We all have fears. Fear of heights. Fear of death. Fear of public speaking. Fear of spiders. Fear of small, enclosed spaces. The list goes on.
As a mother, I have my own set of "mommy fears." They almost all involve harm to my children in some form or another. Some of my fears involve harm to me or my husband which would then result in emotional harm to my children. Some of my fears are worse than others. Some are terrible, unspeakable tragedies that befall thousands of families every year. Some are nonsense, but fears nonetheless.
This week one of my greatest, nonsensical fears came to pass.
This week my family got...LICE.
I am tempted to stop my blog right here because there are just no words for this. No. Words. But I'll do my best because it's important that I continue my quest at keeping it real.
This was no ordinary weekend. This was the weekend after the 4th of July. This was a weekend in which we had company...dear friends of ours who come every year for the 4th of July. The same dear friends who were here in February when my oldest daughter got the flu...the only time in the existence of our family that we have dealt with the flu. These wonderful friends came back...again...even though the most ridiculous things happen when they come. Somehow they still love us enough to enter crazy.
We had had a great weekend. A longer than usual visit with them as the 4th fell on a Thursday and they took Friday off of work. We got 4 whole days with them! Such fun! We don't see each other for months at a time, so 4 days with them was something I had eagerly anticipated! We had a picnic in the park. We watched fireworks. We swam. The kids slept all over the floor in sleeping bags. We grilled. We watched movies. We talked and chatted and laughed until Saturday night.
Saturday night. When I got a tiny glimpse of Hell. Saturday night. When my nonsensical fear was no longer a fear, but a reality. Saturday night. When the "itching" of the last two days suddenly made perfect sense. Saturday night. Loathe.
My friend, Terri, and I were marching the littles off to bed that night discussing the movie we were going to watch and plans for the next day after church. As I was brushing the last head of kid hair after bath time, I started noticing some strange bite marks on the back of Daughter #1's neck. "Do those itch?" I asked. "Yes. And so does my head," she said. My mind quickly jogged back in time to my own shower earlier in the day when I scrubbed my hair, not once, but twice, because my scalp seemed so...itchy. My neck had been itchy as well. I attributed all of this to lots of ponytails, time in the sun, sweat, water. Whatever. Because I was NOT going to let my mind go there...to a nonsensical fear. No way. But here I was standing in the bathroom with #1 at 10:30 on Saturday night, holding my breath as I parted the top of her hair. And there they were. Those demon bugs. The ones that have met me only in my nightmares. #1 had lice. Horror.
I rushed to get Terri to confirm this tragedy. She did. I then burst into the bedroom where Daughter #2, Daughter #3 and their friend (we'll call her F1 for simplicity's sake) were tucked away in sleeping bags. "WHOSE HEAD ITCHES?!?!" One hand after another lifted high in the air while other hands scratched away making me wonder if there would be any flesh left on any of their scalps come morning. "Everyone to the bathroom NOW!" If I thought #1 having lice was horror, I'm not sure what word I can use to describe my feelings when I found Satan's little helpers crawling around on #2 and F1. Panic? Terror? Disgust? Dread? Fear? I can't really conjure up a word at this point. Let's just say I was FREAKING OUT!
Out the door I went, thankful that we have a 24 hour pharmacy within a mile of our house. For all I knew these bugs could have been living with us for a week, but now that I knew they were here they had to be decimated. Immediately. After spending a small fortune at Walgreens (keep in mind we had 10 heads to treat. Ten Heads! Tragic.) I came home to begin a very long night of hair combing and scalp examination. In my absence, the very helpful children had gathered every pillow, blanket, sleeping bag, comforter, sheet, hat, scarf, outfit, towel, etc. they could find. If hair had touched it, if hair was capable of touching it, I demanded it be added to the pile.
We will now take a moment to discuss Lice Laundry as it deserves it's own segment. It's own paragraph. It's own zip code! Lice Laundry will be in Hell. There will be a special room in Hell where people will be required, by Satan himself, to do Lice Laundry. I can't begin to get you to wrap your brain around the sheer AMOUNT of laundry I am talking about. We had 10 people who had been living in this house for 3 days. We had used EVERY towel we own for bathing. We had used EVERY beach towel we own for swimming. We had used EVERY bed for sleeping. EVERY pillow for lounging. Extra linens from the closet for picnicking, throw blankets for snuggling, you name it, our heads had been on it. We own 9 comforters (don't even ask me why...this is a problem in excess that I will now be looking further into) and 4 sleeping bags. We had used them. ALL.
And then there are the unlaunderable (just go with it), inanimate objects that overflow from every nook and cranny of this not-so-little house. These would be the stuffed animals. I don't know if my children have an strange, over-abundance of affection to offer, but apparently we own EVERY stuffed animal EVER created for them to love on and fawn over. They were coming down the stairs in the hundreds, possibly thousands. I am sure of it. Black trash bags filled with potential lice-carrying hellions everywhere.
And the lice treating began. One little head at a time. We started with Daughter #4 who is only 1 year old. Bless her, she didn't have a clue what was going on. It was 11 PM. She was still out of bed. There was a pile of clothes (ideal for jumping in!) spread out over the entire downstairs. And mommy was yelling. A lot. #4 was being dowsed in some kind of stink that she wasn't allowed to eat or touch. Confusion ensued.
