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My five year-old is no longer five

“You’re the best mommy,” my still officially five year-old son for ten more hours and two minutes, says as I sit with him in his bed at night. Because of the L word that cannot be mentioned, he is hugging around my waist while I am bent up against his head board, my hair wrapped in a tight mint-sprayed bun.

We are clear, I think. I mean, I’m pretty sure. Once you get L, you might never feel confident or clean again. I have been officially cleared twice by professionals, have treated myself none-the-less and combed out my hair every night, pulling so much that soon, I will have no hair left to worry about. Still, I feel them crawling on me and scratch at my head like a crazy person, which obviously, I am.

I have spent the week torturing my entire family. Checking and combing, freaking out when one sib’s head interferes with another sib’s personal head space, yelling for head checks, denying play dates. A few days ago when my 8 year-old went to bed early, I pulled my fine tooth comb through his hair in the dark at least five times before he woke and yelled at me.The casual hug is a thing of the past. Now my head tilts awkwardly so as not to touch anyone else’s hair. Snuggling in bed is also off limits. Until tonight, I wouldn’t even have sat in his bed. But tonight is the last night he will be five, and after days of begging me to snuggle, I can deny him no longer.

It’s been a difficult week for many reasons and now thinking that I am holding on to the last moments of my baby being five, I am heavy with the thickness of my emotion. I could fall over right now and cry myself to sleep. But of course, I can’t, because then our heads might touch.

My five – for nine more hours and fifty seven minutes – year-old is my youngest, but he really is no longer a baby. He’s now strong and agile, joining his brothers in school and on the field; a mischievous charmer, filled with sass and silliness.

Yet, he still randomly misuses bigger words, saying things like, ‘Happy university’ instead of anniversary, or telling me to use the ‘constructions’ to put something together. He still tells me secrets from his ear to mine, basically making it impossible to hear his little whispers. And he insists on cuddling with me in bed. My 8 year-old and 11 year-old do as well, but not with the same need as my 5 year-old, who will not stop calling until he has his due.

At this moment, his little upturned nose and the full curve of his cheek make him look almost cherubic in profile, so close to a baby. His hair is still damp from his shower, the unstoppable waves pressed against me. If I move just a little, he will hug me tighter, afraid that it is time for me to go. But I’m in no hurry tonight, because there are only nine hours and fifty-two minutes left of my baby being five, and we’re going to hug till he snores.

“Tomorrow’s my birthday.” He announces, as if we haven’t been counting off the days for months.

“I know.” In nine hours and fifty minutes.

“I can’t wait.” He says and snuggles closer.

I can.

“You’re the best mommy,” He repeats softly, drifting off.

“You’re the best baby.” I whisper.

And then I can’t take it anymore. Imaginary lice be damned, I lean down and kiss him on the head, pulling him to me.

I love this boy. And that’s the only L word that matters.

Who's cooler than him?

Back when he was  just five.

Ice Scream Mama’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Today was too good not to write about. I mean, seriously, it was that bad. So hold on to your hats. And I mean that literally…

6:58am – Callback from lice professionals. I had left a message at 11pm last night, freaked out that my sis-in-law’s family had lice and we had basically spent the weekend braided together.  I checked my kids and found nothing, but smothered them with lice repellant regardless and barely slept, sweating rosemary and mint all night. Our appointment is at 9:30am.

7:30am – Frying up latkes for middle child’s class for Hanukka party we would no longer be attending. Still, the latkes must go on, with or without us.


8am – Call to wake my father for doctor appointment that he already missed once and had issues you don’t want to know about, the second time. Bless the stars, he is awake.

8:30am – Frying, making breakfast, calling schools, freaking out over lice which I cannot see but know is there.

8:40am – Middle son runs in with finger gushing blood. I think it’s a joke from the magic kit we got them for Hanukka. “That’s not real blood.” I laugh. Yeah, it was.

8:45am – Call from dad alerting me that he would be missing appointment again because boils have broken out all over his body. Seriously. Boils.  Blood. Lice. It’s officially the plagues.

9:30am – Without a trace of hail in the sky, we make it to lice professions. Whew.

lice professionals

Boy 1 checked, pronounced clean.

Boy 2 checked, clean.

Boy 3 checked…. Noooooooooo!!!

Mommy checked, clean. So they say. Mommy lays with boy 3 every night at bed time.

