Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Baking Trend

Lately, with Wall Street doing its thing, I seem to be baking more. Not as a comfort measure, like I usually do, although who can complain about the smell of pumpkin bread wafting through the house on a cool October day, but as a calculated way to save money on store-bought cookies.

I admit, this could be less about Wall Street and more because somehow I inadvertently scheduled the family’s dentist appointments all within a two-week period and our entire discretionary income this month has gone straight to our dentist (we don’t have dental insurance). Also the four stitches I got that Sunday at the walk-in clinic, whose bill somehow came due at the same time (yes, we have health insurance but we still manage to pay an inordinate amount out of pocket).

But even though I won’t be writing checks to the dentist next month, I feel a shift in myself, a new way of looking at the cost of living, as, every morning, I read the news about the Wall Street debacle yet again and the Dow bouncing around and references to 1931 and such. Although we haven’t been personally affected on a daily level in our house (we have yet to read our stock statements), the shift I feel is this: the urge to cut back on optional spending, hunker down, protect what we have, live well within our means, make do. Right now I’m thankful we don’t have more house than we can afford, though as recently as last summer I was known to complain there’s nowhere for the kids to go play except their rooms. Right now, having a room feels like plenty.

When I was a kid, my family lived on much less than we do now. My parents were experts at living on not very much, and one of the ways they saved money was on processed, packaged food. In other words, we didn’t have it around. We had to make stuff from scratch. Hence, my new habit of baking, which is actually an old habit I took up at the age of 7 so we would have tasty treats in our house. (No, not really—my mom baked a great rhubarb cake. I think I took it up because I loved doing it, but having lemon bars around was fun, too.)

Not that I don’t bake now, but I’ve gotten lazy with those endless school lunches. But now with the economy such as it is, baking feels like something I should be doing as a matter of course, not as something fun on a rainy afternoon. Bypass all those processed products, right? Cook from scratch for your health. And I do mostly, but I’m still a sucker for convenience, because, well, it’s just so easy when you’re in a jam, and it’s fun—my kids think so, anyway—and I like the option of buying these things even I choose not to, and I especially love, I’ll just say it, Costco. Being frugal all the time is just kind of painful.

But there’s that shift thing I keep feeling, and all those checks I’ve already written. So yesterday, when I was grocery shopping (not at Costco), I consciously stuck to my list—no impulse buys at all—and also bypassed those packaged things that I’ve been known to put in my kids’ lunches like fruit cups, individual fruit leathers, granola bars, and the like. And what you know, that grocery bill was small, about half of what it usually is. Less than I expected, even. Wow. Gotta like it.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still run into me at Costco, probably next week after payday. And I don’t plan to start baking bread anytime soon. If I start baking bread, you’ll know the economy is truly in the toilet. But that careful shopping thing is still with me…

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Day Hike

On Sunday, we headed to the mountains for a hit-the-mountains-before-the-snow-does hike. We had read warnings of snow in trail reports, but we decided to take our chances and drive all the way up to Heather Meadows. Lo and behold, no snow. We hiked to Herman Saddle via the Chain Lakes trail. The colors are spectacular this time of year, and the trail much less traveled than during summer, and the upper elevation hiking easy for kids.Chain Lakes trail

playing with iceProbably the highlight was tossing rocks onto the skim of ice on the lake (the name escapes me now). Throwing ice was fun, too, because it broke into small shards and skimmed across the sheet ice in glittery jewels. The kids could have stayed there all day.

But, typical parents that we are, we urged them onward, and they didn’t seem to mind (this may be a first for us!). They did start to complain, however, on the upper slopes just below Herman Saddle, so we left them in plain view with strict orders not to explore and hoofed it another few minutes up to the top ourselves, where we got a panoramic view of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. By the time we were headed down, the kids were heading up to meet us, rested and bored. walking the bridge

The snow will be here soon if it isn’t already—this trail may well be covered by the time you read this, but it’s worth the effort if the weather stays clear. You can hike as little or as much as you want. We saw families with young children doing a lot of puttering as they walked. Don’t forget your hat and gloves.

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Parent Reading

I’ve read a variety of parent publications over the years, most of them dentist office type magazines I leaf through and promptly forget. But there are a few I find myself recommending over and over to friends. One is a mainstream magazine I love for its new approach to mainstream topics (see below), and then a couple not-so-mainstream publications that cover the nitty gritty of parenting through personal essays. Stuff you don’t even want to tell your best friend. The latter two pubs don’t bother with topics such as how to (kindly) get your kids to eat vegetables. Mommy lit is a newish genre that can drive you batty or not, depending on who you are (I feel comfortable saying so because I write this stuff), and you might think these writers are panicky obsessives in need of a chill pill, but they also just might bring you back from the brink. Dads, in case you’re feeling left out, you’re represented too.