Daughter #3 next. Then #2. F1. Each sent to bed as we were now well into tomorrow. As we sat #1 down to begin the combing process, it became apparent that this is where the havoc began. Surely. As I was wiping out each combful of these demon thieves who were stealing my sleep, my joy, my daughter's blood, I was freaking out. Silently. Behind her where she couldn't see my silent screaming. And where my friend was trying to silent reason with me, reminding me that my freaking out was not helpful for an 8 year old at 2 am. Noted.
We went to bed at 4 am. After 10 heads had been treated. After I had put a tiny, minuscule dent in the Lice Laundry (Yes, it will continue to be capitalized out of sheer respect for it's magnitude...think national monument, mountain, small country...you get the idea.) We curled up on beds of nothing. No sheets, no blankets, no pillows. Go ahead, shed a tear for us. It was a sad, sad 3.5 seconds of sleep after which we woke to do the very tasks that would consume my next 5 days: head checking and Lice Laundry.
I will spare you the details of the next 5 days, the monotonous torture that was my life. I started to slip into the depths of lice-covered despair with every head check, every nit pulled out and flushed down the toilet. 5 days of what felt like prison, trapped in my own house with nowhere to go, not wanting to chance sending Satan's little minions to the heads of other unsuspecting hosts. 5 days of misery with tiny glimpses of light and love. My glimpses of light and love came in the form of people.
This brings us to the more uplifting portion of our segment. This is where we will give thanks to the brave men and women who sacrificed time and chanced personal head-hygiene to help this desperate mother of 4 in her hour of need. This goes out to my heroes.
Terri: Had I been you, visiting friends when lice chaos ensued with a myriad of daughters and more hair than humanly imaginable, I would have packed up our belongings in black trash bags, given you an air hug from the door and bid you adieu. But you stayed. You survived on lack of sleep and very little nourishment (did we even eat?) to help me comb and comb and comb. You solidified your position (as if it needed any more solidity) as one of the dearest friends a girl could ask for as you even combed through my hair at 3 am. You have endured more text messages this week than AT&T should allow and listened to my endless hours of whining. You are an amazing friend.
George (Terri's husband): Thank you for vacuuming carpet, spraying cars and furniture with lice spray, dashing to Walgreens at a moment's notice for more spray and bobby pins and milk and baby butt cream (Note: Baby butt cream was completely unrelated to lice...so was milk.) Thank you for being at my beck and call even though I'm not your wife. Thank you for enduring my freaking out and the craziness that comes with a house full of lice-covered females.
Suzanne (my neighbor / 24 hour on-call school nurse who was on a trip with family this week): Thank you for letting me use your washing machine/dryer to wash pillows and comforters while you were away. Thank you for responding to the 2,417 phone calls and text messages, the endless lice questions, and being yet another source reminding me that it'll be ok and that we aren't the dirtiest people on the face of the earth for having lice. Thank you for all of your reassuring words and your endless knowledge of all things medical. I wish I had a 1/16 of your brain...it's so smart.
Patricia (our women's leader at church): Thank you for coming to my rescue after my 18th freakout on Monday night. Thank you for going to the store for Cetaphil and chocolate (the Twix bars you brought served as two of my meals this week. No judging.) Thank you for helping me treat heads even though the method was...weird...and rock a baby and entertain my children as I...wait for it...combed through hair and did Lice Laundry.
Donna (a sweet woman from church): Thank you for taking our friendship to a new level as you sat in my kitchen at midnight and went through my hair since I can't see the top of my own head. There are few "church people" that have been on this level of real with me. Congratulations. I will now call you every time disaster strikes.
Lisa D. (another sweet woman from church): Thank you for moving the Tuesday night gathering at my house to your house on very short notice. Exposing a houseful of women to lice was not my intention when these meetings began. It's interesting that our study is on the book "Unglued." Coincidence? I think not.
Lisa F. (we have a lot of sweet women at church): You know why I love you. That's all I'm gonna say.
Thank you to a kind friend who reminded me that lice don't care about our SocioEconomic Status. This helped keep my vanity in check.
The Hubs: Thank you for staying in Estrogenville + Lice this week. Thank you for continuing to hug me and for not shaving the childrens' heads. Thank you for helping with late night vacuuming and stripping/remaking beds. Thank you for coming home early to help with dishes and cleaning and letting me take a shower in peace and quiet. Thank you for helping with bedtime while I...combed through hair. Thank you for living in crazy awesome with me. You're my favorite.
Well there you have it folks. This was my week. I learned how much laundry can actually be done in 5 days if you skip meals, sleep and interaction with the other human beings in your house. I learned how many hairs are on each of my childrens' heads. I learned that I can conquer my nonsensical fears. Here's to hoping that I am not forced to overcome anymore anytime soon (i.e. driving across bridges over large bodies of water, finding/drinking a fly in my coffee, shopping without coupons.)
Oh and if you think lice are no longer on my Nonsensical Fears list, you are right. They have moved up a notch and now hold a position on my Actual Fears list as they are truly a tiny glimpse into Hell...where there will be lice. Just one more reason not to go there.