The Rockwood Files: Welcome to my fort

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3  

My kids did something last week that convinced me they’re not all that different than kids were several generations ago. With free time on their hands and a house full of toys, games and electronics, they shunned all the fancy stuff and built a fort.

Their fort-building enthusiasm made me question why we bother with apps and expensive game consoles when so much fun can be crafted from a king-sized bed sheet, wooden clothespins and a few chairs. The kids fortified their cozy castle with pillows dragged in from bedrooms, favorite Superman blankets and flashlights. Then they disappeared into the fort and played the rest of the afternoon.

This is the tent seen in that awesome chick flick, The Holiday. Cameron Diaz climbs into it for a visit.

After hearing hours of giggles from behind the linen walls, I couldn’t resist crawling in to have a look around. Our Beagle Charlie followed me in, wriggling excitedly as if he’d been let in on a secret.

Once inside the fort, three decades of time fell away and suddenly I was young again, too. I remembered crawling under my aunt’s coffee table on Sunday afternoons when I was a kid – pretending it was my own special hideaway. I’d lie on my belly and prop myself up on my elbows, sipping on a straw stuck into a cold can of Nestea. The air conditioning vent was right under the old coffee table and I’d eventually fall asleep there enveloped by cool air.

When grown-ups build houses, we want soaring ceiling heights and expansive windows – wide open spaces and rooms that flow into each other. But sometimes, especially during the heat of summer or the bitter winter, what feels best is a cozy, darkened space lit only by the flickering of a movie on television or lamplight shining on a great book. The so-called “man cave” which has become so popular in recent years is nothing more than a glorified fort of our childhood, complete with big screen T.V. and nachos.

At the end of the day, the practical parent in me almost made the kids clean up the mess – put away those pillows and fold up the bed sheets. But the kid in me didn’t want the magical fort to disintegrate into boring household things again. Under the big top of the kids’ imaginations, those sheets house adventures and whispered stories. They become the corner café serving up fruit chews and juice boxes to all who enter.

So we’ve left the bed sheet fort in place for the summer. It’s their home away from home inside our home. It’s a cool refuge on a blistering hot day. When their friends come over to play, it’s the first place they’re invited into, and the visitors always say the same thing once they’re inside: “Cool! Let’s pretend it’s a …” And then the pretended scenarios are as different as the kids themselves.

Just when you think today’s kids are all about texting and Xbox and Nintendo and growing up at a million miles per hour, they surprise you. They go and build an indoor fort and are thrilled with their efforts. They remind you that, at their core, kids are creators and the simplest building blocks are often the best.

By grown-up standards, our bonus room upstairs is a real mess– overtaken by fort construction and games, toys and books pulled in and out of those billowy walls. But every time I walk by it, my inner kid is delighted that some things never change. And it always makes me thirsty for a can of Nestea, nostalgic for a coloring book and eager for a cool summer nap in a hideaway all my own.

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: My Husband Pushed Me

Dear Tom,

During an argument last month, my husband shoved me. That has never happened to me before. I wasn’t hurt but it really shocked me, and I’m afraid of what this means. Neither one of us mentioned it after the argument was over, but this feels like one of those “red flags” you hear about in bad relationships. I don’t want to ignore warning signs but I don’t want to trigger another argument, either. What should I do?

Dear Mom:

Yes, this is a definite warning sign! What your husband did constitutes assault and/or spousal abuse in some states depending on state law. During any marriage, arguments are bound to occur and sometimes they become intense or heated, but the argument and its relative intensity should never result in, nor justify “hands-on” one spouse to another.  That’s unacceptable. What your husband did is absolutely unacceptable and crosses a boundary that can result in harm — not only physical harm but also psychological distress and mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

Sometimes spouses develop “codes of conduct” for disagreements. These codes contain mutually agreed upon rules for disagreements or arguments. For example, the rules in your code of conduct might look like this:

  • “We will listen to each other without interrupting while each of us says how we see things and how we feel.”
  • “We will not call each other derogatory names.”
  • “We will never touch, push, hit or shake each other during a disagreement.”

Those are pretty basic rules and should become a part of your communication agreement with your spouse. The fact that neither of you “mentioned it after the argument was over” is also a red flag. I recommend you start talking about what happened, even if it’s been a while since it happened. Make sure it’s clear to your husband that pushing or ANY physical contact during an argument is absolutely unacceptable.

Plan to develop your own guidelines for arguments. If you cannot do that with your spouse or don’t feel like you can do that safely, then go get counseling. If he won’t agree to argument guidelines or going to a counseling session to develop those rules, then you need to find your own support system or counselor so you can determine what plans you need to make for your own life and safety.

Mom – one positive note for you is that you recognize a warning sign and you don’t want to ignore it. Please don’t ignore it. Get help as soon as you can.

Best wishes to you.


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.

Disclaimer:  This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.

Top 10 steps for creating the perfect patio

By Teresa Huddleston, owner of Huddleston Designs

The great thing about having a patio is that, not only does it give you a place to enjoy the outdoors, it can also be a true extension of your home. You’ve heard the phrase “bring the outside in.” When you’re decorating a patio, you should also “bring the inside out” to give the space a touch of the same personality that lives inside your home. The patio shouldn’t be a complete style departure from your home’s interior. Rather, it should continue the flow and reflect your taste and style. Below you’ll find my top ten tricks for creating the perfect patio.

1. Define room settings

Try to set up your outdoor space according to how each area will be used. Create one zone around the grill or fireplace and another surrounding a pool or hot tub, if you have one. You may also want to create a separate conversation area that’s a bit more tranquil and separate from the kids’ play areas. Make sure to furnish it with enough outdoor furniture, tables and outdoor rugs and lamps to give it that “sit and stay a while” feeling.

