The Rockwood Files: Do you have this condition?

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I have a condition many parents suffer from: Worst Case Scenario Syndrome or WCSS. It’s not in the official book of diseases because I just made it up but that doesn’t make it any less real. Make no mistake — it’s real, and I have the freshly sprouted gray hairs to prove it.

This sanity-threatening condition reared its paranoid head just last week. When I sat down in my home office to begin the day’s work, I smelled a faint but distinctive smell of something burning. It smelled hot with a hint of a chemical scent, the way an overworked engine might smell just before bursting into flames.

I walked around the room, sniffing the printer, computer, lamp, computer modem and television, but I couldn’t determine the source of that ominous smell. I unplugged everything, just to be safe.

An hour later, the smell had intensified. That’s when my internal light bulb went off and I realized the problem might be overhead — in the light bulb. I looked up and eyed the ceiling-mounted light fixture suspiciously. What if some faulty electrical wiring was causing sinister sparks to ignite within the walls and ceiling where I couldn’t see?

So I did what I imagine any concerned woman would do. I climbed up onto my desk and sniffed as close to the light fixture as possible, and then I climbed back down and called my husband.

“Honey, there’s a bad smell in my office and I think it might be an electrical fire.”

“What? Do you see smoke?”

“Well, no, there’s no smoke but there’s a terrible smell — like a mix of chemicals burning. The weird thing is that I can only smell it in my office.”

“Did you check all the electrical outlets?”

electrical fire“Yes, and I unplugged everything in this room, but the smell is getting worse. I think it might be in the light fixture on the ceiling. I got as close to it as I could so I could sniff it.”

“You sniffed a light fixture? Did you use a ladder?”

“Well, no, I climbed up on the desk, but you’re missing the point. I’m not sure that’s where the smell is coming from, but I turned the light switch off, just in case.”

“Okay, well let’s see if the smell gets better now that the light is off.”

“But I’ve got to go run errands. What if the house catches on fire while I’m gone?”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“You don’t think we should call an electrician to come out here and check it?”

“We will if we need to, but let’s try to pinpoint what it is first.”

“Okay, but I’m telling you something is catching on fire in the ceiling.”

I wanted to go on record with my hunch so that if the house suddenly turned into a scene from the movie Backdraft, I could issue a stern “I told you so” as we sifted through the charred remains of our family memories.

After running errands, I returned home and walked into the office hoping the smell had dissipated – but it was even stronger. Charlie, our intrepid Beagle, trotted along beside me and went immediately to the trash can by my desk where he stopped and sniffed.

Following his lead, I leaned over and sniffed the trash can, too, and that’s when I saw it — a discarded bag of microwave popcorn with blackened kernels inside. Suddenly the memory of 7-year-old Kate bringing the burnt bag of popcorn to me the day before reentered my mind. I’d tossed it into the trash without a second thought.

And just so you know, burnt popcorn on Day 2 smells like an electrical fire. But before you have the fire trucks come screeching up to your house, you should probably empty the trash and open a window. Worst Case Scenario Syndrome can get pretty embarrassing.

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 read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

The Rockwood Files: On Pins and Needles

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

There are two kinds of people in the world: grown-ups and fraidy-cats who are scared of needles. I’m in that second group.

fraidy catSomething happened yesterday that “outed” me with the kids, so now they know that their mother – who they always assumed was a bona fide grown-up – is actually a big ol’ fraidy cat.

Our insurance program sent us a couple of “biometric test kits” in the mail, requiring Tom and me to fill out a health questionnaire and submit a blood sample. The kit came with a little needle with which to perform the finger prick and a card that required three drops of blood.

Trust me when I say that I realize a finger prick is no big deal. I had three kids so I’ve seen my fair share of needles. When I was in the midst of active childbirth, I practically begged the anesthesiologist to bring the biggest needle he could find and stick it in my spine – anything that might dull the pain of contractions.

In those situations, however, I was focused on the goal of delivering a baby into the world. A needle seemed like a small price to pay for such a lofty mission. But a biometric test kit for a nosy insurance program? That offered no motivation whatsoever.

