over-sharing

A few days ago I saw a headline on people.com, “Kristen Bell’s 5 year-old is Still in Diapers”. Very quickly many thoughts went through my head.

First- judgement. I can admit it. 5 seems really old to be in diapers.

Then, secondly- solidarity. My 5 year old daughter is still in diapers overnight. Her pediatrician shook off any concern I had at her wellness appointment and told me not to worry at all.

Finally I was a bit horrified at the entire thing. I was mad at myself for clicking the link and also disgusted at myself for being part of the problem with celebrity gossip. I was also fairly sure Ms. Bell was probably going to have some explaining to do with her husband, Dax Shepard, about the whole thing anyway.

For those of you who don’t know about Ms. Bell and Mr. Shepard’s family, they have been extremely protective of their children while maintaining their own chosen celebrity lives. I really admire this. I’m a huge fan of Mr. Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert”, and many of his views on a child’s right to privacy have reshaped my own views with my own children and how I expose them online.

Like most women my age with children, I’ve shared most aspects of my kids lives with the extended “friends” and “followers” I have on social media. There’s really nothing better to do during those hazy days of newborn babyhood. I didn’t really give it much deep thought, I’d post a picture of my kid with a funny caption and that was it. Being a mother made my own identity feel “less than”, after all, I no longer do much beyond taking care of my kids, and my kids are infinitely more photogenic than I.

Around the time I created this blog I did have some trepidation about how exactly much I wanted to share- at least when it came to giving out their full names and posting pictures of them. I know if I go through the archives there’s a few photos of their faces, but I think I’ve avoided using more than their first initials to identify them. While I don’t have thousands of readers or anything on my blog, it does feel like a uniquely personal space that is really open to anyone to read, and I felt like my children deserved a bit of anonymity when it came to it.

It was a few years ago when my eldest started requesting I stop sharing every picture of him on Facebook. He was around seven at the time. He didn’t mind if I shared some, but he wanted to approve of them first. This request sort of blew my mind. He had the understanding of privacy and I had to honor his request.

As time has gone on, I’ve completely deleted my Facebook, but I still maintain an Instagram account. I’m souring on using it as much as I did, because, after all, it’s part of the big beast of FB anyway, but I’m still addicted to the photo-scroll. However, this year I heard a podcast (Armchair Expert) where it was discussed on social media companies and ‘big data’ may one day (or even are currently doing….) be able to make predictions and judgements on our children through just photos alone. Like, in the movie Minority Report. Like, my innocent children being pigeonholed from birth.

They didn’t ask for that. They didn’t ask for any of this.

So I’ve made a conscious effort of block as much of their faces as I can with my social media. My posts have gotten a lot less cute, but I’m okay with that. I haven’t resorted to using emojis to conceal their faces (like the Bell/Shepard family does), but this very subtle change makes me feel like I’m sharing my life but not exploiting them.

I’m probably being an alarmist. I’m paranoid and I love a good conspiracy theory. But at the most basic level, I’ve come to terms with the idea that my children do deserve some protection online and my own decision to share my life online extends only to my own self. Yes, my kids are a part of myself and my identity, but I respect them as individuals and once they are old enough they can put as much (or as little) of themselves out there as they chose.

This brings me back to the Diaper-gate headline with Kristen Bell.

The day after the first headline, People published a new one. “Kristen Bell’s Daughter Only in Diapers At Night”.

Hooray.

Why this was ever newsworthy is beyond me. She had made the statement on a podcast with a fellow mother and they pulled out a throwaway story and made a huge deal out of it. I feel bad for her.

But these are our times we live in. I’m writing in my little read, but deeply personal blog (I’m not writing for any other reason than for myself) but one day someone could take a line or post and make a story about it. I as a parent have a delicate line to balance. I love to share my life with people who know me, and I enjoy writing on this platform whenever the mood strikes me. I have a nagging bother at the back of my mind to erase the line at the beginning of this post disclosing my daughters overnight-diaper needs. It’s perfectly normal and not anything to worry about, yet, why share?

Ms. Bell only told the story as a way to explain how every child is different. Her first potty trained extremely easily at 21 months old, and her second is throwing her for the loop. I have similar results with my kids; all potty trained at different ages with varying degrees of success.

