How to get rid of head lice

I mentioned long, long ago that we had an epidemic I wouldn’t be ready to talk about for a long time.  Now that a long time has passed, I’m ready.

Pediculus humanus capitis

We had head lice.

The fact that I was so embarrassed at the time just illustrates that I had fallen prey to the undeserved stigma associated with head lice.  I know it’s not limited to dirty people.  I know anyone can catch it, regardless of personal hygiene.  I even know that lice prefer clean hair, because it’s harder for them to attach their eggs to oily hair.  I knew all this and I was still ashamed to admit that we had head lice, because bugs crawling around in your hair are gross.

But when we received a call from a mother whose children had recently played with mine, my stomach hit the floor and I knew right away that we were in for it.  One of the kids had already mentioned an itchy scalp, and I was naive enough to brush it off as, you know, an itchy scalp.  Silly me.  Lesson learned.  These days, when I hear the words, “Mom, my head – ” I’m all over that kid with 3 combs and a flashlight.  If she finishes the sentence with the word “aches,” that’s ok.  You can never be too careful.

But my friend’s kids had head lice, and she called me to ask for tips on getting rid of them.  And her kids had recently played with mine.  And one of my kids had an itchy scalp.  Now the truth was out, and the battle was on.

We had head lice once years before, and the harsh chemicals had damaged the hair of some of the girls for years afterward, so I wasn’t eager to go that route.  Since we caught our infestation very early this time, I tried the natural approach: I checked each child thoroughly to determine who needed treatment, and started combing.  I spent hours each day combing for bugs and picking out eggs, thankful that only one or two scalps showed any signs of life at all.

We also bought individual hairbrushes and outlawed all sharing, boiling them frequently.  We wore our hair up, we cleaned bedding, we vacuumed everything in the house, and did all the standard stuff – but without poisons.

After a week, I was horrified to discover that the lice had spread to one or two more scalps in our house.  I stepped up the efforts and began researching other methods of control.  I don’t remember what else I tried, but I do remember the growing sense of desperation as one method after another failed, evidenced by the slow but steady population growth and spread of the beasties throughout the heads in our household.

Finally, I did it.  I went to the drugstore, prepared to shell out $100-200 for bottles of poison that would give my children ugly hair and cancer.  I didn’t want to do it, but we were leaving for a vacation in a few weeks and I didn’t want to risk infecting the friends and family we would be visiting.  It would take multiple doses a week apart, and we had to be done with this by then, hopefully with a safety margin.  We simply couldn’t waste any more time.

Determined to get it right, I asked the pharmacist on duty what brand she recommended.  If I had to go the chemical route, I wanted the best.  I wanted the one that would really, truly, actually do the job.

Her answer shocked me.

“You can buy over-the-counter treatments for head lice and try them, but lice have become very resistant to most of those.  If you really want to kill them, try this: mayonnaise and tea tree oil.  Really douse the hair, wrap it tightly in plastic, and leave it on for at least 6 hours.”

Really?  I was waving a fistful of dollars at her and she didn’t want them?  I was a little disappointed and a little relieved.  I was glad not to spend a lot of money on a cure I didn’t trust, but also a little nervous that this new suggestion would fail us.  Then who would get the blame?  Me?  Her?  Nobody?  And what would we do about our vacation?

I did it.  I bought a gallon jar of mayo, several ounces of tea tree oil, and went to work.  The boys had already been shaved, but every girl in the house wore a plastic-topped mess of highly scented mayo for the rest of the day.  We used about 1 cup of mayo with 1 tsp of tee tree oil for each head, and covered our hair with plastic grocery bags pulled tight like shower caps.  We repeated the process a week later, and for good measure we did it once more.

By the time it was over nobody smiled at being called Mayonnaise Head, and some of us still associate the scent of tea tree oil with head lice, but our hair was never so shiny and healthy.  And we never saw another creepy crawly head bug again.  And we all lived happily ever after.  Except the head lice.  They died and disappeared, never to be seen again.