2. Light it up

Lighting is a “must do” for outdoor areas like patios. The right lighting will give it the ambience that makes it a truly special place to be even well into the night time hours. If you have a deck that gets a lot of sunlight during the day, you could surround it with solar lights that will then glow all night. Solar lights are a great way to avoid having a lot of expensive electrical work done. Outdoor lamps are also a great solution, and you should incorporate them the same way you would in your living room and surround the area with lights. I also like it when people extend the lighting out into the yard itself with up lights on the trees or spotlights showing off a beautiful flower bed or shining on a favorite statue or pond.

3. Think about flow

In a home, the wrong floor plan can really hinder your ability to enjoy the space. It’s equally important to consider traffic flow when you’re organizing your outdoor spaces as well.

If your access to the patio is through the kitchen, put your barbecue grill and food preparation area closest to the house so you can easily transport food in and out. If the patio comes off your bedroom, the first thing you should see is a relaxing area – perhaps a spot for reading or a great-looking hammock. If your patio is off the living room, it’s great to extend that living room feeling into the outside with another conversation area. If you’re lucky enough to have a pool in the backyard, try to set it up so that guests coming inside from the pool enter through a room with tile floors instead of carpeting – something like a mud room or laundry area.

4. Create central gathering areas

If you often invite large groups of people over for an outdoor party, make sure you create a space that’s open enough to accommodate the group. It’s awkward when you’re part of a large group and everyone is hovering around the only three or four chairs available. For big groups, create more than one outdoor room setting because people tend to clump together in different spots. You can also extend your groupings out onto the lawn itself.

5. Think green

Most people know that a patio begs for plants. Make sure you choose plants that add not only color but also different textures. Have a variety of plants of varying heights – some flowering and some just green. Don’t forget to include a few beautiful ferns, and add some interest with a variety of different planters, too. Though it’s a simple ingredient, plants really do make a huge difference in the overall feel of your patio.

6. Add some heat

As crazy as it might sound to use a fireplace or fire pit in the middle of summer, having one on your patio can enable you to use the space year-round. If your patio doesn’t have a built-in fireplace, a portable or semi-permanent fire pit can be a great solution and will add a cozy ambience for your outdoor gatherings. People just tend to relax and settle in around a fire, and it can be the perfect backdrop for those long conversations on the patio or deck. Make sure to shop around and see the various styles of fire pits before you choose one.

7. Create a relaxation station

One of the things clients request most in their outdoor space is a place to relax. You don’t necessarily have to be in a camping tent to “get back to nature” and enjoy nature’s beauty. Create a space on your patio for pure relaxation – reading, meditation, yoga practice or even napping. Be sure to bring in the sounds of nature by including a fountain or pond with running water. If you have a covered patio, a ceiling fan can add some nice, gentle movement and a relaxing breeze. Incorporate wind chimes, if you find them to be pleasant, but skip it if they’re a little too annoying.

8. Don’t forget the kitchen

If you’re hosting a party on the patio, people need to eat. So having some sort of outdoor kitchen space is a must. Some custom homes have an entire kitchen built into the patio. But if your home is like mine, you’ve got to figure out a way to create a kitchen space around a simple bar-b-que grill.

People will always gravitate to the area where the food is, so make sure to create a large enough space to accommodate them. Make some seating areas and include a big, galvanized tub full of ice and drinks. You could put the tub on a table top or on an iron stand. Be sure to have enough tables on hand for seating as well as serving the food. Make the kitchen area a fun, festive place to hang out.

9. Decorate with accents

Choose accents for your patio so that they’re in line with your personality and continue the flow from the rest of your house. Flowering plants are a must. Also include outdoor rugs, pottery, gates, sculptures and natural materials like stone or even tree stumps.

Give your patio some personality, too. Include a fun or unusual conversation piece – like a statue, wall hanging or unusual tile. People will gravitate to it and start asking questions. It can be something fun or something personal to you. Gazing balls can add a touch of whimsy, and, if you have the time to maintain it, a coy pond is always a great addition.

10. Create a viewing area

Installing an arbor, pergola or gazebo can give you the opportunity to create a beautiful “viewing area.” The gazebo could also double as your “relaxation station.” I saw one gazebo in a magazine recently that had a large wooden swing installed in it that faced out toward the children’s play area. It looked like the perfect spot to sit and snap photos, read a book or just enjoy watching the kids play. Sometimes arbors are extended off the house to create more shade, which can be enhanced by letting vines grow over it. Your arbor area could function like a breezeway or an entrance into a larger garden area. Fill it with flowers and shrubs. This type of structure is also a great way to divide a more adult space from the kids’ play area.

Teresa Huddleston is an interior designer and owner of Huddleston Designs. She also specializes in “re-design,” taking what you already have and recombining it for a completely new look.

Northwest Arkansas Mama Doc: Important facts about immunizations

By Dr. Haley Vo, Mercy physician and mama of 3

As a doctor, most of the decisions I make are based on what the medical community calls “evidence-based medicine.” It means we make decisions based on the best research available to us. It also means we try to select the most well-designed studies. Researchers agree that the best designed studies are those that are “blind”- the researchers don’t know which people in the study received treatment and which didn’t.

The best studies are also random – the recipients who received treatment were selected randomly, not because the researchers wanted them to have or not have treatment. (Remember how Meredith gave the chief’s wife the trial medicine on Grey’s Anatomy? That compromised the integrity of the study because it was neither blind nor random. Then she almost got fired. Then she almost lost her child. Then she almost got divorced. But I digress…)

There’s a lot of discussion right now in the media about immunizations. Some people are for them, some are against them. A lot of people ask questions about why we should immunize, especially young children. As a parent, I don’t like to hold my children down and have them poked with needles. Honest. Just because I’m a doctor doesn’t make it any more fun.

