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Archive for July, 2008

This post has been over a week in the making. It was originally supposed to be the final post of a week-long series I was going to do on the whys and wherefores of creating a blog you can be proud of, but I believe that topic is already covered ad nauseam all over the internet. I don’t think I really need to add my two cents, but I do plan on posting a page that lists some of the tools I use for this blog. You know, geek stuff like plugins and feed readers and whatnot.

Since I pretty much have this post written, I’m going to pop it out today and hopefully build on a discussion that started at BlogHer. Each break-out session at the conference was live-blogged by several volunteer posters, but the one that caught my attention was Public Parenting and Privacy and was aimed at mommy bloggers who document their children’s lives on the internet. Shannon of Rocks In My Dryer was one of the panelists in this session and brought the discussion of blogging and privacy to the BlogHer website where several more voices chimed in (mine included).

Every blogger out there is concerned about privacy. How much of yourself do you put out there? Do you give your real name? Your last name? How about the names of your children and do you post pictures of them? It would seem everyone has a list of things they will not put out on the internet. They draw a line and form clear boundaries that designate what goes through when they hit “publish.”

Boundaries are not always constant. If you’re an experienced blogger, your boundaries have probably shifted over the years. Or maybe not. My friend Meg has been blogging for nearly as long as I have and continues to refer to her husband and daughter by nicknames on the blog. She has never revealed her last name whereas I have. I also post many more pictures of my daughter than she does of hers, but that’s something I’ve been trying to limit as Autumn gets older.

I may be a little more liberal in what I choose to reveal here, but that’s not to say I don’t have some very clear boundaries of my own. Some go way back to my very first post on Blogger while others are boundaries I’ve established fairly recently in light of wanting to increase my readership. Some boundaries have even been established after making mistakes I don’t wish to repeat.

I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss a few of my boundaries and why they are important to me because having an actual written code of conduct just might prevent me from making an ass of myself in the future. Maybe.

Do not use the blog to publicly address an issue that should be handled in private.

In other words, don’t use the blog to be a jerk to your friends and family, even if you think they deserve it. I’ve heard so many bloggers say they refuse to put anything on their blog they wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to a person’s face. That’s a pretty darn good rule.

Last year was a very bad year. Job issues were making me miserable, Nathan’s mom died, I was sick almost constantly from October through February and then there was my accident in December. At the height of my misery, I felt very alone because no one called or e-mailed to check in with me. It pissed me off because I suspected the folks who weren’t calling were still reading my blog. So I wrote a post about how I felt about them. I wrote about feeling abandoned to see if I would get a response from the very people I felt had abandoned me. The thing is, when I did receive a comment on the blog from one of them, I didn’t know how to respond and just deleted it. So really, what was the point of that post if I was going to go all chicken shit and not acknowledge the response?

The truth was I was being an asshat. I was using the blog to showcase my asshatedness in all its glory. But I was also hurting and did not know how to communicate that hurt to those around me. A blog can be a wonderful tool to communicate with others, but it can also be used as a weapon and that’s not cool. I know that’s not cool because I’ve been on the other side when someone has had some less than flattering things to say about me.

It’s so easy to sit in this chair and think I’m all alone out here because I really can only put faces to a few of the people who read this blog. I’m not alone, though, and need to realize whatever I write might have a negative effect on my relationship with others.

Don’t blog about work. Just don’t do it.

I never used to write much about my job. While cleaning out my archives recently, I noticed there were only 17 posts categorized as “work” out of the 470-plus posts I have written so far. That’s a small percentage, but that’s a percentage that could very well have gotten me into trouble at some point. Losing one’s job for blogging about work may have worked out for Heather Armstrong, but her story is the happily-ever-after version of what can go wrong when you write about your co-workers.

If your professional life is so miserable that you feel you must share your misery with the online community, be safe and do it anonymously. There are all sort of ways you might be able to do this. Just be smart and don’t identify yourself, your co-workers or your employer.

I recently pulled most of my posts labeled “work.” I re-categorized some of the more benign posts I thought I could keep and deleted the “work” category altogether. Better to be safe than sorry.

