My parents told me that I made it sound like we didn't have any fun on our trip to Antigua.  They also said that I made my kids sound like brats, so I wanted to clarify a few things.

It's hard to write about the fun times.  (Day one: We sat by the main pool.  Then, we moved to the 'adults only' pool.  Then, we moved to the beach until I turned red.  The end.)  That's why I write about the more exciting times of the trip.  My family does seem to have a lot of odd things that happen, so these provide for a good story.  (Do you know anyone else whose cell phone went on a tour of customs and made it back in time?)  I don't mean to focus on the negatives.  They're just funny!

My kids are not brats.  They are kids.  They both have moments when they are bratty, just as all kids do.  I'm just honest about it, where some parents tend to sugar-coat their kids' behaviors.  I have very good kids who (for the most part) know how to behave like decent human beings.  They are kind-hearted, and while they aren't always kind to each other, they are great with other people.  I'm exceptionally proud of my kids, and I love the fact that the both have a great sense of humor.  So, if my stories ever lead you to believe that I think otherwise, think again.  My kids are awesome!

To clarify the myth that we did not have fun on this trip, I will tell you about some of the good times.  So without further ado, I give you a few of my favorite things:

1. The Taxi Ride to the Resort -  I loved watching my kids' faces as we passed donkeys, goats, sheep, cows and horses on the side of the road.  The livestock provided great entertainment as we drove.  I also enjoyed their jokes and sense of humor as we faced certain death at the hands of the taxi driver.  The ride was scary, and they laughed the whole way.  

2. I loved this little gazebo.  The resort had other gazebos with better views of the ocean, but this one just spoke to me for some reason.  Isn't it cute?

3. I loved this moment when the kids spontaneously hugged each other.  That does not happen often, and luckily, I got it on film. (Well, more accurately on cell phone.  Does film even exist anymore?)

4. You had to know there would be turtles involved somewhere.  I loved these turtles!  They were red-footed tortoises that were native to Antigua.  The resort had a habitat for them, and we enjoyed watching them. (Although turtles don't actually DO much of anything.)

5. I loved the Outhouse.  (I never thought I'd say those words.)  

The Outhouse was a barbecue restaurant at the top of the hill.  The food wasn't all that great, but the ambiance was excellent.  It was outdoor and was casual.  People from all over the world had made signs and hung them there.  There were mongooses frolicking nearby.  There were tables randomly placed throughout the trees.

And the views were incredible from up there!

6. I liked having a little time to prop my feet up.  We stay so busy all the time, and there is always work to be done.  Although I did work during part of my trip to Antigua (editing and writing my report), it was nice to have moments to just sit and relax.  Too bad I didn't take time to get a pedicure before I went!

7.  I loved having my feet in the ocean.  I don't particularly like putting my whole body in the water, but there is something therapeutic about having sand between my toes.  (Seriously....a pedicure, Alison.)

And Joyce, this photo was in your honor!

8.  I loved watching the Goose get involved in the activities.  I have no idea how she became such a social butterfly!  It always amazes me how different she and the Beetle are.  I don't know how one turned out so reserved and one is so not-reserved, but I appreciate them both for who they are.

This isn't a picture of the actual moment, but the Goose was participating in a music trivia game.  She knew the answer and was running up to give it.  A little girl (probably 5 or 6 years old) was also running up to give the answer, but the Goose was ahead of her.  When the Goose saw her coming, she stepped back and let the little girl get the point.  If that doesn't warm a mama's heart, nothing will!

9. I liked having time as a family.  Although we are always together since we work from home and homeschool, we aren't really always together.  Usually, I am in front of the computer, Mr. E is working and the kids are doing their own various activities.  It was nice to have time to just be together.  (Really, Alison, a pedicure and an exercise program...)

And by the way, a note to my sister here... That whole "turning sideways to look thinner" thing doesn't always work.

10. I loved the water in Antigua.  It had so many shades of blue!  Every time we would walk outside, I would say, "Look at that water!"  After about day two, that phrase was just met with eye-rolls from my family, but I didn't care.  I was constantly amazed at how beautiful it was. 

11.  I loved this table in the dining room.  The whole dining room was open-air, but this table sat out over the beach.  It was amazing, and it felt luxurious to get to sit there.  (Of course, it's hard to eat when your hair is blowing in your mouth and your dinner roll keeps blowing off your plate, but it was still amazing!)

So, as you can see, we had a great time!  I am tremendously blessed to have a job where I can travel to all-inclusive resorts for virtually free.  The report is done, most of the laundry has been washed, and now, I just have the memories.  Luckily, they were good ones!  -Al

I’ve always loved to fly.  In fact, I considered becoming a flight attendant when I was in college.  However, until November, 2011, I had not flown once since July, 1997.  Since then, I have flown on 5 trips.  I guess I’m making up for lost time.  I have found, though, that I’m not good at being still for very long.  That might be because we are always on the go, but sitting and doing nothing is extremely difficult for me.  This made two long flights in one day a real challenge.

During the first flight, Edwin did not help things.  He provided no conversation or entertainment whatsoever, and by the end of the first flight, I was losing it.  My crochet supplies were in the suitcase in the overhead storage.  Since I didn’t want to disturb Edwin, I couldn’t get them.  I never could get Mr. Everything’s attention to ask him to step over Cameron Diaz to get my yarn and hook for me.  So, I sat there.  I watched a movie, I took a nap, and I sat.  The Goose slept a good bit during the first flight, so I didn’t even have her to entertain me.  By the time we landed, I was losing it quickly.

I was hoping to move around and get some relief during our layover in New York.  However, with all the excitement of the forgotten cell phone, I didn’t get a chance to breathe.  We rushed and got on the plane for round two of traveling home.

As I sat down in aisle 25, I realized very quickly that the space between the seats was much, much smaller than aisle 9.  I felt like I couldn’t move, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I’m not typically claustrophobic, but this plane was testing my limits.  It was hot, and I was cramped.  I sat between my two kids and had Mr. E sit in the aisle seat beside the strangers.  This was because I would rather be between my kids than beside someone I didn’t know.  Even though I was wedged between them, I thought it would be a more pleasant ride.

