Bugs, bugs, bugs.

Oh, dear heavens, our seven-year-old got lice.

I really don’t need to say much more than that, for most of us had those insidious creatures as children or have parented small people growing those insidious creatures.

But holy guacamole it’s a lot of work. Our resolve to treat most illness and body issues naturally is seriously testing my rejection of all things insecticidal and toxic.

[UPDATE: See link at the end of the post for a three-week combing plan that requires no spraying, washing, nighttime masks, etc. I didn’t use it in the beginning, but have adopted it now.]

I knew as soon as I saw him scratching that I wouldn’t use neurotoxic insecticides that are illegal for use on farm animals and pets but legal for use on children. (Seriously, FDA? What is this, the billionth time you’ve made the wrong choice at the hands of major chemical companies?)

I also knew that choosing to eradicate bugs without toxic chemicals was going to make life way more challenging. But I had no idea just how challenging. I searched the Internet for nontoxic lice treatments to kill lice without poisons and came up with a regimen of head- and house-delousing that has, incidentally, almost killed me.


Day One:

  1. Shampoo and condition infected child with our regular, non-toxic products plus tea tree oil. Rinse with apple cider vinegar. Wash towel on hot. Estimated time: fifteen minutes.
  2. Strip all bedding from all beds, all clothes from drawers, all hats from rack, all costumes from basket. Put rugs outside. Sequester all washables in garage. Bag and seal all unwashable items (helmets, stuffed animals, etc.) Begin endless hot-water-and-tea-tree washing and drying on high. Estimated time: forty minutes.
  3. Take long-haired louse-festival and his brother to three stores to get supplies for two weeks of anti-lice tirades. Estimate time: one hour
  4. Spray both children with diluted tea tree oil. Comb each kid with his own with stainless steel nit comb. Boil nit combs. Time: two hours.
  5. Iron bunk bed mattresses. (Yes, with a clothes iron.) Put clean sheets on bunk beds. Estimated time: twenty-five minutes.
  6. Spray car seats with tea tree oil. Estimated time: five minutes
  7. Coat everyone’s heads with coconut oil (mixed with a dash of tea tree oil). Add shower caps. Estimated time: five minutes.
  8. Have Spouse nit comb my hair. Estimated time: forever.
  9. Continue laundry barrage. Estimated time: eternity.
  10. Sleep in coconut oil and shower cap. Estimated time: not long enough.

Day Two:

  1. Wake and comb coconut treatment out of both kids with nit comb. Ninety minutes
  2. Strip beds, throw all pillows, sheets, comforters into dryer in thirty-minute phases. Fifteen minutes
  3. Bathe kids. Wash hair, rinse with vinegar. Let dry, spray with diluted tea tree oil. Thirty minutes
  4. Take them to beach. Time? Who cares? It was lovely.
  5. Remake beds. Fifteen minutes.
  6. Give baths. Thirty minutes.
  7. Comb with nit comb. One hour. (Look at me, getting faster. Or careless.)
  8. Make beds. Fifteen minutes.
  9. Strip car seats, wash and dry covers. Twenty minutes.
  10. Regret bunk beds, hair, resistance to chemicals. All day.
  11. Apply coconut and shower caps. Five minutes.
  12. Reassemble and attach car seats. Thirty minutes.
  13. Have Spouse nit comb my hair: One hour.

Day Three:

Wash, dry. Strip beds. Wash, dry laundry. Comb kids. Wash, condition, rinse, dry kids. Make beds.

I’m going insane.

And I itch all over. I’m convinced I have lice, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and chiggers. All right now on my head.

Despite evidence that I don’t.

Day one eldest was crawling with bugs. Combed out maybe 50 disgusting little buggers. Youngest had none. I had none. Morning after coconut treatment eldest had at least a dozen dead bugs. Youngest had one tiny dead bug. Me, too. Morning after second coconut treatment eldest had no live bugs, two tiny dead bugs. Youngest had no live bugs, no dead bugs.

Tonight, after 48 hours and complete freaking adrenaline overload. I can’t find any eggs or lice on either kid. But eggs are microscopic and we have two more weeks, at least, of combing before we can be sure whatever hatches doesn’t grow big enough to lay its own eggs and start the whole insane cycle again.

