No slugs were harmed in this post

I cannot tell a lie: When it came time, at the end of yesterday’s adventure in the woods, to go around the circle and share what we were grateful for, I said I was grateful that no one had licked any slugs. When one of the guides shot me kind of a funny look, I added, “Um… at least as far as I’m aware…?” (I’m available for parties, people!)

At one point we came to a broad, shallow spot in a creek where there were lots of flat rocks rising up out of the middle of the water, and—being as how it’s the middle of February and, therefore, a chilly 76 degrees here in Global Warming Is A Liberal Myth Georgia—the kids were invited to remove their socks and shoes and go wading. Chickadee happily peeled off her footwear, rolled up her jeans, and began following the guide to the opposite bank. Monkey was slower to get his shoes and socks off, then struggled with rolling his pants up, then stepped into the water and promptly declared it too cold.

I would’ve marveled at this difference in my offspring, truly, had I not been so busy laughing myself silly over the fact that several of the other kids in our group had simply taken off their shoes and belly-flopped, full body, fully dressed, into the four available inches of water.

Teresa tried to corral them, sure. But what’s a little mud between friends when your school’s philosophy is pretty much “go get dirty?” One little girl was completely soaked save for her shoes (which were waiting for her up on the rocks), and when directed to get them on so that we could continue, she apparently noticed there was some sand in them. Naturally, the solution to this was to… bring her shoes down to the water and dunk them, too. Heh.

The rest of the day was spent walking, listening, searching for animal tracks, and realizing exactly how much of an outdoor person I’m really NOT. Don’t get me wrong: I love that the kids are doing this stuff, and I enjoy going along, but did I ever expect, at 40, to have someone standing there eagerly telling me to “stick your head in that hole there and tell me what you smell!”? Uh, no. (I finally did sniff the hole. It smelled like… dirt. Apparently I was supposed to be able to smell armadillo, but perhaps my nose is impaired from years and years of not sticking it in animal burrows.)

Chickadee commented several times that “this is way more fun than regular school” and “I really like these kids.” That was just what the doctor ordered, methinks. Especially when the aforementioned little wet-shoed girl left her backpack behind and Chickadee said, “Come on, I’ll go with you,” and took her back down the trail to retrieve it. On the way back to catch up with the group, her small charge shyly said, “I wish I had a big sister like you. All I have is a little brother.” (Chickie’s response: “Me, too!”)

She was exhausted at the end of the day, but happy, I think.

There was some talk of… nature names? Apparently some of the kids were given special trail names, or something, last year? This was deeply aggrieving to Monkey, because he wants a nature name, RIGHT NOW, WHAT IS MY NATURE NAME? There was some reassurance that on the next outing they can do names for those who don’t yet have them. (There is a process to this, apparently, which was further annoying to Mr. Literal, because he’d already decided he wanted to be The Viper. I told him that sounded more like a Transformer and less like a nature-dweller, and he was Not Amused.) As we settled into some tall grass under some trees at lunchtime and were cautioned to be as quiet as possible so that we could count the birdcalls and other noises we heard, I doled out food to my kids quietly, while the other children created a cacophony of velcro and lunchbox zippers. This led Teresa to whisper that she wanted to compliment our family on being utterly silent, possibly the quietest lunch-consumers she’d ever encountered, in fact. Both children smiled, pleased, and I held the banana I was eating aloft with a victory pump and shout-whispered, “THAT’S IT! THAT’S MY NATURE NAME! SILENT BANANA!”

Things were not so silent after that. Sometimes you can’t take me anywhere.

It was bittersweet when we broke the final circle of the day and headed back to the parking area. Sometimes I wish we could take those few unfettered hours home with us, somehow, and extend that suspended-in-time-and-wilderness feeling beyond afternoon.

