Happy Camper

All evidence indicates that Lucy is doing okay at camp. They are posting regular photos, and from what can I tell she is clean, well-fed, sun-protected and wearing clothing that appears to change at appropriate intervals. Oh, and she looks positively radiant in every single photo. Plus, a little bird has informed me that she is starring as Wendy in the camp production of "Peter Pan," she did a part of the ropes course called "the Screamer" and she peed behind a tree. So, yeah, I think it's going okay. What do you think?

Lice. Twice.

When I checked Lu's head on Saturday and found lice AGAIN, I nearly cried. When I found a bug on Milo I actually did. We began the process of lice treatment all over again, only this time, I did what I should have from the start: instead of going for the most expedient, chemical (read: nuclear) option, choose the thorough, non-toxic, actually effective route. Otherwise known as Lesson 1: do whatever Mary Ellen, internet detective, diplomatically suggests you do in the first place. And this new method did work — Lice Ice is this minty, all-natural gel that coats the hair and suffocates the bugs and eggs. Milo enjoyed his menthol mohawk. Lu howled for about 6 of the 9 hours she wore the Lice Ice, offended by the smell, the stiffness and how bad her hair looked. Not that it mattered what she looked like: no one invited the people of the Louse House anywhere on Saturday.

When I washed their hair and combed it out Sunday (Milo sat patiently, as long as I gave him an M&M every 45 seconds), I was confident we'd beaten the bugs.

Until I took Milo back to school Monday. After I casually mentioned to the school director that he'd HAD lice, she marched him up to her office to inspect his head. And found a few nits. Ejected.

That's when I called the Texas Lice Squad, this group of hair hygienists who wear scrubs and magnifying masks and pick the bugs out or your money back. They checked all three of us, found nothing on me, one possible nit on Lu and a handful on Milo. "Pretty clean," they said admiringly, but treated us anyway and charged us $168. Worth every penny and then some. I don't clean my own toilets or my own teeth — why could I be trusted to get these heads clean? Lesson 2: with this and so many other tasks in my life, I should really just hire the experts.

Does Your Head Itch Yet?

Lucy told me she thought she had lice on Wednesday. "My head ITCHES!" she said. I filed this under Dramatic Fake Illness, alongside "I can't see" (wants glasses), "My ankle stings" (wants out of PE) and "My finger is broken" (wants out of PE and after-school gymnastics). Then when I was volunteering in her Spanish class Friday morning, I watched her sit and scratch. And scratch and scratch her head. If she had been a dog, she'd have lifted her hind leg up there to scratch it. My own head began to itch as I helped make the Mexican hot chocolate. I shuddered, realizing we might have a problem.

After I left Spanish, I returned to my work and...forgot. The deeply skeezed out part of my psyche was overtaken by the busy Pollyanna part (this is the same coping mechanism that allows me to spend so much time in hotels without pondering the existence of bedbugs). Lice shmice, my brain said.

But this morning on the couch, cuddled up with my darling children watching "Curious George," Lu lay her head in my lap. So sweet, until I noticed this rash blooming from around her ears and neck. I shuddered. My scalp began to itch. I got Internet and a flashlight. One look confirmed the lousy truth. For those of you who don't know (and I hope you never do), lice are harmless. But they are really fucking gross. Bugs on your head? Yes, actual bugs. Crawling. On your head.

The first thing I did — after making Lu get off the couch and away from us and all fabric surfaces — was to send an email to the people Lu may have infected in the past two days. This seemed like the mommy version of calling recent *ahem* partners to tell them you'd been diagnosed with a harmless but gross STD.

Then, I went to CVS to get some lice treatment (The shame! I swear the checkout dude scratched his head after he put the box in the plastic bag.) Then, we shampooed and doused and poisoned. Then, like ma and pa gorillas, we picked the bugs from Lu's head. This was an hours-long process.

Good news: none of the rest of us seems to have it (despite a desperate case of psychosomatic lice for yours truly). More good news: she was a trooper, and we had a fun day rewarding all her cooperation with the nit-picking. Bad news: if for some reason this treatment fails, the next remedy has us slathering her head in mayonnaise under a shower cap overnight. Gross as that sounds, it's better than bugs on your head.


Today on the way to school, Lucy asked me, "Mom, what's your dream?" Stunned by her question, I said, "Well, um, I guess to write a book."

"Oh, well, I AM writing a book. Except sometimes I get writer's cramp, and I don't know what to write."

"You mean writer's block?"

"Yes, but I call it writer's cramp because it hurts."

Hurts, indeed.

Lu York City, Part One

Last week we took Lucy to New York! For years she's been begging to go, knowing that her two conditions were that she 1) be able to walk a lot and 2) try new foods. At last, we decided she was ready, and she did not disappoint. She walked miles through the city, including a big swath of Central Park and a hasty thirteen-block trek up to 42nd street for a show. She ate, among other things, raw Spanish mackerel with charred jalapeño and grapefruit and steamed pork buns. Here's a video report on Day 1:

She forgot to mention that we spent our first evening (in bars!) with some dear friends, two of whom are Austin transplants to New York, relishing the city like exchange students, along with our friend Mary, who has a love affair with New York unlike anyone I know. It was Mary who wrote me and Jason our first personal New York guide, the inside track that started our own love affair with the city. As Mary walked with us up Fifth Avenue toward dinner, she told us that she was seven when her parents first took her to New York. I think we are off to a good start.

Did You Know...

... that right now [6/6/11, 8:17 a.m. CDT, when this revelation was made in the car on the way to theater camp], a bunch of male penguins are probably at the South Pole with eggs on their feet? Because it is winter in the South Pole and that's what penguins do — the men take care of the eggs. Ed. note: That's what Man Penguin does here, too, even in the blazing heat.

Ed. note 2: Said Man Penguin just came and read this post over my shoulder and said, "That's not true, babe — you take care of our babies, too." Lady Penguin: "Nuh uh. I'm no good. I just can't handle her." Man Penguin: "Me neither. Can we just lock her in one of these cabinets?" Family contemplating casting noisy Girl Penguin into frosty isolation. Baby Boy Penguin allowed to stay, narrowly, because he doesn't yet speak English, er, penguin.

Did You Know...

...that Lu brought peace to the first grade? There were two rival teams that were fighting (Arman's team and Lucy P's team) and Lucy got them to be friends and not fight (and also some of Lucy P's team was disqualified). And maybe someday Lu should win the Nobel Peace prize, like Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. (Ed note: Above shared anecdote prompted as Lu watched Sunday morning talk shows re: Egypt. I would almost rather tell her where babies come from than try to explain the situation in the Middle East.)