The Rockwood Files: An unromantic Valentine

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

My husband Tom once accused me of being unromantic. As much as I hate to admit it, I think he might be right.

It’s ironic, too, because I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy, even the cheesy ones that get rerun on cable stations. I’ll watch them over and over and enjoy it every time. And a romantic novel? I’ll stay up way too late reading those, too.

love-1145313_640But when it comes to real life, I’m more practical. One time in college, a friend told me about her date during which the guy sang to her and read a love poem he’d written. The other girls listening to this story swooned over how amazing it must have been. I, on the other hand, was thinking “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Had I been in her shoes, I would have smiled politely and silently prayed for the earth to open up and swallow me whole.

Maybe it’s just me. I’m easily embarrassed. Growing up, my parents were not at all “gushy.” Even the small church where we attended was incredibly stoic. If a person in the congregation said a spontaneous “Amen” during the sermon, we’d all remember it as a particularly rowdy Sunday.

Regardless of whether it was nature or nurture that made me this way, I sometimes wonder if Tom wishes he’d married someone who appreciates things like rose petals on the bed. If petals ever showed up on my bed, I’d immediately think “Who’s going to clean this up? I bet this would clog up the Dust Buster.”

I like romance in subtle, small doses, like a protective hand on the small of my back as we navigate through a crowd. Or an inside joke only we understand. Even the most mundane, daily chore can be endearing. Ask any woman over the age of 30 what she thinks of a man who voluntarily folds or hangs up the laundry before it gets wrinkled, and she’ll tell you he’s hot. Smokin’ hot.

When Tom and I were newlyweds, we’d sometimes notice an older couple sitting in a restaurant, not talking to each other. We’d comment on how sad it was, wondering if their relationship had gone so stale that there was nothing left to say besides “Pass the salt.” But now, having been married for more than 17 years, we know there’s more to the story.

Sometimes you grow to know each other so well that you instinctively sense what the other is thinking. A single glance tells a whole story. A well-timed smirk delivers the punch line. You laugh even though no one said a word. When you reach that point, you don’t need much chit chat because you’ve learned the difference between awkward pauses and comfortable silence.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad about being in love and shouting it from the rooftops in grand romantic fashion. For some couples, that’s exactly what feels natural.

But for others, there will be no rooftop shouting or viral videos. In fact, some of the best love stories are the ones you won’t hear about – the kind of relationships that don’t need validation from acquaintances on Facebook. They’re not showy, but they’re solid. The two people who share the bond might be the only ones who know just how special it really is.

In a world where everything is documented, posted, tweeted and “liked,” that might seem like some sort of sad failure. But in my humble opinion, that kind of private connection is refreshing, extraordinary, and – dare I say it – romantic.

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 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: The fine art of cat selling

kitty face

By Shannon Magsam

I’ve mentioned that Ladybug and I volunteer in the cat adoption area at the local PetSmart. In other words, we pimp cats.

When people walk by the cages, we shamelessly hold up the kittens or cats for them to see, even stooping so low as to hold up the feline’s furry paw to wave. We’re trying to pull them in, into the room behind the plexiglass where the cats can be petted and played with.

The first rule of cat selling (and fishing): Set the hook.

Once we get them into the room with the cats, we can work the real magic. Well, the cats can. We soundlessly coach them:

orange catBig eyes, big eyes.

Look aggressively cute.

Play with toys like a boss.

Reach out to the victim (um, the person visiting the cat adoption center) through the bars of your kitty prison. That reaching paw really pulls on their heart strings.

And the biggest thing: when the human picks you up, PURR. Purr like your life depends on it, because it does. Nuzzle the person, and make like Puss in Boots from Shrek with the big eyes.

As a PetSmart cat adoption center volunteer, I’ve met some really unique people. Like the guy who said his cat likes to ride the family’s pet tarantula around on his back. (Note: NEVER adopt a cat to this guy. Yep, there’s actually a black list, in case you were wondering.)

I’ve ticked off people who think they should be able to walk up and walk out the sliding glass doors  of PetSmart with a cat. Sorry, but there’s an application to fill out. The cats need homes, but they need good homes where they’ll be safe and cared for.

I’ve also been unwillingly cast into the role of therapist while volunteering. Once an engaged couple came it to look at the kittens and they each fell in love with a different one. The young woman cried at the prospect of not adopting her chosen kitten, but the young man held firm: his kitten would be their choice.

