Arkie Mama: Wordless Wednesday

For today’s Wordless Wednesday, I’m sharing photos from last week’s trip to Big Bend.

But first, happy birthday to Moody Mom!

Photos (save two) by Hubs

Southwest Texas has the best sunsets.

Southwest Texas has the best sunsets.

This is PK, short for "Porch Kat." I fed him halibut one night. We were best friends for those few minutes. Then he resumed ignoring me.

This is PK, short for "Porch Kat." I fed him halibut one night. We were best friends for those few minutes. Then he resumed ignoring me.

Desert hike

Desert hike

One of the dreaded javelinas.

One of the dreaded javelinas.

Campsite in the Chisos Basin

Campsite in the Chisos Basin

Ahh ... camp coffee!

Ahh ... camp coffee!

At the top of the Lost Mine Trail

At the top of the Lost Mine Trail

Queen of the world!

Queen of the world!

Lone tree on rocky mountaintop

Lone tree on rocky mountaintop

Terlingua Ghost Town Cemetary

Terlingua Ghost Town Cemetary

Those buried here were either miners or victims of the 1918 flu pandemic.

Those buried here were either miners or victims of the 1918 flu pandemic.
Hubs missed the shot of the black bear, which strolled across the trail right in front of us. But he got the poop.

Hubs missed the shot of the black bear, which strolled across the trail right in front of us. But he got the poop.

Big storm rolling in. Lots of wind, rain and hail.

Big storm rolling in. Lots of wind, rain and hail.

True faith.

True faith.

This year's White Buffalo shot.

This year's White Buffalo shot.

Since Hubs takes all the photos, I always appear to be vacationing alone!

Since Hubs takes all the photos, I always appear to be vacationing alone!

Look! I pried the camera from his hands!

Look! I pried the camera from his hands!

Creepy crawlies, ugh. Spiders should NOT be hairy.

Creepy crawlies, ugh. Spiders should NOT be hairy.

Morning in the tent.

Morning in the tent.

Moonrise over Marathon

Moonrise over Marathon

Casa Grande. Yes, the skies really are that blue.

Casa Grande. Yes, the skies really are that blue.

Want to participate in Wordless Wednesdays? Post a photo on your blog with a link back to me. Then I’ll list the links to all Wordless posts here.

For more Wordless Wednesday, go here:

Hugs & Kisses

Moody Mom, part one

Moody Mom, part two

Hot Mama

Baby & the Beasts

Family Way

Blessed Mom

Whirligiggles

Letting herself go

Arkie Mama: An ill-fated vacation

This happened back during our trip to Big Bend in April 2006. Hubs and I remain scarred.

White smoke billowed from the tailpipe of Hubs’ pickup as we pulled into a Shell station in the remote, tiny town of Marathon, Texas.

“Man, that doesn’t look good,” said a bearded man, who was sitting astride a rumbling motorcycle. Within minutes, the man and a half-dozen of his fellow American Legion Riders had assembled around our truck’s now-open hood where Hubs described the Dodge’s recent, erratic behavior.

“You’ve blown a head gasket,” one guy declared as the others nodded in agreement.

So there we sat, just a tantalizing hour’s drive from the outer reaches of Big Bend National Park — our vacation destination — in a truck that had rebelled at the worst possible time in the worst possible place.

This was to be our first trip alone — just the two of us, sans children — anywhere, in two years. It also was supposed to be a five-year anniversary celebration, as Hubs and I got married in Big Bend.

For weeks, Hubs and I had talked of little else. Vacation — yippee! Time alone!

We adore our tots, naturally. But we also revel in what little “us time” we can find. Dinners, movies — no problem. These, we can arrange, infrequently, granted, but still…

A week away? This, my friends, is a rarity for us.

We had planned this vacation down to the last detail — dates, campsites, restaurants and camping gear — and all on an exceedingly tight, bare-bones budget.

Truck trouble, especially something this serious, had not been factored into these well-laid plans. Granted — the truck had started acting up a week before we left town, but after replacing a leaky radiator reservoir, Hubs thought the problem had been solved. And we hadn’t had any difficulty in making the seven-hour trip from my parents’ Round Rock home to Marathon’s Gage Hotel, where we had just spent the night.

Angry and frustrated, Hubs used the pay phone (no cell phone signal available) to call our longtime Little Rock mechanic, George.

George gave us two options:

Have the truck towed to a bigger town, and get it fixed. (This, George said, would likely be an expensive repair job that would take two days.)

Or we could buy some “Bar’s Leaks Stop Leak,” pour it in and that MIGHT get us through the rest of our trip and back home again.

We weighed the pros and cons. If we fixed it, the expense would be enormous. Just getting it towed from our current location — the middle of nowhere — would be pricey. Then we would either have to get a rental car or lose two days of our vacation while waiting for the truck to be repaired. My hang-up was the money involved. Already, we’d spent more than intended on the front end trying to get Hubs’ pickup, with its accumulated 117,000 miles, road-ready.

On the other hand, if we used the Stop Leak and headed on into the park, we could end up stranded there — and for those of you who’ve been to Big Bend, you’ll understand why that was a rather daunting prospect.

But here’s the thing — while I’m a neurotic, paranoid weirdo where motherhood is concerned, I’m not that way when there’s just me to consider. And since the kids were safely ensconced at Nana and Granddaddy’s house, well… truth is, Hubs and I are both known for being stupid, stubborn and downright foolhardy. We are risk-happy people.

So my gut instinct was to pour this magic potion into the radiator and see how far it would get us.

(Who knew when we would get down this way again? Alone. For our anniversary… ahem …)

After giving the matter a few minutes’ thought, Hubs agreed.

He applied the Stop Leak, and off we went, with Hubs monitoring the temperature gauge and me watching the tailpipe for more smoke.

Amazingly, we made it to Big Bend and up to the Chisos Basin, where we hauled out a couple of beers and toasted our shared stupidity.

This is what I love about my marriage: Hubs and I are never more in sync, never more “together” than when faced with adversity. We trust each other’s instincts. And we both have the same bizarre sense of humor.

We spent the next two days hiking. As long as we were moving, we didn’t have the time or energy to stress over our predicament or to wonder whether we’d make it out of the park, let alone back to Round Rock.

On our second night, we went over our finances. It was two days ‘til payday and if our vehicle couldn’t make it home, we were, to put it delicately, screwed. At this point, we had just enough for one more night at the Gage Hotel, bar food and drinks — a necessity, by our definition — and the gas needed to get us back to Round Rock.

So we decided to cut our time at the park short by a day.

Thankfully, we made it back to the Gage Hotel and celebrated that night at the bar. The next morning, we began the long trip back to my parents’ house.

We stopped again and again to let the truck cool and fill the reservoir with more water and antifreeze. The Stop Leak, it appeared, hadn’t held. But miraculously, at 5:30 p.m., we pulled into my parents’ driveway.

We spent the next day — our fifth anniversary — wandering through one car dealership after another.

I suppose I could be disappointed or bitter about the way things turned out. We didn’t get to visit all the places we had planned, we had to leave a day early and we spent a lot of our vacation worrying about whether we would make it home.

But really, we still had a fantastic time. It reminded me of our early days together, when we would go on difficult assignments that required us to think quickly — and take stupid risks.

After five years and two kids, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that period of our marriage. So I guess I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary present.

(And, for the first time ever, I actually lost weight on vacation.)

Arkie Mama: My shirt, wedding & Big Bend

Those of you who read my Forces of Nurture column today know what’s in store:

Pictures of the ugly shirt I wore to grab Hubs attention before we started dating.

Pictures of our wedding at Big Bend National Park.

And pictures from our many other trips there.

(If you haven’t read the column, go to the Little Rock Mamas homepage, look to the top right, and you’ll see Forces of Nurture. In my column, I describe how Hubs and I met, our wedding, etc… If that’s not enticement enough, you also can read about my shameless behavior that preceded our courtship.)

Back already?

All right, then, let’s proceed:

The rat-ugly shirt. But hey, it worked!

The rat-ugly shirt. But hey, it worked!

(That pic was taken three years ago, hence the bangs, shorter hair and belly.)

OK, moving on.

Here we are at the Window View Trail, where a kick-ass trippy-hippie justice of the peace married us. My lovely stepdaughter Cece helped me pick out that dress.

Behind us is the "window." It's a v-shaped notch.

Behind us is the "window." It's a v-shaped notch.

This was taken after the wedding, outside our hotel.

This was taken after the wedding, outside our hotel.

We return to Big Bend each year. It’s my favoritest national park, and believe me, I have been to many.

Usually, we spend the first night of each trip at the Gage Hotel in Marathon. This is where we stayed on our wedding night.

The Gage Hotel

The Gage Hotel

The lobby

The lobby

Outside the Gage in 2004. My locket holds a photo of a baby Tootie.

Outside the Gage in 2004. My locket holds a photo of a baby Tootie.

After stopping at the Gage, we leave Marathon and drive down to the park, where we camp for several nights.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

Hiking the Lost Mine Trail

Hiking the Lost Mine Trail

At the end of rugged trails, you often find surprises.

