• Christmas 2015: Where to see Santa this season in Northwest Arkansas!
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The Rockwood Files: Up against the wall

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

The interstate that connects my town to neighboring cities is under construction. It’s going from two lanes to a much-needed three. But during the road’s growing pains, construction workers have erected a concrete wall that runs along the left-hand side of the road right next to the yellow boundary line. And that wall? It scares me.

It’s not a tall, intimidating wall, but I get nervous when I enter that stretch of interstate. I tense up. I put my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and try to remember all the safe driving tips I’ve ever heard. I even hold my breath a little, as if that will somehow pull the sides of my car in and make it easier to fit down the lane.

road construction ahead2The barrier wall makes the lane look narrow, which makes me feel like I’m on a thin tightrope. Except instead of inching carefully along the tightrope, I’m hurtling down it at 70+ miles per hour. (Note to the state troopers: Please be advised that I only included that plus symbol because I’ve seen other cars on the interstate taking liberties with the speed limit. I would never do such a thing because I’m a law-abiding citizen who is never running late or daydreaming instead of paying attention to the speedometer.)

It would be hard enough to drive along the concrete wall if I was the only driver on the road. But inevitably, there’s at least one other car (or eighteen-wheeler) in the right-hand lane, sandwiching me between a wall and a hard place. That’s when things really get tense.

As I drive along gripping the steering wheel a bit too tightly, I tell myself over and over: “Don’t look at the wall. Don’t look at it.” Because I once read an article that said drivers who stare at a certain object also tend to steer their cars toward that object, sometimes colliding with it. It’s called “target fixation” or the “moth effect.”

So I do my best not to pay too much attention to the wall flying past my window in a blur. But it’s there. I can feel it. And I’m counting down the days until the newly expanded interstate is complete and that blasted wall finally comes down.

I drove on the interstate yesterday and felt myself relax and exhale once the construction zone ended and I entered the new part of the widened road. And that’s when it hit me: The width of the lane stays the same. It doesn’t get smaller because the wall is there. So why does driving feel so much trickier along the wall than it does when it’s gone?

The answer has everything to do with margin. When we’re up against the wall, there’s a voice deep inside reminding us of just how fallible we are. We’re human. We mess up. It just comes with the territory. But when we’re hemmed in by a wall, there’s no room for mistakes – no margin of error. We need to know that a slight bobble won’t send us crashing into a concrete wall.

Whether we’re on a literal road or navigating life in general, we all need breathing room. Not only do we need it on the interstate, we also need it in our day-to-day schedules. We need it in the expectations we set for ourselves.

If life is a highway, may we be on the one with wide, flat shoulders and a grassy, forgiving median. And instead of blindly racing through the miles toward our next to-do list item, may we appreciate the scenery, be kind to our fellow travelers and remember to enjoy the journey.

highway2gwen-headshot-2014Gwen 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 book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Sponsor spotlight: The Grove Bar & Grill

Happy Friday, mamas! One of our favorite things to do on the weekend is go out to eat and let someone else do the cooking AND the clean-up. A favorite new spot of ours in Rogers is called The Grove and you’ll find it Grove ad 2015 finaljust off the Pleasant Grove Road exit from I-49, in the Pleasant Crossing plaza in front of the Walmart Supercenter.

It’s a locally-owned and operated restaurant, and the food is GREAT. (You must try the fresh guacamole, and the chicken corn chowder is also amazing.) We recently interviewed one of the owners, Dave Bass, to get the backstory on what led to the birth of this new business, and his answers are below.

NOTE: The Grove has a Kids Eat Free policy all day every day. (And did we mention the free tablets they let kids play games on while you finish your meal? Yep. That’s genius.) And if you’re looking for a fun place to watch the Razorbacks play this weekend, this is the spot. There are tons of TVs and the atmosphere is family-friendly and lots of fun.

What was the inspiration behind opening The Grove restaurant? Have you always been a foodie?

grove exterior225Yes, I have always been a foodie. Some people eat for fuel where as I eat for the taste! When I decided I wanted to open a restaurant, I knew I wanted the food to be superb. I wanted to do an American Bar/Grill, if you will.

When my wife and I travel, we always try out the best restaurants we can find, according to Google and friends recommendations. It’s one of our favorite things to do.

We love the Razorback influence on The Grove’s interior design. How long have you been in Northwest Arkansas and what are some of your favorite things about living here?

I have lived all over the state of Arkansas and have been in NWA since about 1997. My favorite things about the area are the beautiful scenery, the people and Razorback football, of course!

What are your favorite three things on the menu right now and why?

grove burger190Tuna Tostada – It’s a good, light appetizer and pretty new to the menu.

Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger – I love a great burger, and we’ve worked hard to perfect ours.

Salmon al Rancho – Fish is also a favorite of mine. I like to eat healthy now and again.

You offer a Kids Eat Free (all day every day) policy. Why do you feel that it’s an important thing to do for local families?

