Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Childhood Icons

Yesterday, Ty and I were hanging around the house together after his soccer camp, when he wandered through the kitchen past the radio and the breaking news it was airing.

“Hey,” he said, after he came to find me, “you know Michael Jackson?”


“I think he died.”

“He died?” Isn’t he my age?

We both headed to the kitchen to listen the news, and sure enough, he had “apparently” died. Apparently? Not too long later, the newscasters were saying he did die.

Wow. Michael Jackson has died (and it turns out he was older than I thought, though not by much). I didn’t own any of his albums when I was in high school, but I certainly remember his hits and his moonwalking taking the country by storm, although it wasn’t until yesterday that I learned his album “Thriller” was the top grossing album of all time (and now I can’t get that song out of my head). Even more memorable, I have been to the gate of his Neverland Ranch in California, very close to a private school my grandmother worked for, where I somehow managed to mar the landscaping with the car as I took the little loop drive at the entrance a little too sharply. My sisters guffawd when I did it. “You ruined Michael Jackson’s landscaping!” Thankfully, no guard sat in the guard box, or whatever you call it, and we escaped undetected.

When Curt got home from work, I asked if he’d heard the big news, and of course he had.

“Farrah, too,” he said.

“Farrah Fawcett died, too?!”

“Well, she had cancer, you know.”

“I know, but still. I loved that show!”

“You did? I thought that show was a guy thing,”

Oh. Well, maybe it was, but growing up as I did with no TV in the house, I was desperate to watch anything, and I remember loving the tough chicks with the big hair in their stylish clothes. Did other girls? I have no idea.

“What show?” Ty wanted to know.

Charlie’s Angels,” I told him. “Remember when we watched the movie Charlie’s Angels while we were at Disneyland? Farrah Fawcett was one of the original angels in the TV show.”

Sorry, the movie will never cut it for me. No one could replace Farrah Fawcett. I’m not sure why she looms so large in my mind, but likely because I was ten or so when she was so hot, and watching girls kick ass was cool. It was the age of feminism, after all, and I don’t recall too many other models of sexy feminine strength, except maybe that show Isis that kids watched on Saturday mornings. Anyway, Farrah, with her red bathing suit, curling ironed hair, and white, white teeth, will always be one of those indelible associations with childhood in the 70s. Michael Jackson was cool, too (although he got too weird for words), but I never related to him like I did the girl power Farrah embodied for me. 

I wonder who the icons will be for my kids when they’re adults. I hope it’s not Miley Cyrus.


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Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school, and I have two hours before Leah comes storming home, elated to be out for the summer. Ty, an hour after that. Yikes. Where did the time go? How is it I now have a seventh grader?

As I do every summer, I’ve been thinking about what the kids can do around the house so I can get some work done (ha!).

1.    Read (uh huh).
2.    Help yourself to food (and I don’t mean cookies) rather than ask Mom to do it (right).
3.    Play games with each other (in my dreams).
4.    Go places together without me, say, to the park or the corner store or the school playground (still in dreamland).
5.    Stay off the computer except for the allotted time allowance (good luck to me).

This is what I imagine really happening: The kids will not read or play games or go places together. They’ll lie around and moan that they’re bored. They’ll ask me to fix them breakfast or lunch, or at best, they’ll fix themselves something and leave the kitchen in a complete shambles that they’ll only sort of clean up when I ask them to, and I’ll end up wishing I’d just made the meal because the cleanup will be so involved it isn’t worth it in the end. Instead of relying on each other, they’ll call friends, and I’ll end up in charge of a couple of 9-year-old boys who need food (often) and who will hunker over Heroscape all afternoon in the confines of a small, upstairs bedroom, getting no exercise whatsoever while I crank on work. Leah will beg me to take her shopping for summer clothes she could use but doesn’t really need because she feels most loved by those around her when they buy things for her. They’ll bicker every day and chase each other around the house to torment each other and Ty will come running to me to hide behind me for protection after he instigated whatever it was that pissed off Leah. They’ll spend way more time on the computer than I realize. Two weeks into summer I will be looking at the calendar. When is it school starts again?

In truth, I do love summer. I love the sleep-in mornings (theirs), berry picking, flip flops, summer sunrise, dry grass, leafy trees, music in the parks, riding bikes, warm(ish) evenings, trips to the library, going to Mallards. It’s all good. Really, who doesn’t love summer? Now, if I could just do something about that bickering…


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Sometime in the last week, Leah suddenly and inexplicably returned to eating meat. I think it might have been the night we were having hot dogs for dinner.

“I’m not going to be a vegetarian anymore. Can I have a hot dog, too, please?”

But of course.

“Does this mean you’re going to be eating all kinds of meat or just hot dogs?” I asked.

“Mm, I don’t really know. Hot dogs, I guess. Is that okay? I mean, is it weird to just eat one or two kinds of meat and not all of them?”

“You can do whatever you want.”

But you know what I’ve noticed? Every time I ask her if she wants whatever meat we’re having, she says yes. And chows it. It makes me wonder if her growing body craves meat the way pregnant women crave it. I don’t know much about these things, other than what I experienced with my own pregnancies. I was a partial vegetarian—seafood only—back when I got pregnant with Leah (nearly thirteen long years ago), and I took to eating a can of tuna a day. Ack! This was back before there were any limits recommended, and I still wonder how much mercury might be floating around in our two bodies. Or is it settled in a heavy layer on the floor of our stomachs? By the time I was pregnant with Ty, the recs were out, so I ate chicken instead. Now I eat anything. Well, tuna freaks me out.

