Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Day I Called Poison Control

We have a large windowsill planter at the front of our house. The ants in there are ridiculous. I mean, slice-the-earth-with-a-stick-and-the-ants-come-spilling-out ridiculous. Gushing. Crawling. Run for your life, they are going to get you!

Okay, maybe you don't have to run, but seriously, I have never seen a larger ant colony before.

We had ant problems in our back yard last summer too. A couple of large ant hills that kept my girls screaming high-pitched screams. Then one day I was cleaning an old plastic swimming pool and I added some bleach. When I was done scrubbing, I did not want to dump the water on our grass since we only had so much nice grass growing in the yard. This is where I got really smart. Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I dump this bleachy water on those ants. So I did. A couple of days later and grass was growing over the ant hills. The ants died. Bleach has many purposes.

Any little ant hill I saw was fiercely attacked with the power of bleached water. It worked. Every. Single. Time.

That is, until the "planter ants" showed up while I was digging-in to plant some "Disney princess" flowers from Home Depot.

Bleach water was like honey to those ants. 

So I got searching some home-made remedies to rid myself of those planter invaders. I ate some oranges and spread the peel. It didn't work.

I poured a water and vinegar mixture on the ants. I even added a couple of peppermint oil drops. Nothing. Nada. Zilch!

Well then, what if I mix the bleach and the vinegar together?

And this is when things turned bad and I realized instead of getting that psychology degree maybe I should have stuck with Chemistry.

As soon as I saw fumes coming up the bucket that carried a very potent smell, I knew this was a very bad chemical reaction. It only took me a few seconds to kick it in gear, grab the bucket tightly and get it out of my house.

"Girls, get out of my way, I made poison...and I need to dump it on the ants!"

So I got it out the door and poured it on the dirt on the planter. This better kill them because this is not good!

In a mad dash I made it into the house and started opening windows.

"Mom...what is that smell?" Ellie asked

"Bad poison Ellie, bad poison! I need all the girls to get their shoes on and we need to get out of the house!"

Which really means Ellie needs to put her shoes on because Nina usually has her braces on and Nichole's shoes stay on for a total of 32.4 seconds.

I opened every single window in our house...except the ones by the planter.

"Don't breathe! Everyone in the car!"

So we got in the car and we took off. I figured we needed fresh air and the park would be a great idea. But the thing is, I have never been able to take all 3 girls to the park on my own. With a girl with Down syndrome and one with Cerebral Palsy, it is just difficult. One runs, one...doesn't. But we needed fresh air.

So to the park we went, and I called my friend and I asked her to google if what I made was bad...or really bad. It was really bad. Some people can die from those fumes. Nazi's used that concoction to kill people. But it was a great thing that I left the house right away. So I asked for the number for "Poison Control" and in case you don't know it, it is 1-800-222-1222. I don't think I will ever forget that number.

The lady I talked to was really nice and extremely helpful. She asked quite a few questions to determine if we needed to go to the ER or not. Turns out I did everything I was supposed to do. We were not in our house longer than 10 minutes, and that is a stretch, I got us out fast! I opened the windows which we were supposed to do, and we needed to at least get 20 minutes of fresh air. I figured we would stay there as long as the girls were playing and I wasn't losing my mind chasing one while the other one bounces stiffly on my hip while holding on to dear life.

You know the "Fight or flight" theory? Well I freeze. However, I think today I saw that I can actually think clearly and do something!

And because of that experience I can tell you that it was a  sweet realization that I can now take my girls to the park by myself. This is huge! I can be like other moms and take my girls out to play. Really awesome feeling. My rascal is not so rascally anymore. And Nina...she walked with her bare feet on the sand. Yep. Incredible, indescribable pride I have for my 2 girls.

Of course when we came back home I realized I left the screen door open. So here is hoping to no surprise critters making themselves comfortable in our house. I do remember the irrational thought: The air will circulate better without the screen. I mean, what was I thinking!

And I figured if the ants survive this odyssey...I am giving them a break...and feeding them some corn starch next!


  1. Never a dull moment, huh Ellen??

    I adore the ladies at Poison Control. They are the sweetest, most helpful people on the planet. And I especially love how there is never judgement in their voice. Love them!!

  2. Ants do not like surfactants since it destroys their body wax -which keeps them from desiccating. Their feet are the most sensitive-they don't like to walk on "bad" things. So if you need to keep ants out of something, soaps work. I have used a powdered dishwasher soap line to keep them from coming in my door. Also if they are trailing, you just need to use a liquid soap to disrupt their pheromone (scent) trail. Borax (laundry aisle) is a good ant killer ingredient. Mrs Y.

    1. But what about an entire colony in your planter?

  3. Glad you guys are alright. I would not have guessed that bleach and vinegar would be a dangerous mix- but I flunked chemistry. TIP: Get the kids out of the area and carefully pour a pot of boiling water on the anthill. The heat kills the ants, and there's NO chemicals. But- it'll also kill the grass. :(

    1. I will try that since it is the planter and there are it is just dirt!

  4. Amy Stauffer3:49 PM

    Oh Ellen, I love you! You make me smile. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

  5. I'm glad everything turned out OK. It's days like these that remind you that there is never a dull moment in parenting. I'm glad you can take the kids to the park now. I'd die without the park, my kids have way too much energy burn.

    1. It is exciting. We have now even visited a second park, but it was pretty large so Andy came too. But the girls did awesome!

  6. Alex knew right away, that your mixture was toxic. But he IS a chemist.

    BIG QUESTION - did it kill the ants?!

    1. Exponentially...yes. However, there are still ants in the planter!
      Andy said next time google what I want to mix before I do it. maybe we will call Alex! Ha!

  7. What an adventure! We never have anything that exciting happen around here *wink*

    Honestly, though, you SHOULD be proud of yourself for reacting so quickly and thinking so clearly! God definitely had your back on this one for sure.

  8. here I thought it was just ammonia and bleach that you werent supposed to mix. ;) thanks for the FYI!!! Glad you were smart and moved quickly- and also glad for a fun day at the park.

  9. Excellent writing, Ellen! Sorry this had to happen to you, but I'm also glad you can take the girls to the park by yourself now! Thanks for writing about this. I can't believe it didn't kill all the ants! Yuck.

  10. Great writing, Ellen!


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