Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Liver, Lice and Lobelia
It's too late for me, but maybe Steel has a chance for nice skin
There was an incredible double rainbow encircling North Philly on my way to work. I kept pulling over on my bike to tell people to look at it like some hippy rainbow ambassador. Some looked at me with a bored, "Yeah, I saw it." Others screamed out to neighbors and kids. I was feeling a little self-conscious about my aggressive rainbow-awareness campaign, but I couldn't stop. I don't have a spiritual life to speak of, so little marvels that bring people together are important to me.
Beautiful people are like rainbows. Admiring them brings us all together. I made the mistake once of asking Lauree Katz how she has such beautiful skin. I was hoping for a quick shrug and an "I'm lucky, I guess!" accompanied by a dazzling, wrinkle-free smile. Instead, her monologue started with the phrase, "I think I might have gotten a sunburn once when I was in my early twenties." 19 minutes later I had finished my drink, and she had just moved on from her elimination diet and cleansers to at-home mechanical exfoliators. An epilogue of moisturizers and facial mists was to follow. I should have stopped her at the sun burn part. The diet wasn't going to happen, and if I was exhausted by the descriptions of her cleansing routine, then I wasn't going to take part in anything close. I didn't think that I'd applied that sort of rigor to anything in my life, but I was wrong.
My newly-50 husband and newly-50 girlfriend have just undergone the preparations for their first colonoscopies. I'm not interested. You will have to do it! they insist. No, I won't. I can honestly start my anti-colonoscopy conversation with the words, "I think I might have skipped eating a daily MASSIVE salad a couple of times in my early 20's." I could then go on to an exhaustive description of smoothies, herbal teas, and a processed-food-free diet. My colon looks like Lauree Katz's face! My liver probably looks like Ray Liotta's face, but we're working on that. Heather told me my skin was looking great last Thursday evening after ballet. I said, "Screw you! that's NOT what I wanted to hear." The problem was that I hadn't had a drink for 4 days. My suspicions that my blotchy red skin might be related to my alcohol consumption have now been confirmed. So now my vanity is on the line, and I HAVE to clean up my act.
If I can't drink alcohol to pep things up, then lice will do it for me. We got the call after movie night. Samantha and Nicholas had returned home. Their mom texted both Tim and me, and after no response resorted to actually calling. Nicholas had lice. My kids experienced a mild form of Abu Ghraib. I brought them one-at-a-time from a dead sleep into the bathroom with the brightest lights, and I picked at their sleep-bobbling heads. My heart sank. I sprayed some "Quick Nits" on them and sent them back to bed. I thought I was handling it well until I tried to sleep. I couldn't. Tim couldn't see the 1000 nits on Steel, so he wasn't going to be able to tell me if my bottle-blond tresses were infected. There have only been a few times when I felt too-old to have little kids. The first was when I was too far-sighted to see the "you're pregnant" line on the pregnancy test, and the second was when my husband couldn't discern anything wrong with my infested children's hair.
Yes, I left the house like this. That is a plastic bag on my head covering a stinky homeopathic lice treatment underneath my Elmer Fudd hunting cap.
The most annoying part of the whole thing was that I'd just changed their sheets. I only change the kids' sheets if someone pees or pukes. That hadn't happened since we'd moved. Their beds are against walls, and one is a bunk bed. It's a pain in the ass. We were having guests. Théo, who is 13, and his dad were coming from Montreal. I changed the sheets because I was picturing 13-year-old Théo surveying the caked drool and boogers on their sheets and being so disgusted that he'd get a vasectomy as soon as he returned to his socialized Canadian medicine. I didn't want that on my conscience. The kids also sleep with about 26 blankets a piece. I'd not gotten through that laundry and was going to have to do another mountain. They'd only slept on the new sheets ONCE as opposed to their usual 423 nights.
Steel really makes a lice hair treatment look glamorous, doesn't she?
I lost my mind. I internet searched. I trolled through Amazon reviews. I called hippy grocers. Whole Foods only had 3 boxes of the the homeopathic remedy I'd settled on, so I made a fruitless tour of Philadelphia pharmacies on foot hoping for 2 more boxes. One friend terrorized me with tales of upholstery nests and warned that for the next 3 weeks I needed to cover the backs of the car seats with plastic bags and change them daily. I was ostracized by 2 other friends. They told me I'd see them in the summer sometime maybe. (This all happened in February.) My husband told me I was freaking out, but when I explained that the kids CAN'T GO TO SCHOOL if they have even one nit, he got sucked into the hoovering frenzy. He even cleaned the pencils out of the hoover and changed the bag so it did more than just make noise. Karen told me that it's too cold for lice to live in the car, and that I should just throw blankets, stuffed animals and pillows outside in trash bags for a few nights. She then said the only thing that works is the olive oil under a shower cap. This was corroborated by Theo's French Canadian mom back in Montreal. Karen made her kids watch the ENTIRE Star Wars series with the olive oil and shower caps, and that did it.
Toby rocked the lice treatment look, as well.
Honestly, lice really wasn't that bad. Toby and I never had it to begin with. I was panicking as I combed her after her first treatment. More nits appeared to appear every time I combed. It finally dawned on me that I was ripping her scalp apart. The treatment had given her dandruff. Jack Peter opted to be shaved because the stinky treatment and the shower caps freaked him out. Steel was our only issue. I do a series of repetitive tasks for a living. Combing through her hair and manually pulling nits off of each strand while she read Beezus and Ramona and complained about her neck hurting wasn't fun, but it's in my skill set. Someone told the school nurse that we had been infected. I'm still wondering who although maybe they just check every sibling of a kid with a newly shaved head. The nurse went through Steel's hair with popsicle sticks and told her that her mom did a good job.
