Tips for back door organization with Simple Spaces

School has been back in session for a few weeks now. That means the calendar is packed with meetings, practices, and deadlines and an overwhelming influx of homework, permission slips, and event reminders. Is it time to get organized?

Locally owned Simple Spaces suggests having designated “School Zones” in order to curb the chaos and help keep mamas sane. The above photo is from a mom of 5. She has this landing pad right where the kids walk in the door after school. It’s super convenient, which means the kids are more likely to actually deposit their stuff there. This way the backpacks (and shoes!) don’t end up scattered throughout the house.

Here are some different zoning ideas:

  • Command Zone – This is an area to house the things that are most relevant right now in your family’s life. This is where you should keep party invitations, items to be returned, bills to pay, and event notices.
  • Central Calendar Zone – Next to the command zone is the perfect place for a central calendar zone.  This is a centralized site to document each family member’s events. Dry erase boards are an easy way to stay organized by assigning a different color to each child’s schedule. This is a one stop shop for family time management.
  • Backpack Zone – At the end of the day, a backpack zone is a great way to prevent misplaced school items and unsightly clutter. Install a few hooks in a mud room or entry so kids can grab them easily in the morning before heading out the door.

Laurie and Jenna of Simple Spaces love this system from Pottery Barn (so do we!):

A big thank you to Jenna Ruhe and Laurie Malloy at Simple Spaces LLC of Northwest Arkansas for providing these tips! Simple Spaces specializes in professional organizing, home staging (when you’re trying to sell) and estate and relocation services. Click here to visit the Simple Spaces website to see how they can help you organize/clean/simplify your home or business.

Beauty Buzz: Assortment of product samples delivered to you

By Andi Douglas, beauty editor and mama of 3

Sadly, I had to explain to my 6-year-old that we do not celebrate his birthday on the 25th of every month, but only once a year in August. He asked, “Why not, it would be fun!” Instead of explaining that trying to organize a birthday every month would not only bankrupt us, but also kill Mommy, I explained that it makes it more special to wait and then offered him a cookie as a distraction.

Honestly though, I am inclined to agree with him. I work hard aging every month and should be rewarded. Enter!

For $10 a month (or $110 a year), Birchbox delivers at least four premium samples of the latest creams and colors from top rated brands like Kiehls, NARS and Laura Mercier. No worries about receiving a bunch of messy, foiled-packaged, one use leftovers, they send actual tubes, bottles and jars filled with enough product to truly test it out and decide if you’re going to toss it or love it.

If you do find a product that you can’t live without, you can order the full-size version on and earn points towards future purchases. Genie, a member for several months (and my cousin), raves that the samples are so big she hasn’t had a need for anything other than her monthly box.

I am usually reluctant to sign up for anything online, but I easily waste $10 a month on failed drugstore hair and beauty products. I am so excited to receive my first little pink box. Just don’t tell my son that I am breaking the birthday rule!

*Disclosure: Andi was not compensated in any way for this post. She just enjoys sharing exciting finds with nwaMotherlode readers on her beautiful journey.

Have a question for Andi, beauty blogger and fellow mama of three? Andi welcomes your questions and feedback to Beauty Buzz. E-mail her at

Giveaway: Personal trainer sessions for you and a friend at Pilates Plus!

Note from the mamas: Congratulations to Amy Robinson, winner of the Pilates classes! You’ll love it, Amy!

Early this year, Shannon and I decided to quit moaning about how we need to workout. We were so sick of our own excuses that we actually made an appointment to go exercise. We both tried Pilates for the first time and, after warming up to it for a couple of sessions, we decided it was definitely for us. In fact, it’s the ONLY form of exercise I’ve actually stuck with for more than six months at a time.

Because we’re now both believers in what Pilates can do for your body, we want to share the experience. Our awesome trainer and the owner of Pilates Plus, Hannah Harris, is giving one Motherlode reader TWO duet Pilates sessions. And the winner can also bring a friend with her to the workout sessions, which is what makes it a “duet”. (Plus, it’s just more fun with a buddy!) In case you’re doing the math, those private sessions would normally cost you and a friend $160.

You and your workout buddy will meet Hannah at Pilates Plus, which is on Main Street in Johnson. Hannah will lead the two of you through an hour-long session on the Pilates equipment. (You’ll get two separate hours of these duet sessions which you can schedule with the trainer.)

You don’t have to know what you’re doing before you get there. That’s the beauty of having a trainer right there to show you the ropes and make sure you’re doing everything safely and correctly. And Hannah is also a licensed physical therapist, so she really knows her stuff.

If you’ve tried Pilates home workout videos before, you should know that exercising on Pilates equipment is quite a bit different than that. Some people prefer the floor or mat workouts, and some (like me) prefer the Pilates equipment workouts. You should try both so you’ll know what you like best.

