Last time Daniel deployed, I rearranged our furniture roughly 482 times. I also disassembled our heavy dining room table and chairs, took the pieces into the yard, sanded the whole thing down with a sander that was way too wimpy for the job, stained it a very slightly different color, and eventually reassembled it. It was poorly done but not terrible, and by the time Daniel came home, most of the furniture had made its way back to it’s pre-deployment position. I had literally nothing to show for all the effort I exerted while he was gone.  I’d like to say that after nine months of spinning my wheels that I did some introspection and learned something about myself, like “could I maybe find less costly, less exhausting, or more productive coping mechanisms?” or at least I wish I could say I learned how to properly sand and stain furniture, but alas, I didn’t really learn a darn thing, except that I’m no good at holding down the fort and sticking to our routine and otherwise adulting as usual when he’s gone for more than a month or so (If you hate millennial words and phrases like “adulting” and “sorry not sorry” then you might want to jump ship now. Hashtag sorrynotsorry.) I have to stay busy during these long separations, and distract myself and the kids. I wish I was better at being still, being content, and embracing the hard things in life with more grace, but it’s easier to work on projects than it is to work on my personality or my to-do list, so here we are.

Which brings us to Bill. Bill is my newest deployment project. A 1987 Palomino Pony popup camper (exhibit A) gifted to me by my brother and sister-in-law. Unlike me, my brother knows when it’s time to abandon a project, and lucky for me, his new bride was graciously willing to part with the “lovely lawn ornament”  as she phrased it. Bill is named for Samwise Gamgee’s pony in Lord of the Rings, an idea my bestie Brooke came up with and I LOVED, because duh. Get it? It’s a Pony? Named after a pony? And we’re going on an adventure? And Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest stories of all time? Ok you get it.

I didn’t initially plan to blog about “fixing up” the camper because really, I’m just sprucing it up a little and there are a BILLION amazing camper remodel blogs on the interwebs and I figured there’s no way any of what I’m doing could be helpful or remotely interesting. But oh, I am older and wiser than I was 12 hours ago.

Day 1 of Operation Camper Cleanup was not as uneventful as I’d hoped. And you know, maybe someone can learn from my mistakes.

Nathan, my brother, had mentioned previously that I’d need to deal with some red wasps before I started working, so yesterday I went to his house with a can of raid. Ha. A can. One can of raid. Oh, it seems so naïve now. The camper was all closed up, and there were indeed several wasps crawling around the door area. I sprayed them, I sprayed up under the crevice where the canopy meets the roof (where I assumed they had, oh I dunno, say, a little golf ball sized nest) and feeling quite pleased with myself, I left. I came back that evening and there were a few stragglers, so I dealt with them too. Understand: I’m one of those annoying “bugs hate peppermint oil!” girls, so I already felt like I was bringing out the big guns using a toxic name brand wasp spray.IMG_20180712_122026.jpg

That was last night. This morning, Brooke and her daughter met us (me and my four daughters) at the camper to help with the cleanup. Again there were some wasp stragglers, which Brooke vanquished wielding only a flip flop. It was glorious. She has incredible aim. After a only a few setbacks we figured out how to pop the roof up. We got one side popped up and that’s when we encountered The Swarm. Now, we’re not complete idiots so it had occurred to us that there might be more wasps inside that would be agitated by opening the thing. But by “more” I figured, like, I don’t know.  A normal amount of wasps, whatever that is. I just didn’t expect to be all “The red coats are coming!” I thought we were evicting a couple squatters, not waging an all-out war against an army of rage bees.

Here’s where it gets fun though. We had set both of Brooke’s flip flops on top of the roof of the camper while we were figuring out how to pop it up. But then, once it was half-popped and thus the shoes were suddenly high up out of our reach, the enemy strategically chose this moment to advance. That can of raid was long since emptied at this point. Disarmed, and with no other option than to retreat and regroup, Brooke went to the Walmarts to acquire some more advanced weaponry than flip flops. Upon her return, we took a moment to admire the great deal she got on the generic brand wasp spray. Three cans for the price of one can of Raid! Yas! But no. This stuff did not spray right. It shot out a thick stream of foam instead of a wide mist. In other words, the cans run out quickly, you can only kill one at a time, and if you don’t hit your dive-bombing target square in its creepy little face, you’re just pissing it off more instead of killing it. And red wasps are already pissed off. They are born pissed off. Nevertheless, we eventually found ourselves in a battlefield littered with dead wasps and empty cans, sweaty and exhausted. Brooke did most of the killing. I mostly ran around yelling, and I fell flat on my face at one point. I fell hard. The good news is I’m pretty sure Nathan’s security camera caught it all on tape.

