Northwest Arkansas Mom’s Choice Business Awards and a HUGE giveaway

It’s no secret that when you’re scoping out the best businesses around, you find a mom and ask what she recommends.

Women and mothers are always on the lookout for the “best” when it comes to restaurants, doctors, party places, music lessons and all the businesses necessary to take care of the whole family.

Mamas, it’s time to share your wisdom with all of Northwest Arkansas.

Here at, we’ve teamed up with the fabulous Kid’s Directory Northwest Arkansas magazine to present the Mom’s Choice Business Awards. By taking time to choose your top business picks, you’ll not only help fellow shoppers, you’ll also reward your favorite companies.

And one other BIG perk? When you fill out the survey (CLICK HERE TO SEE IT IN A POP-UP WINDOW) you’ll automatically be entered in a huge Mother’s Day Giveaway, which includes:

  • a $100 shopping gift card
  • a $100 gift card at Elite Spa
  • a $75 gift certificate at Bordinos Italian Restaurant
  • Free Carpet Cleaning (whole house!)
  • a Free House Cleaning
  • Closet Organizing Session from a professional organizer.

You’ll be picking a business or service in each category, and we need to have those completed by May 5, 2012. The winner will be chosen at RANDOM on May 10, 2012.

The results will be posted on in May and will be published in the June edition of Kid’s Directory. We’ll also provide a downloadable listing of the winners and their phone numbers that you can print and keep as a handy reference.

We can’t wait to see your top choices and to announce the BIG WINNER. Thanks and good luck.

Crafty Mama: DIY Modern Art!

Guest post by artist Amber Perrodin

Sale alert note from the mamas: Amber’s husband makes her artist panels (as seen in this post). He sells them on Etsy as Perrodin Supply Co. The Perrodins have generously offered to sell these to Motherlode readers at an exclusive 30% off. The coupon code at checkout is CraftyMama. It expires in exactly a week (on March 7) and is good for anything in the store!

Making art doesn’t have to be a lot of work. In fact, you don’t even need a studio, a ton of supplies, or three weeks of your time. I’ve found an excellent way of making a beautiful work of art that you will be proud to show off and it literally takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. The most exciting part of this project is that you probably already have nearly everything you need on hand.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 artist panel – the size is up to you! (mine is 12” x 12”). Though you might be tempted to use a canvas…an artist panel is a must in order for this project to work! Panels look very much like a typical canvas, but are wooden. This makes the surface firm and easier to work with in this particular case.
  • 2 colors of tissue paper
  • scissors
  • water
  • Nori Paste – this is an acid free glue that dries absolutely clear! Elmer’s or Modge Podge will work just fine as a substitute, but will eventually crack and turn yellow. I order Nori Paste from Dick Blick art supplies. This glue is very cheap, versatile and will seriously last you forever. Here’s a link:
  • 1 paintbrush – Grab one of your kids’ medium size brushes if they have one.
  • 1 brayer – Alright, to be honest…I didn’t even use this. It’s the “rolly” thing pictured with the other supplies and would come in handy if you were doing large sheets of paper, but for this project, your finger will serve the same purpose.

Step 1: The hardest part of this entire process is choosing your tissue paper colors! I started out with three colors, but I think that in order to keep it clean and simple, narrowing it down to two colors was a good decision. I know that it’s going to be tempting to use 18 colors – but for the love of art…choose two!

Step 2: To begin, start cutting up your paper into rectangles and squares. This should be fun, not stressful! Don’t over think anything at this point, because you’re just playing with shapes. Take your time and cut nice, clean edges. You will eventually be gluing these to your artist panel and those clean edges will make all the difference.

Step 3: Once you have a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors cut out, begin to lay them on your panel to see what designs and color combinations that you like best. Also, overlapping them is what makes this piece so beautiful. Try putting your lighter color on top of your darker color. This should give you a beautiful affect! Take the extra few minutes up front and really consider how you want your artwork to look.

Step 4: The next step is to begin gluing. You’ll need to remember where you’ve decided to put your papers and then remove them from the panel. I went from memory, but taking a picture with your smartphone might help if you’re afraid you won’t remember how it looked.

Step 5: No matter what glue you’ve decided to use, you will need to mix it with equal parts water. I personally tend to error on the “more glue than water” side. Make sure that you’re glue is mixed in well and then “paint” the glue all over your panel in one thick, even coat. Don’t be shy with this part…you don’t want it to dry before you put the paper on.

Step 6: Now, carefully lay your tissue paper design back onto the panel. Gently rub it with your finger until it is flat and fully adhered to the panel. Wrinkling is fine! Also, refrain from lifting the paper once you’ve laid it down.

Step 7: Once you’ve adhered all of your pieces, put one more coat of your glue mixture on the entire surface. If your tissue paper is dark, it may bleed. Embrace the bleed lines and let it be a part of your artwork!

Voila! Fine art. Now invite some friends over and brag about all your hard work!

If this project leaves you feeling inspired, let your kids make one with your left over paper and glue! I let my 3 year old daughter loose with these materials and she LOVED it! She even took it a step further and let the paper go over the edges. This was so much fun and it turned out beautifully! The possibilities are genuinely endless.

