Guest Post: Annette Simon’s Book Spine Poetry

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It’s been National Poetry Month for a full week now, and I hope that you’ve found time to read or write (or both!) poems a-plenty. In case you’re looking for a new form of poetry to explore, may I suggest book spine poems?

For the uninitiated, book spine poetry is a form of found poetry that first appeared in 1993, courtesy of Nina Katchadourian, and then became popular when Maria Popova began posting her own book spine poems to Brain Pickings in 2012.

Today, I’m happy and proud to present a few book spine poems by my dear friend, Annette Simon, an author/illustrator/poet extraordinaire. She’s also lucky enough to work in a bookstore, with access to shelves and shelves of titles to inspire her. Below, she’s grouped a few poems together to create a commentary on parenting that many of us will undoubtedly find compelling.

 

What motherhood has taught me:

Annette Simon spine poem

Because…

book spine poem, spine poetry, ©2014Annette Simon

Another thing…

lazyday, spine poem by Annette Simon

Mental health days are key.

spine poetm by Annette Simon

Why not try composing a few book spine poems of your own? They’re especially fun to make with kids, and the library is a wonderful place to explore this new form of expression. If you do create some you’d like to share, please post your pics on The Well-Versed Mom Facebook page. I’d love to see what you come up with!

MORE ABOUT ANNETTE SIMON:

Annette is an advertising creative director turned picture book maker. In her new ROBOT BURP HEAD SMARTYPANTS!, the mechanical pals of ROBOT ZOMBIE FRANKENSTEIN! return with a new game – and the thirst to win it.

Burp to ten? Easy! Burp by tens while blindfolded, juggling and skateboarding? Simple! Now, add the alphabet? Reboot! (It’s one loud read-aloud.)

Please see more (and download free robot activity kits!) here.
p.s. If you’d like a personalized copy, contact Annette’s local indie, The BookMark. When possible, please support your own local store. Consider a kind word here, here or here. Affirmative?

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The Long & Winding Road Trip

roadtrip, spring break, motel, roadside

A week ago, my two teen daughters, our dog Daisy and I returned from a 2,348-mile Spring Break road trip through Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. We did a similar trip last year, though without our canine companion.

Although a little possessive of the space in the back seat, Daisy was a good travel buddy. Until she wasn’t. That happened somewhere around Trinidad, Colorado, when she developed explosive diarrhea. (I was going to write “a bad case of…” but is there ever a “good case” of explosive diarrhea?)

Thankfully, we all survived to tell about it.

THE LONG & WINDING ROADTRIP

ON SATURDAY, we started out
upon our Spring Break trip:
two kids, one mom, one dog
and one car wisely well-equipped.

I’d packed it with provisions
for both progeny and pup,
anticipating any need
that ever could come up.

I’d piled it full of pillows,
plus dog toys, drinks and snacks,
a stack of books and all three
High School Musical soundtracks.

How well-prepared were we,
with our fully furnished load!
I knew we’d see the miles speed by
once we hit the road.

And sure enough, as 20 clicks
inched off my Google map,
the kids got busy reading
and the dog began to nap.

BUT THEN, just 30 minutes in,
–our mileage still quite low–
I heard a peep from the back seat:
“Uh, Mom? I gotta go.”

No big deal, even though
we’d barely left our town;
just one quick stop and then we
buckled up and settled down.

At mile 68,
our dog announced her need to pee;
at mile 92,
it was a coffee break for me.

A hundred forty miles in
(Woot! We’re on a roll!)
I sheepishly turned off again –
my coffee took its toll.

Convinced by kids to stop for lunch
three hours into our drive,
I also exited for gas
at mile 205.

At mile 289,
of course our dog got sick.
At mile 332,
well, I had to snap that pic.

And so in spite of my intent
to speed on through our travel,
I saw my plans – just like the miles -
reluctantly unravel.

I realize, of course,
that it’s not just the destination
that makes the trek worthwile
when you set off on your vacation.

A ROAD TRIP, though, most likely won’t be
next year’s undertaking;
I’ve learned my lesson all too well
from all of our spring braking.

