Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introvert Mom, Extrovert Kiddo

A while back, I organized a Kids' Fun Run at a local park; we had 13 participants, many of whom the kiddo knows. Of course, she loved meeting the new kids, too. After the run, she got to play with all of them on the play ground for a while, then we headed to her swimming lesson. After that, I let the kiddo play in the pool with the other kids from her lesson. And after that, I put her in the child care at the gym because 2 of her friends were there. Although I had already run, I walked around the track so that she could have (even more) friend time. Then, when we got home, she asked
"Mama, who can I play with?"
The strange pounding sound you heard that day was me banging my head against the wall. 

You see, the kiddo is an extrovert. She thrives on and draws energy from interacting with other people.

On the other hand, I am an introvert. I thrive on and draw energy from solitude. Too much sensory stimulation overloads my brain and depletes my energy.

Let me make this clear: I love my friends and I really do enjoy social interaction. It just wears me out, and I need quiet time to recover, or I get grumpy. The kiddo gets grumpy when she does not get enough social interaction. 

So, on that day, after talking to the mommies, daddies and caretakers who brought their kids out for the Fun Run, talking to people at the pool and at the gym, I wanted needed to reboot. The kiddo, though, was like a junkie coming off a fix, desperately looking for a way to keep the high going. 

OK, maybe that's not fair. The kiddo is who she is, and I love her and would never try to change her. Comparing her to a crack head isn't right...except, any bit of interaction seems to make her crave even more. Maybe putting her in with her buddies at the gym was overkill and I should have known better, but I really thought she would be worn out when we got home and ready for some down time. I mean, she had already run, swam, and played hard. She was one bike ride away from a kiddo triathlon, for crying out loud!

I mentally ran down a list of potential play mates. 13 were kids we had just seen. It would have been awkward if I called up one of those kid's moms to see if they could play, after having just seen them. Hmmm...a handful of the kiddo's friends were on vacation. Their parents weren't going to head back here, no matter how desperately I begged. Then there were the ones in daycare because of their parents' work schedules. I didn't want to risk arrest for trying to wrangle someone else's kid out of day care.

So, I suggested to the kiddo that she read a book. When I was a child, I couldn't wait to escape to a quiet corner and lose myself in a good book. The kiddo loves books, she is a good reader, and gosh, didn't she need to rest? No, she did not. She wailed that she wanted to play with one of her friends.

No, worries. The kiddo has tons of awesome toys. Nope. Nothing was capturing her attention. I tried talking up some of her toys, like Legos. That sparked some interest. Then came the kicker: "Only if you play with them with me, Mama". At that point, I was acting like a junkie desperate for a fix: a moment of silence when the only voice in my head was my own. 

If you are an introvert, you get it. If you are an extrovert, you might not be able to grasp the almost physical need for personal space and quiet. I suppose it would be the same effect if an extrovert were deprived of any kind of social interaction for a while. So, I decided the best approach would be to find a compromise--one that didn't involve letting the kiddo watch T.V. while I chilled. I played with her for a bit, but let her direct the play. As I hoped would happen, she got very involved in what she was doing and ignored me after a while. Then, she switched activities and continued playing on her own! She barely acknowledged me as I crept out and found a book. Of course, that didn't last forever, and she needed her next round of interaction, but by then I was refreshed and ready to go.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Big Bad, Part 3

That Monday after the lice treatment, we sent the kiddo to school as usual. Any nits that had somehow been overlooked would not have been viable, so there was no reason to keep her at home. However...

I was tormented by the question of where the darned lice had come from. The potential culprits were school, church, or the gym. School seemed like the most likely, and I thought about the kiddo's class room. Each child has his or her own hook to hang their coats on, which isn't an issue in the fall when all they wear are light jackets. In the winter, though, when everyone wears thick, bulky coats or jackets, they all overlap. A critter could easily crawl from one coat to another. I had just had the absolute worst weekend of my life, and I was not about to let my family go through that again. I walked the kiddo to school, I ordered her not to let her head touch anyone else's head. No sharing hats. No using anyone else's comb. Then, the kicker: when we arrived at the door, hubby stripped the kiddo's coat off her and I stuffed in into her backpack. I let her know that under no circumstances was she to hang her coat up on her hook, and if anyone had a problem with that, they needed to talk to me. She agreed, maybe only because the memory of our miserable weekend was still fresh, or maybe because it was cold outside and she just wanted to go in.

