Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And now for the main pestivities

So following the appearance of the mouse (eek) my children have been maliciously raising an army of tiny insects in the quiet quarters of their hair NITS.

Nits. We have nits. We are pariahs. We are no longer welcome at kinder. I have to try and eradicate all traces by Friday when we begin three days of birthday parties.

Isn't it glamorous, being a writer? Isn't it earthy, being a mother? Isn't it marvellous, living out in the bush, side by side with wildlife - parrots, kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, owls, mice, giant spiders, nits. Aint life grand?

In other news I went and looked at two primary schools today - both the local schools had open mornings. One was lovely, clean, orderly, very computery. The other was small and feral and wild and fun. In one they have a visiting social worker and speech pathologist and a young energetic staff and electronic whiteboard in every room. In the other they have ancient computers and a deeply suspicious attitude towards the Internet; they also have a librarian one day a week, a newly planted orchard, a kitchen garden where the kids can help themselves to tomatoes and strawberries and lunchtime Cubbyland, where the kids use available materials to make cubbies and start their own savage communities like Lord of the Flies (but without Piggy killing, the principal assured me). In one school the staff were young and energetic with lots of new ideas. In the other the staff were older, more experienced, but also perhaps a little jaded and certainly not up to date with the technology. One is old and wooden and sweet and adjacent to Fred's current kinder. The other is crouched and brown and ugly, 1.5km down the road. Both have big playgrounds and ovals. One has 120 students this year and 16 preps. The other has 65 total and 4 preps.

And she won't be allowed at either if she doesn't get over the current NITuation.


  1. We so far have managed to avoid head lice to date, but am not looking forward to that adventure. I've heard they're more resilient now too :S

    Do you have a feeling about which school you'll send her to? I'm feeling panicked that we can't begin this process for at least 6 weeks. Our local had an open night last night, but a) we are unlikely to be buying in this area, and b) I'd prefer to go during the day when the children are there and I can see how it works if ykwim.

  2. Wow. That school sounds so beyond anything I ever went to. Who knew I'd been so deprived in the 70s and 80s. (I missed out on strawberries dagnabbit!!)

  3. Not if you plunge them into boiling water. The lice that is. Not the kids. I don't think lotions and things work as well as combing them out and then watching them drown/boil to death and cackling 'swim my pretties, swim for your lives'.

    I am pretty sure we'll go with the closest, which is the feral one with cubbyland and tomatoes and ancient computers. Partly because I think it's the right thing to do to support your local yada yada yada, but i also think all the art and outdoors stuff will be right up Fred's alley - they have a great camping programme too. And I believe in walking to school. Una will be fine anywhere (though to be honest if I was choosing a school for her I'd pick Panton Hill - she likes things to be clean and orderly). I'll have to cast a few longing looks at Panton Hill - I've started to bond because of the kinder and now I know how shiny and technologamical it is on the inside. And it's a prettier school. Which obviously doesn't matter. But you know. It's pretty.

    I suspect if we sent Fred there though, we'd always be half wishing to move there and never feel properly settled here. I know one family who don't use the local school and one who do, and the family who do are so clearly more a part of the immediate community and so are their kids. So sending them to the local is also a way of committing to the area and breaking our bad moving habits.

    Plus Fred wants to go there. Because they have baby chicks (which are probably gangly adolescent hens fostered out into other homes by now.)

  4. Ms Bloom - I know! How cool is that? Though i think most schools (in Melbourne at least) have some kind of organic kitchen garden these days - it's a whole Stephanie Alexander, right on, say no to obesity thing.

  5. Penni, I live in a suburb very close to yours and I've blogged extensively about this problem that we've been having since, well, February. I get rid of them for a few weeks and then they come back. I've been tearing my hair out. Maybe it's where we live? So 'bushy/green?'

    Good luck with choosing schools. We're almost up to that point....

  6. I didn't know that you lived close by Misc Mum. Now you're messing me, I'm going to have to walk around the neighbouring suburbs listening at people calling their children, waiting to hear your kid's names (Keira and Riley?) - I already do this at the park anyway, peer at people wondering if I've come across them online. Such is the fractured nature of the two worlds in which I dwell.

    It's funny, cause I always thought nits would be a more urban problem. we never had them growing up in Tassie bush.

  7. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Re: the school dilemma

    I think I'd place my kids in the one with young teachers and great resources.

    I wonder if I sometimes make choices for my kids based on nostalgia, and if that's not a little selfish. Their world is going to be very different to the one I had growing up, and I want them to have all the opportunities they can to have choice.

    Fred seems like quite the wild free spirit, but should that limit her choice? Who knows, she could also have an amazing web designer geek inside her!

    Kids find a lot of their personalities and skills at school, and I think there's something to be said for giving them the best chances they can to explore.

    As for the community idea, I think kids make friends and relationships wherever they go, and there's something to be said for fostering their independence if their school is further away, and is more 'their own' environment.

