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I’ve known for quite a while that raising a boy is very different from raising a girl. I’ve even had semi-heated discussions with other parents about which one is harder. My opinion? Typically, boys are harder when they are little because they are rough and energetic; however, they ain’t got nothin’ on the girls. Girls are an adventure all on their own, and from my experience, they make raising boys look like childs’ play. (Well, parents’ play, I guess.)

I see the difference between my boy and my girl constantly. My mother and mother-in-law see it too, as they often say, “He never talks to me,” or something similar about the Beetle. That is one thing no one has ever said about the Goose. She talks plenty.

Yesterday, though, I had a huge, huge reminder of how very different my children are in demeanor and personality. I took the Beetle shopping. This does not happen often. Since he finally finished growing at the speed of light, he actually has been able to keep his clothing for quite a while without needing new pants and shoes every three days. His shirts have fit him for years, because, while he was thicker before and required a little more width, he grew tall and thin, and the width of the shirt became length. It worked, and I didn’t have to buy him new clothes. Yay me.

We are getting ready for the kids to go to camp. As strange as it may seem, every year, camp means clothes shopping. I guess it’s because they have to pack for a week with several extra sets of clothes. Usually, about this time of year, we realize they only have enough clothes for four days. Since they don’t go to school, this isn’t usually a problem for us. We wear pajamas as school uniforms, you know. (She types, as she wears her nightgown at 12:16 PM…)

The Goose goes shopping much more than the Beetle. She is in the growth stage, where she grows two inches overnight. Her clothes seem to be shrinking in her closet, so we have to buy clothes pretty often. A shopping trip for the Goose usually means bracing myself for a day full of activity. We go from store to store, looking for the right size, the right material, the right color and the right fit. It’s a hard job. She’s pretty picky about what she wears. In her defense, the child takes after her mother – the one who gets angry if her socks choke her feet or her shirt rubs her the wrong way. Can you say, “Sensory issues?” Don’t say it so loudly. You’re hurting my ears.

A trip to the store with the Goose usually involves great discussion:

“Mama, what do you think about this one?”

“Mama, did you see this shirt?”

“Mama, doesn’t this remind you of the shirt I had 3 years ago?”

“Mama, will this fit me?” “No. You haven’t worn that size since the third grade.” “But it looks big.” “It won’t fit.” “I think it will. I’m going to try it on.” “It won’t fit.” “I’ll try it anyway, just in case.” “Whatever.” …….. (from behind dressing room door) “Mama, can you see if they have a bigger size in this?” *Sigh.*

“Mama, do they have a different color in this?”

“Mama, can you find pants to match this?”

“Mama, what about this one? What do you think?”

“Mama….”

“Mama….”

“Mama….”

Last week, I asked the kids to start planning what they would pack for camp and to let me know what they were lacking. The Goose came with her list of items. The list took up a full page. We went the next day and knocked out just about everything on the list. The child now owns three times as many decent bras as I do. I’m not bitter. Really.

The Beetle shrugged and said he thought he had everything. I told him to be sure, because I did not want any last minute surprises. He came to me two days ago and said he needed jeans. “For camp?” I asked. He said yes, for camp. I asked why in the world he needed jeans for camp when it would be 150 degrees in the shade. He said he wanted to wear jeans. I asked him if he realized he would be the only weirdo wearing jeans at camp, and he shrugged and said he really didn’t care what everyone else thought. Somehow, I believed him.

So, yesterday, I decided I had enough energy to tackle Bealls and Wal-mart (Lord help me) for jeans. The Beetle said he was willing to go look, so we were leaving. I told him to let the Goose know we were leaving, and he said, “Do I have to?” I said yes, because I don’t like to leave without letting my kids know. He said she would want to go with us. I said she wouldn’t because we were just running to Wal-mart. He said she would. I said to just do what I said. The Beetle told the Goose we were running to Wal-mart, and she came running out of her room saying, “I want to go!” We should have snuck out.

So, the three of us headed to Bealls and Wal-mart. On the way, I told the Goose this was the Beetle’s shopping trip. I told her I had devoted hours, possibly days, to her shopping and that I was going to help the Beetle. I’m pretty sure I heard his eyes rattle in his head as he rolled them, but I didn’t care. I wanted to give him attention so he did not feel like I always did more for the Goose. She tends to dominate our lives, you know. The Goose said that was fine and she could shop on her own. I corrected her and said she could look on her own, because we were not shopping for her. I’m pretty sure I heard an, “Uh-huh,” under her breath.

We went in Bealls first. I was mentally prepared to allow the Beetle too look. I am not good at paying full price, especially full department store price, but I wanted him to get some good jeans. We got to the men’s department, and the jeans were on “sale” for $50. I practiced calm breathing. The Beetle said, “Okay, let’s go.” I told him to look, and he said, “I did. I don’t like anything.” I asked why, and he said he just didn’t. I asked if it was because of the price, and he said no. He just didn’t like the style. I wondered how he could know, since we had been in the department for less than 5 minutes, but I wasn’t questioning it since I was starting to hyperventilate at the idea of paying full price. The Beetle ended up getting a few shirts, and the Goose managed to sneak one in too. Then, off to Wal-mart we went.

In Wal-mart, the Beetle walked to the jeans display, picked up one pair and said, “Okay.” I asked if he wanted to try a few pair on to make the trip to the fitting room worth it. He said no. I said to humor me, and I picked out a few more pair. I asked if he liked the color. He said it was fine. I asked if he saw a shirt we passed, and he said he did. I asked if he liked the style of some shorts, and he said no. I asked if he wanted to look for swim trunks, and he said, “Sure.” He looked, literally looked, at a rack and said they did not have anything he wanted. I asked about 75 more questions that he answered with one word answers. Meanwhile, the Goose was across in the women’s department, holding up shirts and yelling to me, “Mama, do you like this shirt?” “Mama, what about this color?” “Mama…..”

I followed the Beetle to the fitting room, but he was already in the room by the time I got there. The Goose came and starting trying on all the clothes she was just looking at. The Beetle came out to show me the first pair of jeans he had picked out (only because I insisted on seeing them). He said, “These are good. Let’s go.” I asked if he had tried on the jeans I had picked up. He said no. I asked if he was going to, and he said, “Why? These fit.” And with that, he had picked his jeans.

I asked the Beetle if he was sure he had the right size. They looked a little big to me. He said they were fine. I asked what size he was wearing currently, and he said he didn’t know. I asked him what size the jeans he had worn from home were, and he said he didn’t know. I told him to look at the tag, and he said, “Well, these don’t fit.” I asked him what he meant they didn’t fit. He said he had to use a belt to hold them up because they were so big. Now, mind you, this was all in front of the Wal-mart fitting room lady who was beginning to believe I was a neglectful parent. And, by the way, the jeans were a little baggy, but not THAT big. I asked him again what size they were, and he named a size that was 6 sizes too big for him. (Please don’t call DCF, Wal-mart lady.) I asked where he got the jeans from, since I knew I had not bought them. He mumbled something about someone giving them to him. I asked why he wore them if they were that big, and he said they were the only jeans he had. (1. Not true. 2. Wash your laundry.) I asked why he had not let me know this, and he said he did. (Yeah. Two days ago. Put the phone down, Wal-mart lady.) 

With that, I told him to pick the ones he wanted and to go get more.  He went and got two more pair of the same style in the same size and the same color. I asked if he wanted to mix up the color a little, and he humored me. He ended up with two lighter wash and one darker wash. I expressed disappointment and said I preferred the dark wash and would like to see him with two pair of those. He just looked at me.

Five minutes after we had arrived at Wal-mart, the Beetle had his jeans and was ready to go. We waited thirty more minutes while the Goose tried on clothes. I walked back and forth to grant the requests of different sizes, different colors, different everything. The Beetle acted as though he was going to die if he had to stay in the store any longer.

