Creepy Crawlies

I received a phone call yesterday on my direct line at work. When I picked up, it was Dean from the daycare. My spidey senses started to tingle. "Don’t freak out…"

Who starts a conversation on the phone with "Don’t freak out," and really expects you to not freak out??

"Aitch garble-jumblemumble…." Dean said.

"What?!"

"Aitch has head lice."

Fuckityfuck.

They wanted her to be picked up. Like now (which after some preliminary research, is not necessary. head lice is not a social disease…or something…you know, like the flu). I simply could not get away from my office for what I considered a non-emergent issue. Not to mention they didn’t want her back until Monday (again, totally an overkill since many policies indicate children can return to daycare after a single properly administered treatment, but obviously some parents don’t care if they drop off their lice-ridden children to play around otherwise unaffected children. Assholes.).

Sparring Partner graciously offered to get both kids (Doodicus was declared bug-free) and then return to work after I got home. This was about 3:00 p.m. yesterday, so it wasn’t long before I switched places with him. Before heading home, I went to the drugstore and bought a couple boxes of lice treatment and hoped that anyone who saw me standing in my muted leopard skirt, nude pumps and peplum-trimmed jacked buying lice killing shampoo thought I was doing so for the community soup kitchen (we don’t have a soup kitchen). I then got off my high-horse and reminded myself that head-lice is not an indication of cleanliness or social class. It would seem that as long as there is blood in your head (which given zombies horrific appearances, they at least do not carry lice), you are fair game for an infestation.

One of the daycare staff tried to throw the newly-opened water park in our town under the bus by claiming that the common denominator with the children who are currently infected was that all the kids had been there. Since this was said to my husband and not myself, I didn’t have the opportunity to respond, "The OTHER common denominator is that all the children go to THIS daycare! What a coincidence!"

I’m not mad at the daycare. Annoyed, maybe. Annoyed that they really don’t have a policy to address the problem ("We don’t know how long she can’t come back to daycare…how about Monday, at the soonest?"); annoyed with the act of trying to convince a three-year old that it’s OK that mommy is messing up her hair and that she has to sit with some stinky medicine on her head to "get rid of the bugs"; and sure, VERY annoyed that while my husband pulled all the sheets and pillowcases off of the beds, he didn’t bother starting a load of laundry in the two hours he was home alone with the kids…annoyed, yes, but no, not mad.

I treated both kids and wondered briefly if I shouldn’t put some in my hair, just to be safe, but by the time I had combed through one little girl’s long, fine, tangley-beyond-fuck hair and my son’s thick-as-a-saskwatch’s-ass-fur hair (let’s not even talk about how every time I dragged that stupid lice comb over his scalp he’d flinch and whimper and tuck his head down under the collar of his robe), I was so done with hair. Instead I will wonder if every little tingle or itch I get today isn’t the result of one of those suckers feasting.

My mom happily accepted the opportunity to come up and watch the kids today so SP and I could go back to work. She was in a surprisingly chipper and chatty mood, which is the complete opposite of what she’s been lately. The past couple of times, she’s been somber and silent. The alzheimer’s has been like a vampire keeping its victim alive for later. Not to get sidetracked by that issue, but I don’t see her being able to stay out of some kind of assisted living after this coming year, the disease has progressed rapidly.

But for today…today, the kid’s have immaculate hair and an adoring grandma who will let them eat oreos in the living room and watch movies on two different TVs and color Dora exactly like the cartoon without deviating and trying to make her hair green like mama prefers to do. Next time, I’ll throw in a couple of polka-dots and explain to Aitch that even Dora gets "bugs".

Shifting Gears

I do think Dr. Rita has some personal experience when it comes to ADHD (my response to a recent question left in the comments). I’ve yet to ask him if it was with himself or one of his children, but I do believe that it’s someone very close to him just based on a couple of things he’s said. I haven’t asked for two reasons, one being out of basic respect; and two, these sessions are for Dood. Sorry, if that makes me out to be kind of a dick, but for now I am being quite selfish about that 60 minutes we have been allotted.

