Bean Dirt, Part 2

by Wendy Copley on September 25, 2007

OK, so now I get to write the embarrassing follow-up post about bean dirt. Remember how I talked about what a great idea I had? Remember my slightly gloating tone because I thought I was so clever? Well, I’m here today to eat a little crow, internet.

Yesterday morning, Wyatt wanted to play with the beans first thing when we got up. I dumped them out onto a cookie sheet, retrieved his matchbox cars and set about filling the kettle and putting it on for tea while he started to play. I had just turned on the stove when Wyatt came up to me with his finger up his nose. “Mama! My booger hurts!” he said.

I got a Kleenex and told him to blow.

“It hurts, Mama! This booger hurts!”

Hmmmmm…unusual. I didn’t remember him ever telling me a booger hurt before. On a hunch, I asked him to tilt his head back and looked up his nose. He did indeed have a strange-looking booger in his right nostril.

And then I realized it wasn’t a booger.

“Wyatt, did you put a bean up your nose?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yep!”

Fantastic. He had a dried garbanzo bean up his nose. The whole time we were playing with bean dirt, I was thinking it was safe for an almost-three-year-old because he doesn’t put things in his mouth any more. It didn’t even cross my mind that he’d stick one of the beans up his nose.

So then we got Zach up and called our pediatrician’s answering service to find out what to do. When Dr. Kittams called back, he suggested that we first try to get Wyatt to blow it out of his nose by pressing on the empty nostril and blowing out his nose as hard as he could. He gamely tried to do that a few times, but you know…he’s three…and blowing out through his nose isn’t something he’s completely mastered. Sometimes when he “blows his nose” he blows out and sometimes he sucks air in. And after three or four unsuccessful tries of anything Wyatt starts whining and saying, “I can’t, I can’t!” and punctuating his statement with random screams and wails.

Next, Dr. Kittams said we should take a paper clip, straighten it out and bend the top quarter inch at a 90 degree angle. Then he told us to sterilize it with a bit of rubbing alcohol, hold Wyatt very, very still and then ease the paper clip into his nose and flick the bean out with the bent tip. I had my doubts about this one, but Wyatt really didn’t want to go into the doctor’s office so I thought we could give it a try. As soon as he saw the bent paper clip, that idea went right out the window. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a tool to get the bean out of your nose,” I said.

“Nooooooooooo!” he screamed and took off running around the house.

We tried to convince him to let us get the bean out a few more times, and then we called the pediatrician to tell him we needed to come in. There was absolutely no way I was going to stick a paper clip up my screaming, flailing toddler’s nose.

When we did finally get to the pediatrician’s office, he brought two interns into the office with him to watch the procedure. He said objects up the nose are pretty common, but he hadn’t seen one for a couple of years so he wanted them to see it. Wyatt was pretty terrified by it all and wasn’t capable of sitting still for the doctor so I held him on my lap, Zach held his arms and one of the interns held his feet and Dr. Kittams used an official medical instrument that looked like a bent paper clip to flick the bean out of his nose.

After three hours in Wyatt’s nostril, the bean had absorbed enough moisture that it doubled in size. The bean on the right is the actual bean. The one on the left is included to show the starting size.

Bean Dirt: 2 days later.

So, Wyatt is fine, the bean is out of his nose and he’s promised not to put anything up there ever again. We are going to let him keep playing with the bean dirt because we’re pretty certain that he’s learned his lesson. This morning when I dropped him off at day care he told me, “Mama I was really good this morning. I didn’t put a bean up my nose!” I plan to frequently remind him not to shove stuff up his nose going forward too.

One thing that has made me feel better about all this is hearing how common this sort of thing is. Whenever I repeat this story, the person I’m talking to always has their own tale of someone she knows — her kid, his neighbor, her nephew, himself — sticking an object in one of the holes in her head. In descending order from most popular to least these are the objects I’ve heard have gone up noses, in ears and down the throat:

  • beans (3, all up the nose)
  • pennies (2, one up the nose, one swallowed)
  • popcorn (2, one up the nose, one in the ear)
  • bead (1, up the nose)
  • jagged metal thing (1, swallowed and by far the scariest story)
  • Barbie doll shoe (1, up the nose)
  • raisins (1, multiple raisins packed into a nostril)
  • Sweet-tart (1, up the nose of my dear brother, Lance)


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