The Rockwood Files: For the Husbands

By Gwen Rockwood

Gather ‘round, men. I’m going to tell you one of the best things you could ever say to your wife. A sentence so powerful it’s sure to melt away any resentment she may be harboring over not-so-great things you may have said in the past. A statement so true, so endearing, so empowering, it’ll revive her belief that you are a man who truly “gets her.”

And you may as well read it now because, if you don’t, you may one day find this column taped ever-so-subtly to your bathroom mirror.

You ready? Here it is: “I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT.”

I know. It’s a little shocking, right? You figured it was going to be something along the lines of “You’re the best wife in the whole world,” or “Wow, you look smokin’ hot in those jeans.” But most moms don’t want the pressure that comes along with a title like “best wife in the world” and we’re a little suspicious that the jeans remark might be laced with ulterior motives.

There are good, solid reasons why “I don’t know how you do it” makes such an impact. I’ll outline it for you, but first you have to promise not to say it if you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. In order for the words to carry true magic, you’ve got to walk a mile in her shoes and come to know how sore your feet are by the end of the day. You’ve got to do what she does – or at least a big part of it – so you can appreciate that motherhood is like competing in the Olympics of multi-tasking every single day.

After you do your homework and can say that magical sentence with complete sincerity, you’re ready to understand the statement’s three-pronged effect. Here’s why it works:

1. It acknowledges that, somehow, she’s pulling it off. Because there are plenty of days, whether she admits it or not, that she’s pretty sure she’s failing at just about everything and she needs someone to tell her that this is not the case. It doesn’t mean she’s pulling it off perfectly, mind you, because perfection doesn’t really exist. It just means she’s giving it all she’s got and she’s getting the most important things done, day after day.

2. It acknowledges that it’s not easy. This point is particularly important if your wife is the stay-at-home variety who is busy burping babies, taming toddlers or running carpool every day. We moms who log all or most of our hours at home can be very touchy when someone asks if we “work,” implying that the only official jobs are those that come with paid vacation days and a 401(k) plan. If someone asks if your wife works, your answer should NEVER be “No, she just stays home with the kids.” It should be something along the lines of “Yes, she puts in about 80 hours a week raising humans and running a household and I have no idea how she does it all.”

3. Finally, saying “I don’t know how you do it” acknowledges that you don’t fully understand the scope of what she does, but you do understand enough to know that you don’t always understand. Confusing? Yes. And I know it goes against your ultra-rational internal hardwiring, but trust me on this. More than anything, your wife just needs you to “get it.” That quality alone will fix almost everything else.

Now, if you’re really smart and want to maximize the benefits of these seven little words for both your wife and yourself, you could follow them up with a few other mama-pleasers, like “Wow, you look great today,” or, one of my all-time favorites, “Why don’t we get a sitter so I can take you out for dinner?” That one gets me every time.

As modern, practical women, most of us have hung up our capes and accepted the fact that there’s no such thing as Supermom. But it sure is nice to live with a man who has some sense of all we do and respects and reveres the mystery of how it all comes together. It makes us want to get up and tackle the universe with each new day.

The Little Gym Vaulting to Rogers

logothe-little-gym.gifYou know those commercials you see for The Little Gym during PBS kid shows? (I’m picturing the little girl walking across the balance beam and the little boy in front of the confetti birthday cake.) Well, Northwest Arkansas is getting its very own! Owner and gym director Melanie Shannon said they’re opening The Little Gym at 2603 West Pleasant Grove in Rogers on Aug. 25. It’s in the same shopping center as Mad Pizza, Chick-fil-A, Life Style Dentistry and other great businesses.

Melanie, who hails from Little Rock (where the only other facility is located), said non-competitive gymnastics is the first order of business. “Our primary focus is to help develop motor skills and to build self confidence,” she said.

The gym will eventually add dance, cheerleading, karate and sports skills, she said.

Beginning in October, there will be Parents’ Survival Nights every other Friday night from 6 to 10 p.m. for kids ages 3-12. “Parents can go out and have a good time knowing their kids are having fun and getting some exercise in a safe place,” Melanie said.

Melanie encourages moms to set up a free trial class to check out The Little Gym in person. “Kids love it,” she said. “It’s more than gymnastics. We help encourage exploration and problem-solving skills.”

To sign up for a free trial, call Melanie at 479-636-5566.

For Laughs

It’s been a busy week, right? You need something to help you relax, laugh a little. We’ve got just the thing. These video clips are sure to send you into the weekend in a great mood. The first one is about how men’s brains differ from ours, and it will educate you on an important component in the male brain – “the nothing box.” My husband swears it’s absolutely true, and I believe him. Here’s the link. Click and enjoy.

And have you had the pleasure of watching any of the episodes from In the Motherhood? (This is the one where they introduce Jenny McCarthy as a new mom on the show.) This one is the grocery store scene that’s a must see!

Have a wonderful Friday!

Indecent Proposal

engagementring-animation.gifI walked into the Book Club meeting at Joe’s Bistro a little late. Laura caught my attention and gestured to Liz. Or more specifically, Liz’s finger. There, on her left hand, was a large, sparkly diamond. We squealed. She was officially engaged.

