The Truth About Santa (and other people)


There comes a time in every child’s life when the leaps of faith in fantastical beings (like the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus) get trampled and overtaken by more mature thoughts of probability, pragmatism and logic. My friend’s daughter reached that stage this past weekend. There were some tears (from both sides). They had a talk. And, then that evening she left her daughter a note that she would find when she awoke. Here is what that note said:

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To back up a little, this girl has been a “believer” in all things big and small since she was a mere tot. And, her mom had a huge part in shaping those beliefs. They basked in every holiday, adding magical lore and fanciful figures to each and every celebration.

At Christmas, the traditional tales of Santa were told, as well as many untraditional stories her mom made up. These stories explained everything from why there were different Santa’s at every mall, how he made it to all of the world’s houses in one night, and of course the amazing “Santa election process!”

At Easter there was an Easter Bunny. But, unlike most that just leave Peeps and cheap trinkets, he would instead leave plastic eggs with scavenger hunt clues that lead to a bigger prize in the end. And then the Tooth Fairy – she left glittered notes and a magical two dollar bill in exchange for each tooth lost. A pretty sweet deal, if you ask me! Of course, the story behind why she needed children’s teeth became very intricate and had something to do with powering an entire city. Ever heard of “tooth juice?” Yea, me neither, but her mom did and that was a whole other topic of its own!

Yes, my friend had created a very elaborate world of lovely folklore that her daughter ate up with delight. The very best of them all, however, was the Elf. You know, those elves that everyone displays during the holidays. That brilliant Elf on the Shelf from which some ladies amassed and empire?! Yes, those! My friend had gone above and beyond each Christmas season, preparing intricate and exciting Elf displays. Each year had a theme. The first year started off small, with little inspirational quotes.

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The following year got more educational, with the elf embodying notable figures throughout history. (If you want to see all of them, go here. They are pretty darn cool! http://www.boredpanda.com/inspirational-elf-on-the-shelf/)

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And last year, the Elf went all out reenacting scenes from movies. (More here: http://www.boredpanda.com/the-quotable-elf/)

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It was pretty great!

But now it can be no more. Her daughter no longer believes! I know I was sad to learn of this new reality. And I wondered, in my time of pondering, was there anything wrong with instilling such a detailed belief system only to have it shatter and fall to the ground one day?!

The answer is simply: of course not! By telling these stories and keeping this mythology alive, she did a wonderful thing for her daughter. Though it’s not quite how we do things in our house, I understand the logic (or madness!) behind it. She gave her child something we are quite lacking today – the gift of imagination, belief in something grand as well as pure and simple joy. Even though none of it was real, even though some could contend it was nothing more than a web of lies, it was done with love and the good intentions of a parent who wanted nothing more than to give her daughter some special childhood memories. And, that’s pretty great, if you ask me – a cynical girl who always knew such things didn’t exist.

Maybe those tears they shed together were necessary. Maybe this conversation about the “truth” was hard. But, from what I hear, it also ended in hugs and a new sense of wonder. This time, though, the elation existed over what *other* things they could create, together, that could be just as fun as an Elf, a city run on tooth juice and a fat guy who delivers good memories for all! And, boy, I can’t wait to see what they come up with together!

Killing Time: A Mother’s Confession


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Oh, time. How I wrong thee.

 I spend opening lines of conversation asking where you went. Wondering what happened to you. Thinking about you, in your absence. But really, what did I ever do to appreciate you in the first place?! I act like we’re besties and you just took a hike, but really it’s my fault that you vanish so quickly.

 I walk around in this life, killing you at every turn. Killing. That’s right. With a capital K! All. The. Freaking. Time. And, what did you ever do to deserve that? You operate in a slow and steady motion, incremental, succinct, constant. I should anticipate your metered breath. I would be wise to move as steadily and as reliably as you. But, I don’t.

 Instead, I waste you. I throw you away. And, by doing this, I am losing the best parts of my day. My week. My year. And, if you want to get downright dramatic about things, my very existence!

 For starters, there are so many times when I should be on the floor, playing with my toddler, sucking in his sweet, pudgy-cheeked cuteness and breathing in these moments before they float into oblivion. But, I don’t. Instead, I zone out. I check my phone. Read nothing of importance. Do nothing that matters. I fritter you away on foolish things, momentary chores and tasks that I could put away for later. And I think I am deserving of these frivolities because I’m just trying to “get through” the day.

 These time-wasters are my reward. Or so I think. But, really, they just make me sink further into the rabbit-hole of time loss. They are the cause of my wild recklessness and existential crime. They rob me of small moments. And, in turn, I rob you of my allegiance.

 So, I’m writing this confession to you now. I have been your worst enemy. Your fair-weather friend. Your slayer. And, for that, I’m truly sorry. I ask for your forgiveness. I beg for it, in fact!

