News alert: Life is not fair

So yeah. That’s what we in the news biz call a no-s*** headline.

Apparently, however, our school district needs to be reminded of this adage.

Or, let me put it this way:

All jackets are not created equal.


In recent weeks, I and other parents have received numerous notes from teachers and school officials about our children’s jackets and sweaters.

The edict: If your cold-natured child wants to wear his or her jacket or sweater in the classroom, it must be a solid color (red, white or navy) without any emblems or logos on it.

That pretty much means your only option is to order a jacket through the PTA. (Although I seem to remember that these, too, have logos on them. Have they been outlawed for classroom wear too?)

The reason for all this jacket hoopla, I’m told, is that some children were wearing designer jackets, prompting school officials to proclaim: Oh my goodness! How unfair!

Hence the notes tucked into the kids’ backpacks.

Guess what, people?

Life is not fair.

And I say that as a mom who buys her children’s jackets (and clothes, for that matter) at Target or Academy. In my world, going upscale means a trip to Penney’s.

Educators: I don’t want you to shield my kids from inequality.

I want you to help me teach them how to make the best of what they’ve got.

In real life, everyone who joins a team doesn’t get a first-place trophy for merely participating. And in real life, not everybody’s mommy shops at Dillard’s.

Can we stop trying to over-protect our children and instead teach them the benefits of perseverance and practice? Or how about gratitude that they have jackets, for pete’s sake.

I mean, seriously. Jacket-inequality? For reals?

And now let’s address the logistics involved in this silly effort to be fair.

First, my kids wouldn’t know what a Ralph Lauren polo pony was if it sprang off an offending jacket and pooped at their feet.

Second: For three years, I ordered jackets or hoodies from the PTA. And for three years, those blasted things got taken home by other kids (by accident) and we spent the remaining semester trying to track them down. Two were never returned. And yes, I put my kids’ names on their outwear.

This year, I decided that we’ve lost enough of those jackets. So I didn’t buy any.

Third: In this economy, when people already are struggling, you want those same people who already bought jackets to go out and purchase new ones?

I’m not replacing my children’s  jackets from Academy or Target because they might hurt a Walmart shopper’s feelings. (And no, I’m not dissing Walmart. The only reason I don’t like to shop there is because it’s always so crowded and I’m convinced that I will one day be run over by someone in a packed-out Walmart parking lot.)


While my kids’ jackets may not make the cut for classroom wear, they stand a much better chance of making it home each day.

I still, however, can’t believe this subject is even up for debate.

What’s next? A ban on designer eyeglasses?

And what happens when the kids get to high school? Will cool sports cars be banned for fear of shaming those who drive, oh, say, a Dodge Omni.

(That’s what I drove to school. And I was grateful for that car, just like my high school BFF was grateful for her sputtering little Rabbit. It sure beat an hour-long bus ride, which was our alternative.)

So c’mon: How far do you plan to run with this?

Please — abandon this ridiculous effort to make our children believe that everything is fair.

Because it’s not.

And you’re not doing them any favors by pretending that it is.





‘Tis the season for dressing up, carnivals and manicures

Time for my monthly gushing over Girl Scouts.

Bear with me.


If you’ve felt even a twinge of an urge to become a troop leader, I encourage you to act on it. This is the most rewarding volunteer work I’ve yet encountered. Spending time with these girls, watching them grow and flourish in confidence — it makes me feel all warm and mushy on a regular basis.

Last weekend, our Service Unit held its annual Fall Carnival, which is always a lot of fun.

Last year, our troop manned the cakewalk booth. This year, we decided to put together a nail salon.

The girls — mine and those from other troops — loved it.

There’s nothing like sitting in a chair, getting your nails painted pretty colors and being fussed over. Watching them giggle and preen made my day. Every little girl needs to be made to feel special (by someone other than her family members), and I hope we accomplished that last Saturday.

A big thanks to Kristina (Moody Mom) and my co-leader Amy Webb for all their help. We painted teeny little nails for two hours straight!

Here’s a photo of some of my girls at our booth. (A few hadn’t arrived yet. Note the E-man, who couldn’t resist putting his own spin on my pictures.)

Waiting for the carnival to begin!


Children of the corn

Last Saturday, we joined Kristina (Moody Mom) and several other friends at Schaefer’s Corn Maze in Mayflower.

I’m proud to report that we didn’t need to raise the flags. Actually, we made it through far more quickly than I expected.

