There are a few things I have learned from being a mommy for the last seven years and one of them is that you absolutely cannot trust those space-monkeys to give you the full extent of the information that you need at any given moment. We've been in the middle of watching a movie only to have the 5 year old announce that he pooped his pants a long time ago. My first-grader has decided to enlighten me to the fact that he needs to bring treats for his entire classroom. Today. And they need to be dairy free, gluten free, soy free, peanut free and fully organic.
Ok, that last part was just for me.
The other morning, I had overslept. My alarm and I have a very tumultuous relationship, given that it lives on my iPhone. I love my iPhone, but I loathe that alarm with every ounce of my soul. I set multiple alarms to go off every morning and my subconscious brain will make my arm reach out and swipe that sucker off immediately. Over and over again, we do this. Finally my husband will get annoyed enough to wake me up and ever-so-lovingly remind me that I need to get my lazy butt up out of bed and do something with my life. Well, on this particular morning he was apparently also feeling slightly lethargic so his typical zeal to disrupt my slumber did not appear. Instead, we both shot awake with that panicky feeling of your stomach in your throat and threw off the covers.
He quickly left for work and me and I ran my tongue over the surfaces of my still-scummy teeth while I threw peanut butter and cinnamon on toasted blueberry bagels and called it Breakfast. While Isaiah was chomping away on his bagel and I was entrenched in the dreaded Prometheus Lunch Bag Assembly Torture.
In between bites, my darling oldest child says to me -- Mom, by the way, I need you to check me for ticks.
What's that now?
After staring at my boy for a solid 30 seconds with my mouth agape and my tongue malfunctioning, I regained my ability to speak.
Sweetheart, I replied, Why on earth do I need to check you for ticks?
He wiped the peanut butter off his face with the sleeve of his shirt despite the fact I had given him a perfectly good paper towel at the beginning of his meal, and responded.
Our teacher said that there might be ticks on us from our field trip yesterday and that we need to have our parents check us to see if there are any. So can you check me?
His class had gone on a little field trip to nature preservation area in our city the previous day, but it had been so damned cold that the kids had to wear winter boots, mittens, hats, the whole Wisconsin suit of armor. Never in a million years did I think that ticks would be a concern. I silently grumbled that now Isaiah had this crazy idea of ticks in his head and that I wouldn't be able to get him to let it go until I had checked him.
But the lunches weren't finished, the kids weren't dressed, the dishes were all over the place, the dog still had to go out, and I needed to brush my teeth (as we've already established). Plus, the kid was still chomping through that bagel.
Given my utmost knowledge of such things and my candidacy for Mother of the Year, I did the only logical thing. I told him to wait.
Buddy, I'm really busy right now with lunches and you're still eating and everything, so I'll just check you quick after breakfast, ok?
He slammed the rest of his bagel and ran into his room. A few minutes later, he came bounding into the room all dressed and ready for school and reminded me it was Tick Checking Time!
I sighed and relented, annoyed at the futility of this activity on an April morning that felt more like February. While I combed my fingers through his hair, I prattled some nonsense about his math homework, hollered at Micah not to pick his nose while eating breakfast, and reminded Thomas that we don't lick the syrup off the plate. I was really only slightly paying attention to the task in front of me until I suddenly encountered something under my son's hair that made my own hair stand on end.
Please tell me that's a mole.
My brain held out hope until I saw that the mole had legs and was moving.
I did what any rational, mature adult would do in that situation.
I called my Mommy.
Commanding Isaiah to stand still, I ran for my phone and tapped her name, all the while trying desperately not to think about the fact that this nasty little parasite had been feasting on my child's head all afternoon the previous day and the entire night while he slept until he finally got it into his dopey little brain to tell me what his teacher had said about ticks. And why the heck are they stomping around in the woods to begin with? DON'T THEY KNOW IT'S CLEARLY TICK SEASON???!!!
As the phone rang in my ear, I assembled what I was assuming would be the necessary tick removal supplies -- tweezers, rubbing alcohol, Vaseline, cotton pads, a lighter, hydrogen peroxide. Considering that it was 7:30 in the morning, I assumed that a stiff cocktail didn't qualify as a necessary supply.
Mom, I breathed, I'm sorry to call you so early in the morning, but I don't know what else to do. Isaiah has a TICK on his head. Like, it is freaking ATTACHED to his head and it has been there overnight and I'm sure he's probably sucked out half of Isaiah's brain out by now.
My mother, bless her heart, kept her cool when I clearly could not. Here are the steps she calmly walked me through while my hands trembled, shivers traveled up and down my spine, and my kid complied with my commands because even he understood that he was seriously up a creek at the moment considering there was a writhing, disgusting parasite attached to his skull.
- Soak a Rag in Rubbing Alcohol to Coax the Tick Out. My mom said that the alcohol should make the tick loosen its fangs and back out of the entry point. I used a janky old dish rag and saturated the corner in the rubbing alcohol, holding it right up against that cursed little beast. It wiggled and kicked and flailed about, but considering that Isaiah had let him feast on his for nearly 24 hours, he was so comfortable that he was reluctant to disengage. This method ultimately failed me.
- Vaseline. Isaiah was screaming something about Vaseline that his teacher must have said to them, but I was so focused on trying to give his new pet alcohol poisoning that I didn't even register what he was saying. In hindsight, I'm thinking I probably should have listened, but too late now!
- Tweeze the Sucker. When the alcohol didn't work, my mother recommended I use a tweezer to try to "encourage" the tick to let my kid go. While simultaneously vowing never to tweeze my eyebrows with those tweezers again, I grabbed on to the wiggling body while continuing to drown it in rubbing alcohol. At the point, my baby was starting to whimper just a bit. I knew enough from listening to idiots in my daily life that I didn't just want to yank on the sucker and break off its little fang parts, leaving them behind in Isaiah's scalp. A more delicate touch was needed. Only he still wouldn't move.
- Bring Fire. When all the previous methods failed, my mother suggested we bring out the big guns. I reached into our junk drawer and grabbed the lighter I usually use for delightfully scented candles. When Isaiah saw me push the button, sending flame spewing out the end and into the metal tip of the tweezers that he knew was about to come in contact with his head, well... that's when he started to cry. Meanwhile, Micah decided to chime in from his spot at the dinner table with super-helpful quips like, "Stop Mommy!" and "Don't set my brother on fire!" I heated the end of the tweezers, got a good grip on the tick, and gently pulled until it finally, mercifully released its hold.
I quickly scanned the rest of Isaiah's head to make sure that the horrid little critter hadn't invited any of his little friends and he came up clean. Grateful and stinking of rubbing alcohol, he ran off to finish getting ready for school and I stood there at the kitchen counter with a charred tweezers in my hand, surveying the carcass of the Breakfast Tick. No idea if I did it right or if I need to start monitoring my kid for symptoms of Lyme Disease, but all I cared about in the moment was that the icky tick was dead.
Thanking my mother profusely and trying to shake off the feeling of creepy crawlies running up and down my arms, I cleared the breakfast table and had a conversation with a rather clueless child about why he really needs to tell us about these kinds of things right way rather than waiting for a "by the way" moment the next morning.
I sent my dopey, tick-free kid off to school, said a quick prayer that he wouldn't contract Lyme Disease, and we went about our morning.
I could feel that stupid tick crawling on me all day long.