WELL. Turns out, I got my wish. We DID take our outing home with us! We returned to the house, finished readying for a colleague whom Otto was bringing home for dinner, and then while I was futzing around in the kitchen, I reached over to scratch my shoulder and felt something weird. I stuck my hand under my shirt and extracted what I’d expected to be a pine needle or other bit of forest detritus, but was, in fact, a giant tick.

Being the mature, calm adult I am, I screamed and hurled it across the kitchen. Licorice and Chickadee (both in the kitchen with me) were very concerned.

I regained my composure shortly after 1) screaming “ACK ACK ACK ACK!” and 2) locating the tick on the kitchen floor, pulverizing it, and washing it down the drain.

While setting the table for dinner, I grabbed a second one off of my leg. This time I merely muttered. Progress!

So we passed the evening as you do, when you have a guest for dinner—in animated conversation, enjoying a good meal, and me not-so-surreptitiously pulling at the children’s clothing, checking them for bugs. Everyone had a shower before bed, and of course I burned everything we’d been wearing.

Nature, man. It giveth, and it rideth home with you.


  1. Leandra

    Ugh, that’s the downside of this warm winter we’ve had. We’re going to be overrun with ticks and mosquitoes in a few months. Yay.

    On a brighter note, it sounds like a lovely trip (other than the ticks, obvs). And who knows, maybe armadillos smell like dirt!

  2. Jill W.

    Glad y’all had a good time. If that tick thing happened to me, I would be quietly waiting to be consumed by lyme disease. Not that I am a hypochodriac…much.

  3. Kelly

    Oh laughing at the tick dance. Can totally see.

  4. Rachel

    I guess one good thing about ND winters is there are no ticks! =) Have a great weekend!

  5. Amy

    I’m so glad that being in nature was such a balm for all three of you! You all needed that for sure!!

    Also, I always kill ticks with fire. I know it might be a little overboard, but I am a country girl at heart!

  6. Arnebya

    Silent banana! Ha. THAT just made my day. Seriously.

    I’m glad it was a good day (better had it ended tickless, but you can’t win them all).

  7. Karen R.

    Inquiring minds want to know — did anyone lick the ticks?

  8. Jan

    Um. Not to be the alarmist here, but in my experience, “two ticks” is a little like “one mouse”. Theoretically possible, sure, but not so much likely in the real world.

    You and Otto might want to spend a little quality time together, is all I’m saying, for an inspection. One that should definitely include careful consideration of the nape of your neck and wherever the back of the waistband of your jeans hits you.

    Not that I am admitting any personal experience in this area, mind you.

  9. Megan

    Oh I have done the tick dance. I break that thing out if I even IMAGINE there could be a tick. Tick on the dog? I do the tick dance. Tick on a kid? Tick dance with additional hand flapping. Tick on ME? Tick dance, hand flapping and hysterical squealing – with bonus returns of said squealing dance throughout the rest of the day as I remember I had a tick on me!!. It could possibly be said that I am Not Good At Ticks.

    On another note, I hope that for the next hike Monkey totally gets to be the Nature Super Villain The Viper with his evil (but very stealthy) sidekick, The Silent Banana.

  10. Crisanne

    The one (ONE!) thing I don’t miss about Virginia is the ticks. We had loads of the awful, tiny lyme disease type. Glad you had a good day with your kids. You may not be a nature loving convert, but I think that’s the best part! Your kids will look back on these days, laughing at how unlike you it was to be out there in the woods, and smile knowing how much you love them. Hugs for a great weekend!

  11. Jennifer

    Deet. Isn’t that supposed to be what protects against ticks?

  12. Caroline

    Aw man….I was totally getting into the relaxing nature (eh) of this post. Then the tick dance and I’m all now I’m feeling itchy.

  13. Tenessa

    I’m not a bug person. I’m not, but for some reason, ticks are just no big deal. I grew up in rural Arkansas and spent many a day wandering around the woods around our house and carousing amongst the kudzu and honey suckle heaps. I got eaten up by chiggers and nightly scoured for ticks just about every day of my childhood. It was just kinda par for the course.

