Yuck

This is what I’m looking at right now. It’s a hard core, prescription laxative that’s getting my intestines sparkling clean for my colonoscopy tomorrow. Don’t let the name of the stuff fool you; it is not prepping you to watch a movie. I wish. There are movements involved; I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. (I can actually feel your jealous vibes coming through my computer right now.)

I also am on a clear liquid diet all of today and tomorrow until my procedure around noon. I am thoroughly  starving and peevish and the only reason I haven’t killed someone is because I can drink pop. It’s considered a clear liquid, thank goodness. Since it’s a special occasion I’ve broken out a six pack of Mt. Dew.

The only thing getting me excited is that I plan to have a ginormous pile of BBQ brisket after my colonoscopy. I’m not expecting the doctor to find anything while he’s all up in my business. I’m merely going because my family history puts me at a higher risk. And, hey, sometimes moms have to resort to complete anesthesia in order to get an uninterrupted nap.

Finding this in our driveway last week jogged my memory of having a smidge of a mouse problem when we lived in Utah many years ago.

rat in dustpan

 

Our house was down the block from a huge vacant lot meadow. As you can imagine the critters living in nature sometimes got cold or wanted something tasty to eat so they snuck their way into human houses (it was our neighbors too, not just us) and struck gold in their garbage cans and trash compactors.

Every day when I’d open my trash compactor (a drawer full of old food! A mousey dream come true!) a mouse or two would scurry out, back into the netherworld behind my cabinets. Rodents do not bother me at all but this was getting disgusting. Who knows if those mice were breeding back there or something.

Mister bought several different types of mouse traps which the insanely clever mice managed to evade. Even the ones sitting right in the middle of the trash compactor. Our cat Sophie was idiotic about catching them as well (She was pretty much idiotic about everything, though). I’m sure if we’d had a video camera going it would have looked like an episode of Tom and Jerry. We had no choice but to try some of the more “humane” traps. I was completely happy killing the mice but that didn’t seem to be working so what the heck.

We purchased one trap that looked like a small plastic tray. Apparently the idea is that the top of the tray is incredibly sticky and the mouse’s paws get stuck to it and that’s that. So humane, right? No snapping of the neck or violent killing involved. Mister placed the trap in the trash compactor and left for work.

Within a couple of hours I went to throw something away and there was a mouse stuck to the trap. Hooray! Success! Only . . . now what? Do I let the mouse sit there until it starves to death? That hardly seems humane. What if the mouse panics and chews its hands and feet off trying to get away? I could picture a bloody scene with four little mouse paws stuck to the trap. A horrid scenario, but not out of the question. Should I toss the mouse and accompanying trap in the garbage can outside to roast slowly in the hot Utah sun? That seemed unkind, not to mention smelly.

What to do with a squirmy, trapped mouse? I came up with a quick and non-offensive way to put the poor little mouse out of it’s misery: I tied the trap with the mouse attached in a plastic Target bag, then rebagged it into another Target bag. I then placed the bag on my driveway directly behind one of my car tires.

You know what came next.

Although running over the mouse felt incredibly awful, it seemed to be the kindest option. It died quickly (I’m guessing. I didn’t check.) and I didn’t feel anything as I ran it over.

So be warned if you start getting mice in your house this winter. Not all traps are created equal. You may be forced to commit mouse-cide yourself.

For so many years our family never had lice. I though we were somehow immune. Foolish, foolish me. My seven-year-old brought it home toward the end of the last school year and was kind enough to give it to everyone in the house. We battled it off and on all summer and into the fall and finally–FINALLY–we are lice-free. We tried pretty much everything to get rid of it and I’m here to tell you everything I learned about how to kill the lice without killing yourself. Seriously, some days after picking the nits on six kids, committing suicide seemed pretty tempting. (Totally kidding! But if your kids have had lice you know what I’m talking about.)

First of all, I hope you never need this post. When I have friends who smugly tell me that they’ve never had lice I kind of wish they would get it just so they know I’m not a total whiny-baby. It really is that bad. But I would never be so cruel as to actually wish it on someone. That would be too, too mean.