Naturally, we book clubbers then focused mainly on marriage proposals (we did manage to decide on our next book club read, The Other Boleyn Girl, which is supposedly much better than the movie). Then Liz was forced at fork-point to tell us every detail of the proposal. It turns out she got just a tad grumpy when, as she was mentally preparing herself for a James at the Mill proposal that evening, her boyfriend nonchalantly asked her if she might just want to stay home instead. Bad question, since he’s the one who told her where they were going and she was left to make assumptions from there. She quickly panicked and thought he might have changed his mind about proposing after all. Fortunately, it all ended well that same evening with a ring on her finger and phone calls to the parents. After Liz finished the story, several of us chimed in with our own proposal stories that went horribly wrong (read: took way too freaking long to transpire).

I relayed how I, too, turned into a raving lunatic after my now-husband kept making me wait to receive the ring I knew he had in his possession. Then, finally, I knew this was IT. We were walking around the Fayetteville Square at Christmas-time and planned to take a romantic carriage ride. I pretended it was just a plain ‘ole ride around the square in a Cinderella carriage. I tried to act naturally. Then it started raining and my good mood dissolved like sugar. We scurried back to his car through buckets of stinging rain and somewhere between Center Street and East I stopped feeling angry. I was actually laughing by the time I slammed the car door shut. I decided to chill out and figure it would happen when it happened. When we got back to my apartment I apologized for my grumpy behavior that evening. Then I went in to blow dry my hair, took a moment to stick out my tongue out at the image in my mirror and then pulled on some warm, comfortable clothes.

I came out of my bedroom with a better hairdo and a sweeter attitude (thank goodness) and found a tender scene: my sweetie had dimmed the lights, turned on the Christmas tree and placed a picnic on the apartment floor.

We had a snack (my husband knows that when I’m Oscar the Grouch he can soothe the green beast with sustenance) and chatted about the weather. Then, suddenly, he scrambled onto one knee and produced a little black box from his pocket. After all those days of expectant agitation, I was truly surprised.

I said yes, absolutely. Partly because he still wanted to marry me, theatrics and all. And partly because I wanted. that. ring.

After the short version of my proposal, it was Erin’s turn to tell about her engagement-gone-bad. Then others chimed it. It seems the lady book clubbers were full of good stories about bad proposals. We wondered, “Do bad proposals lead to good marriages?” It was funny to discuss, but I have to say I don’t believe it’s a predictor. For five years I interviewed married couples about how they met for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s weekly Right Time, Right Place feature. Inevitably, we discussed how he proposed. The proposals ranged from sitting in a car outside AQ Chicken to elaborate measures on bended knee.

One of the sweetest was a guy who was attempting to propose quietly at Thorncrown Chapel just before a tour bus of elderly women descended upon the popular wedding site. After the initial bumbling, he went ahead and surprised his girlfriend with a proposal, after which the white-haired audience clapped loudly when she said yes.

However, I do believe that many women get a little nutty when it comes to pining for that ring. It calls to us from that black box in his underwear drawer like Tolkien’s “one ring.”

Luckily, we transform back into the wonderful, loving creatures we once were as soon as “the precious” is placed squarely on the ring finger of our left hand. And we tell ourselves that our bad behavior just adds character to the story. And we feel a little embarrassed. At least I still do.

How did your husband propose? Was it romantic or did you force him to hand over the ring at gunpoint? Click on the word “comment” below and let’s dish.

[Thanks to Webweaver for the animated ring clip art)

Hair: Help Me Rhonda

Dear Rhonda,

I’ve always had long hair, but lately I dream about getting it cut short. Then I get into my stylist’s chair and I chicken out. How can I be sure that short hair will look good on me? I’m afraid I’ll regret it and my husband will hate it. On the other hand, I’d really like to try it and I don’t want to miss out on a great new look. Any advice?

Dear Hair Chicken,

You know, there once was a man who made millions of dollars on chicken, so maybe chicken isn’t such a bad thing after all. But seriously, I get what you’re saying about wanting to go short and feeling unsure. The one thing hairstylists can count on is that human beings are never satisfied with what we have. It’s an age-old story: grow it out, cut it, straighten it, curl it, color it, let it go natural. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit over-the-top, but you get the picture.

I believe your decision should be based on a combination of personal preference and determining what looks best for your face shape. For example, if you have a round face, having a short, round cut won’t be flattering. You need something more vertical to offset the face shape. If you have a square face, you definitely don’t want a chin-length bob because it will create a horizontal line at an already square jaw line. (It’s the same principle as never wearing horizontal stripes on your behind because they create width, and most of us don’t want more width in that particular zone, right?) Think about your face in terms of vertical elements (like ears, nose and neck) and horizontal elements (like bangs, eyes and mouth). Then accentuate the positive elements and eliminate or downplay the negative ones.