As I stood there waiting for the Goose to finish in the fitting room, I realized how very different my children really are. I’m not sure if it’s just a boy/girl thing or if there’s more to it. I have demanding and docile, dominating and disappearing. It amazes me how very different they are. Now, my challenge is to keep one from taking over the world and to keep the other one from being forgotten and pants-less. Good luck to me. -Al



 
 
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Okay, so I’ve been stewing about a recent doctor’s visit for several weeks now. When it happened, I was so completely annoyed that it was not funny. However, now that I’ve had time to cool off and to stop thinking ugly thoughts about the doctor we saw, I want to tell you the story.

For years, the Goose has been saying she needed glasses. Now, before you get all judgey with me, realize, I’m the mother. I usually know what my kids need, and I was 99.9% sure my daughter did not need glasses. She never showed any of the signs that would tell me her eyes were not great. So, for years, I’ve been putting off going to the eye doctor. Part of the time, I was putting it off because we had no insurance and no money, and part of the time, I just got busy with life and forgot. (I know I’ve burst your bubble…now you know I’m not a perfect parent. Shocker.)

Finally, the planets all aligned correctly, and we had insurance at the same time I actually remembered to call and make an appointment with the eye doctor. The Goose had been saying for weeks, “Is that sign (book, TV, ____ you fill in the blank) blurry to you? It’s blurry to me.” I was pretty sure it was an act, but I decided I’d better have her checked, just in case.

The Goose and I went on a Friday afternoon to the eye doctor. On the way there, we talked about the “air blowy thing” that blows a puff of air into your eye. I had assured her it would not hurt, but she insisted she did not want it done. I told her not to panic and that we would talk to the doctor about it. After all, I had no idea what the purpose of it even was, so I could not say for sure whether she would need it or not. I had already also assured her she would not be getting her eyes dilated. I had that done once. That was a mistake. I was pretty sure having them do that to the Goose on her first eye doctor’s visit would ensure it would be her last eye doctor’s visit. (Keep in mind that both of my child have major anxiety about all things medical. One has it worse than the other, but neither of them is comfortable in a doctor’s office.)

We got to the office and checked in. The Goose was already busy picking out her glasses as she was sure she would be getting some. I told her not to hold her breath. We did not wait long before it was our turn. The assistant was friendly enough, and she had the Goose look into a machine. I have no idea what the machine was for, but there was no pain or air involved, so it was so far, so good. Then, the assistant asked the Goose to move over to the other machine so she could blow a puff of air into her eyes. Instantly, the Goose burst into tears. I looked at her and said, “Stop it. We already talked about this.” Then, I turned to the assistant and asked what the purpose of the air was. I never actually got an answer. I told her I would prefer to talk to the doctor first, and she said that was fine. She also said the doctor could put drops into the Goose’s eyes instead. Again, the Goose started to cry. At least we knew her tear ducts were working properly.

A few minutes later, the doctor called us back. Although I had written the Goose’s nickname on the forms along with her full name, and although the assistant had managed to call her by her nickname, the doctor did not. He called her by her full name. By the time we had reached his office, he had called her by her full name (the one she gets called when she is in trouble) three times. I nicely (Honest! I was still being nice at this point!) said, “Oh, you can call her by her nickname. That’s what we call her.” He shrugged and said, “Whatever.” Then, he called her by her full name. Strike one.

Now, allow me to interject here that, if I actually knew the doctor’s name, I would not hesitate to name him in this blog. I would not change his name to protect the innocent. He does not deserve that courtesy. Yes, it was that bad. However, he never showed the professionalism of introducing himself, so I have no idea who the man was.

Let’s just call the doctor, Dr. Dishtowel, because he had as much personality as a wet dishtowel. Dr. Dishtowel began running through the typical, “Does this look better or does that look better?” “How about this or that?” “Now this or that?” questions. By the way, I hate those questions. I’m always afraid if I don’t pass, I will end up wearing Coke bottle glasses for the rest of my life. But, this isn’t about me. I wasn’t the one answering. I was the one sitting in the corner, getting more and more angry.

Dr. Dishtowel was a jerk. There’s no nice way to say it. He just was. He moved in a rushed manner. He was brash, harsh, abrasive and just rude. My Goose kept looking at me as if to say, “Save me…” I had to chuckle to myself as I realized she probably wouldn’t insist on going to the eye doctor again for a very long time.

When Dr. Dishtowel finished his robotic examination of her eyes, he said her eyes were perfect. He told me the Goose’s eyes had probably the best vision of any he had seen all week. I resisted the urge to say, “I told you so.” I figured I’d save that little tidbit for later.

Dr. Dishtowel began writing in the Goose’s chart. As he wrote, he said, “Oh, I see we were not able to put the puff of air in her eyes. I’ll have to put drops in her eyes instead.” And with that, you guessed it, the tear ducts began working again. I calmly said, “Can you please talk to me about the purpose of the drops?” He snidely said, “The purpose is, it’s part of the exam.” Strike two.

I said I understood it was part of the exam but I wondered what purpose it served. He said he did not understand why I was questioning him or why it was a big deal. I said, through gritted teeth, “That’s the big deal,” as I indicated for him to look at the Goose. Dr. Dishtowel looked at the Goose, and then what he did next is what still makes my blood boil.

Dr. Dishtowel began a rant that went something like this: “You’re crying? Why are you crying? Why is she crying? She shouldn’t be crying. Is this normal? Does she always cry like this? Does she have some kind of anxiety disorder? Have you taken her to a psychiatrist about this? If not, you should. This isn’t normal. Crying isn’t normal. Really. Is there something wrong with her? Does she have a disorder?” Strike THREE!

I said, as calmly as I could muster, “There is nothing wrong with my child, but thank you so much for suggesting that there is, and thank you even more for saying it right in front of her. That’s definitely going to decrease her anxiety. Thank you very much. “(You idiot…Okay, I didn’t say that part, but it was implied.)

Then, Dr. Dishtowel said, “Well, I am so sorry. I did not mean to cause this. I’m just doing my job. I didn’t mean to upset anyone, but obviously I did.” (Yay think, moron??) “After all, I’m just the eye guy. What do I know? I mean, I only went to school for this, but you must know better. It’s a normal part of the exam, but it wasn’t supposed to make anyone cry. I’m just so sorry. I think you need to get out of my office now. I’m sorry I caused this. I’m just the eye guy.”

Honestly, people. I’m not making this up. You can ask the Goose. She watched the whole thing, wide eyed, waiting for Mama Bear to rip this man’s face off. I managed to get out without hurting him. Honestly, I was so shocked by the whole scene that I did not have time to respond. The only thing I managed to say was, “Well, you’re the one who said her eyes were perfect. I don’t see a reason to put drops in perfect eyes.” I don’t think he heard me though, because he was so busy saying how he was “only the eye guy.”

To say the visit was bizarre would be an understatement. The Goose and I got to the Suburban and just sat in quiet for a minute. Then, my first words were, “What. The. Heck. Was. That??” We both laughed. Then, I reminded my dear, sweet Goose that if she didn’t trust me, who could she trust? It was a little over-the-top for her to cry when Dr. Dishtowel said he was going to put drops in her eyes. If she knew me at all, she should know there was no way I was letting that man put anything in her eyes. I also reminded her that, in the future, instead of crying, she should speak up, and that it was okay for her to speak up when it involved her own body. Hopefully, she heard me. All I know is, she will never have to speak up to Dr. Dishtowel again.  -Al


 
 
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When I was in school, I hated all things science.  I’m not sure why that is, but I think my disdain started around 7th grade.  It may have been due to the teacher who constantly harped on us that snakes were our friends.  I began to realize I could not trust anything this woman had to say if she seriously believed snakes were good.  Or, it could have been the science fair project.  Same year, different semester.

We had to do a science fair project, and I was less than thrilled. Somehow, I came up with the hair-brained idea to test the effects of overcrowding in goldfish. Mama and I bought two goldfish bowls.  In the first bowl, we placed one happy little fish.  In the other one, we placed 25 not-nearly-as-content fish. Then, we watched and waited. The results really were non-existent, because I don’t think I gave the fish long enough to enjoy their time together in the bowl. However, my hypothesis was that the overcrowded fish would start dying and would eat each other. (The reality was, they started stinking and pooping even more.)  Now, I have a few observations about this project:

1.       Why in the world did I want to do that? I have no idea. I guess it sounded easier than building something or mixing chemicals together.

