We took our children with us to cover a tornado’s aftermath

This is (kind of) my Wordless Wednesday contribution.

Twice now, Hubs, a news photographer, and I, reporter, have taken our kids, ages 7 and 5, to the scene of tornado devastation.

And I’ve never had any qualms about it.

We answer their questions honestly and point out all the volunteers who arrive — every time — with water, clothing, equipment and offers to help clear the rubble.

I want my children to have a realistic view of the world, especially when it comes to natural and man-made disasters. We can’t shield them forever. (That said, I limit — rigidly — what they watch on television. Maybe it’s because of what I do, but a lot of the gratuitous crap turns my stomach.)


I think it’s important for my kids to understand two things:

Bad things happen, yes. But good people step in to help.

Yes, Tootie is in her too-short jammies. We left really, really early for Scotland, Ark.

Arkie Mama: From sexpot to gone to pot

Behold the youthful Cathy, with her big, Texas hair and dramatic makeup —

College days, during my dating-musicians phase

Waiting for our dates

Those were the days when I could wear corduroy without the fear that someone could hear my thighs making that swish-swish sound as I walked. The days when it was fun to spend an hour (or two) on hair and makeup. Since becoming a mother — well, my standards have sunk.

It started with pregnancy.

When you look as though you're carrying a litter in front AND in back, you know things are bad.

No, I'm not leaving a bar. I'm in the vomitous stage of labor, on the way to the hospital to have baby No. 2.

This cut & style was dangerously close to Mom Hair.

Why hello, Hubs! Wanna try for a third? I know you want me.

This month, my kids turned 5 and 7. I’m just now losing the baby weight. My hair is finally getting back to normal. I’m ditching the mom jeans. Mostly.

So hello, 40! I embrace you.

Girls' Night Out Birthday Bash. More photos tomorrow.

Arkie Mama: Bullies and the bullied

A few years ago, on the way home one evening, a car pulled out in front of me and — being the eloquent former Texan that I am — I let a few well-chosen words fly.

And then Tootie piped up:

“Mama, was that a bad car?”

“Yes, sweetie. That person didn’t wait for her turn. We have to take turns when we’re driving or else we might hit each other.”

“Hitting’s bad,” Tootie replied.

And then she added: “Except when a boy pushes you down. Then it’s OK.”


Oh, hell, what’s the appropriate response here?

We don’t hit in our house. I know many parents spank, and I’m not casting judgment. I think one parents by instinct and lingers in a chosen comfort zone. For me, spanking — or any type of hitting — just doesn’t feel right. And so we don’t.

But if someone pushes her down … ? Hmmm. Does she just sit there meekly, waiting to be rescued? What kind of message does that send? Or does she put a stop to things then and there by pushing back, by standing her ground?

People tell their children to “ignore” the bullies. Yeah, right. It doesn’t work. It never worked for me, and it hasn’t worked for countless other children either. “Telling” is acceptable only during the very early grade-school years. After that, it only adds to the helpless-victim image. And plus you’re a snitch.

Imagine being the kid who’s subjected to such misery from kindergarten on? Imagine the kid who doesn’t see an improvement in high school?

I’ve often wondered/worried about whether one — or both — of my children could ever be that kid. How would I handle it?

Since I’m a neurotic freak who often imagines dire scenarios just so I can carry on entire conversations in my head with the imaginary people who have wronged me or my offspring, I mull the what-ifs, over and over.

Because quite frankly, if Tootie or the E-man came home, day after day, year after year, bullied and beaten down, the Mama Mean-Ass Shrew in me would want to huff over to the high school cafeteria and — abandoning my no-hitting beliefs — smack the holy crap out of the offenders.

A few years ago, I wrote an in-depth story on a family who was grappling with this issue. Their teenage son was developmentally delayed, and, sadly, an easy target. They already had switched schools once in an effort to stop the abuse. It didn’t work.

He was punched. The kids broke his glasses. Twice. Called him a faggot and made fun of his mannerisms. They followed him through the halls, making threats and laughing when he cowered.