I always tell my clients “When it’s on the floor, it is no more,” so it’s important to feel certain before you do it. On the other hand, you’re never truly going to know if you love it unless you try it. Maybe your stylist could do a longer version of your favorite short style. That way you won’t go into shock. If you like it, chances are you’ll have him or her cut it a little shorter the next time. (Kind of like wading into the cold pool versus jumping off the high dive.)

Look at photos of faces with different haircuts. Find one that best fits your own face shape and see if it adds to or takes away from the face’s natural beauty. Your stylist can help you adjust length as well as cut to create the “just right” look you want. So go forth, “fowl one,” and be afraid no more. After all, it’s just hair, and it WILL grow back.

Have a hair question? E-mail me at

Advice: Mind Your Mama

Dear Jennifer,

My husband’s oldest sister, “Margot”, has always resented me. At my bridal shower, she announced that I’d better not have children until she did, as she wanted to have the first grandchild. After my husband and I were married, I can’t count how many times she asked me if I was pregnant. Last summer, our daughter was born and two months later Margot married a very nice guy. Now she’s started saying I’d better not have the first boy, because she’s going to have the first grandson. I see her at every family function. Even though she pretends to be nice, I can tell she’s furious. We’re not planning another baby any time soon, but her comments are just plain weird. Honestly, I’m a little afraid of her. Any suggestions?

Wow. Weird is right. Where’s your husband in all this? If he doesn’t know what’s going on, fill him in. You need him fully informed because this kind of behavior rarely ends without drama.

It’s not unusual to be envious of another’s good fortune. As much as we want to be happy for people who have what we want, sometimes it’s hard. Part of maturing is coping with disappointment and rising above our very human responses to it. Having said that, comments and behavior like Margot’s suggest something way beyond normal envy. She has fixated on you, and on the threat you represent to her position in her family. The fact that she is now ordering you not to have a baby of a certain gender is completely unacceptable. Prepare yourself for the likelihood that no matter what you do, Margot will find fault with you. In fact, her behavior may escalate.

Talk to your husband right away and tell him everything, including the fact that you are afraid of her. Your husband needs to sit down with her and put a stop to this. He might begin by telling her that he is concerned about her and loves her, but that he will not tolerate any more questions or statements like this. He can say that while you both wish the best for her and her husband, your family plans are private and she is never to ask about them, comment on them or discuss them again.

At this point, Margot probably knows she can intimidate you, so prepare yourself for the next time you encounter her. If she makes another comment of this nature to you, do not engage and do not respond. At the next family function, your husband needs to stay with you and present a united front. If he can’t go with you, stay home. Remove yourself as her target for a while. At the very least, she has control issues, so don’t give her an opportunity to control or intimidate you.

Dear Jennifer,

My ex-husband and I have two children. During the last visitation, he told them he was marrying his girlfriend – the woman he left us for. My girls are 9 and 12, and even though they say they don’t want to go, I think they really do but they just don’t want to hurt my feelings. Today I got an email from him telling me that he will send an additional $100 this month so I can buy the girls dresses to wear to the wedding, and to please have them “look nice” when his parents pick them up that weekend. I feel sick to my stomach every time I think about this. What I want to do is tell him that we have plans and that they can’t go. What do you think?

Oh, my dear. What an awkward and painful situation. My heart goes out to you and your girls. Since you don’t say how long ago you and your husband separated and were divorced, I don’t know how much time you’ve had to adjust. No matter how long ago it was, an event like this brings up a lot of old pain.

What I do know is that this is his wedding, and he should handle the details. Write him back and politely say something like this, “Rather than send the extra cash, please keep it and use it to buy the girls dresses during their next visitation. Since I will be out of town the weekend of your marriage, please make arrangements for the girls to stay with you or your parents. They are looking forward to this event and it will be fun for them to get their hair done or whatever you want to arrange.”

This puts the ball in his court, where it belongs. Try to be very unemotional in your correspondence with him. As much as it hurts, you have to find a way to move beyond this for your girls’ sake. At the same time, it’s way out of bounds for him to expect you to do anything regarding this event. If this is any indication, he probably treated you this disrespectfully when you were married, too. Maybe you put up with it then, but you are free now and you don’t have to put up with it any more. Starting today, set new rules of engagement with him.

If possible, get out of town that weekend or at least go to stay with a friend. Don’t be alone. This is a tough one, but it will pass, so be kind to yourself and focus on your happy future without this selfish guy.

All Akimbo: Speaking of infertility

This is always the hardest part … waiting for my period to start.

I know it’s coming, and yet I have to fight the overwhelming urge to go out and buy yet another pregnancy test, just to see if maybe it’s not.

The cramps started yesterday, not horrible ones, but strong enough to answer the question, “Am I?” “No, you’re not. You’re definitely not,” they answered, loud and clear.

My basal body temperature has dropped again today and it’s just a matter of time.
I vowed to treat myself this month, with something as mundane as coffee, which I absolutely love but have all but sworn off – even in its decaffeinated form – because I refused to take even the smallest chance of hurting my [fetus]. And this morning, I type with a steaming cup at my side.

This blog is a great outlet for me. A blessing, in fact, because I do my dead-level best not to blather on about this infertility thing to the people close to me.