The vyvanse? When it kicks in, it’s wonderful. When it hasn’t – or when it’s wearing off – he is painful to be around. Basically it amplifies all of Dood’s personality traits, whether they are bad or good. I wish I had a better way to describe it, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

Today I turned in the enrollment papers to the public school. They will in turn file a formal withdrawal from the Catholic school Dood had attended up until now and request his transcripts. I wish I could brush off my apron and say, "And that is THAT," but Aitch is enrolled in the pre-K classes at the private school. Initially I felt a bit awkward about that decision, but right now I feel it is going to be a good decision on both parts.

Aitch is taking swim lessons for the second session in a row at the local YMCA. My son does not care much for swimming, and I’ve rarely seen him go into water higher than his knees, and never at the lake. Aitch, on the other hand, is fearless, and as such a danger to herself. She walks into the lake until there is nothing under her feet. I literally have to be within arms length of her at all times to scoop her up, and when I do, she just sputters a bit, squeals in delight, and wiggles her way back into the water. At the pool, she loves to jump off the side, go completely under and then leapfrog it to the surface. My heart seems to leap into my throat much the same way.

At the most recent trip to the pool she showed me a new "trick" by jumping off the side and then swimming under the water for a few seconds. The first time, I thought she had lost her footing and couldn’t get to the surface so I pulled her out, "Are you OK?!" "Yeah! That was fun!" and she jogged the best she could in three feet of water back to the pool’s edge, climbed out, and repeated. She popped up, gulped some air, and went back under. I could see her big, blue eyes beneath the water’s surface as she sought out my legs and reached out with her hands and kicked her feet in what one might describe as "swimming". That same night, she ASKED to go to bed.

And while Doodicus is not a swimmer, he did start getting the hang of doing handstands in the pool and I even assisted him in doing a somersault under water. Both kids have both figured out how to use a snorkel with impressive success. I think it’s Aitch’s skill and confidence in the water (as much an almost-four-year-old could have anyway) that has helped Doodicus overcome some of his trepidations. He is often ditching his friends at the pool to come play by us yelling, "Aitch! Aitch! Watch this!" and showing off for his little sister. They are so good for each other.

A couple months ago, I announced that I wished to go to Scotland next year for my birthday. Even though THIS year is a minor milestone, our trip to Disney in February pretty much tapped our vacation resources. I wanted the Scotland vacation to be just for Sparring Partner and myself; maybe the honeymoon we never had (15 years ago this month!). However, SP is not keen on the idea one bit. "I’m not an international traveler," he announced. I don’t even know what that means since he’s never traveled internationally. "Why Scotland?" he asked. I explained that while a vacation sitting on a beach all day drinking out of a coconut would have been my ideal vacation prior to my skin cancer scare, I thought a summer vacation exploring moors, lochs and circle of stones seemed like a rather pleasant alternative. And I know without a doubt, that he would love it. (see update below)

I let the topic drop until last night, "My sister said she would go with me to Scotland if you don’t want to." That statement was true. She loves to travel and as a matter of fact, just returned from her vacation to Peru. SP replied, "I don’t think THAT’S fair for you to go without me." "Does that mean you want to go WITH me?" "No. I don’t want to leave the kids for that long." I could only stare back at him incredulously. It wasn’t fair for me to go without him, but he thinks it’d be "fair" that I don’t go at all?

The prairie toads come out at night since it is much cooler. There are always a couple of them sitting in the driveway feasting on the bugs that gather around the outside lights. Last night, my husband got home from seeing his dad in the nursing home and it was already after dark. He asked had me come out and look at one of them. He was huge, like a baseball. And fearless, not even a flinch when I poked him with my flipflop. SP had backed the pickup into the garage to unload some things and I warned him to make sure there were no toads under the truck if he moved it. Sure enough, five minutes later, he comes in and sadly announces the big toad is no more. Worse, he informs me that he flipped the gruesome carcass into the nearby landscaping…where I walk around the house…where the kids explore. I chewed him out as if he’d run over the family dog and demanded he remove the remains and dispose of them properly. I am wondering why I had to even do this; he is 40-something-something years old after all.

