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While I hate to keep Zoe home from school when it’s only the second week, I also don’t think she’ll be in much shape to learn anything tomorrow morning at 8 when she went to sleep just before midnight. Why did she stay up until midnight on a Monday night, you ask? The answer is a repugnant four-letter word: LICE.
Most nights after she showers, Zoe asks me to comb her hair, and tonight when I was combing I observed some small, unwelcome creatures crawling on her scalp. After Randy had taken Zeke upstairs to bed, I told Zoe that I thought she had lice, and she started weeping. I called my mom for advice. I tried to calm Zoe down but I also felt like the need to expunge the bugs was rather urgent. I combed and she cried. I texted friends whose children I knew had dealt with lice. After Randy came downstairs I dispatched him to the drugstore to buy some lice-repellent product. Zoe asked if I was going to be combing her hair for the rest of her life, and I said, yes, I would be combing her hair when she breaks her board this Saturday at the martial arts growth ceremony, and when she goes to the prom, and as she’s walking down the aisle during her wedding. She added that I would be combing her hair while she was giving birth to her first child, and then while she was combing her own child’s hair. By then she was laughing instead of crying.
I did the treatment. Randy stripped the bed and sprayed it with some magic lice-be-gone spray. I did the second treatment and combed again and made the bed. I put most of the stuffed animals in the wash and some pillows in a trash bag where they’re supposed to live until the lice suffocate and die. I inspected Eve, Zoe’s doll who cannot go into the wash, and she looked clean. I didn’t feel like giving her the treatment. Also she doesn’t have hair.
It’s Randy’s birthday too. Fortunately we celebrated yesterday, as tonight was not especially festive. Exciting, sure. Festive, maybe not. Although yesterday was also exciting when the cake we made for Randy caught fire in the oven (marshmallows on top) and Randy blew it out and made a really big wish. That was festive AND exciting.
Before the discovery of the bugs tonight, Zeke had mysteriously melted down at dinner. He burst into tears because Randy cut up his broccoli too small, so he could eat it. He wanted big broccoli. This might not sound crazy, but Zeke doesn’t usually get upset about such things. He usually spends dinner either eating his food, spilling it on himself, or trying to make us laugh. I guess he had a long day. We went to the meet and greet at his preschool today so he could check out his classroom and spend a few minutes of quality time with his teacher. On the way into the school he was so excited that he started sprinting across the parking lot and fell down and scraped up his knees. They were still hurting him at bedtime. We tried to assuage him with Muppet band-aids. So Zeke was feeling a little fragile all day, although when I strapped him into his carseat as we were leaving preschool he had tears welling up in his eyes and I asked him what was wrong and he said, “Nothing. Happy.” Perhaps even he didn’t know what was wrong. But he seems to love his teacher, who was once Zoe’s teacher and as a result greeted Zeke by name last year when she saw him in passing. I didn’t know he even noticed or remembered her, but when I introduced her to him as his new teacher he leaped into her arms and gave her a hug like they were long-lost buddies. It is possible he doesn’t understand why he keeps going to school for brief periods of time only to have to leave again just when he’s getting going. Thursday is his first real day. Hopefully it will be satisfying for all of us.
The report on third grade: so far so good. Zoe says her teacher is awesome. She is thrilled to have a locker, for which she shopped for decorations this past weekend. I still haven’t gotten a lot of concrete details about anything she’s learning, but she’s seemed happy every day when I’ve picked her up, so I’ll take that. Except today when I picked her up, I asked how her day went, and she said she spent most of it worrying. This afternoon she had her green solid belt test at Evolve All, where she had to demonstrate the exercises, techniques, and understanding that green solid belt martial artists are supposed to master. She was nervous. She said Master Emerson reminded her last week that it’s good to be nervous because it means it matters. During the test I kept Zeke entertained with puzzles and snacks and a blue car we rolled to each other, while I watched Zoe out of one eye. She did awesome. I can see how much confidence and poise she’s gained over the past year, even though she still gets nervous. She passed. She wasn’t as pleased with herself as I expected, but she stood on her head in the turf room for a bit afterwards, which always seems to make her happy. Now onto the board break on Saturday. I will remind her again then as I did today, what Rev. Aaron said in his sermon on Sunday, “We got this.”
So watch out, lice. Move on out. We have our combs and our creams. We can run our washer and dryer all night if we have to. We got this.
