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Texas Critters

Just for fun, today I'm writing about Texas critters that are specific to my neighborhood. I'll save the longhorns and the horses and the birds for another day.

artwork by Liz Bridgeman

Bridlewood is a world class squirrel habitat. I've lived in a lot of places, but the squirrels here are the best. They run and jump from fence to fence, branch to branch. Enormous trees make for a constant party. Earlier this year we enjoyed Mark Rober's squirrel ninja warrior course because it's SO TRUE of this area. Norm and the boys actually built a squirrel launcher our first year here. It never worked but I think they had fun building it. Of all the Texas critters that we've grown to love, squirrels are the most entertaining.

This little decoration just makes me smile. Something about gathering for winter and being prepared. 

I guess you could say we're nuts about squirrels. Unfortunately, there are two mostly invisible critters that are also native to this territory: mosquitos and lice.

Mosquitos are a thing. We've decided that Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is worth its weight in gold, because Norm and the boys can put these canisters around the perimeter of the yard and it lasts for like three months. That first year we tried a professional mosquito abatement company but it was like $80 every three weeks (every breeding cycle!) and that's a lot of money, especially if you're still getting eaten alive. So the Spartan stuff is cheaper and works great. And instead of crazy products like Itch B Gone, I recently learned that using a whole aloe leaf is way better, safer and cheaper.  Thanks to my neighbor J for teaching me about aloe!

Moving on to lice: when you get an email from a school teacher recommending that you use peppermint oil on your kid's neck, that's code for "our class has at least one confirmed case of lice, so please check your child's head carefully each night." When you get an email from the school talking about how to prevent lice, that's code for "a whole bunch of kids," are currently running around. So please don't share hair brushes with friends, and don't fix each others' hair during recess.

Summer of 2019, I was working in the Young Women's ministry at my church. They were getting ready for camp and my friend B was doing lice checks one evening. I helped her, and we carefully combed through a portion of each girl's scalp. It's mandatory to make certain that each camper is lice free before sharing bunkbeds and cabin space in tight quarters. Well, that week I was thinking about lice all the time, and it started messing with my head. Every time my hair itched, I had this paranoid thought, "Oh no, did I get lice when we were doing hair checks the other day?" I'm happy to report that I didn't, but it was on my mind. 

Did you know that lice can survive a few afternoons of swimming in the pool? Did you know that clean hair is more likely to host lice than dirty? Did you know that it can take 4+ hours to carefully comb through your child's hair if you suspect nits? (The term nitpicking actually originates here, because lice nits are the eggs that like to lodge near your scalp.) To make a long story short, I've seen two good friends on two different days, who were exhausted and weary from laundry and hair-combing. If this ever happens to you, you can go to a medical clinic like this one and spend $200 to get an oil treatment. If your friend/mom/husband doesn't want to spend hours combing through your hair, it's an option.

Moving on to another iconic Texas critter. The Armadillo. One morning, walking before sunrise, Norm and I found a mama and baby armadillo. It was really sweet. Don't be mistaken, armadillos are not sweet. I don't like seeing them as roadkill, but they're not friendly to humans.

Stopping briefly to talk about possums: Yesterday while I was busy in the kitchen A kept saying, "Mom, there's a rat out on the patio." I knew this couldn't be true so I brushed it off. After she'd repeated it like four times, she said, "Mom, I know it's a rat; the tail is pink." Okay, now she had my attention. So S walks over to the window and realizes that the large rat was actually a possum. That's a first. I might have cringed and/or made a loud noise. Norm's been reassuring me that possums are helpful critters because they eat vermin. Not convinced yet. I took a photo on my phone, through the window, but it was blurry because our little friend was scurrying quickly around.

I've saved the best for last. Lizards.

They're all over the place. Lots of them live in my garage, in all the nooks and crannies. They are quick and creepy. Early in our Texas adventure, Norm recommended that we get a screen door. We still haven't gotten one, and I can't even remember why. All summer it's really hot so we rarely open the windows. When fall comes and it's cooler outside (sometime late in October) I like to get some fresh air. One day I left the back door open for a while, and later found A sitting on top of the couch with a terrified expression on her face. "There's a lizard in our house!!!" she squeaks, pointing at a spot on the hardwood where he had frozen in place. 

Ooh, I'd have to agree that's not where he belongs. 

SO using all of my behavior training skills from college, and summoning my inner Lizard Whisperer talents, I tried to coax our little green friend back outside. Except he scurried further into the house. Ultimately he ended up in the closet under the stairs. That's the tornado closet because it's in the center of the house with no exterior windows. After successfully trapping the lizard in the closet, stuffing a towel in the crack under the door, I figured we could just forget about him. But then Norm came home from work and said something brilliant like, "you know they can live for three weeks without water." Ugh, his logic ruined my plan to wait him out. 

I'm not afraid of the lizard if he's outside. I'm afraid of him if he's under the bed and somehow decides to crawl through my hair while I'm sleeping. Well, he's probably more scared of me than I am of him. But still. That creepy lizard lived in my tornado closet for over a week.  Anytime I had to get a can of corn out of my food storage, I'd turn on the light and just cringe that I might find my little green friend. One day I turned on the light and he wasn't green.  He was tan, the exact color of the carpet. Ugh, he was a chameleon. 

I'm sorry to say that some of my irrational lizard hating had passed down to my girls at this point. Finally one day I bribed S with like $10 to find him and remove him. Nope, it didn't work. One night Norm got home from work and after locating the lizard, I convinced/cajoled/begged him to begin Operation Lizard Relocation. Glad to report that he trapped him between two big lids, took him outside and set him free. Happy day, the lizard was gone.

Except for the next time we found a lizard.  This time I encouraged A to have a little chat with our green friend. "This is a people house!" she informed him, in an attempt to create some boundaries. Unfortunately, lizards are dumb reptiles and can't talk back. In the ensuing months, we've had half a dozen lizards in our house. I've also had a lot more therapy and I'm pleased to report they don't freak me out as much. I can almost ignore them. Just recently S found a petrified lizard in the corner of the kitchen office area. *this is me shivering my shoulders.

The one silver lining: we have a new name for the tornado closet. You guessed it. It's the "Lizard Closet," and anytime I need a can of tuna or tomato soup, the kids know exactly where to go find it.

One day Amber and I were outside near the pool when we found a little green guy who let us get really close. We even filmed him for five seconds. The milestone here: A and I were both within arms' reach of a lizard without freaking out. So we've come a long way. They're actually fun to watch when they scurry along the fence line. They like to do these funny push ups where they puff out their pink chin. It must be some weird mating ritual. End of story here: if I had to choose between having lizards in my house, or lice or any of the above mentioned critters, I guess I can tolerate the lizards. We've reached a tentative peace treaty, and currently my lizard closet is lizard free.

Now I'll resume enjoying the squirrel entertainment on the back fenceline.


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