Girl Charlee KnitFix (Fabric Giveaway!)

Comin' atcha live from the milky, sleep-deprived fog of maternity leave because it's scarf and gifting season, and that means my braided scarf tutorial is exactly what the world needs now. After, of course, it gets its fill of love sweet love.

I knew approximately diddly-squat-point-five about knit fabrics (think T-shirt material), and had sewn with almost exclusively woven fabrics (think bed sheets). Then I wrote that tutorial and started selling the scarves in my Etsy shop. Here now in my fourth season of churning these scarves out for customers, friends and family (I've made over 300!), I am intimately acquainted with knit fabrics. THEY RULE. No ironing, no fraying, super soft and perfect for truly practical projects.

A quick look in my shop will show you that I get almost all of my fabrics from Girl Charlee. I discovered them through a friend a season or two ago and have been slurping down their yardage ever since. I was even their customer spotlight this past February (I am suggesting a pinup calendar...I will dress as a fat baby holding a bow and arrow as befits my month...and my current physique)!

So how pumped was I when I found out that Girl Charlee has invented a new way to introduce sewists to their yummy goods? Answer: very muchly so. 

Here's the lowdown diggity (if you've tried or read about other "fixes," it's kinda similar, but in yardage form!):

-The first KnitFix sale kicks off on December 9th
-Each KnitFix contains 6 specially selected, unique and exclusive knit fabrics in two yard cuts each (12 yards total).  
-These are fabrics that will never be available anywhere else, ever!
-KnitFix sales are only once a month, the second Tuesday, and are on a first come, first serve basis.
-Each KnitFix sale has fabrics that are only available for that one month's sale so you can buy each month and never get the same fabrics.
-Retail price is $69 (for 12 yards) and each fix comes in a custom designed, limited edition Girl Charlee KnitFix reusable tote bag.

Because I'm a lucky sneaky duck, I got to get my first KnitFix a little early. Wanna peek? 

This tote's adorbs, right? (it's okay to hate me for that one)

Getting my first glimpse. What a fun bunch! I spy floral, tribal, stripes, lace, geometric and quatrefoil. 

I was barely able to snap this photo because Layla kept grabbing at the floral print begging me to make her "sumpfin!" out of it. Guess who is getting pretty flower leggings from mommy for Christmas! 

So if you're digging on these fabrics, guess what? You can win my exact KnitFix yourself for free! Girl Charlee is giving one of you these same 12 yards of sewing goodness free to your doorstep just in time to whip up some awesome custom gifts for your people/self.


Judah and Layla Meet Noa

We've had our Noa for a month now. I'm typing this with one hand while I feed her and gaze upon her wonders. They are manifold:

I wasnt planning to do the sticker-months pictures...until I saw this set on a friend's daughter and immediately copied them. Brace yourself for 11 more.

I havent gotten all of the professional birth photos back yet, and I definitely need those to write the birth story (yeah, let's say that's the reason for the delay and not because I'm eating leftover calzones at 4 am and sleeping during normal blogging hours).

I do have two proofs of the moment that Layla and Judah both saw Noa for the first time. The moment wasnt as hilarious as when we told them we were having a baby, but it does explode my feelings. LOVE EVERYWHERE:

Wouldn't you just give anything to know what they were thinking/saying at these moments?


I knew I would want a video of this magic moment too, so my beautiful friend Steph taped the whole thing for us. I seriously cant stand everything happening in these moving pictures, y'all. You can see the looks of dumbfounded joyful spazziness/disbelief I keep throwing to every adult in the room because I was pretty shocked at how picture-perfect the big kids were. I knew they'd be excited and fascinated, but I had no idea they would morph into living Hallmark moments.

Their shirts say Brother Bear, Sister Bear and Baby Bear. From MaisonWares on Etsy. 

More to come soon, smoochie-poos!


Noa Lou Dukes

Our sweet #3 was born last Monday, October 6th at 3:01 pm. 

Noa Lou Dukes
8 pounds 1 ounce
20.5 inches long

She is more magical, awe-inspiring, gorgeous and beloved than we imagined was possible (and we had heard that 3rd babies are pretty spectacular!). This was taken at 90 minutes old.

Some highlights:

The name: Upon being told we couldn't leave the hospital until we filled out her birth certificate paperwork, we decided to finally settle on the middle name that had eluded us all this time. You remember how much I love "Lukas" but couldnt saddle her with "Lukas Dukas" potential?  Well one of my favorite things about that combo was being able to call her "Noa Loo."

