The Rockwood Files: Wheels on the bus

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

My kids used to ride the bus. Now they don’t. Now I spend more than an hour in the car on weekdays sitting in long car lines at three different schools so I can pick them up.

It’s not one of my favorite activities, although I’m slowly learning how to make better use of my “sitting in the crazy long car line” time. So why don’t I just make the kids ride the bus like they used to? I’ll tell you.

The bus has changed. When my kids first started riding it in elementary school, they had this incredible bus driver named Ms. Virginia. Every time she pulled up at the stop sign, it felt like Mother Goose herself had arrived to lift her protective wing and let my sweet ducklings toddle off the bus and into my arms. She loved them. We loved her. It was idyllic.

But then Ms. Virginia left for a new job. And as the kids grew older and approached the middle school age range, the bus atmosphere changed and grew bus-878697_640exponentially louder. One day my son told me the new bus driver wouldn’t let him sit with his little sister anymore. The new rule was that boys must sit together and girls must sit together – three kids to each seat.

I’m sure the driver had good reasons for the new seating arrangement but he may have underestimated what happens when you put three boys together who’ve just been released from a school day that forced them to be quiet for more than six hours straight. The boys’ excited chatter and horseplay quickly ramps up to a noise level equal to that of a jet taking off. Similarly, put three little girls that close together and I can almost guarantee that high-pitched squealing will ensue. They don’t even need a good reason to do it. It just happens.

New bus drivers came and went, and sometimes the poor newbie driver would rely on the fourth and fifth graders behind him to figure out where he was supposed to stop along the route. But I don’t blame bus drivers for not being able to ensure a peaceful, orderly ride home. I can barely concentrate on the road with only three excited kids in my car. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be the only grown-up in a moving vehicle with roughly 70 kids behind you.  

My kids started walking off the bus with headaches triggered by the chaotic ride home. Then one day my fifth grader told me about a music video he saw on the bus as one of his seatmates watched it on an iPhone. It’s the kind of graphic video that makes me feel like I need to take a shower after seeing it (or poke out my mind’s eye).

Raising a kid through puberty is hard enough without Nicki Minaj’s booty-obsessed music videos making it even more complicated. And kids with smartphones and a 4G signal can read or see anything – anything – on the bus ride home, especially if their parents haven’t set up parental controls on those phones.

So that was it for me. I didn’t want my kids to get a big dose of the Internet’s dark side on the way home from school. That’s not the kind of “education” we’re interested in getting.

And that’s why I’m now part of the daily cattle-herding operation we call the “school pick-up line,” which is full of patience-challenging phenomenons I’ll tell you about some other day. Until then, hug your kid and hug your bus driver. They’re both dealing with plenty of not-so-idyllic circumstances on the long ride home.

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: Dear Facebook…

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

Dear Facebook,

We need to talk. I think we need to take a break. It’s not you, it’s me. Okay, maybe it’s a little bit you.

It’s not that you’re a “bad” social media platform. You’re not. It’s just that when I spend time with you, I feel like a loser. And I just don’t think my self-esteem can take much more of this relationship.

hamster roundPlease don’t take this the wrong way. There’s a lot to like about you. Thanks to you, I get to see adorable pictures of nieces and nephews and watch them grow up even though we’re hundreds of miles away. And I love the way you make me laugh sometimes. That video of the hamsters spinning around in that wheel, and then that one with the dancing cockatoo? Oh my gosh, those were good times.

You always go the extra mile on my birthday with all those unexpected messages and posts from friends. Sometimes you really know how to make a girl feel special.

But I can’t ignore the fact that, most of the time, I feel anything but special when we’re together. In fact, I feel downright “less than.”

My food’s not photogenic enough. And I’m not feeling incredible ever since I started eating “clean.”

I haven’t walked enough steps or run enough miles.

I’m not accomplished enough.

Not clever enough.

Not reading enough. Or meditating enough. Or reading about meditation.

I don’t know how to refinish my own dresser.

I’m not going to cool places. (A gorgeous vacation in Italy? I’m sincerely happy for you but suddenly my trip to Branson feels pretty lame.)

I have no inspirational quotes typeset on sunsets.

I can’t figure out what you mean when you say things like “I just saw something that blew my mind!” And I don’t want to reward that kind of vague behavior by asking what you’re talking about. (Sometimes I just wish you’d shut up and show me a video with spinning hamsters instead.)

And I know how much you relish a good political debate, but you wear me out with all the arguing and condescension. Didn’t your digital mother ever tell you that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all?

And finally, Facebook, the stream of selfies proves you’re ignoring the unwritten rule that says nobody needs to see more than one selfie in a six-month period. That’s six months. Not six minutes.

