Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Witches' brew

These last two weeks have not been good ones at our house. I'm stressed and exhausted from fighting the lice. G is tired of having her head inspected and her hair pulled with a metal comb. It's blazing hot and our air conditioning is broken, and the fleas, which I'd gotten under control before this whole lice thing started, have come back with a vengeance and covered me in itchy bites. (They don't seem interested in biting G, which is good for her, but for me, not so much.) Add in the overwrought mixture of preteen girl hormones and grown-up lady hormones that's constantly swirling in the atmosphere around here, and you have a recipe for disaster.

We really need a vacation -- a few days with a lot less laundry and cleaning and a lot more A/C -- but I haven't got either the time or the money for that right now, so we've just got to struggle along and try not to bite each other's heads off too often. Someone send popsicles and electric fans ASAP, pls.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Roll on winter

10 Things About Summer That Make Me Grumpy

by Vanessa, age 37 3/4

1. Sweat
2. Sweat in my bra
3. Crowds full of other people's sweaty bodies
4. Shirtless guys with back hair and scary-looking moles and pimples everywhere
5. Always having a headache from the heat
6. Too much damn shaving
7. Not being able to sleep
8. Feeling greasy all over
9. An excess of bugs
10. Being so hot I feel like throwing up

I am so retiring to Seattle or England or someplace else where it's always cool and rainy. Ugh.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lice and how to find them

One thing I've learned from the Lice Crisis is that lice are not as easy to spot as you might think. I brush G's hair for her every morning and help her rinse it in the shower, and I still didn't notice the little buggers until they were practically doing the samba on her scalp, mostly because I didn't know what to look for.

A few real-life friends have asked me this week how they would know if their child had lice, and since I've become an unwilling expert, I thought I would share a few tips for finding and removing them:

- Lice themselves are tiny, fast-moving brown bugs with a lot of legs. You probably won't see them in regular lamplight or indoor light. I finally found them on G by looking at her head under bright morning sunlight.

- Nits are tiny sesame-seed-shaped objects that are attached to one side of a single strand of hair. They're either yellowish brown or white/clear, depending on whether they've hatched or not. You'll find most of them around the hairline, especially behind the ears and at the back of the neck, but they're not limited to those locations, so be sure to look everywhere when you're picking.

- Nits are also glued onto the hair and either have to be combed out or pulled out individually with your fingernails. If you can brush it off or blow it away, it's not a nit.

- Plastic nit combs are crap. Buy a metal one. I got one from CVS that has two interchangeable combs, an attached magnifying glass, a pair of tweezers and a cleaning brush for about $10. I also bought the electronic RobiComb, but it only works on live lice and I'd already eradicated all of those by the time I started using it, so I can't vouch for how well it works.

- Combing will get a lot of the nits out, but nowhere near all. To get the stragglers, you have to pick. Make sure you actually verify that the nit has been removed (you can wipe it off on a wet paper towel) because sometimes they'll slide all the way down to the end of the hair strand and then stick there. Conditioner helps with this part.

- If your kid has thick hair like G does, you will need to section it off with clips while you pick. I've been clipping it up the way hairstylists do at salons and working on the underneath layers first, then the top ones.

Moving on, I only found four nits during this evening's session, and all but one of them were dead/empty, so I think we're winning the war, or at least this skirmish. I'm pretty sure I'll never use the terms "nitpicking" or "going through it with a fine-tooth comb" quite so blithely again, though. And given what I do for a living, I use them both a lot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You dirty rotten louse

I got so paranoid about having caught G's lice that yesterday I did the smothering treatment on myself as a preventative measure, only with olive oil because a reader had mentioned that it was less smelly and easier to wash out than mayonnaise. I tell you what, there is nothing better for your hair than saturating it in extra-virgin olive oil for two hours. I may or may not have lice, but my hair looks like a goddamn shampoo commercial. So soft! So shiny! So smooth!