Be mindful of what you post about your children

A few months ago I snapped some pictures of Autumn after a bath and uploaded the best shot to Flickr. It was relatively harmless in its content, but because my description below the photo included the word “child” and “bath” in it, the picture received 11 hits from other Flickr users. Getting more than a few views of any one photo in my stream is unusual, so the only explanation I could think of for the hits is that some folks out there were looking for very specific content. Needless to say, that photo is now marked private.

The same goes for a short snippet of video I took of Autumn in the bathtub and uploaded to YouTube. Out of all my videos there, that one had the most hits and the most referrer links. It freaked me out and I took it down along with the birthday photo montages I had created that included her full name.

From the comments I read on the live-blog recap and on the BlogHer website, it would seem parents are all over the map when it comes to what they will and won’t reveal of their kids. When Autumn was an infant, I had no problem posting pictures of her in just a diaper. Now that she’s nearly three, I make it a point now to only share pictures of her where she’s clothed or, in the case of this picture, a shot that reveals nothing below the shoulders. The child absolutely loves to run around in her skivvies so there’s rarely an opportunity for me to catch her looking respectable, you know?

If I could start over, I would probably think twice about using my child’s real name. I suppose I could go back and replace every instance of her name with a pseudonym, but that would not change that the blog itself is named after her. The next obvious answer would be to change the name of the blog, but at this point that would be a logistical nightmare. I’m just going to have to be very careful.

Just because it was funny, that doesn’t mean it should be blogged

We have a term we use at The Hollow when something absolutely has to be documented; “blog worthy”. Nathan has come to terms with being married to a woman who likes to write about their lives and has actually submitted a few suggestions to be added here. Even so, there have been times when something truly blog worthy has happened and I’ve passed on writing about it because it might cause extreme embarrassment for the parties involved.

Just this past weekend I found myself in the middle of a completely ridiculous situation involving my family. I recognized the ridiculousness right away, as did Nathan, and actually started composing the post in my head as the situation was unfolding. I even went so far as starting the post in WordPress but had to stop myself. Publishing this moment would have meant sharing a potentially mortifying piece of information about another family member. After conferring with Nathan, we both decided this was one story that should not be shared with the entire internet.

Respect the boundaries of others

Just because you like to blab about your life, that doesn’t mean your friends and family want you to blab about theirs. I’m lucky to be married to a man who doesn’t mind being ridiculed. I actually think he likes the attention, but there are some spouses/partners/children/friends who don’t want to be included in your daily drama. Those who live their lives publicly need to respect the privacy of those who don’t.

The same thing goes for other people’s children. It’s one thing to post pictures and names of your own kids and other thing entirely to post pictures and names of someone else’s. If you do, make sure you have permission from the parents. That’s a no-brainer.

Speaking of kids, there might come a time when Autumn asks me to stop writing about her. There might come a time when what I’ve already written about her could cause her some embarrassment. This was another thing touched on during the discussion at BlogHer, and it seems to be a topic that’s on a lot of parents’ minds.

I know of some bloggers who purge their archives and delete any potentially incriminating posts that could embarrass their kids down the line. While I’m all for trimming some of the fat, I will never purposely delete months or years of what I’ve written. This blog is an extension of my love for my family and I only wish my parents had documented the first years of my life the way I have with Autumn. It would have been nice to have read their impressions as young parents working through it all for the first time.

There are possibly a couple more rules I’m missing here, but I think the ones I’ve listed form a solid foundation for Staying Out Of Trouble On The Internet. Granted, they are my rules and I hardly expect them to apply to everyone.

Also, if anyone out there has something to add, perhaps something you learned through experience or horrible mistake, I’d love for you to drop it in a comment.

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Trying not to spill

“I can’t believe how much you’ve changed.”

Nathan said this to me last night around 11:30. I was sitting in the chair with my laptop in front of me. We had just finished watching “Wedding Crashers” and I was once again looking at going to bed way too late.

I looked up from my computer screen. “What do you mean?” For a couple of seconds I thought he might be referring to my hair, because my hair had completely defied the laws of nature and humidity and looked fantastic the whole day. It looked so great that Nathan couldn’t stop talking about it, and in turn I felt a welcome jolt of confidence that comes from knowing your husband wanted to leap over the table and jump your bones during dinner.

