The Rockwood Files: New Year’s Perspective

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

We got a call last week with upsetting news. Our 22-year-old nephew Andrew was just diagnosed with leukemia. It hit us like a punch in the gut. I can only imagine how it must have felt for Andy and his parents and brothers.

It began a few weeks ago as flu-like symptoms with lower back pain, which led to a routine blood test at a walk-in clinic. When the results came back with white blood cell numbers off the charts, Andy’s life became a blur of hospital tests followed by a diagnosis nobody saw coming.

Like everyone else in the family, I’ve been thinking a lot about Andy and the course of chemotherapy he has just begun. Tom and I check email more often now to see if there’s a new update on how his treatments are going.

Even though he’s a grown man now, I tend to freeze kids in my mind’s eye at whatever age I first met them. And I met Andy when he was 8-years-old. Even back then, it was obvious he was heading toward something big. He was the kind of kid who never met a piece of technology he didn’t intuitively understand. He was like a computer engineer in a little boy’s body.

When Tom and I got married a year later, Andy was our ring bearer and he performed his duties perfectly. After the wedding, he went home with his family to North Dakota and Tom and I started our life as a married couple. We saw him during family reunions and weddings but the long distance kept our visits sporadic. So even though he and his brothers were growing up, I still pictured him as that sweet ring bearer walking confidently down the aisle in his little tuxedo.

Andy went to college and began doing amazing things in computer technology and engineering. In addition to classes, he has been volunteering with the Salvation Army and, earlier this year during a flood, he helped the organization use Google Earth to pinpoint flooded roads and key areas needing help.

And now he’s in a hospital room enduring a toxic blend of medication designed to kill cancer. It’s a scary fight. But frankly I don’t think the leukemia has any idea who it’s up against. It wouldn’t surprise me if Andy turns out to be the first person in history to literally outsmart leukemia. The mind is an amazing thing and this kid has more than his share of brain power.

This news has made me think about 2012 differently. Typically I spend the days leading up to January 1st thinking about things I should get done during the New Year. A successful new year seems to be about accomplishments and marking things off to-do lists. But that stuff doesn’t seem nearly as important now. Because a 22-year-old with talent, a career, a girlfriend, a generous spirit, and a life stretching out in front of him is ringing in the New Year in a hospital bed facing his biggest challenge to date. We’re confident he’ll ace it, as he has done with so many challenges before.

So whether you spend this next year conquering the world or not, remember that life can swerve suddenly. Good health and time with people you love are so much more important than anything else on your resolution list.

And if you’re a praying person, we hope you’ll send up a few for Andy. He’s on a bumpy road back to health and we know the prayers will help smooth the way.

From my family to yours, have a healthy, happy New Year.

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.

On Your Mind: Could my college student be having a nervous breakdown?

Dear Tom,

My 19-year-old daughter is a freshman in college, and I’m worried that she may be having a nervous breakdown. She was overwhelmed with worry during her final exams and her stress level didn’t go down once the exams were over. She’s a perfectionist who puts a lot of pressure on herself so I don’t know how to help her. She recently broke up with her boyfriend so she seems more isolated now. She is losing weight and just doesn’t seem to be herself anymore but doesn’t talk to me about it. Is a nervous breakdown a medical thing we can have treated?

Dear Mom:

So sorry your daughter is struggling. A nervous breakdown is not an official medical diagnosis but is  more commonly used to describe a cluster of physical symptoms which indicate an acute or sharp response to stress. What your daughter is experiencing is not uncommon for someone in her situation and may be caused by the stresses she is experiencing – new school and social environment, added academic pressure, loss of a relationship, and uncertainty about the future.

What is commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown is the physical response to these stressors and some change in day-to-day functioning. The physical response includes symptoms such as irritability, decreased ability to concentrate, tearfulness, disturbed sleep, changes in appetite, isolation, and even rapid heart beat (like panic attacks). These symptoms can be related to an underlying mental health challenge, such as depression or anxiety, or more rarely, a major mental illness. However, these symptoms can be treated, and there is help available.

I would certainly recommend you schedule an appointment with your family physician (if you don’t have one, you could contact your health insurance company and see what physicians are on their panel of providers in your area).  Also, since your daughter does not want to talk to you, an appointment with a counselor may help. Most colleges have a counseling office or there are plenty of counselors in practice in NW Arkansas. Having someone to talk to about what she is experiencing can be very helpful and relieve the stress burden.

Most importantly, continue to express your love, support and concern for her without passing judgment.  She is experiencing a lot of change at this time and needs your support whether she says so or not.


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 lately at a Northwest Arkansas Naturals Game!

Tom would be happy to answer your questions and read 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.

