Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When the Dam Breaks

Today I am honored to share the story of a friend, a rape survivor in a constant battle with RR-PTSD. To help raise awareness of Sexual assault and sexual abuse I am featuring posts dealing with this sensitive subject for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. Lora's on-going story is one that highlights the particular struggles of the aftermath of sexual assault. I hope you, like I was, are touched by the promise of hope and healing already taking place and are still challenged to raise your voice and hearts for the survivors of sexual abuse.

Most people I know who have had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been soldiers or survived some natural disaster. They are encouraged, lauded as survivors who need our help. Some are even put up as super-human to even carry on in a daily routine. However there are hidden PTSD suffers who are pushed to the side. They do not have the supporters who are willing to put their name to the disease as easily as the others. These are Rape-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) suffers and I am going to discuss my battle with this horrid mental illness.

I am starting with a synopsis of the sexual assault. So if it is a trigger for anybody, you may want to skip the next two paragraphs. It is not in completely detail, but I thought a warning may be a good idea.

I was raped by someone I thought was a friend and the assault happened at work. It was so very difficult for my mind to process because this particular predator had set up a long routine of sexual harassment prior. When the actual incident happened I didn’t know what to think. My mind went into denial. My therapist has now explained to me that this is a proper and normal way for the mind to deal with something so traumatic. That way the mind can process the incident slowly and not be overwhelmed. I had marital problems due to this. I told my husband (bless him, he is still with me) that, “I think I had cheated on him, but I didn’t want to”. We went to counseling at the Employee Assistance Program I had through work. I thought I would get at least adequate help there. The man there, when hearing me say that it was easier right now for me to say I cheated on my husband that for me to say I was raped by a man whom I had and was continuing to work with, told me that the proper course of action was to take the man aside to a quiet, private place and tell him it couldn’t happen again. I was to confront my attacker.

Now, at the time I was unable to see what horrid advice this was and the danger it presented to me, so I did it. I told my attacker I “Didn’t want to go that far” and he told me that he knew. HE KNEW! Those words just rang around in my head as I looked around the deserted area we were in. Those words spiraled around like a hurricane and broke the dam of my denial. Every single emotion, every single relationship, EVERY SINGLE THING was washing over me. It was as if I was standing in a valley when the dam broke and I had no where to run and no hope of rescue. No human mind can withstand the dam of denial being broken so suddenly and so close to the incident. My mind broke.

I tried to carry on, I did. I come from an Eastern European family. We don’t show emotion in public and we don’t show weakness. I was never specifically told that, but it was modeled for me by both parents. When my mind broke, I went through the four hall-marks of RR-PTSD (1), made all the worse because I was not to show emotion in public or any weakness.

I lived a life of hell. Over and over this happened. I had what was called Disassociated Flashbacks. These caused me to see, smell, hear, and physically live the rape over and over again. When these came on (and anything could bring it on) I was experiencing it all again. My husband learned from the rape counselors at Planned Parenthood how to try to bring me out. I had nightmares that actually made me not want to sleep. I didn’t sleep. What breaks my heart, still to this day, is that my son, who was 2 at the time, knew how to try to bring me out. As I was coming out of some I distinctly remember my 2 year old saying, “Mommy, Mommy where are you? You are in your bed!” as he was standing back from me. He knew Mommy would hit and punch at anybody who tried to touch her until she was out of the flashback (I didn’t see the person in front of me, I only saw my attacker). I lived the nightmare probably 90% of the day and night. I was not in this world, but in hell. Eventually it caused me to not sleep for 3 days straight. Then, when I couldn’t take the guilt or the pain anymore, I tried to end it all. I was quickly admitted and was put on medicine to slow down and stop the disassociated part of the flashbacks. To this day (over 5 years later) I still experience flashbacks and nightmares.

I have withdrawn completely from a social life. I do have more of an online life. However all trust was pulled out from under me when the dam of denial came crashing down. I examined every single relationship I had, because after all I had trusted this person as well. I am still in withdrawal and working in therapy to try to change this. I can only talk on the phone to a few people (after all it requires trust. How do I know it’s really the person on the phone and not someone else?) I can’t form new relationships in person. That would require trusting the person with at least some information, just to start the relationship. I can’t work, because who would want a nurse who can’t talk on the phone, freaks out about the smallest thing, and doesn’t trust anybody? I get anxiety attacks going outside my house. I don’t have a life outside my house.

