I’ve been at an internal battle with myself on whether to share what’s been consuming my life these last five days, because I don’t want to make my friends think they can never come over to my house again for the rest of their God-given lives. But ya’ll…our worst nightmare unfolded over the weekend.
First of all let me just say…my gutter is unclogged (although there is still a crack in need of repair, which has temporarily been put on hold due to a natural disaster of sorts…). I also dug a trench, laid down plastic water guides and filled them with rock, and bought a couple of drain pipe extenders to guide rainwater from the drain pipe at the base of my retaining wall to the new trench that runs to the sewer drain next to my shed. Why? Because the flow of water from my neighbor’s yard and from the retaining wall drain pipe both, rushed straight into my garden!
After that last heavy rain, so much dirt had washed away that three of my landscape blocks that edge my garden were completely unburied and laying over on their sides, and there was a gap of missing earth around my downspout. I clearly needed some irrigation to direct the water in a less-intrusive path to the drain that doesn’t include washing away my garden, which I will begin planting with early Spring veggies this coming weekend!
Then, I tilled the garden, prepped my pots for container gardening, and hauled 15 concrete blocks to the top of my retaining wall, nestled them comfortably in behind it and filled all 30 holes with soil, ready for the Spring planting of onions and garlic and herbs (oh, my!). Three trips to Menards and lots of playing with dirt later, I got to go inside for a late lunch break.
And now, on to the squeamish, stomach-turning, horrifying part of this story…
Hunter has been having some issues with hives on his arms the last several weeks, and I’ve been on a desperate search to figure out what was causing them. I assumed it was likely the laundry detergent, or possibly dust mites since he has an impressively long list of allergens that he’s sensitive to and needs multiple allergy meds to get him through in the Spring. So I bought new detergent and commenced washing all of his bedding in hot water with the new detergent and sent him to bed Friday night in a freshly laundered bed.
And Saturday morning, he woke up itchy again. What. The. ****! So after my morning of butt-busting yard work, I finally sat down to a well-deserved lunch with a glass of Shiraz, and started thinking about Hunter again. What the world could it be?? And then I thought about something he had said before going to bed the night before. “I hate going to bed, it’s always itchy.” At the time I’d shrugged it off as a sensitivity to detergent and said, “well your sheets have all been washed in dye-free, fragrance-free detergent now, so there should be no more of that.”
I thought no more of his comment until that moment, while sitting at the lunch table. He hates going to bed…it happens while in bed. Suddenly, a horrifying thought crossed my mind. But…no…it can’t be that. Those only show up in dirty places and businesses with lots of traffic…like hotels and theaters and buses. Buses…Hunter rides a bus. But our house isn’t dirty. Although one can only imagine the amount of crap Hunter has crammed under his bed right now… But…we aren’t dirty people!!!
But my mind wouldn’t be settled until I was able to dismiss this revolting possibility for his itchy hives. So I googled “bed bugs”, while making a mental note to delete my browsing history lest my phone be stolen and my shame be shared with the world.
I found lots of photos of what the little demons look like, and how to determine where to find them. I took my new-found knowledge, and made for Hunter’s room. I pulled off all of his freshly washed sheets, then pulled off the mattress protector. Lots of little blackish red dots smeared around. But…that could just be dirt? I mean, I have boys. What are boys if not living, breathing, walking piles of dirt?
I scoured the seams and folds of the mattress, starting with one side of the bed and working my way all the way around to the other. Nothing. Okay, breathe a little easier. I started to put the bedding back on, and then realized there was one place I hadn’t looked – the top of the mattress where it’s pushed against the headboard. I grabbed the side of the mattress, and slid it back.
A chill started at the top of my spine, weaved itself through my rib cage, and settled into the pit of my stomach, urging itself to come up my throat. There, in the seam at the top of the mattress, were a handful of tiny black specks, and…a nasty little tan shell casing of the most disgusting insect in the ENTIRE WORLD!!! I damn near passed out. When I regained my consciousness, I lost my senses because I almost committed arson right then and there. But since I didn’t want to go to prison for burning down my own house and leave my children homeless, I was forced back into a brand new harsh reality – we have bed bugs.
Our cozy little brick ranch that I obsessively keep decluttered and tidy, in the middle of suburbia, has been invaded by the unthinkable. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN TO PEOPLE!! Okay, so it does…but not to anyone I know (or at least as far as I know). It happens to other people. People I don’t know, people I don’t come in contact with, people who aren’t me and whose existence I’m not personally aware of. I mean, I hear the stories. But it isn’t real because I’ve never actually met anyone with them. Besides, these little bastards…errr, bugs…were wiped out decades ago…right?
Well, sort of. They were mostly gone for quite a long time. But thanks to lots of international travel and the end of toxic chemicals such as DDT in our pesticides, these cockroach-like little devils that could survive a nuclear fallout have been systematically making a comeback. Mostly in large cities, and largely resistant to modern-day pesticides…which is why they continue to grow and spread, and have somehow managed to settle like debris from a detonated “oh yes this CAN happen to you” bomb, right into Hunter’s mattress.
We all knew they were here. Public schools around the area have sent notes home to parents in the last couple of years. The movie theater reported finding them in one of the theater rooms right before the remodel. We know they are here, but we deny the possibility that they could ever actually end up in our homes.
Well ya know what folks? When you have kids, you get exposed to all sorts of nasties. Just since the start of 2018, over the course of two months, we’ve had rotavirus x 2 in our house, and then the flu x 2 in our house…both brought home by the kids. And now…. Seriously, I can’t even say those two words again!
I pulled Hunter into his room when he came in from playing outside and shared with him my discovery. Then I got online and quickly googled “how
the f*** do I obliterate to get rid of bed bugs”. Okay, I have to stop saying those words. I just can’t anymore. It’s giving me nightmares and possible PTBBD (post-traumatic bed bug disorder) so I have to find another name…perhaps satan’s spawns. Yes, that’ll work.
So I got the short list…spawn bombs, spawn spray, mattress encasements. And then for good measure I called my grandparents…because I needed to vent my frustrations to actual adults who would get the magnitude of my situation. Because honestly, my kids couldn’t possibly care less. Satan’s spawn? What’s that? Oh, a weird creature that lives in my bed and sucks my blood at night? Gross I guess…but you’re taking care of that, right mom? So I don’t need to bother myself with it? Okay, cool.
While I was on the phone baring my shameful discovery to my grandparents, I ordered mattress encasements and a gallon of spray (thank you Amazon Prime for two-day shipping). Then I ended the phone call and made a bee-line to Menards (for the fourth time that day) for spawn bombs and two cans of residual spray.
I came back home and tore Hunter’s room apart, throwing away the crap under his bed, emptying drawers and the closet into totes and garbage bags and burning anything that wasn’t needed. When I got the room down to just furniture, I pulled the mattress off and stood it up. Then I pulled up the box spring….and I died. And then I was quickly resurrected from the dead because I couldn’t leave this world with my house in this condition.
Underneath each of the bottom front corners of the box spring, were several tiny black specks and 4-5 LIVE spawns of satan and a handful of tiny little baby satans! *Insert horrified, blue-faced emoji here* I had found their colony. I ripped away all of the netting covering the bottom of the box spring. I had the vacuum cleaner at hand and quickly sucked them all up and vacuumed every square inch of the box spring and mattress, then emptied it into a garbage bag, sealed it, and tossed it into the bin outside.
I left the room vacant for the night and set Hunter up on the couch to sleep (should you ever get these nasty critters, don’t start sleeping in a new location because they will come looking for you and infest your new sleeping spot), after first bringing up clean sheets and blankets from the rack in the basement. First thing the next morning I set off a spawn bomb and we left for Perryville. I’d borrowed Grandpa’s truck and had to return it to him, plus we had to clear out of the house for a couple of hours for the bomb to do its job.
In the meantime, I searched and read obsessively and formulated a plan. I already own a bag of Diatomaceous Earth that I bought for natural insect control. This stuff is made of some sort of weird fossil-like particles, and while it doesn’t harm our skin, it slices up the shell of these little spawns of satan and dehydrates them to death. The spray and mattress encasements were already on their way. So I ordered a can of the only highly-acclaimed residual spawn spray I could find on the interwebs and some funky little things called satan’s spawn interceptors that go under the feet of your bed/headboard to trap any that were hiding out in other tight places near the bed. The spawns crawl into them trying to get to/from the bed, fall into a slick plastic crevice in it and can’t get back out. Can’t get to you = can’t suck your blood. Can’t suck your blood = can’t reproduce, so their repopulation cycle is brought to a screeching halt. I even dropped $140 on a steam cleaner so I can take extra-hot steam to the headboards, bedframes, and mattress toppers because heat over 120 degrees Fahrenheit makes the little devils drop dead.
With my arsenal at hand and a plan of attack in motion, I went home and started laundering. Wash everything we own in hot water and dry on the highest dryer setting for at least an hour to kill the spawns and their little satan-y eggs of evil. I still have a mountain in my basement of bedding and clothes and pillows and mattress toppers in garbage bags waiting for their turn at the washer and/or dryer. I’m doing all three bedrooms because I am not taking any chances with this. Plus, during inspection I located a lone spawn of satan in Logan’s box spring as well!
Since putting the encasements on Monday, spraying, and spreading Diatomaceous Earth around all three rooms, in every single crack, crevice and hole in every bed, under baseboards, inside outlets and light switches and window trim, and inside all of the now-empty furniture, no one in the house has been bitten. I’ve spotted a couple of dead critters in Hunter’s floor near his headboard, plus one trapped in the interceptor. No evidence of Satan’s creepy-crawly spawns in mine or Logan’s rooms.
So the problem is (for now) under control. But this is the end of only the first battle. Any eggs that might be around anywhere besides the box spring and mattress that are now encased, thus trapping them inside so they must starve to death, could still hatch. Which is why we have to do this entire treatment process ALL OVER AGAIN after two weeks. And then again in another two weeks just for good measure. The estimate is about two months to be comfortable in saying that the war has been won and our nightmare is over, so long as we stay consistent with vacuuming/steaming/spraying/dusting/washing/roasting shit in the dryer on constant repeat.
I also have a new rule – the kids’ backpacks go IMMEDIATELY in a plastic tote with a lid the moment they come home from the bus and they don’t remove them again until time to go to school in the morning. They are not to ever touch the floor, bed, or any other furniture in the house ever again. Why? Because these spawns of satan show up in your home by hitching rides on luggage, purses and backpacks. Because neither of my kids have stayed the night with anyone, nor have they had anyone stay the night with us. Because we haven’t been to a hotel, or to the movies, or anywhere else where these things are known to be common…except the bus. Bus seats, train seats, plane seats, theater seats…all places these spawns love to hide.
Hunter’s bus just happens to go through the part of town affectionately known as apartment land, between East Rodney and Mount Auburn, before coming to our neighborhood. And do you know what I learned in my research? That multi-family apartment complexes are the most common residential dwellings for these little bastards to live, because they can spread through the walls so all it takes is just one of the units to get them and they can spread all through the building. So yeah…bus + apartment land + backpack = almost without a doubt where satan’s spawns came from.
In the meantime…please understand if I become a shut-in, and don’t allow anyone to visit (not that any of you would want to). Because really…I wouldn’t wish this on anyone! My mom narrowly dodged the bullet because she was supposed to come down last weekend until my stepdad got sick and she had to cancel. And I promise…when the time comes that I do invite you over – it’s only because I am 1,000 percent sure that we are in the clear!