In other news, I've discovered that nothing makes you feel more like a primate than sitting and picking vermin out of your little ape's hair. We've done almost 10 hours of picking over the last three days, and I'm still finding a few nits every time I inspect her head, although there are very few now and a lot of them are the dead, empty ones. She's been remarkably patient about this, especially considering how much she hates to have her hair brushed or even touched, and I've rewarded her patience lavishly with ice-cream cones and video games and new DVDs. She's watched Shaun the Sheep: Sheep on the Loose about 15 times since we bought it on Tuesday. Hey, whatever gets us through this, right?

As I wash and pick and comb and vacuum, I'm torn between wishing that P were here to help (and to check my hair for me, OMG) and being glad for his sake that he isn't. I'm pretty clean, but P was almost pathological about it, especially toward the end of his life when it was one of the few things left he could control, and I don't think he would have been able to bear the horror of lice on his child or in his home. He would either have made himself sick with mopping and scrubbing, or he would have done something crazy and desperate like dunking G's head in kerosene, or both. I'd still like to have him here for the emotional support, though. I'm really a very selfish person at heart. Sigh.

Anyway, I have about a million more loads of laundry left to do, I need to vacuum out the inside of the car, and I'll be doing head checks every day for the next two weeks, but I think we may be past the worst of it. I called my mother this evening and begged her to come over on Saturday and inspect me for nits, and she said she would; if that's all clear, hopefully we can resume some semblance of normal life soon. I'm so ready.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm in hell

G has been scratching her head a lot for the last week or so, but repeated checks of her scalp revealed nothing until today, when the bright morning sunlight clearly showed BUGS. Yes. Lice. We dodged the bullet back in May when she was exposed at a Girl Scout event, but her friend "Jenny" had them a few days before school ended, and I imagine that's where she got them. Aaargh.

Anyway, cue me calling in to work and then coating G's head in mayonnaise, scrubbing the mayo out in the shower, spending THREE HOURS going through her thick, thick hair with a nit comb, and then stripping every sheet, blanket, rug and pillow from her room to be washed. We're both exhausted, the cats are traumatized and the bathroom smells like a bowl of potato salad that's been left too long in the sun, but on the plus side, the itching that was tormenting her this morning is completely gone.

As for me, I keep feeling as if things with too many legs are crawling all over me, but I think it's psychosomatic because G and I don't share brushes or towels or any of the things that might be vectors for infestation, and also I just had my hair professionally colored on Saturday, which would have killed any creepy-crawlies dead. I wish I could get someone to inspect my head, just to make me feel 100-percent safe, but it's really not something I would ask a friend, even a close one, to do. The dreaded lice check is pretty much a job that only your mother can or should perform.

Monday, July 13, 2009

That time of year

This month brought both the third anniversary of P's death, on July 2, and our thirteenth wedding anniversary, on July 6. I cannot tell you how much I wish those events did not fall so close together, but they do. Nothing for it but to suck it up and deal.

I have more to say, but for now I'll leave you with a very early photo of me and P, taken about two years before we got married. This photo usually sits on my desk at work, and every time I look at it, I'm shocked at how young we are in it -- only twenty-two (me) and twenty-four (him). We grew up together, and that's an experience you can have only once in a lifetime.

I'm glad I had it with him.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may recall my campaign to make G into a fearless air traveler and not a white-knuckled one like me. I've taken her on three flights in the last 11 months (two of them cross-country), using every skill I learned in my college acting classes to appear confident and carefree instead of scared shitless, and now I know it was worth it.

How, you ask?

Because today she turned to me and said, "I think I might be a flight attendant when I grow up."

OMG! I thought. Aloud, I said, "Well, it would be cool to travel to a lot of places."

"Yeah," she said dreamily, "and I'd get to walk all around the plane while it was in the air." Then she paused and said "When can we go someplace on a plane again, Mom? I want to fly."

I win at life! All right, just for today, but still, I win!

On the bad-parent side of the coin, I introduced G to Monty Python's Lumberjack Song yesterday. She thought it was hysterical and has been going around singing "I chop down trees, I wear high heels, suspenders and a BRAAAA" all day. I suppose I should feel guilty about this, but it's my responsibility to introduce her to the classics, right? It's just like when I read her Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and taught her how to play "Ode to Joy" on the piano. Only not.