I had a whole other paragraph here but I just deleted it because SCORPION!
So there I was, carefully typing out said paragraph, and I see a dark, moving object on the floor to my right. I knew even before I looked down what it was, since dark moving objects are only ever one thing in this house.
But here’s the worst part: It was moving away from my desk in a clear trajectory. You would think that the “away” part would be good, but, nay, it was in fact deeply troubling, as it indicated that only a few seconds before, the scorpion must have been RIGHT UNDER MY DESK. Where my FEET are. It is extremely important to my mental health that the space under my desk, which I cannot easily see unless I scoot my huge chair way back, remain a FEET-ONLY zone.
To give you an idea of what I’ll be fixating on for the next 1,000 days or so, let’s take a moment to re-imagine me typing that paragraph in light of this information. Picture it like it’s a movie:
There’s the protagonist, smiling, dashing out her brilliant prose for her blog. You may have noticed that I’ve been slow to update the ol’ blog lately, she types. That’s because I’m so tired from getting up with a newborn that I’ve forgotten all of the English language except for about fifty words. Also, our house has been hit with a particularly disgusting stomach flu — but on the plus side, sometimes our two-year-old has to take a break from screaming and hitting me to puke. But I’m treasuring these moments since they go by sooooo fast!
Now the camera pans to her bare feet under the desk. We hear the clicking of her keyboard as we see the malevolent arachnid inch toward her toes. She pauses to come up with more scintillating content for her blog, and in the process stretches her legs. Her feet brush past the scorpion, missing it by mere millimeters. The scorpion feels threatened by the giant foot. It turns to engage, its dagger tail in the attack position, ready to plunge into the unsuspecting foot.
Just as it moves in for the kill, the protagonist thinks aloud about another possible sentence for her blog post. “I don’t even mind the fact that I also have a raging sinus infection, because I’m counting it all joy!” she says, which causes her to laugh so hard that she scoots her feet back just as the venomous point of the scorpion’s tail was about to be stabbed into her flesh.
If this were a good movie, it would end with the protagonist seeing the scorpion and promptly buying a new house. As it was, I screamed at Joe to come deal with it, which was unfortunate since he was evidently suffering from temporary amnesia in which he no longer knew that you can never, ever, ever kill scorpions on carpets:
Joe: [Raises up shoe and stomps on scorpion.]
Jen: That’s, uhh, that’s not going to -
Joe: [Angry scorpion now running at him with tail in the attack position.]
Jen: It doesn’t work to -
Joe: [Stomps scorpions a few more times. Scorpion stops moving.]
Jen: It’s not dead.
Joe: [Beholds silly woman and her crazy-talk with bemusement. Touches scorpion with tip of shoe. Scorpion jumps up and starts running at him again.] Whoa! This thing isn’t dead!!!
Joe eventually disproved the Can’t Ever Ever Ever Kill Scorpions on Carpets rule, but it was only after going all Michael Flatley on it for about five minutes. I maintain that the rule holds for me, though, as I would never try to kill a scorpion by stepping on it. I feel certain that I would somehow miss it and it would end up gripping onto my shoe with its little pincers, hoisting itself onto my ankle, then running up into the pantleg of my jeans, where it would sting my leg over and over and over again as I writhed and screamed in agony. (I assure you that this is only one of many things-going-horribly-awry-with-scorpions scenarios I have all worked out in my head.)
All this is a long way of saying: If my tone seems painfully strained for the rest of my writing career, it’s because I will henceforth be writing while holding my legs at least three feet off the ground.
A couple of weeks ago, a beautiful quilt arrived in the mail. And this wasn’t just any quilt: it was a prayer quilt, handmade by a group of ladies who specifically prayed for me while they were created it. Look at how beautiful it is:
The attached label said it was from the prayer quilt ministry at an Episcopal Church in Arizona. I wanted to assure the lady who sent it that I had received it and tell her how wonderful I thought it was, so I went to grab the card it came with to get her contact info. Only it wasn’t where I left it. I was sure I put it on the ledge by the back door. In fact, I had a hazy but firm memory of reading excerpts from the note to Joe, and remarking, “Oh, this just makes me want to — GET DOWN!” when I saw the baby standing in the middle of the kitchen table, holding a Rice Crispies box sideways. I am certain that I tossed the note onto the ledge in that blur of a moment when I lunged toward my child in an attempt to rescue both her and the soon-to-be-emptied cereal box (I succeeded in one of the two). Alas, the card has not been seen since then.
