The Rockwood Files: Why it’s “in” to geek out

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I am a geek. Always have been. But now it’s easy – and almost cool – to admit it. Twenty-five years ago? Not so much. Back then, my glasses, braces and clarinet carrying case were all social life liabilities. In the 80s, if you aced a few spelling tests or a teacher praised you for being smart, you found yourself on the fast track to Geeksville, and nobody wanted to be there.

But times have changed and now we live in a much more geek-friendly world. Some of our coolest modern-day conveniences wouldn’t exist were it not for the i love geekslong hours and irrational obsessions nurtured by a few world-changing geeks. The next time you use a computer, Google something using a smartphone, or “like” a funny picture on Facebook, you have a geek to thank.

I’m happy to report that, thanks to a kinder, gentler geek-loving culture, smart kids are flourishing. About a month ago, I volunteered to help coach my son’s middle school Quiz Bowl team as they prepare for an upcoming tournament. Lucky for me, the coaching duties are easy. I mostly just ask the kids trivia questions and read off the answers when they miss one.

These limited duties work in my favor because these kids are way smarter than me. I marvel at how they can recall who invented the cotton gin or the main characters in a Shakespearian play. The sheer proximity to this wealth of brain power has turned me into one of “those parents” – the ones who get a little too enthusiastic about their kids’ extra-curricular activities.

After a few Quiz Bowl practices, I noticed a pattern in the types of questions the kids had trouble with, so I researched those subjects and made a study guide full of the kind of random facts that win Quiz Bowl competitions: a list of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, definitions for terms like “spondee” and “anapest” and everything you ever didn’t want to know about elements in the periodic table.

I made copies of all this study-guide gold and then assembled the pages on my living room floor one night, hole-punching, organizing and putting them into 3-ring binders. That’s when it hit me that perhaps I’d caught a bad case of geek fever.

In the midst of all the hole-punching, I looked over to Tom who was watching television like a normal person and said, “Honey, have I gone too far here? The kids are going to think I’m weird, right?”

“No, it’s… nice that you’re being helpful,” he said, (which I’m pretty sure was code for “Oh no, what have I done? I married a Super Nerd.”)

During the next practice session, I passed out my super geeky study guide binders to the kids on the Quiz Bowl team, hoping it might give them a competitive edge in the upcoming tournament. None of them rolled their tween-age eyes at me, and – even though perhaps they should have – no one told me to go get a life. And that just reinforces what I love most about great geeks – the way they not only accept but embrace what used to be shunned as geeky.

They don’t dumb themselves down so that they’ll blend more easily into the typical teenage social scene. But they don’t let their intelligence turn them arrogant, either. They’re smart and quirky but also kind and funny – four of the best adjectives you can be.

I’m grateful to be raising kids during a time when parents can be happy if their kids excel at sports but also equally thrilled when kids find their niche in other areas that require just as much skill and strategy.

As the super-smart, quirky people often say, the “geek shall inherit the Earth.”

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

Metro Appliances Anniversary Celebration

metro winnerOne of our favorite nwaMotherlode sponsors, Metro Appliances & More, has been celebrating their 40th anniversary for the past several months. And these guys really know how to party. In fact, they’ve been celebrating 40 years of business by pledging to give away $40,000 in appliances to their customers. (They draw for a winner’s name once each week, and that person wins a new washer and dryer.)

Pictured above is one of the most recent winners, Thelma Eckert of Springdale. She’s going to be smiling every time she washes a load of clothes in those FREE machines. :-)

Metro has already blown right past the $40,000 giveaway mark. They’ve already given away $60,000 worth of appliances and they’re still going. So… if you’d like to get in on the action, we’d recommend you do it soon before the anniversary celebration comes to a close.

Here’s how you enter:

1. Go to the Metro Appliances & More showroom. (They’re located at 5700 N. Thompson in Springdale. It’s on 71B between Springdale and Lowell.)

2. Put your name in the drawing to win a washer and dryer set, which is valued between $1,000 and $2,000. (Note: You do NOT have to purchase anything to put your name in the drawing. No strings attached.)

metro_40logo_jpgThat’s it! Easy as that. If you’re out and about this weekend, stop by the showroom and put your name in the hat. We can guarantee you’ll enjoy looking around the store, which is beautiful and HUGE. It’s fun to look at all the different kitchen displays they have in place, and the staff there will answer your questions if you have any or just let you browse in peace, if that’s what you prefer.

For more info about the drawing, stop by the store or click HERE for details. Good luck!

And Happy Anniversary to our friends at Metro Appliances & More. Thanks for 40 years of some of the best customer service we’ve ever seen. :-)

Baby Gear & Gadgets: Teething symptoms and fave products to help

By Liz Emis, mama to Jack

Ear pulling? Yes. Coughing? Yes. Slight fever? Check.

