Category Archives: Favorites

23 Jul

My dignity on ice

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

My refrigerator made a fool of me today. This morning when I came downstairs to the kitchen, it was croaking – loudly. It sounded like an elderly frog was frog in rocking chairinside it, sitting in a creaky rocking chair that got louder each time he rocked back. I could hear it across the room.

So I did what most of us do when a complex piece of machinery starts to make a weird noise we don’t understand: I smacked it. But it went right on croaking at regular intervals, completely undeterred.

Having exhausted all my repair expertise with that unsuccessful smack on the side of the fridge, I called our appliance repair guy, Steve. I told him about the loud croaking noise and asked if he could swing by to check it out. With an out-of-town trip on the horizon, I wanted to make sure we didn’t come home to a dead fridge full of spoiled food.

A few hours later, Steve showed up at the door holding his appliance doctor bag, ready to inspect the refrigerator that sounded like it was croaking, both literally and figuratively. He followed me into the kitchen and we both sidled up to the refrigerator and listened – to nothing.

It had gone completely silent. All we could hear was the occasional clink of an ice cube falling into the freezer tray below.

“Just give it a minute. It was definitely croaking this morning, and it was loud. Tom heard it, too,” I said, hoping that an ear witness would make me seem less crazy.

So we waited. And waited, enveloped by the sound of silence. Embarrassed that I’d made a big deal out of what was turning into nothing, I did the only thing that can make this kind of situation even more awkward – I did my best impression of the croaking sound and asked what might make that kind of noise.

Steve did some official-looking diagnostic things, hoping to prove I wasn’t as nuts as I sounded. He laid down on the kitchen floor with his flashlight and peered underneath the fridge. Then he took a long screwdriver and scraped something out from under it which turned out to be the largest grey dust bunny I’ve ever seen. It was more like a dust bear. I think I even saw it move once.

With no croaking and no answers in sight, Steve pulled the refrigerator out from the wall so he could get a look behind it. That’s when I learned something I’m guessing is universally true, no matter how clean you think your kitchen is. Behind the refrigerator, we’re all slobs. All of us. It’s a nightmare back there. I’ve seen things I can’t ever un-see.

“Steve, is it this bad behind most people’s refrigerators?” I asked, ashamed of the dead dust bear at his feet and the wasteland of dust balls, crumbs, bread twist ties, and unidentifiable food fragments under the fridge.

“Oh, sure,” he said in the most non-judgmental way. (And that’s how you know you’ve got a good repair guy because he will reassure you that you’re not disgusting even when it’s obvious that you are.)

Steve let me clean a few things behind the fridge before pushing it back toward the wall, where it will likely gather another nine years’ worth of God-knows-what. He packed up his bag and said the loud croaking could possibly be the refrigerator’s fan on the fritz. It’s hard to know for sure because the fridge played a game of “quiet mouse” as soon as Steve showed up, so we’ll have to wait it out.

When it starts croaking again – and you know it will – I’m going to record it so I’ll have proof. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I’m getting a new fridge.

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

06 Jul

Who’s afraid of the big “bag” wolf?

By 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 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

01 Jul

I don’t mean to brag, but…

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

My mom taught me not to brag, but I’ll make an exception this one time. Because after my last few trips to the grocery store, I’ve decided I am the best of the best when it comes to the following three special skills:

1. Picking the wrong cart.

I have an almost magnetic pull to bad shopping carts. Because I have such a long history of picking the wrong cart, I size up my options before I pick one, grocery-carthopeful that maybe this time I’ll get a good one.

I check the wheels to make sure there’s not a gigantic wad of gum stuck there. Then I check inside the cart to make sure it’s not harboring any suspicious-looking tissues. (Choosing a cart with a crumpled up tissue inside it is the grocery store equivalent of rolling around in a big pile of bubonic plague. You just don’t do it.) Without heavy rubber gloves and a gun to my head, there’s no way I’m touching a stranger’s crumpled up tissue.

About a dozen steps inside the store, I realize my cart has mechanical issues. I hear a strange “thwump” sound at regular intervals that only speeds up when I do. Or I’ll notice the cart pulls hard to the left, no matter where I steer it. If shopping carts were cars, I’m the lady driving around a rusted-out 1982 Chevette with cheap tires and alignment problems.

