Monday, September 1, 2014

Out There - My Baby On the Internet

I've mentioned before that I want to get away from doing too many posts on Little L. I love her to bits and am so proud to be her momma, so of course there is a part of me that wants to broadcast her to the world and share her with everyone.

Her new fave book series - Pete the Cat
But she is my daughter, not a commodity to be exploited or fodder to pad my blog or social media. She is a little tiny person who has not given consent, except by being born to me. How do I respect her dignity of person while still being a proud momma?

It's a tricky balance. In my parents' generation, social media didn't exist. They had to print out photos and show them off in person, or write letters and Christmas cards to brag about their kids. And forget about videos; we were too poor for one of those fancy handycams. Nowadays, sharing images and videos and blog posts are just clicks away, and all possible with one minuscule handheld device. This issue is therefore a new one, not one that has been faced by our parents or grandparents. These are uncharted waters.

So I guess there are two aspects to consider when broadcasting about kids: audience and content. I think that these are inversely proportional; the smaller the audience, the more (quantity and private content, within reason) you can probably share, and the broader the audience, the less you should probably disclose.

For a mommy who blogs, this is tricky. For one who blogs about being a mommy and is somehow compensated for having a large readership, that's even more difficult to balance. Thankfully, I still fall into the former category, but I know that many mommy bloggers blog for a living.

So let's explore this issue, shall we? You and I, as I kind of work through these thoughts myself. 

A failed family selfie  

This is the easier of the two variables,  since it is a moot point if the only people who follow your (I mean the general "you" and not you in particular) various social media are limited to those who might actually see you in your living room, and know you well "in real life." Grandparents and extended family, best friends... If that's exclusively your following, then I suppose it doesn't matter what you post about your kids, provided it isn't illegal and a violation of their dignity of person. But a shirtless potty pic? Probably still okay.

However, the guidelines of propriety change when people have easy (or unlimited) access to your social media, like FB accounts that are open to the public, or Insta/Flickr/Twitter accounts that can be followed without your permission or knowledge, or blogs that aren't password protected. At the point when you have absolutely zero control or awareness over who is consuming your content, that is when you really have to be intentional about what you put "out there" about your kiddos.

She was examining the potty
I think everyone agrees that private parts are not for show, even if the audience is just Grandma. Most social media have guidelines against nudity, and offer reporting services to allow viewers to protest images and content that is a violation of those terms. It's not prudishness at work, but ethics to protect the dignity of all people regardless of age. I won't post topless or bare bum shots of Little L either, but I have seen some parents include these in their blogs or other public accounts. To each their own, I suppose, but I guess I just don't want some sicko to come across a photo of my topless toddler and get excited. :S

Are certain moments also too private to write or post photos about? That's a trickier question. I had put up some breastfeeding pics of Little L and I when she was younger (to limited audiences), but I don't know that I would do it now, even though she continues to nurse. I see our time as much more private, special, and not for public consumption or judgment. Likewise with potty-training, an aspect of development that simply doesn't require an audience. I suppose those ones might be no-brainers, though. What about when she's crying or upset? Or when she is sleeping? What about when I'm writing about an area that she struggles with, or one that she excels in? Do I include anecdotes describing an incredibly embarrassing moment she had? Do I tell the world about something that makes her so anxious or fearful that she cannot function? If she has some sort of diagnosis, is that anyone's business but mine? Or do I exclude these, painting only rosy pictures that might end up whitewashing our lives into some caricature ideal that simply isn't true?

Some parents blog about their children who are sick. I'm not sure where the line should be drawn between communicating with concerned loved ones, and exploiting the condition for increased leadership. Others keep their cameras rolling all day long, blitzing every minutiae of their children's lives to the internet. I've seen instances when blogs and other social media accounts are completely accessible by random strangers, and yet the content doesn't seem to be toned down to accommodate for these unknown consumers of their posts. I've read, in detailed account, the many procedures that some sick kids have had to endure. Is this education or exploitation? They say that once it's "out there" on the internet, it is forever there. Forever is such a long time.

I'm not sure where to draw the line. I haven't been able to do it super well, but some of the things I've been intentional about are: a) not posting Little L's real name anywhere on the blog and IG, b) limiting access to my FB and IG to people that I know online and in person, c) limiting the type of content and images I post about Little L, d) not tweeting Little L's images, and e) thinking about how Little L might feel if she were to see what I've posted/written, one day. These are not fool-proof measures, but they do seem to keep me active on social media without feeling like I've somehow compromised the privacy and/or safety of my darling daughter. I'm not sure that I have enough readers to warrant this sort of caution, but it just makes me uneasy to think that there is even the remotest possibility that someone could be reading about Little L who has less-than-awesome intentions.

