There’s just something special about redheads.  I’ve always wanted to be one.  I’ve always said I have the skin tone, just not the hair.  I think I was strawberry blond when I was a baby.  Either that, or the photographers back then used bad photo paper.  I’m not sure which.  But, in my mind, I was strawberry blond.  Don’t burst my bubble.

A few times, I’ve tried dying my hair red.  That didn’t turn out so well.  In fact, I’m still growing out the results of my last attempt.  Stupid non-permanent hair dye.  Non-permanent, my eye!  (I was going to say,”My butt,” but I didn’t want to be offensive.  “My butt” just seems more dramatic, though, because it is much larger than my eye.) Then, there was the summer of the redhead shampoo.  That’s probably the closest to true red I’ve ever come.  My mother insisted that I had dyed it, but for once, I hadn’t.  I used a redhead shampoo that brought out my natural red highlights, and my hair looked red!  See, I told you I was a redhead under all this non-descript blondish, brownish, dishwaterish hair.  (By the way, just so you know, we who have non-descript, blondish, brownish, dishwaterish hair really hate the terms “dirty blond” and “dishwater blond.”  Really.  “Dark blond” or even “light brown” are much more pleasant, and we would prefer to be called either of those terms.  Thank you.)

Did you know that the Greeks believed that redheads would be turned into vampires when they died?  During the Spanish inquisition, redheads were thought to be witches and were burned at the stake. (I’m rethinking this desire to be a redhead.)  The Russians believed that red hair was a sign of a bad temper and craziness.  (Maybe I really am a redhead!)  What other group of people has so many myths about them?  I mean, sure, blonds have their jokes, but that’s about it.  I’d rather by the source of a legend than the butt of a joke.  (Wow.  I’m really using the word “butt” a lot today.  Good thing I don’t have toddlers at home.)

Redheads are just special to me.  They have a certain fire that normal people don’t have.  They are spunky, and I like spunky.  Come to think of it, I think the Goose might have some red under her hair somewhere.

My best friend, Willow, has two red headed boys.  With red hair comes pale skin.  We used to joke that we should meet at the park at midnight for play dates so her boys wouldn’t get burned.  That worked for me too, because I’m a red head in spirit and in skin tone.  (It’s my delusion.  Let me have it.)

I don’t know why I’ve always been so drawn to red hair.  Maybe it’s because it’s unusual for someone to be a true redhead, and it’s virtually impossible to dye your hair to a natural looking red.  I mean, fushia?  That’s easily achieved.  Purplish red?  I see plenty of women sporting that look.  But, true red hair is really, really hard to get from a package.  I guess that’s why I have always wanted it, because I can’t have it.

A dear friend of mine is a natural red head.  She has long, flowing red hair.  What’s more, she’s older than I am, and her hair is still red.  That is very unusual as red heads tend to grey very early.  She does not dye her hair.  It’s all natural, baby!

This dear friend is about to face the fight of her life.  She will go through radiation and will very possibly lose that beautiful red hair.  One thing I know she won’t lose is that redhead spirit.  Even in the hospital, she is her normal, witty, sarcastic self, which is why she and I get along so well.  I have told her that the red hair is her super power that will get her through this.  I believe it is.

There is a special spirit in redheads.  It really goes beyond spunk and borders on fire, just like their hair.  I believe God only gave certain people red hair because he knew only they could handle the responsibility.  If he had given it to everyone, this world would be mass chaos!  Think of the red heads you know.  I would bet they are full of passion and energy and sometimes anger.  That’s why we have stereotype that red heads have short tempers.  Many times, it’s true!

Think of some red heads from history:

Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, is thought to be redheaded.  He had passion, even if it was directed in the wrong direction.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a redhead.  Anyone who can declare himself as emperor of a country has to have some chutzpah!

Lizzie Borden, the infamous hatchet murderess, was also redheaded.  I’m seeing a pattern of strong personalities, here.

On the flip side, you have Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball, two of the funniest women in American TV history.  If you google “Famous Redheads,” you will quickly find a list of incredible people.  (Some were incredibly good, and some were incredibly bad.  Either way, they were still incredible.)

Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to redheads, because they are incredible people.  The rest of you aren’t bad either, but there is just something about the red.  Since I can’t be a true redhead, I guess I’ll just keep looking at my friend’s hair longingly, and come to think of it, maybe I’ll go to the store and get some of that redhead shampoo.           -Al

Anytime someone I know is going through a hard time, I try to remind them that, in a year, this will just be a bad memory.  They may wonder why I say that, but to me, it brings comfort.

We’ve been through our share of struggles in the last several years, and many of them were hard to bear.  Don’t get me wrong.  It could have been worse.  It can always be worse.  However, when I was in the middle of a crisis and felt like I couldn’t breathe, the fact that it could have been worse did not really comfort me.  At that moment of crisis, I always needed something else to cling to.  I found that the thing that comforted me was the knowledge that, eventually, it would be over.

Maybe this perspective came from going through several bad events.  Probably, the first time I went through something, I thought my life was ruined forever.  Over time, though, I learned that it would be okay.  Eventually.  Some events were big enough that they marked my life as a “before” and “after.”  For example, I view my life in terms of “before we lost our house” and “after we lost our house.”  (And, actually, sadly, we still haven’t lost our house.  It has been 6 years, and that house is still sitting there rotting.  In my humble opinion, Bank of America is the root of all evil.)

A friend of mine says that there are no sweeter words in the Bible than, “And it came to pass…”  She’s right.  It is comforting that, “this too shall pass.”  I focus on that a lot when life is rough around me.

So, last week, when I found myself driving to the trauma center, I had several things to focus on.  First, I had to call the appropriate people and let them know Mr. E had been burned.  I’m still not sure I called everyone I needed to, and I’m afraid I hurt a few feelings by not calling some.  Also, I was praying non-stop for comfort for Mr. Everything and for safety for me.  I was praying for his mom and for my kids.  I was praying.  A lot.  But, then, there was something else I found myself focusing on during that long drive.  That was the after.

I kept thinking that I did not know what was about to happen but I did know it would end eventually.  I had no idea how bad Mr. Everything’s burns were, so I had thoughts of him having to stay in the burn unit for days, weeks or even months.  That scared me, but I focused on the after.  I knew that, eventually, he would get out, and that was what I had to focus on.  I had visions of a slow recovery and a scarred face.  I knew I would love Mr. E no matter what his face looked like, but I didn’t want him to be scary.  He is so gentle and kind, and I knew that would kill him if small children were scared of him.

Anytime my mind would drift to visions of babies crying and children running away, I pulled it back to the fact that a new “after” would develop.  We would find a new normal (whatever “normal” is) and it would all be okay.  As ironic as this sounds, I (Not Your Average Al) find comfort in normal.  Weird, huh?