His teachers said he should ignore the kids. Didn’t work. The principal, whom I interviewed, was openly frustrated. “We don’t know what to do,” he told me. “We’re at a loss.”

How comforting.

I went to the boy’s house one morning, before school, and I remember the cajoling required to get him into the car so that his dad could drive him to the campus. I rode with them, and it was awful. This boy’s misery radiated from every pore. He was nearly in tears by the time we arrived. I watched him pull on his backpack, square his thin shoulders and trudge to the front doors.

I wasn’t a mother then. But it hurt, physically, watching that boy, and feeling his dread.

Awhile back, I read Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes, a novel that dissects a school shooting — and bullying — from all perspectives. It was a tough read. Because even as I was appalled by the shooter’s coldness, I read his mother’s thoughts and the descriptions of her anguish, and I wondered, yet again, what do we as parents do?

Two years ago, Tootie’s best friend was a bully. She came over to our house twice. Both times she stalked the E-man and tormented him for no apparent reason. When I found out that this little girl also was bullying other kids who tried to play with Tootie at recess, I put the brakes on that friendship, explaining to Tootie that we don’t hang out with people who treat others that way. The bully transferred to another school around that time, so that was that.

We live in an Alpha Society. Always have, really, but now, new precedents have been set. We see more, hear more, want more, have more.

We strive to be Alpha Moms, Alpha Career Women, Alpha SAHMs. Our partners do the same. Because, really, who wants to remain at the bottom of the heap, especially as “more” and “better” become increasingly available?

But we are adults with maturity (allegedly) and experience to draw from.

Our children, while they see and feel the pull of Alpha, don’t have the capacity to manage it.

And so they bully. Or they cower.

And I wonder, as a parent, which is worse for my child? Life as one of those snotty girls I hated in junior high? Or life as the kid who agonizes each day over where to sit in the cafeteria?

How do I help them find the happy medium in the social shark pool that is school?

We tell them, “Use your words.”

Yes. Well. The only words that work with bullies are strong ones, delivered with a certain attitude. Must I chip away at the sensitivity I love in both my kids, harden them up and teach them my arsenal of cuss words?

What troubles me is that children who are chronic victims in school often remain victims even after they enter the adult world. I’ve seen what’s out there. I write about it, on a regular basis. I don’t want them to be quite as cynical as I am, but I hope they will develop a don’t-eff-with-me sort of armor.

But how to balance this? How to develop it, without cultivating a bully in the process?

I treasure my children’s innate empathy and kindness. I also worry these traits will make them vulnerable.

Kids need to learn how to deal with bullies when they’re young. Because even as adults, they will still encounter them — at work, within the social scene, at PTA meetings, everywhere.

Right now my instructions to the kids are these: Try to ignore a bully at first. If that doesn’t work, use your words. Strong and powerful words, forceful even. Make sure the bully knows you mean business. And if a kid attacks, hit, kick, do whatever’s necessary to defend yourself until a teacher arrives.

When she was 5, Tootie came home one day and told me a boy had sat on her and tried to make her eat a crayon.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she replied. “I just kept my mouth closed.”

I told her the next time a boy pulled that kind of stunt, she had my permission to do whatever was necessary to get the kid off of her.

I refrained from explaining exactly where to hit or kick.

For now.

Arkie Mama: Daddy/Mama dancing for Wordless Wednesday

This year, Hubs and I are participating in the father/daughter and mother/daughter routines for Tootie’s dance recital. And so are Moody Mom and her hubby.

First, I have to say that Hubs is a marvelous dancer, so his routine has been moving along nicely. As for me? Well, I can dance by myself, but I’m finding it difficult to lead my daughter, especially when it comes to twirling her.

Here’s a sampling from last Saturday. The men’s dance is “My Girl” and the women’s is “Respect.”

Music starts. Hubs is the guy in the black shirt.

Music begins. Hubs is in the black shirt.

Men walk along in jivey fashion, snapping their fingers.

Now the men walk out, snapping their fingers and veering left and right.

Little girls scamper out to join their daddies.

