How a haircut tragedy led to a manicure and pierced ears

Or, rather, dear God please help me because I am not equipped for 8-year-old angst.

Seriously. Can she not wait just a few years before putting my mama heart through the wringer?

So Friday, during my lunch hour, I took Tootie to get her hair cut before school started today. She told the stylist she wanted a longish bob that fell to her shoulders.

Well, apparently, the stylist, who I’m pretty sure is new, couldn’t get the sides even, which means she just kept cutting. And cutting.

End result: My daughter, hunched over in the car, sobbing and chanting, “I look like a freak. I’m NOT going to school like this.”

Enter wailing: “I can’t wear ponytails! I look ugly with short hair! I look like a boy!”

Actually, she looked adorable. But when I told her so, she accused me of parental bias.

“You have to say that,” my little Tootie wept. “You’re my moooooootherrrrrr.”

Oh my.

So I pulled out my arsenal of girlie ammo.

“Let’s get our nails done!” I declared.

Tootie left the salon with glittery gold fingernails.

I left with a new color of toe polish.

The next day, we finished up some last-minute shopping.

Tootie moped.

The hair. It was too short. Her social life — doomed.

At the shoe store, as she looked longingly at a rack of shimmery earrings, she asked wistfully, “When can I get my ears pierced?”

“Whenever you’re ready,” I replied.



And off to Merle Norman we went.

I was a little worried about how she would handle it, but Tootie remained stoic before, during and after the piercing.

OK, so — manicure, piercing and lip gloss. Surely this would boost her confidence enough to forget about the haircut, right?

But see, it’s not the haircut that’s the crux of the issue.

It’s the fact that last year, Tootie’s best friend, Jada, moved away.

Since then, she’s been lost at recess, lonely in the lunchroom.

“I miss Jada,” she confided last night. “I wish she would move back.”

“Maybe this year, you’ll make some other friends,” I said. “But you have to give other girls a chance. They’re not going to be exactly like Jada. That’s what made her special. But if you get to know the other kids, you might see that they’re special in their own way too.”

And then we had a loooong discussion about how she’s smart and creative and sweet and that maybe it would be better not to dwell so much on hair that will, after all, grow out in a matter of weeks.

This morning, Baby Girl walked bravely into the classroom.

And my heart burst open with pride, even as it hurt for her loss of a best friend.

Moments before departure ...

Big Black Book of Secrets

So I’ve mocked Men’s Health magazine in the past by describing the publication as a Cosmo mag for boys.

But now they’ve gone and outdone themselves with the BLACK BOOK, which purports to be “The Guy Guide to Male Wisdom.”

An excerpt from Dating and Seduction titled Your Voice.

The most attractive women prefer deep-voiced men, according to a study by Scottish researchers. It suggests high testosterone levels, a sign of strength and reproductive prowess. Push out air with your diaphragm, not your throat. This lengthens the column of air moving past your vocal chords. “It’s like a built-in subwoofer,” says voice coach Joanna Joella.

Seriously? And what happens when one’s voice accidentally warbles into its true treble? Do you blame the lapse on a belated, adolesence-in-reverse?

Remember actor Jon Hamm’s hysterical bedroom scene in Bridesmaids? Think of the added comedy if that deep, resonant voice had suddenly cracked into a much higher pitch during his monologue of Praise to Thyself.

The Black Book also offers a variety of special, er, positions one might employ to enhance one’s sex life. If, that is, the deep-voice routine hasn’t made you the laughing-stock at every bar or club in town.

The problem isn’t with the positions themselves. It’s the names.

Girls, do any of these sound even remotely appealing?

The Belly Flop.

The Lazy Man.

The Spork.

The Man Chair.

All seem to imply, well, a bit of selfishness, perhaps? (Note: The “Spork” also requires the woman to be limber. Imagine explaining that injury to the ER doc.)

In other words: Guys. Really. The only thing this book is good for is a good laugh.

On you.



Did you know there’s a Buddhist temple in Bauxite?

Neither did I, until I started chatting with a sweet couple at a nail salon I visit with my girlfriends every other Friday.

The Trans kindly invited us to visit the Chua Bat Nha Temple on Ulambana — aka Parents’ Day, which is a daylong event honoring mothers and fathers.

So last Sunday, Hubs and I loaded up the kids and headed to Bauxite. (For those of you who aren’t in Arkansas, Bauxite is a wee town 30 minutes away from Little Rock.) Most of those who attend services at this temple are Vietnamese.