2. Picking the wrong line.

When it becomes obvious my cart is a clunker, I don’t trade it for a different one because, odds are, I’m going to pick another lemon anyway. So I tell myself I’m not going to be there long anyway (an obvious self-delusion). Eventually I “thump-thwump-thwump” my way to the front of the store and pick the absolute worst check-out line.

Do I want to be in the slowest line? Of course not. I do what we all do – cruise past each line, scoping it out to see how many people are waiting, how much stuff they have in their carts, and how speedy the check-out clerk appears to be. I take all these factors into consideration before picking a lane. Then about five minutes after making a lane commitment, I realize I’ve chosen a line that moves at about the same speed as toxic sludge.

I consider bailing out and starting over, certain there must be a faster line out there somewhere. But then I hesitate, afraid that if I give up now, I might get stuck in an even slower line, and then I will have done all this waiting for nothing. So I stand there and wait while the person in front of me divides her items into three separate orders or pulls out a shoebox full of coupons or pays with a temporary check that requires multiple forms of I.D., a blood test and approval from four different managers.

3. Picking the wrong item.

After wrangling the wrong cart and waiting in the wrong line, I’m always relieved when it’s finally my turn to check-out – except when the check-out clerk holds up an item and says those infamous three little words: “There’s no barcode.”

“Do you remember how much this was?” she asks. Then I’m faced with a dilemma: Do I tell the truth, that I really don’t remember exactly how much it was? Or do I make up an approximate price and hope she doesn’t put me on a Wal-Mart “watch list” for getting it wrong.

I default to honesty and tell her I’m not sure, which results in her turning on her lane flashers and asking for a time-consuming price check – which makes the other people in line want to throw their produce at me or run over me with their superior shopping carts.

What can I do? I give them my best “I’m sorry” eyes and try to take solace in these unusual bragging rights: Of all the shoppers in all the stores in all the world, nobody does it as badly as me.

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

24 Jun

What were you wearing when…?

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

“Can we give it to him now? Please, Mom? It’s just a few days early.”

“No, you can wait. If you give it to him today, he won’t have anything to open on Father’s Day.”

“I know, but it’s so hard to wait! I really want to give it to him today. He’s gonna be so excited.”

“You’re just like your Dad, you know. He never can wait to give presents either.”

ATGAMES DIGITAL MEDIA INC. ATARI FLASHBACK 4Ten-year-old Jack kept trying to convince me as we made our way to the check-out lane with the gift he picked out for his dad. It was an Atari “Flashback” video game system, chock full of video games nearly as old as we are. Jack’s eagerness to see his dad’s reaction reminded me of the ratty old bathrobe I have hanging in the back of my closet.

Fifteen years ago, I grabbed that robe and threw it on when my apartment’s doorbell rang. I went to the door and peered through the peep-hole, surprised to find Tom standing there looking uncomfortable and fidgety.

I wasn’t expecting him to pick me up for our dinner date for at least another 45 minutes. He was early – really early. And after a year and a half of dating, I knew him well enough to know he was never early.

I cinched the bathrobe closed tighter and wrapped my wet hair up in a towel turban before opening the door.

“Hey! I thought you said 6:30. It’s not even six yet. I’m not ready,” I said.

“Yeah, I know. But I really need to talk to you,” he said as he walked past me into the living room.

Ask any woman who has spent more than five minutes in the dating pool and she’ll tell you that a nervous guy who “needs to talk” is almost never a good thing. It usually ends with a tired speech about commitment issues or an “It’s not you, it’s me” finale that makes you want to break things or jump head-first into a gallon of Butter Pecan ice cream – or both.

But I’d been down that road before and was in no mood for a return trip. So I steeled my nerves and resolved to show him right back out the door as soon as he stopped recapping our relationship, talking about how marriage is such a big step and about how he needs time to make sure he’s ready. In fact, I was just about to launch into a “Go have your commitment issues somewhere else” speech when he interrupted me and said, “Okay, I think I’ve had enough time now.”