“You never used to be able to stay up until 11:00. Now we’re going to bed close to midnight every night.”

I shrugged. “I guess I’ve conditioned myself to get by on less sleep,” I said.

While I don’t really consider pushing back my bedtime an hour a major lifestyle change, I think Nathan was actually trying to tell me he’s a little concerned. Perhaps he should be because I am not getting enough sleep. I am eating well, but I am not exercising. I’m not taking care of myself like I should, and if I want to avoid another winter rife with sinus infections and constant bronchial distress, I should probably start taking his concerns more seriously.

Before my surgery I was getting up at 5 a.m. a couple of times a week to swim laps at the high school pool. Getting up that early required going to bed early and I tried to make sure I was all tucked in no later than 10 pm. Now I get about six hours of sleep a night. My membership to the pool has expired (must renew! must renew!) and I’m at least 3-5 minutes late for work every morning because I hit the snooze button five times instead of four.

I’ve recognized this is not good for me. Every night I make plans to go to bed earlier so I can get to my desk before the clock tower chimes, but every night I wind up trying to get just a few more minutes out of the day. I do this because I’m happy. I’m really quite happy and my life is so full right now that I just don’t want to release the day from my embrace.

Still, I have to reevaluate how I’m spending my time. Classes start up again in another month and I’m going to have to shift my priorities in order to fit everything in. I don’t want to take time away from my family nor do I want to take time away from my writing. I really need to start exercising and will have to spend time on studying, so how am I going to do all that and get to bed earlier?

I’ve thought about taking grad school out of this equation. Grad school is the one thing I don’t necessarily have to do. I’ve been ambivalent about it from the beginning because I really haven’t figured out what I’ll do with the degree once I finish. I can’t pass up a free education though, and I keep thinking it would be nice to have something to show for my time at the university other than a wide ass and graying hair. I don’t want to look back and think myself a fool for passing up an opportunity others would kill for. I owe it to myself to try.

I’ve been thinking about all this as I try to go to sleep each night. I think about each day and how I’m spread so thin and how sweet it is that my cup runneth over. My cup has seemed empty at times and I’m the type of person who tends to focus more on the dry cups and totally misses that she’s holding a cup filled to the brim.

So this is me noticing.

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We are three

Did you all hear that Jennifer Garner is pregnant again? I think the news has yet to be confirmed by someone other than former spy daddy Victor Garber, but from the pictures I’ve seen of her, it certainly looks like Violet’s mama is sporting a bump.

Jennifer Garner and I have a lot in common. We’re around the same age (she’s five months younger than me) and were both band geeks in high school. We each married tall, incredibly handsome men and became new moms right around the same time (her daughter was born two weeks after Autumn). Though I have never met the woman, I felt a connection to her that suggested we’d be great friends if we ever did meet.

But now she’s pregnant again and I sort of feel like I’m seeing my high school friend go on to college while I stay behind to work at the Quickie Mart. It’s not as though she can only be pregnant if I’m pregnant too, but that’s exactly how I felt when I heard the news. It was a melancholy moment for me.

I think I’ve written exactly one post about having more children. I only wrote that one post because a few months later Nathan and I made the decision that we were not going to have any more children. He had a vasectomy just before Autumn’s first birthday. I didn’t write about it then because it was a deeply personal decision that took some time to process.

For us, there were more reasons to stop at one than there were to expand our family. I got pregnant weighing around 270 pounds and gained over 50 pounds during my pregnancy. I was incredibly healthy throughout, but I never lost that baby weight. Ok, I did lose some during the months I nursed Autumn, but those pounds came back on and brought a few of their friends with them.

When we were still considering having another child, I knew without a doubt that I didn’t want to go through another pregnancy being fat. After my first ultrasound, my OB sent me to an office specializing in ultrasounds for high-risk pregnancies. There wasn’t anything wrong with the baby that they could see, but that was part of the problem. They couldn’t see as much as they wanted to because I was fat.