Here’s what we really love about this form of exercise.

  • It’s something you can do at almost any age. We’ve seen women in their 60s doing Pilates, and they look AWESOME.
  • It gives you muscle tone. (Hurray for muscle tone! We thought it was gone forever!)
  • It makes you stronger. Even though the movements seem simple, they really do build your core strength in a big way.

But here’s the really big thing: Pilates is something you do JUST FOR YOU. Remember you? The woman who gave birth? The woman who spends most of  her day doing stuff for other people? The woman who really wants to do something good for her own body but usually finds a zillion other chores to do instead? Yes, that woman is the one we’re talking to. She deserves this. She deserves at least a couple hours to focus on taking care of herself.

We’re not talking about exercise for the sake of skinny jeans and swimsuits. Yes, it’s awesome when exercise makes you look better in your clothes and feel more attractive. Of course, we all want that. But I’ve really come to appreciate that, for me, Pilates is about taking care of the body God gave me. It’s not a perfect body. But it works. It’s healthy. It helped me have 3 children. It lets me move throughout my day without pain. And that’s a HUGE blessing.

Pilates has become my way of appreciating and trying to maintain health, strength and mobility. I don’t want to just tell my kids that exercise is important but then not do it myself. Three decades from now, I want to be the cool granny who can still play with Legos on the floor and take the grandkids to the pool.

HOW TO ENTER: To throw your name in the online hat for two “duet” sessions at Pilates Plus, post a comment below or send us an email. Here’s the question: Most women can rattle off a list of what they consider to be their “problem areas” without even thinking about it. So tell us what you APPRECIATE about your body. Name your best feature or the part of you that you aren’t critical of. (Great legs? High cheekbones? Michelle Obama arms?) For example, my eyebrows almost never need to be plucked because they don’t get out of control and have a pretty decent shape of their own. This is especially nice because I’m a weenie about plucking and tweezing. Your turn.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR ODDS: Our giveaway winners are always chosen at random, but you can increase your odds by helping us spread the word about the giveaway. Send an email to your friends (and your workout buddies) telling them about the giveaway and we’ll give you an extra chance to win for each person you tell. Just be sure to put on the CC line of your note so we can give you additional chances to win in the drawing.

Good luck in the drawing! And if you want to give Pilates a chance to win you over the way it did for us, call Hannah at Pilates Plus and talk to her. She’ll even let you try your first mat class for free. And be sure to ask about group rates for Pilates equipment workouts, which you can take advantage of by getting a group of friends together for a regularly scheduled Pilates session. The number is 479-287-4519 and you can check out the studio’s website by clicking HERE.


Getting crafty with Smarties!

By Shannon Magsam, #IamASmartie

OK, all you crafty mamas (and even you not-so-crafty ones, because I promise you can do this!) we’re all going to make gift-worthy clipboards today. Everyone pull up your chairs to the kitchen table and let’s all do this together.

I’ve added the step-by-step instructions and pictures below to go along with this how-to post. We’re Smarties Ambassadors* this month and wanted to do something crafty involving the candy.

Ready? Ok, for this project, you’ll need: a plain clipboard; several sheets of your favorite 12X12 scrapbook paper (if you’ve never bought scrapbook paper, it’s pretty cheap and you can find it at Walmart or Hobby Lobby); a glue stick or Mod-Podge (also Hobby Lobby); a sanding sponge (or some plain ole sandpaper); scissors; 3/8 inch cute grosgrain ribbon; and Smarties candy rolls.

First, choose the main piece of scrapbook paper you want to use and several other complementary-patterned papers. Use a glue stick (or use a paint brush to brush on the Mod Podge) to cover the middle of the clipboard and press down your main sheet of paper. Just let the edges hang over; we’ll take care of those later.

Next, glue on the complementary papers to the top and bottom of the clipboard. It will be tricky gluing the paper around the very top of the clipboard (in particular, the metal clip) so just do a little creative cutting and work around it. Since there will be unattractive lines where the papers intersect on your clipboard, you’ll need to cut two or three strips of paper (or you can use ribbon, if you choose) and glue those where the different pieces of scrapbook paper meet. It will make the design look more “finished”.

 Next, you’ll need to grab that sandpaper or sanding block. If you have any frustrations you’d like to work out today this will help. You might want to step outside or in the garage to do this. I did it at my kitchen table and just did a quick clean-up, your decision. We’re using the sandpaper to work off the extra paper that’s hanging off the edges of your clipboard. Just start sanding and the paper will disintegrate and look distressed around the edges.