I avoid the place that this happened. I have been there a handful of times to visit family, as it is a hospital. Each time I go I have had to prepare myself, get my crystals together, and try not to lose it on my husband, who has come every single time. I avoid other hospitals as well. The smell of hospitals reminds me. I avoid watching TV show or reading books that may set off another reminder. If I do happen to see a TV show that is a trigger, it will set it off for a while. Just recently I watched a TV show that unexpectedly triggered flashbacks and memories. It was over a week before I could sleep at night again and I am still having more nightmares than normal.

This is probably one of worst symptoms. I see danger everywhere. I have 5 cats in my house and they are constantly playing at night. I will wake up in terror because I heard a bang, even if I KNOW it was a cat. I see danger when my child is playing on the swing set. When my son goes to school and develops friends, sending him to their house releases such a terror in me. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. I see major crisis when other see small crisis or maybe even nothing at all. Any sound catches my attention and causes me to get anxious. After it first happened we lived in an apartment and I would literally look around corners before going down the hall. Some days, when I am having more problems, I still do that. In my own house.

Sexual Assault is not something that is easy to get over by any means. Somebody told me, shortly after the rape, that they “thought I was stronger than this”. I have only very recently accepted that anybody, no matter how strong, when having that dam of denial broken would have a breakdown. That is progress I suppose. I still have so many days when I wish the denial dam was up. I could be working. I could be LIVING.

I have so much guilt because I have PTSD: My son had to learn how to get me out of the flashbacks, and see me in such a state. My daughter will never know the fun, carefree person I was before the rape. I broke my husband’s heart in the way I told him that I thought I’d cheated on him. when I broke down and needed all the hospitalizations and medicines and lost our health insurance. I ruined my family’s finances, which have only very recently recovered. My son feels like I abandoned him when I was hospitalized, and to this day has issues with that.

I suppose there are some good things that have come out of this: I have become, in my own way, more spiritual. My son is the most compassionate boy. If someone is upset or sick, he is the first to help. Because of my horrid pregnancies my daughter would most likely not have been born at the time she was. My mother-in-law and I would never have been as close as we are, as she would never have had the opportunity to hold me as I was crying and assure me it was not my fault. We have all learned compassion and to have a non-judgmental attitude towards others, as others judged us and we know how it feels.

This rape has left me with permanent scars, scars that will never be removed. I have relatively recently come to realize that I will be cleaning up the floods of the dam of denial for the rest of my life. And the saddest part of my experience is how little people knew. Why, oh why, doesn’t the newspaper, magazines, and publishers, let us know that this exists? What I found regarding this was on official websites. Websites you find AFTER it happens and you are already having trouble.

I believe this type of PTSD is the hidden one because we have to admit that there areingcriminals live in our neighborhoods. They may be the person next door or the co-worker you trust, not the bad guys in another country or a natural disaster that only happens to “other people”. This saddens me, because we do a disservice to ourselves. We hide in the sand, but hiding in the sand won’t help when the flood waters of denial come rushing at you. I should know, I’ve lived it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Call Me Crazy

I started this post a little over a week ago and then decided to hold onto it for today, Earth Day. It just seemed like a perfect fit. My plan was to post it last night but then I couldn't find some pictures I took (how do you lose digital pictures on your computer?!), couldn't find the camera to retake the pictures and just got too tired. Then today was super busy and now I'm just hoping to finish and post it before Earth Day is over. So much for perfect. (Oooh, I made it, up before the end of the day!)

So, call me crazy.

We stopped using paper towels. Now, in place of the roll of paper towels on the rack mounted under the cabinet we have large, double sided cloth napkins that snap together. Crazy? Yeah, I know. But before you go and dismiss me as a crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy... oh, too late. Ok, so maybe I am kind of a crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy but I have good reasons! Other than the crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy reasons.

Our "un-paper" kitchen towels.
The 2 "wetbags" we have hanging on our stove to put the dirty towels in.

I almost took a picture of the roll of paper towels hiding in the cabinet that we use for greasing pans. But that just seemed too crazy, even for me. See, I'm not that nuts.

It started rather innocently. We had been using cloth diapers for over a year and were surprised that it really wasn't too much work. Having gotten used to the cloth thing for diapers I saw discussions online about other cloth alternatives. Doing some research, I started wondering about the possibility of switching us over. I admit, my first reasons were of the crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy variety but then I started to wonder about money. After doing some math I realized that maybe it was worth saving money. And I like that I can do a little of that "save the earth" bit and "save the money" bit at the same time. Sometimes it doesn't exactly seem like they go hand in hand but a lot of times they do, you just have to examine it closely. Again, not that crazy!