So yeah, I guess that's where I'm at. My IG and FB require approval to view, and I no longer tweet Little L's images. Though my blog is public, I am quite intentional about the pictures that I display on each post. And every day, I seem to blog or post just a little less about Little L. Maybe one day I will find that blessed balance between public and private, but until then, my baby girl is mine to protect.

What about you? Where do you draw the lines of propriety and privacy when you blog or use social media? Have you ever been squeamish about something that someone else has posted? Have you ever been targeted as a mommy blogger, because of your content? What are your ideas on social media, access, and children?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gimme Face - A Cloud Vitamin A Cream Review

I'm fairly picky about facial creams. I don't like when it's too tacky, too thick, too runny, too stinky, hard to spread, and hard to apply make-up on top of. So, when Cloud approached me to review their Vitamin A cream, I was skeptical. Was it an anti-aging cream, a sunscreen, or a corrector? The literature seemed to suggest that it was this miracle do-all cream, and let's face it, I don't know of too many creams that can actually live up to that kind of hype.

Well, it has been a week. Let's see what I've noticed so far:

The Good
- It's fragrance free, paraben free, preservative free, fragrance free and doesn't test on animals.
- SPF 23, plus the active ingredient (retinyl palmitate) is a naturally-occurring Vitamin A that acts as a barrier between your skin and the environment's damaging toxins (93% of the sun's harmful rays, smoke, pollution)
- It feels like your skin is "plumped up" after you've applied it - the way a facial feels on your face when you're done
- On wet skin, it applies very easily and smoothly. A little goes a long way.
- It claims to reverse sun-aging, smooth skin, reduce hyperpigmentation (I hope so!), stimulate collagen production, and tighten flabby jowls - all of which would be great results to have
- It comes in a tube with a pump! I love the pump, which reduces waste.
- It is supposed to be an everything-all-in-one kind of product, which saves time for those who don't have a lot of time to go through multi-step skin regimens every morning.
- It was developed by Dr. Gordon Telford, a local dermatologist. Yay for supporting local businesses!
- After about a week of using Cloud Vitamin A, I do feel like maybe my syringoma isn't as "bumpy" or noticeable. My plastic surgeon/dermatologist disagrees, but to me, it has helped improve my under-eye texture.
- I also feel like my sun spots / hyperpigmentation are lighter. Again, it could be psychosomatic, but either way, it has helped me feel better about the random dark spots on my mug.

The Bad
- You have to apply it to wet skin. Wet, not just damp or slightly moist from washing and drying. This is weird and kind of inconvenient. Also, if you try to apply it dry, it feels like trying to spread cold butter on soft bread. It just doesn't work.
- It doesn't contain fragrances, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't smell. It smells like the compound that the doctor prescribes and the pharmacist mixes together in an unlabelled white jar.
- Because it only contains SPF23, you will need to use an additional SPF if the UV outside is intense.
- It will set you back $48 for a tube.
- Because it is readily available over the counter, you know that its active ingredient is not so concentrated that it would warrant a prescription. This means that the concentration of retinyl palmitate must be relatively low enough to be safe for the general public. Which means it might not work.

 The Ugly
- It contains mineral oil and white petrolatum, which are safe emollients but petroleum by-products nonetheless. This might be a deal-breaker for some.
- It's called "Cloud Vitamin A Cream." The name is lame. Even something like "VitASkin" would have been better. Maybe.
- The packaging, which is of course in keeping with the name of the product, is really cheesy. So is the copy (see image below, and shudder).
- Dr. Telford has been in the industry a long time, but the reviews you find online for him are not favourable. This has nothing to do with the product, obviously, but I can't help but associate the professional with his product.

Retinyl palmitate is the 4th ingredient, after the petroleum by-products.

BOTTOM LINE: I will probably finish off my tube of Cloud A Vitamin Cream, since it seems to be having some slight, positive effects on my skin and couldn't possibly do it too much harm. However, I will probably not be spending $48 every few months to buy more. Lots of moms do love this cream, however, so I guess it is one of those products that you just have to try out and determine for yourself if it works or not.