In the next heartbeat, he was on a knee, holding out a ring box, asking if I’d marry him. And because I’m a girl and just vain enough to care about those sorts of things, I immediately made a mental note that this was not what I was supposed to look like in the moment I was proposed to – wearing a bathrobe, with no make-up on and my hair up in a towel turban. But there I was, and real life doesn’t wait for costume changes.

Later that night during our celebratory dinner, he told me that his plan was to ask me during a romantic dinner, in the same restaurant where we’d had our first official date. But then he picked up the ring and just couldn’t wait another second to give it to me.

And that’s why I have a 15-year-old bathrobe in the back of my closet. That’s why I still get gifts from Tom weeks before my birthday or Christmas. And that’s why I have three great kids, one of whom can’t wait another second to give his dad a present. The eager apple doesn’t fall far from the “can’t wait” tree.

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

17 Jun

Netflix Zombies

It’s not culturally sophisticated to admit it, but I love TV – always have. I loved it ever since I was a kid and Fred Flintstone heard the whistle blow at five o’clock and slid down the back of his dinosaur bulldozer.

4.1.1I loved speculating with my mother during the summer of 1980 about who shot J.R. I loved watching Bill Cosby raise the Huxtable kids. And thanks to TV, I’ve met great characters like Flo from Mel’s Diner, Frasier Crane, J.D. and Turk from Scrubs, and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Oh, they make me laugh, even in reruns that never seem to get old.

For TV lovers, the last decade of technological advancements have meant huge changes in the way we cozy up to the tube. The game-changer invention has to be the DVR, which is easily the best thing to happen to television since the remote control and microwave popcorn. The DVR lets you record shows and skip all the commercials, which reduces an hour-long show to about 40 minutes or so. It saves time and helps keep annoying commercial jingles from getting stuck in your head.

But lately, one of television’s new conveniences is wrecking me. I’m suffering from the “Netflix effect.” In case you’re not afflicted yet, Netflix is an online service that lets you watch almost any show at any time and in almost any place where you can get a Wi-Fi signal. For example, if you missed the boat when the show “Mad Men” first started, you can go back and watch back-to-back episodes online for all seven seasons. Want to know if the hype about the show “Breaking Bad” is justified? You’ll find the answer on Netflix, along with more than 30 million other subscribers.

The instant, easy access is a wonderful, terrible thing. Otherwise rational people who KNOW they should go to bed already find themselves desperate to watch a story unfold just a little bit more. We’ll say, “Well, maybe just one more episode..,” and then we kid ourselves into thinking we won’t pay the price for it the next morning with under eye bags large enough to hold all our regrets.

zombie redIf your friend or co-worker is shuffling around in a bleary-eyed haze, it could be a drinking problem, or it might just be a bad Netflix hangover – one too many episodes that stretched into the early morning hours. With just the push of a button, the closing credits of one episode morphed into the opening scene of the next. They got drunk on the power to keep the story going. (Tom and I may or may not have watched four or five hours of House of Cards the other day – just because we could.)

Television binge-watching is like eating Cheetos. Once you’re halfway through the bag, you know the responsible thing to do would be to stop. But then again your fingers are already coated in that orange Cheetos dust, so you might as well just finish it off, right? (Trust me, that line of reasoning makes perfect sense around 11:30 at night.)

Netflix should start posting a public service announcement at the beginning of the really juicy episodes that reads: “Just because you can watch an entire season at one time doesn’t mean you should. Watch responsibly. Friends don’t let friends become Netflix zombies.”

Of course, I don’t have a problem. Not me. I know when to say when. I can put down the remote any time I want – unless the last scene was really good and I need to know what happens next: “Well, maybe just one more episode.”

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

10 Jun

A Taste of Time Travel

You don’t need a time machine to revisit the past. What you need is the right meal. Last night I had a big bowl full of “wilted lettuce” that took me right back to 1983.

As soon as the first forkful hit my mouth, I was a kid again having Sunday lunch in Ethel, Arkansas – a tiny, dirt-road town in Southern Arkansas where my Grandma and Grandpa lived and spent their 70s doting on grandkids and their garden.

