July. Again.

Good morning everyone. I’m doing a daring thing right now: blogging without an editor. Not even second-guessing. July is crazy. That’s my excuse. July rivals December in the ability to bring me this close to the edge, so here we go.

Things you can depend upon in July:

Ants. Have we said enough about them yet? I’ve soaked them with poison for the entire month and they are multiplying. There are ants in Blythe, right now, hearing about a promised land that is my house, and they are packing up their wagon to move west.

Heat. Your mom’s yearly manic speech about moving to Oregon where life is lush and green and wet and breezy, not dry and barren and bleak and soul-sucking. It was 119* on her patio but she was pretty sure that a fan and a spritz bottle would handle it.

Kids. Look, I don’t want to hear your speech about how mine are older now and how hard can it be, with only one left in high school. The diaper days were filled with educationally stimulating interactive projects that included creating booger art on the bathroom walls, but seeing these same man-children acting like vegetables in front of the internet makes me question every reason I had about having them in the first place.

School. They need to go back. I will shop the Target sales, just to speed up the process. I will – for the LAST TIME – fill out these massive documents in triplicate so that they will be forced off of the man-cave bean bag chairs and back into common sense booger art.

Guests. Hello vacay! At my house! Y’all come! My day job held this one at bay for a couple of years, and now I wonder whether I’ve still “got it”. There are kiwis sleeping one room over as we speak, and the beds were freshly made but I didn’t have time to prepare anything fabulous for breakfast, and here I am sitting at my desk writing instead, so there’s been a priority shift obviously and I only hope they like cold cereal.

Bible School. The last full week of July. Always. And of course, you have volunteered to do a thing. No matter what job you raised your hand for, it always looks like a yard sale in the living room for two full weeks ahead of time, because you need to make sure you remember everything because you are not driving all the way back home on a Tuesday night to fetch a lesson plan. The kids suddenly don’t have any pants that fit or enough underwear to last for seven days and you visit Target every day of July until management gives you a raise and a new red shirt.

Writing. I’ve been working on websites and newsletters, and making custom MadLibs which are probably funnier than my blog, so I should include a couple for you.    ( A Tour of Camp )    I also worked on a short story series that is super-hero themed and feels a little comic book-ish, so it may not land in the blog. This is because my sons decided my education needed an update and forced me to watch both “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and I just have to believe…if raccoons and trees and complete poppycock can make it onto the big screen…there is hope for us little people.

Oh, and Italy. Our research includes watching movies made in or about Italy while stuffing Boom Chicka Pop into our mouth and trying to not fall asleep on the couch. The language is basically exaggerated Spanglish. So long as I am very passionate about the subject, I think Italy will understand me.

But for now, July has taken it all. The ants, the kids, the guests, and the Hubby can have the hot house covered in suitcases, boxes, and cereal bowls. I almost shanked an innocent Aussie with a hole punch for attempting to hug me yesterday. I’m not proud of this. I offered a free piercing for whatever he had handy. On the house.

If you need me, I’ll be in Target, sorting the ice cream case.

Living in an Ant Farm

Dear Ants,

Uncle!!

We live in an ant farm now.

It’s escape proof. I can’t seem to get out of it.

The ants are the dominant species and we are their playthings.

They are the movers and the shakers of planet earth – one teensy grain of sand at a time – and if they want to travel up to the balcony, into the rafters, through my walls, out the electric outlets, around the sofa, down the staircase and into my son’s backpack just to bring a piece of leftover PB&J sandwich to their anthill three miles away, they can.

In 2014, NASA launched a formicarium into space.

Because no one was cleaning up the International Space Station after making a PB&J.

And they needed some motivation to keep the peanut butter out of the cruise controls.

(Who were they kidding? Ants invented zero gravity.)

Those little “engineers of the insect world” have redesigned my habitat.

All of my attempts to persuade them to leave have come to naught.

I spray poison.

They move two inches, literally, to the left and proceed full speed ahead.

I put out an ant bait party.

They party.

They bring friends.

They stagger around, drunk on borax, and go home for a week to sleep it off.

Then they come back for more.

And bring the neighbors.

Oh, at first I thought maybe I could wait them out. They gave me an excuse to buy some shiny new containers to keep the cereal in. I had no idea ants were a fan of Life cereal.

They forced me to keep to my routine of running the laundry and the dishwasher every night before going to bed. Both places are swarming with ants by then. It gives me great pleasure to get those little buggers squeaky clean.

