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To expose or not to expose?: Deciding how much info is too much when it comes to my kid

It turns out I have boundaries. I know that’s surprising, given the gratuitous photos of my giant pregnant belly and explicit details of my son’s birth story that appeared on this blog. But when it comes to posting his vital stats and even any photos, I hesitate. It’s tough, because everybody’s doing it. Mommy blogs everywhere are filled with photos, video, real names and info about every detail of their kids’ lives. I read them, and enjoy them immensely, and am tempted to post my own because surely he’s the most beautiful baby there is and his life just as entertaining, but I can’t help but wonder what the backlash will be.

I have vague, ominous fears about internet boogeymen trolling for kidnapping victims or turning innocent videos or photos into ugly things or stealing identities that won’t be discovered ’til your kid turns 18 and applies for their first credit card and finds out someone has racked up huge debt in their name. The latter is a true story that helped me decide to not even post his name or birthday, though I’m sure if you dug deep enough, you could find it. I’ve shared it all on Facebook with nearly 200 of my closest friends (I said I had boundaries, I didn’t say they were particularly stringent ones). What made me really stop and think about all this was when we were posting videos of our baby on Motionbox for my in-laws who live in Taiwan. They miss him terribly and this is a great way to keep them updated, but when my husband was about to upload a video of our 6-month-old happily splashing in the bathtub, I thought about the Demarees, and made him stop. Yes, our account is password-protected, but it still didn’t feel right. If this family could get arrested and separated from their children over printing a couple naked baby pics at Walmart, why even risk it?

Above all, my decision to keep his life private is based on how he will feel when he’s old enough to decide for himself. I remember being annoyed that all my mom’s friends knew all about what was going on in my life, and can’t even imagine how upset I would’ve been if she’d had a blog at her disposal and typed to millions of strangers, “Guess what, Internet? Cassy started her period today.” Argh. The humiliation. I feel for all these kids who I know by name and how many bowel movements they’ve had in the past week and I vow to not embarrass my son. As much as I’d love to share his antics and expressions, big moments and small ones, this is not the best forum to do so. I respect his privacy too much. This is my blog, so I will make it about me which will occasionally include my experience with motherhood because that’s where I am right now, but not be so focused on him. So, sorry, all six of you who read this regularly, there won’t be any chubby baby pics here, but I’m sure Little Man will thank me someday (though I’m sure I’ll give him plenty to be embarrassed about regardless).

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Little Man Reads – 6 months

One of the perks of parenting, at least from the perspective of an aspiring author/illustrator, is having an excuse to read childrens books every day, multiple times a day. I can’t get enough of it, and fortunately, neither can my son. Periodically, I will post on Little Man’s favorites.

He started showing interest when he was three or four months old, for books like First Words and the ABC book from the Bright Baby First Learning Box by Roger Priddy. He liked photos of real objects or babies on bright backgrounds with big, bold words. When he became coordinated enough to reach out and grab and put everything in his mouth, his preference was soft cloth, interactive books. An old hand-me-down copy of The Busy Book was his favorite, even though we have some newer, flashier ones.

Now, at 6 months, he’s really into board books that have a good cadence or noises when I read to him. He can pick Sandra Boynton‘s Barnyard Dance out of a pile and will do so every time. The illustrations aren’t as bold and bright as he was into before, but he loves that we bounce to the rhythm and I slap my thigh and call it like a square dance. He’s also into the First Book of Sushi, Mirror Me, and Toes, Ears and Nose.

He’s not ready for longer picture books, which I can’t wait for him to get into. His attention span is too short and he still wants to grab or eat the pages, but I’ve had some luck reading him One Is a Drummer by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Grace Lin. The sing-song verse plus the gorgeous pattern-filled pages and lots of children in action keep his attention. I love how multicultural it is; it shows all kinds of kids enjoying typical kid activities like playing in sprinklers and riding a carousel, but incorporates many things from Chinese culture, like dragon boat racing, mahjong, and foods like eggs tarts and fish balls while it teaches the concept of counting to ten. My husband is Chinese so it’s great to find books that will help us teach our little guy more about his heritage.

I would love suggestions for what your 6 month to 12 month old is/was into, so we can expand our library. Happy reading!

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Studio Envy

I know I just wrote about being grateful and in the moment and enjoying just being, but this is also the time for looking forward and making resolutions for the new year and all that, right? I never make resolutions and I’m not about to start, but I do need to channel this feeling I’m having into a positive direction somehow.

I’m jealous. Of these people and their studios:

Yuyi Morales, children’s book author/illustrator

Marla Frazee, children’s book author/illustrator (whose studio is a separate little building in their backyard)

Ria Nirwana, scrapbooker/artist

I could go on and on showing you spaces of which I am jealous. Big, bright, everything in its place – they are everything my “studio” is not.

Here is mine:

It’s a cramped, uncomfortable corner in our cold, dark garage. I guess it’s better than a corner in my bedroom, which is always where I’ve worked before, but since it’s such a lousy space, I usually end up dragging projects out into the living room or our kitchen table anyway. I know I shouldn’t complain. We have shelter. We even own it. But it’s starting to feel very, very small – especially now with a baby. Our kitchen is so tiny we have to limit the number of appliances that can be on the counter at once. If we’re making baby food, there’s no room for a toaster. You have to move the trash can to open the pots and pans cabinet. With three people and a dog living in 750 square feet there’s hardly room for the baby to learn to roll over much less for space conducive to creation.

I know in my head that size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts. Sneaking peeks at someone else’s only makes you feel inadequate about your own. I know this. But I can’t help it.

So, I’m not so much making a resolution as putting my dream down in writing. Call it a goal. Or a wish. It seems like in the past whenever I’ve expressed a desire for something, whether it was to go to college or get to travel or for a good husband, I’ve put these hopes out into the universe and God/fate/my fairy godmother/whatever you want to call that higher being who knows the true calling in my heart and the best time to give it to me, delivers. In ways often surprising, unexpected and better than I ever imagine.

So here’s my dream, higher being. I would love a home with a room all my own – a studio for writing, drawing, painting or whatever I feel like doing, with big windows and natural light, a work table, lots of bookshelves, supply storage, a utility sink and a cozy chair, either in my house or close enough that I don’t have to get dressed to go to it. I don’t need it in 2010.  I would love to have it before I’m 40 (that’s 8 years away), but I know your timing will be right whatever it is.

If I resolve anything, it is to continue to do the work in my heart and hope that it leads me down the path to my dreams, to a creative life that would require steady attendance in a studio like that. I am grateful for all my current blessings, but it’s good to have something to look forward to. I’ve posted this Barbara Kingsolver quote from “Animal Dreams” before, but it bears repeating:

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.”

May you come closer to living your hopes in 2010!