Sharing these stories is important so other mothers don’t judge themselves. How I wish I had read testaments from women on how difficult breastfeeding could be when I struggled with my first; I reached out to every person I knew for advice and mostly heard back, “It wasn’t hard for me!”. We are already so hard on ourselves as mothers and in the glossy picture perfect world of social media it is nice hear from other women that they don’t have it all figured out and no one is perfect. But it just goes to show how easy the story can twist from being a personal story of mothering to direct judgment on the child itself.

There is no easy answer. You can’t avoid online life and data tracking and even though I’ve deleted accounts and photos of my kids from social media, I know they aren’t really gone from the “cloud” and everything I put on the inter webs is out of my control once I push post. But I am going to make a conscious effort to continue to be mindful about how I share my children’s lives online and I think this whole diaper-headline is a perfect example of why it’s important.

yes, we are still here.

What luxury it is that our biggest stress right now is boredom. That the monotony of the same is the major struggle our family faces.

This is the longest shortest time. My husband and I count the weeks by Friday Pizza Night- when that evening comes along we toast to another week at home and marvel at the passage of time.

Summer is creeping in, and it feels like it’s been summer for months already.

***

Our new puppy breathed excitement into our lives. She’s an adorable little shark and is learning quickly.

I never really considered our 3-year-old when choosing the puppy, but that’s been the biggest struggle. They are the same size and the same mental age, so managing them together is a bit of a challenge. But he loves her and she loves everyone so this time will pass quickly.

I’ve had my moment of puppy blues, and really missing our amazing older dog who passed, but she’s wheedling herself into my heart and sometimes I’m just taken aback by her cuteness. I mean, nothing is as cute as a golden retriever puppy, am I right??

***

I got some big new this past week. After six years of prerequisites (in between quitting a career, birthing two babies, and moving) I’m officially in nursing school, starting in the fall! I’m so excited and nervous and ready. I’m sure there’s going to be many updates and posts regarding my future schooling to come. ūüôā

***

I hope you all are well and staying safe. Hang in, guys, we can do this.

the boredom curve

I’m going to admit something that is going to make me sound like an inattentive mother. I’ve gotten exceptionally talented at ignoring my kids. No, no, hear me out. Like millions across America right now, I am home with my children. Unlike before, there is no out-of-home activities to cart the littles to. In the past, a great distraction in the day was a trip to the local park or the library. These days are no more.

So now my days are predictable and routine. Life revolves around snack time and meal time, and I prioritize my workout time (thank you, Peloton). Beyond that, there isn’t rules. My fourth grader is excellent at keeping to his school schedule, but the littles have free reign on the house.

I have learned a secret trick to parenting them. When they say they are “bored” and have nothing to do, if I just sort of ignore their cries and leave them be…. they find something to do. Luckily they have each other as playmates. So, without fail, within a few minutes, they distract themselves and play.

It seems like a revelation to me. How many lists and schedules and ideas are we sending to each other at this time, trying to fill this void of sheltering in place? And, for the most part, all this planning is for naught. Sure, I give the kids some direction, but for the most part, I can be totally hands off. There might be whining and a few tears, but they are very good at entertaining themselves. I don’t have to fight them, I don’t have to say platitudes like “Only boring people are bored”. I just let their cries wash over me and then watch the miracle of free play and creativity come out.

***

My neighbor and I had a pseudo-play date yesterday. It was gorgeous here in suburban New Jersey, and after a family bike ride we saw them in their front yard playing with sidewalk chalk. The kids did an excellent job of staying 6-feet-apart from one another, and I had some much needed, in person, adult communication. (for reference, my husband is currently out of state for training, he worked last week quite a bit, and wont return home until this weekend)

I admitted to her that my kids don’t seem bothered by all this societal change. Because, they don’t. They haven’t begged to leave the house beyond a bike ride or a walk in the neighborhood, and to them going in the backyard is just as great as a field trip to the park. The other day I had to force my eldest into the van with his father to get take out food, I assumed he’d miss riding in the car since it’d been 3+ weeks since his last outing, but he didn’t care.