ETA: I was sitting with my husband last night as he watched Feherty on TV and I was on Facebook. After a few minutes of listening to the interview I made the observation that Feherty is a Scot, not Irish, as SP has claimed in the past. "Oh, so now you want to go to Scotland?!" I looked at him as if he’d grown a set of thorny gonads from his ears, "What?" "Well, before you wanted to go to Ireland and now you want to go to Scotland!" "You asshole. For the past couple of months, I’ve ALWAYS said Scotland. I have never mentioned going to Ireland. No wonder you can’t get motivated to go with me when you don’t even listen to whatever the fuck I’m saying. Goodnight."

Keeping it in the Family

What I said (paraphrased for brevity’s sake): Make sure you put in your request for vacation the week of the 9th. We’ll leave for the Black Hills the day after my birthday and I figure we can drive back on Thursday. That will give me a day to make sure things are ready for Aitch’s party on the 14th since you said you were racing on the Sunday.”

What he heard: Vacation….birthday….racing.

What he said (a few days later): “Hey, I got the week of the 16th off since that is after Aitch’s party.”

Wait. Wha…?

My poor, dear, husband. How in the world did he think that was a logical thing to do?

Oh, yes, I know. He’s ADHD, too.

Handling an Explosive ADHD Child…the response from the Psychologist

I sent a photo of the picture Doodicus drew to Dr. Rita. Below is his response. Thank you all for your previous comments, because you each touched upon a point that the doctor echoed in his email:

I appreciate the note—I am glad you told me about this. It can be terribly scary for parents, and terribly difficult to know how to proceed.

First, I should say that this is not an uncommon before [sic?] for kids. As far as risk assessment goes, the behaviors you described do not indicate a significant degree of risk (for instance, he is not discussing means of hurting himself that he has access to, he is not acting on these statements, etc). Many kids make these kinds of statement and draw these kinds of pictures without appreciating the implications. This behavior is especially common among kids with ADHD, because a certain degree of emotional dysregulation goes along with the hyperactive and inattentive symptoms.

In terms of management, I would recommend several interventions:

1) Convey to [Dood] that these statements are serious, and will be handled as such. They are powerful words, and not to be taken lightly.

2) Identify the emotions [Dood] is experiencing in relation to these thoughts. He will have difficulty with this, so will need help. For instance, what he is really saying is that he is frustrated, angry, sad that he is not getting what he wants, etc.

3) Emphasize your concern and love for [Dood], and the reaction you have to him making these statements (this has a duel benefit, both modeling appropriate emotional expression and explicitly stating how much you care about him). Let him know that you are worried and scared, regardless of whether he meant it or not. He said it, and you believe what he says, and so you are scared, worried, etc.

4) Consider a natural and logical consequence, such as restricting access to the sources of the imagery he used. For example, where does [Dood] see bombs and missiles? If that is in video games, letting [Dood] know that you are really worried about him and want to keep him safe. Taking a break from those images might help. (the logic on this one will likely be transparent to you, essentially, saying these things will result in losing video games. However, were [Dood] older and his threats more serious, i.e., I am going to drive my car into something or take all the pills in the cabinet, we would talk about doing the same thing—restricting access to means and methods. Limiting contact to imagery is a downward extension, with the added benefit of introducing a cost to these kinds of statements.

5) Normalize the feelings. Letting [Dood] know that he can be angry, sad, frustrated, desperate, uncomfortable, lonely, etc., and these are perfectly fine feelings to share with mom and dad. You can hear that he is having those feelings. Of course, it will not change bedtime, shower location, or other environmental matters, but it is important to you that he shares these emotions and you can help him manage them.

6) I know this is a tall order, but try to take as much steam/pressure/heat out of the situation from the beginning. If you see him getting agitated, or feel yourself getting agitated, it is time to take a break. This is especially difficult in urgent situations, but also especially important. You, and potentially [Dood], will already be somewhat upset because you have to move quickly, so the fire is already stoked. You don’t want to add to it. He might say something inappropriate or loud or disrespectful. Wait to discuss consequences until you have the time, energy, calm head to implement it.

Runaway

A seventeen-year old boy didn’t come home after he was allowed to go to an underage dance at a public establishment yesterday. His friends said that they stopped at a gas station around 1:30 a.m. and they went in and left their friend in the vehicle. When they returned, he was gone.

Rumor had it that since hooking up with a new girlfriend, one that graduated this May and now refuses to become gainfully employed and is supposedly heavily involved in drugs, he has “changed.” He cut off most of his hair this past weekend and then dyed what was left blond (he’s raven-haired). His facebook updates are cryptic and worrisome.