During the days that followed Mr. Everything’s burns, I cried a lot.  Then, I would remind myself that he was okay.  He wasn’t even in the hospital.  Life was good, and God was good.  I kept focusing on the new normal.  If anyone had told me what the outcome would be a week later, I would not have believed them.  It would have sounded too good to be true.

Mr. E’s face almost looks as though nothing even happened.  His skin is baby-butt soft, and he is fine.  Small children are not afraid of him.  He is as handsome as ever!  He has had no pain.  He has had no complications.  We didn’t even get the prescriptions filled for the pain killers that the doctor was convinced we would need!  He’ll have to stay out of the sun completely for a month and then be very careful about the sun for six months to a year, but that’s a small price to pay.

You can believe what you want to about this whole situation, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is an answer to many, many prayers.  Many were said by me. (They were in almost a chant…sorry about that, God.  I know I was annoying.)  Many were said by other people on our behalf.  To all of you who said them (you know who you are!), we are thankful for you and for your concern.  We are humbled by the outpouring of love we have received.  We are truly blessed.   -Al

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that, while I thought to take fresh clothes for Mr. Everything, I apparently did not think it through.  I took him a T-shirt.  Genuis.  Anywho, back to the story…

Pretty soon after I got back in the room with Mr. Everything, the nurse came in to clean the burns.  They gave him another shot of morphine.  Apparently, this was number 3, yet he was still alert and making sense.  The nurse scrubbed Mr. E’s face and put ointment on it.  He told us that they would probably keep Mr. E overnight for observation but then we would be good to go.

As we waited in the sterile room, my phone rang.  It was the Goose.  I answered to hear her tattling on the Beetle.  The thought that crossed my mind was, “Well, at least they aren’t too traumatized!”  Then, the next thought was not so nice.  As she rattled on and on and on about what he was doing or not doing or saying or not saying, I felt all my blood rush to my ears.  Sometimes I understand why animals eat their young.  I finally managed to interrupt her and say, through gritted teeth, “Do you realize that I am standing in a trauma room with your father in pain?  Do you realize they cut off all his clothes and he is now lying (actually, I said “laying,” because I always get that wrong) on a metal table naked?  Do you realize that you don’t know that because you did not even ask how he was?”  Her answer was, “Oh.  Yeah.  Sorry.”  When I got home, the whole house had been cleaned and was spotless.  Bless her heart.

The irony here is how my kids handle trauma.  The Beetle gets angry.  The worse the situation, the angrier he is.  The Goose gets irritating.  Together, they are the perfect storm.  God really does have a sense of humor.

So, quickly, we were moved up to a room.  (Okay, you know that’s not true.  We were in a hospital.)  Actually, though, it only took a few hours for us to be moved.  This is really good in hospital terms.  Shands was an excellent hospital, but the way.  I did not meet a single staff member who was not kind and caring.  It was amazing!

After Mr. E got settled in and it didn’t seem like anything else would happen for the night, I headed home.  The kids were home alone, apparently killing each other, so I had to go.  It was hard to leave him, and it was one of those moments when the choice between motherhood and wifehood was excruciating.

The next morning, I got up and had to do some things for work.  Then, I started getting ready to go to the hospital.  I sent the kids to church and headed out.  Although I tried to get there earlier, it was noon by the time I arrived at the hospital.  As much as I had tried, I seemed to be moving through molasses all morning.  I got up to the room and found Mr. Everything sitting in a chair.  He was wearing a hospital gown that no one had bothered to tie in the back for him.  He had no underwear because they had cut it off.  He was a sight for sore eyes.

Mr. Everything’s face looked worse than I remembered it looking the night before, but of course I didn’t tell him that.  He joked about looking like Yoda, and I told him I would love him even if he was hideous.  It’s a good thing this man isn’t vain.

The nurse came in and said they were transferring Mr. E to the burn unit to stay for a few days.  That had been mentioned to him that morning, but until this point, we were not sure.  I asked the nurse if she was sure, and she said she was sure.  I called my sister, and she and my father left Brandon to come get my kids.  I knew I could not leave Mr. E in a burn unit by himself for two days, and it would be easier if the kids were taken care of.

Meanwhile, we waited.  In case you don’t know, you do a lot of that when you’re in a hospital.  Soon, the lady with the wheelchair came and got us.  She took us through the tunnel that goes under the street to the other side of the hospital.  Shands is a really big place.

We got settled in the room in the burn unit.  Then, the doctor came in and talked to us.  She said she was sending Mr. E home.  We had just waited and been transferred only to find out we were going home!  We said this aloud, and she said we could stay if we wanted.  We declined her gracious offer.

Basically, the doctor told Mr. E that he could do the same thing at home that they would do for him there.  He would wash his face twice a day with gentle soap.  Then, he would apply the ointment that makes him look shiny and slimy.  She told us the warning signs of infection and told us who to call if we saw any signs.  Then, she told Mr. E that she wanted him to eat a high-calorie, high-protein diet.  In fact, the words she said to him were, “I want you to eat as much as you possibly can.”  In a matter of 24 hours, Mr. Everything had faced one of my biggest fears of being stripped naked in public, and he had lived one of my dreams coming true by being told that he could eat as much as he wanted!  We were truly on a roller coaster.

The thing that amazed the doctor was that Mr. Everything’s pain was minimal.  He said it felt like a sunburn, and he did not even flinch when people touched it.  We asked her if this could have been from putting eggs on the burns.  She said that many people believed that eggs helped and many people believed eggs were a terrible idea.  There was no medical evidence either way.  She did, however, admit that the eggs seemed to work for him, because she said she was astounded that he was not in more pain.

I believe that the eggs worked.  I also believe that the prayers worked, because I know the prayers had begun before the ambulance even arrived.  (I was saying them until I could alert the CGVS – Church Grapevine System.)  Whatever worked, we know that he is tremendously blessed not to be in more pain. 

So, all in all, our adventure ended well.  It was fortunate that Mr. E thought quickly enough to close his eyes and turn his head.  If he hadn’t, the outcome would have been much, much worse.  We are also blessed that his arms were not burned, because they were on fire.  I saw it myself.

Now, we just wait for Mr. E to heal.  He isn’t in pain.  He isn’t itching.  He isn’t miserable.  He’s just watching TV and eating.  A lot.  Life could be much worse, and for that, I am tremendously grateful.  I have to admit that the slimy face is a little annoying for both of us.  I tried to talk him into going down to the dining hall to get something with me last night.  I was going to drive the ATV.  He had one word for me: “Bugs.”  To that, I said, “EWWW!  Never mind!”  Can you imagine how many mosquitoes he would have had stuck to his slimy face?  -Al

It all began because the walk-in freezer thawed out.  We had been having problems with the freezer in the kitchen at camp all week.  The repairman had come to check it and had inadvertently added too many defrost cycles to the schedule for the walk-in.  We discovered that the many, many pounds of hamburger meat and chicken had thawed out just enough that it would be unsafe to refreeze them, so the cooking began.

