Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Electronics Widow

We have three iPod Touch owners in our household these days. I am not one of them. And when I pick up my (paper) book to read (turning paper pages) while everyone else posting on Facebook, playing Flood, or whatever else it is they’re doing, I feel hopelessly old fashioned. And disgruntled. And worried that screen time will forever drown out books, even though everyone in our house is a good reader.

It’s not that I don’t spend time on the computer or Facebook or email — I do — but I grew up, as you surely did, in an era when you talked on the phone or you went outside or you read a book. Sure, our generation had TV. And my parents fretted about it. But according to the New York Times article, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” TV doesn’t have the same impact on the brain that multitasking with several technologies does. The article explores the lure of electronics, the effects on kids’ brains, and kids’ ability to focus. It’s worth reading. It’s also overwhelming. Are we raising children with brains unable to focus, concentrate, or listen? Will their adult brain capacity, like I imagine their standard of living, be lower than ours. Or just different?

When your kids are little, it’s easy to monitor what they’re doing with technology. But once they’re older, whether they own the technology or not, it’s much more difficult to know what they’re up to (and if you think you know, you might have your head in the sand) — the pull of friends’ houses, for one, or the time at home on their own while, if you’re like me, you’re grocery shopping in peace. You can bet they’re not doing their homework. Well, my daughter will be doing it. The boys I know, including mine? Not so much.

And yet, despite my Luddite sensibilities, I know the impact of not allowing your kids access to modern technology when everyone else has it.  It becomes the forbidden fruit, the reason your kid hangs out at other kids’ homes, even those kids who aren’t really friends. According to one parent I know, your kid is out of the social loop if she doesn’t own a cell phone. Not good, she says. I didn’t know.

I’m a big believer in balance, but once the technology enters your home, the slope is as slippery as they get (watch out), and despite all good intentions, your idea of balance becomes skewed indeed. Constantly tricky.

Who knew there would come a day when watching TV together would be considered quality family time? How quaint.

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Welcome 2011

I used to be one for New Year’s resolutions, but somewhere along the way, I gave them up. Too easy to fall off the wagon. Now I just go for little goals without big consequences if I don’t follow through. But I do have some parenting goals I hope to remember all year.

  1. Listen. Really.
  2. Talk less (you lose them after two sentences anyway).
  3. Smile more often.
  4. Catch my kids doing good things.
  5. Stop nagging my son. Okay, maybe just do less of it.
  6. Be consistent.
  7. Be in the moment.
  8. Be grateful. Remember life can change on a dime.
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Car Accident Advice for Teens

I haven’t posted in forever, it seems (that chocolate cake was a month ago!), thanks in large part to a car accident two weeks ago, in which our car was totaled (low-value car), and the driver — me — escaped with minor whiplash. (No one else was in the car.) I’m thankful, of course, no one at the scene was hurt beyond whiplash. I have an inordinate fear of car accidents, and this was my first. I am grateful every day it wasn’t a high-speed collision.

However, shopping for cars is not what we had planned for December — never mind borrowing money, making multiple phone calls to insurance agents, claims adjusters, the loss department, and the rental company that told us our rental car was due (it wasn’t). Total headache. It could be worse, I know. I could have terminally ill children.

But right now I am thinking a lot about new drivers and the fact we will have one in our family in about two years, sooner than I would like. Yikes. And oh, baby, she can’t wait. But if, as a veteran driver, I wasn’t sure what to do at the scene of an accident, you can bet she won’t. It kinda freaks me out.

So here’s the cheat sheet I will be posting in our car, numbered in order of importance and laminated for durability. (I may also conduct surprise quizzes once her license is issued. Don’t tell her I said that.)

What To Do at the Accident Scene

1. Read this list before getting out of the car. (Okay, maybe that’s unrealistic.)

2. Don’t move your car from the scene of the collision, except perhaps to pull to the curb.  Even if it’s a minor accident, don’t park elsewhere to trade insurance information because people can change their stories, i.e., lie about what happened, and the police can’t help sort it out if you’ve moved the cars. (No one lied at my accident scene.)

3. Make sure everyone is okay. If not, call 911. (We didn’t have to do this.)

4. Grab a witness and take their info so you can contact them later. Better yet, have them hang around until the police arrive. (We had no witnesses because not a single person stopped to see if we were okay.)

5. Don’t talk about whose fault it is. Don’t argue. Don’t apologize. Don’t go there.

6. Call the police, even for a minor accident (see #5). Girls and boys, DO NOT let the other driver talk you out of it. It’s not a big deal to involve the police. All they do is take statements, fill out an accident report, and then you have the paper trail you need when it comes time to bargain for a settlement.

7. Take pictures of the damage to the cars. I will be putting an instant cardboard camera in the glove box when we get a new car. Of course, my daughter has a cell phone that she knows how to use.