I knew that Jesse's mother's middle name was Louise and the thought of giving our daughter a name that honored and united two very strong and admirable female lines was pretty cool (read how Noa came from my grandmother--after we already loved the name--here). But Louise was a tad too traditional for me (like Genoa had been in the first name). Jesse had told our friend Kellen about this quandary, and he simply and brilliantly was like, "If you want to call her Loo/Lou/Lu, just actually name her that. It doesnt need to be short for anything."

So thats what we decided to do. It is still definitely an homage to Jesse's mother (who is called LouLou and Lovie Lou by the grandkids) even though it is shortened, and we had a blast telling Linda that that was what we had decided for her name. She may have slightly lost her mind. It was completely adorable and utterly affirmed our choice.

moderately excited about her 6th Grandchild being her namesake.

The name Lou means "warrior," and since Noa means "love in motion" for us, our daughter's entire name now means "His conquering love in motion"  (and the "His" would be Jesus). This is our prayer for Noa's entire life/legacy.

The birth: Oh dont you just WISH I had the story ready and we could find out how close to this plan we stayed? Well, I wish this, at least. I LOVE telling my birth stories, but they are an investment of time and brainpower, and I am not quiiiite there yet. Rest assured it will be faster than the first two, which took about a year each. 

IN the meantime, maybe you'd like to read my friend Tara's story of how she delivered her daughter Paige's first baby this weekend and was a few contractions away from doing so at the Baylor football game. Seriously one of the most hilarious and beautiful and angsty and insane birth stories I've ever read (Tara is my spirit animal).

The photos: Our wonderful photographer, Brenna, made it for the entire birth and has show us some early sneak peeks of her work. Great Golly Gosh, she is talented. We were thrilled to be her first birth session and obviously she is going to rock this milieu of photography like she already does for families and babies. Here are a few:


The family of Five: This too is going to get its own post, because my big kids have fallen SO HARD for baby Noa that the intensity must have its very own URL. Rest assured, it's cute, it comes with video and pictures and it makes me want to have 14 more babies for them to love.

Her Song: If you've been here awhile, you know my worship leader husband writes/records original songs for each of our kids (Judah's and Layla's are blogged). He has just finished writing Noa's song and just needs to record it. IT IS COMING! I'll let you know when that single drops (because I say things like that).

Playing a demo for me of his second draft. (We are so blessed to have Jesse on paternity leave for 3 weeks).

The baby: Oh man, I probably can't even articulate how dreamy Noa is. A big part of it is surely that now that I have big, stinky (seriously! they smell so bad compared to my newborn...how did I never notice this?!), non-baby kids, I am ever so much more schmoopy and treasuresome (not a word) about this utter beebee. Judah being 17 months when Layla was born, we really had two babies and didn't fully dive into or "back" to the newborn experience. We are full on submerging ourselves this time.

It's also much much easier to have a newborn when you've done it a few times. We were out of our minds stupid and stressed with Judah and thought a new baby was the hardest thing in the world. No. One newborn is a vacation. The hardest thing in the world is whatever age they are at today.

But the biggest thing I think that has made this go-round so cross-eyed lovey dovey is just Noa! She is so chill and sweet and easy and hilarious. There was a stretch in the hospital where we seriously didnt hear her cry for like 20 hours (and she was with us the whole time!). She eats like a champion, sleeps about 18 hours a day, and is wide-eyed, squeaky and nonstop funny faces the rest of the time.  And her poop smells fantastic (again...compared to the big kids').

We are soaking up every moment with this baby. I hardly ever can bring myself to put her down (sleeping or not), which is NOT like me, and I can definitely see how babies of the family get doted on or spoiled. It seems like I spend hours just petting her hair (so much more/darker than my first two!), marveling at her tiny little belly/chest (taking perspective photos to show scale to remind my future self of how tiny she once was), sneaking up the back of her onesie to rub that sweet, silky baby back, and super-saturating every cone and rod in my eyeballs with the details of her perfect face. 

This little angel bean is a massive meteor that has changed the entire makeup of our family in the best way imaginable. 


