Work with me, please.

Posts tagged ‘bugs’

Heat, Snakes, Heros, and Love


We woke up Saturday morning to a blanket of icy snow. It was enough to get Mae and Jay to whooping and donning their boots. They stomped around the front yard, enjoying the sound and feel of crunching their footprints into the sheet of ice-snow. And, on the very weekend that Ole Man Winter settled into the DC area, our furnace went kaput. I think we’ve lost heat at least once every winter since we moved into this house over six years ago. I am so hoping that the technician will declare the unit a total loss so that we can get a new one under our home warranty. I know, I know . . . but I can dream.

On Saturday, we took Mae and Jay to an area children’s museum. It boggles my mind that Mae can ask the curator to take the boa constrictor out of the cage so that she can pet it, yet, she calls for her dad when she sees an ant or spider in the house. Maybe the latter is a damsel in distress thing. Maybe she enjoys seeing her dad in the hero role, which is cool because he’s awesome like that.


On Sunday, Hubby and I made a delicious spinach and lentil soup. He came into the kitchen and said, “Can I help you cook?” Best words I heard all day. I enjoy cooking, so I was happy not in terms of relief, but that he chose me over football during playoff season! Cooking is something we enjoy doing together and hadn’t done in a while. Bonus: while the lentils simmered, we made guacamole for the first time. Well, it was something like guacamole because we added a tomato, which I think made it salsa. Also, we don’t have a proper stone mortar and pestle set, so we mashed the avocado and other ingredients together with a fork. We stood right at the counter and devoured the whole bowl. For the record, we are not totally greedy and selfish. We did try to convince the kids to try some. No dice on the guaca-salsa, but Jay, starch lover that he is, did try the multigrain chips and asked to have some with his lunch.

Then, I tried to convince them to try ants on a log. A few weeks earlier, Jay had asked us to buy celery so that he could try it (Thank you, Wonder Pets). I thought it unlikely that he would actually eat the celery. Since he likes peanut butter and raisins already, I thought maybe he would take at least one bite of the combination. He and Mae were tickled by the name, and uninterested in a taste. Frankly, I had trouble keeping my mouth from twisting as I demonstrated how fun it would be to eat “ants.” Unable to get them on board, I went back to the kitchen and gave the rest of the log to Hubby. Yuck.

When the soup was done, Hubby and I had a taste test — one bowl, two spoons, standing face-to-face with the soup between us, heads bent into the steam, taking turns with our spoons. Yummy! Best.soup.ever.

Our kitchen adventures over, I took Mae to one of her friend’s birthday party. Yes, she was invited to a girl’s birthday party, and a girl that she likes! Even better, Mae got to sit by K, the little girl whose friendship she seems to value the most. So, Mae was really happy while she painted her ceramic mug. In the down time between the ceramics painting and cake serving, Mae got antsy and started jostling with K. It was the kind of horseplay that can easily and quickly turn and led to someone getting hurt. As I walked over to remind Mae that she can play without touching, I heard her explaining, “I’m using your own power against you” (Thanks, Avatar). I took her on a tour of the ceramics shop to look for gift ideas. After a few minutes, she was ready to go back to the party room and I reminded her again to keep her hands to herself, and warned that if she couldn’t, we would go home. Others were still eating cake when Mae went back in, and since she only eats chocolate cake, she had nothing to do. Idle time is not my girl’s friend. When she and K got to jostling playfully again and I heard another mom telling them to cut it out, I got Mae’s attention with my hands and motioned for her to get ready to go home. The party was winding down anyway as there were no other activities planned. Mae was disappointed, but she came over without complaining. As we walked to the car, she put her head down and said that she always messes up. I told her that’s not true, and that she often makes smart choices.

In retrospect, I think I should have just pulled her out of the party room for a few minutes to make the point. Maybe I was too hard on her. The funky thing is that I know such horseplay is more acceptable among boys. I feel like I’m forced to play to a double-standard. I want Mae to be seen as a good playmate in front of other parents and kids so that they will be more accepting and inclusive, and that means I have to encourage her to “play like a girl” when truth be told, she prefers to “play like a boy” with girls. My sense is that K would rather not horseplay, and that she goes along because Mae has a strong personality. Leaving the party early allowed Mae to get out before she got on K’s nerves or got into any serious trouble. I realize that Mae may not be able to appreciate that, but I like to think I saved her from something. K came over to give her a big hug before we left, and I call that ending on a good note.