We know that every dollar counts for a family and want them to be able to come out and enjoy a great family atmosphere dining experience and not have to worry that the bill will be astronomical.

What has surprised you most about the process of launching a new restaurant?

Everyone has different tastes and thinks differently of each item we have on the menu. It’s challenging and keeps us on our toes to be the best at what we offer and to find new items to add to the menu. At the end of the day, it’s rewarding.

Restaurants are often part of special occasions like birthdays, anniversary dinners, celebrations, Razorback game-watching parties, etc. Tell us about one of the special moments you’ve witnessed in the restaurant and what it’s like to be a part of family/community life in NWA.

grove cocktail180We had an office party for JB Hunt of about 40 people who got together in the bar area. They had a great time mingling and watching sports on the big screen. It was nice to see a big group enjoy it, and it makes all the hard work pay off.

Razorback games are also a hit. We have people come in and watch on the big screens, and we have drink specials along with a wing special, too! The game plays over the speakers so the whole restaurant can really get into it. It’s always a good time.

What do you wish more local women and moms knew about The Grove?

grove nabi190The Grove is not just a bar. Yes, we wanted to do the American Grill/Bar, but we are very family-friendly. We do not just serve “bar food” either. We strive to have the best quality food and at a good price, too.

Kids Eat Free all day, everyday and we even have tablets called Nabi’s for kids to play on while they’re here. (The tablets have educational games downloaded on them.) They’ve been a huge hit and they allow adults to relax and enjoy their meal.

Our thanks to the owners of The Grove for answering our questions and for sponsoring one of the most popular pages on the website, the Northwest Arkansas Kids Eat Free List. Hope you have a great weekend. We leave you with a few more mouth-watering photos from The Grove. Go Hogs!

grove collage

Christmas 2015: Where to see Santa this season in Northwest Arkansas!


Jolly Old St. Nick will soon be seen all over town!

He arrives at the Northwest Arkansas Mall at 6 tonight!

In celebration of Santa’s arrival, everyone is invited to attend a free performance by the Northwest Arkansas Dance Company at 6 p.m. in the Food Court.

After the performance, there will be a special reading of The Night Before Christmas by our celebrity guest reader, Jim Bodine, from Magic 107.9 radio. Afterwards, Santa will arrive at the Food Court and parade with children down to his holiday home at Center Court.

Photos with Santa will start immediately after the celebration of his arrival. Every child who visits Santa during the holiday season will get a special gift from Santa. In addition, the first 50 customers who purchase a photo package will receive a free gift (while supplies last). You know what else is cool about this Santa? He’s an interpreter for hearing impaired people, so he can communicate with hearing impaired children and parents.

Visits and photos with Santa will continue through Christmas Eve at Northwest Arkansas Mall. Santa’s regular hours are listed below:

*Regular Santa Hours from Nov. 21 – Dec. 23

  • Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Break from 3 – 4 p.m.)
  • Sunday, Noon – 6 p.m. (Break from 3 – 3:30 p.m.)
  • Christmas Eve hours are 11a.m. to 6p.m.

On December 7th and 14th you can bring your pets to Center Court to purchase photos with Santa from 6-8 p.m.

On December 12th, your kids can have breakfast with Santa from 8-10 a.m. at Mariachi’s Cantina at the NWA Mall. Tickets are $5 and kids 2 and under are free. Every child will receive a special gift. You can buy tickets at the Boys & Girls Club of Fayetteville or go online here: www.fayettevillekids.org.

Here are some other spots around NWA where you’ll also spy Santa this season:

Light of the Ozarks on the Fayetteville Square

santasThe Fayetteville Square will light up tonight (Nov. 20) starting at 6 p.m. with the Lighting Night parade. Festive floats, Razorback mascots, and even Santa will be there to join in the fun.

The lights illuminate the square each evening fom 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Nightly carriages and pony rides, fresh hot chocolate and festive holiday music are awesome, but . The romantic and breathtaking display of a half-million twinkling lights is cherished by the locals and visitors alike that stroll or drive through the Lights of the Ozarks each year.

You can also visit Santa on the Square. Santa is free to see (tickets are $2 to visit his reindeer) but there is a $5 fee for photos with Santa. Santa and his reindeer are out on the Square every evening until December 23rd from 6 to 9 p.m., weather permitting.

Lighting of the Bentonville Square

On Nov. 21, the Bentonville square will light up! Look for the First National Bank of NWA booth to get free photos with Santa from 4-6 p.m.!

fnbnwa santaCabela’s

On Dec. 5-6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., kids can visit Santa in the Octagon at Cabela’s and get a free picture and Cabela’s keepsake frame with Santa Claus. (Or you can take one with your camera). Cabela’s says: Due to the popularity of this event, photo printing wait time may vary, so please make sure to bring your patience!

The Jones Center

christmas show, jones centerOn December 12th, at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., the Ozark Figure Skating Club will present “It’s a Classic Christmas” at The Jones Center for Families in Springdale.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children 11 and under. This will be a fantastic family event showcasing the finest figure skaters in Northwest Arkansas. After the show, ticket holders are invited to skate with the cast and Santa. Concessions will be available. Visit www.ozarkfsc.org for more information.

Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall

Santa will be at Pinnacle Promenade in Rogers through Dec. 24 in the Food Pavilion.

The Walmart Museum

Santa Claus will be at the Walmart Museum (just off the Bentonville Square) and ready for pictures with you, your family, and friends. It’s free.

Here are the dates & times he’ll be at the museum:

Friday, December 4th from 5pm to 8pm

Saturday, December 19th, from 9am to 2pm

Wednesday, December 23rd, from 5pm to 8pm

NWA Circle of Friends, Santa’s North Pole Party

Circle of FriendsThis party benefits Arkansas Children’s Hospital and sounds like a blast. On Dec. 5, from 5-7 p.m., kids 2 and up are invited to St. Thomas Episcopal Church on 48th St. in Springdale to enjoy games, photos with Santa, stories and crafts.

Tickets are $10 for kids (adults don’t pay). They will also be collecting new, unwrapped gifts for Arkansas Children’s Hospital kids.


On Saturday, Dec. 5 and 12th from 1-4 p.m., your pet (and kids) can pose with Santa at Petco locations in Fayetteville and Rogers. For $9.95 you’ll receive a photo and keepsake frame and all proceeds  help homeless animals. We’ll bark — and meow — to that!

Farmland Adventures

Santa will stop by multiple times at Farmland Adventures in Springdale when they start selling Christmas trees and hosting fun winter adventures, which is new this year!

There will also be a shepherd and sheep for families to take pictures with at various times.

Click here to read a story about Farmland Adventures’ new winter hours, family activities (including a community campfire to enjoy!) and pre-cut Christmas trees.

Farmland adventures, Christmas trees

Five Minutes with a Mom: Laura Grutz

Laura Grutz

Name: Laura Grutz

Children’s names and ages: Son, Seth Grutz, Age 26, married to Lindsay; Daughter, Sidney Grutz, Age 24

What’s one movie you could watch over and over? We love movies, so there are many. However, probably Sleepless in Seattle, Princess Bride, or My Big Fat Greek Wedding are some that never get old.

Tell us about some traditions you’ve continued with your kids, even though they’re out of the “nest”: One is a silly tradition. When I was growing up, my mother would say, “Eeee, Bob!” to my dad anytime he was driving and she didn’t like what he did (like drive too close to someone or stopping quickly). So we started saying it, too, and still do. I also still do Christmas stockings for my kids each year that includes fingernail clippers and Chapstick.

Also, I’m not sure if this a tradition, but a family quirk—we use a LOT of movie quotes in our communication with one another.

Where does your family love to play in NWA? That’s one of the things that struck us when we moved to NWA in 2001—there were so many recreational choices! We love everything from Crystal Bridges, to the trail system, to hiking Lost Valley, to playing Bocce ball in Tontitown.

What’s something your friends might not know about you? I have a real thing for muscle cars.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world this winter, where would it be? Somewhere tropical, I love the beach. Or maybe Italy.

What’s something you have always wanted to learn? I have always wanted to learn more about brain development and the way the brain works. In my work, we are learning more and more about how trauma affects the brain. The brain is a fascinating organ.

Which three things do you always have with you? My phone (unfortunately), lip balm, and reading glasses.

Tell us about your work training foster/adoptive parents: I worked for child welfare for about two and half years before beginning to train foster parents for an agency that contracts with the Division of Children and Family Services. I have been training foster and adoptive parents and completing home studies for 12 years. At this time, the process consists of 27 hours of training plus the home study.

How can people find out more about how to be foster parents? People can visit the website:  http://www.fosterarkansas.org/ or call 479-442-4029 in our area for more info. We need more foster parents…and adoptive parents!

How do you wind down at the end of the day? A glass of iced tea or cup of hot tea (depending on the season) and a hot shower.

One word to sum me up … Dependable.

Flash Sale Alert! 10 dollars off a 3D Art Pen

ido3dAttention all sale-lovin’ mamas: If you’re trying to get the kids’ gifts bought and wrapped before the last minute, you may want to set the alarm on your smartphone and grab this toy when it goes on “flash sale” Thursday morning on Amazon from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. It’ll be $10 off the regular price, which means you can get it for $14.99.

big_sale_tagThe toy is called IDO3D and it’s a 3D art pen and a guide book that includes directions for how to make up to 25 different projects. It also comes with 5 ink pens.

We have not yet tried this toy out ourselves, but our tech-savvy friend Jen Adair and her two kids have tried it and they loved it. (Jen says she thinks it’s best for kids who are age 10 or older.)

Click here to see a video that gives you a little glimpse of what the toy can do. If your kids are into art and cool 3D effects, you might want to check this out and get it while it’s on sale between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Thursday (November 19th.)

If you grab one on sale, here are some tips (written by Jen and her kids) on how to make your 3D creations look awesome. Happy sale shopping!

ido3d tip sheet2