We cooked all afternoon on Saturday.  By the way, if you’ve never stirred 10 pounds of hamburger meat with a huge spoon, you haven’t lived.  We actually were on the last round of chicken breasts, and we decided to try deep frying some.  “Have oil and flour, will deep fry.”  That’s our motto.  So, Mr. E helped me get the deep fryer going and decided he would start cooking the hamburger patties.  We were preparing enough meat to feed a small army.  The plan was to then freeze it since it can be frozen again once it’s cooked.  We were both exhausted from five weeks of summer camp, and cooking all day just added to that exhaustion.

Mr. E went over to turn on the flat-top griddle.  It is gas-powered just like everything else in that kitchen.  He turned it on and came back to help me.  Then, he went back and realized it had not lit, so he turned it on again.  He stepped away to stir the chicken and went back.  The griddle still had not lit, so he went to light it with a lighter.  As his hand went up to the skillet, his brain told him not to light it, but his hand did not listen.  Luckily, he realized what was coming, and he closed his eyes and turned his head.  At that moment, fire blew out of the griddle and onto him.

I looked up from the deep fryer just in time to see flames shoot out onto my husband.  Somehow, he managed to quickly get the flames out.  Thank goodness he was thinking, because I was beyond responding at this point.  I vaguely remember yelling something, and I know he started reassuring me that he was fine.  I went rushing over, and about the time I got to him, the burning began.  He ran to the sink and started putting water on his head and face.  He was leaned over the industrial sink with the sprayer in his hand.

Mr. Everything told me to go get some eggs.  I ran and grabbed three.  He probably should have been more specific, since I am not known for my emergency-handling skills.  He cracked those and put them on his head and told me to go get more.  I got three more.  I’m pretty sure I saw his eyes roll. 

By this point, Mr. E said he thought we should call 911.  I said, “Are you sure?”  (Really, Al?  Was he sure?)  In my head, he was breathing and talking, so I should just drive him to the emergency room.  I suggested this, and he said he didn’t think he could ride all the way there because it was burning so badly.  Again, he told me to call 911.  I asked him where the phone was, and he said, “On the wall!”  Again, I think there was an eye roll.  (Just a note here…. You do not EVER want me to be in charge of your well being if you are in an emergency situation.  Trust me on this.) 

I walked around and finally found the phone.  I did remember how to dial 911.  I was pretty proud of that.  The operator answered, and I explained what was going on.  The operator asked if my husband was having problems breathing, and I told her he was not.  She said, “Ma’am, do you want me to send an ambulance?”  My answer was, “I don’t know.  What do you think?”  She said she couldn’t make that decision and again asked me if I wanted an ambulance.  Again, I said I didn’t know.  I couldn’t figure out why she was asking me this.  I had called 911 and not Pizza Hut, correct?  Finally, I told her to send an ambulance, and she said she would send one then.

The ambulance took about 15 minutes to get there.  It felt like an eternity, but really, this was impressive, considering the fact that we live in the sticks.  I went to warn the Beetle and the Goose that an ambulance was coming.  The Goose immediately started crying.  (She gets her emergency-coping skills from her mother.)  The Beetle shifted into action.  He drove the ATV up to the dirt driveway so he could lead the ambulance down the long dirt driveway and to the camp’s dining hall.  Good boy.

I went back to Mr. Everything and found him still putting eggs and water on his head.  He had gone to the cooler and gotten a whole tray of eggs.  It was all I could do not to freak out, and it took every ounce of my being and every bit of prayer I had in me to keep me calm.  I told him that I was going to cover the meat and put it in the refrigerator while we waited.  This was the only thing I could do to soothe my nerves until the ambulance got there.  I had already tried lying across Mr. E’s back and crying, but that didn’t seem to be helping him too much.

There was a small group of people at the camp who were there to set up for a camp session that was starting the next day.  The lady in charge came in the kitchen.  I told her what was going on, and she asked what in the world I was doing.  I said I was putting up the meat, and she said, “I can handle that!”  I told her that if I did not put up the meat, I would die, and I think she got my message.  She stepped out of the way and let me pack the meat. 

When the ambulance arrived, the EMT informed us that putting eggs on the burns was not a good idea because of all the bacteria.  Great.  This added a new worry to my list of reasons to freak out.  The EMTs said they were going to take Mr. Everything to Gainesville to Shands Hospital.  I asked if I could ride with them.  They said I could but I would not be able to be in the back with Mr. E.  I decided to drive, and I said I would follow them.  One of the EMTs said, “You do realize you can’t follow us, right?  We will be going too fast, so you’ll just have to meet us there.”  It was a really good thing she told me that, because I’m pretty sure I would have followed them.  She told me the exit number so I could get there.

While they loaded up Mr. E, I went to get my purse, phone and other items I needed from the house.  I was so proud of myself for thinking to pack fresh clothes for Mr. Everything.  (Of course, later, I realized I had left them on the kitchen counter when I left, but it was the thought that counted.)

I followed the ambulance for the 2 miles down the muddy, bumpy, slippery dirt road.  I said it was the longest ride I had ever had.  Mr. E said he was pretty sure his ride was longer.  He won that competition, because, while I was driving, he was in the back of an ambulance with a wet towel over his head, and he was in pain.  I’m sure that 2 miles lasted forever for him.

On the way to the hospital, I called Mr. E’s mom and my parents, and I called a friend from our church in Brandon.  I should have known the church grapevine would work efficiently.  By the time I got the emergency room, my phone was already dinging with text messages.

On the way, I had a brief thought about the fact that we had no one up in Gainesville.  It wasn’t a pity party.  It was more of a glimpse that, oh, we’re alone.  Boy, was I wrong about that!  By midnight that night, Mr. E had received 5 visitors.  We also had gotten many text messages and calls of concern.  We had offers of food and help with the kids.  We might not know many people up here, but we are certainly not alone!

While I was driving to the hospital, Mr. E was getting to face one of my biggest fears.  He was taken in as a trauma patient.  In case you don’t know, this means that you get the full sha-bang.  When they arrived at the hospital, he quickly found himself on a metal table with a swarm of people over him.  They cut off all his clothes (that would be the part I fear).  He said one person was sticking his arm, one person was putting monitors on, someone else was examining his head and someone was sticking a needle somewhere he really wished a needle would never go.  Then, as quickly as the swarm came on, they left, and he was alone.  Lying on a metal table.  In a room.  Alone.