So I’m psychosomatically itchy. And tired. And firmly resolved to keep up this incessant pace of laundry, combing, and coconutting.

The pediatrician says all we really need is the combing. And patience. Three weeks.
A friend says we could help ourselves by having the kids sleep in sleeping bags on the floor for ease of morning laundry.
The Internet says we have to keep doing all this for three weeks. Unfortunately, the Internet also says to buy lots of products, toxic and non-toxic. But nothing kills the eggs, and hatched critters can’t lay eggs if they’re combed out.



What’s a little twelve-step day that takes six hours total? I have a spare six hours every day, right?


But. There are upsides.

  1. My kids are now sitting still (in front of the television, but I think anyone on the planet with excuse me that one) for an hour each day.
  2. We’re cleaning out the freezer of all the emergency, just-in-case frozen meals. Because there’s no way I’m cooking, too.
  3. The bugs seem to be gone for now. Or at least they’re on their way out. I have bested them with my will. And will continue to do so.
  4. I’ve finally needed the numbered-list formatting on my five-year-old blog.

So I guess there are silver linings to every creepy, crawly, disgusting parasite.


[UPDATE link http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/theliceprogram/index.html%5D

First day of First Grade

Oh, bloggity blogosphere. Hold me, for I am wrecked.

I wanted everything to go right today. Yesterday Peanut was terrible to his brother, and confessed when I asked why he seemed to bent on emotional destruction that “I’m worried about school tomorrow.”

Of course you are, I said. New people, new classroom, new things to learn. But you know, I reminded him, some of the people will be familiar. We checked the class list together right before dinner and he very much likes three of his returning classmates. We’ve seen the classroom before. And they won’t expect you to be in high school yet. They know what you learned in kindergarten, and they’ll start there for first grade.

It’ll all be okay. Uncomfortable in the beginning, but just fine once you get rolling. Hang in there. Newness fades fast.

And then I set out to make the day a success.I packed his favorite lunch. I gave him his backpack early enough that he could accessorize it with all his hoarder packrat-y bits of fluff and string and old raffle tickets. (Seriously, the kid’s middle name should have been Templeton.) I calculated and recalculated how long it would take us all to get ready, get the bikes out, and ride to school. I checked air pressure and helmet status and bike locks.

I woke early (I swear to Aphrodite, Butterbean, if you keep waking up so early and shrieking at me to get you vitamins, I’m selling you to the gypsies before you have a chance to unleash the Threes on me) and brewed some chamomile for the adorable little cautious and easily unsettled first-grader. I made a lovely breakfast. I kept Butter out of his face.

We made it ten minutes early and met the LOVELY teacher who fawned all over Peanut. Then I walked off with Butter for our first solo date in over a month.

And a few blocks later I sobbed. Walking down the street, toddler in my arms, I was more than a little surprised that I bawled to the tune of “I left my precious baby with someone else. Someone new who didn’t even know yet which of his resistances were based in fear, which stemmed from shyness, and which from assholishness.” Tears streamed down my face as I ordered coffee and a cheese roll for my littlest Little.

I got Butter to nap a bit late, but figured I’d wake him early to get his brother. First graders are important, and we must be on time. Don’t forget: first grade gets out later than kindergarten. Don’t forget.

The phone rang half an hour before I was to wake the little guy. (Why do phones only ring REALLY loudly when a small person is napping?)

“Did you know that today was an early release?”

My heart just fell to the floor, bounced twice, turned to crystal, and shattered down the stairs.

“Today is WHAT?!”

Every child in the first grade was taken into the safe, warm, loving arms of a caregiver, except mine.

The new teacher, who knows nothing of my commitment to family, learning, and being ten minutes early to everything, reassured me that Peanut was fine. In the office with our delightful secretary.

I grabbed the sleeping toddler, my keys, and the backpack I needed for our bike ride home. I walked as fast as a human has EVER walked the almost-mile back to my little boy.

Twenty-five minutes late the first day of school. His first experience of being a really big kid. And I screwed it up. Beyond screwed it up.