The girls scamper out to join their daddies.

The dip.

The dip.

A twirl.

A twirl.

The kiss. Each time they did this, the E-man yelled, "BLECH!"

The kiss. Which prompted the E-man to yell, "BLECH!"

Fancy stepping.

Fancy footwork.

Another dip. If he tried this with me, I would either fall or otherwise incapacitate myself.

Another dip.

Finishing with flair.

Finishing with flair.

OK, moving on. You’ll note that Moody Mom and I had a bit more trouble mastering our dance. By the end, we were laughing so hard it’s a wonder we didn’t trip over our children.

Note my concentration and Tootie's uncertainty.

Note my focus and Tootie's skepticism.

Moody Mom and I attempt the footwork.

This isn't too bad.

The E-man finally stopped yelling, "Blech!"

The E-man finally quit yelling, "Blech!"

I have absolutetly no idea what the child is doing. His father was supposed to be watching him.

Oh, look, somebody's child isn't behaving.

Trying to dance while your other child is writhing around on the floor is quite difficult.

I wonder who he belongs to?

This is the part where the daughters are supposed to look like teenagers while we shake our fingers and pop our hips.

Here's the part where we all show "attitude."



Something went awry here.

Something clearly went awry here.

Moody Mom and I cannot stop laughing.

Meanwhile, our children beg for mercy.

For more entertainment (and photos) drop by Moody Mom’s. Note she did not include any pictures of herself!

For more Wordless Wednesday posts from our other Little Rock Mamas, go here:

Family Way

Baby & the Beasts

Blessed Mom

Hugs & Kisses

Mom on a Wire

Arkie Mama: Let’s just say I’m not da Vinci

So last night we had a few people over and somehow the discussion turned to those calendars we women had scribbled on during our late teens and early 20s.

You know — the ones with cryptic phrases and code words and pictures that would remind us of what we did that day without actually spelling it out.

We were soon howling over a story in which one young woman’s boyfriend’s father found her calendar and very handily decoded the more, er … “important “dates. Talk about eternal humiliation!

Some of us (me) were so worried about such a revelation that we used code words and images that are now … well, rather bizarre and baffling.

I pulled out one of my college calendars and we spent a good 15 minutes laughing and puzzling over some of the drawings. On several dates, I had drawn an umbrella with raindrops. On others, I had drawn simpy raindrops. There were also varying sizes of exclamation points and asterisks.

At the time, I’m sure I thought I would never forget all of these “momentous” occasions. Now, however, I wonder what on earth I was doing on the night of Dec. 1 that warranted a picture of an umbrella! And raindrops.

So — are my two girlfriends and I the only ones who kept such calendars?

I’m thinking probably not.

But do you remember what your code words and drawings meant all these years later?

Arkie Mama: My hips don’t swivel like they used to

I’ve mentioned before my love for Zumba, an aerobics class based on Latin fusion and hip-hop. It’s fun, doesn’t feel like exercise and you get to wear pants with streamers and tassles on them. (Hubs calls them “butt pasties.”)

I got this pair for Christmas.

I got this pair for Christmas.

Problem is, once you put on this pants, you want to set those hips in motion. And mine are rapidly approaching the 40-year mark.

Ever since I got those pants, I’ve been gyrating like a maniac. Last night, I got a little carried away during a merengue and pulled a muscle in my lower back.

Even so, I just ordered a purple pair of pants from my instructor. I may incapacitate myself before my birthday, but I can’t wait to make those tassles twirl!

Arkie Mama: An open letter to those from northern climes

Dear Transplants:

Many of you have been rather … well, smug … in recent days. Here in central Arkansas, temps plunged into single-digits last night, prompting those of us used to milder Southern winters — where snow remains very much a big deal — to complain about the frigid air and wintery precip.

I’ve read snarky comments on Facebook, Twitter and blog posts — comments in which those who hail from less moderate climes mock snow-stunned Southerners for their dismay over this unusual (for us) weather.

