How to get your bedding/house/kids clean all in one day

1. Get a phone call from your friend who tells you in a I’m-trying-to-be-really-calm-but-I’m-kind-of-hysterical voice that her daughter has head lice.
2. Hang up the phone.
3. Grab the nearest head and start looking.
4. Be really uncertain because you have never seen head lice in your life and you have no idea what you’re looking for.
5. Grab another head. Find lice.
6. Call the doctor.
7. Call the pharmacist.
8. Call your mom.
9. Call your friend back. Laugh as though you’re possessed. Listen as she laughs as though she is possessed.
10. Yell at the kids to bring down all the bedding.
11. Pile the bedding in the bathroom. To get to the washing machine and toilet, you now have to scale a pile of laundry that rivals Mount Everest, but never mind that.
12. Start a load of laundry.
13. Repeat Step Twelve every forty minutes for the next ten hours, sleep, and then continue the process the following morning.
14. Email the relatives that were planning on spending the night to tell them that you are very sorry, but perhaps they might want to find other accommodations.
15. Hang up the first load of laundry.
16. Repeat Step 15 every forty minutes for the next ten hours, sleep, and then continue the process the following morning upon waking. Thank your lucky starts that the sun is shining and that you have a crazy-huge number of clotheslines.
17. Throw all the kids in the car and hightail it to a pharmacy.

18. Buy two delousing kits. Breathe deep when you see that you are spending 42 dollars and some odd cents on some lousy bugs.
19. Arrive back home and shave the little boy’s head.
20. Check with your daughter to see if she would like to have her head shaved as well. Don’t push her when she declines your offer.
21. Be very glad that just several weeks prior you checked out a children’s book from the library, a book about a prissy little girl who gets head lice. Because of that book, your kids are totally up-to-date on lice and their treatment. They are unbelievably calm about the bugs in their hair. (You are not, but you pretend to be.)
22. Vacuum the whole house.
23. Spray down the mattresses and rugs with some stinky spray that you’ve heard doesn’t work, but you don’t care about that because you are going All Out.
24. Yell at the kids. Then cry a little.
25. Feed the kids lunch. Don’t forget to eat something yourself.
26. Send the older two lice-free children on a three-mile bike ride to visit their daddy’s job site.
27. Dump toxic chemical on the two littles’ heads, soak, rinse.

28. Set the kids in front of the TV. Over the course of the afternoon they will watch both Aladdin and Beethoven.
29. Be as nit-pickily nitpicky as you can possibly be for the next three hours.
30. Surprise yourself by enjoying the task at hand. Massaging your babies’ round little noggins while listening to Robin Williams’ fabulous voice impersonations makes you feel rather zen-ish. Think of his—Williams’—poor mother and of how she must have suffered when he was ten years old and at the peak of annoyingness.
31. Continue with laundry and cleaning.
32. When hubby gets home, hand off the cleaning duties so you can finish cooking supper.
33. After dinner, force yourself to keep cleaning.
34. Collapse into bed, completely exhausted.
35. The following morning, at your husband’s suggestion, go hang out in town for several hours to recuperate. While there, drink lots of coffee, write, and imagine your head itches.
36. When you come home, the laundry is mostly finished and put away and you can mostly put the whole rotten experience behind you.

P.S. For the next several days/weeks, obsessively check heads and wash sheets.

P.P.S. For those of you who saw us in church on Sunday, know that both the doctor and the pharmacist said that there was no need to quarantine ourselves after completing the treatments. We were not carelessly jeopardizing your scalps. (My kids had a mild case and their heads never even itched.) But also know that the public schools are having trouble with lice right now so it would probably be a good idea to check heads anyway.

About one year ago: Classy Rhubarb Pie and Cream Cheese Pastry


  • Hillary

    Jennifer!!! I am a long time reader of your blog and just went through a lice outbreak at our apartment here in Brooklyn. I love your take on EVERYTHING and was seeking someone who knew the absolute PAIN in the ASS this is to rid ourselves of these buggers and put in LICE into the search here. 2010!!! Look at how young your kids are! Loved reading this and hopefully there has never been an outbreak again. Any tips that you can remember? I am sooooo tired of combing out everyone's hair. As a bonus I think I have finally discovered why Britney Spears shaved her head. She wasn't crazy….she just had lice!