2.       I can’t believe my teacher allowed me to do that. In today’s time, I would probably be arrested for animal cruelty.

On the day of the science fair, I took my fish to school. When I didn’t win the science fair (shocker there, I know…), I told the teacher she could have my fish. I didn’t want them.  They smelled bad.  So, my teacher, the snake lover, took the fish and put them in a big aquarium. As she put the filter in and air started flowing, the fish started floating to the top of the tank, one at a time. The woman murdered 26 goldfish right in front of the class. (Today, the children would need grief counseling.)  I cried. All at once, these fish went from being the victims of my weird science project to being my most valued pets. I was outraged that my teacher had murdered, nay massacred, my beloved fish!  With all the drama I could muster in my twelve year old self, I cried and cried. The snake lover was not moved by my tears, and I was told to get back to work.  I turned off the tears and got back to work, because I was nothing if not obedient. At lunch that day, we had fish sticks. Oh, the humanity…

When I was in 9th grade, I took biology.  I would rather have cut off my right arm and donated it in the name of science than to have endured that class. The fruit flies were bad enough (What, exactly, were we supposed to learn from that??), but the finger-pricking and dissection pushed me right over the edge.  Oh, yes, my friend, you read me correctly.  Finger pricking.  With a needle.  Welcome to the late 80s.  We were made to prick our own fingers so we could test our blood type.  Though I was typically not dramatic and was always obedient, this was one issue I could not budge on. I was offended by the fact that the teacher could MAKE us prick our fingers.  In a rare moment of defiance, I crossed my arms, shook my head and said I wasn’t doing it.  I meant it too. (Come to think of it, this might be where the Beetle and the Goose get their strong-willed streaks from…)  The teacher told me I would get an F on the project if I did not prick my finger.  I told her to mark it in her book because I wasn’t doing it.  (This really was a very rare outburst of defiance from me.)  She said I had to do the project, and I asked her why.  She said because it was part of the class, and I said I didn’t care.  She told me to prick my finger, and I told her to let me prick hers first.  I think I made her mad.  She had two big guys hold me while she pricked my finger.  Seriously.  Where was the 5:00 news crew when I needed them?  The result?  I’m A+, thanks for asking.  I also was positive I loathed science.  That day sealed the deal.

Later in the semester, we began dissecting things.  I saw no point in this.  My public education had not allowed me to learn anything hands-on for the last nine years, so why, now, were they so concerned about me getting my hands into science?  I didn’t get it, and I was having no part of it.  We dissected an earthworm, a big nasty frog and a sweet little pink fetal pig.  Let me correct that, my class dissected those animals.  I never touched a single one.  Never.  Ever.

You see, there is value in being able to write well. It means your writing can earn you good grades.  Therefore, I just found a lab partner who was a terrible writer, and I told her it was a match made in heaven.  I made a deal with her that if she would touch the carcasses, I would do the writing.  She wanted to shake on it, but I declined. (She had been touching dead things, after all.)  So, for the rest of the year, I never actually participated in a biology project again.  I just wrote about it.

So, a year ago, when the Goose started asking to dissect animals, I was horrified.  I told Mr. E she had to get this from his side of the family, because I did not *do* dissection.  The Goose begged.  She had dissected a starfish with a friend of mine, Super-mom, as I like to call her, since she’s the only mom I know brave enough to gather 8 little girls in her home and let them cut up dead animals.  The ooshy gooshy starfish was enough to turn my stomach, but it awakened the inner scientist in my child.  Oh, yippee.  So, the Goose finally convinced me to look online for somewhere to order animals for dissection.  I found a place and looked through the obituaries, I mean, catalog.  I told the Goose that I would not dissect anything with her, and I told her if she could convince her father, I would order the animals. She asked Mr. E one time, and he said, “Sure.  Why not?”  “Why not?” I thought, “I can list about 100 reasons.” 

So, about ten months ago, I ordered the pig.  I also ordered an owl pellet (that would be dried vomit with bones in it, in case you aren’t familiar) and a gecko.  The Goose dissected the owl pellet and loved every minute of it.  She kept the bones of the rodent and put them in a Ziplock bag.  It was enough to gross out the Beetle and me.  Maybe he’s my only real child.  She must have been switched at birth.

The gecko ended up being nothing more than an average, everyday lizard like we avoid on our Florida sidewalks.  I can’t believe I paid money for it, but it’s too small to attempt to dissect.

That left the fetal pig. The Goose wanted to name him. I told her that was unnatural. She’s been asking for months to cut him up, but between moving and moving, who has had time? So, this week was deemed as “the week” by the Goose.  I agreed, because I figured, why not get it over with?

The Goose and I studied a virtual dissection online, trying to prepare for the big day. Just the photos were enough to make my skin crawl. I told Mr. E earlier this week that this was THE week and asked which day he preferred. He said, “Why do I have to do it?”  “Oh, no, no, no, my friend. You can’t play that game with me,” I said.  He said, “What game?”  Then, I refreshed his memory of the discussion we had BEFORE I ordered the fetal pig. He finally gave in and said Friday could be the day.

The Goose was so excited, she invited a friend over.  You know what they say, “Friends who dissect together…..”  (Yeah, I don’t know what they say either.)  So, the Goose and her friend were ready for the big moment of dissection.  I was ready for it too.  I left to go to lunch with Willow.  Mr. Everything started to protest before I left, but I reminded him that he agreed to it.  He really is a good daddy and husband.  (As I told him while I was slowly walking toward the door.)

By the time I got back, the cutting was done. The back patio table looked a little like a crime scene, but at least I didn’t have to witness the crime. The Goose and her friend were happy, and all was good in the world.  Mr. E looked a little shell-shocked, but I think he survived.

Now, I just wonder what the Goose will want to dissect next, and I wonder who I can convince to do it with her? Any volunteers?  Super-mom, are you reading this?  -Al


 
 
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Months after the Goose had her ears pierced for the second time, she still would not take them out.  The backs of her ears looked gross, like skin had grown over the earring backs.  She wouldn’t let me touch them, and she was missing her very first softball games because of them.  I had to do something.  After a week of having nightmares about getting the earrings out, the time had come.  I had a plan, and it was going to work.

On *the* night, I made sure the Goose was sound asleep.  I enlisted Mr. E to help me, although I really wouldn’t need him.  I tip toed into the Goose’s room.  I’m not sure why I tip toed.  The child can sleep through a tornado.  I could have gone screaming into her room, and she probably wouldn’t have woken up.  I went in and climbed in bed with the Goose.  She was flat on her back.  Perfect.  I pulled her blankets up over her, making sure her arms were inside.  Then, I sat on the blankets.  I had created a bedtime straight jacket.  My plan was going to work.  I sat there for a minute, just looking at the Goose and how peaceful she was.  She really was so sweet when she was sleeping.  Then, I took a deep breath and began to work.  I started on the right ear, and I pulled and pulled and pulled.  I got the earring out, and the Goose did not even wake up.

The left earring was the problem.  It was the one that was on too tight and skin cells had crusted over it in the back.  I began working on getting the back off.  The Goose woke up and began screaming at the top of her voice.  She had no idea what was going on.  All she knew was someone was sitting on her and touching her ears.  I’m not even sure she was awake, but she was mad with a capital M.  She screamed some more just to be sure I’d heard her.  The Beetle came storming out of his room, ready to defend his little sister from whatever harm was being done to her.  That was a little reassuring to know that, should something happen in the middle of the night, at least he would come to her aide.

The Goose struggled and wiggled and fought, but she couldn’t get her arms free.  As bad as this sounds, by the end of it, Mr. E and I were laughing hysterically.  The Beetle was also laughing.  The Goose?  Not so much.  I’m pretty sure if and when she goes to counseling as an adult, she’ll have plenty to talk about.  Regardless of the emotional toil, the second earring came out, and all was right with the world.