As I was filling out my paperwork at the specialist, I caught sight of the notation pertaining to my particular risk; obesity. Yuck. I hated that word. It wasn’t as though I was ignorant of my condition, but I sometimes preferred to pretend I was just like every other cute pregnant woman out there. But I wasn’t like every other woman who gets pregnant at a healthy weight. I had to buy every piece of maternity clothing online. I couldn’t go into the boutique maternity shops or even the stores in the mall. A good part of my maternity wardrobe was just plus-size stuff with elastic waistbands that accommodated my growing body.

When I started to think about having another child, the task of losing weight seemed so daunting, especially when I considered that I’d wind up gaining some of it back with another pregnancy. And how old would I be after I lost that weight anyway? I was in my mid-30s and the pounds weren’t coming off as quickly as they did when I was in my 20s. That first summer after Autumn was born I tried. I went back to Weight Watchers and I did try because I had stopped nursing and the pounds were piling back on. But I tanked. I tanked as I had so many times before.

My obesity isn’t the only reason we stopped with Autumn. There are a lot of other reasons that range from emotional to financial, but I knew that the limitations I experience as a fat parent would increase exponentially with another child. Being a parent is tough, emotionally and physically, and if you’re carrying around the weight of an extra adult on your frame you don’t have the physical stamina to withstand the emotional pummeling a child can dish out. Luckily I’m married to a man who was completely on board with me and we eventually had the discussion about the future of our little family.

While I don’t regret our decision, I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes wonder what a little boy of ours might look like and if Autumn would pick on him as much as I picked on my little brother. And then there’s the whole diapers thing. I don’t have to buy diapers anymore and that just seems inconceivable. I don’t have to monitor diaper sales and cut out diaper coupons. I don’t have to toss stinky diapers in the garbage or clean up the remains of stinky diapers that Molly pulled out of the garbage. I don’t have to do any of that anymore and it seems like there’s this great big hole where the diapers used to be and I’m left wondering…is this it?

While I have no friends who are pregnant at the moment, I know some of them are struggling with these same questions. Is this it? Do we keep going? Do I want to put my physical and/or mental health at risk and deal with an uncertain financial future for the sake of adding to our brood?

When I think of these questions and how Nathan and I have answered them with that decisive and very final snip, I also have to think about how lucky we were to have been blessed with Autumn in the first place. Without her, we would never have known it was even possible to want more.

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Last month Nathan and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. You might recall my mention of how he had left me home with Autumn to go golfing with his dad. I was cool with that because he rarely goes golfing anymore.

That particular day it took me awhile to get dressed. Sometimes I just do that. I really like that yellow robe of mine and will wear it for a good part of the morning before finally deciding to put some clothes on. I tend to do the same thing with Autumn. If she’s happy walking around in just a diaper or underpants and we don’t have to go anywhere, then I’m happy to let her walk around in just a diaper or underpants. It’s much easier than having to hear “Mommy, please take my shirt off” every five minutes.

About noon the doorbell rang. Molly went nuts and started barking. My first instinct was to ignore whoever might be calling. As groovy as I think that yellow robe is, I had no desire to greet anyone while wearing it. However, I also didn’t want to appear rude in case Nathan had left the garage door open and the person calling knew I was home and just not answering.

I peeked out my front window and saw my grandmother standing on my front porch. My grandmother who cooked Mother’s Day dinner this year and who is the last person on earth I’d want to see me still dressed in my yellow robe at noon on a Saturday. I really didn’t want to open that door, but if my grandmother got even a whiff of my presence and knew I had ignored her, I would never hear the end of it. Answer the door? Don’t answer the door? Either way I was screwed.

As I was contemplating both scenarios, my grandmother turned around and started walking back towards her car. Before I could help myself I called out to her. “Grandma, wait!” She turned around and looked up at me through the window. “I have something for you,” she said and waived a card at me.

After I had shoved Molly out the back, I drew in a breath and descended the stairs to my front door. There stood my grandma, all fresh and ready for the day that was nearly half over. She handed me a card and wished me a happy anniversary. She said nothing about the robe or about how long it had taken me to answer the door. I asked her to come inside, but she hates the stairs in my house and declined, which thank God she did because my kitchen was a mess.