    I have a neighbor, now, from NYC. She won’t let her son play in “the woods” or what passes for woods in suburban Raleigh because he might get a tick. I just shake my head, amused. And scour my kids for ticks every evening.

  14. KarenP

    Glad you had a good time. (except for the tick that is). Wow 76 degrees sounds nice about now.

  15. Em

    I love the school’s philosophy. I try for it to be mine in the summer. There is some satisfaction in making Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen all sparkly clean again. Re: the tickS! I have no comment as it has already been blocked out of my memory and never ever happened to anyone, least of all Silent Banana.

  16. My Kids Mom

    Oh no. Is it tick season already? I heard that mosquitoes were going to be particularly bad for the Global Warming Is A Liberal Myth Georgia summer.

  17. Nancy

    Ticks are one thing I DO NOT miss from growing up in South Carolina.

    I used to work at a residential facility for kids with developmental disabilities. We encourage outdoor time and frequently played outside, went for bike rides, swimming, etc. I loved it and made sure I was part of the outside activities as much as possible. The facility had a small pond and one day we went exploring around it. A young, nonverbal girl with autism walked up to us staff members. She was holding something in her hand and chewing on something. On closer inspection, we discovered that it was a frog that had been alive until a minute or two ago. I still retch when I think of it.

    I thought I would share that, because ticks are nowhere near as gross as a half eaten frog.

  18. Melissa

    I once visited northern Minnesota in may with my college roommate. Our host woke us on the second day of our visit and simply said, “Tick season has started.” without any exaggeration, they were raining from the trees around the house. They rattled the windows when the wind blew. They were in our clothes, our beds, our car, our hair. They lined up in neat rows under dogs’ floppy ears. They hid in the space UNDER our pockets in our jeans so turning clothes inside out wasn’t enough – all crannies had to be explored.

    It was the longest, most frightening 4 days of my life.

    You have triggered some STRONG MEMORIES for me!

  19. Nelson's Mama

    Ticks don’t particularly bother me – just pick ’em off and move on.

    I’ve lived in the South all my life and we’ve had winters like this before; don’t be surprised if it snows on Easter morning. :)

  20. Mom2Trplts

    “perhaps my nose is impaired from years and years of not sticking it in animal burrows.”

    THE best line… because the rest about the ticks and stuff… is ew.

  21. alihua

    Did you know that heat kils tick? Also pulling off with tweezers will generally get the head out better? Yes, you do, ‘cuz you’re a Georgian now.

    BUUUUUUUUTTTTTT, I bet you didn’t know that heating the tweezers with a match (because both makes it really, really dead) and then reaching for the tick in a dog’s ear will cause the tick to explode and the dog to scream like you just stole her bone while kicking her repeatedly.

    Now I yell for my husband to do it.

  22. Pam

    I’m telling you Mir, I look so forward to reading about your adventures every day!!!! You make the sun shine and make me laugh out loud! I know things have been difficult and when you share sometimes I’m sad, but I know in my heart of hearts that before too long you will bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart. Thank you for all that you bring to us…. your puter friends!!!!! <3

  23. Scottsdale Girl

    I would have fallen down dead in the kitchen. Annnnd now I am itchy.


  24. Katie in MA

    So, so, so happy you had that outing. It was just what all of you needed, I think. I don’t know how possible it would be, but could Chickie help out from time to time at Hippie School? Could it help?

  25. addy

    Ya ticks don’t bother me. Grew up with them things. Mosquitos I can do without. Congratulaitons on a fantastic day! Sounds like everyone had a good time.

  26. Katherine

    Now I need to do a tick check, since we enjoyed the balmy 70s weather not too far from you by going geocaching out in the woods, complete with swarms of tiny flying bugs, scrambling down and then up a ravine -twice- and crawling through barbed wire fence. It was fun, really!

  27. Sarah Heat

    This is why I live somewhere tick free AND 75 degrees. gah!