I will say, though, I always breathe a sigh of relief when my children are immunized.  Why, you ask? Well, I’ve seen immunization-preventable diseases. They can be really unpleasant. And by really unpleasant I mean ICU kind of unpleasant. Are they most of the time? Of course not. I had the chicken pox at age 8. While I remember it as horrible and nasty, and I have several scars to this day, I obviously recovered just fine. But did you know that chicken pox can cause pneumonia? Or infect the brain? It can. And does.

In the first year of life, children are immunized against many things.  While it seems like a lot, the immunizations are important to keep everyone healthy. For instance, we now routinely immunize infants against bacteria called Streptococcal pneumoniae. This is one of the most common causes of pneumonia. It’s also one of the top causes of ear infections. This vaccine has decreased the incidence of invasive disease (that means bad – meningitis, an overwhelming infection called sepsis, and severe pneumonia) by about 70%. That’s an incredible number.

One of the most talked about vaccines is the MMR. There was an article released in the Lancet, which is a prestigious British medical journal, linking MMR to autism. The problem was, this was not a well-designed study. It was neither random nor blind. In fact, it was so egregious that the doctor that authored lost his license. Not only that, but the Lancet retracted that article. The whole thing. His results have never been able to be duplicated in a well-designed study.

I know several adults who had polio as children. I do not know the fear their mothers had. Literally, a child could go to bed with a runny nose, and wake up paralyzed. Thankfully, I’ve never seen this disease. And I don’t want to. I haven’t seen this disease because vaccinations developed in the 1950′s  have now eradicated the disease from most of the world.

So back to the beginning… everyday, I make decisions on how to help people live healthy lives by making informed decisions on the best research available. The best research available today says immunizations are safe for the vast majority of the population. It also says it helps prevents diseases, both in those who receive the vaccines, and those around them who cannot. I believe it’s a really important part of public health. It’s a serious topic, but one that needs to be discussed.

Please schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about vaccines. The health of your family, and those around you, depends on it.

To visit with Dr. Vo in person, you can schedule an appointment with her by calling the Mercy Clinic Primary Care Sugar Creek in Bella Vista.  It’s located at 24 Sugar Creek Center and the phone number is 479-876-1414. Same day appointments will be available at the clinic.

If you have a general health question for Dr. Vo, you can email it to and she may answer it in a future post.

Life with Ladybug: A phone call away

By Shannon Magsam

Here’s my number. So call me, maybe.

New lyric: If my mom will let me get a phone, that is. Let’s hope she’s crazy.

My 10-year-old daughter is lobbying hard to get her own cell phone. She believes that going to middle school this fall makes a phone not just a luxury, but a downright necessity.

She even wrote a 10-point list today outlining all the reasons I should consider it:

  1. In case of emergency.
  2. Text my friends. Not during class, though. (Such a responsible girl)
  3. If I stay home alone (Fat chance right now, kid)
  4. If I get kidnapped (Seriously, she went there?)
  5. If you forget that school ends at 2:45 p.m., I can call you to come pick me up.
  6. If you forget your phone, I will have mine. (This one kinda sways me)
  7. In case I forget my lunch or homework. (This one does not)
  8. If my friend throws up and her mom is at work. (Um, definitely not)
  9. If I get lost at my new school, I can call my friend or teacher or principal for directions. (…..)
  10. If I want to go home with somebody to do homework together. It would be C, T or A. No boys. (Whew, that’s a relief. No boys.)

My reaction? I used the phone in the school office when I was a kid and I’m pretty sure they still exist.

A big part of why I don’t want her to have a phone is the monthly fee and access to the Internet. I don’t think she really NEEDS a phone. She’s with me, at school or in the care of another adult I trust all the time. It’s not like I’m dropping her off at the mall or at the movies and asking her to call me when she gets out. We’re a few years away from that. And I don’t plan on leaving her home alone, either.

I asked some of my friends with “older” kids to help me make the call about what age is best. Answers varied — and I ended up feeling like it really just depends on the kid and the situation — but I enjoyed hearing their thoughts.

My friend Lisa Sullivan (and, coincidentally, my first-year college roommate) said Daughter #1 got a phone at age 11 and Daughter #2 at age 10 (because Lisa and her husband were being “nagged to death”). She said she’s never regretted it. I love how she uses FaceTime as a parenting tool:

I can always get in touch with them, I can stay in my pjs when I pick them up somewhere because I can text them rather than going to the door, and we even occasionally have them FaceTime us while they are out so we can see if they are where they say they are!

Friend Amy Volk of Virginia Beach also uses the cell phone as part of her parenting strategy with her 13-year-old boy/girl twins:

It has been a great tool for reward/punishment. We have had pretty firm rules with them…on charger in kitchen at night, no texting opposite sex until this year, I have full access to all texts and messages.

I love this point my friend Angie Albright made about cell phones and texting:

I wrote a blog post about this–texting with teenagers is sometimes very effective between parent and child. I sometimes hear things from my son by text message that I wouldn’t hear in person. That tiny bit of distance makes it easier for him to talk to me about some things. It’s just a little bit of extra communication insurance for the rough years when you might feel sometimes disconnected.

Friend Kelly Zega said she only recently upgraded her 17-year-old daughter’s phone past the “basic” level. Her daughter recently divulged that it really wasn’t that big of a deal to her. But she uses it like crazy now, not only to socialize, but for school work:

In addition to the usual messing around online looking at FB and that kind of thing…she uses her phone constantly to research things for school, work on/communicate about group projects, photograph the board for assignments, etc.

My SIL in Virginia, Leslie, reminded me that Ladybug has an iPod Touch! The kid can use that for now. Leslie kinda  hits on my thoughts about the whole thing:

For us it’s about wants versus needs. Our 14 y/o daughter wanted her own cell phone when she was 10; but has yet to have a need for one. She got an ipod touch when she was 13 and has been very responsible with it.

Most of my daughter’s close friends – and even a cousin her own age – have phones. For now, I think I’ll hold out until she’s 12.  A little delayed gratification never hurt anyone.

Now tell me RIGHT NOW at what age you think kids should get cell phones!