Wilted lettuce salad isn’t a name that gets your mouth watering, I admit. It sounds like something you throw out of the crisper drawer after it’s hung around too long. But my Grandma and her sister, Aunt Eunice, made wilted lettuce a country culinary art form. As soon as we arrived at their house for Sunday lunch and spotted a bowl of it on their kitchen table, I’d squeal as if Christmas had come in June.

wilted lettuceHere’s the three-step process you’ll need if you want to create Southern wilted lettuce. I know you’re skeptical, but once you eat it, you’ll believe it. Step 1: Cut fresh lettuce from the garden. Step 2: Chop it up and toss it in a bowl with green onions, radishes, tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg, and a bit of sugar and vinegar. Step 3: (And here’s where it gets truly Southern and delicious) Douse it with bacon grease and crumble the bacon into the salad bowl like a meaty garnish.

When you drizzle hot bacon grease over garden-fresh lettuce, something magical happens. The lettuce soaks it up, as if it somehow knows that it’s been missing out on a fabulous party up until this moment. All that leafy green goodness helps you forget about the grease that might be clogging your arteries a little more with every bite. This dish is the perfect combination of good and evil, Heaven and Hell, sensible diet and sinful indulgence – all mixed up in one big bowl.

Lettuce and bacon grease are the Romeo and Juliet of the food world – star-crossed ingredients that shouldn’t go together but, when they touch, they’re no denying the chemistry.

As I sat there scraping every shred of lettuce out of the bowl, I kept expecting to see my great Aunt Eunice shuffle into the room holding one of her Word Search books. She passed away several years ago at the age of 105, but that meal made her seem so present again, as if we’d hear her voice any moment or see her head out the screen door toward the chicken coop to collect the eggs.

That’s one of the great things about food – how certain combinations, smells and textures can bring us home again. It can flood our minds with memories we didn’t even know were still in there, just waiting for the right moment to resurface.

After the salad bowl was empty, I chased the last bite with a glass of sweet tea, knowing full well I’ll have to walk several miles to make up for the free-for-all at the dinner table. So be it. Some meals are just worth it.

And even though I’m not skilled in the kitchen the way my Grandma and Aunt Eunice were and the way my mother still is, this lovely trip down wilted lettuce lane has made me realize I should learn to cook a signature dish that my kids truly love. So that decades from now, even long after I’m gone, they’ll sit down to a plate of food that makes them feel like I’m right around the corner and might pop in any second to ruffle their hair, give them a hug and remind them to take those dirty dishes to the sink.

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

27 May

The free cat who cost a thousand

rockwoodfiles2-205x300By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Sometimes you throw one small pebble of change into the Universe and the ripples create a tsunami of trouble. That’s what happened to me last week – all because I felt sorry for a fat cat.

I’ll back up a bit. Our cat Percy, who was once a skinny stray cat we brought home, has since morphed into a behemoth of flab and fur. She looks like she’s been drinking milkshakes and eating Doritos every day for five years.

For years I fed her one small can of Fancy Feast each day. But because she needed to slim down, I switched her to dry food. Percy wasn’t happy about the change, and she let me know it by stalking me around the house and rubbing against my legs to remind me she was hungry for something fancier. Some people say cats rub against your legs to show affection, but I think it’s more of a message: “Either feed me or I’ll weave in and out of your legs until you trip and fall. Take your pick.”

So I found a new cat food in a special refrigerated case at Wal-Mart. It was in a re-sealable bag and claimed to be fresher than other cat foods. It looked like the perfect compromise – not as boring as dry food but not as stinky and fattening as the canned stuff. I bought a bag, and Percy loved it.

Fast forward six weeks. One day as I’m walking through the formal living room, I saw Percy crouched in a corner committing a serious feline sin – peeing on the rug. I could hardly believe it! In the five years she has lived here, she had never once done this and had always been a faithful litter box user.

Certain something was wrong, I took her to the vet who kept her overnight to collect a urine sample. She also suggested I consider having her shaved since her thick, long hair tends to matt up around her nether regions. I didn’t even know cat shaving was an actual service, but I was more than happy to sign Percy up for it if it’d mean less cat hair on the furniture.