Upon arriving, we immediately bumped into the Trans, whose son took Tootie and the E-man on a tour of the grounds. Mr. Tran, along with many, many other people that afternoon, urged us to partake in the potluck.

Problem is, I’m a southern girl who believes that it’s rude to eat if you didn’t contribute to the dinner. So I reluctantly declined. And then I spent the remainder of the day fretting that I may have seemed rude by refusing!

We learned that the white flowers pinned to clothing signified that the wearers’ parents had died. Red represented parents still living. Pink and white flowers indicated that one parent was still living while the other had passed away.

Hubs and I observed some of the chanting and also visited with people as they came and and went. For celebrations such as this one, monks and worshipers come from all over in a show of support for the temples scattered across the U.S. We saw license plates from California, Texas and Louisiana, just to name a few.

My kids were enthralled by the statues and decor, to the point where I had to remind them not to touch about a thousand times. Tootie made a few sneaky attempts to snag some incense, but I managed to head her off each time.

During an afternoon lull, we hung out in the temple, where Tootie and the E-man shyly introduced themselves to the children playing there.

It was a fascinating afternoon, and I thank the Trans for giving us a chance to teach our children about other cultures and faiths.

Here are a few photos:

This photo, shot by Hubs, ran in the Democrat-Gazette. Women sit/stand on the left side, the men on the right. This is Sen Ie and her daughter Kailin, who is 5. They drove from Wynne.

Hubs took another picture of the pair after the chanting concluded. This little sweetie was tuckered out! She slept soundly too, unaware of all the other children scampering around her.

Here, Tina Huynh is teaching her daughters and nieces how to pray.

As temperatures rose outside, people headed for the ice chests filled with water and fanned themselves in an effort to stay cool. Here, sisters Evelyn and Kimberly chat with their cousin Brittney.

He took our photo too. As usual, our children did not want to stop playing to pose for Daddy's camera!



Three friends, three daughters, many photos

In 2000, my best friend Amy took a job here at the Democrat-Gazette. We’d worked together once already in a Beaumont, Texas, newsroom and I was thrilled when she moved to Arkansas.

Still in our 20s, we immediately pounced on the party scene, along with several other young reporters in the newsroom.

One night, we dropped by the Underground Pub, where we met a brand-new Dem-Gaz reporter named Traci.

We bonded over tales of a boy-cub reporter who already had cornered and hit on Traci. He had a habit of pursuing new female reporters. Amy and I shared tips for avoiding awkward encounters.

And thus a friendship was formed.

We compared bad dates, stalked errant boyfriends, went dancing and ate a lot of Taco Bell. One night, we decided to hold a sage-burning ceremony after one of us read an article on “cleansing” oneself of self-recrimination and regrets.

We sat on Amy’s apartment patio with a bottle of wine and wrote down everything we’d ever said or done that still troubled us. Then we burned sage and our little notes. Some things we shared, others we didn’t. And it worked! There’s something about acknowledging past actions that still bother you and then doing something that literally reduces those actions to ashes.

When Hubs and I decided to elope, Amy and Traci were the only ones who knew ahead of time. We took a celebratory trip to Austin. It was Traci’s first trip to Texas, and Amy and I laughed throughout the road trip over her wry observations.

“What is it with this place? Everything either has “Texas” or “Lone Star” in its name,” she said as we whizzed through town after town.

(Note: Traci now LIVES in Texas!)

When my Tootie had to be delivered early due to my pre-eclampsia, Amy and Traci raced out to buy preemie clothes for my baby girl. They brought them to the hospital within hours of Tootie’s birth.

During my second pregnancy, they listened patiently to my hormonal rants — although I’m sure they cackled over them later, just as Amy and I did when Traci ranted during her first pregnancy about her husband’s demon-cat.

Traci’s first baby was a boy.

Late last year, she had a little girl. And in February, Amy gave birth to her first baby, also a little girl.

The weekend before last, Traci and her husband came to visit.

At one point, she and Amy brought wee Darcy and Josie over to my house.

Tootie, who loves babies, immediately plopped on the floor. Watching her play with my friends’ daughters was so, so sweet.

After the visit, I emailed Traci:

“I’m so glad we got to see you and that sweet baby. One day, years from now, my daughter will lead yours in burning sage and confessing all …”

Traci quickly replied:

“What? My baby? No way. She’s going to stay away from bad boys and I’m counting on big brother Will to keep them away from her! She can wait until she meets the man of her dreams on her first day of work at the hospital (where she’ll be a doctor).”