Getting Healthy for Good: When he won’t get healthy

By Laurie Marshall

A while back I mentioned that my husband was being treated for high blood pressure. Actually, there was a whole post about it.

His doctor has him taking a couple of different medications three times a day, and it’s brought his numbers down enough that he doesn’t have to visit the clinic every few weeks any longer. Unfortunately, what the Hubster really wanted to hear, but didn’t, was that he was “fixed” and no longer has to take medication.

Men are weird, aren’t they? Where I see success, he sees failure because he continues to take pills every day.

So that issue is at least under control, if not eradicated, but today we have a new challenge. This morning, Hubster sent me a text that consisted of a single word that I won’t repeat here, lest I offend. Of course, my mind is on overload trying to imagine what he could be upset about that would cause a monosyllabic swear word to show up on my smartphone… there are a lot of options to choose from. Job loss, car accident, hot coffee in the lap… so I ask what’s up.

He replied that he had a message from the doctor’s office – they want him to make an appointment to talk about his blood sugar levels. Aaaaand, the other shoe falls.

At our last visit (is it odd that I go to the doctor with my 44 year old husband??) he gave some blood to compare with a previous visit that showed him having blood glucose levels just over the line into the high side. Since the last visit was several weeks ago, Hubster had just mentioned a few days ago that the numbers must have come back okay the second time as we hadn’t heard anything. Obviously, no one knocked on wood.

I can’t pretend to know exactly what the doctor will tell us. I know my husband is overweight. I know he doesn’t exactly eat what anyone would define as a healthy diet. I know he gets no regular exercise. So, while can’t know exactly, I can certainly make a fairly educated guess.

I’m hoping that there will be some discussion of diet and activity levels that need to be changed and a timeline for working on getting some pounds off. Then there could be a re-test at a future date to gauge the success of those efforts. But I truly don’t know. I’m a whiz at cancer information, but really know nothing but the basics about diabetes and it’s treatment options.

I’m a fairly rose-colored-glasses kind of girl, but I’ll admit it’s stressful being married to someone you love deeply and hope to spend a long life with, and to be faced with multiple health challenges that could very easily compromise that plan. Like, within the next few years. It’s even more stressful when that someone is less than enthusiastic about making the changes that need to be made to overcome those challenges.

I haven’t yet gotten to the “why didn’t you do more to be healthy when you were younger?” blame-the-victim stage yet. Hopefully there will be none of that since it’s really pointless to look back.

I’ve been writing about trying to make changes in my own life, and to take on new habits for myself to get healthier. But as I’ve tried to make those changes there has been no attempt made by anyone in my family to join me. I would like to think that this new wrinkle that could potentially be a very serious health issue would kick-start some healthier habits in my husband. But I truly don’t know if they will. He might get more active, but his eating preferences simply do not involve whole grains and vegetables. It sounds silly, but I am concerned that it’s something we won’t be able to find a middle-ground. Worse, I fear that he will try, and just give up when change doesn’t come.

And here’s where I get preachy: We can’t take our health for granted. We can’t let our children take their health for granted. There is a reason that obesity is called an epidemic – because it is truly a health emergency in our country. Carrying around extra pounds doesn’t just prevent you from shopping in most of the local specialty clothing boutiques and vintage shops (but I hate that part!), it can shorten your life! And not when you’re 60-something. Now! In your 30s and 40s! We simply can’t wait until next week to start a plan to get healthier. We have to start today. And tomorrow. And keep it up. It has to be a choice, and it has to become part of our lives, not a hobby we do when we have time.

We can’t just GET healthy, we have to LIVE healthy.

What are you doing to LIVE healthy right now?

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.


What We’re Reading: Remarkable memoirs

If you follow the mamas on Twitter (@nwaMotherlode) you’ve probably seen my (Shannon’s) tweets about the memoir Signs of Life. I was especially twitter-pated when the author, Natalie Taylor, tweeted back to me. It was … awesome to hear back from her, because I was right in the middle of the book and completely in awe of her writing.

My initial tweet was: “@mymessyhouse I’m reading your book right now. Elizabeth Berg was right.” (Berg had written a review that said, basically, once you pick up the book, good luck putting it down. Yup.)

The writing is entrancingly lyrical and brutally honest. It completely sucked me in. The book is about a 24-year-old English teacher who lost her husband of 18 months in a tragic accident while she was five months pregnant. It sounds depressing, I know, and it was quite sad at times. But the author, Natalie Taylor, has a wicked sense of humor and she is merciless in skewering some of the people around her: her students, in-laws and her single mom group, for example.

I love that her imagination helped get her through the first year of the grieving process, particularly with the help of her Fairy Mom Godmother.

As an English teacher, she loves literature (so do I) and her discussions of various works like Of Mice and Men and The Color Purple add another rich layer to the book. If you’re going through a sad — or challenging — time, this book will give you hope.

I just finished In Spite of Everything, a memoir by Susan Gregory Thomas. Those first few pages grabbed me by the heart (her dad did WHAT?!) and didn’t let go. Another brutally honest writer who shares shockingly raw details from childhood and into her marriage with kids. When she married, she made a promise that she would never make her kids go through the bitterness and horror of divorce. But then divorce came.

