Life with Ladybug: Front porch romance

front door

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

What is it about my new front porch?

While looking for houses over the summer, I went to a house with a beautiful front porch. I didn’t realize how much I wanted a big front porch until that moment.

I wanted that house. I was in love.

It was a little out of our price range, but we were considering an offer.

Later that day, while I was at Lowe’s for the five hundredth time to buy a gadget to repair or prettify something at my old house, the realtor texted me and said someone had made a good offer on the house and it was basically off the market.

I thought of the front porch and all the pretty windows. My love was gone, snapped up by another woman. She would rock on “my” porch and gaze out “my” windows.

I pouted for a while, then my mama told me there was something even better waiting. And I heard God’s voice, too, saying the same thing. I was at peace.

But, just like someone who has loved and lost again, I didn’t quite give my heart to another house again over the next few weeks. And I looked a LOT. I was a woman on a mission to find “the one”.

And even while I was looking at the other fish in the sea/houses on the Northwest Arkansas market, there was this one house …. I called it “the fantasy house”. I thought it was probably out of our price range. But that front porch? WOW. The fantasy house even had a room just inside the beautiful front door that we could make a “reading room” (a library sounds too stuffy for us).

I would drive by the house and stare at that front porch, imagining big black rockers and red poinsettias flowing down the front steps.

After running the numbers, my husband and I decided making an offer on the house was doable. Eeeeeekkkk. But we couldn’t exceed a certain figure. We didn’t lowball them, but we offered what we could afford. They came back with a figure slightly above, but still within doable.

Are you serious?

That front porch was MINE now?

And I laughed, because I realized God had once again exceeded my expectations. That other front porch was just validation that I wanted a front porch. And then God brought this one to me. It turned out that our new house went on the market the same day our old house did.

The people who lived here before us are fabulous. When our buyer’s financing fell through, the wife broke realtor protocol and called me. She knew how much I loved the house and even after I acknowledged to her “You have to do what you have to do”, she told me: We can wait.

They did indeed wait and happily, our buyer’s financing went to another broker and the sale was saved.

The day we closed, we finally met our sellers. I hugged the wife tightly and she gave me a stack of pretty magazines and a hand-written note welcoming me to the new house.  We have since met up a few times to pass along mail and have plans for a little Christmas get-together.

One of my new neighbors, Whitney, told me the house has a history of nice people living inside. I told her we would try to live up to those standards. :)

Whitney’s comment reminded me that at the beginning of house hunting I prayed our house would go to a good person who would be a good neighbor to all my friends on the street – and that our new house would be a place for gathering old friends – and all the new.

My old house was smallish and I always used that as an excuse not to invite people over, lest we run out of room. In the new house, I told God, I would invite friends over and enjoy.

I feel like that’s why I have a new front porch. To share with friends.

Front porch friends.

And can you believe it’s nice enough to front-porch sit the second week in December?

Come on over, y’all!

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com, nwaMomProm.com, and the proud mama of a 13-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur.

Life with Ladybug: Having a teenager can be a drain on your love bank

Life with Ladybug logo

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

If your love language is words of affirmation, you’ll find your love bank might be downright penniless if you have a teenager.

There are often lots of words, but few are affirming.

At least that’s my experience right now.

If you’re the mama to a sweet toddler who says, “Fank you, mommy” or a 7-year-old who sticks to you like glue and hangs on your every mama word, bask in it, ladies.

The warmth of your child’s face beaming up at you will need to be the sun that warms you when frosty teenager days arrive.

iciclesI swear I sometimes see the faint outline of icicles hanging from my 13-year-old’s bedroom door and those icy fangs seem to grow longer as the days creep up to her 14th birthday.

I’m a little concerned that they might extend to the bottom of the door, which will make it really difficult for me to deliver fresh-from-the-dryer clothes to her dresser drawers or slip in the door to scratch her back at night before bed.

Luckily, there are few sunny moments to keep the temperature just above freezing at our house.

That said, my teenager did something yesterday that made my love bank account FAT.

We were leaving the library and she saw a mom taking pictures of her (I suppose) husband with their two kids. They were both  laughing and being silly.

“Relationship GOALS,” she intoned.

“Relationship GOLD?” I asked, perplexed.

“No, mom, relationship GOALS. Like, you have career goals. But this is relationship goals,” she said.

Ohhh, as in that couple you can look up to and aspire to be like in your own relationships. Got it.

Then, she added: “You and dad could be relationship goals.”

“Well, wow. Thanks. That was sweet of you to say. That. Thanks,” I stuttered, the words falling out in fragments through my smiling lips.

Icicles melt, birds sing.

And CHA-CHING.

Words of affirmation? Check. Big fat check in the love bank.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com, nwaMomProm.com, and the proud mama of a 13-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur.

Life with Ladybug: Cute treats for your Halloween or fall party

By Shannon Magsam

If you follow nwaMotherlode on Facebook — or listen to us over at Magic 107.9 — you probably heard that I moved.

Not away. Just about 1/2 a mile from my old house of 14 years, actually. There was a bit of house drama (I’ll talk about that another day), but we’re finally here and settled. I still don’t have rugs down everywhere I want them, or pictures on all the walls (and the garage is still full of boxes), but still we thought: time for a little par-tay.

The month of October is perfect for a party because of all the fun fall treats and the weather is just right for being outside.

I thought I’d share a few of the treats from the house party in case you want to use them at a gathering you’re having this month. Let’s start with the caramel apple bar, which I plan to do again on Halloween night for friends and new neighbors who stop over while trick-or-treating here. This was my 13-year-old daughter’s idea and it was a hit with our guests.