Back home, the fallout from the Percy pee incident continued to ripple out. Because I’d witnessed the crime one time, it begged the bigger question: How many times did it happen when I did NOT see it? How could I make sure the mess was completely cleaned up, since pets are famous for returning to the scene of the crime. I Googled the problem and found an article advising the use of a black light to find carpet spills and stains not visible to the naked eye. Tom picked one black lightup from the pet store on the way home from work, and after the sun went down, we set about our detective work.

Note to all pet owners, parents and childless, pet-free people who live in homes: Do not EVER walk around your house at night using a black light, which shows every drop of anything that’s ever touched the rug – past and present. If you do, you’ll want to burn your house down. Or, at the very least, rip out every shred of carpet. Ask me how I know.

We are now having hardwood floors put down in the room Percy christened. Even our professional carpet cleaner told us that all the cleaning in the world wouldn’t guarantee we’d get rid of that awful smell unique to cat accidents. We’re bracing ourselves for the bill.

Speaking of bills, the tab at the veterinarian’s office approached three hundred dollars, but at least we know what caused Percy to lose her mind and ruin the rug – a bladder infection. The cause? Most likely her new cat food which caused a Ph imbalance that made crystals form in her bladder, which caused involuntary bladder spasms, which caused a major room renovation. Remember when I upgraded to that new cat food six weeks ago? That one small pebble of percy haircutchange? Yep. No good deed goes unpunished.

But there is a silver lining. Percy’s new “shaved” haircut is fabulous. She still has long hair on her face and front paws but everything from the front legs back is shaved to the skin, except for her tail and some furry “boots” on her back legs. Under all that dark hair, she has silvery skin with dark black stripes, making her look like a Bengal tiger.

And she is recovering from the infection, thanks to a change in her diet, a prescription for “kitty Valium” that’s supposed to prevent bladder spasms, and an antibiotic which, ironically enough, Percy will not swallow unless I disguise it inside a bowl of Fancy Feast cat food.

I give up. Pass the kitty Valium. I think I need one.

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

14 May

Popular Posts

popcorn bucket popular postsI started writing The Rockwood Files newspaper column when I was a baby. Okay, technically I was out of diapers but I was only 22 years old, and — let’s be honest — most 22-year-olds are still babies whether they know it or not. I had a LOT of growing up still to do, and I chronicled those life lessons in the column.

And here we are, almost 20 years later, and I’m still “growing up” and watching my three kids do the same. But two decades of column writing have taught me the best pieces of writing are the ones that readers talk about most. So I’ve compiled a few favorites here and hope you’ll enjoy revisiting them or reading them for the first time.

Click here and then scroll down to read these Popular Posts.

22 Apr

Poopsy Pets: Epic fail in the toy aisle

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

My favorite humor writer, Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry, is famous for the line “I am not making this up.” He uses it when writing about things that are so absurd that any sane person would assume he’s taking creative liberties with his description when, in fact, the description happens to be ridiculous AND true. I thought of Dave’s famous line when my daughter spotted a toy recently and brought it over to the shopping cart to show me.

“Mom, this is kind of weird… and gross,” she said, holding it up for inspection.

The toy is called “Poopsy Pets,” and it’s part of the Moxie Girlz line of dolls made by the MGA Entertainment company. The package includes a doll holding a leash attached to a small pet. In the upper left corner of the package, there’s a speech bubble near the pet that says, “I poop JEWELS!” If that’s not quite descriptive enough for you, there’s also an up-close photo of the pet’s behind where you can plainly see small pink jewels protruding from said pet’s plastic poopsy petsanus.

“Kate, where did you get this?” I asked, wondering if this might be some kind of practical joke doll. She pointed to a low shelf, and, lo and behold, the Poopsy Pet had friends. Another doll had a bunny that said “I poop GLITTER!” The third one was a unicorn pet who proudly proclaimed: “I poop RAINBOWS!”

Now I’m not above a little gross humor. As the mother of two boys and a girl all under the age of 13, I’ve heard and enjoyed my share of funny bathroom jokes. But glitter-pooping bunnies? Unicorns defecating rainbows? Have toy-makers lost their collective marbles?

To be fair, I have heard of actual dogs pooping out jewels in the form of engagement rings that were accidentally gobbled up like treats. But I can guarantee they didn’t look as pretty coming out the back end as they do in those Poopsy Pet photos. And are rainbows still special if they come squirting out your pet’s behind? I think not.

