Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

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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July Traveling

How can we already be at the end of July? Every summer at the end of July, I realize just how short summer is.

But we did get some traveling in (also the reason I have been so slack about posting). We did a road trip through Oregon and northern California with heavy emphasis on family. On our way south to the Monterey Peninsula, we stopped at the Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California. Ever heard of it? Probably not. It only gets 100,000 visitors a year.

lava tubeKids love this place, and if you’re in the neighborhood, I recommend it. There are more than 700 lava tubes with about three dozen developed for the public. The tubes were formed by volcanic eruptions from thousands of years ago. The lava flows cooled around the outside, leaving a molten middle that flowed away, leaving pitch-black tubes perfect for exploring.
Some of the tubes were closed while we were there because they were hosting baby bat populations, and we also opted not to visit the caves that required crawling, which left us with the best of the best.

Ceiling of Golden Dome tubeGolden Dome was our favorite: manageable ceilings that required some stooping but not crawling (watch out for “headache rock” as you enter), long tunnels, and a glittery gold ceiling formed from water droplets adhering to a coating of hydrophobic bacteria. Sounds gross, but it’s not. Looks a lot like fool’s gold. We didn’t get lost, but because the cave has a figure 8 shape, you could easily go around in circles, and I must admit, I did find it a little worrisome. But then the kids started to recognize various boulders and entrances to tunnels as places we’d been before. “This way,” they would say. Whew.

Petroglyph caveYou do want to wear a helmet (we had our bike helmets with us) to protect against head bumps—plenty of those to go around. We met families without them, who looked at ours rather enviously. And you definitely want flashlights, which we checked out from the visitor center.

If you’re heading to California, the Lava Beds are a great stop.

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Young Writers Studio Fundraiser

Stephanie Dethlefs, a friend and fellow writer, is the founder of Young Writers Studio, a fantastic resource for Whatcom County kids that she’s poured her heart and soul into. The Studio is having a fundraiser book sale, and I wanted to pass the word along.

Here’s what Stephanie has to say:

As you may know, our organization has been incorporated as a nonprofit and is on its way to obtaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. And to celebrate, we are going hold a fundraiser!

On Saturday, July 31, we will be having a gigantic used book sale, with 100% of the proceeds going to support Young Writers Studio programming. With financial assistance available for our low-cost workshops and free support given to the public schools, we rely greatly on the generosity of our local and regional community to keep our programs up and running.

And here’s how to help:

1. Donate books!
Let me know that you have books to donate, and I will come pick them up (contact is One book or one hundred…whatever you can donate is great! Books for all ages, of all genres, all styles, all sizes welcome…as long as they’ve been just gently loved. In return you’ll be given an IOU donation receipt which can later be used to obtain a tax-deductible receipt once our 501(c)(3) status is granted (this fall…fingers crossed!)

2. Shop our book sale!
Mark your calendars for Saturday, July 31, 2010, 12 – 4 p.m. at the Center for Expressive Arts and Experiential Education, 1317 Commercial St., Suite 201, Bellingham 98225. All books priced at $1; 12 for $10 & 25 for $20.  A book-lover’s paradise!! :-)

 3. Pass the  message to any and all who might be interested in donating or attending!
 Find out more about our program at From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for supporting the Young Writers Studio.

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Winthrop Camping

We crammed in a camping trip to the Winthrop area last weekend, and with rain looming this weekend, I am so glad we did. I got my last blast of heat (mid-90s) before the fall weather sets in.

We camped up the Chewuck Valley north of Winthrop at a forest service campground, which Leah was dreading because she likes to shower every day, and pit toilets are notorious for spiders. Amazingly she did fine—she encountered no spiders—and willingly washed her face in the river at the edge of our campsite every morning and brushed her teeth strolling among the pines. Although she brought a mirror along (that proved indispensible for my contacts), she’s more of a camper than she realizes.

Besides river play, biking, and ice cream in Winthrop, we drove up to Harts Pass one day, the highest elevation you can drive to in the state. A stunning place, truly. If only the drive weren’t so epic. If you don’t like heights—and I don’t—this is one road to avoid. Of course, by the time I figured this out, we were in the middle of it with no turning back.

In truth, most of the (unpaved) road is fine, but there’s a narrow stretch called Dead Horse Point (we learned this afterward—probably a good thing) that hugs the cliffside for half a mile, zigging and zagging around the curve of the cliff with alarming frequency. A posted warning sign tells drivers of the “Hazardous Driving” ahead, but as far as I’m concerned the heads-up only amps the stress. Luckily I was sitting in the back seat on the inside and didn’t bother to look over the cliff out Ty’s side (“Don’t look, mommy, you wouldn’t like it”).  Sheer drops, no guard rails, lots of fallen rock and gravel, many blind curves, and all kinds of potential (it seems to me) for slippage. What, I wondered, do you do if you meet a car coming the other way?

View of North Cascades from Slate Peak At the top, I was very surprised to see so many people, ranging in age from two to seventy-two. How did they get up here? Who drove? Well, I couldn’t help thinking, if that old couple there can drive up here, we can certainly drive down. Seeing all the visitors helped me relax into the spectacular views of the Cascades and (mostly) stop thinking about the drive down. Really, the views don’t come any better. Slate Peak, at 7488 feet, is just a short jaunt from the parking area and here you can see far into the wild blue yonder. We also hiked out along a high ridge line trail, which we had almost to ourselves.Ridge walking near Slate Peak, Harts Pass

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to bask in the wilderness quiet for long. That evening, a group of what I can only call party animals rolled into the unofficial campsite across the river from ours. They blasted 70’s rock, mostly Led Zepplin, from their truck stereo and laughed and cackled at top volume while their tiny children meandered down to the river and back. My kids were intrigued at first—Ty mostly with the swearing—but by the next morning they were appalled. Thankfully the local sheriff shut the party down around 9:30pm so we got to sleep at a reasonable hour before the tunes started at 7:30 the next morning.

When the party left the next day by about noon, Ty and Leah, personally affronted, hiked up their shorts to stride across the river and do garbage pick-up because, they said, surely there will be all kinds of trash. They were right. We carted it to Winthrop before heading home.

Ah well. You never know with car camping. Which is why I’m silently plotting to get our kids into the backcountry next summer (Curt will be thrilled to hear I’m thinking along these lines). I’m guessing there won’t be spiders to contend with, but I’m hoping Leah won’t freak too much about the idea of bears.

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Garage Sale Gems

Ty came home yesterday with a 50-year-old packet of chewing gum he’d bought at a garage sale—as far as I can tell, the highlight of his summer. (The garage sale was a few houses down from the friend’s house where he was playing.)

Aside from computer games, Ty’s favorite pastime is garage saling, so much so he paid his bored friend to stay longer so he could peruse further. When he came home he flew into the house with his purchase.

“Wow. That’s quite find. How much did it cost?” I asked.

“Twenty-five cents.”

Well, at least he didn’t have to pay antique prices for antique gum.

“Have you eaten any of it?”

“Oh, no, Mom, this gum is more than fifty years old.”

Just checking.

So we admired the labeling, and he opened the end of a stick to show me its brownish hue, presumably the result of no dye rather than age, although we couldn’t be sure. We also read the ingredients and wondered if they were more natural than gum nowadays. They sounded more natural.

Later, in the car, he mused aloud about the steak knife at the garage sale. We have been talking lately about needing them in our house.

“Did you buy it?” his sister asked.


“Why not?”

“Think about it, Leah. Two nine-year-olds and a steak knife?”

Leah and I had to laugh. No, I suppose that wouldn’t do, would it?


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