Friday, June 22: We take the kids to the movies. WHM sits on my lap, CAM leans back in her seat with her head snuggled up square in the middle of the seat's back cushion, and Mick sits two seats over from me in case WHM wants to sit between us. (He's too little to hold the seat down with his own weight, so I am not impressed with the theater's lack of kid-friendliness.)
Sunday, June 30: CAM comes to me and I notice a big rash behind her right ear and going down her neck. I feel guilty because I have not changed her sheets recently and think it might be a dirty pillowcase or prickly heat or just general kid-grime. She has showered in the past day, but maybe she didn't scrub very well? I scrub her down in the tub, change her linens, and put some talcum powder on the rash.
Monday, July 1: CAM's rash is still there but the bumps have gone down. I debate calling the doctor, but just monitor it all day; right before bedtime, CAM scratches a bit and I tell her we will see what happens in the morning.
Tuesday, July 2: CAM is fine all day. I call my mom to ask about this strange rash that is now just red dots but no texture. We run some errands and I have a work meeting in the afternoon. When I get home, I notice fuzz or a baby fly in CAM's hair and pick it out. We go to dinner, and I notice some more baby flies. Was she playing in the woods again?! We are at dinner, and CAM can't stop scratching her head. I look at her and where I just picked away two baby gnats, I see three more. We leave dinner immediately. I get outside the doors and start pawing at CAM's head like a madwoman.
Mick drives straight to CVS for a lice kit, just in case. I am googling and reading as fast as I can type. The stuff on the internet doesn't look like what I am seeing, though, and nothing mentions the rash.
Where the hell have the kids been? Why is only CAM itchy? What is this rash? Where has CAM been that the rest of us haven't?
We have nothing. The kids have not been anywhere without us and we have not been anywhere unusual. I think maybe a cat the kids recently played with is the guilty party, but why is only CAM affected, and why a week later? And besides, cats don't get lice and these are not fleas.
We get home and I find even more bugs-that-look-like-fuzz. They are not "everywhere," but there are more than a few. I sound calm-ish to the kids, but only as compared to Mick -- certainly not as compared to one who is actually calm. I am low-level freaking out. (Let's put this in perspective: no one is hurt and there is no blood. This is alarming but not life-threatening. I am acting, I think, in line with the situation -- which is to say, trying to kill these damn suckers, angry that we are in this position, tarting to contemplate how much work this will entail to clean up, and getting stressed about all of it.)
We start the lice treatment on CAM and WHM. Mick starts laundry, stripping the beds, bagging the stuffed animals...
My mom calls and I can't get the phone. She leaves a voicemail wondering if CAM's rash isn't from sunscreen. Didn't we apply sunscreen last week? She's had a reaction before, but why would it be in such an isolated place and not a week later. I text my sister "we think CAM's got lice" message and ask her to call my mom to tell her while I deal with everything here. Of course, I've never seen lice and there's a part of me wondering if I'm not mistaken, but I'm pretty sure I'm on track here.
In perfect accord with our lives, the kids have used every single blanket from their rooms to make a giant tent in CAM's room every day since Saturday. Every pillow, every stuffed animal, and every blanket. The laundry is going to be easily 15 loads. Tension is high because the hair treatment is not fun and the kids are in the tub and freezing. Mick is trying to figure out what we need to wash immediately and what we need to bag and what we need to put in the hamper and add to our now-immediate laundry rotation.
CAM and I sit in the bathroom for over an hour while I comb her hair and get out every nit or bug or piece of fuzz or freckle that is anywhere in a five-foot radius of her scalp.
I keep Googling and stumble upon something. The incubation period on headlice -- whose earliest symptoms are a rash behind the ear leading down the neck and some itchiness -- is ten days.
Where were we ten days ago? The movies. Who was the only one whose head touched the chair? CAM.
Why am I suddenly scratching like a madwoman?!?!?!