We feel good about our choice and we just like it too. Bounty may be the thicker, quicker picker-upper but that paper's got nothin' on flannel and terry cloth in pretty prints that look good in my kitchen! Talk about absorbent, Bounty is trying to be these guys.
The wetbags I got from SweetSlings and we love them. Great size, well made, and pretty. The towels were from a co-op but you can find something similar from a few different places including Bug 'n Ed who is offering up a $15 GC right now on The Leaky Boob.

The beautiful mess that started it all, our diaper laundry.
O-muh-gosh. Uh, I took a picture of the dirty diapers in the washer. Three pictures, in fact, because I was messing with the lighting. For diapers.

Holy crap, I am crazy!

It's coming

I wrote this post last week recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month and promised more on the topic. What I didn't anticipate was the outpouring of responses I received both in e-mails, FaceBook messages, and direct contact of others sharing their personal stories of surviving abuse. Some asking for help. This is an incredible honor to me, I can't even begin to tell you what a huge blessing it is to know that in some small way our experience can touch and help others. Shortly after we learned of the abuse of our daughters there was one evening after a particularly trying day with developments in our case where I vowed to The Piano Man and God that this was not in vain. All snotty faced, blotchy, hoarse and swollen I begged God to use this to help others, use it for good. If just a short simple post on a little blog helps even one person then I know then God is turning this evil to good. The sexual abuse history of our family does not have power over us, instead, it has turned into something that lets us walk with others, providing support, love, help, and acceptance. We can't eradicate the evils in this world but we can help others avoid the same, soften the blow if it comes, and hold their hand through the healing journey.

So there is more coming, I've been working on a couple of posts that I want to share but sometimes I have to just stop and rest my spirit. Soon though, be looking for them very soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thrifty Treasures

Once upon a time I thought thrift stores were disgusting and I was embarrassed that my mom made us shop at them. They were smelly, the clothes were all these nasty oranges, browns and puke greens or obviously from the closet of someone no longer living. Worst of all, there was no chance that I'd find Guess? jeans, Keds sneakers or Members Only jackets. Shopping in a thrift store was pure torture and I just prayed nobody would see me going into one of those places. My teenage self-esteem suffered greatly. The most humiliating thrift store of all? Goodwill. I knew kids that used the name as an insult. "Dude, that's so ugly you must have gotten it at Goodwill." How did they know! Ugh. It was enough to make a 15 year old want to crawl under a rock.

And today? Yeah, today I'm bragging about my thrift store finds. Because they are awesome. Awesomely from Goodwill too.

The whole loot.

Key hooks, message center and file holder. ($6)

Cool wood box with slots, the label burned into the side. ($2)

Two lamps that I just love.
Someone ran off with the topper but I found it after taking this pic. ($12)

The mugs, a set of 4 (2 pictured) light green crackle stoneware mugs ($1),
one dark olive green mug with "TEA" on the side ($.25) and a "Biscotti" lemons cookie jar ($3).
Drawers cabinet. ($3)

Wood chair. Surprisingly comfortable, if ugly. ($9)
This chair now looks like this:

refinished cover chair
refinished chair
Jo-Ann's was having a sale on these squares of fabric, 2/$2. I lightly sanded the chair not removing all of the old finish and then painted it with a thin coat of black wood stain letting the old brown show through. I love how it turned out.

I forgot about this little guy! The images were in a different photo album so he completely slipped my mind. A lemon yellow enamel owl trivet. I think he is destined for the wall, to keep an eye on things.

Ready... $.69

I'm not sure if I've grown up enough to not care about shopping in thrift stores or if thrift stores have changed. Probably both. Either way though, the stigma of shopping in thrift stores has lifted for the most part and in fact has an new element of "cool" to it even. Dare I say trendy? Who knows. But I'm not the only one bragging online about my thrift store finds. You should see what Posh Pieces does with the stuff she finds.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jessica’s Fab Slow-Cooker, cook it over-night, Breakfast Casserole

small child praying picnic
I love frittatas. Mmmmmm, so good. But work. In the morning. When I don't function so well. I've done things like melt the handle of my best pan in the morning making frittatas. I like breakfast casseroles too.  A little less work and still yummy. But I have to use my oven and my oven is the modern day wood stove for house heating. In south eastern Texas. Like we need more heat. Plus it's still that whole having to function in the morning thing.   I really just want to wake up with breakfast done.  This explains why cereal is a hit.