If your kids don’t have lice, yay for you! I hope they never do. But if you live someplace warm your days are numbered. I don’t know what it is about warm places but lice really seem to love it a lot more. If you are reading this post because you just found a louse in your child’s hair (or your own! Yuuuck!) or even worse, if the school nurse just did, please take a deep breath.  When I found a louse in my hair I felt like setting my head on fire and running screaming down the street. Do not do this! Fight the instinct! Lice are actually not a big deal. I know they seem like a big deal. You’re talking about live bugs! In your hair! Sucking your blood! It’s like a mini horror movie. But lice are not the end of the world. Nobody is going to die of the bubonic plague. You won’t get some horrid disease. It’s just embarassing. But you’re in good company. Most moms I know have been down the Lice Road and have nothing but empathy for you. But they still don’t want your kids coming around theirs. Nothing personal.

So, you’ve just found a louse. Your first instinct is to go get some lice shampoo at the drugstore and that’s that, right? Au contraire. Lice shampoo is only about 10-20% effective. There are now lice that are completely resistant to traditional lice shampoos. We happen to have a Brazilian strain here in Texas that chemicals don’t seem to effect. Isn’t that lovely?

The first weapon in your anti-lice arsenal is this: a Licemeister comb. The traditional lice combs are completely worthless. You need a comb with strong metal teeth that are incredibly close together. These are usually not carried at Walgreens or CVS but hopefully those dullards will get with the program and start carrying them (although they do carry them online. How dumb is that? Like you’re just supposed to live with lice for ten days while you’re waiting for the comb to arrive!). If you live in the Austin area they can be found at People’s Pharmacy. Or you can do a search here to find one locally. The combs are about $15 and completely worth it. Every parent needs one of these!

There are essentially three phases of lice: eggs (called nits), babies (called instars. Which is way too pleasant of a name. They ought to be called Baby Death Suckers or something similarly alarming), and full-grown revolting adult lice.

The good news is that lice can’t jump. The bad news is, well, everything else. Lice are sneaky bugs that move really fast. While they won’t jump from head to head, they can run from head to head pretty quickly. We all know not to share hairbrushes or hats. That’s good advice. Sleepovers are a really common place to pick up lice. All those lousy heads sleeping right next to each other . . . . My head is itching just thinking about it.

A nit looks like a super teensy little grain of rice. The one way to tell the difference between a nit and a regular old hair flaky is that a nit is really hard to get off the hair shaft. Like, almost impossible. You can get them off with the Licemeister or your fingernails or you can do what one of my friends does: she just pulls the individual hair out. If you’ve got a big infestation your child will probably not be too thrilled about that. Nits are usually found around the back of the head near the neck or behind the ears. Grown up lice live towards the crown.

If you’ve found a nit, you’ll want to check for live lice. This is my preferred method: Get your licemeister, a white bowl filled with warm water (the bowl doesn’t have to be white but that’s easiest for spotting lice) and a bunch of paper towels. I never let my kids touch my iphone or ipad but I let them have a turn playing games while I’m on lice patrol. (Because of this whenever I hear the sounds for Arabella’s favorite game “Where’s my Water” I automatically get the heebie-jeebies. It’s my Pavlovian reaction since she never plays the game any other time.)

Brush the hair thoroughly. (Keep your hair brushes in the freezer during your infestation. Lice can’t live in frozen temps.) Pin up all the hair except for a section at the back of the head.

 

Starting right next to the scalp, pull the lice comb through a small section of hair.

After each pass through a section of hair, rinse the comb in the bowl of water. You may see some lice on the comb and that’s horrifying and depressing and strangely satisfying all at the same time. But they’ll come off the comb once you swizzle it around in the water. See all those teensy black dots? Those are baby lice. They’re like the tiniest little back grains of rice.

After you’ve rinsed off the comb, wipe it on a paper towel. The licemeister comes with a pick to clean out the tines, but I usually save that til the end. The white paper towel is an excellent way to see what’s come out of your child’s head. Repeat this across the loose section of hair then take another section from the hair clip. Repeat until you’ve gone through all the hair. Heaven help you if you’ve got daughters with long curly hair. If you have boys, lucky you. It’s about a million times easier. A nice buzz cut is a good idea too. Just make sure you pop the clippers in the freezer when you’re done.

 

Please don’t be in denial. If you see something suspicious, just treat it. Lice isn’t like a cough where most likely it will go away. It’s only going to get worse.

Now that you’ve found some lice you’ll probably want to do a search on the internet to find a method of curing it. We’ve already talked about the lice shampoo. Forget about that. My doctor recommended a new prescription shampoo that costs $195. That’s totally out of my budget but maybe you’re OK with that. If so, go talk to your doctor.

