The Rockwood Files: Love Brands

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Tom did something shocking the other day. He came home from the store with a few things I’d asked him to pick up before the snowstorm hit. As I unloaded the shopping bags, I stopped short. I picked up one of the packages, turned it around in my hands in disbelief and then held it up to Tom, as if he’d accidentally brought home toxic waste.

“What is THIS?” I asked.

“It’s toilet paper,” he said, as if I’d somehow mistaken it for a Crock Pot.

“I know it’s toilet paper, but it’s not OUR toilet paper. Since when do we get this kind of toilet paper?” I asked.

Listen, the store was crowded and this brand was on the end of the aisle and it was on sale, so I just grabbed it,” he explained, as if any willy-nilly explanation could be good enough for switching toilet paper brands. “I’m sure it’s fine,” he added.

He walked out of the room to tend to more important things while I glared a hole in the back of his head. You can’t just go switching toilet paper brands on a person with no advance notice. Some things are just too personal.

By the next day, there was nearly half a foot of snow in the driveway so I had to make peace with Tom’s brand selection. I did not like it, mind you, but I tried my best not to complain since we were stuck with it for the time being. Three days later, the snow began to melt and so did Tom’s theory about impulsive brand substitutions. As we stood in the bathroom brushing our teeth, he said “You know, I don’t like that toilet paper. Next time we go to the store, let’s go back to our old brand.”

I smiled and nodded, but on the inside I was thinking “Yes, and next time let’s not grab the wrong brand just because it’s within arm’s reach. Some things are worth looking for.” (When you’re married for a long time, you learn which things are best said internally.)

What those three days with the wrong toilet paper taught me is that most of us are a lot more brand dependent than we’d like to admit. Sure, we may buy generics on a few things and pat ourselves on the back for saving money, but, for the most part, we love our brands. We grow up with them. And sometimes brands become our buddies.

I read an article recently about a study on brand attachment that was done last year at the USC Marshall School of Business. The results showed that people can be so attached to brands that we suffer separation anxiety when our favorite brands are replaced. (Snippy comments made to husbands are also a common side effect.)

Brand attachments explain why some people panic at the thought of being away from their iPhone for too long. It explains why Pepsi people scoff at the thought of having a Coke. It explains why some teenagers would consider selling a kidney just to have the “right” pair of jeans. Successful brand managers are like business wizards who cast a powerful spell over an unsuspecting public.

But I, for one, am not ashamed of my brand attachments. I know what I like and I stick to it. Give me a quality product, and I’m as loyal as a Labrador, consistent as a clock. So I offer this poetic vow of consumer devotion to what, for many of us, have become our “love brands”.

“I, average consumer, do take you, preferred brand, to be my constant shopping cart companion. You are the Apple® of my eye, and my Gain® is a generic brand’s loss. The purity of my commitment is like a Dove® taking flight at Dawn®, soaring across the Quilted Northern® plains. Despite the great Bounty® of brand variety, I will not Bounce® from one name to another, for I am Glad® to forsake all knock-offs and imitations. While others get swept away by the Tide® of change, I enjoy the gentle Febreze® of familiarity. I hold steadfast to my favorites and Nestle® my beloved brands safely into my shopping gwen headshot 2014bags. Truly, I love you All®.”

Gwen 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.

The Rockwood Files: My PG-13 Life

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

This week’s column, as well as many of the conversations around my house lately, are rated PG-13. Be aware that the following material may not be suitable for children, pre-teens or anyone who’s easily offended. Consider yourself forewarned.

For those readers curious enough to move on to this second paragraph, let me explain. Our PG13 rating boxoldest kid turned 13 two months ago. This milestone, in and of itself, is enough to rattle parents who feel like it was just yesterday that we brought him home from the hospital wrapped up like a baby burrito with nothing but his tiny, blue-capped head peeking out.

A lightning-fast 13 years later, our first “baby” is now in middle school, where the traditional three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) have been joined by a modern-day “R” called reality. And the reality is that, whether or not parents choose to have “the talk” with their teenage kids, “the talk” is all around us. It’s everywhere.

If you don’t believe it, turn on the nightly news around 5:30 p.m. and wait a few minutes. I can almost guarantee that the annoying woman in the blue dress will pop up during one of the commercial breaks and have a heart-to-heart about the merits of Viagra. She doesn’t care one bit if your inquisitive 8-year-old daughter happens to be in the room eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese.