Lovin' Eight

Every year there are 52 weeks (breaking news!). So it is a little cool/weird/statistically improbable that so many of my major life events managed to occur over the course of my existence during the same seven-day period:

Yesterday (9/30)was my 10 year baptism anniversary (public wedding to Jesus)
Tomorrow (10/2) is my 32nd birthday
On Monday (10/6) I am having what's known as "a baby."  Noa's Birthday!

But today, well, today (10/1) is extra special too. It's Jesse and My 8th wedding anniversary!

So from 9/30-10/6, we are locked up pretty tight with banner moments (our first pet, Chopper, the insane cowardly rescue mutt, was born on 10/3, but that one just doesn't seem quite monumental enough to put in the special list. Still, though, he is a Dukes, so we count it). 

Anything important that needs to happen for the remainder of my life should probably pencil in 10/4 or 10/5 because that is the only availability we have left. 

This streak is also why I am able to claim that October is "my" month more than any Ugg-wearing, Pumpkin Spice-drinking, sweater weather-gushing, born-in-the-wrong season little Autumn groupie, Just sayin'.


Since we don't get a full mushy-gushy anniversary week to just schmoop all over each other (and something tells me we arent the type that would anyway), I want to isolate today and celebrating my marriage to Jesse.

When I was writing about the clutches in the previous post, I linked to a post from over 4 years ago.  It was a post about the state of our marriage that rather brutally depicted how rough things could be between my husband and I. 

After I had linked to it (which I had done just to give you a glimpse of my wonderful friend Natalie and how she had pulled me through that day), I went back and read the whole thing and found myself so shocked and sad. 

It's not that I didnt know that there was a HARD learning curve for us the first handful of years; I have always told people that despite understanding that marriage was going to be difficult from the moment we started, we still plowed headfirst into almost complete destruction of ourselves, each other, the relationship, and several physical walls. We went through blow ups like the one in that post pretty regularly for years.

What saddened me though, reading from the end of year 8 was how vividly I remember being that pregnant wife on the floor. How scratchy the carpet was under my cheek and how the tears and snot gushed. I remember the feel of, "This is impossible.  I can't do this anymore. There is no way out." 

Oh, my heart breaks for that girl.

morning of 10/1/06. Dont worry about putting on makeup...youre just gonna cry it all off in 4 years.

But what shocks me in reading those words is how far Jesse and I are from that place now. And how we haven't even visited its suburbs in several years. Maybe "shocked" isnt the right description so much as "redeemed" or "freed."

I don't know if it was that day in particular that did it, but it was around that time that we just tossed our frayed little scraps of a marriage into Jesus' hands and said, "Okay, we so don't got this. You're going to have to teach us how this is supposed to go."

And holy crap, it worked!

It's still hard. We still fight. But I couldn't tell you the last time I thought, "I hate his guts and never want to talk to him again," which sounds utterly ridiculous now, but was a place I ended up in often during these meltdowns. It has been years since we had a fight that turned into a promise of mutually assured destruction. Where we were truly, actually enemies.

yeah. rough stuff, ahead, little ones.

There have been a few things that have made the hugest difference for us in the past few years have been:

1. We are on the same team. Always always. We refuse to go to a place where the battle is me versus him (Ephesians 6:12). When we feel it drifting that way, we try to press pause and reconnect. This can be physically with a hug, kiss or handhold, verbally with a straight up affirmation, "hey, I love you, and I am on your team," or spiritually by praying out loud together, "Jesus I'm finding myself wanting to punch Jesse in the eyeball, please change my heart."  All three of these things have pulled our chestnuts out of the fire dozens of times, and kept us from starting an excruciating hours-long journey down a very ugly road.

2. Letting God manage our spouse's growth. Hey, you know what works like 0% of the time? Trying to change who people fundamentally are through the force of your will. It usually just pisses them off, makes you seem negative, nagging, controlling, or critical, and even if you get the outcome/behavior you're looking for in the other person, it has probably cost something to the relationship or their self-worth

Jesse 100% got the ball rolling on this one. When issues came up with how I would do/handle something, he would typically try to show my why my reaction or choice was bad/wrong (not talking about sin behavior here, so much as just unhealthy methods of relating/living. Outright sin needs to be rebuked and addressed). This would usually end with me feeling attacked, him feeling frustrated, and nothing changing--with a good chance for a Chernobyl-esque brawl developing as well. 

