoo, and MJ is beside herself with excitement. She’s designed a tee-shirt for it and everything. She’s also fed all of her stuffed vultures to get them pumped up for an outing, as they’ll all be coming along. Thank goodness we had some extra coils of the rubber stuff we got with our new robotic vacuum cleaner. Normally it demarcates which rooms our Botvac can and cannot enter. But today a bit of it got snipped off and used as rotting flesh.

Me, I’m sorry I’ll be working. The look on MJ’s face when she sees a California Condor eat a dead squirrel will really be worth witnessing. Take lots of pictures, Mike!

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