Getting Healthy for Good: Bring it 2012

By Laurie Marshall

As many of you are doing this week, I’m ignoring my bathroom scale. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I am stepping on the scale. Then I am looking down at the number. And then I’m choosing to ignore what it says.

It’s been a tough road for me over the last couple of months, as I’ve put on every pound that I so proudly lost before going on my cruise in October. I was so excited to be able to wear my Tight Jeans on the trip to New Orleans (and we all know that tight jeans are not 10-hour-road-trip friendly), and now even my Comfy Jeans are starting to get snug again.

My current excuse is hormones. I started taking a daily birth control pill shortly after getting back from my cruise, and it seems that the torture of trying to remember to take a daily pill is quite adequately equaled by the torture of forgetting that I don’t need to taste (i.e. inhale) every edible item that stumbles in front of my face. It’s as if that willpower that I was wielding like Saint Joan’s sword was left on the ship. I can’t say I blame it. I’d have stowed away too if I thought no one would have come looking for me.

So, I’m hovering around 196 again. And as I sit in my bed writing this, there is a paper plate on my nightstand that recently held a piece of this week’s nightly nemesis: the too-good-to-throw-away-cheesecake leftover from Christmas (curse you David & Jennie!!!).

But I’m better than that! I’m better than that cheesecake!! Okay, maybe I’m not better than the cheesecake… it is pretty outrageously delicious… but I’m better than the woman who is allowing herself to eat a gargantuan piece of it every night. I’m better than the coca-colas I’ve been drinking too often this week. And I’m certain that I can get back into the habit of thinking before I put a fork in my mouth. The question that I have to remember to ask myself is a simple one: is this cheesecake/coke/nacho/oreoball/2ndhelpingofanything more important to me than my self-image? And in case you aren’t sure, the answer is always NO.

Side note: on the drive back from dinner out with my mother-in-law this evening my 7-year-old son announced from the back seat; “Mom, I know how to spell “insane”. Now I have to wonder if he can read my mind.

Anyway, there is no t.v. show more important than getting up and getting something done that I want to get done. No bite of food that is more important than maintaining a healthy weight that I can be comfortable with. No soda that is going to make me more alert at work than a big glass of calorie-free iced tea.

I’ve done it before – and so have you! – and we can do it again.

It seems that another year has gone by and we’re staring at a new January 1st in a couple of days.

Once again, I’m vowing to Get Healthy. But this time it’s not only going to be about food and exercise. I’m also incorporating a desire for balance in my professional life, my hobbies, and my spiritual self. I’ll be writing about all of them here and dragging taking you along with me. I hope you stick around. And throw me some suggestions! I’d love to hear what you are going to be doing differently in 2012 – and what you’d like to read about here.

See you next year!

Look for Laurie’s fitness tips and updates on her personal health-focused journey every other Friday on nwaMotherlode in Mom Blogs. Send questions or input to her at Or click on the comment button below and share your thoughts right now! To see previous installments of Getting Healthy for Good, click HERE.


Inside His Head: The husbands share their New Year’s resolutions

Welcome back to Inside His Head, a monthly feature on nwaMotherlode which offers women an opportunity to take a little spin inside the minds of men.

This month we wanted to ask our anonymous panel of husbands about their New Year’s Resolutions. They answered back with their top three (and they don’t seem so far off from our resolutions!):

GRAY: I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions per se, but I do have a few goals I intend to accomplish in the coming year:

  1. Spend more time with my daughter. Those 52 weeks fly by if you don’t figure out what to do with them. I’d like to do lots of stuff, such as take her fishing again and camp overnight. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment if you’re working hard, but in the long run it won’t be the work that you remember.
  2. Spend more time with my friends. I’ve been blessed with a lot of really good friends, but have hardly seen them the past several months. Raising a child and working two jobs means I don’t have much free time these days. It may take more effort to get together with them, but they’re worth it.
  3. Lose the weight I’ve packed on over the holidays. I like the rich food, the tons of candies and pies and drinks that go with the holidays, but I’m not going to carry it around with me all year. It’s good to let yourself enjoy the season. It shouldn’t turn into an excuse to let your health slide.

MAVERICK: I’m generally not much for sharing my resolutions but since Motherlode is asking, I’ll talk.

I’d like to take my family camping at least twice this year. We used to camp a lot more as a family but have gotten out of the routine.

I have fond memories of even the bad times — like when people kept walking past our tent in the middle of the night; or our dog nearly popped out of the tent like a tiger when a stranger got too close; or when huge storm came up and we had to abandon our tent and sleep in the car.

It doesn’t have to be far or elaborate, just a chance to get away with my family and unplug. Food cooked outside just tastes better, there’s few things more lovely than fireflies dancing in the night and stories are funnier or more memorable when told outdoors.