So instead, one day he decided to just pray for me. And after a while he heard Jesus saying, "You just love her. Give her a safe place to be vulnerable and to rest, and I will do the work on her heart." (Ezekiel 36:26)   Jesse listened and obeyed, and sheesh did it work. I felt so not-attacked and so incredibly safe with him,that I began to ask  for ways that I could love him better. I was so overflowing with love and security that I had ample heart resources to invest back into Jesse and to really hear what he needed from me, rather than feeling attacked and criticized when those moment came up.

Jesse shared with me this journey he had been on when, months after it started, I had said, "Dude, marriage has been ass-kicking lately. What's up with that?" And when he told me, I was all, "OH MY GOSH THAT IS SO TOTALLY IT! IT FREAKING WORKED!" Like when they secretly switched people's normal coffee for Folgers and then told them afterward. 

And since it worked so well, I started doing it too. Let me tell you, it isnt just a dream come true to receive this kind of love; giving it is just as eye-opening and freeing. Instead of trying to come up with strategies to manage/manipulate/nag/convince Jesse into stomping out something annoying or lame that I think I see in his character, I can just let go. To give it to Jesus and recommit to loving Jesse right where he is now. If it's something that is an actual problem, I get to trust that the Lord will work it out (telling me how/when/if to do my part). I'm pretty controlling by nature, so this one can be difficult for me, but it is extremely liberating. It's like delegating to the creator of the universe (not that the task was ever truly mine anyway). I think I can rest easy knowing Jesus is on the job. Jesse's heart is mine to love; his rough edges and stumblements (new word) aren't my really responsibility or jurisdiction.

Said better: "Not my circus, not my monkeys." 

3. Knowing when there may be more than a heart issue at play. Many of the most frustrating themes in our marriage have been greatly alleviated by treating a biological problem. Thank you, Jesus, for Zoloft.


Eight years feels like a lot to me. But it's not a lifetime, and a lifetime is what we've signed up for. I'm not at all trying to say we've cracked the code or mastered marriage or that the work is now over because we beat the game. I know there are many battles to come and lots more lessons to learn in the rest of our years to come.

Today is about looking back on the eight that are under our belt. The belts are quite larger (and currently made of elastic in my case), but the love has grown exponentially.  I have always been really transparent about the hard times in our marriage, and blogging them has been very therapeutic.  I'm not as good at checking in to talk about the wonderful growth seasons. I have a fear of coming off as one of those people who only use the internet to share the sunny parts of their lives (absolutely okay! just not me).

I hope that the fact that I have never held back about the bad stuff can lend some credence to the fact that I am writing those posts so infrequently now because things have improved drastically.  As ugly and heart-bludgeoning and claw-my-face-off-frustrating as those years and those fights and those lessons were, it is so simple to say IT IS WORTH IT. I would do it all over again to get to where we are now; with a marriage that deserves the position of second place in our lives and hearts right behind Jesus. 

There were lots of hard times when I found myself saying, "Eff this, eff Jesse, eff marriage." Now, the mantra that comes out of me most frequently is "I effing LOVE marriage." When it's operating the way it was designed, it really feels like heaven.


Jesse Dukes- 

You are my lobster. 

You and your big, brilliant brain thought long and hard and responsibly about the decision to ask me to marry you.  Boy did you get that one wrong! Well, maybe not, but it sure looked that way for a while there, didn't it? I wonder if you still would have done it if you had known what those first years would look like. I know you loved me as much as any boyfriend can love a girl before they are married, but still, we really had no flipping clue about love--we were just hot stupid little kids. 

I bet you would have though. Because your big old brain knew I was a little bananas, and that we have extremely incompatible natural styles of relating, and that these things would make it hard. But your heart followed Jesus and trusted that he'd always be enough to pull us through those trapdoors and to take our stupid scraps and knit them and us AND HIM together into something we never even knew enough to hope for. 

You are not my everything. And that's only because, Jesus-wise, I don't think you're supposed to be, and I  do try really hard not to make you into that. But damn, you're pretty close, and would make it just so easy to idolize you. When I try to bring to mind the amount of gratitude that I feel that I get to be your wife, my brain just flashes that calculator error where there arent enough decimal places to display the result. 

Nowhere in the rules does it say I have to like you. Loving you is non-negotiable, but I could fulfill all the vows and still never really like you (no judgement, but, this is kind of what I think Michelle Duggar must do, because Jim Bob is such a gooberhead!).  But you are easily favorite. Your personality and who you are just hit all the stuff on my checklist, baby!