Shannon Magsam is mom to 10-year-old Ladybug, married to Ladybug’s dad, John, and co-creator of To read previously published installments of Life With Ladybug, click here.


What We’re Reading to the Kids: Books that help with touchy subjects

Note from the mamas: The Summer Remix symbol appears on posts previously published on nwaMotherlode that were noted as a “reader favorite”. If you missed the original publication date, we hope you’ll enjoy this encore performance. Happy summer!

We all know that some subjects are tough to explain to little kids with lots of questions or fears. So I was happy when I spotted a certain page in the Fall 2009 edition of Real Simple magazine’s special issue on family. This page suggested children’s books for specific topics. I wanted to pass some of the suggestions along to you, in case you or someone you know is in need of a children’s book that will help kids and parents deal with certaiwhen-dinosaurs-die.jpgn situations.

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death, by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown

Good for: Explaining why someone dies, the rituals that might take place, and pretty much everything else there is to know about death.

Cost: $8

sam-is-not-a-loser.jpgSam Is Not a Loser, by Thierry Robberecht

Good for: Teaching sportsmanship in different game situations and showing kids that playing and not winning is more fun than never playing at all.

Cost: $12

berenstain-bears-sitter.jpgThe Berenstain Bears and the Sitter, by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Good for: Revealing just how much fun a night with a new babysitter can be, even if she seems really scary at first.

Cost: $4

We’ve linked each book jacket to the page on where you can go to get more info, read reviews by parents or order the book.

Click HERE to visit the Real Simple magazine website for more info on family-related topics.

What We’re Listening To:

Guest post by Kristy Brown

I’m busy. When I have downtime, my mind still goes 90 to nothing. I have to have my mind constantly stimulated.

I don’t watch TV to speak of unless it involves Calliou or SuperWhy (thanks to my almost 4 year old!). This means I do a lot of reading right? Well I used to. I love to read.  Anything from medical journals and research articles to my latest book club pick. However, finding the time to read has been very hard for me lately.

I used to prefer to hold a book, feel the pages, loved the smell, etc. After having my son, I received a Kindle and thought I was in Heaven because I could keep five books going at once and still keep just the small kindle in my purse! As he gets older, I find it hard to even find time to open up the kindle.

As a traveling therapist, I spend a lot of time in the car. So most of the time I could be reading was spent with my hands on the wheel. Someone mentioned to me doing audio books in the car. But then I found that there are also times when I am grocery shopping or cooking, etc., where I could be listening to the book but the language might not be most appropriate for my son. I was telling my husband about this (who has recently become quite the avid reader) and he told me about I was unsure at first because I am such a visual person and really do love to hold my Kindle/ book and read. But this appealed to me because of the nature of times when I could read.

I downloaded on my phone (my husband already had an account so I just downloaded the app). So far I have had three books read to me and am LOVING it. I do miss my Kindle, but I will get back to it one day. I can’t totally abandon it as I love it dearly. But for this phase in my life, is meeting my literary needs!

If you look online, it gets scattered reviews.  Maybe I am not an avid enough reader, but for me it has worked without any glitches that have been mentioned online.  Here are some things I love about it:

1.  100,000 plus titles. 

2.  Great voices. Great inflection in narrator’s voices / best narrators/ one narrator will do all of the voices and you will never know it’s one person!

3.  Easy start-up. It’s as easy as downloading  the wireless app and listening.

4.  Not super expensive. The first three months are around 8 dollars after that it’s about $15 a month  and you can cancel at any time. This is less than it would cost me to pay back late fees. You can also earn credits toward downloading more books. We have several credits as my husband and I both use it.

5.  Very user friendly. I have found it is ever easier than my kindle! When you receive a phone call, it pauses your book for you. You can use other applications while the app is in use as well.

 The website states the following:

  • One monthly credit good for any audiobook you choose
  • Listen anytime, anywhere on your iPod®, iPhone®, Android, Kindle Fire or 500+ mp3 players
  • Exclusive access to members-only sales, events, and promotions
  • Never pay full price – enjoy 30% off any audiobook purchased without a credit
  • Complimentary subscription to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal delivered to your headphones daily

Kristy Brown is a Speech Language Pathologist and mother of almost 4-year-old John Lleyton Brown. After graduating with her Masters in Communication Disorders in 1999, she has worked with the Fayetteville Public Schools, a local private therapy clinic, and now co-owns Arkansas Regional Therapy Services, LLC, which provides speech therapy to the NWA community from birth to adults. Her hobbies include blogging, reading, any type of puzzle, and her job (she LOVES her job!). She lives by two very important quotes: “Never judge a book by its cover” and “This too shall pass”. Kristy met the love of her life on a blind date in 2004 and they’ve been married for six years. She believes the best paying job is being a mother. You can keep up with the Brown’s at thebrowns2012.

Good Gossip: New books, babies, rock bods and plenty of happily ever after

Time for another healthy dose of “Good Gossip” — the only guilt-free celebrity news round-up in Northwest Arkansas. As always, this fun feature is sponsored by Great Day Farms, a national brand based right here in NWA. (FYI: Great Day is a sister brand to RingO’s Chicken Rings, and you can get a $1.25 coupon from the RingO’s Facebook page today. Just click HERE and then click the “coupons” tab and print it out. Happy shopping… and eating!)

Actress Cameron Diaz will be adding the title of “author” to her list of accomplishments soon. Sources say the celeb, who most recently appeared in the movie What To Expect When You’re Expecting, is writing a nutrition book aimed at teenage girls. Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson also has a new health-related book out (titled “I Got This”) which tracks her journey from a plus-size competitor on American Idol to the size 6 she is now. With the help of Weight Watchers, Hudson lost 80 pounds.

Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, who is also a judge on the singing competition called Duets, recently announced that she and her husband Justin Miller are expecting their first baby in November. They are said to be “thrilled beyond belief.”