Enter the slow cooker.  I love my Crock-Pot, a wedding gift still going strong 14 years later. It was really just a matter of time before we figured something out with the Crock-Pot love, the frittatas/egg casserole affection, and me not being a morning person.  Waking up with a hot breakfast that is delicious and ready to go is better than any pampering option I can think of because it pretty much means more sleep.  I like sleep.

baby sleeping in basket outside
I tried this first. Meh, it was ok. I liked certain things about it. Like how fast it was to make and then I woke up with it done. Or would have had I remembered to turn it ON before going to bed. Oh, shut-up. How often do you turn something on to cook before going to bed? Yeah, I'd laugh at me too. The next time I did remember and it was ok, not great but something I'd make again, which I did but totally changed. Because I never, ever cook the same thing exactly the same way twice. Even if the first time I didn't actually cook it.

So then I read this but didn't make it. After all, it has bell peppers in it and I wouldn't eat it let-alone expect my kids to. But it had some good ideas which I borrowed later. I've also borrowed from this and this. And I've done spin-offs on this too. Yum. Breakfast in the Crock-Pot. I love the Year of Slowcooking blog and Stephanie is a culinary genius figuring out how to make masterpieces that tickle the tongue but don't take a lot of time and best of all, use the slow-cookers. Isn't she just grand?! If I met her, I'm pretty sure I'd swoon.

sleeping baby basket swing
Anyway, they were all yummy but not as good as a frittata so I was still on the hunt. I found Crock-Pot's Slow Cooker Recipes for All Occasions at my local thrift store for $2 and tucked inside was a very promising recipe for a breakfast bake. I made it and it was well received by the family but still not exactly what I was looking for. So after a lot of tweaking, I've come up with this. Which is still so-not a frittata but it is close on the yummy scale.

black and white swing
This baby cooks over night. For real. How great is that? Sorry, no picture. Well, there are pictures but they have absolutely nothing to do with this post or the recipe. They do have everything to do with the new Hipstamatic app I've got on my phone. Love it, I'm having so much fun.

I used my 3 quart Crock-Pot. Please note, I cook a lot by feel so some of these measurements are approximate. Which pretty much means I have no idea...

15 large eggs (This quantity is solid, I know it was a dozen + 3)
1/2 Cup milk (give or take?)
1 1/2 Cups sliced or chopped sausage (or whatever looks good to you)
2 green onions, chopped
One loaf of crusty or artisan bread (not sandwich bread), torn up of cubed (maybe 4 cups?)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil (or more, I really like basil)
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder (who really knows, I really like garlic too)
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese

Grease inside of slow-cooker insert. Non-stick sprays don't work as well, I have found.

Whisk together eggs, milk and dried spices. Alternating ingredients, layer bread, spinach, sausage, onions and some of the egg mixture over the dry layers. Repeat, layering until an inch from the top of the insert. Egg mixture will not be that visible.

Turn slower-cooker to low and cook for 6-8 hours. I usually make mine after the kids go to bed and turn it on to cook around 10pm. (If it cooks a little long it is usually ok though the sides can get a little dark.) We love this, it is a hit. In fact, I'm getting hungry and now that this finally posted I'm going to go eat some of the leftovers.  Which reminds me, it keeps well so you can eat left overs for lunch or breakfast for a few days.

This recipe could feed about 6 adults which it makes it grand for brunches or having left overs.  You can halve the recipe, if you do be sure that your slow cooker is at least half full to cook properly and if need be use a smaller cooker.

Variations: I’ve made this several times. Sometimes I add sun-dried tomatoes and feta or blue cheese crumbles and omit the salt. Our grocery store often has day old artisan breads which I buy and freeze, these are perfect for this recipe. We love the potato rosemary bread in this casserole as well as the focaccia style breads and three cheese breads. Pretty much anything savory though the ones with nuts and seeds don’t really work so well. I have also omitted bread and used cubed potatoes instead which is also really yummy. Sometimes I add mushrooms but shrooms in the Crock-Pot can be kind of... odd. So I usually saute them and since that creates an extra step and an extra dish it really doesn't happen that often. Though if I'm going to do it then I go ahead and saute fresh garlic too and ditch the powdered stuff. I never put white or yellow onions in, I think they are gross for breakfast but that's just a personal issue. Oh yeah, and don't do this with turkey sausage, I've tried that and it forgets that it is supposed to have a flavor. Or color.  Really kind of nasty. 

small child swing

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Removing the Cloak of Shame

cloak shame
Did you know that April is my birthday month? Yep, it is.

