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