My mom and I are like sisters, and yet, I haven’t told her anything at all about my struggles. Why? I don’t know, exactly. She might try to help, sending me notes with things she’s heard or read. She might try to discourage me from going forward by pointing out how much work it is to care for one baby and how much torture I’m putting myself through to have another. She might ask questions about how things are going – and let’s face it, those queries are not all that pleasant when things are going reasonably well; in this situation it would only add to the sometimes-unbearable stress of it all. Or maybe I just don’t want her to be disappointed if it never happens.

I’m an only child and, therefore, my parents’ only hope for more grandchildren. When I told them we were going to have a baby a little over four years ago, my dad said, “I didn’t think I was going to make granddad!” They were thrilled, to say the least, and are enraptured with Mojo.

Sometimes I think about confiding in my mom about what I’m going through, but so far, I haven’t.

My husband and I talk about it, sure, but I spare him as much of the minutiae as I possibly can.

And then there are my friends. I know they would listen if I wanted to talk about it, but I’ve only shared with a few that we’ve been trying to conceive for such a long time, and … I don’t know, I just think they would tire of hearing about it after a while and I certainly don’t want to seem as obsessed to them as I sometimes feel. Mostly, I just go on with my life, working and taking on projects around the house and, yep, playing with Mojo. I think a lot about how so very lucky I am to have him. This, I know, would be much harder for me to deal with if he wasn’t here. (That’s the stuff of another post, though — secondary infertility vs. infertility the first time around. Rest assured that one is coming soon. I’m off to get another cup of coffee and scrape off some more wallpaper … there’s no reason I can’t paint the kitchen now, right?)

Does anyone out there have any words of wisdom to share? Any coping tactics to get through this? Who do you talk to, or do you talk at all, about trying and trying and trying and trying to have a baby … ? Because, really, I think it would help to hear from someone who knows what it’s like. I’m sorry for anyone who has to go through this battle for a baby, but I really appreciate your being there for me.

Beauty Buzz: Beauty Products We Love

Okay, mamas. We know you love trying products that your fellow mamas swear by. So we polled a group of mamas and asked them to send us a few short descriptions of their “can’t live without it” beauty products. If you’ve got a few favorites you’d like to tell us about, click on the word “comment” below and let us know. After all, beautiful mamas need to stick together.

Keihls Olive Oil Shampoo and Conditioner: After three kids and about 20 years worth of highlights it is the only thing that will keep my hair soft and I have tried it ALL!

~tip from Heather, mom of 3

Clinique Naturally Glossy Mascara: I’ve tried all the OTC mascaras that are supposed to be so great without clumping, but they never hold up to the promises. I love the Clinique product. It goes on smoothly and doesn’t look obvious that I’m wearing mascara. It’s more expensive but worth it.

~tip from Kari, mom of 1

“Well-rested” under eye concealer by Bare Minerals: When I saw that the name was “well-rested,” how could I not try it? I bought it a few weeks ago and have been loving it ever since. I was one of those hold-outs who was convinced that anything in powder form would never give me the coverage I need under my eyes, but I have to admit that the Bare Minerals folks have won me over. Love their foundations, too.

~tip from Gwen, mom of 3

Hempz Volumizing Conditioner: Normally, when I condition, I’m always unhappy with my hair that day. This is the first one that’s so weightless – and really does add volume – that I like my hair better with it.

~tip from Kari, mom of 1

The Body Shop: Vitamin E under eye cream. It really is my little miracle. It tightens, highlights and brightens the bags under my sleep deprived eyes. It looks like a pink tube (about the size of Baby Orajel for the moms) and I buy about 6 tubes at a time and keep it stashed everywhere. Don’t use too much though or it looks cakey.

~tip from Heather, mom of 3

Waiting for Shlomo: 100 things about Erin

100 things about me . . .

