Arkie Mama: Bidding summer adieu

I’m one of the few people who eagerly awaits summer and its rocketing temps.

Long, sunny days. Weekend afternoons at the pool. Fireflies in the evening.

I also enjoy the more relaxed nature of our weekday mornings. No scramble for a belt to wear with the uniform. No search for the socks needed for the mandatory closed-toe shoes. The kids just throw on shorts and flip-flops and we’re out the door in no time.

Now that I’m back on the meds, I don’t fear the coming winter months like I used to. Let’s just say I don’t handle gray, wet and gloomy very well. I’m perfectly capable of cultivating my depression without the aid of dreary winter weather.


I hate being cold. The thick clump of winter coats, hats and gloves hanging from the much-hated hall tree annoys me. And I can’t stand sweaters. They itch. And, if they’re turtlenecks, I feel like I’m suffocating.

There’s not anything I can do to stop the seasons from changing, and I really can’t afford a cattle ranch in Big Bend, where the heat is dry, days are long and sunshine is a major player.

And really, an Arkansas fall is lovely, no?

But before I bid summer ’09 farewell, let’s take a look back at some happy afternoons of old, shall we?

Seaworld with Nana and Granddaddy

Seaworld with Nana and Granddaddy

Little man did not like his SeaWorld hat.

Little man did not like his SeaWorld hat.

Shamu makes me happy.

Shamu makes me happy.

Concentrating hard during June recital rehearsal

Concentrating hard during June recital rehearsal

My baby heads for first.

My baby heads for first.

Arkie Mama: The Mollydog

“I think Molly’s getting more feeble,” Hubs said yesterday morning, gesturing toward my 15-year-old Australian shepherd, who sprawled, oblivious, on the kitchen floor.

“She seems the same to me,” I said defiantly. “She’s old. Of course she’s feeble. She’s been feeble for the past few years.”

(We’re talking about a dog who’s so deaf, you can step over her in the morning on the way to the coffeepot and she never flinches. Somehow, however, she knows each morning when the mailman has arrived and barks at him. Go figure.)

“She keeps walking in circles,” he continued.

I, too, had witnessed a bout of circle-walking, so I did what I always do in times of mental panic. I ran for the computer and my beloved Google.

After some hasty research, I concluded that Molly either has itchy ears, which she’s been scratching a lot, or is experiencing a bout of vesti…something-or-other, which sometimes afflicts old dogs. It usually resolves itself within a week or so.

I ruled out a stroke, as there has been no major drooling or loss of bodily functions. And the Mollydog still eats. A lot. In spite of her deafness, she remains alert. And in spite of her arthritis, she struggles with stiffness only in the morning.

I know Hubs is just trying to prepare me, but the man’s been telling me the dog is aging (duh!) for the last three years now. I even wrote about this same issue on my old blog!

If there’s ever any evidence that Molly’s in pain, I will intervene. But at this point, she seems to be growing old quite gracefully.

I know she probably doesn’t have much time left. And I know I’ll totally lose it when she dies. Molly’s been my faithful companion for 15 years.

But for now, I don’t want to stress over every little thing that might signify that end.

It’s tough, when your pet becomes a geriatric. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember  the Molly of old, the agile pup who could catch a Frisbee mid-air or run low to the ground after a football.

But when I stroke her head and look into those familiar brown eyes, I can still see my mischievous Molly in there.

Molly two years ago, at age 13

Molly two years ago, at age 13

Reclining pile of furry gorgeousness

Reclining pile of furry gorgeousness

Doggy in a basket

Doggy in a basket

Arkie Mama: Reading nooks

As a kid, I loved nothing more than to curl up in our backyard hammock with a beloved book.

Even after those blissful summer afternoons had been relegated to childhood memories, I continued to seek out cozy spots for reading.

Which is why I love nooks, little corners of the house where I can tuck in a rocking chair or mound of pillows.

This is my current spot, in the back corner of our living room. To the left — not visible in the photo — are two tiny built-in shelves, perfect for a couple of library books or dogeared novels.