Meanwhile, I arrived at the hospital and valet parked the Suburban.  (Yes, they have valet parking.)  I entered an emergency waiting room that looked just like the worst episode of “ER” I had ever seen.  There were people wrapped in blankets and people puking in buckets.  There were people who were angry and people who were crazy.  It was really, really bad.  I went to the information desk and waited my turn.  I asked how to find Mr. E, and they did not find his name in the system.  This was when the panic started to set in.  I said, “I am at Shands, right???”  The employee said I was but that maybe I had beat the ambulance there.  I assured her that I had not beat the ambulance since I had just driven 45 minutes and the ambulance was in front of me when I left my house.  She called me over to a more private booth, away from the man who was pretending to be deaf (really).  She asked what had happened, and I told her.  She said Mr. E had probably come in as a trauma.  Then, the employee told me that, if he had, he was not listed under his real name.  She said, “I don’t know exactly how to find him, so you’re going to have to sit down and wait.”  I turned and looked around the room full of crazies and looked back at the employee.  I’m pretty sure she saw the panic in my eyes, because she said, “Oh second thought, wait right here.  Let me see what I can do.”

A minute later, the employee came back and said, “He is about to come talk to you.”  Then, “he” came around the corner and said he would lead me to the family room.  With these words, the panic fully set in.  The only time I had ever been led to a family room was to receive horrible news.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew Mr. E was not dead.  However, I was afraid they were about to tell me that he had been taken to a burn unit and I couldn’t see him.  Then, I would die.

So, as we walked through the hall, I tried to regulate my breathing.  I just knew they were going to leave me in an empty room so they could break it to me gently.  Then, “he” turned the corner and said, “You can wait in here.”  I turned the corner and saw other people sitting in the waiting room.  I exclaimed, “Oh thank goodness!  I’m so glad you’re here!”  The people quickly scooted out of my way and made room for me.  I’m pretty sure they were moving away from me because they thought I was crazy.  I was glad they were there, though, because I knew the staff would not give me terrible news in front of other people.

In just a minute, “he” came back and said I could follow him.  “He” walked me back to where Mr. E was lying on the metal table, looking around.  I walked up to him and said, “So.  How was your weekend?”  He said, “What are you going to blog about this week?”  I smiled and knew he was okay.

I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow…

PictureMy Senior Prom 1990
Okay, y'all, because I love you and because a few of you asked for it, here is the next installment in my book.  Really, it's because I'm tired and don't feel like writing anything tonight, but still...

This is Chapter 2 of the book I may never write.  Don't start here.  If you haven't read the first chapter, go HERE and then HERE.  Otherwise, you'll be lost.  (Not really.  My life isn't that complicated, but still, read the first part.)

Our first date was to a steakhouse in town.  Mr. E picked me up in his red Firebird.  I was breathless as I saw him approaching my front door.  He came in and met my parents.  My mother insisted on taking our picture.  This was my very first date with a boy, and she wanted photographic proof.  I was horrified that she wanted a picture, but now I’m really glad I have it.  We were so sweet and innocent, and I was so skinny.  It was a good time in life.

At that time, I was not a big steak eater, and I had no idea what to order in a steakhouse.  It wasn’t a fancy steakhouse, mind you.  It was more of a roadhouse type of place.  I ordered pasta.  I couldn’t really eat anyway because I was so nervous.  Mr. Everything ordered the biggest steak I have ever seen anyone eat.  I was astounded as he ate the whole thing and part of my pasta.  This was my first exposure to how much a teenage boy could eat, and I was amazed.  It was amazing how easy the conversation was.  We were both nervous, but we always had lots to say.  I don’t even remember what we talked about.  I just knew that I could talk to him forever.

Our next several dates were nothing astounding.  We went out to dinner several times.  Then, we went to see a movie.  It was “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise.  At the ticket theater, I got asked for an ID, probably because I looked like I was 12 years old.  I could not produce a valid ID, so Mr. Everything had to buy my ticket for me.  Talk about embarrassing.  Since I couldn’t help my age, I decided not to worry about it but to enjoy the evening.  Every time we held hands, I blushed and felt like my heart would jump out of my chest.

Finally, after about four dates, I decided it was time for our first kiss.  (Notice how I said "I decided."  I was kind of controlling back then.  What's that you say?  Some things never change?  That's not nice.)  This was a big deal for me, because I had been “saving" myself.  Another boy had tried to kiss me once, and I turned my head right at the last second.  He ended up kissing my ear.  He was kind of creepy, and I did not want his lips to be involved in my first kiss.  We didn’t call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend for very long after that.

When I decided to honor Mr. Everything by letting him be my first kiss, I told him that I wanted to kiss him.  That’s how lame I really was.  He had driven me home and was turning into my driveway when I said, “I want you to kiss me.”  He said okay and tried to lean over.  I said, “NOT HERE!  My parents might see!”  He backed out of the driveway and drove to the end of the street and around the corner.  There, he stopped the car and said, “Is this okay?”  I decided it was a good place for a kiss.  He was a patient man.  Mr. Everything leaned over and kissed me.  I can’t say it was a good kiss.  I can’t even say I saw fireworks or stars.  It was just a peck, but it was my first kiss, and I had shared it with him.  I turned about 12 shades of red, and he took me home.

A few weeks later, I decided that I loved this boy.  Somewhere along the way, an English teacher had lied to me and told me I could write poetry.  I decided to write a poem to the Mr. to tell him that I loved him. 

I can’t remember the whole masterpiece, but I know it started with, “How do you say you love someone when you don’t know if he cares?  You want to tell him how you feel but you don’t know if he’s there.”  Beautiful, isn’t it?  What was I thinking?

We had been on a date.  I don’t remember where we had gone, but he drove me home.  It was late enough that he didn’t come in with me.  I’m pretty sure I was pushing my 10:00 curfew to the brink of disaster.  I had folded the poem in the fancy fold that girls do when passing notes in school.  This was a mature moment in my history.

I gave him the note, and he started to open it.  I said, “No!  Don’t open it!”  He asked the logical question, “Then, how am I supposed to read it?”  I blushed and said I didn’t want him to read it until he got him.  Mr. Everything was very patient.  He took orders like this from me all the time and never questioned my sanity (Or, at least, he didn’t question it aloud.).  I instructed him to go home, read the note and then call me. 

You see, I had this all worked out in my head.  He was going to go home, read the note and call me to pledge his undying love.  It was going to be beautiful.  I knew my plan would come together nicely.  (This was when I was still new to this relationship.  Over time, I would learn that, with Mr. E, my plan rarely came together nicely.)

I waited by the phone.  I had it calculated.  It took him 16 minutes to get home.  He would have to speak to his parents for, let’s say, ten minutes.  Then, he would go upstairs and read the poem.  That would take about two minutes, but I would give him ten since he would want to re-read my beautiful verse a few times.  By 10:36 PM, he should be calling me. 

So, I waited.  It was 10:36, 10:40, 10:45, 11:00.  At first, I was devastated.  I had apparently scared this perfect boy away by pledging my undying love for him.  By 11:30, I was just mad.  How dare he not call me?  Even if it was just to tell me he didn’t feel the same way, who did this boy think he was???  I could do better anyway, so I went to bed.  I told him off several times in my dreams.