Wearing a summer tank top and fluffy fleece pajamas, accompanied by Ralph (dog), Fireheart (cat), Cotton Candy (owl), and Eve (baby doll), Zoe is tucked into bed, listening to the Wailin’ Jennys at low volume. The night before her first day of third grade and all of us (except Zeke, thankfully) are a bit on edge. Zoe is nervous about a new teacher who she’s only just met, and a class that only includes one of her good friends, and also includes a girl who made life difficult for Zoe back in first grade. She said she’s not ready for summer to end–a summer that has been exciting and expansive for her–and although she loves school, she repeated to me all day that she’s just not ready for it to start again. She is alarmed at the idea that she’s already halfway through elementary school. As am I. I reminded her that there’s plenty of time to experience the next three years, although my mind also shudders to imagine middle school, even though this summer I’ve seen glimpses of Zoe’s teenage self, and both admired and been aggravated by her burgeoning independence.
Tonight we played a little Taboo and read the first seven pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, having solved the mystery of the Prisoner of Azkaban last night. We watched the third movie last night and this morning and discussed discrepancies between the book and movie and reaffirmed our belief that the books are better, although the flying scenes are always spectacular. We cleaned the house today and painted pottery and went to the back to school picnic. Zoe didn’t argue about going to bed earlier than usual. She was clearly exhausted in body and spirit, the adrenaline that has fueled the past three months spent.
I wish I could go to bed now too, actually, but there is too much to do, in my house and on my computer, but mostly in my head. There is the school year’s first preschool newsletter to put together, and the school year’s first third grade lunch to make, and so many items to add to so many lists. Find out where to get tuberculosis screening, update PTA website, figure out what we’re going to have for dinner all those nights when we have martial arts or soccer practice till 7pm. I am resolved to start Weight Watchers tomorrow. What am I going to eat when I’m stressed out and starving? How am I not going to stop at Burger King on the way home from co-oping at Zeke’s preschool? How am I not going to drink Coke or Dr. Pepper, which I love and crave? How will I even remember to eat breakfast? So many questions. And there’s a book I started last night, a young adult book I picked up at the Green Valley Book Fair this summer, that’s totally fascinating about a girl with synesthesia. I was up till 1am reading it last night and had to force myself to turn out the light. You may notice that I haven’t even mentioned work. I still have a business to run, and people to interview, and articles to write. Oy.
I am trying to carve out more space for myself this fall. I am co-facilitating a covenant group at church, and just had lunch with my co-facilitator, who I had only met in passing when she was one of Zoe’s religious education teachers last spring. It turns out she’s fantastic and we have all kinds of unexpected things in common. I am looking forward to getting to know people at our new church, in a meaningful way. I’m also planning to participate in a leadership retreat with the church in October. I will be away for Halloween. I haven’t told Zoe yet. She’s going to be–wait for it–Harry Potter. Zeke said he would be a doctor, so hopefully we still have Zoe’s doctor costume from kindergarten somewhere in the house. He will gladly check your eyes and ears if you let him and give you plenty of shots. We are definitely pro-vaccination in our family.
I am hopeful that some of this spiritual development will help me better manage my anxiety from moment to moment. Times of transition, like, for example, NOW, are really tough. I understand that they are tough for many (most?) people, but I can only really speak to the cacophony of WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF boomeranging around in my head. Third grade in Zoe’s soccer league is when they transition to bigger fields, bigger balls, playing positions, and calling fouls. What if it’s too hard, too much, too competitive? What if Zoe stops loving to play soccer? Coincidentally this month she’ll be taking the test in martial arts to become a blue solid belt, which would move her from advanced into the SUPER ADVANCED class. How can she be super advanced at something? She’s eight! But she’d be in the class with the blue belts and the red belts and the black belts. She has to accomplish a serious board break to make this move, and we know what happened last time she had to do a serious board break. She is worried that will happen again, that it will take her countless tries to break the board. While she survived last time, and demonstrated courage and composure, I’m pretty sure none of us wants to go through that again.
I keep reading about how we–as a society–need to stop protecting our kids so much, how we need to let them forget, let them fall, let them fail, so they will learn on their own to remember, to get up again, to figure out how to succeed. This advice is so obvious, yet so hard to follow when faced with seeing your child struggle. I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that all this change is necessary, and all these challenges can be positive. What if I’m doing it wrong? often echoes in my brain, especially when I’ve made one of those million little decisions each day for my children. Can she have a Sprite? Should I let them watch another episode of “Odd Squad?” Does it make everything all right if we snuggle and tickle a lot and I give the dinosaurs who won’t fit on the dinosaur train books to read? I’ve given Zoe new third grade chores. We have enforced them only loosely in the weeks leading up to school starting. I’ve told her that Zeke is her apprentice in setting the table and once she teaches him how, it will no longer be her responsibility. We have a lot of clever ideas that never come to fruition.
There’s still plenty of time, right? We don’t have to do everything tonight. Except have some popcorn. That we definitely have to do tonight.