The chair is a hand-me-down from friends, the lamp came from IKEA.

The chair is a hand-me-down from friends, the lamp came from IKEA.

This is where I sit each morning to read the newspaper, provided my daughter doesn’t beat me there. She, too, loves tucked-away havens.

In the kids’ rooms, I’ve always reserved one corner for a reading nook. Sometimes there’s a chair there. Or beanbags. Or big throw pillows. I’m about to redo a corner in my daughter’s room, because … well, I stole her chair. I know, I know. But the chair took up so much space in there.

The reading nook also is ideal for napping.

The reading nook also is ideal for napping.

Here’s the E-man’s corner:

Someone is not paying attention to the book!

Someone is not paying attention to the book!

I’d love to redo his as well, but that will have to wait until I can afford the cute, red, miniature armchair I’m envisioning.

I hope to have Tootie’s done by the end of the weekend.

My inspiration this go-round?

Amanda (Soulemama) and Minvera (Mama without borders).

Take a look at their reading nooks and tell me you aren’t similarly inspired.

For Minvera’s, go here. I love, love, love her decorating style.

And for Amanda’s, head here and here. I visit her blog each day for a little bit of much-needed serenity.

Anybody else have nooks? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Arkie Mama: Stifling my paranoia

Confession: I am a bit of a hypochondriac.

Well, actually more than a bit. I am a full-blown neurotic germaphobe who, when confronted with any signs of illness, obsessively Googles until locating the absolute worst-case scenario out there.

Best example: My husband once walked into the living room with the laptop and asked incredulously, “Are you the one who’s been Googling tongue cancer?”

I blushed. He laughed himself into a stupor.

Enter swine flu.

I’ve been paranoid about flu for years, long before the feds started fretting over birds and predicting our next pandemic. In fact, my flu phobia first surfaced in 2003, when that year’s strain hit children especially hard. I was a new mom and therefore prone to panicking over any possible illness that could harm my baby.

During the peak of that flu season, my photojournalist husband was sent to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to photograph the flu ward. While he was there, a nurse asked if he had any children at home.

“Yes,” he said. “A new baby.”

The nurse scowled and all but pushed him out the door.

“What are you doing here?” she scolded. “You go home right now, put those clothes in the washer and take a shower before you get anywhere near that baby.”

Hubs slunk out the door, went home and followed orders. I followed him around the house, armed with Lysol and an arsenal of lectures.

We avoided flu that year, thankfully.

But when I was pregnant with our second child, it struck.

I had gotten a flu shot — after haunting the doctor’s office for weeks in anticipation of the vaccine arrivals — but apparently it wasn’t enough to shield me that year.

I ended up in the hospital, where doctors tried to alleviate my symptoms and stop my fever-induced contractions.

“Normally, since you’re so close to your due date, we’d go ahead and let you have this baby,” one physician said. “But believe me, you don’t want to give birth when you’re this sick.”


My son arrived just a few days later, while I was still recovering. Not an ideal time to have a baby, let me tell you.

So yeah, I was afraid of flu long before concerns about avian strains surfaced. When they did, I promptly downloaded the government’s emergency response plan, and stocked up on bottled water, canned goods and Lysol. Little did I know that our feathered so-called friends would not be the cause of my next flu freakout.

Hello, pigs.

Thus far, doctors are saying that most swine flu cases have proved to be milder than those involving seasonal flu. And really, other than hand-washing and disinfecting, there’s little I can do, not with two kids in school and daycare.

So each time I get another note  announcing another confirmed case, I take a couple of deep breaths and resist the urge to Google.

I do, however, reserve the right to hoard surgical masks. And I still — *cough* — may possibly still have a dogeared copy of the government’s emergency response plan. Just don’t tell my husband.

Arkie Mama: Baby got no back

I figured I’d riff on Moody Mom’s post, since I completely understand her shopping-for-small-children predictment.

My little E-man didn’t arrive in supersize condition. (6 pounds 12 ounces). Of course, compared to my first baby (5 pounds 9 ounces), I thought he was huge.