I’m no spider-squishing hero, but hopefully, one day Mae will understand that I tried to make her life a little less scarey, even if I didn’t always go about it the best way.

Bug Birthdays and Bites

Jay looked on as Mae touched a hissing cockroach at the National Children's Museum Launch Zone.

Mae asked during dinner last night, “Do bugs have birthdays?”

I should have said, “No.”  But, I overthought it.

Me (to myself):  Since bugs are born, they could have birthdays.

Me (tentatively, to Mae):  “Well, bugs don’t celebrate birthdays.”

Mae:  So, they do have birthdays?

Jay:  No!  Bugs don’t have birthdays!

I changed the subject.

On another bug note, one sure sign that the season is changing is that Mae is starting to get sores again.  She’s been having hypersensitive reactions to insect bites since about age three.  Which insects, we don’t know.  They especially like her face and arms.  She’ll go to bed with a small bump, sometimes barely noticeable, and wake up with a dark brown spot that scabs over, even if she doesn’t touch the bump.  According to one “guru” pediatric dermatologist, the reaction may appear in a location on her body different from where the nameless bug bit her and the reaction may appear at a later time.   I still have trouble believing that.  He was the third dermatologist we had seen.  I stood in his office armed with pictures, notes, and questions.  It had taken months to get the appointment, and I was prepared to hear and discuss a diagnosis and prevention plan.  The “expert” spent about five minutes in the examining room and then left me and Mae with two medical students who I think I may have frightened when I (heh-hem) politely questioned the doctor.  One of the students sheepishly repeated the no-see-um non-sense, and advised that we use insect repellent daily and antibiotic creams to prevent infection.  He offered sympathetically that Mae would likely grow out of the hypersensitivity over time.

The second dermatologist had tested hair and skin samples.  The tests were negative.

The first dermatologist had pointed to insects, too, and I didn’t believe her either.  She believed that Mae was scratching insect bites and causing the sores.  By the time of that visit, I’d started checking Mae’s body after bath and again in the morning.  Mae would sometimes be unaware of the brown spots until I pointed them out to her.  She wasn’t complaining of itching or pain.  Some of the spots were as big as dimes and they would begin with a red ring around them.  By the end of the day, the brown spot would have sunken in a little and the skin would begin to break.  I argued with Ms. Dr. that “insect bite” didn’t make sense if you can’t see the bite and there is no itching.  Still, for lack of any other answers, Hubby and I looked and treated for insects, to no avail.  I tried different detergents, new bedding, disinfectants, blah blah.  There were sores at home and while states away, and while at two different childcare locations; it didn’t make a difference.

It was actually an allergist who convinced me that it was a hypersensitivity problem.  Ultimately, his science may not have been any different from that of the dermatologists, but he was different.   He and I sat down across from each other at a table, he with a pen and pad and I with my pictures and log.  He asked questions and took notes.  He looked at my pictures.  He told me about his graduate work on insect bites, and he showed a genuine interest in Mae.  He was intrigued by the unusually dark pigmentation of the lesions, and gave recommendations for evening her skin tone and threw in some advice on treating dry skin.

I try to use insect repellent consistently.  I try to put Benadryl cream or spray on any bump as soon as I see it on her, and I think that has stopped some reactions.  The sores have become fewer in number and smaller.  I’m hopeful that one day she will completely outgrow the problem.

This is one thing I hate about this time of year.  I hate not being about to identify the bugs and kill them, or at least avoid them.  I hate having to put Band-aids on Mae’s face.  I hate feeling helpless about anything, especially when it comes to my kids.  I worry about the long-term impact on her skin tone and complexion.  Puberty will present its own complexion challenges, and I would be happy for her to at least go into it with a clear and even complexion.  I know that inner beauty is more important blah blah, and I’m not a vain person.  A fair start on puberty is not too much to ask.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep the insect repellent and Benadryl close at hand and continue to invest in family size jars of cocoa butter.

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