Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tiny crawling demons from hell

So we just shampoo the child and she's cured and we go on our merry way, right? WRONG. We shampooed, we combed afterwards per instructions, we found nothing alarming, we relaxed, and then we decided to do the same for Sarah just as a precaution. And we painstakingly combed out her hair with the special ultra-fine comb (after first using a regular comb and incinerating it). "Painstaking" is just the right word, because Sarah has longer and much finer hair than Sarah, so the comb caught all the time no matter how gentle I tried to be. So this precautionary task involved about 45 minutes of intermittent shrieking and sobbing, which was no fun for anyone but would have been easy to put behind us had the exercise not revealed a LOT of tiny brown... things, some moving and some not. All I can say is... ICK ICK ICK. It appears Becky may actually have caught lice from Sarah, who had commented in preceding days or even weeks that her head itched, but of course it never occurred to me, blah blah blah. And of course Ben and I had to shampoo and baboon each other as well. I felt like such a primate. But I was using a special comb designed by big-brained humans for the purpose, and not my fingernails, so I'm still clinging to my perch on the evolutionary scale.

The consequence of this whole discovery was a totally hellish weekend of stripping every bit of bed linen in the house and washing it, not to mention the blankets and stuffed animals, oh my God the stuffed animals, these kids have THOUSANDS all over the house – a lot more "stuffies" than lice for sure – and those that can't be washed had to be put into a hot dryer in many many batches. And of course we had to vacuum and dust everything in the house, which really needed it anyway, but Christ what a lot of work it was. Especially since on Saturday I had a nasty, brutish and short head cold so Ben did a lot of the work, bless his heart, since I was basically in the frame of mind to say, "Aw heck, what's so bad about scratching your head now and then? The hell with it." What I really wanted to do was just dunk the kids in a vat of Clorox (with swim goggles, of course) and set off a cyanide bomb in the house. But since heat also kills lice, I also fantasized about turning the furnace up to 150 degrees for a while. A friend noted astutely that the children would probably die before the lice, but hey, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.

So that was my weekend. Yesterday (Monday) the preschool said they found another bug in Becky's hair, and Sarah's school nurse said likewise. But you're not supposed to give them this lice shampoo treatment more than once a week or so, probably because they'd get instant brain cancer from the scalp in, so Ben found this stuff you smoosh into the hair and then comb out; it doesn't actually kill anything but is supposed to loosen the eggs, which apparently attach to the hair follicles like glue (is this way too much information yet?), and you still have to PAINSTAKINGLY comb out the hair, so that was our family evening last night. And tonight, no doubt. Fortunately we arranged to restock on beer on the way home, so it should be a bit more bearable. For the adults, I mean. Meanwhile I've learned so much about the life cycle of head lice, and of course there's a national organization whose sole mission is to educate about and eradicate this vile pestilence, which you may refer to in polite conversation as "pediculosis." Pass the Listerine.

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