You’ll find lots of natural cures like mayonnaise, olive oil and tea tree oil. While tea tree oil is somewhat effective as a lice deterrent, it’s not going to get rid of the lice that are already living on your kids’ heads.  As for mayo and olive oil, they simply don’t work. I’ve soaked my kids’ heads with olive oil, wrapped them in plastic wrap all day, then rinsed off after 12 hours. There were still live lice after all that. Olive oil might smother some lice but all it takes is one pregnant louse to ruin your sanity. I have eight people’s heads to try out methods on (six kids plus mine and my husbands. Yes, we’ve all had it at one time!), so when I say something works or doesn’t work, remember that I’ve had to kill a lot of lice.  A lot.

After bewailing my pestilence-filled life over the interwebs, one of my favorite bloggers came to the rescue. Karen from SuburbanCorrespondent shared the news that changed my life. There is a sure-fire way to cure lice and all you need are a few bottles of Cetaphil cleanser and a blow dryer. Yes, Cetaphil cleanser. Not the lotion. You want the Gentle Cleanser for all skin types. It’s about $8-12 per bottle.

cetaphil lice
The cetaphil treatment is actually patented. You can read all about it here. basically it’s 95% effective and the best part is that there isn’t the massive laundry overhaul that normal treatment requires (although I do that anyway since it can’t hurt. If you want to wash everything I high recommend using a laundry mat where you can get everything clean in one two hour period) and there is no nit-picking required (unless your kids go to school at a place with a no-nit policy).

Please go to the official website to read about the details of the treatment (yes, you first have to check a box saying you promise to read the directions completely). But here is the gyst: in an orderly fashion squirt an entire bottle of Cetaphil on your child’s head. it’s got to cover absolutely every hair. The first time I did this treatment I really skimped on Ada’s head because she has short-ish hair and it’s not terribly thick. It seemed like all the hair was saturated with Cetaphil even though I’d only used about a third of a bottle. Sure enough when I went to blow dry her hair, there were several areas that hadn’t gotten any Cetaphil on them. If you’re going to all this trouble, please follow the directions exactly! Consider this your #1 most important job!

Once the hair is throughly saturated with Cetaphil, use a comb to remove as much as possible. If your kids have fine hair you can even use the Licemeister. Wipe the excess Cetaphil on the towel. You’ll probably see little lice getting combed out. Die, lice, die!

Now comes the most trying part. You have to blow dry the Cetaphil-covered hair. The reason this method works is that the lice are essential trapped and smothered. They are not killed by the chemicals in the Cetaphil so there is no danger of building up resistance like lice previously have with the over-the-counter shampoos. And unlike mayo or olive oil, the lice are trapped and all air is cut off. There is no stopping a louse that wants to run for it when it’s merely covered with oil.

The problem with the blow-dry is that it takes forever. Like at least half an hour. My kids and I both sit down while I do it or my legs will start to get tired after a while. But it must be done. Once the hair is dry, send your kids to bed (it’s got to stay on overnight so do it in the evening) and rinse it all out in the morning.

This process must be repeated once a week, three times. Due to the louse’s life-cycle, three times one week apart is necessary. It’s a pain, yes. But so is starting the whole process over again. Commit to three weeks or you’ll regret it. I know after the second week you’re going to feel like the third week is overkill. It’s not. Just do it.

I would like to bear my testimony that the Cetaphil method really does work. I pity you if you have lice but there is help (besides shaving your kids bald or never leaving the house). May the lice gods smile on you!

If there is someone living in your house who has long hair (you, perhaps?) it’s just a matter of time until you get a clogged drain in your shower or tub. It’s the kind of problem that develops slowly until one day you rinse out your shampoo and realize the water is covering your ankles. Not good. Your first reaction might be to bug your husband to fix it or to grab a bottle of Drano. Stop!  This is a really easy problem to fix that you can do all by yourself with no nasty chemicals. Since it’s How-To Tuesday I’ll show you how! This whole job takes less than ten minutes.

There is really only one tool you need to fix this: an auger. It’s sometimes called a plumber’s snake. Basically it’s a long, flexible metal tube with a corkscrew-type thing on the end. It attaches to a plastic handle. The idea behind an auger is that you feed the metal hose into a pipe and twist it around a whole bunch. It will screw into the hair/lint/banana peel that is clogging your pipe and it can be pulled right out. Most of the time it works flawlessly. Anybody who has indoor plumbing needs an auger. They can unplug showers, toilets and even dryer ducts inside the wall (remind me to tell you sometime about the glob of lint as big as my head that we got out of the dryer vent!) Augers are cheap and I’d recommend buying one that’s at least 15′.