But what amazes me most about these unusual poopers is that they made it all the way from the “crazy idea” stage to actual store shelves. Maybe it happened like this: Desperate product engineer walks his dog one day and stops to pick up the dog’s “deposit” in a pet poop bag. He thinks to himself, “Wouldn’t it be great if the dog pooped diamonds instead of this crap? Wait a second…EUREKA!”

Then that same guy sits in a brainstorming meeting at work and says something like this: “So what if we make a line of dolls with fantasy pets who poop jewels, glitter and rainbows? Wouldn’t that be awesome?” And then, in an equally stunning turn of events, the other people around the table say, “Oh my gosh, YES! That would be freaking awesome and not the least bit gross or disturbing. Feces is the new frontier of toy-making!”

It takes a relatively long time for a new toy to go from concept to product launch. How is it possible that Poopsy Pets made it through so many stages with no one slowing down to say, “This is kind of weird… and gross”? My 7-year-old knew it at first glance.

And let’s not forget how literal young kids can be. At this very moment, some of them are digging through poop piles in the backyard and the cat’s litter box, searching for the “jewels, rainbows and glitter” that must surely be hiding there. Imagine how disappointed and disgusted they and their parents will be when the search turns up nothing but a big pile of poo.

Sure do wish I was making this up.

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

15 Apr

A Tale of Two Dishwashers

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I’ve heard horror stories about how some spouses constantly butt heads with their in-laws. And I’m lucky because I don’t have those war stories. I love my husband’s family and he loves mine, and we’re blessed to get along the way we do.

But there’s one tiny bone of contention between my husband and my mother, and I land squarely in the middle of the debate. Perhaps you can be the judge. The question revolves around the proper loading of a dishwasher, and the issue comes up after we have Sunday lunch together and start the clean-up process.

In this corner is my mother, who has never once loaded a truly dirty dish into any dishwasher – hers or mine. She washes and rinses the dishes first and then puts them into the dishwasher for what she calls “sterilization.” In her mind, the dishwasher is an dishwasher2extra safety check to ensure the dishes have received “a good scald” and are therefore germ-free.

But rest assured you could safely eat from any plate she puts into the dishwasher well before she runs the wash cycle because it has already been scrubbed, rinsed and examined with a careful eye. She treats forks and spoons like a surgeon treats scalpels and retractors.

In the other corner is my husband, who has never once loaded anything resembling a clean dish into any dishwasher. He, like many men, takes the name “dishwasher” literally. If the machine is supposed to wash the dishes, then by all means, “let’s let it wash the dishes!” he insists. After all, there are other things to do and Sunday afternoon naps to be taken. Why waste time scrubbing lasagna remnants off of plates when we’ve invested in this expensive piece of machinery that’s supposed to do it for us?

But the debate doesn’t end there. When my mom loads the dishwasher, she’s careful to leave plenty of perimeter space around each and every dish and utensil. She worries that if the plates and bowls don’t have enough breathing room, they’ll be blocked off from all that hot, sanitizing water.

Tom, on the other hand, has a theory about how many dirty dishes will fit into the dishwasher. It goes something like this: “The number of dirty dishes in the kitchen is the same number that will safely fit into the dishwasher at any one time.” In his mind, the dirty dishes of two people or 20 people can and will fit into the dishwasher, if you just put your mind to it and pack them in there efficiently.

Remember that old commercial about how there’s “always room for Jell-O”? Tom applies that same logic to cups and plates, too. I must admit he is a master when it comes to finding that one last nook or cranny of available space.

A few weeks ago, as Tom squeezed yet another cup into what my mother deemed an overly full dishwasher, she actually put down her scrub brush, shook her head and said, “I just can’t watch this.” She had to avert her eyes from the horror of all those cups packed into the top rack like so many dirty sardines.

My philosophy is simple. Don’t criticize the cleaning method of anyone – mother or husband – who helps with the dishes because that criticism might dampen their willingness to help in the future.

But I can tell you this: When I unload the dishwasher, I can always tell which one of those two people loaded it, and I’m reminded of the opening line to that famous Dickens novel: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

gwen rockwoodGwen 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. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

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