Friday, June 20, 2014

Everything I Learned The Day I Finally Met A Tick

We were all just sitting around the family room, watching a scary show on t.v., when the real thriller happened.

My husband's side of the family was staying with us for a few days of vacation, which meant we were a full house. Four brothers, a sister, in-laws, the parents, nephews and nieces...We were like a bed and breakfast.  On that particular late afternoon, after everyone got tired from throwing, catching and kicking ball on our front lawn, we all settled in for some relaxed time in front of the television.  One of my brothers-in-law (BIL) was massaging the head of my 9-year old niece when he felt a small bump on her scalp.  At first he thought it was just another scab on her scalp that she might have scratched from long ago, but as he began to part her hair to take a closer look, he realized it was something else.

He exclaimed, "What is THIS??!!", squinting his eyes while simultaneously trying to get our attention.  I was seated quite close to the two of them so I slid even closer to take a look at my niece's head.  By this time, it has gotten clear to my BIL that what he was looking at and feeling with his fingers was a living creature.

I don't know what made me exclaim, considering I haven't seen one in real life before, but it just came out of my mouth.  

"It's a tick!!"

None of us knew for sure but it was the prime suspect.  And whatever it was, we all knew it had to be pulled out.  My sister-in-law (my niece's mom) immediately rushed to take a look, while my husband and I sent our son to the upstairs bathroom to grab the tweezers.  As soon as the tweezers came, we handed it to my SIL and I recall myself repeating, "Make sure you grab the whole thing; Don't break the head off".  (All this I remember from reading a bunch of tick-related articles, since I'm the resident paranoid that everyone always made fun of...until now!).

My SIL did her best to pull it straight up but to no avail.  This bug's grip on my niece's scalp was remarkably and frighteningly tight!  I'm not joking.  My husband then took over to try if he could do it.  He yanked it hard and we could see that a chunk of my niece's scalp came off with the bug as it lifted off of her head.  Whew!

Then we rushed to place it on top of a piece of paper towel, had the presence of mind to take pictures from a couple of phones (in case we ever needed to show it to a doctor for identification), before another BIL burned it with his lighter.  

This is the picture of the actual tick.
You can still see a piece of my niece's scalp attached to its mouth part / "front claws".

Almost immediately, another SIL searched online to try to identify this tick. After her research and mine, we felt comfortable enough to conclude that this may be the American Dog Tick, and not the Deer Tick which carries Lyme Disease.  (Another 'WHEW!", although, this kind can still cause the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, according to the CDC).  We looked for various pictures online to use for comparison and found this.

 Image by :  CDC
They look pretty much the same, don't they?

Another thing that gave everyone in the family some sense of comfort was the fact that the tick we found did not seem engorged (did not look like a grape), which meant it probably has not fed yet and therefore might not have yet released its toxins.  I also read that normally, a tick takes no less than 24 hours of being attached to its host and feeding before it releases the toxins. I found several sites giving detailed information on ticks, but I found thisthis and this to be particularly helpful for quick information.  

We don't know exactly where my niece might have gotten this tick.  We were out almost all morning.  She stood on the grassy area of a brunch place we went to.  She stood under trees at a donut place we visited.  Then she was playing on our lawn that early afternoon.  It could have originated anywhere. We simply don't know. Although I suspect it might have fallen on her head from somewhere.  This seems more logical than thinking that the tick crawled all the way from her feet and settled on her head without her feeling it, considering it was a fairly large one.  But who knows?

All I know is that I rushed to wash all our beddings less than an hour after our frightening discovery just to be on the safe side.  Oh and note that you'd want to use the hottest setting on both your washer and dryer.  It's not the detergent or water that kills these bugs efficiently.  It's the heat more than anything else.  Check out this article.  

I also know that I feel vindicated!  All this time, I have been made fun of every time I insist that everyone spray themselves with insect repellents.  I have felt dismissed, even by my own husband, when I say that we need to be careful stepping on grass because there might be fire ants and ticks and whatever.  Yes, I admit, I seem overly neurotic most times, shunning the outdoors.  But look what happens when I relax.  

Well, suffice it to say that at the end of that day, before his bedtime, my husband spent hours online researching the best tick prevention methods for the yard.