 I apologize for causing my children’s youth to blur because I was so hell-bent on rushing you away. I’m sorry I mapped out our days, in a fuzzy, pseudo-involved way, so that I could find things to do to spend you in order to “make it” until nap time. And, I’m sorry that, once my kids were in their golden slumber, I used you for nothing more than a couple of endless hours of internet surfing and candy bar eating.

 I feel ashamed. And disgusted in myself. But mostly, I just feel sad. I look at my daughter, now a saucy pre-teen, and wonder why it went so quickly. Why she isn’t still my sweet, slathered in pink princess who loves tea parties and Disney movies. Where did she go? Did you take her away from me? No. I guess I did that all by myself.

 The haze of parenting and the fatigue that sets a stage for adult life made me push her into that curve faster than I wanted. And all because I just wanted to “get through” it. “Make it.” Reach my end goal of nap time, bed time, weekend time, whatever. Faster and faster and faster! Never wanting to live now. Never wanting to stop and slow down. Never allowing myself to enjoy it all just yet. Waiting, instead, for that magical, elusive “someday.”  

But now that I am finally there, you are gone. And so is she. At least, that part of her. That era.

 I know you stop for no one. You won’t even slow down if I ask you nicely. But, please, be kind. Just know that I am small and weak. And, did I mention, tired. But I’m willing to give it another try…if you are!

 So, let’s be friends. I’ll be there for you if you’ll be there for me. I promise not to stare too much at your long and wiry hands, hoping they gallop along while in the midst of a Daniel Tiger marathon. Nor will I wish that those school choir events will zoom by at a higher tempo than their typical molasses pace. I won’t even dream about a way to fast-forward my son’s potty-training that is to come (despite my awareness of many hardships and pee puddles that await!).

 Instead, I will try to be content in my surroundings. Happy in my home. Present for my family. And aware of each and every second that I am lucky enough to call them my own.

 At least, that’s the deal I can promise for right now. Of course, these feelings may change in a heartbeat if I have to attend a season of swim meets or soccer matches – in which case, please know that my desire to assassinate you will only be in self-defense! But hopefully it won’t come to that.

 Just know, in the meantime, that I’m trying. Desperately. And I love my kids. Wholeheartedly! But I am flawed. Completely. Not like you, dear time – my perfect and reliable (albeit, not necessarily forgiving) friend.

#FacebookFast


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With social media being what it is, a virtual soapbox for people to air out their grievances, there are many movements on the rise. It seems that everyone has a hash-tag for something they feel to be important. Whether it be controversial political stances or simplified forms of unity, there is a mark for anything. Everything. And, seriously folks, it’s getting kind of ridiculous.

But, pause right there, because I have something that will make a little sense as I go on. I’m starting my own movement. One to end all other movements. At least, on one platform. I’m calling it: #FacebookFast

That’s right! I did it! I am currently (and for the unforeseeable future) continuing on a fast from this format of social media that I find most offensive. After all, it’s really the only viable one. Twitter is for twits. Pinterest is where creativity (and time) goes to die. MySpace is all but defunct. Google +…what the hell is that, anyway?! So, Facebook it is!

And, hold on, by offensive, I don’t mean in the conventional sense – the politically correct sense, the touchy-feely panties in a wrinkle sense. Nope! Instead, what I find offensive about Facebook is the people on it. And their need to over-share. And under-like. And up the ante on false concern. And lower the regard for real human connection.

What I dislike so greatly about this very addictive, very feeble attempt at community is the fact that while everyone is on it, most people on your friend list are noticeably absent from really supporting or encouraging their global “village.” It seems to have become nothing more than a voyeur’s haven. A place where you can watch and laugh from afar at your unwitting, foolish neighbors without bothering to really make the effort to launch yourself into their life.

And then there’s the show. Aren’t most people on Facebook really just showing off?! Yes. How many pictures of sandy feet at Cabo or beautiful blue eyed children do we need to see before we raise the white flag and surrender?! Okay. You did it. You have the perfect life. You win!

In reality, nobody cares about the chocolate cake you “made” from “scratch.” They don’t care about your cat’s mischievous green eyes. Or your perfect duck-faced photo of a girls night post-appletinis. And, for the love of Pete, just how many selfies does one person need to post?! There is no etiquette guide. No Emily Post for the modern era. But, I can imagine that it stops shy of two dozen.

In my angst over Facebook (see my previous article: When “Friends” Don’t “Like” Your Facebook Posts), I have opined about how annoying it is when your own friends (and even family) don’t “like” the things you post. As if that really matters. As if it means something.

In truth, Facebook is just a microscope of all of the worst traits of humanity. Small. Petty. Boastful. Brash. Over-opinionated. Under-educated. Inefficient. Ineffectual. Waste. Of. Time.

So, I’m over it. I’m done. And I encourage you to do the same.

Go out. Enjoy a sunny day. Plant a garden. Read a book. Call a friend. Make a soufflé. Or, you know, whatever. Just live life. Engage in real conversations with real people. Stop showing off. Stop pretending the illusion matters. Stop forgetting about the things that actually do matter. And follow my movement.