While I stew in that, I’ll add this tidbit for your information so you can help me pick out the right hair shirt for the next twenty years of self flagellation: Closing up his lunch this morning I wanted to add something extra, in case he was first-day-of-school hungry. Something easy, somewhat healthy, and adored…

A lovely, locally grown, organic apple.

For the kid with *three* loose teeth.

Effing parent of the century, don’t you think?

Is it a technique thing?

Okay, I seriously don’t understand how to do dinner prep with small children. Many of you have similar creatures, and many of you seem to be functioning at more than a basic level. So please: share your secrets.

Mine are young enough that without near-constant parenting, they make really poor (often dangerous) choices. There is always screaming if I’m out of the room for more than one minute. So I need to parent. I need to offer eyerollingly frequent reminders that “use your words so he understands” and “hands are not for hitting” and “you may do what you want with your own penis but you may not do that to his” and “no bumper scooters” and “tell him he can have it when you’re done” and “we don’t call names” and “get your penis off the toys” and “stop it or I’ll gouge out my eyes.”

My spawn are also young enough that they need a regular infusion of calories. Without food, decisions get worse, and the frequency and pitch of their screaming increases. So do my threats to gouge out my eyes.

So I need to make meals. Until there is a viable living room version of the Easy Bake Oven, I have to leave the room to make meals. Often I cook the night before and just reheat. I resent this, for after bedtime is my time and I’d like to read, write, exercise, or stare at a freaking wall without admitting that this job is a 24-hour-a-day kind of thing.

But even stepping away to scoop and reheat leaves small people screaming and hitting and grabbing and knifing (okay, not the last one, but it seems as though). If, heaven forbid, I try to wash a bit of produce, cut it, throw something in a pot or pan, and plate it when it’s all ready, my children are bloody, bedraggled, and writhing in a pile of all the belongings I used to hold dear. I don’t make nine-veggie quiche or anything. I’m not segmenting oranges and candying the peel. I crock-pot a chili or soup or I bake a casserole or I cook carb/protein/fiber in separate pots and just throw it all on a plate.

And yet within five minutes someone squirts someone else with a hose and someone screams and exacts revenge, and someone climbs on my desk and throws off all the tax papers and the carefully stacked scholarly articles (yes, I print them…sue me), and someone asks to make lemonade and rips two million lemons from the tree and gets juice on the floor and demands agave and then spills the whole lot, and someone pees on the floor, and someone rams a scooter into my ankle, and someone begs for popcorn, and someone tracks mud through the house, and someone torments the cat, and someone starts throwing LEGOs, and someone goes outside to get the mail but leaves the door open for another someone to wander out…

In five minutes.

I’m not kidding. That all happened tonight while I tried to make stir-fry and rice.

Someone once told me (demand credit in the comments if this was you) they’d like to see an episode of Top Chef where the quickfire challenge was to create a delicious meal from what was in the fridge in ten minutes WHILE having to stop every 30 seconds to break up a fight, being away from the stove for an unpredictable number of minutes, and stopping at the midway point to wipe someone’s ass. And the wall they poop-painted trying to “help”.

How do you make a meal when your children are young? I have no earthly idea how people do this. Do other people have a partner or a helper or a prison guard in the half hour before dinner? Do you serve crackers and cheese every night? Do you tie the children to various doorknobs through the house and tell them the last one to free herself get a pony?

Do I need to bribe? Threaten? Order takeout?

HOW do you do it?

Once in a while

Every once in a while, the day opens its gaping maw and tries to swallow you whole.

Every once in a while, both kids wake up two hours before dawn and cannot be coaxed back to sleep.

And they spend the morning bickering, screaming, and returning every effort at engagement or conciliation with a vengeance.

And pulling the orange juice out of the fridge to make a smoothie knocks a lid-askew jar of salsa onto the floor. And the toddler wants to help clean up with a patented finger painting technique.

And the eldest child responds to every question, request, or statement with a surliness worthy of a teenager forced to get up at 6am on a Saturday.

And you leave for school without lunches or water. And return, cheerfully, but find that the cat has vomited in front of the fridge.