I tried to intervene, asking who got to choose their dog. The guy, as it turns out. I was starting to see a pattern. They ended up adopting the guy’s choice and I resisted the urge to tell his fiancée: “Run now, while you can! If he won’t budge on the issue of pets, imagine what he’ll be like when you two have kids!”

But I was just glad they adopted one of the cats.

kittenThere are SO MANY. Every week there are new whiskery faces to fall in love with. My daughter and I call our volunteer time cat therapy and our blood pressure goes down while we’re there petting the kitties and giving them the love they crave.

Most have sad stories like being left behind when their people moved away, or being found in a dumpster or being trapped under a crumbling trailer, as was one of the kittens we took care of last weekend.

We can’t take all of them home, but we do what we can to visit with people about cat behavior, match-make humans and the cats up for adoption and give the kitties lots and lots of love.

One cat at a time.

One volunteer day at a time.

Now. Who needs a cat?

Slightly Tilted: Mothers are some kind of crazy

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

I may look like a mild-mannered, well-behaved mother of two, never prone to irrational behavior or rash decisions, but looks can be deceiving.

emoji scaredI, like most moms I know, am a sleep-deprived, whirling mass of emotional and physical frenzy that rarely, if ever, gets a moment to herself. This makes me (and I dare say 99.73% of all moms) borderline psychotic most of the time.

emoji clockConsider a day in the life of a mother. It’s awesome, hard, funny, sad, and hectic.

We have heard stories from kids all day long. Stories that never seem to end. Stories that keep going and going and going. And going.

We have said things like “The goldfish does not want to go for a walk. Put him back in the bowl.” and “Please do not wipe snot on your sister!”

emoji carWe drive with one eye glued to the rear-view mirror in order to prevent a nuclear meltdown while we negotiate the release of a stuffed animal held hostage.

We have relearned everything we ever were taught in school in order to not look dumb as we help the kids with their homework.

We have planned meals, cleaned floors, re-cleaned the floors because grape juice was spilled after the first time we cleaned the freaking floor, and figured out what that disgusting smell was in the playroom.

We have worked at work, worked at home, worked in the car, worked in the gym, and worked at trying to relax.

emoji coupleWe have given advice to friends, kept other people’s children, chauffeured the neighbor’s kids places, and scheduled “spontaneous fun” time with our spouse.

We have planned the stuff. All the stuff.

We have spent money on clothes for our kids that they won’t wear and bought food that they won’t eat.

We have worried about family, friends, the economy, and the size of our rears.

emoji kissWe have made the decisions and kissed the boo boos.

We love our little people fiercely, but, oh…they can make us crazy.

So…please forgive us if you see us somewhere and we don’t say hello. Our mind is probably in a million other places. If we have one glass of wine too many and talk too loudly at the one Girls Night Out we get every three months, we apologize, but we probably really needed it. If we show up to a meeting with toothpaste on our shirt, we’re sorry. If we duck out of your dinner party early with a emoji sleepinglame excuse, it’s because life has beat us down and we need to collapse for a bit.

Moms are a rare breed who are revitalized by the same little bodies that wear us out. Nobody warms our heart like the little people screaming in our backseat. No one makes us laugh like the kid pouting because he doesn’t have a fever and has to go to school.

emoji crazyMothers, I love y’all. Y’all are some kind of crazy.

I mean that in the nicest way.

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: From tummy time to life skills

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

When you bring a baby home from the hospital, all the baby books say you should do something called “tummy time.” It means you should let the baby spend a little time on his tummy when he’s awake. Tummy time helps the baby strengthen the muscles in his neck, shoulders and upper body – muscles he’ll use to sit up on his own one day. There’s only one problem with tummy time: Babies hate it.

Because the baby hates it, parents tend to hate it, too. I remember watching my babies the first few times I put them down on their tummies. They’d squirm and struggle to lift their giant heads. They’d turn their face to one side, furrow their brow, grunt, whimper and then eventually cry after only a few minutes of being in this “beached whale” position on the living room floor. It was hard to watch.

adorable-20374_640My maternal instincts would yell “Pick her up! Hold her! Comfort her! Make it easier.” But that’s not the point of tummy time. The point is to get stronger so the baby can one day help herself.

After an initial “I hate this” period, babies get used to tummy time and even come to love it when they figure out how to roll.

My three kids are now 14, 11, and 9 – many years past tummy time – but, in a strange way, I feel like we’re going through a second phase of it as we teach them how to take care of themselves. In only four short years, our oldest will leave the nest and, if we haven’t taught him properly, he’ll nosedive right out of it or make a U-turn and fly straight back.

