Scenes From My Week 05.21.14

_1060843I had this idea to get a nice, serene, cool-toned black and white shot of Cy sitting and playing with bubbles, backlit, with just a rim of light around the edges.

Serene is not Cy’s middle name.

First there was the challenge of getting him and the bubbles in the frame together, while I blew the bubbles and aimed the camera.

_1060845Then there was this moment:

What the blumin' heck, mom?

What the blumin’ heck, mom?

Mo-ooommm

Mo-ooommm…

Then there was this moment:

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And this one:

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And then this happened:

What's that....?

What’s that….?

OMG!! BUBBLES!!!

OMG!! BUBBLES!!!

I never did get my nice, serene black and white shot. But I did catch some fun ones.

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This is real life, not Pinterest. Maybe not what I envisioned, but certainly more fun!

What fun surprises did you find this week? Share them with us at Communal Global!
Find me on Instagram, I’m @jadekeller.



Momma Chat: On Picking Battles, not Balls

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My son and I had our first fight. Well, I’m not sure if you can call it a fight when one party can’t verbalize more articulately than “Thee thaa! Pbbbllttffft!” (Then again, maybe that’s about as articulate as some fights get…) Anyway. It was very distinctly different than any disagreement that has arisen between us before because he very clearly got angry at me and looked at me in a way I hadn’t seen him look before.

I should have known we were off to a bad start when he woke up at 6:30 (about half an hour before I would term it a godly hour) and I brought him into the bathroom with me. I placed him on the bath mat and he looked up at me with a cheeky grin, took one look at my grump face, and his smile just fell right off his. Oh I felt so bad about that! That should have been my hint to turn my attitude around. But it wasn’t.

The next order of business was to change his diaper, which was full of poop I could smell from where I stood. Now, Cy has hit this phase where he HATES having his diaper changed. Ever since he got real mobile (so, since about 6.5 months, thus about 1.5 months of this), every single time we try to change his diaper, he squirms, wriggles, rolls, and crawls his way to freedom, and if we try to pull him back or otherwise continue the diaper changing process, he squawks and cries. Most times, we can try to distract him with something fun. If that doesn’t work, or if I’m doing it by myself, I’ll just try to get the new diaper on with him wriggling about. But lately, he’s getting even more ornery about it and it’s getting harder not to get pissed at him. I’m so beyond sick of this phase.

On the morning in question, his diaper was full of poop, and as soon as I took it off, he scrambled out of there, with me desperately trying to chase after him with the wipes before he got poop all over the guest bed, walls, and clothes. I was trying to wipe him down. He was trying to play with a brush he wanted to drop off behind the bed, but it got stuck. I was trying to clean his balls. He was trying to get the brush. He started crying. I was not sympathetic.

And then he started shrieking like he was in pain. That’s when he gave me The Look. I immediately stopped touching his bits. I took him to Toby afraid he was actually hurt. Toby, barely roused from sleep, replied, “He’s just annoyed.”

“Well, but he cried when I touched his balls.”

“So stop touching his balls.”
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It was ridiculous and not pretty, and soured the whole morning. And then I had coffee.

And that’s when I realized there are two times a day in which one should never pick a fight.

One is right before bed because you dwell on all these emotions of EPIC PROPORTION…only to wake up in the morning and realize you were being ridiculous.

The other is before 7 a.m. because coffee. Once you’ve had coffee, you realize those emotions of EPIC PROPORTION were silly after all.

_1060731But I’m still hoping you’ll tell me this phase passes soon.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: How excited he gets when we read his bedtime story together. As soon as he sees me pull out the book, he flaps his arms, curls up, and coos, ready to listen.

 

Little Things Thursday 05.15.14

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Every night, around 11p.m., I extricate myself from under little hands and plod down the white-tiled hallway to get ready for bed. I brush my teeth and then I prepare to wash my face. I pull out this soft, terry, meadow green hair turban, slip it over my head, and push it back, and thus begin the ritual.

The ritual involves washing my face with a gentle soap (Neutrogena, nothing fancy), then following with a toner and moisturizer. I take my time. I breathe slowly and deep. I massage my face gently._1060799

It’s the turban that’s important. I found it in a Muji store for a little over $6, but I love it because it makes me feel glamorous. Like it’s only movie stars and royalty who wear hair turbans.