#FacebookFast

You might have nowhere to post it but you’ll be glad you did it!

An Elf’s Guide For Momma’s Holiday Survival


These days, it seems to be a holiday requirement for each home to possess their own Elf on the Shelf. And, if you’ve been paying attention, you will notice how every single household is trying to outdo the others in ways of creativity, cutesiness and cheer. Parents are going into full-blown planning mode, months and months in advance, all so that they can come up with new and interesting ways to hide these ubiquitous imps. And frankly, folks, it is turning into insanity!!

I have seen my fair share of moms break down and lose it over a bad Pinterest picture, a plagiarized hiding spot or a momentary creative block. Luckily for me, our family has a very different kind of elf. And he has a very different message! Here are the nuggets of wisdom our elf has imparted to us – tips that have helped me to survive this season:

Unavailable Be Unavailable

Anyone and everyone comes calling during this time of year. Whether it be the invitations to boring office parties, the loathsome sight of carolers, or well-meaning fruitcake-toting acquaintances, folks are all about getting up in your space. And, worse than that, they don’t seem to know that a locked door, closed blinds or an unplugged phone mean “LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!” Somehow, that gets lost in translation and people, being so transfixed by the blaze of twinkling lights, believe it’s their duty to just try you again later. Yes, they mean well, but if you let them, they will rob you of your time…and possibly your soul.

So just, you know, take a chill pill and tune them all out. Be unavailable. If they don’t get the message at first, they will soon enough. And if you are ever confronted about it later on, just say you had the flu. If they’re truly jolly and Christian, they will have to believe you!

Green Be Green

Millions and Billions of trees are killed each year for our excessive desire to write things down. And for what?! Most of our paper-based holiday activities, such as Christmas cards, are pointless, time-consuming, are just plain wasteful. I mean, seriously, doesn’t it seem silly to send a card wishing someone a “Merry” this or “Happy” that when, let’s be honest, you never give a second thought the rest of the year?!

So, cut the crap. Simplify! Put your environmental (read cheap and/or lazy) foot down and stop cutting down more trees just to keep up with the status quo. Instead, make up one e-card that you can blast to your colleagues/friends/neighbors. Don’t worry about making it perfect. If they’re anything like you, they won’t even look at it. And, as for the elderly folks in your life, just tell them that you sent a card but the G.D. post office must have lost it. Their anger will distract them from questioning you further.

Resourceful Be Resourceful

The holidays often equate to an increase in kitchen time. And typically there are four reasons for this:

1) Kids love gingerbread. And, they look forward to the season where they can create an entire gingerbread metropolis that they can destroy.

2) Schools want what you’ve got. They’re always fund-raising and assume that they can leverage more guilt/shame to make you either spend your money or your time. Not that you don’t have time. Or money. Right?! But usually there is a standard that feels best met by concocting home-made goodies. So, in order to keep up with those other bitches in the PTA, why not build a Sacher-Torte for a new pee-wee T-ball stadium or a meringue pie for the A.V. club. Whatever. It’s for your child. Or some random kid, anyway. And the pat on the back you will receive, as a result, will last all of three seconds. Your time will be SO worth it!

3) Misery loves company. That’s right. It’s the only clichéd adage that is true. Statistics will show that most people gain a bit of weight during the holidays. As a result, everyone will try to offer a baked goodie from their kitchen to plump you up so they won’t feel so alone in this process. And the added bonus for them is the idea that you will have to comply by making something for them in return. They will get to have their cake, eat it, and then blame you later for their weight gain, too. It’s really a brilliant system. Too bad you already see through it.

4) Families expect to be fed. That’s the worst part of any occasion, isn’t it?! And I’m not just talking about the folks who live under your roof. The holiday season somehow has become synonymous with the concept of grand-scale feasts in which every half-witted half-cousin is invited. And the more family you have, the sooner in the year you can expect talk about that upcoming year-end session of gluttony…at YOUR house. If you make it good, they will salivate over it all year long, expecting that you have just created a new “tradition.”

To all of these four things, I have two words: STORE BOUGHT! Store bought cookie dough. Store bought baked goodies. Store bought meals. Store bought everything! Sure, it might be a little more expensive at first but how much is your time worth? A lot more than the $2.99 five-pound tub of Ore Ida potato flakes. Most people won’t even know the difference between a Pepperidge Farm cookie and your own. And, if someone calls you out, you will know which box of goodies to sneak a laxative into…next year!

Realistic Be Realistic

Kids want everything! And somehow they are born with the idea that every small desire equates to a grand and dire need. Sometime between the end of Summer and the early part of November, they start putting together a Christmas wish list. For those of you who have experienced this phenomenon, you can attest to the fact that these “lists” are sometimes long scrolls of paper, large enough to wallpaper an entire room. Yes, and let me mention that at least 90% of the items on these lists are useless, flimsy, mass-produced junk that will only get about a week’s worth of play. And that’s being optimistic.