A few photos from Schaefer’s:

When told what the flags were for, the kids made a run for them. Clearly, they didn't think the adults would be able to navigate the maze.


Our version of bread crumbs. Jenn even made them look pretty!


The kids did NOT like all the picture-taking.


In her element. (Tootie went to horseback-riding camp this summer.)

Waiting in line for the hayride.


My baby, clowning around.

Another picture?

Three little girls at the pumpkin patch.

And later, that evening …

Mud & water fights!


Baby girl attends her first concert

You don’t forget your first concert.

Mine was Ronnie Milsap. My dad took me. I even remember Ronnie’s jokes that night.

Tootie also likes country music, especially when it’s performed by Taylor Swift.

On impulse, quite awhile after the tickets went on sale, I bought a couple. Tootie was thrilled.

My friend Kristina (Moody Mom) also was going, as were several other friends. Since Kristina’s daughter has an October birthday, Kristina decided to host a getting-ready party at Apricot Studio for the girls that were going.

They had so much fun, even my Tootie, who is a bit of a tomboy.

Tootie's manicure included peace signs and polka dots.


She was so excited about the concert, that we actually got a geniune smile from her, as opposed to the fake one she usually offers during picture-taking.


Waiting for face-painting and spray-on hair color.


She loved the swirls and glitter.


This is how the mamas entertained themselves. Get it? "LRM" for Little Rock Mamas!


Look at all those boots.


Part of the birthday festivities included shirts that Kristina monogrammed for the girls.

Tootie balked at the tiara, in case you hadn’t noticed.

“I’m not a fancy-nancy,” she said firmly, thrusting the tiara into my hands.

The concert was a lot of fun, especially given that my kid morphed into Fan Girl.

Tootie twirled her glow stick, hollered for songs and danced in her seat.

The next day, she went to school with blue and green streaks in her hair and an air of malaise, due to the lateness of the hour we arrived home from the concert.

But I’m told she wasn’t in the minority.

And as it turns out, a lot of teachers were tired for the same reason!

For more photos, head over to Moody Mom’s.


Freebie Friday: Baby Board Books!

Hey, Arkie Mama here. I’m giving away five newly released baby board books to one lucky winner!

To enter: Leave a comment below. I’ll announce a winner Wednesday, Oct. 12.

The books up for grabs are:







































A post in which Maxwell makes new friends

Night four at our campsite:

Hubs and I spent the evening watching a crowd of new campers arrive.

For the previous three nights, we’d had the Chisos Basin campground (at Texas’ Big Bend National Park) pretty much to ourselves.

Now, it seemed, many people had decided to spend a long weekend at the park.

We wondered aloud whether the camp host had warned the new arrivals about the Skunk Invasion.

“Now this ought to be interesting,” Hubs mused as a carload of giggling 20-something women pulled in to the site next to us.

The happy-go-lucky quartet threw up a tent, then drove off again, presumably for dinner somewhere.

A few hours later, darkness fell.

“Any minute and Maxwell will be here,” I told Hubs. “Maybe tonight we can get a better photo of him.”

But my faithful nighttime visitor never appeared.

“Is it weird that I feel sort of … slighted?” I asked Hubs, who practically fell out of his camp chair laughing.

“Let me get this straight: First, the skunks are ‘scary.’ Then, after one sees you naked, they’re ‘intrusive.’ And now, you’ve not only named a skunk, but you’re actually disappointed that he’s not scavenging here tonight?”

I nodded sheepishly.

“I guess I just got sort of used to him. Seems strange not to see him poking his nose into our tent or sniffing around the bear box,” I explained.

Hubs gestured at the newly filled campsites.

“Look at all the virgin campers here tonight. Maxwell has a whole new array of dining options.”

“I guess,” I sniffed.

Thirty minutes later, we turned in, with nary a sign of Maxwell.

Which is when we heard a piercing scream. Then shrieks. And then the sort of hysterical laughter that erupts when one is confronted with a situation so dire, the only solution is to make light of it.

More shrieking, followed by several beep-beeps from the women’s car.

“I think they’re back from dinner,” I said, giggling.

“I think something was waiting for them,” Hubs added.

He opened our tent window wider so that we could hear better.

A rumble of guys’ voices soon joined the screaming and shrilly laughter.

“Did you leave food in your tent?” we heard a male voice inquire.

“It won’t leave!” a woman answered, not exactly answering the question.

“Guess the camp host didn’t tell them about the skunks’ ability to open tents,” Hubs whispered.

“Oh, Maxwell,” I said. “What a naughty boy.”

And then I snickered myself to sleep.

Tomorrow: A break from my vacation tales so that I can share my daughter’s very first concert experience. Then it’s back to west Texas, where we next encounter scorpions. Want to go camping with us sometime?


Meet Maxwell, my new furry friend

The third night of our camping trip, our faithful skunk arrived just as soon as the sun set.

Once again, Hubs wasn’t there. He was either taking the trash up the hill or in the restroom. Can’t remember.

This time, I slowly rose from my chair and watched our skunk sniff hopefully for crumbs under the picnic table.

When Hubs returned, I motioned toward the skunk and then his camera.

“Blog post,” I whispered. “I need a picture.”

“OK,” Hubs said. “Get the lantern and see if you can get close enough to shine a light on him.”

This is the scene that unfolded:

As the skunk ambled around out tent, I scurried behind him with my lantern. Hubs, hot on my heels, was clicking furiously.

“I need more light,” he muttered.

So I climbed onto the picnic table and held the lantern right over the skunk’s head.

“Did you get a good shot?” I asked.

“Not really,” Hubs said. “But you can tell it’s a skunk.”

Our camp skunk.

We plopped into our camp chairs, satisfied.

The skunk followed us.

He stood there, staring at us expectantly.

“Well no wonder he’s not afraid,” I said. “Looks to me like he’s used to being fed by campers.”

Hubs agreed.

After a few more minutes of wistful staring, the skunk wandered off.

“You know, he’s actually kind of cute,” I noted.

Hubs groaned.

“Let’s call him Maxwell,” I suggested.

“How about Max?”

“You can call him Max, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s Maxwell,” I replied.

Tomorrow: Maxwell is a very, very bad boy.

The Skunk Battle: Part 2

Shortly before this trip, Hubs went out and bought a couple of those solar shower bags so that we could at least pretend to be somewhat hygienic during our four nights of camping.

I say “pretend” because a shower at night does little when you get up the next morning and hike anywhere from 6 to 12 miles.


On our second night, I suggested that we shower before dark, given that the skunks made their first appearance when the sun set the night before.

Hubs was horrified.

“People might see us!” he exclaimed.

Given that I have twice now hosted crowds gathered at my nether regions (childbirth, anyone?) I didn’t particularly understand his horror.

“Uh, yeah. We’re surrounded by brush. And the showers are hanging behind a column. No one can see anything.”

But Hubs continued to protest.

Once darkness fell, he finally agreed to showers.

I went first.

Unfortunately, the showers couldn’t be hung high enough to allow for standing.

Instead, I had to squat in order to rinse my hair.

Which is when I noticed a pair of beady eyes trained on my nude and vulnerable self.

“Eeeeek!!! Skunk!!!” I shrieked.

Hubs chuckled.

“I don’t see anything,” he said. (Rather patronizingly, I might add.)

I grabbed the rubber tubing and aimed it at my Peeping Pepe.

The skunk scurried off.

“Oh. Yeah. Now I see it,” Hubs said.

Of course, his shower was peaceful and uninterrupted by wildlife.

Meanwhile, I brooded.

Around 9 p.m., we went to bed.

For some reason that has yet to be determined, Hubs did NOT double-knot the ties on our tent zipper.

So the next morning, I awoke to this:

“Cathy. Cathy! Wake up!”


“Did you get up and go to the bathroom last night?”

Yeah. Right. After two nights of skunk encounters, I figured it would be safe to trot off in the wee, dark hours to the potty room. Because, really. If the skunks have laid claim to our campsite, surely the bears and mountain lions will stay away.


“Trust me,” I replied. “If I had needed to pee, you would have been awakened and ordered to  escort me. WHY are you asking me such a STUPID question?”

Hubs pointed to our “front door” tent flap.

Which, my friends, was OPEN.

At some point, while we slept, something had managed to untie the fastenings and unzip our tent.

Later, I found a tuft of white and black hair.

“Do you think it was IN HERE?!” I asked.

“Hmmm,” Hubs said, studying the now-open flap. “Sure looks like it.”

Now maybe some of you don’t have a problem with the thought of an … aromatic …. intruder wandering through your sleeping quarters while you are, well, sleeping, but I am not quite so blase’.