Fun fact about red wasps, there are infinity of them. They are the most abundant creature on the planet. They are also stupid, and relentless. As we were slaughtering them by the hundreds they continued to bring bits of material into the camper to start rebuilding the five ENORMOUS nests we had knocked down. Side note: Wasp larvae is icky.IMG_20180713_103128.jpg

Either high on cheap Raid fumes or just delirious with the stifling Oklahoma heat, we once again prematurely declared ourselves victorious. We were eager not to waste time, because we’d been there nearly two hours and had done no real cleaning, so we just started scrubbing and sweeping and clearing out the camper all whilst dodging the remnant of the wasp army. So it’s surprising that our team only took two stings. Unfortunately both hits were taken by my four year old. Who was supposed to be far away on the porch. But she wasn’t. And who was also supposed to be wearing shoes, because every rattlesnake in the state of Oklahoma undoubtedly lives on her Uncle Nathan’s property, but again, she wasn’t. We wrapped up early because I was like “oh. I’m a terrible mother.” I bought her a snow cone, because sugar helps relieve mom guilt and if you buy a four year old a snow cone, you will be her best friend. Unless you’re a stranger, then that’s weird, don’t be a creep.

Anyway. Where were we? Oh yeah. I’m staying with my parents while we find a place to live. Over dinner, I just kept thinking about how the camper is finally wasp-free (ish) and there were at least two hours of daylight left, and I was wasting them. So I got the baby to sleep, dumped my offspring on my poor mother, and I went back to Nathan’s house alone. Hoping to avoid a second fume-fueled migraine of the day, I wore a face mask and some sexy rubber gloves. I looked pretty fabulous in all my sweaty glory.IMG_20180713_191913.jpg

There were only 3 wasps hovering around the camper. To put that into perspective, its like having only 3 sharks in your pool. Three is a big number when you’re trapped in a metal box the size of a guest bathroom with them. The door is very small. These last three wasps, man. Let me tell you about these wasps. You know the rogue characters in movies that have nothing left to lose so they’re just reckless and crazy-eyed? Like The Punisher, or Mel Gibson’s character in Lethal Weapon? That was these guys. If it’s survival of the fittest, these three were apparently the fittest. They were ultra aggressive super robo wasps. I’m pretty sure they were the inspiration for the Tracker Jackers in The Hunger Games. Direct hit, close range aerosol poison right in the face but they just kept coming. If a red wasp is not in the dictionary next to the word “aggressive” it should be.

I was determined to make some headway cleaning. I’d wait til a wasp flew out of the camper, then I would run in and clean the fabric interior for about thirty seconds. Inevitably one of them would fly back in and I’d practically duck and roll back out. Purple gloves, face mask, a can of knock off Raid in one hand and a can of cleaner in the other. In the camper. Back out. Flailing. Screaming. I am not a graceful woman. I’m obviously going to have to destroy Nathan’s security tapes.
I became so jumpy that the faint hiss made by the foam cleanser as it bubbled down sounded like buzzing and sent me flying out of the camper more than once. On the drive home I karate chopped my change scoop because the change made a buzz-like sounds as it rattled together on the bumpy gravel road.  I keep smacking my own face because my hair brushing against it feels like a wasp.

So here’s some obvious advice:  if you have wasps, don’t get the cheap stuff. Sure as heck don’t use no dang peppermint oil. If you’re unwilling to just set the thing on fire and cut your losses, your best bet is to work out some sort of contract with the military to provide a nuclear weapon. Short of that, you may have some success with wasp fogger, or better yet, a professional. This piece of how-to advice concludes my very short stint as a DIY camper renovation blogger.

As far as I know, Brooke’s shoes are still up there.

So that’s how the camper thing is going. And I couldn’t be more pleased.


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