But while I hope the girls don’t make some of the mistakes their mamas did, I do hope they will forge friendships like the one I share with Amy and Traci.

And now — photos!


From left: Traci and Darcy; Amy and Josie; me and Tootie.


Hubs decided to take pictures of the babies sitting on our double Adirondack chair. I was petrified the entire time that one of them would fall onto our concrete porch.


See, my fears were justified. (Don't worry, Amy caught her in time!)


So then Hubs decided to freak me out even more by putting the babies on our porch swing ...


Aren't they just precious?


Sigh ...


"Why is that crazy lady yammering at the man with the camera? And what's an ER?"



Let's try again ...


Now Tootie isn't cooperating.


And the Darcy decided that Josie's head looked appetizing ... Meanwhile, Tootie is bored. She wants to hold a baby.


Smiles all around!


Darcy, however, has decided that Josie's head is quite tasty. Note the fixed gaze.


Tootie is amused. Josie -- not so much.

Thanks for allowing me my trip down memory lane.

Tomorrow, we travel to a Buddhist temple in Bauxite.

(psst … Amy, Traci: I have a ton of other photos. I’ll get Hubs to burn disks for you!)

Sometimes, being a mom can be lonely

When I married Hubs in 2001, I became an insta-mom to a girl, 8, and a boy, 9.

To say that I flailed around in the sometimes treacherous waters of stepmotherhood would be accurate. Having never had children, I wasn’t really sure what to do with the two young people who were suddenly part of the household.

I figured all that babysitting I did in my teen years would be helpful.

Er, no. Not so much.

Equally upsetting was that no one seemed to understand my situation.

My single or newly married girlfriends — well, suddenly, we weren’t all the same stage of life anymore, especially given all my new dilemmas: The difficulty in finding summer daycare or packing “healthy” lunches or brushing a tender-headed little girl’s hair.

And had I been in their place, I wouldn’t have either. Nothing prepares you for the kind of responsibility of caring for children, especially when you spent your 20s partying.

A year later, I had a baby girl.

I was the first of my close set of girlfriends to have a baby. And again, I was the odd girl out. That wasn’t so bad, given that I spent most days sleep-walking in a milk-stained nightgown and frantically consulting any number of parenting books, but it sure was lonely. I so, so wanted another mama to talk to, weep with, laugh with. Also, a little advice from a peer would have been helpful.

By the time I gave birth to Baby No. 2, a few of my friends had started reproducing. But they were caught up in the dreaminess of a first pregnancy and impending motherhood.

(Mind you, this dreaminess occurred BEFORE the actual birth and what I call Maternity Boot Camp.)

I, on the other hand,  now understood the realities involved in bearing and raising children. After all, I  now had a baby AND a toddler. And I didn’t want to frighten my friends with descriptions of my foray into motherhood. I mean, how do you tell a pregnant woman that “OMG, your nipples will feel like they’re about to fall off and you’ll cry because you’re so tired and oh, did anyone mention the horrid night sweats that occur when all those hormones start exiting your body and holy crap WHY is my baby’s poop neon-green and WHY does my toddler wake up right after I have finally gently, ever-so-carefully placed our newest little bundle of joy in his bassinet?”

Basically, I hadn’t realized how isolating motherhood could be.

So I admit to a pang of envy when all of my friends eventually started having babies all at the same time.

Could they not have started sooner?!

But here’s the thing: Because I had my kiddos earlier, I’ve been able to enjoy all these new babies — which would not have been the case had I still been toting around a toddler and a newborn.

My children are now 6 and 8. And their burgeoning independence allows me to revel in the heavenly smell of my girlfriends’ wee newborns’ fuzzy, downy heads and their chubby little thighs and delectable baby feet. nom nom nom

(Don’t worry. I won’t actually eat your babies, my friends. I just want to sniff and nuzzle their heads and squeeze their adorable teeny toes.)

Awhile back, I babysat my friend Amy’s then-4-month-old daughter. Rocking Miss Josie to sleep, watching her eyelids flutter closed … it took me back to those precious early days with my own babes.

Only in this case, I got to go home and sleep through night!

The other benefit of going solo? I was forced to step out of my comfort zone, to find the confidence to trust my instincts. And believe me, I needed that. It made me a better person and a better mother. It also made me a better friend when my girlfriends were suffering through the rigors of new motherhood.

I compare it to being a reporter — had I not chosen this profession, I would have missed out on so many experiences. This job made me brave. It made me feel like I could do anything.

And so did having children. Alone.

Tomorrow: A tale of three girlfriends who now have daughters! With photos…