Arkie Mama: The Pajama School Run aka Mommy’s Walk of Shame

Confession: There have been several mornings over the past 1 1/2 years when I’ve thrown on a pair of flip-flops, grabbed a sleepy-eyed E-man and raced off to Tootie’s elementary school — in my baggy flannel pajamas.

Sometimes, if we’re running late, I don’t even brush my hair. Or wash away the leftover mascara smudges underneath my eyes.

And then I pray fervently that I won’t get pulled over during my five-minute drive or that I won’t have to get out at the school for some unexpected reason. I cannot imagine the reaction if Tootie’s principal or teachers were to see me in all my jammy glory, complete with bedhead and goth eyes.

I call this slapdash routine the Mommy Walk of Shame.

Only instead of wearing last night’s clubbing clothes, I’m decked out in hubby’s softball shirt and a pair of ragged-but-oh-so-comfy PJs. And instead of calling various girlfriends to ask how badly I embarrassed myself the night before, I’m wondering what the cop will think when he pulls me over for going 5 miles over the speed limit in a school zone. In my haste to get to the school.

Most mornings, I’ve got it together. I dress Tootie for school and Hubs drops her off on his way to work. Then I get myself and the E-man dressed and drop him off at daycare on my way to the newsroom.

When Hubs is gone, however, my tidy little routine gets thrown completely off-track and I end up doing the Mommy Walk of Shame dropoff.

Behold these visions of early-morning loveliness:

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Exhibit C (my jammy shirt says "Snuggle") Heh.

Exhibit C (my jammy shirt says "Snuggle Up") Heh.

Exhibit D

Exhibit D - Now this is THE Jammy Run uniform. Note flip-flops.

Arkie Mama: I touched a dead deer, but only cuz I needed a potty

Over the weekend, I took the kids down to the Buck Fever Festival, which is held in south Arkansas each year to celebrate the opening of gun season. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would one day be dressing my kids in camo and partying in the deer woods, I would have declared them certifiably insane and laughed my ass off.

The only camo I ever purchased in my single-girl days came in the form of a skirt, which I figured would make for a cute clubbing outfit.

One day, I wore that skirt to work (yeah, I know, but women in their 20s have questionable fashion sense) and it immediately caught Hubs’ eye. At that time, we didn’t know one another, other than exchanging random hellos in the newsroom.

Anyway, Hubs saw that skirt and thought he’d finally found himself a gal who liked to hunt.

Heh.

We started dating in September 2000, and when Buck Fever rolled around, Hubs invited me down to Banks, Ark., where his family has lived for generations.

“So you’re the latest girlfriend,” Hubs’ dad said with a laugh.

I determined right then that I would somehow distinguish myself from the other women who’d been dragged down to the deer camp.

And that night, as we sat around a campfire drinking bourbon and Coke, a moment of brilliance struck.

“I’d love to go hunting tomorrow evening with you,” I purred, sidling up to an elated Hubs.

So the next day, Hubs decked me out in hunting garb. All you could see of me were my eyes — which shimmered delightfully thanks to three shades of sparkling, autumnal eyeshadow — and my hands, which boasted 10 fingers tipped with shiny, burgundy nails.

When we got to to Hubs’ favorite spot, I trotted dutifully after him, prepared to prove myself as a sporting sort of girlfriend.

“OK,” he whispered. “Sit here and DO NOT MOVE.”

I plopped down into a position that I figured I would able to hold for the 30 or so minutes I estimated it would take Hubs to get a deer.

An hour passed.

And then another.

By this time, I desperately had to pee, but I knew that Hubs would frown upon A.) moving around and B.) leaving my scent behind after a drop-and-squat. He’d already made me shower with some sort of descenting soap. I figured peeing in an area where deer roam probably wouldn’t go over too well.

Please, oh, please just let him kill a deer, I prayed.

Bear in mind, I really had no idea to see a buck die. But in my haste to prove myself as The New and Improved Girlfriend, I’d neglected to ponder the fact that I would have to witness death in the woods.