I think I might have gone this route had I found any nits on me.
We've also survived our first contact with standardized tests. I loved standardized tests when I was little. I didn't have to listen to the teacher. The craftsperson in me got to fill in the bubbles artfully and thoroughly, and I usually knew the answers. I was also comfortable guessing if I didn't know. I got a call from Jack Peter's teacher on a Friday. It was a make-up call for the parent-teacher conference I'd missed because of a snow day. I was expecting it to be a perfunctory, "he was getting squirrely before the spring break, but we're back on track" call. He'd brought home a few "conduct referrals" before the spring break. Steel usually coincided these slips home with "trailblazers." Her timing was verging on cruel.
(Steel, if you're reading this and you're 30, and you're wondering why we didn't make a big deal over all of your school triumphs; it's because your brother was always trumping you by making lewd gestures with his water bottle in front of a teacher with no sense of humor or forgetting to turn in 2 homework assignments a week. I'm sorry, Steel, but you've hopefully surmounted our neglect and become the amazing human being you were always destined to be-and not the bitter drug addict that bad parenting might have elicited.)
Instead his teacher told me that she'd used up every trick in her bag to deal with his impulse-control issues. She'd given him fiddling toys; she'd given him leadership positions; she'd punished him.
Some things had worked for a bit, but nothing had stuck. She was terrified that Jack Peter would get himself booted from the standardized tests. He's gonna finish a half-hour early on each section and not be able to resist the temptation of getting up and chatting with another kid who HASN'T finished the test! She wanted me to talk to his pediatrician. I told her that I knew that there were people out there who would consider medicating a kid like JP, but that I was not one of those people. She agreed, and admitted that she'd usually recommend dietary changes, but What he eats is perfect! She skeptically suggested that caffeine might have a counter-intuitive effect on him, and that we might try that. She figured a pediatrician might have some more tricks in his bag. I lost it for a couple days, and then I calmed down. Our pediatrician asked me a few questions about Jack Peter and told me he sounds FINE. So, we ran around the block 3 times or saluted the sun 3 times on all 7 of the mornings he was to be tested, and he only got protein for breakfast. It went fine. It probably would have gone fine without those precautions. Tim gave him a Coke before one of his baseball games to test the caffeine theory, and Jack Peter assured him that he felt REALLY FOCUSED! Of course he was.
Jack Peter announced after the tests that he FINALLY has a girlfriend. We got daily updates on his note passing with Juliana. Mom! I said, 'Missed me! missed me! Now you gotta KISS me!' when we were playing dodge ball in gym, and she ran towards me and pretended to kiss me! This air-kissing Juliana is seems very sophisticated. Sadly, she's not the one who wrote him a hand-drawn Valentine of a unicorn pooping a rainbow that inside, described him as the most "ENTERGETIC" person she'd known. (Entertaining and energetic????) At least we know he doesn't lack confidence. I think Julianna is a head taller than he is, and his first love note to her was, "ADMIT IT; YOU LIKE ME!" "I just want my kid to be happy" is the cloying phrase parents claim. Jack Peter is inherently happy. Our job is done. Our expectations for him and his performance is the issue. If I can squelch them, we'll all be fine.
So the 2-5 drinks I have every night to pep things up need to stop if I'm going to look anything like Lauree Katz. Major crises haven't turned out to be so bad, so what do I do to make life interesting? I suppose I could become an exercise freak. People who exercise intensively seem to be really excited by it. It also becomes something they ALWAYS have an excuse to do. It's got lofty status on the parental "me time" lists. Exercisers can bow out of many an unpleasant task. "I have to go WORK OUT" they say, and people nod in affirmation. No one ever says, "Screw you! You need to stick around and help organize this bake sale." Being lazy and not working out can turn into a viable excuse for bad behavior. "Sorry I'm being an asshole. I just haven't had time to WORK OUT in a couple of days."
I've tried getting disproportionately upset about stupid people out of boredom. It's fun for a while. A woman ordered a set of cups. She was very specific about the glazes she wanted. I should have said that I didn't think she'd like them, but I didn't. She kept them for 2 weeks and then had her daughter call and leave a 12 minute message about how my pottery has such great energy and these cups didn't. I wrote an e-mail to her personal assistant telling her to just send them back. I'd had to liaison multiple times with the daughter and the personal assistant and was over the whole situation. Of course two of the cups broke in shipping because they weren't packed properly. None of this was particularly interesting until the woman decided to write an e-mail on her own. In it she asked me if I might just be able to glue the broken cups, so she didn't have to pay me for them. I was mad at her for a day, but then it got old.
I've decided to get excited about Lobelia. We have essentially moved to the suburbs, and I want to do nothing more than grow flowers. Planting flowers is like glazing pottery. It's for optimists. I have such visions of glory when I plant seeds. I've been combing the internet for bright flowering things "for the novice gardener." My husband is obsessing about creating right angles with planters and edging to give our property "clean boundaries," and I'm messing them all up with WAY TOO MANY flowers. My new procrastination method is weeding. It's all coincided with our listening to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie series. Screaming "ACT LIKE LAURA AND MARY!!!!" is my new parenting technique.
Tim and I had a marriage moment in the garden. Somehow all of our kids had vanished into the neighbor's house, and he and I were actually trying to do the same thing at the same time. It was so romantic. Both of us are usually furtively shirking our childcare duties to check e-mail or get some work done. It was such a joy to be working together on the same project. I suppose we could be working together on raising our children, but children are so unbearable we have to pass the baton rather than run with it together.