So, when doing your Christmas shopping, try to scale back and use your children’s weaknesses against them. Rewrap presents you gave them last year or the year before. You know, the gifts they just had to have, that you searched all over creation to find, just so they could open them on Christmas morning, look mildly amused and then chuck them into a pile (a pit, really) of forgotten toys in the back of their closet. Yeah, those toys! If you’re feeling extra motherly, you can wrap them up with special, shiny wrapping paper and put colorful bows of your choice. Just the bright and shiny objects surrounding the toys should be enough to distract them from the déjà vous of the moment.

This works especially well for younger children; BUT, if they are older, more observant, and do happen to figure you out, just play it cool. Divert their attention. “Look,” you can say, “Santa noticed that you hadn’t played with the toys he got you last year so he was just giving you a reminder. Your real presents will come next year. After you have cleaned your room and done your chores. For now, kid, just be grateful for central heat and a stocked refrigerator.” Then sit back and pat yourself on the back. Not only have you gotten away with the biggest hoax of the century, you have also done your part in creating one less, self-entitled spoiled asshole. And isn’t that the best gift of all?!

Charity Be Charitable

Another thing that the holidays is good for is guilt. And everyone is eager to make you feel bad for something. When you walk into a department store, the Salvation Army Santa is ringing his bell in discontent that you are consuming and not sharing. Phone calls for Charity X and Charity Y ring you down like bill collectors, offering “plans for giving” as though it were your obligation. And, sure, when you live in a warm house with a healthy family and food in your belly, the guilt does start to creep in. But, sometimes, every once in a while, it’s nice to give that bit of guilt the finger.

Life is not always a cake walk. For anyone. Truth be told, in all of my years with central air-conditioning, a working dishwasher and all ten of my fingers, I have still endured some truly shitty moments. Yes, I acknowledge that it’s lucky for me to have all of my limbs. No my husband doesn’t beat me. And, the only land mines I walk through daily are the square blocks my son lines on the living room floor.

So, while I might seem to have a charmed life, I could list other statistics that would make you cry. My deaf left ear. My smooth and sickly cat. The fact that my car was stolen one day when I was having lunch with a friend. Or the fact that the same friend told me I looked fat in my favorite purple sweater. But, whatever. We all have problems. And we all have guilt. And don’t feel bad if this holiday season all you feel like giving the world is a piece of your mind, a grumble or a big thumbs down rather than a dollar.

Merry Be Merry

I used to have a friend named Mary. She was not the sharpest tool in the shed and she liked to drink. A lot! But, if there was one good thing you could say about Mary, it was the fact that she was always the life of the party. This was true primarily because she always did whatever she wanted without worrying about other people’s thoughts. In other words, she had no decorum, manners, shame, OR dignity. And, while all of those traits sound like a bad thing, you know, sometimes there is a virtue to being “that kind of person.”

This year, if stress is getting you down or the expectations of the season are getting to be too much, it might be time to be more like Mary…and be Merry. While it’s true that it might not feel good the next day, baby, living life in the moment always feels AWESOME! WOOOHHOOO! Just one tip to remember, though – make sure your festive behavior doesn’t get caught on film.

Irreverent Be Irreverent

For some people, this time of year is the ultimate holy season. A lollapalooza of all things Christian. And then there are other people who just like to build snowmen and drink hot chocolate. No matter which team your friends are playing for, there is only one thing that is certain: they all expect you to be just as reverent and respectful of their “season” as they are.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little irreverence. That’s the very thing that makes life interesting and comical. But, a word of advice from someone who knows – pole dancing around Christmas trees is harder than it looks. In other words, know your audience and know when to attempt such feats – otherwise, you may have a pine scented hoo-hoo and about twenty less friends for absolutely no reason at all!

Just Be Just Be

This one should be simple, but in this day and age unfortunately it is not. Most people in our culture have forgotten this one, very important tenet to true and utter happiness. Just be. That means every once in a while just turn it all off. That’s right. The TV. The phone. The iPad. The radio. All of that noise that constantly fills our space. Turn. It. All. OFF!

And then what, you might ask?! This is where it gets interesting. Just sit with your thoughts. Enjoy the silence. Be in the moment. Notice the small things. Live. Breathe. Repeat. It’s not imperative that you check your Facebook page every two minutes. The world won’t fall apart if your Twitter twits don’t know what you had for lunch. And the nonsensical, time-wasting emails can wait. Just sit back, take some time for yourself, your family, and your kiddos…and, you know, drive each other nuts the old-fashioned way!

Lice, Lice Baby


liceAll right, stop! Collaborate. And listen. Lice were back. They weren’t even kidding. It was only a few weeks into the new school year when, tucked ever so delicately in my daughter’s backpack, there was a note from the school nurse alerting us to this fact. It read matter-of-factly “NOTIFICATION OF HEAD LICE – This letter is to inform you that a student in your child’s class has been found to be carrying head lice. Please take care to insure that this does not spread further by inspecting your child closely for the next two weeks.”

