Life with Ladybug: Back to life. Back to reality.

shan at the beach

On our way back from Panama City Beach in Florida, we stopped by my parents’ house to spend the night – and to pick up a chicken.

No, not KFC. Against my better judgment, we were bringing home one of the chickens from my mom’s flock to join our lone chicken survivor, Tessa (we lost our other two chickens recently).

That morning, as we visited over my mother’s homemade waffles, she commented, “Well, vacation is over. Back to reality.”

I groaned at her words, but as I took another sip of my hot tea, I realized that the thought didn’t actually make me sad. I pondered over why that was and came to the conclusion that I love my work, my community, my life.

My reality doesn’t bite. So heading back wasn’t a bad thing.

Sure, there are plenty of things I’ll miss about vacation. Things like:

The food. No cooking! No clean-up! One of my favorite meals was at Great Southern Café (my daughter also gave this restaurant the Best Lemonade Award from along all the places we ate along the Panhandle). We also had fun seeing the alligators and eating crab legs at Bayou Bill’s Crab House. I’m not typically a sushi fan, but we also had a great experience at the restaurant FireFly. Our waiter was amazing and had actually lived in NWA for a time a few years back. I tried my husband’s Bubba Roll and it was gooooood. It was cooked, so I didn’t get all ooged out about raw fish. I also loved my Caesar salad with blue crab.

Great Southern Cafe salad

Great Southern Cafe salad

The sunsets. Wow, those Florida sunsets. Gorgeous.

sunset

The ocean sounds. I love the sounds of waves lapping against the shore. I even have a sound machine so I can hear the beach anytime, right here in Northwest Arkansas. Granted, it doesn’t sound exactly the same, but it still has a calming effect.

view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

Endless fun without the interruption of work. I didn’t say “Hang on! Just let me answer this one last email” even once. My daughter noticed.

The awesome pillows. Seriously, I miss my Holiday Inn Resort bed pillow. That was a first.

Riding bikes at Rosemary Beach. We had a great time riding around the little town. It’s so pretty!

That eclectic book store. We loved visiting Sun Dog books while we were visiting Seaside. It’s so adorable and we bought a few new beach reads (as if we didn’t already have a stack to mow through).

Sun Dog Books, Seaside

Sun Dog Books, Seaside

But, truthfully?

I’m glad to be back home where reality is doing laundry from the trip, jumping with both feet back into my work groove, setting up lunches with friends and enjoying Game of Thrones marathons with my husband (where I can mostly be found with my eyes shut tight, my fingers in my ears and humming so I can’t see or hear what’s on the screen).

That said, I do believe vacations – or even staycations where the whole family is out of their routine together – is a balm for the soul. It’s nice to be pampered and to experience the bonding that naturally happens when you have fun together as a family unit. And the beach is my happy place (my husband’s, too).

As I took my dishes to my mother’s sink after breakfast, I remembered that the day before we left Florida, my daughter expressed regret at having to come back home.

And I told her: “It is better to have vacationed and departed than to never have vacationed before.”

Au revoir, Panama City Beach. Hello, realistic {lovely} life.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com.

Life with Ladybug: Backyard chickens, rest in peace

Dot, ready for her close-up

By Shannon Magsam, co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com and mama to 1 little lady(bug)

I won’t ever look at a Saltine cracker again without thinking about our backyard chickens.

They liked a little wheat bread tossed out the back door from time to time, but Saltines? Oh yeah. They’d fight mightily over those.

I’m writing in past tense, but we do have one left: Tessa. She reminds me of the Little Red Hen from one of my favorite children’s books and, as of this morning, she’s all alone in the backyard.

Her buddy Shawnna, a black and white checkered beauty, died three weeks ago and my husband found Dot, the feistiest of them all, dead in their coop this morning when he went out to let them loose into the backyard. (That’s a close-up of Dot in the picture above. Ladybug took it last spring.)

I told my husband through hot, bitter tears this morning: “I don’t think I’m cut out to be a backyard chicken farmer.”

When you have a huge flock it might be easier to lose a few. But when you start out with the three amigos and you’re down to the lone survivor it’s a sad sight. The little red hen has been searching all morning for her friend. She calls out, loudly, but there’s no answer.

