Nit Pickin’ Back to School Bugs

In Kiddos, Payton Denny by Lola Magazine

Life rarely goes as planned, but in my family, we exchange the word “rarely” for “never.” Life as a Denney is exceptional— exceptionally fun and ridiculous. For us, it is and always has been, about rolling with the punches.

Our summer started with a snap—a literal snapping of the two bones in my youngest child’s forearm. I had to blink hard twice. Was I seeing this right? Had Cameron’s forearm always been bent in a 45-degree angle? My oldest son said that Cam looked like an Egyptian. After the screaming and panic subsided, we took a deep breath. Ok. This would be our new summer normal. But first we had to crack that bone back into place. It was the second day of summer. Our plans had changed.

Fast forward through the stinky cast days of summer. We made it. We had to change our plans, but we made it. We exchanged floating the Bogue Chitto River with horseback riding. Instead of racing down the slides of our favorite water parks, we strapped on a harness, and went zip-lining over alligators. We improvised. It’s how we do life, because planning is not in the cards for us.

As summer comes to a close and the beginning of school is on the horizon, I’m reminded about the time we all got lice. Yep. You read that right. WE ALL GOT LICE. And, much like the broken arm of this summer, a lice infestation on the heads of my family members was something I had not planned for.

It had been a difficult week. I was slammed at work. My husband was working the last 24hr shift of his 10-day fire department work rotation. I was all-consumed with worry over whether we had selected the correct ADHD medication for my oldest son. The mom guilt was weighing heavy on my heart. There was too much to do and too little of me to spread around. As usual, I had worked myself into sickness and was a few days into an antibiotic for a sinus infection. I was dog-paddling through life, and the water of failure was lapping intermittently over my head.

Around 7:00 on a Friday evening, I slugged through the back door. I kicked off my pumps and set my purse on the dinner table. A swarm of little people, all of whom I birthed, greeted me at the back door and began pulling on my loose limbs. My mom offered me something to eat, but I waved her off. I was too tired to do anything but fall flat on my face. I thanked her for picking the kids up from school, and feeding them, and folding the laundry, and emptying the dishwasher. I nodded goodbye to her as my daughter dragged my noodly body up the stairs. “Come watch me do this trick mommy,” she exclaimed through a snaggle toothed grin. I followed.

Somewhere around 8:30 p.m., I realized that I had forgotten to take my antibiotic for the day. “Shoot!” I said aloud as I ran downstairs. I needed to get well. I had no time to be sick. I had plans—projects to finish, homework to coordinate, practices to make, board meetings to attend. I found the medicine bottle beside the coffee pot, popped the top and swallowed. “Whew! That was close,” I thought as I twisted the lid back in place. That’s when I noticed Dakota’s name on the medicine bottle. My next thought was a word that is cousins with the work “shoot.” It’s his rough cousin who didn’t attend finishing school.

My next 12 hours flashed before my eyes. I wanted to sleep. I needed to sleep. I did not need ADHD medication coursing through my veins. I desperately needed the plans I had for sleep to hold strong. There was only one thing to do.

Dabbing my mouth with a napkin, I plopped down on the couch next to Dylan. I sighed heavily. “Disaster averted,” I thought. “Now if I can just get these kiddos to bed, I’m home free.” That’s when the scratching began.

“What are you doing baby? Why are you scratching?” I asked. Dylan cut her eyes at me and shrugged her shoulders. I scooted closer to her and flipped on the nearest lamp. Cell phone light in hand, I blinked hard twice. Again. It’s my thing, I guess—denial and then with two blinks, confirmation. I immediately began to google “What do lice look like?” And then I thought another word that is also kin to “shoot” but much, much worse than the first two I had previously spoken.

The more I combed, the deeper the situation grew. Multiple nits per strand of hair. Some live bugs. Many more to come. The itching then transferred to me. Trying not to panic, I leapt from the couch and ran to the medicine cabinet. There had been a lice scare at school earlier that year. I had purchased shampoo just in case. We’d rinse, it’d be ok. Two instant regrets floated to the surface: 1. Allowing Dylan to shampoo and style her own hair 2. Vomiting up that ADHD medication.

I am so very grateful that I had been so exhausted, because I did sleep that night. It may have been that I passed out. Either way, it worked. The next morning, I again surveyed the damage. It was apparent that we needed professional help. After making more embarrassing guilt-admitted phone calls than I care to recall, we located a lice clinic and headed to West Monroe.

We spent the day under a hairdryer chatting with a professional nitpicker. We learned that the word “lousy” comes from the word “louse” – rightfully so. We left the clinic with less money in our bank account but lice free. Our heads were greased up and wrapped in saran wrap. Sissy was not amused—especially when I drove through Taco Bell for our late lunch. She hid in the back while I ordered her chicken chalupa. As we drove home and snacked on our unhealthy lunch, she asked me why I wasn’t embarrassed. I told her that her having lice didn’t make me love her any less, and that we shouldn’t waste our time with people who would judge us for something so silly. Smiling, she reached out to hold my hand. We sang loudly all the way home.

We had planned to spend that evening with friends, but we cancelled because plans for us don’t pan out. We greased up the boys, shampooed them, and combed them out. We watched LSU gymnastics while we steamed the bedding and dried the pillows on high heat. We threw out all the hairbrushes and laid out our school clothes. The kids were going back to school the next day. After all, we had plans.