The end.

PS. My friend decided to go the chemical route, and guess what?  It didn’t work.  They followed the instructions to a tee, and after the prescribed 2 treatments, they were still finding live bugs.  The cure that eventually worked for them: mayo and tea tree oil.  Ba-da-BING!

image credit: Eran Finkle 

In which I sleep better at 40

I turned 40 back in December.  I had heard that the 40’s were great, and so far I have no complaints.  In fact, I just realized one HUGE perk.  I sleep better.  Here’s why:

They say your hearing is the first to go, and you lose the higher ranges first.

I’m a light sleeper and I remember many sleepless nights, lying awake in my bed listening to a mosquito in the darkness.  She would buzz near me, and I would swat wildly.  Then I would listen.  Silence…silence…silence…neeeeeeeeee.  The high-pitched whine of the mosquito’s wings.  Eventually I fall asleep and wake up with an itchy bump or three, but it’s always a losing battle.  I would have happily thrown in the towel if I could have just willed myself to ignore the hum and go to sleep.

But it’s all over.  Today I realized that in spite of this year’s bumper crop of mosquitos and all the itchy bumps, I have not heard the whine of a mosquito in at least 6 months!  I can sleep in blissful ignorance while they drain me to their evil little hearts’ content.

Want to check your own hearing?  The Online Tone Generator lets your test your own hearing range and then see how it compares to others in your age group.  It also lets you test yourself on specific frequencies.  I think 17,000 Hertz is the sound of a mosquito, but  I could hear up to 16,000.  How high can you hear?

Here’s something I want to try out: I read that dragonflies are natural predators of the mosquito, and their wings beat at 45-67 Hertz.  Some claim that a tone generator in that range will repel mosquitos.  You can get your computer to do it, and with the speakers turned way down low it’s really not bothersome.  I’m going to use the tone generator linked above and try the dragonfly frequency on my phone as a portable personal mosquito repellent.  Cool, yes?



Food on the floor: Decision-making process

I just dropped a piece of food on the floor, and here is a reenactment of the decision-making process that followed:

“Oops.  Should I pick that up?”

Reasons I should leave it:

  1. Was it the last delicious one?  No.
  2. Will it stink, melt, or otherwise make an increasing mess if I leave it?  No..
  3. Did it land in a place where I can easily reach it once I actually bend all the way down to the floor?  No.
  4. Is it in an obvious place, where others will see it and know that I dropped it and left it?  No.  
  5. Does being in my third trimester make a good excuse for leaving it?  Of course, silly.
  6. Will anyone but God and I ever know if I leave it?  No.

Reasons I should pick it up:

  1. Will the dog or another pet find and eat it?  No, since our last remaining dog disappeared a month ago.
  2. Will somebody be sweeping this floor soon, and did it land in a place where the broom-wielder is likely to find it?  No.
  3. Is there a kid nearby that could pick it up for me?  No.
  4. Can I convince myself that I’m not entirely sure I actually dropped it, since I can’t see it from where I’m standing?  No.
  5. Will God cut me slack because I’m 9 months pregnant?  Not if  I can still paint my own toenails.


As you can clearly see, the reasons to leave it outweighed the reasons to pick it up.  The chili-cheese corn chip is still under the front edge of the fridge.  Ok, ok, I’m picking it up…

My failed attempt at blogging today

I’ve missed blogging lately, so today I set aside an hour of time to write a post. Since it’s hard for me to focus while life roars around me, I decided to hide away in my clean, quiet bedroom for that precious hour. I wanted to be able to think, to ponder, to formulate what’s on my mind and in my heart, so I could preserve my deepest thoughts and feelings here in my online journal. I wanted to create something deep and meaningful that my descendants could treasure in years to come, a way for them to know and understand me even after I’m gone.
Instead, I spent the first 35 minutes of my hour waiting for my netbook to boot, crash and reboot. Now I’m searching for instructions on how to restore it to factory settings. I also learned that it’s possible to attach a full size keyboard to my phone. This would enable me to smash my netbook into smithereens and repurpose it as potting soil, which sounds far more useful than its current state.
Maybe that’s too destructive. I could just pop all the keys off and use them to play scrabble, or use the hinge to replace the one on the kitchen cabinet that the squirrel broke last month. Maybe I could open it and set it on end as a bed riser?
If you have other ideas for my netbook, I’d love to hear them. How would you use it?

