The Rockwood Files: Vices in a vice grip

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

You know what I think about sometimes right before I fall asleep? Cereal. I imagine how lovely it would have been to sit down with a bowl of my favorite kind of cereal for a late-night snack before bed.

It used to be my nighttime ritual. On most nights, I’d have a bowl of Special K or Raisin Bran because they seemed like a healthier choice than the Froot Loops I truly wanted. But then a friend and exercise instructor told me that my cereal habit might be adding way too much sugar in my diet. And sugar is bad about making a body hold on to those pesky pounds it should really lose.

cereal-635741_640 (2)“But wait! It’s not like I’m eating Froot Loops. It’s Raisin Bran,” I said. “It’s got fiber.”

“Yep, but it also has sugar. Look at the label. You’ll see what I mean,” she said.

I checked the label and, of course, she was right. With one look at the number of sugar grams, my healthy snack started to curdle in my mind’s eye.

So these days I try not to have any snack after eight o’clock at night, and I do think it makes a difference. Most days, I’m pretty proud of myself for kicking the cereal habit. But every now and then, particularly after a long, tiring day, I miss curling up on the sofa with a cool bowl cradled in my hands. It was comforting, familiar and delicious.

Of course, the late-night cereal wasn’t my only vice and I certainly haven’t given up the rest of them. If my friend ever tries to take away my sweet tea, we may have to go our separate ways. Some things are sacred, after all. Besides, I’m not even sure it’s advisable to give up every vice.

I recently read a quote about vices by the late Elizabeth Taylor. She said, “The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”

Liz certainly made a good point, and she said it well before social media had reached the fever pitch it’s at today. Have you noticed that sometimes people in your Facebook and Instagram feed – the ones who are nearly obsessed with “clean eating” or intense daily workouts – take real pleasure in sharing evidence of their discipline with the rest of the Internet?

I’m happy for them. I really am. It’s great that they’re so healthy, so self-controlled. But if I have to see one more picture of their healthy lunch or see another screen shot of the number of steps they’ve taken in a single day, I might start throwing tortilla chips at the computer. (And that could get messy because, generally, there’s always a little guacamole on those chips.)

To be fair, I don’t think the super-devoted clean eaters and exercise enthusiasts are trying to make the rest of us feel bad. I think they’re just passionate about their healthy lifestyle and hopeful that their devotion might inspire the rest of us cereal-loving, chip-eating slugs to join their merry bandwagon.

Who knows? Maybe one of these days I’ll do it. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to give up all my vices and document it online without turning into one of those annoying people who remind the rest of us about just how imperfect we are. But before I do anything rash, like pour my sweet tea down the drain, I should probably think it through.

Perhaps I’ll sleep on it – right after I finish dreaming about that missed bowl of cereal.

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.

The Rockwood Files: Pickers and choosers

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

Remodeling your house is a little like having a baby. It’s wonderful and exciting – right up until the sledgehammer smashes into the first wall. Then it becomes like childbirth itself – messy, scary and painful.

We’ve remodeled a kitchen before, but this time around we’re moving our washer and dryer out of their tiny closet and into a new room of their own. (You know you’ve been married with kids for a long time when the idea of a new laundry room gets you this excited.)

But the biggest part of the remodeling project is a new bathroom that will be used by 8-year-old Kate. She’s wildly excited about the idea of not sharing space with her two older brothers, who have no appreciation for how much time it takes a girl to shower, brush her teeth, dry her hair, apply fruit-flavored chapstick, decide on outfit accessories and then change her mind about the hairstyle and accessories at least three times. under construction2

We’ve been under construction for two weeks now, and going through the process again has reminded me just how silly my skill-sets seem when I compare them to others. An electrician and plumber have been here running pipes and wire all over the place for several days. And even though the two new rooms look like nothing but a mass of two-by-four boards and plywood floors, these guys know exactly where to put each line. Together with our contractor, they’re making a laundry room and a bathroom from nothing. It’s incredible to watch.

My professional training has taught me the difference between a dangling participle and a split infinitive, but these guys can build a working bathroom! At the end of the day, I can live with a split infinitive but I won’t make it long without a working bathroom. If our two jobs had to arm wrestle for the title of “most necessary,” I think we both know who’d win.

For me, one of the toughest parts of the remodeling process is making decisions. In the world of construction, there are two kinds of people – the pickers and the choosers. Pickers are those gifted people who can walk into a home improvement store, pick out exactly what they like and make confident decisions, even question-markthough they’re surrounded by thousands of different options for tile, paint, fixtures, drawer pulls, countertops, lights and more.