Did you know that April is tax month in the USA? Oh joy, it is.

Did you know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month? It is.

I hate it. I might want a new birthday month.

I don’t hate sexual assault awareness, honestly, I don’t. What I hate is that we need a whole month devoted to it. But I am grateful that there is a whole month devoted to it. Raising awareness of sexual assault is a worth a whole month and then some. The past 5 years of my life have been devoted to sexual assault awareness.

Those of us who have been touched by the villainous fingers of sexual assault don’t need a month set aside for awareness. We are aware. Excruciatingly, constantly, monotonously aware. Casualties of sexual abuse, most victims would relinquish that awareness willingly for a month of cluelessness. That would be bliss. Not that we could actually forget. Ever. And not that I actually think cluelessness would be a positive position. In fact, I am quite sure it would not be. As a whole I think our society chooses to be far too clueless about sexual assault. But why wouldn’t we be? Sexual assault is scary. It hurts and thinking about it might damage our precious innocence. An innocence that we fight like mad to protect but then bombard ourselves with assaulting sexual images on a regular basis while burying our heads in the sand. It isn’t innocence we’re really protecting, it is our fear. Clinging to cluelessness in an attempt to protect our fear does nothing more than to invite the very thing we fear to find a place to hide. It is from that camouflaged position of honor that sexual abuse can then control us. Contrary to what we all want to believe, none of us are immune.

It is not from atop a soap box that I spout these societal critiques but rather from the trenches. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. Two of my daughters are survivors of sexual assault. Some people think I shouldn’t admit these things at least not in so public a place. There is no shame in surviving sexual assault, for me or my daughters so we will not slink about in shadows pretending the fingers of such a vile monster have never touched us. Pretending that sexual abuse is not the problem it is provides acceptance, even a warm environment in which sexual abuse will thrive. I will proudly and loudly stand and say what some are afraid to, shinning light on the truth. Sexual abuse is alive and well and destroying, maiming lives. Lives of people all around you. Maybe yours. Busting apart the silent barricade of deceit and lies, I will do what I can do help remove the blinders of willful ignorance that feeds such abuse. Sexual assault parades around cloaked in the shame of others. Refuse to be clueless. Refuse to be silent. Refuse to shame the abused. Refuse to cling to fear.

Did you know:

  • 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. (1)
  • 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. (1)
  • 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the internet. (2,3)
  • Children who are abused are over 50% more likely to be arrested as juveniles. (4)
  • Children who are abused are 30% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime as an adult. (4)
  • Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under. (5)
  • An estimated 39 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist in America today. (6)
  • 95% of sexually abused children are abused by a family member or someone they know and trust. (7)
  • Approximately 40% are abused by older or larger children whom they know. (8,9)
  • The median age for reported abuse is 9 years old. (10)
  • More than 20% of children are sexually abused before the age of 8. (10)
  • Over 30% of victims never disclose the experience to ANYONE. (11)
  • More than 75% of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused. (12,13,14,15)
  • Nearly 50% of women in prison state that they were abused as children. (11)

Statistic References

Throughout the rest of the month of April I will be making more posts regarding this topic. It is an important one to me, one that has helped shape me. In the face of those statistics you may be at a little bit of a loss as to what you can do. Reading that list is the first step, trust me. Sharing about Sexual Abuse Awareness Month is another, small but strong, step. I will be sharing some of the lessons we have learned along the way and what we choose to do. We are continually on the healing road and God has done a lot in our lives already. It is to that end that I speak. I know we can't completely eradicate sexual abuse but hopefully we can lower the occurrence and walk with those that have suffered.

Bump up my post on Mom Blog Network

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Facebook Status Updates That Could Have Been:

I admit it, I spend way too much time on Facebook. Even more alarming is how much time I spend thinking about Facebook. Going about my day I find myself narrating my life in Facebook status updates of 420 characters or less. Plenty of them don't make it to my wall for one reason or another but some are worth sharing somewhere. Don't judge me. I'm not the only one (yeah, yeah, I know, if everybody else jumps off a bridge are you going to and all that) and you Twitter junkies are just as bad. I won't even mention die-hard bloggers, the ones that do things just so they can blog about them. They see life as one giant blog post. Not that I have any knowledge of this personally.