Past these opening lines, I can’t recall what else was said because everything seemed to go blank for a moment. Lice, I cringed. Again?! Already?! What were these kids doing and who was the evil culprit?! I wanted to get to the bottom of this.

My daughter was nonchalantly eating a snack when I unleashed my line of questioning on her. I asked, did she know anything about this epidemic? Was anyone called into the nurse’s office that day or the last? Had any of her classmates complained of itchy heads recently? Had any of her friends hugged or gotten their head near hers lately? What about scarves? Or brushes? Or hair clips? Or headphones? Did she remember that we don’t share personal items?!

To most of my frantic questions, she replied with an irked response of “I don’t know.” This didn’t help my mania. However, after more prodding on my end, she finally asserted that she knew better than to share head-related items with her friends. I took a deep sigh of relief. I felt at ease for a moment and let her resume the tastiness of her treat. I figured she could eat, unwind, and then we would do the old wet-hair comb-out with the trusty nit-comb we used during this last epidemic. There would probably be nothing. It would probably be fine. But, you know, just in case…

Then, when time came, as predictably as though it were a horror novel, all was not fine. There was something. And it was living in my daughter’s hair! Combing through her thick, brown follicles, I found not one…not two…not even three…but eight nits. Eight! No louse, but I knew it wasn’t far behind because eggs of any species don’t just lay themselves. No. There was a momma louse somewhere…and now the battle was on.

Quarantine began. I kept my daughter separated from the rest of the house as my work commenced. This meant that she was sequestered in her bathtub while I roamed around the house like a mad woman. I ripped off her bed sheets. Placed them, along with all recently-worn articles of clothing, into the washing machine for extra-hot laundering. Removed the gazillion stuffed animals in her room and placed them into a tightly closed trash bag. Then removed the trash bag to the balmy garage, just for good measure. I vacuumed her room, my room, the living room, the hall, along with all of our pillows and couch cushions. And I did this, all the while, with my eight-month-old son strapped into the baby sling I wore across my chest.

After the cleaning had taken place, the next step involved a delousing shampoo that we had purchased during the last school year, a remnant of our first encounter with head lice. That memorable occurrence, which happened as many things do – at a very unfortunate time – came about during the first two weeks of my son’s life. He was, thankfully, spared, as were my husband and I; but, my poor daughter quickly learned how it felt to be a “carrier.” And I was quickly schooled in lice-combing techniques.

This time, a mere seven months later, we were in the throes of “Round Two” in the battle of our family versus the lice. While scrubbing the foul-smelling chemicals into her scalp, I started to seriously consider the purchase of a hazmat suit. I also toyed with the idea of removing my daughter from public school. Teaching my children the strict importance of NOT hugging anyone. Ever. Not to mention the idea that we should all, very truly and in a notably utilitarian fashion, just shave our heads. My pretty daughter, with her fondness for all things relating to hair styles and beauty tips, cried when I let that last thought fall from my mouth into her earshot. Yes, the lice were starting to make me crazy! And they were ruining what had started off to be an otherwise wonderful day.

By the time my husband got home, everything was a mess. My daughter was sobbing. My house was turned upside down. And I was frantic – exhausted from all of the cleaning, itchy from psychosomatic worry and anxious for a resolution to this problem. I feared all of the possible outcomes that may result from this situation. That my infant boy would contract it. Or my husband. Or me. And, worse even still, was the thought that what if we all got it and would never, ever be able to get rid of it. I could picture the tiny louse eggs hatching all over the house, multiplying with every passing minute, and consciously hiding under our beds so they could lay in wait, knowing just the right opportunity to attach to our heads.

In retrospect, it’s almost comical how such a small bug, a mere pest, can cause a rather terrible commotion. There is no logic to it. If I were to take a time machine and go back to the earlier, more ignorant and less calm version of myself, I would walk her through the situation with a more scientific approach. Let her know how things really work and why she shouldn’t worry so needlessly.

I would explain to her that head lice, unlike other parasites (such as tapeworms, hookworms, mosquitoes, scabies, body lice, and bedbugs), do not spread pestilence or create bodily harm. Though pesky, they are relatively easy to contain and are not as dreadfully contagious as one would think. They don’t jump, hop or fly. (Fleas have cornered the market on jumping and hopping – mosquitoes have the flying covered.) And they can hardly stand to be away from the scalp of a human for any length of time. As a result, no, they do not live on other surfaces. (Unlike pinworm eggs.) And, no, they do not lay in wait for another human host. (That’s the modus operandi of bedbugs.)

The life of a head louse is very tenuous. Lice need to eat every two to three hours and can only live apart from their host for about two days before they die. As for any eggs they lay, if for some reason they are not on a surface as warm as a human body, they will not hatch at all. (Think of a chicken egg that does not get the warmth of a mother hen.) Of course, if the louse egg does get the warmth it needs, the nymph will hatch – but it then must eat within a very short period of time or else it will die. This is why the mama louse all but glues them onto their host hair shaft.

