Three Birthdays

Here in the Rockwood house, we celebrate three birthdays during the month of December. We didn’t plan it that way. It’s just the way it turned out, which adds an additional layer of party and present planning on top of what is already a month crammed full of holiday hoopla. Birthday Number 3: Our youngest kid, Kate, is turning 11 this month, and that’s a good thing because 11 is a great age. Most 11-year-olds are more sweet than snarky. They’re still one year away from 12, which (in my experience) is the age when kids start the heavy eye-rolling as a response to questions. Age 12 is also when they begin to smell like teenagers and talk in memes. [...]

Tales of a freelance flocker

One of the things my dad taught me about the working world is that it’s always good to have “multiple revenue streams.” That way, if one stream dries up or slows to a trickle, you’ll have another one to keep you going. Dad worked as a tree trimmer and landscaper for more than 40 years in a small southern Arkansas town. During the summers, he worked six days a week from dawn until dark and came home covered in saw dust and smelling like fresh sod. He owned his own small company, and, during summers, there was usually more work than he had time to do. But late in the year, when the lawns settled in for their long winter’s [...]

An Open Letter to Good Men

An Open Letter to Good Men: Guys, it must be tough to watch the news lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed there are quite a few schmucks out there tarnishing the “man brand.” Recent headlines make it seem like there aren’t many good men left in the world, especially since so many of those we thought were decent turned out to be imposters. But I know good men like you are out there. Maybe you don’t make splashy headlines but you’re there, quietly doing your work, raising your kids, and honoring the women around you. I imagine it must be infuriating to watch people who claim to be men do things only spoiled teenagers would do and then try to pass [...]

Walmart store switcheroo

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3 I just got home from a trip to the Walmart Supercenter, where a kid had just thrown up on the cereal aisle, and that’s not the worst thing that happened. As a mother of three, I’ve seen my share of pukey kids. I gave that fellow mother a look that said, “I feel your pain, sister.” Then I hightailed it to the next aisle. But there was something even more unsettling than the bodily fluids on the floor of Aisle 5. They’ve rearranged my Walmart! I’ve been shopping at this store for nearly a decade. I know this place better than I know some of my own cousins. But now they’ve [...]

Laundry rules: Tumble and hang — or else

I walked into the laundry room and stopped short – as if someone had slapped my face upon entry. “Who did this?” I glared at the white laundry basket stuffed full of clothes sitting in front of the dryer. I turned and bellowed the angry question downstairs, so the guilty party could hear it. “WHO.DID.THIS?” By my location and the tone of my voice, Tom and the kids could tell exactly what “this” I was yelling about. In our house, there are only a few rules I’m strict about. Number 1: Don’t open the door to strangers. Number 2: Don’t call your brother or sister a bad name. And Number 3: Don’t ever take shirts out of the dryer and [...]

When North and South get married with accents…

When Tom and I started dating 20 years ago, I had to prepare my parents for meeting him. “Tom is great, but he talks funny,” I said. When Tom took me home to meet his folks, he had to do the same thing, saying “You’ll love her, but try not to make fun of her accent.” We were both right. Tom was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, although his parents moved to Minneapolis later in life. But Tom wanted me to see the town where he grew up so we visited Duluth one year during a July weekend, when the weather forecaster said it was going to be a real “heat wave.” (The temp never rose above 78 degrees. [...]

When trick-or-treaters become trick-or-teenagers

A baby’s first Halloween is kind of a big deal, if you ask his or her mama. I can’t remember lots of things – my iTunes password, my kid’s current shoe size, and I occasionally forget my exact age and have to subtract my birth year from the current year just to figure it out. But even though it has been a decade or more since it happened, I can tell you what costumes my three kids wore for their first Halloween. In 2002, my firstborn was a baby frog. I have an adorable picture of him being kissed on the cheek by my co-worker’s baby, who was a baby bumblebee that year. Our middle child wore a little Superman [...]

What parents need to know about mass shootings

In the days after the Las Vegas shooting – the deadliest mass shooting in American history – I read an article that details expert advice on what regular people should do if we find ourselves in a situation with an active shooter. After reading it, I hovered my finger over the “share” button as I debated about whether or not to send it to my two oldest kids, ages 15 and 13. These were not the lessons I ever planned on sharing with them. But I also want to do all I can to equip them for an imperfect and sometimes violent world, so I hit the send button. Because of the article’s length and level of detail, I didn’t [...]

Shredded: Life with a 5-month-old Corgi

I have a new paper shredder in my home office. It’s quite effective and works at lightning speed. The only drawback is that I have to feed it twice a day, take it out in the backyard so it can poop, and give it a bath when it gets smelly. The shredder also chooses for himself which things to shred and doesn’t wait for authorization from his supervisor – which makes me wonder who’s the real boss around here, me or him. My furry little paper shredder, Cooper the Corgi, is nearly five months old now which means he has moved out of the newborn puppy stage and into the toddler stage. And in case it’s been a while since [...]

What I’ve learned about how to finish

In last week’s column, I admitted to avoiding a book on my nightstand – a book I was afraid to start reading for fear of not finishing it. What would be so bad about not finishing a book, you ask? The name of the book is “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done,” by Jon Acuff. You see the irony now, right? But despite my fears of flaking out, I started reading. I’ll walk you through what I’ve learned. Chapter 1: I dove into the first chapter with my trusty highlighter poised to capture what I assumed would be reasons why I need to try harder. But I learned that not finishing things has less to do with trying hard [...]