I know women usually beg for more communication in a relationship, and you’ve never held back when it comes to sharing feelings. You’ve got so many words. All the time. Every day. Every minute. Even when I think I’ve scrolled down and processed them all – ta-da! Magically, even more words appear. I want to put my hands over my ears and run away from all that digital noise.

Can’t you see you’re suffocating me with this daily deluge of details? I’ve either got to become a world traveling, clean-eating, marathon-running, corporate ladder-climbing phenomenon with really good hair and a great camera, or I’ve got to climb out of this always-beckoning comparison trap. I’m going with the latter, mostly because I can’t give up waffle fries.

But hey, we can still be friends, okay? I’ll check in occasionally and see what’s up. But for now I need some space to feel good about myself in the real world, not the digital one. Let’s just call it a break, not a break-up. You’re still a great social media platform. It’s just that sometimes I fall out of “like.”

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.

Slightly Tilted: A Month of Mom Mornings

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

Being a mom is a cycle of chaos, confusion, love, laughter, and screaming. Mornings can be…difficult. And that’s before the hormones kick in.

Day 1: LIFE IS SO GREAT! I love my kids! I love my family! I love coffee! I have the best life!

Day 2: What happens to my kid’s shoes? Do they run away right when we are trying to get out the door?

Day 3: I have nothing to wear. What’s going on with my hair today? Coffee. I need coffee.

28 daysDay 4: “You have to wear clean clothes. Clean. They don’t have to match, I don’t even care about that anymore, but they can’t have mud, food, or unidentifiable stains on them. Quit crying, and I know I’m the world’s worst mother for making you wear clean clothes.”

Day 5: How can I be out of gas?! Didn’t I just get gas? If the light’s been on for a couple hours, I can probably make it across town…

Day 6: I hope it rains. I mean, I love watching the kids play soccer, but really, I hope it rains.


Day 8: I know I set the alarm! I remember setting the alarm!! What happened? Everybody up right now!!

Day 9: Well, the alarm works. Up early, so coffee by myself. This is nice. I should get up early every morning.

Day 10: Nope. I’d rather sleep.

Day 11: That was a nice night of absolutely no sleep. Today should be fun.

Day 12: I love my kids. I do not want to see them in the middle of the night anymore, but I love them. I love them. Really.

Day 13: What permission slip? You’re supposed to go where today?

Day 14: TGIF. I’m starting to drink at 8:14 this morning.

Day 15: It’s raining!!! Yay! I mean, sorry kids, but no soccer today! {Everyone looks disappointed, but can hardly contain their joy!!}

Day 16: Did I just sleep until 7:45? Oh yeah…sleeping in!

Day 17: Mondays…why must you come every freaking week?

Day 18: EVERY DAY. We brush our teeth every day. Several times a day. Just go. BRUSH. YOUR. TEETH. For the love….RIGHT NOW!!

Day 19: Why are you crying? What’s wrong? What happened?

Day 20: If that lady doesn’t figure out the drop-off line soon, so help me God!!!!

Day 21: It’s Friday! It’s Friday!

Day 22: Go ask your dad. They’re about to do the reveal thing on Property Brothers.

Day 23: There’s no crying over donuts, kids. Green sprinkles taste the same as blue.

Day 24: Don’t even look at me with that tone of voice.

Day 25: “Mommies cry, too! I’m okay…I’m okaaaayyyyy. Just get in the car.”

Day 26: I ate all the foods.

Day 27: Life sucks.

Day 28: Oh. That explains a lot. Mommy’s sorry.

jen adair3Hey. I’m Jen Adair. I’m an entrepreneur. Homeschool mom. CEO of organized chaos. Ok – it’s really not all that organized. Some days are great, some are not, some days I feel invincible, some days I can barely get out of bed. BUT…it’s my life and I’m living it. Browse my collection of random thoughts, humor (well, I think I’m funny!), images, links, whatever…at my blog Slightly Tilted. Sharing is caring, people! :)

The Rockwood Files: “Mom, I looked everywhere!”

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

If I had a business card for my job as a mother, the job description would read “Finder of Things.” Because that’s what I do. I find things.

I love my husband and kids but they’re terrible finders. And I wouldn’t mind it so much if they weren’t also excellent losers.

The most frustrating part of the problem is that I consider our house to be somewhat organized and generally tidy – certainly not “eat off the floor” tidy, but it’s what I’d call a  “someone could stop by the house unannounced and I wouldn’t die of embarrassment” level of tidy. Chaos makes me anxious, so I organize things to make it easier for us to find and keep up with what we need. I’ve never met a storage bin I didn’t love. Clear countertops make me happy. And I own and use a label maker even though I’m fully aware of just how geeky that sounds.