Any time you’re dealing with bthroom stuff you should wear rubber gloves. The stuff that comes out of the pipes is nasty! (I wasn’t wearing gloves to feed the auger down the drain but I was absolutely wearing them when I pulled it out!)

There are several different types of stoppers at the bottom of your tub. I’m not going to go into how they’re removed because it’s usually not necessary.  Just lift the stopper high enough to feed the auger down the drain. It might need a little help getting in. I had to jiggle and force mine past the stopper.

 

Feed the auger down until it stops. It usually won’t be too far. Then you’ll tighten the screw that holds the auger in place.

 

Hold on to the auger and twirl the handle so it screws the end into the glob of yuck down in the drain.

 

Now you’ll pull the auger out. It may take some tugging, especially if the clog is big. But if you got the auger in, you can get it out. And when it comes out it should be pulling something incredibly disgusting with it. Ewwww!

Put the clog in an old plastic grocery bag after you dry heave a few times. Then throw it away. Far away. Turn on the faucet and see how the water is draining. Does it go down a lot better? If it still seems slow, you can repeat the process again.

Pat yourself on the back. Wasn’t that easy?

I remember my grandmother in North Carolina complaining about weevils all the time. Despite her lamenting that there were weevils everywhere I never saw one. Not, of course, until I moved to Texas.* I don’t know if they love warmth or humidity or what but this past year we have been taken over by weevils.  They are tiny little squiggly bugs that are especially fond of grains. So basically they eat everything in your house but pure sugar. They even climb into air fresheners and my wheat grinder!

I have gotten out the airtight bin that I keep oats in only to find it crawling with weevils. Same for the hot cocoa, spaghetti and dried lentils. It has been starting to chip away at my sanity.

Last month I went to make a lemon truffle pie. It’s my very favorite pie and requires the crust to be blind-baked first. My little trick for pre-baking an empty crust is to use an oven-safe bag filled with rice. After 15 minutes of baking I remove the bag of rice and continue to bake the crust til it’s golden brown. It works super well and I always reuse the same bag of rice since it’s never eaten. I’m sure you can guess what the bag looked like when I pulled it out of the cupboard.

weevils rice

Weevils all throughout! After throwing up in my mouth I checked to make sure there were no weevils on the outside of the bag. There weren’t, so being the pragmatic person that I am I decided to use the bag of rice anyway. A nice trip through a 375° oven should murder them all.**

Wrong. So, so wrong.

After being in the oven for 15 minutes they were still crawling all over the place!  WHAT???? How is that even possible? These stupid things are worse than cockroaches.

We tried bug-bombing the house.

Failure.

We tried spraying some sort of bug killer all around the baseboards.

Failure.

So I got out the no-pest strip. It says it is only for using in non-habited places: attics and empty rooms and such. Faced with the choice between a pantry crawling with bugs and harmful poison I did what any self-respecting American would do. I went for the poison.

I left the no-pest strip in the pantry for 24 hours. Voilà! Dead weevils everywhere! We’ll probably all develop cancer now or perhaps grow a third arm. But I can at least use that third arm to kill more weevils.

 

*For almost three years we had no weevils. But they started showing up after I bought some dried beans at Walmart. Seeing as how both weevils and Walmart are of the devil, that only makes sense.

**Putting stuff in the freezer also kills weevils. But I can’t exactly fit every item in my kitchen into the freezer so that option is a little impractical.

I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to “I’m an Idiot”, seeing as how that’s the theme of most of my stories. Honestly I don’t know what’s happening. I am dropping things, breaking things, crashing into things; it’s a little scary. Can that be the sign of a brain tumor? What about dimentia? Is 41 too young for that? Because I’m sort of losing my mind.

For Fess-Up Friday may I present the pizza dough incident that occurred this week.

Setting: My kitchen.
Characters: Me, one son, three daughters and four of their friends.

I decided to make pizza dough, which I do about once a week. Everyone was hungry as we’d just gotten back from swimming. Normally I let the dough raise on the back porch because it’s hot and humid* but I wanted to speed things up a smidge so I preheated the oven a bit and put the dough in to raise. In a big plastic bowl.

Fifteen minutes later I decided to preheat the oven to 500º–the temperature pizza cooks at. At no point did the fact that there was already something oven occur to me. Not even when I started smelling something very odd.  Eventually the odd chemical-y smell got incredibly strong and I opened the door to find a bowl halfway melted and dripping all over the oven.