People like me – the choosers – see all those options and want to go home, curl into the fetal position and wait for the whole thing to be over. It’s not that we can’t make a decision. It’s just that we want to choose our favorite among three or four good options, not a gazillion mind-numbing possibilities.

Speaking from experience, it’s best for a chooser to take a natural-born picker along when it’s time to decide on new finishes. Otherwise, the chooser is likely to wander out of the store and into the nearest Arby’s where the menu choices aren’t nearly as intimidating.

Now that the decisions, the plumbing and the electrical work is mostly done, the new walls will start going up tomorrow. I’m excited to see all the groundwork begin to take shape into something more recognizable. All this labor will soon give birth to a brand spanking new laundry room and bathroom.

We’ll be so excited about the new additions that, in a few years, we’ll forget about the dust, the decisions and the deluge of invoices, and we’ll start talking about how awesome it would be if we knocked down that wall, replaced those countertops or put down new floors. That’s how remodeling projects are born.

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.

Life with Ladybug: How to be happier in your marriage

wedding pic 15 years

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama and John’s wife

We got a question from a mom recently (she sent it to the anonymous panel of our husbands who answer questions for our Motherlode feature, Inside His Head) about how to deal with being bored with her husband.

She sincerely seemed to want to make things better, but seemed to be in a rut (and, honestly, maybe a little depressed).

Since my husband and I just celebrated our 15th anniversary, the question made me think back to whether I’d ever been bored in my marriage. We’ve experienced some lulls, sure, but the ultimate answer is no. I think that’s because we’re both committed to making it a priority. BOTH of us (not just the wife. That’s me.).

We’ve made some dumb marriage mistakes, but we usually corrected the wheel so we could get back on the road to a happy life, happy wife (and husband. That’s John.).

Here are 15 tried-and-true tips I’ve discovered to help make you happier in marriage:

Shannon in Paris (Nevada)1. Have inside jokes. You know how you loved having little, intimate inside jokes — that only you two really seemed to get (thus, “inside”) — when you were first dating or married? Don’t stop.

There’s always something new to joke about. Most recently our little inside joke has been: “We’ll always have Paris”.

Just today my husband sent me a picture of the “Eiffel Tower” outside our hotel in Vegas.

Paris (France) is on my bucket list, but our budget only got us as far as Paris Las Vegas to celebrate our 15th anniversary.

2. Speaking of Vegas, make future plans for trips together. We can get so caught up in the day-to-day “can you take the dog to the vet” and “will you make the kids’ lunches” minutiae, that things can get a little stale.

If you can’t afford a big vacation, that’s OK. Just plan SOMETHING fun that you’re both excited about. It’s good to have something you’re looking forward to together.

Our trip to Vegas really wasn’t terribly expensive. We took an Allegiant flight out of XNA (you can only leave on Thursdays or Sundays) and we didn’t go to all-the-expensive shows (we just splurged on one and it was even less expensive than some of the other Cirque Shows. We highly recommend La Reve.)

We had great food at Gordon Ramsay Steak at our hotel the first night, some delicious sushi at Koi Restaurant & Lounge at Planet Hollywood and we loved breakfast at the little French bakery downstairs at Paris (among other awesome food). We ate A LOT, but luckily we also walked A LOT.

steps in vegasMost of those 30,894 steps that day were spent walking hand-in-hand. BONUS!

3. Decorate your bedroom, don’t make it a junkroom. Put pictures up from your wedding day and other memorable times you’ve spent together. When you’re ticked off, your mood will soften when you’re transported back in time to those happy days.

And seriously, clear the clutter. It’s not the least bit romantic to see a huge pile of unfolded laundry on the chair in the corner — or a stack of old boxes that you need to take to Goodwill. A clean bedroom will also make you more relaxed for when it’s time to sleeeeeeep.

4. Shut your pie hole. Promise yourself you’ll never say something that crosses the line. In particular, never harm each with knowledge that they’ve told you in confidence. Just don’t do it. If you use information likes this, you will be considered totally untrustworthy. They won’t tell you anything really important for fear you’ll use it against them in the next argument.

5. Name — and meet — each other’s needs. Be aware of each other’s needs and reassess whether you’re meeting them for each other. Talk about stuff. Neither party should assume the other knows what you need at any given moment. I’m a big fan of saying what I need (in a nice way, not in a bossy, you suck kind of way).

money26. Don’t lie about money. Money issues can make or break a marriage. It’s a huge issue. It’s one of the top reasons for marriage trouble, as most of us know. Don’t lie about purchases. In high school, I was always surprised when one of my friend’s moms would keep everything from a day’s shopping trip in the trunk and walk in the front door and act like we couldn’t find a thing to buy. Ahem.

7. FLIRT. Don’t be so serious all the time. Even the most shy and quiet among us flirted when we were first dating. And wasn’t it fun? Didn’t it liven things up? Well, it still has a place in marriage.