It was at this point, the point where I thought I was in the clear and had suffered only a moderate level of embarrassment, that my daughter decided to appear buck naked at the top of the stairs. “Oh my!” said my grandma. “What do we have here?”

I could feel the heat rising to my face. “Oh God, she must have pulled her diaper off,” I said. “She just loves running around naked.” I tried to downplay the whole thing and give my grandma the impression that nudity is a way of life here at The Hollow, but there was no denying this didn’t make me look good, what with Autumn displaying all that God had given her and looking very Clan of the Cave Bear with her straggly hair falling in her face.

My grandma seemed to find the whole thing amusing and gave Autumn a friendly little wave before saying her goodbyes. It wasn’t until my parents visited the next day that I found out what she really thought. At some point the subject of her visit came up and my dad said, “Yeah, she thought she might have woken you up.”

“At noon? Is she crazy? I can’t remember the last time I slept until noon.”

“That’s what I told her,” said my dad. “I said, ‘I don’t think Autumn lets them sleep in like that.'”

So now I know my grandmother is passing on the word that I sleep late and let my child run around naked, because that part of it was not left out when she told my dad about her visit. I’m sure some of my grandma’s friends and acquaintances also know of my indiscretions, and if they don’t know, they will because my grandma is a master at passing on that kind of information. You could be talking to her about something totally unrelated to bad parenting and she’ll just pop the story in because it has to be told.

So internet, before my grandmother gets to you, let me clarify something; yes, I do let my kid run around sans clothes but I DO NOT SLEEP IN. I could not sleep until noon even if I wanted to sleep in until noon. Even if I didn’t have a kid, I would not sleep in until noon because I am not a nineteen year-old unemployed male who stays up until 4:00 a.m. playing World of Warcraft.

I’ll go even a step further and let you know that yesterday neither one of us got fully dressed. Nathan had the flu and the child wrangling fell on me, as did the laundry, the grocery list making and the meals. Not all of my tasks were completed in full, and getting dressed was one of those tasks. We weren’t naked by any means. We were just comfortable.

Still, you might want to call before visiting. Consider yourself warned.

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There’s a story that goes along with this picture.

Lately I’ve been going to bed way too late, and when I do go to bed it’s not as though I can get to sleep right away. My mind has been kicking into overdrive, and I’ve been finding myself not getting to sleep until way after midnight.

Last night I was determined to get to bed at a decent hour. I even took some Unisom knock-offs to ensure I would get some good rest. However, about 11:30 Autumn came into the bedroom to tell us she had to go to the bathroom. Nathan ushered Autumn into the bathroom and it was while she was sitting on the toilet that she puked up what she had eaten for dinner last night.

Of course when this child starts puking she doesn’t stop puking, so Nathan and I found ourselves watchmen of the heaves for the remainder of the night. After giving Autumn a bath and providing the appropriate parental support of back rubbing and holding the hair back while she puked some more, we put her in bed with us. After midnight she seemed ok and we put her back in her own bed, where she was fine until 4:30 when she woke up and started puking again. I gave her some children’s Tylenol because she felt a little hot and brought her into bed with us again.

Now let me tell you about some of the electrical problems we have in our house. The one outlet in our upstairs bathroom does not work. Because of this, I sit on my bed every morning and blow dry my hair in front of our bedroom mirror. We should probably call an electrician about this because the one time Nathan tried to fix the outlet he didn’t flip the right switch on the circuit panel and received a nice jolt.

This morning I really couldn’t dry my hair in the bedroom because Nathan and Autumn were still sleeping. He had volunteered to stay home with Autumn and I really didn’t want to disturb them so I took the hair dryer downstairs to the other bathroom. The thing I’ve learned about home wiring is that it sends electrical impulses through your house much like nerves do for the human body and things you wouldn’t imagine being connected actually are. That’s why a good foot massage makes you feel good all over and why you can pinch yourself just right in one place on your body and feel the pain shoot through to a different hemisphere.

That would probably explain why the outlet in the downstairs bathroom wasn’t working either. By this time it’s pushing 7:30 and I have to get my ass in gear. Since there are no other mirrors in the house adjacent to an outlet, I decided to utilize the iSight camera in my Mac. It worked. Sort of. The lighting was pretty crappy, but so is the lighting in my bedroom so I probably was no worse off.

I can already tell it’s going to take every ounce of energy I have to make it to 5:00. And to top it off, I’m wearing my droopy drawers jeans today, so I’m not really going to want to get out of my chair much.

Wish me luck.

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I felt really ambitious last night and created a fabulous presentation all about my hair. It was going to include Powerpoint and everything until I realized I have absolutely no idea how to use Powerpoint or how to integrate Powerpoint into the blog. So you’ll have to settle for pictures. Point and laugh at your leisure.

I recognize this hair. This is the hair that I struggle to put up in a ponytail every morning. This is the hair that gets crusted with food and smells like apples from being spritzed with detangler. Fast forward 34 years and you see this hair on my daughter.

This particular picture was taken on my third birthday. I’m quite happy here because I am still an only child. In fifteen days that would all change.

There’s really not much you can say about the early ’80s. Big hair had yet to hit the scene and we were obviously still under the influence of the ’70s and its love of all things plaid. This would be one of many times an ill-conceived bang styling was documented on film. They look like a set of curtains drawn back to let the sun through. And wow, what a bright sun it is. Just look at that pale forehead.

There’s the volume we know and love. Oh, how I used to torture my poor hair. Perm after perm, and those bangs were curled and teased as high as they could go. I remember how my hair used to get stuck to the curling iron and break off from the heat. I had little banglets growing in for years.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address my couture-like accessories. Mood ring from Avon. Spoon ring. Swatch watch. What’s with the watches anyway? Why two? Was I due in another time zone later that day? It just looks like I made a mistake and forgot to take one off.

Just when you thought it was safe to put the curling iron away. The ’80s may have been behind us, but we still loved our hair products. In my defense, I do believe some of that volume is an optical illusion created by the shadows behind me.

This was taken when I was a freshman at the university and working at Target. I met my hubby here, though that would be a few years and many cans of hair spray later.

I lost 50 pounds in 1992 and chopped my hair off that fall. I was feeling mighty fine and started experimenting with hot rollers. I never really liked this picture before because of the wispy fly-away look of my hair, but it’s definitely better than what I’ve been seeing in the mirror lately.

A few years later we have longer hair and a few extra pounds. Nathan used to work at Blimpie and I gained a ton of weight that first summer we were together.

I was still using the hot rollers for a little curl. This is one of my favorite pictures of Nathan and me. My choice of accessories has improved and I’m even wearing makeup. And just try to tell me Nathan doesn’t look like our favorite Hogwarts student here.

Not much witty commentary to add here. For years I let my hair grow while I worked at the factory. I gradually started getting it cut and this picture shows the shortest I’d ever had it at that time. I’ve always liked this picture, too. There are so few of just the two of us together. The bigger I got, the more I avoided the camera.

This was the shortest I went with it. How much shorter could I go, really? I miss this hair. I miss how easy it was to take care of and how it always sort of looked decent. I also miss how manageable Autumn’s hair was. Shit, I miss how manageable Autumn was. She was only four months old here and very good about staying in one place and not jumping on the furniture.

This was one of the last good hair days I had before I tried the new cut. I’m not really digging what my hair has been doing lately, which is basically nothing I want it to do. I really look like a mom here. I have what Nathan calls “the soccer mom bob.” I call it divine intervention because I’ll be damned if I haven’t tried time and again to duplicate this look.

Well folks, that concludes our photo walk down memory lane today. If you liked what I did with the pictures, you can head on over to Picnik and have the same fun with your own. The Polaroid effect and the captions are all courtesy of their free service. And no, I’m not getting paid to promote them (though I should be-hint hint Picnik peeps!)

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I can haz maid?

I don’t normally participate in Wordless Wednesday, but when I saw Sandy’s post today over at Momisodes, I felt compelled to post a rebuttal:

(5:45 pm status)

Sry. Mommy haz bin spending too much time on interwebz…

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