Between 1998 and today, the number of sexual scenes on television has doubled. According to, music videos show about 93 sexual situations per hour, with about 11 of those scenes considered to be “hard-core.” As a parent of kids ranging from elementary school to middle school, I can tell you it’s scary. Because when I was growing up, this kind of stuff wasn’t as “in your face” as it is today and it definitely wasn’t only a click away. Now, it is.

Tom and I tackled “the talk” with our oldest kid about a year ago but it’s still an ongoing conversation. In fact, his middle school recently made it part of his homework. He just finished an 8-lesson course on sex education, and, after each class, he brought home a worksheet with questions he was supposed to ask his parents. He wrote down our answers to questions like these:

Are love and sex the same thing? How do you know when you’re in love? What advice would you give about setting boundaries in relationships? What are some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases?

After he asked me that last question, I rattled off a list of diseases while he took dictation and filled out the questionnaire.

“How do you spell that word, Mom?” he asked.

“It’s spelled G-O-N-O-R-R…”

As I spelled the word, I mentally floated out of my own body and looked down at the two of us in partial disbelief. “Here I am,” I thought, “helping my kid with homework by spelling this kind of word.” (And if you think spelling the word is tricky, try explaining how and why it’s so important to avoid it to a person you have always wanted to protect from the ugliest parts of the world.)

As awkward as it is to have these conversations, I’m realizing more and more how important they are. Asking and answering the tough questions is so much better than leaving kids to gather scraps of unreliable information from friends, movies, dog-eared pages of steamy novels, and school bathroom rumors.

As the credits roll on this PG-13 column, I and so many of my fellow parents feel like we’re facing an incredibly tough job – to raise good, decent kids in a world where Superbowl burger commercials often look more like porn and the standards for what society will accept slip down even lower than necklines.

gwen headshot 2014Gwen 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 book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Life with Ladybug: Embrace the MOMent

Life with Ladybug logo

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

“Mom, you have GOT to watch this TED talk! It’s called Embrace the Shake! It’s amazing.”

I immediately starting singing Shake it Off! Shake it off! and doing a little car dance.

youtube artFor that, I got the look. The kind of look that only a newly minted 13-year-old can give you. I’d just picked her up after school and she couldn’t wait for me to see this TED talk. She’d seen it in language arts class that day and it was apparently ah-mazing.

After swinging by Sonic for a snack, we settled in at home to watch Embrace the Shake. The talk grabbed my attention from the very beginning.

Even so, when Ladybug clicked the button to make the video show in “full screen” I balked. I had planned on checking my email over in the corner as we watched it on my work computer.

But with the video full screen, that’s all I could see.


I was immediately reminded that I’m awful at living in the moment. I constantly frustrate myself by thinking about work when I’m trying to play or enjoy family time. The curse of the work-at-home mom?

After Ladybug clicked on full screen, I made myself stop worrying about my email and I stopped trying to multi-task (I KNOW multi-tasking’s bad and researchers say you might as well be smoking pot when you try to do more than one thing at a time. DUDE). I actually sat back and just watched.

I’m glad I did. Embrace the Shake was inspirational and my girl and I were having a MOMENT. I let those moments pass by way too often. I’m always on the run, always thinking ahead to what’s next, not what’s now.

It’s like my mind is one of those TVs where you can watch multiple shows at once in little squares on the edges of the main event.

I want to turn those little side shows off more often. I want to go full screen and live in the moment more. Those little Mom Moments I can never get back.

I wrote a note and put it on my desk as a reminder. It says: “FULL SCREEN. Embrace the MOMent!”

Now I’d love for you to watch Embrace the Shake because it really is amazing. Be sure to enjoy it full screen for the full effect. As with everything in life :)

Click here to watch Embrace the Shake on the TED website.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaperman and they have a fun-loving, artsy teen (officially!) who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.

The Rockwood Files: Letter to my future daughters-in-law and son-in-law

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

Dear Future Daughters-in-law and Son-in-law,

Even though right now you’re just kids and we haven’t even met, I think about you. Sometimes it happens when I notice how tall one of my sons has grown. Sometimes it happens when my daughter says something that makes her sound less like the 8-year-old that she is and more like a young lady. During those moments, I realize that – long before I’m ready – my babies will grow up, move out and start looking for you.

I wonder sometimes how you’ll find each other. Will you bump into each other in a college classroom? Will you meet in the company break room of the first real job after college graduation? Will it be a blind date, the way Tom and I met more than 16 years ago?

I’m looking forward to hearing those how-we-met stories. I worry sometimes about how many disappointments and broken hearts might happen before the timing is right for you and one of my kids to meet. Even though I know those heartaches are sometimes necessary to help us grow up and get smarter, it’s never easy for a mom to watch her kid get hurt – especially when there’s not much we can do about it.