The next day, I tried to convince the Goose to put another pair of earrings in, but she wanted no part of it.  She’d had the earrings for months, so I knew the holes would stay open for a while.  For a week, I tried my best to talk her into putting in more earrings.  My stubborn little Goose refused, and the holes closed up.  I told her she would regret that decision, but she disagreed.  She said she never, ever, ever wanted to wear earrings again.

Never ever lasted about a year and a half.  Now, the almost teenaged Goose is growing a little more concerned about her appearance.  I see her checking the mirror and checking it twice.  So, about a month ago, she said she wanted earrings.  I told her I was sorry, but we’d already been down that road.  Twice.  She asked if she could get her ears pierced if she paid for it.  I said, “Knock yourself out.”

Christmas came along, and the Goose got money.  The day after Christmas, I had to go to the mall for something (how did I let that happen???), and the family went with me.  This wasn’t our local mall.  This was a mall that was a 45 minute drive from our house. 

Before we left the mall, the Goose sweetly said, “Can I please get my ears pierced?”  Not remembering that she had gotten money for Christmas, I told her no.  She asked why not, and I said I wasn’t paying for it.  She reminded me that she had money, and I gave in.  We went to Claire’s.  Again.

On the third piercing, the Goose did not even cry or wince.  She said there, matter of fact, as holes were punched in her ears.  She had her ears pierced, and we were good to go.  Finally, the Goose had her earrings.

The next day, we went to EPCOT.  Late in the day, the Goose exclaimed, “OH NO!”  I had flashbacks to the time she left her cell phone on the airplane (you can read that little adventure HERE), and I immediately looked to see if she had her backpack.  She did, so I wasn’t sure what she was yelling about.  Then, I looked at her.  She had one earring.  The right ear had, once again, rejected the earring.  She wanted to retrace our steps to see if she could find the missing earring.  Looking around at the 100,000 people around us, I didn’t think that was such a good idea.  I told her I would call Claire’s the next day to see what they could do.

So, the next day, I called.  The manager was friendly, but she told me she couldn’t do anything.  She said if we had the earring, we could bring it in and she would trade it out for a sterile one and repierce the Goose’s ear.  However, since the earring was gone, she couldn’t do anything.  Teetering on a big ole’ hissy fit, I firmly, but politely, told her that we had paid Claire’s three times for piercing.  I firmly told her that I did expect them to do something to make it right since this was the second time we’d had a new earring fall out.  She sighed and agreed.  (Thank goodness.  It was going to get ugly.)  The manager said to bring the Goose in, and she would pierce her ear.  Again.  I asked if we could just go to our local mall, but she said she would have to do it.  *Sigh.*

The Goose and I drove 45 minutes back to the mall.  The manager was friendly enough and pierced the ear right away.  So, maybe the fourth time is a charm.  All I know is, the Goose has had the earrings for 5 days, and they are both still in her ears.  I hope all goes well.  Softball season is coming soon.  -Al


 
 
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That’s a strange title, isn’t it?  But it seems like the Goose’s ears have gotten a lot of attention in the last week.  Well, more accurately, her earrings, or lack thereof, have gotten the attention.

The Goose decided last week to have her ears pierced.  For the third time.  And then the fourth.  Um, yeah.  I’ve become way too familiar with the inside of Claire’s jewelry store at the mall.

When the Goose was six, she wanted to have her ears pierced.  We read about how to care for earrings and I told her about the pain of having them pierced, but she was committed.  When the big day came, we went to the mall, and she sat up in the chair like a big girl.  Okay, actually, my mother took her to the mall, because I was too much of a wimp to see my child go through voluntary pain.  However, my mother soon discovered that she could not sign for the Goose to have her ears pierced because she was not the legal guardian.  So, I ended up going to see my child in pain anyway.

When the Goose had her ears pierced, she didn’t exactly cry.  Three small tears ran down her sweet little cheeks.  Talk about breaking a mother’s heart.  If she had wailed and screamed, I probably wouldn’t have felt nearly as sorry for her!

For the first week, things went well with the earrings.  We cleaned them three times a day, and we were doing great!  Then, on Christmas Day, it happened.  The right earring fell out.  The Goose and I had run home from my parents’ house to get a gift we’d forgotten.  Jeanie, my pseudo-child, was with us.  I remember it well.  I was sitting on the toilet (sorry for the details, but hey, if you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go!).  The Goose came running in, screaming.  I didn’t know what was happening, but I was a little indisposed at the moment.  Luckily, the situation did not require me to spring into action.  The Goose said her earring had just fallen out, and sure enough, it had.  We cleaned the earring (after I flushed and washed!), and I started trying to put the earring back in her ear.  For about 30 minutes, we worked at that earring.  The Goose cried.  I cried.  Jeanie just looked at us like we were crazy.  Finally, after 30 minutes of torture, I told the Goose the earring wasn’t going back in.  I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said just to take the other one out.  So, that’s what we did.

I didn’t hear about earrings again until the winter of 2011 when the Goose was 10.  She said she wanted her ears pierced again, but I wasn’t going for it.  The memory of torturing her in the bathroom was still lingering in my mind.  Finally, she convinced me.  She said she would save money to pay for it herself.  I agreed, and she saved.

The day we went to Claire’s for the second piercing, the Goose was nervous.  She remembered the pain from the first time and wasn’t sure she wanted to do it again.  We had made a special trip to the mall, and the time had come.  She kept saying she didn’t want to do it.  We would get ready to leave, and she would say she did want to do it.  We would walk toward Claire’s, and she would say she didn’t want to do it.  Finally, I stopped in the middle of the mall, said no to the man who was trying for the seventh time to put lotion on my hands, looked the Goose in the eyes and said, “Do it or don’t.  I have things to do.”  (By the way, if your mall doesn’t have those high-pressure salespeople who try to put lotion on your hands, count yourself lucky.  They drive me crazy.  I just want to shop.  I don’t want to be approached by strangers in the mall.  Typically, I pretend to talk on my phone as I pass the kiosks so the salespeople won’t talk to me.  I’ve found if I look like I’m in an angry conversation on the phone, it works even better.)

The Goose finally decided to go for it, and we went to Claire’s.  She sat down, got it done and left.  This time, she was so paranoid about losing an earring that she had me check the backs and tighten them.  I learned the hard way that if you push on the backs of piercing earrings, they will pierce your fingers just as effectively as they will ears.  I tightened the backs for her, and we thought we were home-free.

Fast forward three months.  The Goose would not take the earrings out.  She wouldn’t let me touch the earrings.  She wouldn’t even let me say, “Earring.” (Okay, that last part is an exaggeration, but you get the point.)  Finally, I took a peek behind her ears to see how things were looking, and the backs of her earrings looked gross.  It was like the skin had grown over the earrings.  She still would not let me near her ears.

The Goose’s very first season of softball started, and she loved practicing.  The day of the first game came, and the coach said everyone had to take off all jewelry, including earrings.  The Goose flipped, because she still wouldn’t let anyone touch her ears.  She cried and pleaded.  I lied and said she had just had them pierced and couldn’t take them off. (Call me, “The Enabler.”)  The coach said it didn’t matter, and they had to come out.  She said the holes wouldn’t close up by the end of the game.  I begged to differ, but she didn’t listen.  The Goose ended up missing her very first two softball games, a double header, because she wouldn’t take her earrings out.

When we got home, she told me she wanted me to take her earrings out.  I moved toward her, and she ducked.  She said, “No!  I want you to sneak in when I’m sleeping and take them out.”  Um, yeah.  Sure.  From past experience of trying to use wart medicine on her finger while she was sleeping, I knew this was not going to end well.  However, I figured it was worth a try.  For a week solid, I would go in her room every night and try to loosen the earrings.  This was not easy as the violently sleeping child would flail her arms and legs.  Needless to say, I never got a good grip on the earrings.  The Goose gained the nickname, “Flailarella,” for her flipping and flailing she did in her sleep.  I was so stressed out about her earrings that I was dreaming about them at night.  I was trying to think of any way possible to get them out of her ears, because her next ball game was just days away and I did not want her to miss it.