And the toddler doesn’t want to walk or be carried or ride to school. He wants to lie down and watch traffic. From the edge of the curb.

And your phone didn’t charge the night before.

And the landlord wants to raise your rent and talk about it right as you’re dropping off the eldest and convincing the youngest that he can’t stay on the playground after the bell rings.

And your resident Cynic and Critic and Brain Voice come visiting with a slew of arguments against your worth as a human being.

And it’s right, at least, about your clothes not fitting any more.

And the toddler falls several times, reacts apoplectically to every situation, but refuses to nap.

And screams himself into a rage because you a)need a shower, b)dare to take one, and c)protect him from climbing into the sink for his favorite soap squirting project by bringing the stepstool into the shower with you.

And the walk to lure him into the stroller (and a default nap) fails because he refuses, REFUSES to get in but instead, every time you say “walk, please, or sit”, he gleefully sits on the ground.

And so your compromise of stoller-nap and exercise is shot to hell.

And your eldest greets you at pickup with a sour puss and a demand for variously outrageous things.

And the toddler and his brother spend the afternoon screaming “no” at every suggestion or game or dance party or knife-throwing contest you offer.

And they both want to help with dinner but spill so much on the floor you banish them from the kitchen, against your principles and heart’s best intentions.

And you realize you’ve become your mother.

And the toddler drags the stepstool over to the counter where you’re using 1)a kitchen knife, 2)a cheese grater, and 3) boiling water.

And you cry.

And he knocks down a bottle of soy sauce.

And runs into the living room and pees on the rug.

And you serve dinner that everyone refuses to eat.

And bath lasts 20 seconds because they’re both crying that they’re hungry.

And the knock at the door is a college student selling a cause you believe in but whose website you will now hack and occupy in righteous anger.

And there’s no yogurt in the house. And the toddler throws the container of hummus against the wall with the grandparents’ pictures.

And you sit patiently as they both take over an hour to fall asleep.

And your favorite show is not on. No reason except, presumably, that the networks have been listening to your resident Cynic and Critic and Brain Voice, and, as a result quite reasonably hate you.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve had one of these days. I’m just saying they happen. Once in a while.


I had no idea how stomach churning it would be to get a letter from the teacher saying my kid was being rough with another kid. Repeatedly. Playing the chase-and-grab game with someone who really didn’t like it.

Last week he told me about the game and said he tried it on this other child and decided to stop when she didn’t like it.

I just heard today it happened at least four other times. In the past two days.

Each day, when I pick him up, I let him get settled then ask, “what part of your day was fun,” and “what part of your day was sad,” and “what part of your day was exciting,” and “what part of your say was frustrating,” and “what part of your day was boring?” Today he told me there was something really fun that he couldn’t tell me. I asked if he couldn’t tell me because it was so good or because it was bad.


But it was fun?


Oh, dear child, are you a sociopath? Are you normal? Are you going to be a bully? Are you reacting to our bad parenting? Are you just a bad person out of the box? Are you going to learn when I tell you things that should be obvious but seem missing from the Child 1.0 programming? If you haven’t yet, when will you?

Where did we go wrong? And which, of those, was the worst? And is it reversible?

Little boy, no matter how a person says it, stop it means STOP IT! It doesn’t matter if you like someone; you have to respect them and listen to their words. Always. Not just because you expect that of other people. Because it’s the decent thing to do.

He wrote a sorry note. He drew a sorry picture. He promised.

And I’m sick to my stomach. I emailed the child’s parent and the teacher, explaining how I’m dealing with the issue and how I wish I could apologize for my child.

We can’t apologize for our children, world. It’s beginning to seem that all the modeling and talk are totally wasted…is this true for all kids or just mine?

End of Rope Found

Today was a day to go with the flow. I’m down to one client project, Butter has spent so long resisting nap that I just give up, and all the things I need to do are “wait until after bedtime” things. So I vowed to follow Butter and just be with him all day. No timing naps or tasks or emails. I don’t even pull out my phone for most of the day.

After we drop off Peanut at school, Butter asks to go see the construction site. Sure. It’s a block past the coffee I like and the cheese rolls we both like. So we grab a cuppa, a muffin, and a cheese roll and head to…oh, he wants to get down.