The next day was Saturday.   We had planned to go to the mall around 11:00.  At 10:00, he called to make sure we were still on.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hello?

E: Hi!  How are you today?

Me: Fine.

E: Okay.  How did you sleep?

Me: Fine.

E:  Um, okay?  Are we still on for the mall today?

Me: Nope.

E: Um, okay?  Did I do something?

Me: Oh, no.  You didn’t do ANYTHING.  I guess it would have killed you to call me after you read my note.

E: What note?

And, with that, I should have known how the rest of my life would go.  Bless his heart, I love that man, but memory is not one of his strengths.

I can’t type what came next in the conversation, because I think it was a lot of random words and phrases.  I remember wanting to jump through the phone and choke him.  After a minute or two of ranting, I asked him if he really didn’t read the note or if he was just toying with my emotions.  He realized I was serious about the note and went to search his pockets from the night before.  “Oh, here it is,” he said, “Hold on.  I’ll read it.”  I quickly said not to read it with me on the phone, and I got off the phone.  I really was the epitome of mature.

Luckily, this time, Mr. E remembered to call me back.  My heart was pounding out of my chest when I answered.  I said, “Hello?”  He said, “I love you, too.”  And, just like that, we started a lifetime together.  

That's the end of this chapter.  Eventually, someday,  I'll share the whole book with you.  I can't keep giving it away though, or you'll know what happens in the end.  Oh, that's right, you sort-of already do.  What you don't know is all the stuff that came between then and now.  It's a lot of stuff.  It will probably take me decades to write it.  (That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.)

I hope you enjoyed the beginning of The Beginning!       -Al

I’ve been breaking out in this rash now for quite a while.  I think it’s from the heat.  Who knows?  It could be all this fresh air I’m getting.  Yesterday, when I was scratching uncontrollably and whining to Mr. Everything, he suggested I take some of the Goose’s natural supplements.  I had forgotten about those, but it reminded me of when we got them.

Back in the day (I’m not sure what day, but I like that phrase).  So, back in the day, the Beetle broke out in this weird rash.  It was all over his face, neck, shoulders, arms and stomach.  I had no idea what it was, but I ran him to the doctor.  (Apparently this was back in the day of medical insurance, because now, I’d probably tell him to rub some dirt on it and he’d be fine.)

Anywho, I rushed him to the pediatrician.  She looked at him and said it had to be something I had changed…soap, detergent, fabric softener, etc.  I thought and thought, but there was nothing!  She insisted that it was not something he ate but was definitely a skin irritation.  For days, I racked my brain, trying to think of what it could be.  I was in a panic. (Little things used to get to me like that when my babies were little.  Now, I’d say, “You don’t have a bone sticking out of the skin?  You’re fine!”)  There was nothing I could come up with.  After several days, the rash cleared up, thank goodness, and I started to put it out of my mind. 

A week and a half later, the Goose broke out in a weird rash.  However, hers looked more like hives.  I was in a panic again.  How could this be a coincidence that both of my kids broke out within weeks of each other?  Once again, I rushed to the pediatrician to see what she had to say.  This time, the doctor said the Goose’s hives had to be from something she ate.  I looked at her like she was crazy.  Was she trying to tell me that my kids each broke out in a rash within 2 weeks of each other, and they had nothing to do with each other?  She was.  I was convinced, though, that they had some flesh-eating disease.  (I really did worry a lot back then.  I’ve come a long way!)  The doctor questioned me about what the Goose had eaten, and I could not think of anything beyond her normal diet…macaroni and cheese.

I went home with no answers and a headache.  All the way home, I thought about what I could do for this poor child.  The Beetle’s rash had never itched and had gone away, but the Goose was red and itchy.  She was miserable.  I called a friend of mine who was a massage therapy and I said, “Hey.  You’re into this natural crap.  Tell me what to do.”  I remember saying those exact words to her.  Little did I know that I would soon be a believer of the natural crap.

My friend suggested I call a lady who owned a local health food store.  She said I would think this woman was completely nuts but to take the Goose to her anyway.  Out of desperation, I did just that.

That same day, the Beetle came into the room, eating a huge jawbreaker that he had gotten from the mall a week ago.  At that point, I really did not want to know where he had been keeping it for a week.  As he licked on the jawbreaker’s white outer shell, I watched the rash spread across his face.  The mystery was solved!  It was the jawbreaker.  I still don’t know whether it was a dye or what.  He’s never done it again.  So, at least his mystery was solved, but I still had to deal with the girl.

The lady, AKA the Voodoo doctor, practiced Applied Kinesiology.  Yeah.  I had never heard of it either.  In a nutshell, Applied Kinesiology, or at least her version of it, is the belief that your muscles can tell what is wrong with you and what you need to take to get better.  Voodoo with a capital V, but I was desperate.  My baby was itchy.

The Voodoo doctor could not fit the Goose in for a full appointment, but she said to come around 11:00 and she would quickly look at her.  We went to the small, cramped health food store that smelled like strange hay and wacky weed.  I talked to my kids before we got there.  I told them to be respectful and polite, no matter what was about to happen. 

The Voodoo doctor called us back to a storage room, and she sat down on a stool.  She looked at the Goose’s skin, looked in her eyes and looked at her fingernails.  So far, so good.  Then, she asked the Goose to stick out her tongue.  The Goose enjoyed that a little too much.  Next, the Voodoo doctor asked the Goose to hold out her arm.  She began pushing on the child’s arm.  While she was doing this, she had her eyes closed, and her mouth was moving like she was talking.  She was tapping her finger on a table.  This went on for about 5 minutes.

The Beetle looked at me like he was going to explode with laughter.  I signaled for him just to breathe and be still.  I was about to explode with laughter too.  This whole situation was just too weird.  The Goose was looking at me as though I had taken her to a torture chamber.  I was hoping she wasn’t right.

Finally, the Voodoo doctor came out of her trance and began to talk to me.  She asked me if the Goose drank a lot of milk.  I said, “No, not really.”  Then, she said, “What about cheese and dairy?”  Well, cheese was another story.  The child ate macaroni and cheese three times a day.  The Voodoo doctor directed me to take her off dairy completely.  This was the equivalent of separating Bert and Ernie.  It shouldn’t and couldn’t be done.

I told the Voodoo doctor that I would try my best to get the Goose off dairy (knowing good and well that it wasn’t going to happen).  She said even if I could get her off dairy for a week or two, it would help.  That was more likely.

The Voodoo doctor also told me about a supplement that I needed to give the Goose.  It was a blood cleansing tonic.  I had no idea what that meant, but I was willing to give it a try.  I bought some but also got a list of the ingredients.  Later when I got home, I knew I would search for the ingredients online to make sure there was not anything in the pills could hurt my baby.

When we left the health food store, I whispered to my kids, “Wait until we get in the truck.  Just wait.”  The Beetle looked like he was going to burst.  He was turning red from the strain of holding in the laughter.  We got in the truck, and he let it go.  He laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe.  I laughed so hard I cried.  The Goose just sort of looked at us.  She wasn’t quite old enough to understand just how weird that had been.

