Date Nights Work

As Pippin and I blurted out during yesterday’s mini-blog,

we haven’t had a proper date since the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

But yesterday we received some earnest money from the sale of our house, and while “date night” may not be at the top of most people’s priority list, it was on mine.

One thing Pippin rocks at is Dates, and how to make this tired mom of 7 feel like she’s the 25 year old with only three kids that he fell in love with.  He took me to my favorite restaurant, Departure, which is at the top of the Nines Hotel.  For those of you paying attention, Leopold was born in the corner suite on the 11th floor.
We got there early enough to savor a few cocktails at the bar and look into each other’s eyes the way we used to. All I cared about was cherishing the guy who knew intuitively how to keep our freak flag flying.  Usually there’s so much going on in our lives, I don’t have a moment to think about tomorrow…I’m so busy reacting to today. Managing nine people who are growing in new ways every day, selling a house without having another in sight, an unplanned vacation in a couple of weeks – everywhere I look are potential mine fields of stress.

But the best part about last night was none of that existed.

Don’t get me wrong – being in the moment, where it’s just the two of us, takes real effort.  It means shifting gears and forgetting I’m an entrepreneur, a wife and a mom. I’m talking about being good company, being present as a woman who is flirting with her man and even getting a little drunk. This way, when the bill comes, drinks and dinner don’t qualify as a tax write off—but as an aphrodisiac that holds us together until next time.
Look, I don’t pretend to be an expert at this. But if there’s anything I learned from finally finding Mr. Right (who also happened to be Mr. Third Times a Charm) and being able to stay with him for more than 10 years—it’s to pay close attention to each others needs. And that may include ordering a pizza or two and getting the hell out of Dodge on occasion.

Seeking that all important re-connection to your partner means reconnecting with who you are too. I tell myself often: At one point this was everything you wanted. And revisiting those feelings on a date that feels like the first one is very much reminding you that this was what you wanted. And it still is.
Head Over Manolos,
So Called Mom

Meeting the Dark Side of the Internet

Kids iPhones and ipadsSo Called Mom

Well, it happened.

Milla lost her privileges to all of her screens and all of her accounts. The hardest part was, that none of it was her fault—even though she still thinks it is.
About a week ago, I posted my thoughts about screens and kids. Well, today I did a 180 on that. Why? Because of a sudden need for maximum security.
As far as I can see,  I’ve identified two kinds of damage that surround screen use. The first is the common one: the addiction that comes with too much use, whether it’s social media or video games. Theoretically there’s a straight-forward solution: go outside and play, read a book or use your hands and create something.
The second is more unexpected and much more concerning. It’s made me look to the connective power of the internet as something that is more harmful than helpful. It’s made me question my laissez-faire attitude.

It’s even made me question the way I’ve made some mom choices.

Cutting to the chase: I think my 14-year-old was lured into a teen self-harm group – which is bad enough, but to make matters worse, the group may be linked to some kind of sex trafficking gang or occult. Maybe that sounds like a stretch, but at this point, I don’t care what it is—I just want my daughter as far away from it as possible.

So don’t misunderstand:  it’s  not like we don’t comprehend internet safety, we just never thought the bad stuff would happen to our own kid. But the depth of insanity that I’m going to reveal is enough to make you realize just how much you don’t know. And I hope it gives you goosebumps.  It’s certainly freaked the hell out of me.

So here’s the story: 

Last week, Milla’s internet girlfriend broke up with her. She was devastated, and I helped pick up the pieces. This week, one of the friends in the same group of online friends died. I had no idea this child had cancer, no idea she became a bestie, no idea there was even a circle of “friends” that Milla now referred to as her “family”and no idea just how much that family knew about Milla.
The truth is, I had noticed Milla acting depressed lately and becoming darker and more isolated. I noticed her real friends had completely dwindled—but I thought it was because she favored the online version. For some reason, I didn’t think to question that. I wanted to be open to the fact that we live in a new world, where kids can connect with different people in different cultures. That she was ahead of the curve on this, like always and I wanted to respect her privacy. I tried to put my foot down when I could, but ever so lightly because she was, after all, a 14-year-old girl who was navigating all sorts of stuff—sexuality, friends, trading middle school for high school…all of it. It’s only a stage, I told myself. At least you’re a part of it.

But I don’t know why I thought I was a part of it when I obviously wasn’t.

I was an outsider to a place she was increasingly visiting for answers. I had no idea that she was being swept away. It wasn’t until she was devastated by back to back events –  heartbreak from one “Friend” and the death of another – that I was suddenly clued into something more twisted and dark. 

It was Pippin who stepped in with some critical questions:  

Ok….I’m slow to the uptake. But here was my wake up call.

We looked through her devices and uncovered multiple accounts from a tight group of people who shared images of slashed wrists and made art about death and loneliness. One of them was our beloved Milla—you could literally scroll and see the darkness taking over her originally cheery and artsy account. In scanning through everything, and comparing images and postings, I have reason to believe that there were only a few people, masquerading as a lot more and reeling in vulnerable kids like Milla.  I also suspect that some may have been “killed off” to lure kids in even deeper with an end goal I can only shudder to imagine.  

Admittedly, my initial reaction was to feel paralyzed and shocked.