Without further ado, the Facebook Status Updates that could have been:

- High Fructose Corn Syrup is the body and blood of Satan.

- Squiggle Bug eats PB&J by opening the sandwich and eating it from the inside out.

- Lady Gaga is like cotton candy: disgusting over-dyed fluff sugar that you know isn't good for you but you just. can't. stop.

- Is it a bad sign if I'm thinking of what I could put on my Facebook status just seconds after posting one?

- With the laundry and dishes done nobody notices that I haven't showered in days. Clean laundry and dishes are way more important.

- No, I don't just sit around doing nothing all day. Yes, I did just spend an hour getting smiles and laughs from Smunchie. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it.

- I wish I had two washers, one would just be for diapers.

- 11 is the new 2!

- I do not recommend stuffing a crochet wool play cookie in your mouth even if it is to impress a 9 year old.

- You do not want to know where I just found poop.

- It turns out randomly bursting into song really does happen in real life! Either that or my children think we're in a very long musical. A very long musical that sings about everything and I do mean everything.

- When it comes to music, crap is the new pop!

- If I posted every Facebook status that comes into my head I wonder how many times poop would show up in my word tracker thingy.

- Do not threaten me or I'll be forced to spray you with breastmilk. I'm not joking.

- We started watching V and I can't stop! Which totally means I think everyone around me is actually an alien lizard thing.

- All I want to do is sit down and knit.

- "I've got my happy face on today, Les!"

- What are you doing? Nothing? Nothing doesn't look like that. You have the look of something. Something you don't want to tell me.

- "You're not my teacher!" Uh... did I not explain homeschooling to you?

- Copy and paste does not a Facebook status make. *Copy and paste this into your status if you're tired of copy and paste status updates. Only the really fed up will have the courage to do this, most people will just pretend they don't see it.*

- Awwww! Squiggle Bug is an artist! You should totally see the mural in the bathroom.

- I'm starting to think you have to already be organized to get organized.

- Dear child, as long as you are under the age of at least 14, maybe even 18, if you use the phrase "when I was a kid" I will laugh.

- WTH! Did somebody pass out crazy pills and skip me?

- I hate cupcakes. Pinocchio nose? I have no idea what you're talking about.

- Smunchie hates being alone. This works out well. With 4 big sisters being alone won't even happen when she learns how to use the bathroom.

- I totally came up with, like, 6 great status updates in the last hour but didn't want to appear like I have a Facebook problem by sharing them all. Oh, guess I shouldn't have said that.

Bump up my post on Mom Blog Network

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sweet and Simple Birthday.

pretzel girl
hoola-hoop toddler
I had a lovely birthday. The girls, Earth Baby, Storyteller, Lolie, Squiggle Bug, and Smunchie conspired with The Piano Man to make my day special. I forgot to take pictures throughout the day but I did remember now and then. The day was simple and special, memorable in so many ways. The Piano Man made fruit topped pancakes with coffee for breakfast, the girls gave me homemade birthday cards (no pictures! I'll have to fix that) and hugs and kisses. After The Piano Man took off to teach, Lolie read me a story she wrote and read a book to me, Storyteller gave me a book of 8 chapters she wrote, Earth Baby gave me a beautiful piece of art (again, no picture) and Squiggle Bug gave me "cubbles" and a fist full of tiny white flowers Storyteller helped her gather. Together we sat down and picked out projects from the "Warm Fuzzies" felted projects book, found the sweaters we would be cutting up and spent some time outside in the beautiful weather the day granted us.

