Ears and Spiders and Cat Scratch Fever

“Mom, I keep hearing a crackling in my ear.”

That is how it starts. My 11 year old son, K, tells me there is crackling in his ear. I remain calm. I ask him all the right questions. Does it hurt? How long have you been hearing it? Is it all the time, or just when you move your jaw? I file the information away mentally in case he started getting earaches or other signs of ear infections. I tell him it was probably just allergies or ear wax and we will keep an eye on it.

Because that is what a normal parent does.

I, however, a parent who thrives on House M.D., Pimple Popper MD, and YouTube videos of gross medical anomalies, am thinking one thing and one thing only.


WHAT if there is a SPIDER living IN HIS EAR!?!?!?!

You see it, you know — on the interwebs. Videos of people having bugs extracted from their ears. Pictures of a many-eyed fuzzy spider face peeking out from inside someone’s ear canal. I can imagine few things more horrifying.

And I spend an inordinate amount of time imagining horrifying things. It’s like a hobby for me. You should see me on an airplane. You would not want to talk to me on an airplane, though.

A couple of days go by. He hasn’t been complaining and I more or less forget about it, consumed by the demands of day to day life.

Then, in the middle of the night, K wakes me. He holds an immense wad of paper towels to the side of his face. I can see blood on his shirt. “Mom, I think I need to go to the hospital. Loki [our cat] bit my ear off.”

This results in the flurry of activity you can expect. I’ve got the lights on, trying to look at K’s ear. He is holding the paper towels to his face, unwilling to let me see even though he wants me to look at it. During the course of all of this, I do determine that the cat has not, in fact, bitten K’s ear OFF. He has, however, bitten it HARD. Hard enough to cause an alarming gash across the top of the ear and to cause a flood of bleeding.

My son, because he is MY son, is certain he needs to go to the emergency room. He has heard somewhere that cat bites get infected badly and you should always go to the ER if your skin is punctured by a cat bite. I assure him that because this is a tear, not a puncture wound, and it is bleeding and we can put antibiotics on it that it is okay to keep a close eye on it and not head to the emergency room at two in the morning.

Once he lets me look at it, we clean the wound. I put antibiotic ointment on it, and we band-aid it up. I give him some ibuprofen and tell him we’ll check it in the morning. He heads back to bed.

Then I panick. All-out freak-out. My heart pounds. My hands shake. I am one hundred percent certain, at this point, that he has a spider living in his ear. It probably emerges at night, and that’s what Loki saw that made him attack K’s ear so viciously. I can picture it. Little tiny spider leg extends out of K’s ear. Loki sees it, pats it, and pounces. I’m so sure this is what it is. I look for our otoscope, planning to sneak into K’s room and try to look inside his ear without him knowing. I CANNOT FIND our otoscope! Where the crap is it?

By now it’s close to four A.M. I find an otoscope that I can order and have delivered that afternoon.

When morning comes, I’m acting normally. I check K’s cut. It looks great – no redness. Meanwhile, I have looked it up and apparently Cat Scratch Fever is not just a song — it’s a real infection you can get from cat bites/scratches.

So now my son definitely has a spider living in his ear and may have a deadly infection.

I am freaking out like nobody’s business. On the inside.

The otoscope arrives. I very calmly tell my son I need to check inside his ear. I do not tell him I am looking for spiders. He’s already going to have a physical scar. I don’t need to give him an emotional one. I steel myself, ready to encounter hairy legs and multiple beady eyes . . .

There’s nothing in there. No spiders. No bugs. Not even any redness. Looks, as far as I can tell from comparing it to Google Images, like a regular eardrum in a regular ear. I’m no doctor, but there’s definitely no bug in there.

Three days later, the cut is already visibly healing.

Quarantine Hair Adventures

I have finally done it. Weeks after everyone else went through their ‘coloring the hair during quarantine’ phase, I finally succumbed. 

I believe I showed remarkable restraint the first few weeks. Every so often I’d call my good friend who is also my hairdresser and say that I wanted to color my hair at home. She always talked me down, reminding me that home color and salon color don’t play well together. I know she is right, 

We are now coming up on five months since things started shutting down, and realistically it looks like there’s no chance that either of us are going to be getting out and about before the New Year. That is why, when I texted her and said, “I’ve been watching Brad Mondo and I want to Live My Extra Life!” she responded, “You should live your extra life!” We then concocted a strategy by which I’d use semi permanent hair color on the ends of my hair that are going to be cut off anyway whenever we are able to get back together.

The Starting Point
This is what I looked like to start out with. (Sorry about the creepy blurry eye thing in this picture.) As you can see, this is much more than five months worth of “out of control.” I am one of those people who realizes it’s been a year and is probably time to get my hair cut. It was already long enough to bother me and I was going to schedule an appointment when all the shit hit the fan. So now it’s really out of control, about six inches longer than I would like, and has the faintest remnants of my pink highlights.
I decided to “lighten my hair a bit so the color would show better.”

The plan we put together for my hair would use gentle products and would not damage my hair.

So of course without my hairdresser’s knowledge or consent, I decided to bleach first.

Please understand — I was the epitome of 90’s college student back in the day. Wide leg jeans, belly ring, the whole nine. This means that I, as all good 90’s college girls did, dyed my hair regularly with henna red.  I know from that experience that my hair is too dark to show color really well. So I thought, hey, I’ll lighten it just a bit. 

Okay, maybe a lot.

So here’s what happened. I fought and fought with the bleach and foils, taking much longer than I had anticipated. Meanwhile, it was dinner time and the kids, you know, wanted food or something. So I knew that the extremely nutritious cheezy hot dog wraps I had planned could be put together in a couple minutes then bake for ten. Perfect. The bleach would set on my hair for ten-fifteen minutes.