Disclosure: I was contacted to try Cloud A Vitamin cream by the media relations specialist at Reformation PR. This product was provided to me at no charge. The opinions, of course, are entirely mine.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Benefit of Teacher Friends

Because I am a teacher, I know lots of teachers and count many as friends. Although I cherish all of my friends of various professions equally, there are unique and awesome qualities in my teaching friends that I really appreciate - their expertise and knowledge of kids, and their ability to give me professional (and objective) feedback concerning my own tot.

Whereas most friends only have the frame of reference of their own kids (or no reference at all), teacher friends have had the experience of working with and educating hundreds of kids, usually in 8-hour blocks of time every day over the course of a year at a time. These are specialists in pedagogy, well-versed in human behaviour and experts on the science of child development. Though they may not know everything there is to know about about kids of all ages, they do know a great deal about kids at a specific age. I, for example, know a lot about 9-10 year olds and 13-15 year olds. My "K" friends are experts in kindermunchkins, and my high school teacher friends are in the know about budding adults and older adolescents. All of us share the common understanding of how kids learn, what works and doesn't work to build rapport and relationship with them, and how to spot areas and behaviours that should be of note and concern.

Sometimes, even though I've got several years of teaching under my belt (not to mention a degree in psychology and one in education), I still have blinders on when dealing with my own child. I mean, I may know what "best practice" means and I may know how learning happens, but I am so close to Little L and so partial to her that I cannot assess her objectively, nor recognize when behaviours might be out of the ordinary or concerning.  To me, she is perfect and brilliant and awesome in all ways, even though the rational part of my brain knows full well that she is probably just a normal, slightly-above-average kid with some advanced verbal ability ;)

I see it in other parents, too. There are folks out there who are so convinced that their children are geniuses that they miss the weird social quirks that might qualify their kids for placement on the autistic spectrum; in their delusion, they only see the achievements as "proof" of giftedness, and not the other signs that are indicators of something amiss. Others see no wrong in their littles, indulging bad habits and practices that will prove to be a disservice to their children once they reach school age. Some mommies and daddies are so sensitive to every little antic and quirk of their progeny that they end up being paranoid that something is very horribly wrong with them, when in actuality their kids are just going through a phase of development that sometimes brings out the crazy. 

Teacher friends are great at grounding me. They help me see when a behaviour I am deeming to be weird or odd is in fact completely normal for that age group. They offer helpful feedback on how to build social skills in my rules-oriented, anxious toddler. They recognize Little L's need for space and comfort, and know how to respond accordingly. They remind me when my little "genius" is simply being average, and also give me feedback when Little L is performing far above her same-age peers. My teacher friends are important villagers that help me raise my child better.

And I love them for that.

If you have a teacher friend, please give them some extra love today, especially if your teacher friend works and must now picket in BC. Listen to them, and learn from them - they are professionals who know kid, and their feedback is invaluable. And if you don't have many teacher friends, try to find some! Living in a bubble does such a disservice to you and your kids. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Ice Bucket Challenge

Miss Bee, my friend and nanny, nominated us for the #ALSicebucketchallenge, and we accepted. We also made a donation to the Mayo Clinic's ALS research division. Dr. Anthony Windebank and his team currently have clinical trials underway, and are gearing up to launch a second set of trials in their efforts to find therapeutic treatments for ALS. I believe that Dr. Windebank's work does involve adult stem cells, but not embryonic stem cells. If you have concerns about embryonic stem cell research, please do not let that deter you from giving to a good cause; there are plenty of ways to donate to ALS research even if you don't support embryonic stem cell use. Otherwise, please give to the ALS Association. There is currently no cure and no treatment for ALS, and it is fatal within just a few years after diagnosis. Thanks for giving!


 (Sorry for the squinty video. We shot it out in the sun and I'm always a dork in front of a camera).

My First Venture into Cosmetic Surgery

...and I'm not getting a tummy tuck (although that's what I would ideally want, lipo notwithstanding). I'm seeing a cosmetic dermatologist to remove unsightly tumours beneath my eyes. I'm told they are syringoma. Apparently I have sweaty under eye skin.

GAH! So disgusting. Kill me now.
Anyway, I've been trying out this amazing Vitamin A cream with a rather crappy name (it's called Cloud) that I'm going to review soon, and it has been making my unsightly bumps look a little less bumpy. However, no cream in the world will get rid of them. Trust me, I've tried. I've even gone to multiple estheticians for various kinds of lasers and extractions to rid me of these grotesque formations. Sadly, the only "cure" is for a dermatologist to cut them out in a cosmetic surgical procedure.

My appointment is Friday. My long weekend will be spent hiding behind gigantic dark sunglasses, because the scabs that will form following the removal may not be pretty. In fact, I might be downright hideous for a few days. I might even bleed from beneath my eyes. Sexy.

