Inside His Head: Mom is opposed to toy gun for Christmas

Dear Inside His Head husbands,

My 5-year-old son has moved away from Thomas the Tank Engine toys to wanting toy soldiers and plastic guns. I’m not really comfortable with him having “weapons” even if they don’t look super realistic. I’m afraid having those kinds of toys in the house will encourage him to be violent. My husband disagrees and wants to buy him a toy gun for Christmas. What’s your take?

MAVERICK: Lots of little boys like guns. They don’t have to like guns but don’t punish your child if that’s his inclination.

Heck, even if you don’t buy him a toy gun, he’ll likely grab a stick, or a ruler and turn it into one and run around pretending to shoot stuff. It’s what boys do.

Don’t panic just because your son is wanting to experiment with these drives. Males are hardwired to fight for and defend what they love. Even in the classic movie “A Christmas Story”, Ralphie imagines using his Red Ryder B.B. gun to fight off bandits much to the admiration of his family.

Giving a boy a toy gun no more fosters him to be violent than getting a little girl a Easy Bake Oven will make her a future doormat.

If you’re really concerned about his play you can include some simple rules.

No pointing the gun and “shooting” at pets and no pointing the gun at others unless they are also armed and willing to do battle.

Don’t even get me started on toy soldiers. The profession of soldier is an honorable one. While sometimes boys play can sound pretty nutty and gruesome, with attempts to mimic machine guns, and bombs and screams it’s all just play. It is male play but it is still play.

Let your husband lead in this. Say the boy can get a toy gun or toy soldiers if the father agrees to play with him.

Boys learn to become men by spending time with strong, male role models. Tell your husband if he’s certain the guns and toy soldiers won’t hurt the boy, you are certain playing with his dad will help.

GRAY: Throughout the centuries millions of children have played with various weapons. As a child I had a variety of pistols. My favorite was a replica flint lock that fired rolls of red popping caps. Has such play turned myself and innumerable scores of others into barbaric savages? No, it has not. Here’s why:

Kids play with toy guns because it’s a game, not because they’re practicing to become assassins. Just as children playing Monopoly don’t become slumlords, those playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey don’t grow up being animal abusers and children playing Candy Land don’t become morbidly obese, owning a toy gun isn’t going to turn you child into a bully or menace.

Personally my daughter prefers swords to guns and she never uses them to harm anything, not that she even looks particularly intimidating while wearing a tiara as she wields the plastic blade. Though the only toy gun she’s expressed interest in is a water pistol, she looks at them as a plaything and not with the connotations we adults ascribe to them.

And I don’t think I should finish without a word of caution. If you own real guns you need to teach your child the difference and use your head about how you store them. To a child who isn’t educated, they may believe they’ve found a new toy. Nobody wants that scenario. Ever.

And as your son abandons trains for tanks, toy pistols and G.I. Joe figures, just know it’s the same steps your husband took when he was your sons age. Go on, take a look at your husband, because he’s the proof that toys are for boys, but don’t determine who he becomes as a man.

MICHAEL: I’m not a big fan of toy guns. That being said, I have no problem with real ones. At an appropriate age and under supervision. So I hear where you’re coming from.

I don’t know that you’re going to win this one though. It’s such a part of our culture and if you both aren’t aligned on this you’re going to have to negotiate some conditions. First, see if you can put him off another year. If not, set up ground rules for play.

I have two little girls and I’m very uncomfortable when they’re playing outside and their friends who are boys start playing with their guns. What makes me nervous is that one of these times they’re going to come out with a real gun. So make sure he’s punished when he points the gun at any living thing and hope he gets the point.


On Your Mind: Post-divorce dating and kids

Dear Tom,

My husband and I divorced about two years ago. We have two kids, both in elementary school. He remarried very quickly, and I’ve been dating regularly since the divorce. My mother thinks that dating is distracting me from being a mom and that I should concentrate more on the kids’ needs instead of my own. How can I tell if my dating is hurting the kids? I think I’d get depressed if I stopped dating.

Dear Mom,

Dating after a divorce is not an all or nothing proposition. Many people are good parents and date at the same time. Your kids will let you know — in subtle and not-so-subtle ways — if your dating is bothering them.

Here are some of the signs you should watch out for:

  • Sullenness or being less talkative before or after a date
  • Being more clingy or possessive
  • Outwardly questioning or challenging your actions, maybe even in a hostile or disrespectful way.

Now that you know the red flags, here are some general tips for dating after a divorce. Follow these to help lessen any adverse impact on your kids:

1. Continue to emphasize your No. 1 role as parent and your never ending love and support of your kids, no matter who you are dating.

2. Have open discussions with your children about your need to have friends and personal relationships,  just like they do.  Those relationships are healthy for you as they are for them.