Moral of the story, and my son knows this truth by heart:  
"Bad things happen when you don't listen to Mommy".  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Are You Defensive About Being A SAHM?

Have you ever struggled with a particular role you play in life?  Have you ever resisted a specific label you hold for your self, or felt challenged by others regarding a choice you have always believed in and stood by?

As a stay-at-home-mother (SAHM), I know I have and sometimes still do.  It's a label and role that I often find myself defending and justifying to other people, especially to those who know that once, in what seems now as a lifetime ago, I worked outside the home and was focused on a career in the academe.
Well, today you can head on over to Reflections From A Redhead as I explore these inner 'demons' and tell you what I know about my own journey towards a more authentic life being a SAHM.  

Janine is a transformational life coach and blogger based in Australia and a person dedicated to sharing her expertise and insights to help others live a happier, more positive and inspired life.  It is an honor to be featured on her site and I hope that with this essay, I am able to give a voice to other countless SAHMs like myself who question or are questioned about our choice to stay home to take care of our families and give up paid employment.  I invite you to join in this conversation and share your own experiences and insights!

Thanks everyone!  Here's another link to the essay:   A Mother's Struggle Towards Authenticity

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Day My Third World Self Put My First World Self In Its Place

I was washing a few dishes and enjoying the cold water gushing out from our faucet when from out of the blue, I was reminded of those years in the Philippines when we had a water crisis and some form of water rationing was done in most urban areas. I don't know why I had the thought, but I was suddenly reminded of those days when I would turn on the faucet and nothing would come out of it.  

So then I thought to myself, "Oh, I'm using too much water; better turn the faucet down and save some water!

Well, lo and behold.  With the thought still in my head and the internal conversation barely finished, I suddenly noticed the water pressure get weaker and weaker, until the 'flow' turned into 'drips'.  

And then...Nothing.  No more water.  WTF?!!

I thought I was imagining it.  Or worse, I thought my psychic powers had grown into X-Files proportions and that my thought was truly manifesting right before my eyes!  Did my thought process cause this??!! 

Image by:  Valerie Everett

Well, rationality kicked in and I thought there had to be a perfectly logical explanation for what was going on.  

My first thought?  "Hmm, let me go on Facebook!"  No, I didn't seek a distraction for this water problem.  I just figured that whatever was going on, my neighbors must already be on to it.  You see, our subdivision has a Facebook page and for better or for worse, there are a lot of overactive, 'omniscient' people on there, if you know what I mean. True enough, there were already close to ten people who posted that they, too, didn't have water in their homes, with the bonus explanation that the water main was hit by a construction that was going on nearby.

What I found so interesting about this whole experience was that it highlighted how 'dichotomized' my identity has truly become.  There was a part of me, that part that has become American --- spoiled by the conveniences offered by a First World country --- that really panicked and felt lost.  And then there's the genuinely Filipino side that has experienced this multiple times and has learned to cope with other Third World 'inconveniences' or 'inefficiencies'.  As Americans, we take for granted that when we turn our faucets on, water will come out at a decent pressure.  When I was living in the Philippines, we always had some form of back-up, whether that meant having a huge overhead water tank in our own backyard that can deliver water through our pipes in case the water company shuts things down; or just having pails filled with water inside the bathrooms.  It's also common for households to have huge water storage barrels or drums and it's not necessarily for apocalyptic scenarios (as what a First World resident would think), but just to be prepared for something that happens much too often, either because of drought or the usual infrastructure issues and inadequacies a Third World resident knows all too well, unfortunately.

To be honest, I was glad that I didn't have to bust out my 'Third World savvy' side because about an hour later, things went back to normal.  Water was flowing once again, and other than the murkiness and sediment-laden initial flow, there really wasn't much to whine about.  Just when I was beginning to think of ways to cope with this 'mini-crisis', figuring out how or where to get water and save what we have in case it lasted long, my husband reminded me that the scenario I was imagining would never happen.  This is the U.S.A after all, and spoiled people can't be inconvenienced, unless service providers want non-stop whining and lawsuits galore.  