I am completely creeped out. I text a hairdresser friend who told me about ten years ago that she deals with lice all the time and it's just part and parcel of having kids, or hair, or kids with hair. Her own girls got lice one time, so I try to remember this is not a statement about us or our cleanliness. She texts me back with some remedies and what to do. Fortunately, we're already doing most of it. Even better, it sounds like we caught it relatively early. I combed through CAM's hair only yesterday* and saw nothing, so I'm hopeful -- if that's even possible right now.
Mick has to leave for work by 7 tomorrow morning. It's now 10:30 and we're knee deep in cleaning and/or bagging everything that can be cleaned and/or bagged.
In ironic news, I got a haircut after work today and debated taking CAM along. She didn't really need a cut, though, so I didn't bring her. I'm wondering now if I was spared embarrassment, or if they might have been able to help us with the shampooing and cleaning. Even if they were amazingly gracious, I would have been mortified, so I am thankful for that little angel that made me think, "oh, not today."
I should also take reasonable solace that my own hair has been thoroughly picked through and anything present would have been noticed ... but for the life of me, I can not be that rational right now. Everything about me is itchy.
My dad is so sweet, he is worried about how CAM feels. Fortunately, it's summertime -- so, not only does she not know that she "should" feel bad about this whole thing, but there's no one around to force that stigma on her. Right now, she's sleeping soundly on the couch as I sit here and type this, and all she was sad about all evening was whether the bugs were gone and how long it took to do the treatment. Our sweet girl is upset that she can't sleep with her precious Bea, but when I tell her why (I've had to spray Bea), she is disappointed but very understanding. She just wants Bea to get better, too. (Bea is her baby doll. She has a rubber head and rubber lower arms and legs, but a fabric body and she is filled with beans. I have wanted to wash Bea ten million times, but there's no real way to do so, except with Magic Eraser on her plastic parts. I sprayed the bejezus out of her with the mattress lice-killer-spray and told CAM she can't have Bea back for a week.)
It's now 11:30 and we realize that the car seats are both covered in fabric -- and have headrests. Mick goes out in the rain to dismantle the car seats so we can wash their covers, but to take the cover off CAM's seat, he actually has to take the seat out. Since we each have a set of car seats, this is not a fun in-the-rain project. Even better, we need to wash and dry the cushions tonight so that Mick can at least put them back in my car so I can run errands tomorrow to get ready for the Fourth of July. It sounds silly, but I can't not go out tomorrow.
WHM just walked out and told me he's "furrsty." It's ten past one.
I'm thankful for the little things: it's summer. I have no agenda tomorrow that can't be moved. This will be okay. I just want to fast-forward to the part where that's established, so I can stop feeling the heeby-jeeby creepy-crawlies and know that we're in the clear.
Have any of you ever dealt with lice? I made it 38 years and 11 months and never so much as saw a louse, so this is not going over well with me. Everything I read says "it's not you, it has nothing to do with being clean, it's normal, it's part of having kids ..." but I am still not likely to sleep tonight.
* CAM has long, curly hair, so although we style it every day, we don't painstakingly run a comb through it every day.
Update July 3: CAM slept on the couch and seemed to sleep very well. I was up most of the night, first with laundry rotations and then with just not being able to sleep. I called the doctor's office and they said we've done everything right and just need to be hyper-vigilant in the coming weeks to make sure we don't end up with a reinfestation. Launder everything, vacuum everything, treat everyone in the house ... It felt good to hear that we are on track. Also, we can sleep on our beds and use our pillows; we just need to launder our pillows and linens, which (of course) we've already done.
I'm thankful this morning that this is "only" lice and not something worse. I have a momentary pause in laundry to jump in the shower and then we're heading out on errands. Both kids seem fine, and the only one in the house who is itchy is me -- it's heebee-jeebies, I know, but I can't help it.
Everything unfolded so late last night that we didn't call my in-laws, but they are coming for the holiday weekend tomorrow (July 4th). I called my mother-in-law this morning and she, like my parents, seemed more worried about how CAM was than about the house. Phew!