After the plane took off, I felt like the walls of the plane were closing in around me.  The TV above my head was one of four on the plane that did not retract when not in use.  So, I even had something over me.  Then, before we were even in the air good, the guy in front of me leaned his seat back.  That was the point when I started crying.  I tried to hide the tears, but I’m a very ugly crier.  It’s impossible to hide an instantly swollen nose and red eyes.  The Goose asked me why I was crying.  The Beetle just hoped I wouldn’t cry on him.  I didn’t know why I was crying.  I just was.  Luckily, I dried it up quickly before anyone else began to stare.

Soon, the person in front of the Beetle leaned his chair back.  The walls truly were closing in around us.  At that point, the Goose put her hand on the back of the seat in front of her.  She sat that way for a long time so that, when the lady in front of her tried to lean back, the seat wouldn’t move.  The lady thought her seat was broken and finally gave up trying.  Genius child.

Then the Goose said, “I have a kicker behind me.”  I asked her what she meant and she said the person behind her kept kicking her seat.  I looked back, and actually, her seat wasn’t being kicked.  The woman behind the Goose had her striped-socked feet propped up on the back of the Goose’s seat.  Her socks didn’t match, and I was really tempted to tell the woman that it was the Goose who started that fashion trend.  I told the Goose just to ignore it since I really did not want to confront the person.  The Goose smiled sheepishly and said she would take care of it.  Then, she leaned her seat back, and the striped socked feet returned to their proper position on the floor.  Sometimes, my child’s problem-solving skills amaze me.

Throughout the flight, every time I would start to relax and close my eyes or I would start to watch the TV show that was playing, the Goose would tap me.  If she tapped me once, she tapped me 100 times.  I finally asked her if she realized how many times she had tapped me to talk to me, and she smiled and tapped me again.

By 10:00 PM, I was anxious to be on the ground.  The pilot announced that we were about 85 miles away from Tampa (which would be precisely over our house at the camp) and that we were making our final descent.  The kids, Mr. E and I were all thrilled to hear this news.  By 10:20, I could see familiar landmarks below us.  We passed the Howard Frankland Bridge and the Courtney Campbell Causeway.  I saw Rocky Point go by, and I knew we were home-free!  We were dipping lower and lower and lower, and then we sped up and turned back upward.  I think I heard a whimper come out of the Beetle, or maybe that was me I heard.  The pilot came over the speaker and said we were being re-routed because of birds in the area.  He said a plane had apparently hit a bird so control wanted us to go another way.  That was when the Goose said, “I thought you said birds didn’t fly at night.”  I asked her, “What do I know?  I didn’t listen in science class!”

We circled around and passed the familiar sights again.  Then, finally, we landed.  Before we got off the plane, each of us asked the Goose if she had her phone.  She did not appreciate this, but we just wanted to be sure!

As we headed down the escalator toward baggage claim, we saw a decoration on the floor below.  We laughed and said maybe these were the birds that had hindered our flight.  No matter, we were back on Florida soil, and we were happy to be there.  It was a great trip, but no matter where we roam, there really is no place like home!  

Since my mother says it sounds like we didn't have any fun at all, tomorrow, I'll tell you about some of the good times of the trip!                                        -Al

Monday, we traveled back from Antigua to Florida, and as usual, it was just a typical day for my family.

First, because we were at the mercy of the company who scheduled our trip, we did not have a straight flight to Florida.  Instead, we flew home from Antigua to Florida via JFK Airport in New York.  “Why?” you may ask.  I have no idea.

When we got onboard, we had seats 8 A and B and 9 E and F.  I had already told Mr. E that I would sit by the Goose for the first flight and he would be by the Beetle.  Then, we would switch for the second flight.  When I realized that row 8 was the bulk-head, I decided to be generous, so I gave that seat to the Mister.  Okay, actually, here’s the truth.  There was a Cameron Diaz look-alike sitting in seat 8 C, and I didn’t want to have to sit beside her for the whole flight.  I figured that as my fat hip touched her skinny leg for hours, I would feel badly about myself, so I opted for row 9.  Besides that, there was no one in 9 D, so there was a chance the Goose and I would have an extra seat.

As the passengers were getting on, it was looking hopeful.  No one had taken 9 D.  There was hope that we would not have anyone else in our row.  The passengers had stopped coming, so I thought we were set.  Then, one last passenger came on board.  If only I could have gotten a picture for you.  He was a tall, skinny man who had, for lack of the proper term, Reggae hair.  His braids were tucked under his cap, causing a big bump under his hat in the back.  The Goose got tickled because she was wearing her Antigua t-shirt.  She kept looking at her shirt and looking at him and comparing the two.  I had to tell her to stop because I kept laughing too.

The man fell asleep before the flight took off.  His head was bobbing, and he looked like he was going to fall my way.  If his hair touched me, we were going to have a problem.  The Goose told me to just be ready to gently push him into the aisle, but I really didn’t want to have to do that. (By the way, she is reading over my shoulder as I am writing this, and she wants me to correct that.  She said to shove him into the aisle.)

The man ended up being very quiet.  I wouldn’t say he was friendly.  He never spoke, never smiled and never acknowledged us.  When the Goose had to get up to go to the bathroom, he stood to let her out because his legs were too long for her to step over.  I thanked him, but he did not acknowledge me.  You might think, from his hairstyle, that he was a non-English speaking individual, but you would be wrong.  His passport was from America, and his name was Edwin.  (Okay.  I peeked at his customs card.)

Edwin got progressively stuffed up as the flight progressed.  He went from sniffling a little to sneezing and wiping his nose with the back of his hand constantly.  I tried not to think about those movies where one person starts an epidemic that wipes out the whole nation.  (Note to the authorities…if everyone living near me dies, it was Edwin who started it.)

