Blog 66: Things to do in Denver, Colorado

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Shannon and Gwen dreamed up this nwaMotherlode feature during a looong drive to a blogger conference in Nashville a few years ago. They interview bloggers across the U.S. (and beyond), looking for tips from the people who know their cities best. Most recently we chatted with bloggers a little closer to home in Little Rock. Twice!

This month, we head over to beautiful Denver with blogger Emily Vanek of Colorado Moms as our guide:

When you’re in Denver, you should definitely plan to eat at …

Casa Bonita! Where else can you see cliff divers and get endless sopapillas? Also Little Man Ice Cream or Sweet Cow Ice Cream are great places to beat the heat.

You do NOT want to miss seeing …

Denver-Mountain-Parks-Logo_smallRed Rocks. A park, hiking trails and the world famous amphitheater. Views of the city are just a hike away!

A few “hidden gems” that only the locals know about …

The splash pad at the Westminster Promenade. Hidden behind the hustle and bustle of the shopping area is a great wade pool area with tons of shade. There is also a great indoor play area at Cherry Creek Mall, perfect to let the kids run around when it’s cold or raining outside.

The most kid-friendly hotels are …

Omni Interlocken has a great kids program. Also the Curtis Hotel Downtown has themed floors and just steps away from the 16th Street Mall.

For couples-only excursions, stay here …

Cheyenne Mountain Resort just 90 minutes south in Colorado Springs. Great views, heated outdoor pool that can be enjoyed year round and great restaurants are nearby.

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

If you visit when it’s cold, you can enjoy …

Summit County. Just 90 minutes west to great Ski areas like Keystone, A-Basin, Copper Mountain and Breckenridge!

If you visit in the summer, you’ll like playing here …

water worldWaterWorld! A huge water park with tons of thrill rides, kiddie pools and fun for the whole family!

One of the most awesome things about Denver is …

You are only less than 90 min away from the best ski areas, great outlets malls and many other adventures!

I would describe the “vibe” in Denver as …

Laid back. Don’t be in a hurry, just find a great place to sit and stare at the Rocky Mountains.

Denver is a good vacation choice because …

There are tons of things to do all around Denver and into the mountains. Catch a game at Coors Field, visit the Museum of Nature & Science, take a hike around Bear Creek Lake.

emily vanek, blog 66Emily Vanek is the owner and editor-in-chief of ColoradoMoms.com. Her work is also featured on 5minutesforSpecialNeeds.com, SavvySource.com and TimetoPlayMag.com. She and her husband live with their three sons near Denver. Her youngest child is on the Autism Spectrum, so she is passionate about connecting with parents with special needs. In her spare time, she knits, shops, and reads. She is also a master tortoise wrangler and expert in getting water out of various electronics (don’t ask).

Life with Ladybug: Back to life. Back to reality.

shan at the beach

On our way back from Panama City Beach in Florida, we stopped by my parents’ house to spend the night – and to pick up a chicken.

No, not KFC. Against my better judgment, we were bringing home one of the chickens from my mom’s flock to join our lone chicken survivor, Tessa (we lost our other two chickens recently).

That morning, as we visited over my mother’s homemade waffles, she commented, “Well, vacation is over. Back to reality.”

I groaned at her words, but as I took another sip of my hot tea, I realized that the thought didn’t actually make me sad. I pondered over why that was and came to the conclusion that I love my work, my community, my life.

My reality doesn’t bite. So heading back wasn’t a bad thing.

Sure, there are plenty of things I’ll miss about vacation. Things like:

The food. No cooking! No clean-up! One of my favorite meals was at Great Southern Café (my daughter also gave this restaurant the Best Lemonade Award from along all the places we ate along the Panhandle). We also had fun seeing the alligators and eating crab legs at Bayou Bill’s Crab House. I’m not typically a sushi fan, but we also had a great experience at the restaurant FireFly. Our waiter was amazing and had actually lived in NWA for a time a few years back. I tried my husband’s Bubba Roll and it was gooooood. It was cooked, so I didn’t get all ooged out about raw fish. I also loved my Caesar salad with blue crab.

Great Southern Cafe salad

Great Southern Cafe salad

The sunsets. Wow, those Florida sunsets. Gorgeous.

sunset

The ocean sounds. I love the sounds of waves lapping against the shore. I even have a sound machine so I can hear the beach anytime, right here in Northwest Arkansas. Granted, it doesn’t sound exactly the same, but it still has a calming effect.

view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

Endless fun without the interruption of work. I didn’t say “Hang on! Just let me answer this one last email” even once. My daughter noticed.

