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.

 

potty training blues

A few months ago my son stopped breastfeeding. I nursed him longer than any of my other kids, few months past 2 years old, and it was time. Around the same time we stopped giving him bottles as well. My last baby was a full fledged toddler and I was okay with that. Especially since I decided it was time to potty train him.

He’s incredibly smart. He’s also super stubborn, but he acts like such a big boy and wants to copy his brother and sister so I figured he was ready. I searched through my email for the nearly-decade old attachment someone had emailed me for my firstborn, the infamous “3 Day Potty Training Method”. I decided the next day was his day. We were stopping diapers and converting to underwear fully.

We used this method with our other two kids and they had great success. My oldest was just over 3 years old when I trained him, and my daughter was probably 2 years, 7 or 8 months old. So, I knew H was a little young at 2 years 5 months old. But, he seemed ready. Or so I thought.

The first few days were a major struggle, as expected. He just didn’t seem to get it. He’d pee and not even notice. Poop was the same. But, as with the other kids, by day three he seemed to understand. He’d hold himself, at least, and would pee whenever we’d put him on the toilet. We went back to our normal daily routine, which consists of trips to the gym or parks or shopping.

After a few accidents on the road, I bought pull-ups. And now, here’s where it gets bad. I started putting him in pull-ups even just around the house. Because, my highly verbal son seems to be unable to express the words “I have to go potty”. No amount of bribery seems to work, no candy, or prizes. He just won’t tell us.

If we catch him grabbing his crotch and rush to the toilet, he will go and there’s no “accident”. But, if it were up to him, he’d never tell us and just piss everywhere. It’s so frustrating. I can’t believe we are relying on pull-ups in this way, and I curse myself for not sticking to a plan. I know consistency is key and my own laziness is getting in the way.

I probably should have waited a few months before forcing this upon him. But we are 2 months in and I can’t very well fully give up, yet. I was just ready for the diaper days to end, you know? A he just doesn’t care. I think he’s told me “I gotta potty” only three times since we “trained” him. Like I said, he can hold it and tries to hide if he has to go…. but my husband and I are at a lost on how to make that final cog just click and have him WANT to go potty in the toilet, not his pants.

Having two other kids is great for the grand perspective of things. I know he won’t still have these bathroom issues in a year or so. But this is a perfect example of the day to day drag of raising a toddler. These little missteps and accidents add up throughout the day and the frustration I feel about it builds too. You’d think by child number three I’d be a pro by now…but it just goes to show that every child is different and things don’t always end up how you intend.

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.

style

So- a million years ago I was a single girl living in NYC. I was sitting on the front porch of the house I lived in, surrounded by various airline roommates and I remember one male and I talking about style. I bemoaned my lack of personal style and he was very insistent that any clothing decision was in fact style and that I had a very clearly defined sense of it.

I laughed and looked down at my uniform; a white skirt with a black tank top. “This isn’t style, this is what I wear on any given day,” I said, which is true. Even now I have a very monotone, predictable clothing sense that bores my husband to death. Black is my favorite. I’ll do muted solids on occasion. If I’m feeling festive maybe a floral print.

He insisted I had a particular look, that was stylish, to which I still disagree. Maybe I’m predictable but my clothing picks are based more on laziness and frugality. Items I bought over a decade ago still work because they are plain and simple.

So, now … I’m facing another challenge. The challenge of interior decorating.

See, we bought this big fancy new house and my previous decorating “look” was basically- oh, we need a couch, so here’s a couch, and it sort of goes… over the years I’d find something at a yard sale or thrift shop, sort of like it, so bring it home and claim it as my own. This haphazard approach made my old home cluttered and disorganized.

This new home is a clean slate. Literally. I now have empty walls and a very pretty, very empty room on the main level. One of my girlfriends, who loves to decorate, asked, “Are you modern? Are you traditional? What’s you look?” and all I can think of in reply is something along the lines as, “Easy?”

I AM drawn to mid-century modern, but finding the discipline and focus to keep with a single palette is challenging. It takes time and money. Plus, I’m like a kitten chasing sunbeams, I have a really hard time staying focused and I’m also pretty impatient. I look at our empty sitting room and I just want it done, like, now.

