The Rockwood Files: Digital memory lane

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

If you’re on Facebook or save digital pictures online, you probably get the same emails I do – the ones that show photo memories taken on the same calendar date several years ago.

Last week I got an email with photos of our youngest when she was only 3-years-old. She was outside playing in one of her first big snowfalls. There’s a picture of her bundled up in a puffy pink coat with a fur-trimmed hood, beaming at the camera with her bright blue eyes and cheeks tinged pink from cold. She was lying down in the snow while her dad moved her arms and legs to teach her the correct snow angel technique.

kate snow collageThe only thing I don’t like about these emailed photo memories is the realization of how quickly things are changing. That bundle of pink from seven years ago is now a tall 10-year-old who has decided that pink is far too “little girl” for her these days. If I tried to carry her on my hip like I used to, her long thin legs would dangle down past my knees.

Meanwhile, her two older brothers have gone from toddlers to teenagers in what feels like no time. The pitter patter of their little feet has morphed into something that sounds more like a herd of horses tromping through the house. When the teen horses gallop into my kitchen, they turn into hungry hippos, plowing through pizza rolls and chicken nuggets like a handful of Skittles.

hamburgers-575655_640 (2)They eat so many burgers that the Chick-fil-A cows have filed a restraining order against them. At this point, I’d guess our sons have a body composition that’s roughly 97 percent burger, 2 percent pizza rolls and 1 percent sarcasm.

For a long time, I consoled myself that at least I was still bigger than them, but now even that claim is gone. At 5 foot 8, I’m taller than the average woman but my 15-year-old passed that mark last year. He enjoyed his vertical achievement far too much for my taste. It’s hard to be authoritative when the person you’re lecturing can pat you on top of the head and call you a “good little mommy.”

Of course, the kids aren’t the only ones changing. It’s happening to Tom and me, too. When I see those photo memories Facebook keeps delivering, there’s no denying what our 40′s are doing to us. We’re grayer and slightly squishier than we used to be.

A few months ago, Tom and I went out for date night to try a new hot spot downtown. We sat in the bar area of the bustling restaurant so we could feel as cool as the twenty-something hipsters surrounding us. We ordered drinks and toasted to our Friday night freedom. But then Tom couldn’t read the fine print on the dinner menu. He asked if I had any reading glasses in my purse, so I dug out the only pair I had and handed them over. The glasses have red frames and a delicate floral pattern adorning each side.

There he sat, the love of my life, all dressed up for date night and wearing old lady glasses. It didn’t bother him in the least. You know why? We’re officially too old to care, which I suppose is a good thing. Nonetheless, I now carry a pair of his silver reading glasses in my purse. It helps preserve whatever scraps of our youth we have left.

Our new dependence on reading glasses makes me wonder if teenagers throughout the centuries have been getting away with things simply because their middle-age parents can’t see what they’re up to – literally.

So far, our tweens and teens are taking it easy on us. And we need them now more than ever because they’re great at reading small print, fixing the Wi-Fi, and eating leftover pizza. Although their childhood seems to be racing by, there’s real joy in watching them become the adults they’ll one day be.

And thanks to all the photo memories bouncing around in the digital “cloud,” those precious baby days and snow angels will still come back to me – one email at a time.

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.

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Life with Ladybug: Act your age

Life with Ladybug logo

I was in the grocery store today, trying to open one of those big plastic baggies in the meat section when a 20-something cruised by with her cart (full of yogurt and greens).

produce-bagShe said something to me and I could tell by the look on her face, and the hand gesture, that she was sympathizing with me about the fact that I couldn’t open the bag.

But then I did something that I still can’t believe. I’m so embarrassed, really.

Here’s what happened: I cupped my hand around my ear and said, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Yes, picture me there, flummoxed by a plastic bag and essentially doing the old lady equivalent of, “Eh?”

Good heavens.

I probably wouldn’t be too worried except I also just bought my first pair of “readers”.

readersI’ve started wanted to say such homespun things as, “My arm’s just not long enough, ha ha ha”. But seriously, I have to hold everything OUT (no, even further) to read it. Some print, like the kind on medicine bottles, is just too dang small. I’ve started taking pictures of the instructions and dosage amount on my iPhone, so I can widen the shot and see the words in larger print.

Ugh. And speaking of larger print, you know those “Large Print” books you see at the library? In Fayetteville, there’s a whole section. Well, I’ve started shopping that section because those books are just plain easier to read in bed at night when the lights are dim.