 Now it’s time to add the cute little ribbons to the hole on the clip part of the board. Just double knot as many on there as you like, leaving streamers as long as you like. Then take your Smarties rolls and line them up along the bottom of the clipboard (have it turned over so you can tape all along the little twists on one end of the Smarties. Your goal is to have them hanging from the bottom of the clipboard. (I also glued some MEGA Smarties and Double Lollies to my scrapbook paper because I thought it was cute).

I made this clipboard for my daughter to hang in her room. You can use the clip to hold encouraging notes or even school papers. I chose to write the note “GREAT JOB! You’re such a Smartie!” for the very first note. The Smarties along the bottom — along with the lollies — are for eating. You could also make it for a birthday gift and the note could say something like “Happy Birthday to a friend who’s sweet!” I also thought of a note that would be good for your own child or one of her friends: “In case of homework emergency, treat yourself to a Smartie!” Anyway, here’s my finished product:

For added inspiration, here’s a birthday clipboard I made as a gift:

EXTRA PROJECT NOTES: As you can see, I cut out a bird from my scrapbook paper to embellish the note I wrote in the Smarties clipboard. On the birthday project, I used glitter glue around the cupcake edges (plus the flame) and some dark card stock behind the cupcake to give it depth. Just get creative with it!

*This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias. All opinions belong to the mamas.

Mealtime Mama: Let’s help Arkansas Rice Depot delete hunger!

September is National Hunger Awareness Month and the Arkansas Rice Depot is asking bloggers to help raise awareness for those who are hungry in our state and to take steps to help them together with their readers. It’s called the Food Bloggers Delete Hunger online fundraising event.

We really respect and appreciate everything the Rice Depot does and were pleased to get involved.

Dani Martin, director of development at Rice Depot, said, “Food represents so much more than just the nutrients on the label or ingredients in a recipe. It also provides security, warmth and peace of mind.” As moms, we know how true that is. It breaks our hearts that 1 in 4 children here in Arkansas don’t have enough to eat. So let’s all help change that, shall we?!

Here’s how you can help: CLICK HERE to donate to the Arkansas Rice Depot. They’ll be able to tell how much money was raised through each blogger’s special link (we won’t know who donated, just a total). The bloggers with the most donations will win a gift basket, which we do NOT plan to keep. If we win, we’ll pass the prize on to one of you through a later giveaway. We know that nwaMotherlode has the most AWESOME mama readers and we want the Arkansas Rice Depot to know that, too! The mamas are donating today. It’s your turn!

Arkansas Rice Depot reaches those in Arkansas through four main programs: Food For Families, Food For Seniors, Food For Kids and Disaster Relief. More quick facts:

  • The Arkansas Rice Depot was formed in 1982 to combat hunger in Arkansas
  • The Rice Depot distributes over 8 million pounds of food and supplies a year
  • At the end of 2010, the Rice Depot fed over 15% of the entire population of the state
  • With a small staff, more than 98% of budget is spent on purchasing and distributing food to people living in poverty
  • Serves 900 hunger relief programs in the state – the only faith based, statewide food bank network
  • Arkansas Rice Depot’s mission is to find Sensible Solutions to Hunger in Arkansas

Devotion in Motion: Do you have a question?

2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.  Ephesians 5:2  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

I’ve been working with students as a public educator for over 20 years. I’ve taught 4th graders and high school seniors, and most of the grades in between. Something I’ve learned is that if you can get young people to talk to you, you can gain them as a friend, find out what makes them tick, and (hopefully) help guide them in the way they should go. But it all hinges on getting them to talk to you.

There are a number of tactics you can use to get them talking. It sounds ridiculous, but one question I often ask kids is “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?” You see, it works because it’s a totally non-threatening question, and there’s no wrong answer. Once you get them to start talking, and once they figure out that you’re not a threatening person in the least, well, you can take it from there. You’ve gained a friend for life.

Over 15 years ago, I met a little grade school boy who was a special education student. I asked him my famous question, “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?” He gave me a very surprising answer: “A bologna sandwich.”

See how this simple question and answer opened up the possibility for a great conversation? I then asked if he liked bologna sandwiches. He admitted that it wasn’t his favorite food, but he liked them ok, and he ate one every morning. He told me he didn’t have a father, and his mother worked the night shift. Every morning, there were three bologna sandwiches (with mayonnaise) in plastic bags in the refrigerator — one for him, and one for each of his two younger siblings.

I asked him what he had to drink with his breakfast. He said that they didn’t have anything to drink. You just ate your sandwich while you stood at the curb and waited for the bus. You could get a drink of water from the fountain when you got to school.

