The Rockwood Files: Raised right

rockwood files colorWe went to dinner recently with my parents at a restaurant where you place an order at the counter and then get your own drink. Tom and I were pulling extra chairs up to a table for the seven of us when we noticed a man put a cup of water down in front of my mother. He asked if she’d like a lemon and she said “Yes, please,” so he went back to the drink station and fetched a lemon wedge for her.lemon slice

He didn’t work at the restaurant, and I didn’t recognize him. I assumed maybe he was a friend my mother knew from work or one of the many people she has met during her job as a bank teller.

“Was that one of your bank customers?” I asked after the man walked back to his own table.

“No, I don’t know him,” Mom said. “He was getting himself a drink, and the water dispenser was empty after he filled his cup. He saw that I was waiting to get some water, too, and I guess he felt bad for taking the last of it. So he asked someone behind the counter to refill the water dispenser and said I could go sit down and he would bring some water to me.”

The first thing that went through my mind was “Wow. Someone raised that guy right.” He could have taken the last glass of water and walked away, mentally filing it away in the “not my problem” category. It’s probably what most people would have done. But he was different because he was raised right.

In today’s increasingly unkind world, seeing consideration and respect in action is almost stunning. It’s moving, and no matter what anyone says, it matters.

So I’ve decided to compile an ongoing list called “Ways to know someone has been raised right.” (You’re welcome to help by emailing me and adding your own ideas to the “Raised Right Registry.”) I’ll kick things off with a few things that deserve a place on the list, (alongside people who not only deliver water to a stranger but also go back for the lemon wedge).

You say thank you and mean it – to friends, family members, co-workers, and to every single person you encounter in the service industry, including wait staff, receptionists, the person handing you a soda at the drive-through window, the person who tells you the dry cleaning will be done on Tuesday, and every other person who helps you – regardless of whether or not it’s “part of their job.” Part of our job as decent human beings is to say thank you and mean it.

You hold the door for people. This gesture has been around for a long time, but it seems like fewer people do it now because so many of us are looking down at our phones. We simply don’t notice there’s someone coming toward us or someone following close behind for whom we could hold a door. It’s a simple, silent way to say “I see you, and you count.”

You say excuse me. People who are raised right know personal space is important. And when you accidentally invade someone’s space by bumping into them, you’re supposed to say “Excuse me” – and not in the sarcastic, accusatory way some people do it.

I once watched a woman on an airplane who stood up and accidentally bumped her head on an overhead bin door that had been left open. There was no one else in her row, but she instinctively spun around and said “Oh, excuse me!” to the overhead bin before realizing she had bumped a thing and not a person.

When a person’s instinct is to immediately ask pardon for even the slightest of slights – instead of being defensive or lashing out – you know they’ve been raised right.

Here’s hoping we all notice the people around us who have been raised right, and here’s hoping we are some of those people to others.

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

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The Rockwood Files: What do you have in common with your dog?

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People say that, not only do you start looking like your spouse over time, you also start looking like your dog. In an experiment, people can often match up dogs with their owners simply by looking at their pictures. And now, researchers say even our personalities mirror our dogs in significant ways.

This information worries me, mainly because our dog, Charlie, is a borderline menace to society. So what does that say about us?

charlie-tieThankfully, what Charlie lacks in basic rule-following, he makes up for in cuteness. He’s a tri-color dog with velvety soft ears and a pointy black nose. He is a true “mixed breed” rescue dog. Our veterinarian’s best guess is that he’s part Beagle and part Italian Greyhound.

Beagles are known for their passionate pursuit of almost any new scent and their “independent thinking,” which is dog-lover code for “unbelievable stubbornness.” In my experience, Beagles don’t care if you’re happy with their behavior. Why? Because squirrel. That’s why. The Beagle’s nose wants what it wants.

tazmanian devil looneyItalian Greyhounds, on the other hand, are known for their small, slender build, sensitivity, shyness and incredible speed. In an instant, they can go from a peaceful nap to a full-blown “tear” through the house, running circles around the living room, bounding up on the back of furniture and then leaping off again until they’ve burned off enough energy to keep from going insane. They are also “warmth-seeking,” which explains why Charlie can often be found under the covers at the foot of our bed.

