Category Archives: good times

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 First Rule of Hiking is “Stay on the Trail”

“Stay on the trail, kids! The first rule of hiking is ‘Stay on the Trail’.”

“You’ll know it because it’s been cleared of brush.”

“Isn’t it beautiful here, guys? Just imagine! This is what Ohio looked like when only the Native Americans lived here.”

“Wait up.”

“JONAS, STAY AWAY FROM THAT LEDGE!”

“Look at that tree.”

“Watch out for poison ivy.”

“Stop waving those sticks around. It’s always funny until someone loses an eye.”

“JONAS, GET AWAY FROM THAT LEDGE! Do you want to fall and crack your head open?”

“Wait up.”

“Wait up.”

“Wait up!”

“Don’t touch that. It could be poison ivy.”

“Let’s stop here for a rest and to look at the beauty of nature.”

“Seriously, guys, what did I tell you about those sticks?”

“No, no snacks.”

“Because we just ate breakfast. Besides, it’s not like we’re climbing Mount Everest.”

“Wait up.”

“You think the Native Americans had juice boxes and granola bars? If a Native American got hungry, he would just go down to the lake and scoop out a fish with his bare hands.”

“No.”

“Because we’re not Native Americans.”

“Are you kidding me? We’ve only been out here for like twenty minutes.”

“JONAS STAY AWAY FROM THE LEDGE. What do I have to do, get you a collar?”

“Look at those huge boulders, kids. That right there is what the Native American kids called a ‘playground’.”

“Don’t climb on that.”

“Wait up.”

“Leaves of three, let them be.”

“No, I don’t actually know what poison ivy looks like. Ask Daddy to Google it on his phone.”

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When Animals Attack: Part Two

Warning: This post contains a photo of a skeleton and a clown.

I don’t normally spend a lot of time thinking about wild animals, but lately they’ve been forcing my hand. For example, last week Ohio made the news when a crazy person released his entire menagerie of beasts plus a monkey into the surrounding neighborhood. It was a sad episode in my state’s history. All of the animals were shot (but not before eating the monkey), and as a result I started to second-guess my plan to take the kids to the circus.

We were supposed to go as part of the V-meister’s 8th birthday celebration, but I felt that perhaps I should take a moral stand against circuses in general. Plus I worried that PETA might show up and torch the place. But I had purchased really good seats and I’d been looking forward to the circus, so there was no turning back.

The circus is no longer under a tent. Instead, it’s at a venue called the “Quicken Loans Arena.” But I have to hand it to those Ringling Brothers – they really know how to put on a show. All of the usual circus suspects were represented, including clowns, acrobats, tightrope walkers, and a human cannonball. Jonas was so enthralled by the clowns that I’m holding the Ringling Brothers plus Barnum plus Bailey personally accountable for his decision to become a clown when he grows up. He wants to put on “The Funniest Show on Erf.”

But I must admit I was conflicted about the animals. On the one hand, they were fascinating to watch; on the other, they seemed out of place at Quicken Loans Arena.  A whole herd of elephants came out and did tricks, like standing on their hind legs and rolling over. Ponies and zebras also performed, and there were many ferocious tigers, though they stayed inside their cage. During the pre-show, an elephant painted a picture with his trunk, though I have to tell you it wasn’t anything to write home about, talent-wise. It made me a bit uncomfortable that that elephant was on a basketball court and not in the Saharan plains. And that he was wearing a headband

The next day we headed to Lithuanian camp in Michigan for a weekend of fall fun, and guess who was there?

A roving pack of wild coyotes.

Longtime readers may remember that during last year’s Fall Camp Weekend, me and my friend V were almost killed by a deer.

This year, the only evidence of deer ever having roamed the campground was a pile of bones next to the lake.

Coyotes.

Despite all the fun things we did – including a costume party, trick-or-treating, and a hayride, going for a walk past the deer bones was probably the high point of the entire trip.

"Let this be a lesson to you, kids."

This one was probably uncalled for.

But those deer bones got me thinking (again!) about animals and the circle of life. Was the deer’s predicament, I wondered, any worse than that of the circus elephants?  Should I be eating hamburgers and wearing leather belts? And why the hell were there coyotes at Lithuanian camp?

Later that night there was a Halloween party. The P-Dawg and I dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Coyote Wolf.

Me and the P-Dawg in costume

Very “full circle,” don’t you think?

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You Can Go Home Again

I didn’t want to tell you this, but I was a bit nervous about going to my high school reunion. I mean, the only thing preventing it from being freshman year Howdy Dance all over again was the fact that this time around, I had a date.

I wanted to make an inconspicuous entrance, but as soon as I descended from the private jet*, my friend Karina started screaming and practically vaulted over the beer garden balcony to give me a hug. Then she whipped out the journal I’d given her twenty years ago and had me read the inscription I’d written in it. She made me feel welcome right away, and I’m very grateful for that.

You go to your twenty-year high school reunion hoping that at least one person will have had a sex change operation or show up with a mullet and a hunting vest, but this was not the case. I don’t know if it’s thanks to the reversal of the food pyramid or the fact that people are no longer doing drugs, but pretty much everyone who came looked good and seemed to be happy in their lives. It was heartening. When you’re line dancing with your old gang to R.E.M.’s “Stand” with a beer in one hand and a wedding ring on the other, you forget the ancient hurts and feel genuinely happy that everyone made it out okay.

Even the P-Dawg had a good time. On the drive back home the next day, he said, “You know, I feel like I went to my own high school reunion, only with different people.”

Which is great, because it means I won’t have to go to his.

 

*When I say “private jet”, I mean “hotel cab.”

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