For about the first month.

My baby, now 4, is still small for his age. Further complicating things is that the child has no butt to speak of, nothing that might hold up his jeans or shorts. The E-man once greeted my husband at daycare pickup with khakis around his ankles.

“I can’t believe you sent him out in public in these things,” Hubs grumbled. “They fall right off of him.”

Problem is, he’s also tall, which means if I buy a size 3 in pants, he resembles Duckie from Pretty in Pink. (Remember those hi-waters?)

Which is why I depend on pants with adjustable waists. When I first stumbled across such a pair in Old Navy, I near wept with gratitude.

Exactly why the boy has no butt is beyond me.

Exhibit A:

Note the pants' descent

Note the pants' descent

I mean, he inherited my eyes, my hair, my smile. But somehow he dodged my big-butt genetic input. There is simply nothing there.

I, on the other hand, am very aware of my own butt since Hubs insists on capturing it in any number of photographs with alarming frequency.

He does this to torment me

He does this to torment me

Look to the upper right of this photo

Look to the upper right of this photo

I know he does this on purpose.

I know he does this on purpose.

Good thing that pregnancy and childbirth left me with no shame.

Arkie Mama: No playing on the playground

Among the playground rules for students at my daughter’s elementary school:

No climbing to the top of the monkey bars.

No hanging upside-down from the monkey bars.

No pushing other people on the swings.

No jumping off the swings.


First, I’m wondering what, exactly, one is allowed to do on the monkey bars? I mean, isn’t climbing to the top or hanging from them kind of the whole point?

And what’s with the no pushing other people on the swings?

Over at Free Range Kids (LOVE that site), Lenore recently offered a pointed — and dead-on — rejoinder to a USA Today story about the safety, or lack thereof, of playgrounds.

She writes:

What kind of world are we waiting for before we declare it safe to live in and enjoy? A world where the playgrounds are 100%  safe? (No running, skipping or frolicking, please.) Where the ground is 100% soft (no concrete, please!), but not made of wood chips (which have arsenic), or rubber chips (which may contain trace elements of toxins, even though we seem to ride around on rubber tires every day and you don’t hear a lot about THAT). Where the ground is not covered by those twin dangers actually cited by the article:  “dirt or grass”?

Playgrounds shouldn’t be built on GRASS??? That is what the article quotes a “safety commission” as concluding!

AMEN, sistah!!

Lenore ends with this:

This is pretty much  our view of everything where kids are concerned now. No route to school is safe enough. No bus stop is safe enough. No toy or bottle or crib is safe enough. And no playground is safe enough, even if the kid is there with mom, dad and the National Guard. And they brought along a big swatch of shag carpeting to play on. “Microsize risks” look giant to us because we are shrunken with fear. Until we see them for what they are, we will fear  everything:  trees, air, grass and dirt. Not to mention swings.

I think the reason my daughter’s list of playground rules bugs me so much is that I work very hard to control my helicoptering, over-protective tendencies. Last weekend, I was very proud to be the only parent sitting on a playground bench, rather than shadowing my child as he/she climbed, slid and jumped off swings.

(What is with the “No jumping off swings” anyway? How can you swing and not jump off? It’s like telling a former teen of the 80s not to rollerskate to I Love Rock & Roll.)

I guess I should be grateful they apparently will be using the playground.

Last year, every time I drove by the school during recess, the kids were milling around on the asphalt parking lot. (No, running, chasing or roughhousing, per the rules, of course.)

“Don’t you ever play on the playground?” I asked Tootie.

“No,” she said.

“Why not?” I pressed.

“I don’t know. We just don’t.”

At the next parent-teacher conference, I asked her teacher about it. Mrs. H., whom we loved, explained that if there weren’t enough parent volunteers at lunch and recess, the kids couldn’t use the playground. I could tell from her tone and expression that she thought the children needed to be on the playground, rather than congregating on blacktop.