    Obviously you know your kids better than I, but there's just two random cents from my own thinkings and experiences.


  8. Yeah John, part of me completely agrees and i think you raise some good points. Does walking to and from school really matter compared to an integrated curriculum etc etc? How much are my own memories of that adult-free time interfering with my decision making? But I am really worried about the amount of time she'll spend in the car if we have to drive her each way. I worry about that over-supervised, cotton wool culture that kids experience now (is that the opposite of parenting with nostalgia?) I love that the feral school offers the kids safe ways to experience self-directed wildplay, and a culture of childhood that many Australian children no longer have access to.

    Her dad will soon be qualified as an IT & English teacher after years of working in the IT industry (including web design) and has already built several online education resources - so it's not like she'll never have an opportunity to get in touch with her inner geek!

    Anyway, we have months to change our minds, go back and forth, rehash the topic, and then change our minds again. But I still think there is a great deal of value in supporting your local school.

  9. Anonymous7:22 AM

    Oh god, I remember the night before I was going to France, aged eighteen, when my hairdresser told me I had nits. Not only that, but she'd seen them the previous time I'd had my hair cut but "didn't say anything because you had someone with you"... I headed for Europe convinced I'd have to have my head shaved to defeat the invasion, said head hung in shame.
    Instead my aunt's young neighbour said something tres Gallic along the lines of 'Paf' and proceeded to comb them out for me. Bless her. She told me it wasn't at all unusual.

    Go feral with the babes. I love the idea of them not being cotton-wooled, as you mentioned.

  10. Anonymous9:22 PM

    we got loused earlier this year.
    the only thing that worked was for me to sit with kids in the sun (with a cuppa) and go through the hair pulling the eggs off with my nails. combs did not work. treatment did not work.


    on willow's hair it only took about 45minutes, but zeph has very thick curly hair so it took much longer.
    the best preventative is to condition the kids hair every night, as it prevents the louse glue from sticking the egg onto the hair shaft.

    they have a breeding cycle of about 2 weeks, so it you do a check every weekend for a while you'll get rid of them pretty quick.

    I can tell ya, rather headlice than gastro anyday.

    (and don't worry about washing bed linens etc, they don't live on them at all :D)


    I'm not getting stressed. School and home are a combination learning environment. I feel its great for them to have other experiences, and being an isolated country kid all my life, I enjoyed the long dailly bus trips (until bullying in highschool).

    For me primary was always interesting and varied, even though I went to bog ordinary schools with basic and limited resources.
    Highschool was the place I wish I had had more creative allowance.

    That was when my art, drama, singing, speaking and interests were limited and frowned upon. I had to fight very hard to be able to study the subjects I loved, and I succeeded despite being told by everyone they were "mickey mouse" and would get me nowhere in life.

    (hey, they had a point, kids at 24, no career, no superannuation no job to return to. but i'm not sure that is the direct result of not doing a science stream subject)

    Fred'll be ok. And if she isn't, no matter what choices you make it'll be your fault anyways.

    Our local school just got interactive whiteboards. YAY. the kids don't have a garden or proper basic sports kit.

  11. Flib - I can't believe your hairdresser didn't just whisper in your ear - she has privileged access to them after all.

    Zose - We find the metal comb quite effective, but Fred and Una have a lot less hair that your lot, and it's very thin and fair, so you can kind of hunt them with the comb. And yeah, I usually get the eggs with my fingernails. Fred always wants to see the eggs.

    We've got a great secondary nearby that has a strong art, drama and music program, and a pretty strong commitment to an integrated curriculum. Martin is doing his rounds there this year, and he's deeply enthusiastic.

    I never thought primary schools would be an issue for me but there you go. Turns out I'm a mystery wrapped in an enigma after all.

  12. Why don't you move to Tassie with me and we'll set up a little home-school in a back-room and never see anyone else again!

    Because that would create well-balanced children.

    ...back to the drawing board.

  13. G'day Penni - I've read your comments on Audrey and Jabberwocky and always liked what you had to say, so I'm here now.

    Don't worry about NITS. They aren't the social death they were when we were kids - the experts reckon that they like clean hair as much as any hair - especially if it's connected to a child. My nine year old has had nits more times than I care to remember and yet they've never made the huge leap from her noggin to mine.

    As for schools - go for the grottier one with a garden and limited access to the 'net. Sapph goes to a Steiner school here in Adelaide (the first one done via the Education Dept) and learns such amazing stuff about all kinds of religions, legends etc and they have their own garden which they tend and then cook and share mealsl from. She's really blossomed there and the school has a very friendly environment of parents and carers.

    Oh and back to nits - forget the stupid shampoos. Wash their hair, use the lice comb (but it only gets out the actual bodies of the nits, not their sticky eggs), and then plonk protesting child on the floor in front of you and pick off the eggs strand by strand. And no, you don't have to eat them like the Mummy monkeys do at the zoo!