It was a relief to hear that after he went missing, 15 hours later he was returned safely to home. He’d been found at the above mentioned girlfriend’s house. The one who denied knowing where he was when friends, family and authorities asked.

Yes, it’s a happy ending THIS time, but I can’t help dwell on what to you may seem just another clear-cut case of a runaway teen because I have known this boy since he was my son’s age. His parents are good friends of ours. They are the ones who tried for years and years to have another baby; tried several rounds of IUIs; and then finally brought home an adopted newborn in February. I’ve mentioned her several times in the past on my blog as our offices were next to each other when I was at the hospital.

His parents are loving and supportive to him. They are the positive epitome of Christian values and they have educated him all his years at the Catholic school. A two-parent home with two very successfully employed adults. They run prayer-groups for wayward teens in their home. They organize and attend Catholic retreats for couples routinely. From the outside looking in, his life – their lives – were perfect and exemplary. And now he’s a juvenile delinquent.

Here we are, Sparring Partner and myself, as soul-less as a couple of tumbleweeds. I have depression that remains untreated because SP doesn’t like medication. I’m sure I yell more than I hug. I have a little boy who not only has ADHD, but also has some kind of emotional disturbances, and for that we see a psychologist once every three weeks and give him medicine once a day. Every day is a scramble to get to where we need to do without someone having a major meltdown, whether that’s Doodicus or a cranky three-year-old girl.

If Dood does explode, sometimes the trigger doesn’t even exist. I made pancakes for the kids on Saturday and set down the first three ‘cakes, fresh and hot from the griddle in front of him at the kitchen counter. He went off in a fury, exclaiming how we hate him and how he hates himself. He has no idea why he said it. Then after not getting his way yesterday, he went off again in another tirade, this time blacker then I’ve seen before. I went outside to get away for a few minutes and when I came back in, he had written “I want to leave home and die,” on a piece of paper and then drew a stick-man with a knife at its throat and the word “me” next to it.

So I ask – no, PLEAD – of you, how can I expect myself to remain optimistic about my son’s long-term mental health when our perfect friends’ perfect child ran away from home??

Sing It With Me Now: Sunshiiiine On My Shoooooulders Makes Me Happyyyyyy

In the past week I ran across this article about an elderly gentleman who after nearly three decades of truck-driving, developed an interesting case of what is called unilateral dermatoheliosis (a fancy term for "sun damage"). The left side of his face (hence the "unilateral") is visibly more wrinkled and droopy than the right. The photograph is meant to shock us as to the damage caused by repetitive exposure to the sun and serve as a warning to reduce our risks. Not surprisingly, this has led to the debate as to how evil sunscreen is, chemically altering our bodies and generating third nipples and pus-filled toenails. Have you even met me??

I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2010 and I unashamedly admit to harping on my friends who unwittingly announce, "ohemgee! I got The Worse sunburn this weekend while boating!" Frankly, I don’t find it an amusing anecdote, and I find it similar to my 20-something nieces and nephews regaling of how much they puked in the neighbor’s yard last night after binge-drinking. It’s stupid, self-harming behavior that’s entirely preventable.

It’s been a long time since I have felt so unwavering about a topic. I’m about to get up on my high horse and RIIIIIIDE!!

What really twisted my knickers were the remarks that came up in response to this particular image (which I discovered has been circulating around the ‘web for a couple years now…), specifically how they would rather send their kids outside without sunscreen and expose them to the risks of the sun rather than apply sunscreen because the risks that can be attributed to the chemicals. Then there’s the argument that exposure to the sun is good for us and our children.

…Regretfully, this is true.

My oldest sister was diagnosed with rickets as a little girl. When the disease was described to me, I imagined that she had decided to hole up in the basement and live among the toads and salamanders we shared the dirt walls with, and that she only came up to go to school. It explained so much about my weird sister… Now of course, I was just a child then and have since realized that my sister’s rickets resulted in her refusal to drink or eat dairy of any kind (not an uncommon side-affect of having been raised on a dairy farm. Some day I’ll tell you about chickens. REAL chickens.). My sister did not acquire rickets because she was not outside getting sun, it was her crappy diet.