I taught the young man for a number of years after that. He would move up a grade, and my principal would change my schedule so that I’d be teaching a subject in the higher grade. I think I taught him for a total of five years. Then my teaching assignment totally changed. I went to work at a high school vocational-technical center. I didn’t see the boy for several years. Then he showed up at the vo-tech as a high school junior, and we were glad to see each other.

I asked the young many if he still ate a bologna sandwich for breakfast. He smiled and said, “Mr. Cash, I never, ever, eat a bologna sandwich! I’m 17 years old now. I get up and cook breakfast for my family — eggs and bacon, grits and toast.” Then he told me he wanted me to come down to his classroom to see his car. In his auto mechanics class, he was giving his vehicle a tune-up and adding new spark plugs. He told me he worked as a mechanic after school to make the car payments. I was pleased to see how he was growing up. You see, you can strike up a long-lasting friendship if you just ask the right question.

Now, here’s the most important part. One of the things I do at my school job is administering standardized tests — often one-on-one or with only a few students at a time. In filling out the answer sheet, I always have to inquire about their date of birth. And very often I will say, “Oh, you just had a birthday. What kind of cake did you have?”

As you can imagine, I get all kinds of answers. Some kids have a Sponge Bob cake from the bakery. Some kids have a cake in a 9 by 11-inch pan, made by their mother. One boy didn’t like cake, so his grandmother always made him brownies.

But not too long ago, after talking to a student, I had a sudden realization. In my line of work I sometimes give standardized tests to high school kids who are in special programs set up for people who are in trouble; these students are really just two steps away from being thrown in jail. Out of all those kids that I’ve worked with, they all have something in common. On their last birthday, none of those kids had a birthday cake.

Someday the scientists will probably do research on that fact. Perhaps they’ll find out there’s some compound in confections-sugar-icing that makes people want to follow the rules. Or maybe they’ll discover that there’s some hydrocarbon in the fumes of burning birthday-candle-wax that causes you to make better decisions.

But, I’m pretty sure they’ll find out something different from that. I bet they’ll find out that it makes a big difference in kids’ lives when they have at least one person who would never let them have a birthday without a birthday cake.

Live for the Lord Jesus. Brighten the world. Be that person.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 26 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 20) and Seth (age 17) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher’s sons once bought him Batman and Robin plates on his birthday.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to

The Rockwood Files: Dirty little homework secret

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I’m keeping a dirty little secret from the kids. Sometimes when I’m checking over their homework, I pretend to go to the bathroom or go check something that’s on the stove (even though I rarely cook). While I’m away, I use my iPhone to Google whatever parts of the homework assignment I don’t understand.

Shameful, I know. Our oldest is in fourth grade. I figured I’d have at least four or five more years before his math skills would surpass my own. But here I am – hiding in the coat closet searching for some kind of homework app on my smartphone.

Even my second grader stumped me yesterday. I looked over one of the completed assignments he brought home from school and asked him about it.

“Well, you know what metacognition is, right Mom?” he asked, certain that an all-knowing grown-up like me would surely know the words they toss around in second grade.

“Um, yes, but why don’t you tell me what YOU think it means,” I replied, hopeful he wouldn’t see through the old answer-a-question-with-a-question trick.

“Metacognition is thinking about how you think,” he said with second-grade authority.

“Of course,” I said, filing the definition away for later use. “It’s good that you already know that.”

That little humbling exchange proved to me just how much things have evolved since I was in second grade. I’m pretty sure my second-grade homework consisted of coloring a picture of an umbrella without going outside the lines. When did grade-schoolers start learning words like “meta-cognition” and “digraph” and “algorithm”?

Of course, I’m thrilled the kids are progressing as quickly as they are. If they’re already learning about metacognition in second grade and algorithms in fourth grade, who knows what they might be capable of by the time they’re seniors in high school? They’ll probably be programming the family’s flying car by then. It’ll be wonderful.

In the meantime, I don’t want my academic authority to be crushed by people whose diapers I used to change. So I find myself brushing up on the same subjects the kids are studying. Some of it comes back to me once I look over it again. Other parts of it? Not so much.

But I do have one thing going for me. I know that, in addition to learning new concepts and skills, one of the main purposes of homework is learning to work. So I knew just what to say the day our frustrated fourth grader declared – with intense, melodramatic flair – “Mom, this homework is ruining my life!”

“Well, going to school is your job right now. And doing homework is part of the job,” I said. “There are parts of my job and parts of Dad’s job that we don’t like doing, either, but we still do it. And there are always going to be things you don’t really want to do but need to be done. This is one of them. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”

I noticed a subtle eye-roll, but he did stop whining and get back to work on long division. Twenty minutes later, with the homework completed and tucked into his backpack, he was happily shooting hoops on the driveway, feeling the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve already finished the hard part of the day. It turns out that the homework didn’t ruin his life after all.