The brush out

The brush out

Noon – Scratching the invisible bugs in my brain, we leave lice professionals cleaned of nits and cash.

Drop latkes at co-class mom’s house for afore mentioned party, pick up library book for oldest son, pizza place and home.

1 -2:40 – Laundry to sterilize every fabric in house.

3pm – Orthopedist for oldest son who hurt his hand a few days ago and is still somewhat swollen. We figure we should check it out.

4pm – Hello irresponsible parents. It’s a fracture. Cast applied, child and mother miserable, Coach Dad inconsolable.

jack cast

4:30pm – Father at primary care doctor for boils who offers up this bit of brilliance, “Wow. No idea what that is!” Appointment with specialist secured.

5pm–8pm – Missed homework, dinner, never-ending laundry marathon continues.

Suffocate all stuffed toys in garbage bags.

Find children rolling on top of one another playing. Freak out and spray them like crazy with lice repellent. Near blinding occurs.

8pm – Oldest, “Uh, mom, I forgot I need this stuff for school tomorrow.”


8:15pm – At market.

8:40pm – “Time to shampoo and lice comb!”

“You forgot Hanukka presents!” Cry boys 1,2 & 3.

Crappity crap crap.

Run up to get gifts, run back down. Hurry through prayer and candle lighting. Throw gifts at them. It’s all extremely meaningful.

Boy 1 – “Why’d you get me this?”

Boy 2 – “This isn’t what I asked for.”

Boy 3 – A small nod of happy.

Yay. We can still make the 5 year-old happy. That’s almost thanks. Kind of.

8:30-9:30 – Lice shampoo all little heads. Pull UV light off lizard tank for better view while combing. Identify questionable dots of brown. Could be 8 year-old cradle cap or nits.

Husband who can’t find OJ in fridge glances over and says, “I don’t know why you’re driving yourself crazy. They’re good.”

Beat husband with lice comb.

9:45 – Children asleep on newly made up beds. 6th load of laundry goes in.

The End

10:45 – Sitting here writing this list, getting ready to shower and lice shampoo my head.

Feeling about 100% confident that tomorrow will be filled with combs and shampoo and stress.

I am totally bugged out.

fat head

This would never happen in Australia

Can’t Get You Outta My Head

It’s 7am and the phone rings. Everyone is still asleep in my house, but I, of course, am up, straightening things, preparing breakfast, doing laundry and making sure the camp backpacks are ready. There’s a half an hour of quiet before I’ll wake the boys. The phone is not supposed to ring.

“Hey!” It’s my friend Danielle.

“What’s up? Better be good for a 7am call.”

That throws her for a moment. She didn’t realize it was too early to call. Mommy brain has its own clock.

“Oops. I didn’t realize. My kids have been up for a while.”

“No big deal.” I chastened, now I can be magnanimous. “What’s up?”

“What does lice look like?” she asks innocently.

Oh no. I grimace. She did not just say the “L” word.

I remember back six months, when it was going around Julius’ nursery class. For months, I preventatively treated myself and all three kids. I even got myself double checked at a salon. Even though they said I was fine, I just couldn’t stop scratching my head. My family didn’t even have it, and I was obsessively checking and feeling bugs on me. It got to the point where Howard refused to even look at my head anymore. He called it, “Not enabling my crazy.”

“Crazy!” I screamed. “Two kids in Julius’ class have it and so do their moms!”  I was pulling up pieces of my scalp, and then examining the skin under my finger nails like a gorilla.

“It’s no big deal.” He shrugged. “We have boys. We’ll just cut their hair.”

I looked up at him, eyes wide. “Just cut their hair?! Just cut their hair?? First off, one of our boys has the hair of a lion, and another cries when we even give him a trim.”

“Okay. Whatever.” Howard conceded, backing off and slowly backing away.

“And have you noticed,” I yelled after him. “We are not ALL boys in this house!”

Howard had left the room and I went back to pulling off bits of my scalp and muttering to myself.

I did not want to go back there.

My brain returned to Danielle, hanging on the phone, awaiting my reply. “Well,” I answered slowly. “Lice are tiny black bugs and their eggs are tiny, oval shape opals that stick to your hair. You can’t blow them off like dandruff. You have to pull them from the strand.”

I wait a moment as she assesses. “There are a lot of little white things.” Pause. “I think he has it.”

I’m sure he does. Just the other day, we got a note home from the camp saying that there have been a few reported cases of lice. It happens constantly in the schools and camps so I chose to hope/pretend that it was another group. No such luck. Lucas, Danielle’s son, is in the same group as Michael. They are also on the bus together. A mini-bus.

“Oh no. That’s not good.” I say and begin scratching my head. “I’m sorry.”

I hang up the phone, after offering my condolences and a referral to her neighbor, the ultimate lice specialist – Joy has three girls and a penchant toward meticulousness. So when they got lice, and couldn’t get rid of it, it was a shocker. Night and day, Joy checked and combed. She bought up all the anti-lice Fairytale hair products in our local drugstore. The girls wore their hair greased back in braids, and slept in olive oil and shower caps for weeks. And yet, they got it and got it again. And then, again. If she and her family could contract lice and not get rid of it, the rest of us schlubbs were in big trouble.

The minute my kids woke, a half an hour later, I was on them; sticking my fingers in their hair and inspecting their parted scalps. All of them, brushed me away like one of those giant horse flies, but like those flies, they couldn’t get rid of me. Until finally, while Michael was peeing and still barely awake, and I was behind him pulling at strands of his hair; he turned on me, figuratively and literally. “Stop it, mommy!”

“Arrrggh!!” I yelled, jumping backwards. “You peed on me!”

That woke him. Laughing uncontrollably, Michael finished peeing on the floor. Tyler and Julius, who were also in the bathroom brushing their teeth, almost fell off their step stools in hysterics. Julius gleefully pulled down his batman underwear and walked toward me. “I pee on you too, mommy!” he said, which caused another fit of giggles all around.

“No more peeing!” I announced loudly, which only added to the hilarity that was already going on in the bathroom.

“Ever?” Tyler asked. Eyes lit with merriment, his hysteria mounting again, starting a chain reaction through the mostly-naked boys.

I suppressed my smile. There was important business at hand here. “Come on guys! This is serious!”

“Yes.” Tyler happily mimicked to his 7 and 4 year-old audience. “This is serious. No more peeing ever!”

I left them in the bathroom, doubled over with laughter.  I had to go change my clothes now anyway.

Downstairs at the breakfast table, I subtly poked at their heads while they slurped their cereal. I was a little less subtle when I sprayed the lice repellent leave-in conditioner. Michael, my gagger, almost threw up. I guess I should have waited till they were done eating.

I finished my preventative treatment outside, using lice repellent gel on Michael instead.  I tried to pull Julius’ mass of hair into a bun in the back of his head, but he balked. I had done this less than a year ago, when we went through it at the nursery school. Back then, when he complained that it was a girl thing, I convinced him that it was a “boy bun,” and that only extremely cool boys could wear their hair that way, like rock stars. Now, six months later, he looked at me with outright defiance. I believe what he said was, “No way, mommy!” and began to run for the hills. With five minutes before bus time, I had to settle for hats (sprayed, of course, with lice repellent).  

When their busses pulled up, I ushered them each on, whispering in their ears. They were not to touch heads with anyone or wear someone else’s hat. If possible, they should not sit next to anyone on the bus. They nodded, got on, and I’m sure ignored me.

“I love you!” I yelled to each of them as they stepped up onto the bus, using the more popular and certainly more favored “L” word. Thankfully, we aren’t yet at that place where yelling “I love you” is embarrassing to my kids. “Remember,” I screamed at the bus window, touching my hair and shaking my head, “Don’t touch other people’s hair!” Obviously, I had plenty of better ways to embarrass them.

Back in my house alone, I scratched my head and considered what I was doing. I should move on with my day and go to the gym as planned, but visions of lice danced in my head. I am not crazy! I yelled at the air, but really it was an image of Howard’s face in my brain. I’m not!

It had only been an hour and a half since Danielle’s early morning phone call. One short conversation, but really just one little word, had changed everything. Back and forth I went, finally giving in, going upstairs and stripping all the beds. I will have the olive oil and shower caps ready when they got home. Later, I will stop at the drugstore and pick up another bottle of anti-lice solution.

The troops may rebel a bit, but this is war, and sacrifices will be made. We spray in the morning. We check in the night. We never touch heads. We will triumph. The only “L” word allowed in this house is reserved for me, the lunatic. I can already see Howard, shaking his head with disapproval. It’s really going to bug me.