Another interesting fact about lice: whatever blood-type they originally ate in their first meal is apparently the only type they may continue to eat, unless they are starving. In other words, they can make a change but, in doing so, they will die. Why? Because the different blood-type, or even different Rh factor, causes – wait for it – an explosion in their intestinal tract. Yikes! Take that, bastards!!

So, it seems fair to say that after knowing their lifestyle nuances getting rid of them is not nearly as daunting. However, the number one rule in the process of removal is important: there are NO short-cuts! Use the delousing shampoo of your choosing. Chemical. Non-chemical. Natural. Nuke. Whatever you are comfortable with. Just be sure that each and every nit MUST be removed from the head and the head must be scoured with a nit-comb daily for the next couple of weeks. If it’s too time-consuming and it feels like an impossible feat, just remember that it’s always harder to treat a problem when it’s larger than when it’s smaller. After all, these suckers can lay about 4 eggs per day which means, if you’re not careful, the situation can go from bad to worse almost overnight!

Next, I would reiterate that lice don’t live on surfaces. That means overly laborious cleaning can go out the window. The bed-sheets and clothes, bath towels and hairbrushes of the infested person need to be cleaned – and in very hot water – but, the whole house doesn’t have to be turned upside down. Focus only on the items that the person with lice has come in contact with in the past 24 hours. Vacuuming is a good idea but a person doesn’t need to become crazed about it. And, as for stuffed animals, just bag them up and take them away for a little while. There’s nothing more to it than that. No chemicals or foreign practices needed.

While it’s no walk in the park and definitely highly ranking on the top-ten list of least favorite things in the world, I would also stress the important of weekly (yes, weekly) lice comb-outs…you know, just in case. Even after the infestation is a distant memory, as long as your child is in school it’s important (for mom’s peace of mind, more than anything else) to do these regular checks.

As for special “lice barrier” shampoos and sprays, they don’t work. We were using them religiously after the first encounter and, guess what, they didn’t build any sort of magical force-field that would keep the lice at bay. My recommendation: don’t spend the extra money on shampoo that smells like salad dressing. Instead, just buy a good quality metal nit-comb and keep your eyes open!

Aside from all of that, it behooves any mother to know that contracting lice (especially for little girls) is merely a rite of passage. It is an experience that most people will face at some point or another in their child’s elementary years. Period. And, though it sucks, it could be a lot worse. A LOT! I tried to remind myself of that fact as I combed out my daughter’s hair each day. At least she was healthy, I told myself. At least she didn’t have cancer, or a birth defect, or paralysis. At least this wasn’t anything that would affect her life permanently. And at least this nightmare would one day end.

To keep my mind occupied as I scoured her head for nits each afternoon, I ran through a whole list of “at least’s.” I even started saying them out-loud to my daughter so she could realize that this wasn’t as terrible as it may have seemed. Before I knew it, in the midst of this wretched new past-time of ours, she turned to me and said something truly special: “At least we get to be together.”

It was then that I realized that maybe, just maybe, we could get through any ordeal as long as we did it as a family. With that, I gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her that I loved her. I was so proud of how amazingly mature she had become because of this. Of course, I wanted to follow my words with a hug, but decided we would save that for another day. Once this was a more distant memory. You know…just in case. And following the given two-week quarantine period, that’s just what we did!

Our Summer Not-So-Merry-Go-Round


television

As summer drags on, and my duties as “cruise-ship director” cease to make the time pass for my family without complaint, our collective nerves begin to fray. The earlier grandiose hopes of packing fun-filled educational experiences into weeks of family bonding have been thrown to the wayside. They have, instead, been replaced by so many hours of exposure to My Little Pony and Power Puff Girls that I feel quite certain my daughter’s eyes are bleeding from overuse. And when I ask her as much, just to check in and maintain the pretense that I am a responsible adult, her glare says it all. It reads a familiar stew of disdain and annoyance. Almost as though her break in activity caused a new form of ocular sign language to emerge, and with it, her eyes send the words: “Silence, old woman, and leave me to the addiction that you have forced upon me!” 

But it wasn’t always this way. In summers prior to this one, television was virtually non-existent. Instead of succumbing to its lustrous glow, we spent time absorbing real life in places such as parks, the zoo, and a variety of museums. We picnicked, we swam, we hiked. And on the rare days that we stayed at home, we filled our time with activities of substance. We learned about many things – the constellations, the history of rock and roll, the names of Egyptian Pharaohs. Summer used to be about exploring. Questioning the world and being challenged by it. And, most importantly, having fun and spending endless hours basking in each other’s company. 