It’s a memoir, but Susan is a journalist, so it’s also a book about Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) and the legacy of divorce for that generation. Some of the subject material is rough — and I didn’t always agree with the author’s takeaways on life — but it really made me  think. I like that in a book.

Here’s an example of her excellent writing: “It is a hard truism that each generation is shaped by its war. The Greatest Generation (1929-43) was forged by World War II; Baby Boomers (1944-64) were defined by Vietnam and the civil rights and antiwar movements. Generation X’s war, I would argue, was the ultimate war at home: divorce.

“Sociologists have shown how the effects of the mass divorces of the 1980s linger subtly but powerfully in our behavior as adults now, in our struggle to do everything differently.”

My background isn’t like Susan’s (my parents have been married for 42 years) but I can relate to some of the angst. I was mostly amazed by her revelations about herself and others and how someone could be that self-aware. I’m still mulling over some of the ideas she introduced in the book.

Happy Thoughtful Reading!

Giveaway: Tickets to Peking Acrobats at Walton Arts Center

Note from the mamas: Jose’s on Dickson Street is temporarily closed, but the one in Springdale is still open.  Just wanted to give you a heads-up!

Do you have one of those kids who’s always tumbling, cartwheeling or bouncing around the house? Well, this show is the perfect fit for your little (or big) mover and shaker.

We’ve got FOUR tickets to see Peking Acrobats at Walton Arts Center on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. Heavy snow kept the acrobats out of NWA last year, but they’re back and ready to TUMBLE.

We love the idea of tickets and tacos, so we’ll send the winner to Jose’s Mexican Restaurant for a yummy dinner before the show. What kid doesn’t like tacos? If yours is the exception, they’ve also got chicken nuggets, corn dogs and other kid-friendly food.

ABOUT THE SHOW: The Peking Acrobats are known all around the world for their unique brand of entertaining. This elite troupe is made up of China’s most gifted tumblers, contortionists, jugglers, cyclists, gymnasts and traditional musicians. They also have one of the most comprehensive lighting and special effects systems on the road today. The show is perfect for all ages.

ABOUT THE FOOD: While you’re waiting for dinner, the kids can draw their favorite Jose’s food and then see their artwork displayed on the coloring wall behind the front counter. Jose’s has a huge menu, so it might take a few minutes to decide what you want. We recommend the fajitas, the quesadillas and the chicken enchiladas. Of course, we love the salsa, which comes out with warm chips when you first sit down.

HOW TO ENTER: If you’d love to win the four Peking Acrobats tickets plus dinner at Jose’s, just click on the comment button below and tell us about something that makes you “flip out”. Are you terrified of spiders? Do kids with an attitude make you crazy? Heights? Snakes? Socks left in the middle of the room (repeatedly)?

TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES: If you’d really, really like to win the tacos and tickets, e-mail the news about this giveaway to friends. You’ll get an extra chance to win for each person you tell. Just be sure to put on the CC line so we’ll be able to give you proper credit.

To take lady luck out of the equation, you can guarantee your tickets by calling the Walton Arts Center box office at 479-443-5600. Or click here for ticket info and prices.

Good luck in this week’s giveaway. We can’t wait to tell an NWA mom that she won. We bet she’ll flip out!

Mealtime Mama: Make these recipes tonight!

Recipes by Amy James, Our Everyday Dinners

Amy and her husband of 13 years, John, have 3 little ones: Kate, Abby and Alex.

Before kids, she was an MBA working in HR and John was a Family Practice doctor.

“We ate out every night, stayed up past midnight, spent our weekends at the lake with our dogs, and our vacations traveling.  Now, well, our lives are very different and certainly not what we imagined (we thought we’d be those people taking their kids to Paris-we’re not), but we wouldn’t change a thing!”

John gave up medicine several years ago to pursue his love of entrepreneurship, founding  Acumen Brands in Fayetteville.  Amy is now a full-time, stay-at-home mom and part-time blogger.

Her blog, Our Everyday Dinners, really is about what they eat for dinner every night. (And let us say right here that we want to move in with Amy because she is an amazing cook!)

She says, “Every night after I cook, I snap a photo, then I eat.  Oh, and then I clean the kitchen and blog about dinner.   There are about 500 other things I do, too, in between all that, but that’s basically how it goes.”

Here are a few of Amy’s current faves:


Amy says, “To quote my husband, ‘This is the best salmon I’ve ever had.’” Maybe he was just throwing out compliments, but think I kind of agree.  The ginger gives it a crunchy and spicy (not hot) crust.  Adding the Sriracha really kicked it up a notch (remember Emeril? I loved watching him way back when.).  Add as much as you can take!

(serves 2)

2 salmon fillets

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (grate with a microplane to get it really fine)
zest of one lime
1/4 cup soy sauce
juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil

lime juice

Whisk together the marinade ingredients and add salmon.  Marinate for 10 minutes, no longer.  Heat nonstick pan to high and cook for on one side for 5 minutes, or until it’s really brown.  Lower heat and cook on the other side for 6-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  You can cover the pan with some foil to speed up the cooking after you flip it.  To plate, squeeze the juice of the other half of the lime over the top, drizzle some Sriracha, and sprinkle on some chopped cilantro.  Serve with Cilantro Lime Rice and edamame.


