My plan for last weekend was to have no plans.  Coming off the holidays and a stretch of business travel for Phil, the whole family was in need of some serious down time.  I could not wait to just hang out: make a homemade pizza with the girls, watch a cartoon-less movie with Phil, and finally get my eyebrows waxed.  At last, I would get an opportunity to tackle the nagging chores that berate me during the week but never quite make it to the priority list…like putting the boxes of Christmas decorations back in the attic before they become part of the dining room décor.  I pictured starting the next week feeling organized, rested, and focused.

Then, on Thursday night, Emma started complaining of an itchy scalp. “Mom! My head itches.” Scratch, scratch, scratch.  I combed through her elbow-length mane with my fingers, although truth be told I had no idea what I was looking for.  All I saw was a red scalp from her aggressive scratching.  Emma has always had sensitive skin: Cradle Crap Cap, sensitivity to dyes….maybe I needed to change shampoos.  These are the lies I told myself to mask my greatest fear.

My denial was short lived.  As I pulled her hair back into a ponytail for school on Friday morning, I saw it.  A bug.  A moving bug.  In my little girl’s beautiful long blond hair.  My little girl neatly dressed in her school uniform…her stuffed dog packed proudly into her backpack for Show and Tell.  The dog that would soon be shoved in a garbage bag and banished to the garage for 7-10 days.  F*#k.

While highly distracted and somewhat uptight on a daily basis, I am actually your go-to gal in a crisis. I think it is because it is the only time my level of reactivity is actually appropriate for the situation. A “serious” issue momentarily suppresses my ADD because it eliminates the question, “What should I do first?” Phil, on the other hand – Mr. Roll With The Punches- starts to unravel like a cheap sweater.

This was my first encounter with lice, but I knew this meant war .  It was Me vs. Them, and I had to remain fully committed to my post.  I was instantly transformed into the sentry of Emma’s scalp; standing guard over her head armed with….whatever you use to get rid of lice. 

It was a Lice Lockdown.

I started by calling the pediatrician, who instructed me to follow the Cetaphil Method.  Great, I thought…no chemicals, no pesticides…I never knew that Cetaphil killed lice!

That’s because it doesn’t. 

Three hours of combing and two Tinkerbell movies later, Emma finally went to sleep. Phil and I embarked on the de-licing of the house…we washed, we vacuumed, we sterilized.  The next morning I waited by her door armed with my flashlight, magnifying glass and nit comb.

The bastards were still there.

I brought in the big guns and bought the chemical shampoo with a box that resembles that of rat poison.  Phil set up the Christmas spotlight in the living room (the one still in the box in the dining room) as a lice searchlight.  I applied, I combed, I pin curled, I tweezed.  Another three hours and two Tinkerbell movies later, Emma went to sleep.  We washed, we vacuumed, we sterilized.

With her head bent over her bowl of Cheerios the next morning, my fingers investigated her scalp like Nancy Drew and the Search for the Microscopic Louse.    

The bastards were still there.

Emma has apparently inherited my crisis-management skills, because the kid could not have been more patient and cooperative while having her head accosted for the entire weekend.  This is why, after discovering that the war waged on, my heart tightened when she asked: “Mom?  Are we going to spend any time together that doesn’t involve my bugs?”

I recently read The Big Leap; a book aimed at putting you on the path to success by recognizing your true potential.  The author encourages spending more time in your “Zone of Genius” (things you are good at) and try to avoid/delegate that which puts you in your “Zone of Incompetence” (things you suck at). 

Nitpicking is clearly not in my Zone of Genius.  It was time to call in the troops. 

Phil had heard of a place called Lice Lifters.  Killing lice IS in their Zone of Genius.  Ninety minutes later, Emma was back to her bugless self.  It was the best year of college tuition money I ever spent.

The word nitpicker is defined as “someone who makes small and unjustified concerns.” Ironically, my short lived career as a nitpicker allowed me to see the bigger picture.  While my original to-do list remains untouched, my focus on Emma’s head actually opened up a small window INTO her head. 

While we applied, combed, rinsed, and repeated…she talked to me.  I got a closer look at who she is right now, at 5 years old…what she thinks about, how she sees things, what the world looks like through her eyes.  She asked me her usual barrage of questions –and because I wasn’t distracted by ten other things- I took the time to give her thoughtful answers. To ensure that the toxic hair goop stayed out of her eyes, I actually got in the shower with her…naked….which prompted a WHOLE BUNCH of questions….

But we will save those for another blog.

Phil and I have yet to watch a movie, my eyebrows put Bert and Ernie to shame, and the Christmas decorations haven’t moved an inch….and while I may not feel organized or rested, I have never felt more focused.

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