It took me a while, but I figured out a plan.  Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you what I did….  -Al



 
 
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“You know normal families don’t do this, right?’  These are the words I have said over and over again for the past 24 hours.  Of course, no one ever accused us of being normal, but still, I like to remind my kids that other families don’t do the things we do.  I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to them or to us.

It actually started on Tuesday.  We were supposed to drive back to High Springs to finish cleaning out the house we just moved out of.  Mr. Everything and I had to run a few errands, and then we would be on our way.  I told the kids we would be right back, and I’m pretty sure the Beetle’s response was, “Uh-huh.”  Five hours later, they were calling to see where we were.  I told them things had not gone quite as planned.  Neither child was surprised by this.  Things never go as planned for us.  Frankly, at this point, I’m not even sure why we make plans. 

The kids were in a tizzy because we hadn’t left yet.  I told them to chillax. (I like that word.)  Since we were now into mid- to late- afternoon, we might as well just wait until rush hour traffic was over.  There was no point in sitting in a car in traffic when we could just wait and go later.  I assured them we would be leaving as soon as rush hour was over.  Again, the Beetle answered with, “Uh-huh.”  I was beginning to not like his attitude.

Five hours later, when it was beyond dark outside and most normal families were starting bedtime routines, we considered leaving but decided just to wait until Wednesday to go.  Mr. Everything said that would mean one less night of sleeping on an air mattress, so I was good with that.  The Beetle gave me an, “I told you so,” look.  Twit.  We assured the kids we would get up early (but not too early or we would be in rush hour) and we would get going.  This time, it was the Goose who said, “Uh-huh.”  Who raised these children?

So, on Wednesday around noon, we finally left.  We made the trek toward High Springs, but we had to stop by our odd little church in Newberry, so we could pick up potatoes.  Part of our purpose of heading up when we did was to spend Thanksgiving at the church’s community dinner.  This tiny church was planning to feed about 150 people from around town.  How could we possibly resist that?  Since we had access to the camp’s commercial kitchen, complete with industrial mixer and huge oven, we volunteered to make the mashed potatoes.  We also said we would cook the pans of dressing.  No problem.  We could do it.

The plan was to pick up the potatoes (we’ll discuss just how many potatoes later) and the dressing and head to the camp so we could clean out the house and finish packing the remaining junk.  We were down to the “I don’t know what to do with this,” and, “Why do we even have this?” kind of stuff that inevitably remains at the end of any move.  When we moved last week, we ran out of boxes, and we reached a point where we just couldn’t do any more.  The plan was to get ’er done when we went back for Thanksgiving.

We left home so late and arrived at the church so late that, by the time we talked to the preacher (you KNOW how long a preacher can talk), it was too late to head to the camp.  We had church on Wednesday night, starting with dinner at 6:00.  By the time we were ready to go, it was 4:00.  With a ½ hour drive each way, that would only leave an hour to get anything done at the house, so we decided just to wait.

After church, we took the potatoes (lots of potatoes) and headed to camp.  When we walked into the house, the entire laundry room and kitchen had about 2 inches of standing water.  I had to laugh as I realized my family did not even react to this.  We just waded through the water and put our stuff down.  This was the first time of many that I said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  Mr. E and the kids just looked at me like they didn’t know what I was talking about.  I explained that, to a normal family, standing water from an obvious leak would be a big deal.  In fact, to some, it would be a downright disaster.  We all agreed that it was, after all, just a little water and we’d been through worse.

So, we got the Homer Bucket Vac (might I add this is one of man’s most ingenuous inventions), and the Goose and I took turns sucking up water.  It wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d envisioned.  I wanted to just hold the hose down and watch the water come up like a reverse waterfall.  Nope.  It was very anticlimactic.

Meanwhile, Mr. E began packing up all the stuff that no one else knew what to do with.  Bless his heart.  The man can pack.  In a matter of a few hours, he had corralled that junk like nobody’s business.  (What does that phrase even mean, anyway?)  While the Goose was taking her turn sucking up water, the Beetle and I began peeling the potatoes.  We sat on the loveseat and put the peels in a big pot.  We figured we were abandoning the loveseat at the house anyway, so what was a little potato starch between friends?  As we peeled, I again said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  Well, they don’t.  Normal families would not sit on a couch to peel potatoes.  Normal families would have used potato buds.  Okay, actually, really normal families would never have offered to make the potatoes in the first place. 

Finally, at midnight thirty, the potatoes were peeled, the junk was corralled and the air mattresses were full.  We were nestled in our snug and warm beds (more accurately, we had finally gotten warm after shivering for several minutes) when I realized something.  I had to go to the bathroom.  It never fails.  I got up, teeth chattering, and did my business (maybe that’s what the “nobody’s business” phrase means!).  I was back in bed and had finally calmed my shivering and was getting warm when the Goose started coughing.  I’m pretty sure it was 50% real and 50% trying to drive me crazy.  Regardless, it was real enough for her to come stand over me, asking for cough drops.  Since I didn’t happen to have any cough drops, I told her to take a sip of water and go to sleep.  (It sounded much nicer than what I was thinking in my head.)  Ten minutes later, as she gasped for air because she was coughing so hard, Mr. Everything and I realized we had to do something.  (And let me insert here, before you call child protective services on me, the child is very dramatic.  She’s 12, and she’s a she.  I rest my case.)  We got up, put on our jackets and drove down to the nurse’s cabin at camp, hoping the entire way that we would find something to make her shut up, er, I mean feel much better.  God bless the camp nurses, because they left us just what we needed….cough syrup and cough drops.  Jackpot!  We went back, threw the medicine at the Goose and passed out.  This was 1:15 in the morning. 


At 7:00 AM, our alarm went off.  It was time to rise and shine and get all those potatoes cooking.  We headed down to the kitchen and started the burners.  It was very reminiscent of the last time Mr. E and I worked in that kitchen together.  That led to a little story I called, “Mr. Everything & The Trauma Center Part 1 and Part 2.” (You can click on the purple letters if you want to read those.)   I kept ducking as he lit the burners.  It was a little unnerving, but he assured me we would be okay.

With four commercial sized pots of potatoes cooking and 5 big pans of dressing in the oven, we were off to a good start.  Mr. E said he would have to get the industrial mixer out of storage.  We weren’t sure why it was in storage, but we would soon find out.  Mr. E was smart enough to plug in the big, heavy mixer before moving it, so he made sure it worked.

He somehow managed to get this behemoth into the Suburban by himself.  It was so heavy, it cracked the threshold of the back doors of the vehicle.  Mr. Everything got the Beetle to help him move it into the kitchen, and they finally got it situated.  I heard Mr. E say, “Uh-oh,” and I turned to look.  He showed me the problem.  The lever that was supposed to raise the bowl up to meet the mixer was jammed.  The bowl would not move up, so the mixer would only mix the top half of the ingredients in the bowl. I figured this was not a problem.  After all, the man didn’t have the name, “Mr. Everything,” for nothing.  It just meant I would have to wait a little while for him to fix it, as he does everything.

Thirty minutes, two 2”x 4”s and a crowbar later, Mr. E and the Beetle had managed to force the mixing bowl into an upright position.  They used plastic cups wedged in there to hold the bowl in place.  Part of this whole process involved Mr. E standing on the counter top pressing down with the crow bar while the Beetle pushed up with the wooden piece.  It was quite a sight.  I wanted to get a picture, but my cell phone was at the house.  Mr. E’s cell phone was in his front pocket, so I couldn’t sneak up and grab it.  I was pretty sure it was not the most appropriate time to ask him for his phone.  I did say, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  They didn’t acknowledge me.  When they put the mixer on the floor and began pushing down on it, I could resist no longer.  I managed to grab his phone and snap a shot.  The photo does not do the whole process justice.  It was very entertaining.