I’m gonna try to get in better shape. I’m easier to be around when I’m exercising and feeling fit. Recently, I ain’t been feeling it and need to get things back on track before I really feel like I’ve let myself go.

I’m gonna try to apologize much more quickly to my daughter when appropriate. Now that she’s getting older she’s calling me on things more often and rightly so. She’s called me out on cursing, for not being kind to others, and breaking some safety rules that I stressed to her are vitally important.

Each time I came up with dumb excuses, but would eventually apologize and tell her she was right. I’m gonna try to eliminate the time lag, be less sensitive, and tell her she’s right from the get-go. She deserves it.

MICHAEL: My top three resolutions:

First is to be more patient and understand that just because it’s not my way doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Second is to get outside more since our youngest is a little older now.
Lastly is to have a little more time to myself.




The Baby’s Room is Moving!

Big news, mamas! One of our favorite stores is gearing up for a BIG move. The Baby’s Room and Kids Quarters, which has been located on Walnut Street in Rogers for many years, is moving uptown to the Shoppes at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers. (When the new location opens in March, you’ll find it in the space previously occupied by 3 Monkeys Children’s Boutique. Set your GPS for 3301 Market Street in Rogers.)

But before the moving trucks arrive, there’s a massive sale that has to happen first. So if you’re pregnant or know someone who is — or if you just need some new things for your kids’ rooms — get over there pronto! (The sale starts today, December 29th, and the best stuff will go fast.)

We’ve talked personally to the store owner and she tells us there will be some serious discounts available because they need to reduce inventory as they prepare for the move. Everything in the store will be marked down, but there will be some very deep discounts on floor models and some items they have in stock. You can still place special orders during the sale and get a discount but those discounts won’t be as mind-blowing as the stock and floor model discounts.

One of the reasons the stock merchandise and the floor models will be discounted so much has to do with the size of the new store space. As you know, the current store is a huge 10,000-square-feet, but the new space will be a little more cozy at 6,800-square-feet. They’re downsizing but moving uptown!

The new store might be a little smaller but the changes are pretty huge, if you ask us. Previously, the process at this store was to place a special order of something you see in the showroom. But the new store will have stock merchandise available so you can get what you love right away! Hooray for no more waiting!

The new store will also have delivery included, which means  you can get that crib or rocking chair delivered within a few days instead of weeks or months. More time for mamas to nest!

There’s lots more to tell you about the new store location, including new children’s clothing and classes like La Leche League, Infant Massage, Breastfeeding Troubleshooting, Toddler Nutrition and much more. But we’ll fill you in on all those details as the new store’s grand opening date in March gets closer. In the meantime, spread the word about the mega moving sale! This would be a great time to stock up on baby shower gifts there, too, since everything in the store is on sale. Happy sale shopping!

What’s in YOUR purse?

When I was growing up, I was always a little mystified by my mom’s purse. It was such a MESS! Every now and then, she’d take the time to clean it out because it was roughly the weight of a large watermelon and was starting to make her shoulder hurt. And the clean-out process always took at least 20 or 30 minutes.

But now I get it. Because I, too, have become a mother which means my purse, on most days, is a total mess. The contents of a mama’s purse often reflect just how busy our life is. Our purses are a miniature snapshot of our day-to-day lives, which can be fast-paced and sometimes chaotic.

A few weeks ago, we hosted a giveaway from Lori Cagle’s Miche handbags, and it was a big hit with local mamas. The winner, local mom Brandy Kavanaugh, snagged a brand new Miche bag and two exterior “shells”, which means that she now has two new purses in the shape, style and color that she likes best. (Click HERE to read more about how Miche handbags are different than your average purse.)

During the giveaway week, we asked moms to sign up to win the handbags by telling us what was in their purses. Boy, did we get a vast array of answers! And it made us feel so much better to know that we’re not the only ones carrying around a ton of random things in our purses. Here’s a sampling of what’s “in the bag” of most of our fellow mamas:

Jennifer: All the basics… and my ultrasound pics neatly rolled up.

Debbie: I have a child’s Christmas list, and LOTS of lip gloss!

Shelli: I keep a small notebook to write down things that the family does or a funny comment the kids make. Then, I can go back at the end of the year to be reminded of the great year we’ve had.

Barbara: My camera–I don’t go anywhere without it. You never know when there’ll be a memorable moment you want to tangibly treasure forever…..

Patti: I LOVE my Miche bag! I have my daughter’s diabetes supplies (meter, infusion set) in the outside pocket of my Demi bag. Fits perfectly! And she doesn’t have to dig through my bag to find them!