My neighbor said the same thing. It made me think about all the distractions and events we are always carting our offspring to don’t really matter. The kids, at least my kids, are just as happy at home with us around all the time. We have a way of over scheduling and over stimulating our kids, and it might not matter. Maybe we are over complicating everything and this return to just sticking it out at home is good for us, like a juice cleanse for ourselves.

My eldest is sad about not seeing his friends. He misses school. My littles say they miss preschool as well, but, they just accept than they can’t go right now. The kids are handling this social change much better than I am, and most adults I know. They are so amazing at just living in the moment, not looking into the past or future, and this life outlook is something I try to keep during these “troubled times” (as they say).

Life is slower right now, but we all have our health. We are happy in our self-appointed quarantine and have everything we need right now. Our boredom is a privilege and as my kids show me every single day, boredom isn’t something than needs fixing. If I’m feeling anxious or like acting out, if I just let the emotion ride and then dismiss it as quickly as it comes, I too am on to the next thing.

backyard bird watching: how I entertain myself during (and before) the age of social distancing

It started a few years ago. My mother-in-law gave our family a birdhouse for Christmas, it was a craft project she’d done. We hung it up on our shed in the backyard and didn’t think much about it.

Spring came, though, and I realized a family of birds moved in. Watching the parents swoop in to feed their babies every few minutes awed me; you could hear the cries for food from the back porch. The co-parenting cooperation inspired me, they both worked equally hard to calm the cries.

Then, tragedy struck. One morning I noticed the daily dash in and out of the house stopped, instead, the parents were crying mournfully from the top of our shed. I went to the back and discovered a few bodies of baby birds, lifeless in the grass under the house. I grieved myself, and the parents stayed out most of the day, calling, shrieking and fretting over their offspring’s disappearance.

My husband rolled his eyes when I confessed how sad the situation made me, but I couldn’t get over the little family in our backyards huge loss.

And then, a few weeks later … I noticed the parents circling back and forth to their home, and heard the cries of new babies from within. I’m sure I was projecting way more into the bird family than they were capable of feeling; how brave, I thought, how inspiring, they are moving forward with life, they are moving forward with love … once again, my husband seemed unimpressed with the proof that “life finds a way”, but I felt hope watching nature happen in my own backyard.

When we moved I honestly fretted over that birdhouse. Would the new owners of our little house keep it up? Would they understand the beauty and harshness that happened within those plywood walls? Or would they rip it down, disgusted by the remnants of nest falling out as they tossed it in the trash? And what about the brave family unit who overcame so much and pushed through with love and perseverance?

***

Our new home has a very large backyard, full of mature trees. When we moved we put up a few birdhouses, but alas, no family has ever moved in. It’s probably because there are plenty of better trees around to nest in.

For my birthday last summer, my mother in law got me a bird feeder. I didn’t know what to expect from it, but we set it up just outside the kitchen window. Almost immediately we had visitors. I downloaded the Merlin Bird ID app, a wonderful tool for identifying wild birds, and started to learn the names of each bird I’d see. Our most frequent visitors are house sparrows, purple and house finches, chick-a-dees, cardinals, blue jays, and grackles. I’ll also catch glimpses of titmice, golden finches, nuthatches, juncos, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, and larks.

This spring my husband set up three more bird feeders in the back of the yard, along a wire, and it’s just chaos back there. Everywhere I look there’s a bird flying or eating or fighting. I will literally stand at the kitchen window for 10-15 minutes at a time and just watch the movements and drama of the backyard. My kids are getting pretty good at identifying birds and they, too, spend a significant amount of time just gazing out our windows.

Of course, it’s not all woodland wonder. The squirrels are a real nuisance. We recently had to put our dog down (a totally different post to write about one day, maybe…) and she had been a great defender of the feeders. Now without her guarding, it’s getting out of control. I spend just as much time opening and slamming our backdoor to chase them away as I do watching the birds. I’ve tried crisco on the pole holding the feeder, I’ve resorted to throwing rocks at them, which takes out aggression on my end. I also purposefully miss them because, what if I actually hit one? Yikes. The squirrels, for their part, often go back to sniff the rocks, hoping they were actually chunks of food.