We finally made it to New York.  The Beetle and Mr. E got to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building out their side of the plane.  I was too busy watching Edwin to make sure he didn’t fall over on me to actually see anything.

We knew it would be a rush to get through customs, through the airport, back through security and onto our connecting flight.  We had warned the kids to be ready to run, and they did a great job.  We made it through the first customs checkpoint and to the luggage claim area to get our suitcase to be searched when the Goose said the dreaded words.  No, it wasn’t, “I have to go to the bathroom.”  That was me who said that.  She said, “Oh no!  I left my phone!”

The Goose just got her new phone last week for her 12th birthday, and so far, it has provided hours of entertainment.  On the flight from Antigua, she put it in the pocket of the seat in front of hers.  I told her not to forget it, and she said she “always” puts it there. (As though she flies so often.)  I meant to remind her before we got off the plane, but I was busy trying to take a picture of Edwin.  So, the Goose left her phone.

She started to panic, and I reminded her that panicking is not how we got things done.  Instead, I told her to take a deep breath and we would see what could be done.  I said a little prayer, and we went through customs.  There, we did not even have to unzip a suitcase.  So much for heightened security.

We found an American Airlines employee and asked what we should do about the phone.  She directed us to Baggage Services, AKA Land of the Forgotten Luggage.  The employee there said she was not sure what she could do but she would try.  Meanwhile, we reminded her that we had precisely one hour to get the phone, get through security and find the gate for our plane.  She again said she would see what she could do.  After a few minutes on the phone and repeating, “Flight 818.  No.  8. 1. 8,” four times, she said, “Here.  I’ll let you talk to her.”  She handed me the phone so the person on the other end could tell me that there was nothing she could do.  I asked her why not, and she said she couldn’t get it done within an hour.  I said, “So, what now?” and she said she didn’t know.  I told her that this phone was my 12 year old little girl’s birthday present and it was a week old, and I asked her how she could help me out.  She said to give her 10 minutes and to call back.  After several more phone calls and many minutes of tension, the employee in the luggage office told us to go to our flight.  She said to go through security and head to the gate.  She said the employee would meet us at the innerline. We had no idea what that meant, but she said to ask any employee and they would know.

We took her advice and went through security.  Thank goodness, there was no line.  We stopped and asked the TSA agent where the innerline was, and he said he had no idea what that was.  I thought maybe he just didn’t speak southern, so I tried to say it again in Yankee.  He still didn’t know what I was talking about.  I explained the situation, and he said to go to our gate and to see if they knew.  We took his advice and headed toward the gate.

The gate agent had no idea what the innerline was.  She made a phone call, and the employee said we were supposed to meet them back at customs at the Enter Line.  That was not what we had been directed to do, but regardless, it was too late now.  The agent was making the final boarding call for our flight.  The agent asked the employee to bring the phone to the gate, but she also gave us contact information in case it didn’t get there in time.

We got on the plane and found our seats.  At this point, I was pretty sure we would never see the phone again.  Then, after holding my hands over my face and breathing deeply for a minute or two, I opened my eyes to find the gate agent heading down the aisle toward us.  She had the phone.  Halleluiah!

The most ironic part of the whole fiasco was the fact that we had just boarded the same exact plane that we got off.  We landed at gate 41, walked around the airport to customs, walked back around the airport to security and walked back to gate 41.  The phone had done a grand tour of the airport and had ended up right where it began.  Except this time, it sat with us in row 25, a much more claustrophobic row than 8 or 9.  While it seemed completely silly that it had to go so far to get back to us, we were just happy it did.  The plane took off, and the Goose had her phone.  We were headed home!  (To be continued.)  -Al

The Serious Injury
Yesterday consisted of swimming and volleyball.  The Goose’s team won, of course.  Then, she did a scavenger hunt through the resort.  You guessed it.  She won.  That’s just how her life works.

Today, we decided to go snorkeling.  This was an activity that all four of us could participate in…at once, like a family.  Although I preferred not to go, I did it, just because everyone else was willing.

As you may remember, I went snorkeling in Jamaica back in December.  You can read more about that adventure here, if you didn’t get to read it back then.  That snorkeling trip was the first time in over 20 years that I had attempted it.  I was pretty proud of myself.  I also got through it by promising myself that I never had to go again.  Unfortunately, today, I found out that I lied to myself.

We headed to the water sports center to get the masks, snorkels and fins.  This resort doesn’t have a boat to take you out snorkeling, but there is a coral reef right off the beach.  We could swim out to the reef.  That sounds like it should be less scary, but actually, it was worse for me.  Back in Jamaica, the idea of getting back in the boat if I needed to helped me not to panic.  Out in the water today, my only way to escape was to swim.

When we first got in the water, Mr. Everything went out ahead of me, and he was not within my reach.  I told him if he thought he was going to leave me, he was seriously mistaken.  He rolled his eyes and said he wasn’t leaving me.  I got the feeling that he would have rather gone without me, and I considered arranging that for him.

As soon as I put the snorkel in my mouth and looked into the water, I began to hyperventilate.  I can’t explain it, but I was afraid.  There was sand under me, and there were no fish within sight, but I panicked.  Mr. E stopped and patiently waited for me to catch my breath.  My kids looked at me like I was crazy and kept asking what was wrong with me.  I reminded them that the very definition of “phobia” is that it is an unexplained fear.  Therefore, they should stop asking me why I was freaking out.

I caught my breath and decided to try again.  I was doing pretty well until we got over the sea grass.  At that point, I realized I had put my body on top of Mr. Everything’s so he could be my human shield against anything that came slithering out of that grass.  I’m not actually sure how he was swimming with me over him, but he didn’t complain, bless him.  I removed myself from his back and just kept a tight grip on his hand.  We saw a few little fish.  There was nothing that looked like it could eat me, so I started to relax.