Finally, just as my potty situation was becoming truly dire, Hubs silently and speedily pointed his gun.

BAM!

“Yay!!!” I cheered, hugging him. “Now we can find a potty!”

But when Hubs tried to drag his buck out of the woods, it became clear he would need help. This was one big deer.

Crossing my legs, I mulled over my choices.

I could lag behind, maybe cop a squat when Hubs wasn’t looking. Or I could help him haul that damn deer out to the truck.

Believe me people, when I say that only a bathroom emergency would enable me to touch a dead animal.

After we heaved the buck into the truck, I ordered Hubs to take me to Grandma Hattie’s house, where a wall-papered, old-lady bathroom awaited.

And thus, my introduction and initiation to deer hunting was complete.

I married Hubs the following spring and I have never set foot near a deer stand again.

Instead, I take the kids to the Buck Fever parade, the Buck Fever catfish lunch, the Buck Fever Talent Show and the Buck Fever Beauty Pageant.

I find these activities both fun and totally surreal. And when I hear the occasional boom of gunfire, I thank my lucky stars that I got that ring on my finger before my second hunting season with Hubs.

And these days, my camo isn’t deer-woods friendly. It’s pink. And meant for sleeping.

The mighty deer hunter

The mighty deer hunter

******************************

psst … Make sure you go here for a chance to win a pair of sparkly earrings!

Arkie Mama: Wordless Wednesday

Thanksgiving, two years ago —

Cece, Tootie, me and the E-man

Cece, Tootie, me and the E-man

This is why my gorgeous stepdaughter is no longer allowed to stand next to me in family photos. She makes me look short and stumpy!

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:

In the Family Way

Baby & the Beasts

Mom on a Wire

Moody Mom, part one

Moody Mom, part two

She’s Crafty

Hugs & Kisses

Wheels on the Bus

Whirligiggles

Arkie Mama: Perfect Linda

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OK, so you see the guy, dead center, wearing the blue shirt? I’m to the right. And to the left is Perfect Linda, my brother-in-law’s wife.

Perfect Linda is always perfectly slender, perfectly dressed, perfectly accessorized, perfectly manicured and pedicured and just freaking perfectly perfect all the way around.

Every Easter, she cooks a massive dinner and smiles modestly when people rave about her prowess in the kitchen.

And before my mother-in-law passed away, Linda always arrived for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with a half-dozen perfectly lovely side items and perfectly decadent desserts. If, that is, she wasn’t hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas at her own house. In that case, there would also be a perfectly roasted turkey and/or a perfectly succulent ham.

This year will mark our first Thanksgiving without Hubs’ mom. Which means Perfect Linda and I will be the primary dinner contributors.

Which means I stand to lose face.

For the past five years, I have attended family dinners and huddled in the mighty shadow of Perfect Linda. Oh sure, I get compliments for my dishes. But not raves.

This year, I am declaring war. I will earn raves. I WILL!! Perfect Linda’s kitchen reign must end. No, not “reign.”

TYRANNY! That’s what this is. She must be defeated. And I want to be the one to tarnish that crown. Or at least ding it up a little.

But I need your help. (Just realized I’m now quoting Dora. Sorry.) I need easy recipes that taste deceptively complicated. I need dishes that are simple to make yet are dazzling to the eye.

help {whimper}

Arkie Mama: Lovin’ the anti-crazy

So this morning I’m pretty certain I accidentally took two anti-depressants.

You know how it is — you’re popping the anti-crazy pill, the birth control pill and a handful of vitamins and, well … sometimes you just lose track.

Or is it just me?

The anti-depressant I take is akin to revving up on a tad bit of speed, so you can imagine the effects of a double dose. Uh, yeah. Scary. Which wouldn’t have been so bad except that today I was a speaker on a blog conference panel, and while I think I handled that part OK, I did a bit of stalker-gushing afterward when I introduced myself to local blogger Kyran Pittman, who is like this adorable little thing attired in cool clothes that I could never carry off and a totally cool attitude and I was all, “HI! I READ YOUR BLOG! I LOVE YOUR BLOG! DID I MENTION THAT I READ YOUR BLOG?!”