I tried to Google, searching for some answers.  This was so far outside my realm of experience or that of anyone I knew that I didn’t know where to begin. There was very little at this level—nothing that would help me come to terms with what happened. Sure there was plenty of info about cyber-bullying, but it all seemed oversimplified and centered on hurt feelings—nothing this complex. Then my mind started to spin out, thinking that Milla was very well catfished by that little girl who broke her heart. What if she was a little girl caught up in it too, brainwashed and pressured to recruit other kids?
I understand I’m sounding completely crazy, but with so little information I’m left only with speculation and my own detective work. But wouldn’t you agree that I have enough info though, to make me scour all phones and profiles, delete photos, accounts, apps and block people and phone numbers that aren’t family or known friends? And even so, the devices I’m most concerned about—Milla’s—are sitting, powered off. Those deserve a good cooling off in solitude.

How do any of us really know what they are doing on their social media?

We are caught between letting them find their own way around as we learn to let go, and letting them loose in uncharted and unregulated territories.  It’s the wild, wild west out there, and I had been letting Milla—and almost all of my kids really, explore it solo. I would love to give all of the above the benefit of the doubt, but at the risk of losing my child? No way in hell do I take that risk.
I know this feels like punishment to her. I have reinforced otherwise and tried to reduce all of this to the simple example stated above: It’s time to just go outside and play, to reestablish yourself with your friends, and yes, even go talk to someone professional about what happened—to return to ground zero and rebuild.
If anyone has had a similar experience or any kind of advice, please, please share in the comments below–not only would I appreciate hearing from you, but I really kind of need it right now.
Your personal firewall,
So Called Mom

Using Dinner to Stay in Your Kids Lives VLOG

Hi there!

Here’s a sweet mini-VLOG for today on what our busy blended family does to stay connected with one another.

If you have other tips and tricks to add, please share in the comments below, I’m always open to trying out your ideas.

Thanks and don’t forget to subscribe!

So Called Mom

Why We (over)Film Our Family

film our family so called mom

We have 60 terabytes of family footage.

For the last ten years of our blended family life together, Pippin and I have been recording just about every single movement of every single member of our family. Why?
Because this life is worth capturing. Well, that’s the easy answer – the puffed-up proud mom answer. Because like anyone else, I love the obvious stuff like first steps and birthdays, Christmas and dance recitals. But the real meat of life is located in between those moments.

Such as Jake’s obsession with pulling out his siblings loose baby teeth. Any and all arguments. Emotional transitions from one parent’s house to the other. Getting sauced late Christmas Eve and sitting among hundreds of unwrapped presents. Recording our turtle dying from an overdose of anesthesia from the vet because the dog ate him.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 5.41.42 PMLife is just so much less staged in these moments, and I feel more connected with the realness, with my kids and my family. These are not Pinterest worthy moments: the house is a mess and the dog is shaking off his smelly wet body everywhere and the cat is eating pizza off the table and the kids are hitting each other and I’m sitting in the center of it all in that moment of truth. You know the feeling? That moment where an inner voice says to you: At one point, this was exactly what you wanted. And better yet: Do you still want it?

These filmed moments of chaos help me say yes. And with some damn conviction.

I wish I could say filming was my idea, but I actually have Pippin to thank. He’s obsessed with recording everything about our family. He claims to “find human interaction fascinating”. He says our family is the test subject—Which he uses to hone his skills on.  “I like to record things that are helpful to other people.  I want to help people in parenting through real life instructional videos.” Full Disclosure:

12799046_568641576638482_7182607379463116633_nAt the beginning of our recorded life together, I was not that keen on being on camera all the time. When Pascal was born, a short year after we met, I was still camera shy—or at least still worried about how I looked on camera. So when Pippin assumed we’d record the birth, it was met with a resounding no. Not when I was the leading lady, huffing and puffing, uncomfortable on my back—with the potential to suddenly not be able to communicate that I wanted him to “turn that freaking thing off.”

But, three continuously recorded years later, things had changed. Leopold’s three camera cinematic set up was in the works before I even made it to the corner suite of the Nine’s Hotel. (Another post for another day, but suffice it to say, Leopold’s birth was less of a How-To guide on birthing a kid, than an intense TMI guide about the discomfort of childbirth. And when we posted that video on Youtube, it probably served as birth-control for someone.

These days I’m totally sold on being filmed at any time of the day, whatever I’m doing.

10730856_370529239783051_348553510128390596_nI now understand his reasons. I think he just thinks his family is the most amazing thing walking the Earth. He doesn’t see the mess of life; he sees family poetry. And if he blinks, it will all be aged out. Whether it’s dancing in the shower, the kids laughing, in the hospital with a broken arm, my yelling at a kid or even bawling my eyes out—it all has it’s logical place in our world together. I would even go so far as to say I get ticked off now when he’s not recording , especially during a critical family moment that we will never recapture.

This is all to give some context about why we film. It’s because to us, these moments matter. All of them. I’ve even thought about setting up a few cameras in the house, to be rolling at all times.

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So then, does this make us a selfie family?

I want to say no, but all signs point to yes. And for the most part, everyone is on board, or at least tolerant. Jake is constantly criticizing us for overusing or “abusing” the cameras. When the camera turns on, Phoenix reduces his personality to resemble day old porridge. Milla dodges questions and MJ slaps her forehead. But on occasion, one of the unwilling participants gives us a gem—a small glimmer into who they are becoming. The rest of the footage is just about how they got there.

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And one of these days, I will be able to sit down and press play. Almost like I get to enjoy my life twice. At least I will never be the mom who says, “I can’t remember.”

I won’t need to remember, it’s all right here.

Aaaand cut,

So Called Mom

Next Post: Letting kids fail