High mileage

When I was growing up, we kept our navy blue Pontiac Bonneville a long time – mostly out of necessity and partly because my mother had a hard time letting go of things, including cars, empty Cool Whip bowls and every picture I ever colored in the second grade. At one point, the car’s headliner – that fabric on the ceiling of the car’s interior – started to pull away from the roof and sag down like an inverted parachute. Before it got low enough to brush against the tops of our heads, we performed a do-it-yourself fix using thumbtacks. We spaced them out evenly which created a quilted appearance, and we used gold thumbtacks, which did not add the [...]

Wheels on the bus

My kids used to ride the bus. Now they don’t. Now I spend more than an hour in the car on weekdays sitting in long car lines at three different schools so I can pick them up. It’s not one of my favorite activities, although I’m slowly learning how to make better use of my “sitting in the crazy long car line” time. So why don’t I just make the kids ride the bus like they used to? I’ll tell you. The bus has changed. When my kids first started riding it in elementary school, they had this incredible bus driver named Ms. Virginia. Every time she pulled up at the stop sign, it felt like Mother Goose herself had [...]

Falling out of “like”

Dear Facebook, We need to talk. I think we need to take a break. It’s not you, it’s me. Okay, maybe it’s a little bit you. It’s not that you’re a “bad” social media platform. You’re not. It’s just that when I spend time with you, I feel like a loser. And I just don’t think my self-esteem can take much more of this relationship. Please don’t take this the wrong way. There’s a lot to like about you. Thanks to you, I get to see adorable pictures of nieces and nephews and watch them grow up even though we’re hundreds of miles away. And I love the way you make me laugh sometimes. That video of the hamsters spinning [...]

Lost and found

If I had a business card for my job as a mother, the job description would read “Finder of Things.” Because that’s what I do. I find things. I love my husband and kids but they’re terrible finders. And I wouldn’t mind it so much if they weren’t also excellent losers. The most frustrating part of the problem is that I consider our house to be somewhat organized and generally tidy – certainly not “eat off the floor” tidy, but it’s what I’d call a “someone could stop by the house unannounced and I wouldn’t die of embarrassment” level of tidy. Chaos makes me anxious, so I organize things to make it easier for us to find and keep up [...]

Beagle trouble

Charlie Brown and I have something in common. We’re both in love with and completely exasperated by a beagle. My fondness for Snoopy was one of the reasons I happily welcomed a beagle into the family nearly four years ago. The kids named him Charlie. At the time, I had no idea how many times I’d stand at the front door and call that name over and over again, waiting for our wayward beagle to come home. Perhaps I should have known a beagle would be trouble. There were plenty of clues in the Peanuts comic strip that should’ve tipped me off. Snoopy clearly had a passion for adventure, as evidenced by those daredevil flights as the Red Baron. And [...]

Phone Alone

My name is Gwen Rockwood and it’s been two hours since I accidentally left my phone at home. I realized it roughly 20 minutes after it happened, and by that time I was already 15 miles from home with no time to drive back and get it. When I reached over to the passenger’s side seat to grab it, I found nothing but a lifeless charger cord with no phone attached to it. I hoped that perhaps it had slid off the seat and onto the floorboard. I searched the cracks and crevices around the center console. “Please be here. Please be here,” I chanted. But it wasn’t. My phone was home alone. I wanted to slap my hands against [...]

Microwave obituary

The Rockwood family microwave, affectionately called “Mike,” died suddenly in the home on August 6, 2015 while attempting to reheat day-old pizza. It was 10 years old. The microwave is survived by two adult roommates, three children and a matching dishwasher, stove, oven and refrigerator. It also leaves behind two bags of frozen chicken nuggets, several cans of soup and a pantry full of microwave popcorn. Born into the family during the Great Kitchen Remodel of 2005, the microwave served admirably during its decade-long life, heating everything from baby food to bacon. Its kitchen timer ticked steadily through years’ worth of mandatory 20-minute piano practices, while the family’s mother listened from the next room. “How much longer does the microwave [...]

Back to school with mixed emotions

By the time this column prints, the Rockwood children will be back at school. Summer’s slower pace will end and we’ll shift into a different gear as we hit the back-to-school freeway. Crisp new backpacks are lined up on hooks by the door, and the No. 2 pencils have freshly sharpened points and perfectly pink erasers. Most parents are either thrilled about the kids going back to school or sad to see them go, but I find myself stuck somewhere in the middle. I love watching the kids enjoy an unstructured summer – the leisurely afternoon board games, swimming with friends, movie marathons and playing outside until 9 o’clock on some nights. But as a work-from-home mom, I’ve seen my [...]

Nice and tidy

The only thing worse than the end of a vacation is coming home to a messy house. That’s why I consistently frustrate Tom and the kids each year when I refuse to leave for vacation without all of us pitching in to straighten up the house first. They barely tolerate it as I whip around from room to room in a last-minute frenzy, giving each person a different chore so that, once the trip is over, we can come home to peaceful, clean surfaces instead of a disaster that makes us want to race back to the hotel room we just left. I insist on this pre-vacation ritual mostly because I love coming home. No matter how fun the vacation [...]

Larry’s Legacy

This is not the column I planned to write today. What I had in mind was something light and funny, but if I tried to write those words today, they’d be hollow. Even worse, they’d be fake. Because today isn’t light and funny. Today all I can think about is how our friend Jackie is dealing with the worst phone call of her life. She’s had to follow that phone call with dozens more of her own, letting family and friends know that Larry, her husband of more than 25 years, died suddenly last night, even before the ambulance could get him to the hospital. She was on a business trip when the call came. The shock of it is [...]