1. I planned to be a professor of Communication
2. with a specialty in rhetorical analysis
3. and an emphasis in feminist and political studies
4. and also religious studies.
5. I was very interested in the right wing conservative movement and fundamentalist Christianity.
6. I am neither.
7. I am Jewish and a liberal and a feminist.
8. No one knows what rhetoric is.
9. It’s hard to explain, but really it’s the study of everything – speeches, writings, TV, commercials movies . . .
10. I decided to drop out of my PhD program before it even began.
11. I was working at the University of Denver, and the program would have been almost free.
12. It was the wrong program for me.
13. Turns out, a PhD was not right for me either.
14. I continued working in Higher Education administration instead.
15. I used to be an academic advisor – now I am a student recruiter.
16. I like working with students, but would rather stay home full-time if I could.
17. Turns out, a Master’s Degree in Communication with an emphasis in Rhetorical Analysis is not good for much,
18. but it sounds really “smart”.
19. My husband and I have some of the same cousins,
20. but we are not related.
22. Even though we live in Arkansas.
23. I am his cousin’s cousin, and he is MY cousin’s cousin, but the cousins are the same.
24. Crazy, huh?
25. That’s how we met.
26. He was on my “list” of people to call when I moved to Denver.
27. He’s the only one on that list I called.
28. In the past, when he got phone calls like that, he never called them back.
29. He called me back.
30. We became fast friends.
31. A couple of months later we started dating.
32. I knew I would marry him from the beginning.
33. We have a 2 ½ year old son named Isaac.
34. Isaac was born 15 ½ weeks premature – that’s called a micro-preemie.
35. He weighed 1 pound and 10 ounces and was 14 1/2 inches long — that’s actually pretty long for a baby that early.
36. He was in the three different hospitals for a total of 99 days.
37. He’s completely “normal” now.
38. Whatever that means.
39. I keep waiting for the “other shoe to drop” in terms of his development,
40. but it never happens – he just amazes us all the time.
41. Thank God.
42. I was completely prepared to have a special needs child.
43. I thought he would have cerebral palsy, hearing loss, eye problems, other physical problems, or something.
44. It’s quite an adjustment just to have a “normal” kid.
45. I’m so glad, but it’s a change in mind set.
46. I have been advised not to have another pregnancy.
47. We considered gestational surrogacy, but decided on adoption to expand our family.
48. Surrogacy was just too complicated, too scary, and not a sure thing
49. With adoption, at the end of the work, paperwork, waiting, emotional ups and downs, you have a baby in your arms – that’s what clinched the deal for us.

50. Plus, we are not hung up on having a biological child – just a new kid to love.
51. I am an avid reader.
52. I have been a voracious reader since the third grade.
53. I wish I had kept a reading journal for my whole life.
54. I have started a reading journal several times, but have never kept it up.

55. I finally started using Good Reads, and it has been amazing as a journal and for good recommendations.
56. Sometimes I read two books per week.
57. Sometimes it takes me a month to read even one book.

58. I also love books on tape, and usually have one or more books that I am reading, and one book that I am listening to
59. I mostly like fiction, but I have been into memoirs and non-fiction lately.
60. I like literary fiction, but some soft, “candy” fiction too.
61. I’m a sucker for time travel, dystopias, and light sci-fi.
62. I hate to have to come up with a favorite movie or book.
63. There are just too many choices.
64. Plus, I hate to get pigeon-holed into a particular category based on my answer.
65. Yes, I am self conscious to a fault.
66. But one of my favorite books is “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell.
67. It is a light science fiction, a dash of religion, and great literary fiction all in one.
68. It’s actually quite a profound and amazing book — it makes you question the meaning of life, the existence of God, religion versus morality . . .
69. You should read it.
70. It’s not a “light” read, but well worth it.
71. The follow-up, “Children of God” is not as good, but still worth a read.
72. Another of my favorite books, I’m ashamed to admit, is Stephen King’s “The Stand” – I’ve read it about 50 times.
73. I told you I was a sucker for dystopian-type fiction.
74. Shut up, it’s a good book!
75. I am infertile.
76. I tried to get pregnant for a very long time, but nothing worked.
77. Finally, I got pregnant through IVF – that was my pregnancy with Isaac.
78. It was hard, but worth it.
79. IVF worked for us on the first time.
80. I did not expect it to.
81. We now have 12 frozen embryos.
82. That’s why we considered surrogacy in the past.
83. We want to do something with those embryos eventually –
84. either use them for a pregnancy someday (not likely), donate to another couple or donate to research.

85. They are only “good” for about 5 years.

86. We are now at the 3 year mark.

87. We pay a lot of money each year to keep them in “storage” – I hate writing that check every 6 months.
88. I believe in stem-cell research, so we might donate to that.
89. I am an environmentalist
90. I try to protect the earth and my own body by the little choices I make each day, like using cloth diapers, not using very many paper products, drying clothes on a line, etc.

91. I drive a small SUV – a Toyota Highlander.
92. It gets the same gas mileage as a V-6 Camry, but I still have a chip on my shoulder about it.
93. We eat almost all organic, and our grocery bill is obscene.
94. I think it’s worth it, when we can afford it.
95. We recycle everything and try to buy in bulk.
96. We are now officially “parents in waiting” with our adoption agency.

97. That means that our profile is being shown to birth parents.

98. We could have a baby next week or next year.

99. I am experiencing quite a bit of unexpected anxiety over this.

100. Anyone have an extra Zanax?

A few Sunday mama blogs

I don’t know about you, but I love to read [really well-written] blogs. I’m especially obsessed with mom bloggers and taking a peek into other women’s lives. I think reading other moms helps us realize we’re not the only ones who said THIS or did THAT on a given day. But sometimes the blogs I read just plain inspire me to do THIS and THAT better than the way I did it the day before — with God’s help.

Of course, you know I love Rocks In My Dryer – it’s on MotherLode’s list of sites we’re surfing. But here are a few other mom blogs that are fun and inspirational. Happy Sunday!

Boo Mama

Days to Come

Antique Mommy

The Rockwood Files: This one is for the mamas

Two weeks ago I had one of those moments of crisis when the only person I could really talk to, the only person I could fall apart with, was my mom. So I called her from my cell phone in my minivan, parked in an empty parking lot, and cried, talking incoherently through sobs.