My husband has no sympathy. He’s worn glasses since the age of 16 — after he failed the eye test at the DMV.

So, really, I’ve been lucky to enjoy 20/20 vision until now.

But I can’t help but feel like I’m falling apart. First my eyes, now my ears. So far my mouth is doing ok since I had that gum surgery last year. I asked my friend, who’s also my dental hygienist, whether I’d soon be getting “long in the tooth” like older folks do.

She corrected me promptly, saying: “That’s not an old-folk thing. That’s just gum disease.”

Whew. Now that my mouth is no problem and I have magnified reading glasses to help with the small print, I guess I’ll be OK for a few more years … as long as I don’t break a hip.

The Rockwood Files: Spicing up the New Year

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

I don’t have it all together and, most of the time, I feel like an imposter pretending to be a grown-up. But you’d never know it by looking at my spice cabinet.

One of my main gripes about a New Year is the pressure to do more, be more, and have more. All the relentless resolution-making wears me out. Just when you think you’re an acceptable human being, January rolls around and makes you feel like a lazy loser in dire need of a life makeover.

But I know that any grand promise I make in January often turns out to be an “oh well” by the time I hit March. For me, small changes have the best shot at long-term survival. So I made one and then fell in love with it.

For most of last year, I opened the spice cabinet in my kitchen and one of two things would happen. I’d either fumble around in there, moving various bottles in a vain attempt to find garlic powder or oregano. Or I’d open the cabinet to grab salt and get beaned in the head by a falling bottle of basil leaves. It was a disorganized mess, and I finally got frustrated enough to fix it.

I went online to search for tips on organizing a spice cabinet and found thousands of suggestions, but the most popular one was to get a set of matching spice jars. A set of twelve jars was under twenty bucks, so I decided to give it a shot. The people who post Amazon reviews on spice jars convinced me I’d be glad I did this. I even took their advice and ordered some cute chalkboard labels to put on the new glass jars.square-spice-jars

A few days later, the jars arrived, and I set about the task of cleaning out the cluttered cabinet. I watched an old movie on the kitchen TV while I used a funnel to pour things like nutmeg, thyme and cayenne pepper from their plastic bottles into the new jars. There were a few spills and sneezes along the way, but I got it done. I proudly stuck a label on each jar and then lined them up in the cabinet like spicy little soldiers, ready for duty.

Here’s the crazy thing about this project. I’m not even a person who loves to cook. In fact, I barely tolerate it, and my skills are mediocre at best. But when I look at my newly organized spice cabinet, I feel like a pro – someone who knows her paprika from her peppercorns. More importantly, I love how this one change turned cabinet chaos into a small oasis of order. Martha Stewart would weep tears of joy over this thing. Sometimes I open the cabinet for no other reason than to stare and appreciate what an improvement it is.

What I learned after my self-imposed spice jar intervention is that progress and order can be contagious. One cabinet transformation often leads to another and then to a drawer or a pantry or maybe even a whole closet. The next thing you know, you’re a person whose tube of toothpaste has its own little compartment in a bathroom drawer organizer tray. (It’s own compartment!)

Of course, real life has a way of sneaking into almost any orderly space or well-intentioned routine. Most of my other cabinets and drawers are far from Pinterest-perfect. And on most days, my Fitbit tracker has to live with disappointment. But I must admit that, even though I roll my eyes at January’s overzealous goal-setting, making one small change can often be just the thing you need to lead you into a better way of doing things.

They say variety is the spice of life. I would add that being able to see the variety of your spices is pretty darn good, too. Pass the paprika, please.

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.

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The Rockwood Files: Under cover

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

Last summer I banished the dog from our bedroom at night. We’d been letting him sleep on a chair by our bed, but he started stirring around and making noise at 2 a.m. each night. So I took Charlie and his doggie bed downstairs to the sunroom and explained that, at my age, I need all the beauty sleep I can get.

But the weather has turned bitterly cold the past few nights, and my icy determination to exile the dog has thawed. The sunroom isn’t heated, and Charlie isn’t well-insulated. No matter how much he eats, he stays perpetually skinny. (Some dogs have all the luck.) And he doesn’t have long hair, unlike the cat who has so much hair that I could make four other cats using only the fluff piles that come off when I brush her.

charlie-tieOne night, instead of putting Charlie in the sunroom, we let him follow us upstairs to bed. He seemed to sense that his luck had changed, and he wasn’t about to blow the opportunity. So he curled up on a blanket at the foot of the bed and stayed perfectly quiet and still the entire night.

