Summer is that time of year when I open my home unwittingly to all kinds of unwelcome guests. No, I'm not talking about my kids' friends; I'm talking about bugs. Lots of bugs. Squishy bugs, flying bugs, crunchy bugs, angry bugs, bugs with agendas. And while I pride myself on teaching my sons the value of all life and creation, the fact is that belief system collapses pretty quickly when you start finding creepy crawlies in your bathroom, doesn't it? Here's how we handle things in my house:
Fruit flies: Fruit flies are obnoxious and annoying and can kiss my frantically clapping hands. I hate fruit flies so much that I have literally thought Well, maybe I can go without bananas for three months. BUT I CAN'T, because I have a daily smoothie habit, and because I shouldn't have to. VERDICT: Kill, as soon as possible, and maybe celebrate by killing another one, because they seem to magically multiply when you squish one.
Regular flies: Eh. Don't get me wrong, flies are annoying and buzzy and supposedly they throw up on everything they land on (thanks a lot, disturbingly graphic middle school science film), but they're also hard to catch and their life span is, like, three days, so whatever. I chase and swat, chase and swat, chase and swat until I'm out of breath or my brain gets diverted to something else, which doesn't take long. Parenthood is a real-life "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," and my train of thought is more erratic than a fly's flight pattern. VERDICT: Sometimes I squash them, and sometimes they live to puke on my Pop-Tart another day.
Ladybugs and fireflies: Pretty creatures lead a charmed life, and bugs are no different. (Stop looking at me like that; I didn't make the rules.) Frankly, ladybugs and fireflies barely even qualify as Registered Bugs in our house. Ladybugs get a trip up my son's arm, a pic or two of their playfully dotted backsides and then a sweet, safe ushering into the yard. A stray firefly in the living room gets an awed stare, a gentle catch in cupped hands and an escort outside, with whispered wishes for finding his family and lighting up others' lives. VERDICT: Fly away, my lovelies, be free!
Bees: Bees aren't a big deal to me, but WOW do my children believe otherwise. To them, a happy honeybee trying to pollinate my sliding glass door is basically the same as a dead-eyed zombie dressed as a clown carrying a giant mason jar of scorpions. So if I can't quickly shoo it outside, I give it the ol' swat-squish, as promptly as possible. VERDICT: Sorry, honey.
Spiders (Smaller Than a Dime): While I do have a prized photo of me holding a very hairy, very living tarantula, I'm generally not a big fan of live spiders of any size or hairiness level. However, my father used to say that spiders are good to keep around because they trap and kill other unwelcome guests, and so I always pause when I notice one setting up shop in the corner of my windowsill. I can almost see it winking at me: "You keep enjoying that summer breeze, darlin'. Nothin's gettin' in here tonight, 'cept supper." VERDICT: OK, Charlotte, you can stay.
Spiders (Larger Than a Dime): Spiders of this magnitude are too big to be trusted. They have brains and fangs and sinister agendas. We cannot peacefully coexist, no matter how many pests I imagine they'd kill on my behalf. VERDICT: They gots to go, and I don't mean out the door. This house ain't no Little Critter book.
Mosquitoes: HELL NO. There is nothing worse than the unmistakable high-pitched buzzing of a mosquito hovering over your bed in the middle of the night, taunting you as it searches for the fleshiest part of you on which to feast. Any glimpse of a mosquito and my entire house is put on lockdown until that sucker is brought to justice. VERDICT: By "brought to justice" I mean "dead."
House centipedes: Have you seen these things? House centipedes are thin and light-colored and have a zillion lanky, thread-like legs that move at the speed of light across the floor when you're trying to switch the laundry. I don't like how many legs they have, or how fast they move, or how many babies they've probably left in my house. The problem is I'm often not fast enough to catch them before they skitter into some unreachable crevice. It's so unfair that I only have two legs. VERDICT: Squishity squish, if I'm fast enough.
Stink bugs: Stink bugs have singlewingedly ruined cilantro for me. Because that's exactly what they smell like when you squash them, which I'm told you're never supposed to do because that actually attracts more stink bugs to your house. You're supposed to flush them down the toilet or light them on fire or something. VERDICT: No stink bug survives on my watch. I usually flush, but only because playing with fire sets a bad example.
Moths: These things are like my kids: Everything they touch gets dirty. Also, size matters with moths. The tiny ones who flitter around my desk lamp will most likely be belly up by sunrise, so I don't pay them much mind. But the giant ones with beady eyes and heads big enough to include little moth brains and the ability to team up with Spiders (Larger Than A Dime) are marked for death immediately. Or whenever there's a commercial break. VERDICT: That's right, guys: Fly toward the light -- the eternal one.