©2014 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

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dog portrait, dog photo

FIRST DATE

©2014 CEStankiewicz all rights reserved

The anxiety.

The awkwardness.

The hope.

The humanity.

Ahhh, the joys of dating. For many of us, they’re but a distant memory. For others among us, they’re still very much a reality…

.

FIRST DATE

The call just came – you’re going to meet!
Now:  What to do? Where to eat?
A morning stroll? A picnic lunch?
A dinner chat? A weekend brunch?

What to wear? What to say?
Meet at night? Or by day?
All these choices you must make
are stressful with so much at stake.

You hope you’ll click. You hope it’s fun.
You’re thinking this could be the one.
While on your way, you say a prayer
that all goes well when you get there.

You want this first date to succeed,
so best behavior’s what you need.
That means good manners, smiles and caring;
taking turns and nicely sharing.

You hope there’ll be no tears while dining.
And no tantrums. And no whining.
No fussiness, no arguments,
and please, oh please, no accidents!

It’s tougher than when you were single,
cruising bars to mix and mingle;
it’s hard, it’s brutal – even mean -
this merciless new dating scene.

For nothing sets your nerves aflutter
than meeting with another mother
and her child to know just whether
the four of you play well together.

And afterward it’s just as bad,
for if you liked the time you had,
you’re just more anxious, after all,
because, you know, she said she’d call

©2010 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

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Fever Pitch

Cedar ©CEStankiewicz all rights reserved
You should see Austin right now.
It’s sunny…crisp….breezy…and horrible.

We’re experiencing a major pollen apocalypse (apollencalypse?) — courtesy of the “mountain cedar” (Juniperus ashei) that calls the Texas Hill Country home. Thanks to just the right combo of abundant autumn rain and early winter cold snap, these trees are producing copious amounts of the burnt orange pollen for which they’re infamous.

Check out this video making the rounds on Facebook. A friend of a friend filmed it from his back porch. That’s not smoke you see wafting through the hillside.

The stuff is making everyone here miserable. Snot-streaming noses, puffy eyes and migraine-grade headaches are par for the course. All the free tissue boxes at my office have been nabbed. I even heard that two moms got into a kickboxing brawl over the last neti pot at Whole Foods.

Some folks propose reducing the juniper population, while others want simply to eradicate the hated tree — an impractical if not impossible task, given that it covers millions of acres throughout Texas. Me, I’ve got a different idea, noted below. Of course, I’ll still be keeping the Benadryl and Kleenex stockpiled next to my bed…along with my new neti pot from Whole Foods.

FEVER PITCH

My eyes, how they burn!
My head, how it aches!
My nose, how it’s snifflin’ and sneezin’!

My throat’s raw and sore,
and I’m tired to the core.
(I suspect you’ve detected the reason.)

I’m popping the pills
my doc gave for these ills,
and I’ve begged for the meds he injects.

I’m suffering so,
because — dontcha know –
some trees are outside having sex.

Yes, it’s that time of year,
Cedar Fever is here;
In the air there’s a thick, orange-y haze.

It’s their pollen, diffuse,
as those trees reproduce
and we humans go ‘round in a daze.

It seems unfair to us
for no plants suffer thus
when we people do our procreating.

Still, I can’t ease our pain,
so let’s try to contain
this strong penchant for cedar tree hating.

Dare I now ask of you
to take their point of view,
these trees that are misery’s source?

We may hate how they mate
but it’s only their fate
and we have to let life take its course.

For this pollen persists
’cause these trees can’t resist
the power of nature’s sweet call.

You see, LOVE is the reason
for allergy season –
and that, as we know, conquers all.

©2014 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

The Tale of Lights

©2013 all rights reserved CEStankiewicz

I’m a single mom raising two teenage daughters and working outside the home. Which means that stuff around my house doesn’t always get done in a — shall we say — timely fashion.

Oh, I’m also a world-class procrastinator.

But sometimes that can be a good thing…

THE TALE OF LIGHTS

Oh how my lovely Christmas lights
lit up our house last year:
a sparkling sight on wintry nights
for neighbors far and near.