But I’m married to a grown-up who insisted we complete the test and send it back. After a 9-hour fasting period, he dutifully stabbed his finger and bled all over the test card before sealing it up in the return envelope. Then he looked at me and said, “Do you want to prick your own finger or do you want me to do it for you?”

“Neither?” I said.

“That wasn’t one of the options,” he said in that annoying, grown-up tone of voice.

Insisting I wasn’t ready yet, I hid out in our bedroom trying to talk my inner fraidy-cat into acting like a grown-up long enough to face the needle. I knew I couldn’t bring myself to stab my own finger which meant I’d have to let him do it.

It’s one thing to let a trained medical professional stick you with a needle, and it’s another thing entirely to let someone stick you who has roughly the same medical expertise as Bozo the Clown.

Fortunately, my mother came over about that time and she offered to be the finger pricker, since she’s diabetic and has experience with such things. I reluctantly extended my hand and turned my head away from the carnage.

Admittedly, the finger prick didn’t hurt much. Had it ended with the needle stick, I would’ve been fine. But my finger wouldn’t bleed enough to get three big drops onto the test card, so Tom and my mother started squeezing the blood out of my hand, insisting they just needed one more drop.

All that squeezing and talking about blood started to make me feel woozy. Suddenly the back of my neck got hot and my stomach started a queasy somersault. Seven-year-old Kate appeared at my side, holding my other hand and reassuring me I’d be okay. Her 10-year-old brother also came to my aid, worried about how pale I looked.

Finally, after they literally squeezed the life blood out of me, the tormenters released me and I slid down to a more comfortable horizontal position on the floor where I continued to bleed. Tom fetched me a Band-Aid while the kids fanned me with the newspaper. It was not my finest moment.

Of course, all the grown-ups out there will roll their eyes and scoff at my silliness. But my fellow fraidy-cats? They understand.

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 read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

What We’re Reading: Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile

Facebook shareHappy Friday, mamas!

It’s cold and might even snow this weekend, so it’s a good time to cozy up with a fun book by the fire. And we’ve got a great recommendation for you because Gwen’s book, Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile, is on an Amazon special promotion right now which means you can get the e-book version for 99 cents. (That deal will be over by the 20th so grab it while you can.)

You can also give the e-book to a friend (and even schedule the day it arrives in their inbox) so this would be a great way to give a few holiday gifts without rockwood files photo logospending too much money.

In addition to being the co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com, Gwen is also a syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about marriage, motherhood, kids, pets and more, and this book is a collection of columns that her newspaper readers have loved most over the past 18 years.

Click HERE to see read the reviews posted by Amazon readers, and get the e-book version for yourself or a friend. Stay warm this weekend, and Happy Reading!

Life with Ladybug: The downside of mom blogging

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

Ladybug drawing among the daffodils (about the time I started blogging about her)

As you know, the name of this blog is Life with Ladybug.

Except lately, I really don’t write as much about my life with my daughter, code name Ladybug.

I’ve been writing Life posts since my little lady(bug) was in kindergarten, but she’s almost 13 now and doesn’t want the world wide web knowing about private conversations or most embarrassing moments.

As the child of a mom blogger, she often asks, “You’re not gonna write about that, are you?!”

For the past year or so, I’ve tried extra hard to respectful and discreet, writing around the edges of our life together, not going straight for the heart. I weigh every deep interaction, wondering if she’d be OK with me writing about it – or using it on the radio show Gwen and I do over at Magic. Usually I think: no.

I also try to leave her friends out of the mix, since they’re also struggling with their own tweenager identities and could be embarrassed by something I say. But I want to be real, and that means talking about my real mama struggles. These are new waters I’m wading and I’m trying to stay upright.

I know lots of other parenting bloggers experienced this same dilemma before me, when their kids came of age. At some point, it feels like it’s not your story to tell anymore. Our kids are separating from their parents, creating their own stories.

Lately, when I talk about the big things in her life, I share them from my perspective. How I feel about her turning 13 or having trouble in the sixth grade. I read and re-read my words and study the story from every angle, trying to determine whether it might make her cringe if she happens to read it.