May I remind you northern folk that we here in the south have no basis for comparison? That to us, single-degree temps are not the norm? That we did not grow up playing in snow or learning to drive on ice? That our cities and counties don’t own the kind of equipment typically used to clear roads? That most of us don’t own the attire & accessories required for such weather?

Well, consider this your reminder.

And also? In the summer, while you moan and groan and carry on about how unbearably hot it is, we southerners will continue to sit on our porch swings, sipping cocktails and watching our neighbors walk their dogs. We’ll snicker when you gripe about a high of 90 and tell you that until you’ve lived through summers loaded with triple-digit days, you really  have no reason to whine.

While you seek refuge in your air-conditioned homes, we’ll carry on as usual with our deck-sitting, porch-gathering, hiking, camping and boating. We’ll spend long days at pools and beaches. We’ll shop delightedly for sandals and sundresses, which really are much more flattering than those itchy, bulky sweaters that make you look 10 pounds heavier.

We’ll sweat, sure, but hey, we’re used to heat. It doesn’t make your arthritis flare up or your joints hurt. It doesn’t chap your hands and lips. It doesn’t shut down roads or schools. Just slap on some sunscreen, grab your sunglasses and plenty of water and you’re good to go.

So yeah, you can mock us now for our cold-weather complaining. But when you land in Florida after your retirement, I’ll be more than happy to remind you of how a little cold and snow is “nothing to whine about.”

We spent a full, fun day at SeaWorld during a Texas triple-digit streak.

We spent a full, fun day at SeaWorld during a Texas triple-digit streak.

San Antonio summer 2005. You Yanks would be sprawled under a ceiling fan, incapacitated.

San Antonio summer 2005. You Yanks would be sprawled under a ceiling fan, incapacitated.

We don't wait 'til evening to head outside. Arkansas summer, 2006.

We don't wait 'til evening to head outside. Arkansas summer, 2006.

We love our long, lazy, sunny days.

We love our long, lazy, sunny days.

Every year, Hubs and I hike the Texas desert in 90-plus temps.

Every year, Hubs and I hike the Texas desert in 90-plus temps.

Arkie Mama: I don’t do winter

I’d like to be one of those moms who gets all into bundling up right along with her little darlins’ and building snowmen.

But I’m not.

See below.

Winter Cathy

Winter Cathy

So while I’d like to see a bit of the white stuff for the kids’ sake, I’m more than happy to let Hubs handle all cold-weather activities. I prefer to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch the fun through the window.

I’m a summer mom. Give me sunshine and blessed heat and I’m super fun.

I’ll hang out with the kids all day at the pool. Or a beach. Or any theme park.

See below.

I heart heat.

I heart heat.

So this whole business of single-digit temps?


Arkie Mama: Dispatches from my parents

Since retiring, my parents have taken to extensive traveling. Right now, they’re sailing the Atlantic, on their way to Puerto Rico, having just wrapped up a lengthy Mediterranean cruise.

When they’re not cruising, Mom and Dad hook up the fifth-wheel and roam across the country. They’ve had lots of adventures, some rather amusing.

A few years ago, the folks decided to celebrate their anniversary on the road. While in Florida, they stopped to visit my cousin Andy and his partner (now husband) Greg. The guys are fabulous cooks, so in honor of my parents’ anniversary, they served a multiple-course meal complete with complementary accompanying drinks.

Now my mom — she doesn’t drink a lot. So by the time she finished swigging wine, champagne and port, she wasn’t feeling too grand.

The next day, I got a call from my dad. He was snickering.

“Guess who threw up in the flowerbed at an Exxon station last night?” he cackled.

“NO WAY!” I shrieked into the phone. “You got Mom drunk?”

“I didn’t,” Dad replied. “Your cousin did.”

“Isn’t Mom a little old to be yakking in a flowerbed?” I asked before collapsing into hysterical laughter. “I mean, that’s the kind of thing I did at frat-house keggers back in my college years.”

Tales from later trips have proved to be just as entertaining.

