Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Perfect Storm: My Descent Into Madness

Ok.  I am going to be brave and go out on a limb here.  You guys keep telling me this blog is relatable, and the posts I am most nervous to hit "publish" on are somehow the ones that keep y'all coming back for more.

So, I have decided to share my story with you.  It's a story of angst, despair, love, hate, a family torn apart, and a mother on the edge.

It is the story of my own personal descent into madness... it was "the perfect storm".

In case you haven't seen the movie, "The Perfect Storm" was the story of the confluence of two weather systems and a hurricane, and a sword-fishing boat and its crew that were caught in the resulting killler storm. If anyone has seen the final shot of Mark Wahlberg in that movie, then you will have the general idea of how I felt at the peak of my own private perfect storm.

This nightmare of a week was back in March.  We had been dealing with a very sick little Knolan for several days. Our child care provider had been quite concerned about him and we had been to the doctor several times trying to figure out what was wrong.  Ken was extremely busy with work and travel, and I was mere weeks away from a 600 person event that I was organizing for work.  Our days had been filled with stress about whose work meetings would have to be cancelled so one of us could stay home with Knolan, impossible days of trying to work from home with a sick kid, and wonderful help from my parents who did what they could when they could.

Finally on the night that I had planned to go for dinner with my good friends Tracey and Morgan (of Gingy fame), the doctor's office called to say that we needed to come in to get some of Knolan's test results.  Because Knolan was being so clingy and a real "mama's boy" while he was sick, Ken and I decided that I would take Knolan to see the doctor for the results before I went for dinner.  I was flat out refusing to miss dinner with my friends because I desperately needed a break and a venting session, but for some reason it was taking FOREVER for the doctor to see us.  I know I could have forced Ken to sit in the waiting room with a sick and crying 1 year old and his attention deprived sister at 7pm at night while I went for dinner, but unfortunately, I knew exactly how that little scenario would play out, and I wouldn't even wish that on my worst enemy.  So... being the control freak martyr that I am, I sat there with my little sicko, stressing about the time ticking away, obsessively checking with the receptionist about when we could see the doctor, and compulsively texting Tracey and Morgan to let them know what was going on and why I was late.

Please don't misunderstand.  I love my son with all my heart, but we had been suffering from sleep deprivation, had been in and out of the doctor's office for days and I was cranky.  I normally cuddle and snuggle my little munchkins when they are sick, but this time I just simply needed a break as much as I needed to get him the care he needed.

Plus, I had already made the two of them reschedule this dinner around my schedule once already.

Now, some people can handle being late for things.  I am one of those people who are chronically late for everything, but who also experiences physical symptoms of stress over being late.  When I was eventually 30 minutes late for dinner, I caved and begged Ken to come with Kaycie to wait to see the doctor so I could go meet my friends.  Just as Ken walked in, the doctor called us in and we found out that Knolan had pneumonia.  The poor little guy.  But at least we had an answer and we knew what we needed to do about it.  Ken was kind enough to send me on my way and he took care of everything else so I could just go and have a night out to re-charge.

So... off I drove as fast as I safely could to meet my girls.  The whole way my mind was swirling with thoughts of poor Knolly, work, being late, and juggling our schedules for the next few days.  When I finally found the restaurant, I zipped into an empty parking spot (thankfully just steps from our meeting place), and as I was backing up to finish off my victory in parallel parking, I felt and heard a soul-crushing "crunch" at the back of the car.

I froze.  Oh no!  Please no!

I tip toed (why? I don't know.) to the back of the car to see what sort of damage I had caused.  It sounded terrible - I assumed that I would be faced with a giant crumpled bumper.

As I peeked through my fingers, I suddenly had the happy realization that nothing appeared to be damaged.  Relief!  But then I realized that maybe someone had seen me hit this van behind me.  There was no damage, but would I look like the world's biggest jerk if I just walked away?  I spend a stupid amount of time just walking between the two cars looking busy and pretending to look for a pen while I debated what to do.  Eventually I decided that I would just go into the restaurant since it didn't seem that anyone had seen me.

I came flying into the restaurant full of apologies and hugs and the three of us jumped right into our night of thai food, catching up and lots of laughs.  But as we chatted, the guilt was consuming me.  Eventually I couldn't contain my anxiety, and in hushed whispers, I told the two of them what had happened and asked them for their advice - should I leave a note?  Should I look to see if they come back to their car and run out to tell them what happened?  The two of them - wise ladies that they are - advised me to shut up about it in case the owner of the van was in the restaurant and to stop stressing about it.

I am starting to sound like the fun time gang, aren't I?  I am normally a pretty fun dinner companion, but as you know, I was starting my descent into madness.

After a few bites of chicken, Tracey quietly asked, "which car was it you hit anyway?"  I subtly pointed past her and whispered, "that red van right there".  Tracey and Morgan both turned to see which car was the lucky victim, when the suddenly both burst into peals of choking laughter.  Tracey burst out laughing and said:

"Oh my gawd Kirsten.  You can relax.  It's just Morgan's car!"

Up until then, I had never experienced utter relief mixed with the aftertaste of new guilt.  I am happy to report, however, that nearly a year later I have still heard nothing from Morgan's insurance agent.  :-)

I went to bed that night thinking that my little driving stunt might be the last of my troubles.  Little did I realize that just 48 hours later I would have given my right arm to be back in the trouble free world of hit and run accidents.

The next day at work I was still dealing with lack of sleep.  Knolan was still waking up over and over and over again throughout the night.  I noticed that I just wasn't feeling like myself.  I felt dusty and tired and achy.  I tried my best to ignore it.

When I woke up the next day after another night of taking turns with Ken to go soothe our sick son, I knew that something wasn't right.  I was sure I was getting sick, but there was just too much to do at work to justify taking a sick day over feeling "off". As the day went on, I was getting the chills, and then I would be sweating 10 minutes later.  I had no appetite, every bone in my body was aching, and I was pale and fatigued.  Finally I had to concede defeat.  I turned to my boss, Hilda, with tears running down my face and told her I just couldn't stay at work.  Thankfully she reminded me that the work would be there once I got better and sent me home with a strict threat that she would send me home if I tried to come in the next day.

I finally made it home from work in tears, fevery, achey and collapsed into bed.  I spent the next two nights flipping between chills and night sweats, and I was in complete body agony.  I don't ever remember feeling sicker. Knolan was, of course, still getting better, but not quite back to his usual self.  Ken did his best to take care of all of us.

Then the next night Ken starts to feel sick

After a night of us both tossing and turning and as sick as we'd ever been, the light of the morning sun only magnified what horrible shape we were in.  We could barely function - our only motivation was to get kids OUT of house so we could sleep.

That's when I noticed Kaycie itching her head.





If you haven't experienced the joy that is lice, consider yourself among the fortunate. This particular bout with lice was our third time.  Lucky us.

Getting rid of headlice is one of the most excruciating, frustrating, tedious, back aching, character testing, family destroying, soul decimating exercises you can be forced into.  I think it might have been better if I had been new to the world of lice.  Having been through it, in that moment I knew exactly what was ahead of us and I wanted to drop to my knees and bawl my eyes out.  Here's how it goes (at least this is how it goes when you think that the insecticide shampoo is your only option - thankfully now I know about other ways of coping):  First, you need to apply a lice shampoo treatment to your child's head and then get them to sit still for 10 minutes while the shampoo takes effect.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.  Sit still for 10 minutes.  With a chemical shampoo on their head.  Ha!

But it gets better!  Then you need to rinse it off and comb through their hair with a special comb.  Now, this is the FIRST comb through.  This one is to remove the bugs themselves.   You would think that this would be the part that would do you in.  Oh no.  I would comb these little suckers out all day and all night to avoid the next step.