As for me, my secret is safe for now. With a little help from Google, I’m learning new things as I supervise the homework around here. Hopefully, if I brush up on the school’s core curriculum, I’ll be able to maintain the air of superior intelligence at least until they become teenagers. At that point, I’m pretty sure all kids decide that their parents are clueless. But that’s a column for a different day.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.


Picture Mama: Grand prize winner revealed!

And the grand prize snapshot winner is….

Gives new meaning to the phrase "Having a blast"!

Congrats to mama Allison Clark for submitting this awesome shot of her son cooling off during one of our many HOT summer days. The judges agreed that this shot summed up last summer pretty well and it’s a classic “all boy” moment. Allison will get a free photo shoot with photographer Melinda Worthington of MJW Photography plus a huge 16×20 wall portrait of her favorite shot from that session.

After we contacted Allison with the great news, she immediately called Mindy to set up a session. Then she wrote back to us:

Just wanted to send you guys another thank you for including my picture. I spoke with Mindy and we’re all set for some family pictures this Spring. Yay!! I’m due with our second in the next few weeks and am SO excited about getting some family shots when the flowers start to bloom. A huge thank you to NWA Motherlode for putting this contest together. You guys are fantastic. I’m so psyched to be the winner! :)

Note: If you want to have your family’s portraits done in time for holiday cards or fall photos, be sure to call Mindy ASAP because her calendar is booking up very quickly. You can reach her by clicking HERE to visit her website or by calling 479-366-2702.

We’ll announce a new snapshot contest in the coming months, so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, keep sending those snapshots because we love using them on the site and showing them off in our photo gallery. Thanks to ALL the mamas who sent us pictures of your beautiful kids. We’re honored to see those special moments captured in photos.

If you missed seeing any of our previously published Picture Mama posts, just click HERE to see the list or you can always find them by clicking the “Expert Advice” tab on the left.

What We’re Reading: Two page turners you’ll be glued to

For me, the best kind of novel is the one that very nearly consumes you — the kind you just have to keep reading because you’re dying to know what happens next. These two books by Gayle Forman did that for me.

I was intrigued by how differently the first book, If I Stay, was told. The main character, Mia, takes you on the journey of what happened to her in those moments and days after she was in a horrific car accident — one that killed her parents instantly. Mia seems to be between two worlds — the world we know and the hereafter — and she has to decide whether or not she wants to stay. Does she have something left to live for?

She tells the story not only with minute-by-minute updates on what’s going on in the hospital and waiting room, she also tells it through frequent flashbacks to memories of happier days. The pace and the “will she or won’t she” aspect of the book propel you toward the end so you can find out, once and for all, if she decides to stay and what it might take to convince her.

The follow-up to this book, called Where She Went, is equally compelling and is probably my favorite of these two books. I’m always left wanting more after a book ends, so this follow-up book was exactly what I needed. In this novel, we find out what happened to Mia after that big decision she made in the hospital following the car wreck and multiple surgeries.

We also find out what happened to her boyfriend, Adam, who is such an instrumental part of Mia’s life. His future and hers seem intertwined from the very outset of the first book, so this second book gives us a satisfying conclusion to how their stories play out.

Obviously, because the story includes death, loss, surgeries, grief, anger, etc., the subject matter here is not all unicorns and fuzzy puppies. But it is gripping and will keep you turning those pages toward an ending you’ll love. Enjoy!

*Click on the book covers above to read more about the books on Amazon. (There is a Kindle edition for these.) You can also read more reviews by other readers by clicking here.



Radio chat: Mamas on Magic 107.9 Thursday mornings

Remember, we’re moving our weekly radio chat on Magic 107.9 to Thursday mornings instead of Fridays. Gwen is on vacation this week, so I’ll be flying solo.

Since I’m smack dab in the middle of trying to figure out how to make homework a little less painful around our house right now, this week we’ll be talking tips about how to accomplish that. Or at least talk through a few solutions for alleviating some of the drama.

I’ll also ask hosts Guy Westmoland and Jennifer Irwin to show me their report cards. Kidding on that, but I will ask them about their own homework habits back in the day.

Tune in between 7:25 a.m. and 8:25 a.m. to join the on-air discussion. Or click on the graphic below to listen to the radio live on your computer.

Here are some of the links we used to prepare this radio topic. Click the title of each article below to read more about it:

Life with Ladybug: Growth Spurt

By Shannon Magsam

Ladybug went for a well-child checkup on Friday (only six months late since she’s 9 ½ now) and I found out she’s only FOUR inches shorter than me. As in, I’m only FOUR inches taller than her.

Of course, I realize I’m only 4’11” but STILL. Girl is getting tall! The pediatrician was even impressed by how much she’s shot up since the last visit.