The Piano Man came home and cooked up a delicious lunch of polenta topped with mushrooms, asparagus, sundried tomatoes, pine-nuts, garlic, and basil in a wine sauce. The perfect finale was a Charlotte au Chocolat, an adult version and one for the girls. Quite time gave The Piano Man and I time to finish off our pieces of cake over coffee. Whenever we get to have a cup of coffee in the afternoon while naps and quite time are happening I feel like we got a mini-date, having it happen on my birthday was a gift.

wine polenta mushroomschocolate charlottebirthday cake
In the evening the girls threw me a party at the zoo. Ok, that isn't exactly how it went down, there was Zoobilee that evening. The Piano Man had rehearsal and couldn't join us so us girls went on our own. Yes, it is true. I took 5 children to the zoo. By myself. On my birthday. My birthday celebration dinner was at the zoo and I'm not under the age of 12. Or even 21. On Facebook I asked if that meant I was super lame or a super cool mom. I got a mixed response.pretzel toddler A zoo party is a great place to be for a birthday though, there were hoola-hoop competitions, dance-offs, fun costumed dancers, passports to get stamped, animals to see, temporary air-brush tattoos to get, big soft pretzels to devour and loads more. We had a great time and only once did I feel like I was, well, in a zoo.

babywearing baby mai teihoola-hoopstattoo fairytattoo deerlittle girl pretzelI had planned to get a pedi but ripped off half of my big toenail on my right foot that day so the pedi will have to wait. I did get a haircut though, and went out with a friend to enjoy a Sugarbaby's cupcake and some Starbucks. Later I'll do some shopping, I'll probably go crazy and buy something like white paint for the new shelves in the kitchen. Yes, I realize I'm a real grown-up when I'm considering dishware, shelves and a new spatula as birthday gifts. Well, that and a writers conference. Gosh, I sound so old!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

There's a give-away on my other blog in honor of my birthday. Check it out and enter for some fun! And if you haven't already, read the posts below, get clicky on some of the banners on the side and leave me a comment saying hi! That's my bloggy birthday wish!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Better than Bling

(Squiggle Bug babywears Raffie)

I wear my baby. And my toddler. I'm a babywearing mama. No matter my outfit, they match. The perfect accessory, they go with blue jeans, silk skirts, and t-shirts and vintage jackets. Better than bling, they boldly proclaim my status to the world: I AM A MOM!

(Smunchie- 4 weeks and Squiggle Bug- 2 years, on me, iPhone pic by The Storyteller)

Because people couldn't already tell I'm a mom. Ok, so I don't babywear to look cool or make sure my status as MOM is known. I'm pretty sure that could be made clear with the constant spit-up decoration on my shoulder, the massive diaper bag and the fact that I have 5 small people running around regularly calling me "Mommy!" apparently just so they can declare who I am to the entire world. Not because they actually have anything to say. Make it 4, Smunchie isn't talking yet. I can't even imagine what it will be like with one more, children have an amazing ability to increase volume exponentially.

(Lolie wears her new baby in a kid tai by Sweet Slings)

No, I wear my babies for other reasons than making a fashion statement. Though babywearing does kind of save me from having to worry about fashion, nobody can tell what I'm wearing when there is a super sweet jelly kid on my back or front. In fact, people almost don't notice me, just the tiny people that seemed to sprout extra long legs and a head. I put my babies in slings, wraps, Mei Tais, and soft structured carriers for far greater reasons than fashion. I didn't have a kid (or 5) so I could look cool, even though I do.

I wear them for convenience. I mean, gosh, I need my arms, I can't stand around holding a kid all day. Sheesh.

(Multi-tasking, building an art piece while wearing and nursing Smunchie)

Alright, that's actually true but that isn't the only reason any more. It started out that way, to be sure and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I have times when I wrap a little one on me so I can actually get the dishes done, vacuum the carpet (mom, stop laughing, I do vacuum... sometimes), or have a phone conversation but I keep my babies tied to my body with strips of fabric so I can be close to them and they can be close to me. There was a time when I bought the idea that we needed to make our little people as independent as possible from the get-go but over time and over the course of my parenting experiences, I don't feel that way any more. I actually think it is a good thing if my baby is attached to me and I am attached to them.

(My view of Smunchie in the wrap, iPhone pic)

However, I don't call myself an Attachment Parent-er. Or whatever. I don't like labels. I have a a label phobia. I'm label-phobic. Oh crap, now I'm labeled again! Gah. Anyway, there are principles of Attachment Parenting I love, The Piano Man and I do a lot of them instinctively but still we don't consider ourselves AP. It probably really does just go back to the label thing. We choose to wear our babies because though we started doing it for convenience reasons we noticed a few things about babywearing. For starters, we just like having them close, it feels good to them and to us. The stroller started to seem like a pain in the rear compared to the sling. Our babies were way happier on us than anywhere else. The easiest way to sooth an upset baby that didn't need to nurse was to wrap her close to us. On cold days it was so cozy and we could know she was ok. We felt like we didn't miss anything, smiles, talking, observing, all of it was right there. When we started thinking about it, it just seemed more pleasant for our baby to be up close to us being able to see what was going on around them clearly. I noticed that I talk to my babies more, interact with them more when they are on me and yes, talk to, not at. And the big one was just the contact, it seemed like an easier transition to go from the womb, to being snuggled up in a wrap, to hanging out on mommy or daddy's back, and then exploring the world, knowing they can come back when they need to.