As we went along, my mask leaked a little, and my nose piece was full of water.  I stopped and drained it and almost started to panic but refrained.  We kept going and finally got over the coral.  Mr. E was pointing at fish, as if I cared about seeing fish.  I was doing fine and feeling pretty proud of myself.  The water was getting more and more shallow, and I was starting to get a little worried about the coral touching me.  Then, the scream happened.

The Goose had been on Mr. E’s other side throughout our swim.  He pushed her away a few times, because she kept kicking us with her fins.  She was fine swimming on her own and did not need to be right on top of us.  As he pushed her away, she apparently got into the Beetle’s space, and they began pushing each other under water.  Only my children can manage to argue with snorkels in their mouths.

Then, apparently, the Goose tried to take the Beetle’s mask off.  She said that she was just trying to grab him because she was afraid.  (That’s her story and she’s sticking to it.)  He pushed her away, and unknowingly pushed her into a section of coral. 

Let me interrupt here to say that the Goose’s angry scream and her hurt scream sound very similar.  At camp a few weeks ago, she let out a blood-curdling scream that caused me to go running.  Some retired people who were working at camp came running too.  We thought she was being eaten by a bear.  However, it turned out that she was just mad at the Beetle about something.

So, today, as I was peacefully, fearlessly snorkeling, I heard the same scream.  I immediately jumped up out of the water to see what was happening.  Mama Bear was ready to save her cub from any attacking water creature.  As I came up, I hit coral with my butt, and I screamed.  Then, the Goose was screaming.  I was screaming.  People were looking.

The Goose was freaking out because the Beetle had pushed her.  She was screaming that she was bleeding.  Mr. Everything swam away from me to get to her, which left me surrounded by coral in shallow water.  I was afraid to move because I might get cut.  I started to hyperventilate and then reminded myself that I was the mother.  Mr. E was getting further and further away from me.  By this point, I had my mask off, so I couldn’t even look down to see where the coral was.  The Beetle was far off, just watching the whole spectacle. 

Mr. E told the Goose to hush, and he was trying to get her to calm down.  I heard him say something about the fact that she was making me panic, but I was too busy panicking to hear what he said.  Finally, through gritted teeth and in a calm voice, I said, “Mr. Everything.  I could really use your help over here.”  He said, “I’m kinda dealing with something here.”  Meanwhile, the Goose continued to panic.  Mr. E told the Beetle to come help me.  The Beetle came over and asked what I needed.  I told him I needed help getting out of the coral so I could swim to shore.  I made him hold my hand.  He was so happy about that.

The Beetle proceeded to pull me in a straight path back to the sandy area.  If I could have just put my mask on and stopped panicking, I would have realized that the coral was not all around me but only on 3 sides.  I had a perfectly clear path back to the beach.  However, I did have to go over the sea grass, so I was glad to have the Beetle’s hand to hold.

Our snorkeling trip ended with Mr. Everything fussing at the Beetle for making his sister bleed, while I fussed at the Goose for pulling her brother’s mask off.  You see, we each had been told different versions of the story.  Suddenly, our family snorkeling trip ended as the Beetle stormed off, saying he was going back to the room.  The Goose was still busy crying as she bled to death. (Or at least, she acted like she was bleeding to death.)  Mr. E made the declaration for the 100th time on this trip that, “Never again,” were we bringing the kids with us to a resort.  From now on, we were going to “adults only” locations.  And a great time was had by all.  -Al

Our Family Photo Taken By the British Tourist
Yesterday turned out to be a busy day!  It was not busy in real-life terms but busy in vacation terms.

First, we went on an excursion to see the island.  We opted for a tour that would show us the island and teach us some of the history.  The kids were not happy about this choice, but it fell within our reimbursement budget.  If we had chosen the zipline, only two of us could have gone.  Mr. E and I considered leaving the kids at the resort and going to have fun on an excursion without them.  However, I just couldn’t do it.  What if something happened to us?  My kids would be orphans on a tropical island.  (I’m sorry…I worry about these things!)  If figured, if we were going to die, we’d die together. (That’s a cheerful thought, isn’t it?)  Therefore, we went for the cheap history trip.

So, we headed out on the history excursion.  My kids were not exactly excited, but I told them they could count it as history for the week.  That was when the Goose reminded me that we hadn’t done history in over a month, and I told her to hush.  In theory, the idea of a history tour sounded interesting to me.  In reality, it wasn’t quite so great.

We headed out in the taxi van that had a UHO (unidentified hanging object) on the rear-view mirror.  I’m pretty sure it was a stuffed mongoose, but the kids disagreed.  They said I'm just obsessed with mongeese, but it looked like one to me!  

The tour led us through many winding streets of shacks and scrub.  The prettiest part of Antigua is definitely the water.  Even the natural flora isn’t that pretty.  (See…there’s a good science word…flora.  I do teach my kids stuff occasionally.)  The plants are thorny and not flowery.  There aren’t hummingbirds flittering around hibiscus plants as you might imagine.

The tour included a viewing of the island’s water source.   This is, in essence, a big mud puddle.  I’m not kidding.  They rely solely on rain water for survival.  I asked if the water had ever dried up, and the tour guide said yes.  He said they had to bring in water from other islands.  Is it just me, or does that sound like a bad idea?  Maybe I’m just a paranoid American, but I’m not relying on another country for anything, especially my water!

We also visited a boat yard built in the 1700’s.  That was cool for about 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, we were there for an hour and a half.

We went to a fort.  The fort was built to protect the island from enemy attacks in 1779.  Who were the enemies?  Well, the Americans, of course.  Antigua was a British colony at that time, and they grew and processed sugar cane.  During the American Revolutionary War, the British cut off our supply of sugar from the islands.  Little did they know that the Americans didn’t care.  We didn’t attack as they expected us to.  I’m pretty sure that was the beginning of the Sugar-Busters Diet.  We’re Americans.  We don’t need your stinkin’ sugar.

Basically, we saw a bunch of old brick buildings that were in ruins.  Nothing ever happened at these buildings because the Americans didn’t attack.  It’s not much fun to learn history when no history actually happened.