My little ladybug has also started getting a few “blemishes” on her face. I admit to being a little surprised by this, but I see little bumps occasionally on some of the other girls her age at school. I don’t remember getting blemishes until about the sixth grade, but my memory is notoriously bad, so maybe it was that early.

In an act of sisterly solidarity (I suppose), my own face is starting to break out like a chocoholic 15-year-old. The pediatrician told my daughter she needed to start washing her twice a day. She had no advice for me. Even the fancy blemish-fighting moisturizer I use once a month isn’t cutting it.  Must be hormones.

It seems like everywhere I look lately, I’m reminded how much my little girl is growing up. I was at the NWA Mall the other day and felt so sad that the Eagle play area had been removed. We’ve lived here since Ladybug was born and logged a LOT of hours at that play area. Of course, she’s been taller than the Eagle for quite some time now.

Even if she could still hang out at the Chick-fil-A play area or at some of our other old faves, I noticed she’s not quite playing the same lately. At the park last week, I noticed she was much more subdued and less run-around-like-a-crazy-person-ish.

She enjoyed hanging out with me, talking, rather than sliding or swinging.

It made her mama a little sad.

But then? Yesterday we went to the park. It was so beautiful, the perfect weather. We took the dog and wandered about all over. She wanted to swing. She wanted to hang on the bars.

She wanted to go to the top of the hill and rolled all the way down, laughing. Over and over again.

It brought back more memories from when I was a girl of about 10. I remembered how my emotions seemed to be sitting on a teeter-totter: little girl on one side, aspiring teen on the other. And nobody, neither child nor mama, being able to tell which side would be up or down.

Shannon Magsam is mom to 9-year-old Ladybug, married to Ladybug’s dad, John, and co-creator of To read previously published installments of Life With Ladybug, click here.

Inconceivable Mama: Riding an infertility roller coaster

By Inconceivable Mama

We had left our last doctor’s appointment with a prescription for Clomid, a box of ovulation test strips, and little hope of actually conceiving in the near future.

A lot of people are aware of the struggles some couples have with infertility but, unless you or someone extremely close to you has gone through it, you are likely unaware of the huge emotional toll it can take.

Each new month begins with the emotional high of hope, followed by the worry of anticipation as you wait for a positive pregnancy test only to be followed by severe disappointment and depression, often compounded by hormones, when another period or negative pregnancy test barges in.

For me, my monthly flow was not only a source of deep emotional pain but physical pain as well. I began to have heavy periods, filled with clots and coupled with extreme cramping and pelvic pain.  I began to wonder if I was suffering from chronic miscarriages.  My doctor said this was highly unlikely as I had not one time had a positive pregnancy test, a sign common even with early miscarriage.

These are often called “chemical pregnancies” because a positive pregnancy is followed by a heavy period.  He believed that because I had been off of the birth control pills for over two years my body was just adjusting to its normal cycle and I was experiencing symptoms that had previously been masked by the hormones of the birth control.  This made sense to me, and would later prove to be partially accurate, but we will get to that later.  Even still, my monthly period was an extremely difficult time that would often send me to bed early where I would likely cry myself to sleep.

My husband is a wonderful man and has really been supportive throughout our entire journey.  However, my husband is an optimist and optimists often don’t understand getting upset over what wasn’t or what could have been.  Every month when I would “break the news” that we were once again NOT pregnant, Hubs would just shrug his shoulders and say “Okay, when do we start trying again?”  To him a negative pregnancy test meant it just wasn’t the right time yet and better luck next time.

Most of the time his optimism is an asset to our relationship, but it was starting to get on my nerves. I began to read his optimism as indifference. I began questioning his intentions of being a father. I began to question his love for me. How could he be so nonchalant? While he was relaxing in his optimism, I was drowning in feelings of guilt and regret. I believed I was paying the price for some earlier sin or that my body was not good enough or that God had doubts of my skills as a mother and was thus refusing to grant us a child.

Yet for some reason I (we) persevered. The doctor had given us a three-month prescription to Clomid, a drug that is supposed to stimulate ovulation. Even though we had had positive ovulation tests, my doctor thought perhaps Clomid would stimulate the release of more eggs thus increasing the chance for conception. I was determined to take the medicine and make it work.

For five days near the beginning of each cycle, I would take the pills and then wait for the period of maximum fertility usually around my 15th day. I began testing for ovulation daily around day 12 and then on day 14 I would test every 6 hours. We were having intercourse every 36 to 48 hours hoping to time the sperm with the release of a viable egg. It was all very ‘clinical’ and not romantic at all. The act of making love quickly became a chore and something we did quickly and precisely at the prescribed times.