The Caramel Apple Bar is not a bar/cookie, it’s this:

caramel apple bar, use this

 You just grab some sliced apples (I cheated and bought them pre-cut), some caramel (you can make your own or buy) and then come up with all kinds of toppings that would taste great on a caramel apple. We had coconut, M&Ms, sprinkles and Skittles. There are tons of possibilities! I wish we’d added a spoon into the caramel (which is in the spider container in the above pic) because some friends just wanted to drizzle caramel over their apples.

Up next, MUMMIES!

Mummies, use thisThese were my teenager’s idea, too, and she made them. We realized after the fact that we should have used double-stuffed Oreos. To make them, just use icing to scribble the mummy faces and add edible eyes. If you use the larger Oreos, you can place a candy stick into each for a lollipop effect. Ours didn’t have enough stuffing for the stick, but I think they turned out cute anyway ;)

Our {Frightful} Fall Kettle Corn was also a big hit:

Frightful Fall Kettle Corn

We also cheated a little on this by buying bags of kettle corn to pop. So you just pop your kettle corn, pour it into a big bowl and add your favorite candies. We used mini chocolate chips, pretzels, M&Ms and candy corn (which makes it so cute!). After you gently mix the popcorn and candy together, drizzle melted chocolate over the top. We used decadent Ghirardelli dark melting wafers. YUM.

Those were the sweet treats. We also had chili (my husband’s special recipe) with all the fixin’s plus a few of my favorite appetizers. It was a fun party and the food prep turned out to be a great bonding experience with my teenager. Of course, as soon as we got finished cooking, my daughter went back to her regularly-scheduled Instagramming. It was good while it lasted.

Hope this inspires you to invite a few of your friends over for a fall get-together!

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!

Life with Ladybug: Not digging Graves’ Disease

By Shannon Magsam

I have a friend who may have thyroid cancer and I’m more than freaked out about it, but praying that she gets the help she needs, has surgery and gets the all-clear SOON.

Lots of women wonder if they have thyroid issues (and many of them actually do) because they think it might explain their weight gain or inability to lose weight. When I developed thyroid disease, it never entered my mind.

Of course, I was a 20-something, working 60-hour weeks at my first newspaper job.

And I was losing weight.

tiggerI resembled Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, bouncing around the Thousand Acre Wood in a state of never rest. Except I was bouncing off the four walls of a tiny newspaper office.

I didn’t realize it, but my body was burning up from the inside. My organs were working overtime and when I drank more caffeine to stay awake and make newspaper deadlines (or put the paper to bed every week) I was adding fuel to an already crackling fire.

I had the opposite of the thyroid condition can make people gain weight.

I was the proud owner of a HYPER-thyroid. My thyroid (a gland which is described as butterfly-shaped, how pretty) became so large I could finally see it in the mirror. It looked like I had swallowed a small egg and it was sitting right below my Adam’s apple. (I’m so glad I dodged one of the other common symptoms: bulging eyes.)

I found out the big knot had an ugly name: goiter. And the name of my disease was also ugly: Graves’ Disease.

Grave, dead, coffin, buried. I immediately thought of those words. My specialty doctor laughed at my concerns. He had seen this many times and wasn’t impressed.

He recommended that I take radioactive iodine to obliterate my overactive thyroid, so overnight I became someone who was HYPO-thyroid.

And I started taking little pills to compensate for my lack of a thyroid. (The Good Doctor really laughed when I said, in all seriousness: “What would happen to me if there was an apocalyptic event and I ran out of Synthroid?” I have since learned that my body starts to slowwww down if I miss a few pills. I don’t want to think about dying a slow, organs-shutting-down-slowly death. I try hard to keep a 90-day supply of Synthroid on hand.)

Many years after my thyroid was done in, I read a book by Christiane Northrup called Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. I was in bed with my husband, propped up on two fluffy pillows, happily reading this book, when I got to The Part. The Part where she specifically mentioned Graves disease, which I somehow hadn’t realized was an autoimmune disease.

Don’t quote me (it was years ago) but Dr. Northrup wrote that sometimes our bodies manifest physical symptoms that correspond with problems we might be having in our lives. For example, if you don’t SAY what you need to say to the people around you, if you keep quiet when you should speak up, maybe you’ll get a cough. Or maybe you’ll get a big knot on your throat.

I thought back to that time of my Graves’ affliction: I was young, trying to prove myself as a new reporter, my personal life was a shambles and I shut up and put up. A people pleaser since birth (one can only assume), I avoided conflict and often failed to say what I really needed to say.

When I recalled that time in my life, I started to boohoo in bed, startling my husband. It made me emotional, I suppose, to remember the stress and the shambles. But I also felt empowered.

maxed out bookI realized I had changed for the better. I was better at speaking up and not taking on so much that my body might literally start to raise a ruckus by becoming sick. You know, just to get my attention.

I was reminded of that night in bed this week while reading a book by Katrina Alcorn called Maxed Out.

It struck me that I still haven’t completely given up the habit of not taking care of myself as much as I should (by exercising, sleeping and saying no enough). It reminded me that I vowed not to shut up and put up. I can still be kind, but I’m nobody’s doormat.

I’m sure I still keep too much bottled up, but I don’t feel like I might blow anymore. I pray, talk to friends and take care that I’m not holding onto resentments.

Please know that I’m not saying if you have cancer or some other illness, it’s your fault. But I do know there can be a correlation between physical ailments and inner turmoil.

And as GI Joe says: Knowing is half the battle.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com, nwaMomProm.com, and the proud mama of a 13-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur.