Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dubious Achievement

In what can only be described as a twisted over-achievement in my School At Home efforts, American Classical Academy has had to adjust its opening schedule due to a common school epidemic: Pediculis capitis. Despite sounding like an incantation for funny shoes worn on the ears, there is nothing funny about common head lice.

That’s right, folks, we have cooties! Okay. Maybe there is something funny about it.

As a newcomer to cooties, I have to say that I was fascinated with the fact that parasites I can actually see were living off the flesh of a human body, specifically – mine. From the Harvard School of Public Health website, this is my favorite line: Their six impressive legs are elegantly evolved to grasp hair shafts and provide a striking example of biological specialization. Makes them seem sort of...neat-o, doesn’t it?

However, after liberating the 7th live louse from the head of my youngest, and continuing to find live lice despite our best efforts thus far, I became and remain just plain skeeved out. Their eggs, or nits, are applied to the thinnest hair shafts with some sort of superglue. It really is amazing – but also a little painful to have your hair scraped 2-3 times a day at 1-2 hours each time (particularly if you’re little and your parents are a little over zealous in their efforts to remove them from your head).

The fact that I, too, have been infested (not an easy sentence to type and then publish) when the overwhelming majority of cases are in children, in no way contributes to my new goal of How Not to Act Old. In fact, the little eggs are really tough to see against the very few, but way more than I had previously realized, strands of silvery gray mixed into my near black head of hair. I'm left wondering if the Dorothy Hamill haircut will come back in style soon, or maybe an updated Katie Holmes look.

Significant hairdressing aside, the best way to combat them? More spell-sounding efforts: comb, clean, boil, bubble, toil, and trouble until the little buggers are all gone. And you know how I feel about housecleaning. So that’s what I’ve been, and will continue to be up to for a while, I’m afraid.

Worst of all, I can never use the word "nitpicking" and the phrase "lousy with it" so casually again. In this sense, the experience has been truly life altering.

By the way, you can stop scratching your head now.

It's not like you have them.


Deb said...

There's really nothing anyone can say but I'm so SORRY!!!!

I thought we homeschoolers were immune from head lice. Another myth busted.

Really sorry. Good luck to all of you.

Lynne said...

Just call me Kari (or Jamie, but I'd prefer Kari for obvious reasons).

When you consider I've managed to avoid them during my own childhood and for over 45 cumulative mothering years with at least 5 known outbreaks in the schools and groups to which my children have belonged - I think I've been pretty lucky. I also think that's why I didn't recognize it sooner - no experience.

So it's not as much fun as drawing your dream house - but it's all a learning experience, right? Right?

It did take me at least three days to find enough humor in the situation to write about it.

And I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it's not an oncoming train.

Deb said...

>>And I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it's not an oncoming train.

Oh, gosh, that's such a good saying. I'm sure I'm going to find lots of occasions to use it myself.

Valda Redfern said...

Oh, so that's what 'cooties' are! (I came across the term somewhere else a few months ago, but it wasn't in the OED...) Don't you get shampoo that kills the b*ggers? By the way, I think "ew" is spelled "eeeeeeeuuuuuuuwwwwweu!"

Kim said...

Yuck, yuck, yuck! I am SO there with you. Bad experience--very nearly matching in fact--two years ago. Lice on the kid, my god those things are BIG (compared to all those microscopic bugs living in mattresses and such for which I've decided the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' was invented), and I got infested trying to comb out nits and big ol' bugs.

To this day, if I feel a little itch on my head I think 'that could be lice and I may never even know they're there'. Blech!

I get a shiver down my spine just thinking about it.

I tried nit-picking twice, then I woke up infested and then went out and bought Rid and did some chemical extermination. I know it's possible to get rid of an infestation by mechanical means, but I decided I loved chemistry in the end.

Lynne said...

"Eeeeeeeuuuuuuuwwwwweu!" is right, Valda.

Believe me, Kim, I went the better living through chemistry route immediately, but I'm special. Or have special needs. Sometimes it's hard to tell them apart. In either case, it just didn't work like it was supposed to! Go figure.

It does kind of make you itchy just thinking about it, doesn't it.


Kim said...

I think I used the shampoo twice (I think I needed to wait some number of days for the eggs from the previous shampoo to hatch), spread insecticide on all of the clothing surfaces ever touched, etc. Those suckers (ha!) are hard to kill. Hey! Like Steven Seagal.

Lynne said...

You mean I have to wait until they get old and bloated (like Steven Seagal) before I can make them go away? Geesh. That is hard to kill.

So far, so good.