The Rockwood Files: A Tale of Two Trips

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

“It was the loudest of times, it was a stretch of silence. It was the age of babies, it was the epoch of earbuds.”

This tale of two trips began a decade ago when our boys were 5 and 2 ½ and our baby girl was only a few months old. We were crazy to be taking all three of them to the grocery store, let alone a 10-hour car trip to see grandparents. But sleep deprivation and winter had made us just stir crazy enough to think we could survive it, so we set out on the open road toward Minnesota, with nothing but time and our sanity to kill.

Honestly the specific details of that first trip seem hazy now. What I remember most about it was the noise and the number of times I climbed from the front seat into the back seat to attend to whichever kid was loudest. Finally, I just surrendered my front-seat status and stayed in the mosh pit with the kids. For hours, I answered a string of questions from the 5-year-old and plied the toddler with treats.

road trip1I remember thinking how ironic it was that I was once so thrilled when the boys had learned to say the word “Mama” because they’d soon learned to wield that word like a weapon – peppering me with requests and complaints about their car seat purgatory.

We had to stop several times so I could nurse the baby, and then we’d stop again shortly afterward to change the dirty diapers that inevitably followed. While I was busy with the baby, Tom parked in an empty lot and played running games with the boys in a vain attempt to wear them out enough for a nap.

The soundtrack for those trips was usually a Barney the Dinosaur DVD or Dora the Explorer’s conversational shouting, which has a way of making 100 miles feel more like 1,000. In short, it was a LONG trip.

Fast forward to today. As I type this, I’m in the front seat glancing out the window as we whiz by mile markers. Three days ago, we made the 10-hour trip from home to Minnesota for a long weekend, and now we’re heading home again.

The fact that I’m actually writing on this trip tells you how different this one is from the one we made a decade ago. The kids are now 15, 12 and 10. There is no more Dora. No more diapers. There are still snacks, but no one needs me to unwrap them or stick a straw in a juice box. But the biggest difference is the sound. Other than the tapping on my portable keyboard, all I can hear is the rhythmic click-clack of the interstate beneath our wheels and the occasional sound of the blinker as Tom changes lanes.

A few minutes ago, I asked the kids if they were getting hungry for lunch and was met with deafening silence. I turned around to make sure they were still back there and that we hadn’t accidentally left them behind at the last gas station.

Those three car seats have been replaced by three big kids – all of them tethered to an iPhone or iPad via long thin cords attached to ear buds. We’ve gone from Sesame Street to Spotify in what seems like no time. They were all knee-deep in music or Netflix shows they’d downloaded for the long trip.

I waved my arms wildly to get their attention, and they plucked out their earbuds and slowly emerged from a tech-induced coma.

“Are you hungry yet? Should we stop for lunch now?”

“Yes!” They answered in unison with a unanimous vote.  That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed in 10 years. They are always ravenous on a car trip, and there’s not a convenience store along this route they haven’t pillaged for snacks.

So to all my fellow mamas and papas who may be road-weary with little ones, just know that the mosh pit gets easier to manage over time. Car trips may be long but childhoods whiz by nearly as fast as the mile markers. Pack extra snacks, and enjoy the ride.

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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Slightly Tilted: A Whole Other Story

By Jen Adair, Blogger at Slightly Tilted, Entreprenuer, Homeschool Mom to two fab kiddos

I was in my favorite city last week — Vegas. It’s not my favorite because of the gambling, the shows, the “free” drinks, or any of that. It’s my favorite place because we always meet the most interesting people.

The first morning we were down at the craps table with one other person. It was early, but we’d had our coffee and were ready to play. This old man (I’d say in his 80s) walked over to the table. He was super nice and had a ton of questions. Apparently, he’d been up in his room watching all the tutorials. He tentatively pulled his money out of his wallet and laid it on the table. It was his turn with the dice and he was shaking – literally shaking – with nervous energy. He could barely hold the dice. He had been wanting to learn to play forever and was finally brave enough to try. I asked him if he was out there gambling alone or with family and he said his wife was up in the room, but he thought she’d make him nervous so he wouldn’t let her come down until he had played for a while.

dice-25637_640 (2)I thought…performance anxiety at your age?! But I let the thought go and just laughed to myself. It may have been the mimosa getting to me. Maybe.

The old dude was good and rolled us some awesome numbers, shaking the whole time. He was almost sweating! I was really proud of him for doing something that obviously made him uncomfortable. It reminded me to always be doing, always be learning, and always, always do the things that scare you the most.

We say goodbye and head to a different casino and meet a very nice guy from California. We talk and high five a lot and win a lot of money and then lose a lot of money together. We bonded. Then we went our separate ways.