I have the hardest time finding inspiration on Pinterest. Or blogs. Or IG. These platforms work for some, but I find them waaayyy to commercialized and sterile. The aesthetic that popular websites have is just too perfect. I’ve tried, really tried, to find value in Pinterest but I think I think I joined the club too late. Plus it feels so much like a game of “look how great I am” and “my home is better than yours because blah blah blah”. It’s impossible for me to look at a style blog and feel good about myself, which probably speaks to my own lack of strong self-confidence.

So what’s a girl in a fancy new home to do? I’m working on the impatience, and I’m trying to take it slow. I’m only going to buy what I love, and even if that sitting room is empty for many months, that’s okay. Plus, rather than feeling inadequate because of my lack of style, I’m going to remember what that roommate all those years ago assured me of, I do have an inherent sense of style and if I just follow my gut on it’ll please me.

color me wrong

In my last post, I dreamed of an app on my phone that would keep me accountable for how much time I spend on my phone.

THIS APP EXISTS AND IT IS FABULOUS.

It’s called “Moment”. It even has sound alerts if you’ve been on the phone too long in one sitting (I have mine set for 10 minutes). If you pay $4 you can set daily time limits and even goals for how much time you want to spend on each application on your phone. “Moment” is still in Beta so it’s realitively new, but I already am loving it.

If you, like me, want a tool to help you better manage your time and stop that stupid, endless scrolling, look into Moment and put your phone down!

https://inthemoment.io

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.

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]

top 5 reasons I’m a terrible mom blogger 

  1. I don’t ever make lists 
  2. I don’t have a “niche”
  3. I have no unique expertise on parenting, except for flying standby with kids. That I know something about
  4. I spend more time envying other moms rather than being envied (or presenting myself in an enviable way)
  5. I think I’m far too self-conscious to self-promote in the way other more successful mommy blogs do. 

This is all to say, I follow tons of awesome mom blogs. This little project I’ve been writing in for two months has opened a new world to me- I even joined Twitter after avoiding it for nearly a decade. I have read some amazing blogs, from women I relate to and even admire, but (especially on Twitter) there is also a whole other subculture of the mommy blogging world I don’t really understand, or get.

Like, the blogs of moms just doing sponsored posts.

Or the lists.

I mean, I get it why lists are important and prevalent. BuzzFeed and other clickbait sites have trained us all to connect and grow curious whenever there’s a “top 5” or “7 most” or “6 things” in a blog title. I’m far more likely to read something from Twitter if it’s presented in that way. But a lot of times these lists just seem forced and I think a straight form blog post would do just as well, but because lists are the way to go everyone has to post in that way.

Just like TL:DR I find it sort of a depressing way to write. (TL DR being short speak for “too long, didn’t read” because apparently reading something over 300 words is too much work for people. Of course, many of you may know that expression, but I just learned it a few months ago through FB Groups. Another quick gripe? Why do people apologize for writing long posts on FB? If you’re writing something worth reading the longer the better as far as I’m concerned. But now this long rant in parenthesis can end).

I’m not even sure exactly what I’m aiming for as my blog’s message or theme. The name suggests an angsty teenager longing to escape her boring life, and while I am sometimes that girl and can’t believe how normal and conventional I’ve become in motherhood, I also just liked the way it sounded.

I’m the world’s worst self-promoter and honestly when I share my latest post through Twitter I just feel like a phony. I’ve always written very privately and begging people to read my thoughts is super unnatural to me.

That said, I do love it when people like my posts or better yet comment on them. I get a thrill when I get a notification of a new follower. It’s awesome – an awesome feeling and even though this blog has only been a habit for 2 months, I love it. I really do.

I am writing just to write. I don’t have goals beyond trying to sharpen this skill, writing, and being that I write about my life and my life in currently revolving around diapers and breastfeeding and kids and tantrums it just seems like calling the blog a “mom blog” is appropriate. And thus, I conclude this post with the hashtag #momlife. 🙂