3. Be concrete and consistent in your dating schedule (time and place) and stick to it. If you say you will be home by 10 p.m., be sure to be home by that time.

4. Consider delaying introducing the new person/date to your children until you get to know the person better and believe the person may be a longer term relationship.  A revolving door of “dates” may be confusing to your children.

5. Plan activities with your children before or after dates and remind them of those special times/things you plan to do together.

6. Most importantly, remind your kids that they did NOT cause the divorce or your desire to date other people — they had nothing to do with that.

So, mom, go ahead and date but be very attentive and sensitive to your children’s needs, their reactions and any impact your dating may have on them. Thanks for your note and feel free to write to me again with anything that’s on your mind.


Tom Petrizzo serves as CEO of Ozark Guidance and has degrees in social work and law. He has spent the last 20 years managing non-profit centers in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas. He has also served as adjunct faculty at the social work graduate program at three large universities. He’s married to Teri Classick, a licensed clinical social worker, and they have two daughters. When he’s not at work, Tom likes to jog, bike ride, read and he even belted out the National Anthem at a Northwest Arkansas Naturals Game!

Tom would be happy to answer your questions and talk about what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback. Tom will be back each month to answer another woman’s question.


Military Mama: New deployment details

By Jade Stone

I hope you had the opportunity to sit down with your friends and family this Thanksgiving and truly enjoy one another.  I know we dodged a close call this holiday and will certainly say a few extra prayers of thanks for the blessing.

Cell PhoneIt started Wednesday 2 weeks ago. I was heading to Little Rock for a conference and was in Fayetteville picking up a fellow teacher on my way through when I got a strange text from my hubby. I noticed it and thought I would just check it as I pulled into her drive way.

But unfortunately, his text began with “my old unit called”….now, just a little background.  The old unit is the unit Jay was supposed to deploy with, however he was selected to go with a different medical unit that doesn’t leave until next summer.

The last word we had heard on the 108th is that they would be leaving in 30 days, which was roughly 2 weeks ago at that point. So, as you can imagine, my curiosity nearly got the better of me. As I navigated the small quiet neighborhood, it was all I could do to not check the text and as I drove, he continued to text me.

I whipped into my colleague’s driveway and fumbled for the phone only to read “My commander called-they want me to deploy with them”.  I filled in the blanks for him with my prior knowledge of the unit, logically deducing that if that is true, he would deploy from the country in 15 days or less. He went on to say that he would be in Kuwait for a year and would return this time next year.  After I pulled my heart out of my throat, survival mode kicked in.

I called him immediately and of course my first thought was “why on earth did you text that to me?????” But, I decided that could wait. Instead I went straight to the meat of the conversation.

As it turned out, they were giving him the choice to rejoin his unit and deploy now to Kuwait or go with the new unit this summer to Afghanistan. I don’t know about you but that was an absolute no-brainer. “Did you tell him yes”?? I questioned.  Bless him, he replied “no babe, I wanted to ask you first”.  While I am thankful he considers my thoughts, sometimes you just have to make a move and not wait and this was one of those moments.  “You call him back right now and tell him you’re in!”

We can do Kuwait; I’ll pass on Afghanistan any day.  “I don’t care how abrupt it is, this is a smarter move,” I told him.  So Jay called the commander back that day with his decision and was told he would be contacted later in the week with the details. In spite of his hasty departure, this was great news and I found myself already making plans and contemplating the changes that I would need to make when he left. My first mistake was getting excited about it.

Certainly the ride to Little Rock was filled with plenty of conversation in light of the new development and though I was happy to be going to the conference, I couldn’t help but feel that I needed to turn right around and head back home to start preparing…but, as we would soon learn, nothing is ever as it seems.

That Thursday morning was a busy one with lots of workshops to attend and people to network with so I didn’t pay much attention to my phone until that afternoon, which was my second mistake.  At about 3pm, I decided I needed to check in and see how the little one was doing only to find a few more texts from Jay.  Expecting to learn about the upcoming journey and specific details, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to learn that just this afternoon, the Commander had called him back and said “we’ve decided to keep you with this new unit-we are handpicking people and you are our top pick so you will not be deploying with the old unit but rather the new medical unit which will likely deploy in June or July. We do however, need you here full time in January at the base in Kansas to begin preparing for your duties.”

You know, for a second, part of me was so thankful that he would be granted the holidays with us instead of leaving immediately, however the bigger part  was so disappointed by this new development. Now, (and of course who knows how long this will last) he will leave us in January to begin training, and then leave the country for an additional year beginning in June or July.

I just hate him being away from us for so long…this means he won’t come back to live with us until roughly August of 2013. Jess, who is 6 now, will be almost 8 when he returns. Sadly, it doesn’t end there.