With Shawnna, we had tried valiantly for weeks to keep her alive, even taking her to a vet. I had thought at the time it would be better if she had just died quickly. But then this morning. With Dot. I felt like I hadn’t really had a chance to say goodbye, which I did with her sister.

When my husband dug the grave out back, it was a lot of work to cut through all the rocks and roots. It was a fairly large box we buried Dot in. While he worked, flashes of panic gripped me. What if I woke up one morning and found that he had died?

Death reminds us of death. Deaths of those who have gone before, deaths that will come later, our future deaths. All uncertain. I do have hope, though, for the afterlife. I cling to that hope.

If I managed one smile this morning, from the time my husband woke me up to tell me the bad news to the time I had to tell our daughter the same, it was when I pictured Shawnna running up to Dot as she reached heaven, calling her over to the best spot for scratching out bugs.

And the spot where a nice heavenly host tosses them the occasional manna – or maybe even a Saltine cracker.

Chicken collage

Life with Ladybug: What did I forget again?

Life with Ladybug logo

By Shannon Magsam, co-founder of nwaMotherlode and mama to 1 little lady(bug)

My memory is shot, y’all.

If I don’t write it down, set my iPhone alarm – or the timer on the oven, when I’m cooking – I’m toast. Burnt toast, on those occasions I forget to set an alarm.

Actually, toast is pretty safe, since it doesn’t require my attention for the final pop-up. But you can bet there are some nights when I’m cleaning the kitchen and, as I wipe down the stove, notice a stone cold piece of toast still waiting forlornly in the toaster from breakfast.

alarm clockIf I don’t set an alarm, it – whatever “it” is — just usually doesn’t get done. Well, either an alarm or getting it written down on my to-do list.

I update my to-do list every night so it’s fresh and un-jumbled for tackling in the morning.

I also have an old-timey calendar hanging by my desk and it’s full of notes in those little squares with the day’s date. I make sure to check that calendar multiple times a day in case I may have forgotten something.

My memory has always been a little tricky. It seems like the childhood memories that stuck with me are all associated with a strong emotional event.

Or, as I tell my husband, my early childhood was pretty low-key, without too much turmoil, so the days may have blurred together a bit.

It went something like this: play with friends or siblings outside in the woods, eat lots of delicious food that my mother cooks without fail, sneak into my daddy’s truck for an extra Little Debbie’s sugar hit, visit the grandparents, play with the cousins. Rinse and repeat.

The teen years are a little more memorable. See above: strong emotional event. I think many of my memories are tinged with emotion from about ages 13-16. (Sorry, mom.)

Sometimes I get so frustrated, I have to look at the bright side of my bad memory. If you insulted me, for instance, back in 2005 I may have already forgotten it. It’s easy to forgive and forget this way (what a peace-loving perk!).

My mother’s memory, on the other hand, is elephant-like and she often brings up stories from my teen years that embarrass me in front of my husband. I’ll look blank, and she’ll say, “Don’t you remember that?”

Way too often the answer is a big fat no.

Of course, there are those times when I can remember things that my mom, brothers and sister can’t, and those occasional memory wins make my day.

I like to think that multi-tasking is the reason I sometimes feel so scattered. I know I need to focus on one thing at a time, but that concept strikes me as the impossible dream.

I started this blog, partially, as a way to remember. I love to look back over my posts and see what my little Ladybug was doing when she was 6 or 8. I like to read about my state of mind at the moment. It’s good to keep records. I may not be able to remember everything and I won’t always be around to remember – or forget — but the stories will stand.

In the meantime, I’ll I need all those bells and whistles.

Do you have a good memory? Any tips on how I can hang on to my remaining memory cells? Or, you know, whatever those things are called. How do you ensure you don’t forget and drop one of those important household/work/kid balls?

Blue dress, shannon, croppedShannon is co-founder of nwaMotherlode, and married to John, awesome dad to their 12-year-old daughter, Ladybug. If you have any comment about your memory, lack thereof, or tips, feel free to leave them below! Comments are the marshmallows in Shannon’s Cheerios (or something like that). Have a happy Thursday!