Answer my poll to help end procrastination one step at a time

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Have I ever mentioned our birthday wall?  It’s a long line of framed, matted photos: one for each member of the family, taken on or around the first birthday.  It starts with Perry III and proceeds in order all the way to Perry IV.

The statement above merits two corrections:

  1. Since it begins with Perry III, it doesn’t proceed precisely in order.  I’m older than he is.  Who knows how much older I am?  Now who is going to keep their mouth shut about it?
  2. Since it ends with Perry IV, it doesn’t include one for each member of the family.  Since Perry IV is only 6 weeks old in his 1st Birthday Photo, one could even argue that it doesn’t technically include him.  Does the phrase ovarian guilt seem appropriate here?  I think it does.

This week, I’m going to stop procrastinating.  Well, I’m going to stop procrastinating on that one particular project.  I’ll stop the other procrastination later.

I dug up all the best photos I could find that were taken around Perry and Bethany’s first birthdays, and am trying to decide which to use for each of them.  Parker will be easy since his birthday was just a month ago and we now have an awesome in-house photographer who specializes in close-ups of young children.

Why am I telling you all this?  Not just so you can feel superior because you took 1st Birthday Portraits of all your children.  I’m telling you because I want your input on which photos to use.  Just have a look and use the poll below each group to tell me which one you think best captures the child’s personality.  After all, if you read my blog you probably know as much about my children as I do.  At least you know the good stuff about them, which is what we want to remember.

Bethany #1

I love the happy, relaxed look of her smile here and the blurred background.  I can tweak the color if I use this so she doesn’t look green.  I could have tweaked the color before I showed you the pic so I wouldn’t have to explain, but I was procrastinating.  It’s my super-power.

Bethany #2

I love her eyes here.  Can you see the combination of brown and green?  Her eyes are still so mixed it’s hard to say what color they are.

Bethany #3

A little bit of an odd pic, but the faint crooked smile with thoughtful eyes is a common facial expression for her.

Bethany #4

I love Bethany in this one, but Kaitlyn might want to cry or die or kill somebody if we post it on The Birthday Wall.  The fact that Bethany is partially or entirely sans clothes is also very typical of the child.  Lord help us.

Bethany #5

Her pensive look.  Isn’t she sweet?

Bethany #6

The composition isn’t great on this one, but I love, love, love the expression on Bethany’s face in this one!

So which is your favorite?  Keep in mind, I can tweak the color, possibly soften the background and remove small elements here and there, but since I pulled them from web versions we won’t be able to crop them.

[poll id=”31″]

And now for The Boy, who is no longer the boy, but one of the boys.

Perry #1

Busy background, but that’s my boy.  Busy, and smiling.

Perry #2

With his Grandma C.  It would be nice to have a pic of her on the Wall of Fame.

Perry #3

In his suit at Miss Peanut’s wedding, Perry’s cousin.  What a little man!

Perry #4

This one is busy too, but I think he’s highlighted enough that it would work well matted and framed.

Perry #5

Two of my favorite, most handsome guys in one pic.  It’s a double feature!  This is my favorite.  Am I right, or am I biased?  Maybe both.  What do you think?

Perry #6

I love that he’s smiling in this one, and I love the incongruity of a man in a suit lying in an infant seat.  But – tell me I’m weird – does it look like he’s being laid in a coffin?

Perry #7

His expression in this one makes me laugh every time I look at it.  Is that enough of a reason to choose it?

[poll id=”32″]

Help me out, friends.  What do you think?

