Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

The Dark Side

Ty has been reading Calvin and Hobbes this week. He’ll go off and read for a while and then come back to the kitchen and quote the comic strips verbatim. He thinks they’re hilarious.

But this picture of Calvin is his all-time favorite, and the first time Ty saw it he laughed for several minutes. I think he must be living out his dark side…


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Indoor Independence

Yesterday, Leah and a friend of hers were slouching around the kitchen wondering what to do, so I suggested they make cookies. My ulterior motive: we have none in the house and I need them for school lunches.

They went through half an hour of debating which kind and finally decided they didn’t want to make cookies at all but that pie might be fun. Pie felt kind of big. But I retreated to the back room and let them search out a recipe for ingredients that we had in the house (and no, I wasn’t going to the store to buy pie crust—they would have to make it).

They landed on a rhubarb cream pie, a perfect recipe for the rhubarb plant gone gonzo in the backyard. After they’d cut and chopped the rhubarb, mixed the cream mixture, which isn’t a cream mixture at all but simply eggs, sugar, and nutmeg, they set to work on the pie crust. I gave them a few tips, like don’t handle it too much and dust enough flour on the counter so it doesn’t stick during rolling, and then got out of the way again.

You know what? That pie turned out perfectly. “The crust is so light,” Leah kept saying. She sounded like a chef, and her very first pie crust somehow managed to usurp all of mine put together. And that’s with more years of working as a baker under my belt than I care to remember. That pie passed the younger brother test with flying colors.

If you too have a gonzo rhubarb plant, try this recipe. (I would have included a picture but my digital camera cord has gone AWOL.)

Rhubarb Cream Pie (from Lummi Island Heritage Trust Favorite Island Recipes)
1 ½ c sugar (the girls used white)
3 T flour
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 T melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
3 c cut rhubarb
2 pie crusts

Blend sugar, flour, nutmeg, and butter. Add eggs and beat smooth. Pour over rhubarb in 9-inch pastry lined pie pan. Top with pastry cut in fancy shapes (the girls used cookie cutters). Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes.

Basic pie dough for 2 crusts (from The Joy of Cooking)
2 c white flour
2/3 c shortening
2 T cold butter
4 T cold water

Cut shortening and butter into flour with pastry cutter or finger tips until the shortening is pea-sized. Add water and mix lightly with a fork. Roll out with rolling pin.

 I guess I need to make cookies myself. On second thought, I think I’ll go buy them. 

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Outdoor Independence

I’m still thinking about kids and outdoor play and what a sorry state most of ours are in these days with their lack of independence. As I was trolling the Internet for articles on the importance of getting outdoors (for my own article and yes, I admit it, I was indoors), I came across this blog called Free Range Kids.  This website is me in a nutshell. You want to know who I am? Read the description of a free range parent.

 I didn’t know there was another parent out there who feels as I do. More so, even. Indeed, she gave her nine-year-old son $20, a Metro map, and the freedom to navigate his way home on the bus and the subway. In New York. In 2008. And boy, did she get flak for it. For more on this, read this article in Newsweek.

But I personally feel liberated rather than shocked. This after recently asking another parent if she minded if our two 5th-grade daughters rode bikes around the neighborhood. She agreed, but a follow-up conversation tells me it won’t happen again. My daughter is eleven and off to middle school in the fall. There are much scarier things than walking to middle school or biking the neighborhood (pregnancy comes to mind, and if we don’t give our kids independence, especially our daughters, how will they learn to trust themselves and say no when they need to? Or, God forbid, say yes just to spite us?).

So check it out. I’m planning on my kids heading to park and the corner store this summer without me. I’m still not at the point where my eight-year-old gets to go alone, but his sister is one sharp cookie. He’ll be in good hands.

Now I just need those safety stats so I can quote them to the doubters.