    • Jennifer Jo

      I hear you, Hillary — it STINKS.

      The main tip is to comb through the scalp for WEEKS. My girlfriend let up too soon with her kids and the lice popped right back again. Once you have about two or three cleanings with ZERO findings, then you can let up a bit…maybe only checking once a week for the next month or so…

      Also, I don't think lice are quite as contagious as everyone makes them out to be. We all shared the same hairbrush and the rest of us had nothing. After that initial frenetic washing, it was only the scalp combings and that seemed to clear things up, no more mass washings. So they can't be THAT crazy contagious, right?

      All my condolences, and good luck!

  • Marie M.

    *Sigh.* Grrrr. *One or two naughty swear words.* How ghastly. So much work! Happily my son and all of us ducked the head-lice bullet when he was in school. Whew. My house (shocking, I know) is not in the spotless, vacuum everyday category. Why is it some people escape? Do they have a build-in immunity or is it pure luck? Only two from your family had the problem, right. Why? Enquiring minds want to know. Oh no. My head has just started itching. Intensely.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Who knew that collectively we know so much about little bugs?!

    Zoe, I laughed out loud about Brad and the cat.

    Gretsky, Thanks for the offer. I hope I'll never have to take you up on it, but … never say never!

    I'm washing lots of bedding again today just to follow-up. These little buggers are nasty!

  • Anonymous

    One year we had an unfortunate issue with lice during summer camp (it was horrible and lice checks are now required weekly!). Some friends who run a local homeless shelter told us to use Fels Naptha soap. It's the only thing they use to fight those nasty little bugs. Where it's still a "chemical", you can feel better about not using pesticide on their heads… and it's much, much cheaper. (It also works well on poison ivy.)

  • Anonymous

    You ever need an extra hand, I've got some nit-picky experience, a couple good combs, and no fear. It actually comforts me a bit that even here we're not immune to really smart bugs.

  • Mama Pea

    My hubby was an elementary school teacher for 104 years and I lived in fear that he would bring home the creepy crawlers when outbreaks occurred at school. How we avoided getting lice even once (that was with our daughter in school, too) is a miracle. But your experience illustrates that the kiddlies don't have to be in school to bring them home.

    Bless you for your wonderful sense of humor and ability to make it through this all without having a nervous breakdown. I don't think I would do as well.

  • Camille

    Great post! But…not so fun HOW you got the inspiration for the great post! Thankfully it is behind you? Hopefully it is behind you! Hang in there! AND enjoy your CLEAN house! 🙂

    REST tonight!

  • Zoë

    Ooo, we had fleas this past winter. I was the only one getting bit. Then Brad shot our neighbor's cat (with permission) and the problem was solved. Good riddance, I said.

  • beth

    I think getting everything clean another way would be much easier! That was too sad and funny all at the same time!!

  • Margo

    too funny! Sorry – but here's the deal: I recently dealt with fleas (WHY I do not know) and was debating whether or not to put it on my blog. I might, after your inspiration! Swap out fleas for lice and much of my story is the same as yours (even down to enjoying looking for bites because it ended with hugs and kisses).
    oh man. Sometimes life is just so hand to handle I'm stunned into silence (and truly, our bugs collectively were not that bad).

  • Michelle

    Oh, you poor dear! I've dodged that bullet several times and live in terror that someday it's going to be me.

    When I got the call from one of my friends and started checking heads, my youngest was wearing an outfit with a black fleece hood. Black fleece looks really scary in pale little boy hair when you're expecting it to move.

    I got so nervous I hauled all of the kids down to the doctor's office where the friend who thought she gave us lice was working as an RN and made the medical professionals check us out.

  • Cookie baker Lynn

    Oh, how exhausting!

    I haven't been through lice, but have heard (check it out, don't take my word), that you can avoid the toxic chemicals by slathering their little heads in olive oil and securing a plastic bag over it (not over their faces, of course), and letting it cook/drown the little buggers for a couple of hours.

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    Thanks. My head is itching now, too. And, I keep checking Sam's head compulsively since hearing the news. I'm so glad it's all behind you. Glad our favorite pharmacist was able to help.

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