Life with Ladybug: Borrowing my daughter’s clothes

By Shannon Magsam

Last night, I gathered my Ladybug into a bear hug and realized something I’ve known was coming: my baby’s taller than me.

It was made official when I took her to the doctor a little over a week ago and they measured her height.

Now, for those of you who know me, you’re probably thinking, “Well, you’re not exactly tall.” And that’s true. I’m not even five feet, so it’s not a big stretch to imagine my daughter would outgrow me.

I’m glad she’s going to be a little taller, although I’ve never minded being “short”. But it’s a momentous occasion when your little Ladybug outgrows you.

mom loves me tshirtWhat’s most jarring is that we can wear the same clothes. Ladybug accuses me of buying clothes for her that I know she won’t really like, just so I can keep them. I DO buy clothes for her with no guilt, but don’t buy them for myself as readily, so there could be something to that. :)

Of course, I’m not too keen on wearing shirts covered with pictures of cats or phrases like, “You are so Cray Cray” with  dancing crayons on the front. Those were definitely bought with her in mind.

Yep, she’s literally growing up before my eyes – and now above them.

After that bear hug, we marveled at how tall she’s getting and how, when she was a baby, the pediatrician predicted she would be REALLY tall. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I suppose it’s possible. (Read this article on WebMD if you’re curious about when kids stop growing and predicting height.)

When it was time for sleep last night, I sat on the edge of Ladybug’s bed, and we talked. It’s still one of her favorite things, though I often tell her it’s too late and she needs to go right to sleep. We chatted about her day, a little school drama (in sixth grade there’s always something) and she suddenly called me her friend.

“Your mother or your friend?” I asked, remembering all those parenting books that warn: YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE YOUR CHILD’S FRIEND. THEY HAVE LOTS OF FRIENDS BUT ONLY ONE MOTHER. RED ALERT. RED ALERT!

“Both,” she said, after considering.

I considered whether that was a bad thing.

Then I thought: “Therapists bedanged, I’m happy with that answer.”

Maybe we can get matching BFF shirts. In the same size.

(I’m only kidding, therapists!)

Blue dress, shannon, croppedShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com.

Life with Ladybug: 14 questions to ask your husband tonight

14 questions

My husband and I have a long history of asking each other probing questions on road trips.

It’s a good way to reconnect, to get back a little of the old romance, to remind us of a time when we couldn’t wait to hear MORE about each other.

So when we headed to Choctaw Casino in Pocola, Oklahoma, over the weekend for a little anniversary getaway, I started the 20 questions game.

I think asking questions — even surface ones, like what’s your favorite color or restaurant — keeps things fresh and helps improve your relationship. And there’s always something new to learn about each other. Really!

Since our 14th anniversary was yesterday, here are 14 questions I asked my husband that you might want to ask yours — tonight, on the next date night or while zooming down the road on an upcoming road trip. Just make sure you answer, too. It’s called a conversation!

14 questions to ask your spouse:

1. If we could return to one of the places we’ve already visited and relive the trip, where would we go? Why? (See how I slipped an extra questions in there?)

2. What’s a trip you would love for us to take together this year?

3. If you received a windfall of money, what would you do with it?

4. What’s making you super happy lately?

5. What could I do to make you feel more loved?

6. What’s one thing you would tell your teenage self?

7. If all jobs paid the same, what would you do?

8. If you were about to be executed, what would your last meal be?

9. What’s a hobby you wish we could do together?

10. Name three things you love about me.

11. What one word or phrase would you want on your tombstone?

12. How would you describe your perfect day?

13. What’s your favorite thing that I wear?

14. What’s a goal I can help you achieve?

Bonus question! Which song best describes our marriage?

By the way, if you’ve never been to Choctaw Casino, we had a good time listening to live music at Gilley’s, eating dinner (and dessert!) at Seven Ponies and the rooms are GORGEOUS. We didn’t gamble at all, but y’all the people-watching there is epic. It might be the one last place where people can smoke in public, and boy do they ever. The only downside, I’d say. We had a great time, some good food and enjoyed the band.

Hope you enjoy these questions and that you have a good time talking to your husband tonight, or sometime soon. Are there any questions you would add to the list?

blue dress headshot blogShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com.

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