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.

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.

 

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.

the pleasure of a terrible guilty binge

This weekend I fell into a vortex of bad television. Do you have TV show you hate to admit to watching? Mine is embarrassing. Like, really really embarrassing. I have to preface the name of the show with a yes I know this show is terrible and anti-feminist and trashy and portrays Americans at their worst.

Have I built it up enough yet?

Toddlers and Tiaras.

Ok.

It’s out now.

Yes – I know. Toddlers and Tiaras, the TLC series with an impressive rating of 1.8 out of 10 on IMDB. Toddlers and Tiaras, pretty much universally hated and looked down upon. As a college-educated, New York Times reading, Atlantic Monthly subscriber, an avid reader of literature, I should know better. I gladly look down upon people who love 50 Shades of Gray and usually avoid most “low-brow” entertainment, unless I enjoy it ironically like the Real Housewives Franchise.

But I can’t even ironically watch it. I know the show is rotting the brains out of my head, but I still love it. It is darn entertaining and I discovered the ninth season this past weekend and binged the whole damn thing over a couple of days.

Why? Why am I so amused watching 2-year-olds put on eyeliner and wigs? What about the frantic Moms, running around hotel hallways, late, swearing, bellies flopping all over, what pulls me in and entraps me so?

My guess is it’s the combination of a real-look into everyday people’s lives, unfiltered, that really intrigues me. Because, most of the pageant moms, they are putting up their airs trying to appear a certain way, but it is usually easy to see through their air-tanned facade. TLC has a way of showing silent shots of a cluttered house, desperate moments of an interviewed Mom blinking as they realize what they just said was utterly ridiculous, that makes this stupid show somehow seem endearing. At least, to me. There are layers upon layers of meaning if you really look close.

Plus, the kids are always amusing. The bratty ones slapping their mom’s in the face make me feel like I’m raising my kids right, and the super dedicated kids, who learn crazy routines and look happy on stage performing the, well, a part of me hope my own kids find a passion they love. Not a passion of pageants, of course, but just a passion for some event or hobby.

Anyway, my weekend wasted away, I’ve learned nothing practical or insightful about life by watching this silly show, but I was entertained and amused so I guess that’s worth something. And now I’m all caught up on the stupid insipid show and can go on with my life until the next season is released….

 

what we can learn from #aprilthegiraffe

I tuned into the live feed of April, the expecting giraffe, out of curiosity over a week ago. It really worked as a distraction from writing in here, plus I kept reading “breaking news” about it. I searched through the Facebook and once the stream was set-up, found myself somehow calmed by April’s presence.

She’s just a giraffe, in a pen, pacing around. Every once and a while she lifts her tail to poop, and you think— “oooh is this it?” and of course it’s not. She seems to eat a lot. It’s a silent feed so that adds to the zen magic of April. Watching this beautiful creature walking in clockwise circles around the pen (every time I watch her she’s pacing clockwise, not sure if that’s accurate 100% of the time or not) is hypnotizing. Plus, there’s the added bonus of her possibly giving birth at any moment.

So, I tune in now and again, not in any obsessive way, but just to have it on. When I first watched it through the Facebook, the comments were running aside the feed, live and quick.

One should never read public posts like this. It just depresses you. The grammar, the idiocy of people (who tend to be the loudest) and just the misinformation. But, like I said, the video is a quiet still camera shot of a giraffe in a pen, so I read along with the other 90 thousand people watching April and what they all had to say.

“OMG have the baby already”

“That poor giraffe why isn’t the baby here?”

“She seems in pain”

“When are they gonna have the c-section already”

Pretty much all comments had one of those themes.

And I can relate to it.

Two of my three kids came over a week “past due”. Being “past due” in pregnancy is hard, but, having everyone you know comment on it just piles on the stress. I had complete strangers sending me pitiful looks of sympathy at the end of my last two pregnancies. “Oh – you poor thing!” they’d say. “Waiting for updates!” I’d read online. And the absolute worst: “You haven’t popped yet?”

We live in an “on demand” society and it’s totally ok for a woman t0 schedule an elective induction at 39 weeks pregnant because they are “sick of being pregnant”. Somehow, the idea of a due date has led us all to believe anything past said due date is automatically overdue, a term that brings up images of rancid food, moldy dairy and at the very least, a super grumpy librarian charging you late fees.

I watched a video the manager of Animal Adventure Park, the home of April, posted this morning. He seemed tired and annoyed as he patiently explained they had only estimates of when exactly April conceived, and also that she was fine, just pregnant, they weren’t causing her harm or the baby harm by letting nature take her course. And watching April on the live stream, you can tell, the beast is happy. She doesn’t seem bothered by her late-term pregnancy at all.

My pregnancy days are past now, so I don’t have to worry about dodging “whens the little sucker coming already?” comments from everyone ever again, but I will make a valient effort to not bug my friends and family over their upcoming due dates. We need to take a page from April and her caretakers and just let nature be. Baby giraffe will come when it’s ready, and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to see it happen live.

Expecting mothers, be they humans or giraffes, deserve patience and kindness during the last days of pregnancy, not constant reminders of how “miserable” they must be. Pregnancy is tough enough without all the opinions from the peanut gallery.

bad moms

I’m writing something different today. I’ve felt a bit of writer’s block lately, but, as this is my space for whatever I want, I’m reviewing the movie Bad Moms.

I’ll preface it by noting I’ve heard only good reviews from other moms. It’s the movie everyone (everymom?)  can universally agree on- it’s funny and relatable. My friends told me they laughed so hard they cried while watching it.

Now, my snobby inner critic must present itself here.

I sort of expected to not like this movie, based on the word-of-mouth alone.

I know. It’s super pretentious and ridiculous to think so highly of my own taste. That’s a personal problem.

But, I just expected a movie full of cliches and embarrassing moments.

Now, here’s how my predictions were wrong.

Bad Moms is amusing. I think I chuckled several times. I nodded my head in agreement with many of the stereotypical scenes of mommyhood featured. The plot is predictable from the get-go, but the story is lively enough that it doesn’t feel dragged down.

There are some problems I had with the story, though. The characters are one dimensional. Christina Applegate’s character disses Mila Kunis’s for working and being away from her kids all day (yet the kids are old enough to be in school, so what is a mom supposed to do? Sit around all day at home pining for their children?) yet in another scene they make fun of Kristen Bell’s character for being a stay-at-home-mom.

Which one is it? Is this meta? Proof you can’t win, no matter what you do? These discrepancies don’t come off as symbolic, it just seems a little sloppy.

It also annoyed me Bell’s character has 4 young kids, none of them old enough to enroll in Middle School, yet she goes to the PTA meetings and is at school drop-off for some reason. These are the type of issues that bother me about the plot, but overall it didn’t really matter to the story.

The movie relies on way too many “loud-music-montage” scenes. Like, way too many. There are at least five of them- blaring loud pop music, and the mom’s having a good old time, drinking wine or walking seductively out of houses or making out with old grocery store clerks. It feels manipulative and they could have cut at least three of them.

That said, I do have to give kudos to Hollywood for producing a mainstream movie featuring just women. And these women aren’t pining after men. Kunis’ character doesn’t seem heartbroken when she catches her husband cheating on her, it’s just a small subplot. I kept expecting the slutty Mom to get her due in the form of realizing having random sex isn’t fulfilling, but, they kept her character completely one-dimensional in a good way. The chick just loves sex and they didn’t make us question it.

And that’s the refreshing part of Bad Moms. All these character problems I see, the corny music, the predictability, it’s all not great; but it’s the same level of not-greatness of any other male-centric raunchy comedy. Does Will Ferrell play complex characters in Old School or Talladega Nights? Do we expect him to? No! It’s pretty awesome Hollywood took a chance on a movie like this, and this so-so movie has grossed over $181 million dollars to date. $181 million dollars. That is awesome and I predict it’ll lead to more female-driven movies just like this that are dumb and silly and aren’t romantic comedies.

I watched this movie with H sleeping soundly in my arms and a can of IPA and my husband next to me. Perhaps if I’d gone and seen it in the theater with my girlfriends I would have laughed harder. The community feel of it, hearing all the other ladies in the crowd loving seeing normal women and normal problems on screen, maybe I would have felt more affection for it that way. The theaters were probably the same atmosphere as the “Thunder Down Under” in Vegas; when you are there it’s the best thing ever and a sort of female hysteric mode gets into you, but when you watch the same guys at home on your TV alone, it’s just not the same thing. They are just silly guys dancing with their shirts off.

So, all in all, there are lots of things to appreciate about Bad Moms, and most of all, it’s the fact that it’s just another unremarkable dumb movie remarkable for featuring a cast of all females. Girl Power!

 

 

the lost art of conversation

When I close my eyes and remember my childhood, and picture my mom, she’s on the phone. My mom spent a great deal of her day gabbing on the phone. Having private conversations with her girlfriends, relatives, gossiping and laughing and pretty much lost in her own world. Thinking about it now, it was the 90’s version of a smart-phone addiction- her way to tune out the mundane world of rearing small kids.

It was clear to me she was enjoying herself. Her face and tone and expressions were always animated. Hearing her in the background as I played Barbies or house or read; looking back now it seems so quaint.

These days, my kids see me as a zombie, holding the little rectangle of light in my palm, thumb scrolling scrolling scrolling. Always looking down, not really engaged at all. I think most people would be shocked and embarrassed if they saw themselves looking at social media – like a time lapse video direct from their phone showing the vacant expressions and agape mouths. My little boy has an old digital camera we let him take photos with, and it’s depressing to see the candid shots of me, sitting on the couch reading my phone. I don’t look happy. My expression is dead and I have serious RBF.

I picture my mom, with the landline cord wrapped around her, bustling around the kitchen. She looked alive.

I, too, used to talk on the phone with my friends. Long conversations. Enjoyable chats and gossip. It’s slowly gone away – it used to be a frequent thing, but now we all seem too busy to actually talk. It’s not the social norm any longer. When a new friend calls me rather than texts, it sorta makes me look twice. “Why isn’t she just texting?” I wonder. When an old friend calls me and we talk for an hour, it feels like a revolution. Hearing a friend’s voice, the cadence of it, the music of the conversation, it’s something I wish was an everyday thing, not a rare treat.

I do talk on the phone quite frequently to my Mom, and my husband (when he’s out of town). But it’s not quite the same thing as having multiple friends to talk to.

It’s trite to point out, but I have over 400 friends on Facebook but have probably only had real phone conversations with about a five of them during the last year.

Nothing beats spending time face to face, with a friend. And I’m starting to realize the updates and photos we all share with each other, while nice to see, aren’t real. It’s not the same at all. Any engagement with the outside world is great, I need it however I can get it, but I really wish this trend in my life of only communicating by written technology would slow down.

[and with that, I end this written blog communication, wiping away the irony with a florish]

hello, dear

I’d like to think I’m an equal partner with my husband. He’s just as much of a feminist as I am, which is an awesome trait to share.

But, if a salesman comes a knocking on the door, I resort back to the 1950’s housewife I never was, “Oooh I can’t make a decision without my husband here”. It’s the perfect way to send them on their way without me actually being mean to them.

So Mr. Solar Panel, Mr. Kirby, Mr. Meat Man, if the master of the house isn’t present, don’t even bother coming up the drive.