But I'm doing it anyway, because what started off as one or two bumps has now become a full-on cluster under my left eye, and anyone who knows me well knows that I have a clusteraphobia (I made that word up) and get totally heeby-jeebied out when I see clusters of bumps. For a while, I couldn't even eat raspberries. Mushrooms on a lawn? Forget about it; I'm a weak-ass puddle on the floor after seeing those little monstrous white and brown growths.

Anyway, I digress. I am joining the ranks of others who have altered their faces, all in the name of vanity. And I am excited. Well, maybe not for the scabbing and potential bruising and pain. But for the end results.

My Friday appointment is to remove a small selection of the bumps. Think of it like a test patch. I'm doing a trial run to see how well my skin responds to being detumourized (I also made that word up). What this means is that I'm probably going to have to go in again in a few weeks, to get the rest of them purged from my otherwise-gorgeous mug.

And who knows? If my adventures in cosmetic surgery go well, I might consider getting more "done" than just syringoma extractions. But let's take baby steps for now; I wouldn't want to go in looking like me and come back looking like a freak. Wait - that actually might happen, even with this little procedure of mine. *gulp* Wish me luck!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Closing the Door on 4


In her little Orbit, her very first carseat
 Both cribs have found new homes (albeit possibly temporarily). The baby clothes, with the exception of a few "keepers," have been given away. The pack-and-play was tossed (stained with poo and frankly, a rather sh*tty playyard to begin with). The Orbit infant travel system, and recently our Babybjorn Travel Crib, have been sold on Craigslist. Other baby items, like nursing pillows and electric pumps, await donation or sale or being loaned out to needy friends.

We are officially closing our doors to the possibility of a fourth member of the Loquacious clan, and barring an "oopsie" blessing that would truly be an act of God, we are complete at 3. The only step left to take is an outpatient snippity-snip for Hubbs, and then we can finish that chapter of our lives entirely.

With her Gong-Gong and Pau-Pau... I still miss you, Daddy! :*(
I thought I would be more torn about this decision, since I originally wanted to have two little people in my life. I suppose that if God were to intervene with a miracle and give us another, I would probably be okay with that, too, but honestly, since my "One and Done" post, I have felt entirely at peace with Hubbs' and my decision. Though I know that I will occasionally miss the magic of carrying a life inside me, and the delight of holding a newborn skin-to-skin on my chest, I am excited at this age and in this stage of my life to simply pour my time and attention into Little L, and invest in traversing this grand adventure called "growing up," with her.

I spent so many hours on that rocking chair in that first

The tricky thing now is balancing my packratitis with a desire to retain and store just a few special items from Little L's infancy. It's not always easy to know what to keep and what to chuck out. As I sorted through our bins of baby clothing, I would come upon a really cute outfit that she wore (often) in those first few months of life. Then I'd see an outfit that was gifted to her by someone special in our lives. Next, I'd spot something else that held a special memory for us. Soon, I'd find myself at the bottom of the bin with a "donation" pile that barely amounted to anything, and a "keep" pile that was just as big as when I first began my sorting.

Quacker Jack is a keeper.
I suppose that, as she gets older and there are more items to sort and store or surrender, I will get accustomed to purging and the bin of "0-2 years" will become the "0-5" bin. For now, however, I think I will hold on to her little outfits and first wool booties and teething keys that she loved so much.

How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of? What have you held on to, maybe for a little too long? 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Going with the FLLO - First Impressions

Look what arrived!! **insert happy dance**

Flamingo Pink - Little L *loves* this colour
I am proud to say that when UPS brought up the package, I was able to lift the box without killing myself; I even moved the FLLO fairly easily from the living room to Little L's bedroom, which goes to show that the FLLO is indeed significantly lighter than the FOONF (28 pounds with bar, 25 without vs. 38 pounds). Hubbs, being a mastadon of a man and much stronger than "soft arms" moi, would definitely have no issue carting this seat down to the car.

I have spent the last 30 minutes doing some set up of the chair and getting acquainted with it.

I'm glad to report that the seat part doesn't seem to be all that different from the FOONF seat, which has been lauded for being a solid, hefty "Cadillac" of carseats. The metal substructure of the FLLO is reminiscent of the FOONF's, complete with the metal bars that run up and down the back of the seat. This is great news, because part of the reason why these seats are so safe for extended rear-facing is that the metal frame of the seat absorbs the force of impact in the event of a collision. I was also initially worried that the side wings might be less deep than the FOONF's, since I was thinking that maybe Clek was trying to target the demographic that might normally purchase Diono Radian RXTs. To my relief, the sides are still deep.
Same stylish silhouette; looks almost exactly like FOONF
The fabric feels just like the FOONF's Crypton Super Fabric - low-pile, slightly textured, and thick (think a fuzzier version of canvas). Generally, I can't really tell the difference between the FLLO seat and the FOONF's; though padded, both are not very plush nor soft, which I think is better for posture than those seats that you sort of sink into. Little L is a furnace, which is one reason why she loves the FOONF seat and hated some of the other convertible car seats with the pillowed padding; she would feel way too warm in the cushions!

Since I've done setup before with the FOONF, and it's nearly identical in the FLLO, the process was relatively painless. The crotch strap comes with both the short and long settings, which is an improvement on the very first FOONF (sold only with the short strap); it admittedly did take me a little bit of jiggling to get the longer extension into place properly, and that's one part of the seat that I would love to see some improvement on. The headrest also took a bit of wiggling to fit into the holes, but I found it quite easy to adjust or install the shoulder straps, the crotch strap, the universal latches, and even the anti-rebound bar, which was a "first" (since Hubbs did it for our other seats).

Base in FF mode
The base, which is totally different from the FOONF's, makes the FLLO much more portable if you plan to travel with it. Compared to the bulky extra "attachment" that the FOONF uses for rear-facing installs, the FLLO base is all-in-one. In RF, you just have to pull out the "legs," which snap right back into place when you want to switch to FF. The reduced weight of the seat is due in part to the soft latches that are used for FF in the FLLO, rather than a rigid latch system (distinct to the FOONF). Not having those metal latches on the base likely shaved off a few pounds from the seat, and also makes it easier to transport (since now you don't have metal pieces jutting out the back). There *is* an aluminum honeycomb safety system built inside the FLLO base that uses the concept of "crumple zones" to offer Energy Absorbing Crumple Technology; basically, upon impact in FF mode, the force of the collision is transferred from the kid inside the seat, to the deformable cores inside the base of the seat. FLLO also comes with an optional anti-rebound bar for RF, which acts to limit the seat's rotation in case of impact; I would recommend installing it, since my FOONF doesn't budge at all when I have the bar installed. Like, not even that "inch" of wiggle room that is so commonly-accepted in car seat installations.

Base in RF mode

(In the above video, you see me pulling out the RF base and then snapping it into place. It's a silent video because, well, I didn't narrate it).

So far, I'm pretty pleased with the FLLO. It doesn't look like Clek made any compromises to quality or safety, although the removal of the rigid latch will probably make FF installs a bit less user-friendly. The price is right, however, and I am looking forward to getting the FLLO into the car and seeing how Little L likes its lower profile.

UPDATE: Good news, folks! Hubbs and Little L both *love* the FLLO! Hubbs tells me that it does provide a slightly improved visibility over the FOONF, and is easier to get Little L in and out of. Being much shorter than Hubbs, I have also noticed this when I am driving with the FLLO in the back. As for installation, the FLLO is identical to the FOONF. My only beef with CLEK on these seats is with respect to storing the LATCH belts when they're not being used (e.g. In middle seat installs in RF mode). It was hard to find a way to store the belts beneath the seat after clicking the LATCH ends into the provided spaces. There didn't seem to be an easy way to do this without some excess belt fabric poking up, which worries us because we don't want the seat cover to pop off.

As for the toddler, she has fallen asleep in the seat several times already, and we have only had it installed for a few days! When it comes to climbing into the seat on her own, the FLLO is superior to the FOONF because the lower height makes it easier to climb in without Little L bumping her head on the ceiling. So far, no complaints about visibility either, although I do have to add the caveat that my daughter is fairly tall (37") for being 2.5. A younger, smaller child might prefer the height boost offered by the detachable FOONF base.

And the colour? Little L loves it, even though I'm not so hot on pink since it's so stereotypically girly. She has been asking about taking the FLLO to Hawaii, which we promised her we would do in October. :) Stay tuned to find out how well the FLLO travels!

Full Disclosure: I love Clek and I already own two FOONFs (Paul Frank Red and Dragonfly green), so when I heard about their newest convertible car seat, FLLO, I got in touch with Clek to do a series on it.  As part of our arrangement, I was provided with a modest discount on its purchase. These are my very first honest impressions. Any bias in this review is due only to my crazy love for Clek, and not due to having scored a discount on the FLLO.


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