What changed the landscape of this year has been the fact that I swam from the placid sea of mothering one child to the coarse and murky waters of caring for two. With a new baby in the house, there is not a great surplus of energy on my part. Whatever I have left over after nightly nursing sessions and my sleep-deprived stupor, I tend to save up for remembering where I put my car keys or how to boil water for our Pasta Roni. In other words, I just don’t have a lot to give at this point in my life. So, it makes it hard to be creative. Or educational. Or even nurturing. Thus, instead of being any of those three things, I have taken the easy road and have given her complete control to watch as much T.V. as she wanted. I knew from the first instant that it was wrong – and that it was a world from which she might never return. But, upon the genesis of this change, I was honestly too tired to care. 

It sounds horrible to say it out loud. I do care. I have always cared. It’s just that being deliriously fatigued – to the level that all new mothers are – is like being tortured. And, while some moms can still keep their shit together, other moms tend to “break” quite easily. Before having kids, I always liked to think of myself as being tough; however, after the extensive hazing my son has decided to make me endure, I now know that such thoughts were merely illusions. I am not strong. I am, in fact, quite weak. Without sleep, I readily roll over to any demands and allow all of the lawless things that go against my better judgment. Candy for breakfast? Why not. Wearing pajamas all day? Of course – that’s what Momma does! A daily marathon of cartoons? Heck yes. I honestly wouldn’t have any other summer plans for my daughter. I mean, I could have signed her up for camps and activities, but that would have involved me having to put on clothes to drive her there. So much for that… 

I tried to justify it in my mind. I first told myself that it was just a “film festival.” A special event that she deserved for being such a patient big sister. So, I tried to make it a significant moment. I
popped popcorn. Let her choose the movies. Pretended it was a rare occasion that would only be revisited from time to time – an event that would be savored and enjoyed rather than a daily happening which would be used to merely kill the hours between daybreak and nightfall. I had only the best intentions in mind. After all, I didn’t want her to be bored or feel abandoned during the times I would have to feed, diaper, and care for her baby brother. I figured, with the T.V. amusing her, she wouldn’t even know I was in the other room. 

Remarkably quickly, though, this crutch has become our new standard of living. Just the mention of turning the T.V. off now sends my daughter into tears, akin to how reasonable people might respond to the idea of losing their home, their spouse or a major organ. She just can’t deal with its loss. Not anymore. Not after so long. Experts say it takes two weeks to break a bad habit and four weeks to make a new life. What they fail to mention, regarding the reverse situation, is that it can only take a couple of days to make a bad addiction stick. Yes, it is so easy to begin something terrible yet so very difficult to make it stop. 

I should know. I have been battling with my son’s simultaneous addiction to my breasts. Not that nursing a baby is foul or subversive. It truly is the most natural act of human-kind. So natural, in fact, that it’s one of the few remnants left which remind us of our honest-to-goodness mammalian nature. But, with that said, it has come to the point where doctors, both real and otherwise, agree that he no longer needs to quench his motherly thirst at night – meaning: he should be sleeping through the night without waking for food. So, we’ve come upon a Catch-22, it seems. His nightly-feeding schedule has lead to such severe sleep-deprivation in me that I have stopped monitoring the daily content of my daughter’s hobbies. Her daily hobbies have come to include only one activity: television. Thus, if my son did not wake in the night, I would get the ample sleep needed to properly entertain my daughter so that she would not be a cartoon-addict. And all would be right with the world again. The question is how do we all get off of this very bad and seemingly endless merry-go-round? 

In my quest to find answers, I do what I do best: read books. I scour the shelves for tales written by this sleep-trainer and that baby-whisperer. I inhale the booming words of doctors and sleep pathologists, pediatricians and nannies, even mothers, grandmothers and concerned “aunts.” I ask friends what they did. I glance through message boards and MSN articles. I search everywhere for this holy grail to appear. 

But, honestly, after weeks and weeks of trying new tactics to no avail, I am beside myself with anguish. I feel that, not only will I never again have the energy to pick up my hairbrush and make myself look decent again, but I will never, ever regain what seems to have become lost between my daughter and I. I start to believe that our relationship will be irreparably altered, having mutated into something stereotypically bad. With each deepening breath from her many cartoon overlords, I feel as though I have lost her to the television cult. Possibly forever. And that my presence has been drowned out from her mind, overtaken instead by the voices of SpongeBob and one of the malevolent Disney Princesses. 

This isn’t really true, of course. I know that once I am given a nap and allowed to catch up on some personal time. Grandparents are helpful in this arena. After I have had an afternoon to myself, I start to calmly reevaluate our situation. My son is five months old. Despite what other people say, what other children have done or what I might want him to do, it is not really so unusual that he still wakes me in the night. It will continue as long as it needs to. As long as it is supposed to. And that’s all there is to it. No book has a solution beyond that. So, I have to deal with it and catch sleep when I can. 

But, as for my daughter, if I really want this summer to be more productive and memorable for her, I need to do one thing: be present. I realize that in years past, what she really responded to was my being there for her. Hugging her. Laughing with her. What we did and where we went was just something to fade into the backdrop of a memory. Our relationship thrived because of our happiness together. Sleepless or not, we can recapture that here, there or anywhere. Over rattles and burp cloths or beneath a sea of diapers. I know that she won’t care if it was like last year. And chances are, next year will be different in still another way. But, if we can just forget about standards and stop trying to be picture perfect, maybe we will have what matters most – pure joy. 