My first reaction was: Why is the school so dependent on parent volunteers for lunch and recess duty in a day and age when so many families have two working parents?

I’m sure what all this boils down to is a fear of liability.

Clearly, schools now feel compelled to cordon off yet another fundamental part of childhood.

Makes me wonder when they’ll ban recess altogether. I mean, who knows when some willful child will decide to skip across the asphalt and skin a knee?

Arkie Mama: Dear Migraine

Why can’t you leave me alone?

You remind me of a couple of  former stalkers boyfriends, those annoying guys who refused to go away after being dismissed. (OK, so maybe I didn’t always make myself clear.)

But you, Migraine, you fully understand how much I loathe you. And still, you won’t be dissuaded from torturing me.

All day yesterday, you danced around the corners of my poor, weary brain, threatening an attack of monumental proportions. You knew, of course, that I had forgotten my medication. But you’re such a tease, no? Every time I picked up my keys, preparing to run home for the safety of my drugs, you subsided.

And then you waited, all night, before launching a second, and much stronger, surprise advance.

Now I’m trying to catch up with you, popping that pricey pill too late.

Looks like this will be an all-day battle. But I’m on furlough today, with quick access to a darkened bedroom and free from the demands of bosses and children.

Can’t you find someone else to bother? Someone who needs to be forced into quiet solitude?

Here are my recommendations:


The people who won’t shut up about the First Lady’s legs. (Let it go, please. It’s not like we didn’t know she’s in possession of all her appendages.)

The rush-hour drivers who refuse to merge into the left lane while approaching I-30, who instead blow by everyone, expecting us to let you in at the last minute.

The woman at the gym who brings her 8ish-year-old boy into the women’s locker room.

The McDonald’s parents who pretend not to notice that their darling little 6-year-old Madyson is pummeling and biting the toddlers.

Oh, the list goes on and on, Migraine.

I’m retreating for now. But only until the pill kicks in. You have been warned.

Arkie Mama: An exercise in self-torture

I already had a crappy day, so I figured, what the hell, why not watch Fox’s ridiculously melodramtic Octomom: Unseen.

OK, first — unseen?

Oh, Fox. You crack me up. Really.

So here’s what I’ve learned thus far:

Nadya thinks her house is haunted.

Yes, by your endless fantasies involving unscrupulous fertility specialists, sweetie. What’s that? You’re scared of your storage closet? EVERYONE is scared of their storage closet, especially if they’re married to a packrat spouse. *ahem*

My favorite part? Nadya tells the film crew that she no longer uses a certain haunted bathroom because once, right before she, you know, went, she heard a child’s voice saying, “Mommy.”

Has anyone present used the bathroom in the past decade without hearing “Mommy?”

Because if that’s the big indicator that your house is haunted — well, I’d best start preparing for the swiveling-head vomit scene right now.

Oh, yeah. Been there done that. Heh. Ever clean up after a kid with Rotovirus?

Back to Nadya: Her parents clearly think she’s demented. OK, well, her mom thinks Nadya has issues. Daddy, well … either he’s really medicated or he has even more probs than his seriously wacko daughter.

Mother’s Day at Nadya’s place? Wow. Sexually active teenagers should be forced to watch this portion of the show. I’m breaking out into hives rightthisveryminute.

Commercial break: Can anyone tell me why Old Navy’s talking mannequins pant? Every time I hear the beginning of this ad, I flashback to those stupid Showtime soft-porn movies that junior high boys used to snicker over. Come to think of it, I think mannequins starred in those as well. Hmm. Creepy.

Oops. Sat on the remote. Have missed part of the super-exclusive Octomom birth video. Still, I’ve managed to ascertain that the medical staff hated Nadya’s camera person. For good reason. When told to get out of the way of bustling nurses, the camera person replies, “You are very antagonistic.”

Much arguing follows. Just what you want during a C-section involving eight babies — a standoff between those delivering said babies and a belligerent videographer.

Am now listening to the screams of Octomom’s eight infants. It’s been three years since I last nursed a baby, but I could swear I’m lactating right now.