The next step is where you literally have to find a way to get your kid to sit still for about 3-4 hours while you go through every single strand of hair on their head looking for eggs attached to strands of hair.  And when I say "literally", I really mean it in the truest sense of the word.  If you miss even one egg (which, by the way, are so, so, so very small.  Way smaller than a grain of salt or a bread crumb.  These little guys are teeeeeeeny.) the egg will likely hatch and your problem starts again.

And then you need to gather up everything in the house that your kid has slept on or played with or worn and start the many loads of hot water laundry required to ensure there are none of the nasty little bugs or eggs hitching a ride on something besides your kid's head.

And then you need to vacuum the whole house.  And you can't put off any of this for fear that the lice will keep multiplying and the problem will get worse.

You can only imagine Ken and I - who had mere moments ago been begging for mercy and had been completely frantic about how we would keep ourselves hydrated when we could barely walk to the washroom without wanting to die - were completely demoralized.  Demoralized doesn't even come close.  We felt defeated, but with no option to give up.

So, Ken started the lengthy task of ridding the house of lice and I started the process of going through Kaycie's hair. Strand... by strand... by stinking strand.

The paper thin strands of hair...humans have so much freaking hair!

Thank goodness for Netflix!

The enemy.

And if you are thinking that you are home free once you get through an entire head of hair, you would be mistaken.  These little menaces are elusive.  I have never been able to get away with just one comb through.  And you can imagine that after a four hour morning of two sick adults de-lousing a house and a head of hair that we would be completely "done".  And we were.  But we didn't have the option of throwing in the towel.

That night, when Knolan was back at home, I needed to do another comb through before Kaycie went to bed.  Ken, who was at the peak of this flu or whatever it was, hit a breaking point and took a bottle of Tylenol and a hot water bottle upstairs to cocoon for a while. So there I was, a toddler tearing apart the living room, and a poor little girl doing her best to cope, but like her mother, slowly decending into the depths of despair.  After all, there is only so long that a four year old can sit still for, and there is only so long a flu-ridden parent can hunch over a head of hair for.

You can only appreciate true desperation once you've experienced the fourth hour of your second comb through of the day when your child can simply no longer sit still, and your son has finished unpacking all of the bookshelves and cupboards on the main floor and has moved on to the house's infrastructure.

If you can picture it, there was one point where I was operating on about 3 hours of sleep, I was aching everywhere, coughing non-stop, clinging to a single itty bitty strand of Kaycie's hair for dear life so I wouldn't lose the teeny, tiny nit I had found.  At the same time as Kaycie imploded and started to cry and fling her head around, I imagined I looked like a pirate hanging off a sail, clinging to a rigging rope with every ounce of energy I had.  At that moment, tears of frustration were running down both my cheeks and Kaycie's face  when Knolan rips out the vent cover under the window and reaches into the depths of our heating vents.

I was a broken soul.  I literally grabbed the spray bottle of water I was using to comb through Kaycie's hair and I aimed it at my baby boy like he was a cat on the counter... or a terrorist.  Through clenched teeth and staring him down like a predator, I snarled at him to back away from the hole in the floor.  As he looked at me with maniacal eyes and moved away from the vent, I tracked him with my outstretched arm - water bottle still aimed squarely at his head. My descent into madness was complete.  Thankfully, I slowly came to my senses as I counted to 10 and I talked myself out of super soaking my son and I put down the water bottle, burst out laughing and crying and reminded myself that we'd get through the day... somehow.

And I am proud to say that just as I successfully negotiated myself off the ledge, Ken - in a burst of Tylenol-infused energy - came back to put Knolan to bed and to give Kaycie and me a wiggle break.  After a much needed laugh, a few tears, and a bowl of Rolo ice cream, we declared victory over the lice.  As we all drifted away to the sweet land of sleep, our perfect storm slowly passed over our house leaving only a few empty ice cream bowls and a ransacked house in its wake.


  1. My God, you are the funniest! Been there and understand the edge of madness. Glad you didn't tip over the edge.

  2. Love the story. I would like to put a link to your blog on my lice website as well as an excerpt from your story. My site is

    would that be okay?