Gone were the days when “an everyday moment turns into a romantic moment”. We were all business and I was beginning to dread it.

Three months went by and the Clomid succeeded only in making me even more emotional than normal. Three months without even a glimmer of hope. No late periods, no positive pregnancy test, nothing. I called my doctor and made an appointment. I told my husband I wasn’t leaving that office without a referral to the fertility clinic. It was time for a second opinion, and I wasn’t going to let my doctor hold us back anymore. I was a woman with a plan, I knew what I wanted, and I would stop at nothing to get it.

We welcome new mom blogger, Inconceivable Mama, to nwaMotherlode.We appreciate her sharing this difficult journey with us, especially knowing there are many of you out there who are walking a similar path. To read previous posts, click here. Inconceivable Mama has lived in Arkansas for 15 years and is a teacher. She and her Hubs don’t have any kids (…yet) but live on a small farm with dogs, cats, chickens and horses. She is writing anonymously for now.

Good Gossip: So what’s a mini-moon?

Every other Tuesday, we sit down to enjoy a round-up of celebrity news — only we filter out the nasty stuff some magazines and bloggers print and give you only the “good stuff.” We figure there’s enough serious bad news out there without piling on rumors and embarrassing things about celebrities. But it’s still fun to know about the positive, interesting things going on in the lives of people we watch on the big and small screens. Hope you enjoy today’s “Good Gossip”!

Was that a baby bump spotted on Cameron Diaz? Well, yes and no. She did indeed have a fake baby bump in Atlanta last month while filming scenes for the movie “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” But no real babies-in-utero have been reported for the actress.

It sounds like something that might happen in one of her movies, but this time it was real. Actress Kate Winslet ran into a burning building to save the 90-year-old mother of Sir Richard Branson. Winslet was vacationing at Branson’s home in the British Virgin Islands when a fire broke out. (Branson was asleep in a different building on the estate.) Winslet was quoted as saying “I’m just so glad that everyone is safe.”

After enjoying an over-the-top wedding on August 20th, Kim Kardashian and husband Kris Humphries are enjoying a “mini-moon” on the coast of Italy. They plan to take a bigger, longer honeymoon later and hope to go somewhere tropical. Kim says that kids are next on her married to-do list because they both want a big family. Speaking of mini-moons, they seem to be a trend lately. Other couples who opted for a “mini-moon” are royals Will and Kate, Eddie Cibrian and LeAnn Rimes and Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth.

Remember cute little Punky Brewster? Actress Soleil Moon Frye is all grown up now, has two children and just put a new parenting book on the market. It’s called “Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures In Between.” Her kids’ names are Poet and Jagger and she is married to producer Jason Goldberg. Soleil says she stays grounded with a support system of fellow moms, including Demi Moore and Rebecca Gayheart who she can turn to anytime.

If you’re a fan of reality TV, you might think that none of the couples who meet there end up staying together. But in a recent issue of People magazine, there’s a feature article about couples who met through various reality TV shows and who are still together. Of course, the most famous of those couples would have to be Trista and Ryan Sutter, who met on the set of The Bachelorette in 2003. The couple now live in Vail, Colorado and have two children, Max who is 4, and Blakesley, who is 2. Trista said they made a conscious decision to move back to Vail and get away from as much of Hollywood as possible. Ryan said it has been the “secret to our success. We put everything else second to us being together and making a life.” When asked why they have stayed together when so many other Bachelor couples have split, Trista made it simple: “We like each other, we respect each other, we love each other. That’s why we’ve worked as long as we have.” Well said.

Anybody besides us think Jason Bateman is SO very cute and charming? The popular actor just announced he and his wife, Amanda Anka, are expecting their second child. The proud grandfather, Paul Anka, said it will be another baby girl. The couple has been married about 10 years and have a 5-year-old daughter.

Sources: People magazine, September 12, 2011 issue

Good Gossip is a bi-weekly feature sponsored by RingO’s Chicken Rings, which is a USDA Child Nutrition Certified food. RingO’s (original flavor) have only 3 grams of fat per serving and NO trans fatty acids. Click here to read more nutritional info about RingO’s. Click here to see what parents are saying about the product on Facebook!


How do you enjoy a Smartie?

By Shannon Magsam, mama to ladybug and co-creator of nwaMotherlode

OK, mamas, do you have any unique and different uses for Smarties? You know, the pastel-colored twist wrap candy that always makes you think of Halloween and comes in all kinds of flavors? They are:

White = Orange-Cream; Yellow = Pineapple; Pink = Cherry; Green = Strawberry; Purple = Grape; Orange = Orange.

Well, who knew how many adorable uses there were for these sweet treats?! Gwen and I recently fell in love with Pinterest, a virtual pinboard where you can group together all your online favorite things, and we found some great ideas using Smarties, a company we’re highlighting this month as part of a social shopper insights study.*

We both love Smarties, so you can imagine being a Smarties Ambassador has been such hard work :)  (Speaking of Smarties, we’ve got a suh-weet giveaway coming up soon on nwaMotherlode, so be watching for that!)

As I was saying, we have truly been inspired by some of the things we’ve seen on Pinterest — including some Smarties smarties who are just brimming with candy creativity.

Here are a few Pinterest ideas (inspired by Smarties) that we loved (click on the pic to see where it originated):

These cute ideas got us thinking about other uses for Smarties. In addition to decorating baked treats, they could also be used as rewards for a job well done at school (in the lunch box attached to a note?), for teachers gifts (see above) and we’ve even heard of people using Smarties for low blood sugar/hypoglycemia. (Side note that we didn’t realize: Smarties are gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan, and free of the top allergens.)

The Smarties company has been told there are folks who use Smarties as a mid-workout supplement and recovery supplement during and after long workouts.  In particular, triathlon and marathon runners have told them that’s their little secret weapon!

My cousin, Shawnna, takes them along with her on all road trips. The sour/sweetness and the crunch keep her awake, apparently. My daughter snagged a roll of Smarties at church Sunday when she answered a Bible trivia question right.

Gwen and I love to snag Smarties when we’re putting together kids’ birthday party goody bags or for handing out on Oct. 31st. We also like that they have Theater Box Smarties for home movie nights (Speaking of movies, we can’t wait to see Sarah Jessica Parker in “I Don’t Know How She Does It” at the theater). We discovered some creative uses for Smarties this week and we’ll be incorporating them into some crafty and delicious items of our own which we’ll share on the website soon.

So, do you have any unique uses for Smarties? #IamASmartie

Click HERE to visit the Smarties website. You can also find them on Twitter, Facebook or HERE at the Smarties blog.

*This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias. All opinions strictly belong to the mamas.

Drama for Mama: New fall TV season on its way!

Woo-hoo! The TV fall season premieres are here! If you love to wind down on the sofa with a good show, we’ve got some news about when new and returning shows are scheduled to begin the new season.

We’re very excited about some of the shows lined up for this fall. One of our favorites, Parenthood, is returning to prime time this Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

One of the new ones that looks like fun is Up All Night, with Christina Applegate. It’s about a couple who become new parents of a baby who’s not big on sleeping. It premieres this Wednesday, September 14th at 9 p.m.

Attention all Gleeks! Glee is launching its new season on Tuesday, September 20th at 7 p.m.

If you’re a loyal Grey’s Anatomy fan like I am, set your DVR for Thursday, September 22nd at 8 p.m. (Yikes! Meredith is getting fired!)

We fell in love with The Good Wife and its smart writing and strong characters. If you want to catch up on what you missed during the last two seasons, type “the good wife” into our search engine (top right) to read our old posts on this show. The Good Wife premieres on Sunday, September 25th at 8 p.m.

And our favorite Modern Family will be making us laugh again, beginning on Wednesday, September 21st at 8 p.m.

Here’s a list of some other must-see fall premieres:

How I Met Your Mother — Sept. 19th, at 7 p.m. (CBS)

Dancing with the Stars — Sept. 19th, at 7 p.m. (ABC)

Unforgettable (new)Sept. 20th, 9 p.m. (CBS)

Body of Proof -- Sept. 20th, 9 p.m. (ABC)

Revenge (new show) — Sept. 21st, 9 p.m. (ABC)

The Middle — September 21st, 7 p.m. (ABC)

The Big Bang Theory — Sept. 22nd, 7 p.m. (CBS)

The OfficeSept. 22nd, 8 p.m. (NBC)

Whitney (new) Sept. 22nd, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)

Desperate Housewives (final season) — Sept. 25th, 8 p.m. (ABC)

Mike & Molly — September 26th, 8:30 p.m. (CBS)

Private Practice — September 29th, 9 p.m. (ABC)

One thing we’ve noticed about the fall television season is that there are LOTS of new dramas starring women — but we’re not so sure the roles they’re playing are doing women any favors. For example, we cringe a little when we see the new show called The Playboy Club being advertised. (It premieres on Sept. 19th.) And how do you guys feel about the new show Pan Am (premiering Sept. 25th), where women are the stars but they’re all busy serving men on airplanes? We also saw a preview of a show called Suburgatory (premiering on Sept. 28th at 7:30 p.m.) which looks to be chock full of stereotypes. Maybe these shows will be fabulous and full of strong female characters, but right now we’re skeptical.

Click on the orange button below and tell us how you feel about it. What shows will you be watching this fall?