Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lice Capades

I kinda wanted to cry a little.

I kinda wanted to shave my head.

I kinda hated hair.

On a chilly night last spring, I reclined on the sofa snuggling my blanket, sipping tea while watching a show with Charley. Berzo came up and flipped her head down exposing her neck and said, “Mama, can you check my hair for lice?”

We’ve been dealing with lice for a couple weeks and I felt confident that the problem had been eradicated from our household. But, hey, doesn’t hurt to check, and it’ll set Berzo's mind at ease.

“Sure. Go grab the lice comb.”

“OK, Mama!”

She ran off then came back and put the comb in my hand.  She flipped her head down again. I started to comb.

I combed and looked. Nothing. Nothing.

My mind began to wander.

Gosh, I’m tired. I’m so glad it’s Friday. Don’t have to get the kids up early. Morning coffee with Charley will be nice…

Wait. What the fuck is that!

I stopped and inspected the bug that was scrambling on the comb.

“What is it, Mama?”

“Not sure. Go grab a paper towel, please.”

I wiped it off on the paper towel and experimented with smooshing it. It doesn’t smoosh. I smoosh harder and grind it with the comb tines into the paper towel. Still squirming. For a moment, I lost the bug in the towel folds and think it’s in my blanket. I pushed my blanket on the ground and searched the towel again and there it is. I expected it to jump like a flea, it didn't; it just flailed on the towel. I pinned it with one thumbnail to isolate the head, then brought in my other and pressed them together.
Crunch, snap. It’s dead.

Huh, so that’s a lice...louse..lice-louse or louse of lice?


I got up. I sat Berzo in front of the computer and got the Lice Detection Spray and hosed her head down with the stuff. I combed and found some nits and another louse. I comb and comb.

I wash the comb.

Lice are afraid of me.
I sat Boots the Impervious down and sprayed and combed. Her hair is much longer, so as I pulled it through her hair and she squealed each time as I neared the ends of her hair.



All the years lice has gone through our school Boots has never gotten it. Even when she’s played with kids for hours that had an infestation, for whatever reason she’s never gotten it. Until now.

As I combed my own hair, I informed Charley, “If I have it again. I shaving my head too.”

Cue head scratching.


The Lice Capades began with a frantic note home from Berzo's teacher about a lice outbreak in her classroom. Berzo was checked at school, no bugs found. Whew! I double checked her at home—no bugs. (Not that I really knew what I was looking for.)

I figured that our string of lice-doging luck was continuing as usual. Perhaps helped along by the magic spice spray we use on the kids before we send them off to school.

Then on a Monday, just as I was arriving home from helping out in Berzo's class, I got a call from the school with the report that Berzo had lice.

“Really? OK, I’ll be right there,” I said.

I picked up a distressed and embarrassed kiddo and brought her straight away to Lice Knowing You in Beaverton. We walked up to the door and I tried to pull it open.


What, what? Noooo….

“What are we going to do, Mama?” Berzo said squeezing my hand.

We idled for a few minutes while I tried to figure out what to do. We walked away to see if there was another entrance, when a head popped out of the door.

“We’re you just trying to come in?”

Slightly desperate, I say, “Yes…”

“We’re closed right now…” she looks at me intently, “but come on in, I’ll help you.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” I said. I wanted to hug her, but thought a lice expert might not appreciate the gesture.

Just like this...
She let us in and sat us down. She sprayed Berzo's head with detangler and ran a lice comb through her hair and wiped it on a paper towel. She walks over and shows me the myriad of lice bugs and eggs littered all over the towel.

“Oh, OK.”

She put a shower cap on Berzo to contain the zoo in her hair and checked me. She sprayed my hair down and ran the comb through a few times.  A paper towel appeared in my field of vision, “You have it too. See?”

“Oh, OK,” was all I said.

 Inwardly I was stunned as I watched the lice louses squirm in the sticky spray stuff.

That just came off my head!

On the flip side, it was nice to find out there was a problem moments before having it treated.

She deloused us both with oil and combing and combing and oil and more combing. My scalp felt bloody, but also kind of awesome, like it was a really thorough treatment.

Another person came in and she paused to help her. The phone rang. She answered it. Combing. Combing. Combing...

It took a long time. And then we were done.

I did some shopping. Lice Detection Kit—yes please. School and Play Spray refill—yes please. Comb for the neighbor boy who played with Berzo while she was infested—yes please. (That's the funnest part of lice, letting others know your bugs might have hitched a ride on their kid.) Prevention spray for her classroom—one of those too.

I gasped when I paid the bill. (It’s $100 per hour!) But she reminded me it comes with a 30 day guarantee; provided the other family members get checked. I scheduled their appointments then thanked her and left for home with a very oily head.