Once I returned home, I stripped the kiddo's bed and washed her sheets, jammies, and her one allotted stuffed animal and baked them in the dryer. After school, as soon as we got home, I took her coat, scarf, and hat and washed and baked them, too.

That night, we slicked up the kiddo's hair and we all endured the torture of combing and head scrutiny. 

We stuffed the kiddo's coat into her backpack or into a plastic bag every day until the end of the cold weather. The daily washing and baking continued for two weeks. The nightly checks went on for months. I also recalled the Walgreen cashier's comment that hairspray keeps lice off, so every morning I shellacked the kiddo's head with Aqua Net.

One person who should have been on my side more or less told me that it was my own fault that the kiddo had lice. See if you can follow along: because we walk to school, the kiddo is usually late (not true). She likes to talk to people in the hall, so she is always late to her classroom (she does like to talk to her friends, but aren't there, like, staff who help get the kids to class in the morning?). Since the kiddo is "always" late, she throws her coat on the floor in the coat area, instead of hanging it up (it happened once or twice in the fall and was dealt with and and the matter was resolved). Lice apparently live on the floor and never die, so they just naturally gravitated toward her coat (so ridiculous that it doesn't merit further comment).  (Note: this is not the kiddo's 1st grade teacher, who is the nicest, most understanding person ever. Just saying...)

No other cases of lice were reported in the 1st grade, nor at church or at the gym...I was stumped. Perhaps if a clear culprit had been found and dealt with, I could have relaxed a bit, but, as I said, our new routine went on for months. We got rid of those vermin in under a week, but I was determined that they would not stage a comeback. We received a letter from the school, stating that "we have discovered one or more cases of head lice". Hubby blew up over that, saying "They didn't discover anything. I discovered them!"--true that.

 The hardest part was telling the moms of the kiddo's friends that she had been treated for, gulp, lice. I had told my one friend and had received such an understanding response, but I was horrified to tell anyone else. Then I got over it. I heard so many comments like "I had them when I was a kid" and "That happened to us last year" that I stopped worrying about being embarrassed.

Lice are not the end of the world. Rape and murder still top my list of scariest things ever, and really, there are worse contenders for spot number three. However, the stigma attached to lice is formidable, not to mention the fact that we humans are hardwired to dislike bugs. I have come to the conclusion, though, that my main problem with lice is that they are a violation of one's person. The unpleasant itching, the itchy, burning rash--yes, they make sufferers miserable, but their unwanted presence is torture. Lice clamp onto the hair shaft, and the substance that binds the nits to the hair is as strong as cement. Once they choose a host, they won't leave without a fight. My preventative measures were laughable, although the essential oils in Lice Shield seem to be good at warding off mosquitoes.

So, is your head itching now?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Big Bad, Part 2

Lice, screaming child, then a clothes dryer ready to die, and on a Friday night when everything was was the last straw. We couldn't be certain that the second treatment would work. We weren't sure the dryer would hold out. Clearly, the deck was stacked against me. I needed backup, but it was too late at night to call my friend and ask for help. I called the pediatricians' office and got their answering service, and asked to talk to the doctor on call. 

Well, guess who the on-call doctor was? The same doctor who had seen us earlier that day and who had missed the creepy-crawlies in the kiddo's hair. When she called me back, I reminded her of who we were. Then I asked her if she could hear the screaming in the background. She confirmed that she could, and I told her that it was coming from my daughter, who was enduring a de-lousing treatment. "You really dropped the ball, lady", I told her. She apologized. I told her what we had already done to treat the problem. She apologized again. I asked what else we needed to do to make it all go away. She apologized once more. "Stop apologizing and tell me how to fix this!"  

