A Head Lice Saga, Part II: “A Song of Spray and Lint-Roller”

 

“In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War”

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Please, mommy, don’t shave my head.“- Anna Bader

In the last (cliffhanger!) episode of “Just One Mom’s Opinion,” our heroine was devastated by the return of the dreaded scalp scourge (lice). Read on for the exciting conclusion to this tale/tail.

 

It was late August on the Cape, and instead of meeting my friend Bree at Old Silver for afternoon beach cocktails I was standing in my kitchen, staring in horror at my daughter’s scalp. Crestfallen disbelief soon turned to stone-cold resolve, though, as I realized that to defeat this scurry-legged foe, I needed back-up.

Time to call in a Professional.

As usual in a crisis, I turned to my friend Sarah and the internet for help. Both directed me to Maryellen Kumiega, AKA “The Picky One,” AKA Badass Lice Assassin.

The word “nitpicker” has many connotations, none of them positive. Google tells us that a “nitpicker” is “a person given to harsh judgements and finding faults.” My imagination tells me that a “nitpicker,” (which is, after all, a vowel and a consonant away from “nosepicker),” is an overweight, stringy-haired old lady in a stained sweatshirt who waddles into your house with a mouth full of bobby pins, settles down on the couch and says things like, “Ima pick myself some nits now, chile. Y’all mind if I watch ma stories whilst I git ‘em?

She was not what I expected.

Salvation arrived in the form of a trim, neatly dressed woman in her mid-late forties who carried a stool, a high-powered spotlight, and a bag of pesticide-free whoop-ass. Mild-mannered and soft-spoken, Maryellen spent the next hour educating me about lice eradication while she gently clipped, sprayed, and combed the critters out of my daughter’s hair. It felt like a homey hair salon, only with more death.

The Great Lice Massacre

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The first step was the application of a plastic-based Spray of Death to my daughter’s sectioned hair (Divide and Conquer). Next, she wielded the steel-toothed Comb of Death to cull the stunned critters much like Lord Walder Frey’s dispatched his assassins to destroy the Stark family in The Red Wedding on the Game of Thrones. As a final humiliation, she then trapped the lice and nit carcasses on sticky paper (Lint-Roller of Death), where they lay stricken and motionless while I cackled evilly.

Maryellen’s motto is, “When in Doubt, Comb it Out.” Not quite as intimidating as “With Fire and Blood, I Will Take What’s Mine,” but good advice all the same. To that end, she recommends the purchase of the LiceMeister Comb, a powerful weapon available on Amazon for under 15 dollars. I bought three.

 

 

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Recommended by the National Pediculosis Association, so you know it’s good. 

She recommends combing out your child’s hair during or after showering 2-3 times a week for the first three weeks after treatment and once a week after that, all the while loudly humming “A Song of Ice and Fire.” This will serve to thoroughly eliminate and intimidate any remaining lice or nits and prevent future infestation.

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Helpful Combing Calendar
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Maryellen is like Daenaryes, minus the weird dragon baby.

And so, 100% liberated from the scourge of lice, my daughter and I bid a fond farewell to the lovely Maryellen (“Hope to see you again…never!). Yes, the cost was high, but to paraphrase the famous Mastercard commercial:

Head Lice removal: $125
Travel fee: $20
Two Licemeister combs and one bottle of Lice Prevention Spray: $46
Guaranteed total destruction of all critters, along with lint-roller sheet full of carcasses in plastic baggie to prove to husband that the lice infestation was, in fact, not imaginary: PRICELESS.

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LICE IS NOT NICE: A Head Lice Saga

Dear Faithful Readers,

It has been almost a full year since my last blog post. How this happened, I have no idea. But, as usual, I have lots of excuses. Here is what I’ve been up to for the past 11 months of not updating my blog.