Sophie teether, The Baby's Room

Sophie the Giraffe teether, The Baby’s Room

So you think your little one is sick.

But, if he or she is more than four months old, you might just be dealing with teething. In our house, Jack is dealing with his ninth and tenth teeth right now. And in our case, teeth don’t get easier to cut over time!

Here’s a good way to diagnose teeth vs. a cold, symptoms to watch for, and a few products I’ve found really help.

Once your newborn approaches four months old, he or she is ripe for cutting teeth.

Jack started exhibiting signs around this time, but it was six or eight more weeks before his bottom two popped through.

Yes, it can take that long. Things to look for:

1. Constant drool: if your little one drools on everything, heads up. This is one of the beginning steps in the human body’s digestive system, and it’s just a sign that things are cooking.

2. Rash: does her face or diaper area look red? Not all pediatricians subscribe to this theory, but as the drooling begins, the saliva becomes more acidic. Sometimes this leads to diaper rash and/or a pink rash on their faces.

3. Coughing: that saliva is needing to leave their mouth one way or another. And as much as you watch it drip out on teething rings and frozen washcloths, just as much drains down their throats, producing a cough. Not to worry, this is normal.

4. Fever: feeling a bit warm? And nothing above 102 degrees rectal? That is just their bodies adjusting to the inflammation of their gums. Many doctors don’t like to associate fever with teething, but many nurses and seasoned mamas certainly do!

5. Runny or stuffy nose: this one I figured out just a couple weeks ago. Unlike with his first eight teeth, this time, Jack’s nose got runny in addition to his cough. And everything, yes everything, was going in the back of his mouth to be chewed. We think he’s cutting molars, some of the most dreaded teeth because they have a large surface area that takes longer to fully poke through the gum line. If your baby’s nose is stuffy or runny and it’s mostly clear, there’s likely no cold, it’s just teeth.

So, how long could this last?

Generally, teeth come in pairs, so once you see signs, it could be two to four weeks before both pop through. Then, just wait for the signs to begin again for the next set.

Now, how do you help?

Naps are harder, nursing, bottle feeding and real food meals are difficult too. So how can you help baby ease his pain?

Nothing has helped me more than Hyland’s Teething Tablets. They are homeopathic, and are the number one infant oral pain reliever in America. Plus, Hyland’s has a 24-hour hotline with pharmacists ready to answer any questions. Their website also gives a detailed ingredient list and an explanation of what each ingredient does for each teething symptom.

teething tablets

We give Jack two or three tablets (that dissolve instantly) before each nap and before bedtime. Since a well rested baby is a happy baby, these tablets have been a lifesaver. You can pick these up at Walmart and at any drugstore.

As for the runny nose and cough Jack’s got as part of this teething round, running a humidifier with some eucalyptus in it and putting Vicks on his feet and on the backs of his ears for naps works wonders.

Hope this helps as your baby begins one of his first steps into the adult world of big boy teeth!!

liz About Liz: Liz Emis has spent more than 12 years in the communication industry. Beginning on the East Coast as a reporter for outlets like The Boston Globe, Orlando Sentinel and The Baltimore Sun, she moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2004 to write for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Three years later, she transitioned to public relations, branding and marketing, working on both the agency and client sides. In 2010, she added product development to her résumé, spending more than three years at Tyson Foods, Inc. in Springdale, Ark. Liz welcomed her first child, Jackson Gaines Emis, to the world in October 2013, and now uses her communication and organization skills as a stay-at-home mother to her eight-month-old son. As a domestic engineer, Liz has added financial analyst, counselor, chef, project manager, teacher, diagnostician, comedian, housecleaner and efficiency expert to her skill set. She can be reached at

Inside His Head: My husband won’t say no to our kids

Dear Inside His Head,

My husband doesn’t seem to be able to say no to our kids. They’ll go to him rather than me when we’re shopping (for example) because they know he’ll let them buy a certain toy or candy. He works long hours and I think he might be trying to make up for not being home as much, but it makes it harder on me when I try to put limits on spending — or taking them on outings, etc. How can I help my husband understand he’s not doing them any favors by saying yes most of the time?

GRAY: Kids can smell which parent will say yes and which will say no. Whether it’s asking for a piece of candy or the keys for the car, they know how to play the two of you off each other better than anyone else you’ll ever encounter.

I know when my daughter puts on her puppy dog eyes it’s difficult for me not to just open my wallet and say “Here, just take it all.” It doesn’t have anything to do with the hours I work, I just think some kids know how to wrap parents around their finger.