  28. carson

    Ticks. AAAAAAAAAAH! I hate ticks, I would rather have leeches than ticks.

  29. laura

    Can my nature name be starshine honeysuckle, pleasepleasepleaseprettypuhleeeeeze?

  30. Jessica

    Ugh, once in middle school I was sitting in school, a bit bored, and I looked over at Rick. Rick had a HUGE tick IN HIS EAR!! I freaked out and the thing wasn’t even near me (well, you know, they don’t jump). Then Rick started freaking out. Then the teacher started freaking out, because, hello, there is a tick in a student’s hear (and I mean, down in his ear…) *shudders*

    I have tons of tiny ticks on me and sometimes just one or two large ones, but they still freak me out. Yuck. Mites and ticks and scorpions and spiders and centipedes: those are the stuff nightmares are made of (for me).

  31. Jen

    Silent banana. Awesome. I really think The Animated Woman needs to cartoon that for you. LOL :)

  32. Daisy

    Silent banana – fabulous.

  33. meghann

    I second whoever said to have Otto double check you again. We had a run in with ticks last fall, and we even found one in between the toes of one of our kids. (And that child had been wearing lace up sneakers! Ack!)

    I am scared about the mild winter we’ve had. Between the ticks, and the mosquitoes, and those dang new kudzu bugs, I think we’re going to have to stay inside all summer.

  34. sophie

    I laughed loudly and startled my dog at the Silent Banana. It certainly sounds like Into the Wild was good medicine.
    I think the “not cold enough” just applies to ticks and fleas, because when I was in Alaska there was still snow on the ground and I was bitten by the most venomous mosquitoes I have ever encountered.
    Also, Nelson’s Mama was right. I was just today remembering the blizzard (yes, snow above my knees) we had in March 1993.

  35. sophie

    Also, I am now highly curious about the “process” by which one is assigned a Nature Name.

  36. Jenni in KS

    After reading about the ticks, every part of my body now itches. My back, my ear, my legs, aaggghhhh. Phantom bugs are almost as bad as real bugs, ALMOST.

  37. Karen

    After reading Megan’s comment, all I can think of is to use a wrestling host voice to say “The Healthy….The Stealthy….The Silent but Deadly Bananaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”

    You can wear a peel as a mask as you fight The Ticks.

  38. Lori in MN

    What a lovely day! My last outdoor school adventure was a 3-day 6th grade field trip in northern MN…picked off 3 ticks in the first 3 hours… Luckily the boy who had one in an awkward place was the son of a fellow chaperone! And we had a pile of them on the table at dinner one evening.

  39. Heather

    And now this makes me think of the Brad Paisley song…all about how “[He’d] like to check [her] for ticks…”. You might wanna get Otto to help you out there, Silent Banana.

  40. Paul

    LOL, You have to love nature…it’s not always like it is pictured on a postcard!!

  41. Little Bird

    Ticks. I am now itchy. And i don’t live anywhere that I might encounter any. For at least another four months or so.
    I hate those things!

  42. Celeste

    Ticks = easier to get rid of than chiggers. Although ickier.

  43. Kim

    I was kind of wondering whether Hippy School might be a good place for Chickadee to spend the rest of the school year. It sounds like such a warm, nurturing place, perfect for her to recover her strength. And it sounds as if slug-licking is entirely optional. (And I know it happens, but it boggles me that someone wouldn’t notice a tick in the crack of their toes. Ewwww. I can handle bugs but ticks are just icky.)

  44. kapgaf

    Hah, maybe now that Silent Banana has had to deal with ticks, slug licking doesn’t seerm so bad after all……

  45. brigitte

    I say MONKEY already HAS a nature name, ha!

    I usually can just handle the ickiness of ticks, but thanks to Melissa (above) I am NEVER going to Northern MN in May!!

  46. Cele

    Ticks…. Maybe you got your nature name wrong…. ticks aren’t vegetarians…

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