Phone calls: my personal neurosis

Tell me if I’m weird.  I hate to make phone calls.  I don’t mean “hate” as in dislike.  I mean it gives me butterflies in my stomach, like when I arrived at the dentist to have my wisdom teeth pulled.  Like when I got pulled over that time I was speeding, and knew it.  Like when the excitement of a new pregnancy has worn off and I realize that I have to go through labor again before I get to meet the kid.

I hate to make phone calls.  My kids hate leaving voicemail, but I breathe a sigh of relief if I make it past the 4th ring.  It’s my Get Out Of Jail Free card.  I made the call and didn’t have to do the conversation.  Now the ball is in their court, and when we talk it will be because they called me instead of vice versa.  I’m fine with that, and I have no idea why.

Well, maybe I do have an idea.  I’m just guessing, but I think it’s because I’m naturally a quiet person.  I don’t do well at keeping up my half of a conversation, and if I’m the one who made the call I feel that the burden is on me to manage the entire call: the introduction (how have you been lately?  how did that thing work out?), the business (why did I really call you today?), the post-business chit chat (now what do I say???), the graceful exit (umm…I see blood, smell smoke, and hear screams. gotta go.)

If I call you, I have to do all this, don’t I?  Isn’t that how it works?  Do other quiet people understand what I’m feeling?  Do talkative people think I’m off my rocker?

My phone is smarter than me.

After years of month-to-month service without a contract, paying for our own cheap and crummy phones as the old ones broke, we were seduced by technology.  We have new phones.  Practically free phones.  Fancy phones.  Smart phones.

Why do they call them that?  They make me feel dumb.  Is that it? It’s a Smarter-Than-Me Phone?  First I can’t find the homepage or desktop or whatever we call that starting point.  Then it’s there – what did I do to get it?  My finger twitches reflexively and it’s gone again.  Where did it go?  Help!

New technology toys make me think of this.  I feel his pain:

I knew my phone had a learning curve, and I knew my own curve would end as soon as the shine was gone, so I resolved to spend as much time as possible on that curve in the first few days.  I know myself and my weaknesses, and one is that I learn just enough to make a device do what I want it to do, then I lose interest.  I wanted to have a good grip on my phone’s capabilities before my complacency kicked in so that I could use it to its fullest extent.

Here’s what I’ve learned about Android so far:

  1. It’s not an iPhone.
  2. Cnet was right: it’s much less intuitive than an iPhone.  I’m glad I jumped on the learning curve while my enthusiasm was high.
  3. A smartphone can literally do anything a laptop or netbook can do, but…
  4. Anything that requires typing is painfully slow.  I expect to get better at that, but I can’t imagine my thumb speed will ever approach my typing on a real keyboard.
  5. Did you know you can use your phone to check your pulse?
  6. What starts out as a forced march up the learning curve can turn into an adenaline-rushing freefall.  I should ask someone to save me, but I’m having too much fun!

Here are my 10 favorite free apps so far:

  1. Gas Buddy: a savings of a few cents/gallon can add up when you drive a gas hog, and this will help the phone pay for itself month by month – if I remember to use it.
  2. Cadre Bible: I love E-sword and its iPhone app Pocketsword, but it’s not available for Android yet.  Cadre Bible is a full featured Bible program that lets me customize the look and feel to my heart’s content.  I have 2 other Bible apps with more limited features, but Cadre will be for my daily reading.
  3. Bump – Makes it fun and easy to share files.  If 2 users open Bump on their phone/iPod, one can easily choose files or apps to share, then they hold their phones and bump to transfer the files.  It’s like a knuckle bump or a toast.  How fun is that?!
  4. Coupons – There are plenty of times I could have saved money with this, and I really want to get in the habit of checking for coupons.  But honestly, I got this because it has a barcode scanner for comparison shopping.  The coupons are a bonus.
  5. Sound Hound – Let it “listen” to a few seconds of a song, and it will give you the title, lyrics, artist, and help you download it if you want.  The song isn’t playing but it’s stuck in your head?  No problem.  Just hum it.  We’re living in the space age, people.
  6. My Fitness Pal – Perry has been using this to track his calories and weight loss (30 lbs!  Give the man a hand!).  With our new phones, we can scan the barcode of the food packaging to input it after he eats.  Coolness.
  7. Dropbox – because we already use it regularly on our computers.
  8. Photoshop Express – because we’re already bigtime PS users on our computers.
  9. doubletwist – the Android answer to iTunes.
  10. Urbanspoon – we don’t eat out often, but this looks very handy for those rare occasions!