I recently, maybe, had a breakthrough on the squirrel repellent front. Spice. The squirrels hate it. I’ve been painting the edges and tops of the feeders with watered down sriracha sauce and it’s keeping them away. Birds don’t care about spice, apparently they don’t have taste buds (thanks internet!) so, for now, notch this in a win column in my battle against the rats with fluffy tails.

***

This post has gotten much longer than I anticipated, but I have a lot of passion for my backyard birds. The past few quiet, long days of social distancing have been filled with me sitting in the back yard with a book on my lap and my eyes following the comings and goings of my visitors. The first few days of spring are always glorious in their brightness and the fresh air after months stuck inside, and especially with everyone stuck at home, having the kids chasing each other in my backyard feels like a treat. It’s easy to forget about the troubled times when you enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Even my battle against the squirrels takes my mind from fretting over the economy crisis and my anxiety over the health of my loved ones.

Backyard birding is an easy way to engage with nature, and it honestly has given me so much entertainment over the past few years. I never would have thought I’d find myself into birding, but I’m ever grateful that it happened.

Now, excuse me as I plan to retire to the backyard on this sunny morning and refill the feeders and camp out in the corner to see what new visitors I get in the backyard.

your internet history

I’m typing blog on a laptop that is older than my oldest child. A silver MacBook Pro, basically the age of my relationship with my husband. I was with him 11 years ago when he purchased it (used!) from Best Buy in Virgina. We were newly dating, two young, unattached kids at the beginnings of adult lives, and I encouraged him to start using Apple products. That was at the height of the Apple-coolness factor, that moment in our culture where seeing the Apple logo signified a cool, trendy and hip person (at least as I recall), which was best shown in this episode of¬†The Simpsons.

So, basically, this Mac comes from another age of technology. As I recall, iPads weren’t even invented when we purchased it, Kindles weren’t around, we were on the first iPhone and people still had Blackberrys. Facebook was still only used by young people. The technology we have and our use of it has changed so much in the past decade, it’s sometimes hard to remember what it used to be like.

But, today, in an effort to procrastinate instead of studying microbiology, I decided to clean up the Bookmarks tab on my browser. To be honest, I don’t use this laptop for much besides school work, it’s clunky, old, heavy, doesn’t work very well, so surfing the web just isn’t something I do with it. And I had hundreds of links in my bookmarks- very nicely organized glimpses into my past.

Old folders for when I worked, all the links I needed for flying non-revenue. Tons of parenting websites, blogs devoted to cloth diapering, breastfeeding, vbacs. My favorite news and gossip sites of the past. Sadly, most of these links are broken now. My favorite webpages of the past (Gawker, Consumerist, Awl) have all shut down. My guess is the monotony of the news scroll Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit provide have made these sites obsolete.

It’s sort of sad. I don’t “surf” the web like I used to. I just go to Reddit. My Reddit is pretty awesome, and I love using it, but it’s not the same. I didn’t realize how much my surfing habits have changed until today, looking at all the old sites I’d dutifully linked and sorted. It’s nice being able to go to only one or two sources to get a plethora of different medias, but when you are using only one or two platforms I wonder what else we miss out on.

In other internet news, I’ve officially deleted my Facebook. My usage of it went way down, I actually went a year without logging on, but this past month I went through the steps to permanently rid myself of it. I don’t miss it and I don’t have FOMO – I am sad about not having the local links and groups, but more and more people are deleting the social media giant from their lives so hopefully those resources will move else where. I can find my local hikes on hikeitbaby.com, the community Patch is a pretty good resource for events, and I recently subscribed to the local Jersey Shore newspaper.

Anyway, I really ought to study for my lab quiz, but whenever I get a burst of nostalgia like this, I feel the need to record it and thus, I’ve done that. Have a great day and thanks for reading.

 

fall and changes

Ahhh, fall. The change in season, things get darker, a little colder, we cozy up. I personally love this season. Like spring, I have a strong nostalgic connection to the season, as I’m sure most people do. After a long summer, when the days stretch together and it seems it never ends, fall reminds us nothing lasts forever, not even the green in the trees, the flowers in the garden. ¬†Suddenly, you aren’t in shorts and tank tops anymore, it’s sweater weather. Hot tea comforts,¬†pumpkin spice is ubiquitous, and you crave stews, soups, hearty warm meals. Decorating for the seasons begin, and the kids are back in school.