I’m very proud to say that I did not swear even once. Not even when the plastic puddle on the bottom of the oven burst into flames.

oven on fire

The nice thing about fires in the oven is that all you have to do is shut the door and it will eventually go out. I stood there with a fire extinguisher but all I could think was, “this is going to make the biggest mess if I spray it.” So I didn’t. And the fire went out after a few minutes.

Although the 90% of the bowl melted, the bread did not get burned. But the bread probably would have given us cancer if we’d eaten it. The plastic smelled so horrendous!

bread melting bowl

I’m sure my house is now full of toxins but the good news is that I’m apparently already brain-damaged. So no harm done!  And the oven was surprisingly easy to clean up once it cooled.

Have you melted anything you’ve regretted?

P.S. There are drawbacks to letting your dough rise outside. Even if it’s pretty well covered, you know how sneaky bugs are. This was a loaf of bread India made last week. A fly had crawled down into the corner of the pan and baked right into the corner.

bread with a fly

 

Want to see it closer up? So gross. You might want to think twice about eating anything I cook for you.

 

fly in bread2

Today my son Finn is thirteen. That puts the number of teenagers at my house to three.  This is what I didn’t know about kids growing up: the older they get, the more fun they are.  Teenagers are really cool. Much cooler than toodlers and about a jillion times cooler than babies who are not cool at all.

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Finn was kind of an awful baby. He cried a lot and spit up everywhere. No matter what I cut out of my diet he promptly threw up my milk. It got bad enough that I would drape beach towels all over the chair I usually nursed in because he was a massive vomiter. I lost count of all the times I had to go home and change my clothes during church because I had been soaked with baby puke. It was endearing, to be sure. The doctors tried to find something that a little surgery could fix, but no. I endured his throwing up and mild colic for several months.

Finn was blond and compared to my previous babies who were brunettes with rosy cheeks and striking dark eyes, he seemed pale and washed out and kind of monochromatic. But at about eighteen months he suddenly got cute. His cheeks pinked up and his eyes turned a pretty hazel color.

He stayed a stinker for a while, though. I’ll tell you my favorite Finn story. If you know me in real life, you have for sure heard this because I love to tell it. I’m pretty sure I’ve told it on the blog before but it’s a good one so I’m going to tell it again.

When Finn was about four he started peeing all over his bedroom carpet. I couldn’t figure if he was regressing or being naughty or lazy or what. I thought maybe he couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time but he would never give me a straight answer. Why he constantly wet his floor was an unsolved mystery.

I tried punishing him every way I knew how (at the time I didn’t really understand that Finn responds a million times better to positive reinforcement than punishment, but I was a naive young mother who didn’t know much). Nothing would keep him from peeing everywhere.

The stench got to be incredible. I was dumping bottles of enzyme cleaner all over the place but it still smelled horrid. I decided to get a black light lamp–the kind used at CSI for finding blood and urine clues. It might not stop the urination problem but at least I’d be able to find the puddles and disinfect.

Only this is what the black light showed me: Finn was peeing in giant curlicues all over his carpet. This was not the bladder release of someone who just couldn’t hold it; this was the work of recreational pee-er. I brought Finn into his bedroom and sat down across from him. “Just tell me why.” I pleaded.”I won’t get mad. I just want to know why you are doing this.”

Without skipping a beat he replied, “Satan told me to.”

Uuuuuuuhhhhhh.

I did not have an answer.  Maybe it wasn’t disinfectant we needed but an exorcism.

_____________________

A pipe burst in Finn’s room a few weeks later and we had to move him into York’s room. I figured an older brother wouldn’t let the urine shenanigans continue and I was right. There was no more peeing on the carpet anywhere.

In retrospect I think Finn was just lonely and bored in his own room. And being shy and not able to articulate this, he acted out in a completely disgusting manner.

Got to love that.

Finn no longer pees in weird places.  He is completely pleasant and enjoyable and has a very sweet spirit. He is still our shyest, quietest child and sometimes I look at him and wonder just what is going on his head.  But knowing him as we do, the answer is usually one of these things:

money, watches, weapons, cars or girls.

In other words, he’s a teenage boy.

Happy Birthday, Finn!

I was an avid colorer growing up. I wasn’t a good enough artist to make up my own artwork, I much preferred coloring someone else’s drawings. But not all coloring books are created equal. Even as a 9 year-old I understood that. On the bottom rung were the cheap coloring books featuring manilla paper pages and big boring drawings. To me, the more detail the better. Coloring a big area–a giant Carebear, for example, was not only boring, but wasted a lot of one color of crayon. The best coloring books were from Dover Publishing. Their drawings had tons of details. Plus they assumed that I might have interests other than animated pets and Strawberry Shortcake.