Except after 10 minutes dinner was not ready.

After 15 minutes dinner was not ready.

I kept opening the oven to check, which obviously makes food cook faster. It wound up being 30 minutes before I could wash off the bleach. I seriously put the food on plates, shouted, “it’s on the kitchen counter!” and ran upstairs.

Not as bad as I had feared?

You see the result of my bleaching. There were a couple of spots that turned white and cottony and had a bit of breakage, but nothing too noticeable. I’m looking at this and I’m not hating it, for putting color on top of. Like I didn’t want clean red and orange stripes in my hair anyway. I wanted the colors to vary. The idea would be that it would be like fire or lava. I wanted an organic look. Well, skunks are organic, right? 

This image does not do justice to how stripey my hair was.  I missed ENTIRE sections.

That is where I had to pause everything for a week, because after almost running out of bleach I realized I might not have enough color. I bought a second tube of red and had to wait for it to arrive.

I accidentally bought two different reds.

And, didn’t realize until I was getting ready to apply that I had bought a different red. I didn’t let that stop me. I decided to lean in to it. I was already planning to go yellow, orange, red. I just added dark red to the ends. Nothing was going to stop me at this point.

I don’t know how to do foils.
I REALLY don’t know how to do foils.






Holy crow that took FOREVER! I didn’t want to miss spots like I did with the bleach, so I just kept hearing Brad Mondo in my head, telling me my sections were too big. So I sectioned off my very thin hair into about twelve thousand sections. The amount of foil on my head probably interrupted air traffic control patterns. By the end of it my roots were sweaty and my back was aching but I didn’t want to have a big blonde streak in it so I suffered through it all.
Gloves? Oh those were all the way downstairs.


Out of the shower – cautiously optimistic?

Here you have it — the FINAL RESULT!  I am well aware that normal hair blog protocol dictates that I should wear makeup and style my hair for this final shot, but I’ve got crap to do so this is as good as it’s going to get.

I know that from a technical perspective it’s a hot mess, but I honestly kind of love it. I really like the lighter red in the middle and the darker at the bottom, so happy accident there.

If I had to change anything, I would have less orange and more red.  And I might forego the yellow altogether because IRL it kind of looks like I just didn’t color that part. 

But I’m not about to go through all of that again.



It’s Been Three Weeks Since I Looked at . . . Any Other Human

It feels like we’ve been under lockdown forever, but it’s only been three weeks and four days.  It’s astonishing how completely my world has transformed.

Let’s go back before the stay at home orders, before social distancing, and look at where we were just six weeks ago. We’d had the first American death, international travel restrictions had been expanded to include European countries, and we were seeing evidence that the virus was showing up in people with no international travel at all. American life, however, was largely unchanged.

I live in the Seattle area, so at this time all of the American cases were within roughly fifty miles of me. I was frightened by what I was seeing on the news, devouring every word from the White House and from Governor Inslee. My friends and I worried about sending our kids to school, but were still going about our daily routines. Over the next three weeks, nearby school districts shut down as students or staff were suspected to be positive. Tests were not available. There was no way to know if a teacher or friend or coworker had the virus. There was no way to know if you had the virus. If you got sick with a fever, your household was to stay home in voluntary isolation for fourteen days. Otherwise it was business as usual. Wash your hands. Sneeze into your arm. Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes disappeared from the shelves. So, inexplicably, did toilet paper. But those who were not sick were told not to worry. If you’re not sick, you can continue with your routine.

But you know all of this. We all know all of this.

Of course we know it, because it was LAST MONTH.

Even three and a half weeks ago, even in Seattle, we didn’t really GET IT. Late in the week, they announced that Friday would be our last day until further notice. We all still sent our kids to school. They had to pick up their stuff, right? Say goodbye to their friends? I picked my kids up among joyous declarations that we were Out Of School for a three weeks!  We dropped by a convenience store, at which point I told the kids that this would be our last trip to the 7-11 for a while.  I said that since they are going through the hardship of closing the schools, it is our job to follow the intent of the rules and stay away from other people for at least a couple of weeks. Already I’d had a couple of other parents contact me about playdates, and I was the weirdo who said no, who said we would not be engaging in social activities.

Let me state again: Three weeks ago, in the Seattle area which was the hot spot at the time, parents were planning PLAYDATES. And study groups. Getting together at parks and playgrounds. Just three weeks ago.

I was not much better. It sounds like I had a good handle on things, right? I rejected offers of socialization. But still I didn’t GET IT. The day after the school closed, I took my kids to get their hair cut. It was an appointment I’d set up days before, and didn’t want to cancel. It’s a small shop. I’m supporting local business. It’s not social.

Over the next week I also kept my appointment to get my car’s oil changed. I sat in a waiting room with six other people in close proximity. No masks. I had a tiny bottle of sanitizer in my pocket. It had been the only sanitizer left at the convenience store. I used the sanitizer constantly, kept my head down, tried not to interact, but I was still there. Also that week I went to the grocery store to stock up on what I thought would be two weeks of food. Spoiler alert: it did not last two weeks. I also kept my appointment with the tax guy, because IRS.

At the time it felt like I was being super cautious, hardly leaving my house at all.

Three weeks ago.

Now I look back at that in horror. How could I be so irresponsible? I now take all of my groceries by delivery. I have the delivery driver leave them on the doorstep. I bring everything in to a staging area where I wipe everything down as I put it away. The one time I left the house to get some items I’d pre-ordered, I wore a mask and a jacket which went in the wash the second I got home. We go outside to work in the yard, to walk the dog, etc. but instead of stopping to chat, we wave at other people from across the street.

Very quickly, the life I led last month feels alien and dangerous.

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