So I discovered something new about C jr while on vacation last week in North Carolina. She can scream LOUD.

But so would you, if you’d been stung by this:

portuguese man o'war

Larry the Stinger

Okay, so that’s not the exact culprit, but it looked the same. Portugese Man O’War. Holy YOWSA.

We were all out on the beach, just before sunset, getting a family photo taken. Luckily, when Larry the Stinger (as I’ve come to think of him) was found, most of the shots had been done. And what do you do when you find a jellyfish washed up on the beach? Why, you poke it with a stick, by god, and you get all hubris-y about it. Poor C jr wasn’t hubris-y, I guess…just curious. She loves all creatures. When she was three, she’d throw her arms around a tree covered in ants so they’d walk on her. I know. I don’t get it either. I marvel.

So anyway, the adults gathered around, the kids gathered around, C jr tried to help the thing get back into the ocean. And then, suddenly, she grabbed her toe, said something like “ow” and then screamed the loudest scream I’ve ever heard. You know how “blood-curdling” is often used to describe screaming? I’d never really understood that phrase. Now I do. I literally felt my blood separate and spoil all at once. It was terrible. C scooped her up and headed back up to the house.

We all chorused about peeing on it (haven’t you seen Friends?) but I’d just gone to the bathroom, and C couldn’t manage it, either. Luckily, our photographer was multi-talented, and managed to fill a cup which we then poured on C jr’s blazing foot.

Interesting note: Urine is for a jellyfish sting. A Portuguese Man O’War is not a jellyfish. Urine actually makes the sensation WORSE.

C jr screamed louder, and I felt my brain detach.

Here’s the thing – you always wonder how you’ll handle trauma. Especially when it’s your child. C was calm, but urgent. I became unblinking and gesturally economical. (?) I googled man o’war sting remedies. Blink. I read that urine does not work. Blink. I read that vinegar or baking soda can help. We had no vinegar (salad dressing? someone suggested, and I resisted the urge to yowl at the heavens) but there was a small box of baking soda in the fridge so we ran and got that and dumped it on C jr’s foot.

The upshot is that C jr now has a healthy respect for Nature, and I’ve experienced decibels previously unknown. After a few hours of throbbing, rounds of kid’s Benadryl and some Nickelodeon for distraction, C jr fell asleep and woke up with a new foot.

What C kept repeating to C jr was that he knew it hurt, and hurt bad, but that it wouldn’t last forever. He just kept calmly talking her down out of the crazy tree, and the great thing is, she tried really hard to hear him. When she wasn’t screaming.