Speaking of babies, Giuliana Rancic, who works as a host for E! News, and her husband Bill Rancic, revealed the sex of their baby who is due later this summer. The couple released a set of blue balloons in front of guests at their June 17th baby shower. (Fun way to tell the news!) The Rancics have been open about their infertility struggle as well as Giuliana’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. They are expecting a biological child via surrogate.

Just when you thought Hollywood was full of nothing but reality TV stars and quickie divorces, you see something quite redeeming. The latest issue of People magazine has a feature article on celebrity couples who are beating the odds with marriages that are standing the test of time. Celebrating 10 years of marriage are couples including Julia Roberts and Danny Moder, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, and Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Marking 15 years of wedded bliss are Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, and Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. Couples celebrating 20 years include Sting and Trudie Styler, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, and Iman and David Bowie. Those married for at least 25 years include Ray and Anna Romano, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall, and Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman have been married for 30 years, as have Bono and his wife Ali Hewson. And Jeff and Susan Bridges come in with 35 years of marriage. Congrats to all the couples who are making it last.

Well, ladies, Matthew McConaughey is now legally taken. He wed his longtime Brazilian girlfriend Camila Alves in a three-day wedding celebration held on the grounds of their sprawling Austin estate. Forty-seven luxury, air-conditioned tents were set up for the wedding guests, which included a pregnant Reese Witherspoon, Kenny Chesney, John Mellencamp, Meg Ryan and Woody Harrelson. During the Catholic ceremony, the reverend asked Matthew and Camila to whisper what they saw in each other at that moment. Even though no one could hear what Matthew said, they could see the reaction from Camila — smiling, laughing and then crying. They said it was one of the most emotional moments of the ceremony. The couple have two children, Levi, who is almost 4, and Vida, who is 2. Camila will be taking the McConaughey name because Levi has asked several times why his last name was different than hers. The wedding food was catered by Food Network star Guy Fieri, who is a friend of Matthew. One of the wedding cakes featured the flags of both Texas and Brazil.

Have you seen Rock of Ages yet? One of the stars of the movie, Tom Cruise, went to great lengths to prepare for the role. A recent article in People magazine reports that Tom did 10 hours a day of intensive voice and movement training, wearing leather pants, boots and hair extensions. And he did this for four months! His dance choreographer, Mia Michaels (who used to work on the dance competition show So You Think You Can Dance) said that she would count his new stomach muscles daily. (Witness photo at left for a peek at the ab muscles. Wowza.) And he worked on a signature howl with Ron Anderson, the same vocal coach who worked with Axl Rose. Cruise said he has not sung in a musical since he was in a high-school version of the musical Guys and Dolls. He is about to turn 50 and will spend his birthday filming a new movie in Iceland called Oblivion.

Sources: People magazine, June 25th and July 2, 2012 edition

Good Gossip is sponsored by CCF Brands, a Northwest Arkansas company which makes Great Day All Natural Eggs. These eggs are produced by happy hens who are fed premium vegetarian diets with no animal fats, animal by-products, or antibiotics. Great Day Farms also offers hard-boiled eggs, which you can find in the deli section of the Walmart Supercenter. (Love the hard-boiled eggs because they’re peeled and ready to eat! Perfect in salads.)

Birth Photography: Capturing those amazing moments

Note from the mamas: This post is part of the Motherlode Summer Remix series. The Summer Remix symbol appears on posts previously published on nwaMotherlode that were noted as a “reader favorite”. We heard from so many moms who LOVED this post. If you missed the original publication date, we hope you’ll enjoy this encore performance. Happy summer!

Did you just finish watching the slideshow above? Do you love it as much as I do? I’ve had three kids, and after watching that slideshow, it made me want to have another one just so I could have a slideshow of photos as beautiful as that one! If you have a pregnant friend, forward this link to her ASAP!

Moms love pictures and most of us make sure to have a camera handy for life’s biggest moments. But when you’re having a baby, it’s tough to be the one taking snapshots and capturing all those little details. When you’re in labor, you tend to be preoccupied with the HUMAN BEING COMING OUT OF YOUR BODY! It’s totally understandable. And let’s face it. Sometimes husbands can be useless with a camera, especially when they’re nervous and excited about witnessing childbirth. Not getting good photos of that incredible moment when you first meet your child is terrible, since you can’t get that moment back.

Melinda Worthington of MJW Photography has a solution to this dilemma. She now offers Birth Photography, which is when a professional photographer captures the special moments of your child’s birth. We had not heard of this type of service before, so we asked her a few questions about it. Below is our Q&A interview with Mindy about birth photography. If you want to talk to Mindy about it in more detail, just give her a call at 479-366-2702.

We’ve all seen snapshots taken in a delivery room, so how is birth photography taken by a professional photographer different?

A birth photographer is there to pay sole attention to documenting your day. Nothing will distract your photographer from capturing every detail of your baby’s birth through artistic eyes.

Are the photos graphic? Are camera flashes going off while the mom is trying to push?

I take great care to take flattering images throughout the entire process. There are various angles and framing techniques that I use so you won’t have to be embarrassed to share your images if you so choose. Birth sessions with me are done with available light. A flash of any kind is NEVER used.

What is your goal when you shoot a child’s birth?

Simple. To document the emotion and details. As a mother of 3, I can tell you that the details of my children’s births are fuzzy. I wish I had professional images of their births. To see the expression on my husband’s face, to remember the nurse in detail. These are all details that can only be kept alive through photography.

Are doctors and nurses okay with having a photographer in the delivery room?

They have always been very gracious and welcoming. In the event of a C-Section, I can document your journey into the hospital, preparation, and everything right after the birth including your family during the waiting process.

What do new moms seem to enjoy most about the birth photos?

That they have high quality memories. And that, thanks to these images, they will always remember the little things like what room number they were in, or the way her father gently brushed her hair out of her face during an early on visit. And the expression on her own face when touching her baby for the first time.

