Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Caffeine High

I discovered the pleasures of a caffeine-infused child the other day when Ty bought and consumed a 16-ounce container of Mountain Dew at 5:00 in the afternoon. Naturally, it was when I wasn’t there to say no, which I have been saying for years.

Not surprisingly, he couldn’t get to sleep until after 11:00, each trip down the stairs to let me know accompanied by bigger and bigger bags under his eyes. He also tends to go a shade of pale when he’s beyond tired, and by 11:00 he was the color of new snow. There wasn’t a thing I could do to help him.

But when he told his dad (who had been out of town) about it the next day, what Ty recalled with a broad smile was the joy of jangly nerves and the half hour of a movie he got to watch with me at 10:00pm. No memory of the hangover at school, the deep fatigue that dogged him through the day.

According to a variety of articles on the Web, kids’ caffeine intake is growing, and you’re just as likely to stand in line at Starbucks behind a sullen teen as a hurried businessman (and we wonder why the kids can’t sit still in class). But there’s been little research on kids and caffeine, according to the Washington Post’s “Rousing Kids to Caffeine’s Consequences.”

I’m all for adults drinking Red Bull during sports—indeed there was a time when I couldn’t get through an ultimate Frisbee tournament without the promise of performance-enhancing caffeine, but for kids, not so much. I’m thinking it’s time the research kicked in.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to trust that Ty doesn’t drink Mountain Dew. After, uh, 10:00am.

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First Solo Flight

We put Leah on a plane to Portland the other day for her first solo flight. We thought it would be no big deal: flying out of little ol’ Bellingham, 55-minute flight, relatives to meet her at the other end. But from the perspective of a 13-year-old (and her mother), getting out of Bellingham was no easy task.

In short, the airport was a madhouse.

The ticketing area was jammed with passengers and uncertain lines. No one knew where to go, and everyone boarding the San Diego flight was running late. They were stressed and unhappy, and we kept overhearing grumbling about lack of signage, bad organization, and long lines. The ticket agents began calling Seattle passengers forward ahead of the rest of us (apparently they were running even later than San Diego folks).

“If you’re flying to Seattle, you need to check in now or you’re going to miss your flight,” the agents announced. Passengers hustled forward, panic in their eyes, as the rest of us stepped aside.

In addition to the chaos of the ticketing area, we weren’t sure we would be allowed to accompany Leah to the boarding lounge, which is really just a glorified portable. We hadn’t paid the accompaniment fee (optional once kids are 13), and I had been told on the phone the decision for parents to accompany kids was up to the ticket agent, dependant on whether the airport was crowded. Thankfully, the ticket agent said, “Of course,” despite the madhouse (precisely when you need your parents).

We got checked in with half an hour to spare. Plenty of time for security.

Right. Another epic queue. The San Diego flyers were even further behind and more stressed, and they had taken to cutting in front. For my part, I had forgotten about small toiletry sizes for carry-on luggage. When we got to the conveyer belt, the security official squawked unhappily as Leah’s suitcase went through the x-ray. He yanked it off the belt and flung it open to reveal loose toiletries—no clear plastic bags—and he promptly confiscated the Costco-sized tube of toothpaste (really, Leah?) and a brand-new bottle of sunscreen. Crap.

Disgruntled and impatient, he growled at us about the 3.4-ounce rule and flung the toothpaste and sunscreen into a bin behind him.

“Um, can I just take those home with me?” I said. “I’m not boarding a plane.” Ever the cheapskate, I couldn’t imagine letting that $10 sunscreen go to waste.

“I would have to escort you to the door right now, Ma’am. Do you want to be escorted?” Clearly, he did not want to escort anyone anywhere.

Uh, no, never mind.

Leah’s suitcase had to be x-rayed again, not a quick endeavor with the massive shuffle of bags and people. We had to step off to one side to wait as her suitcase sat in the queue behind all the others. Her toiletries were put in a tray to be x-rayed separately, and she could barely contain her panic.