So when you combine those two breeds, what you get is a skilled escape artist who breaks free of even the most fortified fences and then goes on a blistering sprint around the neighborhood, stubbornly refusing to come when called – even when the caller has a treat. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?

Parenting Charlie is a lot like trying to control a willful toddler who also happens to be an Olympic sprinter. Every day that we’re able to keep him alive is a victory.

During his most recent prison break, I stood in our cul-de-sac, treat in hand, waiting for Charlie to come home. Sometimes I call his name, but I do it mainly so the neighbors know I’m at least trying to get the rascal to stop running from yard to yard. The truth is that no amount of calling will woo Charlie home. When his nose is active, his ears shut down entirely.

Finally, I spotted him – a brown blur streaking past the mailbox. I did my best “Mommy is excited to see you and give you a treat” voice and patted my legs, hoping maybe this time he’d make me proud and come willingly. He saw me, stood absolutely still for two seconds, then barreled toward me at 90 miles per hour, ears flying, grinning ear to ear. Just as he got close enough to jump into my arms, he zig-zagged to the right, brushing past my ankles, and kept right on running. I could almost swear I heard him mumble “See ya, sucker!”

I shook my head and went back inside to wait until he got either tired or thirsty enough to come home, and eventually he did.

I want to be angry at Charlie when this happens. I want to scold him and call him an ungrateful dog for running off and making us worry. But what I’ve realized is that many of Charlie’s quirks are hard-wired, and asking him not to follow his nose would be like asking me not to write anymore. It’s part of who we are.

And perhaps those researchers are right. Like Charlie, I’m a “warmth-seeker” who often gets cold on a 70-degree day. I’m overly sensitive sometimes, and what I like to think of as “independent thinking” often looks more like stubbornness, if you ask Tom. So maybe I should just accept Charlie for who he is, wanderlust and all, and hope he does the same for me.

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

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The Rockwood Files: Tribute to the nimble thimble

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Another small piece of my childhood will soon be a victim of so-called progress. While reading the news last week, I stumbled across an article that said Hasbro, which makes the board game Monopoly, is retiring the thimble game token.

After 82 years of service, the company is kicking the poor thimble off the board. Never again will the thimble pass “go” or collect $200. One of the possibilities being considered to replace the thimble is – brace yourself – a hashtag, as if we need to see yet another one of those.

monopoly thimbleI was never good at Monopoly. Didn’t have the patience for it. Sometime during the second hour of game play, I’d either doze off or start losing money on purpose just to end it already. But what I did like about the game was setting it up. I liked sorting my yellow and salmon-colored play money into piles and picking out my game token. And I always got the game token I wanted because I always chose the thimble.

I witnessed some wicked pre-game fights over the flashier game tokens, but we thimble enthusiasts never had to deal with the Scottish doggie drama. We never had to bargain for the battleship token. Why? Because we saw the simple, unassuming beauty of the thimble. We appreciated its cute dimples and clean lines.

Maybe it didn’t have the same kind of razzle dazzle as the racecar, but it was symmetrical, sturdy and sweet. And its ergonomically correct form meant that it always faced front and didn’t fall over the way the wheelbarrow or the horse and rider token always did.

iron2It’s not the first time a Monopoly game token has been banished from the board. It happened in 2013 to the iron, which was replaced with a cat. I wasn’t sad to see the iron go, but some people find the act of ironing to be oddly relaxing. I bet they were crushed. They probably had to iron their socks and sheets just to get over it.