First she listened, saying “okay” and “I know” in all the right places. Then she went to work, putting me back together one overly emotional piece at a time. Gently, she built me back up and made me believe I was strong. Then, she promised it would be OK. I believed her, because she’s my mom and moms know everything (or at least the most important things) and because she knows me better than anyone else does, sometimes better than I know myself.

That’s the thing about moms. We never get too old to need them. They know us from the inside out, and there aren’t enough Hallmark words in the world that can capture the strength, the purity of the bond between us. I called my mom that day because she loves me when I’m doing great and she loves me when I’m a sobbing mess, hiding from the world.

There are days when I look at my three kids and wonder how in the world I got to be their mother, certain I never did anything good enough to deserve the miracle of having them. On the days when I’m not the kind of mom I want to be – days when I lose patience or yell when they don’t deserve it – they love me anyway, and I’m humbled by it. There have been times when, even after I’ve disciplined one of my sons for doing something wrong and he is furious, he calms down and comes back to me for comfort. At their best and at their worst, they need me to be here. They need me to bear witness to their lives.

Different moms have different ways of bearing witness. Sometimes they collect snapshots to remind us of who we were along the way, how we grew and changed. I give my mom a hard time about our family photo albums because there are so many books full of photos of my older brother as a baby. There’s Greg in the baby bathtub. Greg by the Christmas tree. Greg wearing his Snoopy Joe Cool T-shirt and matching sunglasses.

Seven years later I was born and, well, you know how it goes. The number of photos drops way off for the second and subsequent kids. My baby album has a few Polaroid pictures of me wearing nothing but a diaper and a cherry popsicle. OK, it’s not quite that bad. In the long run, the photo discrepancy doesn’t really matter. What matters is that she was there, witnessing my life. She remembers the good stuff and the bad stuff, but she only reminds me of things that push me forward and make me stronger.

Moms may not always have the camera ready, but our minds never stop snapping images, freezing them in our memories. Last Sunday after church, Tom and I took the kids to their favorite pizza restaurant. After they scarfed down a few slices, 6-year-old Adam and 3-year-old Jack ran off to go play in the restaurant’s game room. When I went to check on them, I found only one son. “Adam, where is your little brother?” I asked, on the verge of launching into full panic mode. “I don’t know,” Adam answered unconvincingly, then quickly glanced toward the skee-ball machine. That sideways glance gave it away, and when I looked I saw Jack – actually I only saw feet – protruding out from the skee-ball machine’s metal grate.

The rest of Jack was sprawled spread eagle over the skee-ball targets with one arm elbow deep in the bull’s-eye hole. I ordered him to come right back down the ramp and told him never to climb up there again. Then I got out of there as fast as I could because I didn’t want him to see the smile about to crack open on my face. I laughed on the way back to the table because I knew I’d just snapped a great mental photo of Jack for my mind’s scrapbook – an image of him as a fearless 3-year-old, stuck in a skee-ball machine for no apparent reason.

Maybe one day, years from now, if he calls me feeling unsure of himself, his confidence shaken, I’ll tell him about it. I’ll tell him that, when he was only 3, he was proud enough to wear dinosaur rain boots everywhere he went and determined enough to go head-to-head with a skee-ball machine just to retrieve a lost ball. I’ll tell him he can do anything he’s willing to work at. And he’ll believe me because I’m his mother, his personal historian, and I know him better than anyone.

Gwen Rockwood is a freelance columnist whose work has recently appeared in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms.” Click on the word “comment” below to share your thoughts.



Drama for Mama: Grey’s Anatomy Season Finale

submitted by Gwen, mama of 3 and Grey’s Anatomy junkie

Dear fellow Grey’s fans, I don’t know about you but I went to sleep last night with the dumbest grin on my face. I was so, so very happy about how the tumultuous season of Grey’s Anatomy was greys3.jpgwrapped up. Typically, season finales are all about leading you up to a big moment and then cutting you off right before the resolution so that you’ll be tortured all summer long, waiting for the outcome. But the Grey’s Anatomy writers are famous for breaking tradition. And last night they gave us the big Derek and Meredith moment we’ve all been wanting for months now.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we should talk about the medical cases and how they propelled the plot line. (Ever notice how the patients are almost always a mirror or analogy for the characters in the show?) So there was this young, not so popular guy who was encased in cement and nearly died, while the girl that secretly liked him was too chicken to come sit beside his bed because the “cool guys” might find out that she actually liked the guy. Callie really chewed her out for it and told her that she’d hate herself later for not being brave. The patient’s case mirrored Callie’s own story because she was having a hard time admitting that she might be attracted to Erica Hahn. Finally, the girl got the guts to go see cement boy and kissed him, too. This act of bravery spurred Callie to confront Erica outside the hospital, and the two women locked lips big time. I think the secret is out.