Dr. X promised to call in a prescription for a lice treatment that she promised would be more effective than any over-the-counter product. We would just have to wait until the pharmacy opened back up Saturday morning...

I was so relieved to have a solution that it didn't occur to me that Dr. X could have called the prescription in to a 24-hour pharmacy instead of making us wait. Neither did it occur to me to question her choice of treatment.

It ended up taking a while to get the prescription. Our regular pharmacy was out of the medicated treatment, and had to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy. In the meantime, my mom was warning me against that particular lice treatment, Malathion. I called the pharmacist to make sure it was a safe treatment. He told me it was perfectly safe, but that I must wash my hands immediately after applying it because it is such a strong pesticide. It seems that Malathion is flammable and can cause chemical burns. And the kicker: you need to leave it on the lice-infested head for at least eight hours. The next question was, did I love my child more than I hated the lice? The answer was yes, of course! I couldn't put a toxic chemical on my kiddo's head. 

I did go ahead and buy the Malathion, just in case I ended up needing it for myself. However, when I got home, hubby and I discussed our options and decided that we needed a second opinion. I called the pediatricians' office back and asked to speak to a different doctor. This doctor listened to my tale of woe and prescribed the latest, state of the art lice treatment: Sklice. And she told us that, since we hadn't used it before, we would be eligible for a coupon from the manufacturer. That knocked the cost down from about $300.00 to $25.00. You read that right. $300.00 for the most gentle yet effective way to get rid of lice. Even with insurance, it would have been $75.00. Would I have paid $75.00 or even $300.00 to get rid of the lice? Yes, indeed I would have, but I'm glad I did not have to. 

One Sklice treatment later, and the kiddo was live-bug free. There were still a few nits in her hair, but according to the package, they were not viable. (Hubby picked them out, anyway. He is my hero.) 

The worst part was over, but the hard part was just beginning...

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Big Bad, Part 1

Everybody has a list of fears. Some are rational, others are not. I have my share of irrational fears, but it's the rational ones that I am most proactive about. My top list of fears: 
  1. Rape
  2. Murder
  3. Lice
OK, numbers 1 and 2 seem pretty obvious, but number 3? I admit, the threat of lice seems pretty tame compared to rape and murder...until it happens to you. 

I thought I was prepared. I had been using a store-bought spray of essential oils that has been proven to deter lice. I didn't let the kiddo try on hats. I cautioned her about sharing hats and combs with other kids. However, once given the opportunity, those nasty vermin found the lure of the kiddo's crazy curls too hard to resist. 

It started out as seemingly random itching. The kiddo had been experiencing a red, itchy, crusty eye--diagnosed as dermatitis--since our beach trip last year. A few months later, we discovered that she had caught molluscum contagiosum from a friend, resulting in red, raised bumps, right by the affected eye. When her scalp started itching and she developed a rash on the back of her neck, we thought it was a condition related to the other two problems. 

 Still, I worried about lice and kept checking her head, but didn't find anything. I bought dandruff shampoo and a topical scalp treatment. They would work for an hour or so, then the itching would start again. I had hubby check. Nothing. Then, Nana and Aunt C (a former elementary school teacher, no less!) looked. Nada. I even called the school nurse and had her look through the kiddo's hair. Not a thing.

I researched every possible skin condition online and finally, out of frustration, made an appointment with the pediatrician. Our pediatrician is one of the best in the area, and if he had been the one to examine the kiddo, the matter might have been resolved sooner and more efficiently. However, I took the first available appointment and we were seen by a doctor we had never met before. 

Dr. X listened as I described the problem, examined the kiddo's eye, red bumps, and rash, and picked through her hair. She said that there was "no sign of any infestation" and assumed that the itch was related to the other problems. She wrote us a prescription for a powerful steroid cream, which I filled immediately.

Later that night, after the kiddo's shower, hubby put the cream on her neck. The rash was red and raw and the cream stung, and the kiddo started screaming. Hubby had had enough. He painstakingly looked through the kiddo's hair, trying to figure out the problem. It must have been the combination of determination and good lighting--it didn't take long. He let out a yelp and said that he just pulled a bug out of the kiddo's hair.