When the thimble meets its fate in August, I’m not the only one who’ll be torn up over losing my go-to token. Richard Marinaccio won a national Monopoly championship back in 2009, and he’s a proud thimble guy. He said he picked the thimble to play his championship game because it seemed like an underdog piece and he wanted to make it his own.

If you’re one of the many people who find the thimble to be underwhelming at best, just know that your favorite piece might be on the chopping block, too. In January, Hasbro asked Monopoly fans to vote on 64 different options for game tokens (including the 8 tokens currently being sold with the game.) More than four million votes were cast. We won’t know what the winning tokens are until March 19th, and they won’t hit store shelves until August.

Who knows? You might have to say bye-bye to your beloved battleship or toodaloo to the top hat. Among the 64 new token possibilities, there are unusual things like sliced bread, a bowtie and a bunny slipper. There’s also a typewriter, a T-rex, a hashtag, a horse, a roller skate, a rooster, a flip-flop and even a winky face emoji. (I fear the thimble will spin in its gaming grave if its replaced with a hashtag. If a classic game token has to go, I’m rooting for the roller skate or typewriter to take its place.)

But before that happens, I’m paying tribute to the nimble thimble. I thank it for its countless trips around the game board during the rainy afternoons of my youth. I’ll save the thimble from my Monopoly game and hang onto it. Perhaps one day years from now, when my future grandchildren are playing Monopoly using their new-fangled tokens, I’ll take out my little thimble and give it another spin around the board.

Thanks for the memories, thimble.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. 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: Cloudy, with a chance of a headache

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

weatherGrowing up, my dad was religious about watching the TV weather forecast.

As a heavy equipment owner/operator, his business depended on knowing if the weather that week would be nice enough for him to dig a swimming pool or haul asphalt (“Dad, did you haul asphalt today?” Say that out loud and you’ll get why my adult siblings and I love asking him that question on a regular basis).

One day when I was about 10, we were playing dodge ball in the front yard with some neighbor kids and my little brother got his legs knocked out from under him with the rubber ball. He went down, headfirst, into the side of our front porch.

I ran in to tell dad that his youngest was bleeding profusely from the head, but as I stumbled into the living room, he put up a silencing arm. He didn’t even look my direction, just held up the arm. I dutifully waited until Dad saw the rain chances for the rest of the week before letting him know that Chad needed a trip to the ER. He blurted out a “We’ll, why didn’t you tell me that when you first came in!” before bolting out the front door.

After all those years of weather watching with Dad, I, too, must pause and watch when the weather forecast comes on during the local news. Shhhhhhhh I’ll hiss and I’m quick to throw up an arm if anyone dares to speak while Dan Skoff is letting me know whether I’ll need an umbrella, a light jacket, a heavy coat or to prepare the closet for an extended stay (I always make sure to bring the bike helmets in with us in case of a tornado).

storm cloudToday I was thinking it would be great to have a Teenage Mood Forecast to watch on Sunday nights. Some professional analyst to predict all the highs and lows for the week — for those of us who are in the messy middle of parenting a teenager.

The weather here in Northwest Arkansas over the past few weeks could actually serve as a pretty good pattern of what it’s like to live with a 15-year-old:

“It’s bright and sunny on this marvelous Monday in NWA, folks, but hold on to your hats because tomorrow morning there will be a distinct chill in the air! Better keep that jacket handy! By Wednesday, expect a storm to come raging through the region, but we can’t tell you exactly when. Most likely right after school pickup, but there’s also a big chance it will make your house rumble around bedtime!”

If I knew in advance that gale force winds would be flying out of my teenager’s mouth on a Thursday (You did what? You said what? You’re making me do WHAT??) or that her head would be taking a tornadic turn when I accidentally embarrassed her in public, I could mentally prepare myself.

Alas, there is no mood report. Until there is, I’ll just appreciate the sunny days and stay on the edge of my seat for the rest of the week (while simultaneously bobbing and weaving to avoid the dodge balls).

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.

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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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