I’d suggest three things to make sure he doesn’t rock the boat too much:

Set limits. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing a smile on my daughter’s face, but the reality is she’ll often be just as happy with something that cost a buck as she would something costing twenty. Set a cap on what he has to spend – or, better yet, suggest they get that money as an allowance so they’ll learn how to be responsible with their own money. He can still have fun with them picking out what they want to buy for themselves.

Back each other up. In the heat of the moment we can forget how saying yes to that piece of candy may be undermining the lesson you were teaching them about finishing their dinner. Take some time to talk about what’s important to teach your kids so you’re not pulling on opposite sides of the same issue. Being on the same page about those goals can keep you covering each other’s backs when the kids zoom in on the weakest link.

Focus on the long term. That $2 pack of gum at the cash register sometimes seems innocent enough, but if you succumb to that every week you’re looking at over $100 a year. Make plans for that family vacation, maybe something really obvious like a jar with how much money you need to make the vacation happen. It’s a lot harder to spend that $2 when you can see how it would instantly make an impact on a long-term goal. It’s also easier for a kid to weigh the merits of a piece of gum they’ll spit out in 5 minutes against some genuine fun, such as a roller coaster ride.

MAVERICK: First you have to ask yourself if this is how your husband has always been or if its a new behavior.

If it’s his standard, go-to move to spoil the kids with material stuff, particularly in a store, it’s likely how he was raised.

Some families put a lot of emphasis on stuff. Likely his dad got him stuff and that’s how he perceived he was cared for and loved. Not always, but you often see this behavior with folks who focus on the material. Often they’re oblivious that they were basically bought off as a child. With some folks, it doesn’t matter. Nature or nurture, you make the call.

It didn’t matter that my dad never had an honest-to-God conversation with me, he bought me a new car when I turned 16.

It didn’t matter that my father never spent four hours with me uninterrupted, understood me, or even ever tried to, since, you see, he paid for my college.

If the stuff equals affection/love link is hardwired in your hubby, it will be slow going getting him to change.

In this case I’d suggest you just point out, when you’re away from the kids,  that he’s clearly buying them stuff so they’ll like him maybe he could quit the Santa Claus act for a while and just act like an actual father.

Fathers consider the long term implications of what they do with their children. So they don’t do stuff like lie to to their kids because it’s easier in the short term; or let their kids watch something on TV that’s inappropriate because they want to watch it for themselves or buy them the latest device, or shoes or heaven help us car, so their kids can keep up with trends because they don’t want to face the blowback or even worse. It’s important to them that they look as cool as their peer’s kids.

In the same vein, tell him lovingly that actual fathers don’t let their kids buy everything at a store because it’s a vital lesson to learn that A) they can’t always have everything they want whenever they want it. B) Stuff costs money and even though you can afford to buy them tons of crap, it’s still crap at the end of the day and they don’t need it C) That fathers are confident enough in their relationships with their kids that it can survive the kid being mad at him because the kid didn’t get  a Coke, pop-rocks and a bag of sugar at 10 p.m. at Walmart on a school night.

If this is a sudden thing, then I think your assessment that it could be guilt because of all the hours is dead on. Try to be gentle but let him know he’s not doing you any favors because he’s making it harder and harder for you to keep the troops in order. Use some of the examples above but give him more slack if he’s not actually a materialistic numbskull.

Bottom line is,  a simple, non-critical discussion is the best solution. He might  not even realize he’s doing it. If it’s an ingrained behavior, it’ll take quite a while but you should eventually be able to convince him always saying yes does nobody any favors.

MICHAEL: You have to tell him. You’re most likely right.

He probably feels like he’s not giving his children enough of his time so he compensates by giving them things. I doubt he’s doing it just to make your life difficult, though. But you can’t tell him he’s doing something wrong.

Raising children requires that the parents come to an agreement about how to best compromise and give their children the direction they can both agree on. You can’t fix the problem if you can’t agree that there is one.

Tell him you’ve noticed he’s been doing this and question whether he thinks it’s happening as well. If he doesn’t, then you need to have several concrete examples. Let him know that since you’re the one that spends the most time with the children, he’s undermining your authority by circumventing the rules and guidelines you’re giving them while he isn’t there.

You also have to give him an outlet to show his affection to the children. Some people see gifts as a way to communicate that, so it just needs to be controlled. Have him do it as a reward for something the children have done for you instead of just because they ask.

In the end you both need to get to the root cause, discuss the impacts of the actions and reconcile to a common approach.

Have a question for the guys? Email it to mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com.

Pet Parenting: How to take the dog on your Disney trip

Guest post by Denise Holmes, dog-trainer and blogger at

Recently, I wrote a post for Travel Tails recounting a trip to Orlando with my dog, Henri. In the retelling of that adventure I mentioned that next time, I needed a visit to the Happy Place.

disneyworld1As in, Disney World.