Evidence that I OD’d? That would be the never-ending sentence above.

Anyway.

The anti-crazy pill, when taken in moderation, is fab, fab, fab. It is the reason I feel equipped to face my nemesis: Winter.

A few years ago, I decided that I really didn’t need that helpful little pill. Which led to this rather melodramatic post:

When she calls

My depression is like an old lover who refuses to fade into the past.

Years go by. And then she calls.

“I’ll be in town,” she says. A pause. Her voice drops to a silky whisper. “I’ve missed you. Let’s get together.”

I demur.

“It’s really not a good time,” I tell her.

Or, “My husband wouldn’t understand.”

But at some point I must agree to meet her. Why else would I find her ensconced in my favorite spot on the couch, curled up cozily, waiting to resume our relationship?

She stays up late, too late. Sometimes, she invites Anxiety to spend the night, and we three huddle on the bed together, fretting and worrying and indulging ourselves in niggling doubts.

Through it all, my husband sleeps, unaware that she is intruding, yet again.

————————-

The therapist leans forward, eyebrows raised.

“I don’t understand,” she says. “Why did you quit taking your medication?”

I laugh nervously, make a few jokes about the side effects.

“Why do you laugh when we’re talking about your sadness?” she asks. “Why must everything be a funny story?”

I stammer, try to explain that it’s how I cope, that by turning events into amusing anecdotes, I can sometimes fend off my depression’s ardent advances.

Although, admittedly, never for long.

“It’s OK to be sad,” the therapist says. “It’s OK to realize this isn’t something you can control.”

And tears slide down my cheeks.

——————————-

“I don’t understand,” my husband says.

“Why are you so unhappy? Is it me? Is it our life?”

I try to reassure him.

“She’s always been a part of me, long before I met you.”

My husband sighs. Really, there’s nothing else to say.

——————————-

On a gray, rainy February day, I get up, put the coffee on.

I open a cabinet and pull out a mug. I also pull out the bottle of pills.

Will I ever not need these? Will I ever know a life uninterrupted by her long visits?

The coffeemaker hisses and gurgles.

I pour a glass of water and look out the window at the dead, brown grass, at the trash cans waiting to be hauled down the driveway.

And I swallow the pill.

These days, I’m medicated and enjoying life. I just talk. A lot.

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.

Arkie Mama: Breaking up is hard to do

So I decided to move my daughter to a new dance studio.

There was nothing wrong with the last one, really. It just didn’t seem to be a good fit for Tootie.

I initially enrolled her in dance for several reasons — to build her confidence and, more importantly, I thought she would enjoy it. At home, the child loves to tap into my iTunes list and dance. I’ll walk by her room and see her twirling and leaping with wild abandon.

But Tootie didn’t seem to find dance classes fun.

“It’s boring,” she complained. “We only dance to one song.”

I knew what she meant. This particular studio seemed to focus primarily on recital and competition, hence the one-song monotony.

The intensity seemed to intimidate my daughter. Whenever I peeked in on her class, her dancing was, well, half-hearted.

So when Moody Mom told me she’d heard about a studio that was more laidback, I decided to check it out. I liked the teacher’s philosophy — that kids should find dancing fun. She doesn’t do competitions, and I get the impression that her recitals are more scaled-down affairs. And, she assured me, the kids would dance to many, many songs, not just the recital one.

I plan on starting Tootie there this week.

Today, I pulled into the strip mall where the old studio is located. I wanted to pop into one of the stores for a few things. And then I noticed all the cars in the lot.

Oh no. I forgot it was registration day.

I grabbed the children’s hands, hoping for a quick, unseen dash across the parking lot. Once on the sidewalk, however, I saw the studio owner coming out the door.