The mainstream first: Wondertime is a fun magazine that breaks the mold. Aimed at parents of younger children, its platform is “celebrate your child’s love of learning.” With humor. The magazine publishes personal essays—nothing too heavy but still real—with informational sidebars so you can learn a little more without actually reading a how-to article. They also publish such things as recipes, a child’s first, a “tell me why” page with things like “why we yawn,” as well as features. For new parents, this magazine has cool new baby information and beautiful photographs. Like most magazines, it also loves to hear from readers if you’re inclined that way. And if you need a belly laugh or an “aha” moment, check out Catherine Newman’s Wondertime blog. This lady can write!

That said, it looks like, according to this week’s blog, she’s changing her format to focus on food rather than parenting, but I guarantee it will be good even though I can’t say yet where she’s going, and I guarantee it will include her kids. Anyway, check out her past blogs, and if you really like her, I recommend her book, Waiting For Birdy, a sweet, funny, so-on-target book about the year she was pregnant with her second child. Anyone new to two children or in the throes contemplating a second will relate to this book. As for the magazine, you can find it at local bookstores and grocery stores alike, but I’m pretty sure it’s not at the library. 

Brain, Child: This magazine is my all-time favorite for good writing that’s not sugar-coated. There’s very little advertising to distract, and the personal essays cut right to the bone. You’ll also find fiction and a debate on a tough topic, as well as a researched feature article. The content tends to lean to the left, so read with that caveat in mind, but many of the topics are universal: difficult pregnancy, adoption, a child’s problems in school. The topics seem to center around the early stages of parenting, but sometimes you’ll find essays about parenting teens, too. As for finding this magazine, well, The Newsstand was the only local business to carry it, so now you have to go on-line. You can read sample articles there before subscribing.

Literary Mama: This is a website, not a magazine, but otherwise is similar in content to Brain, Child. You’ll find nonfiction essays, fiction, a blog, and op-eds. On those nights when you’re up late with a baby or maybe just up late on the computer and you want a distraction, this is a great place to land. There’s also a hardcopy book that the editors put together of favorite essays from the site.

Happy reading.

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Vitamin D

So I was sort of kidding about popping Vitamin D, but not really, because I do take it every day. And then yesterday I ran across an article in the Bellingham Herald  about kids not getting enough of it either (there have been lots of articles about adults’ low D levels), and it’s got me thinking about the effect of long, dark winters on our kids. Last year I got my D levels checked, and lo and behold they were low, as is suspected of most everyone who lives in northern climates. And that was with taking a D supplement already! Now I’m wondering about  my kids’ levels, although I have no plans to run them to the lab for a blood draw. 

According to the article, one of the benefits of Vitamin D is its role in warding off serious disease. I may be bringing on a curse by saying this, but I haven’t had a cold since I started taking D about two years ago. I don’t know if there’s a correlation or not, and, yeah, I know colds don’t qualify as serious disease, but I’ll take it. (Stay tuned—I may be reporting a cold next week.) 

But the article has got me pondering kiddie colds and flues and whether those can warded off. Hmmm. Wouldn’t it be heaven to make it through the winter without a bout or two of the flu?

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October Mornings

This morning we woke to frosty rooftops and crunchy leaves. Yesterday, we were caught in a torrential rain/hail downpour on our way to the dentist.

I am not ready. I know so many people whose favorite time of year is fall—for the renewal, the vigor, the crispy air. But I’m one of those people who love the heat of summer—real heat, not the watered down version we get here. (Why do I live here, you ask? Ah, yes. But a topic for another day.) I don’t think of fall as a time of renewal. I think of it as the final cycle before winter bears down. The leaves are changing color and beginning to fall and collect in piles, where they will mold with rain and turn into a sloppy mess.

My favorite month is May. It doesn’t hold the heat I crave, but it does hold the promise of heat, and that’s enough, and the nights are already long by then, giving us the light we’ve been yearning for all winter. May is the month of relief and release.

Still, yes, there is a lot to like about fall. The kids are back in school (and my mind is correspondingly less fractured), the sky is often still clear, and the light has a luminous quality to it that no other time of year holds. I admit, it is beautiful. (I can say this now with school-age children. But when mine were toddlers and I was a full-time, at-home  mom, I crowned the Pacific Northwest as the worst place to be the parent of young children.)

And then there’s the seasonal excitement. My kids are excited for Halloween, and we were ghosted last night and tonight. For those of you who don’t know this tradition, it’s when a bag of treats shows up on your doorstep with a picture of a ghost to put in your window, and two sets of directions to pass on with treats to two more households. The kids love receiving treats, but even more, they love sneaking onto neighbors’ porches to keep the tradition going.

So, yeah, it’s all good. As long as I keep popping my Vitamin D, everything is fine, and I don’t mind so much that the darkness is coming.


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