Yes, I’m one of those.

That got me thinking. EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is September 19th – November 10th, and Christmas, my all-time favorite time to visit Disney EVER, is coming. I was in need a of a return visit, and I wanted to take Henri with me. But taking a dog on a Disney trip? How does that work?

The parks are obviously kid and family friendly, but what if your family includes your dog? (I’m 43 and single; Henri is the sole benefactor of my maternal instincts. I don’t expect him to be able to go to the parks with me, but I don’t want to board him for a week either.)

Fort Wilderness, for RVs and camping, is the only on-property Disney resort (‘on property’ means ‘on Disney property’) that allows dogs. We don’t have an RV, and camping in November, even in Orlando, isn’t really what I had in mind.

Well, as a former cast member, I was sure I could solve this little problem with some research. I knew Disney had a dog boarding, grooming, and daycare facility. Daycare isn’t really Henri’s favorite thing in the world, but it did solve the problem of what he’d be doing all day while I was traipsing through the parks.

Best-Friends-Pet-CareBest Friends Pet Care is a large chain pet care facility with 42 locations in 18 states, including one at Disney World. This is good news for guests, because the old kennels were just that. Kennels. The new facility is located on property, and much improved. It definitely meets what I envision Disney standard to be.

You can choose from a wide range of services (grooming, special treats) and activities (play group, a movie) for your dog. There is even a private dog park where you can play with your dog, or take a walk around the grounds. They open one-hour before the parks, and close one-hour later. Perfect for drop-off and pick-up, because I don’t envision leaving Henri there overnight.

(We’re co-dependent.)

Now, all I needed to find was a nearby dog-friendly hotel. I figured the easiest way to do that was ask. I wouldn’t recommend calling to ask because, when I called one of the Disney Reservation Agents, I got stuck talking to one of those electronic voices that ask 50 personal questions.

If you have questions concerning anything Disney, go online to, click ‘contact us,’ then, ‘chat.’ It took about 10 minutes to disney-good-neighbor-hotel-largeget a cast member to answer my questions. In my brief chat with the online cast member, I discovered Good Neighbor Hotels and Resorts. These are properties not owned by Disney but located on or near Disney property. THAT’S what I needed! There was even a website:

Once you’re on the site, click the link ‘Explore Hotels Now.’  It will take you to a page that allows you to select your hotel location, category, and features preferences. For location, you want Lake Buena Vista. (That’s where Disney World is located. Kissimmee and I-Drive would likely provide less expensive options, but they are, in my opinion, too far away.)

The only other feature I selected was ‘Pet Friendly.’ I found three choices: Clarion Inn, Holiday Inn, and the Sheraton.

Clarion has what they call VIP service (Very Important Pet), but it doesn’t offer any extra amenities like some hotels do. It’s just a fancy way of saying they allow pets. They accept dogs under 50 lbs., and require a $50 non-refundable deposit, along with an extra $15/day. Dogs must be crated if left in the room unattended. That’s a NO for us. Henri doesn’t crate.

The Sheraton allows dogs 80 lbs. or less, which is awesome for the folks traveling with big dogs. If your dog is over 50 lbs., it can be difficult to find a place. They require no deposit or extra room fee; however, they do not allow your dog to be left unattended. That could be a little inconvenient, even for someone who rarely leaves her dog.

dogs welcomeThe Holiday Inn seems the best choice for us. We meet their weight limit, 65 lbs. or less, and there were no other stated rules about crates or attendance. They charge a $50/ 5 days fee with a $10/ day after that. Not too bad.

All three of the hotels have shuttle transportation to and from the parks. But none of the shuttles allow dogs. I needed to get Henri to and from daycare, but I didn’t want to drive. It didn’t make any sense to drive him to daycare, then drive back to the hotel and take a shuttle to the park. I also didn’t want to drive to the park, walk, lose my car, walk some more, and then hope to eventually find my car in that ginormous parking lot.

Lucky for me, one of the hotels I called couldn’t answer my question concerning dogs on the shuttles and referred me directly to the company that operates them. To confirm: no dogs on the shuttles. Solution? Fleetwood Transportation will arrange to have a taxi pick up you and your dog. They will take you wherever you want to go. Personal service. Even better.DickeyStephens

So, if you are headed to Orlando for a Disney vacation and you want to take the family dog, you can do it! Book your room at one of the previously mentioned hotels; make reservations for your dog at Best Friends Pet Care; then call Fleetwood Transportation to schedule your ride. Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Now, don’t you think Henri and I should get to ride in the Grand Marshal car for the three o’clock parade?

Follow Denise’s adventures on her blog,, as she travels the world with her beloved Henri. 


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