“When will I get my suitcase?” she kept asking. She is a child who hates being late, and today, suddenly, being late mattered. For my part, I was feeling bad I hadn’t gone through her toiletries. Normally, when we fly as a family, we check our bags, and I’m not sure I ever knew the 3.4-ounce rule. (“I don’t even bother with toiletries these days,” a friend later told me. “I just hit the nearest the Rite-Aid after we arrive.”)

Eventually, Leah’s suitcase reappeared, and she was allowed to repack her travel-sized shampoo and conditioner. She would have to use her cousin’s toothpaste and buy new sunscreen.

Rushing to the boarding portable, we learned her flight was delayed an hour. After all that. Curt decided he would head home. “Call me when you’re ready to be picked up,” he told me.

Then we and all the other Portland passengers had to relocate to another portable next door, just opened that day—for the mass of passengers, apparently, that this tiny airport is not ready to handle.

Then it was announced that all large carry-ons would have to be put on a luggage cart outside the plane because the carry-ons were too big to fit in the cabinets above the seats. So much for the furor about tiny toiletries. I couldn’t help thinking wistfully about that sunscreen. Although, yes, I could have doctored them in the boarding lounge.

“What does that mean?” Leah wanted to know. “What does the cart look like?”

For an adult, these kinds of changes are no big deal. We know to listen for the announcements and the flight numbers, and we ask boarding personnel if we don’t understand. But for a 13-year-old who doesn’t want to look foolish, it’s all new. Through the window, I showed her the luggage cart sitting outside the plane, explaining she would also have to pick up her suitcase planeside in Portland. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” I said. “If you don’t know, ask, ask, ask.”

At last, the passengers were called by seat row, and Leah got in line. I watched her go through the door and out onto the tarmac. I watched her approach the employee standing beside the luggage cart. He was turned away from approaching passengers as he gabbed to another employee. Leah stopped and waited. And waited. He kept talking (come on, dude). I wondered if she would put her suitcase on the cart herself or if she would wait. She walked around in front of him and planted herself—good girl—so he had to notice her. He took her suitcase, and she boarded the plane.

I waited, watching through the window, to see her suitcase put on the plane (I wasn’t assuming anything at this point). At last, the boarding steps were wheeled away, the door was sealed, and the plane revved its engine. I watched the plane taxi, turn, and take off at last.

“Is this place always this crazy?” I asked the boarding agent fiddling at the boarding pass counter. Aside from a stranded passenger, we were the only people in the portable.

He laughed. “Lately, this place is chaos.”

Huh. And this town wants to run with the big dog airports? Okay, I admit, we did our bit to contribute to the chaos. The 3.4 rule is etched in my brain. (And I do appreciate that we can fly from Bellingham, really, I do).

We also know now to arrive a full two hours before take-off.


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Outdoor Adventures

Over the weekend, Ty and his dad went out for their own outdoor adventure and some male bonding, while Leah and I stayed home to watch movies and sleep in our beds.

At 8:15 in the morning, as I lounged with a book in bed and listened to the rain, Ty burst through the door, hair damp, shirt wet, eyes sparkling.

“Hey, buddy,” I said.

“We started walking at 5:00 this morning,” Ty crowed. “We’ve been awake since 3:00, and my sleeping bag is soaking. I had to sleep in it that way.”

For a boy who’s quick to moan that a trail is too steep and his legs are too tired, or the day is too rainy to go outside, he seemed mighty cheerful about sleeping in a wet sleeping bag (I hate it, myself).

Ty's bivy spot for the night

When Ty and Curt later showed me the pictures of their little hike to the top of Gee Peak, I was surprised to see how rocky and small the top was. And they slept up there. Under a rainfly.

“Yeah, it was too small for us to sleep side by side,” said my husband. “There wasn’t room to set up a tent.”

“How exposed was it?” I asked. Climber jargon (not that I am one but being married to one for 15 years entitles me).

“It was pretty airy.”

Uh huh.

“Yeah, Mom, you wouldn’t have liked it. It was steep and there were cliffs,” Ty interjected.