“I don’t care if you have to superglue our tent shut,” I informed Hubs, “but I DO NOT want furry little creatures crawling across my sleeping body.”

Tomorrow: I develop a friendship with our faithful, nightly visitor.


Tales from Big Bend: Once again, Hubs battles the wildlife

As most of you know, Hubs and I return each year to Big Bend National Park, where we married 10 years ago.

On that occasion, Hubs spent our nights battling the javelina that invaded our campsite each night. (He wielded a spatula and tongs as weapons. The javelina were not what I would describe as impressed, let alone frightened.

Never seen a javelina? Here ya go:

Comical, no? Except, that is, when they're trying to raid your tent. While you are in it.

This year, Hubs faced a more, uh, threatening adversary:


Monday afternoon, just as we finished putting up our tent, the camp host stopped by.

“Just letting you know: This year, we’re having a problem with skunks getting into tents,” he said.

Hubs and I must have appeared skeptical.

“Seriously,” the camp host said. “You need to either tie a knot or find a way to secure the fastenings. They’ve learned how to unzip tents.”

Thankfully, Hubs and I heeded this advice.

Because later that evening, as I sat alone at our campsite, polishing off a fajita, a skunk ambled into view. And then another. And then another.

The first skunk, which was rather on the large side, headed right to the  bear-proof storage box, which Hubs — who was in the restroom when the gang arrived — had left open.

The skunk climbed inside.

I hauled myself out of the camp chair and, lunging toward our pickup, threw my plastic cup of wine at him.

The skunk didn’t even flinch.

What to do?

I raced off to the restrooms, flung open the door to the men’s potty room and hollered, “Hubs! There’s a skunk in the bear box!”


“A skunk! In the bear box! He’s ransacking it!”

The toilet flushed and then Hubs emerged from the stall, looking somewhat incredulous.

“Are you sure?” he asked.


Hubs strolled back to the campsite, where chaos reigned.

The big skunk still sat in the bear box, gnawing on the Styrofoam container our steaks were in.

The other two rummaged through the rest of the trash bag, which now rested on the ground.

“Get out of there!” Hubs shouted.

The two smaller skunks scurried off. The big guy, however, didn’t budge.

Hubs threw a rock at the side of the bear box, but the resulting clang had absolutely no effect on our striped party-crasher. He simply continued feasting on his bloody Styrofoam dinner.

A few rocks later, the skunk crawled out of the box, meat container clenched in his jaws, and turned his back toward Hubs.

Later, Hubs and I would marvel at how fluffy and pretty that tail was.

At the time, however, we ran for cover.

At which point the skunk decided there was no need to waste his scent on a couple of wimpy, stupid humans. He picked up the container, walked a couple of feet and resumed dining.

A fox approached, appeared to weigh his chances in pulling a Swiper and then wisely backed off.

Hubs threw more rocks, hoping to scare Pepe off, to no avail.

“I will win this battle, skunk!” Hubs yelled, pitching another rock …

… which nailed the skunk in the head.

The skunk toppled over and grew still.

“You killed him!” I shrieked, running toward the fallen critter. “Oh, the poor little thing!”

We stood over the skunk, pondering what to do.

“Should we tell the camp host?” I wondered aloud.

“Let’s just hide the body,” Hubs replied.

“I don’t want a rotting skunk at our campsite,” I argued.

About that time, the skunk decided to end our debate by rising from his prone position and trotting off with his Styrofoam prize.

Our jaws dropped open.

“Let’s just go to bed,” Hubs said in defeat.

We zipped ourselves inside the tent and made sure the ties were knotted securely.

Thirty minutes later …

“Do you smell that?” I mumbled to Hubs.

“I don’t smell anything,” he said.

“Just wait.”

“Oh. OH!”

“Maybe he sprayed the fox.”

“Or maybe it’s a parting shot,” Hubs said. “I mean, I did hit him in the head.”

Eventually, we drifted off despite the pungent odor wafting through our tent windows.

The next morning, our camp host strolled by.

“See any skunks last night?” he called out. “The guy up above you got sprayed while trying to chase one out of his tent.”

“Poor guy,” I muttered. “Probably our fault for pissing off the skunk in the first place.”

“Could’ve been us,” Hubs agreed. “Tonight, we’ll be ready.”

Only … we weren’t.

Tomorrow’s post: The night I showered with a skunk. And pictures! (of the skunk)