Tuesday, January 27, 2015

edith: 14 weeks old

age: fourteen weeks old
stats: 14.5 pounds?
firsts: rolled from back to front; swim
milestones: still working on sitting up
goings-on: over the weekend we were able to use my mom's access key at a local hotel's pool (she was there for a conference) to take the kids swimming. we only kept edith in the water for about 10-15 minutes because despite its 82-degree temperatures we didn't want to push it with 3-month old self regulation. elden, however, lived it up for about an hour in the water. edith had a particularly giggly day yesterday but has been less enthused about life today. i have had at least some amount of dairy every day since friday and so far it hasn't been spit up city so i'm hoping (and praying so. hard.) that i can make the official reintroduction of dairy into my diet. edith will voice her opinions at a very high decibel all the live long day, especially if you aren't giving her the attention she desires. she looks adorable in a bathing suit and loves being upright. edith is still the apple of her brother's eye and he is constantly running to give her hugs and kisses.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

getting away with rape

I just read an article that discussed a new research study that showed 1/3 of college males would rape a woman if they knew they would get away with it.

What the hell is wrong with the world that we live in? When did consent become optional? When did a man decide he had the right to anyone's body whenever he desired? Did you know that 97 out of every 100 rapes result in the rapist walking free? Why is there not more outrage over this?

We try very hard to teach Elden that his body is his and no one else's body is his. We even tell him he needs to ask the cat if he can hug her before he does so. This often seems trivial or awkward to some parents--for instance, Elden knows he has a penis and girls have vaginas. He uses those words. We are trying SO HARD to make sure he realizes there is no shame associated with his anatomy. He is also at the age where he is exploring himself. We try very hard to help him understand what he is doing is perfectly acceptable and natural--in the appropriate environment. Having grown up in a true love waits environment (the author here does an excellent job of describing the issues I have with that concept and the way it's taught), I want to make sure my children know they are defined by more than just their sexual "purity." I want them to know that if anyone ever lays a hand on them without their consent they can come to me, shame-free, and I will go to bat for them. I want them to know they have a right to say "no" in the first place. But I also want them to know that touching anyone, without their consent, is absolutely not okay. Even for something as harmless as a hug: you ask. Because any sense of a right to hug someone leads to a misguided sense of a right to do other things to them. Obviously, as they get older, they will understand there are certain people they don't need to ask to hug (and kiss): Jon and me, their grandparents and aunts and uncles, their closest friends, eventual romantic interests. But I genuinely wonder how other parents approach these issues. Is that part of the problem? Is that why 1 out of every 3 college men surveyed would happily rape a woman if they could get away with it?

Every year as our kids get older, we plan on having some variation of a sex talk with them. When they are really young, we won't dive into the details of where babies come from, but we will talk to them about sex-related things (masturbation being the likely front runner... I'm sure some of you cringed just reading that) that are tailored to their age; what they will likely be curious about, keeping in mind their individual maturity levels. We will do this individually and Jon will likely handle all talks with Elden and me with Edith. Our hope is that if we can create a safe and naturally open environment for our kids to ask questions without fear of a response they will always feel safe coming to us with anything. Abuse, teen pregnancy, etc. We certainly hope our kids will choose to wait for a variety of reasons, but the harsh reality is that they probably won't. We want our kids to be as prepared and respectful as they possibly can be. We want our son to stand up for a woman if he sees her being mistreated and we certainly don't want him to be the one mistreating her. We want our daughter to be treated with respect. And the best way we can strive for this is if we prepare our children to the best of our ability. In case you were curious, here are some of the practical tools we use:

1. Always refer to body parts with their anatomical names. God forbid, if someone sexually abuses them when they're little the best way to yield a conviction is if they can use the actual anatomical names to describe what was done. It also teaches them there is nothing to be embarrassed about their body.
2. We are making a conscious effort not to hug or kiss Elden without asking his permission/if he says no, and we've asked our families to do the same. We want him to understand that he doesn't have to do those things, even with us. We don't want him thinking he HAS to do something because we are adults and somehow in authority over him. We certainly do have authority over him, but he has every right to decline our physical affection.
3. We reiterate to him that he's not to hug a friend without asking first. We also try really hard not to say things like "go hug [child]" - again, he has a right to decide if he even wants to hug that child, and then that child has a right to decline.
4. We've never yelled at Elden for exploring his body. We've never told him he shouldn't be doing that or it's inappropriate. We have taught him that he should only do that when his diaper is off (mid change or in the bath) and he has thus far been compliant with that.
5. We have started telling him that no one should touch his penis and no one should tell him to touch their penis or vagina. This is a tricky area for me because I also don't want him to think that all sexual touch is bad because it is eventually a wonderful thing in a committed and trusting relationship, but I think he's still too little to really make that distinction.
6. We have begun asking him questions about different environments. We don't think anyone in our lives would ever touch him sexually, but if we notice a distinct behavioral change (for instance, he is not excited to go to Sunday school at church anymore; he doesn't want to sleep over our parents' houses, etc.) we make it a point to ask him why he feels certain ways. We will even ask him if anyone touched his penis or made him touch them (the answers are always no and usually along the lines of "Elden shy").