However, as odd as this might sound, I was proud and comforted by the fact that I am a child of the Third World and that I know I have a bit more resilience, and possibly, more creative problem-solving skills than a typical First World citizen when it comes to dealing with such 'crises'.  I know I can endure more and that there are more serious things to be concerned about.  I hope I can instill this resilience, this 'Filipino-ness', in my son, who is obviously growing up with a First World sense of entitlement; getting so accustomed to a life filled with conveniences and trivial First World problems such as having weak / slow internet connection. Or feeling hot inside the house because the thermostat is set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oh puhleeeez!...Give me a break!  You think that's hot??!!

I think it's time to give him a long overdue lecture on how Mommy survived much of her youth without any internet or even a land line, and was also able to preserve her sanity through HOT days and / or nights during prolonged power outages.  I hope he realizes how fortunate he is and how much he should be truly grateful for.  This Third World-bred gal simply has no patience for First World whining.      

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Son Is Mutating!

We've been living here in the mid-South for close to three years now.  When we moved from Chicago to Nashville, my son was in Pre-K and now, he's going to be in second grade this coming school year.  Three years.  Three years was all it took for what I've long dreaded to finally happen.

I think my son has begun to pick up the Southern accent.  **(Insert Psycho violin screech)**

I've already detected a bit of it about a year and a half ago, but I dismissed it.  I thought it was just a few isolated words that can easily be corrected, undone.  I mean, can you imagine MY shock...Me...Moi --- a person who has English as her second language, and therefore was taught to pronounce and enunciate words properly and clearly --- when I heard my then Kindergartner utter 'sinins' when what he meant to say was  'sentence' ?!!

And then yesterday, I asked him to summarize a story I had him read.  It was "The Elves and the Shoemaker".  He said "The old couple was poor", but when he said "poor", it sounded more like "pore" / or "pour".  The same goes when he says the word "tour".  It comes out as "tore".  I had to have him say it repeatedly with a more pronounced "oo" sound, as in "zoo", or "too".....pooooor..... It took us about five times before he said it correctly. Wow.

It's not that I'm putting the Southerners down and being snooty here, although I realize that it's how it seems right now.  My 'rejection' of it stems from the fact that it's just not who we are.  My husband never lived in the south up until three years ago when we moved here.  I'm definitely not from here and I can assure you that the English I learned from the Philippines absolutely has no hint of being Southern.  In other words, I'm probably threatened (or perhaps even offended) by the obvious fact that my son is being highly influenced by his teachers and his peers, more so than by his own family, at least in terms of language.  More importantly, I feel threatened and sad that it's as if he's acquired yet another layer that covers up his Filipino-ness.  He's not just an American now.  He's also a Southerner.

Which brings me yet to another point.  I reject the stereotypes that might eventually be attached to my son for being (and sounding like) a Southerner. If I can help it, and God knows I will try and fight to the death, he'll never turn into any of the following, all of which are Southern stereotypes:

*(Please note that I'm not saying that this is true for ALL American Southerners)*

(1) a hick or a redneck
(2) a gun lover
(3) racist or any type of bigot
(4) one who wears western boots (Sorry, but I won't be caught dead wearing those either!)
(5) an ultra-conservative Republican
(6) anti-intellectual
(7) anti-equality / pro-slavery
(8) a Christian fundamentalist who refuses to believe what science has to say about evolution, and can't reconcile faith and science

Change is inevitable.  We all know that.  Whether I like it or not, my son will become someone other than just an aggregation of my husband and myself.  I know that his socialization experiences are ongoing and there will be many, many times when what he'll see and learn from others will conflict with what I want him to learn from our family.    

I suppose this is why 'Choose your battles wisely' is a very popular parenting advice.  Maybe I'll let him keep his Southern accent, as long as he doesn't reject learning Tagalog (Filipino).  Maybe I'll let him wear cowboy hats and boots, as long as he doesn't think guns are 'cool' or 'macho' or invokes some twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment and becomes a fan of the NRA.  Maybe I'll just let him be; let him mutate the way nature intended, with the hope and a million prayers that he will grow up to be a wise, compassionate and happy Filipino-American-Southern man.  At the very least, the reality is that at the end of the day, all of us parents really just want our kids to be kept alive, out of jail, and straitjacket free.  

What changes have you seen in your own children that made you wish they had a reset button?