A few weeks ago, I received this email from Dad:

Hi girls, sons-in-law, & Grandkids

Well, we are in Kusadasi, Turkey and are getting ready to sail for Italy in just a few minutes. Yesterday we went to Ephesus and saw the ancient ruins of the old city built back before BC. It was very interesting. We saw the place where the Virgin Mary lived, and where St. John is suppost to be buried. Today we walked around Kusadasi and your mother did a little shopping.

Well, I can’t win. My sons-in-law will understand. Last night we went to the ship’s show and they had brought in local Turkey entertainers. The first act was a group of dancers doing typical Turkish dances. Being tired, I kind of dozed off and your mother complained that I wasn’t paying attention and being respectful. Then about 15 minutes later, she slapped me up the side of the head and complained that I was too attentive when the local belly dancer was doing her performance. I just can’t win.

Anyway we are having a good time but spending way too much money. Your mother will E-Mail you later. She is still up at the Spa.

Dear Ole Dad

So you can imagine when I thought when I received a rather odd emailed photo from my dad. To put said photo into better perspective, here are a few of the more typical pictures I’m used to seeing when my parents travel:

Happy, smiling parents in Croatia

Happy, smiling parents in Croatia

Happy, smiling parents in Venice

Happy, smiling parents in Venice

And then I get this one:

Dad with stitches and two black eyes.

Dad with stitches and two black eyes.

At first I blamed the Turkish belly dancing incident.

But then I read Dad’s explanation:

Hi All,

Well, we are having a great time. However, we have had a bump or two along the way (See Attached Pic)

I am sending you this E-Mail so that you can get the correct scoop (Don’t listen to your mother). There are 2 different versions of how I got two black eyes and a cut on the nose. There is your mother’s version and then there is the truth.

In your mother’s version, we were late going to dinner on Wed night (due to her stopping and delaying us at the Excursions desk) and I tripped on the staircase and fell headfirst into a stair step. This is what she is telling everyone. I seem to be a bit of a conversation piece and attract a lot of stares. Then there is my version (the truth) where we were late getting ready to go to dinner and she was talking. I courteously told her ” Please hurry up”. Well, she misunderstood me and thought that I said “Please shut up”. That’s when the fight started. Being a gentleman, I would never hit a lady, but your mother had no such reservations. Anyway, I spend dinnertime in the ship’s medical facility while the doctor put around 5 stitches in my head.

The good news is that there was very little pain and I have not had any real discomfort. Also, your mother has stopped asking me to pose for any more formal portraits. I have had to keep an ice pack on it for a couple of days and it will take some time to heal. The lady singer in the Piano Bar refers to me as “handsome’. More later.

Dear Ole Dad

And now you, dear readers, understand why I so eagerly anticipate my parent’s vacation emails.


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Arkie Mama: For Thanksgiving, I made two casseroles, one dessert and broke a toe

Remember my post about my brother-in-law’s wife, Perfect Linda and how this was going to be my big year?

I had everything planned: my contributions to the dinner, my outfit and my children’s outfits. I imagined sweeping into Perfect Linda’s house, attired in my new sweater dress, carrying my food offerings and wearing a serene smile.

Instead, Hubs had to carry the food while I limped and hobbled along behind him.

So much for my moment of glory.

That afternoon, after whipping up a very pretty banana pudding, I somehow managed to stub the two last toes on my left foot. Trying to preserve at least a shred of dignity, I pulled myself up and hobbled into my father-in-law’s guest bedroom, where Hubs found me cussing a blue streak.

Putting on my tights and boots? AGONY. But I hadn’t brought anything else to wear to dinner.

By the time we drove the 3 1/2 hours home, my toes sported shades of blue and purple.

I’m quite certain the next-to-last toe is broken. Being a klutz, I’m no stranger to broken toes, sadly.

But while my grand entrance was marred, I did manage to get a few raves about my dishes.

My husband’s collage-age niece dashed into Perfect Linda’s kitchen, telling everyone how she couldn’t wait to load up on my banana pudding. And my brother-in-law praised my corn casserole.

So I’m declaring a victory this year, even though I had to cripple myself to pull it off!