Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

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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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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Wayward Teen

This morning, when Leah and I returned from sharing a pastry at a bakery, we found Milo, our now teen-age cat, lounging on our neighbor’s front step, along with one of the neighbor’s resident cats, who is an overweight pudge, and the local bully, whom we think might be a stray. I’m actually not sure he’s a bully, but he’s a rough-looking sort with greasy black fur and bony hips, and I have always assumed he’s the one yowling around at night, ready to beat the stuffing out of any of the softer house cats who come from good homes and have no concept of poverty or hunger.

But here they were, hanging together amicably—the fat girl, the bad boy, and the impressionable teen, looking as if they had been discussing the fun of trying cigarettes.

Bad Boy rose as soon as he saw us to lope down the steps and across the street to the lot where a new house is going up. The pudge continued to lie on her porch, contemplating me and Leah. Milo, after a pause, got up to follow the stray, at a distance. Apparently, his new friend offers a tantalizing window into the wide world of fun. Milo, who has been allowed outside for the past couple of months, has always exercised caution, sticking close to the house and bolting to the front or back door if he senses a threat. Today, he crossed the street without looking.

“Oh my gosh,” Leah remarked. “If he was a kid, he’d be the type to take the candy and get in the car with a stranger.”

I laughed. So right. And I found myself worrying a little, just as I worry about my kids. We watched Milo pause at the edge of the new-house property, crane his neck to see where Bad Boy went, and look toward us, torn, it appeared, between following his bliss and making the right choice.

When we clicked our tongues at him and called his name, he meowed, hesitated, glanced in the direction his friend had gone, and then crossed the street (without looking) to come home.

I wonder how long it will be before he caves completely to his teen urges. And whether we’ll have any influence at all.

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Cell Phone Liberty

We have gone down the cell-phone-for-kids path, at long last, after months and months of putting it off. Our middle schooler is now connected (likely to her teachers’ dismay) and loving it. We finally said yes because she was willing to buy her own phone, that’s how much she wanted it.

After all that, though, I’m not sure how much she’s actually using the phone because we’ve decided on a pay-as-you-go plan with a $20 plan for 90 days, and a $5 text plan for 30 days (paid for by parents). Exceed either plan in those timeframes, and she gets to purchase additional minutes with her babysitting money.

Draconian? Maybe. We like to think the limited minutes will help her value them and use them less, keep her calling her friends, and them calling her, on the land line—that most ancient of technologies—to avoid using up minute time. I think that’s the thing that bothers me most about cell phones—the anonymity of them that keeps parents out of the loop. Not that we aren’t already. Our kids are independent beings with hours of school time to have conversations out of their parents’ hearing. As they should. Still, there’s such a thing as too much independence and anonymity.

There’s also the addiction to the cell ring that gets me, the constant interruption of it, the secret texting under the desk at school, texting from inside a pocket (never mind driving a car at the same time). Always being connected but not in the here and now. I don’t think Leah’s progressed to these uses yet, but it’s a mighty slippery slope.

But I must admit, on Leah’s second day of ownership, I got a genuinely needy call from her friend (because Leah couldn’t talk herself), who asked if I could pick them up on the walk home from school because Leah’s nose was bleeding like crazy and she was a mess. She was also, I knew, supposed to be to picking up a pair of twins from the elementary school for after-school care. In about fifteen minutes. 

Of course I would come pick her up.

I found the girls, got Leah home, got the bleeding stopped, and helped her clean up, all in time for the after-school kid care. I’m sure she feels pretty smug about owning a mobile phone right about now.

I guess in the old days (last week), she would have walked home with a bleeding nose. And she would have been late picking up the girls, and she would have had to call the school to let them know. On the land line.

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Public Appearances with Mom

Yesterday, Leah came home from school and told me she was going to the high school football game tonight with her friend, H. “Were you planning to ask or just inform?” I said.

“Oh. Can I go?”

“Is her mom dropping you off or is she going too?”

“She’s going too. So’s H.’s dad. They want to see R. (H.’s older brother) in the half-time band performance. ”

If there’s anything I’m a sucker for, it’s high school marching bands. I have no idea why because I never did band myself, but now as a parent I find those horrible uniforms quite endearing.

“Really?” I said. “Hmm, I might like to go too.”

Leah’s face fell. “You want to come? Why would you want to come?”

“Why not, it would be fun to see R. in the band.”

“I don’t want you to come.”

It’s here. That day everyone told us would come, but I never quite believed would arrive. That day your kid no longer thinks you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and not only that, she would rather lick the toilet seat than be seen with you. Okay, maybe it’s not quite as bad as the toilet seat, but we’re a hair away, I can feel it. Somehow I always thought I’d be exempt, that I would never be quite that uncool. Okay, I admit I’m not cool, but I didn’t think my daughter would notice. Or care. 

Today, Leah and I negotiated. She decided it was okay if I went as long as she and her buddy could sit elsewhere and I promised to sit with the adults. And not bug her.




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