“Do you need me to babysit this week? I need your kid’s help catching insects.”
“Ummm, no…but you’re welcome to come over and we’ll help you catch bugs.”
This conversation took place with my least in-tune-with-nature babysitter, Giann. Her idea of “outdoors” is going to an outlet mall, or perhaps eating outside – if the weather is ideal. The thought of her catching anything, much less a collection of creepy crawly insects, made me giggle. I DEFINITELY wanted to be a part of this.
But the odd part was, she’s in college. And apparently, in college, you have to make a bug collection. Who knew? College is basically fourth grade these days. But at least that made it easy to count “Helping Giann with her college project” as Science for Ali and Noah.
Giann arrived at our house, Ziploc bags and assignment papers in hand. She had collected seven bugs and needed fifteen. Fifteen specific bugs.
…But she possessed no bug catching gear.
“Where’s your net?”
“I don’t have one. And I didn’t want to spend the money to buy one. But I figured you’d have one. You’re a homeschool mom.”
“Yeah, I’m a BAD homeschool mom! You know this. I don’t have a net.”
“Well, let’s try without a net.”
I was excited to see where this would go. It could only turn out to be the most entertaining thing that would happen to me.
I took Giann around to the back of our house where we have a colony of Carpenter Bees slowly eating our deck for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I pointed two of them out to her. She put her hands up and backed up slowly, as if a SWAT team had just surrounded her.
“This is going to go so well.”
We gave up on the Carpenter bees and went in the garage to catch a ladybug. There are dozens on the inside of our garage door this time of year, so that was easy. I pointed them out to her, and she held out her baggy, being careful to never get too close to the wretched creatures, and I suppose, she attempted to WILL them into her bag.
I grabbed her bag, picked up a couple ladybugs, dropped them in, and zipped it up.
We went into the house and began looking in the windowsills for unfortunately trapped bugs. We found a dead one that would fit under one of the criteria. We put him in a bag, but his head accidentally broke off.
“It’s okay. Our teacher said we could reassemble any insects with clear fingernail polish.”
One of the required catches was a Dragonfly, something you can’t find just anywhere. Fortunately for her, though, I’d just seen dozens at Ruffner Mountain a couple of days prior, so I finally had a reason to drag Giann on a hike with us. And, since another babysitter, Sarah, is living with us right now, we grabbed her as well.
But first, a net. We stopped by Wal-Mart on the way.
“But I don’t want to spend money on a net!!”
“Fine. Take my credit card. Then I’ll have a net and I’ll be a better homeschool mom.”
Because I’m the best babysitting client there ever was.
Giann and Sarah went in, then came back out of Wal-Mart with a net and garden gloves.
“WHAT are the gloves for??”
“So I don’t have to touch any bugs!!”
We arrived at Ruffner Mountain and began the ascent to the quarry. Amazingly, right in the center of the trail, was a giant, gorgeous, green beetle – upside down, legs wiggling frantically in the air, completely stuck on his back.
“LOOK!! It’s as if he had mercy on you and knew you needed him!!”
We scooped up the unlucky beetle and kept walking.
Giann tip-toed around the trails, carefully avoiding puddles and water. We made it to the quarry, which is a gorgeous valley with flowers and butterflies and dragonflies and sheer rock cliffs.
Giann looked around, desperately trying to be impressed. I felt like we were making progress. At least she was trying! She spotted something interesting on the ground.
“Look! Is that a Cocoon???”
She was so excited. Nature was grabbing ahold of her soul. I went over and examined what she found.
“Nope. That’s Poop. It’s just growing a little white mold.”
Poor Giann. She tried so hard. For three whole seconds of her life.
Ali started climbing, and Noah, who had been carrying the net, spotted a butterfly.
He chased it for a minute, then Giann grabbed the net and went after it. She looked so natural. So one with nature. Like she was about to move to Australia and live in a hammock in the outback.
She kept lunging and woefully missing. I tried to encourage her in a language that she could understand.
“Swipe that butterfly, Giann! Swipe it like a credit card!”
It totally worked. She bagged herself a butterfly. Then kinda panicked when considering how to get the butterfly from the net to the bag. I explained the technical skill of pinching the butterfly in the top of the net, putting the baggy over the pinched part, then releasing the butterfly into the baggy.
…Except that I wanted to disgust her just a bit more, so after she got her baggy in place, I said, “Okay. Now loosen your net’s sphincter and let the butterfly through.”
“Do NOT use that word with me ever again!!”
I’m seriously the BEST employer in the world.
After locking down our butterfly (which was probably a moth), we headed up the trail to bag a dragonfly. News Flash: Dragonflies are freaking hard to catch. Giann realized this after her first attempt and threw me the net. This needed a professional homeschool Mom for this job.
After tracking five different ones like a Discovery Channel specialist, I finally was able to sneak up on a naïve one and trap him.
Giann started squealing. “YOU GOT ONE! YOU GOT ONE! OH MY GOSH YOU GOT ONE!!!”
She got a bag out of the professional hiking backpack I had supplied her with,
(Because Noah refused to be a gentleman and tote her bug-catching gear,)
And brought it over to the net.
Her frenzy continued. “How are we going to get him in the bag? Don’t let him get away! OH HE’S NOT GOING IN THE BAG!!”
I said “Calm down. Quit freaking out. There is nothing to freak out ab—-WHAT’S ON MY HEAD?!?!”
I had just felt a nasty creepy crawly feeling on the top of my head and jumped a bit. Then realized that Noah had snuck up on me and was walking his fingers lightly across my head.
I growled at my son and gently shoved the Dragonfly into the baggy. And I felt fairly awesome. I had just caught a Dragonfly. For my babysitter. Because I’m the most spectacular employer of all time.
Then I told her, “Okay. Your reward, or punishment, whatever you want to call it, for getting me to catch your bugs for you is that you get to, or have to, go to the top of the mountain with me and see the most remarkable view of all time. It will make you so in love with the outdoors that you will move into a yurt in the mountains. Oh – watch your step – there’s a dead mouse.”
She shrieked and jumped to the other side of the trail, but regained composure and continued to try to try to try to try to like the outdoors.
We made it to the top, and both Giann and Sarah were mildly impressed with my idea of fun.
…but were both much happier when we were back safely in civilization sipping Chick-Fil-A frozen coffees.
A few days later, Giann sent me a picture of her final insect collection.
As I studied all of our hard work on a pin, I felt a roller coaster of emotions. Pride, envy, sadness, admiration.
But these are the sacrifices that nature must make for us to gain college degrees.