I loved ‘em so, I left them up
all through January.
When Valentine’s Day rolled around,
they kept our hearts so merry.

March blew in, then April came,
and still they twinkled on
as robins pecked and pulled at worms
upon our greening lawn.

In May and June and then July
the days grew long and hot.
The nights were short and filled with stars,
but still, I thought, “Why not?”

And so those lights that I had strung
to welcome last year’s Yule
stayed up throughout the summertime,
till kids went back to school.

In fall, when leaves of orange and gold
lay gathered on the ground,
the lights hung high — it seemed that I
might never take them down.

As we gave thanks for family, friends
and food for us to sup,
I realized a year had passed
since I’d first hung them up.

Three hundred sixty-some odd days
those bulbs had stayed entwined
around the pillars of my porch,
but I? I didn’t mind.

The Christmas spirit, some might say,
had led me to the act
of leaving lights to shine all year –
but really, here’s the fact:

It’s quite a wondrous testament
(notes one who now believes)
to all the beaming brilliance
that laziness achieves.

©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

One Sweet Plan

trick or treat Halloween ©2013 CEStankiewicz all rights reservedAT FIRST they just hid their Halloween loot, ostensibly in a place I wouldn’t find it. Those poor, sweet, delusional children of mine.

Then they resorted to taking an inventory and making a detailed list noting each piece of candy — down to the very last, awful, ugly Mary Jane. (As if I’d stoop to steal, much less ingest, one of those.  Jeez, kids, give me some credit.)

Eventually they landed on a winning solution to keep me from snagging their sweets.

Those dear, savvy, resourceful children of mine…

ONE SWEET PLAN

“Trick or treat!” my kids both yell
as they approach a door.
And when it opens, they recite
a speech not heard before:

“Trick or treat! Smell my feet!
Give me something good to eat!

We’ll take your Peanut M&Ms,
your Reese’s Pieces, too –
your Snickers and your Almond Joys,
and Baby Ruths will do.

Bring on the Butterfingers!
Milk Duds? Those are fine.
But at Milky Ways, Three Musketeers
and Twix, we draw the line.

Zagnuts, Jolly Ranchers -
Add ‘em to our haul!
Bit O’ Honeys, Tootsie Rolls,
Mounds, we’ll take them all!”

Finished with their list,
my kids just stood there – quiet –
their donor no doubt wondering
about their candy diet.

But I knew why they did it,
this strategic trick-or-treating:
the sweets they listed at each door
were those I hated eating.

©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Mommy-proofing their Halloween candy with a detailed inventory.

Mommy-proofing their Halloween candy with a detailed inventory.


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Note: This post originally appeared over at Great Moments in Parenting.

Sixteen

©2013 all rights reserved CEStankiewicz

I love my just-turned-16-year-old with all my heart.

But she’s a teenage girl. And I’m her mom. So right now, we’re about as compatible as Voldemort and Harry. Texas and OU. Seinfeld and Newman.

From all the books I’ve been reading, I’ve learned that it’s supposed to be that way.

It’s Perfectly Normal.

It. WIll. Be. Okay.

I know she’s just going through a phase. And she really does love me as much as I love her.

Yet…some days….hoo boy. It’s crazy. She’s just so….so….well, so sixteen.

SIXTEEN

It’s sullen and stubborn
and oh-so sarcastic,
silly and sassy
and sometimes just…spastic.

Storming and swearing,
occasionally savage,
snippy and sourpussed
(daily, on average).

Short-tempered, sharp-tongued,
and slanderous (maybe);
skeptical, sulky
and self-absorbed, baby!

Slovenly, sensitive,
slothful and surly;
sophomoric, sure –
and still-little-girl-y.

But above all: surprising –
those times when you meet,
and you have to admit that
sixteen can be…sweet.

.

©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Back to School

©2013 CE Stankiewicz all rights reserved

I hate to break it to you, but summer — with its sunny-skied promises of pools and picnics and plenty of days to laze around — will soon come to an end. Depending on where you live, back-to-school season might be a mere week away or a full month from arriving. Still, it’s coming. You can tell from all the store flyers and commercials chock full o’ notebooks and backpacks and glue and crayons.