He then proceeds to walk all over the neighborhood, closely supervised, touching every single rock and leaf and dog and flower and bee. (Yes, bee; he has this uncanny ability to pick them up and have them walk all over his arm and blow them off and they never sting him. Weird.) We traveled every inch of a one block radius several times. We used the bathroom in CheeseBoard Pizza five times. We got water from CheeseBoard seven times. We watched construction for what might have been two million years. He dug in the dirt and put rocks in his cup and carried them ten feet and dumped them out and started over. All unmolested but safe and loved. Awesome sauce.

For three hours. For the record, I started getting a little twitchy at two and a half.

He finally asked to be held and fell instantly asleep on my back. And I knew I couldn’t take him out or he’d refuse a nap. So I took him home and edited with him asleep on my back.

And when he woke just as Peanut got out of school, I willingly followed them both as they giggled off toward home.

It took two hours to travel one mile. I let them do their thing except for safety and kindness issues. For the first 90 minutes. And then I found my limit.

Children, I cannot go slower than 1/3 mile an hour. I can’t do it. I know I hurried you along a bit toward the end, and kept saying, “I know their yard looks fun but we have to go home.” I was cold. And tired. And Type A. Yes, we can sort through all these rocks and choose our favorites and compare them and leave them for the homeowners who paid for them. Yes, we can crunch through leaves. Yes, we can throw them and laugh and play and rake them all back in a pile with a big stick to start all over again. But we have to get moving after 30 minutes because…because…well, because I guess I just don’t love you enough. I know play is important. I know unfettered and undirected and spontaneous is great. I know adult pace isn’t right for kids.

But I will stab myself in the eye if I ever again spend 5 hours moving at tiny scientist pace.

So. Lesson learned. Never, ever, ever, ever spend more than four hours doing what the children want. Ever. Ever.



And now we have ants.

Today? One for the baby book.

The ants go marching through our house, hurrah, hurrah
The eldest has some kind of flu, hurrah, hurrah
But I can’t stop to clean his hurls
Because his brother’s demon spawn in curls
And we all go marching
to bed, in their room
despite the claims of “too soon.”
[Next time please nap…]

The ants come marching from the rain, hurrah, hurrah.
The eldest’s head is in such pain, hurrah, hurrah.
But I can’t spend one second there
Because his brother’s climbed a chair
and is throwing all the trash
on the floor
scales the counter,
for some more.
[Just please get down…]

The ants come marching toward our food, hurrah, hurrah.
It’s easy given the toddler’s mood, hurrah, hurrah.
He throws his breakfast, lunch, and snack
His brother whimpers for some slack
As the mini-dude blows through
the whole place, scaling walls
like it’s space.
[Dear gawd the mess…]

The ants come marching in my house, hurrah, hurrah.
As a parent I feel like a louse, hurrah, hurrah.
Because the sick one needs me, sure,
But we had our first real tantrum here
And I now know that Two’s going
to be great for exactly
none of our fates.
[Run for your lives.]

I bow to you

Ladies and Gentlemen: let me begin with a nod to all humans who do their best—child-free or parental, gainfully employed or working your bum off for free—I acknowledge your hard work. I know life’s not easy. But I have a special something to say to a few of you…

Dear Mothers with Three Children:
I bow to you. I have recently gone from just-barely-hanging-in-there Mother of Two to no-way-I’m-going-to-make-it Mother of Two plus an immobile Spouse who eats WAY more than a child, but uses his words and can be trusted not to damage any of the stuff in his room if left alone for extended periods of time. Which he isn’t, with the ice and the food and the meds and the requests for a change of Netflix streaming to “I don’t know…what is there?” Three children must be more work, but I don’t know how it’s possible to actually do all that work without losing a limb or a child or your sanity or something. And I therefore bow to you. Namaste.

Dear 24-hour-a-day Mothers of Three Children:
[I reject the stay-at-home designation because it’s code for “easy job” amongst the uninitiated, and because you don’t actually stay at home.] I bow to you and fall over with exhaustion now that I’ve glimpsed one iota of what you do. But three inept people 24-hours with no break and I would. Break. Especially if they were all under 7 or so. Email for a quote of how far back into my head my eyes roll thinking about how you can possibly still stand at the end of the day if your Three are either very young or teenagers.