Anyway, in case any of the prayer quilt ladies check in on my blog, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank them for their kind gift. I also thought this would be as good of an opportunity as any to do one of those “day in the life” schedule posts that bloggers like Ana, Dwija, Elizabeth and Grace have have been doing lately.
I love these kinds of posts. LOVE. Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me, but I find that getting an hour-by-hour glimpse into someone else’s day reveals volumes about their lives (which is why I ask readers to talk about their schedules when they introduce themselves).
So I offer my own schedule below, as it may be interesting/revealing/helpful to fellow armchair anthropologists, other moms, people who must read inane blog posts as part of lost bets, criminals subject to punishment by extreme boredom, and anyone who, like the quilt ladies, may have tried to contact me and wondered why they didn’t hear back.
What follows is my best effort to recreate the events of the day that I received the quilt:
~ MORNING ~
8:00 AM: Wake up. Realize I should have gotten up at 7:30. Remember that that occurred to me the night before, but that I simply could not bring myself to set my alarm for that hour.
8:01 AM: Calculate number of times I had to get up to go to the bathroom night before, stew about how much precious sleep time this cost me. Feel certain that some pregnant woman somewhere has put a stop to this nonsense with a large package of Depends. Think that I totally respect that decision.
8:02 AM: Check email on my tablet. In the middle of a snarky reply to a friend, remember that I promised myself I’d do morning prayer first. Discard email and speed read Lauds from the Divine Office app while still in bed. Recite the Canticle of Zechariah like it’s one three-hundred-syllable word. Remind God to look at what’s in my heart and not the quality of my prayers.
8:10 – 9:00 AM: Get the two preschoolers up; get them breakfast; try not to think of how very far away this food is from the food I would like to be serving my children for breakfast; wonder, in fact, if this processed substance even qualifies as “food”; marvel at how long it takes children to eat; throw together the two girls’ lunches (quesadillas, mildly wrinkly cherry tomatoes, and strawberry apple sauce, a.k.a. the Mommy Hasn’t Been to the Store in a While Special).
9:00 AM: My dad arrives to shuttle the two girls to the parish preschool. Thank God for having such an awesome dad. Remember that back before my health problems I always took the girls to school myself, which meant that I had to get all five kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door on time. Shiver at the horror of such memories.
9:01 AM: Make a cup of coffee. Add lots of heavy cream. Assure myself that today I SHALL treat myself to two cups.
9:10 AM: Go upstairs, get dressed, sit on bed to give myself my morning shot of Lovenox. Pick the box of needles up off the floor, realize it’s probably the most expensive thing I own.
9:11 AM: Spend a ridiculously long time trying to find a good injection spot — not the easiest task in the world when you’re eight months pregnant and giving yourself a shot in the stomach. Just when I’m finally about to do it, hear baby cry in next room. Set shot aside, go get baby.
9:15 AM: Holler at my two oldest (ages six and eight) to wake up. Try to put shirt on my
insane spirited 20-month-old but she yanks it out of my hand and flings it across the room. I see that she is trying to engage me in a battle of wills. She wins. Take shirtless baby downstairs for breakfast.
9:20 AM: Gasp for a while after carrying baby down the stairs. Wonder if it’s because of pulmonary emboli, anemia, pregnancy, or generally being out of shape. Try to boost my energy with another cup of coffee. Have one sip, feel instantly nauseated. Realize that, once again, my body has shut off some sort of coffee intake valve. Calculate number of minutes until the end of this pregnancy.
9:50 AM: Supervise the kids’ foraging for breakfast food, tell the big kids to keep an eye on the baby, go upstairs to get this shot out of the way.
9:51 AM: Just as the needle approaches my skin, a knock at the door. Set shot aside again, run downstairs, see that it’s a package. Open package to see a beautiful prayer quilt. Open the enclosed note. Before I can read it, see the baby run into the living room with her bowl of cottage cheese. Wish that she had not just dropped it on the shag area rug. Wish that she had also not just stepped in it.
10:00 – 11:45 AM: After an “A for Effort” cleanup of the cottage cheese (which the carpet beetles undoubtedly appreciated), do homeschool lessons with the two older kids. Try not to mentally calculate how long it’s going to take us to clean up what the baby has destroyed during this time.
11:45 AM: Set the big kids up with their independent school work (worksheets, reading, etc.) Put baby down for nap. Try again to give myself shot. Half way through process, hear shouting that involves the word “BUTT!” coming from the supposed-to-be-working kids downstairs. Can’t yell threats at them because baby is trying to sleep in next room. Rush through shot, inject medicine too fast, feel like I’ve been bitten in the stomach by a snake.
11:50 AM – 12:00 PM: Grabbing stomach in pain, I get kids back on track, then go to read the note from the quilt ladies. Just as I reach for the card, the phone rings. It’s Yaya. She is furious, demanding to know why she can’t click on the box after she mashes the button where you type the word. After a few minutes of tech support she can open her email again, and we chat about neighborhood intrigue.
12:00 PM: Stomach still throbbing from shot. Calculate number of minutes until the end of this pregnancy.
~ AFTERNOON ~
12:30 PM: With the baby down for nap, the six-year-old and eight-year-old doing school work, and the toddlers at preschool for another hour, I have some time to get a few things done. Sit down in front of my computer in a confident and purposeful manner, some important thing I needed to do firmly in my mind. After the third time I have to yell out into the living room that “THAT DOESN’T SOUND LIKE SCHOOL WORK TO ME,” I’ve forgotten what I sat down to do. End up listlessly replying to a few emails.
1:20 PM: With 10 minutes to go until the two girls are home from preschool, remember that I have a post due for NCR tomorrow. Thaaaat’s what I sat down to do. Frantically dash out a rough outline with my remaining time.
1:30 PM: Preschool kids home. Thank dad profusely for his chauffeur services. See note from quilt ladies on counter, but the toddlers are tired, and the big kids need me to look over their work before we can declare school over for the day. One of the little kids has begun scribbling over the six-year-old’s spelling worksheet; six-year-old reacts as if these scribbles had been placed upon an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. After trying to simultaneously break up that fight while grading worksheets, have forgotten about card again.
1:35 PM: Kids expressing desire for food. Rioting breaks out in pantry. Oh, that’s right, lunch! Somehow I always forget about this meal. The prospect of making real food that all five of the children will eat overwhelms me. Scatter some cheese sticks and crackers on the table, dump out the fruit basket, tell the kids to go crazy. Snicker that even though half of this stuff is processed and full of dyes and preservatives, I can count it as a “paleo” meal for the ambiance alone.
2:00 PM: Beginning to feel profoundly exhausted. Muscles ache with a weird, lack-of-oxygen kind of feeling. Daily bout of painful nausea coming on. Eat something. As always, food makes nausea worse. Wonder how I’m going to survive the day. Calculate number of minutes until the end of this pregnancy.
2:30 PM: Babysitter arrives, which reminds me that I have an appointment with my obstetrician. Startle older kids by telling them to get their shoes on NOW-NOW-NOW because we have to leave in three minutes. Run around frantically looking for my purse, a sweater, and my tablet as the kids ask in vain where we’re going.
2:33 PM: Drop two of the kids off at Yaya’s (since all five is way too much for any mortal babysitter to handle), rush to OB’s office.
2:45 – 3:45 PM: See OB (the high-risk specialist I’ve been seeing for years, not Dr. K whom you met in Minor Revisions). Visit is nice, though the contraception / NFP issue is becoming an increasing source of tension as this epic pregnancy nears the end. We’ve been dancing around the details, but I have the sneaking suspicion that at least one of my doctors’ heads may explode when the cards are all on the table. Once again, I boldly defend my principles by…making a few vague statements and asking if we can talk about it at the next appointment. Leave office feeling stressed.
4:00 PM: Pick up kids from Yaya’s. Go back to house. Walk in door, behold noise and chaos, wonder how I ever do this. Nausea and shot-in-gut feeling now getting severe. Tell babysitter through exhausted gasps to holler if she needs anything, drag myself upstairs, flop onto bed, and stare at the ceiling while thinking about what to write for my NCR post. Calculate number of minutes until the end of this pregnancy.
5:00 PM: Babysitter needs to go home. Lie on bed, unable to move. Am reminded of that Jerry Springer episode where the guy was so heavy that they had to tear down a wall and back an ambulance basically up to his bed to get him out. Think that might need to happen here. Realize I’m on the second floor. Try to imagine the extensive system of ropes and pulleys that would be required to hoist me downstairs.
5:00 – 6:00 PM: Eventually drag myself to the living room to say goodbye to babysitter, resist urge to stand in front of the door and forbid her to leave. Some kids go outside to play, some watch Netflix. I hope that this means that I can zone out and/or work on my NCR post. I am wrong. Every fives minutes I have to jump up and stop the baby from destroying something and/or pulling someone’s hair. Every time I feel a little closer to death.
~ EVENING ~
6:00 – 6:30 PM: The kids do their evening checklist of chores, which includes picking up toys, sweeping, and vacuuming, with only minimal yelling involved. I clean the kitchen (read: finally put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher). House looks great. Think of how amazed Joe will be when he sees how tidy everything is.
6:30 – 6:45 PM: Start dinner (a frozen meal brought by a friend), rummage through the pantry for a side dish. Have to sit down three times to rest and catch my breath.
6:45 PM: Go back to the living room, see that the baby has dumped out a box of toys, removed most of the books from the kids’ bookshelf and thrown them around the room, and scattered the carefully-organized shoes from the shoe rack. Before all-consuming rage takes over, have a brief flicker of awe that she could undo half an hour’s worth of work in just a few minutes. Call Joe, leave an impassioned voicemail that begins with “I DON’T KNOW WHY I EVEN TRY,” and ends with a solemn promise that I am “never, ever even attempting to clean this house again” and a suggestion that maybe I should legally change my name to Sisyphus.
7:00 PM: Joe home. After I’m done seething, show him the beautiful blanket. Remember the card, go to read it. The kind words bless me so much, and I say to Joe, “Oh, this just makes me want to — GET DOWN!” Baby is standing in center of kitchen table with a box of Rice Crispies. Throw card in the general direction of the ledge, grab baby, but not before she dumps the contents of the box onto the table. Look from the pile of cereal to Joe, confident that this vindicates my dramatic voicemail.
7:00 – 8:30 PM: Clean up mess on table. Eat dinner mostly standing up, as Joe and I have to play waiter since someone seems to need something every two minutes. Send big kids to shower, give little kids bath. Getting to pick the bath water color with these dye tablets is the highlight of the evening for the three-year-old…though it’s a little weird when she picks yellow.
8:45 PM: Three little kids in bed. Big kids want to watch a show, but house is so small that they’ll wake the little ones if they watch it on the main TV. Send them to the pantry/laundry room with my tablet to watch Netflix on it, since that’s the only downstairs room that’s away from the bedrooms and has a door they can shut. Realize that the pantry has become a sort of rec room. Wonder if that’s a sad statement of the overcrowding in our house or a Pinterest-worthy example of efficient use of space.
9:00 – 10:00 PM: Joe cleans kitchen by himself while I give myself my evening Lovenox shot, then we head to the living room to hang out. When we realize that we’re both watching an episode of Barney that was left on from earlier, we give up the charade of having quality time together and call the night a loss. Joe goes to bed and I get back to my NCR post.
~ NIGHT ~
10:00 PM: Send the big kids to bed. Finally get to work on post. As usual, being able to write effects me like Valium or a good glass of wine. Am so, so, so thankful for blogging, as blog posts are the one thing in my life that I can create that will not subsequently be destroyed by the kids five minutes later.
10:10 – 11:00 PM: Big kids come downstairs approximately 9,887 times while I’m trying to finish my post. At some point they remind me that we never did night prayers. I close my laptop and do my best impression of a spiritually mature mother who is delighted to have her long-awaited and desperately-needed down time interrupted so that she can send up prayers to the Lord with her precious children.
11:00 PM – 12:00 AM: [Fall into a time warp where this hour mysteriously disappears.]
12:00 AM: Schedule NCR post to run. Look at the clock and am shocked to see that it’s midnight. Admonish myself to get to bed immediately. Remind myself that this is serious: I really need as much sleep as I can get. No joke. Really. I must get in bed and turn out the lights this instant.
12:00 – 1:15 AM: Read blogs on my tablet.
1:20 AM: Just before I drift off, think of those wonderful ladies who took the time to make the prayer quilt for me. Remind myself to thank them. Realize with an ominous feeling that, just before I went to bed, I did not recall seeing their card on the ledge where I thought I left it.
* * *
There you have it! For those of you who have not fallen asleep or committed seppuku, you now have all the details into a typical day around here.
So thank you to the ladies who made that beautiful quilt for me, as well as all the others who have sent me kind emails, letters, and gifts. It blesses me more than you know, even if I am often so overwhelmed by the craziness of daily life that I’m terrible at expressing it.
An old friend got in touch with us recently, and his experience was proof that trying to contact one of the Fulwilers by telephone often yields different results than you would expect it to. Below is a transcript of our friend Sandeep’s experience with this endeavor.
Before you read it, there are three things you need to know: 1) As part of his never-ending quest to thwart The Man, Joe is constantly switching to new, cheaper cell phone plans, which always involves changing his mobile number. 2) He recently switched our home service as well (see #1 re: The Man), which involved losing our longtime home number. 3) Joe sees answering phones as a completely optional activity; if a phone rings near him, he feels no particular compulsion to turn his attention to it, and usually keeps his cell phone turned off.
SANDEEP: Hey, Jen, how’s it going? Could I just get Joe’s cell number from you?
ME: I don’t know it.
SANDEEP: You don’t know it?
ME: No, but it doesn’t matter. He wouldn’t answer it anyway.
ME: Yeah, he never answers it.
SANDEEP: Oh. Wow. Okay, do you know if he’s at work right now?
ME: Actually, he’s at home.
SANDEEP: Oh, great! What’s your home number?
ME: I don’t know.
ME: He doesn’t answer that number either though.
SANDEEP: Okay. Well, I’ll just leave him a voicemail.
ME: We don’t have voicemail. Or, maybe we do, but we’ve never figured out how to check it.
SANDEEP: [More stunned silence.] Okay, so, I guess I’ll just send him another email and wait to hear back?
ME: That would probably be best.
And I’ve told you before about this exchange, which I had again recently:
FRIEND: Did you get my text?
ME: I never check texts. You should email me.
FRIEND: I did.
ME: Oh, that’s right, I avoid email. It stresses me out.
FRIEND: Did you at least get my voicemail?
ME: I hate checking voicemail. It takes so long, you know? You have to sit there and listen to that voice say, “At…three…twenty…two…on…Friday…” [Shuddering.] I only do it about once a week.
FRIEND: So, I guess I need to come to your door if I need to get in touch with you?
ME: I guess.
FRIEND: Okay –
ME: But sometimes I hide behind the couch when I hear a knock.
Sandeep, who is evidently more of a phone-answering, cell-phone-number-knowing kind of person, finally caught Joe on the phone later in the week and asked in bewilderment if this was some kind of Catholic thing (wondering also if we were perhaps in a witness protection program).
I would like to think that it is a Catholic thing: we have cultivated a domestic monastery for our house, and a big part of creating a prayerful, focused environment is limiting sources of external distractions.
…Or maybe we’re just annoying introverts.
Well, that whole “sleeping” thing was nice while it lasted. Not that I had been doing a ton of it anyway. The baby keeps waking up in the middle of the night to yell for no particular reason (as my husband commented at 3:48 AM, “She seems to have lost her association of ‘darkness’ with ‘shut the &%*$ up’”). For a while that bothered me, and I wished that I could go ahead and not be jolted from peaceful slumber by the shouts of a 13-month-old dictator, but it’s all moot now, since I’m going to spend the entirety of every evening standing in the center of my room in a hazmat suit with a can of Raid.
This decision was occasioned by Yaya telling me this morning that she was stung by a scorpion that was in her bed last night. In true Texan form, she was not relaying the story because she found it remarkable that she was attacked by a scorpion while she slept, but because she wanted to let me know that she kept it for the kids to play with. They went over there for a visit this afternoon, and (when, O when, will this kind of thing stop surprising me) they tried to get back in the car with this:
[UPDATE 1: It turns out that this was not the scorpion from the bed attack, but another one that the kids found on the couch just now.]
[UPDATE 2: Kill me.]
[Update3: They found yet a ANOTHER scorpion later that day, bringing the total to three. I need an evacuation helicopter to get me out of here NOW.]
It is hard to describe how I reacted to seeing my four-year-old holding a bag containing a very active scorpion, then having said bag waved two inches from my face as she jumped around and begged me to let her take it home. Let’s just say it ended with, “Mommy shouldn’t say those words. Don’t repeat that.”
Anyway, this chart is now even more ominous, as the other people I know who have scorpions in their houses are have been stung in bed multiple timesnow.
They’re coming for me. It’s only a matter of time.
What will it be like when it finally happens? Perhaps it will get wrapped up in my in my pajamas and sting me repeatedly as I thrash around in terror and agony, screaming to the heavens for mercy, only to have each move elicit further stings. Then I realize with explosive despair that, given the fact that it is impossible to kill scorpions on carpets, there is no way that I could kill it on the bed, even if I could get it out of my pajamas. Pounding it with a shoe would just make it mad, then it would get away from me, and would return for vengeance, just at the moment that I went back to sleep. Left with no other option, I throw myself out of the second-story window, yet the impact isn’t enough to kill the creature, and I lie in our back yard, my bones broken, unable to move, and the scorpion KEEPS STINGING ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!!!!! (Not that I have carefully developed this scenario through hours and hours of lying awake thinking about it.)
Let me interrupt the sharing of my tortured middle-of-the-night visions to say that I know that someone has already begun composing an email to tell me that I shouldn’t try to kill scorpions. Don’t do it. For one thing, I might injure my finger from the force and speed I would employ to press the Delete button. Also, writing up anti-scorpion-killing emails directed to me is the apex of futility; it is the very epitome of the phrase complete and utter waste of time. I got a few after I wrote about my son being stung in the face, and had to explain that I adhere unwaveringly to this decision making flowchart:
Another exercise in futility would be to ask me if I have ever been stung by a scorpion at all yet. A friend inquired about that the other day, and I just froze and made a pained groaning noise. I cannot speak of it. I have become deeply superstitious about this issue, and know that to answer in the negative would ensure that I would be the victim of a particularly bizarre and terrifying attack by the end of the day. (IMPORTANT NOTE TO THE MYSTERIOUS FORCES THAT CONTROL THESE THINGS: I did not just say that I have never been stung by a scorpion; I merely noted that IF I had miraculously avoided this fate so far, I would not speak of it.) I know, I know, we’re not supposed to be superstitious. But, in my defense, I have witnessed firsthand the power of the poop fates, and I did have a scorpion on my couch within 12 hours of writing that I hadn’t seen one in months.
Anyway, let me know if you have any suggestions for how I could handle this situation. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Crawl into a corner with a bottle of wine and scream, “They’re going to get me!!! I CAN’T ESCAPE!!!!!”
- Learn to sleep standing up while balancing on a small stool.
- Buy a RelaxMan.
- Ask Stacey Adams if he offers a package where he moves in with you. Some people have live-in nannies, I’ll have a live-in exterminator.
Now that I think about it, #3 looks pretty promising. Sure, they cost $50,000 (+$2,500 shipping and handling), but when you think about what we’d avoid having to spend in Valium prescriptions and intensive psychiatric care for me, we’d really be saving money. I am deterred not at all by the fact that we don’t have the money, or by thought that if we were to take on $52,500 in debt there might be something better we could use it for. Who needs a college education or a luxury vehicle when you can have the security of sleeping in a hermetically sealed tube? Sure, some folks might make fun of me when they see what looks like a giant white space capsule in the center of the living room — but we’ll see who’s laughing when they’re being stung by scorpions in the middle of the night and I’m not!
But wait. It occurs to me as I write this: What if I accidentally left it open during the day, a scorpion crawled inside, and I ended up TRAPPED IN THE RELAXMAN WITH A SCORPION!!!!!
If you never hear from me again, assume I went with option #1.