My own life feels at the edge of change. I’m still plugging away at nursing prerequisites, I’m down to my final non-nursing class I can take before admittance. And it seems my admission to nursing school is almost here; I’ll find out later this week if I made the cut off for spring 2020 or if I’m in for the fall.

I’m conflicted about both. I want to start as soon as I can, simply because I miss working. I miss having my own income; contributing to our family in a real way. I know as a Mom I have millions of tasks and my kids rely on me, but I’ve held a job, at least at a part-time basis, since I was 16. Now I’m going on a year and a half with no employer and I miss it. I need more than my kids sticky, smiley faces to keep me company.

A spring admission presents it’s own issues, though. I still have two young preschool-aged kids. Childcare is expensive, and the hours of the program are not super flexible. If I’m admitted in the fall when my daughter starts Kindergarten I’ll only need to worry about full-time nursery school tuition for one child. ¬†But that’s a whole year away, I’ll be a year older and that much farther from starting a new career.

Once I’m in school, I’m not sure what to expect, exactly. I know nursing school is demanding, I know it is stressful, and I’m sure every day will test me in a new way. How will I stay on top of things when I can barely keep up as it is? Will my kids begrudge me for leaving them for longer periods of time?

My two little ones are insanely lucky. I can hardly believe it, but they’ve barely been separated from me. This is not intentional; I’m not that Mom who brags about never spending the day apart from her kids. You can tell, too. They are so Mommy obsessed. I feel bad for my husband; he tries to help out as much as he can, but when the 2-year-old screams “NOT YOU I WANT MOMMY” it’s gotta crush his ego a bit. My eldest grew up the first 4 years of his life with mom-and-dad equally flying coast-to-coast on a rotating schedule, but L & H only know Mommy-all-the-time.

I’ve also been thinking more and more about this blog. I had such a burst of creative energy, and¬†time, when I first started it. I think it’s a normal response to baby brain. But the updates on here are fewer and farther in-between. I’m not exactly sure where I want to lead this blog too, what my goals are for it. I imagine once I’m in nursing school, it will turn into a totally different sort of outlet for my stresses and fears. I’ve always kept journals, and I love the idea of documenting the next season of my life. I’m not sure if the name “Suburban Doldrums” will stick, if I’ll totally revamp it, or just keep typing into it as it is. It’s not like I’m looking to monotize it or gain any sort of fame or anything; really, it’s best for me to use it as a straight journal. If you happen to read it, great, but otherwise I’ll write better if it’s just to a void.

Thanks for being part of my void.

 

Online Debates & Social Media

What’s the point, right? Who in their right mind engages with internet trolls to prove a point, when you know on the other side the person you are typing against will never change their own heavily one-sided-and-bias minds? Why do we do this?

Since I’ve deactivated my Facebook account I’ve not had to worry about these comment wars folks get into. A voyeur within me does love to stand on the sidelines and watch drama happen (this is human nature I think) but when it’s my dear old Auntie Doris verses a Stay-at-home-mommy Karen verses that chick I used to know from Psych 101 class it becomes far more personal and nauseating. Plus, many of these arguments serve zero purpose. We’ve all boxed in our own beliefs and prefer the comfort of the echo chambers attached to the point of view we’ve assigned to ourselves.

This morning my darling husband “went at it” with a relative¬†anti-vaxxer. I adore the woman; she is a dear friend to me and I’ll never not love her. That said, I also refuse to bring vaccinations up with her, so while I was sipping my morning coffee and the hubs read aloud each point and counterpoint, I started asserting my view to him, which he then in turn wrote. It was a FB debate by proxy, I suppose.

This is the thing about anti-vaxxers- I totally understand how one can be lured to their point of view. When I had my first baby, the fears of taking care of him and doing things right were always there. So, on FB or whatever, when I saw posts decrying vaccinations and “evidence” against it, I wondered if I was a bad mother for allowing him to get stuck by needles so often. My ignorance about medical science and my unconfidence in my own parenting led to me feeling guilty for not having a strong stand. I also had a nagging voice in me which knew anti-vaxxers were using junk science and personal anecdotes as evidence, but it’s really hard not to believe a story written by grieving mothers about how one vaccine essentially ruined their child’s life. Stories are more compelling than statistics and evidence and critical thinking.

