An Uninvited Guest

I love having houseguests. I really do.

I love being surrounded by my favorite people – family and friends who come to visit and stay, to share their mornings and evenings, their adventures and stories, their laughter with us. I love how the rooms in my house suddenly feel cozier than usual; the addition of extra bodies in the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, just makes the house feel warmer, friendlier, happier. For me, guests help make a house feel like a home.

Also, to be perfectly open with you (and isn’t that the point of having a blog?), if I never had houseguests, I don’t think I’d ever clean my house…

Don’t get me wrong; I do clean my house regularly – I set aside every Tuesday morning as my cleaning day, when I vacuum and wash the floors and scrub the bathroom and do as much as I can in the four or five hours I allot for this task. But as I’ve mentioned before, with each subsequent (messy) child and (messy) dog entering my (messy) life, I’ve had less time (and less energy, no matter how much caffeine I suck down, and let’s admit it, less interest as well), to wipe crayon and pen and sticky-finger marks off the walls with the Magic Eraser (which really is magic…), scrub the muddy paw prints off the glass patio doors (they’re just going to get muddy again in an hour – we live in Seattle for crying out loud), or dust the… well, to be quite frank, to dust anything (what is it that I so despise about dusting?!).

But when houseguests are expected, the OCD Hostess in me rears her June Cleaver coiffed head, and I feel obligated to really DEEP CLEAN my house (we’re talking breaking-out-toothbrushes-to-clean-the-grout—between-the-tiles-on-the kitchen-counter kind of deep clean, here) and provide my family and friends with a nicer place to stay than my own ever-lowering standards deem acceptable for my spouse and my children (I know, they deserve better, but there you have it…). With the impending arrival of company, I usually take about five or six days to DEEP CLEAN the house: Day 1, tidy the guest room and bathroom; Day 2, tackle the kids’ rooms and bathroom; and so on until I can proudly open the door and usher my welcome guests to a house that is top-to-bottom, spic-and-span clean.

Of course, sometimes, just sometimes, the houseguests aren’t welcome… Not welcome at all…

Shall we talk now about the uninvited guest that arrived at our house this past weekend?? On the top of the 9yo’s head??

That’s right, on Sunday evening, my adorable and sweet (and long-haired) daughter mentioned that her head was itching…

I think I actually suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the last time my daughter mentioned her head was itching – indeed, whenever I hear “itchy head,” my eye starts twitching and I begin to hyperventilate. You see, six months, two weeks, and two days ago, amidst an outbreak at her school, I found one tiny little lousy LOUSE on Paisley’s head, and I have been a jittery bundle of nerves ever since, just waiting for the next time our home was invaded by these nasty little parasites.

I realize it’s rude and impolite and perhaps a bit hostile, but (vile, disgusting, shudder-inducing) lice are UNWELCOME VISITORS in my house.

So, there we were, it was Sunday night, Paisley told me her head was itching, my head immediately started itching (I apologize if your head is now itching – the word “lice” seems to have that effect of people), I took a deep breath, grabbed the lice comb (purchased six months, two weeks, and two days ago), and started going through her hair (did I mention she has really long hair?), section by section. After about fifteen minutes of searching and finding nothing, I started feeling confident we were in the clear. HUGE mistake! Huge… I know better than to let my guard down… As I held in my fingers the very last section of hair to go through, (you know what comes next…), I combed out one (loathsome, awful, evil) sandy-colored, six-legged, adult louse.

I said a bad word.

I said a few more bad words as I stomped downstairs to put the (offensive, monstrous, horrid) louse into a plastic baggy. And then I said a few more bad words as I stomped back upstairs to tell my now crying daughter that everything would be fine, and I would do the best I could to get her to school on time so she could make her much-anticipated low-tide beach walk (she is currently obsessed with anemones, and absolutely NEEDED to be at that low-tide beach walk). I also mentioned that she shouldn’t repeat any of the bad words I had used… She said she understood. She’s good like that.