Speaking of which, I’ve always loved this Staples commercial, pitch-perfect in its depiction of parental glee this time of year.

Here’s the thing, though. As dour as the faces of those two little kids in that ad appear, I’m not so sure that they’re really all that bummed to be going back to school. I know my girls would never cop to it, but I firmly believe that when August 26th (our first day of school) finally rolls around, they’ll be just as eager as any gloating parent to welcome back the structure and routine that school brings.

Just don’t let ‘em know that I’m on to them.

.

Back to School

They couldn’t wait for summer
with its drowsy afternoons,
its swimming pools and lemonade,
its lovely midnight moons.

They couldn’t wait for summer
and for staying up past ten,
for waking when they wanted to
and napping now and then.

They couldn’t wait for summer
to stare into the sky
while spying birds and bunnies
in the clouds that floated by.

They couldn’t wait for summer
to lie around all day
to laze about from hour to hour
as time just slipped away.

They couldn’t wait for summer
to do nothing much at all;
but by July, when boredom hit,
they couldn’t wait for fall.

.

©2010 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

©2013 CE Stankiewicz all rights reserved

The Birthday Party

CakeBalls

Earlier this week, I celebrated my birthday with a small gathering of good friends at a favorite sushi restaurant. With a few notable exceptions, my birthdays have been mostly low-key, probably a result of the sweet and simple parties of my childhood. The theme was always “Birthday,” the entertainment was a game of “hot potato” or “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey,” and my guests went home with naught but tummies full of cake and ice cream. Goodie bags? Coordinated party décor featuring my favorite Disney character? Traveling exotic animal petting zoos? As if.

Not that birthdays weren’t a big deal back then, they just weren’t anything near the BIG DEAL kids have come to expect these days.

My own daughters’ parties have been slightly more elaborate than my childhood celebrations, but none of them — not even the monkey-themed one where we rented an inflated chimp bouncy thing and I baked a monkey-in-a-coconut-tree cake — would be considered extravagant by today’s standards.  Especially in this era of Gatsby worship and “reality” tv shows like “My Super Sweet 16″ and the now-defunct “Outrageous Kid Parties.”

It leaves me wondering what’s to become of these kids as they grow up. How do you top a $60,ooo party when you’re four? With a $120,000* party when you’re eight? (*not adjusted for inflation)

One thing’s for sure: if this trend continues, I may just encourage my daughters to pursue careers as party planners.

Or psychotherapists.

.

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY

You’re invited! You’re invited!
And we would all be
so delighted
If you’d accept this invitation
to Hannah’s PRINCESS celebration!
Next Saturday from noon till eight,
it’s Party Time, so Save The Date!

There’ll be inflated Bouncy Castles
with satin drapes and silver tassels.
Minstrels and Magicians, too,
and a Medieval Petting Zoo!
Don’t miss the Knight upon his Horse
with flowing mane (all white, of course!);
plus you can ride a Unicorn
complete with sparkly rainbow horn!

We’ll also have a Tumbling Group,
Face Painters and a Ballet Troupe,
a Clown who twists and shapes balloons,
a Dee-Jay spinning Top Ten Tunes!
And over on the second stage?
That Boy Band that’s just all the rage!

And next, but certainly not least,
comes the Royal Birthday Feast:
hot dogs, burgers, shish kebab,
curly fries, corn on the cob,
canapés and caviar,
tapas and a sushi bar,
shrimp and oysters, shucked and chilled –
enough for guests to get their fill.
We also had the bakery make
a seven-layered castle cake,
and hired the gourmet ice cream mart
to bring their new gelato cart.

Each guest will get a Goodie Bag
that’s stuffed with precious birthday swag:
candy, toys, a princess crown,
a Princess Barbie, princess gown,
jewelry, make-up, DVDs,
an iTouch filled with mp3s.

Enclosed you’ll find all information
needed for our celebration:

  • maps
  • directions
  • wristbands (two)
  • a schedule of events for you
  • the website for RSVPs (Just e-mail us; no phone calls, please.)