Need a quick dinner?  Here ya go.  Waiting for the pasta to boil takes longer than anything else. If you can get someone to clean the kitchen for you, you’ll be sitting down to the Real Housewives in about 20 minutes!

1 can non-marinated artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed, and dried with paper towels)
2 cups fresh kale, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine
olive oil
1 box farfalle pasta
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan over medium heat and add chopped garlic.  Cook for about a minute (don’t let garlic burn), and add artichokes.  Raise heat to medium high, saute for 3 minutes, then add kale, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes, and then add wine to the pan.  Bring it to a boil and simmer until pasta is ready.
Drain pasta, and add to the pan with the artichokes and kale.  Toss, then add parmesan cheese, salt if necessary, and serve with a little extra parmesan cheese.

Amy James lives in Fayetteville with her husband, John, and their three children. She chronicles what she cooks for dinner at You can follow her on twitter here.


Devotion in Motion: Letter to my son, on his 18th birthday


“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV)

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

Dear Spencer,

It’s so hard to believe that you’re 18 years old now and graduating high school. The thing that astounds me most is how quickly the time has gone by and how much you have grown. I know you get tired of hearing me tell you this, but I used to bathe you in the kitchen sink. It’s boring for me to tell you that over and over, but it’s just so astounding to me. Somewhere I have a photograph of you and me when I’d just pulled you out of the sink after bathing you. We are looking at each other, and I’m holding you with one hand, for heaven’s sake! Now that you are six-foot-one, it would be hard for me to wash even one of your feet in the sink!

Your mom was crying the other night. She has been doing that a lot lately, any time something reminds her that you’re growing up. Something she said to me was, “I wish we had spent more time with the boys.”

I said to her, “Wait a minute. We have spent a lot of time with the boys. In fact, we have spent as much time with the boys as we possibly could. If we had spent any more time with the boys, they would grow up to be weird.”

Spencer, you and I think alike on some things, and I think you will tell me I’m right about that. We have spent time with you and Seth, but we have never been over-the-top parents.  You know exactly the parents I’m talking about—the ones who make a video of the first time their kids sit on the pottie chair and then bronze the poo and send it to the Smithsonian. We weren’t that crazy—I don’t think—because we didn’t want to mess you up. But we spent a lot of time with you. I hope you believe that, and I hope that’s the way you remember your childhood.

Sometimes I feel like crying, too, because you’re so grown up, but I try not to. I’m trying to look at this thing philosophically. After all, you really want to grow up. You don’t want to be 17 and in high school forever. So, I’ve got to let you grow up because that is what you want. Also, the fact that you are no longer a child doesn’t mean that you are gone. It only means you’re moving on to other happy parts of your life. I hope the Lord lets me live to watch you grow older because that will be so much fun. But whatever happens, we will always be together in the end because we have the same precious faith in the Lord Jesus.

Thanks for being such a neat kid. You are the package deal—a great student, a great athlete, a great musician, a great Christian boy, and a great son. I’m so glad God sent you to be my son. I love your honesty and the way you think things out so carefully. I love to see you eat an entire “All-Star Breakfast” (which is the whole left side of the menu) at Waffle House and still look like a track-runner. I love your caring ways, the way you pick up heavy things so I don’t hurt myself, your lightning-fast wit, and your sense of humor. You always lift my spirits by making me laugh. You are a great comfort to me.

Spencer, you know I have never pressured you to become a preacher. And I really don’t care if you never become famous or “important”. I hope you will always have enough money to pay your bills, but I really don’t care if you never become rich. There is just one thing I want from you. I want you to always be a Christian. Find the tasks that God wants you do in this life, and do them with all your might. Because, if you will just do that one thing, things will work out for you in this life and in the life that is to come.

I hope you will forgive me for my many failings as a father. You were my first child, and I had to practice on somebody. You drew the short straw and got that honor. Sorry about that. I hope you believe me when I tell you that, with God as my witness, I really tried my best. I believe you understand that now—and you’ll understand it better in a few years.

Remember your Mama and me, and your little brother, Seth. Remember all the fun you had growing up in the little parsonage and the country church. Remember all the people who have loved you and the lessons they’ve taught you. Make a big splash in the world. You only have one life, so remember the Lord Jesus, and do as much good with your life as you can.

There is so much more that I could write—but I don’t have words. Hope this will suffice. I love you always, and I am always proud of you.

With Prayers and Blessings,


Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” *Sing that  title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi.  He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 18) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church” (where the Preacher and his wife want to remind you to spend time with your babies because they’ll be grown before you know it). You should write him at

The Rockwood Files: “You can’t handle the tooth.”

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Early this morning, I opened my eyes and saw 7-year-old Jack’s eyes looking right at me, just inches from my face.

“Mom,” he whispered. “I need to tell you something.”

“What is it, Jack?” I groaned sleepily.

“The tooth fairy didn’t come last night,” he said. “My tooth is still there under the pillow and there’s no money!”

I bolted upright in the bed with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mommy guilt flooded through me instantly. I’d forgotten about the tooth fairy’s scheduled visit. Jack’s wiggly tooth had fallen out early in the day and was a distant memory by the time I finally fell into bed the night before.