So, I decide that we will spend time together, doing whatever we can, whenever we can. When he naps, we can play dress-up. When I have to feed him (in isolation, since he is so finicky and easily distracted), she can play with her dolls until I can rendezvous with her when he’s done. I have so many new ideas about how to take the television out of most days. There’s just one thing stopping me from enacting my new and exciting plan for the summer: her glare when I try to turn off the tube. Those eyes speak to me again and they’re not happy. And now my son is crying. It’s time to nurse him, again. So, being decisive rather than weak, I decide I’ll tell her all about it later. After all, one more episode of The Care Bears won’t hurt anyone.

Who’s The Momma?


mixed

A workman came to our house last week to repair our washing machine. He was a nice man. He walked into our chaos with a happy smile and a courteous salutation. But, after the pleasantries were out of the way and he had started to tackle the job at hand, he sprung me with a question that was all too familiar. He commented on my son – a big, long-limbed, black-haired four-month old baby who, as my father-in-law likes to brag, is 98% exactly like my husband (never mind the 23 chromosomes that come directly from me!). The workman’s question was one I have heard before – too many times to count. He asked me, “So, who’s the Momma?” As if it wasn’t obvious. 

Well, truth be told, it isn’t obvious. I know that when I look in the mirror. I know that when I see our family photos. It’s like one of those puzzles on an I.Q. test in which you have to point out the item that doesn’t belong with the others. My husband, my daughter and my son all look like they are from the same group – tall (the kids are for their age), olive-skinned, semi-Dravidian-looking, brown-eyed brunettes – but I am the sore thumb that sticks out. I, with my pale, semi-translucent skin, my dusty blonde hair, my aquamarine eyes. I, with the short stature of a teenager, and the youthful face of a kid. Me, the only one with glasses. The only one with thick lips and a thin nose. Me. I am the different one. 

But, regardless of this truth – regardless of the fact that I am in an interracial relationship and have two children that others would likely call “mixed” – I live my life day-to-day forgetting this fact. Forgetting about how we look to others and how, when I’m with my children alone, it can sometimes be confusing to an outsider. So, when these questions come up, sometimes I am taken aback. I then have to remember what we are and how people expect me to respond to a question I would never ask. 

Usually, it plays out the typical way. I answer honestly, telling them that I am the mother and go further by explaining that my kids look just like their father. Two chips off the old, proverbial block. That usually quells their thirst for knowledge. But not always. Sometimes that’s just the beginning of a round of interrogation. “Where is he from?” “What does he look like?” “Does he speak English?” “How did you meet?” “Have you been to his homeland?” “Are his parents okay with the marriage?” “What did your parents think?” “Do your children speak his language?” “Do you speak his language?” “What language do you speak at home?” “Is it ever difficult to be with someone from somewhere so different?” AARRGGHH! Being quizzed like this can be more exhausting than taking care of two children all day! 

I know that most people ask questions without any malice and are interested because of their true curiosity about our lives, but it can still be difficult when this barrage of questions comes as frequently as it does. There have been times when, in my earlier married days, it was sort of fun to answer such inquiries. I felt like I was being interviewed for a magazine or television show. Interested parties would ask me things I was too happy to answer because I was in the blissful throes of newlywed love. I couldn’t answer enough about the tranquility I had found with this wonderful man. How easy our relationship was. How nicely our parents got along with each other, how our extended families had effortlessly merged into one. It was like a dream. Everyone loved everyone. Languages, cultures, maps were no boundaries. We were just one, big, united family joined by our matrimony and a common love of food. 

Once our daughter entered the picture, however, it became less fun to answer such questions. In fact, there were times when people teetered on the line of being down-right rude and nosy. They would ask about my daughter, skirting around the topic of her coloring, saying things like “My, you have a nice tan. Looks like you didn’t get that from Mommy,” or “Gosh, she is so dark. Is she really yours?” The worst of all assumptions was when my child and I were playing at the park together and one of the mothers asked, “So, how long have you been her nanny?” 

Now, with my plump, swarthy infant in hand, it seemed that this repairman was making the same assumption. How long have I been the nanny? That was what he meant when he asked who the Momma was. How long, indeed! Too long. Too long to keep being passed over as the rightful mother to my two beautiful, “mixed” children. After almost six years of being a parent, I felt like saying “Enough is enough!” 

I am the Momma! I am the one! I carried, gave birth, nurtured, nursed and yes, even “nannied” these children – because they are mine. 50% mine! 50% me. Whether they look like it or not! Whether anyone in the world could point out our similarities or not. I am the Momma! And I am proud. After all, having children doesn’t mean that you have to produce your exact carbon copy because, frankly, that would just be boring!