Ty reading on Gee Peak

Turning his head to whisper, Curt said, “It wasn’t that bad. There were trees that would break your fall. It’s not like it was a sheer cliff or anything.”

Uh huh.

Ty’s right, I’m glad I wasn’t there. I have a thing about heights, and when my progeny is leaning out over open space, I get a little breathless. On the other hand, if he gets this excited about scrambling around on steep slopes and sleeping out in a downpour and, well, if I’m not there to have to watch, I’m thinking it’s worth it. Truly, he was as pumped as a hound on a hunt. Curt and I are already scheming on ways to get him out again.

Ty and Dad I guess there is something to male bonding. Even if I was willing to sleep out in the rain, I’m a mom, after all (even if I do like to hike), good for finding the Band-Aids and giving hugs, but not so great, it seems, for helping a boy discover his inner man.

Point taken.


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Road Trip Peace

I am one of those Luddite parents that believe in staring out the window on road trips. Or playing word games or listening to books on tape or, you know, just talking. (I draw the line at Brady Bunch singing.) Needless to say, our kids have never watched movies in the car, and we still don’t own a portable DVD player — we are perhaps the last (American) family on earth without one.

And yet, on our recent road trip, we were totally wired. I didn’t even realize it until after several hours of silence in the car. Ty was busy on his DSi playing shoot ‘em up games, while Leah was in the front seat (to help with motion sickness, she says) with her iPod Touch and all its available apps.

You know what? I love the silence. No fighting at all. (It helps that Leah is now in the front seat). I mean, really, who needs the requisite bickering that goes with road tripping?

When I wasn’t driving, I sat in back with Ty and read The Girl Who Played with Fire while he busily punched buttons. Once in a while, a pang of guilt would wash through me for not making him shut down and focus on a landmark in the distance or interact with the rest of us (but since we weren’t interacting, what did it matter?), and then I’d keep reading and get deeper into the plot and forget all about him, while Leah played her apps and Curt focused on the road.

Apps, apparently, are it. I didn’t really know it until last week when my mother-in-law sent us an article from the New York Times on good apps for kids on road trips (for next year, I guess).

Uh. Am I supposed to know what apps my kids are using? There are apps with sexual overtones? Really? (Okay, geez, I’ll start checking.)

Judging by the number of articles in the NYT, apps are the new wave, and my daughter is riding the crest. Ty is begging for an iPod for his birthday, and I suspect he’ll be riding that crest soon, too. But little kids are onboard as well. I found another NYT article with a list of recommended apps to keep your 3-year-old from melting down, probably in the grocery line. When my kids were 3 and 4, apps didn’t exist, and honestly, I’m grateful they didn’t, all of 10 years ago, even if I did suffer the indignity of tantrums. Something about 3 and 4-year-olds not needing electronic input — and the word “tranquilizer.”

But, yeah, I have to admit, I do love the new silence in our car. What took me so long? Tranqilize away.

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Summer Revelation

Last night we went to our local Fourth of July block party, per usual, a party we’ve been attending for about six years now. Just so happened we’d been going through photos from these parties the night before and exclaiming how young our kids were when our neighbor started throwing them. Here’s a photo of yesteryear’s fun. That’s Leah in front.

Leah with firework

So last night’s party felt particularly poignant as I realized the young kids lining up for their turn to light a firework were not kids I knew. The kids I knew, many of them now 13, 14, and 15, were roaming around and chatting, a few lighting fireworks but most not. The lure of fireworks has dulled for them, especially for the girls (until they start throwing their own Independence Day parties, I suppose–now that’s a scary thought).

On Facebook this morning, I saw a few photos of families who had congregated one block over from us, families with toddlers, preschoolers, and soon-to-be kindergartners. The same phase I was in six years ago. In six years those kids will be on the cusp of adolescence.Leah at Skaha

For my daughter, six years is just about half her life. For my son, it’s two-thirds of his. Forever.

For me, six years is nearly one-eighth of my life and getting fractionally smaller every year. In other words, a couple fleeting steps and then my kids are gone. Kinda freaky.

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