(Or maybe it was all that track that brought Leah back to meat. By the way, the second day of the city meet went swimmingly for her—she and her teammates won the 4 X 100 relay, and they were stoked. So was her mama.)

Anyway, we accommodated Leah’s vegetarian diet for over a year, which didn’t feel like a deal since I did the same for myself for fifteen years. We served up tofu in place of pork chops, bought all manner of veggie burgers (still do), and combined beans and rice, which I’ve since learned is an outmoded idea.

At one point, I wondered if she was getting the nutrients she needed, as a pubescent girl. Did she need more protein than an adult woman needed? More iron? More calcium?

I went through a phase of checking out veggie cookbooks from the library and figured out that no, a veggie diet is fine, and that it’s more important to eat healthily across the board than to substitute protein for protein. I also figured out that my kids’ diets, both of them, were sorely lacking in the greens department. (But really, what kids’ vegetarian cookbook recommends kale, for Pete’s sake? What planet are these people on?)

Still, I went through a phase of thinking about my kids’ diets, worrying they weren’t getting their daily sources of iron and calcium (sugary yogurt doesn’t count in my book). I even tried a peanut butter squash stew thing that one book proclaimed a kids’ favorite. The result? “You have got to stop reading these cookbooks, Mom,” Leah said. She and Ty refused to touch the stew.

So I quit reading. And I stopped thinking about what my kids ingest except only in the most general way—have they had any fruit today, or something vegetable-y? I figure as long as their diets aren’t too processed, we’re probably doing okay.

And the meat eating? Bring it on. It’s awfully nice cooking one menu for everyone. Of course, if we’re not eating burritos or pasta, there is the Ty conundrum.

“What am I going to eat, Mom?”


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Track Manic

So I’ve recently discovered the ultimate challenge for me as a mother: It’s watching my kid (any kid, actually) compete in track and not getting all het up about it. Cello recital? No problem. Soccer, I’m pretty laid back. Horse riding? Totally clueless. But track, oh, I can’t help it—I just get soooo excited about track. My heart flutters, my legs tense, my body leans forward, all while sitting in the stands, mind you, with no physical involvement whatsoever, except for clapping for kids pounding down the track (or jogging or straggling or barely finishing, whatever the case may be).

You’ll also hear me say things like, “Wow, that kid can run, look at her pace, hope she knows what she’s doing, hmm, she does look like she knows what she’s doing, check out that kick, wow, I wonder what her time was, well, we’re going to be reading about her in the paper for sure when she hits high school.” It’s a running commentary I am hardly aware of. And then some parent will ask if I ran track, too, and, well yes, I ran the … and here we go. I even still remember my times.

So anyway, yesterday, at the middle school city meet at Civic, I decided to support Leah by hanging around the long jump pit, where she was competing in her only event of the day. Up till now, I’d always watched from the distant vantage point of the stadium shade. She seemed happy to see me, or at least the water bottle I’d brought along for refreshment in that baking heat. (Naturally, most kids didn’t have water bottles.) But then came the unsolicited advice after each jump. “You have to explode down the runway, sweetie. The faster you run, the farther you jump.” And this: “Throw your arms out in front of you when you leap. That’ll pull your body forward.” And this: “Try lifting your legs higher—thrust them out in front of you.”

I have no idea what I’m talking about. I never did the long jump in school. But I can’t resist analyzing the strategy and form of any track event that involves some kind of running (okay, pole vault, I’d know better). To her credit, Leah didn’t brush me off or seem irritated but simply took my comments in stride. “Okay,” she would say and look like she was actually considering the information, and then she’d go and jump exactly as she had been doing all along. 

I’ve heard those ex high-school football players replay games from their deep, dark past. Those replays don’t make them sound like they know anything, they just make ‘em sound pathetic, as if high school football was the only worthwhile experience of their small little lives. Oops, only now it’s me. Um, yeah, no. These poor kids don’t want to hear my stories; they don’t need to hear my commentary (I wonder what she says about me, they’re surely thinking). They don’t need my advice (but if they ask for it, of course…).

Today is the second day of the meet. I get to watch Leah run the 4 X 100 relay, an event I know a lot about, including what it feels like to completely botch it at the state level and disqualify (nasty feeling, I tell … but there I go again).

Today, I resolve to clap and congratulate and cheer (or cheer up). And under my breath, my new commentary? It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not about me.

Wish me luck.

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My niece is graduating from high school this weekend, and she’ll be giving one of the graduation speeches at her school in Oregon. She’s the first out of the family nest, her own and the extended family’s, and my sister-in-law says she’s going to have to wear sunglasses to hide the tears.

Although my own daughter is just twelve, I am reminded all over again just how fleeting this parenting thing is. I think I said this once before, but I still think of it when I’m feeling caught up on other planes, not living in the now with my kids. It’s just this: These are the best years of our lives. My grandma told me this once, from the vantage point of 89 or 90 or whatever she was at the time, amid the chaos of my infant son crawling around her apartment, and my toddler daughter pestering me with questions and exploring where she shouldn’t. “Remember that,” my grandmother said, looking me in the eye.

And maybe my grandmother was right. But I hope the golden years are good, too, because there are a lot of those ahead of us. We have to let our kids go, and we have to be fine without them.

But you can bet I’ll be the one in sunglasses when my daughter is graduating. Thank goodness I’ve got a few years yet.

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