Thank you for letting Jesus lead you in loving me like He does. Thank you for loving me enough to let me be weird, whacked-out, work-in-progress me, and for never withholding any part of your heart from me until I have become pretty enough to deserve it (spoiler alert: I may never get there anyway!). 

Thank you for how you constantly point me and our children back to Jesus. How you model the Father's love for them, and for how you're giving them a safe place to be grown by God, stewarded by us,  into the humans He wants them to be. 

I love you so much, I just want to squeeze you into my pores and fully absorb all the awesome. But hey, today isnt just the anniversary of our wedding day, and there's a highly decent way of absorbing the awesome that Jesus also invented and is all about celebrating. HIYO. (with 4 weeks of postpartum no-no looming, I'm trying to go all out here at the end).

fine. i'll marry you. hold a knife to my throat, geez.


Totally Clutch(es)

Four of my best lady friends forced me to have a little baby shower party recently.  I have pictures and a whole post I need to do about how lovely it was. 

For the hostess gifts, I wanted to do something handmade, but decidedly not lame AND have it be something I had never made before that I would try just for them (as opposed to a beach bag or a scarf..."here, have some of my existing inventory," just wasn't the sentiment I wanted to convey).

but THESE say, "Women, I love your faces so hard and appreciate beyond belief the work that went into celebrating my baby girl and covering my with love!" I mean, I hope they do. There's always a thank you note, just in case.

I have been interested in trying my hand at sewing with leather for awhile now. When I scored a gorgeous, soft-beyond-belief, chocolate brown, men's large jacket at a thrift shop for $1, I knew it was time to jump in. Small investment, small risk.

A quick pinterest search netted me the perfect project with a great tutorial. Polka Dot Chair's Leather Foldover Clutch.

that caramel colored leather she used is so sexy! I'm on the lookout for some of my own!

I sliced up the jacket, stopping to make Jesse model the sleeveless look, of course.


In about an hour I had made a seriously decent clutch. The first one I had decided would be for me and if it went well, I would make another 4 with each girlie's personality in mind. I had a challenging blast picking inside and outside fabrics to match each girls' style (I stalked their Pinterests) and got to work.

I was so giddy about how they turned out, that I decided to take my time and try my best to photograph them well (I have a great camera and know a leeettle about what youre supposed to do with it, but I'm definitely not great, and it takes a lot of effort and thought for me to put it all into action, which is why I usually just settle for meh-quality, or phone pics). 

Plus, I had enjoyed making the clutches so much and had lots of extra leather that I figured I might make some more and eventually sell them in my Etsy shop, so a more professional looking set of photos of the product would definitely be useful.

After plenty of fiddling, and brain-stretching to try to put all the camera-ish things I'm supposed to know all together at once, I ended up with my favorite little set of project pics ever! And since I can only use 5 on Etsy, I wanted to splash the entire set here to remind me why taking the time to push myself with our camera is worth it--AND why trying new materials and projects to expand my sewing skills is too!

this was the one I did first, for myself in case it was terrible. 100% passable, i declare.

the lining and the zip and my first stab at a pull tassel which was pretty fail-ish.

my friend Liz is a crunchy, hippie (hello she birthed her twins at home in water!), earth-mother-of-4 doula rockstar.  She is the sweetest, most caring spirit I've ever known, and also loves a good vagina joke (my perfect mate!). I knew she'd been digging tribal prints lately from her pinterest so I went with the coral arrows.

a better tassel, and the cute cowboys and indians interior fabric.

i love this print!

for Nikki, the classically-styled professional working mama, I went with the gray and white print that is originally from a shower curtain i bought to upholster our barstools. I had to change the stools to a plastic-coated fabric about 2 days later when I realized that the kids would stain non-stain proof  fabric at each and every meal, but since Nikki wouldn't be eating atop her clutch, I figured it would serve nicely.

just like Nikki, a lot more wild on the inside. You may remember it was Nikki who escorted/inducted me into my first Brazilian waxing experience.