What I can do is pray that you’re becoming the kind of person who is capable of deep love and loyalty. I pray you’re being raised by parents who can show you what real love looks like in the midst of real life – not the fake stuff you see in movies. I pray that, more than anything, you have a kind heart.

letter heartBecause one day you will have the hearts of the three people who claimed mine the moment that each of them was born. You’ll either make them happy or make them miserable. And since a mother’s happiness is inextricably intertwined with that of her children, you’re an awfully big deal to me, too. I hope I’ll love you and trust you to take care of these people who mean so much to me.

One day when they start dating, I’ll tell the kids just how important it is to choose wisely. I’ll try to convince them that deciding who to spend your life with is a much bigger decision than where to go to college. Bigger than what they’ll choose to study. Bigger than a career choice or where to live or what hobbies to pursue.

I hope they’ll believe me, but I can’t blame them if they don’t. Because when I was in my early 20s, I definitely didn’t grasp how huge this choice would be. I nearly messed it up a million different ways. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had kept on stubbornly ignoring that still, small voice we hear when we’re with someone who’s not good for us – that insistent, nagging feeling that something just isn’t right.

Now that I’m 16 years and three kids down the road from my own decision, I can appreciate how that blind date and the relationship that followed has had a bigger impact on my happiness than anything else.

So, listen. You don’t have to pretend to like my dismal cooking when you come for visits. And you don’t have to raise your kids the same way we raised ours. But I ask you from the bottom of my heart to do these two things: Love God and love my kid – as deeply and honestly as possible. And until we meet, I’ll be doing my best to raise the kind of person who can do those same things for you.


Your Future Mother-in-Law

gwen headshot 2014Gwen 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 book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

The Rockwood Files: Bracing myself

rockwood files color By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

This week, after taking the second of my three kids to a consultation appointment at the orthodontist’s office, I saw the reality of our situation in black, white and shades of grey when the doctor put two x-rays on the computer screen side by side.

One showed an x-ray from a year ago which the doctor said looked pretty normal. The x-ray next to it was the one he’d just taken and it was…a dental disaster. It looked like a cluster of bumper cars all pointing in different directions.

The orthodontist pointed at two impacted teeth that had somehow taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and were now headed in the opposite direction. They’d need to be re-routed first with braces and then with oral surgery to attach tiny chains to the wayward pearly whites. braces

Then the doctor told me about my son’s missing permanent teeth that would one day require implants. Then there was the matter of the lower jaw that needed realignment with a custom-made orthodontic appliance.

The incessant ringing of a cash register echoed in my mind. As it turns out, a nice smile can get pretty pricey.

But there’s no one to blame…or is there? The problem of missing permanent teeth is usually a hereditary issue, so maybe it’s my fault. But if it’s my fault then that means it’s probably my parents’ fault, or their parents’ fault, or their parent’s fault. It’s impossible to tell how far up the family tree this DNA dilemma goes.

The only person happy about this situation is our middle child, who was the first kid to get saddled with braces about a year ago. (In some cruel twist of dental fate, he is destined for not one but two sets of braces to correct a “cross bite,” which is apparently a real thing and not just another thing to spend money on. I Googled it.)

When Jack found out his older brother was about to get braces, he smiled a wide, metallic smile and pulled a victorious fist in toward his chest as he said “Yes!” His dental misery is about to get some company in a world where popcorn and Laffy Taffy are strictly prohibited. Finally, someone in the family will literally “feel his pain.”

And speaking of pain, Tom and I are about to feel our share of it, too. Even with the Cadillac of dental insurance programs, we’ll still have to come up with several thousand dollars to get through the Great Orthodontic Crisis of 2015. (Goodbye, summer vacation. I may never walk on your sandy beaches but at least my kids will have properly aligned jawbones. Maybe I’ll have a margarita this summer while I stare into their metal mouths, imagining the way a sunset might look over the ocean. That’ll be relaxing.)

By the time the boys serve their time in braces, it’ll be just about time for their little sister to start her own dental disco. We’ll probably be dealing with wires, rubber bands and retainers for a collective seven years or more. If I could, I would send a text message back in time to my younger self on the day when our youngest kid graduated from diapers to underwear — the day we felt like we’d be rich because we could finally stop buying diapers. Here’s what I’d say:

“Hold up, sister. Better start stockpiling those diaper dollars because you’re going to need them during the Great Orthodontic Crisis of 2015. I just got the bill and it is OMG.” gwen headshot 2014

Gwen 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 book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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