As we calmed our laughing, the Goose said, “Mama, what was that lady doing to my arm?”  The laughter began again.  The Beetle was killing me, because he was to the point of snorting.  I was right behind him with the snorts.

Finally, when we found our composure, I asked the Beetle, “So what did you think?”  He said, with the most serious expression, “I think she was talking to the rash.”  We laughed all the way home.

The week we managed to do without dairy and cheese (and macaroni and cheese) was one of the roughest weeks of my life.  I had no idea how dependant on cheese the child was.  Within 2 days of removing milk from her diet and starting on the supplements, the Goose’s rash went away. 

A few months later, the Goose broke out in the rash again.  Again, we started on the blood cleansing tonic, and within 24 hours, the rash was gone.

As I sit here, I have had 2 doses of the blood cleansing tonic.  The itching of my rash has decreased, and it isn’t nearly as red.  The Voodoo doctor may have been crazy, but she knew her stuff!    -Al

It’s official.  I’m in love.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, no.  She’s going to get all gushy about her husband,” but no, I’m not.  I mean, he’s alright and everything, but no, my friends, this is even deeper love.  (Okay, not really.  There is no deeper love.  Sorry.  There’s that gushy stuff.)

I’m in love with Trader Joe’s.  The grocery store.  Yes, indeed.  I have found a new reason to get dressed and leave my house.  This store is that reason.

I had heard of Trader Joe’s before.  I even knew that they had a cult-like following.  Typically, that makes me stay away.  I’m not into the popular stuff.  I’ve never even seen the movie, Jurassic Park.  I avoided it because of all the hype.  Usually, if I hear about something too much, I lose interest, and if everyone else is saying it’s great, I don’t like it.  I like to think it’s because I’m artsy and eccentric and march to the beat of my own drum.  Really, it’s because I don’t like crowds.

Anywho, I decided to be bold and go in Trader Joe’s in Gainesville, Florida, the “big city” near our little town.  A friend of mine had said I HAD to go there, so I decided to follow her instructions.  I wasn’t too eager to listen to her, apparently, since it has taken me almost 4 months to get there.

As I pulled up, I saw topiary monkeys hanging from the trees.  I figured, how bad can a place been when they’ve got monkeys?  I decided to find out.  When I walked in, the store was packed.  That was strike one against them, but I ventured in with Mr. Everything by my side.  Quickly, I found out why everyone loves this store.  They have excellent products at awesome prices!  These aren’t just main-stream awesome prices.  These are Al-awesome prices, and I’m a cheapskate. 

The concept of Trader Joe’s is that they stock unusual items that no one else has.  They have their own brand, and most of their items are labeled by their brand.  The prices are low, low, low, and the quality is high, high, high.  They had bananas for 11 cents a pound, for goodness sakes!  I don’t even like bananas that much, but I’ll eat them for that!

Many of their items were priced about the same as the grocery store, but I’ll take that.  Keep in mind that the grocery store I’ve had to shop at since moving to town is Winn Dixie.  This, in my opinion, is the equivalent of death by groceries.  I must interject here that the employees at this particular Winn Dixie are actually really friendly and have almost restored my faith in human beings.  However, when I am in Winn Dixie, I still typically end up sounding sort of like Rainman, “Winn Dixie sucks.” They are dirty, expensive and just not cool.

Back to my new haven of refreshment…. Trader Joe’s had cookies and nuts and granola bars and unusual chips and organic items and special coffee and green tea and fresh produce (Fresh!  Do you hear that, Winn Dixie???  Fresh!).  It was amazing.

We had just one item in our buggy – coconut oil spray.  I’ve never seen it before.  It’s the coconut oil version of Pam.  You’ve gotta love that.  Anyway, Mr. E left me while he went to use the restroom.  By the time he got back, I had 11 items in my buggy.  Wild eyed, I said, “Get me out of here, quick!”

They had 99 cent greeting cards that were actually cute.  They had kiwi and cherries and peaches.  Fresh peaches!  (Winn Dixie…Make a note.)  They had cool paper bags with handles to bag our stuff.  The employees wore fun Hawaiian print shirts.  They carried hand-drawn signs that said, “I can help you!”  They were willing to help.  (W.D… Just sayin’.)  At the register, if they needed something, they rang a bell that was reminiscent of being on a ship instead of yelling over the loud speaker.  (Wal-mart, You might want to listen, too.)  The store smelled fresh and not like death.  The floors were clean.  The lights were bright.  The colors were fun.  It was sensory overload, but in a good way.  I could have stayed there all day.

If you have never been to Trader Joe’s, just must go right now.  You must join us.  The cult is waiting.  We are accepting new followers daily.  You will be glad you did.  Trader Joe’s is your friend.  Trader Joe’s is good.  You must go to Trader Joe’s.  Chant together with me, “Tra-der Joe’s.  Tra-der Joe’s.  Tra-der Joe’s.”     -Al

I do some of my best thinking in the morning.  Scratch that.  I do none of my best thinking in the morning.  Actually, I don’t do much thinking at all in the morning.  I don’t know why it is, but I am not a morning person.  I just can’t function.  Sometimes, I’ll do my editing work in the morning, and I am always amazed at the mistakes I made. Their stupid. (See what I mean?)

I prefer to live my life in the afternoon and evening.  It’s just happier that way.  My best friend, Willow, is the same way.  Right out of college, she managed to get a job that allowed her to sleep in the mornings and work in the afternoon and evening.  Smart girl.

Not me.  Oh, no.  I married a morning person.  Actually, he’s an all-day person; he is Mr. Everything, you know.  He can function on 4 hours of sleep with no problem at all, and he wakes up ready to go.  Unfortunately, he wants me to go with him.  Ugh.

Lately, we have been walking.  Our goal is to make it down the dirt road to the river.  It’s about 2 miles down there, which means 4 miles round trip.  There is never a time that I am motivated to make this walk, but in the morning, no thank you very much.  He convinced me to get up early this morning so we could walk and get back in time for breakfast in the dining hall at the camp where we live.  There was food involved, so I decided to give it a try.  We woke up at 7:00.  In the morning.  AM.  I know, right?

On our walk, we ended up seeing 14 deer.  You would think that would motivate me to wake up early every morning.  You would be wrong.  I have pictures of the deer.  How ‘bout I just look at those around 3:30 in the afternoon?

So, we were on our walk, also known as the Great Horsefly Race.  Nothing motivates me to move faster like those big nasty horseflies we encounter every time we head to the river.  They are as big as hummingbirds.  Okay.  Maybe they aren’t that big, but this is my story.  I’ll tell it how I want.

Anywho, I have decided that we are the Dynamic Duo in the Great Horsefly Race.  I stand still and let them land on me, and Mr. Everything smacks them with his hat.  We are truly a match made in heaven.