My girl Steph, the hot young (25...damn her) newly(ish)wed almost two years!) still has a life (aka no kids) and can pull off preppy and boho with equal panache.  I went for a classic black and white stripe since it will go great with anything and still pop and rock. Steph went to Haiti with Jesse this summer, and is a member of the family that yall helped to adopt 3 kids from Ukraine last year!)

dark pink herringbone for the interior. (totally looks like he is yelling at us)

for Natalie (who was my saving grace/voice of Jesus in this horrifying marriage meltdown moment, and whose baby shower I cohosted a few years back), a vintage-y sort of modern floral print. Natalie is a campus minister with many tattoos and is also a mom of 3 boys. She's one of the most authentic humans alive and is so easy-breezy. This organic print just seemed perfect for my beautiful ginger.

a feisty brown floral on the innards. (I'm sure nat's innards are the same).

And, if you know me, you know how bonkers I am for iterations. I just can't enough of multiple versions of the same thing all stacked up beside each other. I'd love to know what this means about my personality (probably "SUPERFREAK").

I could just take a big gobbley bite out of this stack!

stand proud, my lovelies!

a good shot of my more-perfected tassel design.

all the single ladies in a conga line.

girls, you're as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside.

I was stunned when I posted one of these pics on instagram. So many people wanted to buy them NOW. That made me feel so wonderful that I had made something desirable for my beloved friends. I had a break in Etsy orders one night, so I made a few more of these which are now available for sale. I even got a few new fabrics that I am excited to use if/when I ever get a free moment again.

Happy, fancy, flirty Friday (I may or may not have a child-free overnight date night with MUH-MAN on the docket!)


Nesting Infesting



You almost literally will not believe what happened to/atop of us this week...until I show you pictures.

Let's set the stage: I am 37+ weeks pregnant. Getting up out of a chair is cardio for me these days (which is why I mostly DONT get up). My kids sense this weakness and therefore their powers grow ever-stronger by the day as they realize they can run much farther amok and I am helpless to stop or retrieve them. I have just 4 office days left to train my temporary replacement so missing work to stay home is so not an option right now.

On Monday I decided to be super productive. I finished up the last (HURRAY!) of my Etsy orders and turned my attention to a jumbo KitKat breaking down half of the studio room into what will be a quasi-nursery with enough space for a crib when Noa eventually moves out of our room (bedside-sleeper for the first few months).  I also needed to set up all of our Fall decorations around the house that we had just hauled down from the attic and were just sitting in a big bin in the living room depressing me instead of making me feel all the cozy clichés of autumn like they were intended.

So I was in-process for awesome. But with me, this usually means I have just made a big mess getting everything spread out before me so I can form a battle plan. It's about to all go into new and clean and wonderful places, but for now it's just a teased-out mess. I'm so totally, gonna get back to it and finish it wonderfully.

I stopped at 1pm to go get the kids from school. As I am in carpool line the School Director comes up to my window. This is unusual but not unheard of. We are friends.

And then she says, "I have some bad news. Both of your kids..."

And my mind is trying to finish this sentence:

 "...attacked classmates today and are now expelled." 

"...attacked each other in the hallway and are now expelled."

These attack/expulsion scenarios are as far as I get when the REAL predicate of the sentence falls from her lips:

"...seem to have lice."

Jaw: dropped

A thousand deaths: died

10 years: taken off my life

Skin: Crawling

Noa: clawing her way back up the birthing canal all, "ummm, okay, no, I think I'd rather not come out after all. I'm good in here."

But the first thing I say? "Oh my freaking gosh, I think I have it too."

My head has been itching like MAD for a week or so. The pregnancy websites say this can happen in late 3rd trimester. Hormones can even cause scalp psoriasis and crazy-itchy dryness. I had complained to Jesse about had bad it was and we lovingly began calling it "my mange." We went so far as to have him examine my scalp for crazy rashes or even bugs and there was nothing. So even when the kids began scratching  their heads rather more than usual, I just didn't think anything of it. (Like a big dumb, dummy, dumbass).

But now the perfect little tetris piece slides down into place and it all makes sense. (Prepare for your head to itch badly as you read this. It's inevitable).

I get up to the front of carpool line to pick the kids up, and the director shows me in their hair what they had seen (Judah had been crazy ape-scratching so his teacher had asked that he be checked). I was expecting plague-like proportions of buggy-hoards to be traversing his scalp, but actually it was just tiny specks attached to some hairs about an inch from the scalp. This was my first lesson in Lice Education 101 (I stand here 4 days later holding a Doctorate Degree from the School of Hard Knocks Nits).