On to Izzie, Alex and Bailey. Alex had his hands full trying to keep Rebecca from having a complete mental breakdown. He had to bathe her, feed her, dress her and watch her every minute. When he stepped away for a second to answer Izzie’s phone call, Rebecca slit her wrists. Still, Alex insisted to Izzie that he could take care of her on his own, the same way he cared for his mentally incompetent mother when he was a boy. After a pep talk from Bailey, Izzie knew she had to take charge and admit Rebecca into a psychiatric ward. At the end of the show, Alex was on the verge of his own mental breakdown at home and was being comforted by roommate Izzie. The show hinted that the “comforting” might include nudity, but I can’t be sure that’s what happened. We’ll have to wait and see. The good news is that Bailey finally figured out that the whole “Supermom Plus Amazing Career Woman” thing is an urban myth – nobody really pulls it off successfully. So she turned the keys to the free clinic over to Izzie, saying that she loved surgery and her family more than she loved the clinic. Bailey is finally learning about balance, and it sounds like her marriage has been saved. Speaking of saved marriages, Chief Webber and his wife finally patched things up, too.

George had a tough night because he got sick and tired of being everyone’s grunt. Lexie broke into the Chief’s office and looked at all the personnel files. With a photographic memory, she was able to soak in some interesting tidbits about all the residents – the biggest one being that George only failed his exam by one point and that his letters of recommendation were the finest in his class. At first, George was tortured by the news of his near miss. But then he spoke to the Chief and insisted that he was too good of a doctor to be made to run labs and handle paperwork. The Chief agreed to let him re-take the intern exam. George came home to tell roommate Lexie the news and was so happy he kissed her (a friend kiss). But the look on Lexie’s face told us that she liked it – a lot. Those two would be kinda cute together, wouldn’t they?

So that brings us back to our favorite, tortured, star-crossed couple. Derek and Meredith were hard at work in the clinical trial trying to find a way to shrink inoperable brain tumors by injecting them with a virus. They had already tried it on 11 patients, all of which had died. The next two patients were a young man and woman in love. They had never had sex and had been waiting until they were both tumor free. But they decided that they didn’t want to chance dying without being with each other first, so they convinced Derek and Meredith to facilitate some private time for them. Derek said to Meredith while they stood guard in the hall, “I’ve never gotten a patient laid before.” Derek and Meredith were more smiley and flirty than they had been all season.

But then the young man died in the surgery. Derek was crushed and didn’t want to operate on the girl in case it went the same way. Meredith insisted, and the girl insisted, too. Derek resented being put on the spot so he told Meredith that he didn’t ever want to work with her again, that all they do when they’re together is “kill things over and over again.”

Meanwhile, Meredith had been given some homework by her therapist – to figure out what her mother was really doing when she attempted suicide after losing her lover (Chief Webber). Meredith’s mom had told Meredith to be “extraordinary,” which Meredith took to mean that she should be an extraordinary surgeon who never needed a man. But then Meredith realized that her mother hadn’t really wanted to die after all because she cut her wrists instead of a main artery. (A surgeon would know where to cut if she really wanted to bleed to death.) Then Meredith realized that the suicide attempt was her mom’s way of trying to tell Richard how much she wanted him back. But Richard never knew about the suicide attempt and Meredith’s mom was too proud to tell him. So she never got what she wanted. The therapist said this was Meredith’s opportunity to learn from her mom’s mistake and that her mother wasn’t talking about being a surgeon when she told her daughter to be “extraordinary.”

Things got really good when Meredith and Derek separately learned that, not only was their patient alive and conscious following surgery, but also that her tumor was shrinking. (There’s that mirror effect again. Meredith and Derek’s relationship had always had a brain tumor that would kill their chances of being together. Now Meredith has finally discovered a way to shrink it.) Derek went looking for Meredith, and Meredith went looking for Derek. They didn’t find each other because he was at her place and she was at his. But then he finally came home, dejected that he hadn’t found her. And there she was, standing in a field of luminaries. She had placed candles with paper bags over them in the outline of a floor plan. When he walked toward her, she pointed out that over here was the kitchen, there was the living room and “here’s the room where our kids would play.” Then she went into one of her rambling Meredith speeches and started to say that she wasn’t sure if she could trust him or not but she wanted to try because she wanted to be extraordinary instead of apart from him and ordinary. Then – finally – they kissed. And, man, can these two kiss. I was practically applauding from my sofa.

Then, surprisingly, Derek backs away and says he has to go speak to Rose so he can have a clear conscience and come back to Meredith and do more than kiss her. (Va-va-voom!) So the final scene closes with him walking away and her standing there smiling in that field of candles. Ahhhhhhh. A happy ending. I love it. And I can hardly wait to see the two of them back together at the beginning of next season.

Tell me, mamas. Did you love that ending as much as I did? Click on the word “comment” below and let me know.

Skydiving for a Cause

skydiving-air.jpgHave you ever had a discussion with friends about your “bucket list”? You know, the list of things you want to do before you die? Well, Lisa Turner (pictured in the air) and her friends, Jen Ryan and Twyla Francis, decided to stop talking about it and do something. They chose an activity that was on all three of their lists: skydiving. They even took it a step further, deciding to make it “Skydiving for a Cause.”

