Could not have been nicer, except for one little surprise: "Visitors," as pediatricians' nurses coyly call them. Yes, our youngest had been scratching. . . . but I'll get to that.
I came downstairs at 8:00 a.m., having been allowed to sleep two whole hours longer than usual, and found that our youngest . . . who hadn't slept that well . . . was still sleepy, but before I could make my way back to bed she decided she was hungry after all. We all trooped downstairs, except for the eldest, who was still in Italy on a class trip uniting young members of the E.U. And there were two vases, one filled with a gorgeous red-and-yellow bouquet of roses, tiger lilies, and marigolds, and the other with three long-stemmed marigolds, one for each child.
I made blueberry pancakes and we ate heartily; I got presents! A couple of red lipsticks, my favorite bath salts, and a necklace made of blue-and-white delft bits that my husband and I had pieced together at our favorite jewelry store some time ago . . .
But then our youngest started scratching. Now, this actually began a week ago . . . and though I looked with a magnifying glass and my husband did, too, we found nothing . . . and wrongly believed it was just that she'd washed her head with liquid soap. The cleaning lady helped me hunt and nabbed one of the culprits.
We have decided to try the olive oil treatment. You can use mayonnaise or Vaseline instead, but olive oil has two advantages: it's good for the scalp, especially the itchy scalp, and it washes out easier (use vinegar!) than either of the others. But all three deprive lice of air. And, said our cleaning lady, "First it's like a guy who drank too much cognac . . . they stagger. And then they sleep." She let her head droop and closed her eyes. But I was thinking of a Simpsons episode in which lice are represented as beleaguered, noble, struggling for survival . . . well, at least the part about struggling for survival is true.
In other words, it may take more than one olive oil treatment before we go the the chemical-laden shampoo, which, here in Deutschland, is called Goldgeist ("gold spirit") and has on the label a picture of a big black bubbling cauldron (bubbles actually rise from its surface) standing on claw legged posts. A rather violent fire blazes beneath, and the active ingredient is Pyrethrumestrakt, and here are some of the side effects that popped up when I Googled the chemical: coughing, wheezing shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, difficulty breathing. Rash, itching, blisters. Long term effects: distrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone, estrogen, thus causing excessive estrogen levels in females. In males, the estrogen feminizes, leading to abnormal growth of breast tissues, development of breasts in males and cancerous breast tissues in all sexes. Carcinogenic. And I could go on . . . I think we'll stick with olive oil, no matter how many times I have to apply it, even if I have to wash her sheets three times in as many nights . . . her mattress has been in a plastic bag for at least six hours; is that enough? Happy Mother's Day: I'm still young enough to have a kid in grade school, although, confidently, I am old enough to be the other moms' grandma.
P.S. Now we've got an innovation in Lice treatment. After the olive oil and the vinegar and three shampoos, I wanted another layer of olive oil overnight. My daughter didn't like that idea and we compromised: yes, garbage bags . . . four of them--tightly tied over her scalp, twisted into odd shapes and held in place with hair elastics.
But then we woke up at midnight and panicked that it would cover her mouth or nose or both. And I discovered, as I took it off, that it was on so very tight that I pulled her hair getting it off . . . and then, since the olive oil treatment takes at least three days and the kid wanted to go to school, we resorted to The Evil Chemical Shampoo. But wrote the obligatory note to the school lying that she'd felt nauseous . . . otherwise, you have to go to the pediatrician to get a note declaring you lice-free, which is a big waste of everyone's time. But we hadn't counted on one problem: no sooner had my daughter, who is exceedingly popular, arrived and said, "Don't hug me because I've had a cold," than they all hugged, and one of the little mean things said, "I smell that lice shampoo on your head! Did you have lice?" Her face crumpled as she told me, "I had to tell her, but you and Daddy said to say I had a cold . . . . " It hadn't occurred to her that the kid who sniffed out the shampoo had to have had quite a few encounters with the stuff herself. . . . ."But don't worry , Mommy, my friends won't tell."
So she's lice-free, and the school is getting the "Our Daughter Had a Cold and Tummyache" letter. Stay tuned.