Substitute teaching
Tutoring a Russian businessman (Mafioso?)
Planning exotic vacations and chickening out because of the price
Battling lice infestation
Binge Reading Warrior-Princess Trilogies
Buying a house
Moving to a new house
Doing about 5,000 loads of laundry
Cleaning up massive washing machine flood

As you can see, it’s been a busy year. Let’s start with the creepiest of these events: Lice Infestation. Admit it, you are already scratching your scalp, imagining those little buggers scurrying across your nape, laying waste to the hair follicles with tiny transparent balls of shame that you will spend hours, HOURS, gingerly picking off with your fingernails. Nightmare.

Shortly after we moved into our new house, on a bright, sunshiny morning meant for lazy, breezy hours on the beach, my daughter came into my room complaining of an itchy head. Immediately I began bargaining with God. Lord, please let it be dandruff. Or poison ivy. Or hives. Or flesh-eating bacteria, or the plague, or pretty much anything but the L word.

No such luck. As soon as I looked at her hairline, I saw the minuscule, oval-shaped Spawn of Hell dotting her scalp. Immediately gripped by the eerie sense of calm that usually descends upon me in a crisis, I silently considered my options. I should…laundry…vacuum the..everything…bag up…pillows, stuffed animals, brushes…throw away..bed linens! All of this went through my head in a split second, and I knew what I had to do.

“Mommy?” asked my daughter worriedly.

“It’s okay, sweetie,” I told her comfortingly. “We just have to move out of the house for a few weeks. Either than or burn the house down and build a new one with the insurance money. And shave your head.”

Needless to say, neither she nor my husband was a fan of my ideas. While my daughter locked herself in the bathroom, sobbing, I called my husband and told him the news.

“Listen” he said sensibly. “We just bought the house. We are not moving out of it. Plus, you have to live in a house for at least a year before you can collect insurance money for a house fire.”

“Is that true?” I asked, puzzled.

“Probably not. I don’t know. But please don’t set the house on fire. After the washing machine flood, we can’t risk another insurance claim.”

“But…the laundry…” I whimpered.

He sighed impatiently. “Look, don’t go overboard on the laundry, okay? For all you know, she doesn’t even have lice. You’re probably just being paranoid.”

“Oh, she has lice.” I said indignantly, and realized that he was obviously in Stage One of Grief: Shock and Denial, while I (being highly sophisticated in my emotional responses) had advanced with lightning quickness to Stage Three: Anger and Bargaining.

“Do you not remember the Lice Outbreak of 2011?!” I gripped the phone tightly as I tried to keep from raising my voice. “Do you remember how much that SUCKED?!! We were stuck at home for weeks in front of the TV while I picked the nits out of her baby-fine hair. Do you know how many episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba I had to sit through?”

“Well, she probably didn’t have it last time either,” he said irritably.

“That’s not what her preschool said,” I told him. “Yo Gabba Gabba! I had technicolor nightmares for weeks! the green striped one..he had no shoulders..his arms came straight out of his neck…”

“I think you may have a little PTSD from that experience,” he said. “Look on the bright side- she’s too old for that show now.”

I felt a terrible sense of foreboding. “Oh. My. God. Austin and Ally? Ant Farm? The fake laugh tracks..the horrible puns..the painfully bad acting…”

At that point I think my husband hung up. I’m not sure. I was trapped in my own personal hell. After rocking back and forth for a while, I was confronted by my daughter’s tear stained face and realized I had to pull it together for her sake.

“We are going to BE OKAY,” I announced. “Now, come here and give me a big h…high five!” I congratulated myself on my quick thinking while I smacked her palm and then quickly retreated to a safe distance. “This is a great excuse for some mother-daughter time. We are going to have some female-bonding, lice-killing fun!”

YOU TOO, can eliminate lice and spend some quality time together by following the three steps below, which I have assigned the helpful acronym “BAD.”

BAD” (or Mommy-Daughter Fun Week!)

