Tuesday, July 11, 2017

First call to poison control

A two-year-old, I think, should be able to play outside in the company of a group of seven children spanning the ages of two and eleven (specifically: 11, 10, 9 (but almost 10), 7, 7, 5, and 2) without me being there to supervise every moment.

I had just chastised the children about coming in and out of the house and never closing the door, not only because I don't want to have to close the door every thirty seconds but because our house was rapidly filling with insects.

The kids were in the yard (the front yard because these particular friends aren't allowed in our backyard for whatever reason) working on some corn husk dolls. Andrew made tamales yesterday and we had way too many corn husks for the amount of tamales he made, so we let the kids have at 'em.

Rachel had pulled up the instructions online (unsupervised!) but we couldn't get them to print so she was coming in and out of the house for every single step until I finally lost it and said, "You have got to stop coming in and out of the house because every time you do I have to get up to close the door because you guys can't seem to manage to do that yourselves!"

"I'm just reading the instructions," she objected.

"Surely you can read through them and remember how to do it. This isn't your first time making them. Or you can just invent a way. But you have to stop coming in and out."

"FINE!" Rachel snapped back and stormed out of the house.

Literally one minute later, Miriam walked into the house.

"What now?" I asked.

"Rachel just sent me to..."

"Okay," I cut her off. "When I told her 'you' have to stop coming in and out of the house, I meant ALL of you."

To their credit, the children have been raised in the south so clearly I should have been using y'all as my 'collective you.'

They had yarn, they had scissors, they had cornhusks, they had experience, and they'd both read the instructions. What more could they possibly need?!

Soon after Miriam left the house, Zoë started banging on the storm door.

"In! In! In, Momma! In!" she called.

I opened the door for her.

"You want to come in?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said, then she brought her hands up to pet her tongue. "Yucky."

I bent down and was nearly knocked over by the smell of her breath.

"What have you been drinking?!" I asked. "Open your mouth again. Let me smell. Bug spray! Have you been drinking bug spray?!"

"Yucky," she said again.

Miriam had asked to use the bug spray, but I'd assumed she'd put it away when she was finished with it because that's one of the rules about bug spray. Evidently, however, she had left it outside within Zoë's reach. Equally evident: Zoë had been applying it liberally...everywhere.

I called Miriam inside and sent her to her room, swatting her behind with the bottle of bug spray on the way. And then I called poison control and was connected to what was most possibly the most soothing human voice I have ever heard. They calmed me down right away.

I explained the problem—my two-year-old had bug spray breath—and they had me tell them some information from the bottle—Off! Deep Woods Sportsmen, 25% DEET.

"Alright, was it an aerosol can or a hand pump?"

"It's a hand pump," I answered.

"Did the top of it come off, or is the spraying mechanism still attached?"

"It's still attached," I said.

"Well, that's a good," he said. "That means she wasn't likely drinking it. She was just...spritzing."

The biggest worry, he explained, is a risk of seizure from overexposure to the neurotoxins in DEET, followed up by mild irritation of the mouth/throat/gut to stomach bleeding and intense vomiting (depending on how much she managed to consume). Any sort of big reaction should happen within a couple of hours of ingestion so I was supposed to monitor her behaviour for the next couple of hours and call back immediately if something happened, otherwise they'd be calling back to check in on her at the two hour mark.

I felt a lot better after talking to them, and almost felt bad that I'd freaked Andrew out by telling him about it. He was on his way home from work.

After I hung up I called Miriam out of her bedroom for a refresher course on bug spray use.

"This is poison," I reprimanded. "You should have put it away when you were finished. You left it out in Zoë's reach and she ate it. I just got off the phone with poison control. "

"I didn't know it was poisonous," she said.

"You did know," I said. "I have always been very open about the rules surrounding bug spray. Have you ever heard me get crazy about bug spray before—for example, if someone starts spraying it in the house or if someone is spraying it on random things on the front porch?"

"I don't think so," she said.

"Oh, really?" I asked.

"Okay, fine. Yes."

"And what have I told you about how we put it on?"

"You just spray it on, but we don't use our hands to rub it in because we might accidentally put them in our mouths."

"And why would that be bad?"

"Because it's pois...oh. I guess I knew it was poisonous after all."

"And where do we keep the bug spray?" I asked. "Do we keep it down low where just anyone can get into it?"

"No. We keep it up high."


"So that Zoë and Benjamin can't reach it," she grumbled.

"Read the back of this bottle," I said. "What does it say right at the very top in big, bold letters?"

"HAZARDS TO HUMANS..." she read.

"I think Zoë is going to be okay," I said. "But we really can't have things like this happen. If you use something dangerous you have to put it away. You wouldn't leave a sharp knife on the floor for Zoë to find, would you?"


"Then you can't leave bug spray out for her to find, either," I said. "It is not my job to go around making sure everyone puts everything away properly. I am not the only one who opens doors or turns on lights or uses small items or other dangerous things, so I should not be the only door-closing, light-turning-offing, choking-hazard-finding, poison-picking-upper in the house. I need your help to keep Zoë's environment safe. There is only one of me. There are four of you."

And with that I sent a rather morose Miriam back outside to continue with her corn husk doll. Zoë and I settled down on the couch to watch a show with a sippy cup full of ice water. When Andrew got home I gave Zoë a bath while Andrew hunted down and killed over twenty flies that had come in during the many, many door-openings of the afternoon.

After snacking on some pistachios and dry cereal, Zoë's breath was much improved, and nothing terrible ever happened.

"If nothing has happened by now, I think we're pretty much out of the woods," I was told when poison control called back for an update. "You can stop worrying, Mom."

Yes. I can stop worrying. Whatever that means.

Later that evening, we gathered in the living room, squeezing in between piles of boxes, for family scripture study. We opened our scriptures where we'd left off the night before...section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants (also known as The Word of Wisdom, a revelation about health (primarily comprised of lists of things to consume or avoid)).

"You know, Zoë," I said. "I don't think the Word of Wisdom specifically calls out bug spray but I think it's safe to say that drinking bug spray goes against the Word of Wisdom."

"Why?" Zoë asked, while everyone else laughed.

This girl always wants to know why. She's curious about everything and is constantly getting into things she's not supposed to. And you know what they say—'twas curiosity what killed the cat. Hopefully she'll grow out of this experimental stage soon, but until she does, I have a feeling that tonight won't be the last time we lovingly caress her before bed and say, "I'm glad you're alive."

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