In that instant, it felt like a knife went through my stomach. I knew that if there was a bug in the kiddo's hair, it had to be a louse, and if there was one, there would likely be more. That was all the information I needed, but hubby needed to be certain. He took a picture of the (now dead) bug with the camera using the macro feature. Then he zoomed in so he could see it larger than life and compared it to pictures he found online. Finally, we were on the same page in the book of itchies. Lice. When hubby groaned over the idea of combing through the kiddo's tangled curls, I made a decision: "Cut it", I said, handing him my good shears. "I'm going to Walgreens."

En route to Walgreens, I called a friend of mine whose daughter had just had a play date with the kiddo. I would have felt like s*** if another child had caught lice from my kiddo. It was a humiliating confession, but it had to be done. If I'm ever in a bar fight, I want this woman to have my back! She is a nurse, and gave me great advice and much needed encouragement.

In Walgreens, I picked out a lice-treatment kit, a package of combs, anti-frizz serum, and a magnifying glass and went to check out. The cashier cheerfully asked me how I was doing, and I showed her the box of lice treatment and said "not so great". She suggested that I also buy some cheap hairspray to use on myself, so that I wouldn't get lice. According to her mom, who is also a nurse, lice won't get on hair that has hairspray on it. I had already put too much stock in so-called proven remedies, but I raced back to the hair products and grabbed a bottle. Hubby and I had started itching uncontrollably, but we had checked one another and hadn't found any evidence of lice on either of us. I put all of my faith in that bottle of hairspray to keep me lice-free.

I got home to find the kiddo sitting on a chair in the bathtub with loose hair around her. Hubby had cut off at least three inches of hair. The kiddo had a bob, but she was anything but cute. Shock and misery had set in and she was quiet and subdued. 

It was time for the treatment. The shock and misery were setting in for me, too, and I let Hubby do the treatment on the kiddo while I started in on the laundry. After I collected all the bedding (ours, too, because I wasn't taking any chances), pajamas, laundry from the hamper, clothes from the kiddo's closet (she had been playing in there and presumably touching anything hanging), stuffed animals and coats and hats, I had five garbage bags full.  

The leave-in treatment went well enough, but the combing was a nightmare. The kiddo objects to regular combs, and those nit-picking combs pulled her hair painfully. She screamed like she was in a horror movie. Thankfully, it was winter and the windows were shut tight. 

It was 10:00 at night and Hubby was still finding live bugs, even after the treatment. He decided to do it again. (Yes, we realize that you aren't supposed to do that, but we were determined to vanquish the enemy.) The screaming continued, but then it was almost drowned out by another noise: the loud screech of my clothes dryer about to die.  I was only one load in, and I needed some long cycles of intense heat to kill off any stragglers. That was the last straw...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Birthday Party Politics, Part 2

For her seventh birthday, the kiddo decided that she wanted her party at Chuck E Cheese's. This decision was not made lightly. No, she decided that months in advance, and every time I asked her, hoping she had changed her mind, she adamantly repeated it.

For the last two years, hubby and I had been saying that the guest list was getting too big and that we had to pare it down. I had some considerations on the matter:

First, Chuck E Cheese's isn't cheap. How much money did we want to spend? How much money did we need to spend to give the kiddo a fantastic birthday party?

Second, having been to other parties at Chuck E Cheese's, I knew that, due to the noise and chaos, it would be hard for the kiddo to interact with a ton of her friends. A small group would be better.

Third, she would be having a bunch of birthday treats--taking goodies to school, dinner at her favorite restaurant with a special friend, a trip to Build-A-Bear, and a celebration with the grandparents. 

So, after careful determination, we scaled back the guest list. Out were the nose-picker and the whiner. The kid whose mom who was gradually excluding us from her events? Out. The one who always invites the kiddo but whom the kiddo never once mentioned for her own guest list? Gulp--sorry, but out. The school BFFs? In! The girls who the kiddo doesn't see regularly but always asks for? In! The core group of buddies? In, in, in!