And I wear one. It’s such a little thing, but it’s the signifier of the beginning of a ritual I perform nightly, almost religiously. It’s one of the very few times I take entirely for myself, in serenity, to do something nice for myself: taking care of my skin.

_1060746With little circular movements, I rub away cares, stress, anxious energy, and all the more difficult moments of the day, to clear my mind before sleep.

It’s quiet, and it’s mine.

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Do you have any little rituals? Or favorite stolen time?

Here’s some other fun I found on the interwebs this week:

Some very intriguing popsicles

A “Mouthful of Stars”….I just want to eat that (photos shot by my friend Leela)!

On what men REALLY want (when it comes to work)…

Linking up with Little Things Thursday!

Are you on Instagram? Join me, I’m @jadekellerLittle by Little

Scenes From My Week 05.14.14

This Mother’s Day I was treated to exactly what I wanted! A quiet hour (almost two, actually) to myself, in which to enjoy a cappuccino, a good book, and some writing.
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I wore my orange pants because it was an orange pants kind of day.

I also got a wallet and coin purse I had been eyeing for months.
walletAnd despite getting schlepped around from pillar to post, the little man was in a great mood all day, we were all in a great mood.

I must say, I’m a pretty lucky mama to have these guys in my life.

_1060581How was your Mother’s Day weekend? Did you spend it with family? I sure enjoyed logging into Facebook on Mother’s Day–my feed was all lit up with expressions of love and appreciation, and photos of happy memories. Such a good feeling to see the love in this world.

Happy Wednesday!

Come join us at Communal Global!
Are you on Instagram? Let’s keep in touch! I’m @jadekeller.



Kids, Tech & Gadgetry

_1060698It might be a bit early to start thinking about our house rules regarding technology for Cy, seeing as how the fancy gadget that’s really blowing his hair back right now is Dot’s clicker—a little plastic button that pushes onto a piece of aluminum and makes a popping sound. He likes to pop it with his gums. On the other hand, maybe it’s never too early, as technology already infuses his life: he sees his parents on their iPhones probably more than he should, kindles are on the family bed, Dad is at work on his iMac most of the day, we Skype with family half the world away, and we have a couple of “emergency” go-to video/flashy things to play for him when we really need to calm him down and nothing else is working (like, say, on a flight). There’s no divorcing technology from his life unless we turn into Luddites ourselves, but as it’s our connection to loved ones and it’s how Toby makes a living and supports the family, the gadgetry is here to stay.

What got me thinking more about this topic was reading this post by Sarah, from Memories on Clover Lane. She’s been in the trenches for twenty years, and I respect her views. She’s probably a bit stricter about technology than I am—I don’t view technology as inherently good or evil; it is we who must be mindful about our use of it—but I do plan to be stricter about Cy’s use of technology than I think might be necessary, at least to start with, because it is always easier to give than to take away.

Toby and I began talking about what goals we’d like to have regarding technology, figuring that’s the best starting point to guide what rules we make. Here’s some of what we came up with:

First, we want Cy to be able to use technology with ease, to be familiar with it, and to be able to navigate his way around the web, software, and devices so he can pursue any interest he might have. Because it is going to be a part of his life (and certainly a part of whatever job he might have), he needs to know how to manipulate it. Cutting it out of his life for fear of the pitfalls, I think, just becomes a wasted opportunity to provide him with proper guidance. Kids today appear to be “digital natives”, but my experience in teaching (from disadvantaged kids in Thailand, to university undergrads in America) tells me that they are in sore need of guidance. For example, they know how to punch in words for a Google search, but they are lost when it comes to keyword search logic, evaluating source credibility and legitimacy, and finding what they’re looking for efficiently. In today’s world, I think what you know is becoming less important than knowing how to find it out. So we want to encourage his use of technology, as well as guide him in how to use it effectively and appropriately.

