Grey Turns Nine

Grey has 7 teeth (seven!) and is doing very well eating solids. His parents are perhaps doing less well in figuring out what solids are kid-friendly, nutritious and easy to make. Grey can now hold his own sippy cup to drink water.

Grey at nine
Grey at nine

Wait, what’s that you say? My son is not nine months old, but nine years?! Impossible! Irrational! Unbelievable! Why, nine years old is practically a grownup! A real person! I was in Mr. White’s class when I was nine, learning about the Civil War and charting weather patterns based on newspapers. My son can’t be nine, can he?

He can be, and he is.

Writing about Grey has gotten harder. He dislikes it when I’ve posted some cute picture or story on Facebook, and he hears about it Sunday from the wonderful, caring grownups there. He’s asked – fairly – that I get his permission before I post stories or pictures about him. The editing makes perfect sense from his point of view, but I miss getting to tell you everything. He’ll read, and approve, this story before I publish it. (This is my excuse for why it’s late.) Only he and I know which lines got crossed out. He would like me to tell you, though, that he’s got his oft-neglected blog Wacky Wonder Comics.

My son and me

The most notable difference about Grey is his steadiness. He will always be a person who feels life deeply, with meteoric highs and abysmal lows. First grade, in particular, roiled for us, with far too much time spent in subterranean unhappiness. But second grade, with a beloved teacher, went much better. This summer was profoundly marked by his adventures in Camp Wilmot. He came back a bit more centered, confident, quieter and capable. Since then, there have been small but profound changes. For example, he now does his chores quickly and without delay or whining right when he gets home. He seems to rebound faster from disappointments. He is trying harder – he has picked himself up from the dirt of the soccer field and taken off running. I didn’t see that from him even this spring. His grit is catching up to his smarts.

Grey’s self-portrait (on iPad)

Grey only wanted one thing for his birthday: a Chromebook. He, like his parents, loves video games. Although we have taught him how to live in a world without screens, there’s no denying that given his druthers he be online and connected. His homework has gotten more serious about online work lately, with some great math, typing and science programs. So… for his birthday he got a Chromebook. I loaded the bookmarks with the best of the internet. I set him up with a Khan Academy account. I put algebra games into his app store.

He figured out where to find the best online games, changed the background, and commented on a G+ picture I posted.

The boy and his gear

For the first time, today, he and I had an email exchange that I had not had to choreograph. The internet has been a wonderful thing for me, but I still have trepidation on seeing his first steps onto the road of the larger digital world, where the best and the worst of humanity and human history lurk mere clicks away from each other.

Grey is growing in every way. He’s watching M*A*S*H with me at night. He’s arguing that he’s too big for his booster seat. He’s three inches away from being right, at four and a half feet. He has a sense of style and a clothing preference. When he draws comics, he includes guidelines so the boxes are square. He loves cats, my chili and comic books. When he and his friends play Minecraft together, every other word is “Dude”. He asked me the other day if he’d always be my baby. I told him that no doubt, he’d always be my baby. But with the quickly passing years, he is also now my boy, quickly growing to be my young man. I love him, and I’m proud of him.

Grey and his two best friends at his birthday celebration at the Lego Discovery Center, with their Minecraft Lego statues. (Two great tastes…)

Let me introduce you to my BFF…

There are all sorts of ways that the new digital paradigm is changing how we relate to each other. If you read Advice Columns, there are lots of questions about how to deal with your wife’s ex-husband on Facebook, or what to do if your boss sends you an invite to be friends. It’s all in flux, and many of the old rules of relationships need to be rewritten to deal with new venues.

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs (which I highly recommend, by the way). I had the moment of “Squee!! I know the author of that book, Ursula Vernon!” And in some ways I do. I can tell you that her cat, Ben, has had some health scares lately. I know that she has an enormous chicken statue in her garden. I know all about her divorce, how much weight she lost through the stress of it, the amount of time she spent recovering, and her apparently pretty awesome new boyfriend. I know what she’s planted in her garden, and her favorite boots to wear to a Con. So I definitely know her. The thing is, she very likely does not know me, at all. I could walk up to her and tell her all my online identities, and she’d likely get a confused but polite expression. This happens to her a lot. She’s a very popular blogger/author/painter, and there are thousands of us who read her musings. Of course she doesn’t know us all back.