A couple nights later, we walk into a restaurant and end up eating at the bar. The guy next to us turns around and it’s our California man. What are the odds? (I’m sure they actually know the odds for this in Vegas, but…I’m guessing they are pretty low.) Anyway, he starts talking about how long we’ve been married and blah, blah, blah, and it turns out he’s from India and he and his wife had an arranged marriage. Now, that is interesting. They met a month before they got married. A month.

They lived in India for a year or so – about the length of time it took them to have feelings for each other(!!). Then they moved to the US. He had lived here before, but she hadn’t. She’d never been out of India, and now she was living in San Francisco. Can you imagine? They lived there about a year, and she took a job in Kentucky for 9 months. She taught herself how to drive. She only saw her husband once a month. How brave do you have to be to accomplish all of that?

Don’t people have the most interesting stories? It’s a shame that we end up traveling so far away to hear them. Everyone has their story, if we’d just put down our phones and quit trying to tell our own stories, we’d learn so many things.

I also learned that if a guy on the street asks for crack, but you give him deep fried Oreos, he’s just as happy.

But that’s a whole other story.

The Rockwood Files: Soup saves the day

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

This morning was one of those mornings. I woke up with the kind of headache that’s just annoying enough to keep me slightly on edge. I went through the usual routine – dropped the kids off at school and then started the day’s work.

But my to-do list kept getting longer. And the caffeine and ibuprofen I swallowed at breakfast didn’t shake the headache. There were so many emails with so many questions and deadlines, and I had nothing – no answers, no completed tasks.

It was the kind of morning that makes you want to crawl under the bed and hide from the world. Instead, I did the next best thing and went to lunch.

During the drive to our favorite sandwich shop, I wished aloud for the soup of the day to be chicken and wild rice. That one is my favorite because it reminds me of a bowl of soup I had the last time we were in Minnesota. The kids were taking a class to learn how to snowboard that day, and I was watching from the ski lodge restaurant. A waitress brought over a steaming bowl of creamy soup that tasted like love in a bowl. It was the perfect way to pass the time while watching the snow and my children fall down a hill.

soup bowl 185So today when Tom and I got to the front of the line at the sandwich shop, I looked for the familiar “soup of the day” sign but it was gone. I asked anyway, just in case. The bearded barista glanced behind him and said, “I think we have a bowl or two left of the chicken and wild rice soup.”

“Yes!” I said too enthusiastically. “I’ll have that.” I beamed as I carried my bowl from the counter to the table, encouraged that maybe my day was turning around. Halfway to the bottom of the bowl, I felt decidedly better – as if lunch had warmed me out of a rotten mood. I went back to work and faced the empty page with newfound hope and a full stomach.

That soup salvation made me grateful that at least one of our three kids shows some real talent in the kitchen. When our middle kid, Jack, was only 7-years-old, he marched into the room and announced that he’d decided what he’d be when he grew up: “You know that guy on the cooking show on TV?” he asked. “The one who eats the cupcakes and then says which one is the best? I’ll do that job.”

I remember being shocked at his specificity. I’d been expecting something more general like fireman or race car driver. “You want to be a cupcake judge?” I asked.

“Yep. Cupcake judge,” he confirmed.cupcake-526424_640 (2)

“I think the cupcake judge is a chef,” I pointed out. “That’s why they asked him to judge the cupcakes.”

He thought for a moment and then nodded his head. “Then I’ll be a chef and a cupcake judge.”

Kids usually grow in and out of career dreams at least a dozen times as they get older, but even six years later, Jack, who’s now 13, still says he’s headed toward cooking school one day and perhaps his own diner where he’ll serve all his favorite foods. Last summer, he took a cooking course and even won a class contest for “best cupcake.”

Tonight, as he headed off to bed, I asked Jack if he’d also serve chicken and wild rice soup at his future restaurant and reserve a booth in the back just for his creaky old mom and dad. He smiled and said he would.

It’s good to have kids with big dreams. And it’s even better if they can save a bad day with a great bowl of soup (and a cupcake for dessert).

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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Life with Ladybug: Married romance

By Shannon Magsam, nwaMotherlode.com co-founder and mama of Ladybug

Since we’re smack dab in the middle of the month of love (it really is for us: Valentine’s Day, our daughter’s birthday and our anniversary) I was just thinking about romance before. You know, before the domestic bonds of matrimony and parenthood swept us up into their all-consuming embrace.

You’re sweating, your bosom is heaving. You feel so breathless, so out of control. Scene: You’re mopping the tile floor and that sticky jelly patch just will NOT budge and you have to leave for a meeting in 15 minutes.

flowersThe mopping is what got me to thinking about it. All that energy I used to put into making my husband feel like the most adored man alive – and all that energy he used to put into covering an entire room with wildflowers just for my viewing pleasure – is now mostly devoted to domestic tasks.

Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW the romance of a man who will do dishes, laundry and remember that our child needs glow sticks for a school project.

Yes, he really is thoughtful like that. My man is a gem, I agree. Even his initials are JEM. It’s a fact.

But we, and I stress the we, are just not as romantic as we used to be. Who has the time?

As I noted, all that energy is spent on mopping, parenting and paying the bills. We can get into our loops and forget that we have the power – and the need — to step outside the swirling tornado of today on occasion.

I just told our daughter, who turned 15 this month (can you even believe it?), about how her daddy wooed me at the beginning of our relationship by first making me giggle in the orange juice aisle of our local grocery store and then by writing me a poem that  turned my knees to jelly (believe me, not kitchen floor jelly). It was soooo romantic.

Of course, my daughter, being 15 and all, wasn’t too impressed, noting that our romantic fusion had boomeranged and she wasn’t the slightest bit romantic. We’re apparently a little ooey gooey for her taste, even after 17 years of marriage.

Good thing she didn’t see us before.

We can’t go back to those crazy carefree days, but we can still hang on to the romance. As G.I. Joe says, knowing is half the battle, so I’m going to bust out with some extra love today, on Valentine’s Day, and on our anniversary, which is coming up later this month.

That 15-year-old will be heading off to college in three years and we’ll be here, alone, together. In the meantime, it’s smart to get back in touch with a little more of the before.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com, nwaMomProm.com, and the proud mama of a 15-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur, who is the love of her life.

The Rockwood Files: Confessions of a love story addict

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

I did it again last night – stayed up way too late in the name of love. A rerun of a romantic comedy I’ve seen at least eight times came on TV, and, even though I can lip-sync all the important lines, I watched until the ending credits rolled.

notting hillTom has seen me do this many times during our 18-year marriage. He usually glances at the TV, then looks at me, shakes his head and says “Again? You’ve seen it so many times.” To which I reply “And I enjoy it every time.”

Last night after the movie ended, I fell asleep wondering why I’m so easily sucked into a love story. When I’m watching one of these seen-it-a-million-times movies, the rational part of my brain says “Turn it off and go to sleep. You’ve got work in the morning.”

My heart brushes off my brain and replies “I’ll just watch until the first kiss.” Then after that scene, my heart whispers “Just watch until the breakup scene.” But then I can’t turn it off and leave the main characters lost and heartbroken, so I watch long enough to make sure they get back together, which usually happens at the end of the movie – hence the late-night habit.

So why am I (and plenty of other people) such a sucker for a good love story? I think it’s because love – regardless of what form it comes in – is the ultimate “get.” We want the main character to “get” the guy or the girl. We want them to “get” the lesson that love is worthy of sacrifice. We want them to “get” past their own fears and hang-ups enough to be known and loved.

Love stories are about drama and declarations, angst and affection. Love often has to struggle through misunderstandings and misplaced pride, baggage and break-ups. When two people can walk through that emotional minefield and hand over their hearts – either on screen or in real life – it’s remarkable. Maybe even miraculous. New love has its own brand of magic.

The only problem with new love is that it’s often plagued with push-and-pull syndrome. When I was in my early twenties, I had a string of relationships with a common theme: Someone was always pursuing and someone was always retreating, and the roles might reverse multiple times in a single month. It seemed to be more about leverage than love. There was an unspoken pressure to flirt but not cling. To be interesting but not overly interested. Those kinds of relationships go from affectionate to aloof (and back again) faster than you can say “commitment issues.”

I’m grateful God arranged for my last blind date in 1998 to be with someone who made me feel safe enough to treat love like a verb instead of a game to be played and won.

Hollywood doesn’t make as many movies about married people and long-term love stories. I guess new love sells more popcorn. That’s fine. I like those movies, too, but when the credits roll, I’d rather go home with married love.

st-valentines-day-1990691_640 (2)Long-term love is a lot like new love, only it’s been to war and back. It stays with you in the foxhole of what can sometimes be an ugly reality. It knows the real you and likes you anyway. It has seen you with the stomach flu and didn’t run away. Long-term love may not be as shiny, but it’s sturdy, solid and it’s the best kind of serene.

Is it a perfect system? Of course not. Even in movies, when things are too perfect, the story falls flat and the audience stops watching. Conflict is an inherent part of any life story.

But long-term love doesn’t play tug-of-war with your heart on the line. Even when I’m crazy mad at him, I know Tom and I are on the same side. We’re on the side of “us.”

From my heart to yours, Happy Valentine’s Day.

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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