While taking a wonderful hike the other day, enjoying the warm weather, I was reminded of all the dangers (mostly made up in my own mind) that are lurking around during warm weather. I sunscreened and bug sprayed us, dressed appropriately, put the baby in a front carrier, which I regretted later because he’s a massive beast, and set off on the hike. We searched through the woods for morel mushrooms, since it was a sunny day after a rain, and because we’re Missourians and that’s what we do on a nice spring day. Thankfully, my husband found some later in an unnamed, undisclosed location. Seriously, I’d tell you, but even I don’t know where he goes. I know the general direction, but I’m pretty sure he turns back around and ditches his trail so I won’t know where he gets them. On this particular glorious day, we were just circling the woods near the house. We’d been out for just 30 minutes, which was 30 minutes too long in my book, as my back was screaming out, “Put that chunker in a stroller next time!” Then I screamed in pain, not from my back giving out, which was certainly going to happen soon, but from a sharp pain in the bottom of my foot.
I hopped to the nearest clear spot where I could basically lay down because remember, I have a baby in a front carrier and getting a good sitting position on the ground doesn’t exactly work with a front carrier. After hopping around for a moment, I found a good spot, laid down as the baby drooled in my face, all while throwing my foot up over me so I could see what I had stepped on.
I assumed that it was a thorn from a thorn tree, which are rampant around here, and I was correct. I had a battle with another thorn tree about five years ago, and it left me limping for weeks, my calf turned a few shades of red then purple, and the doctor couldn’t get the whole thing out because they have these tiny, microscopic thorns that hold them in place, and when you pull, they just break apart. I was pregnant at the time and couldn’t get an X-ray, so they just let it go, and it finally came out months later. I still have a gross scar from it. I was expecting the worst and knew there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I quickly yanked the thorn straight out, and surprisingly, the whole thing came out. Yeah, it hurt, but not like before. As I inspected the thorn, I realized it was quite dry, so it had been off the tree for a while, less likely to be as potent as before. I took my shoe off as the baby yanked a chunk of hair off my head, giggling at his wonderful luck to be nose to nose with Momma, just in enough range to pull hair, scratch at my eyes, and bite me, which he was doing all three. My foot was bleeding, but didn’t hurt bad, so I had been lucky.
I was done with this hike though, so I slowly got up off the ground with help from my four-year-old and limped back up the hill toward the house, dragging that four-year-old kicking and screaming after he realized that the hike was over.
When we finally got home, and I was able to get the little monster out of the carrier and take a good look over my foot, I found seed ticks crawling up my leg, so it was a mad dash to the shower for all of us. So much for bug spray. So much for a nice little relaxing hike. It then occurred to me that it’s that time of year when we all want to spend the day outside, but outside is full of a mom’s worst nightmare. Now, as I step outside, I think of the following:
1.) Ticks, mosquitoes, bees, and other bugs - I use bug spray, but I think we’ve got some super bugs around here that also think my four-year-old has got some sweet blood because he seems to be the one that gets the worst of it. We jokingly say it’s because he’s so sweet, but he is the one out there hugging trees, playing in the mud puddles, rolling in the grass, and collecting bugs, so he’s just asking for it. At least when we come in, the other bugs are of no concern, but the ticks could be hiding anywhere and everywhere, so it’s a continuous search. Currently, if you see my son scratching in an inappropriate area, it’s because we didn’t catch one in time.
2.) Snakes - I haven’t seen one on the farm yet this summer, but they’re here, and they give me nightmares. I have found one hanging over our front door, curled up on the wood pile, and slithering across the lawn in years past, so I know they are just waiting until I’m not expecting it. Recently, at the local park, I saw a snake jump out of the water and swallow a large frog whole as my oldest sat on the edge of the water and cheered in astonishment. The movie Lonesome Dove has ruined me, so I yelled at him with agitation to “Get away from the water before you get eaten!!!”
3.) Thorn trees and poison ivy - As I said before, thorn trees are bad news bears. It hurt, really, really bad when I got stuck with one. I’d hate it if one of my boys got stuck with one. I’m constantly on the look out when we hike around the farm in case there’s a thorn tree up ahead. Poison ivy, not so much. Everything looks like poison ivy to me, so I’ve basically given up looking for that. Usually, I end up getting it off my husband’s laundry anyway. I can always tell when he’s walked through or has gotten into it recently. My hands and arms get it from putting his jeans and shirts into the washer.
4.) Sunburn - Babyies over six months have their own sunscreen, the four-year-old has the spray kind so I can catch him at a run, and since the spray stuff gives me a rash, I’ve got my own sunscreen as well. It’s a whole process before leaving the house, but we’re all super pale too and need multiple layers throughout the day. By the evening, we’re a layer of dirt and lotion mixture, so it looks like we have a tan, except for the one spot Mommy forgot to cover. It never fails. When my oldest was a baby, we went out to the river and I sunscreened him repeatedly, with thick layers, and then put a hat and sunglasses on him because I couldn’t get the lotion near his eyes. Of course, the next day he looked like a red-eyed raccoon because he kept pulling the hat and glasses off.
Planning for a summer hike in this area is like planning a vacation. It’s kind of exhausting, and usually not worth the effort you put into it, but we all keep doing it. So get out there and enjoy the warm weather, not today though, today is not warm because it’s Missouri, and Missouri has decided that March would be spring, April would be summer, and May would be fall. Expect snowfall by Memorial Day. And to make your life easier, take the first precaution against ticks, and shave your kid’s head like I did. It shaves off about ten minutes time from the inevitable tick check that you spend sitting like a bunch of monkeys in the living room, checking any hiding spots where a tick might like.