Life with Ladybug: Cloudy, with a chance of a headache

By Shannon Magsam, co-founder and Ladybug’s mama

weatherGrowing up, my dad was religious about watching the TV weather forecast.

As a heavy equipment owner/operator, his business depended on knowing if the weather that week would be nice enough for him to dig a swimming pool or haul asphalt (“Dad, did you haul asphalt today?” Say that out loud and you’ll get why my adult siblings and I love asking him that question on a regular basis).

One day when I was about 10, we were playing dodge ball in the front yard with some neighbor kids and my little brother got his legs knocked out from under him with the rubber ball. He went down, headfirst, into the side of our front porch.

I ran in to tell dad that his youngest was bleeding profusely from the head, but as I stumbled into the living room, he put up a silencing arm. He didn’t even look my direction, just held up the arm. I dutifully waited until Dad saw the rain chances for the rest of the week before letting him know that Chad needed a trip to the ER. He blurted out a “We’ll, why didn’t you tell me that when you first came in!” before bolting out the front door.

After all those years of weather watching with Dad, I, too, must pause and watch when the weather forecast comes on during the local news. Shhhhhhhh I’ll hiss and I’m quick to throw up an arm if anyone dares to speak while Dan Skoff is letting me know whether I’ll need an umbrella, a light jacket, a heavy coat or to prepare the closet for an extended stay (I always make sure to bring the bike helmets in with us in case of a tornado).

storm cloudToday I was thinking it would be great to have a Teenage Mood Forecast to watch on Sunday nights. Some professional analyst to predict all the highs and lows for the week — for those of us who are in the messy middle of parenting a teenager.

The weather here in Northwest Arkansas over the past few weeks could actually serve as a pretty good pattern of what it’s like to live with a 15-year-old:

“It’s bright and sunny on this marvelous Monday in NWA, folks, but hold on to your hats because tomorrow morning there will be a distinct chill in the air! Better keep that jacket handy! By Wednesday, expect a storm to come raging through the region, but we can’t tell you exactly when. Most likely right after school pickup, but there’s also a big chance it will make your house rumble around bedtime!”

If I knew in advance that gale force winds would be flying out of my teenager’s mouth on a Thursday (You did what? You said what? You’re making me do WHAT??) or that her head would be taking a tornadic turn when I accidentally embarrassed her in public, I could mentally prepare myself.

Alas, there is no mood report. Until there is, I’ll just appreciate the sunny days and stay on the edge of my seat for the rest of the week (while simultaneously bobbing and weaving to avoid the dodge balls).

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of,, and the proud mama of a 15-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur, who is the love of her life.


Life with Ladybug: Married romance

By Shannon Magsam, co-founder and mama of Ladybug

Since we’re smack dab in the middle of the month of love (it really is for us: Valentine’s Day, our daughter’s birthday and our anniversary) I was just thinking about romance before. You know, before the domestic bonds of matrimony and parenthood swept us up into their all-consuming embrace.

You’re sweating, your bosom is heaving. You feel so breathless, so out of control. Scene: You’re mopping the tile floor and that sticky jelly patch just will NOT budge and you have to leave for a meeting in 15 minutes.

flowersThe mopping is what got me to thinking about it. All that energy I used to put into making my husband feel like the most adored man alive – and all that energy he used to put into covering an entire room with wildflowers just for my viewing pleasure – is now mostly devoted to domestic tasks.

Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW the romance of a man who will do dishes, laundry and remember that our child needs glow sticks for a school project.

Yes, he really is thoughtful like that. My man is a gem, I agree. Even his initials are JEM. It’s a fact.

But we, and I stress the we, are just not as romantic as we used to be. Who has the time?

As I noted, all that energy is spent on mopping, parenting and paying the bills. We can get into our loops and forget that we have the power – and the need — to step outside the swirling tornado of today on occasion.

I just told our daughter, who turned 15 this month (can you even believe it?), about how her daddy wooed me at the beginning of our relationship by first making me giggle in the orange juice aisle of our local grocery store and then by writing me a poem that  turned my knees to jelly (believe me, not kitchen floor jelly). It was soooo romantic.

Of course, my daughter, being 15 and all, wasn’t too impressed, noting that our romantic fusion had boomeranged and she wasn’t the slightest bit romantic. We’re apparently a little ooey gooey for her taste, even after 17 years of marriage.

Good thing she didn’t see us before.

We can’t go back to those crazy carefree days, but we can still hang on to the romance. As G.I. Joe says, knowing is half the battle, so I’m going to bust out with some extra love today, on Valentine’s Day, and on our anniversary, which is coming up later this month.

That 15-year-old will be heading off to college in three years and we’ll be here, alone, together. In the meantime, it’s smart to get back in touch with a little more of the before.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of,, and the proud mama of a 15-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur, who is the love of her life.