8. Bear each other’s burdens. Listen and I mean listen, when he tells you something he’s sad or mad or glad about. You know how I love research, and research says how we handle these everyday interactions can make or break a marriage. Don’t just say Mmmhmmmm and barely look up from your iPad when he tries to tell you something that happened at work. Same goes for the guys, of course.

9. Go to bed at the same time. Even if we haven’t had a chance to touch all day, when we go to bed together and we’re too exhausted to even talk, I always put my head in the crook of his arm. Or I reach out and we hold hands. If we’re not too exhausted to talk, it’s the best time to catch up without a million distractions flying toward us.

10. Pray for each other. We’re praying sorts and we often ask each other to pray when something’s happening at work, a relationship is strained or if we need help with something as a couple. And sometimes when you ask your spouse what you could pray about for them, you find out something that’s weighing heavy on their mind.

11. Make his favorite meal while wearing lingerie. OK, so not really, but you get the picture: Do something kind for your spouse. Especially kind. Over-the-top kind, on occasion. This is not really about who does the cooking in the family, it’s about feeding his soul. If he likes a certain food, make (or buy) it for him. The point is to occasionally go above and beyond to show each other you’re paying attention to what they like. And no, I don’t think it should just be the wife making these grand gestures. (My husband would adore the above example, though.)

12. Notice. No, go further than just noticing. Make a point of saying you noticed and appreciate whatever he/she did.

Here’s a good example: my husband recently took my car to the car wash and used the vacuum. He didn’t just hit the high spots, though. He vacuumed every nook and cranny. Then he bought some Armour All and shined up my interior. I was so excited the next time I got into my car. It looked so CLEAN. The next time we all went together somewhere, I told him how much I loved getting into a clean car, how much it changed my mood for the good, and that it was like he had given me three dozen roses, just by cleaning out my car.

It really was. Clean car nirvana.

13. Don’t be a smotherer. When we first got married, I was a little stingy with my man. I liked to have him around all the time. But I also loved it when he encouraged me to do things with my friends and was always generous about it. He taught me to be generous, too. Everybody needs a little space and absence does make the heart grow fonder. Take time for yourself and your friends, then you’ll enjoy each other’s company even more.

14. Always say hello and goodbye. I think this goes along with noticing each other. It’s saying you matter enough to say hello when you come home and goodbye when you’re leaving. If you kiss when you do it will give you extra marriage mojo. It’s about being intentional.

15. Have his/her back. Seriously, who should have your back more than your husband or wife? Don’t throw your spouse under the bus to friends and family even when it’s tempting.

vegas palm trees

Vegas, baby!

Any happy marriage tips you’d add? Fire away in comments!

Slightly Tilted: Bronze is the new black

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

Oh, vacation. I so need you. My hubby needs you. My kids need you. My neighborhood needs us to leave. Our co-workers need a break from us. It’ s time.

It takes me a little bit more preparation to go on this vacation than the rest of the family. Because I’m a woman. That has to wear a bathing suit. In public.

Body insecurity much?

My go-to for a beach vacation, or basically anything that requires me to feel like I can conquer the world, is a spray tan. Have you ever gotten one? Oh, man…you are automatically 10 pounds lighter, more confident, and at least 15 years younger.

I’m not going to lie — you have to get almost naked in front of a stranger. (Usually a college kid that’s not even old enough to drink and has a perfect body.) That’s okay, because you are old enough to drink and if you have to take a shot to get the courage to become awesome, then do it. It’ll be worth it.

After apologizing profusely for what this young girl is about to see, it’s time to strip down. This person is about to see naked you from every angle, so for the love of God, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT! You might see this person in the grocery store and do you really want them to flash back to this moment? Let me answer that for you: NO. No, you do not.

I try not to talk too much, but the nervous chatter just spills out of me.

spray tan“My boobs are the size of irritated mosquito bites. That’s what kids will do to you.”

“Can you make my thighs extra dark so my cellulite doesn’t show?”

“I want to lipo my butt and put it in my chest…do you think that’s possible?”

“I hope you have short term memory loss.”

“I work out a lot…I promise. It’s just hard to tell.”

“Well, I just ate a lot of salt, so I’m probably really bloated.”

“Just how good is your eyesight?”

And so on…

I can literally feel her eyes roll back in her head and she’s thinking that I probably think 80’s music is still cool. She’s right. I do. Because it is. Duh.

And then she’s done and she didn’t even throw up, bless her heart. I use the blower, which deforms my skin in all sorts of weird ways and makes my fat look like ocean waves, until I’m dry enough to get dressed. I look in the mirror.