I will say, though, that the views from the fort and the boatyard were breath-taking.  That was worth the trip!  Well, at least, I thought it was worth the trip.  The kids did not agree.

The tour was supposed to last 4 hours.  The Beetle and the Goose started asking if it was almost over when we made our first stop at the giant mud puddle.  The tour ended up going late, and we got back to the resort after 4 hours, 40 minutes.  I can’t be positive, but I think I saw the Beetle kiss his remote control when we got back to the room.

In the afternoon, I went to have a massage.  My reimbursement was enough for a 50 minute massage.  I considered paying extra and getting an 80 minute massage, but I decided not to.  In hindsight, I am so very glad I made that decision.  The massage was the Antiguan version of torture.  It was awful.

First, I was given a narrow little strip of a towel to cover myself with.  Have I ever mentioned that I am extremely modest?  Really, I am.  I had been told that when I had my babies, I wouldn’t care who saw what.  However, I was the one, even in the depths of labor, who was covering myself and making sure I stayed covered.  I just really don’t want people looking at certain areas.  So, when I saw that there was no top sheet to cover up for the massage, I was not thrilled.  I placed the towel over me, but I’m a big girl!  They might as well have given me a scarf to cover with.  I decided just to close my eyes and to remember that I never had to see this person again.  Of course, it was just my luck, that I saw her later when walking to dinner.

The massage included a white sand exfoliation of my feet.  That sounds nice, right?  Well, I’ll give you instructions so you can try it for yourself.  

Step 1 – Take dry white sand.

Step 2 – Rub it on your dry skin until you feel as though you are on fire.

Step 3 – Pour cold water on top.

There you go.  Congratulations.  You’ve had a luxurious spa exfoliation.

When the therapist was going to exfoliate my feet, she pulled the pillow out from under my legs.  This caused me to be flat on my back on the table.  Well, “flat” is not really accurate, because it is impossible to be flat on your back when you have a big butt.  Instead, I was more arched on the table.  I felt like a turtle on my back.  At this point, the massage therapist had my eyes covered with a cloth.  I kept smiling and having to fight off a giggle because all I could think of was what I would write in my blog.  She kept asking me if I was okay.  I think she thought I had lost my mind.

The denouement of my massage was the final scalp massage.  (See…”denouement.”  There’s another school-ish word I can teach my kids!)  Normally, I absolutely love to have my scalp massaged.  In fact, I drive Mr. Everything crazy because I constantly say, “Rub my neck.  Rub my hair.  Scratch my head.”  If he could massage my head for me 24 hours a day, I would be happy.  However, this scalp massage was nothing like that.

As the therapist rubbed my scalp, her fingers kept getting tangled in my hair.  She was pulling my hair so hard that I had tears in my eyes.  Before booking my appointment, I had also considered having the 35 minute head massage because I normally love that so much.  However, as she ripped my hair out follicle by follicle, I thanked my lucky stars that I had opted out of that one.

After dinner, the resort held a crab race.  This consisted of lining up crabs and sending them toward a finish line.  The "owner" of each crab had to guide it with a bucket it keep it moving in the right direction.

I sent the Goose to buy a crab for our family.  It was supposed to be for her and for the Beetle.  However, as usual, it worked out that the Goose was the one who participated.  It amazes me how everyone knows the Goose.   The few staff members who are friendly enough to speak are now calling her by name, and other guests are greeting her with hugs and smiles every time we walk through the pool area.  Meanwhile, no one speaks to the Beetle, or, if they do, they ask if he just got to the resort.  Bless his heart.  It's a good thing he doesn't care, or it would be a hard life living in the shadow of the Goose.

So, what started as the Beetle and the Goose's crab turned into the Goose's crab, and of course, she won the race.  (That seems to be how her life works.)  Here is the photo finish of the big event.  It was quite a spectacle.  Before the race, they put sand buckets on top of the crabs to keep them in place.  My favorite part was when the crabs kept crawling away while the buckets were over them.  That looked pretty funny to see sand buckets sliding away on their own.

The victory in Crab Lane topped off a good day in Paradise.  Last night, I went to bed aching and sore.  I have never felt that way after a massage before, but I guess, really, I have never had a massage, Antigua style, before.  I think if we visit this location again, next time I’ll be generous.  I’ll sacrifice and let Mr. Everything have the luxury of the spa visit.  Or maybe I'll send the Goose.  I'm sure the massage therapist will already know her name and will give her the best massage ever.                 -Al

Day three of Mongoose Watch:  Today, Mr. E and I ventured up the hills to see the mongoose (Mongooses?  Mongeese? Mongeeses?) again.  I must say I am completely creeped out by them.  I don’t like ferrets, because their movements remind me of snakes.  (The mental illness runs deep here, people.  Don’t try to understand it.)  So, now, I don’t like mongooses because they remind me of ferrets which remind me of snakes.

Although I don’t like them, I am fascinated by them.  They are everywhere, and they are sneaky!  They slink around in the trees nearby as we walk through.  The good news is, because I’m so distracted by them, I am not obsessed with the very assertive birds that are overhead.

Mr. Everything wanted to feed a mongoose.  There was a leftover pepper on the table we sat at, so he threw it to a mongoose.  It slinked out, smelled the pepper and turned around and ran.  You see, mongooses are carnivores.  They don’t want peppers.  Mr. E wanted to feed it a hot dog, but I wouldn’t let him.  I told him that was probably the Antigua version of tourists feeding the seagulls.  I hate it when tourists feed the seagulls!  Why, oh why must they feed the seagulls??  So, I didn’t want to be THOSE tourists.  Besides, I didn’t have another $220 for him to see the doctor after the little critter bit his finger instead of the hot dog.  He has thick fingers that look sort of like hot dogs, you know.  I’m pretty sure he hasn’t given up on the idea of feeding the mongeese.  I’m going to have to keep an eye on him…

I must say I had grown accustomed to the mongeeses and wasn’t quite so creeped out by them until I saw one eating.  I don’t know what it was eating, but man, did that thing have a lot of sharp little teeth!  It was ripping whatever it was apart.  It was just plain nasty.