Dear 24-hour-a-day Single Mothers of Three Children:
I hereby elect you President of the United States. Because being the sole source of everything for three inept creatures with no other adult support IS HANDS DOWN harder than being the leader of the free world. [If you have a chef and a housekeeper and a Cabinet like POTUS does, I disqualify you from this election. Cuz you know nothing about anything and I resent that you tricked me into bowing and then voting for you.]

So I suppose that this is my way of telling the rest of the world that there is a Bermuda Triangle whose delineating points are:
Three Dependent Dependents
No Breaks
No After-Bedtime Partner
that equals the trifecta of Everyone Should Repeatedly Bow to You and Give You Their Spare Chocolate.

And if you live in that Triangle for more than a week, your local bottler and brewer should sponsor your evenings right here, right now. I know the first three drinks are on me.

P.S. Full-time Mothers of Four or More Children: I just passed out from trying to imagine. I’d like to give you all a cyber-nap because without one I’m guessing you’re all dead right now.

P.P.S. Full-time care givers of both small children and an aging parent: I did not forget you, but your situation is not at all funny, and no matter how I wrote this I couldn’t make it funny and I’m sorry that all I can offer you is deep empathy and wishes for all the best. And chocolate. I wish you chocolate, too. But keep it quiet because the Moms of Three think they’re all deserving and whatnot, and who am I to burst their bubble at how easy their lives are, relatively, since I just told them they have me glimpsing how easy my normal life really is, relatively. “Really” and “relatively.” I’ll bet your life doesn’t even allow for words of that many syllables, simple thought they are.

P.P.P.S. I must now go weep that the best modifiers I can conjure are “really” and “relatively.” Seriously.


To: unsubscribe@Internet.earth
From: naptimewriting@grouchy.com

Subject: Unsubscribe

Go away. Leave me alone. I don’t care about your sale or your pending legislation or your opinion about things or your new address or your recent newsletter. I don’t want prophesies or doomsday or light reading or forwarded jokes. I do not want your daily deal.

I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care.

If you send me another announcement about a sale or a bill or an opinion or an address change or a newsletter or anything else that stares at me from my inbox and tells me I’m missing out or uninformed or need to be doing something, I will glare my magical stink eye and I will crash your server. Forever and ever until the Interwebs are dark, amen.

You may send me good thoughts and joyous greetings that do not hit my inbox. You may smile or nod or wave. In person. You may always comment on my unnecessarily verbose blog. But you may never email me again.

That is all.

Oh, wait…


Go away. Leave me alone. Stop talking to me electronically.

(Not you, readers. The auto-e-blast-sender-bots.)

—-This message originally sent by naptimewriting June 29, 2011. Unsubscribe.—-

On the record

Okay, it’s official. I’m going to go way out on a limb and proclaim:

Fourteen hours a day (every single day) with small children is too much. But at least it’s not sixteen.

Five years of fourteen hours a day with small children (three of those years were actually sixteen hours a day, which is how I know fourteen is an improvement), with ten days total away (ten days of one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five, which is 99.45% work days) is too much.

Four years of major sleep disruptions (waking at least every three hours, generally more) is too much.

Further, seared polenta topped with goat cheese and marinara, followed by sliced beets and goat cheese glazed with balsamic, followed by honey on goat cheese is too much.

But just as I wouldn’t change the reasons I have had only ten days off in five years and haven’t slept well and haven’t had a complete thought to myself in I can’t remember how long…just as I wouldn’t change those decisions, I wouldn’t change the cheese addiction, either. Given all the legal and illegal coping mechanisms out there, cheese is at least a decent source of protein.

You must be joking

I swear to Neptune I feel like I’m living in a cartoon today. Brace yourself for a long panel.

This morning was a pediatric appt. for both boys. (Aside: One and Five? Holy guacamole, how did that happen?) Predictably, the young one with strong opinions protested the ear check (oh, shocking…ear infection number eight in nine months) and getting his diaper back on.