The following week was Thanksgiving and wouldn’t you know it, the day before Turkey day, we got yet another call from the unit. As it turns out, the powers that be have decided that they want Jay up there in December ASAP but on no particular date. The best that we can wish for now is that they give us at least 48 hours notice but no promises there! Luckily, this arrangement will still allow him to come home for Christmas and for that I am eternally grateful.

So this year, we  will treasure the holiday season a little more than we have in the past. We will take a few extra pictures, spend a little more time as a family, and to some extent maybe even seclude ourselves from the public just to cherish the alone time we have left. No one likes to think about the “what ifs” but the fact is they constantly loom overhead. I want to be able to look back and say we did everything we wanted to do and there were absolutely no regrets in the way our time was spent together. Last but not least, we will continually keep in mind that only God knows what the future holds because you learn that change is a constant in the lives of military families.

Next time I’ll have to tell you about a fabulous new show that is airing on The Weather Channel Wednesdays at 9pm called “Coast Guard Alaska”! It shows a very different aspect of military life that many of us aren’t familiar with. These guys put their lives on the line daily while their families wait patiently at home for their return every night. Their commitment to saving lives is truly heroic, but there’ll be more to come on that at a later date! Happy Holidays everyone!

Jade welcomes your comments here as well as any suggestions you may have for her future posts. You may also e-mail her at To read previous Military Mama posts, CLICK HERE.

The Big Chill refrigerator winner!

Stephanie Laney was still shaking a few hours after she got the great news that she had won the brand new fridge from Metro Appliances & More.

By the time the gorgeous French door beauty arrived at her house the day after Thanksgiving, she had recovered enough to invite most of her friends and family over to gaze at its gorgeousness. Stephanie said it was bigger than expected, but fit perfectly in her kitchen. We think it looks great! We love that in the picture below you can already see kid stuff on the side of the fridge. It’s already right at home.

The 26-year-old mama of three is giving her old refrigerator to a single mom friend who’s building her first house. “I truly feel so blessed to have won this refrigerator so I’ll do what I can to pass on a blessing,” she said.

Stephanie said when she was younger she always dreamed of being a wife and mom and is loving that she’s living that dream. She and her husband, John Mark, will celebrate their sixth anniversary on December 10th and she is mother to Roman, Avery and (surprise bonus baby!) Ella.

“As shocked as I was [about Ella] I can’t imagine life without her, and the truth is as tired as I get and as frustrating as some days are I would be happy to have 7 more. They are wonderful,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie was a medical-surgical nurse before she resigned to stay home with her first child. She and her family attend New Heights church in Fayetteville.

“When I’m not cooking, cleaning, nursing a baby, running errands, dropping kids off and picking them up or grocery shopping I love refinishing and repurposing furniture, crafting and sewing,” she said.

Congratulations, Stephanie, and to the whole Laney clan!

Photo credit: Nan Davidson Photography

Beauty Buzz: Reprogramming your body

By Andi Douglas, beauty editor

I woke up Saturday morning and was convinced I was having an allergic reaction to something because my face was swollen (true and pathetic story).

But after a Benadryl and a good hard look at myself I admitted the only thing I was having a reaction to was the 6 pieces of pecan pie I’d had in the last 3 days. Not to mention turkey, potatoes, wine and piles of cranberry sauce that added on a few pounds, apparently all in my face.

Luckily, we enjoyed the holiday out of town so I don’t have to worry about leftovers tempting me, but I need help breaking the cycle of sweets and losing the weight before round two hits. Christmas candy is kryptonite to my skinny jeans!

I came across a 3-day quick weight loss plan on Yahoo Health by Julie Upton, a registered dietitian, to try to regain control of my diet. It starts with 3 steps to reprogramming your body.

Step 1: Break the sugar cycle by eliminating desserts for at least 3 days. New studies are showing that sugar can be addictive by “hijacking” the same parts of your brain that are affected by drugs and alcohol. “The sugar hooks you, while the fact piles on the pounds,” says Upton.

Step 2: Resize your stomach without feeling like your starving by replacing the high calorie foods you’ve been indulging in with smaller portions of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables (candied sweet potatoes don’t count) and whole grains. Even though I’ve been eating more than normal, I am starving the next day because my fullness cues have become desensitized, so a few days of conscious portion control will reset the “stomachs system of stretch receptors”.

Step 3: Cut down on cocktails to eliminate 7 calories per gram, that pile on top of food calories without helping you feel full. Low-calorie drinks, like tea and flavored watered can lift metabolic rate and offer healing antioxidants.