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Not Nearly As Entertaining as the Live Show...
Mr. E washed the bowl and the mixer and got it all set up for me.  We put the potatoes in, and he flipped the switch to turn the mixer on.  Nothing.  (You did see that coming, right?)  He turned it off and turned it on again.  Still nothing.  I said something about normal families.  I’m pretty sure you know what I said.  Then, Mr. E turned the mixer on and off.  And on.  And off.  I asked him if he knew the definition of insanity.  He didn’t answer me.  (By the way, the definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Pretty sure I’m insane.)  Mr. E assured me he had tested the mixer.  It had worked in the storage shed.  I said maybe the plug wasn’t working and they needed to move it to another spot in the kitchen.  The Beetle let out a whimper at the thought of having to move the thing again.  Mr. E reached over and turned on the microwave that was plugged into the same plug.  It worked, so there went that theory.

Then, I had a moment of genius.  These moments happen rarely for me, so I must cherish them when they do.  I said, “Doesn’t the safety cage have to be closed for the mixer to work?”  Mr. E closed the cage, and sho-nuff, it worked.  It was a modern day miracle! 


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35 Pounds of Potatoes!
We mixed and mixed and mixed the potatoes.  We prepared 35 pounds of mashed potatoes.  We used four pounds of butter and half a gallon of milk.  The potatoes filled two commercial sized foil pans.  We had enough mashed potatoes to feed an army!

We had told the preacher at our odd little church that we would try to be there as close to 10:30 as possible.  At 10:45, we pulled out of the driveway.  I really hope punctuality is not one of the admission tests for heaven, or we are surely doomed.  We pulled up to the church building at 11:15.  The lunch started at 11:30, so we were just in time to have the dressing and potatoes hot for the masses.

The masses, which were supposed to be about 150, turned out to be 46, counting the preacher.  As we sat, surrounded by mainly strangers, eating our Thanksgiving meal, I said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  But as I looked around, I realized I was glad we weren’t normal.  Normal is so, well, average.  This was better.  We enjoyed being with our odd little church because, frankly, we fit right in.

The number of people was a little disappointing, but the dinner was not.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and we were glad to be there to help.  I think next year, if we go up to Newberry to help our odd little church with Thanksgiving, we’ll offer to bring the sweet tea.  Better yet, we’ll supply the plates.  

After the meal was finished and we divvied up the leftovers, we headed back to the camp.  The mission was to finish loading up the stuff and to clean the house.  Mr. E needed to repair a wall that got a hole in it from a chair rubbing against it.  He also needed to change door knobs.  Most of what needed to be moved had to be done by him because it was too heavy for me to lift.  I was okay with this, because I was wiped out from the events of the last few days.  We got back to the house, and I made the mistake of sitting down.  The next thing I knew, I woke up in the fetal position on the loveseat.  Meanwhile, Mr. E walked back and forth, carrying stuff to the car.  I felt bad, but in my defense, I never claimed to have his energy level.  The man is a work horse.  He can work harder and longer than anyone I’ve ever known.  I can’t possibly live up to his standards.  I added that to my list of things to be thankful for - he didn't even fuss at me for not helping.  He really is a good man, Charlie Brown.  

I really was pretty much useless the entire afternoon.  By 5:00, Mr. E said he could do no more.  We still had a two and a half hour drive ahead of us, and I couldn’t drive it.  We were pulling a trailer, and I don’t *do* trailers.  The Beetle could drive, but it would be difficult for him because the trailer and the Suburban were both so loaded.  This left my husband.  He said he could do it, but he had to quit working.  The hole hadn’t been fixed yet, and there were still more items to be loaded.  We decided just to go up there another day.  For posterity sake, I reminded him one last time, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  The idea of driving two and a half hours to fix a hole in a wall would be foreign to most.  Most people would say, “I guess the landlord will have to fix it,” but we’re not most people.  So, Mr. E and I will be driving to High Springs one day soon to fix a wall and get the rest of our junk.  Who knows what other adventure that will bring….     
-Al

 
 
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(When Did My Little Boy Get Man Hands???)
The Beetle apparently inherited The Obsession Gene.  Well, more correctly, both kids inherited it, but I think it’s stronger in the boy.

The Obsession Gene is something that has been passed down on my father’s side of the family for generations.  His parents both showed their obsessions through various addictions.  Daddy’s obsessions at least took healthier forms.  Don't mention his golf obsession around my mother.  Take my word for it.  The word "golf" does not bring back good memories in our family.  



Most recently, Daddy's obsession is he is running again.  The man is 67 years old, and he had to stop running years ago due to health issues.  However, he has now built back up to running an amazing number of miles at a time. (I won’t quote how many miles he runs because I’d probably be wrong.  I’ll just say it’s at least 15 times what I have ever run at one time in my entire life.)  This can only be explained by The Gene.

I have The Gene.  Though I’d rather not admit it, I do.  Through the years, The Gene has resulted in half-finished craft projects strewn all over our house.  Mr. Everything knew about this personality trait before he married me.  He chose to marry me anyway, so if our house is always messy, it’s really no one’s fault but his own.

In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, allow me to explain.  The Obsession Gene is a personality trait that causes us to not be able to think about anything other than what we are obsessing over.  At one time, I was obsessed with selling Pampered Chef.  My house was full of cooking tools, catalogs and flyers.  Then, I was obsessed with baking wedding cakes.  Icing roses, pans and piping bags filled out space.  (That obsession ended when the Goose started walking and could steal my icing roses of the dining room table.  It was all downhill from there.)  At least these items made money for us, so they weren’t too bad to deal with.  Then, there was the obsession with rubberstamps.  I have the dusty stamps to prove my one-time love.  (I still love the idea of making rubber stamped cards.  I just don’t have the time to do it.)  There was beading.  Those are hard to vacuum up off the floor, by the way.

No matter what the obsession, it always resulted in supplies left around the house and things half-done.  It meant no dinner on the table and late nights as I couldn’t sleep for wanting to create or do. 

I think the wildest obsession I ever developed was for pottery.  Those of you who know me know how well that turned out for us.  Willow took me to paint pottery for my birthday one year.  I had never heard of paint your own pottery before, but after one trip, I was hooked.  In fact, I dreamed about painting pottery for three nights after we went.  I obsessed over how my plate would look after it was fired.  Once I picked up the plate, it was a downward spiral.  I took the kids back to paint pottery, but it was very expensive.  That’s the one thing that normally limits my obsessions…lack of funds.  So, when I realized I could not continue to drive to Ybor City to paint pottery for $30 a pop, I knew I had to figure out how to paint pottery for cheaper.  This developed into a traveling pottery business that ultimately grew into a paint your own pottery store.  While you made think that sounds good, it ultimately was the cause of our family’s financial demise.  We only thought we were broke before we started our own business.  Fast forward 6 years, and then there was the fire.  See?  This is what my obsessions cause.  Fires.

Anywho, both kids got The Gene.  For them, it has meant flute lessons, guitar lessons, sewing classes, cooking classes, beading supplies, air soft supplies, American girl doll stuff, GI Joe stuff, Legos, military medals, nail polish and fake fingernails, and, and and…. 

Right now, as I type, the Goose is sewing a dress for her American Girl doll.  Yes, it’s 9:15 at night, 3 days before we are loading a moving truck.  She hasn’t touched the sewing machine in 2 years, but tonight is the night.  My prediction is, the dress will not be finished tonight, and it will be permanently forgotten tomorrow.  When she goes to bed, the pile of fabric will be left on the floor.  Then, my head will spin around.

Keep in mind that I said she has the milder form of The Gene.  It’s the boy child who really got it.

A perfect example of this was about a month ago.  He decided to be a cowboy for Halloween.  He wanted a holster for his gun, and I wouldn’t let him drive to Gainesville to search for one in a store.  (I’m so unreasonable.)  He took leftover leather and created his own.  This included staining it.  Bare-handed.  He came in yelling for alcohol.  I asked him why, and he said it might remove the stain from him hands.  I asked him what about the stains on his shirt and jeans, but he said he didn’t think alcohol would work for those.  I asked how he knew alcohol would work.  He said he read it on the bottle of stain.  I looked, and, indeed, it was there; right under the caution to always wear gloves when staining leather.  I asked him if he’d happened to read that part, but he said he had not.  I’ll just blame it on The Gene.

Due to the Beetle’s obsessive tendencies, he walked around with orange hands for a week.  I had to admit, though, his gun holster turned out pretty well.