I did vaccinate my child, of course, but with the first kid I did it on a “delayed schedule” (look I’m NOT mainstream because I don’t follow a schedule!) but by the time I had my second and third kids a lack of time and energy sucked out any desire to go into the pediatricians office more than needed so they followed the standard schedule. And guess what, they are fine. Of course.

My point is, as I turned away from reading social media I really don’t think about anti-vaxxers. Or vaxxers. Basically, it’s just as common to me as when the doctor looks in the kids’ ears or mouth during an exam. If they are due for a vaccine I just nod my head, try to comfort the kid, and then move onto other more interesting thoughts like what’s for dinner or what show to watch once the kids are in bed. You know, important things. I’m not passionately for vaccinations, but the majority of parents probably aren’t.

Until a preventable disease is spread because of anti-vaxxers, of course.

Even still, I just shake my head and pat my own back because I know my kids are as protected as they can be because they had their MMR shots.

But in the massive steaming cesspool of social media, the debates are ever present and start to leak into my peaceful morning coffee time and I get empassioned.

Once you engage with a troll, though, there is no winner. Nothing is gained or lost from it (except time and energy). The anti-vaxxer from this morning actually told my husband the link she shared wasn’t meant for him to read at all; it was for other anti-vaxxers. Why did she say that? Because he had cornered her with actual facts and it was the only argument she had left. It also just proved my view; she didn’t want a debate. She didn’t want her beliefs challenged. She just wanted the echo chamber of outrage to continue as she sees fit.

The problem with mixing personal beliefs with medical science is, well, they are totally different things. I think it’s all fine and good to have personal beliefs about god, how to live a healthy life, the best way to style your hair for your face shape, whatever… but unless you are a medical doctor, researcher or scientist who really understands the way the body works and the immune system at a molecular level, your belief means absolutely nothing. This seems like common sense but, as we all know, the majority of anti-vaxxers cite their “hours and hours” spent researching as just as important those who have committed time and money towards a medical degree. These things are not equal.

My husband claims he enjoys debates. I mean, I do too. But, these sort of debates are just never going to be won or lost. I am 100% confident I’ve made the right choices for my kids regarding vaccinations, and the anti-vaxxers are too. I believe they will regret not vaccinating their children one day… but as far as I’m concerned with my kids now aged 2, 4, and 8, I’m past any “danger” point for them and I know in my bones they are perfectly safe and protected against any disease or ill effect from inoculations.

And with this outpouring of a blog post, I’ve said my peace into the oblivion of the internet without offending anyone I personally know in real life, which is great. (unless of course they are reading this now, and to that I say hi! I love you! Peace!)

The Social Media Cleanse

Have you done it yet ?

For years my interest in the Facebook has waned; I’d say I log on every few weeks. It’s just not a pleasure to scroll on it any longer. Seeing photos and updates of my friends and family is nice and all, but as we all should know, all that happiness and perfection is mostly projection and pushing “like” is not the same as personal connection with another human.

Plus all their data mining is scary.

Plus the targeted advertising makes me paranoid.

Plus all the political viewpoints from said friends and family is tiring.

Basically, the Facebook has brought me zero joy in years. I really only hung on to it because of the “Groups” function; I love my mommy Facebook groups and the women I’ve met through there… but as our babies have aged the group dynamics are less and less.

The Facebook has a great hold on local events and the marketplace as well, and the only way I found my local babysitter in this new town was through the Facebook. Oh, and finally, the most important and annoying aspect of my Facebook dependency? My Spotify account was linked through it. If I deleted Facebook, I couldn’t access my music.

Still, I’m sick of it. The New York Times most recent piece on the corporate management provided that final nail in the coffin for me. I figured out this morning how to unlink Facebook from Spotify – basically, I had to sign up for a new account with a different email (gmail user tips- if you have a period “.” in your name, you can remove it when signing up, and you’ll still get the email but the Spotify company registers it as a different email, for example if your address was Facebook.sucks@gmail.com just sign up with facebooksucks@gmail.com) and then I was free to deactivate my FB account.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully delete my account, and it’s not really going to change much, as I honestly only logged on once or twice a month. I haven’t had the FB app installed on my phone for years, and I never used messenger, but I still feel freer and like a weight is off my shoulders.

Now, onto the other side of my social media addiction.

Instagram.

IG seems like the lesser of two evils, and I really enjoy using it, but it too is owned by the Facebook. It too uses targeted advertising that borderlines on creepy, and, while it seems “less annoying” than the Facebook, there is just as much projection and false advertising on it.

I’ve deleted the app from my phone many times, but this time I’m determined to avoid it for a long period of time. I’m thinking until the new year. The holiday season is stressful and the last thing I need is another app making me sadder and less connected with my real life outside of the phone.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m perfect. I’m not. Within the past year, my smart phone usage has stayed the same because of Reddit. I find Reddit is more addictive than traditional social media. It’s a lot more impersonal as well, but that’s what I like about it. The anonymous nature of Reddit is what I love- you can be yourself on it and Aunt Bertha won’t comment on every post I make. I follow hundreds of unique and specialized subreddits and the content is just better.

That said, I still would like to work on my smart phone usage. It’s an addiction no matter the platform I use, and I don’t like the person I am while using; disconnected with my beautiful kids in front of my face, someone putting off chores or tasks around the house. But by weaning myself off social media and focusing on more productive parts of the internet (like writing on my blog, reading The NY Times or doing crosswords) I feel like I can break out of this addiction.

Creeping of Christmas

I just stood in line 20 minutes for a cheap red plastic cup. It was free. It has a major corporate logo on the side, and if I use it after 2pm between now and January 7, 2019, I will receive fifty cents off every $5 “Holiday” drink.

If you are in the know, you know I’m talking about Starbucks.

In my defense, I needed coffee this late morning anyway, as I am currently sitting in the college library prepping for my third exam of the year. I have the expensive habit/routine of needing my ‘bucks fix prior to studying. I get the drink, I find the quiet corner of the library with the great view of a large oak tree out the window, I put on my beats and I get to it.

Because Starbucks has my email address and knows how Basic I can be, they sent me the reminder last night of their latest marketing ploy and it stayed in my mind. Honestly I’m not a big latte or mocha drinker, I tend to take my coffee iced, cold brewed, with just a splash of sweet cream. But learning the holiday drinks are back and I could get something free out of it, I braved the line and ignored the mobile ordering option.

I was one of the last to get the free cup before the store ran out; according to the Starbucks Subreddit, other stores were out by 6am. I felt that consumerism smugness come out, mwhaa ha ha I got something you didn’t! – but now I just feel like a corporate cog.

Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between, today is November 2nd. We still have a freshly carved pumpkin on our front porch and the leaves in New Jersey are just starting to turn into spectacular shades of yellow, orange and red. Can we all enjoy fall for a few weeks before the whitewash of red and merry take over?

On one hand, I’m excited for this time of year. The anticipation build up, seeing my kids enjoy the holiday season, listening to Christmas music and decorating our home is so much fun. I do love it. But our culture is creeping these darn holidays out sooner and sooner. School started in September and the store loaded themselves up with Halloween decor. Christmas crap was on shelves before Halloween even started.

Yesterday I used a free hour without kids to check out Marshall’s and Home Goods, I had the idea of purchasing Thanksgiving swag since we are hosting this year, but the stores were all Santaed out. Really? Really? I can’t buy some fake leaves or a stuffed Turkey to display on November 1st?

Beyond this frustration, I also hate how we are supposed to spend an insane amount of money every year to show how much we love one another. It’s nearly an American Patriot Act, this obligation, and each year the pressure is more and more. My kids don’t need anything. They still play with the wooden train set my oldest has had for seven years. They putter around with crappy old toys all the time and they are happy.

So it’s with excitement, resentment, cynicism and optimism that I end this post with a “Happy Holidays!” This one phrase is loaded and you can take from it what you wish. I’m going to focus my next few weeks on FALL and cover my ears if I hear a Christmas Carol until the day after Thanksgiving – expect, of course, I’m in line to get my .50 discount on a holiday cup of cheer.