Category Archives: children

The Chill Pills Are Working

Last year, I got a bee in my bonnet about having a perfectly matched Christmas tree. I excommunicated all the tattered and handmade ornaments to a mini tree which I relegated to the sunroom, and informed the family that only the pre-designated red and gold ornaments could be hung on the official Christmas tree.

I then tried to sell the mini tree to my offspring as a very special tree they could decorate in any way they pleased (even though I snuck back during the dead of night to re-arrange their handiwork), but they saw right through the chicanery. One child was so upset that she did not come out of her room for two hours. I recognized the folly of my ways eventually, but not before ruining Christmas Decorating Day and creating traumatic memories that my children will need years of therapy to work through

That’s why last weekend, before we hauled out all the Christmas stuff, the P-Dawg said, “Are you going to do that thing again where you don’t let the kids put up their favorite ornaments?”

“Of course not. I made a mistake last year. They can hang any ornament anywhere and any which way they like.”

When we hauled out the boxes, my daughter approached me and asked very timidly, “Mama, which ornaments are we allowed to put on the tree?”

It was then that the shriveled up husk I call a heart disintegrated altogether.

“There are no restrictions on ornament placement this year,” I told her. I’m sorry I was such a jerk.

Then I sat back and watched them go to town. What’s more, I was able to restrain myself from moving even one single ornament from the branch it was clustered on with three or five of its low hanging friends.

And I’ll let you in on another secret: When I put up the banister garland, I did not loop it around the rungs using a precise, mathematical pattern as I have done in the past. In some places, garland is bunched together and in other places it’s spread out. Also,  there is about three feet of garland with malfunctioning lights right in the middle of the whole she-bang, which I’m choosing to pretend does not exist.

As a casual observer you may not even notice this, but for me it’s a personal victory. One which I tend to perseverate on when I wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden urge to re-hang the banister garland, but a victory nevertheless.

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Was it the Toe Twigs?

I’ve always been one of those mothers you see running after her kid brandishing a wet wipe. But last week, at Lithuanian camp, I perfected the art of embarrassing my children.

You see, every year at camp (also sometimes during the Saturday school Christmas pageant and at the occasional cocktail party) my friend V and I do a little schtick. The schtick changes depending on the venue, but it’s always built around our stock characters – her John Cleese to my Hugh Laurie.

This year, one of our evening programs at camp was a full-out Lithuanian folk dance-off and my friend V and I were the emcees. She played a militant Lithuanian folk dancer, hell-bent on discipline and perfection, and I was her tree hugging, interpretive dancing, ancient pagan goddess worshiping comic foil. V was all business in full folk regalia, while I wore a flowing white dress and a wreath the size of a car tire. I had a butterfly on my bosom and some oak leaves tucked into my flip-flops.

Whenever I do a summer camp skit, I think deeply about my character. What are her interests? What is her history? What is it that makes her tick? Playing a spaced out hippie required that I sing off-key, walk around in a stupor, and intermittently flap my imaginary butterfly wings.

At one point during the act, my character heard the ancient Lithuanian earth goddess, Žemyna, calling to her. I stretched out on the asphalt, which was serving as our stage, to receive her message. And just as I was putting my ear to the ground, I caught a glimpse of my daughter sitting three feet away from me, surrounded by a little posse of her camp friends.

She was not amused.

But it was going to take more than the cold shoulder of a third-grader to get me out of character. I forged onward with the skit, doing a little interpretive dancing here, a little flapping of my imaginary wings there.

Then I looked over and saw my son.

He wouldn’t even look at me.

I knew then, that neither of my children would be talking to me for a couple of days, at least.

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The Depth of my Depravity

The problem with having young children is you just can’t devour a chocolate bar without being noticed.

The other day, I gave my kids a healthy after school snack of apples and wheat germ. Then I planted them in front of an educational television program and scurried back to the kitchen, whereupon I opened the pantry and proceeded to stare inside.

I noticed a chocolate bar.

I took that chocolate bar and began to unwrap it with the stealth of a sniper. I even paused my breathing. The first velvet bite was mere inches away from my mouth when two small humans, about yea big, materialized behind me.

“WHAT ARE YOU EATING MAMA?”

Lickety-split, I tucked that chocolate bar into the elastic waistband of my yoga pants.

“Oh, just some raw almonds. Would you like one?”

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Mickey Mouse vs. Grand Duke Vytautas the Great

Grand Duke Vytautas the Great

There comes a time in every parent’s life when she must choose between a family vacation to Disney World, or Lithuania.

The decision might seem like an obvious one at first, but let me assure you it is not. I have been actively thinking about taking the family to Lithuania for a while now. The last time I visited was in 1995 – four years after independence – when they still had soldiers stamping visas behind a card table as you walked off the plane. It’s a whole different country now, with gourmet restaurants, fancy hotels, even its own scent. My friend V went a couple of years ago and got cryogenically frozen at the spa in Druskinikai, if that’s any indication of how far Lithuanians, as a people, have come.

But the biggest motivation is for my children. I want them to see that there’s a place where speaking the language I continue to yammer at them in is routine. I want them to be awestruck by medieval castles and fortresses and make the connection that they share blood ties to the people who once built and lived in them. I want to buy them an ice cream cone on the beach by the Baltic, and most of all I want to force them, for two solid weeks, to speak Lithuanian.

Mickey Mouse

But even though I had pretty much decided on Lithuania (if it’s financially possible), I began to waver when my friends spoke to me of Licensed Character Dinners that needed to be purchased for Disney a full year ahead of time. Disney World is cheaper than Lithuania, there’s no language barrier, and you don’t have jet lag or a hangover when you get home. The kids are always pleading with us to go to Disney, but you never hear them clamoring for a visit to the Lithuanian Museum of Ancient Beekeeping. Everyone keeps telling me that the Disney World Appreciation Window is narrow, and next summer my kids will already be 6 and almost 9 years old. So despite my noble aspirations, I started thinking about putting the Land of my Ancestors off for another year.

But recently my little son Jonas, who you may remember as being outwardly anti-Lithuanian, said a curious thing. At first I had no idea what he was talking about because he was using run on-sentences and mixing up languages and at one point he also started to sing. But what ultimately came out of it was this:

Jonas is in the process of developing a very special pair of shoes. Sneakers so stunningly engineered, that when he wears them on “Jonas Day” in Lithuania, he will be able to propel himself over a fire with very little exertion and win the Midsummer Night’s bonfire jumping contest to great international acclaim.

Awhile back, I tried to talk up the fatherland by telling him about how they celebrate the Feast of his patron Saint, John. And it turns out that just because, at the time, my kid was staging a dramatic display of disinterest, doesn’t mean he wasn’t listening. In fact, it seems he is planning to go.  Yesterday he asked me how many days we would have to fly to get there and reminded me that on “Jonas Day,” as he calls it, people stay up all night.

If you have perchance taken your children to Disney World and/or Lithuania, how old were they and how, if I may ask, did it go?

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