1. BUY: First, make the obligatory money drop at CVS: get plenty of anti-lice shampoos, conditioners, combs, sprays, hair clips, hair bands, and bandannas. Shove the resulting three-feet-long receipt of shame deep into the recesses of your purse and later, when your husband is rummaging around for the checkbook and pulls it out accusingly, you tell him that yes, it IS in fact possible to spend $168 at CVS, and did he notice the valuable coupon for $3 off Stomach-Acid Reducers Including CVS Brand, attached to that receipt? In response, he mutters something about needing those TUMS when he gets the credit card bill, at which point YOU helpfully remind him that he doesn’t even LOOk at the credit card bill because you are the one who pays it, to which he responds that you better believe he is going to START looking at it, which is your cue to lapse into a tearful gibbering tirade about neckless wavy-armed monsters. At this point he wisely retreats to the couch to watch football while you go change the sheets on all the beds for the third time, just in case.

2. APPLY: Second, apply your chosen anti-lice product to yourself and your daughter. Hide your pesticide-soaked scalps under flowered shower caps and give each other mani-pedis while listening to Taylor Swift on your phone. When your sons angrily pound on the door and demand to know why you’ve been in there for an hour, it’s time to rinse. Before you use the special metal comb to scrape those little buggers off your daughter’s scalp, you may want to take some kitchen shears and give her a cute new bob. Remember, many chic hairstyles of today are intentionally jagged or uneven, so chop away! When your sons’ protestations (“I need to use the toilet, I want waffles, the toaster’s on fire”) get truly irritating, take them to get their heads shaved at your local barber shop. This will also serve to quiet any doubts your daughter may be voicing about her own snazzy new haircut.

3. DE-LOUSE THE HOUSE: Contrary to widely held belief, you do NOT have to
launder every item in your house, only the ones that your daughter has touched in the past 3 weeks. For example, you only need to wash her bedsheets, unless, for example, your daughter regularly wanders into other family members’ beds in the middle of the night and/or makes forts out of all the blankets, pillows, and sheets in the house, in which case you are screwed. If you find the amount of laundry overwhelming, you can always put any linens, pillows, stuffed animals, toys, or other items in sealed plastic bags. After 14 days, the lice will either be dead, or your husband, having assumed that the garbage bags were full of actual garbage, will have taken the bags to the dump. Either way, problem solved! Lastly, vacuum and wipe down everything in the house, which depending on the size of your house, could take you 3 hours or several years.

NOTE: As you carefully follow these three important steps, remember to stop regularly (about every 10-15 seconds), and check your daughter’s head compulsively for nits. This is done by holding individual strands of her hair up to the light until you find one of the translucent, tiny eggs, yelling “FOUND ONE!” in triumphant disgust, removing the entire hair follicle, and placing it in bowls of bleach you have placed around the house for this purpose. The importance of doing this continuously and enthusiastically cannot be overstated.

Let’s say that you have done BAD. You congratulate yourself on your level-headed response to the crisis and put it behind you.

Weeks go by.

Then, the unthinkable happens.

It’s probably dandruff. Or a trick of the light. It couldn’t possible be…but it is.

A nit.

Your daughter starts to cry as you loose forth a string of thinly veiled profanity. “Fack! Shart! Godeemit fickin’ crappity FRICK! “ Passers-by stop to stare as you scrabble through your daughter’s hair in a white-eyed panic, spewing forth vaguely demonic/Norwegian sounding epithets. This is bad. Really, really bad.

Well, guess what? Calm the fuck down. It’s all going to be fine.

You don’t believe me. How could this not be the end of the world?

Three simple words:

Mary. Ellen. Kumiega.

I’m sure you were expecting something like,

Shave. Her. Head. Or: Start. Drinking. Heavily.

Nope.

If you would like to hear the rest of this story, leave me some positive feedback and maybe I’ll finish it next week. Or, if you’ve heard enough about lice and you are couldn’t care less about Mary Ellen Kumiega, leave me some positive feedback anyway, because I don’t take criticism well.