I’m sure you are familiar with the expression, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” For the second year in a row, I have followed that maxim while Ron is away on his annual fishing trip.

He and Jimmy left for Lake Fork, Texas, on a Thursday, which meant sending a note to Jimmy’s teachers to ask permission for him to miss a day of school. Instead of leaving it up to the writer in the family to come up with a few lines to explain Jimmy’s absence in class, Ron took it upon himself.

The resulting note was so long and written in such technical language that Jimmy deemed it “too nerdy-sounding” to take to school.

“Nobody’s going to read it except for your teachers,” I pointed out. “Aren’t teachers all nerds anyway?”

“Yeah, but take a look at it,” Jimmy said.

For whatever reason, my husband must have found himself with too much time on his hands that day.

What should have been as simple as saying, “Please excuse Jimmy from class on Friday. He is going on a family trip and will make up any missed work,” had instead morphed into a technical document that made it sound like Jimmy was a scientist on his way to study marine life in the Lone Star state.

The next morning, I discovered my son’s revised version of the note lying beside his backpack. He had cleaned up Ron’s verbal spillage to produce a clear and simple excuse, even managing to forge his daddy’s handwriting much better than I can!

By that evening, Jimmy and Ron were so excited about the trip that they were about to drive the rest of us crazy. Ronnie, Tommy and I steered clear of their packing frenzy and held onto the idea of good times ahead for just the three of us.

“If they get to fly to Texas and have fun all weekend, we can have our own adventures at home,” I promised.

Tommy was hoping to convince me into taking him to a movie and perhaps spending some time in the electronics department at Wal-Mart. Boy, was he in for a surprise or two … or three!

Over the course of the next two days, we managed to squeeze in a movie, soccer game, birthday party and a visit to our favorite toy store. We also spent time and money at both of the nearby Wal-Marts.

Hot wings, cheese sticks and Starbucks frappuccinos (for me) kept us fueled as we breezed in and out of the house, stopping only to let Glory out to sniff the grass. For me, it was a weekend of acting like a kid and eating like them, too.

Ronnie, Tommy and I reached the peak of our decadent behavior Sunday afternoon at The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

We were about to take our seats at The Greatest Show on Earth when I gave in to their pleas for Dippin’ Dots, the tiny cups of mystery food that taste like ice cream.

“That’ll be fifteen bucks,” the vendor said, as Tommy and Ronnie reached for their treats.

I didn’t even blink at the outrageous price, and declared, “This is dinner, boys.” The instant brain freeze I received after taking a gigantic first bite was still worth it.

For the next couple of hours, I listened to Tommy and Ronnie say, “Whoa; how do they do that?” about a million and one times. We saw tigers, elephants and back-flipping poodles.

It was the biggest circus they had ever seen, not counting the one that takes place daily in my living room.

On the morning after our big weekend, Tommy and Ronnie are still asleep; recovering from my efforts to make sure “the mice” had as much fun as “the cats.”

When Ron and Jimmy return tonight to tell their fishing stories, we will have a few of our own stories to tell.

And most importantly, all of us will remember it as a weekend of fun.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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