The awesome pillows. Seriously, I miss my Holiday Inn Resort bed pillow. That was a first.

Riding bikes at Rosemary Beach. We had a great time riding around the little town. It’s so pretty!

That eclectic book store. We loved visiting Sun Dog books while we were visiting Seaside. It’s so adorable and we bought a few new beach reads (as if we didn’t already have a stack to mow through).

Sun Dog Books, Seaside

Sun Dog Books, Seaside

But, truthfully?

I’m glad to be back home where reality is doing laundry from the trip, jumping with both feet back into my work groove, setting up lunches with friends and enjoying Game of Thrones marathons with my husband (where I can mostly be found with my eyes shut tight, my fingers in my ears and humming so I can’t see or hear what’s on the screen).

That said, I do believe vacations – or even staycations where the whole family is out of their routine together – is a balm for the soul. It’s nice to be pampered and to experience the bonding that naturally happens when you have fun together as a family unit. And the beach is my happy place (my husband’s, too).

As I took my dishes to my mother’s sink after breakfast, I remembered that the day before we left Florida, my daughter expressed regret at having to come back home.

And I told her: “It is better to have vacationed and departed than to never have vacationed before.”

Au revoir, Panama City Beach. Hello, realistic {lovely} life.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com.

Check out Mercy’s new mobile health bus!

mobile unitWe all know people who are reluctant to go to a doctor’s office, right? And some people live so far out in the country that a trip to the doctor is a real challenge. So what if the doctors and nurses come to you?

Mercy has a new mobile health bus valued at $650,000 that will be used to reach rural communities and under-served patients throughout Northwest Arkansas and beyond. The 40-foot long bus is 8-feet wide and can provide everything from mammograms to heart screenings, giving people immediate test results. The bus may also be used for charity care services.

The bus is part of a $1 million dollar investment Mercy is making to reach more patients in need.

If you’d like to see the bus in person, you can get a tour of the new motor coach next week on Tuesday, July 29th at 10 a.m. at the General Mills office, which is located at 3605 Southern Hills Boulevard, Suite 300, in Rogers. (If your kids or teens are interested in the medical profession, this would be a cool experience for them to see this kind of mobile medical facility in person.)

Beauty Buzz: I’m too young for wrinkles!

beauty buzz, nwaMotherlode.com

Dear Andi,

I’m trying to be realistic about the aging process, but I feel like I’m getting wrinkles much earlier than my friends the same age. Is there something that could be causing this?

Barring basic genetics, where my understanding falls somewhere around “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,” there are habits you may have picked up over the years that are causing you to get more wrinkles than your contemporaries.

Unfortunately, some of the damage may have been done years ago and can’t be undone, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late.

Smoking, for one, even “socially” is notorious for causing the fine lines around the mouth that plague many women. (This of course is a superficial side effect, but we all know the spiel on smoking. If you’re not sure, ask your 3rd grader who will be brutally honest with you.) If you’re still a smoker, it’s not too late to stop and work on reversing the damage.

tanning bed gogglesTanning is more commonly associated with skin discoloration and age spots but still attribute to the new and unwanted texture that is aging your skin. Even if you have finally started listening to the warnings and applying the SPF, those baby oil days by the lake have a delayed effect that can take you by surprise.

The way you rest your head on your pillow can cause wrinkles to form on the dominant side, no matter how soft your pillow. I’ve heard plastic surgeons say they can tell which way a person sleeps just by looking at their face…yikes. Sleeping on your back is the best way to avoid the repercussions of your “beauty sleep”. Strategic placement of pillows can help you retrain your natural sleep position.

The same trouble can arise if you regularly lean on your left hand while working at a desk or rub your eyes and forehead in exasperation when you have told little humans TO PUT ON THEIR SHOES for the hundredth time.

Although it is almost unavoidable, pulling on your eyelids to put in your contacts or apply eyeliner can slowly reduce the elasticity of the delicate skin around your eyes. Try using your less dominant ring and pinkie fingers to pull the lids since they will be weaker.

So, what’s a mom to do?

Laser treatments, chemical peels and retinal treatments can help erase surface wrinkles and injections like Botox and fillers can root out some of the deeper wrinkles. But, none of these are permanent and can’t improve your overall skin quality on their own. That can be achieved by always using sunscreen on your face and hands (yup, unless you are a true southern belle and wear gloves everywhere, your hands are being constantly exposed to the UVs) and drinking plenty of water, as well as the changes I listed above.