Also predictably, the older one with strong opinions (and intensity and persistence and resistance to change and sensitivity) refused to get weighed or measured or checked until it was on his terms. I convinced him to see if he was taller than Dad, to see if he weighed more or less without his clothes, and to let the doc probe him by explaining what a liver, hernia, and scoliosis were.

And then, while I was cuddling the baby post-iron-check, the nurse got tired of waiting for Peanut to agree and told Spouse to hold him down for shots. He screamed, used his words, and tried to hit them, but they gave him four shots completely against his will.

That became the topic of the day.

“Mom, I’m going to kick that nurse if I ever see her.”
“P, it sounds like you’re really angry. We don’t kick when we’re angry. Can you think of a way to say how angry you are?”
“Dear nurse, you’re a fucking nurse.”

He went to school and hung out with the wrong crowd, and I watched him making horrible choices in the yard while I sat in the car with the sleeping toddler.

We went to ice cream with a friend and got several seconds of happy silence.

Went home and he went to wash his hands while I fed Butter. I heard something unusual. Three times. And as I hollered, “What are you doing?” he came crying, terrified, up the stairs.

“I turned on that fire thing.”

I figured he meant the wall heater, which he is forbidden to touch, and which I feared would cause a fire if used. I went into the downstairs bathroom and saw smoke everywhere but no flame or source. I freaked out. And as I whirled to go get the phone to call the fire department, saw the fire extinguisher. Pin removed, covered in white powder. The same stuff floating in the air.

Cue parenting moment…

Charged up the stairs and he ran, face registering that he sensed a beating coming. (NB: we don’t believe in beatings. Or spankings. Or hitting of any kind. But that kid is no fool.) I yelled.

M: Get back here!
P: [terror, tears, compliance]
M: [hugging him gently] I’m not going to hurt you. Don’t ever ever ever ever EVER do that again.
P: [nodding, sobbing]
M: That is dangerous. The chemicals in that can hurt you. That is for grownups in emergencies. Not for playing. Don’t ever ever ever EVER do that again.
P: [nodding, sobbing]
M: Don’t touch things that you don’t know about. There are reasons for rules, reasons for high shelves in cabinets, reasons for locks on doors.
P: [nodding, sobbing]
M: What you did was very dangerous. You could have been hurt. You are not hurt. You are okay. The bathroom is okay. I am okay. Butter is okay. Don’t ever ever ever ever EVER do that again.
P: [nodding and sobbing]
M: I can clean up the chemicals. The very dangerous chemicals. Very hurtful chemicals that are bad for breathing, bad for seeing, bad for bodies.
P: [nodding]
M: Ask before you do new things.
P: [nodding] That fire thing hurt me! [sobbing resumes]
M: Hurt you?
P: Yeah, it hurt my feelings that I did that.
M: Good. It should. That means you know good decisions from bad decisions. And you made a bad choice. Choose differently next time.
P: [nodding]

And then there was soccer. And dinner. And bath. And bedtime. And the poor kid was nice to his brother and calm and fun to be with every moment from 3pm on.

Apparently he needs the sh*t scared out of him, twice, to be an easy little creature.

Worth it?
Cleaning monoammonium phosphate SUCKS. That stuff goes everywhere; burns eyes, nose, and throat; and lingers after sweeping, sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming.

And writing letters to fucking nurses tries my patience.

If Dennis the Menace and Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Eeyore and Yosemite Sam had a love child, s/he might give my kid a run for his money. Barring that…

Where in tarnation…

In case you ever wonder why I go so long between posts…

This was screamed by Peanut from his bed at the end of an hour long bedtime battle royale from hell (screamed at his father):

“I want to go tell Mommy that I’m sorry I kicked you and hit you! [long beat] PLEASE! It’s important to me!”

Help me, Obi Won Ben or Jerry. You’re my only hope.

Rose-colored hindsight

There was a time that a headache would strike at 4pm and I’d go into the corporate bathroom, two doors between me and the bright, loud, engaged world. I’d sit, disengaged, and I’d close my eyes for up to two minutes. Dark, cool, quiet. And if the headache didn’t resolve I’d know that in two hours there’d be peace and quiet at home. Solitude. Food.