Amy: Which one- I have soooo many purses!! Hi, My name is Amy, and I am a purse-o-holic. =) My purse is filled with everything from make-up to bandaids and wet wipes, etc.

Stephanie: I’ve got at least one diaper, a wind up toy bug and lip gloss. What else in the world could I possibly need?

Janice: Because I’m a grandmother I have “Those tasty square gums”, a child’s cd entitled I AM A PROMISE, a purple plastic hair pick and some decorative 4-tissue kleenex packets. The Miche bag is perfect for organizing these important things for Grandma’s purse!

Rachel: My purse is an eclectic mix of my fundamentals(wallet,hand lotion, lip gloss), my kids stuff(action figures, packs of sticker, etc), and of course trash(reciepts, gum rappers and the like). On an average day I could have as many as ten ink pens/highlighters/pencils along with multiple notebooks for myself and my children. I’ve on occasion found empty sippy-cups and baggies of half eaten snacks from church. You may be thinking my purse is HUGE, well not really but it is HEAVY!!

Mitzi: Handwipes, Kleenex, lots of trash…my son thinks my purse is his own personal trash can.

If you’d love to start the New Year off with a new handbag, we can enthusiastically recommend the Miche bags. The interiors of the bags are well organized and the exterior options let you change the look of your handbag as often as you want without the hassle of transferring all that stuff into a new bag. I love my Miche bag and the three exterior shells I have to go with it.

New handbag shells are available every month, and they’re affordable, too. You can get updates about new styles by “liking” Lori’s Facebook page. Click HERE to see it. And to see the bags in person, call Lori Cagle, our local Miche dealer, at 479-236-1976.

Military Mama: Simply celebrating

By Jade Stone

I hope this finds your holiday season running smoothly. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like every year it becomes more and more stressful. But this year, I was inspired to do something different.

A few months ago, my worship team leader at church came to me and asked me to play a specific role in a drama that would happen on December 18th. This is not unusual since I do a lot of the dramas at church but this part was different. He asked me to play the role of an autistic woman named Grace.

The ironic part of this story is that my stepmom’s twin sister is autistic and her name was Grace. Certainly she was my inspiration. This had to be one of the most difficult parts I’ve ever had to play because there is a fine line between mockery and portrayal. I wanted nothing more than to honor the innocence and honesty that made Grace the amazing person she was.

I worked hard to make sure the character truly came through and when the time came to perform the role, Grace took the stage and the hearts of the crowd as well. In this story, Grace is a young woman whose mother died last Christmas. She tells us about her family tradition of placing the manger under the tree because Jesus was their gift and singing “silent night” because she loves to sing.

She talked about the little things that Santa would bring like books, pantyhose, and apples with such innocence and contentment that it was obvious she didn’t feel the need for anything more. Grace tells the story about her “mama” to a stranger on a park bench who is in a holiday shopping frenzy.

This stranger tried her best to ignore Grace, but Grace’s openness was infectious. I found myself so engulfed in the sweetness of this character and her understanding of the true meaning of Christmas that I actually felt her emotions as she spoke about losing her mother but knowing it was ok because she was with Jesus. Talk about a wake-up call. That role changed my family’s outlook on the holiday and how we celebrate it.

We sat down and took a look at the things we do every year and then determined if they were things we did because they brought us joy or if it was stuff we did because it was expected. For example, Christmas Eve is finger foods and games at our house and it is one of my favorite things to do with friends and family so we kept that.

But Christmas cards, and gifts for people other than family we decided was something we did because it’s a “Christmas expectation” so instead we are opting for a “Happy New Year” letter just to fill everyone in on our ever-changing lives and gave folks homemade goodies that don’t cost much, never collect dust, and are always well received.

We also decided that gifts this year would be about the heart and not about the latest fad. We didn’t spend nearly as much and we had the best time. For example, my 6-year-old told me on several different occasions that he wanted his own glass. Now, as odd as that was for a 6-year-old to request, we chose to honor it.

So my husband and I went out Friday night for dinner and began the search for the perfect “glass”. We had so much fun looking for just the right one for Jess that we decided to do this every year as our Christmas tradition so that when Jess goes out on his own, he will have his own eclectic set of special glasses to take with him.

I know, it sounds silly, but we had a ball and Jess was tickled to death to have his very own special “glass”.  We opted for a Tervis Tumbler with a hog patch inside this year just because the idea of handing a small child an actual glass didn’t seem very intelligent.

All in all, it has been one of my favorite Christmases so far. Less stress, cheaper, and far more enjoyable and isn’t that how it’s supposed to be anyway? I’m reminded of that Christmas that Jay spent in Iraq and how hard it was to spend it away from him. That year was very different. I worked so hard to make sure I sent him all the comforts of home in a care package so he would at least be able to enjoy a few of the wonderful things that make Christmas so enjoyable.

I made him a stocking out of camo material and stuffed it with his favorite candies, gum and a video tape. I simply taped myself talking to him in front of the tree while I wrapped presents as if it were Christmas Eve.

I was going through the Christmas boxes a few weeks ago and found that old stocking and tape. I told Jay about it and he told me that was one of his most treasured gifts he’d ever received.  It really isn’t about the gifts so much as it is about the heart. I guess I managed to give him just exactly what his heart wanted and needed that day in a cold unfriendly dessert.

I hope your Christmas and New Year is everything you hoped it would be and if it’s not, make a change.  I promise you won’t regret it! Happy New Year!

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.


Ring in the New Year at Last Night Fayetteville!

It’s almost time for the area’s NEW New Year’s celebration!

The long-running “First Night” didn’t happen last year, so the Creative Economy Action Group stepped up to host the brand new “Last Night”. They have lots of small business sponsors, like nwaMotherlode!

There will be music, a kid’s area, adult beverage gardens, comedy acts, the giant puppet parade from years’ past, plus lots more. Best of all? A hog drop countdown to midnight and a fireworks finale! It’s all happening on the Fayetteville Square.

Click HERE for more information and tickets!


Techno Mama: Is Facebook killing your blog?

By Sarah Martin Hood, technology blogger

We live in an age of easy, instant information.  Have a question? Google it. Wondering what ever happened to that old high school friend? Check Facebook. But are we evolving into a world that’s more interested in headlines than details? If we can’t get what we need in 10 seconds or less, do we give up?

Facebook gives you photos, check-ins, and status updates. Twitter gives you 140 characters. But blogging? Blogging gives you endless possibilities! No word limit, no photo limit, no tagging, no ever-changing privacy settings. Just you, a blank screen, and whatever pops into your head.

So why are so many people abandoning their blogs in favor of the brevity of a daily status update?

We’re on the move. While most blogging platforms give users the ability to blog via their smartphone, very few bloggers take them up on it. Who wants to write an entire blog post using only their thumbs? Anymore, I see more posts in my Facebook News Feed from a mobile device than not — Facebookers are updating with photos and anecdotes while they’re out living their busy, every day, organized chaos. They’re making less and less time to sit down with that blank screen and pound out a blog post.

We are family. We humans love to be around other humans — and that’s doubly true for Moms! We seek each other’s advice, we share stories of success and heartbreak and humor and angst. We love the warm, fuzzy feeling of family and friends — and Facebook has become one giant social circle for many of us. When our kids do something funny or embarrassing, we can’t wait to share it! When we find the perfect recipe for sweet potato casserole, all our Facebook friends must know! If we have a crappy day at work and have to sit in traffic all the way home only to arrive to a messy house and cranky kids, Facebook is there to listen!

While it’s true most blogging is also designed with comments and feedback, Facebook is a SOCIAL network. You’re connected to your “friends” and can catch up on their lives with an easy scan through the News Feed. Blogging can definitely foster a sense of community, but it’s not as instant and not as ingrained as in a social networking site like Facebook. Often the social aspect of it all outweighs even the actual content.

It’s a bit of a contest. You can pretend it doesn’t bother you when you post a cute picture of your kiddos or a funny note about your day, and you don’t get a slew of comments and likes on Facebook. But secretly, that’s half the fun, am I right? You want to see what other people think — Will they comment? WHO will comment? Are other people’s cute pictures with Santa getting more comments than mine? YOU KNOW YOU THINK THIS WAY. Maybe not all the time, sure, but it crosses your mind. It’s not your fault! Facebook is designed to be a bit of a social metric. On any given page you can tell how many friends a person has, how many photos they’ve posted and how many likes/comments they have on their last few posts. Facebook provides a way for you to have your 15 minutes of fame — every single day.

So what does this mean for the future of blogging?

Are blogs going to shrivel and die, forgotten and abandoned in favor of shiny, new social networking sites? Nah. Actually, I think the strength of Facebook is nothing but good news for blogs. I think pulling the short, quick soundbites and snapshots-on-the-go from blogging frees up the blogosphere for deeper, richer content. Instead of thousands of bloggers feeling the need to update the world on every disconnected detail of their lives — they can leave that up to Facebook and focus their blogging on true storytelling, capturing the details, and creating the kind of content that makes readers want to put up their feet and stay awhile.

Blogging and Facebook should respect and appreciate each other’s differences and strengths. They need each other. There’s a place in the life of any good 21st century social media socialite for both the beautiful brevity of Facebook and the splendid storytelling of blogging.

So if you’re one of those Facebook-addicts who used to have a bustling blog — dust it off. Take a few minutes a week to capture the whole story behind that midnight check-in at the emergency room with your clumsy kiddo or that snapshot of you and your hubby at your favorite tailgating spot. The headlines are great, but the details are even better.

Sarah would love to hear from you with questions or feedback regarding gadgets, apps, technology, or blogging. You can also stop by Sarah’s personal blog, Musings of Mother Hood to say hello or follow her on Twitter @sarahmcow. To read previous installments of Techno Mama, click here!

The Rockwood Files: Mom’s Letter to Santa

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Dear Santa,

I’m nearly exhausted this time of year so I can only imagine how worn out you must be as you gear up for your magical trip around the world. Even with help from all those elves, you must feel a lot of pressure this time of year. I, too, have felt a little frazzled by the frantic pace of festivities this month. I bet we could both use a “long winter’s nap” right about now.

But I’m not complaining, Santa. I love this time of year. It’s just that December brings such a long list of other duties – decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, cleaning, traveling, party-going, and card-sending. A mama can get overwhelmed before you can even finish your “fa la la la la.”

As I write these words, I’m in the bedroom hiding from the kids. I knew I didn’t stand a chance of getting this letter finished if I didn’t sneak away for a little while. The mere sight of me makes the kids hungry for a grilled cheese sandwich or thirsty for hot chocolate. Then they need me to change the batteries in a toy or help them find the Legos Star Wars figurine that got lost between the sofa cushions – again.

With all the Christmas chaos, something has to give. In our house this week, that something is the laundry. I’m sitting here behind a snow bank of unfolded clothes and towels I’ve piled on the bed. The kids will never think of looking for me here. They’ve learned that if they get close to a pile of laundry, they’ll likely get forced into folding and putting it away.

As for gift requests, I really don’t have many. If you happen to have a robot who folds and puts away laundry, that would come in very handy around here. But other than that, I’ve already been blessed, Santa. I’ve got the things that matter most – faith, family, good health and good friends. All I need now is to slow down and enjoy those gifts, to savor the good times while they’re good.

So bring me an imperfect Christmas, Santa. Not the kind pictured in idyllic Norman Rockwell paintings. Not the kind Martha Stewart whips together so effortlessly on television. Not the kind we mommies think we can pull off if we just rush around and work hard enough.

Just bring the kind of Christmas that has fun surprises for the kids and laughter for the grown-ups. Bring us time to spend together, Santa, along with the good sense to know how blessed we are to have that time.

Yours truly,

The mama hiding out behind the laundry pile

From my family to yours, we wish you a very blessed, very Merry Christmas.

Empty Nexter: Reach out to lonely hearts over the holiday

By Carrie Perrien Smith

It was my first Christmas after the divorce. Our daughter was six. I was thirty. I was living with half of my belongings in a two-bedroom, low-income apartment that I could almost afford.

My dogs were staying with my parents in Tulsa until I could get my finances together and buy a house. It was just temporary so I only unpacked necessities. My bedroom was stacked to the ceiling with what was left of the home I made with a man I’d spent over a decade with.

It had been a tough year. I devoted all my time to getting my family settled in Arkansas since our move from Dallas nineteen months earlier. I didn’t realize I hadn’t made many friends outside those acquaintances I shared with my husband. I looked up one day when it came time to pack and realized I had one friend. Karla was the kind of person for anything she had the power to give. She was there as my marriage fell apart and helped me to reassemble the pieces into a new life.

My ex-husband had remarried. The happy couple shared the house in the woods where I used to live. Our daughter looked forward to her first Christmas with her stepmom and her barely younger stepsister. They had a beautiful Christmas planned. I didn’t even own any Christmas decorations. There was no room to store them so I left them behind.

You wouldn’t have even known it was Christmas by looking at our apartment. Just a few little gifts for our daughter sat in the corner. It didn’t matter. Once I packed her things and she bounced out the door into her dad’s arms to start her most-anticipated Christmas ever, I was leaving too. I was headed to Texas to spend the holidays with friends. For just a few days, I’d leave the emptiness behind in that budget abode.

That was sixteen years ago. I hadn’t thought of that holiday season in forever. I still wouldn’t if I hadn’t attended a meeting that featured a recipient from a local single parent scholarship foundation. She shared her story and a flood of long-forgotten memories washed over me. She talked about the support programs the scholarship program offered. They even provided a Christmas gift for their students. It was just a little thing but it meant a lot to a person who was working to give as much as possible in a life where she got little in return.

If you’ve been there, you remember how hard you worked to stand tall for the kids. Hoping there was a glimmer of truth in what people said about kids being resilient. Hoping they wouldn’t notice that a devastating thing had just happened to your family. Hoping they didn’t realize that things would never be the same. And if you didn’t have kids, you probably felt even lonelier because you had no one’s needs to fill your time and occupy your thoughts. And, heaven forbid, what if your spouse had passed away?

Christmas is closing in. As you rush to finish up to final details, look around you. Is there someone facing his or her first Christmas alone?

I asked my Facebook friends who have been in that position to help me think of some ideas to make the holidays brighter for those folks.

Sixteen people posted. A few mentioned items that would have cheered them up like books or music. Tickets to a sporting event or a gift card for a movie would have been welcome — something to get them out of the house. Some suggested necessities to replace what they had to split with their ex like kitchen appliances or tools.

Hands down though, what they remembered wanting most  was the gift of spending the holidays with loved ones — people who had an open heart, a listening ear, and no expectations. A phone call on Christmas or dinner with family or friends let them know someone cared. They wanted the chance to change their mind on a moment’s notice if the feelings were too overwhelming. And they valued times when loved ones understood that a newly single person didn’t want to attend a holiday gathering with a room full of happily married couples.

Come to think of it, I loved the time I spent with friends and the chance to clear my head on the open road with no responsibilities for a few days. It was the best gift a new custodial parent carrying the weight of the world could have gotten. It became the highlight of my year. I still recall that trip fondly — the conversations over a bottle of wine, the laughter, the tears, and the memories. It was just the perfect gift.

Carrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Speckles, Snappy, Jazmin, and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, community activist, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at

Life with Ladybug: Letter to the principal

By Shannon Magsam

So, apparently in the Fayetteville School District you have to fill out an absence form if you’re going to pull your kid out of school for, say, a family vacation. Or, in our case, to spend extra time with grandparents the full week before Christmas.

You not only have to jot down dates your kid will be absent on this form; you also have to attach a letter about why they’re missing, how you’ll ensure they won’t fall behind in schoolwork and how the time away from school will be educational.

I got a little silly with the letter part and thought I’d share with you today. I hope the lighthearted letter gave the principal a little chuckle. She approved the absence!

Mrs. XXX,

Our family is headed out of town for Christmas this weekend and we plan to stay at my parents’ house through the holiday.

I have communicated with Ladybug’s teachers and she is getting everything done this week. She’s taking a science test today that is scheduled for Monday.

How will our trip be educational? I have a few fun ideas for the week:

  • Making cookies = Math/Science (Measuring the ingredients, observing liquids turn to solids)
  • Riding her horse = P.E. (It takes lots of core strength to balance!)
  • Reading “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” = Literacy (and maybe some ethics thrown in for good measure)
  • Making Christmas ornaments = Art (Every year the grandkids make foam ornaments and paper chain garlands for the freshly-cut tree)
  • Singing Christmas carols = Music (A family tradition!)
  • Interacting with extended family = Social Studies (This can truly be an educational experience!)

Thank you and have a very MERRY Christmas! We hope it’s especially joyful.

See you in 2012!


Shannon Magsam

Shannon  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.


5 Minutes with a Mom: Heather David

Name: Heather David

Kids’ names and ages: Cooper just turned 7, my Christmas baby. And Cash is 2; he’s my 9/11 baby. I’m married to Michael David, and we’re high school sweethearts! We’ve been together for 18 years and married for 11 years!!

How long have you lived in NWA? I’ve lived here since 1984 — was a military kid.

What brought you to the area? My dad was in the Air Force. He retired in 1983 after proudly serving 20yrs and my mom decided it was her turn to pick where we lived. All of her five sisters and one brother lived in Pea Ridge at the time.

What’s your all-time favorite holiday movie? I would have to say National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Four Christmases.

What’s playing on your iPod right now? I have a mixture of all kinds of music from Metallica to Jonny Lang to Johnnie Cash.

What are some favorite traditions you’ve started with your kids so far? We always watch Christmas Vacation together. My son Cooper loves to repeat the part about the blessing! We all open one gift on Christmas Eve.

What’s been the most unexpected thing about motherhood so far? Wanting to be a stay-at-home mom. I thought that would never be me. I get stressed and de-stressed all in the same minute, just like any other mom.

Where’s your favorite place to play in NWA? I grew up in this area so I don’t really have a favorite. I take much of it for granted, but I do enjoy the state parks.

What are some hobbies you enjoy (when you have time)? I really enjoy sewing and coming up with something new or tweaked, and I love reading on my kindle.

What’s something your friends might not know about you? My middle name and no, I’m not telling you either!!

If you could vacation anywhere in the world this winter where would it be? I would really like to go on a cruise for Christmas and let that be the gift. I think we have more than enough stuff.

What’s something you have always wanted to learn? Maybe how to stay organized. I can get there but staying there is a whole different story.

What three things do you always have with you? lipgloss, a hat, and my iPhone — love that thing.

What would your ideal day look like? 75 degrees, light south wind and sitting by the pool or in it playing with my kids. By the way, that’s how we spend just about every sunny day in the summer. My in-laws have a pool!

One word to sum me up … determined

Sweet gift idea! Savoy Tea Co. cupcakes and tea

We love it when we come across a new business in Northwest Arkansas that has something fun to offer. The other day we got a gift package from a friend who sent us something from a new shop over at the Pinnacle Promenade Mall in Rogers. It’s called the Savoy Tea Company, and it’s nestled between Stride Rite and Gordon’s Jewelers. Our package contained three containers of gourmet loose leaf tea and six of the prettiest cupcakes I’ve ever seen.

The cupcakes were almost too pretty to eat, but we got over that pretty quickly and chowed down. They were as tasty as they were pretty! Here’s a photo I snapped with my iPhone on the right.

If you know a tea or coffee lover, a gift package from this shop would make a great last-minute, no hassle gift idea. Who doesn’t like a hot beverage and a cupcake? We think this would also make a great gift for a neighbor, co-worker, boss, friend, minister, etc.

I popped in there a couple days ago to buy my husband some loose leaf tea and spoke with one of the owners, who told me the cupcakes are made fresh daily. And there’s room in the shop to sit and sample tea or coffee and eat a cupcake (or two or three) before you resume your shopping at the mall. Check it out, mamas. We think you’ll like it.

If you’d like to talk to the shop owners about a Christmas gift order, here’s the phone number: 479-372-4995. You can see more of their fun creations on their Facebook page by clicking HERE.

Inconceivable Mama: What NOT to say to a friend struggling with infertility

By Inconceivable Mama

“So, how come you guys haven’t had kids yet?”

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question I could pay for all the infertility treatments that my health insurance won’t cover. This question has baffled me for my entire adulthood.

When I first got married it just embarrassed me because what I really felt like I was being asked was, “So, are you two having sex a lot?” After a few years, during the time we thought we didn’t want children, it just irritated me. Now that we have been trying for more than two years, it’s just heartbreaking every time I am asked.

I have to think about infertility enough on my own, so I really don’t need other people to bring it to my attention.

I was recently reading a book of which I cannot remember the title and a character in the book, a child, had asked a woman if she was going to have kids. The mother of the little girl took her aside later and told her that this was an inappropriate question to ask a women because you never know a woman’s situation. I thought, “This is a woman who has dealt with infertility.”

Here are some interesting facts about infertility:

·         Approximately 12% of all American couples of childbearing age experience difficulty conceiving. That’s a little over 7.3 million couples. (That figures out to a little more than 1 in every 8 couples!)

·         A couple with no fertility issues between the ages of 27 and 34 only has a 40% or less chance of conceiving during any given menstrual cycle.

·         85 – 90% of the time infertility can be treated with medication and surgery.

·         20% of all infertility cases are labeled as “unexplained.”

·         Only 5-10% of couples will use IVF or other forms of assisted reproductive technology.

Since infertility is actually pretty common, chances are you know someone who is going through this.  I thought I would give you some pointers on how to deal with your friend who is struggling with infertility.

1.  DON’T ask your friend when they are having kids or why they haven’t had kids yet.

2.  DO listen to your friend. She likely understands that you may not really grasp what she is going through but she may just need someone to listen to her thoughts and feelings.

3.  DON’T be surprised if your friend, even your closest friend, isn’t very open about the topic. It is very emotional, intimate and even embarrassing. Dealing with infertility can also be very isolating.

4.  Do offer to help her find a support group or connect her with other people who may have similar issues.

5. DON’T be surprised if she says no.

6.  DO understand the sadness and confusion that your friend is feeling.

7.  DON’T ask her if she has thought about adoption. I promise you she has but this is such a personal decision and one that doesn’t need to be explained or justified.

8. Do validate your friend’s choices and feelings. Your friend feels like EVERYTHING is against her. Be her cheerleader.

9. DON’T offer suggestions. If your friend has let you know she is dealing with infertility, trust that she has read every book, surfed every website and asked her doctor about all her options. Women dealing with infertility can become obsessive about following every piece of advice or every ‘old wives tale.’ Everyone wants to believe their problems have a simple fix and sometimes they just don’t.

10.  DO remain optimistic for your friend and if you are the praying kind, send up a few to the Big Guy on her behalf.

Source: National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc.

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. To read previous posts, click here.