The road that we are walking on seems like it is uphill the whole way to the river.  I pant and groan as we go.  Mr. E grabs my hand and acts like he is pulling me.  I’m sure we’re quite a sight.  The first time we walked this way, I was amazed at how many hills there were.  I just kept reassuring myself that the walk back to the house would be better since it would all be downhill.  Boy, was I wrong.  Somehow, this road is uphill both ways.  Now, if there were only snow, I’d have a story to tell.

When we walk, I have Mr. E set his watch for half way.  We are adding 5 minutes every day until we reach the river.  Today, we walked 45 minutes.  (We were at 45 minutes last week, but we took a few days off.  One step forward, two steps back.)  At 22.5 minutes, his alarm sounded, and we turned to head back.  (I wouldn’t want to put in an extra 15 seconds, you know.)  As we were walking, Mr. E said, “Breakfast starts in 5 minutes.”  I barely sped up.  I didn’t really care if I made it for breakfast or not.  Then, he said the words I needed to hear: “I think they are having pancakes….”

We made great time getting back to the house.  Actually, we made it in 2 minutes less than it took us to walk the first half.  I went in, attempted to dry my face, realized I was soaked from head to toe and the paper towel wasn’t working and headed toward the mess hall.  (As a side note here, no one ever seems to want to sit by me at breakfast.  Why do you think that is?)

We got our plates and stepped up for breakfast.  The cooks gave us eggs, cheese grits, sausage and toast.  There were no pancakes.  The man lied to me to get me to walk faster.

This method may have worked once for him, but never again.  Shame on him for fabricating pancakes.  There’s wrong and then there’s really wrong.  He did the unforgivable.  Tomorrow, when he is trying to get me up that last hill, he’s going to have to come up with something better.   There better be at least donuts involved.

Just from walking for a week, Mr. Everything already looks like he has lost more weight.  He just says the word “diet” and the pounds drop off.  I, however, had to loosen my belt today.  He says maybe I’m just building muscle.  I’m building something, alright.

So, now, my motivating factors for getting up early to walk again tomorrow morning are:

- Being healthy (Yeah, yeah.  Blah, blah, blah.)

- Getting to see deer (I do love the deer.)

- Possibly getting pancakes (Although the chances are not good.)

-Watching my husband get skinny while I continue to grow.

I think I’ll set the alarm for noon.     -Al

Okay, boys who read my blog, consider yourself warned.  This is not a topic you want to read about.  If you continue reading, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Did you know there is a technical school called UTI?  I chuckle every time I see the commercial for it.  You KNOW it was a man who named that, because no woman would name anything after a urinary tract infection.

For years, I suffered from bladder infections, and for years, if I got one, a trip to the doctor was inevitable.  I knew I had an infection because I would have a powerful urge to go to the bathroom.  Using the bathroom would not relieve this feeling.  It was very painful.

People said to drink cranberry juice.  I tried that.  It made the infection angry.

People said to take over-the-counter medicines.  I did that.  It just turned my urine red.

People said not to drink anything but water.  I drank and drank and drank.   It didn't help.

I've labeled 2009 as, "The Year of the Bladder Infection."  Honestly, I had a UTI for months and months.  I would go to the doctor or walk-in clinic and spend a fortune since I did not have medical insurance.  I would take the antibiotics and get relief as long as I was on the medicine.  Then, the infection would come back with a vengeance.  After almost 9 months of infections, I started researching natural cures.  What I found was so simple that it made me want to smack my forehead.  I had spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and the answer to my problems was in my pantry!

The first cure I found was cream of tartar.  You know, the stuff you make meringue with?  This worked somewhat for me.  As long as I was taking it, I felt better.  If I quit taking it, the infection would come back.   (By the way:  Yes, I know the item in the photo is not cream of tartar.  I didn't have any, and I was anxious to post this article.  Pretend with me that the photo is of a white powdery substance.)

The dose that I took was 1/2 teaspoon in 4 ounces of water, 3 times a day.  I got to the point that I would just eat the stuff and rinse it with water.  It wasn't horrible to take, although I can't say it tasted great.

When the cream of tartar just wouldn't quite kick the infection, I started reading again.  What would I do without the internet?  After much reading, I found the answer!

Baking soda gets rid of urinary tract infections.  I'm not kidding!  I took 1 teaspoon in 8 ounces of water.  I did this 3 times a day for the first day, then, 2 times the second day, and finally, 1 time on the last day.  I felt relief by the end of the first day.  After 3 days, my UTI went away and did not come back.

I am not a doctor, and I don't claim to have any medical knowledge (or much knowledge of other things, for that matter).  You may want to talk to your doctor before trying this.  For me, I could not afford to keep going to the doctor, so I figured it was worth a shot.  I figured the worse-case scenario was that I would end up at the doctor's office - a place I was headed anyway!  Luckily, baking soda worked, and to this day, I have not had to go to the doctor again for a UTI.

Here are a few warnings about taking baking soda:
-If you are going out on a hot date, do not take this before you go.  You will burp like you've never burped before.
-Baking soda has a high amount of sodium. (After all, it is sodium bi-carbonate.)  If you have any issues with high blood pressure, do not take it.  It will raise your blood pressure.
-It is highly recommended that you take vitamin C when using baking soda to help regulate the alkalinity in your system.
-This will either work or it won't.  If you don't find relief in the first few days, don't keep taking baking soda.  See your doctor.

Now, girls, let's talk about a few things that might be causing your frequent infections.  These are pretty personal.  (Boys, it's not too late to get out.)
- Sexual intercourse can cause urinary tract infections.  It is possible that your partner has a UTI and is passing it on to you.  Men can be carriers of this infection and never even feel symptoms.  Consider talking to your doctor about this possibility.
- The laundry detergent you are using can cause infections.  If you are sensitive to scents and dyes, you might want to consider switching to dye free/scent free detergent and/or fabric softeners.  The one with the cuddly little bear is probably the biggest offender in this department.
- Likewise, your soap could be causing the infections.  This is what did it for me.  I discovered that I can not use body wash of any kind.  I have to use Dove for Sensitive Skin soap or I will end up with a UTI.

So, now that we have shared these personal details together, I feel so close to you!  I hope these ideas will bring relief to someone out there.  If you are suffering with a UTI, I hope you feel better soon!          -Al

Sometimes I feel like I only tell the ugly things about the Goose.  Mainly, that’s the case because her fits are so funny.  The Beetle doesn’t get in trouble as often.  He saves his times up for one major blow up, while the Goose tends to be more like a leaky faucet…little bits everyday.

I wouldn’t want the Goose to feel like I’m picking on her or that I don’t love her as much, though (and I wouldn’t want the Beetle to think I love him less because I don’t write about him), so I’ll tattle on him a little.  