Now when a headache hits at 4pm there is no dark, cool, quiet. There aren’t two doors between me and anything. There is no closing my eyes. There is no solitude (and often no food). Because two small people will get hurt and sad if I close two doors and my eyes. Now there are at least four hours before bedtime separates me and the bright, loud, engaged workplace. And those four hours will not be easygoing or peaceful. Those four hours will be escalating screaming and demands and hot, frantic, noisy unceasing tasks.

No sitting for four hours. No breathing or relaxing or closing eyes. That’s a lot of unfettered headache time.

Dinner comes much later, quiet comes much later. Cool, dark, quiet long blinks come much later.

Working is not a picnic. It’s rare to find an ideal work environment, and even when I do there are hard days. There are annoying people or clients or computers or projects. But there are bathrooms. And doors. And closed eyes. And a way to separate at the end of the day.

For people who leave work and come home to small, needy, loud, helpless creatures, it’s a jarring transition. And there are several hours before bedtime for them, too, after a long day of sometimes awful colleagues and awful bosses and awful projects and awful clients.

There’s nothing for me to leave. No “gee, today one job seems easier than the other and I’m glad I have work/home on days like these”. No closing some doors or opening others; no transition except bedtime—that sometimes relaxed and delightful, but usually dramatic and daunting cataclysm.

So 4pm headaches seem as though they’re a much bigger deal than they used to be. And when corporate bathrooms seem a dreamy vacation spot from my current world, maybe I need to reevaluate a few things in my life.

Where’s your dark, cool, quiet, disengaged happen? Is it hourly or daily or weekly? Is your dark, cool, and quiet at the mercy of others? Do you have a room of your own? Do you sit and blink and eat and go to the bathroom as you see fit?

How do you do that?

You say “tomato,” I say “be careful; tomatoes stain.”

I’m not saying, “things are hard.” I’m saying, “when, in the course of human events, you’re in a crappy mood, even normal life seems hard.”

We need to get into a kindergarten that won’t break my child by using the old carrot-stick model of factory child production. We need to move or win the lottery to do that. I don’t want to move or play the lottery.

Spouse needs knee surgery. I need Spouse so I can have one hour to myself a week. I need one hour to myself a week to polish two journal articles and a novel resubmission. I need to polish articles and rejigger a novel to keep my sanity, self of self worth, and forward motion. I need one hour a week. I want three hours a day. I foresee no hours and a long knee rehab.

I need some sleep. For me to sleep, Butter needs to sleep. He needs clear ears to do that. He has a cold and relatively mildly infected ears, which could be due to our elimination diet. He needs us to stay off omelets and sourdough and cheese and peanut butter. I want cheese rolls. I foresee rice and beans for about as long as knee rehab.

No, I’m not reworking and publishing my awesome novel. But I cleaned the microwave today. I haven’t had the time to develop the finer points of an intricate argument I’m making for a journal article. But I steam mopped the floors while holding a baby who refused to nap. I haven’t made any progress on the resume and cover letter a friend asked me two months ago to submit to her, but I assessed the status of storage in the garage.

I haven’t made any progress on the seven things I ranked most important to my happiness (in a New Year’s exercise on priorities). But I did bits and pieces of stuff that didn’t matter at all. Without any flavor, sleep, or alone time. Yay for me?

This might be the end.

Buttercurl has another ear infection. We’re off to the osteopath. Then to the pediatrician to discuss allergens and their role in recurrent acute ear infections. Even though little Butterbug has only ever had serous (2) and acute (3) ear infections when he has some kind of sibling’s-preschool-generated illness, I’m now desperate to prevent another ruptured ear drum, and I’m looking at food and airborne allergens.

From what I’ve read, we might need to eliminate a lot of foods from our diets. (Mine, really. Butterbean hasn’t eaten any of the foods on the list himself. But I do. From the look of the below list, my milk is made exclusively of allergens.)

The allergen elimination diet is daunting. Could *you* give up:


for four months and still be alive?

Looks like I’m going on a hummus and sweet potato diet, y’all. Wish me luck. This might just be goodbye.