These 3 principles are the basis for a 3-day meal plan provided by Upton to get you back to your normal weight. To cut the craving for sweets, she eliminated most refined sugars. To keep your stretch receptors happy, Upton features plant-based foods that are rich in fiber. And instead of high-calorie cocktails, she gives you delicious low- or no-cal drinks. I included the first day, which even I think looks doable and I am a notoriously picky eater. The full meal plan is available here.

Day 1 Meal Plan


Egg white-veggie scramble: 1/2 c egg whites (or 4 egg whites) with 1 c chopped mixed vegetables (tomato, bell pepper, baby spinach leaves), prepared with cooking spray

1 slice toasted whole grain bread or 1/2 whole wheat English muffin with 2 tsp 100% fruit spread

1 c fat-free Greek-style yogurt Coffee or tea with 1/4 c fat-free milk

SNACK: 1 sheet graham cracker with 2 tsp natural (no added sugar) peanut butter


Hummus-veggie pita sandwich: 1/2 whole grain pita spread with 1 tsp deli mustard and 1 Tbsp hummus, then stuffed with vegetables (bell peppers, sprouts, lettuce, tomato) and 2 slices avocado

1 medium orange or 2 tangerines

Unsweetened herbal tea (hot or iced) with cinnamon stick

SNACK: 1 piece fresh fruit or 1 c mixed vegetables with 2 tsp oil and vinegar dressing


3 oz grilled salmon brushed with citrus glaze while cooking

Citrus glaze: 1 Tbsp each orange juice, honey, and reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/2 c cooked brown rice prepared with 1 tsp olive oil

1 c cooked winter squash, broccoli, or asparagus

DESSERT: 1/2 c fat-free plain Greek-style yogurt with 2 tsp 100% fruit spread

Now, step away from the pumpkin pie and get motivated! Only 26 more days until fudge, I mean Christmas!

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

Giveaway: TWO free Heaven’s Best Carpet/Hardwood Floor Cleanings!

Thursday is December 1st, y’all, and that means Christmas is just a hop, skip and jump away. It also means lots of company for some of us! Wouldn’t it be awesome to get your carpet and/or hardwood floors cleaned before the relatives came to visit?

If that makes you say a big “AMEN!” we’ve got Heaven’s Best Carpet Cleaning to the rescue. For this giveaway, TWO mamas will score floor cleaning and there are no restrictions. Local owner Matt Lane said he will clean your entire house, no matter what the size (big, small or in between). Yep, you read that right.

Matt has cleaned our floors and he’s a super nice guy who did a fabulous job. I was finally able to say goodbye to some unwelcome stains that always seemed to pop back a few days after other professional cleanings.

We LOVE that Matt doesn’t bring in hoses and drag them through the house. He sprays a natural citrus cleaner (pet and child safe plus it smells really great) on the floor and then uses a special — quiet! — machine with absorbent cleaning pads to lift and trap dirt. You know what else we love? That our carpet was dry in about an hour. We’ve always hated having to leave the house for-evah because the floors just got cleaned and were too saturated to walk around on. Problem solved.

HOW TO ENTER: We’ll choose a winner on Monday, Dec. 5, so the two winners will have time to schedule a cleaning before Christmas if that’s what they’d like to do. If you want to wait until after the holiday, that’s OK, too. To throw your name in the hat, just click on the comment button below and tell us about one of the worst spills your floor has ever endured. Did you drop a brand new carton of eggs in the kitchen? Did the kids spill grape juice in the playroom and you didn’t notice for weeks? Did your baby have a blowout diaper and you forgot to put the changing pad down first? If we start thinking about all the yuck that gets tracked, spilled or carried into our houses every day, we can all agree that floor cleaning would be a fabulous gift to ourselves.

HOW TO BOOST YOUR CHANCES: You can increase your odds of winning one of the two carpet cleanings by helping us spread the word! Just email your friends/family about this giveaway and be sure to put on the CC line of your email. We will give you an extra chance to win for each person you tell!

ABOUT HEAVEN’S BEST: This company is new to NWA and is owned by Matt Lane, a married dad of three. Most carpet cleaners use a hot water extraction system that puts up to 10 times more water on your carpet, carpet backing, pad and subfloor. Heaven’s Best’s low moisture system only applies citrus and water based solution to the carpet fibers, where the dirt is. After a thorough vacuuming, the solution gently lifts dirt, dust and stains so ultra absorbent cleaning pads can absorb moisture and dry carpets in about an hour. No loud machines, no hoses dragging through your doors and along your base boards and no extended drying time (hallelujah!).

Local mom testimonial: “Matt Lane arrived at our house right on time – very important when you’re a busy Mom.  He uses a no hose, quick dry technique.  All the bad stains that I thought could not be cleaned are gone!  Matt did a great job at a great cost!  We will definitely be calling him again.”