I am just mortified and apologizing profusely to both of their teachers and the director, and I am brought up short by how they are all saying, "No, no WE are sorry!" I'm like, wait, our family exposed yall to this scourge and you are saying you are sorry for us?!?!

I should have taken this as a sign of what was to come. The teachers knew...oh, yes, they knew what was in store for us.

I have never had lice. Not as a kid, not never. My kids have had the warning letters come home saying there was a confirmed case at the school, but preventing it is way easy. We just got this kit from the drugstore and sprayed them before school each day and cycled in the shampoo during regular baths. Easy as pie.

Yeah, but once you already have it? My parking lot phone research was quick to inform me: DIFFERENT BALLGAME.

We headed to the store to get a treatment kit and I braced myself for one horrible day of work: laundry, vacuuming, treating, combing, coaxing, bribing. 10 hours later I fell into bed exhausted. Everything had been sanitized or quarantined and I had spent 6 hours in my kids' hair combing out nits and the occasional live bug (can't even believe that sentence is something I am typing) and sweet, uninfested Jesse had uncomplainingly treated and combed all of MY hair when he got home.

i'm covered by the  "in sickness and in health" clause. also by jesse's neverending grace and love and awesome.

The house was destroyed. The baby and fall stuff was still scattered everywhere but forgotten.   There are trash bags full of stuffed animals and pillows all in quarantine. Fast food detritus on the counter because, yeah right, who is cooking during THIS!?! All hopes of "productive" have fled and we are on hardcore survival mode.

But it was worth it. Once the kids are treated and nit-free (gag), they are good to return to school. So when I woke up--sore beyond belief from being bent over the kids' heads for hours and from nonstop housework--I was tired but relieved that the nightmare (nit-mare? sorry) was behind us.

Dropoff is at 9 am. At 9:15 my phone rings. Yeah, they found a live bug on Judah.

I think my low point in all of this was when I went to the director's office to pick them back up, and my kids are sitting on the floor like happy little sprites (praise jesus they are too young to understand stigmas..Judah was happily announcing "Bugs laid eggs on my head and now they are HATCHING!") and I just plop all 90 million pounds of pregnant, hormonal me down next to them and start crying the director. "I dont know what else to do. I could not have possibly done more."

One thing my research had found was that this will often become a weeks or months long ordeal. If you miss one egg, the cycle can start all over again. And I am just extrapolating this out and realizing it's only going to get harder. That I'm getting less and less functional, and OH YEAH, there is a newborn about to jump on the scene as well. I just CANNOT keep doing this only to have it fail time and again.  All that effort and work wasted.

After pulling it together--now I am readily accepting all of the staff's sweet, "I'm so sorry" condolences. I start researching some more. I need another option because this has gotten way bigger than I have the capacity to handle right now. Turns out there are services and places just for lice treatment! Who freaking knew?

The price list was a little scary, but I am calculating the physical and emotional toll that just ONE day of DIY treatment took on me and the kids and Jesse and our house, and the hours spent, and the work and school missed, and the absolute NEED for this to be over and done with before the baby comes, and all of a sudden $150 per head and a guaranteed cure in one day seems pretty worth it.

And I know that everyone has a DIY home method they swear by: olive oil, Cetaphil, tea tree oil (we actually use this as preventative).mayo, vinegar, etc. I looked into these and they all looked pretty viable, but I just did/do not have the time to implement even one of these messy options and just hope it would work I  needed something I KNEW would work, and physically removing every trace of varmint by hand from our heads was the only way out for us when I needed a final, sure cure that very day.

Enter "Elimilice" (Love that name. Clutch branding, bros). They are Atlanta-area only I believe, but there are similar salons all over as far as I know.

*NOTE: I am writing this allllll on my own and received no discount or compensation for blogging about this place (though if I had been smart I might have asked beforehand because it was pricey...though worth it).*

Horrible, almost-funny irony: Elimilice is opening a branch 5 minutes away from us...in two weeks. Right now the closest one was an hour and half away. NO MATTER: nit-pickers can't be choosers! Off we went, stopping only to pick up a box of Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins for lunch because I just could not be waving this white flag any harder, yall.

We arrived and  I just remanded us into custody of the capable hands of professionals. "I can't do this myself.  Please fix us."

And over the next 3.5 hours they did just that. All three of us sat in a room together and had a technician work on us individually. Judah happily and quietly played iPad, and Layla, sensing a captive audience chirped, talked, sang, and performed her heart out in a never-ceasing and loud display of showing-off that nearly broke my brain.