I don’t write detailed accounts about that adorable thing she just told me — or that grown-up question she just asked. (EEEEK!! Seriously, lately we’re experiencing “the awkward word of the week” around here. It’s like Sesame Street for tweens! But I’m so glad she’s still coming to me for answers. Wait. Was that TMI? Too Much Middle-Schooler Information?)

have i everNow that Ladybug is older, I also think about the possibility of her future employers reading what I’ve written about her. I blew the kid’s mind the other day when I pointed out that her very own children will someday be able to read the social media comments and blog posts she writes between now and then.

Imagine that.

And what if, after my sweet only has her own children, she peppers a few posts on her blog with cooky anecdotes about dear old mom? I can tell you, the idea of that really makes me want to be as discreet as possible while she moves through the teen years.

“Do unto others” is a phrase that comes to mind.

My husband and I are always joking with Ladybug that she should pay attention to how nice we are to her right now so that when we’re old and doddering she’ll be as nice to us. We’re paying it forward, honey. Remember that.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl obsessed with superheroes and unicorns), wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John, and is the co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com

The Rockwood Files: Fed Up

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

During the drive to school this morning, I turned down the radio when another political ad came on. “Ugh! At least today is the last day we’ll have to put up with the ads. It’s election day.”

“Stupid voting,” my 12-year-old son mumbled in agreement.

“No, it’s not stupid,” I said, realizing that weeks of irritating commercials have caused him to lump voting into the same unappealing category as those repetitive ads. He was about to throw the voting baby out with the advertising bathwater, which has become increasingly dirty these past few weeks.

i votedSo I tried to explain why it’s important that adults go vote: “Some of the ads are annoying — that’s true — but the voting part is important. People shouldn’t complain about government leaders if they’re not willing to vote on who gets into office. We’re lucky we get to vote.”

“I know,” he said. “The voting part is good, but I’m so sick of those stupid ads.”

And he is not alone. We’re all sick of them. I have to imagine that even the candidates themselves get tired of hearing their names either built up or torn down every other 30 seconds.

The DVR that allows me to record the news and TV shows and then speed through the commercials has never been more appreciated than it has been these past few months when it let me skip over the constant stream of political jabs. But even with a DVR, it’s impossible to avoid the ads completely. Part of me wanted to scold the candidates for all their non-stop bickering and then send them to separate corners to think about what they’ve done.

But maybe it’s unfair to blame the players for what is inherently an ugly game. The candidates, their political parties and their supporters know that people are more likely to vote for familiar names, for people they feel like they know something about. So they run their ads — morning, noon and night — and hope their commercials are a little less annoying than their competitors’ spots. They hope one of their messages will strike a nerve with voters who’ll remember it on Election Day.

A few weeks ago, our 7-year-old daughter told me she would not vote for a certain candidate because she heard about what he did and that he voted “no” on something important. She was almost angry at him, and she was convinced that he must not be a good person. So I tried to tell her that sometimes advertisements don’t tell the whole truth and that we can’t decide what kind of person someone is based on a 30-second commercial on television.

“Can the people on commercials tell lies?” she asked.

“Well, no, they’re not supposed to tell lies in commercials because that’s against the law, but sometimes they only tell part of the truth and not the whole story,” I answered. She looked at me blankly and went back to her bowl of Cheerios. (Want a tough parenting assignment? Try explaining political “spin” to a 7-year-old.)

Lately I’m wondering if we’re not all frustrated children, when it comes to truly understanding our political system and knowing the candidates. I wish I could say I always study each candidate objectively and understand the nuances of every amendment, but I don’t. Sometimes what I know comes from a series of sound-bites or headlines that never tell the full story. That’s just not good enough. I have to do better than that, not only for myself but as an example to the future voters I’m raising.

But for the record, I have to believe we could do better than our current system of back-biting, name-calling, mud-slinging campaigns that stretch on for months and completely turn off the young people who will one day be new voters.

“I’m fed up, and I approved this message.”

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 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.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

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