When we came back down from the hills, we found something even rarer than the elusive mongoose.  We saw the Goose and the Beetle getting along and playing together.  We tried not to move too quickly or make eye contact, because we didn’t want to startle them.  Instead, we stood back and watched as they played ping pong as a team against two employees.  It was a beautiful sight, and just like that (snap), it was gone.  They went back to the bickering and disagreeing that we have come to expect.  Maybe if we go up in the hills again, the unity will return.  You never know.  Stranger things have happened.

Tonight, we are getting dressed up for the obligatory fancy dinner and family photo.  We are all so excited about that, as you can well imagine.  We not really the dress-up type of family, but for the sake of the report, it must be done.  I’m not counting on a smile from the Beetle for the photo.  I’ve already seen him smile once today.  To expect it again would be asking too much from any teenage boy.  I’ll settle for a non-snarl.  Maybe I’ll tell him to make a mongoose face and see what happens. 

By the way, the good news is, I was actually able to post a photo from our resort in Antigua.  This is the view from the little barbecue place at the top of the hills (where the mongeeses hang out.)  The bad news is, this photo is from Mr. E's phone because he still hasn't set mine up to upload.  Grrrr...      -Al

Here are a few random observations I've made while in Antigua:

1. The employees here aren’t nearly as friendly as those in Jamaica.  I think it’s because they don’t have the catch phrase, “Yeah, mon,” to make them happy.

2. There are a lot of British people in Antigua.  I just thought Busch Gardens in Tampa was the place for Brits to hang out in April.  Little did I know that the other half of their country was vacationing in Antigua.

3. British people are very pale.

4. I should have been British.

5. Tan flab is more attractive than pale flab.

6. The person who invented the phrase, “I’m bored,” was probably a 15 year old boy.

7. The person who invented that phrase should have been slapped by his mother and probably was.

8. A mongoose has very sharp teeth.

9. I think I have a new animal fear.

10. It is amazing to me how many people spend thousands of dollars to travel to a beautiful beach and end up sitting by the pool.

11. No matter how close to the equator I am, my head still hurts when it’s about to rain.

12. Birds and cats add a sense of excitement to any fine dining experience.

13. Birds can easily open sugar packets with their beaks.

14. Birds like sugar.

15. My head hurts worse when climbing stairs or hills.   

16. My blog would have a whole lot more value if I could actually post photos from my trip.

17. My husband works on his own time table when setting up things on my new phone.

18. I am an abundantly patient wife.

And now, you have had a glimpse of how my brain operates on vacation.  -Al

It was an eventful day in Antigua.  It wasn’t a typical vacation day, but would you expect any less?

We started the day with a trip to the nurse’s station.  The Beetle’s ear was worse, and I was afraid to let it go any longer since he has to be able to fly home on Monday.  It seems that apple cider vinegar doesn’t cure everything.  Who knew?  The Beetle said it hurt his ear to move, smile or talk.  I figured those were just excuses.  However, when he said it hurt too bad to eat, I knew something was wrong.

We found the nurse’s station and went inside.  The room was the color of every mental hospital you’ve ever seen on a movie.  The lighting was the same, too.  It was drab and dull, and there were no windows.  There was a lone nurse sitting there, waiting for the occasional tourist to stop by.  I wouldn’t say she was friendly.  She was quiet and strange, but not friendly.  I guess sitting alone in a mint green room for too long will cause anyone to become contemplative and taciturn.  I tried to joke with her, but that didn’t work.  The Beetle just rolled his eyes at me.  He loves it when I joke with people.  The nurse asked what was wrong, and I told her it was swimmer’s ear.  She asked how I knew that, and I resisted the strong urge to say that I knew because I was the mother.  Instead, I explained that we had been down this road many times and that it was always swimmer’s ear.  She did not even look in his ear or touch him.  She just asked him if it hurt to pull his ear.  He said yes.  She said it was swimmer’s ear.  Go figure.  She said he would need to be seen by a doctor to get prescription drops.  I could hear my bank account being siphoned in my mind as she spoke.

An hour later, the doctor arrived.  Much to the Beetle’s disappointment, he was not carrying a staff and a voodoo doll.  He wasn't even wearing a robe or a shrunken head hanging from his belt.  He actually looked like he might know what he was talking about.  He came with prescription ear drops in hand, and they were the same drops we always get in the states.  That made me feel like he might have a clue what he was doing.  $220 later, we were good to go.  We got back to the room, and I put the drops in the Beetle’s ear.  Five minutes later, he was ready to go eat, because his ear felt magically better.  It was a modern day miracle.

We went and found Mr. Everything and the Goose, who were shooting pool.  We decided to go to the barbecue place called “The Outhouse.”  Apparently, “outhouse” does not mean the same thing in Antigua as it does in the states.  The Outhouse was at the very top of a very steep hill.  We climbed and climbed and climbed to get there.  By the time we got there, I was winded and sweaty.  It’s embarrassing how easily I get winded.  I really should work out more.

While we were eating, the Beetle dared rub his feet in the gravel below our feet.  The Goose started freaking out because he was bothering her with the noise of his feet.  This little irritation developed into a full blown temper tantrum.  We’re going to blame that on the remaining lack of sleep leftover from yesterday’s adventures.  Apparently 11 hours of sleep last night was not enough to get her caught up.  That sounds like a better excuse than the fact that my child is a brat, don’t you think?  Mr. E ended up taking the Goose back to the room so she could finish her hissy fit without people staring at us.  There’s just nothing like a 12 year old fussing and yelling to draw unwanted attention in public.