I realized that I could never have combed the kids hair as thoroughly as was needed to completely eradicate this scourge. I didnt have the tools, the facilities or the skill to systematically go over every single hair multiple times. They treated us all with a conditioner type stuff (the whole shebang is all natural) to start with and let it sit for a while. This is a special stuff containing an enzyme to dissolve the glue the holds the eggs onto the hair shaft (I know. I'm dying too, having to read that..and I lived it!) so that they would come out when combed.

little lice spa babies.

After each and every stroke, the techs would rinse the comb into a bowl of clean water. They would do the entire head and then check the bowl. If there were nits or bugs they would repeat the process, going until an entire head's worth of combing produced water with no evidence. Judah had three rounds, and Layla and I had two. They said we all had really light cases (pride points? but, no, there are none to be had in this ordeal).

They said that it was no wonder I didn't get all of Judah's because his hair is so very thick. My parents, Jesse and the teachers had suggested shaving his head just to end the entire saga for him, but I absolutely couldn't. He is my little Samson, and his hair seems such a part of him! Plus, with the baby coming, there are going to be pictures taken that will be around forever! Unless a life is on the line: his lush locks remain!

The kids finished faster than me because my hair is so long and so tangle prone due to highlights. My tech had my hair so sectioned off and organized to be able to scour every millimeter of hair, that it was seriously impressive...if not super cute.

it was a rough couple of days.

The kids got to go into a special playroom JUST for the lice-free and they had a blast for an hour while I finished up. They also were thrilled to be treated to free snacks during the process (they had been offered DVD players from the start, but since we had brought our iPads, we didnt need them).

We left with scalps singing from being combed raw and clean, and with a guarantee that the process would work. We had to come back for a followup check and had to bring Jesse since he lives among the infested and would have to be checked and treated if necessary. Additionally we have to use the preventative stuff we already had on hand going forward so that it won't get passed back (I'm praying it was never passed from my kids to anyone else) or reinfested in any way, and we will need to do comb-through checks once a week.

At our followups we were declared still clean and Jesse smugly listened as he was declared never-infested to begin with (he's become a total Calvinist about the whole thing. He thinks he's elected to be more lice-resistant than us).

We marched proudly back into school on Wednesday and dared anyone to scorn or shun us (PS, this would never happen bc the staff is awesome and they keep the identities of the infestors confidential...I am exposing myself here). We have the cleanest heads in all the land, dammit!

It's funny because you hear all your life that lice has nothing to do with cleanliness, hygeine, socioeconomic status or anything controllable (you'd have to live the life of a hermit to 100% protect yourself. People being around people is what causes lice). And I totally believed that and tried to never judge when there was an outbreak. But knowing it's not their fault didn't stop me from branding the unknown child/family as  "UNCLEAN" in my head.

After taking a turn as the leper, it was really important to me to come out loud and, well, not proud, but just loud. One of my favorite bloggers, Rebecca Woolf, dealt with lice in her family (4 kids) for THREE MONTHS doing DIY treatment, and was just so upfront and honest about it that it super impressed me, and helped to break down a lot of the hush-hush shame that surrounded lice (it doesn't hurt that she is gorgeous  and brilliant and fashion-y and an amazing mom, and yet they STILL got lice. Those things shouldn't matter, yet i'll admit they did in my judgemental brain ).

So here I am saying it: The Dukes got lice.  It sucked.  What's more, we seem to have been Patient Zero at the kids' school since no one else has reported having it. I am sorry to all the other families who got the note from the school, and had to take preventative precautions. But I am also saying we kicked its ass and it's over. And that if your family gets the lice-whammy through no fault of yours, considering skipping the hassle and hours and mess in your own house and just let the pros handle it.

I have readjusted my hopes and again hope Noa will have hair when she is born, now that the threat has passed. The autumn decor is cheering me up daily from their appropriate positions around the house, and there is room for the crib and all of the baby clothes in the 3rd bedroom. Life has now returned to the crazy-insane abnormal normal that is life.

Suck it, parasites (just the figurative "it," not my family's scalp-blood. mmmkaythanks).

Have yall battled this beast? Dealt with prolonged recurrences? Been shamed by the L-word? Let's talk about lice!!!

If you read that whole post without your head itching then you are a jedi.