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Nature Play

I was informed recently that I am the only mom Ty knows who doesn’t allow her child to play teen-rated computer games (he's eight, for Pete's sake). Teen, huh? Somehow I doubt that, but so be it if it’s true. (He must have known his argument would go nowhere because he hasn’t bothered to broach the subject again.)

I haven’t told him, but I really think we’d be better off with no computer games at all. In this day and age, though, cutting off the compute games is like taking away the telephone—in other words, it’s a fact of life for most families. And unfortunately, I went down that road awhile back, though I’ve drawn the line at video games and the now ubiquitous Wii.

But I’m currently reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, a compelling examination of what happens to our children when they don’t get outside enough. And not just outside, but outside in natural settings, the likes of which our urban (and suburban) kids don’t have ready access to anymore. Not because it’s not there—at least in Bellingham—but because we won’t let them go there on their own.

According to Louv, our kids are suffering because of it, both physically and mentally. We all know childhood obesity and diabetes are at an all-time high, but Louv also argues that our kids aren’t doing as well emotionally. Nature, he says, inspires wonder, creativity, and open-ended play. Organized sports aren’t a substitute because, well, they’re organized. And yes, they get kids moving, but only for a prescribed amount of time.

I also just learned about Green Hour, founded by the National Wildlife Federation. Green Hour promotes the idea that we need to get our kids outside for an hour a day, preferably more. I am both heartened and depressed by the concept. Heartened because promoting unstructured outdoor play can only be a good thing. Depressed because I think it’s sad that we have to prescribe it. When I was growing up, being outdoors was just part of my day, and getting from point A to B on my own initiative, whether I walked or biked, was part of being a kid.

But besides being too structured these days, we also live in a culture of fear. We know too much about scary crimes against children, even if they occur five states away. I’ve heard it said that statistically we are no worse off, crime-wise, than we were in the 70s when most of us parents were kids.

And yet while I'd love to let my kids go play alone in a creek, I can't quite let them. I do know too much about toxic waste and I've seen too many homeless camps. But I’m thinking a lot about nature these days and how to get my kids in it more often. Green Hour gives you a list of items to take along to make the most of your time (magnifying glass, bird guide, etc.) and also lists hazards, such as snakes, bugs, and heat, to prepare for, depending on where you live. Personally, I don’t plan to give it too much thought. That’s the whole point.

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Meal Planning

So last night I gave my family a research task (Super-mama and I are obviously on the same page at the same time about meal planning—planet alignment or just mama burnout?). I asked the fam to poll friends for some new dinner recipes. I told them they could even use the Internet (I thought this would be a hit) to research kid-friendly meals. This in a burst of inspiration arising from the depths of my brain-dead dinner mind.

Once upon a time I liked to cook—I still do if someone tells me what to make—but coming up a meal that everyone will eat without loud complaints is a trying task. Leah is a self-confessed vegetarian, I recently (mostly) gave up dairy, Ty eats nothing that isn’t pasta or taco makings, and Curt would prefer something that doesn’t involve eggs, the spicier the better. For the record, he does not complain—he also cooks, which takes a load off.

Frankly, my brain is plumbed where dinner is concerned. Snaked clean. As a result, we’ve been eating the same few meals every week for I don’t know how long, and I have come to dread the late afternoon. People say if you don’t think of it in the morning, it’s too late. I disagree. Deadlines work wonders, even though they’re stressful, and by 5:00 I’ve always thought of something. I’ve also heard it said that women think about dinner as much as men think about sex. Really? I think about dinner an awful lot, or at least about the fact that I haven’t thought of anything yet. No wonder…but that’s a different topic. 

So the task. My kids were less than enthusiastic about taking any responsibility, but in a burst of helpfulness Leah thought up five meals and wrote them on our chore board so I wouldn’t have to think for the next week. True kindness. But what I really want is new recipes for meals my kids will eat. I’ve told them to ask their buddies what their favorite meal at home is, and then to ask that parent for the recipe. I’m pretty sure they think I’m not serious. I am. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Meanwhile, I’m going to write down that easy chili recipe.


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