At the end of many rugged trails, you often find surprises.

Pretty, no?

Pretty, no?

The Chisos Basin gets chilly in the evening.

The Chisos Basin gets chilly in the evening.

Watching the moonrise from our campsite.

Watching the moonrise from our campsite.

Big Bend is so still, so silent, and at night, so dark, you see and hear things that the “real world” blocks out.

Here's where the Rio Grande cuts through Santa Elena canyon.

Here's where the Rio Grande cuts through Santa Elena canyon.

Cemetary at Terlingua Ghost Town

Cemetary at Terlingua Ghost Town

After camping in the park, we always head back to Marathon for a night or two at the Gage. Then we settle cozily into the White Buffalo Bar.

Each trip, Hubs takes a picture of my with the White Buffalo.

Each trip, Hubs takes a picture of me underneath the White Buffalo.

Arkie Mama: Wordless Wednesday

Summer 2007. When I left town to visit my parents, Tootie looked like this:

Please note the cute, swingy bob.

Please note the cute, swingy bob.

As I issued last-minute instructions for the feeding of and caring for our children, Hubs held up a hand and said, “Stop. You have to learn to trust me.”

This happened less than 24 hours after my departure.

This happened less than 24 hours after my departure.

Want to participate in Wordless Wednesdays? Post a photo on your blog with a link back to me. Then I’ll list the links to all Wordless posts here.

For more Wordless Wednesday, go here:

Blessed Mom

Moody Mom

Mom on a wire

In the Family Way

She’s crafty

Hugs & Kisses

Whirligiggles

Arkie Mama: Driving Daddy crazy

Originally posted April 22, 2008 on the old Arkie Mama blog.

A How-to Guide for Driving Daddy Crazy during his Attempts to Photograph You & Your Siblings

(written by the E-man, age 3)

Step One: Complain upon waking from nap that something is in your eye. Refuse to open eye. Do NOT smirk as Mommy Googles “toddler eye pain” and “scratched cornea.” Keep eye closed for the next hour. Maintain squint even when Daddy insists on herding you and siblings out the door for the planned photo shoot. Just remember, you will show him who’s boss very, very soon.

Step Two: Make sure your eye pain is evident in photos. This has the added benefit of ensuring you maintain a proper, non-photogenic grimace.

Portrait 1

Step 3: Look to your right…

Portrait 2

Step 4: Look to your left…

Portrait 3

Step 5: Recapture grimace and ignore Daddy’s pleas to look at the camera. (Note that brother and one sister are beginning to show the strain. Heh.)

Portrait 4

Step 6: Ignore Mommy’s stupid antics. She is not funny. Note that oldest sister also appears to be losing patience. She is no match for the E-man.

Portrait 5

Step 7: Intensify scowl. Keep ignoring Mommy, who is now pretending to be a monkey. THEY CANNOT BREAK YOU!!

Portrait 6

Step 8: Don’t let them catch you off-guard with a change of scene. You aren’t so easily fooled. Why does my mother persist in acting like such an idiot? Clearly, she is suffering from some sort of crazed belief that she is Carol Burnett reinvented.


Portrait 7

Step 9: Realize that parents are annoyingly persistent creatures. When they make you stand behind the stupid tree, pucker your face to show contempt for this blindingly obvious maneuver.

Portrait 8

Step 10: Wait until after the group has disbanded before flashing a look of triumph toward the camera.

Heh.

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: 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: Friday-night expectations

Guess who thinks he’s getting lucky?

Guess who wants nothing more than a glass of wine, a good book and some solitary veg-out time on the couch?

Guess who’s an hour away from making that first move?

Guess who’s wearing a ripped lavender T-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts with palm trees on them? (stunning ensemble, I know)

Guess who doesn’t care that his wife looks … well, frumpy.

I’ll close with a paragraph from one of my favorite southern author/columnists, Susan Reinhardt:

“Most of us wives love our mates, but frankly are in the Humpty-Dumpty mood far less than they. It’s human and animal nature. Sorry. It just is. Ever see a lioness run? See the does dash? Hear the girl birds screech? See a female human pretend to be asleep or having her second period in as many weeks?

But just how often are we ladies saying those dreaded words “Not tonight, hon, I’m feeling a little tired,” and thinking that which we dare not vocalize? And probably not tomorrow night either, sugarplum.”

— Excerpt from Not tonight, Honey. Wait ’til I’m a size 6.

Arkie Mama: Antiques are NOT our friends

I feel as though I should be whispering that because who — I mean WHO? — hates antiques?

To admit that you don’t like old, beat-up furniture is akin to insulting someone’s Granny, worse than telling sweet great-aunt Betty that you never did like her blackberry cobbler.

It just isn’t done.

Yesterday, I lied to two sweet retirees when they asked me if I liked antiques.

They clearly did. So really, what could I say?

“Er, no, actually, I find old furniture to be dark, looming and depressing. And knick-knacks? Ewwww. Give me minimalism any day, baby.”

Go ahead. Judge me.

But you haven’t lived with an antique freaking hall tree in your tiny dining room for four years. You haven’t watched in horror as your husband moved said hall tree to your BEDROOM — your sanctuary — in order to make room for a big, blockish thing that I’m told is a buffet.

You haven’t come home from a business trip to find that your toddler daughter’s room has been re-outfitted with Grandpa Winstead’s hulking, masculine bedroom suite. We’re talking about a bed, vanity and dresser with log cabins etched onto them, people!

: shudder :

My husband’s family can’t bear to get rid of anything. So various items slide through one household after another until they chance upon their final resting place.

That would be my house.

If it were just me? I’d be living in an IKEA store. Lots of bright, modern furniture and appliances. Clean lines. Lots of open space.

But I married a man who rummages for and clings to old things.

When, as a newlywed, I moved into his house, I inquired about the old, rusty doorknob sitting on a living room bookshelf.

“Oh, I found that on a torn-down house near Grandma Hattie’s place. I figured I might use it one day.”

Of course! I, too, run around collecting ugly old doorknobs. Because there’s no better place for them than a shelf that could be holding, oh, say … books.

My most disturbing discovery? An ancient train set, stashed away in a linen closet. Apparently, some ex-girlfriend had been touched by Hubs’ sad tale of the Christmas when his new train set flew out of the car trunk on the way home from Grandma Hattie’s.

I tried to imagine a woman buying a grown man a children’s basic train set and really couldn’t muster up any emotion but disgust. I know. I’m awful that way.

So here I am, the lone member of a family that can’t bear to get rid of anything, not even a set of Grandma Hattie’s 1950s bath towels.

I’ve adjusted, kind of, over the years. But it takes every ounce of self-restraint I possess to keep from shrieking when my father-in-law invites my spouse to browse the contents of his shed.

Once, I swear, they emerged with something resembling a coffin. (It turned about to be some sort of woodworking apparatus.)

And really, put yourself in my place for a moment. Imagine sitting down to dinner with winter coats and scarves dangling over your head. Imagine closets stuffed with banished doorknobs, hair tonic bottles and rusty tins. Imagine tripping over boxes upon boxes of your husband’s brothers’ old records.

I do  love Hubs. I just don’t love his vinyl.

The life of the wife of the deer hunter

In the months before the birth of our first child, Hubs and I spent many an evening discussing nursery decor.

“I know!” Hubs declared one night. “We’ll run with a Bambi theme, maybe paint little woodland creatures on the walls!”

“You realize that one day you will be explaining to our child that Daddy shoots those cute little woodland creatures, right?” I inquired.

“We’ll just redecorate before we get to that point,” Hubs replied.

Uh, yeah. Riiiiiiight.

This, ladies, is life with a devoted hunter. Doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the man is consumed with dreams of deer.

I can’t plead ignorance. I knew what I was getting into. The first time I went to Hubs’ house, I couldn’t miss the tangle of antlers on his fireplace mantel. His couch was plaid — maroon and hunter green. The place looked more like a hunting lodge than bachelor pad.

Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to the weekend absences, the overly full freezer, the sight of drying antlers hanging from one of our trees.

What I can’t get used to is this —

Christmas present, 2008

Christmas present, 2008

— my husband’s desire to see me decked out in camo.

This is the second camo camisole the man has bought for me. What, exactly, is he envisioning — a sexy romp through the living room with him as the hunter and me as the hunted?

Trust me. I do not run like a gazelle. I lumber.

Last night, the following exchange took place on Facebook:

Hubs is happy, cathy is in camo
Yesterday at 8:22pm

Kin Man Hui How would you be if she was also holding onto a compound bow? 😉
Yesterday at 8:29pm

Hubs even better
Yesterday at 8:30pm

John Lynch Is it date night?
Yesterday at 8:43pm

Mark Wilson maybe she’s trying to hide from you
Yesterday at 9:44pm

*sigh*

It’s bad enough that all our friends are now envisioning me in camo. But to imply that I’m engaged in some sort of Amazon warrior princess seduction?

Really, it’s too much.

Which is why Hubs is getting this for his next birthday:

Tutti-Frutti.

I believe these are called Tutti-Frutti.