But as is often the case, dogs (and humans) adjust to their new good fortune all too quickly. The past few chilly nights, Charlie hasn’t been content with his place on a blanket at the foot of the bed. As soon as we’re unconscious, he burrows under the covers. One night, Tom came to bed late and thought I was playing footsie with him when he got into bed, only to be disappointed when he realized the warm nudge against his ankles was actually a dog.

I’ve heard from other people who say they, too, have a dog who insists on going under cover at night. I’m not even sure how they breathe under there. Doesn’t it get too hot? Don’t they feel like they’re suffocating?

Apparently, it’s just right for Charlie. When he does get a bit too warm, he eases up the bed until only his head sticks out of the covers. One morning, I woke up because I felt something sticking me between the shoulder blades. I thought maybe it was the TV remote or a book I’d left in bed. But when I glanced over my shoulder, I realized it was Charlie’s paw, and he was stretching out to claim more bed real estate.

When our three kids were little, we were used to waking up with a pointy elbow or knee in the middle of our backs at least once a week. It seemed like there was always either a bad dream to soothe or a “monster under the bed” situation or a middle-of-the-night fever to tend to. Parenting is often a round-the-clock job.

But now that the kids are 15, 12 and 10 years old, we thought we’d finally graduated from that phase of life. We weren’t counting on a four-legged kid picking up where the others left off.

When we woke up this morning, we told Charlie it was time to get up. Then we watched as a slow-moving lump under the covers moved up the bed and emerged from his comforter cave. He did a full-body shake to wake up and then trotted downstairs for breakfast.

If you ask me, I think this dog is getting too big for his Beagle britches. Maybe I should get Charlie some doggie fleece pajamas so he can move back to the sunroom at night. It’s like the old saying goes, “If you give a dog an inch, he’ll take your whole bed.”

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.

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The Rockwood Files: Back to basics

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

A not-so-festive thing happened during Christmas break. One morning, as soon as my feet hit the bedroom floor, a foreboding feeling crawled up from the pit of my stomach and told me to get to the bathroom – fast.

Seconds later the tell-tale abdominal cramps of a stomach virus doubled me over. The next hour felt more like six, as I rode the wicked waves of nausea. There’s no need for more detail because, if you’ve lived long enough to learn to read, you’ve no doubt been in this unfortunate position at least once or twice. In short, I was feeling neither holly nor jolly.

At one point, I spread a towel out on the cold tile of the bathroom floor and laid down on it so I could curl into the fetal position and pray for sweet relief. Sometimes a stomach virus feels like a cosmic punishment for every bad deed you’ve ever done or considered doing.

sick-emojiSome people, including my husband Tom, are brave little soldiers when they serve their time in the viral trenches. I, on the other hand, am not stoic when I’m sick. I’m more of a melodramatic mess. My worst-case-scenario mindset goes to all the dark and disastrous places when my stomach stages a revolt.

Although I don’t want Tom to see me in that pitiful condition, I also need to know that he is somewhere close by so he can point the paramedics to my location, should things take a dramatic turn for the worse. (And in my mind, things are always on the verge of taking that turn.)

Thankfully, I didn’t need him to call in the professionals. After a little time, a serious pity party on the bathroom floor and some over-the-counter medication, the virus relented and left me alone. As soon as the pain began to subside, I remembered how truly incredible it is just to feel well again.

My post-viral haze on the bathroom floor gave me time to think – time to put some priorities in place for the New Year. Before that virus got a hold of me, I would have told you I wanted to have a lower number on the bathroom scale in 2017 and that I want a higher number in our bank account. I’d have said I want to be more organized and much more productive.

While all those things are good and worthwhile pursuits, I realize now that they’re not nearly as important as the thing I already have – good health. My brief end-of-year illness brought me back to basics. Back to remembering how fortunate I am to have a body that can get over the occasional virus and to be able to get out of bed and move through the day without a physical struggle.

For decades, people have been toasting “to your health,” and there’s a good reason why. When we set aside all the “should’s” and goal obsession this time of year brings with it, we realize it’s awfully good to simply be well. Without that, all the other goals seem so much less important.

For those who are having more than their fair share of sickness, or time in the hospital, or time on the bathroom floor, I hope 2017 brings you renewed health and a strong body that feels good again.

And for the rest of us, I hope we get all the things we need or want in the New Year. May our to-do lists be littered with checkmarks by this time next year. But above all that, let’s raise a glass and wish for only this: “Here’s to our health.”

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.

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