When the Beetle was 3 years old, I decided to put him in preschool.  He would only go 2 days a week, but it would be a great chance for him to experience a group setting.  I can’t say it was a chance for me to have a break, because I felt absolutely alone when he was gone.  I counted the moments until I could pick him up from school. 

The Beetle had a severe speech problem.  I didn’t realize it at this time, but he did.  I had asked the doctor if his speech was okay, and the doctor incorrectly told me that as long as he was developing, he was fine.  That is true for vocabulary; however, that is not true for speech.  So, if you have a 3 1/2 year old child that no one can understand, it might be time to seek expert help.

The Beetle was born strong willed.  I have a video of him when he was 3 days old, scooting across the basinet on his back.  He was so angry that he was pushing his way across the bed.  At that point, I should have known I was in trouble.

By the time he was 3, he was so stinking cute.  He had barely any hair.  What was there was so white that you really couldn’t see it.  He would get mad and turn bright red.  He was my first born, and he was absolutely precious.  I took him to school and left him there, and I felt sick to my stomach the whole time he was gone.

On the eighth day of school, the Beetle got mad and hit his teacher.  I had never allowed this behavior, but he was 3, and he was mad.  He got sent home from school for hitting her.  (I won’t even go into my feelings on this subject.  I will say though that he didn’t attack her with a knife, and it was the eighth day of school.  ‘Nuff said.)

So, on the ninth day of school, the Beetle had learned, “Hey, cool.  If I hit the teacher, I get to go home!”  I had begged the principal of the school not to send him home.  I told her to call me and I would come spank his little butt and send him back to class.  The principal and I did not see eye to eye on this, and on the ninth day, she not only sent him home but suspended him for a day.  We got an official letter of suspension from the school.  I put it in his baby book, because I knew someday we would think it was funny.  I was right…now it’s pretty funny.

At the time, I thought my world was ending.  I was being told that my perfect baby was not perfect.  I really was devastated.  Now, in retrospect, I realize that this was the beginning of my desire to homeschool, which was the best decision I ever made.  So, for that reason, I actually owe that principal a “thank you.”  Her actions made me realize that no one loved my child like I did and no one had a vested interest in his well-being like I did.

I was so convinced that there was something wrong with the Beetle, that, before he was 4 years old, I took him to a counselor.  The counselor met with us once before he summed up the problem for me.  After observing the Beetle for about 30 minutes, he said, “Let me tell you something.  What you have here is a very intelligent, VERY strong willed little boy.  If you get him channeled in the right direction, he will do amazing things in his life.”  I asked him what happened if we didn’t get him channeled in the right direction.  He said we didn’t want to think about that.  So much for reassurance.

I tried preschool once more for the Beetle, but by the ninth day, he started crying.  This was a child who never cried.  Yet, every day he had to go to school, he would sob.  He was going to a preschool called “Llamas and Learning” 3 days a week, and he was going to USF (University of South Florida) for intensive speech therapy 2 days a week.  On the Llamas days, he would beg me all the way there, “Pease.  Pease.  Don’t take me to Yamas and Yearnin’.  Take me to UFS.  Don’t take me to Yamas and Yearnin’.  Pease Mama.”  I never could figure out exactly what was wrong at that school, but he wasn’t okay, so I wasn’t okay.  I think part of it was that they made the kids eat fruit, and the Beetle didn’t *do* fruit. (Some things never change.)

I don’t know how long he made it there, but it was not long.  I pulled him out and began homeschooling him.  He was so stubborn that he would not let me sing the months of the year song to him.  He hated it, and he refused to hear it.  To this day, the child has to think about what month comes next.  I like to remind him that if he had let me sing, he would know.  I’ve said many times that the fact that the Beetle can read is a true testimony to my inner strength.  We battled for years to make that happen.

By 7th grade, the battles over school had reached an all-time high.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  Over Christmas break, I drew up a contract for the Beetle and the Goose to sign.  If they signed it, stating that they would behave and listen and cooperate, I would let them stay home.  Otherwise, they could go to school.  The Beetle, being the Beetle, refused to sign it.  I told him this meant he would go to school.  He agreed and said that was fine with him.

So, after Christmas break, I took him to a school in Tampa.  This was a charter school, so it was a little kinder, friendlier and gentler than a public school would have been.  The school itself looked great to me.  They played music instead of ringing bells between classes.  Each class had an exercise period at the beginning to get some of the energy out.  What more could a kid ask for?  A lot, apparently.

On the ninth day of school, the Beetle started begging me from the time we left home.  “Please, mama.  Please don’t make me go to school.  I’ll sign the contract.  I’ll be good.  I’ll read and write and do math.  Just please don’t make me go.”  I reminded him that we had agreed to give school a 3 month trial period before making any decisions, and he said he had already decided.  I reminded him that it wasn’t his decision to make, and he began begging me again.  As we got to school, we saw a gathering of students near the parking lot.  They were taking turns jumping onto a Velcro wall.  This is just what it sounds like: a wall with Velcro on it.  You wear a special vest so you stick to the wall when you jump at it.  I pointed this activity out to the Beetle, and he said he didn’t care.  He still didn’t want to stay.  He said he hated school.  I pointed out that I found it hard to believe that a school with a Velcro wall could be that bad.  He said I didn’t know how bad it was. 

We drove around to the front of car line, and a safety patrol came and opened the door.  The Beetle sat and stared straight ahead.  This was when I started realizing I was in trouble.  The safety patrol looked at me with a question on his face.  I told him to close the door and that we would take a few moments.  I pulled up and out of the way.  I said, “Don’t do this.”  The Beetle said, “I’m not going.”  I said he was, and he said he wasn’t.  I started naming items that I would take away.  The Beetle turned and looked me in the eyes.  He said, “Mama.  You can take away anything you want to, but I am not getting out of this car.”  Uh-oh.

Since the Beetle was apparently not getting out of the car, and since by this age, he was already too big for me to pick him up and carry him, I got out of the car.  I called Mr. E and explained the situation.  He said, “Just bring him home.”  I told him I couldn’t do that because the Beetle would win the battle.  (One thing I had learned through years of dealing with a strong willed child was that I picked my battles.  However, if I fought, I won.  Always.)  Mr. E said, “I’m pretty sure he’s already won this one.”  I said I could get the deputy to come get him out of the car, and Mr. E said, “At what cost?”  I then waved the white flag.

The Beetle and I headed home.  He signed the contract, and for a while, he behaved.  Slowly, we slipped right back into the same old habits.

We have a joke in our family that the Beetle has an issue with the ninth day.  He didn’t make it through the ninth of 3 year old kindergarten or 7th grade.  He started crying on the ninth day of 4 year old kindergarten.  Sometimes I wonder how college or technical school or whatever he chooses to do is going to work out for him.  I wonder if I’ll hold my breath on the ninth day to see if he can make it through.   Do you think his first boss will be mad if I accompany the Beetle on his ninth day of work?                                          -Al