The case of the missing red belt

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3 Our 12-year-old groans every time he sees a back-to-school commercial, which lately seems to happen once every five seconds. (I can’t blame him. When adults go on vacation, the last thing we want is to be constantly reminded that our regular jobs are about to start up again on Monday morning.) So my kids are milking these last few days of freedom for all they’re worth – wearing pajamas until noon, playing Marco Polo in the pool and enjoying lazy evenings without a hint of homework. The kids may think I’m ancient, but I’m young enough to remember the special brand of angst that comes with the first day of school. [...]

Weird is their middle name

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3 Today I read something in the newspaper that convinces me there are people in the world with entirely too much time on their hands. How else could we explain the fact that there’s a couple in Massachusetts named Melanie and Neal who have petitioned the state to legally change their middle names to the word “Seamonster.” I read this information in a short news snippet so I don’t have any context for the story, but I doubt that additional information would make the request seem less weird. Perhaps they really love sea monsters? Perhaps their favorite uncle was a sea monster? Maybe they lost a bet made after five too many [...]

Road warriors back from battle

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3 We made it. Dragging in past midnight, bleary-eyed with sore behinds from more than 10 hours sitting in the car, we each fell into our own beds after spending several nights away and decided that these are, in fact, the best beds in the whole world. The only thing as great as the excitement of vacation is the sweet relief of being home again. I’ll admit that our generation has it much easier than our road-tripping ancestors. The portable DVD player, smartphones, audio books and iPads have been a game changer in getting families across the country in relative peace and harmony. But that doesn’t mean the trip is without challenges. [...]

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 inside 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, [...]

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. Even though Charlie’s bark sounded threatening, I could tell that the bag of [...]

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, hopeful 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 [...]

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.” Ten-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 [...]

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. I 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 [...]

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 [...]

The free cat who cost a thousand

By 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, [...]