“We found that each of us moms wanted to put some more adventure in our typical ‘soccer mom’ lives,” Lisa said. “And while so far our only adventure has been eating at restaurants we don’t know much about, and this Saturday we’re taking a quilting class (hey, it’s adventurous…those needles are sharp…plus we’re thinking of wearing camouflage), this jump is our most adventurous thing to do thus far.”

So on Mother’s Day weekend the three friends all took the plunge at Skydive Skyranch in Siloam Springs, jumping at 9,300 feet, free falling for about 32 seconds at 149 mph, and deploying their chutes at around 4,300 feet. Lisa reports the ride down took about 15 minutes.

They each jumped out of that plane for very different, but worthy, causes.

“Our plan is to do something each year that’s adventurous and raise money for our favorite charities at the same time,” said Lisa. “But for now we’re just jumping. We’ve even got an ‘official’ name now — the Nitro Moms!” (Lisa’s 14-year-old, Jesse, dreamed that one up.)

Lisa jumped to raise money for Second Mile Ministries, a non-profit in Fayetteville that’s completely funded through volunteer donations and occasional fund-raising events. The purpose of Second Mile Ministries is to encourage people to a relationship with God and to offer practical assistance in living. Second Mile offers help to the needy with food, clothing and monetary aid for medicine, shelter, rent, utilities and other emergencies. It averages out to around $100,000 a year to over 5,000 families.

Twyla and Jen raised money for a family that suddenly lost their father. Twyla understands their pain as her husband died tragically and unexpectedly two years ago and she had to mourn the love of her life while raising their children.

Needless to say, I was inspired by the three friends’ decision to break out of their comfort zones and raise money for worthy causes at the same time. And it made me start thinking about what would be on my own list.

Hey, mamas, what’s on your bucket list? Click on the word “comment” below and let’s all share!

What We’re Reading: “For Women Only”

contributed by Heidi Simmons

In her book “For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men” Shaunti Feldhahn attempts the impossible – unlocking the mystery of the male mind. Shaunti takes information from surveys she did with more than 1,000 men and puts their answers in an easy-to-read guide for women. I loved this book! A combination of fact-finding and Bible study (Bible verses back up her for-women-only-book-jacket.jpgfindings), her premise is “knowledge is power” in your marriage.

It’s no secret men and women think differently. This book gives us knowledge about our husbands’ needs and insecurities so we can have the power to adjust our words and actions accordingly. I admit I was surprised by her findings. How often we say one thing but men “hear” something else. Fascinating! Topics include providing for the family, respect, insecurity and intimacy.

Fair warning, ladies. This book is about changing yourself and not your husband. I read this as part of a Bible study accompanied by a video, but you can also just buy the book. Many in the group commented how their marriages were drastically improving as a result of this book. And, great news, there’s another version of the book called “For Men Only.” Pick up these easy-to-read books if you want to invest in your marriage or simply learn something new about your mate.

Hair: Help Me Rhonda

Dear Rhonda,

I’ve heard the terms “cool” and “warm”, “permanent” and “semi-permanent” in relation to hair coloring. What is the difference, and what do the terms really mean?

Dear Color Confusion,

I understand how hard it is to keep up with the latest “lingo” for everything. I’m still asking my 15-year-old daughter if “bad” means good and “cool” and “nifty” are words I should avoid while I’m around her friends (who, by the way, think of me as a “Cool Mom.” Yes, I’m very proud.)

Okay, back to business. “Cool” and “warm” are terms used for hair color groups. Do you remember the “color draping” craze? I spent hours trying to figure out if I was a Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter. These two terms are exactly like those color draping code words. For example, platinum blonde would come under the heading of “cool,” while auburn would be a “warm” tone.

It’s important to determine what you want BEFORE coloring or highlighting your hair. Always go with the one that complements your skin tone. Never go with a color or highlight that will “sallow” your complexion or cause “ruddiness” to appear. You’ll know when you find the right shade because you’ll feel good about it and your confidence will come through.

Now let’s talk about semi-permanent versus permanent colors. I like to think about these in comparison to panty hose and tights. One gives a sheer look (semi-permanent), while the other is more opaque (permanent). A semi-permanent color will not lift or lighten your natural color. It will only deposit the same shade or be darker. These colors are especially great for adding low-lights or to cover up highlights that are too light. It’s a real “no commitment” choice because the semi-permanent colors usually fade out as you shampoo your hair over a period of about 4 to 6 weeks.

Permanent color WILL lift the natural level of your hair. Depending on the developer, it can lift up to 4 levels lighter. Using permanent color is great for covering gray. Sometimes clients ask if their hair will be the exact same color all over. The answer is “usually not.” Everyone has several colors in their hair that occur naturally. Adding permanent color or any color will only enhance that dimension, so you won’t end up with the dreaded “hair helmet” look.

Be very clear in your consultation with your stylist about maintenance and how committed you are to a new color. This will help him or her formulate just the right type of color for you. Always remember that color of every kind is forgivable. It can always be fixed if you don’t like it.