Berzo and I washed our hair, and washed it again. It actually felt quite luxurious afterwards.

Boots was horrified at the news that Berzo and I had lice, so I checked her hair with the new kit and couldn’t find anything. Charley shaved his head. I was a little jealous… They went in the next day and were both cleared.

We all attacked the house following the guidelines provided by Lice Knowing You. We were surprised to find out that lice in your environment is not all that much of concern. Any eggs that fall off die, because they need your body heat to incubate. Any bugs that fall off (they rarely do, holding on is their specialty) can barely move and begin to die within about 12 hours.

Reassuring as it all was, we still vacuumed everything, washed bedding, bagged teddy bears and moved all our couch cushions to the garage.

I brought Berzo back in the next morning to school with a clean head of shiny, spicy smelling, hair. The school nurse rechecked her and gave her the go-ahead to return to class. I brought her in and gave her teacher the School and Play Spray for which she was grateful and joked about spritzing the kids as they came in and out of the classroom.

I looked around and saw all that all the kids’ backpacks and coats were bagged. The fluffy green rug was gone. Most of the girls were in braids and pony tails. The boys had fresh looking short cuts.

Her teacher and I thought we’d seen the last of them.

We both reached up and scratched our heads a little. I wished her luck and left.


And then, like the Terminator, they were back.

I called the Beaverton office first thing in the morning and they are booked solid. She recommended I call their SE Portland office.

Through the tunnel! Arg!

We got appointments and all headed in to have our heads examined again.

She informed me that the head-check costs $15 per head and that any necessary treatments would be free.

“Can we skip the check and go right to treatment?”

I showed her the louse I saved in a plastic bag. She took it and gave it a good look, “Yep, that one of them. But, we don’t want to oil up your head unless there’s something left in there.”

“But we’re already so deep in this,” I said—pleaded.

She checks and her eyes widen when she sees our last transaction...

We waited for another family to be checked. Then it was our turn. She checked us all and we turned out to be clean. The re-infestation must have just gotten going.

I went up to pay for the head-checks and she waved me off, saying, “This one’s on the house.”

I tipped her anyway and thanked her for her help and we left. At home we repeated the vacuum, wash, bag.

And that was that.

I informed Berzo's teacher and she filled me in on the resurgence of lice in her room, despite all her preventative measures. "Stay strong," we told each other.


Now summer has summered. Fall has returned. The big yellow bus has swallowed up my kids and burps them back up for school. We’re working through our first set of cold viruses. Will the Lice Capades return?


Scratch, scratch.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Heluva Day

The day dawned bright and full of promise. Our plan was to ride our bikes to the library. Boots had an appointment with a sixth-grade teacher from her school. Berzo and I were going to practice math by playing a rousing game of Dragon Wood.

The ride was lovely. The game was the most fun I’d ever had playing with Berzo. She was focused on her game strategy and did all her own math. She captured both dragons, but I ended up with more overall points. She took the loss in stride. It was great fun.

At the end of the hour we checked out a few books and collected a happy Boots. Then the girls got their obligatory donut holes and we headed back outside to our bikes.

The sidewalk down from the bike rack has a gentle curve on a gentle slope. Near the base there is a sharp turn connecting the sidewalk into a wheelchair ramp from the library. Berzo got going to the corner, panicked and didn’t turn. She ran smack into the railing jolting her whole body forward. She didn’t fall but let go of her bike and sat down. Then started crying out in pain, “Owe! Owe! Owwwwee!”

Oh crap, that’s the hurt cry. The real one.

I propped up my bike on the railing and ran over to her. She’s was flat on the sidewalk writhing in pain.

“What hurts, baby?”

“My wrist!”

“What about your pelvis?”

I remember the pain of slamming into my handlebar joint well.

“No, just my wrist and my arm! It’s broken! I need an ambulance!”

She is holding her right wrist with her left hand. Her right-hand looks limp and useless.


What to do. What to do. I need a sling. What will make a good sling?

I rooted through my bag.

I thought about my shirt and ruled it out as I am wearing a nude colored bra-let… I’d look naked. I thought about Boot's shirt and imagined her horror.

No...Maybe Berzo's shirt?

Then I noticed my para-cord water bottle holder. Perfect!

I popped the melt joints, and, with no small effort, unraveled the weave. It’s nice and long. I made a loop around the back of her neck and under her wrist being as gentle as humanly possible. Then I wrapped it through her fingers (at the Spock V juncture) and around her chest, nestling her hand into her chest at a slight upward angle. I made a few more wraps and knots and Berzo says it feels good. She stood up—reluctantly, and it’s fairly secured. Boot and I helped her onto her bicycle. I held on to her bike to balance and push her home.

I told Boots to leave her bike near the path and to push my new one home. (Her’s is an old hand-me-down.)

“No, Mama. I can get them both.”

“Boots, no. Just leave your bike and push mine.”

“No, I can get them both.”

Berzo and I wait and I make a phone call to her pediatrician’s office. They have an opening with a Nurse Practitioner that Berzo likes at 1:10.

“Perfect, I’ll take it.”

Berzo and I got moving again are getting quite a bit ahead of Boots as she fumbled trying to get both bikes rolling. I kept going. I expected her to come running up any moment with my bike or riding her own bike. Either way would have been fine, but she didn’t.

I kept pushing Berzo. Boots fell out of view.

I worry.

Isn’t this how things went bad in The Shack? The parent was helping one child and the other one… Oh God. No, she’ll be OK. She’s old enough to handle herself and the path is busy with parents and kids and dog walkers etc. Nobody could get away with nabbing her even IF a weirdo was around.

This I said to myself as Berzo sobbed in my ear as I pushed her on her bike. I pushed faster. I started to trot then slowed to a fast walk again when Berzo got scared of falling again. Sweat soaked into my clothes and ran in my eyes.

I got Berzo home and carried her into the house and placed her on the sofa. I got her a bag of ice and the TV remote. I told her I was going to go get Boots and that I would be back in less than ten minutes. She says, “OK.”

I planted a kiss on her head and dash out the door.

I was grateful that I’m was already dressed in running clothes because it’s too dang hot outside. I took off at a brisk lope. Worry pushed me on faster even though I’m burning up in the sun. As I passed a garage saler for the third time I briefly wonder what he’s thinking...She comes by with two kids on bikes. An hour later she’s pushing one kid on a bike and then five minutes later she barreling down the road on foot...WTH?

I kept on.

As I crested the hill there was a very red-faced little Boonie holding two bikes. She saw me and started to cry.

My worry made me say, “Why didn’t you just do what I asked? I was so worried.”

“I’m sorry, Mama. I just wanted to be strong for you and make you proud of me that I pushed both our bikes. I didn’t want one to get stolen!”

Tears mingled with sweat and ran rivulets down her red cheeks.

“I can replace a bike, but I can’t replace you!”

The last of my angst dissolved in the midst of her pain.  I gave her a big hug and told her how brave she was to try so hard to manage both bikes. I took my bike and noticed my lock was missing. I told her to stay put. I rode at Mach 3 back over the path looking for the lock. I found it in the grass about a quarter of a mile away. Then I barreled back to her.

Boots was not where I left her.

Arg! That kid!

She’s waiting in the shade about 30 yards from where I left her.

OK. Whew. I get that.  

“Let’s go home.”

We hurried home and parked our bikes and went in to see Berzo. She’s upset—Netflix isn’t working.
My arm hurts AND Netflix won't work!

I popped in the movie she borrowed from the library and checked the time on my phone.

Missed call. Voicemail.


I listened to the message. Someone scooped our appointment. I called back and talked to the receptionist. They had another opening at 1:50. After some unsuccessful cajoling to keep the 1:10 slot, I took it.

Berzo gets upset again.

I got her some food and she dialed back into her show.

 I rooted through our closet looking for one of their old slings. I find Berzo's from when she was itty-bitty. 

Darn, too small.

I kept rooting and found Boots'.

Perfect. Wow, my kids have hurt themselves a lot… Ug.

I took off the paracord sling and slide on this one.

“Ah, that feels much nicer, Mama. Thanks,” Berzo says.

“You’re welcome, Baby,” I said and gave her a kiss.

I downed a glass of water and it all flowed right out through my pores.  I'm soaked.

I offered Berzo some medicine—that we don’t have—and drove to the store to get some. I also picked up a bagel and cream cheese for Boots for her lunch. I zoomed back home and get food and medicine to my girls.

I managed to cram a little food into my gob too, then it was off to the pediatrician.

The doctor was kind as she asked questions and worked over Berzo's body checking for injuries.

“Oh, you already had a sling?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, from an old injury of Boots',” I reply.

The girls piped up with their stories, “Mama, remember when I fell off my bike and knocked out my tooth! I didn’t hurt my head or my chest, but it right I smashed my mouth right into the sidewalk!”

Boots, “I broke my arm too! I fell off a shelf! Oh, yeah, remember when I crashed my bike so hard it bent the tire?”

Oh God. You guys!

The doctor broke in, “Are the knees from the crash too?”

“Uh, knees?" I saw the band-aids on her knees and said, "Oh yeah. Uh, no. That was yesterday. She crashed on her bike going from the road up a driveway.”

The doctor raised her eyebrows.

I wondered if she’s seeing air-quotes around “crashed her bike.” I felt (feel) about two inches tall.

She turned to Berzo, “How long have you been riding your bike?”

“Um, like a minute or two.”

I butted in, “She started riding a Strider bike at 2 ½ years old. She’s been on a pedal bike since she was three.”

“Oh, OK,” the doctor says.

The doctor worked her way to the hurt arm and Berzo cried out a few times when she found the tender spots. Berzo did all of the maneuvers she asked her to do. The doctor decided that it was likely not to be broken, but thought it’s bad enough that she’d like to see x-rays.

“If it’s not broken, keep her in the sling over the weekend to remind her to be gentle with it and to also remind her to stay off her bike,” she said.

“Yes, of course. Good idea,” I said, nodding vigorously.

“Then if she’s not using it somewhat by Monday or Tuesday, we might need more x-rays. Sometimes a break won’t show on an x-ray until 5 days or so after the injury,” the doctor said.

Off we went to the imaging center for x-rays. (When did doctors stop doing x-rays? Has it been like a really long time now?)

A short, stressful drive later, I’m ready to expose my little daughter to a significant dose of radiation. I stand behind the safety glass and wonder why they don’t put lead helmets on the kids in there getting all the radiation. She initially says there will only be two “pictures” but end up taking three.

Do we need three? Like, really, need, three? If the doctor did the x-rays she’d stop at the first one if she could see conclusive evidence. But no, gotta make sure the radiologist has all the angles he/she might need even if the first would have done it.

“Please step behind the glass with me.”

Sigh. “OK.”


“OK, that’s it. After the radiologist has a look, they’ll call your doctors office,” the technician said.

Seems like a lot of middle people here… “OK, thank you.”

We headed home. I stopped and treated the girls to Jamba Juice. I parked Clifford the Big Red Truck in a spot designed for a Smart Car. I got out and squeezed in between vehicles to help Berzo get out.

We got home.

I felt woozy.

Overheated. Overstressed. Still recuperating from a cold virus I picked up last week. Carrying no small load of guilt that yet again one of my kids injured herself on my watch.

I long to call my dad. He always had a simple way of breaking things down.

“You had a heluva day, kiddo,” floated across my mind in his rugged voice.

A heluva day indeed. Miss you, Dad.


The doctor called. It’s broken. Damn.  They put a splint on it and told us to come back in a week.

Poor kiddo.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review: Little Legends The Story Tree

By Tom Percival © 2018

I led a group of very bright First Graders in reading The Little Legends: The Story Tree.

This book is humorous, relatable, and action-packed. At the end of each chapter, we stopped to work in our Study Guide and the kids groaned. Not because the study-guide was overly onerous—it wasn't—I wrote it so it was awesome and fun (wink), they just couldn't wait to see what would happen next. They laughed in all the right places and felt conflicted and tense at times as they tried to figure out who were the good-guys and who were the bad guys. It's complicated...

For kids this young, reading this book in a group is best as some of the concepts and some of the vocabulary was challenging. But with proper scaffolding in a group setting the kids learned a lot while having a ton of fun. The discussions they had were fantastic!

The strength of this book is how it made the kids think deeply...

The Mayor of Tale Town is a tyrant that is selling selfishness and self-aggrandizement as safety by building a wall around the town and keeping all non-humans out and away from the Story Tree. The Story Tree was planted by humans and trolls centuries ago. This provokes a war. Our young heroes are caught in the middle, banished by the mayor, but trying to stop the war and find a better way to end the Mayor's tyranny.

The Troll army, consisting of all banished races, are ready to fight to regain control. The troll leader, Hurrilan, could become the new leader of Tale Town. But they ask themselves would that be any better? He resentful and distrustful of humans. Would he end up as tyrannical against humans? You'd be astonished at the ideas from six and seven-year-olds on the topic.

Mayor Fitch also presents the idea of "history is written by the victors" which spurred a lively discussion.

Pretty heady stuff for First Graders.

However, there is also a courageous chicken. And a half-blind dragon. And super-smart gorillas. And a quirky magician that accidentally turns himself into a bowl of pasta. So. Much. Fun.

We started with this volume (6) which came with a couple of challenges. There are a lot of characters, and there are some references to the other volumes. We overcame the abundance of characters by photo-copying the pictures and cutting them out and pasting them on popsicle sticks as puppets. When they were introduced, we found the puppet and wrote the name of the character on the back. The kids took turns animating the puppets when it wasn't their turn to read.

When the book referenced an earlier volume, we'd stop and speculate as to what happened in that story.

The vocabulary was challenging too, but it was a fantastic opportunity to learn new words, and I was always right there when the reader got stuck.  At the end of the chapter we'd write three new words in our study guide and each person would choose their favorite.

A great read for kids. It was chock full of fun, adventure, and seeds of wisdom.

Now for the fun part. Each reader wrote their own review: