A day in the life of a Scorpionator

October 21, 2009 | 54 comments

Some people have asked if there was any one last straw that led to my sudden internet fast a couple of weeks ago. Others have asked for details about the nature of my hysterical tweets from the afternoon of Friday, October 2nd. In this post I shall address both inquiries.

The afternoon of Friday the 2nd started out perfectly lovely. I’d put my youngest two children down for naps and had set up my three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son for a little quiet time. All day I’d been drifting over to my computer, checking email here, reading blogs there, and I couldn’t wait to finish up all the things I’d started in my sporadic computer time throughout the day. Just as I was settling down into the couch and opening up my laptop, I heard the worst four words that could be uttered in this house:

“Look, mommy, a scorpion!”

My three-year-old daughter was pointing to a scorpion. That was about six inches away from her leg.

I tossed my computer onto the couch and jumped up to confirm that it wasn’t some new scorpion gag toy that some soon-to-be-ex friend had planted in the living room. Nay, it was real. And big — one of the largest scorpions we’ve seen in the house to date. I didn’t want the kids to panic, so I said, “Run! Run to the couch NOW NOW NOW before it stings you! Hurry! It’s going to get you! Run! AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!”

The commotion prompted the scorpion to saunter over to the middle of the living room floor. And this is where the story would end for most people. Most people’s internal dialogue would go something like:

“I will grab the nearest heavy object and drop it on the menacing arachnid.” Boom. “I’m glad that’s over with.”

But we’re talking about me, and nothing can be that simple, especially where scorpions are involved. My internal dialogue went something like:

“I will grab the nearest heavy object and drop it on the menacing arachnid. But WHAT IF IT DOESN’T WORK?! My ‘killing scorpions on carpet by dropping heavy things on them’ success rate is 0%! And what book should I use anyway? Is my husband’s Corporate Finance textbook big enough, or is this an Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary job? I know, I could ask the internet! If I want to seek advice from people on Twitter, how could I summarize this in 140 characters seeing as how I’m going to need AT LEAST 100 characters just for exclamation points?”

Meanwhile, as I was standing around analyzing my situation from every possible angle and thinking of how I could turn it into a clever tweet, the scorpion moseyed on over to a location under our long walnut buffet. This was bad. This was very bad. The buffet stands less than a foot above the carpet, making it impossible to get a book on top of the scorpion as long as it was under there. And then, just to make sure the suck-o-meter was dialed up to a 10, the scorpion crawled onto the side of a large book under the buffet.

The situation had gone from bad to worse. There was no way I could get it.

I seriously considered just staring at it for three hours until my husband got home from work, but the scorpion was headed toward the dreaded toy pit. To fully understand the ominousness of this trajectory, you first have to understand that my husband and I are both the only people of our generation to have children on both sides of our family. The result is that our children are blessed with many, many toys. Many. Like, I sometimes have dreams about frantically writing thank-you notes only to have dumptrucks overflowing with new packages addressed to my children come and pour their entire contents down upon me as I write. The result is that it looks like a Toys R Us exploded in the southwest corner of our living room; we’ve given up on fancy organizational techniques like throwing toys in boxes when the kids aren’t playing with them, and just kind of rake everything over to one part of the living room at the end of the day.

And I knew that if the scorpion made it into the toy pit, it would be all over.

“All over” as in I would never in a thousand years be able to find it, and if I did it would undoubtedly involve being stung. “All over” as in despite all my “ha ha I’m moving” jokes I would NEVER SET FOOT IN THIS HOUSE AGAIN if that scorpion got lost in the toy pile. I had to get it.

“I have GOT to get this thing before it goes into the toys and I lose it and then it stings one of us when we least expect it!” I thought it a blind panic. To calm myself down, I decided to call my husband for reassurance. It would be nice to hear the voice of someone who could just laugh at the whole thing and point out how silly I was being. When I described the situation to him, he responded:

“You have GOT to get that thing before it goes into the toys and you lose it and then it STINGS ONE OF US WHEN WE LEAST EXPECT IT!!!!!” Or something like that. Perhaps he wasn’t quite as frantic as I perceived him to be through the lens of my scorpion-induced mania, but suffice it to say that his answer was not to chuckle and tell me that it would be fine.

My husband did have a good practical suggestion though: Since it wasn’t in a good smashing position, I should use bug spray. I went and grabbed the last can of Raid from the laundry room, aimed it at the scorpion, went to push the plunger…and hesitated. Not pushing the plunger right when I had the nerve was a fatal mistake. I’d psyched myself out. The problem was that I had major hesitations about using wasp spray for scorpions. I mean, seriously, THESE THINGS DON’T DIE. If the fancy exterminator chemicals only get them to pretend to be dead, why on earth should I believe that some namby-pamby grocery store wasp spray would do anything at all? Shoot, for all I knew maybe that’s what they like to drink for breakfast! This train of thought ended up with me imagining spraying the Raid only to find out that it actually gives them more speed and strength, the angry arachnid now running right at me as I trip and fall and find myself unable to move as it stings me over and over again while I scream and the children come to my aid only to be stung themselves and…yeah. Suffice it to say I psyched myself out.

After some all-caps Twitter updates, Google searches to find out if wasps and scorpions are in the same genus, countless prayers requesting the support of the unknown patron saints of both scorpion killing and neurotic wimps, and rearranging the living room furniture to make the ottoman and some couch pillows into a scorpion-proof bunker behind which I could hide, I got ready to spray. For real this time. My finger was on the trigger again, but then I thought: What if this doesn’t have the range it says it does?

In what I would later come to think of as famous last words, I said to myself, “Ah, yes, I should really test it first!” So I went outside, picked out a threatening blade of grass and showed it who was boss with my Raid spraying skills. Then another one. OK, good, this stuff definitely had some range. I went inside, moved my bunker back a couple feet to give me even more room in case this spray only made the scorpion mad, and got ready again. Then I decided to test it inside the house. You know, in case it, uhh, spayed differently in indoor air. After squirting it at a blank spot on the wall, I was ready. Well, just one more time. OK, now I was ready.

But wait! Maybe what I needed was some music to help me get up my nerve. I put my iPod on shuffle and got back down behind my bunker just as some Matisyahu song was finishing up. In a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up moment, the next song that came on was the ultimate “one chance to prove yourself and win a great struggle in a David-and-Goliath sort of way” theme song, Eye Of the Tiger. As those first DUNH…DUHN-DUHN-DUHN guitar riffs started (OK, that’s hard to write, but y’all know what I’m talking about, right?) I focused my eyes on the scorpion 12 feet away, aimed the can, and sprayed.

And to my abject horror, I heard only a weak phhhhhhhhhh sound as a light cloud of chemcials came from the can.

I’d used up all the spray in my many tests. The can was basically empty.

In the split second it took for a couple of minuscule droplets to float over from the can to the scorpion’s hideout under the buffet, the thought flashed through my mind, “This isn’t going to be good.” And it wasn’t. One of the drops was a direct hit. The scorpion was unamused. And when scorpions get unamused, they get fast.

In a flash it got down from the book and took off, its stinger ready to take someone out. I instinctively started running the opposite direction, in the back of my mind thinking that I would eventually stop, perhaps somewhere around the U.S.-Canadian border. But when I glanced over my shoulder I saw to my horror that it was not running in my direction, but towards the toy pit. And it was only about a foot away.

“Get it, mommy!” my son shouted as the distance between the scorpion and a toy tractor closed quickly.

The awareness that I would literally never sleep in this house again if I lost that scorpion flashed through my mind, and — with Eye of the Tiger still blasting — I turned around, slammed open the childproof gate and ran back into the living room, knocking over a stack of laundry and kicking over a pile of children’s books that were in my way, stepping on a baby doll and reaching out to within a few inches of the scorpion to douse it with the last few dribbles of Raid.

In one of the more anticlimactic moments I’ve experienced lately, it just died. Instantly. The spray worked just fine.

I’d just thrown a book over it to stall any sneaky coming-back-from-the-dead moments until my husband got home, when I heard my two youngest children waking up from their naps. I went to get them, and when I came back downstairs it smelled like…well, like some idiot had sprayed Raid all over living room, so I announced that we were all playing outside until daddy got home.

A while later my husband walked in to behold the dismantled couch, the ottoman bunker, the scattered laundry and toys, the chemical residue dripping from the wall. To say that it looked like thieves had ransacked the place would be to imply way too much of a feel of order or purpose to the mess; to say it looked like thieves intended to ransack it but decided to stay and get drunk and just thrash around for a while would be getting closer to reality.

When my husband asked me how my day was, I said with a sigh, “It’s been tough — I haven’t had any time to relax and do stuff on my computer today!”

He looked back at the house, looked at me, and observed: “Today one of the kids came close to being stung by the biggest scorpion we’ve seen around here in a while, you stared at it in agony for the better part of an hour, hosed down the house with Raid, finally killed the scorpion, somehow tore the living room apart in the process…and your take is that it was a bad afternoon because you didn’t get enough computer time?”

And that’s when I decided it was time for a break.


Thanks to Emily for suggesting the word “Scorpionator.”


  1. Moira Elizabeth

    That was hilarious —I have the hiccups, and I was laughing between each one!!!

  2. Headless Mom

    Oh my heavens! This is funny, but only because it hits waaaaay too close to home.

  3. Marigold

    This post made me laugh out loud so many times. Don't take this the wrong way, but it makes me feel better about my day, which has involved a lot of rain and being stood up… by a priest.

    x M.

  4. marie

    Ok, I m sorry, but you really need a reality show.

  5. Elizabeth

    My favorite part of this whole post is the Scorpionator picture–especially the womanly hips.

    Too bad you didn't have enough time to don the outfit before battling the scorpion.

    Because if hubby had come home and seen you outfitted like that he probably would have been like: more computer time? of course! Whatever YOU WANT MY BABYLICIOUS SCOPIONATOR!


  6. Sandy C.

    Laughing hilariously at your play-by-play. The scorpion-proof bunker and the repeated testings of Raid were so funny. I'm well aware I only find this funny because I live in a scorpion-free state and have never actually SEEN a scorpion. Heck, I spent a few almost-panicked minutes last night before falling asleep imagining being bit during the night by a Japanese lady beetle after picking a few from the bed. If I had to face scorpions I would find your account terrifying instead of hilarious.

    My decision for a computer fast last Lent came through a much less amusing day-before-Ash-Wednesday prayer to decide what to sacrifice. Actually, I didn't completely fast from the computer only from blogging and reading blogs and that was difficult and insightful enough. Thanks for sharing your computer fast with us.

  7. Agnes Regina

    Oh gosh… I shouldn't laugh, because if I met a scorpion I'd probably freak too, but I laughed hysterically the whole time I read this story… Your writing style is hilarious! I agree with Marie, you need a reality show! I'm no TV watcher, but you might turn me into one if you do "the Conversion Diary Show."

  8. Susan

    Dearest Jen,
    I find your writing more inspirational than any I have ever read on the Internet, or much of anywhere else. However, if I am to be honest, I must confess that I like your scorpion stories best. I have always been a major Rocky fan (except 5, duh) and I have used Eye of the Tiger as a workout motivator, but from now on, when I hear it, I will think not of Rocky nor of Randy (my good friend who used to sing it on church trips) but of YOU, fighting for the lives of your children against the unbelievable odds a six foot (I'm sure it was at least that big) stinging monster. May God Bless You and Keep You SCORPION FREE.

  9. Nicole

    You are a riot! I put cups or pans over the creatures and let George kill them when he gets home. Once I threw a cutting board at something with some pretty freaky legs – and the thing moved the board off itself and kept walking. So, a nice dome, a ring of spray poision to seal the edges…and then George can deal. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Christine the Soccer Mom

    I'm on a big downsizing kick of the interwebs, too, but had to comment quick for you. You helped me decide to stop FB-ing and such until at least Nov.

    I'm picking up emails on my new iPod Touch, though, and trying to avoid my computer unless I really need to do something on it.

    um…like read your blog?

    Golly, Jen, we need to email each other instead.

  11. Laura

    This is truly a classic! Thanks for the great laugh!
    Glad everyone is safe.
    God Bless.

  12. Christine

    Well written. Great Post!!! I enjoyed every minute. Like I was right there with you.

    Not sure how you sleep in that place. If one can get in…well YIKES! At least it was not a big huge spider. That would really freak me out!

  13. Anonymous

    Dear Mother Who Lives In Texas,

    I'm glad the wasp spray worked fine, but really you should have used a Meerkat, because they eat scorpions. Now, I know that's almost impossible to believe because scorpions are almost impossible to kill, but actually it would have really worked. You should get a meerkat for your pet.

    Sam, Illinois, Age 7

  14. Ryan

    Hahahaha! AWESOME

    I can relate.

  15. Angela Williams Duea

    I'm laughing hysterically. I think we might be sisters! At least, we come from the same gene pool that believes the critters have super(un)human powers that are much stronger than our simple killing skills.

    Good thing we live in civilization.

    By the way, I love the comment from the kid who suggests a meerkat.

  16. Jen Raiche

    Thank you so much for sharing you story. And for your honesty. This post was truly hilarious!

  17. Jamie

    I laughed all the way through!!

    (And by the way, of all of the enjoyment I have gotten from your blog, I am ashamed that THIS post is the one I decide to comment on! Maybe I need a break, too!)

  18. ekbell

    Quess what my three year old's current contribution to our thank you song is?


    So we've been thanking God for the beasts for the last week or so, despite my bewilderment (his former choice of ladybugs made much more sense).

    Which has made this tale that much more funny and meaningful.

  19. Domestic Accident

    Can't. Stop. Laughing.

  20. Elisabeth Black

    Ah ha!

  21. Christian H

    Wasps and scorpions aren't even close to being related. Cats are closer to fish than wasps are to scorpions. Sorry.

    Also, that is hilarious.

  22. Marilyn

    Oh my! Simultaneously too awful and too funny for words. I am so glad we don't have scorpions in Sydney. At least you killed it – great job!

  23. Sebastian

    Wonderful. I found your blog after the first scorpion appearance in our house in Hawaii about a year ago. I've been so glad that I found it.
    Maybe your scorpions are bigger and tougher. We only had lesser brown scorpions (really what is lesser about a scorpion?) and I could kill those pretty well with a fast flick of a fly swatter. Although there was one that I dumped about a half can of spray onto.
    The one time I had an exterminator come, he was appalled that we hadn't moved everything away from all the baseboards. I looked at him like he was nuts. We had 31 bookcases and over 3000 books downstairs. If I moved them, it would just leave great havens of scorpion nesting grounds in the middle of the room.

  24. catherine

    Dear Jen, Please, please, please, don't ever stop writing! You have such a wonderful gift. I absolutely love your blog, and I cannot wait to buy your first book! Thank you not only for the great laughs, but also the thoughtful, spiritual insights you share. You are truly a gift. God bless.

  25. Kelly the Kitchen Kop

    I know that you now get so many comments that you probably won't be able to answer this, but…

    How did you make that cute "scorpianator" woman picture???

    I just got Photoshop Elements and can't figure out how to do ANYTHING cute with the stupid program.

    By the way, aren't you glad that it wasn't a snake??? Did you see the comment in my snake post about the lady from Texas with a snake in her SHOWER?!!!


  26. Kim from Canada

    Truly funny AND gross at the same time! I cannot relate to having a scorpion invade my home when the greatest trouble we have is when the raccoons try to take over the garage – at least they're cute.

    You have single-handedly ensured that I will never visit Texas, never mind live there! Thanks for the laugh.

  27. Tienne

    That picture is the best! Your description of the battle with the scorpion mimics almost exactly my one encounter with a wasp that made its way into our house (including the testing of the Raid spray) except that my wasp did not die immediately, but spent an interminable minute or two buzzing crazily in death throes, throwing itself against the window and undergoing such contortions of agony that I called my husband, SOBBING, unintelligible as I tried to explain how terrible I felt causing the suffering and death of one of God's creatures (even though moments before my thoughts had been something like "IT MUST DIE IT MUST DIE IT MUST DIE NOW!") I was so hysterical that he thought it had stung our 1 year old and sent her into anaphylactic shock or something. The humor in this is only evident now, about two years removed from the incident. Kudos to you for being able to write such a hilarious mere weeks after it happened to you!

    And I have to say, if wasps were as common an occurrence in our house as scorpions are in yours, I think I would have had a nervous breakdown, or three, by this point.

  28. Suburban Correspondent

    I can't imagine what all that looked like to the kids…

  29. Tina

    That was one of the most amusing posts I have ever read, anywhere! We don't get scorpions, but we've had similar situations with large wasps and bees, so I can relate to some extent. Thanks for the laugh! I needed it today!

  30. Lana

    i like Sam from Illinois' comment.

  31. Suzywoozy

    Funny funny funny! It reminds me of my house when we have a lizard!

  32. Emily

    God moves in a mysterious way,
    His wonders to perform.


  33. 'Becca

    Wow! What a story!! I am now thinking it's a terrible oversight that the Perceived Stress Scale does not include an item like, "In the past month, how often have you battled a scorpion in your living room?" If anyone from Texas contacts me about using the scale, I'll suggest it.

    I thought of you last weekend at the natural history museum when looking at the artist's depiction of a prehistoric scorpion; it looked much dumber and less evil than the current ones…but then I looked from the sign to the actual artifact, the fossilized tracks of said scorpion, which were so large that I looked back at the sign for crucial facts…it was SEVEN AND A HALF FEET LONG!!! During my next freak-out about a half-inch centipede suddenly running across my kitchen counter, I remembered to be grateful that I live neither in a prehistoric era nor in Texas.

  34. matthew archbold

    hilarious. thanks.

  35. Robyn Broyles

    I do not say this to taunt you or to torment you… okay, maybe there's a little bit of my fallen nature that is totally wanting to taunt you, but mostly not, Scout's honor.

    I often marvel at the similarities between the two of us, but our responses to arthropods is not one of them.

    Now, admittedly, among the menagerie of GIANT BUGS that I've seen in my corner of Texas, scorpions are not included. I am extrapolating from my response to crawlies in general here.

    I would have looked at the scorpion, said "Cool! Come see this bug, boys!", gotten a cardboard box, herded the scorpion inside, and released it into the wild with "Born Free" running through my mind. Also, I am more afraid of Raid than of scorpions.

    I would possibly have also given my older son a lesson on the taxonomy of scorpions, which are, FYI, about as closely related to wasps as you are to a fish. Luckily, both you and fish are susceptible to some of the same poisons (well, that's not lucky), and similarly, both scorpions and wasps are susceptible to some of the same poisons.

    Once I found a giant black widow spider in the garage. At one time, I would have just left it alone, but now I had a toddler. I considered and debated, and decided that logically, I had a duty to keep my son safe and was morally justified in eliminating the spider. With great ritualistic solemnity, I crushed it, but it caused me great psychic pain. The spider never hurt me, and I hated to have to hurt it.

    All right, this may be one of the most, ahem, eccentric things about me. I have rarely met someone with such a bleeding heart for bugs. (In a sign of God's cosmic humor, the only person I have met who is more sympathetic to their cause than I am married a friend… who has a bona fide phobia about wasps.) (I take it backโ€”I once met someone who is sympathetic even to spider mites, those dastardly killers of house plants and the main reason I have despaired of keeping green things alive indoors. That's hard-core.)

    I'm not totally insane. Yellow jackets (which, in a sign of God's blessings, are another species absent from my insect-filled corner of Texas), fire ants, and mosquitoes are all on my sh*t list. No mercy!

    By the way, did you see my recent post on Gardasil? I think it's important info for parents, though your kids are still too young for you to have to make a decision on it. Basically… I think it's safe, and probably somewhat effective against cancer, but unnecessary because… well, read the article.

  36. thegypsymama

    I haven't laughed that hard at a blog post in a while. Thank you for making your misery our hilarity! That was great!

  37. mrsbroccoliguy

    That is one of the best stories I've read in a very long time. And also I'm very very (VERY) glad there are no scorpians around here because I would not be able to handle that crisis nearly as well as you did!!

  38. Weird Unsocialized Mom

    Oh, my goodness. Thanks for the great, deep belly laughs. I think I can get through the rest of my day now. Do you have some sort of PO Box set up so we can donate cans of Raid to replenish your supply? I feel a need to help out in the great scorpion wars. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  39. Jess

    Hilarious! I can laugh because it happened to you… I'd have behaved the same way if it had been me, only with more screaming.

    Oh who am I kidding, I'd probably have just thrown a box over it and left the house until my husband came home.

    But then, I'm the same way about ladybugs.

    A bug is a bug is a bug, regardless of "cuteness" or deadliness.

  40. Smoochagator

    I LOVE the Scorpionator image! And I love this story. And I am SOOOOO glad I don't live in a scorpion-free state.

  41. Smoochagator

    Um, make that "I'm so glad I DO live in a scorpion-free state." Duh!

  42. Monica

    I had an afternoon like this with a — gulp — rat. It was horrible. It was like war. This was, like, 12 or 13 years ago, and I still don't like to think about it. But I LOVED reading about YOUR afternoon with the scorpion! Thanks for many laughs and smiles and OMGs!

  43. Pharmgirl

    HAHAHAHA!!! Thanks for the laughs! I think you should be Patron Saint of the Scorpion-Phobic. ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. Dawn Farias

    I am always composing blog posts, Tweets, and Facebook statuses from the moments of my life. It's sometimes exhausting. I feel too mentally cluttered.

  45. Lauren

    That was one of the funniest things I"ve read in a long time! Thanks for the laugh!!!

  46. Marie

    When the video cameras first got big and we had our first kid, everyone wanted us to get one. My take was that I didn't want to see everything my first kid did through a little glass window. Not everyone is tempted to this, but I know I would be so I removed myself from that occasion of sin. Now it is tempting to see everything through the lens of "how would that look on paper." Good to keep in mind.

    Oh, and a relative of my husband's in Kentucky apparently once killed a rattlesnake with a can of raid.

  47. Robyn

    This made me laugh, especially when you put the book on it in case it came back to life!! My husband was in Iraq a year ago and apparently they found a huge scorpion in their unit headquarters. On of the guys used a big cain of Raid on it and they thought it was dead.One of his genius fellow soldiers thought it would be cool to have as a trophy so he glued its pincers and tail in a "fighting position" onto a board. Needless to say it was NOT DEAD and woke up when my husband had duty in the middle of the night and started jumping toward him across the desk (it couldn't walk because it was glued to the board). I guess they needed the Scorpionator…

  48. Alexandra

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    I laughed until I cried. I love your blog, and find it very "spiritually nutritional", so to speak, but the scorpion posts… may well be my favourites. You are a fabulous writer.

    Oh, also? You have convinced me: I could never live in Texas. Never mind the trucknutz (shudder), it's the scorpions that would do me in. Canadian winters, bring it on. At least we are scorpion-free.

  49. Helen

    A friend linked me to this post to alleviate boredom because I am currently house-bound (and going stir-crazy). And I found that I couldn't just leave without commenting. Without telling you that this is one of the best – and most ridiculous! – pieces of writing that I have ever read. This is sheer brilliance!

    And I've never been so thankful to live in a scorpion-free country.

  50. Sara

    That is sheer terror. I will now feel like I have scorpions on me for the rest of the day. Ew.

    My family and I went to Gatlinburg, TN, a couple of years ago and this was before I'd had LASIK, unfortunately. We were staying in a cabin up in the mountains, so I never expected to find a scorpion, but I did. Anyway, I had just taken my contacts out and was about to get in bed when I noticed a black dot on the pillow. Of course, without my contacts, I had to get right on top of it to see what it was and nearly woke everyone in the cabin. My husband, who was my fiance at the time, was sleeping in the next room. So I ran in whisper-shouting (because everyone else was asleep already), "There's a scorpion in my bed!!!" Of course he didn't believe me because there are no scorpions in the mountains, so he wasn't too concerned, but he did do the chivelrous thing and came to kill it. He about died when he realized it was, in fact, a scorpion and immediately apologized for not believing me. To make a long story short, we knew no one else would believe us so we drowned it in the toilet so we could save the dead carcass for the morning for proof. We later found out that they are quite normal around the area and are really just like a mosquito bite. Still, that's creepy. I had to sleep on top of the covers for the rest of the vacation, and made my fiance switch rooms with me, too. Just for good measure.

  51. gabrielle LeBlanc

    The bigger the scorpion, the milder the sting. It's the teeny-tiny ones you need to be afraid of.

  52. Lou

    omigosh, my stomach tensed up reading about the scorpion. I wouldn’t be able to sleep thinking about Mama and Papa Scorpion!!

  53. Victoria

    WAY, WAY too funny! You rule Scorpionator! Thanks for the laughs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  54. JL

    Hilarious. Thanks!

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