After tucking her and the boys into bed, I made an appointment at the (very friendly and most wonderful) Lice Knowing You Salon for first thing the next morning. And then I broke out the vacuum cleaner, pushed up the sleeves of my sweater (it might be June in Seattle, but it’s still sweater weather) and started cleaning the house… Surprisingly, given my lice-induced PTSD, it wasn’t until I was vacuuming the cushions of the couch, chair and ottoman with the upholstery attachment of my cruddy vacuum cleaner that I finally succumbed to the emotional breakdown I’d been attempting to hold at bay by swearing repeatedly under my breath while sipping (read: gulping) my wine, and BURST into tears. And I’m talking the streaming down my face, couldn’t stop if I wanted to, pathetically wet tears. It’s ridiculous, I know!! But I knew what the next day would bring…

From the First Lice Outbreak

My Facebook Status from November 22, 2011: The First Lice Outbreak. Who knew so much work could be generated from discovering something so small (adult lice are the size of a sesame seed) on one child’s head??

I stayed up until 12:30am that night cleaning…

And woke up at 6:30am the next morning to continue cleaning…

I used the timer on my phone to know when the washing machine and dryer finished any given load of sheets, towels, jackets, recently worn clothing, pillows and stuffed animals currently on rotation in the kids beds (though the 5yo checked out lice-free, he shares a room with Paisley, so his bedding got the full treatment – as did Bill’s and my bedding, as Paisley often climbs into our bed to do her nightly reading while her brother falls asleep); both washing machine and dryer were in use the ENTIRE day.

The Costco-sized bag of flour tortillas had to be removed from the overstocked freezer to make room for Paisley’s beloved snowy owl stuffed animal, being too delicate for the dryer, which was zipped into a plastic bag and placed into cold storage for eight hours. As was her hairbrush and comb. We will be eating lots of quesadillas and burritos for dinner this week…

I cleaned all the bathrooms in the house. I cleaned all the floors in the house. I cleaned the stove top and the kitchen sink (because Paisley has really long hair… the fallen strands of which can be found everywhere, including cooking and washing surfaces). I dusted headboards and baseboards and windowsills and shelves (because I can’t help but believe my abominable-snowman sized dust bunnies would make a perfect hideout for any renegade lice that have managed to avoid the washing machine, the freezer, or the Clorox wipes). And it took me an hour and a half (AN HOUR AND A HALF!!!) to even FIND the floor of Paisley’s and Liam’s room in order to VACUUM IT.

I finally stopped cleaning at 8:30pm that night when I finally made the kids’ freshly laundered and vacuumed beds… you know, so that they could finally go to sleep, as they were exhausted from a busy day at the beach and afterschool activities; yes, I’m pleased to report that I performed a Major Mama Miracle and got both of them to school, lice-free, in time to make their class outings to the beach and explore the low-low tide, and that Bill earned Major Papa Points for leaving work early in order to pick the kiddos up from school (so I could continue cleaning) and take Paisley to her art class and the boys to the park (so I could continue cleaning uninterrupted).

I tucked the kids into bed, and poured myself a (much-deserved and delicious) glass of wine. I surveyed my now spotless (well, as spotless as it gets) house and felt very pleased that I had accomplished in a little over 24 hours what it usually takes me four or five or six days to complete. I sat down, put my feet up, and took another sip of my (much-deserved and delicious) glass of wine…

And felt like something was wrong… Like I’d missed something…

No, I’d put all the pillows through the dryer… No, I’d removed the stuffed owl and hair brushes from the freezer… Ah! I hadn’t ironed the mattresses!! But that’s because the experts at the salon had been very surprised we were even there, Paisley’s lice infestation was so mild (they only found a few nits – lice eggs – and I had discovered the only (revolting, repulsive, hateful) adult louse she had; as most people don’t feel itchy at this stage, they thought she must be highly allergic to the lice bites to feel it so early on), and they only recommend ironing mattresses if the outbreak is severe…

The 9yo at Lice Knowing You Salon, Seattle

The 9yo at Lice Knowing You Salon here in Seattle. Our second visit in a year – this time she knew to take a book with her, so she was pretty content for the hour and a half treatment. It’s a good thing they don’t do haircuts at the salon, or she might have gone home with a crewcut!

So what was (sorry, I have to say it, I just can’t help myself…) bugging me?