"Sunlight lets human skin cells convert Vitamin D from an inactive to active state," (Wikipedia) That’s the simplest definition I have found, but what’s difficult to calculate is HOW much sunlight is needed to do this. Surprisingly, it is very little. VERY little: 10 minutes a day for most Caucasians. For me, that’s how long it takes me to walk up our lane to the mailbox and back dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Plus, our bodies can store Vitamin D, which is how we get by in the winter months, in addition to foods that are supplemented with the vitamin. That means if you are going boating, beaching or biking, you’re going to need to protect yourself from the sun for all but a handful of minutes, which is the amount of time it will take for you to properly apply it. Sunscreens are not your only options here, but let’s talk about it.

Sunscreens can be filled with lots of nasty chemicals. The kind of stuff you don’t want on your skin when you go out in the sun, much less every day and certainly not every day on your kid’s skin. I found this wonderful website that can help you immensely wade through the goop of sunscreens, whether you just need a lip balm or something mineral-free for your family. It’s Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) and this database on their site lets you look up the sunscreen you are using; research the ones that your friends have "recommended"; or to research what ones are the best to go out and get. I wish I had known of this website before our Disney trip as it includes make-up and moisturizers as well.

From this website, a bullet-point review of sunscreen (emphasis is mine):

  • Use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 and a maximum of SPF 50;
  • Make sure labels list UVA and UVB (or broad spectrum protection);
  • Avoid products containing oxybenzone and retinyl palminate if you’re concerned about potentially toxic chemicals;
  • Choose lotions versus spray sunscreens for a more evenly distributed protection.
  • Remember to apply at least 2 ounces of lotion (about a shot glass full) and reapply often. The sun breaks down the ingredients in sunscreen that protect your skin. Experts recommend reapplying every two hours, or after swimming or heavy sweating.

Not only is anything over SPF 30 a waste of money, it can actually contain more harmful ingredients. With the new labeling requirements, it’s easy to spot the ones that say "broad spectrum". I do like the convenience of the spray, but only because I use to not like having the lotion on my hands and nowhere convenient to wipe them. Now that I can use every drop of coverage possible, excess just gets wiped off on my arms and legs. You all should know what a shot glass looks like. Imagine it full of your fave booze. That’s how much an adult needs to use with EACH application.

OK. You don’t like sunscreen. Fine, I get that it smells, is sticky, can make the kid’s eyes burn out of their heads, attracts dust, is full of poisonous shit. Well, whatever. No one ever said "sun protection" comes in applicable sunscreens only. Here’s your chance to show off your Scarlett O’Hara straw hat or to take a stroll with a parasol or wear a flowy beach cover-up. I have versions of all of those and I can’t tell you how freeing it actually is to 1) not have to do my hair just to go to the pool or beach; 2) get to use the silk parasol my husband had personalized with my name from Disney (and receive compliments everywhere I go with it) and the luxury of shade when there is none to be found (soccer field! track field! local car show! parade!); and 3) keep my fat ass under wraps.

I am definitely in the minority here in Hickville, USA. I guess I would have to call myself progressive when I’m surrounded by a sea of farmer’s tans, exposed bra straps and tank tops. I had to make this lifestyle work for me. I’m aging and my children are so young. I want to see my daughter get old enough she can sign my living will and put me away in a nursing home. I don’t want her to get married and have "In memory of my late Mother" typed in hindsight on the wedding program.

I honestly didn’t mean for this to be so long and I admit that about three-quarters of the way through, my bitch-and-complain sail lost wind, which explains why I started off so ranty and then petered out. To end this diatribe, I’ll share a quick exchange between my husband and myself from this weekend when we went to the local lakeside beach. Setting the scene: Me, sitting under our enormous sport-brella. Sparring Partner, sitting just outside of the shaded area next to me where I notice his back is getting a bit red in spite of getting an application of sunscreen.

"Hey, why don’t you scoot back a bit so you’re in the shade?"

"I’m fine. It’s not affecting you."

"If I had had lung cancer, and I knew you were smoking cigarettes when you weren’t around me, would you still say ‘It’s not affecting you,’ as an excuse to smoke?"

He moved to sit in the shade with me.

Your choice to not protect yourself may not directly AFFECT me, but it does have an effect on me. I care.