On judgment

When I was in second grade, one of my classmates told me I was going to Hell. I remember the moment vividly. We were on the playground during recess on an unusually hot day in the fall. She was wearing a long, full skirt and tennis shoes that had the Incredible Hulk on them. We were perched on the monkey bars, and she said it like a casual statement of fact. Stunned by her proclamation, all I could think to say was “Why?” “Because you’re wearing shorts,” she said, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world. After school that day, I told my mom what the girl said during recess. And she assured me that I [...]

No more whine, please

One of my main goals as a parent is to raise non-whiners. It’s not easy. We’re all inclined to whine when things don’t go our way. Babies do it. Toddlers do it. Reality TV stars do it. And increasingly, older kids and grown-ups who really ought to know better do it, too. But it’s obnoxious. And when it’s combined with pouting or feet stomping, it’s downright ugly. Tom and I are pretty strict about it around here, but it’s certainly an ongoing battle. There are some parenting books that tell you to ignore all forms of whining. Act like it’s not even happening, they say. The thinking here is that, if you ignore it and don’t reward the child’s whining [...]

The thrill is gone

When we say parenting has its “ups and downs,” sometimes we mean it literally – particularly after spending a weekend at an amusement park with the kids. Some of those “ups” are slow, tension-building climbs to the top of a steep hill followed by “downs” that reach speeds of 90 miles per hour, flip you upside down and zip you through a corkscrew turn with enough G-force to make you regret every lunch you’ve ever eaten. I’m the designated roller coaster parent in our family. Tom will occasionally go on a kiddie ride with our 6-year-old, but, as a general rule, he doesn’t get on anything that moves higher or faster than a standard ladder. He says his stomach won’t [...]

Birth of a baker

Finally! I’m about to write a sentence I never thought I’d write: “I cooked something, and it was REALLY good.” Around here I’m known for both my lack of cooking expertise and my disinterest in acquiring any. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of. I wanted to be one of those mothers who could really cook – the kind whose meals become legendary with not only her own children but also her children’s friends, who begin coincidentally stopping by to visit around dinnertime. My mom was one of those mothers. Her mom was one of those mothers. DNA was on my side. But it didn’t pan out. It’s not that I never cook. I do, and I can produce a [...]

Car conversations with a 6-year-old

Have I mentioned that one of the best places to talk to your kids is in the car? It is. Maybe it’s because they’re strapped in and they can’t run off to play. Maybe it’s because they’ve got time to fill while the road slips by outside the car windows. Who knows? All I know is that it works. Yesterday while we were on our way to the grocery store, I asked the kids what they wish grown-ups understood about being a kid. It was 6-year-old Kate who spoke up first, and three of her tips are good advice for parents but also wise words to live by, no matter who you are. Number 1: Do what you say you’re [...]

Put some pants on

I’m beginning to question that old saying about how we all “put our pants on one leg at a time.” Because lately, I’m noticing plenty of people who have stopped putting pants on at all. This weekend Tom and I went to a Laundromat to wash a king-size comforter in one of those high-capacity washing machines. While we were there, I saw a man sitting on the back of his pick-up truck. He was staring down into his smartphone’s screen and he was wearing a white t-shirt and pajama pants with the Harley Davidson logo printed all over them. It seemed a little strange, but I figured he was probably washing his real pants and wasn’t too worried about appearances [...]

The book signing parade!

Wow, what a crazy three weeks it has been! I officially launched my new book, Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection, on November 2nd at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville. And when the book signing began at 6 p.m., it was eerily quiet in the bookstore and I was worried. Maybe nobody would come. Maybe this whole “write a book” idea was an epic failure. And then I heard it — the marching band. And that’s when we realized that we’d scheduled the book signing to begin at the exact same time that the University of Arkansas Homecoming Parade was happening on the same street as the book signing. (They tend to close off streets where parades [...]

The Rockwood Files Book Launch: Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile

It’s here! My first book is now available on Amazon and in Nightbird Books. Woo-hoooo! You can order a copy by clicking HERE. Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection is a compilation of my best newspaper columns over the past 17 years. In it you’ll find chapters titled “The Marriage Files,” “The Firstborn Files,” “The Middle Child Files,” “The Girl Child Files,” “The Soapbox Files,” “The Pets & Pests Files,” “The Holiday Files,” and the “Just-for-Fun Files.” This book has been a long time in the making, but I’m thrilled with the finished product. I hope you will be, too. The amazing Lisa McSpadden of Lisa Mac Photography did the photos for this book, and Greg [...]

The Big “What if…?”

Last night we heard the familiar sound of footsteps on the stairs well past bedtime. From the living room, I heard Tom talking in the kitchen to the kid who couldn’t sleep. Over the years, we’ve heard every “I can’t sleep” excuse in the book – not tired, too thirsty, too dark, monster under the bed – but this time was different. This time it was a question, one of the biggest we’ve faced: “Dad, I know that people die sometimes. And I know we believe in God and Heaven and everything… but what if we’re wrong?” We probably should have seen it coming. In the past six weeks, we’ve been to two out-of-town funerals for family members. The kids [...]

Why I still don’t feel like a grown-up

By now, I expected to feel like a grown-up. And sometimes I do, like when we sign tax returns or go to a funeral, which is certainly not a ringing endorsement for adulthood. But most of the time, I feel like an imposter – like a kid who somehow ended up in a grown-up’s body and is still trying to figure out what she’s doing. Part of me wonders if it all comes down to coffee. I don’t like it. Never have. I want to like it – badly. I love the way it smells. I love the quaint little coffee shops where it’s served. I love the warmth of the coffee cups and the way the steam rises and [...]