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.
My mother-in-law, Yaya, is Baptist. Well, currently she attends Joel Osteen’s church, but the official denomination that she would claim to be a part of (and in which she raised my husband) is the Southern Baptist church.
Friends sometimes ask if there’s been any tension between us and Yaya since my husband and I converted to Catholicism in 2007, but there really hasn’t been. Occasionally my husband will try to start a good-natured debate with her about doctrinal differences, but she’s never interested: “I love Jesus and y’all love Jesus and Jesus loves us and that’s all I really need to know,” she once said.
Like in every other area of life, the details of Christian doctrine are of little importance to her — in fact, I’m not sure if she notices them at all. She is so intensely focused on the big picture that she doesn’t have time to mess around with the small things. (For example, when she unloads the dishwasher when she’s visiting our house, she takes the silverware basket and just dumps the whole thing into the drawer. “I’m not gonna sit there and sort knives and forks when I’ve got grandchildren I could be hugging and kissing!” she says.)
Nevertheless, as a gesture of respect, I rarely bring up the areas of Christian doctrine where Baptists and Catholics differ. In general, I figure there’s no need to wade into controversial territory and risk causing tension between us.
But then Yaya lost some important paperwork. And I decided to tell her about St. Anthony.
My phone rang one afternoon, and as soon as I said “hello?” I heard Yaya’s voice shouting, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO I’VE LOOKED EVERYWHERE FOR THIS STUPID THING AND IT’S JUST LOST AND IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY!” She eventually calmed down enough to explain that she’d been helping an elderly friend who’d been caught up in a scam, and she’d borrowed some critical documents to contact state officials on his behalf. Now they were lost, and her friend desperately needed them.
I wasn’t sure how she’d react to this, but I decided to risk it: “Have you ever heard of the St. Anthony prayer?” I asked.
She said she hadn’t. I proceeded to tell her about the Catholic tradition (with a lower-case “t”) that Anthony of Padua prays for people who have lost items. I recounted some c-r-a-z-y moments I’ve had after saying the St. Anthony prayer, including the time my husband’s cell phone had been lost for a week. We’d turned the house upside down and had finally given up, though a new phone wasn’t in the budget. I was thinking about it in RCIA class one night, and asked St. Anthony to pray that it turned up. Not five minutes later my phone rang. I didn’t answer it since I was in class, but later I heard the voicemail from my mom telling me that the kids just found the cell phone. I have countless St. Anthony stories like that.
“That’s what I need! How do I do that prayer?” Yaya asked.
Surprised at what an easy sell it was, I told her the words to the simple prayer:
St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around,
something is lost and can’t be found!
I started to include some caveats about how we’re just asking another human to pray for us, that it’s not a magic spell or anything like that, but she cut me off and said she had to go say that prayer. She called back that night, ecstatic: she’d found the papers. Yaya was officially sold on the St. Anthony prayer.
Since this was obviously going to become a key devotion for her, I thought I’d take the opportunity for a little catechesis on the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. “Now, Yaya, I want to clarify that Catholics do not believe that saints have any power of their own,” I began. “We believe that they’re just regular people who are ‘alive in Christ’ in heaven and can pray to the Lord for us.”
“I am so excited that St. Anthony found that paperwork for me!” she shouted, and I heard the shuffling of papers in the background. I wasn’t sure if she heard what I’d said.
“You know, in the second century a bunch of prominent Christian writers talked about this belief. Origen of Alexandria wrote about how saints who have ‘fallen asleep in Christ’ pray for those of us still on earth…”
“I was so angry I was fixin’ to slap someone if I didn’t find those papers! But that St. Anthony sure did come through. I’m going to pray to him more often!”
“Ah, yes, well, I hope you understand that when we talk about ‘praying to’ saints, we’re using the word ‘pray’ there as shorthand for ‘communicating,’ different than when we pray to Jesus, which is an act of worship. We only ask the saints for their prayers, no different than when you asked your friend Ethel to pray that you found the documents.”
The response was more ebullient commentary over the sounds of scattering papers, so I said I’d just email her some additional info about this doctrine.
I figured she must have read what I sent her, or perhaps absorbed my erudite theological explanations, because we heard a lot about St. Anthony in the ensuing months. When she lost her safe deposit box key, she called my husband in a panic.
“I need you to pray to St. Anthony! I can’t find this thing anywhere!” she said.
“Sure, I’ll ask him to pray for us,” he said, thinking that that would be the end of it.
She paused, waiting for him to start. “Do it now,” she said.
“Oh, umm. Okay.” He cleared his throat and said, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and can’t be found.”
She paused again. “Tell him it’s a safe deposit box key.”
And my husband repeated the prayer, this time replacing “something” with “a safe deposit box key.” Yaya found the key the next day, once again giving thanks to her buddy St. Anthony.
I was delighted with this opportunity for interdenominational dialogue, perhaps feeling a bit satisfied with myself that I’d offered such a rock-solid defense of the Communion of Saints that even my Baptist mother-in-law was convinced.
Then, the other day, I got another frantic call. This time she was so frustrated she could hardly speak because she’d lost her driver’s license and needed it to register for something. It’d been gone for a few days. She couldn’t find it anywhere. “Did you say a prayer to St. Anthony?” I asked. I’d obviously explained this teaching so well that I could relax my terminology, so I’d begun using the shorthand phrasing of “praying to” saints rather than the full articulation that we are simply asking the saints for their prayers.
“Jennifer, I’ve tried everything!” she said over the sound of slamming drawers and crashing boxes. “I prayed to Jesus, I prayed to St. Anthony — hell, I asked Jesus to say a prayer to St. Anthony!”
Looks like we may have a ways to go on this one.
By popular demand, I’ve put together a “Best of Quick Takes about Yaya” post collecting all the times I’ve referenced my mother-in-law in 7 Quick Takes.
December 5, 2008
When Yaya is in town, one of the activities that we can all agree on as fun and not offensive is to watch reruns of the 1980′s show Matlock, which we record on our DVR specifically for this purpose. What has happened more than once, however, is that we end up getting sucked into one of the mysteries only to find out that we accidentally recorded a two-hour made-for-TV movie or that the episode we’re watching is continued in a Part II. But by the time we realize it we cannot rest until we see how it ends, so we end up staying up ridiculously late to see the story through to the finish. This is called “getting Matlocked.”
December 19, 2008
Yaya is visiting for a week. This picture pretty much summarizes the trip:
March 13, 2009
To my great distress, we saw a scorpion a few weeks ago (“a few weeks ago” as in “IN FREAKING FEBRUARY DON’T THESE THINGS EVER HIBERNATE!!!!!”). It is somehow not surprising that Yaya was involved (longtime readers may remember this classic Yaya + scorpion story). I heard her urgently calling the kids to come out on the back porch and ran out myself to see what all the commotion was about.
When we all got outside she was forlorn, explaining that she’d found a scorpion under the kids’ toy box and tried to catch it for them to play with but, alas, it was gone now. Having long since given up on trying to have the age-old “Are scorpions appropriate playthings for young toddlers?” debate with her, I feigned disappointed and turned to go back inside.
Just as I was about to close the door, on a hunch I asked, “Where did the scorpion go?”
“Oh, it ran in the house,” she said casually.
Scorpion season has begun.
March 27, 2009
If you were to look up “setting yourself up for failure” in an English phrase dictionary, this is what you would see:
Yaya brought this life-sized Easter bunny when she came to stay this week. It’s evidently something she’s had for a while that she wants to keep nice, so she’s adamant that the kids not touch it. It is sitting in the middle of our living room. Our older kids are ages 4, 2 and 1. This awesomely huge bunny has his own little outfit, an Easter basket, floppy ears and moveable arms and legs. And they’re not supposed to touch it.
About every ten minutes my husband and I have to run off to another part of the house to secretly laugh hysterically when Yaya reacts with shock that one of the kids is yet again playing with the rabbit. Many a joke along the lines of “Maybe we could put a mountain of candy in the middle of the floor and tell them not to look at it!” has been made.
April 3, 2009
I have to admit, I miss the Sisyphean drama that unfolded hourly when he was here (described a bit in #2 here). Yaya would get the rabbit fixed up just right, then one of my little girls would bounce up and put a bonnet on him or take his little basket away. Yaya would react with shock — utter, complete shock — that the toddlers weren’t following her stern admonishment to not touch the brightly-colored, life-sized toy rabbit in the middle of the living room. She’d get him all fixed up again…and then my four-year-old son would come racing up and see how many times he could rapid-fire karate chop the rabbit before Yaya yanked him away. She’d get the rabbit all fixed up again and then…well, you get the idea.
After a glass of wine on Friday night I was inspired to do an interpretive performance of the events week, and went outside to yell at moths to tell them to STAY AWAY FROM THAT LIGHT. (Yaya was only mildly amused.)
June 26, 2009
Speaking of my tendency to write about stinging insects, here’s a Yaya story from this weekend: Shortly after we arrived, I was on her back porch with the kids and looked up to see a thriving wasps’ nest right above my head. Under normal circumstances I would tell you that it’s important to control your phobias so as not to impart your own irrational fears to your kids. However, when I looked up to see 100 (OK, maybe eight) wasps buzzing around their nest about a foot away from my head, my reaction was something along the lines of “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! NOW! NOW! BEFORE THE WASPS ATTACK US! THEY’RE GOING TO STING US!!! AAAAH!!! IT’S SO TERRIBLE!!!!!”
I had just dragged all the kids to safety out in the yard when Yaya walked outside, holding some scissors she’d gone inside to get. I shrieked a warning at her just as she walked under the nest. She looked up, shrugged, and knocked the wasps’ nest down with the handle of the scissors. The nest fell right next to her feet, angry wasps darting all around her, and she took a moment to wipe off the scissors with her shirt before strolling off.
And you guys thought I was kidding when I said that she’s nonchalant about being stung by scorpions in bed!
When I called Yaya on Friday to ask if she’d prepared for hurricane Ike, which was headed right for her Houston-area home, she announced, “I sure did! I bought six bottles of wine and a bag of turkey wings.” It was with colorful language that she noted from a patchy cell phone connection this morning that a better plan would have been to have bought a generator and fresh water.
My prayers go out to Yaya and everyone else who is without electricity (and will be for the immediate future) in the wake of hurricane Ike.