Of Lice and Men

Sorry, this one is going to make your head itch. We’re talking about. Yes. Lice.
It's largely self-explanatory, I think.

From my Facebook status:
H    Husbands: Here's a tip--when your kids come home with lice, and you decide to wash stuffed animals, resist the urge to wash every one they've come in contact with since birth. That 35 year old stuffed dog of your wife's that they've been walking past while it was sitting on the bench in the mudroom for the past month? Yeah, not really a candidate for the Anti-Lice-Wash-a-Thon. Especially since I can predict with a fairly high degree of certainty that it will EXPLODE IN THE WASHER AND LEAVE LITTLE BITTY PLASTIC BEADS ALL OVER EVERYTHING. I'm psychic, you see. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some vacuuming to do.
But just in case, some back story.
I got an email and a phone call from my boys’ after school program. All three of them had them. To improve matters, my husband was at an evening meeting at his office, probably not arriving home until 8 or later.
I went and picked them up, then stopped at Rite Aid to get the tools to deal with the situation. I left the boys in the van with strict instructions not to unlock or open the doors, roll down the windows, touch the radio, mess around with the stuff in the glove box, spill anything from their lunchboxes, or get blood on the inside of the windows. The usual admonitions of the mother of three boys who is planning to leave them to their own devices for anything longer than 18 seconds.
When I went in to Rite Aid, after chatting briefly with a friend I bumped into who winced in sympathy with my plight and then made a mental note to go home and check his daughter who had had a playdate with my daughter two days earlier (he didn’t say it, but you learn to recognize facial expressions, especially the, “Oh crap, LICE?!? Dear god, please no” facial expression), I headed for the pharmacy counter. The girl asked if she could help me, and I said, “Please—I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with hunting around. Just point me to the lice treatments. I have three children with lice. Kill me now.” The pharmacy assistant quickly directed me to aisle 13. You can’t tell me that’s not a coincidence; these drugstore layout people have a bone dry sense of humor, I tell you. Upon arrival there, I learned that lice eradication has come a long way in the 35 years since I’ve had any experience with it. If the current pricing for various lice-elimination products is any indicator, it is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
In my day, when I got lice twice as a child, there was one product. It was called Quell (or something) and it was toxic as hell and smelled just as bad. Your mom slathered it on your scalp, waited ten minutes and then washed it out. Then she went on a cleaning frenzy and rented one of those termite tens and had the house fumigated. Well, that’s what my mom did.  Lice wasn’t that big a deal to me. All I did was itch and deal with the treatment.
Today there are multiple products with clever, wry names like Nix and Rid. There are shampoos or whatever they are, sure, but there are also “comb out gels” and sprays for non-launderbles like furniture and stuffed animals. There are even kits that come with everything you need, including the beloved fine tooth comb (some things apparently never change).
I grabbed one of the complete kits and a bottle of wine (had to cross the store for that; here’s a tip for those drugstore layout types—wine goes directly next to lice treatment. I promise your impulse-buy-add-on sales will skyrocket) and checked out.
After gathering up my (surprisingly lice-free) daughter, I headed home to open what came to be known as Salon Mama (that’s pronounced mah-MAH).
I confess that as a general rule I suck at making unpleasant things fun. My mother was one of those who felt like the way to deal with unpleasant things was just to power through and get them behind you. Never mind trying to twist the situation to make it remotely amusing and therefore less traumatic. Just get it over with. It was very Teutonic of her. Which was sort of understandable, because she was quite German. German descent, you understand, but a combination of German and Dutch, which made her both stoic and tight –fisted, which sounds horrible, but wasn’t that bad because from somewhere she got a decent sense of humor that kind of tempered everything, but that didn’t change her outlook on unpleasant situations.
But somehow I came up with this ridiculous accent—a sort of British Indian thing with a weird twist—and I started calling my children “Sir” and pretending we were in a beauty salon and I was offering them all sorts of treatments—in addition to the hair coloring we were currently applying, which would turn his hair the most BEE-OO-TEE-FUL shade of purple, would Sir also care for a facial? No? Some new makeup?  No? A manicure? No?
You get the idea.
So with one thing and another, I got them all treated, combed out, and into clean liceless pajamas.
While I was doing all this, I had set my husband, who had bowed out of his meeting early, to the task of getting all their bedding through the wash and making up their beds with some makeshift coverings (flat sheets and spare blankets, mostly) that would allow them to go to bed before 2 a.m. Our washer has a sanitize cycle that washes in water that I think is quite literally boiling hot, but it runs for over an hour and with sheets + blankets + comforters + blah blah blah we were looking at an ETA of somewhere after midnight before it was all washed and dried. So we made do, and sent them all to bed under random throws that I’d gotten for $10 at Disneyland because I’d spent over $50 and suchlike. It wasn’t going to kill them for a night, and it didn’t.
However, now we come to the stuffed animal part of the story. Naturally all their “favorite” stuffies were going to have to have a long hot bath. I don’t give a damn what those tags say about surface clean only. My dryer is just this side of industrial—it’ll dry them through. I have no fear of moldy stuffing. Of course this was what they found most devastating—going to bed without stuffies? Unthinkable!
We made a deal to wash them right off and return them to them in their sleep so they would wake up in the morning with their stuffies. It was a compromise that was accepted grudgingly, but it was accepted.

One of the twins has no real concrete attachment to any one stuffy. Oh, sure, there’s Muffin the Moose, and any one of three stuffed Mickey Mouses (Mickey Mice?) but nothing that he really can’t be without. So long ago I offered him Poochy to see if they’d take to each other and he’d have a constant comfort animal. I’m not sure why I felt like he needed one, since he clearly doesn’t feel that way, but humor me. It’s one of my quirks.
Poochy was mine as a child and he’s hung around, He’s a beanbag dog with a stuffed head and a pom pom nose that fell off years ago. He’s brown with white ears and has frankly seen better days. There have been a couple of surgeries over the years to keep his innards from leaking out, some more successful than others. This kid isn’t really a stuffed animal guy, as I’ve suggested. So for a long time (over a month) Poochy has been hanging out on the bench in the mudroom, just watching the world go by, I guess.
When my son was trying to decide what, if anything, he was going to sleep with last night, I tossed him Poochy and said, “Here, take this.” Up he trotted to his room for bedtime.
What happened next will likely remain a mystery for the ages. But you can probably figure out what the result was.
Yes, Poochy found his way from the “clean” pile to the “contaminated” pile, and took a spin in the washer at my husband's hands. I found this out when I went to switch the blankets and comforters from the washer to the dryer. A little tick-tick-tick-tick sound like…well, frankly like little plastic beads bouncing on a tile floor accompanied the removal of the first item, and every subsequent item thereafter. In the middle of the load I found a deflated, damp Poochy.
When I IM’d my husband to tell him what had happened, his comment was, “Oops.” Yeah, oops. And of course, there was the obligatory “dog house” joke. What a comedian.