Childbirth is such a personal thing. Have you made friends with new parents through this process of shooting a child’s birth?

Yes! You’re right, it doesn’t get any more personal than this. That is why I will meet up for lunch or just a drink so that we can get to know each other before the big day. Trust me, you don’t want a stranger in your room. :-)

Why was it important to you to begin offering this special service? Do you have to be “on call” when a due date approaches?

It’s important to me because I wish I had it for myself. I can’t get my day(s) back, but I can certainly help others capture their baby’s birth. A mother very recently told me that during our latest rash of tornado scares, one of the items that went into the bathtub with her was the CD images from her baby’s birth. That says it all.

Yes, I’m on call for the week surrounding your due date. Because of this I will only take on one birth client at a time and never have less than 6 weeks in between their due dates.

Show us one of your favorite birth photos. Why does this one touch you?

It’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite! I’ll say that this image below is the heart and soul behind birth photography for me. It’s the first time mom gets to see and touch her new son. As a mom you’ll never ‘see’ that moment without professional birth photography. You need someone who is very comfortable photographing in often times poor lighting conditions and working around a hospital staff or a midwife during an at-home birth. This is a day you can’t re-shoot.


Giveaway: We all scream for ice cream!

It’s just not summer without lots and lots of cold, creamy ice cream, right?

If you feel the same way,  you’ll love this giveaway! We’ve got 10 Hiland Ice Cream packs to give away to 10 moms! Each winner will receive 2 Hiland ice cream coupons plus a cute little scoop to go with. One coupon is for a free 56-oz Old Recipe Ice Cream (approx. value $5-$6), and one coupon is for a free 56-oz Square of Ice Cream (approx. value $4).

If you’d like to win a YEARS’ WORTH of ice cream, check out Hiland Ice Cream’s Frosty Flavors contest. On the brand new Hiland Ice Cream website (click here), visitors can use the Frosty Flavors flavor creator to come up with a new flavor so good they think it could be the next flavor that Hiland Ice Cream should create.

Each flavor you create will gain you an entry into the Frosty Flavors contest. Along with bragging rights, the winner will receive FREE ice cream for a year! Hiland will also be giving away smaller weekly prizes through August 26, when the contest ends.

HOW TO ENTER: If you’d love to snag one of the 10 ice cream coupons/scoop packs, just click on the orange comment button below and tell us about your favorite flavor of ice cream OR the name of the Frosty Flavor that you created with Hiland’s flavor creator. We’d love for one of the Motherlode mamas out there to win a years’ worth of ice cream! (Be sure to tell us if you do!)

HOW TO ENTER THE FROSTY FLAVORS CONTEST: All you need to do is click here to jump over to the Hiland Ice Cream’s new website and use the flavor creator to come up with a new idea for Hiland’s next ice cream. Contest ends Aug. 26.

ABOUT HILAND DAIRY: “It all started in Springfield, Missouri in 1938 when two men, Mr. Putman and Mr. Carter, opened Hiland Dairy. The enterprising young men used a gas-powered electric generator to milk a 50-cow herd. They went door-to-door selling their fresh dairy products to local residents.

Today, Hiland has the distinction of being the only locally operated dairy. This ensures strict quality control standards that are never diluted or compromised. Our farmer-owners are responsible stewards of the land committed to healthy families and a healthy environment. We never use artificial growth hormones (rBST) or antibiotics.”

Hiland Ice Cream is available in supermarkets in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado and Texas.

Good luck in the giveaway! We’ll choose 10 winners on Friday!

Mealtime Mama: MOM’s Club members share weekly menus

Some mom friends of ours recently started sharing their weekly menus as a way to help pull each other out of the dinner doldrums.

I think we can all relate to these words from Fayetteville MOM’S Club member Shannon Jones: “I am so bored and frustrated with my dinner menu and I think with the kids being home full time this summer it is even more challenging with breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Another mom said, “Ugh, this is my biggest challenge as a mom. I recently read one of those funny e-cards “Why do they want dinner every single night?” — pictured a woman with her head held down on a kitchen counter. I felt that one.”

Here are a few of the recipes that were passed around among moms. Try sharing weekly menus/recipes with your own friends to help spice up family meals!

Chicken Vesuvio

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1.5 pounds baby red potatoes (tiny ones), scrubbed and halved

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 C. white wine

1.5 C. low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 Tbsp. butter

2 tsp. lemon juice

1. Dry chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.

2. Add remaining oil to pan and heat until shimmering. Cook potatoes, cut-side down, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, rosemary, oregano and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and broth, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and bring to boil. Return browned chicken to skillet on top of potatoes. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken and potatoes to serving platter; tent with foil.

3. Increase heat to med-high and cook, uncovered, until sauce is reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes, Stir in peas and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in butter and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and potatoes. Serve.

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce

From Fine Cooking magazine.

8 1/2 inch-thick boneless pork chopskosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T all-purpose flour
1 T unsalted butter
1 T EVOO1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup stoneground mustard

Season the chops with salt and pepper and dredge in flour; shake off excess. Put butter and oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.

When hot, add 4 of the chops and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides and just cooked through — about 6 minutes total.
Transfer the pork to a serving platter and tent with foil. Repeat with remaining chops, adding another T of oil to the pan if necessary.

Pour off any fat in the pan, add the wine, and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Increase the heat to medium high and boil until the wine is reduced to about 2 T, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cream, chicken broth, and mustard and boil until reduced to a saucy consistency, about 5 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.Return the pork and any juices (mmm) to the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, and then transfer back to the serving platter.
Drizzle any sauce remaining in the skillet over the cops and serve. It’s great with a rice pilaf or couscous to soak up the extra sauce, which is really, really good.

Crispy ranch chicken

3/4 c. Crushed corn flakes
3/4 c. Grated Parmesan cheese
1 envelope ranch dressing
8 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. Butter or Chobani Greek yogurt

Combine corn flakes, cheese, and dressing. Dip chicken in yogurt (or butter) and roll in corn flake mixture. Bake uncovered 350 for 45 minutes

Ozark Natural Foods is a locally owned consumer cooperative dedicated to participatory democracy. Its mission is to provide owners and the Northwest Arkansas community with natural and organic products that encourage healthful living and a sustainable planet. Click here to become an owner, which has all kinds of special benefits!


Devotion in Motion: When Bad Things Happen to Good People — Part 2

The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.  Psalm 145:17 (NKJV)

“The Foundation From Which We Work”

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

In every situation, it’s important to know who you’re dealing with. When I was about 5-years-old, I spent a week with my aunt and uncle while my mother was in the hospital.  As I was sitting in my uncle’s lap (an uncle that I adored), he suddenly noticed that my fingernails needed trimming and offered to cut them. I readily agreed — until he revealed that he did not have any fingernail clippers, and that he would pocketknife.jpgbe completing the task with his faithful pocketknife! When he saw my reluctance, he was clearly disappointed at my lack of trust.

My uncle told me that when his daughter was a little girl, she always let him cut her fingernails with his pocketknife. I asked him if the pocketknife made her nails rough and jagged. He said, “Oh, no. Perfectly smooth. I always keep my little knife very sharp.” Then I asked him if his daughter was ever afraid that he would cut her. I will never forget his answer: “Oh, no. She knew I would never cut her. I’m her father.”

At that point, I told my uncle that he could pare my fingernails with his knife. He completed the task quickly, smoothly, comfortably, and perfectly. I was amazed at how perfectly smooth my fingernails looked and what a nice “manicure” he had given me.  My uncle’s knife was keenly sharp, and he was wonderfully skilled. I would never entrust myself to the skills of a stranger, but I realized there’s no reason to fear when you’re in the good hands of someone who loves you.

If such is the trust we can have in an earthly father, how much more can we rely on our Heavenly Father? He would never slip and cut us; He is our Father. And, His finished work in our lives will be glorious. Today’s Scripture lesson (at the top) says that God is righteous in “ALL His ways” and gracious in “ALL his works.” He is too loving to ever be cruel, and too wise to ever make a mistake. In spite of our circumstances, we must always believe this—based on what He has told us in the Word and also from what we know in our hearts.

When you think of your Heavenly Father, remember that St. John said “God is love.” Dear mamas, start today to entrust your circumstances and the lives of your babies into the hands of the One who will never fail you; He is your Father.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” (Sing that to the title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man) He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is in the middle of his 25th year 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 21) and Seth (age 18) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the piano player, Miss Cheryl, once told the Preacher that she trusted HER father to cut her fingernails with his pocketknife when she was a little girl.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to


Editor’s note: This post is part of the Summer Remix series on The Summer Remix symbol appears on posts previously published on nwaMotherlode that were noted as a “reader favorite”. If you missed the original publication date, we hope you’ll enjoy this encore performance. Happy summer!

The Rockwood Files: The flip-flop frenzy

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Recently we took the kids to an amusement park. While the boys and I rode the big stuff, Tom chaperoned Kate on kiddie rides because his stomach is less forgiving and he has a healthier respect for gravity.

As the boys and I climbed onto rides and roller coasters, I noticed that there are now flip-flop storage cubbies at the front of the lines. Ride attendants announce that you should stow your flip-flops and other loose items into a cubby so you won’t lose them.

Inevitably, when the flip-flop announcement was made, half the people in line slid out of their so-called shoes and tucked them into the cubbies where they would then retrieve them after the ride.

Being a rational person with a healthy curiosity, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Why would someone wear flip-flops to an amusement park?”

Flip-flops to the beach? Sure, that makes sense because the flip-floppy action makes it easy to shake sand out from between your toes.

But flip-flops in a place where you’re likely to turn upside down while experiencing G-forces? Not to mention the miles of walking from one end of the park to the other? Have flip-floppers lost their minds along with any sense of appropriate footwear?

I hate to sound like a snob but, let’s face it, the flip-flop is a poor excuse for a shoe. It’s a slab of flimsy rubber attached to a wimpy, y-shaped strap. There’s not even a hint of arch support or toe protection. (And yes, I’m aware of how old and un-hip it sounds to be advocating for sensible shoes.) Nevertheless, I say the flip-flop is a shoe slacker – a foot freeloader.

When someone loses a toenail during the summer, you can almost bet a flip-flop was involved. The day shoe design technology was being handed out, flip-flops were off smoking weed at the beach.

That being said, there’s no denying the wild appeal flip-flops have for millions of people. Flip-flop lovers claim they’re the most comfortable shoes in the world. But I never liked the feeling of a strap between my toes any more than I like the idea of thong underwear running through other more personal valleys of my anatomy. Just feels wrong. If that makes me a shoe prude, then so be it.

In my mind, the flip-flop’s greatest asset is the ease in which you can be in or out of them. It makes them handy for fetching the newspaper and checking the mailbox. But if, God forbid, you should need to break into a sudden sprint to run from danger (a snake, perhaps), flip-flops are not your friend. They will flip and flop right off your feet as you flee.

Despite what I see as their many faults, flip-flops have cultivated a loyal, almost fanatical base, having grown into a 2 billion dollar industry in America. Long before people in amusement parks wore them, the ancient Egyptians flipped and flopped around the Middle East in them. Flip-flops have even been found depicted in cave drawings.

Research shows they caught on in America in the 1950s after soldiers brought them home from Japan as souvenirs. In Japan, they were called Zori’s but Americans renamed them for the signature sound they make as they smack up against bare feet.

Flip-flops have come a long way since then and, I’ll admit, there are some really cute ones out there, bedazzled with jewels, sequins, polka-dots, flowers and more. Some brides are even ditching their heels for fancy bridal flip-flops.

But I, for one, still haven’t flipped for them. In my book, they’re all flop.

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.

Crafty Mama: Lolli “Pop” Art with Imagine Studios

Guest post by Melanie Hewins, owner Imagine Studios

This is one of my favorite projects from the Imagine Studios’ Gourmet Gallery art camp.  It’s a simple project that’s not all that messy plus it’s perfect for any age.

The end result makes a tasty treat for the kiddos or you can give it away as a hand-made gift! Just wrap it in a cellophane bag and tie on a cute bow. You can also buy sugar-free candy to make it a slightly healthier treat.


  • Hard candy in assorted flavors and bright colors (Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers are great!)
  • Zipper plastic sandwich or snack-size bags
  • Lollipop sticks (Hobby Lobby)
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet
  • Hammer



  1. Preheat oven to 325°
  2. Cut pieces of parchment paper into approx. 4 x4 squares.
  3. Sort candy into like color piles
  4. Unwrap 2-3 pieces of each of the colors you want to use and place them into plastic baggies.
  5. Carefully seal the bag and place it on a hard surface—we go outside and use the concrete, but at home we use our granite countertops.
  6. Using the hammer, give each bag of candy a few hard whacks.  The candy should be crushed but not pulverized.
  7. Lay a square of parchment paper onto the cookie sheet and place a lollipop stick in the center.
  8. Create a design with your crushed candy.  You can do stripes, make a pattern, or go completely abstract.  Have fun and be creative!
  9. Place in oven for about 3 ½ to 4 ½ minutes.  It’s best to turn on the oven light and keep your eye on the suckers—remove from oven when the edges begin to bubble.
  10. I give the lollipop stick a quick twist right when I pull it out of the oven so the melted candy sticks better.
  11. While the candy is very hot, you can be more creative by adding candy sprinkles, gummy worms or other candies to the top.  Just don’t touch the hot candy!
  12. Allow to cool for about 5-7 minutes and then peel from parchment paper and enjoy!

Melanie Hewins is the owner of Imagine Studios, located in Village on the Creeks in Rogers, AR. She offers art workshops for kids and adults, summer camps, arty parties, paint-your-own pottery and more! Visit Imagine Studios website at

5 Minutes with a Mom: Shannon Langston

Name: Shannon Langston

Son’s name and age: Peyton Langston-6 (His nickname is Ptot)

What’s his personality like right now? He can light up a room! He truly brings out the best in people and is so empathetic and loving. He cracks me up at least 10 times a day. I mean belly laughs! Thankfully, he has my sense of humor. :)

How long have you lived in NWA? My dad was relocated to NWA when we were 9 so I”ve been here 21 years-this is home.

Tell us about your new job! I own a social event planning business where I started in the non profit sector, but was certified two years ago as a Professional Bridal Consultant and primarily coordinate weddings. But, being that we live in Walmart country my mother and sister are both established in the vendor world. I just got a position with Bayer and now have plenty of options!

When did you meet your husband? I met my husband when I was 9! Our older siblings dated for years and my husband and I were in band and basketball together. We knew it was true puppy love when I kicked him in the shin and he trash canned me. We flirted all through Junior High and High School. I was accepted to an all girls private college on the east coast and he was accepted to SMSU. We both ended up staying home to be close to family and his first day of college he walked into the Student Union at the U of A and my heart fell to my feet! I pursued him, as well as my twin sister, for months! We’ve been together 12 years and married 9.

Didn’t you recently get to mark off one of the big items on your “bucket” list? Yes. My older sister has always participated in pageants and has competed in the Mrs. Colorado Pageant for years and it was something that always intrigued me. I was about to turn 30 and trying to get those last 5 pounds off and decided to tackle a bucket list item all at the same time. I contacted the Pageant director and signed up to my husband’s dismay; I’ll prove anyone wrong,especially my husband! ;) I spent the next 6 months soliciting sponsorships, promoting mt platform on prematurity (I delivered twin boys when I was just 22 weeks pregnant) working out like a Nazi! My older sister paid for an interview coach and I rocked it. ;) It was the first time I’ve ever worn a swimsuit in front of hundreds of people without a cover up and I placed in the top ten! Not bad for my first Pageant experience! I’ve put 15 lbs on since November, maybe I  should run again!

What’s one movie you could watch over and over again? Father of the Bride! I think Hank inspired me to be an event coordinator!

What’s on your iPod right now? I’m very eclectic, but anything country! I love me some Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan!

Tell us about some traditions you have with your son: Birthdays and Christmas are always big events in our house! I always take a picture of my son on Christmas morning in footed pj’s and we always buy a cookie cake he designs for his birthday.

Favorite place to play in NWA? Peyton loves Fun City and Jump Zone! These are heaven for a child with sensory issues!

What are some hobbies you enjoy? I love to work in the yard and garden, run and read all the time. It sounds weird, but I clean constantly and I enjoy it! Peyton and I love to hang out by the pool, ride our John Deer Gator, jump on the trampoline, do puzzles and read together.

What’s something your friends might not know about you? I”m pretty much an open book! I surprise a lot of people when they find out I speak Arabic and studied in Amman, Jordan while in college.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world this summer where would it be? On a beach with my husband! We love to take a week long trip together just the two of us and live it up before we get back home to reality.

Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life? Gwyneth Paltrow!! I have always loved her as an actress and always hear that I look like her. One of my favorite stories is of a stewardess on a flight to CO waking me up to ask me if I was her! Never get tired of hearing that. :)

What’s something you have always wanted to learn? To play the piano! That’s one talent I didn’t get and I enrolled Peyton in classes last year. I’ll just have to live vicariously through him on this one!

How do you relax? I don’t think I do. I constantly tease my parents that one is ADD and the other is ADHD because I can’t sit still without feeling guilty that I should be doing or learning something.

One word to sum me up …Blessed.

*Photo credit Beaty Photography