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.

Wondering what to do in Branson? A list of things to try!

Branson, Let's go

If you still haven’t planned your summer vacation — or you’re in desperate need of a long weekend away — here are some highlights from our recent trip to Branson, Mo. We hope this little tour sparks ideas for activities you might want to try with your family!

The Branson CVB invited us to #ExploreBranson {through the ever-fabulous The Women Bloggers group, headed by Stephanie Buckley} and covered the cost of our hotel — the ritzy Hilton Convention Center — and a variety of the city’s most addictive attractions. We were among various bloggers from a number of states who participated with our families. We had a blast!

Knowing that we’d have two 14 year-old girls on the trip (Shannon’s daughter and a friend), Kristiana and Liz of the CVB chose the perfect itinerary for our family vacation. We started out at the Titanic Museum on Day 1 and ended our three-day trip with a ride on the brand new Branson Ferris Wheel.

Even though we’d been to Branson before, we’d never experienced these attractions. That’s the cool thing about the city: there’s so much to do, you probably missed something when you were there last time or you haven’t tried that new thing. They’re always adding cool attractions. Branson has several additions in the works right now and they sound AWESOME.

santas on snapchat

Santas from the city of Branson’s Snapchat account

Fun aside: We were in Branson during a Santa convention. There were over 800 Santas in the city and we kept experiencing Santa sightings. We saw Santas driving by in vehicles, walking into restaurants and walking beside us on the Branson Landing.

Here are a few quick details about each of the attractions we visited during our stay. (At the end of each description, look for quotes from my 14-year-old daughter her friend. The teenagers sum things up nicely!)

Branson, Day 1:

Titanic Museum

As I said on the nwaMotherlode Facebook page, I was in tears multiple times during our tour of the Titanic Museum. One of the crew members, Kevin, eloquently told the story of the band continuing to play as the ship sank. The musicians wanted to keep spirits up, although they knew things were likely hopeless — and they were doomed. None of the band members survived, but their story certainly did. I was so inspired by their bravery in the face of tragedy.

You know what’s super cool? When you’re in line to enter the museum, you receive a card about a person who was actually aboard the Titanic. You don’t learn whether your person survived or perished until the end of your self-guided tour. I was Genevieve Cassebeer and I was one of the lucky women to survive the tragedy. Genevieve died in New York at age 95.

The museum is great for adults who are fascinated by the Titanic because there are so many exhibits to explore, with detailed descriptions of how events unfolded. But teens and younger children will also appreciate the museum because there are so many interactive exhibits.

We were there for two hours, but could have easily spent more time. There was so much to see and the staff was wonderful. They’re able to tell you little details not found in the exhibits.

The Teen’s Take:

“I’ve never seen the movie and this made me not want to see it because I know I’d cry. I really liked that you got to see whether you lived or died at the end.”

“I liked the interactive exhibits and the artifacts. It was really cool to stick my hand in the water and see how cold it was that night and to stand on the deck to see how steep it got when the Titanic was about to sink.”


Visitors are assigned cards about passengers aboard the Titanic

The Haygoods Show 

Honestly, this show blew us away. Again, we had two 14-year-olds with us, so we were a little concerned it might be too folksy for them — or too kiddish. We were so wrong. We really (really!) loved the Haygoods, a group of siblings who can play pretty much any instrument you put in their hands. The youngest, and only sister, could even play the harp like a dream.

The show was a mix of laser lights, great singing, fabulous dance moves and comedic exchanges between the siblings. It’s really high energy. At the end of the show, they bring their mom to say hello. Family-friendly, but edgy is how I’d describe it.

We never thought we’d hear AC/DC on the banjo, but we did. And it was awesome ;)

The shows are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I can’t imagine trying to muster up that kind of energy every night of the week!

The Teen’s Take:

“10 out of 10, would go again. I want to learn how to play the banjo now.”

“The Haygoods show was fun! Even better than I expected.”

Here’s a video that pretty much sums up the Haygoods fun:

Branson, Day 2:

White Water Branson

On a hot summer day, our family is all about a water park! We really enjoyed White Water, especially the Ohana Falls water raft ride. You basically sit in a huge water raft with your peeps and zoom down a big, winding water slide. Expect a few dips! Perfection!

The water park features 2 million gallons of fun rides and attractions, including a HUGE wave pool + a long and winding lazy river (my fave). We felt like we were at the beach.

They also have food and drinks, which I’m all about. Lounging near water while eating yummy food is one of my favorite things, ever. Seriously.

The Teen’s Take:

“Definitely Ohana Falls! The water raft ride was my favorite.”

“Yes, I loved the water raft ride and also the lazy river. Such a fun day!”


Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zip Line

OK, truthfully, when I saw the zip line on our family’s itinerary, I thought: “NO WAY, Parakeet Pete. I’m a chicken!” You might say I’m a teensy bit scared of heights and the parakeet takes you high above the Branson Landing, over Lake Taneycomo.

Linda Peterson, one of Parakeet Pete’s wonderful managers, talked me into facing my fears. I bravely boarded the parakeet seat and felt extremely proud of myself when the ride was over.

The theme of our trip suddenly became: Face your fears. Step out of your comfort zone.

I was literally shaking when I stepped off the parakeet seat, but also exhilarated. Linda was there to ask my honest opinion about the ride and I told her truthfully: It was great! I’m so glad I did it!

I felt completely safe on the ride and was pleased to avoid this huge fear: vomiting from a fast-moving, high rise ride into the lake below.

The Teen’s Take:

“It was a really pretty view!”

“That was one of my favorite parts of our whole trip. It was fun with a dash of adrenaline!”

Parakeet Pete's collage

Parakeet Pete’s Zip-n-Sip

You’ve really got to do this. We loved being high above Branson on the Sky Deck listening to music and watching the sun set over Lake Taneycomo. As the evening grew dark (after a gorgeous sunset!), it was fun to watch people zip up to the Sky Deck from Parakeet Pete’s down below to join us. After having a drink (or dinner — sometimes they have events with a whole meal, too) and visiting for a while, you can zip back down the zip line and continue enjoying Branson Landing. That’s why it’s called the Zip-n-Sip!

The lights on the landing and zip line were beautiful and the view from the deck was fabulous. The band (Durango) was also wonderful.

The Teen’s Take:

“If you want to impress your friends, go and take photos up there. It was lit.”

“The scenery from there was beautiful. The lights were pretty hipster.”

panaramic view

Branson, Day 3

The Track Family Fun Parks

There are four family fun parks throughout Branson and we spent some fun time at #4. We rode the bumper cars, played arcade games and rode go-karts on the 4-story track called Heavy Metal High Rise. A BLAST. There’s also a smaller go-kart  track for the littles, which looked like lots of fun.

The Teen’s Take:

“I liked this place a lot. My need for speed was met (on the go-kart track). I got super competitive, even though I’m usually not. I wanted to pass people. #fastandfurious8″

“I liked the arcade and the bumper cars best.”

Heavy Metal High Rise_ride

Heavy Metal High Rise/Photo credit: The Track Family Fun Parks

 The Branson Ferris Wheel

The new Ferris Wheel is at Family Fun Park #4, but I’m pretty sure you can’t miss it. With more than 16k LED lights, this beauty can be seen for miles — and lights up the night. It was originally at the Navy Pier in Chicago, but now it’s at home in Branson. There are light shows several times in the evenings. Side note: Michael Haygood (of the Haygoods, easy on the eyes) helped design the lights for the Ferris Wheel.

The Ferris wheel is 150 feet tall and was actually scarier than the zip line for me, probably because the whole ride is 7 1/2 minutes. I had more time to think about being that high up. However, there was a great view and I felt safe since the gondolas are enclosed.

The Teen’s Take:

“OK, fine, I was too scared to ride it.”

“The Ferris wheel gets an A+”

Ferris Wheel

Branson’s new Ferris wheel is 150 feet tall and lights up the night

The Hilton Convention Center

The Hilton is a beautiful hotel and they treated us very well! Great staff, for sure. It’s 12 stories high, so you can’t miss it if you’re near Branson Landing. Speaking of, we loved being so close to the landing which has tons of shopping, restaurants, bars and activities. Than Landing — plus the city’s downtown — are within walking distance to the hotel, so that kept us from jumping in the car a lot.

The Teen’s Take:

“The shower was great and I liked their shampoo and conditioner. They had a refrigerator for my Sprite and a safe for my art tablet. The room was really pretty.”

“The pool areas were great. They have inside and outside pools, plus a hot tub. The view from our window was cool. The bed was really soft and so were the pillows. The bellman was really nice. They had snacks downstairs if you forgot to bring any.”

Feet pic

We loved relaxing on our soft bed at the Hilton in between activities!

Branson, overall experience

Over breakfast at Clocker’s Cafe downtown, I told the Branson CVB ladies, Kristiana and Liz, that they had chosen the perfect itinerary for my family. And my husband and I told them that it surprised us that we had been to the area before but hadn’t enjoyed these attractions. We love that Branson keeps adding new things to do and works hard to make the city a fun destination full of surprises.

We had a wonderful time and can’t wait to go back!

The Teen’s Take:

“My brain hurts from all the adrenaline.”

“I stepped out of my comfort zone on this trip and it was so fun!”

I survived

Back at home, enjoying hot tea in my Parakeet Pete’s mug

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?