Oh! Oh… Oh, that’s kind of sad… As I took another sip of wine (and honest, this time I was sipping and not gulping – I was rather enjoying the stillness of the moment) I realized that there was no impending arrival of company. No visitors my June Cleaver coiffed alter ego could usher in through the door to the now top-to-bottom, spic-and-span clean house. No friends or family to help fill the now tidy rooms with laughter, chatter, and warmth, and help make our house feel cozier than usual, the way a home should feel. In short, I had a clean house, but no houseguests. And I love houseguests…

Feeling a bit discontent and unsettled, I meandered into the kitchen and started unloading the dishwasher (you’d think I’d have had enough, right?!). As I put some glasses away in a cabinet, I spied the plastic baggy in which I’d sealed the (heinous, odious, detestable) louse and (for some unknown reason) left on the counter.

Huh. Not to gross you out or anything, but yeah… the (icky, bloodsucking, trouble-causing) louse in my house was STILL ALIVE. Turns out, I had a houseguest after all. I shuddered.

And tossed the baggy into the garbage can.

I might love company. And the clean house that comes with their arrival. And it might be rude and impolite and perhaps a bit hostile… but uninvited guests? They’re not welcome in my home. Not welcome at all…

20 thoughts on “An Uninvited Guest

  1. I am so lucky to not yet know the lice experience, especially b/c I’m sure we have nothing so handy as a lice salon here. Dang.The real question is: how long does the house stay this clean?!

    • The answer to your question: not long enough!! There’s already tufts of cat hair all over the floor – how is that even possible?? I must say, the lice salon is worth every penny… The first time Paisley had lice, I rushed over to the local drug store and bought some OTC treatment – it took me 2 1/2 HOURS to do HALF of her hair. It was late at night, and we were both in tears, the whole process was so frustrating. I gave up, made an appointment at the salon, and minus the hours of house scrubbing, all was well by 11am the next morning. Did I say it was worth every penny?? I can’t figure out how people actually treated lice on their own – it’s crazy that there isn’t some mega-chain lice salon franchise across the country. Montana needs one for sure! (But do you remember anyone having lice growing up? Maybe Montana is just too bloomin’ cold!!) Mostly, though, I hope you never need to call upon the services of such a salon. 🙂

  2. Eww. You have me itching and saying the F-word for you! You must be beyond exhausted. You need to invite over a “wanted” houseguest so you can truly enjoy all your hardwork…with a glass of wine of course.

    • Thank you. And you just might be correct, as I agree with you wholeheartedly: parenting *is* funny! Though I confess it took me a while to *find* the funny when the toddler actually DID pee in the fridge! 😉

      • Haha! I have no doubt that I would not have been laughing then either. Nor was I yesterday when my girls got a hold of my pink nail polish, as did the white carpet in their room. Yikes! I may have left a dent in the roof when I hit it!

      • Oh. My. Goodness. Pink nail polish?? On white carpet?? Yeah, that might take a while for *you* to find funny! Your family and friends, on the other hand… 😉

  3. Oh, I so empathize! I have been there as a Mom, and now as a fifth grade teacher (imagine trying to disinfect an entire classroom where 25 little head reside!).
    But you know what? None of that can measure up to our recent diagnosis of ringworm in one of our dogs….oi, vey! My house have NEVER been this clean!
    (written as I gulp my glass of wine)

  4. btw, i have some great advice about hiring a housecleaner (and the name of one NOT to hire here in good ol’ Missoula)! i’ll share with you when i’m an invited guest!

  5. Just found this post from the lice knowing you facebook page (OUR new favorite place in the world after two of my kids had lice this week). I can totally empathize with you on the cleaning for 24 hours straight. I swear my washer and dryer were on high power for two days in a row. But it was a damn miracle when I finished ALL the laundry. ANd had an actual empty laundry basket hamper (for twenty minutes straight until my two year old spilled applesauce on his shirt).

    • OH, I’m so sorry you had to go through that!! It’s just dreadful… I actually had an anxiety dream the other night that I discovered lice on my 2yo, and I awoke in a sweat-inducing, hyperventilating PANIC. Really – I’m thinking it just might be possible that I suffer from post-lice-outbreak PTSD. Is that possible?? All I can say: I’m glad that someone, way back when, invented wine. And chocolate. And also, washing machines. 😉

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