8. Exchange insurance information with the other party. While you’re at it, do not say say you’re fine. Whiplash sets in later.

9. Call your insurance agent.

10. Somewhere in there, call Mom and Dad, preferably after you grab that witness.

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Heavenly Desserts

Last night, we took the kids to Pure Bliss Desserts on Cornwall Avenue just a few doors down from the Pickford. Have you been here yet? It just opened two weeks ago. I highly recommend it, especially for older kids (and younger kids who enjoy acting grownup for an hour).

My husband admitted it was a bit froofy for his taste, and, yeah, it does have a sophisticated feminine appeal with a black and pink theme throughout that Leah and I particularly liked. But the chocolate trumped any décor opinions. You can order yourself a hefty slice of chocolate cake big enough for two or three, although my kids put serious dents in their slices before they asked for help. My favorite was the peppermint patty chocolate cake, but there’s also creamy coconut (next time) or German chocolate or triple chocolate or… if you’re not a fan of chocolate, try the gourmet cookies and dessert bars. I’m betting the choices change often, but I forgot to ask. Anyway, it’s all great.

And, for the best of all worlds, Chocolate Necessities is right next door. After we ate our cake, we stopped in to see what they offer—we never managed to visit while they were at the Public Market—and we taste tested their yummy gelato. Have you seen the chocolates here? How did we not know about them until last night? They are pure artistry at work: chocolate high-heeled pumps, instruments, dogs, motocycles, turkeys, and the quaintest little cottage you ever did see.

So if you’re looking for a special treat with your kids (or without them), I recommend dessert at this pair of delectable Bellingham establishments. And for those who don’t live here, well, you’ll just have to come visit.

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Slacker Advice for Halloween

Halloween is coming and I know some parents out there are stressing about the amount of sugar their kids are going to ingest. It’s a yearly topic. I bring it up because I came across this blog, Spoonfed, with a post on how this family handles Halloween (look for “Candy insanity: Halloween here we come.”) 

Okay, I’m truly a slacker parent—the votes are all in. Here’s why: we let the kids eat their Halloween candy. No night sprite comes to trade toys for candy in the middle of the night (I’m way too cheap for that). We don’t throw out the candy after the kids go to bed, and I didn’t throw it out when they were young, either—my husband and I prefer to help ourselves and hope the kids don’t notice. We don’t separate candy by health quality, we (they) separate by type of candy—an important ritual—and they eat it. We don’t hand out toys to kids at the door because we get too many kids in our neighborhood (see cheap, above).

I know sugar is rampant. As are chemicals. The Spoonfed blogger is more concerned with chemicals than sugar, and I’m right there with her. And I get she’s just trying to dialogue on health with her kids. I applaud her energy.

I also know what happens when you ban kids from the sweet stuff (or television or polyester or skateboarding). They crave it all the more, and you run the risk of creating, or at least contributing to, food fixations and even eating disorders. Really, I know adults in this boat. I’ve also seen kids get pretty bossy and judgmental with their candy-eating peers, and who needs that?

But mostly, I’m just trying to walk a line. When I was a kid, our sugar consumption was seriously controlled. In fact, my dad told the local store owner—we had exactly one store in our community—not to sell candy to me and my sisters. I didn’t know about the edict until I tried to buy candy one day (I was about 10) and the store clerk had to break the news. He was embarrassed, and I was mortified. After that, when my friends bought candy, I would feign disinterest in the sweet stuff and buy an apple instead because I was too embarrassed to admit my parents’ sugar ethic. My sister? She took to stealing candy and hiding it in her dresser drawer.

So, I’m all for feeding kids a healthy diet, but I don’t go overboard on the control issues. Call me a slacker, but I have put some thought into this. When Ty was 3, we let him “eat” all his candy in one night, about 15 pieces (incidentally, your dentist will agree this is better for your kid’s teeth). Ty opened every piece, took one bite, and put it aside. Okay, yes, I did throw it all away when he went to bed. But he thought he’d gorged on candy, and the issue was over. The reality is I’m just too lazy to monitor and negotiate candy for weeks on end. Slacker.

These days, I don’t have any say in what the kids eat on Halloween (and they’re quicker to notice declines in their candy stash)—nor do I think I should be controlling a 13-year-old’s choices. She needs to figure that out. But I do remind her to brush her teeth. And my kids are quick to spot the difference between fun food and healthy food (Leah told me recently our house was healthy but not crazy healthy. I think she meant it as a compliment). They eat vegetables and fruit, and they steadfastly refuse to eat hot lunch at school.

Personally, I say trick-or-treat to fewer houses when your kids are young and skip the downtown business trick-or-treat scene. The best way to cut down on candy is not to bring it into the house at all.

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