So my new maternal mantra is “life skills,” and right now I’m focusing on three main areas: food, clothing, and shelter.

Food: I stopped packing lunches. These days, if the kid doesn’t want to eat what the school cafeteria is serving, the kid packs his or her own lunch. But a bag full of jellybeans and Pringles doesn’t count. (They tried it.) They’ve also learned how to make a simple dinner, and they’re getting pretty good at hosting Taco Tuesdays.

Clothing: Slowly, they’re learning to use the washer and dryer. I posted detailed instructions for how to wash whites, darks and towels, and we make them do a load on their own at least once a week. (Note: If you try this at your house, be sure to write the words “EMPTY ALL POCKETS” in bold, capital letters, lest you find shredded tissues and gum wrappers in every load.)

Shelter: I’m beginning to wonder if they’ll ever master the art of cleaning up after themselves. I still find stray socks all over the house, which I believe is part of their secret plan to drive me insane. (Almost there, kids!)

Last weekend, we had them help us rip old carpet out of a room, prep the walls, paint and then move furniture back into place. They didn’t really know what they were doing. They got frustrated easily. We heard quite a few grunts and whimpers, and they definitely didn’t like it.

As I watched them furrow their brow and grudgingly work at it, I flashed back to those “tummy time” days when they strained to hold their heads up. Then I flashed forward to a vision of the future, when they might need to rip old carpet out of their own fixer-upper house.

So despite the moaning and groaning, we forged ahead and they learned a few things. The experience made me realize that the real struggle for me will be allowing our kids to struggle. Part of me desperately wants to step in and manage the world for them – to make things easier.

But those of us who are a few decades past “tummy time” know that life doesn’t always serve up a big plate of easy. And during those times, it’s important to know how to carry on, work hard and hold your head up.

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: A long winter’s nap

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

I did something the other day I’m not proud of. I’d just come home from taking the kids to school on one of the coldest mornings of the year. Raindrops from the night before had frozen in mid-drip off the patio table. The sun had called in sick, leaving behind a bleak, gray sky, and the piercing cold seeped directly into my bones. I couldn’t shake it.

I crossed my arms and hugged them to my chest to conserve body heat. The heater couldn’t work fast enough on the drafty house. With goosebumps all over, I shook off a shiver and trudged toward my desk to start the day’s work. Halfway there, I had an idea: “I could just get under the covers and put my feet on the heating pad until I warm up.” Yes, that could work.

So I scurried back to the bed I’d left an hour earlier. I turned the heating pad on high, burrowed under the covers and waited for warmth. For the first few minutes, I checked email on my phone. Then I read the news while the heating pad’s warmth started to thaw my frigid feet.

At some point, I must have blinked too slowly or closed my eyes and then – nothing.  Blackness. Pure unconscious bliss.

nap in progress pillowSometime later, my eyes snapped open as my phone pinged somewhere under the covers. “Oh my gosh! How long have I been out?” I asked an empty room.

I scrambled for the phone when it pinged again and looked at the time. An hour and a half had gone by in what felt like only 10 minutes. I checked the new text messages, one of which was from someone who wanted to know if I’d received her email.

There were a few possible answers to that question: 1) “The email is probably in my inbox but I wouldn’t know because apparently I’ve turned into a toddler who needs her warm blankie and a mid-morning nap. I’ll answer your email right after I have some Goldfish crackers and a juice box.” 2) “Sorry! Didn’t hear the phone ping!”

I decided to go with Option 2, which was technically true. It is, in fact, nearly impossible to hear your phone ping when it’s buried under blankets and you’re in a coma-like sleep.

I threw back the covers and went straight to my desk, feeling equal parts guilty and lazy about my secret slumber. We Americans are supposed to be busy making our super-productive dent in the universe and documenting it on Facebook, right? There’s no time for napping.

But the truth is… I liked that nap. Loved it. It felt amazing – like a little vacation from real life. No wonder people look forward to retirement. When you’re retired, you can take a nap without an ounce of judgement or self-recrimination.

Perhaps retirees know something we should all learn. I Googled the benefits of napping and found a WebMD article that says “Getting rapid eye movement or REM sleep, usually 60 to 90 minutes of napping, plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems.” And it’s true! After my nap, I connected my backside to my office chair and solved a “creative problem,” like coming up with my next column idea.

So no more feeling guilty for an occasional daytime snooze. If your brain needs a boost, perhaps you’ll find what you’re looking for on the backside of your eyelids. Maybe we should all dare to dream – literally. It worked for me. (This week’s column brought to you by “a long winter’s nap.”)

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.