“Quick!” I whisper-shouted to the children. “Over here!”

And then I peered into the window of a clothing store, hoping the dance teacher wouldn’t see me.

“Mommy, what are we looking at?” Tootie inquired.

“Oh, that dress right there! Isn’t it cute?” I chirped.

“No,” my daughter replied bluntly.

I peeked around a column. Coast was clear.

“C’mon, let’s hurry!” I said, urging the children toward our destination.

“Mommy, I can’t run that fast,” my little E-man protested.

With one more panicked glance at the studio, I flung open the door and hauled the children inside.

Our trip back to the car was just as fast and furtive. I am happy to report we weren’t seen. I don’t think.

This isn’t the first time I’ve hoped to dodge a potential awkward encounter. I have a hard time breaking up with anyone — hairdressers, doctors, dentists.

Back in my dating days, I more than once gave thanks for the fact that I worked in the transient world of newspapers, where reporters come and go with regularity. Most of my boyfriends worked with me. At some point, either I would move or they would move. The relationship would peter out on its own. Nobody had to be the bad guy.

An editor/friend who once witnessed one of my “breakups” teased me relentlessly.

“You’re the only person I know who breaks up without actually breaking up,” she laughed.

So it’s official. I have broken up with one dance studio without the breakup scene.

Now I just have to figure out how to end things with my hairdresser.

Welcome to my parnoid brain

I have a love/hate relationship with our gas fireplace.

During the winter, as Hubs keeps lowering the thermostat, I curl up on the loveseat, next to the fireplace, toasting my toes in cozy bliss.

During the summer, however, I always become convinced that the fireplace is trying to poison me with carbon monoxide.

Right now, having caught a whiff of gas while passing said fireplace, I am sleepless, certain that my headache is the first sign of the carbon monoxide that is surely filling our home. I already prodded Hubs awake to ask if he’d noticed the odor.

“Oh, yeah,” he mumbled. “I smelled it earlier.”

Dude.

WRONG THING TO SAY TO A WOMAN WHO BECOMES EASILY FIXATED.

Of course, this is the man who walked into our bedroom one evening, abruptly dropped to the floor and pressed his nose against a vent.

“Do you … oh, I probably shouldn’t ask this … but, well … do you smell smoke?”

Do you think I caught a wink of sleep that night? Do you think he did?

Things is, when there have been emergencies, Hubs has been the one to spring from the bed, ready to douse flames.

Me? I was sleeping.

“I smell fire!” he yelled one night, jarring me from a deep slumber. Within seconds, he was in the E-man’s smoke-filled room, yanking our baby from his crib. Turned out some air conditioning thingy had burned up. The unit sits just outside the E-man’s window, hence the smoke.

The night before Christmas Eve 2007, the power flickered, prompting a raised eyebrow from me and yelps from stespon Ty, who was watching a movie. Within seconds, Hubs emerged from our room, ordering me and all four kids out of the house.

Two seconds later, I smelled it — the aroma of burning wiring and oh my God what do we have stored in the attic?

“Call 911,” he said, before racing back inside.

Oh, goody! I get to order a batch of firefighters! Merry Christmas to me!

And then I remembered the state of our room — suitcases with clothes spilling from them, wrapping paper rolls spread out across the floor. Ever so briefly, I wondered if I had enough time to dash back in and do some cleaning before the firemen arrived.

I didn’t. And the first thing they saw upon entering our room was an ancient stretched-out nursing bra dangling from my closet doorknob.

I know. I know. But it’s my comfiest bra.

It’s probably clear from this post that we live in an older home. I used to think old houses were charming. Now, however, I eagerly await the day we move into a bigger, NEWER house. No gas. No old wiring.

Oh, and no crawlspace. I want a slab. Why anyone ever thought a big, damp hole under a house was a good idea is beyond me. Yeah, yeah, we have a liner.

But I still spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about mold.

Which I’m quite sure is black and toxic.