As the Beetle and I sat there finishing our food, I saw movement behind me.  I thought it was a squirrel and turned around to see it.  My response was, “Ah!  What IS that?!?”  It looked like an overgrown ferret with a sort-of bushy tail.  I asked the employees what it was, and they said it was a mongoose.  They asked if I had ever seen one before and were surprised that I hadn’t.  They said they are everywhere.  I said, “Oh, so it’s sort of like a squirrel,” and one of the employees said, “What’s a squirrel?”  Different worlds, I guess.

The Beetle and I headed back to the room to make sure Mr. E had not done permanent damage to the Goose.  Two hours and many tears later, both kids had been fussed at several times.  It was a very frustrating afternoon.  That was when I decided that I was on vacation and I was going to the beach.  Mr. Everything asked where I was going, and I told him to join me if he wanted.  He decided that sounded like a good idea.  The kids looked at us like we had lost our minds, and the Goose said, “But you’re leaving us?  Where are you going??”  We told her that we were leaving to have fun and that they could do what they wanted to.  “Can we leave the room?”  she said.  “Don’t care.”  “Can we go get ice cream?”  “Whatever floats your boat.”  “Can we come with you?”  “Nope.”  And away we went.

We sat on the beach for a long time.  We watched a few potential drug deals with a guy who was approaching people.  He approached Mr. Everything and asked if he wanted to go fishing.  We are still wondering if that’s code for something.  We are so out of touch.  Finally, a security guard came over near us and stood casually, as though he was going to blend in with his polo shirt, slacks, heavy shoes and two-way radio at the beach.  He was a regular chameleon.  He followed the guy and then disappeared.  Soon, a police officer showed up.  We were hoping we would see a take down, Antigua Vice style.  Instead, we saw them walk the man back to an ‘employees only’ section.  They didn’t even dive on him or anything.  We were so disappointed.

Tonight, we proved that we know absolutely nothing about music trivia.  I think we managed to answer one question right.  In our defense, most of the questions were about #1 hits in the UK.  The tourists all knew the answers, because they are all here from England.  You would think the fact that we are the only American family with children here would be a dead give-away that we are the mystery shoppers, but apparently, the staff members aren’t that observant.

I have been taking photos and want to post some, but I can’t so far.  I have a new phone and haven’t figured out how to get the pictures from it.  So, close your eyes, picture the prettiest sand and water you’ve ever seen.  See that umbrella?  No, not the red one.  The blue one right over there.  That's me under it.  Life is good.  -Al





I knew when we went to bed at 11:00 PM that we were in trouble.  We stayed at a hotel by the airport because our flight left at 6:30 AM.  The goal yesterday was to get everything done so that we could be in bed by 8:00 PM.  Yeah right.  Like that could ever happen.

When we got to the hotel after 9:00, the man at the front desk said the 5:00 AM shuttle was full so we could take the 4:30 or 5:30.  We did not want a mad dash to the airport, so we went with the 4:30 option.  (I was having flashbacks as I remembered Mr. E having to drive us to the airport, rush back and catch the shuttle during our last international adventure.)  The front desk employee said, “So, then.  A wake up call at 3:30?”  Through gritted teeth, I said, “Yes, please.”  He was so stinking cheerful about it.

We got to the room at 9:40.  I told the kids that they had 20 minutes to be in bed.  Mr. Everything said to forget that.  He said they had 10 minutes.  Then, we agreed that if they were ready in 10 minutes, we would be thrilled and if they were ready in 20, we’d let them live to see another day.  At 10:10, they were ready, and at that point, Mr. E and I started our editing for the day. 

As I sat quietly in the dark corner typing, the Goose began to whine.  “That’s too loud!”  “The clicking is driving me crazy!”  By 10:30, she had finally stopped whining after many threats from us and had fallen asleep, sprawled across the bed that I was supposed to share with her.  (For our sanity’s sake, we decided that, just for the night, the boys would be in one bed and the girls would be in the other.  Otherwise, the fighting would never end.)  By 10:45, I had given up on the work and had decided that I would just do it while sitting at the airport at 5:00 the next morning.  I went to brush my teeth and came back to find the Beetle face down on the carpet.  I told him to get up right then before I beat him (Oh, maybe I should sugar coat that… I nicely and kindly asked him to get up, precious, and go back to bed.)  He then huffed and puffed and got back in the bed while mumbling something about sleeping on a board.  I told him to suck it up and deal with it. (I’m such a kind and loving mother.)  By this point, I was oh-so-looking forward to 3:30 Monday morning.

As promised, the wake up call came at 3:30.  I stumbled into the bathroom to take a shower.  I thought a hot shower would at least help me open my eyes.  What I didn’t know was that the only shower available was lukewarm, and that it would open my eyes even more than a hot one would.

By the time I came out, Mr. Everything looked like he was ready to injure someone.  Apparently, the Goose had already cried twice.  The Beetle was saying he might as well stay home.  Mr. E was wild eye and ready to pounce.  I asked what was wrong, and the Beetle informed me that he had swimmer’s ear and his whole trip was ruined.  Only my child can get swimmer’s ear from going swimming twice.  After pointing out that he could spare the dramatics, I immediately shifted into “Nurse Mom, RN” mode and began brainstorming on how to get rid of swimmer’s ear without antibiotic drops.  Mr. E said there would be rubbing alcohol available at the airport, but I insisted that he needed to go to the store.  He was really happy about this, as you can imagine.  A few minutes later and after I had huffed and said I would just do it myself, Mr. E and the Beetle were headed out the door.  They had precisely 20 minutes to find a store, find the supplies and get back.  His list was: swimmer’s ear drops, apple cider vinegar, cotton balls and a travel-sized thing of hair mousse (Hey, I figured as long as he was going…).

The Beetle and Mr. E made it back just in time to get downstairs with our luggage, and we were on our way to the airport.  The shuttle driver did not speak English, which prevented the whole awkward-chatting thing we usually have to do with the driver on the way to anywhere.  He did understand when I asked if there was a business card with the hotel’s phone number on it.  At that point, he had the lights in the van on and was swerving on the road while looking for a card.  I told him that he could wait until we got there, but he didn’t understand me.  He gave me directions for how and who to call when we get back into the country, but I have no idea what he said.  Hopefully, we won’t have to walk.