“Oh, really?” I said, desperately trying to think of a way to fix this. “I wonder what could have happened.”

Then, proving once again that I married well, Tom rolled over in bed and said groggily, “Jack, I bet the Tooth Fairy is just running late because of the snow. She’ll probably come while you’re at school today.”

“Oh! Okay, that makes sense,” Jack said. “I’ll just check when I get home from school.”

Jack went downstairs to eat breakfast and watch for signs of the Tooth Fairy flying through the light snowfall outside the kitchen window. I thanked God for winter precipitation and then congratulated Tom on his quick thinking at such an early hour. I can think on my feet but not before 7 a.m. and definitely not before a cup of caffeine.

It wasn’t the first time something like this happened. A few years ago, I got caught in a Christmas situation that required some fancy footwork. Late one night I’d wrapped all the kids’ gifts and put them under the tree, but I’d forgotten to hide the ones that were marked “From Santa”. The next day, our oldest son (who was by then able to read), noticed the tags and asked me how come there was a gift under the tree from Santa, since Santa only comes on Christmas Eve.

With as much conviction as I could muster, I explained that Santa’s sleigh isn’t big enough to carry all the gifts for all the children in the world at the same time. So sometimes he has to send the gifts to your house a few weeks early.

“But how does Santa get them here?” Adam asked.

“Fed Ex,” I said.

And that’s why, to this day, my kids are thrilled any time they see the Fed Ex truck in our neighborhood, hoping that, even though it’s February, perhaps Santa is sending them another really early Christmas gift.

That’s the thing about parenting. It requires us to make judgment calls about whether it’s more important to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or if – in some cases – it’s better to protect your kids’ sense of childhood magic and wonder. When does the Tooth Fairy hang up her wings? When does Santa stop using Fed Ex? How does the Easter Bunny get off the bunny trail?

Sometimes I worry that one day – when the kids start piecing together the facts – we’ll have to come clean about all these creative explanations we’ve shared over the years. Will it take the sparkle out of their eyes? Will they become jaded and disillusioned? Will they wonder if they’ve been raised by pathological liars?

I hope not. I hope they forgive us these fibs of affection. And I really hope they don’t adopt our “creative explanations” when they become teenagers and need to get themselves out of a jam.

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.

Listen to Your Mother: Send in those stories by Feb. 29!

Mamas and writerly friends, auditions are OPEN! But not for long!

You have until Feb. 29th to send in that great story/post/essay you’ve written about any aspect of motherhood. Northwest Arkansas will have a local performance of the national Mother’s Day series of live readings called Listen to Your Mother and emailing your story is the first step.

nwaMotherlode is proud to be a sponsor of the event.

The live event will be Sunday, April 29th, at Walton Arts Center Starr Theater at 2 p.m. If you’d rather just be part of the audience, that’s OK, too. Show your support!

Email your original “humorous, poignant, and soulful words about the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested that is MOTHERHOOD” (or any mother-person in your life) to:

Your piece should be roughly 5 minutes or less when read aloud.

After e-mailing your essay, the LTYM organizers will contact those they wish to see at live auditions to be held at a time and location TBD.

Remember, you don’t have to be a mom to be involved. Write about your own mother, a woman who has been your mentor-mom or even your thoughts about impending motherhood. Everyone has a story to tell. Will you share it with Northwest Arkansas and beyond?

Listen to Your Mother recently announced that 10% of all ticket proceeds and any show profit after expenses will benefit Arkansas Visitation and Exchange Center (AVEC).

This center allows children to have access to their parents through the provision of supervised visitation and monitored exchanges in a child-friendly environment that emphasizes parent and child safety. Parents are typically referred to the center with a court order or agreement between both parents.

Parents going through separation, divorce, and/or a custody process may have multiple issues that can compromise a child’s safety and/or the safety of a parent that family. Therefore, to protect the children and parents, the family may seek out or be ordered to a program that will supervise a parent’s access with their child. At AVEC supervised visitation involves providing on site, one-on-one monitoring and observation of parenting time by trained professionals.

Children often experience conflicting emotions as a normal reaction to the separation of their parents, which can be intensified when other issues are present in the family such as domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

The center acts as a buffer for children by preventing contact between the adult parents, and thus allowing children to have access to their parents without being exposed to adult problems. AVEC supports the individual needs of families experiencing many issues that may compromise their safety when providing access or exchanging children.

Lela Davidson, local author and blogger, is the NWA producer. She jumped through lots of hoops to get LTYM here and NWA is one of only 10 locations selected this year from a pool of interested cities for 2012.

Stephanie McCratric at Evolved Mommy is working with Lela to make the event fabulous.

ABOUT LTYM: LTYM features live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood, in celebration of Mother’s Day. Born of the creative work of mothers who publish on-line, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities, with (at least) 10% of ticket proceeds benefiting a local non-profit cause.

Beginning with one show in Madison, Wis., in 2010, five different cities hosted LTYM shows in 2011 and a national Mother’s Day movement was born. This year the list includes: Austin, Chicago, DC, Madison, Northwest Indiana, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Spokane and (woot!) Northwest Arkansas.


LTYM recently announced that BlogHer, Inc. is continuing its National Media Sponsorship for 2012. BlogHer is the largest community of women who blog: 25+ million unique visitors per month, and hosts the world’s largest conference for women in social media –

More information is available at the LTYMS national website www.listenyourmothershow.

Roadtrip! Mamas made it to Blissdom!

The mamas drove all the way to Nashville on Wednesday and are happy to be soaking up all the bloggy goodness at the BlissDom 2012 Conference today!

One fellow mama called it ”speed dating for bloggers”. We love that!

BlissDom is an amazing conference for women “who find and express their bliss by publishing online”. That describes us, right?

We’re in great company, hanging out with about 750 other bloggers at the gorgeous Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Be watching for a little video tour after we have a chance to scope out the hotel’s NINE acres of indoor gardens, cascading waterfalls and an indoor river with an actual boat. There’s also shopping, tons of restaurants and a spa. We know some of you may be visiting the hotel this summer, so we thought we’d give you a mom-friendly tour!

We’ll also scope out the movie, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Universal Pictures will be at BlissDom with music, food and themed cocktails. There will apparently be a chance for photo opps with the Lorax himself. The Lorax and the mamas. Should be fun.

We’ll also try to score a photo with (or at least near) Joe Jonas, the guys of Rascal Flatts and some other awesome singers.

We also look forward to hearing from ConAgra Foods at this year’s Girl’s Night Out. They’ll give us a special sneak peek of what’s to come in their Child Hunger Ends Here campaign. More than one in five children in the U.S. don’t know where their next meal is coming from. As mothers, I know we feel that’s unacceptable.

Please send us your prayers and happy thoughts as we meet, greet and eat our our way through the weekend. We want to soak up as much knowledge as we can to bring back to YOU. We’re always looking for new ideas and inspiration to make Motherlode even better for Northwest Arkansas mamas!

Big hugs and we’ll see you on Sunday!


Gwen and Shannon

5 Minutes with a Mom: Heidi Simmons

Name: Heidi Simmons

Kids’ names and ages: Luke 9,   Alyssa 5

Where are you from and what brought you to NWA? My husband and I are both from Northeast Ohio, but we haven’t lived there in 20 years. We met when he was active duty military and married in Tennessee. When he decided to leave the Army, he came on board with Wal-mart and they moved us around the South until we ended up here at Home Office. We’ve lived in NWA for nine years now and love it! This is home.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? A quaint cottage-style home on the coast, in a warm climate. Heaven.

If you went back to college what would you study? This is a great question because after staying home for nine years I’m now thinking about my “second career.”  The three things I may go back to school for are photography, teaching or physical therapy. Three unrelated things but I’m interested in all of them for different reasons. We’ll see. But it’s exciting to think about.

What’s your work background? I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism/Public Relations. But I ended up working in sales for most of my adult life, as a Sales Manager for Airborne Express (Now DHL).  I also spent three years as a Program Manager for Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, which was a fantastic job!  When we left Alabama for the move to Wal-mart (Home Office), my son was one year old and we planned on adding to our family, so it made sense to stay at home and that’s been my job for the last nine years.

If you had a whole day to yourself what would you do? Ahhh….my day would include sleeping in, a great cup of coffee, a trip to the gym, browsing Barnes & Noble to my heart’s content, dinner with NWA friends, and catching a local 80′s cover band for some great music and dancing.

What’s something you’ve been meaning to do but can’t seem to get around to it? Organizing and framing my photos. I LOVE taking them but I am terrible at organizing them.

What are some of your favorite things to do with your kids in Northwest Arkansas? Going to parks, the library, church activities. The simple things.

What traditions do you hope to pass on to your children? Going to church every Sunday and trying to spend that day together as a family. As for the holidays, on Christmas Eve we attend a candlelight service, go somewhere nice for dinner, open one gift, read The Night Before Christmas, and feed the reindeer (a small bag of oats on the lawn) before bed.

What’s a make-up essential you couldn’t live without? What I’m really loving right now is Burt’s Bees 100% natural lip shimmer. It’s a lip balm and lipstick all in one, I’m addicted to it.

What would you do with an unexpected gift of cash? The first 10% would go to my church. After that, I would donate to my favorite charities, and hopefully have enough left over for a family vacation to Hawaii.

What was the best parenting advice you received? Don’t miss out on who your kids are by focusing on what they are not. And secondly, to the best of your ability, make your home a place of joy, laughter and encouragement. A home should be a retreat where a child can return in triumph or defeat, and know they will be loved.

The worst? I really can’t think of any. I must have blocked it out.

If someone wrote a book about your life right now, what would a good title be? Diet, Pray, Love

One word to sum me up … Positive

Inside His Head: Is it time for the kids to meet my boyfriend?

OK, ladies, it’s time to travel back to that strange land that we (sometimes) just don’t understand …  “Inside His Head”.  Inside His Head has become very popular with the mamas, since women have a million questions about why men do the things they do.

Our panel of husbands (whose identities will remain anonymous for their privacy and to keep them from getting into trouble with their wives or their adoring public) have stepped up to the plate to answer our tough questions. They’ve been great to give us the no-holds-barred truth about how guys really think.

OK, it’s that time of month again. Time to go “Inside His Head.” (Oh, and if you’ve got a question for our outspoken guys, just send it to and it may be featured in an upcoming installment.)

Dear Inside His Head guys,

I’m a single mom and I want my kids to meet my boyfriend. My ex-husband is totally against the idea, but I’m getting serious with this guy and I think it’s important for him to get to know my kids (they are 4 and 6). I don’t want to fight with my ex, but I think he’s being unreasonable. Do you?

GRAY: There’s a giant gap between “getting serious” and “getting married,” but you need to decide where the relationship is going before getting your children involved. Kids are a huge part of the equation, but if you and your boyfriend aren’t serious enough to be hearing the faint din of wedding bells then you might want to wait until the time is right.

Children learn from your example. I’ve seen women bring home one “serious” man after another and, as the relationships fell apart, watched kids slowly lose respect for their mother and refuse to listen to her advice when they hit their teens and began having relationships of their own. The implications can be wide-reaching not only in how they see you as a parent, but also in how they perceive their own ability to have a lasting relationship.

On the other hand, you don’t want your children waking up one day with a “surprise daddy” in the house. If the relationship is heading toward marriage it’s good to have your kids in the picture. They need to become accustomed to who their stepdad is going to be. Your children’s opinion of your future husband is important and how he and they interact can often cement a family. Listen to them.

So why have I left your ex-husband out of the picture? I’m not saying you need to cut your ex off, but his motives are probably biased. What dad would want a stranger spending more time with his kids than he does? You’re the one in charge of your household. You’ve got to do what you think is proper for yourself and your kids.

MAVERICK: It really depends. You don’t mention how long you’ve been seeing this guy, his background, or your relationship with your ex-husband.

To make things simpler, I’m gonna assume your ex-husband is generally reasonable and has not tried to manipulate you though your children; isn’t saying no to you while exposing the kids to his dates; and so far has had the best interest of your children at heart (short of agreeing to a divorce, that is).

In this situation I’d say err on the side of caution and listen to your ex since it’s your kids you’re messing with here. The children should not be exposed to any of your dates (his or yours) unless you’re well beyond the “just dating phase”.

This includes actual time as well as emotional time. It doesn’t matter how you feel, if you’ve not spent a fair amount of actual time with this guy, just dating and hanging out, you don’t know anything about him. The longer the relationship, the harder it is for a true creep to keep up his guard.

It’s your ex-husband’s job to watch out for the welfare of his children. Don’t assume he’s being an ass for challenging you on this. He’s likely doing what he should do. Far better to have a ex who is saying “be careful” than one who doesn’t really care.

Real fathers are coded to protect their children like mothers are. Trust his instincts, assuming your ex isn’t normally controlling or combative, he likely has a better general feel for your “boyfriend” since he has no emotional attachment.

Set a reasonable goal for when you plan on introducing him (in three months, in six months …) to the kids with some input from your ex.

This will move the decision away from an “I feel it’s time” to “We both think X is a reasonable interval before we expose our kids to someone we’re “serious” about.

If your “boyfriend” is serious about you, he’ll agree. If he’s combative and acts like an ass, dump him, because he’s not wired to deal with your real situation.  If he can’t handle this trying to make a life with this guy is pure fantasy or pure masochism.

The bottom line is, all things being equal, don’t bring the heat onto your ex for speaking up. It’s what he should do if he’s concerned about the welfare of his children.

MICHAEL: In my opinion you shouldn’t involve the kids until you are seriously considering cohabitation. If that’s the case, read on.

I’m sure your boyfriend is a great guy, but as a father I know I would be really uncomfortable with another guy hanging around with my children. I’m realistic enough to realize that you will more than likely enter into another long term relationship, but you’ve got to be very careful with your existing relationships with both your kids and your ex.

You need to communicate the seriousness of the relationship to your ex and maybe even let him meet your boyfriend. You also need to make it clear to him that you respect his opinion but you aren’t married anymore so your decisions are yours. In the end he doesn’t have a say as to who you date, however, you can make things easier by clueing him in to what’s going on and make him more comfortable with the situation.

As for the kids, be honest with them but don’t tell them more than is age appropriate. Make sure that all the roles and expectations are well defined so that everyone knows their boundaries regarding discipline, etc.

Hopefully you are all mature selfless adults that can put aside any animosity and history in order to properly raise your children in a loving and supportive way.

To read previously published Inside His Head questions and answers, click here.

Good Gossip: Aniston is a birthday girl, Sting’s a grandpa, and Rambo and Terminator go under the knife!

Good Gossip is our bi-weekly round-up of the best celebrity news we can find — minus the worst of the nasty tabloid rumors. So enjoy a heaping dish of good gossip! It’s guilt-free. :-)

Scarlett Johanson was spotted recently on a beach in Kauai, Hawaii with her boyfriend of five months, Nate Naylor. Naylor is a New York-based advertising executive who works as a freelance creative director for various ad campaigns. Sources say he is not into the limelight, which is something that Scarlett likes about him.

Wow. Jennifer Anniston makes 43 look AWESOME. The former Friends celeb recently celebrated her 43rd birthday with boyfriend Justin Theroux (They’ve been dating almost a year now!) and with friends including Courteney Cox, Jason Bateman and Chelsea Handler. Jennifer and Justin are working on their new Bel Air home, adding things like a pizza oven and a movie room, and Jennifer is reportedly excited about having a big garden. At the birthday party, Jennifer asked guests to skip the gifts and make a charitable donation instead.

There’s a feature in People magazine that we love. It’s called “What I’ve Learned From My Kid,” and this month Tiffani Thiessen answers the questions. She said that she has learned about mothers’ instincts. “I was walking down the stairs holding Harper, and I fell and broke my fall on myself and didn’t let go of her. You don’t even care about yourself; it’s instinctual.” Thiessen said she just left her daughter for the first time and went through the inevitable separation anxiety, after having nursed her for the first 15 months. Thiessen is married to Brady Smith and stars in the show White Collar.

Sting is going to be a grandpa! The 60-year-old singer’s son, Joe Sumner, and daughter-in-law Kate Finnerty are expecting their first baby.

Speaking of babies, we’ve finally seen a few shots of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s baby girl, Blue Ivy Carter. Born on January 7th, Blue has a head full of beautiful hair and is said to have her mom’s eyes, nose and lips. The couple say that her birth was “emotional and extremely peaceful. We are in heaven.” We mamas love that serene little face of hers.

There’s a funny post-operation photo in People magazine of friends and fellow action stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. The Terminator star was having a shoulder surgery done at a hospital in Los Angeles. When Rambo‘s own Sylvester Stallone realized that both of them were in the same hospital having similar shoulder surgeries, he asked the nurses to wheel him into Arnold’s room so that they’d be side by side when Arnold woke up from surgery. Arnold “thought it was hilarious” according to one of his reps. Both actors were admitted and released from the hospital on the same day. They appeared together in a movie called The Expendables two years ago and just finished filming a sequel to the movie.

There’s a touching letter from Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston‘s godmother, in the February 27th edition of People magazine. In her final paragraph about the singer, she said “Let us all applaud and remember Whitney for the beautiful, giving and caring young lady and talented artist she was, the great music and performances. Remember the hits. Forget the misses. A true superstar has gone on, flown away on the wings of love. Keep her family in your prayers. Aunt Ree.”

Sources: People magazine, February 27, 2012 edition

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

Pet Parenting: What is “clicker training”?

Dear Denise,

We just adopted a new puppy and I’ve been reading a little about “clicker training”. How does clicker training work and do you think it’s effective? Can a dog of any age respond to clicker training?

Dear Mama,

Clicker training is AWESOME! I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s how I teach my pets and what I teach clients. So, I’m thrilled you asked.

Clicker training is an animal training method (not just for dogs) that is based on the principles of behavioral psychology. It relies on positive reinforcement by ‘marking’ desirable behavior and then rewarding it. Generally, unwanted behavior is simply ignored.

In the case of ‘clicker’ training, desirable behavior is marked using the distinct sound of a clicker at the exact instant the animal offers the desired behavior. For example, as soon as your puppy’s bottom touches the floor, you click. It doesn’t matter if your pup doesn’t hold the “sit”, you’ve ‘marked’ the correct behavior with a distinct cue. Without the clicker, you’d have likely said “good sit” right about the time your puppy jumped up again and then given a treat as he climbed on your lap. You’d have been reinforcing getting up, not putting his bottom on the ground.

Another example of ‘clicker training’ and how it works is in marine mammal training. Marine mammal trainers having been teaching complicated behaviors for years without leashes, collars or corrections. When the animal offers a desired behavior, he hears a whistle and gets a fish. If the animal is being naughty or unruly, as they sometimes are, the trainer simply packs up his treats and leaves the training area — quite a bummer if you really like fish!

The greatest thing about this method of training is that it actually teaches your dog to think. Now, you may be thinking you don’t need anybody else in the house trying to outsmart you, but what the animal is thinking is ‘How do I make those clicks happen?’ Sometimes, they can get really creative and offer the cutest behaviors. This method also builds confidence in your animal because he will be hearing a lot more yeses than nos, and who doesn’t like that?

As for teaching an old dog new tricks, it can be done. We calls those dogs ‘crossover dogs.’ it can take them a bit longer to catch on to the creative part of the game and begin to offer novel behaviors, but generally, once you load the clicker (give it meaning by clicking and treating a few times), you can begin training. I’d suggest starting with something new, easy and unimportant, like a shake or touching a target, and remember, I said earlier, this isn’t just for dogs.

You can use this method for teaching just about any other animal. I’m currently using it with cats, birds and ponies. So, if you happen to have a pet rat, give it a try; rats are smart! You can  even use these simple principles of positive reinforcement on your husband and kids! Check out the book “Don’t Shoot the Dog,” by Karen Pryor. Just don’t tell your hubby I suggested it (and don’t click him, he wont think it’s near as funny as I do).

For more information on clicker training, check out the website, or if you’d like to schedule a session to make sure you get started in the right direction, give me a call 479-225-6063.

Thanks for the question and Happy Clicking!


Denise Holmes is a pet behavior counselor with over 25 years of experience. She focuses on family pet training and animal-assisted therapy.  She has consulted with Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helped set up a variety of local programs and produced a CD to help expecting parents introduce the family pet to a newborn,

Photo credit: Bijoubaby via Flickr