Then there’s my other BFF (Best Friend Forever), Amy Storch. Her sons are the same age as my sons! She’s gone through lots of the same things, but plenty of unique challenges too. Dude, Levar Burton once replied in Tweets to her post about the traumatic experiences she suffered with Reading Rainbow! She’s the friend you go to for advice about moisturizer choices, or who you want to get a pedicure with. We totally hang out all the time! Or, well, we would. Except once again, she may not even know who I am, although she did answer one of my questions in her advice column once.

Now, I might be feeling a little “oh woe is me no one knows who I am!” but this is an experience I’m encountering from both ends. I’m a small-time blogger (even smaller since I stopped being able to update daily). I average fewer than 75 hits a day (although much better when Boston.com puts me on the front page!) I suspect that 90% of my regular readers are people I know in real life. The rest of them are looking for radish recipes or night life advice for the Indian city of Thane. (Sorry googlers!) But I have definitely encountered people who know me quite well from my writings, who don’t write themselves. While I have some vague ideas about who they are, they know everything about me. That’s what it means, when you put yourself up here on the internet, and your friends, family, enemies, acquaintances and complete strangers can all see your life, laid out plainly.

In a real conversation there’s a back and forth. You learn some things, you share some things. In this new paradigm of online conversations, it ain’t necessarily so. Some people are only consumers of other’s writings…. they listen but they never share. My husband is one of these. Others only talk and never read. Most people do a balance of both. But all throughout the world, not only are people wrestling with what to do about the knowledge they obtained due to a drunk post by their former coworker, but they are dealing with these asymmetrical relationships, when the people they know best are not ones who even know they exist.

What about your online life? Are you a balanced creator/consumer of content? Do I know you? You know me, or you can know me pretty well with a cruise through my archives. Do you like the anonymity of reading? Do you wish it was more reciprocal? Comment, and turn my monologue into a dialog!

Explaining Facebook

Recently my mother-in-law and husband joined up on Facebook, adding themselves to the “everyone else I know” contingent. And in the last week or so, both have had questions or comments about it. So as a public service, I hereby offer this explanation of what the heck you do with Facebook.

1) What the heck does it mean when you post that you have “Mastery in Artichokes”?
Facebook offers a bunch of games like “Mafia Wars”, “Farmville” and “Fish World” — to name a few. These are cooperative games, so if I do something in my game, I can offer a “bonus” to all my friends on Facebook who also play. This creates an altruistic incentive for me to do things like announce my recent Artichoke victory. The other people who play the game can get points because of it.

Facebook games are funny things. They’re pretty simple to play. The way you “win” is by checking in on them regularly. They’re also highly interactive. For example, in Farmville you visit your friend’s farms (you can see what they’re doing with them) and help out in some way. You’d think this would be entirely the purview of time-wasting losers like me, but I’m continually surprised and amused by just who plays and how seriously.

You have three choices when your Facebook friends keep announcing they’ve found Lost Kittens. First, you could join the game. Why not? You don’t have work to do anyway. Second, if you choose not to join the game, the appropriate thing to do is politely ignore the posts and pretend you don’t notice that your friend just posted about finding a lost moose on a rollercoaster. Third, if you find them annoying (and who can blame you if you do), you can block all similar content by hovering over the offending post. A drop down will appear on the right and pick “Block Farmville” (or whatever is driving you nuts).

No more cats
No more cats

2) Friend regret
So someone you vaguely remember from High School asked to be your friend. You thought she was nice enough 15 years ago. But once you friended her, you discovered that she keeps posting about Artichokes, church events, and linking to her boring blog. You don’t want to offend her by “un-friending” her, but you also really don’t care about the Advent Workshop (November 22nd after church! We’ll be making Advent Wreathes!). If you look at the image above, you can see that there is a “Hide (Name)” option. The person in question won’t know that you are “hiding” them, and you can still check on their wall if you want to talk to them about something or see what they’ve been up to.

3) Have you forgotten that I live across the country/will be taking care of our kids while you go this event?
Yesterday I sent out an invite to Prayer at the Close of Day tomorrow. My husband made a growly noise because since I will be there, he can’t be. My mom pointed out she lives 3000 miles away. But often times if you belong to a group (like our church group), invitations will go to all group members. I didn’t actually pick each and every person and send the invitation to them.

If you find Facebook is sending you too many emails (or not enough!) Facebook has very granular settings for controlling emails. Click on the “settings” link in the upper right hand corner when you are logged in. The third tab in controls notifications. Scroll through and make choices appropriate for how you want to be contacted:

More details than you ever wanted
More details than you ever wanted

Hopefully these will help you enjoy Facebook more. If you have any additional questions on how it works, please feel free to let me know!