The Great Lice Plague of 2012 (And other Bugs)

There are many benefits to having a houseful of kids; dealing with contagions is not one of them. Dealing with lice, is hands-down the worst.

When I was a Mom of Three (2003)

Our daughter contracted lice in preschool. That night, we bought lice treatments for her and her big brother. [Plus me, because I’m a sympathetic itcher.] We took care of the problem *snap* just like that.

Fast forward to 2012…

…when I had seven children under one roof: hashtag my worst birthday month ever.

They say peak season for lice is when kids collide: after summer break, spring break, and winter break.  For my family, it was in early December 2012.  While at church one fine Sunday morning, I noticed several white “flakes” in Number 4’s hair (he was six years old at the time).  Closer inspection at home revealed a small infestation of lice in his hair, both of his little brothers’ hair, and both of his sister’s hair.  Only the eldest and us parents had managed to escape.

Nitty Gritty Lice Nit Comb Get Down Stainless Steel Metal Head And Teeth
Get the right tools for the job!

So began the first round of shampooing, vacuuming, and washing of all clothing and bedding. Over the next two days, we had washed everything that could be washed.  We lice-shampooed every head, sprayed lice-toxins on everything that couldn’t be washed, and notified the schools.  The school, we found out much later, did not have a “Warn Parents About Potential Lice Outbreak” policy at the time.

While we were at the laundry mat (using about half of their machines at once), I received the phone call that I had been dreading.  My grandmother, who was deep in dementia, had passed away.  It was a reminder that lice aren’t such a tragic problem in the larger scheme of things.

I expected to skip my birthday celebration.

We laid Little Grandma to rest on my birthday, so of course I wasn’t expecting a celebration for myself. My mom, however, insisted on a birthday lunch at a restaurant.  That would have been solemn and unmemorable, if it wasn’t for my youngest (at the time).  My 3-year-old, Number 6, had somehow drank so much chocolate milk so fast, that it came right back up… all over the birthday girl.  Not my favorite gift of all time.

We went home early to recover, and discovered some resilient lice crawling around someone’s head. My husband wanted to make us look like Buddhist Monks, but we had Christmas family photos that night.  As a compromise, we shaved the boys’ heads, and kept the girls’ hair longer.

Number 4 got a buzz cut, but the girls got to keep their hair for a while.

I had been feeling nauseous all week. I wondered if all of the lice-killer chemicals were making me sick.  Turns out, I was just pregnant with Number 7… also not my favorite gift of all time (*shakes fist* “Stop blessing me!”).

It was a roller coaster for the following year…and two months.

Our little bugs spread from my boys to their cousins.  My sister made homemade shampoo that was better for the environment and less toxic to her little humans.  She made several batches for us too, because the drug-store option for our family almost put us into debt.

We used the lice shampoo for a week or two.  Eventually, we bought a high-tech lice comb.  We washed and combed every third day.  Once a week we vacuumed and covered furniture with “medicated” spray, and prayed.

Weeks or months later, we would discover more lice.  Then we’d get another round of short hair cuts and start the cleaning cycle all over again. 

We even named the critters.

“Oh, look, Uncle Jeb is back! And he brought all the cousins!”

Weird way to cope, I know.

The lice jumped from one child to the other, shaved head or no.  Child, parent, or carpet: no strands were safe.  No one wanted to get too close to anyone else, and the smallest itch sent the household into panic mode.

Somewhere in there Baby Number 7 arrived, and my daughter “accidentally” adopted a kitten.

The Last of the Lice

After I found a bug on my brand-new baby’s precious head, I went into full Tiger Mom Mode.  I scoured the house daily: clothes, bedding, furniture, carpet, brushes, car, vacuum cleaner, and even the cat (shhh, don’t tell the kids).

By the time we absolutely positively killed every mf lice in the room… we were starting 2014.

It’s awfully hard to quarantine any type of bug in a large family. We all share rooms, bathrooms, and even clothes (“Those aren’t your pants; they’re your brother’s shorts!”). The bugs jump from person to person whether it’s a louse with legs or a stomach virus.

5 Heads are better than 1… unless bugs are involved.

The Stomach Bug

The stomach bug is much more common than lice. Usually we cross our fingers, spray the house with disinfectant, and make the kids carry around a bucket. [PRO TIP: A Bill Miller’s Tea Bucket is perfect for a sick person to carry around. It collects used tissues and can be used to catch vomit on the way to the bathroom. Plus, they can be discarded for easy clean up.]

lice, Bill Miller Bucket
Buckets are good for holding stuff, and for rain protection as well.

If we’re lucky, the bug will only hit a couple of kids before moving on to the cousins. Sorry about that, primos, but I’m pretty sure we got it from y’all in the first place…

Do you think there is something to be said about “Chicken Pox Parties”?

I'd love to hear what has worked for you!

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