I don’t have trashcans anywhere in the house now. If my kid blows his nose, he has to carry the tissue through the garage and out to the main bin. Otherwise, he will find ants creeping up his legs to relieve him of the tissue still held in his fist. They’re very helpful like that.

I vacuum every day.

I’ve gone from wiping the countertops every 15 minutes to making everyone go out on the patio to assemble their sack lunches. And eat dinner. And make toast.

It’s fun for the whole family!

We had company over yesterday.

The house has never been cleaner.

“Go to the ants, you sluggard,” says the Bible, “because they will make you work harder than you ever thought possible, just so they will stay out of your ear.”

Someone set their empty glass on the coffee table in the living room and had all of a three minute conversation. When we reached for the glass, it was covered in ants.

Not a scout or two. Covered.

Ninja ants. They’re everywhere.

I feel my skin crawling with them, even when they aren’t.

My daughter with the ecology degree informs me that these ants are genetically identical.

I’m holding the Clone Wars right here.

Any chance I can send these little buggers to a galaxy far, far away?

Because I’m exhausted.

When the family has to live outside and the ants get to live inside, something somewhere is rotten in NASA.

Ants in Your Pants

Some of the things that kept my sisters and I entertained on long bored-out-of-our-minds summer days were insects. Show me a kid who plays with bugs, and I will show you a kid who was locked out of the house between breakfast and dinner time all summer long.

Mom gave us a choice first thing in the morning: play in or play out. And then stay there. There was always more room to spread out in the backyard, or maybe we were simply tricked into the choice, but mom was sick of the in-out-in-out-in-out slam of the screen door. Hard to blame her for that.

If we were thirsty, it was “drink out of the hose”. If we were hungry, there was a whole garden of fresh tomatoes or lettuce or other foraged snacks.  If we needed the bathroom…well, I suppose she made exceptions for that one.

Ant hills were a source of fascination, but as we were not going to actually spend money on an ant farm (You’re buying dirt? And ants?) we could only see the surface superstructures. We made bridges, hurdles, tiny rivers and other obstacles for the little marching army and watched them proceed to navigate or re-route their freeway. We set down half eaten Lifesavers to see how fast the scouts could locate them and call in the troops.

These were common black ants, not the fire-breathing ones, or this would be an entirely different story.

Occasionally we held potato bug races. These tickly little sow bugs were under any rock, handy to catch and hard to direct. If your bug just ran in little circles, well, you chose a dud. Better luck next race.

A big mid-summer event was the invasion of the giant green Japanese beetles. You could hear them coming and if you didn’t run for cover, the terror was one might get caught in your hair.

You can pick up a crawly green beetle if you carefully grab them just in the middle by the sides. They can’t reach you with their scratchy hooked feet and they can’t open their wings to fly, since you have them pinned with your fingers. You have to move deliberately and calmly, but it’s perfectly acceptable to be shrieking like a little girl while you do it.

Japanese beetles have an atrocious smell. A very distinguished stink.

Our preferred method of revenge was to paint our initials on their glossy green backs in pink nail polish and then send them back in disgrace to their colony.

We watched for our marked beetles; very few returned.

When this became boring, we simply caught them, tied a string to a leg, and walked around with our own personal beetle kite.

What are your thoughts on roaches? Not the giant hissing ones from Madagascar; the tame scuttly ones that live under your floorboards.

Our tiny house was held together by a million cockroaches all holding hands: the ceiling, the walls, the floors. They held the appliances in place. They pulled the blankets up when we tucked into bed at night. They kept stray cats out of the yard.

If we had a girlfriend come for a rare sleep-over, we played a game where we stood in the middle of the kitchen and turned out the lights. Holding very still, you heard the sound of a million cockroaches darting across the room to trade places with each other. A cucaracha Chinese fire drill.

When you flipped the lights back on, you could just catch the last one disappearing behind the table that your friend had naively scrambled up onto while emitting a piercing war whoop.

Which is better? Standing very still while the little buggers run over your bare feet? Or squishing one between your toes as you race for the nearest exit?

We apologized to the flattened roach while our speechless friend clung table-top, eyes wide.

He accepted our remarks and dragged himself home. He was probably over 100 years old. He was probably older than the dinosaurs.

It wasn’t his first time being squashed by a little girl, and it wouldn’t be his last.

But it was very likely to be our last sleep-over.