Savings Head’s Up! If you don’t want to hedge your bets on winning this giveaway, Matt from Heaven’s Best is offering 20 percent off all floor cleaning the entire month of December. Woot! Call Matt at 479-427-9800 or CLICK HERE to visit the website. Matt is happy to come out and give you a free estimate.


Giveaway: Tickets to see Brown Bear, Moon and a Caterpillar at Walton Arts Center

If you’re a mama or a grandmama, chances are you’ve spent quite a bit of time reading Eric Carle books to your little ones. It’s been three years since my youngest kid was in diapers, but I think I can STILL recite the words of “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?” almost completely by heart.

The simple lines made complete by those one-of-a-kind illustrations have turned Eric Carle’s books into classics that kids want to hear again and again. Now three of those stories and  illustrations will come to life on stage at the Walton Arts Center. This week we’ll be giving away FOUR tickets to see the show on Sunday, December 11th at 1 p.m.

Of course, no outing with the kids would be complete without something tasty to eat, right? So the winning mama and her kiddos will be treated to pizza at U.S. Pizza on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, just a few blocks away from the theater.

ABOUT THE SHOW: Performed by the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, this show brings together old favorites as well as new friends. Featuring evocative music, stunning visual effects and incredible puppetry, the show features three of Eric Carle’s most beloved books. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” will be joined by a cast of adventurous characters from “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” as well as “Papa Please Get The Moon For Me.”

ABOUT THE FOOD: We don’t know many kids who don’t love pizza, so we’re sending the winner of this giveaway package to our favorite pizza spot on Dickson Street with a gift card in hand. U.S. Pizza is famous for pizza, but we also love the sandwiches and salads, too, which have won awards of their own. This is a very kid-friendly atmosphere and it’s a great place for families to hang out before or after a Walton Arts Center show. (Click here to see the U.S. Pizza menu.)

HOW TO ENTER: To throw your name in the hat for the show and the pizza, just click on the orange comment button below and tell us which Eric Carle book is your or your kid’s favorite. (My kids always loved putting their little fingers on the holes eaten through the thick pages of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. :-) )

You may also enter the giveaway drawing via email by sending your answer to Winners are always chosen at random.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR ODDS: As always, we give extra chances to win to mamas who help us spread the word about the giveaway. Just email your friends and family about the giveaway and we’ll give you an extra chance to win for every person you tell. Just be sure to put on the CC line of your email so we can give you proper credit.

Be sure to tell your fellow moms and grandmothers who might have little ones in the right age range for this show! It’ll be a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

If you want to ensure your spot in the audience for this magical show, click HERE or call the Walton Arts Center Box Office at 479-443-5600 to reserve tickets. Good luck in the drawing!

The Etsy Economy: Buying local online

Mamas note: As you know, today is Cyber Monday, which means tons of mamas like us will be scouring the World Wide Web for gifts. One of the best places to hunt is on Many crafty people right here in Northwest Arkansas use this huge website to sell their items, and you can find some awesome, truly unique things at great prices. The following editorial by guest blogger Chris Hancock — who is NOT paid by Etsy, by the way — makes some excellent points about why it’s important to buy local online.

By Chris Hancock, guest blogger

It’s holiday shopping season, and it’s important to remember that we “vote” with our dollars. Black Friday’s long lines have come and gone and Cyber Monday is here. One of the best ways to find those perfectly thoughtful gifts — without braving the crowds, feral shoppers and without getting predictable, mass-produced gifts from big-box stores — is to shop local online.

Enter Etsy, an online marketplace where you can narrow your search to your region to NWA or Central AR, which will reduce your shipping cost. Sometimes you can even meet the vendor personally for pick up. On the Etsy website, you’ll find gifts that are unique, handmade, vintage, and regional. You’ll find something you literally can’t find anywhere else.

Pricing on Etsy is reasonable, given time and materials invested by the vendor, and the Etsy vendors want you to want their productions. They aren’t so huge and proprietary that they know you’ll bite the silver holiday bullet and purchase anyway. And you can communicate directly with artisans. In many cases, they’re willing to create custom listings and create a custom order for you.

Etsy is the closest thing to a free-market I’ve seen in a long while. It offers variety, a wide range of specialty products, fair competition and almost zero market entrance barriers for budding entrepreneurs. It’s like a Stanford incubator for artsy retail.

Commercial evolution has been a long and winding road. In  a short decade, we’ve gone from mainstreet, to big-box street, to online warehouse street, and now “online mainstreet”. The people minding their shops on this online mainstreet may be just down your own street, with no storefront to rent. The savings that those online shop owners are able to pass on to customers are astounding.

