We had never thrown a birthday party for our kids with their friends before,
and they had never asked for one either.
This year Sam and I talked it over and decided we would plan to do one for each of them when they turn 4, 8, 12, and 16. Since Talmage missed the 8-year-old party last year, we decided to do a party for him this year. I got pretty excited about it, having never done it before, and we decided on a wilderness survival theme.
For one of the party activities, I wanted the kids to make slingshots out of sticks and elastic,
so on Talmage's birthday (a few days before his party), I enlisted the help of the boys to go hunting for forked sticks.
We headed to the park pictured above with the hope that there would be branches on the ground from the many trees that would work for what we had in mind.
The weather was perfect, and I sat happily in the front seat of the car watching the kids while I nursed Benson.
Maxwell wandered along behind Talmage and I thrilled in the peace of the moment.
Suddenly I heard a loud SCREAM and I saw Talmage sprinting through the trees.
I'm pretty immune to screams from my kids by this point, so I honestly didn't think much of it at first and continued nursing Benson for a few seconds.
But he repeatedly screamed as he ran and then shouted, "THEY'RE ALL OVER ME!!!"
I quickly plopped Benson onto the front seat of the car and met Talmage a few steps away as he was frantically slapping his head and arms.
"What's all over you???" I asked.
"I DON'T KNOW!" he replied. I looked at his trembling hands and noticed torn skin with what appeared to be maggots of some kind embedded in them. Horrified, I wondered for a split second what kind of carnivorous maggots could be attacking my son, and then I took in his entire appearance and saw not maggots but WASPS covering his body.
I froze for a moment, wondering what I could possibly do that wouldn't harm him further or hurt anyone else. My heart was racing as I said, "Bud, I'm going to rip your shirt off your head and then I need you to run into the car, okay?"
There were at least a dozen wasps all over his shirt and it looked like they were oddly paralyzed.
I didn't have time to take it in or wonder what was going on, though, so on the count of 3 I ripped his shirt off, threw it on the ground a distance away, and herded everyone into the car.
We drove across the parking lot, away from the wasps, where I could finally assess the damage.
Maxwell had been stung once on the side of the head, but everyone else was okay besides Talmage.
What I had initially thought were maggots were actually stingers and pieces of smashed wasps that must have resulted from the slapping as he felt the initial pain and before he realized what was going on.
He had been stung all over one hand, the other arm, and the head, and his entire body was shaking violently.
I gently removed stingers before the 10-minute drive to home.
Talmage was gasping in the back seat and I kept telling him, "It's okay to cry, bud, it's okay!" because he wasn't doing anything but gasping for air.
The pain just continued to escalate as we drove home and I pulled into the garage.
I yanked the car into park and ran into the house and began running bath water for Talmage.
His head was hurting so much and upon closer examination there was another stinger stuck in his scalp. I removed it as well, noticing that the back of his head was red and swollen all the way around to his ear and down his neck.
One hand remained swollen about twice as large as normal through the following day.
In all he received probably about 12-15 stings (It was difficult to tell how many there were, especially in his hair).
Throughout the evening the pain would go through a cycle where it would decrease and then suddenly crescendo for several minutes. He would pace around the house until it eased back off.
Needless to say it took a couple of hours before he felt up to having his birthday dinner and presents.
The whole thing was really terrifying for him and for me.
I woke up in the night, still thinking about how awful the situation was and imagining all the things that could have happened, and it occurred to me that I was so focused on the bad that had happened that I was neglecting to recognize and be grateful for the little miracles that took place.
Like how only our oldest boy was attacked (who could probably handle it best) and Maxwell, who was right next to him, was only stung once. Talmage later told me that he was just walking along when he attacked; he hadn't moved any sticks or rocks, so they really could have attacked anyone.
Or how Benson didn't fall out of the car despite the way I precariously placed him on the front seat in my frantic response, although he typically rolls all over the place when I lay him down.
Or the way the wasps that were covering Talmage's shirt seemed paralyzed and he didn't receive any stings on his face.
Or how he didn't receive any additional stings when I removed his shirt and the wasps remained frozen somehow to the shirt while I got everyone in the car.
Often when scary situations happen with my kids I am stuck thinking about what could have happened.
But when I focus on what actually did happen and I acknowledge God's loving care, my heart is filled with gratitude and faith that drives away anxiety and fear.
I'm so grateful our boy was okay and that Heavenly Father was watching out for our family that afternoon.