By the way, the Goose has been telling me that she doesn’t like her nickname.  She says that Sean from the TV show “Psych” has the same nickname from his mom, and she doesn’t want to be mistaken for a boy, as if that’s a possibility.  After the night I had of trying to sleep beside her in her fitful state, I offered to change her nickname to “Flail-erella.”  She cried about that.

By the time we found our gate, the Goose had cried 5 times.  She moves slowly anyway, but when she is tired, she would lose a footrace to a two-toed sloth.  She kept crying that we were leaving her.   “No, my precious child,” I sweetly said,” We aren’t leaving you.  You just aren’t keeping up.”  (Or something to that effect.)  When they called for passengers to start getting on the plane, the Goose had trash to throw away.  I pointed to a trash can, and she headed that way.  We started slowly walking toward the area of the gate.  It was just across the floor.  We weren’t out of sight, and the terminal was not crowded.  She freaked out and said we had left her.  I really should get her involved in a drama club.  Maybe at another time, I would have been sympathetic, but I’m not very nurturing on 4 hours of interrupted sleep.  (Scratch that.  I’m not ever nurturing.)

Mr. E, bless his soul, kindly offered to sit between the kids on the first 50 minute flight to Miami.  I told him what a wonderful husband he was, and for some reason, he just rolled his eyes.  Then, halfway through the flight, I realized that he might have just tricked me into sitting between them on the 3 hour flight to Antigua.  I had no intention of letting that happen.  Fool me once, shame on you…You know the rest.

In Miami, we had a 3 hour layover.  Have you ever been in an airport with a teen and a preteen for 3 hours?  It’s loads of fun.  Why, I didn’t even feel like I needed a vacation by the time we left.  I will say that the Miami airport was surprisingly free of weirdos.  I was disappointed.  I wanted something good to write about.

We got on the plane for Antigua, and I weakly offered to sit in the middle seat.  Mr. E saw right through it and took his position as head-referee.  I guess that’s my payment for writing 2 beastly reports for the vacation my family is about to have.  You see, while they are watching TV and relaxing each night, I will be writing about how hot the eggs were at breakfast and how many minutes it took for the water sports guy to greet us.  My vacation won’t be quite as relaxing as theirs, so I should at least have a peaceful seat on the plane.  (I’m justifying why I should not feel guilty for always sticking my wonderful husband between the two beasts.  Just convincing myself here, people…)

After a 3 hour flight, we landed safely in Antigua.  (Pronounced “Antig-uh,” as I have now been informed three times by my daughter.  Apparently, I’ve been saying it wrong.)  Then, we headed to spend 7 nights and 8 glorious days having our needs met promptly and cheerfully by attentive and knowledgeable staff members. (Just practicing for my report.)  I must say that I am tremendously blessed to have this opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what the week holds in store for us.  I hope the weather’s great, but even if it’s not, who cares?  I’m in Antig-uh.  -Al

For two weeks, my children have been trying to scare me and each other with a rubber snake.  This snake (AKA “Snakey”) has been in our family since the Beetle was little.  Back in the day, I don’t know how many times I faked terror when finding that thing, just so I could hear him giggle.  There were a few times that he really scared me, too, but I prefer to say I was faking it.

Every time we move, the snake bit (pardon the pun) starts all over again.  That’s because, after we move and I have to deal with the rubber snake, I end up hiding it somewhere.  Then, when we move, they find the hiding spot.  I can’t bare to get rid of it because I still picture my little Beetle with his white cotton candy hair standing, peeking around a corner, waiting for me to scream.  Snakey is part of the family.

This time around, the first place I found the snake was in my pillow case.  It didn’t scare me, because it just felt like something hard and cold.  By the time I took it out, I knew it wasn’t anything that was alive.  Next, the snake was in my shoe. (“There’s a snake in my boot!”  Sorry.  Couldn’t resist.)  Then, the snake was curled up on the front porch steps near my swing.  I have to admit; that one scared me a little.  I’m freaked out about the idea of rattlesnakes up in these here woods, ya know?

The kids finally gave up on tricking me and started trying to scare each other.  The snake has been back and forth between their rooms all week.  Last night, the Beetle put it over the Goose’s door so that, when she opened the door, the snake fell on her.  It was a good idea, but it didn’t work. 

One of the latest tricks is to run into the room and scream while throwing Snakey at the other person.  That worked the first time.  Now, they just look at each other.  The other day, the Goose told the Beetle that she knew it wasn’t real because he was too much of a chicken to hold a real snake.  “Hello, pot, allow me to introduce you to the kettle.”

The irony of this whole thing is that my kids are the second and third biggest chickens in the world.  (The apples didn’t fall far from this tree…Call me El Pollo Numero Uno.)  They can’t scare me or each other by holding the snake, because all know that none of us would ever hold a snake.  Even Mr. E is afraid of snakes, so he can’t scare us either.

We have a rubber mouse somewhere, and that thing looks real.  I’m tempted to find it and scare the pants off of both of them.  That really would be funny, except for the fact that they would start using it against me.  They know about the mouse, but it has been in hiding for a while.  I may just have to find it.

We also have a huge, realistic rubber cockroach that dates way back to pre-children.  The kids don’t even know about it.  It might be time for him to make an appearance.

Mr. Everything wants to go get a very real looking snake and use it against them.  I would, but I know I would regret it.

My fear is that one of these days, there will be a real snake in the house, and I will react in the usual way: 

1. Roll eyes.

2. Pick up snake.

3. Throw it at the person standing closest to me.

The outcome would not be good if the snake ended up not being our beloved Snakey.

We leave for Antigua Monday.  Perhaps, I’ll tell them about how I was reading about a scary species of snakes that live on the island.  Then, I’ll pack a new, improved Snakey and cure them of this whole snake hiding thing.  Too cruel?  Hmmm.  I’ll have to think about that one….   -Al