Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Holidays.....

Several weeks back Jake lost 2 days of school due to head lice. I learned a lot about them over those days, used an expensive head kit (which didn't work) and a cheap home remedy recommended by the Pharmacist (which did--put mayonaise in the hair, cover with a shower cap for one hour!). I swore if it happened again I'd get his hair cut to a buzz, and now I'm having to think about it!!!
Whenever he touches his scalp I ask if he's itching, he dodged the question more than usual today so I checked it and @$#&&$ if he doesn't have them again. #&*$*%#!!!
I checked his hair several times after the first infestation and it was defintely clear, so this is a recent infestation. We had him for Christmas until 2 days ago, and I guess he got it from the kid he was with for two consecutive sleepovers the last 2 nights at his dad's house. Frustrating? is not a sufficient word for my anger and desperation. Mostly because of all the stuff that needs to be done here to quell this thing, and then after that I can't speak for what happens at his dad's house. I guess I'll keep him with me until his dad does the laundry and bedclothes, and I've already told Jake the sleepovers are done with.
When somebody in the house has head lice, everybody's head itches--psychomatically. I guess my hair is short enough that they have not attacked me, and easily solved if they did because these particular lice only live in head hair, a very specific target, and i can shave that easily. No, it's Sheila I worry about, that would be a task and a half to clear, even though she cut her hair shorter than I've ever seen. So far, no problem, keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yes Brandon, there is a Santa Claus

Just to be clear, what follows is a true 'Christmas" story:
Wow, am I out of practice talking to 9 year olds! If I was ever any good at it, I think it left me at about the same time as my 32 inch waist.
Everybody knows my current situation, housebound caregiver etc; Jacob lives with his dad most of the time and we get him Friday nights, which is the exact opposite of the old arrangement prior to Sheila's accident. Until now, that is, because school is out and neither us nor Jacob's dad can afford full day child care, so he stays with us full-time until 5 January. The other day he asked for a sleepover, which is inappropriate due to Sheila's situation, not just from a privacy point of view but because I can't give proper attention. But to be honest, I just don't want the responsibility of a overnighter with a strange kid. In the end I agreed to a "play date"lasting from 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM. That's how I met Brandon, Jake's best, 2nd, or 3rd best friend depending on the weather, or some other caprice. Brandon is big for his age, in a rotund way, but quiet, generally pleasant and impeccably polite. As happens, there was a fight between them in Jake's room over a nerf dart, and I tried to intervene but Jacob was already extremely upset and stormed off, ostensibly (I later found out) to walk to his dad's house 7 miles north in Wachesaw.
I asked Brandon why he was not cooperating with Jake over the dart, i.e., why would he let things escalate as they did. Well, there is no logic to escalation even when adults practice it, so that was a dead end. Since Jake was outside, and clearly not wanting to hang out with Brandon, I thought it best to have Brandon watch TV with me in the living room, lest he start having designs on the copper wiring in the wall sockets or something.
All was quiet for a while, but after a few minutes of Dexter's Lab, Brandon shifted uncomfortably on the floor and without looking at me, said "there's something I've been wanting to ask." I put down my magazine, and not knowing what to expect, I just said "ask away."
"I've been wondering if Santa claus is real," he said. "I asked my mom and she just said 'if you don't believe, you don't receive.'"
OK, that was a nifty retort from "mom" (I wish I'd thought of that years ago), but I was in wonder of what to say next to a stranger's kid on the cusp of the "real Santa dilemma."
In a split second, I thought of the old Virginia story, of telling an outright lie, and also if it would be wrong to be truthful; I decided it was best to say "well, I believe in Santa." I told myself it was true in that every time we give, we live the spirit of Santa. Fortunately it was enough, we then went on to why you can't be awake when santa comes, how he fell aleep in front of the tree one Christmas eve and woke up in bed, and so on.
Later it occured to me how isolated our kids have become when they resort to asking a relative stranger about something that troubles them so. Do they trust adults when they get dodgy stories about the Tooth Fairy, Santa and the Easter Bunny, do they come to know adults will lie to them about certain things?
I don't know if it's wrong to promulgate these things, I always thought not. I was aghast when I learned the Linnes (across the lake in Gwinn, MI) always told their kids the stuff under the tree was from mom and dad. I recall Bev Linne was downright adamant the kids would by God know she bought that stuff, and not some fat trespasser dressed in red. I only know it didn't hurt me when I found out, and I didn't hate my parents for stringing me along.
In any case, that question means we are probably having the last wonder and awe-filled Christmas in this house, and it is sad in its departure.
So, until the next round of rug rats in the unending cycle, we will put out the last plate of cookies tomorrow night, and hope it all goes well.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Pavements of Summer

Much has been said about using up our non-renewable energy resources, and there is an angry contingent who are quite militant about using solar, wind, geothermal, bio-fuel and ocean since they are "renewable." But read up, and you will find out those technologies do not reasonably hold promise of meeting all our needs, probably ever. Global warming aside for the moment, seems like some combination of a plentiful resource(s), renewable resources, improved power transmission through superconductivity, and reducing our needs (improved living designs? Mass die-off? Civilization collapse? It could happen) is our true future.
A bleak concept, but some studies have been conducted with rats that show that popultion tends to correct itself sooner or later. We know, for example, what happens to deer populations, now that we've damaged their natural predator numbers, if we don't intervene before winter. Disease, famine, higher mortality, lower fertility, all these things can happen quickly and devastatingly. That stress number may be quite high for humans, but certainly, there is a number.
The US is blessed with lots of coal, about 250 years at current use levels; of course that time frame will shrink as we figure out how to sub coal for other sources over time, as well as continuing to grow our populace for demand. A common advertisement likes to tell us there is no hope for "clean coal" energy production.
We already know oil is a dead end, and maybe scarily so.
Nuclear is always an option, with the caveats of indestructable toxins, terror attack risk, and possible WMD proliferation (no matter what you've heard, ANY nuclear reactor can be configured to produce Plutonium).
The various renewable sources will become cheaper, but creating them in the first place carries its own pollution price tag. Exotic elements, production technologies, transportation, all will add to the earth-burden. Perhaps most disappointing, bio-fuel diverts a huge amount of bio-mass from food production.
Architecture solutions include better use of insulation, natural lighting, botanical enhancements (like shade), and so on. The payback for socalled passive improvements is sometimes modest in comparison to the cost of including them.
But something we used to do automatically, but not so much any more, is include sidewalks in our new subdivisions. These, along with bikepaths, will become the pavement of choice when weather is nice and transportion costs become more like last summer than currently. A recent History Channel special on the nature and finite supply of crude oil made a comment that really resonates in our current situation; "to see what our future will look like, we need only look at our past." A future without oil would look like the horse and buggy days, and how many people will that support?
I see a future where the average person does many more daily transportation and maintenance tasks using people-power, and I think we need to start putting in sidewalks and bikepaths NOW!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Finally a sunny day. Zach s here and we are trying to go through the oldest stuff in the Stephens household, and it's slow going. But eventually we will have our garage back. The stuff of a lifetime--I can only say to the young, purge as you go--paperwork and nic-nacs add up very quick.