My current mission: find the best app for creating grocery lists.  Besides a quick and intuitive interface, I want one that can sync among various devices; organize items by aisle as they’re found in my favorite store; remember the items I buy most often; recognize items by voice and barcode.

Film Festival!!!

This is one of our favorite weekends of the year – the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival!  Will you be there?  We’ve been counting down for months, looking forward to seeing people we only see once/year, watching film trailers online, and poring over the schedule.

The first part of this week was one long fashion show as the girls tried to decide what they were wearing, especially after receiving 5 boxes of hand-me-downs from some very sweet friends – you should have heard the squeals of joy (It fits!) and anguish (It doesn’t fit!) and more joy (It looks perfect on you!).

And while I’m on the topic of fashion, I’ll just come out and say it: I…um…

I thought carefully and decided to…


Well, the festival is at two separate venues a mile apart.  We’re going to be walking a lot.

Here it is: I’m wearing sneakers with a skirt.  It’s not a denim skirt, and I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.  My four fashionable teens assure me that I do not look like the stereotypical homeschool mom (is it bad that I want so badly to avoid that?) and I think I believe them – until I look down and see besneaker’d toes peeking out from beneath my hem.

So there you have it.  If we meet, go ahead and glance down at my feet.  I’ll pretend not to notice, but I’ll be checking out your footwear at the same time.

10 ways interval training is like labor

I’ve already told you that several members of our family recently took up jogging; I posted about it here and here.  The way that the Couch to 5K program is set up is called interval training. Interval training is a structured series of workouts that alternates lighter exercise with more strenuous sessions in gradually increasing increments.   It is designed to be quite challenging and provides relatively fast improvement.

It’s also very hard. For the first 6 weeks of the program – the time during which we alternated walks and jogs because we weren’t yet able to jog for extended periods – I couldn’t help but feel that there was a strong parallel between interval training and labor pains.

Here are some of the ways that came to mind while I was working out:

  1. Every time we’re ready to go for a run, I can’t wait to start.  Once we start, I find myself wondering: “WHAT WAS I THINKING?  THIS ISN’T FUN!”
  2. It’s all about the breathing.
  3. The breathing often sounds the same, too.
  4. The intervals are like contractions, and you find yourself counting down with dread to the next intense interval.
  5. Psychological signposts are strikingly similar – Stage 1: Hooray!  We’ve started!  Stage 2: Wait…this is hard.  Not fun anymore.  Stage 3: I CAN’T DO IT!”
  6. The coaching sounds the same: “You can do this…just a little longer…You’re doing great!”
  7. It generally gets easier with practice, but…
  8. …sometimes it’s much harder than you expect.
  9. Sometimes you know why it’s harder, and other times there seems to be no rhyme or reason.
  10. It feels so good when it’s over.

Is this analogy just not working for you?  I also think there is a striking similarity between childbirth and death.  Which analogy makes more sense to you?

Post-partum hair – or the lack thereof

I’m now 6 weeks into the hair-loss stage of the post-partum hormone rollercoaster.  I know it can’t last much longer.  How do I know?  Because I’ll be out of hair soon.

Next comes the uber-cool spiky hairdo.  Please tell me this happens to you too.

I’m long overdo for a haircut.   Should I get it now in anticipation of things to come, or wait until the spikes start appearing like daffodil shoots in the spring?  What will my stylist say?