(The Piano Man wears Squiggle Bug on a bike ride in a Beco)

So we are big time babywearers now. There has been some concern about babywearing safety lately, this post isn't about that though but check out some of these hyperlinks. We don't use the types of carriers that were recently recalled, we prefer wraps, ring slings, soft structure carriers, and Mai Teis. If you are a babywearing mama or daddy, check out my friend Shanna's blog for ideas on how to respond to the inevitable "you know those things kills babies, right?" concern you'll get now. I'm not in a hurry for my babies to grow up and not need me any more, most parents aren't. Ok, sometimes I am but those come from a place of feeling overwhelmed and tired. But most of the time, I'm trying to savor the moments because I know they go by all too quickly. What better way to do that than to have my baby on me for as long as we can?

ETA: There is a babywearing safety workshop this Saturday for Houston families. Facebook event link and the vital info:
Sling Safety Workshop
Saturday, April 10, 2010
12:30pm - 1:30pm
3701 West Alabama Street

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Books, parenting and some rambling thoughts.

We just got back from the bookstore. I love books. I love bookstores. They are awesome and I can loose myself for hours in them. Books are wonderful, opening doors to stories and places, lives you never would have imagined on your own. Ideas for cooking, crafting, creating, abound and in the leaves of a colorful book you may discover a passion for a hobby you didn't even know existed. Do-It-Yourself books, relationship advice, and spirituality titles boost confidence that we can do, be or become whatever we want. Every difficulty and challenge can be mastered if we're armed with the contents of the shelves in any given section. Need to know how to fix plumbing? Other than this book you'll just need a wrench! Going to build something? Get this book first. Want to understand your faith better? All laid out for you right here! In pursuit of happiness? Follow these 7 easy steps! Your husband an ass? Read this and have a new one by Friday! Your child is a handful? The answer is right here!

I get sucked in quickly. I start thinking I should get this book for cooking tips, this other one for knitting ideas, another one for home schooling, and yet another one for parenting. Today we were getting to spend gift certificates so I wasn't on a mission but because the girls needed help weighing their options (suddenly their gift cards seemed very small) I wasn't able to spend much time browsing myself. There was one book I was looking for that had been on my list for quite some time. When I had a moment I headed over to the parenting section and begin to browse. The book I was searching for wasn't on the shelf so I read through the titles to see if anything else caught my eye. It didn't take long for something else to jump out at me. The titles and blurbs on most of the books read as though children are problems. That if you just read this one book and follow their step by step instructions, you can turn your child into the perfect little mini-me you wanted. There were few books that seemed to focus on helping parents understand their child instead of telling parents how to change their children but in my eyes even those seemed to be lacking something. Something profound yet so simple. With the exception of special needs children, most of those books addressed what parents could naturally find in community with others, a community of parents and non-parents.

But more often when moms and dads get together and have the opportunity to share ideas and experiences, including the difficulties, it becomes a competition. Instead of finding support we often enter into a bizarre game of "my child is better/worse than yours, I have it better/harder than you." I think we miss the opportunity to actually support and learn from each other. Would we need so many books on parenting if we could realize that this parenting thing isn't a competition? That these books aren't manuals on how to win the parenting Olympics? Or that being the perfect parent is a myth? And that having the perfect child isn't possible? That what we're all really shooting for is to not screw them up too badly?

Want to hear a secret? No matter what it looks like at any given moment I know you don't have all your shit together and you know I don't have all my shit together.

Here's another secret: it isn't a competition and we don't have to go it alone.

What works for one family may not work for another but we don't need to go buying book after book to find answers. Books are great but they don't take the place of community. Being together with other parents, parents at all stages in their parenting, we can share so much more and not only save money but have true friends as well. Let's cut the crap people, we're all in the same boat and none of us have it figured out entirely. If we could silence the parenting games we may find that we have good instincts when it comes to rearing our children and when we feel at a loss, maybe there is a friend that can encourage us. It is possible, I really think it is.
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