And so that parking won’t be trouble,
attached are tickets for the Shuttle.

And please: no gifts.
(But if you must, she’s registered at Toys’R’Us.)

You’re invited! You’re invited!
And we would all be
so delighted
If you’d accept this invitation
to Hannah’s PRINCESS celebration!

.

©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

 

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Bragging Rights — and Wrongs

My extraordinarily talented daughters.

My kids are the most beautiful, brilliant, charming, witty, well-mannered and accomplished beings ever to grace the screens of Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and Instagram.

Well, at least I think so. And I’m not shy about sharing news and photos of their achievements – though I do try to limit my posts to 25 or 30 per day.

Apparently other moms and dads out there aren’t as restrained in their online boasting about awe-inspiring offspring. In fact, many are not only more prolific in their sharing, they’re also much less discriminating about what they choose to share. So what’s a civilized person to do about it? Well, start a blog, of course! Namely, Shut The F*** Up, Parents, which has now become a book.

But even with such public shaming of the most egregious offenders, it doesn’t seem to be getting better. In fact, as new and improved types of social media arrive, it’s just getting worse. So now, a proud mom isn’t limited to Tweeting or posting Facebook albums of her daughter’s star turn as “Second Sailor on Boat” in the middle school play. She could also treat the world to countless Instagrams and six-second video Vines of said daughter’s performance!

Not that I would, but I could.

You know, if I were that kind of parent…

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Bragging Rights — and Wrongs

Do it, parents, as you please –
You celebrate those victories:
The first word when he learns to talk!
That first step when he starts to walk!

When junior learns his ABCs
Or ties his tiny shoes with ease,
Of course a brag or two’s allowed
From parents who are mighty proud.

And when he brings home mostly A’s,
It’s your full right to lavish praise;
Or when his team has won some game,
His skill at sport you must proclaim.

We’ll listen and we’ll chime in, too,
Congratulating him – and YOU!
We’ll even look at pics you shot –
But some things you do, we cannot.

For instance, don’t expect us to
Exclaim in joy to hear from you
About the time HE BURPED! a bit,
Got HIS FIRST RASH! or HIS FIRST ZIT!

And when your kiddo’s feeling sick,
I’m sorry, but don’t post a pic.
That slimy, greenish nose he’s got?
You say it’s cute — but no. It’s snot.

And when you talk about his poop?
(The body functions, as a group,
We’d much prefer that you avoid)
That kind of crap gets us annoyed.

As for awards that he receives,
We’ll look at them — though we believe
Rewarding “School Attendance Skill”
Might qualify as overkill.

I guess the lesson here would be
That moderation’s really key.
Lest you commit it, please BEWARE
Don’t risk Parental Overshare.

.
©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Piñata Good Idea? [a re-post]

[note: I'm reposting this as a public service to all the people who may partake of piñata pummeling on Cinco de Mayo.]

.

I didn’t have piñatas at my birthday parties as a child growing up in Michigan.

It wasn’t until I gave birth to two native Texans that I caught wind of this potentitally treacherous trend. I actually purchased a few of these perilous paper-mâché repositories for my daughters’ birthdays over the years, unwitting parent that I was – back then.

But now I know better.

According to this web site, “every 47 minutes there is another incident of piñata-related violence.” Even respected writer Dave Barry has spoken out against the pitfalls of piñatas. It’s only a matter of time before they make it onto the ever-vigilant Stephen Colbert’s Threatdown list.

Consider yourself warned.

.

Piñata Good Idea?

Party planners say ya gotta
have a big and bright piñata

stuffed with sweets and treats and toys
for the giddy girls and boys

who are eager to get swinging,
sending gobs of goodies flinging!

But letting kids go whacking wildly
seems unwise (to put it mildly).

Could there even be a faster
way to guarantee disaster

than to make a weapon handy
to kids clamoring for candy?

©2010 Carlotta Stankiewicz

Two-Car Family

You can call me on the (juice-stained) carpet for sweeping generalizations, but it’s been my experience that in your typical suburban household where each parent has a car, Mom’s car will be the messier of the two. Throw a pet like my Daisy (right, riding shotgun) into the mix, and disorder and debris are your destiny.