However, our second goal for Cy is that we want him to be able to exist without technology. We want him to be able to put it aside and enjoy other pursuits where he can be out in nature, play a real musical instrument, or make something with his bare hands. We want him to experience boredom and how it can become the mother of creativity. We want him to be able to just BE, without constant input. We want him to be able to focus without technological distractions. And we don’t want him to hole up in his room, not interacting with his own family, or choosing to socialize with friends digitally instead of in the “real world.”

Here’s some rules I’m toying around with:

–I like the idea of restricting use of gadgetry to communal areas (like a family office, or the living room, for example).

–I also like the idea of keeping ownership communal until certain ages. I haven’t worked this all out yet, and I’m sure the popular gadgetry will have changed by the time this is relevant, but, hypothetically speaking…

–I’ll probably let him have his own kindle once he gets into reading chapter books because we travel a lot and I’m not interested in schlepping a huge library everywhere we go. On the scale of Potential Disaster, I think kindles are probably on the low end.

–The smart phone stays communal maybe until he can drive. I know the current trend is to give them phones quite young, maybe even around the time they’re 10. I just can’t for the life of me come up with a reason he would need his OWN phone that young. A family phone that he can use for whatever apps he might want should cover it until he makes it to high school at least.

–And the computer or laptop stays community property until we give him one as a graduation gift from high school so he has one to use in college).

–I also like the idea of limits being purpose driven. Instead of setting arbitrary time limits on how long he can use the computer, for example, it seems to make sense to set it around the purpose for which it is being used. Once the purpose is met, it’s good to go take a break and do something else.

But it’s not just about setting limits. It’s up to us to create opportunities for better alternatives. A big part of why kids are so “addicted” to their phones today is because they don’t have the same opportunities to be social, exist in public spaces, and explore the world freely with age mates that they once did. (Danah Boyd documents this well in her book, It’s Complicatedwhich is a really great read on teen social media use AND she provides the PDF available for free to download on her website.) So if we want him to “get offline,” we need to allow him time and space to have unstructured interactions with his friends, where he can unwind and play without adults watching his every move, so that he doesn’t have to turn to social media as his only outlet for being social.

That’s something that I think is much easier to accomplish here in Thailand, or in Europe, where there is easy public transportation and teens are welcome in public space, than it is in suburban America, where you need to drive to get anywhere and teens are viewed with suspicion by many. I remember as a teenager in suburban California, I would come straight home after school and spend hours on the phone with my friends because I couldn’t drive to go hang out with them in person, and there wasn’t really any place for us to go even if we could get there. I didn’t want to be on the phone; it was just my only option. I certainly would have done my homework more efficiently if it meant I could have had some time to unwind with my friends too.

And my third goal for Cy is to make him aware of how his actions online affect himself and others. This gets into a sticky issue about kids and privacy. Toby probably guards privacy more fiercely than I do. I believe Cy’s privacy is important, but that I reserve the right to revoke it if I feel Cy is going off track. I feel conflicted about what my responsibility as a parent is—to what extent is it my responsibility to oversee or monitor what he does and how he feels if it could lead to harm to himself or someone else? I want to say that it’s our job to just provide the foundation of good values and moral behavior, but I feel it’s also my job to protect him where I can. Would I second guess myself if something awful happened that I could have stopped? To what extent would his mistakes be mine too?

Boyd’s book offers an important perspective though: that kids need privacy, without the freedom to make their own choices and mistakes, they will be hampered in their moral development and growth as independent human beings. Moreover, they crave privacy, and the more you crowd them, the more they will turn to secretive measures to achieve it. If you don’t extend your children trust, you will undermine the relationship you seek to build with them.

American culture is particularly risk-averse, and as an American, I battle this within myself too. I know from my own experience, how important it is to take risks, how freeing it is and how much growth it engenders. But it’s one thing to know one should let go, and another to face the prospect of risk and danger with one’s child. I think that will be one of the biggest challenges for me as a mother: forever navigating the balance between guiding and letting go.

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How do you see your role as a parent? How do you approach technology with children?

Also: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all my fellow American and Canadian mamas!

Thing I Love About Cy Today: When he’s happy about something, he flaps his arms and grins really wide.

P.S. Sorry this is such a long post! It’s just something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past week. (And trust me, it could have been soooo much longer!) Also, I’m going to try to participate in Little Things Thursday as regularly as I can, so it’s likely that I’ll shift my Momma Chats over to Tuesdays, starting next week. Thanks for stopping by and hanging out here in this space with me!

Little Things Thursday 05.08.14

I’ve been wanting to join in with Kim’s Little Things Thursday for months now, but with caring for a newborn and such, I was mostly overwhelmed with trying to adjust to becoming a mom. Some women seem to wear the mama cap easily; I find it hard to multitask motherhood. I’m either focused 100% or things fall apart. Thankfully life is starting to reach a more even keel (knock on wood) and I’m finding ways to snag just a little time to get back to some other things I love–like blogging!

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So here are some things going on around here…

- On Monday, we decided to get out of our ruts for a little bit and go for a nature walk. Toby found a local dam and reservoir nearby (just by hunting some sign of nature out on Google maps…), and so we ventured out to see what we could see. It turned out to be such a pretty spot, with a little hut-like restaurant where we could get some drinks and snacks too. It was kind of lucky we were out there too because, as we were relaxing, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit!

We only felt a bit of a tremor–Cy barely noticed anything was happening!–but apparently it was quite strongly felt in the city. The epicenter was near Chiang Rai (near where my organization, The SOLD Project is). The kids are all fine, though some families’ homes have suffered some structural damage.

_DSF2963- On the plus side, we now have a new nature spot to escape to any time we want to get out of the city!

- In other news, Cy is turning 8 months old on Saturday! That platitude is so true: the days seem long, but the years are short. Time is just flying by so quickly. In less than a month, we’ll be back in the U.S. for a little visit. In the meantime, Cy just get his first two teeth coming in, his favorite thing to eat is Grandma’s pumpkin made specially for him, he loves to climb stairs (to his mama’s chagrin), he laughs hysterically at goat and pig noises and any time you tickle him, and his new project is trying to throw the rope for the dog. He can only lob it about an inch or two, but he giggles when they start playing tug of war together.

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And here’s some fun stuff I found on the interwebs this week:

On how not to be disappointed this Mother’s Day

Anthony Bourdain on the amazing stuff to love about Mexico

And Thai men who love to dress like Mexican cholos….(but if you could speak Thai, you’d hear them speaking so politely and respectfully!)

Anyway, that’s just a few of our tidbits! I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going on with everyone else!

Little by Little

Momma Chat: Would you (do you) cut your baby’s hair?

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There are some long, wispy bits of hair, like an uneven fringe at the top of Cy’s head that are just begging to be chopped off. I had planned not to cut his hair until he was a toddler or so, as I love his baby hair and I think it’s adorable when toddler boys have thick mops of sweet unruly locks. But because his hair grew in at different times, he has some short sections, some long sections, some straight hairs and some curly ones. It’s all over the place. I can brush it to the side to make it halfway presentable, but as I’m sure you can imagine, that lasts for approximately 3 seconds.

I’ve heard people talk of not cutting a baby’s hair at all the first year. Some cultures, on the other hand, say you should shave the baby’s head entirely. My sister’s husband, who is from Laos, recommends this and did it with his own daughter, arguing the hair will grow back thicker and fuller if you do.

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I’m just itching to tidy up the front, though will probably need to do his whole head, as I just know once you tidy up one thing, everything else looks shabby by comparison, so I might as well just do it right to begin with.

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Now, I have never cut anyone’s hair before–except for that one time ten years ago when Toby asked me to give him a mohawk and even then I was terrified I’d mess it up. (And can one really mess up a mohawk?)

It might end up like the time, when I was about 13 or 14, and I offered to help trim a bush for my aunt. She had invited me for a week in the summer, as she did every summer because they had a lovely pool for swimming. It was late in the afternoon and she mentioned she needed to trim back one of the bushes that lined the back of the pool. I offered to do it for her. She asked whether I had ever attempted such advanced gardening before, and I have no idea what compelled me to lie when I told her I had done it plenty of times. By “plenty,” I really meant “none.” So she handed me the shears and left me to it. I started out with grand ideas and great intentions, but kept changing my mind as to what I wanted the eventual shape to look like (round? a heart? an elf?), and thus kept hacking at that poor shrub until only a few bare, mortified branches remained, then handed her back the shears and announced, “I’m done!”

Come to think of it, that might have been the last time she invited me to stay for the summer.

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Most likely, it would appear as though everything was going along just fine until I got to the end and realized all the hairs on the left side of his head were a full inch longer than those on the right. And that’s assuming I could even get him to sit still long enough to make more than a quick snip or two.

Maybe it’s better to leave it–given enough time, maybe his hair will sort itself out on it’s own…

What do you think? Should I try it or let it be? Have you, or would you, cut your baby’s hair?

Thing I Love About Cy Today: When he sits in his high chair, he likes to prop up one leg on the seat, knee in the air, foot resting on the seat. It reminds me of my sister, she sits exactly like that.

Momma Chat: Good Idea, Bad Idea

_1060581At all moments in which Cy is moving about (also referred to as “being awake”), you’ll hear a steady refrain:

No, don’t eat the power cord.
No, sticking your fingers in the fan is a BAD idea.
Wandering down the stairs is also probably a bad idea.
Diving headfirst off the bed, that’s a bad idea.
Bothering Dot while she eats, also ill-advised, my son.
Don’t put your mouth on the toilet.
It’s probably not a good idea to stick your fingers in the wheels of dad’s office chair .
Let’s not climb through the dog door.
How about we don’t try to stand on things that move.
Maybe you shouldn’t let go of the things you’re holding on to, eh?

Basically, I save his life all day long. Even when it comes to things he’s supposedly got the hang of, like crawling, he’ll be trucking along and then randomly keel over. There have been more times than I care to admit where I swear I’ve been staring right at him and have no clue what happened, but he’s suddenly somehow maimed himself. It’s like he’s on a path to deliberately self destruct.

One time, I had him on the bed while I was quickly changing clothes. I put him smack dab in the middle, up by the head board, surrounded by pillows. He turned, fell, and landed his eyebrow straight on my hard plastic hair clip, the only other thing on the bed. Somehow he always finds all the things.

Also, he is now tall enough to stand and touch the top of the dining room table (whaaat??). Just putting that out there.

And two teeth have broken through, which works out because it just so happens that silicone kitchen utensils make excellent teething toys.

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I’m in a weird space these days, simultaneously going through my house and getting rid of any and all dead weight, thoroughly organizing what’s left, while also going on shopping binges. I’ve bought several new clothes, invested in fresh new skin & hair care products, and if our house weren’t rented, I would do the same kind of makeover to my furniture and repaint the two red walls (that I’m so sick of) something that isn’t red. Most likely a sage green, or some other nice earth tone.

At first, I thought I might be going a little crazy with the sudden intense compulsion to buy. But actually, I’m not looking to buy just for the sake of acquisition. Now that I think back on it, the clothes and beauty supplies are all selected very consciously to fit a very specific minimalist, yet still youthful aesthetic that is both celebratory of and marks me settling into my new body and my new role as mom. I weigh less than I have most of my adult life, but certain parts sag that never did. I’m stronger, but older, and age and sleepless nights have taken their toll. So I choose only outfits that make me feel well-put together (and are breast-feeding friendly), with minimal time and effort. I invest in the health of my skin so I don’t have to do so much to make it presentable in public. It’s nice to feel like I’m taking care of myself.

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But that’s probably not even the heart of it either. Maybe what’s really going on is that I’m trying to exercise a bit of control, reclaim some part of myself, when all other parts of my life have been ceded to the raising of my son. It makes no sense to want new furniture when he (or the dog) will likely find some way to destroy it, and yet, I’m still driven to maintain the semblance of a nice home, no matter how much of that energy is a total waste.

Good idea, bad idea. Maybe it makes little sense, but it does feel nice to reinvent and reinvest in myself.

At any rate, it gives me something to do while we spend so much time at the mall (where there’s ice cream and A/C), because gawd, it’s HOT in Chiang Mai.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: He loves to drink cold water from a real cup, and when he manages to get ahold of Dot’s rope (and isn’t trying to stick it in his mouth), he’ll try to throw it for her to chase, even though it’s way too big and unwieldy for him to lob it more than an inch or two.

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