I want to clarify before I go, there is nothing wrong with aging gracefully and loving the laugh lines you earned listening to endless knock-knock jokes, or the crows feet brought on by squinting into the sun at hundreds of baseball games.

I will never not have the freckles I earned at my many summer camps but the fact that my skin no longer bounces back after I apply eyeliner really bums me out. Embrace what makes you unique, including the steps you take to feel confident and beautiful.

One last thing: I recommend not watching videos of people getting injections online unless you are a healthcare professional or want the heebie-jeebies the rest of the day. (Shudder)

AndiAndi Douglas is the mama of three little ones and when she’s not playing house, reading them a book or trying to get them to go bed on time — adores playing with makeup. She loves to answer your beauty questions (including those about hair) so send ‘em on over! Just email them to mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com.

Mealtime Mama: Italian Style Roasted Peppers

mealtimemama-ONF

If  you love bell peppers (we do!), below is a unique recipe from the Ozark Natural Foods website to try this summer.

If you’d like to see other recipes on the ONF site, click here.

Italian Style Roasted Peppers

onf bell peppers4 large green bell peppers

1 large red pepper

2 large cloves garlic

3 Tbsp olive oil

Black pepper to taste

Directions: Wash and dry peppers. Place on greased baking sheet under broiler. Broil and turn peppers until skin gets black on all sides. Or, use tongs and hold over gas flame. Wrap in kitchen towel and allow to cool to touch (or place in paper bag and close) at least 10 minutes. Peel off charred skin, remove stem and seed. Cut into thin strips. Mix pepper strips with garlic, olive oil and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

ONF storeOzark Natural Foods is Northwest Arkansas’ natural-foods Co-op, owned by a community of more than 10,000 investors, most of whom live in Northwest Arkansas. ONF has been an essential part of the community for more than 40 years, growing with Fayetteville and the surrounding area.

Devotion in Motion: Be a peacemaker

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Matthew 5:9 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Editor’s note: The following is part of a series of posts on the “Desiderata,” (which is Latin for “the things to be desired,”) The following two lines are taken from the poem.

Editor’s note: This column follows last week’s post about the Desiderata (Latin for “the things to be desired.”) The following two lines are taken from this beautiful poem. – See more at: http://nwamotherlode.com/nwacontent/devotion-in-motion#sthash.3ep8F6p9.dpuf

“As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”

If you’ve got a household repair you need to do quickly, it’s awfully nice to have one of those cheap screwdriver sets. You know the set I’m talking about — it comes in a plastic box and has a handle with a bunch of interchangeable fittings. I wouldn’t want to put together a jungle gym with one, but for little jobs it can’t be beat. It’s nice to have one screwdriverhandle that works in so many situations.

My teachers have given me words of advice that are just like that screwdriver handle. A high school English teacher told me something I’ve found to be fascinating because it’s almost always true: “If you look, you can always find one more of anything.” Try this one out the next time you need one more hanger, one more Band-aid, or one more dime. You can’t always find two, but you can almost always find one more of anything.

My New Testament Theology professor, Bro. Robert H. Smith, gave me a word of advice that has guided my life ever since I heard it. He said, “John, don’t ever ‘burn a bridge behind you’ on purpose. You’ll do enough of that already on accident.” Whenever I’ve left a job or a situation, I’ve tried to remember what he told me. And as a result, I’ve been able to return again to previous employers, duties, and settings. It’s wonderful to cross back over a bridge you had the foresight not to burn.

In every circumstance in life, there are bound to be misunderstandings, friction, and aggravations. On “your way out,” it’s tempting to comment on injustices, explain the moral correctness of your actions, or take a parting shot at settling the score. But when you do that you always wind up looking like a small, petty person.

When my boys were tiny, Spencer was pestering Seth at the supper table. I told him, “Stop it, Mr. Troublemaker.” Spencer’s reply to me was both humorous and illuminating: “Okay, Mr. Peacemaker.”

I know my son was just making a joke, but I hope I can always find real ways to be a peacemaker in this broken world. The Bible tell us that “peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18) That’s the reward for building bridges — instead of burning them behind you.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 28 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, and until recently taught Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where Autumn is in the air.) Their kids include Spencer (age 22), his wife Madeline (age 22), and Seth (age 19).

remix (4)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!

The Rockwood Files: Are you crazy busy?

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

A few years ago, I got a phone call from a friend and, as soon as I said hello, she said, almost apologetically, “Hey! It’s me. I hate to even call you because I know you’re extremely busy so I’ll make this fast…”

It was a light bulb moment that woke me up. Sure, I was busy. But was I so busy that I’d begun to miss out on the things I want most? Like conversations with good friends? Non-hurried time with family? A sense of calm? Because if I was, I needed to get a lot less busy – and fast.

Since that phone call, I’m more careful about how I answer the question, “How have you been?” Before, I might have rattled off a list of projects I was working on or how many loads of laundry I had piled up or how many times a week I drive the kids from here to there. I thought being busy was a sign that you were not only a productive member of society but also important, goal-oriented – necessary.

We Americans wear “busy” as a badge of honor. We mention how few hours of sleep we’re surviving on lately. We’re bone-tired but also confident that the constant flurry of activity is proof that our lives are not only full but meaningful.

But “busy” can become a beast – one that grows bigger and hungrier before we notice how much it’s eating us up. The beast cons us into thinking we’ll have time to slow down later – when things aren’t so busy. But the beast lies.

crazy busyI just finished reading an insightful book about busyness, which I spotted during a rushed trip to the store. It jumped out at me because there on the book’s green cover were two simple words that describe so many of the people I know: “Crazy Busy.”

As a recovering busy-aholic, I knew I should read it. (If you’re often slave to a beastly “to do” list, you might want to read it, too. It’s a short book, so it won’t become one more thing you’re “busy” doing.)

The author, Kevin DeYoung, admits he might be “the worst possible person to write this book.” As a minister, husband, father of five, author, speaker and blogger, the guy is about as busy as they come and struggles to not let his own busyness become crazy.

One of my favorite parts of the book is a passage about how much our own sense of pride factors into our busyness. Maybe we don’t always have to run in a zillion different directions, but we choose to because we’re afraid of missing out on something. Maybe we sacrifice the kind of life that’s important to us so we can keep up with the hustle and bustle of a life that just seems important. The author also points out how we often use technology to ensure that we’re never truly un-busy.

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m so busy because I’ve come to believe the lie that busyness is the point,” he writes. “And nothing allows you to be busy – all the time, with anyone anywhere – like having the whole world in a little black rectangle in your pocket.”

He doesn’t recommend ditching your iPhone and sitting on a yoga mat all day, and he’s careful not to make work sound like a bad thing. We’re supposed to be busy but not at the expense of things (and people) that make life truly worthwhile.

I don’t think busy is always bad. It’s a way of life for most of us. But it’s not the meaning of our lives. It’s not the whole point. And it would be a shame to miss out on life’s blessings just to keep feeding the beast we call “busy.”

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

Gardening: When, how long and how to water

By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

We have had a really pleasant beginning to summer with warm days and plenty of rain. It’s very rare to make it to the beginning of July without having to occasionally break out the sprinkler system for the vegetable garden. This year has been the exception, which makes me happy because I have yet to set up my rain barrels, and am not excited about a significant increase in my water bill. Because I know dryer days are coming, I am prepared to water the garden when it’s needed. Here are a few tips for watering your garden.

When do I Water?

Containers and raised beds dry out faster than in-ground gardens, so they require more frequent watering than in-ground plants. The rule with watering anything — houseplants, outdoor containers, in-ground plants, etc. — is to water when the soil is dry one inch below the surface

How Long do I Water?

The duration of watering depends on your watering method; drip irrigation systems will water more slowly than an overhead sprinkler. Making sure you water thoroughly will take some trial and error. Water for 30 minutes, then dig a hole and see how deep the water has penetrated. Adjust your timing as needed to make sure water reaches the plant roots at 4 to 6 inches deep. Water after dusk or before dawn to keep evaporation to a minimum. Mulching well also prevents evaporation.water sprayer

What is the Best Method?

There is no one-size-fits-all method of watering. For small gardens and containers, a hose end sprayer works well. For large gardens, an overhead sprinkler is a frugal option, while a drip irrigation system offers an efficient use of water. For gardens close to the house, a rain barrel provides the best solution for free, biologically active water which is the best option for a healthy soil environment. Think about your budget and the size of your garden before deciding on an irrigation system. A combination of systems may work well for a large yard; consider a rain barrel for a small garden close to the house and a large overhead sprinkler for the veggie garden.

Dry spells are hard to anticipate but we almost always have at least six dry weeks in the summer, sometimes a lot more. Have your irrigation plan in place before the hot, dry days get here so you are prepared to keep your plants happy and healthy.

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at www.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook, instagram and on twitter.

Inside His Head: Husband with wandering eyes?

insidehishead2.jpg

Dear Inside His Head husbands,

Whenever we go to the local pool, my husband always stares at other women. I’m not really the “jealous type” but he is so obvious that I can’t help but notice. How can I convince him he’s being a jerk?

greg1thumbnail.jpgGRAY: You can’t. I’d suggest you get him a pair of mirrored sunglasses so you won’t know what direction he’s looking in anymore.

It’s just in men’s nature to look and if you’re stuck with some poor schmuck who does everything short of having his tongue loll out and drool then I can only thing I can say is: you’re the one who married the fool. The rest of us at least believe we’re a bit more cunning about sneaking glances. And if you think you’re married to a guy who doesn’t sneak a peek at women at all, then you’re just not watching
him close enough.

glasses.jpgSo I suppose the only conclusion to be drawn is all men are jerks and your oogle-eyed man is simply got a bit more in the jerkdom department than most. If you want to change his behavior I suggest stern measures, like a Louisville Slugger, but that may only make him bedridden and a bit slower to pick up on your hints.

And why do we stare? Well, it’s really all your fault as women. If you weren’t nice to look at we’d undoubtedly spend more time watching football instead.

marty3thumbnail.jpgMAX: “She doesn’t have to convince him he’s a jerk. He IS a jerk, a big, fatheaded jerk, whether he thinks he is or not.” ~ My wife

I couldn’t find a suitable, pithy quote to start my answer, until my wife read the question over my shoulder and provided one ad hoc. The quote works because, well, it’s absolutely true. Men, don’t ogle girls in front of your woman. You break this rule, you’re an ass.

You must tell him immediately that this behavior is disrespectful and insulting. This should solve the problem with a decent man. If it doesn’t, then his ogling is a symptom of a much larger problem: He doesn’t respect you enough to stop a behavior you find offensive.

If he continues to leer, I would strongly suggest you get some form of counseling or some form or lawyering. Or, as my lovely wife suggests, “Next time the bleeping fatheaded bleep stares, make a big bleeping fire out of his bleep in the front yard.”

johnthumbnail.jpgMAVERICK: Wow, what pool do you hang out at???

Well, he’s not really being a jerk unless you’ve told him to quit peering at the other ladies and he keeps doing it or he’s actually leering and drooling.

And make sure there’s no double standard. If you eye-boink guys and comment on their builds (and face it ladies, more and more of you are doing just that) don’t expect your husband to put on the blinders.

Only other real issue is if he’s staring at young women who are, shall we say, just barely young women. That’s really uncool.

bikini.jpgGuys will look. We can be discreet about it, though. Tell him he looks like a creep. If he gives a fig, tell him it bugs you to see him ogle other women. Both are viable reasons not to let our whole heads turn or our tongues loll when a nicely proportioned women walks by.

But we’re only human, and we’re guys. We should get points for at least trying and not be taken too much to task if we are tempted by exceptional shapes in tiny packages.

To read more Inside His Head, click here.

remix (4)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!

Fasting from TV this summer: Why you’ll be glad you did

tv fast

By Shannon Magsam, nwaMotherlode.com co-founder

The summer I turned 17, I traveled across the United States (and Bermuda – hard job!) in a huge tour bus with a Christian group called the Continental Singers.

I was one of the youngest among the group of singers, guitarists, drummers and sound techs. We were often in a different city every night and stayed with host families from the churches where we performed, everywhere from Florida to Texas.

When I returned home just before my senior year in high school, I realized I hadn’t watched television – or seen a movie (nobody had Facebook back then) – the whole summer. And then I realized I hadn’t missed it one little bit.

My family recently went on vacation and about mid-way through I mentioned (with a little surprise) to my husband that we hadn’t watched television in our hotel room at all. He told me he had consciously not turned it on. We decided we’d continue to literally unplug for the remainder of our trip.

It turned out to be an awesome idea.

Want to join us one week this summer in a TV fast? Here’s why you’ll be glad you did:

Top 5 reasons to unplug (so you can plug in to your family – and yourself. Remember you?)

You’ll be more connected. Without the television’s numbing qualities, you’ll naturally talk more to your family — and get to know each other better. You’ll think of deeper things to ask besides, “How was your day?” and “What do you want for dinner?” You might even ask your husband or kids something like, “What’s making you happy lately?” or “What’s making you unhappy?”

paint brushYou’ll be more creative. Chances are, with the extra time you would normally spend sitting on the couch, passive, you might realize you can work on a project you’ve been hoping to tackle. My daughter drew in her sketchbook a lot while we were in Florida and I wrote down ideas for future blog posts (and jotted down a few ideas for a novel I’d love to write). Getting reacquainted with out our creative genius is grounding and finishing a project can be really rewarding (painting project done, craft with the kids completed, clean garage shining, organized office beckoning).

You’ll be less stressed. Have you ever heard of second-hand stress? It’s a real thing. If you sit next to someone at work who’s a stress ball, you’ll start to internalize it and feel anxiety, too. And like second-hand cigarette smoke, that stuff can kill you. I get stressed while watching TV shows, too. I’m naturally empathetic and if there’s an emotional or violent scene, I’m right there with the wronged party. I can literally feel my blood pressure rise and I often pace the living room when certain scenes fill the screen. And while you’re fasting from television, why not also take a break from the Internet (social media, that is; I know some of you have to use a computer at work). Research shows that as time spent on reading Facebook increases, for example, the more a person’s happiness decreases. Social comparisons are not your friend.

You’ll be a better parent. How many times do you shoo your kids out of the room when you’re watching a TV show that’s not really age appropriate for them? I’m picky about what my daughter sees and it seems like she happens to walk through every time something inappropriate pops up on, say, The Big Bang Theory. There will be 10 full minutes that are completely fine for her to watch, then watch out: a zinger. Or heck, the commercials can make me cringe more these days than some of the TV shows. The other day we were all watching some completely innocuous TV show and the commercial for the movie “Sex Tape” came on. It was horrifying for me and my daughter.

You’ll have more s*x. When you’re not sitting like a zombie in front of the TV, you’ll have more time for lots of activities, including some that involve your husband. S*x is healthy. It strengthens your relationship, it naturally boosts your mood, and it burns calories.

#winning.

Now, I won’t lie: The night we got home from vacation, we grabbed our favorite snacks and sat rapt in front of the boob tube. And it was glorious. It was nice to zone out and travel to another world (this one filled with Starks and thrones and back-stabbing, oh my!).

But the TV fast was so successful that our family will be doing it again this summer.

shan, blue dress, circleWant to join us? Let me know in comments if you’re willing to take the plunge — or if you’ve lived through a TV fast in the past.

Good Gossip: Catching up on celeb news

good gossip celebrities

Yes, we do love a little celebrity gossip but we also know it’s not cool to do something we teach our kids NOT to do. It’s never okay to indulge in stuff meant to humiliate or hurt another person. That’s why we came up with the concept of “Good Gossip,” which is celeb news minus any mean stuff. Have as much as you want because this “dish” is all guilt-free.

As always, this feature is sponsored by Great Day Farms, a national brand based right here in NWA. Look for their products at the Walmart Supercenter. Click HERE to like them and get coupons on their Facebook page.

jessica simpson3 You know how something unexpected happens at almost every wedding? Jessica Simpson‘s recent wedding ceremony had its own little surprise. Jessica and her now husband Eric Johnson said they were both worried about their two kids (ages 2 and 1) toddling down the aisle successfully as part of the wedding party. Both kids did a great job, and the groom scooped them up when they made it to the altar. But when he bent down to scoop, he split his pants! Jessica said, “After the ceremony, when everybody left, Eric was in his boxers and tux jacket. There’s always got to be something that happens!” The groom got new pants for the reception, which featured plenty of dancing and stretched into the early morning hours. You can read all the wedding details in the latest edition of People magazine.

savannah guthrie2Expecting her first baby soon, Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of The Today Show, enjoyed a baby shower thrown by some of her friends and co-workers, including Gayle King, Hoda Kotb, Deborah Roberts and Kathie Lee Gifford. The friends showered her with kids’ books and treated her to lunch at the Glass Houses restaurant in New York City. Savannah said the baby-size bites prepared by the chef “were so cute you didn’t know if you should eat them or hug them.” Savannah’s baby is due next month.

zac efron2Looks like Zac Efron might be in a new relationship with actress Michelle Rodriguez. The two were spotted splashing around together on the coast of Sardinia, Italy.

heidi klum2Model and businesswoman Heidi Klum also likes to cook and she’s using her kitchen skills to help out a charity called “God’s Love We Deliver.” She said she has been chopping and cooking for them for the past 10 years. The organization has a huge kitchen where they prepare individual meals for people who are too sick to cook in the New York City area. “Whenever I’m in New York, I go into their giant kitchen and take orders: Chop these 2,000 peppers, peel these 1,000 carrots. I’m part of a prep station in a group that delivers more than 1.2 million nutritious meals a year. …For so many mothers, too weak to get out of bed and struggling with sickness — I’m glad this is one less thing they have to worry about.”

Source: People magazine, July 21, 2014 issue

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.)

What We’re Reading: Books that will have your kids begging for more!

whatreading FPL

By Devin Fell, Fayetteville Public Library Youth Librarian

At the Fayetteville Public Library, we are always looking for new picture books that will appeal to you and your kiddo.

We know the classics such as, “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney and “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown are always a hit but if you are looking for something to spice up your quality read aloud time, these creative novels will have your child giggling and begging to race back to the library to pick out more new books!

digger dog

Digger Dog by William Bee

Digger Dog loves to dig up bones. What dog doesn’t? His nose has led him to his latest find but it is proving to be his most difficult task yet. He quickly abandons his shovel in favor of bigger and BIGGER construction equipment because the job must get done!

With the use of fold out pages and bright, patterned pictures, this is a fun but simple book that will have a child yearning to find out what’s on the next page.

The Geese March in Step

The Geese March in Step by Jean-Francois Dumont.

“One, two; One, two” cries Igor, the leader of the geese flock, as they take their daily march down to the pond near the farm. Nothing makes Igor happier than the sound of his flock in perfect rhythm until he hears, “One, two; One, two, TAP; One, two; One, two, TAP”.

Furious to find someone out of sync, Igor determines the cause is young little Zita, a new goose to the group. Banished for her lack of focus, Zita slumps away in shame, thinking, “I’m really no good as a Goose”, as the tears begin to fall with a “splash, splash, splash, SNIFF”. She passes many farm animals on her lonely walk to the pond who contribute noises of their own to a growing rhythm that will have children moving to the beat.

The watercolor artwork is reminiscent of your typical rural paintings, bringing to life the calm scene that is disrupted by quirky animals. This is a perfect read aloud, especially for a group audience, so that children can join along in creating the beat that leads Zita to a happy ending.

Paul_Meets_Bernadette

Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb

Paul is a goldfish with nothing to do but swim. He swims up, down, right, left, around and around. He’s content with the world he knows, until Bernadette drops into his bowl to open up his eyes to the things around him. Their imaginations run wild as they ponder the objects around their little home and what they could be.

When Paul spots a teapot, Bernadette informs him it is an elephant and that, “She is not too dangerous but you must not disturb her when she is feeding her babies” (a.k.a. tea cups). Children will giggle with the hilarious suggestions and love correcting these little goldfish.

Rosy Lamb is the author as well as the illustrator and her use of oil paintings is engaging and brilliantly colorful, so that the objects seem to come right off the page. This whimsical tale is fun for ages 3-6 and teaches children to keep their eyes open to the opportunities around them.

camp rex

Camp Rex by Molly Idle

Are you looking for a way to encourage children to get out of the house? With summertime upon us, this new picture book tells the tale of hiking, camping, and canoeing with some very friendly looking dinosaurs and their human companion. Wilderness safety tips are strewn throughout the text while the pictures tell the tale of consequences for those who do not listen to the rules.

This subtle humor will be appreciated by an older preschool audience, particularly when the dinosaurs are chased by the much smaller, but equally intimidating, hoard of bees. The dangers are balanced with fun, as dinosaurs munch some delicious looking s’mores, something children (and adults) can’t resist.

The worn out but happy campers make the trek back home for some additional adventures, emphasizing that “Experienced campers are as much at home in the great outdoors as they are in their own backyard”.

faylibsum2014The Fayetteville Public Library has got it going ON this summer! Workshops, camps and activities galore for kids, teens and adults! Click here for the whole list of activities.

Devotion in Motion: Never-ending information

10 Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Editor’s note: This column follows last week’s post about the Desiderata (Latin for “the things to be desired.”) The following two lines are taken from this beautiful poem.

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

When the last hurrah of Hurricane Katrina hit our house back in 2005, we were left without electricity for 3 weeks and without running water for 2 weeks. We ate a lot of picnic food, took sponge-baths with pans of water, and for entertainment played Scrabble by lamplight. I remember those 21 days as being very peaceful — and very quiet.

Reading a bit of history, I had a realization. For Abraham Lincoln (and all those other folks in the history books), each and every day had no electric lights and running water. And it made me realize that “Honest Abe’s” brain was surely a lot quieter than my brain. He had no television, radio, iPod, iPad, laptop, CD player, or cell phone to disrupt his thoughts. He was an avid reader, but books were scarce back then. Have you ever noticed how quiet everything is when the power goes out? For President Lincoln, that kind of silence was “standard operating procedure.”

peace & quiet exitThe truth is, we are probably hit with more media in a week than President Lincoln experienced in his entire lifetime. We’re bombarded with nonstop sound and fury every day. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Never-ending information is a new development in the history of mankind. And I’m not sure we were designed to handle this overload of constant mental stimulation.

Something I’ve discovered is that too much “talk”— be it from television, radio, or the Internet — absolutely wears me out. I’m a person who doesn’t like conflict or confrontation. Have you noticed how many programs consist of people discussing problems or arguing with one another?

I’ve found that I feel a lot better if sometimes I take a break from the media. God has promised to give me enough strength to deal with my problems. But there’s no profit in wearing myself down by listening to disagreements that really aren’t my business.

Something else I’ve found is that when I’m really stressed, I can help myself by listening to music — specifically music without words. (I learned the power of wordless music from a friend who has now gone to be with the Lord.) Instrumentals provide better stress relief than vocals probably because they free up the part of the brain involved in verbal reasoning and problem solving.

When I’m having a rough day, I listen to instrumentals. I’m not just talking about “elevator music.” Depending on your mood, you could listen to hymns, show tunes, symphonies, easy listening, the Pops, real jazz, or a dozen other options. Try it out and see how it works for you.

Better yet, when things are hectic, try to find a few minutes of silence. As today’s Scripture lesson (at the top) teaches us, “Be still and know that He is God.” Unplug or power down all the electronics. Spend time with the Lord. And then listen to the peace and quiet.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 28 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, and until recently taught Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where Southern Pine Electric used to go off every time it thundered.) Their kids include Spencer (age 22), his wife Madeline (age 22), and Seth (age 19).

remix (4)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!

The Rockwood Files: What are you afraid of?

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Last night I let our Beagle Charlie out into the backyard for his usual “last call” potty break before going to bed for the night. I walked away from the door and soon after heard him start barking furiously.

Afraid he’d wake the neighbors, I rushed back to the door and turned on the outside lights so I could see if he’d treed a squirrel or spotted a rabbit. Instead, I saw our fearsome “guard dog” barking his fool head off at a large bag of garden topsoil that Tom had left in the yard earlier that day.

Charlie bwEven though Charlie’s bark sounded threatening, I could tell that the bag of topsoil was winning the fight. Charlie slowly circled it, leaving at least a 10-foot perimeter between him and the bag. Every now and then he’d flatten his belly to the ground and cower, as if the bag might sprout legs and chase after him at any second.

I stood there, wondering how long it would take before he figured out that the bag was a non-threatening, inanimate object. I wish I could tell you he realized it quickly. He didn’t. Even after he got close enough for an investigative sniff, he still ran away from it skittishly, afraid of just how much he did not know about the hulking yellow bag.

Of course, it’s easy for me to mock our scaredy-dog for being afraid of a bag of dirt. But the truth is, Charlie and I are not all that different. I worry about the “what if’s” as much or more than anybody.

When the kids were little, I, like many new moms, worried about strangers jumping out of bushes and kidnapping them. I couldn’t help myself. I kept a protective hand on them almost constantly and was always scanning crowds for anyone looking suspicious. It felt like it was hard-wired into my maternal DNA.

One day I was reading a news article about crime rates and was surprised when I read a statistic that said child abduction rates have actually gone down over the years and that the chances of a child being abducted by a stranger are actually less than the risk of a child being hit by lightning. I told Tom about it, and he said, “See? That means you can stop worrying so much. Doesn’t that make you feel better?”

A rational person would have said “Yes, it does,” but instead I said, “I had no idea that lightning was such a threat!” And from that point on, I was afraid of kidnappers AND thunderstorms. Tom just shook his head and muttered something about me being ridiculous which, I admit, was fairly accurate.

What I’m realizing lately is that we all have something that scares us that probably shouldn’t. For me, it’s the beginning of a novel I started writing months ago and have been too afraid to continue writing because, well, it might be really bad. Or even terrible. What if I finish it only to find that it’s an embarrassment, a 50,000-word failure? That unfinished novel is a big bag of the scary unknown – just like Charlie’s bag of topsoil. So I bark my excuses at it and keep skittishly avoiding it even though part of me wants to take it on just to see if I can.

I guess the real trick in life is knowing the difference between a healthy fear that keeps you safe as opposed to an intimidating fear that keeps you stuck. The former will keep you alive and the latter will keep you from truly living.

For Charlie, for me and perhaps for you, too? It’s time to stop barking at bags.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

Funny Friday: Dog shows baby how it’s done

I first saw this video on the national news with Diane Sawyer. If you didn’t see it, here’s your chance. It is SO stinkin’ cute.

Not only is the baby in this video beyond adorable, the dog who’s trying to help her learn how to crawl is crazy cute, too. Enjoy!

Have a GREAT weekend. :-)

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