I don’t think I’m off base here. Just a cursory scan of cyberspace found plenty of mothers lamenting the woeful state of their minivans.  One even had a contest that sought out the most unkempt car.

If only I had known. If I’d submitted a pic of my own slovenly sedan, I guarantee I coulda been a contender. That is, if I could find my camera…

.

Two-Car Family

His:
Sleek
Spotless
Toy-less
Tot-less
Leather
Shiny
Never whiny
Quiet
Yell-less
Calm
Smell-less

Hers:
Hatch-backed
Crayon-attacked
Vinyl cracked
Baby-yakked
Not compact
Toy-stacked
Ransacked
Mud-tracked
Never intact
Brat-packed

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©2009 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

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(note: this post has been updated and re-blogged from its initial appearance more than a year ago.)

Laundry List

The saying goes, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” As a lifelong flea market frequenter and second-hand store shopper, those words ring ever so true for me.

When I was a girl, my eyes were often toward the ground as I traversed our neighborhood, searching for the Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum comics that I collected to redeem for prizes. If anything else remotely interesting caught my eye, I’d scoop that up, too. There were buttons that doubled as plates for my Malibu Barbie and crayon nubs that I made into candles for her romantic dinners with Live Action Ken. Pennies were always picked up, because back then you could still buy something for a single cent. Sparkly rocks, bits of hardware and plastic rings all made it into my collection. To the childhood me, everything was a treasure.

As it turns out, my youngest daughter shares that philosophy.

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Laundry List

The washer stopped
with a buzzing sound;
I pulled out the clothes,
looked down, and found

  • a melted crayon
  • a whistle
  • a string
  • a barrette
  • a shoelace
  • a fake ruby ring
  • a marble
  • a button
  • a ball of lint
  • a foil wrapper from a restaurant mint
  • a hair tie
  • a pencil
  • a bottle cap
  • a shell
  • more string
  • a fabric scrap
  • a bit of ribbon
  • a couple beads
  • a piece of chain
  • sunflower seeds
  • a screw
  • a wire
  • a twisty tie
  • a penny
  • a pebble
  • a plastic fly
  • a bobby pin
  • an earring back
  • a safety pin
  • a rusty tack

all collected in
my washing machine,
scattered about
and sparkling clean.

I guess next time
laundry’s on the docket,
I first should check
my daughter’s pockets.

.

©2011 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Lousy Advice

My girls are in 4th and 6th grades now, and we haven’t had a case of pediculosis for a year or two now, but back in the early elementary school years, we got them a lot. I became surprisingly skilled at seeking out and destroying the little buggers and their hard-to-spot nits. Once I got past the ick factor and realized that (contrary to popular belief) lice aren’t a sign of uncleanliness, it became kind of fun. Like a game. (Yeah, I know. That’s weird.)

When I read a recent New York Times article about professional de-lousers charging squeamish parents $300 a head for their services, I began to wonder if I’d missed my calling. After all, I’ve always been detail-oriented. But this would be taking “professional nitpicker” to a whole other level…

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Lousy Advice

Lice aren’t nice,
but if you want my advice,
don’t sweat ‘em
‘cause you’ll get ‘em — if you’ve got kids — maybe twice.

How does a critterful collection
sprout without a mom’s detection?
Well, it happens to the best of us
and even to the rest of us:
that sighting on the head
as you tuck the kids in bed…
or the letter they bring home
suggesting chemicals and combs.

Sure, you’ll start to feel lousy
once you know they’re in your housey
as you scratch throughout your hair
though there may be nothing there.

You know what you gotta do:
get a lotta that shampoo,
and although it’s rather icky,
take that comb and get nit-picky.
It’s not as bad as you might think;
you just wash ‘em down the sink,
then you scour clothes and sheets
till the creatures meet defeat.

Lest you start to feel ashamed
make sure other kids are blamed
long before it is suggested
that your home was first infested.

Lice aren’t nice,
but if you want my advice,
don’t sweat ‘em
’cause you’ll get ‘em — if you’ve got kids — maybe thrice.

©2010 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz