We seem to have gotten the lice situation under control. Thanks to everyone who contacted me with advice and sympathy. Somehow the infestation was contained to just Mona and Aden and I never saw a live louse. Many dead lice went down the drain after we rinsed out the medicated shampoo, and I've done several thorough combings and seem to have gotten all the eggs. We have washed many things and bagged the rest for storage in the garage until next month. (I might slap bows on all those bags of stuffed animals and let the kids reopen them on Christmas.)
Now we're in a routine of prevention where every morning the girls use a lice repelling shampoo and I go over their heads carefully with the nit comb. (We got Quinn's head a buzz cut which he needed anyway and he looks adorable like he's freshly hatched.) All kids are back in school. No one is itchy.
I'm actually feeling like we got off fairly easy. (I should be knocking on wood or something about now, shouldn't I? Eh. It's jinxy but I am going to keep typing anyway.)
I've dreaded the idea of lice in our house since I first started sending my kids out into public settings. It sounded disgusting, frustrating, and all consuming.
But the interesting thing about a crisis is how fast you can adapt when you have to. We think we don't have time to spare for any added thing, but then you are presented with no choice and everything grinds to a halt and you just go with it. And lice in terms of actual harm rank pretty low on the crisis list. For us they are gross and inconvenient, but that's about it. I was able to reschedule my work and get done what had to get done.
This has definitely been one of those situations, however, where I am acutely aware of how much easier things are with my husband home. An outbreak of lice with him on deployment? That would have been a total nightmare. With him here to share the burden? Not so bad. We did our divide and conquer approach where he tackled all the laundry and cleaning while I focused on the girls and their hair. Life is much easier with the buddy-buddy system and I never take that for granted.
We had the added fun, too, during this outbreak of also hosting a houseful of guests. Nothing makes people feel more welcome than to announce the children they've been hugging and snuggling are infested with lice. Oh so charming. My mom immediately felt very itchy upon hearing the news and was worried because she had used a hairbrush upstairs. Then I pointed out that my girls never brush their hair so she probably had nothing to worry about. I have a vague suspicion that the tangled rats' nests that are my girls' untended hair may have been what spared the rest of us, because I don't think any louse that got in there could find its way back out. There was much painful hacking through knots of hair during the first combing session, so at least that's finally been addressed.
Anyway, not as bad as I always imagined it would be. It's even been kind of nice sitting with each of the girls one on one and working through their hair carefully. And now it's one more thing I know I can handle. Plus hey, easier than dealing with vomit. (Parenting is so glamorous.)