Yet despite the strategies and the storage and the customized labels, we lose stuff. Regularly. I’d guess that something goes missing about every third day – a hairbrush, a belt, somebody’s gym shorts, that paper for school, her dance tights, his retainer, and a receipt that Tom swears he put right here on this counter. But then poof! The thing is gone. Vanished into the void.

find it graphicSometimes the thing is missing for only a few minutes and sometimes it’s gone for good. How long it stays gone is usually in direct proportion to the person who’s doing the looking. I won’t name names, but some people – and you know who you are – have woefully inadequate searching skills. What some people call “looking for it” is more of a cursory glance around the general area.

If I send one of our kids to the pantry to get a can of green beans, they might tell me we’re all out of green beans. Because if the green beans do not leap off the shelf into their hands, there are no green beans in the house. And if a giant, blinking, neon arrow doesn’t magically appear in the pantry and point directly to that can of green beans, then there are no green beans in the house.

When looking for something involves moving things out of the way to see it, there’s a 99% chance the thing is going to stay lost – until Mom starts looking. Kids use moms like most of us use a GPS: “In 200 feet, make a left turn at the living room. Extend your free hand and make a sweeping U-turn motion under the sofa cushion. You have now arrived at your remote control.”

To avoid being used and abused as the Official Family Finder, I’ve started putting a price tag on my finding services. Yesterday one of the kids swore to me that there were no more hot dogs in the fridge.

“No hot dogs? Are you sure? Did you really look?”

“I looked, Mom!”

“So you looked behind things and under things and on every shelf?”

“Yep. I looked everywhere.”

“So you’d be willing to bet a week’s worth of extra chores on this? If I go in there and find the hot dogs, you’re gonna be busy this week but not in a fun way. You feel that confident about the missing hot dogs, right?”

“Well… maybe I’ll go look one more time.”

“That’s what I thought.”

The moral of this story? A wife and mother is a person with stuff to do, not a homing device with ovaries. And sometimes terrible finders just need a little extra motivation. Pass the hot dogs.

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: Beagle trouble

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

Charlie Brown and I have something in common. We’re both in love with and completely exasperated by a beagle.

My fondness for Snoopy was one of the reasons I happily welcomed a beagle into the family nearly four years ago. The kids named him Charlie. At the time, I had no idea how many times I’d stand at the front door and call that name over and over again, waiting for our wayward beagle to come home.

Perhaps I should have known a beagle would be trouble. There were plenty of clues in the Peanuts comic strip that should’ve tipped me off. Snoopy clearly had snoopy red barona passion for adventure, as evidenced by those daredevil flights as the Red Baron. And he was always more interested in his own agenda rather than blindly obeying his master.

I have two theories about our Charlie: He’s either the dumbest dog I’ve ever known or he’s the smartest and the most stubborn. My conclusion depends on the day and what kind of trouble Charlie has dug up for himself.

Charlie’s favorite kind of trouble involves a backyard prison break or, if he’s inside the house, it’s a “door dash.” Door dashers are dogs who wait for any door to open even a crack, and then they fly past you in a blur, streaking toward the outside world. We hired a dog trainer to help us break this habit. Although the training helped, even the dog expert warned us that it’s nearly impossible to overcome the power of a beagle’s nose. It’ll lead him to adventure every time.

If one of the kids lingers at the door too long or if one of us forgets to tell Charlie to “park it” (which is a shorter way of saying “Don’t run out the door”), Charlie forgets his previous training and sprints toward freedom. It’s useless to chase or call him because he can’t hear us. He’s too busy sniffing and mentally chanting the word “Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!”

For dogs like Charlie, new outdoor territory is a fascinating action-adventure novel. Anyone who has ever stayed up too late at night reading a suspenseful book can understand the lure. To Charlie, every mound of dirt is mesmerizing. Every breeze is spellbinding. Every telephone pole tells a story.

The only good thing about a beagle’s insatiable nose is that, although it leads him away, it also helps him find his way back home, looking as guilty as he is – knowing the price of his adventure will be another bath.

Often, instead of coming home, it’s over the driveway and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, he goes. My parents live in a townhouse just a few blocks away, and Charlie sniffs his way there for a visit with their dog named Boots. He barks at their back door, and they let him in and give him multiple treats and then a nap in one of their plush recliners.

Mom’s theory is that by rewarding him, he’ll come to her house when he runs away instead of playing in the street. When Charlie goes missing, I get a call from Mom when he shows up over there. I can’t blame him much. If my human kids ran away, that’s where they’d go, too. At Grandma’s house, there’s a 99% chance that someone will be cooking bacon and an even better chance that a furry visitor will get a bite or two.

Mom says if I’d get Charlie his own recliner and feed him more table scraps, he’d probably stay home. And to that I reply with what Charlie Brown would probably say after groaning and rolling his eyes: “Good grief!”

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.