I’m not sure who I pity more, my children for inheriting The Gene or their future spouses who will have to live with them.  Mr. Everything can attest to the fact that life with the obsessed can be quite an adventure.  One thing I can say is, at least life with us is never boring!  -Al


 
 
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It all started with the invitation.  The Goose managed to get us invited to the wedding of someone we’ve never met.  “How?” you ask.  Well, she’s the Goose.  That’s how.

We were at church, and the preacher’s wife was telling us about her daughter’s upcoming wedding.  Apparently, a bridesmaid is coming and will have a baby with her.  She has no one to keep the child.  So, the Goose said, “I’ll do it.”  The next thing I knew, we were all invited.  We even got an official invitation to make it real. 

Before I sent the RSVP card back, I asked Mr. Everything and the Beetle if they would be attending the blessed event.  The Beetle answered first with a non-committed, “Why not?”  I reminded him that he would have to wear a suit or at least nice pants, a dress shirt and a tie.  He agreed.  That made three out of four of us attending the wedding, so the Mr. was in, whether he liked it or not.  I was not going to a wedding with my two children and without my husband.  I filled out the RSVP card and asked the Beetle one more time before I put it in the mail.  He said he wanted to go.  Okie dokie.

Fast forward 3 weeks.  The wedding is this Saturday.  I decided yesterday was the day to go shopping.  Mr. Everything and the Beetle did not have suits, so we had to go to the store.  The Goose and I had dresses that would work, thank goodness.  Of course, the Goose still wanted to go with us, because where there is shopping, there is the Goose.

I had to trick the Beetle to get him in the car.  It was kind of like taking a dog to the vet.  I told him we just needed to run to the store really quickly to find something he could wear.  Yeah, right.  Like any fitting article of clothing has ever been found that easily.  But, he believed it and got in the car.

What complicated this little shopping trip was the fact that we are, indeed, broke.  So, we couldn’t just go to a department store to buy suits.  Oh, no, no, no.  That would be too easy, but who wants to spend that much on something that will never be worn again?  So, we headed to the thrift shops.  Luckily (or unluckily), there are lots of thrift stores in Gainesville.  We stopped at one in our little town of High Springs and found suits that looked hopeful.  For a brief moment, I thought we were going to get off easy.  Then, I woke up.

We ended up visiting many, many thrift stores.  Two things complicated this mission.  Number one, the Goose loves to shop.  She especially loves to shop in thrift stores, because she got the cheap gene from her mother.  The child loves a bargain, bless her heart.  Starting in the first store in Gainesville, she decided she needed new dresses.  She began looking for new dresses, which involved her calling my name every two seconds. 

“Mama, where should I look?”
“Over there where the sign says, ‘Dresses.’”
“Mama, what size do I wear?”
“Probably a medium.”
“Mama, what about this one?”
“You don’t have boobs.”
“Mama, what about this one?”
“You aren’t 80.”
“Mama, what size do I wear?”
“The same size you wore at the last store.”

Continue this conversation through no less than 5 thrift stores.

Meanwhile, problem number two was that the Beetle doesn’t *do* thrift stores.  In his words, “I don’t want to wear another man’s drawers.”  I told him I was sorry about his luck.  He looked, halfheartedly, but did not want to touch anything.  He also gets this trait from me.  I feel like I have the cooties just from walking in a thrift store.

Finally, by store number three, the Beetle had given up and had started looking.  He even tried on a few pair of pants.  Every jacket “fit” according to him, even if his arms were six inches longer than the sleeves.  It was when he put on the blue jacket that I knew I was losing it.  The child tried to convince me (in a joking manner, I hope) that the blue pleather jacket with puff shoulders was a winner.  I should have let him buy it just so he had to wear it.  Sadly, it cost more than the suit we ended up getting him.

At the fourth store, the Beetle found a suit that looked nice on him and was less than $20.  It was a good brand and looked like a high quality suit.  Mr. Everything also got a suit, although he was not thrilled with his.  I thought it looked nice, and it was a good name brand too.  The pants were a little big on his waist, but with a belt, they looked just fine.  He decided to settle for it.  Meanwhile, the Goose had found a pair of shoes, a shawl, a purse, a sweater, and, and, and, and….  She ended up getting a few of the items.  We got to the register, and there was an extra 20% off!  Jackpot!

Since we were already out, Mr. E said he wanted to stop by one more thrift store that was nearby.  By store number five, I had just about lost my mind.  If the Goose had called my name once, she had called it 100 times, and that was just in the last five minutes.  I was feeling Frazzled (with a capital F). 

We went in the store, and they had no suits.  What they did have was a sale.  Oh dear.  The deal was, they would give us a paper grocery bag.  We would fill it with anything we could fit in there, and the price would just be $15.  This is where Mr. E’s amazing packing skills certainly could come in handy.

We were not going to take advantage of the sale, because I didn’t want to just buy stuff to buy it.  However, Mr. E found something he needed for the computer, and the Beetle found air-soft pellets.  By the time we bought those, we were paying $15 anyway, so we got the bag.  Then, my family fit more into a brown paper bag than I even knew was possible.  We got video games, a teacup and saucer, a doughnut maker, computer stuff and several other items.  The Goose said she felt bad because it felt like we were stealing.  I confirmed with the cashier that the sale included anything that could fit in the bag, and she assured me it did.  We paid and got out before they changed their minds.

It was at this point that I felt accomplished.  We had found suits for the guys, which was our original mission.  The Goose had gotten a few clothing items that she needed.  I had even gotten a purse to match my dress for the wedding.  Then, we had hit this other store and gotten bargains galore.  Our shopping day was done.  I was tired and glad it was over, but it had been worth it. 

Then, Mr. E said the words I didn’t want to hear.  “I really don’t like my suit.  I want to go to one more store.”  I began to whimper and rock myself gently in the front seat of the Suburban.  He bought me a Steak ‘N Shake milkshake to get me through (1/2 price, of course, ‘cause that’s how we roll).  He went in the last thrift store.  The kids and I opted to stay in the car.  I just focused on my milkshake.  I told myself it would all be okay.  When Mr. E had been in there long enough for me to finish my milkshake, I considered drinking his just to continue to soothe myself.  Instead, I was brave and went into the store.  I figured, if he was in there that long, he was probably trying on suits.  I didn’t want him to come out looking hideous, so I went in after him.  He showed me a few, and I shot them all down.  We left without a suit.  After much convincing, and a few nervous twitches on my part, Mr. Everything agreed to wear the suit we bought.  Hallelujah!

Now that the shopping is over, I'm excited about the wedding, even if I don't know the bride. When else would my family get dressed up all at one time?  We will all look so nice, and no one will even know that we bought all 4 outfits for less than $50 combined.  I do love a good bargain! -Al


 
 
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When people hear that I homeschool my kids, they typically offer one of two responses.  Other homeschool moms can probably name the reactions with me.  Both responses are incorrect in my case, so I would like to dispel both of these notions.

The first reaction that I typically hear is, “Wow, you must have a lot of patience.  I could never be patient enough to homeschool my kids.”  At this, I simply laugh.  I have no patience with my kids, and any patience I may have had at one time has slowly been stripped away from me through homeschooling.  I can not tell you how many times I have fought the urge to whack one of my kids upside the back of his (or HER!) head.  I definitely won’t tell you how many times I did not resist the urge.  I was hoping it would rattle their brains a little, but it didn’t help.

You see, my children can push my buttons better than anyone else in this world.  I am typically a calm, docile person. (Yes I am.  This is my story.  Let me tell it.)  Put me in a room with my children and school books, and you will see the angry beast.  Truly, they enrage me beyond what I knew I was capable of.  Now, before you go all feeling sympathetic for my kids or think I’m abusive, hear me out.  They know they are pushing my buttons.  In fact, I tell them, “You are pushing my buttons.  If you do not stop, I am going to blow.”  Usually, they just see that as a challenge, and they keep on pushing.  I give several more warnings before the explosion happens.  I feel guilty and think I’m horrible when I explode.  My kids, however, think I’m funny.  They’ve told me (during my calm times) that Mr. Everything is scary when he is mad, but I’m hilarious.  At least I haven’t traumatized them with my anger, I suppose.