I was totally thrilled to find that Dover still puts out wonderful coloring books. The paper quality is excellent and there are about a thousand different topics. They are all about $4.00 so they are pretty affordable. You can check out their huge selection here.

I bought this coloring books for Arabella because it’s a bunch of old-fashioned farm scenes (I am an armchair farmer and wanna-be Amish. Not for real. Just in my mind. ) Not only that, but the farm in this coloring book really exists in Dearborn, Michigan. I used to go there all the time as a little girl and pretend I really lived there a hundred years ago (see? I’ve always been slightly demented this way).

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The drawings are non-cartoony, full of detail, and feature all the aspects of old-fashioned farm life like feeding calfs:

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And . . . . . butchering a hog? Who wants to color the bloody entrails?
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I’m pretty sure Strawberry Shortcake never did that in a coloring book!

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So, Austin is hot. And hot places have one thing in common: there are lots of critters. It only makes sense since it rarely gets cold enough to kill all the bugs and snakes.

Yes, there are scorpions here. If you live in a house less than a year or two old, there will still be residual scorpions hanging around. They tend to be tiny and pretty harmless. But scorpions are some of the creepiest-looking creatures around. I object to them on appearance alone. They are not as plentiful as they are in Arizona, for example, but most people have found one or two around their houses.

There are also poisonous snakes. At girls’ camp last year, India saw two Rattlesnakes and a Coral snake. They were all promptly killed by camp staff and the Coral snake was put in a jar on display so the girls would know what one looked like. The Coral resembles it’s cousin, the Milk snake, so everyone here learns the way to tell them apart:

Red on black, friend to Jack
Red on yellow, kill a fellow

You’d better not get bitten by a Coral snake, because the anti-venom is no longer being made. There’s not much demand for it, apparently. So don’t touch one or you’re on your own.

Oh, there are tarantulas too. What’s not to like about gigantic hairy spiders? Most people spot these outside, not inside. I don’t know if they spin webs or what, but just thinking about them is making my skin crawl so lets move along.

Fire Ants. If you are unfamiliar with these, lucky you! You’ll find out about them right quick when you move to Texas. They are teensy, hideous reddish ants that bite like the dickens. They bite first, which is unpleasant, but the worst thing is that they inject venom which makes a little lump like a hard blister. And that lump itches like a mosquito bite on fire. They live in the ground (duh. They’re ants) and everybody has them in their yards. You can sprinkle Fire Ant killer on your grass which makes them move to your neighbor’s yard for a couple of months. They are kind of like the Texas equivalent of mosquitoes. The sad thing about fire ants is that they aren’t even from here. Some thoughtless importers brought them from South America back in the 1930′s. Thanks a million.

Mosquitoes. We don’t have many of these in Austin. You can sit on your porch at night without getting bitten hardly at all. See, it’s not all bad here!

Bats. If you’ve been to Austin you have probably seen the amazingly cool sight of the millions of bats that live downtown under the Congress Bridge take off at dusk for their nightly bug-killing spree. We have the world’s largest colony of Mexican Free-Tailed bats. That might seem creepy but if you consider that they eat over a ton of bugs every night, they don’t seem so bad after all. August and September are the best months for bat-watching.

Armadillos-These are the weirdest little animals. They look like some sort of steampunk invention. They are nocturnal which means most people only seem them dead on the road. But if you happen to see one, you will be amazed at how cool-looking they are. My friend Lisa had armadillos living under her deck and said they also squeal like pigs. Weird. But don’t touch them–they are the only living creature besides humans that carry leprosy!

The good news is that the closer to civilization you live, the few creepy crawlies you’ll find. Most people in my neighborhood have had run-ins with scorpions and tarantulas, especially those in houses that back up to the woods and pond. But we back up to a busy street. It means that our house was cheaper (yay) but noisier (boo). The noise really hasn’t been a big deal and the cars and cement are not very hospitable for anything but fire ants. So we have yet to see any nasty spiders or scorpions (yay).

If the bugs and snakes make you think that you can’t handle it in Austin, you need to keep in mind that your run-ins with them will be minimal (except for fire ants maybe). I have yet to see any poisonous snakes. So as I tell my children, stop whining! It’s not a big deal.

I may have thought that I could cook anything, but apparently baking a Papa Murphy’s pizza is beyond my abilities.

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