All that was left was my own guilt. The mom who had done me a favor was expecting an invitation for her child. Oh, well. The mom and her kid whom we see in passing regularly might have liked one. Sorry. This is my kiddo's party we're talking about. It should be what she wants. It really should just be family and friends and cake and ice cream. We need to leave the politics out. 

Favor-Doing-Mom: I am happy to reciprocate and help you out of a jam, but there is a more appropriate way of doing so than letting you crash our party. Mom-In-Passing: we like you and your kid. We really do. We would like to get to know you better. If we do, you might be invited to a future party.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Birthday Party Politics--Part 1

Back in the day, birthday parties were for family, with maybe one close friend invited. Large parties with friends and classmates were not typical for every birthday--maybe once every few years, and you didn't need a theme.

Now, of course, birthday parties are a big deal, and I don't mean just for the kids. I realized this when my kiddo was turning 3, and every year since then it has been increasingly complicated. A child's birthday party should be, within reason, the way he or she wants it. At home, at a park, or at a different venue? What flavor cake and ice cream? And most importantly, what friends does the birthday boy or girl want to invite? Ha! If only it were that simple!

I was speaking to a friend whose kids are in their 40s and she was shocked by the evolution of the birthday party, especially the stress caused by the guest list. It's normal for kids to make friends at school, but then there are kids from church, extra-curricular activities, mommy groups, neighbors, kids of mommy's friends...But that's not all--party planners must also consider reciprocating when their child has been invited to other birthday parties. These considerations make planning a party a big (stressful) deal.

For the kiddo's 3rd birthday, we treated her and a small group of her friends to a get-together at a cupcake shop. It was lovely, and it was comparable to parties we attended for her friends. After that, though, the parties got bigger and more complicated. It was understandable, though--the kiddo was making more and more friends, yet still seeing the old ones. With the addition of more guests to the guest list came the need to keep all those kids occupied. Additional food, games, crafts, goody bags...

Then the time came when the kiddo wasn't invited to a friend's party. The girls saw each other frequently and still enjoyed each others' company more than they squabbled, so my guess is that the other girl had new friends and her parents were drawing the line about how many guests they had the room and/or money to invite. I wished the birthday girl a happy birthday when I saw her, and later, when the kiddo asked about the party, I suggested that maybe it was a small party with just family. That satisfied the kiddo, but the whole experience was awkward.

Then, of course, when the kiddo's birthday came around, she kept talking about her party and asking if the other little girl was coming. Um, well, ahem, not this one...we could only invite a few people this time...yes, all of those other kids are coming, but we are way over the limit and we had to draw the line somewhere...

That was an uncomfortable conversation, but it got worse when the kiddo kept talking about her party in front of the other girl! My first instinct was to put a gag over the kiddo's mouth, but I quickly realized that wouldn't work. I would have had to tie her up, too, to make sure she couldn't remove the gag*. That would have led to an even more awkward encounter, so I took the girl's mom aside and told her that I felt like poo. This woman must have experienced similar birthday angst, because she was wonderfully understanding. After that, I decided not to let birthday party angst get the better of me. Until.....

*You really had to check for a disclaimer? It was a joke!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What I Want For Mothers Day 2014


1.  Take the 'h' out of the whine.

2.  Go a whole day without saying the word 'poop'. Or spelling it. I know how to spell it.

3. Give me one day without hearing "Let It Go".

4. Let me use the bathroom without interruptions.This includes the times I go in there just for some peace.

5. Pick up your toys and put them away. Shoving them under your bed or throwing them into your tent doesn't count.

6. No dilly. No dally. Can we be on time for once?

7.  Play with your toys. Read your books. You know, the ones you asked for? 

8. Let me talk on the phone without interruptions, made up emergencies, or counting in Spanish.

9.  No arguing or negotiating. Just for one day. OK, half a day.

10. Let me sleep in. And take a nap. And go to bed early so I can, too.