The Beetle still laughs about a school-related incident several years back. At the time, we owned our paint your own pottery studio, so we did school on the go a lot.  We would carry the books we needed in a plastic basket.  That way, we could do school at the studio or at home, and taking the books with us was convenient.  One day, I was trying to explain how to divide fractions to the Beetle.  Again.  I’m not sure where the Goose was, but I don’t remember her being around.  Maybe she was napping.  (This was back in the magical days of naptime.)  Anywho, the Beetle was doing his typical space cadet impression.  I was quickly losing it, and he sensed that.  He began pushing all the wrong buttons, and I gave my traditional warnings.  He kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and finally, I exploded.  This time was one of the worst explosions I’ve ever had with one of my kids.  I got so mad that I was yelling at him, and I went to kick the book basket.  (As you may recall, I broke my big toe kicking the Goose’s bedroom door last year.  It still hurts.  I really should learn to stop kicking things.)  This time, I had a tennis shoe on, thank goodness, and I kicked the basket with all my might.  Unfortunately, the book basket was made of cheap plastic, and my foot went right through it.  Then, I was standing there with a basket on my foot, trying to be angry.  If you ever try to fuss at a child with a basket on your foot, you will quickly find that it isn’t very effective.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear a word I said because he was so busy laughing.  I ended up laughing too, and we called it a day for school.

The other response I hear when I tell people that I homeschool is, “Oh, you’re so lucky!  I’ll bet that is so much fun.”  Usually, I just answer that comment with a blank stare.

Some homeschool mothers would tell you that schooling their children is fun.  They learn together and laugh together and snuggle under blankets together.  I would not be one of those mothers.  Apparently, my children are wired differently, because never, ever have we snuggled under a blanket and happily read together.  Our version of reading together sounds more like this:

Me:  “You will sit here until I finish this chapter.”
Child:  “*Sigh!*  How long is the chapter?”
Me:  “It doesn’t matter.  You will sit here until I’m finished.”
Child: “But it’s boring.”
Me:  “If you would quit interrupting, you might actually be able to follow the storyline.”
Child: “How long is the chapter?”
Me: “FORGET IT!  You can read!  Read it for yourself!!!”

Some homeschool families are the best of friends.  Their children frolic in the front yard for PE time and the older child helps the younger child learn her multiplication tables.  My children beat the crud out of each other while I’m trying to teach them.

Truly, the only thing that is fun about homeschooling is getting together with the other moms.  Otherwise, no thank you.  As much as my children are dreading the beginning of our school year, I can assure you that I am dreading it even more.  I keep wishing for the beginning of summer so I didn’t have to feel this impending doom.

Here’s the reality at my house… Every school day will be a struggle.  Every school day will involve an argument of some kind, whether it’s between one of the kids and me, one of the kids and Mr. E or both of the kids together.  Every day will involve someone pushing my buttons in some way.  If one kid decides to actually cooperate for the day, the other kid will take over the button pushing. 

I used to be hopeful at the beginning of the school year.  I would tell myself that this year was going to be better.  I would get all psyched up and make my lesson plans and prepare little notebooks and folders.  I was excited.  A week into it, I was in the bathroom, crying through the door to Mr. E that I quit.  I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to pass the homeschooling torch to him, yet I still end up with it!  He’s a smart man, and he knows how to avoid the struggle. 

This year, I am not the least bit hopeful.  The faces in that picture are the faces that I will see every day when I say the cursed words, “Time to do school!”  Call me a realist, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be crying by day two.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  You are asking why in the world I homeschool.  Right now while I am calm and not educating my children, I can answer you and say that, irritating as they are, I love my kids.  I miss my kids when they are gone, and I want to know that they are okay.  I want to be deeply involved in their learning, so I know what they are learning and how they are doing.  During the few days that they went to school throughout the years, I missed them.  I did not like not knowing how they were doing in school.  The Beetle wouldn’t eat lunch, and he would come home starving.  When I asked him why he wouldn’t eat, he couldn’t tell me, but he wouldn’t.  The Goose broke out in eczema from head to toe from the stress of FCAT testing.  I don’t want that for my kids.  They have the rest of their lives to be stressed out.  So, even though they irritate the fire out of me, I still want what is best for them, and being home is best for my kids.  And do not take that as a judgment.  I’m not talking about what’s best for your kids.  This is all about me.  (Isn’t everything? ;-) )  Every child is different, and every situation is different, so I would never judge another parent for the choices they made.  Some days, I wish public school was best for my kids.  It sure would be easier!  

Now, if you were to call me and ask me why I homeschooled in the middle of a school day, my answer might not be as nice.  The button pushers are annoying, but I love ‘em.  As I’ve told them many times during their lives, it’s a good thing they’re cute!  -Al


 
 
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I used to love to make cards by using rubber stamps.  No, actually, I still love to make cards with rubber stamps.  I just don’t have time any more.  I still have the stamps.  Well, most of them anyway – I sold some back in the day.  I’m sure my stamp pads are dried up.  The glue sticks are like rubber now instead of glue.  (Does that mean they would bounce off me and stick to you?  Sorry, bad joke.  You probably didn’t even get it.  If you did, you're as weird as I am.  Congratulations.)

Now, not only do I not have time to make cards, I don’t even have time to write cards.  Instead, I’ve started using this really cool service called “Send Out Cards.”  You choose the card, type want you want it to say and enter the address.  The company prints the card and mails it for you.  It’s amazing.  If you want to check it out, go HERE.  A friend of mine is involved in this company, and he makes a profit on the cards that we buy through his link.

For years, I tried to encourage my kids to make homemade cards for people.  Neither of them really got into it much.  The Beetle would half-way color something and stamp his name.  He wouldn’t even write his own name, so I resorted to a stamp.  The Goose would humor me for a while.  She would half-heartedly stamp something on a paper.  Sometimes, she would stamp a lot of somethings on a paper.  It would end up looking like the stamp pad threw up on the card.  I didn’t tell her that, though, because I still had hope that she would want to stamp with me someday.

Several years later, the Goose started wanting to stamp with me.  However, by that point, I did not have time for stamping.  She would talk me into getting the stuff out, and we would get started.  She would talk me to death as I was trying to figure out what to stamp, and in the back of my mind, I would be thinking of the 100 things I had to do before I could sleep.  Then, after the Goose made one and a half cards, she would leave to go on to something else.  I would be left with the mess to clean up.  I would end up fussing at her to come help me, and begrudgingly, she would come sort-of clean the stamps and put them up.  (Yes, you have to clean rubber stamps.  If you don’t, the ink colors get all mixed.  I’m not crazy.  This is a known fact in the stamping world.)

After about 6 months of the Goose begging me to stamp with her and me really not wanting to, followed by me fussing at her to clean up, she gave up.  She quit asking me to stamp, and she quit making cards.  I was afraid I had ruined her desire to be creative.

Then, yesterday, the magic returned.  We were at my parents’ house in our home town, and I had left the kids there.  When I came back, I found the Goose making cards, on her own, without my help.  I figured she was making a card for her cousin whose birthday party was this weekend, and I was right.  What I didn’t realize was that she was also making cards for other people just because.  Immediately, my heart was warmed!  She is my child after all! (In case there was any doubt.)

The Goose made cards for her friends who were starting school, just because.  She made a card for her grandmother, just because.  She made a card for me, just because.  I love it!  Now, I can live vicariously through her!

What really cracked me up was when she asked me, “Aren’t you going to take pictures of these cards?”  I asked her why I would take pictures of them, and she said, “So you can put them on your blog.”  I laughed and took the pictures.  Then, she said, “Do you want me to write directions on how to make the cards?”  Come to think of it, this may be a sign that I’ve made too many “How to” articles for hubpages.com lately!

So, here are the cards.  The Goose is the artist, thanks to her mother, who forced her to make cards when she was little.  Therefore, I’m taking the credit for the cards, because I’ll never manage to make any on my own.


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She even "staged" the cards with props before taking the photos. She really is my child!