Well, hello there, Miss Brazil. I. Am. Awesome.

I pull on my clothes and walk – no, strut – out of the little room all the way to my car. Looking good, I think to myself, and actually wink at my reflection. I may be a tiny bit out of control.

I walk in the door to my house and my son looks at me like I’m an alien.

“What? I know. I look amazing, right? Exotic!”, I say.

“What does exotic mean?” asks my son.

oompa loompa“Like…from a different place,” I say.

“Yeah! Like from the Chocolate Factory! You’re an Oompa Loompa!”, he says.

I will not be deflated by an eight-year-old. I tell him to go outside to play.

My daughter walks in. “Hey, Cheeto!”, she laughs.

Obviously, they’re both jealous of my new, improved self. I pity them. Poor, untanned little people. They don’t even recognize perfection when they see it. This is probably their dad’s fault.

I text all my friends: I got a spray tan! You are all pasty white losers, but I love you anyway! <3

They reply immediately. They KNOW I am now feeling like a mix of Superwoman and Heidi Klum. They are scheduling theirs right away. They will not let me down. We will all be invincible together. We will be able to stay awake past 8:30 p.m. We will buy new underwear. Okay, maybe not that. But we will play our music louder in the car and call each other “my bitches” for a few days. Just because it makes us feel cooler.

My hubby comes home. He looks at me and wiggles his eyebrows. “Oh!”, he says. “Spray tan day, huh? You feeling…awesome?”

“Yep.”

“Well, that’s good. You look awesome.”

Did I tell you he’s a good man? Well, he’s a good man. He understands what a spray tan can do for my…confidence. He’s fully supportive of the bronzy, annoyingly confident me.

AND, I can now go on vacation and wear my bathing suit with my cover up and floppy hat and 50 spf sunscreen and legally drink margaritas and not even hate the younger women around me. See? Spray tans make you a better person! It’s like a law or something, I think.

So, do I recommend a spray tan? Yep. I sure do.

I mean, I don’t want to be awesome all by myself. Join me on the bronze side. It’s more fun over here.

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: Fruity chocolate

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

There’s a big bag of candy on the kitchen counter and no one is eating it. In a house with three kids and a chocolate-loving husband, this is bizarre. Candy and treats usually only last as long as it takes to rip them from their paper wrappers. So why is it still languishing here, three weeks after arrival?

Two reasons. First off, the Easter Bunny overdid it. He shopped for candy when he was hungry and ended up getting enough stuff to put a small country into a sugar coma. You would think the Easter Bunny would have learned this lesson by now, as this is not the first time he’s gone overboard. But I’m not one to blame a bunny for generosity.

The main reason that candy is still here has everything to do with a lack of focus. A couple of days after Easter, I told the kids to take the candy out of their baskets so I could pack the decorations back into the storage closet. I didn’t want the leftover candy to get stale so I put it into a large Ziploc bag to keep it fresh. The bag was brimming with bubble gum, chocolate eggs, Skittles, Starburst, Snickers and jellybeans.

Yesterday I walked by that same bag and noticed that almost none of it had disappeared. So I opened the bag and reached in for one of the small chocolate Hershey’s eggs, figuring it was only right that I should do my part to get rid of the excess treats. I peeled off its shiny foil wrapper, popped it in my mouth and began to chew.

The chocolate was… wrong. The texture was right but the flavor was definitely off. It tasted like… fruit. Because I’d comingled all the leftover candy into one bag, the flavors had somehow comingled, too. Chocolate and Skittles don’t mix and Starburst and Snickers aren’t a good combo, either.

The fruity chocolate wasn’t inedible but it wasn’t good either. I didn’t want another one, and I’m guessing everybody else in the house who had eaten one probably felt the same way. The mixed bag of fruity chocolate and chocolatey Skittles will likely meet its fate in this week’s garbage because it’s too mixed up to be any good.

fruity chocolateThe fate of the leftover candy has made me think about all the jumbled up activities in my own life. Am I “too mixed up to be any good”? Even though all the things I do are good on their own, I wonder if I sometimes mix too many things into the same jam-packed week or month. Have I lost my sense of focus and the ability to enjoy any one thing because I’m busy trying to do so many things?

Sometimes, in an effort not to “waste” a single opportunity, we cram too much into our lives and end up with a not-so-satisfying chunk of fruity chocolate. The ingredients themselves are good but not when they’re mashed together.

With each passing month, I’m realizing that what I want and need most is time to focus. I want a schedule that lets me be good at one or two things instead of “just okay” at too many things. Sometimes all the “busy” of life crosses the line from blessing into burden and it’s hard to know when to pull back. But I hope I figure it out.

Because life is too short to settle for fruity chocolate.

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.