If you’re shopping for holiday gifts, be aware that many vendors prefer to cut off new orders by December 15th  because they’re people, too, who have holiday plans with their own families. They don’t have teams of inventory specialists. But if you plan ahead and order in time, you’ll be able to snag some of their unique productions which you won’t find anywhere else.

This holiday season, remember your online mainstreet. Buy local online.

One of our bloggers, Laurie Marshall, has an Etsy shop HERE at Punkinhead Designs. We’ve met lots of local mamas through nwaMotherlode who sell their goodies on Etsy, like Amber Perrodin Art, WordWeaverArt, Minkee Baby Gifts, swas and Sewing A Seed. If you have an Etsy shop and want to tell us about it, click the comment button below and share the link with everyone! Here are some pics of great gift ideas we found at Etsy, made by Northwest Arkansas entrepreneurs. Click on the photos below for more info.

Found this pretty pair of earrings for 20 bucks! Tons more on Etsy.

We love this poster for a kid's room, playroom or library area!

These are durable coasters made from beer bottle caps. Love this idea for a man cave or any guy who likes his beer!

This vintage doll table and chairs would make a playroom fun and colorful.

Wouldn't this vintage cookbook from 1949 make a unique gift for someone who loves to cook? Love it! Could even use it as decor in a kitchen!

Have your own Etsy shop or know of one that you’d like to tell us about? Click the comment button below.

Devotion in Motion: Christmas advice

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4,5 (NKJV)

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

If you’re like most moms I know, the beginning of the Christmas season brings with it a mixture of diverse emotions — a combination of joy mingled with anxiety. The joy comes from the prospect of celebrating our Saviour’s birth and all the happiness which that brings. The anxiety comes from the expectations we strive to meet and the work it’ll take to meet them. Sometimes it all can feel overwhelming.

Today I want to share a thought I had — an idea I think will help us all have a happier holiday season. You’re going to have to bear with me today. If you’re a frequent reader, you know I get my inspiration from unusual places. Today’s epiphany came to me when I was shopping in Dollar General, looking for a sack of dog food.

Have you looked at all the kinds of dog food they sell nowadays? There’s dry food that looks like a delicious Irish stew — chunks of sirloin surrounded by green peas and carrots. There are sacks of dog chow that have five different kinds of pellets that taste like five different kinds of meat. (It’s called “mixed grill.” Sounds like what the Cashes do on the 4th of July.) The newest addition to the dog food line is a brand that has “hidden treasure inside.” Fascinating.

Here’s the thing I believe. The dog food makers don’t make dog food based on what dogs like. They make dog food that looks like what dog owners like. For instance, I like Irish stew, a mixed grill barbeque and cereal that has surprises in it. But I’ve never had a dog that cared about any of those things.

My country-barking-yard-dogs have always delighted in things that are dead and smell bad. One of the funniest memories Susan and I have is of our dog, Petunia, who killed a rabbit when our boys were little. She chased the boys around for a week, trying to give the rotting carcass to them as a token of her gratitude. I kept hauling the dead bunny off, but she kept finding it and bringing it back. In my mind’s eye I can still see the boys shouting, “Aiiiiiiih, Dad, help us, please, it stinks!” as Petunia chased them, trying to deliver “The Gift that Nobody Wanted.”

My dogs also have loved anything that’s disgusting. They would prefer to pull the wires out of a road-kill armadillo (or opossum) than have sirloin and baked potato. I remember a time when our pups had a very happy Valentine’s Day on which I found them joyfully munching a summer-sausage our neighbor had tossed out on New Year’s Day.

That’s how I know the pet food makers are designing dog food based on what people think is delicious. If they designed dog food based on what dogs love, people would never buy it. It would be too nauseating. What we believe is wanted, and what is actually wanted are two separate things.

The same principle applies to the Yuletide Holiday. There’s often a big difference between what we think people want and what they really want. As a mom you’re confronted with what the advertisers tell you Christmas should be, what you imagine in your heart that Christmas should be, and what your kids really want. Contrary to popular belief, these things are rarely the same. It’s been my experience that it doesn’t really take much to make people very happy, and it’s the little things that mean the most.

When Seth was a tiny boy, I asked him what he liked best about the Christmas he had just celebrated. I’ll never forget his answer: “My Handcuffs.” I had picked the toy handcuffs up at a dime store at the spur of the moment to put in his stocking. They cost $1.99.

So, dear mamas, let’s pause at the beginning of this good holiday season to think about what’s most important. I believe that if we pause and ask the Lord to guide us into what is most pleasing to Him, He will do so. Perhaps He will lead us to do fewer things but to enjoy those things more. This Christmas, let’s aim for the joy — not for the jumble.

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 has a desk-job at a public school and teaches Latin on closed-circuit-television.) 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 is looking forward to a lovely (but lower-key) Christmas.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to

The Rockwood Files: An ongoing count

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

When I was growing up, our little church congregation sang a handful of favorite hymns over and over again. And the one that replays in my mind most during November is an instruction as much as it is a song — “Count Your Blessings.” The lyrics say this:

Count your blessings. Name them one by one.

Count your blessings. See what God has done.

Last week, that familiar melody was in my head again and, for the first time in a long time, I thought about the words. We all know we’re blessed. We know there are people around the world who can’t even imagine the life we have here. But most of us know it in a vague, general way.

What we don’t know is just how much we have. It’s hard to quantify it. Saying you’re blessed is kind of like saying you’re rich even though you don’t have a clue how much is in your bank account.

But when you stop and actually count up your blessings – naming them “one by one” as the song says – they suddenly become more concrete and real.

I tried the “one by one” exercise today, and here’s the list of blessings I’ve counted so far:

  • A body healthy enough to rush rush rush around during the holidays to get everything done.
  • A life so peaceful that the hustle and bustle of holiday errands and work are the only things I have to whine about.
  • Kids who still want me to stop and play board games with them.
  • A husband who makes me feel loved.
  • Faith that assures me of what’s waiting on the other side.
  • A fat cat so lazy that she makes me seem wildly productive by comparison. (As I type these words, she is sprawled out on my kitchen table and her back leg has stretched out mid-snooze and knocked over the pilgrim salt shaker.)
  • The belly laughter of my children.
  • Photographs that are so good you turn to butter inside every time you see it.
  • The lack of hunger, illness and pain.
  • Old friends.
  • New opportunities.
  • Having the people you love most in the same zip code.
  • An icy cold Dr. Pepper when you really want one.
  • People who “get you.”
  • Music so good it makes the hair on your arms stand up.
  • Art that makes you marvel at the amazing things the human mind can create.
  • Babies – proof positive that the biggest miracles can arrive in small packages.
  • Incredible food, especially at Thanksgiving.
  • Clean sheets.
  • Having enough of what counts most.
  • And, most importantly, not being able to finish your “name them one by one” project because the blessings are just too many to itemize — which just might be the biggest blessing of all.

See what God has done?

I thank you for coming to this blog each week. Receiving comments and e-mails from readers is one of my many blessings for which I am thankful. From my family to yours, I hope you’re having a blessed Thanksgiving weekend.

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. (Photo credit: Maliah Pinkelton Photography)

5 Minutes with a Mom: Sabra Jeffus

Name: Sabra Jeffus

Kids’ names and ages: Sawyer, 8 & Nash, 5

How long have you lived in NWA? Since 1996

Tell us about your job: I’m a commercial lender at The Bank of Fayetteville.  I love working for a community bank.  We truly reach out and involve ourselves in the community and help as many organizations as possible.

What’s one movie you could watch over and over again? Sweet Home Alabama

What’s playing on your iPod right now? Zac Brown Band

What are some favorite Christmas traditions you’ve started with your kids so far? We try to always buy them new pajamas and let them open one gift the night before (the new pajamas) so they always look cute in the Christmas Pictures.

What’s been the most unexpected thing about motherhood for you? I’m amazed at the things I’m willing to do to make them comfortable and make life easy for them.

Favorite place to play in NWA? I like playing golf and swimming at the Springdale Country Club

What are some hobbies you enjoy (when you have time)? Lifting Weights, exercising

What’s something your friends might not know about you? That I can play the piano and violin

If you could vacation anywhere in the world this winter where would it be? Fiji

What’s something you have always wanted to learn? Gourmet cooking

What are three things you always have with you? iPhone, lip gloss and debit card

What would your ideal day look like? Sleep in, then Snickerdoodle coffee on a deck overlooking the beach, catching some rays, swimming, playing with my boys, a long walk on the beach, a nice dinner with my husband and a chick flick.

One word to sum me up … Compassionate

Thanksgiving crafts to do with the kids

We love this finger stamp place card below from Family Fun and wanted to share! We’ve also included some other Thanksgiving crafts from around the blogosphere that you might want to try for the holiday. Just click on the craft to see instructions. Happy Thanksgiving!


That's Adorable design (turkey foot)


Good Gossip: Details about the Sexiest Man Alive!

Welcome back to another installment of our guilt-free gossip column — Good Gossip! Enjoy another helping of some positive celebrity scoop. Speaking of tasty tidbits, this regular feature is sponsored by Great Day Farms. This local company recently gave away a year-supply of their All Natural Eggs right here on The local mom who won the giveaway is Connie Williams. Congrats, Connie!

Justin Timberlake brought sexy back to the dance floor at the Marine Corps Ball recently. He made good on a promise to escort Cpl. Kelsey De Santis, 23, to the ball after she invited him via a YouTube video. In addition to dancing, Timberlake and his military date posed for photos and goofed around during the dessert course. One Marine said that officers who didn’t like Timberlake before this event now think he’s a good guy for making good on his word.

Meg Ryan turned 50 on November 19th. We’ve loved her movies through the years, and you can see some of her most famous movie lines — as well as a photo montage of her evolving hairstyles — in the latest issue of People magazine. Meg’s son with Dennis Quaid is named Jack and he is now 19. She split with Quaid in the year 2000 and later adopted a 1-year-old daughter named Daisy from China in 2006. For the last year, she has been dating rocker John Mellencamp.

Jessica Simpson said pregnancy has been great so far. She said she feels lucky to have not had any morning sickness. She broke the news to her fiance Eric Johnson and her family as soon as the test stick turned positive. “I didn’t want to pee on another stick because I didn’t want it to say anything different!” Since that positive pregnancy test, she has been craving peanut butter, cantaloupe and anything salty and sweet. But she said pregnancy has made her lose her affection for pizza because it now tastes sour to her. Simpson said she’s looking forward to having a family and having what she had growing up. “I’ve always wanted to be a mom.”

We all have certain memories about big concerts we’ve attended. But what do the singers themselves remember most? People magazine recently asked Taylor Swift that question. She said that one of her favorite moments of a concert is seeing people who have wrapped themselves in Christmas lights jump around. And she likes reading the funny signs that people hold up at concerts. “Sometimes I get scared that if I’m reading them I will forget the lyrics.”

Have you seen his knock-out cover yet? Bradley Cooper has been named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Here are some interesting facts about this super-hot actor. He uses Kerastase products on that famous head of hair. And his eyes? They’re not contacts! He doesn’t tan anymore because he saw a dermatologist four years ago who read him the riot act about it. But he tends to look tan because he is half Italian.

Bradley doesn’t have body or ear piercings because he thinks it would make him look like a girl. He wears no jewelry except for his dad’s ring which he put on when his dad was dying. His guilty pleasure at night is Cinnamon Cheerios.  His first kiss was with a girl named Caitlin during a game of Spin the Bottle. (He was in seventh grade at the time.) If you checked out his TiVo list right now, you’d find Mad Men, Meet the Press, 60 Minutes and Morning Joe. As for dating, he says he had an old-school upbringing so he walks on the outside of a woman while on a sidewalk and opens doors and never lets them carry anything. (We love that!) He says that his “type” is a woman who is kind, above all else. Right now, the love of his life is Charlotte, a rescue dog he says he fell in love with immediately.

Here are a few of the other hotties that made the Men of the Year list in People magazine: Dylan McDermott, Darren Criss (pictured left), Josh Charles, Damon Wayans, Jr., Ryan Gosling, J.R. Martinez, Ryan Reynolds, Patrick Dempsey, Josh Duhamel, Simon Cowel, Hugh Jackman, Taye Diggs, George Clooney, Tim McGraw, Brad Pitt, and Antonio Banderas. For a complete list — and awesome photos, of course — check out the latest issue of People.

Source: People magazine, November 28, 2011 issue

Good Gossip is sponsored by CCF Brands, a Northwest Arkansas company which makes Great Day Foods.They now offer these great hard-boiled eggs in the deli section of the Walmart Supercenter. They are already peeled and ready to eat, slice for a salad, use for deviled eggs, etc. Love the convenience! Click below for more info about them. 



Doc Talk: Abdominal pain during pregnancy

Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows that abdominal pain can really freak a mama out. But, as you may also know, some pain is very normal during pregnancy while other types of pain can be warning signs that you need medical attention. So how’s a pregnant mama supposed to know which pain is normal and expected and which pain isn’t?

We asked Dr. Hugh Donnell of Rogers Medical Center to tell us what pregnant women need to know about abdominal pain during pregnancy. He describes what “round ligament pain” is and how it may differ from other pregnancy issues.  Dr. Donnell has been taking care of pregnant patients for many years and understands how much stress and worry abdominal pain can cause.

Click the “play” arrow on the video window below to hear and see his answer.


If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Donnell or any physician at Rogers Medical Center, call 479-338-5555 or CLICK HERE to visit the clinic’s website. Rogers Medical Center is located on the first floor of the  Mercy Physician Plaza at 2708 Rife Medical Lane in Rogers. If you’re looking for a doctor for prenatal care, Dr. Donnell will see you for a free initial consultation so that you can determine if his clinic is the right fit for you and your family.

For more info on this doctor, click the “play” arrow below for a quick video on his background and areas of expertise.