Mom vs the Wasps
You know those times when your child asks you something and you’re distracted so you just kind of mutter “sure, sure, that’s fine” and then you discover later on that you’ve actually agreed to host a fairy tea party? Or does that only happen to me?
This took place months and months ago. Snow was still on the ground and a party in the garden seemed so far away that I didn’t even mind that much when I realized what River had asked for. I mean, surely she’d forget by spring, right?
Wrong. All spring and all summer, River has been nagging me to set a date. Finally we agreed about a week ago to do the party on August 27 at 1:00 – yesterday afternoon.
This whole past week has been wrapped up in the party. Our lesson plan was all but abandoned, but that was okay. I actually thought it might be a fun little side project for us with a whole bunch of learning opportunities. We would tidy the backyard together and clean the house together and write out the invitations together and plan the menu together and prepare the food together. I got very excited At one point I was mentally calculating how much it would cost to knock down our old shed and erect a party-perfect gazebo. The frugal life does not come naturally to me. Just ask my local Starbucks barista. Thankfully, a friend loaned me a dining tent instead, which we would need because there is a pear tree in my backyard that is a bit of a wasp magnet.
Much of the week before the party was spent cleaning up the house. River protested this loudly and often: “It’s going to be an outdoor party, mom. OUTSIDE. Why do we need to clean my room?!”
Ahhh. A teaching moment about planning ahead. “Well,” I replied. “What if your guests want to come inside to play dress up? Or what if it rains during the party?”
She thought about that for a moment and decided that maybe, just this once, I might be right. “You better clean the bathroom too,” she answered. Yeah, thanks.
So we cleaned and planned and prepared and cleaned. The day before the party, we weeded the patio and carefully picked up all the pears on the ground so that they wouldn’t attract wasps. Then we set up the dining tent and put a table inside. It was good. The backyard looked decent and the tent was big enough to squish in all eight girls. Everything was going to be fine.
On the morning of the party, I went outside to hang up some bunting that I found in the basement and a few paper lanterns that we usually keep in River’s room. Then I brought out every chair we owned. It was a bit mismatched, but shabby chic is still in, right? The girls and I spread a couple linens over the table to hide the dirt – they were dismayed by the holes but then amazed at how they virtually disappeared with some strategic layering. By the time we added a few mason jars with flowers from my yard, the table looked downright elegant.
We headed inside to prepare the food. We made tiny sandwiches and toadstool canapes and a watermelon fruit bowl. We added gummy worms to the chocolate cupcakes that my husband whipped up the night before. River washed the tea cups and I brewed herbal tea. We worked at a comfortable pace and things were going well. I sent River off to get ready while I started to bring the cups and saucers out to the tent. And then I discovered that we had some party crashers.
Two very scary wasps were angrily trying to break through the plastic ceiling. Huh. I was going to have to catch them and set them free.
Let me just pause and tell you that I’m terrified of wasps – bees too, but unlike wasps, bees produce the nectar of the gods. As a self-proclaimed honey connoisseur, I grudgingly allow for them to exist. Seriously, I once bought an ounce of honey for $20 because it was supposedly made from albino bees from the top of a mountain in Hawaii. I mentioned that frugal living doesn’t come naturally to me, right?
Wasps don’t produce honey, though. Sure they contribute to pollination, but they also sting. On purpose. And they don’t even have the courtesy to die afterwards.
Being a good mother, I try to fake it when my kids around. When we see the bees and wasps buzzing around, I talk about they are super important to food production. I tell them how scientists don’t even know how bumblebees can fly with such tiny wings. I marvel at how these little flying creatures are like mini miracles all around us. I urge the girls to just stand still and admire them.
But heaven help me if one of those little miracles of nature flies anywhere near me. My soothing voice is immediately replaced with something akin to a screeching owl as I flail my arms around psychotically and yell “Get it AWAY! GET IT AWAY! KILLLLLLLLL IT!!!”
For the record, I do this with pretty much all bugs. Spiders, earwigs, mosquitoes, moths. Lady bugs. Stink bugs. Gahhhhh….
But today we had a tea party to host, so I had to swallow my fear and get inside that tent.
I took Forest off my back and stuck him inside the house in a play pen. I pulled on my husband’s smelly hippy poncho so that there was less of me available to sting. Then I grabbed the container from the oats that we had finished off at breakfast and put some watermelon in the bottom to entice the wasps to fly in. I carefully unzipped the tent and looked around. Only one wasp was visible. I searched for a minute but decided that the second one had either escaped on his own or was lying in wait to attack me from behind.
I climbed up on the table, carefully stepping in between the mason jars with flowers. I held the container up to the wasp but he was too smart to fall for my trap. Finally, I just cupped the container against the tent, capturing the wasp inside. As he flew down to the bottom, searching for another exit, I slammed the lid on top.
Oh, he was mad.
He started flying kamikaze-style into the sides, trying to bust his way out. He completely ignored my peace offering of watermelon. I gingerly climbed back off the table and onto the ground, then unzipped the tent and stepped out. Once I was in open space, I paused to look my prisoner more carefully. A yellow jacket wasp, I’m fairy sure. He was actually pretty cool to watch. I briefly considered keeping him until after the party so we could observe him a bit more and draw him in our nature journals, but then he started butting up against the lid and suddenly he hit it hard enough that he made an opening. I screamed like I had just been bitten by a shark and I hurled the whole container into the air. It hit the shed and burst open. The wasp flew out and up over the trees.
I returned to the tent and this time I saw the second one flying around. I grabbed the oats container from the grass and screwed up my courage to go in for round two. I unzipped the opening and this time, the wasp mercifully flew right out. A huge sigh of relief.
With our unwanted party guests out of the way, I went back into the house to get the rest of the cups and saucers and the name cards. Guests would be coming in 20 minutes and this wasp adventure had wasted too much time. River and Forest came with me and we began to set the table. Then we heard loud buzzing and looked up. Two more wasps had found their way into the tent.
I sent River inside with Forest and I geared up for battle again, this time stepping between three mason jars filled with flowers and eight cups and saucers spread around the table.
I caught the first wasp without too much trouble, but when I hurled the container into the air so that it would open far from the tent, the lid stayed tightly closed. Crud. I went over to pick it up – the wasp was super ticked off. OK, I felt a little bad. I wouldn’t love being shut in a container and thrown through the air either. But how would I get him out without getting stung? I tried throwing the container once more but again the lid remained closed. Finally, I left the container beside the fence, figuring that it wasn’t air tight and he had tasty watermelon to enjoy until I returned to free him. Sorry buddy – guests were on the way and I had one more wasp to catch.
Wasp #4 was the worst by far. I caught him in an old yogurt container but I couldn’t get the lid on. He kept squeezing himself between the tent and the rim of the container every time I tried to slide the lid over top. Eventually I just froze, standing on top of the table amidst the flowers and cups and saucers and started calling to River for help. Honestly, I’m not sure what she could have done, even if she heard me. She had to watch Forest. Finally, I took a deep breath and jumped off the table.
The wasp started flying around with fury while I fumbled with the zipper and finally managed to escape. I ran inside and told River that the party was GOING TO BE INSIDE and she quickly agreed. She doesn’t like wasps either, no matter how much I lie about how awesome they are.
I ran back to the tent and opened up both sides so any other guests could leave freely, then I started grabbing things from inside. Guests started arriving as I carried chairs up the stairs. I sent the kids to River’s room to play while I set up out the cups and saucers and flowers on the kitchen table. It wasn’t nearly as elegant as our outdoor tent had been, but thankfully we had cleaned, just in case. Because sometimes there is rain. Sometimes there are wasps. But mom is always, always right.