I'm sure this seems like extreme parenting to most of you. To be honest, some of it is fear-based. I'm part of a statistic (that I think is grossly underestimated) of 1 in 5 female child sexual abuse victims. Approximately 2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by someone familiar to the victim. I will probably never let my kids sleepover their friend's houses unless I know their parents extremely well; even then, I will probably have a restless night. I know I can't protect my kids from everything. But you better believe I'm going to do everything in my power to keep them safe from predators, as well as trying to prevent them from becoming predators.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

edith: 13 weeks old


age: thirteen weeks old
stats: jon weighed her at 14+ pounds late last week and 24.6" i believe?
firsts: giggles for jon
milestones: trying to sit up (still)
goings-on: little miss is trying so hard to sit up. she is constantly doing crunches if you have her on her back or at an incline, yet we still haven't mastered the art of the roll. it's tough since her reflux is so bad--putting her on her tummy all but guarantees she'll empty her stomach. lucky (?) for her we measured her head in the 25-50% (whereas her height and length are both in the 90-98%...) so she doesn't have much weight she needs to support with her neck. edith is happiest in the morning and yesterday she smiled at elden and you'd thought he had just won an unlimited supply of candy and gum whenever he so desires. i wasn't there but jon described it for me and suffice to say it was a precious sibling moment. edith is a pretty happy spitter and given her weight gain we aren't too concerned about it since it doesn't seem to bother her much. i think it's just a matter of time until she is sitting up on her own so she can be where the action is...

Friday, January 16, 2015

eldenisms (part 5)

Elden (while holding up the Hairspray DVD): This a movie?
Jon: Yeah!
Elden: Is it weird?
Jon:

Danielle (to Jon): You should take the kids shopping tomorrow to buy more bananas.
Jon: ...and blueberries.
Elden (from his car seat, yelling excitedly): AND A WHISTLE!

Jon, after realizing Elden had been awake for some time following his nap but had yet to make a noise, likely due to us telling him before his nap that 'you don't have to sleep yet, but you do need to be quiet': Buddy, were you awake for a while?
Elden (whispering): Elden was really really quiet.

Elden (carrying a metal lunchbox into the kitchen): Bye! I'm going to my boring work!

Elden (to anyone and everyone he talks to on the phone, despite our continual reminders that people can't see through the phone): Do you see this [insert random object or body part here]?

Elden (every time he talks to me on the phone while I'm at work, ever since I mentioned I was taking inventory of the shoulders--yes, cadavers--in the freezer during a brief phone call earlier this week): Mommy looking at my shoulder?

Danielle (on the phone with Elden): Is Edith being good?
Elden: No! Edith keeps cryin!
Jon (in the background): No she doesn't!
Elden: Edith keeps saying WAAAHHH WAHHHHH.
Jon (in the background): No she doesn't, Elden!

Elden (many times during the course of the day when he knows he's not being a good listener or doing something defiantly): Mommy/Daddy, you happy?
Mommy/Daddy: Not really, you're aren't doing what we tell you.
Elden (smiling): Be happy, you're my friend!

Elden (to me, on the phone): Elden got a haircut!
Jon (in the background): Elden, that was supposed to be a surprise for Mommy!
Elden: (laughing)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

edith: 12 weeks old


age: twelve weeks old
stats: 13.5 pounds perhaps? she is wearing a 6M outfit in that picture.
firsts: giggles (even if jon doesn't believe me!)
milestones: trying to sit up
goings-on: edith giggled for me the other night! jon doesn't believe me since i have been unable to recreate it, but i was tickling her armpit and got her to giggle two different times! edith enjoys gnawing on her hand like there's no tomorrow. that, coupled with the copious amount of spit and the little white dots just beneath her bottom gums, leads us to believe a tooth is working its way out. as a result, she didn't sleep the best at night this week but has redeemed herself the past 2 nights. if it's not teeth it could potentially be growth-spurt related as the 3-month mark tends to involve a big growth jump. edith seems to be spitting up a lot more lately and we're trying to figure out the cause. we know that when i eat tomatoes we see a giant increase in volume and we tried to test dairy a little but came back inconclusive. in any case, she doesn't seem bothered by it much but we go through clothes like it's our job. edith is also all about that bath (said like this) and when she's been upset over the past week we've been putting her in the tub... much to her delight. elden was a total water baby and edith is definitely following in his footsteps. she is up to about 5.5 ounces 6 times per day and the rolls on her legs are proof that she has a healthy appetite. this sweet girl's smiles and coos bring us so much happiness.

Monday, January 12, 2015

still waiting.

I haven't heard anything from the police other than being told early last week that I will likely need to travel to Pennsylvania to be formally interviewed if/when the case proceeds. I contacted DCFS on Friday and the [very rude] woman I spoke with hurriedly said, "All I can say is we've forwarded a report onto local law enforcement" and then promptly hung up on me as soon as I said thank you. They didn't even ask my name when I called, though, so I'm thinking they aren't a very busy department when they knew exactly who I was when I started by saying, "I called last week about the abuse my [relative] did to me as a kid..." If I've learned anything through this process it's that 1) more people need to have some formal sensitivity training with regard to victims of sexual abuse and 2) more people need to be trained about the processes involved in cases such as mine.

As for the fear, I'm still pretty scared he'll show up. The fear is greatest with the night. Funny how that works, isn't it? As kids we're scared of the dark. We don't entirely outgrow that fear as adults. The nights that I'm most scared are always followed by relief with the daylight. But your prayers... I'm feeling them. I don't feel so overwhelmed. I have a sense of calm that can only be described as divine since I am not calm by nature normally. The uncertainty of everything is heavy, but going into this with the expectation that I will not find earthly justice helps. I just hope one day I get to look him in the eye and let him realize he holds no power over me. I'm no longer the child he preyed upon. I can take care of myself now and he's a pathetic excuse for a person. I won - he didn't.

I think the most surprising emotion I've had is guilt. Guilt for throwing my family into potential danger. Guilt for throwing my parents and sister into chaos and pushing a whole lot at once on them. Wondering if I'm making a bigger deal about what happened than I should be. After all, it happened over a decade ago. My memories are all dreamlike and hazy. What if my memories aren't real? Even though they share nearly identical scenes to others who suffered his abuse? For years and years I've been an advocate for sexual abuse/assault survivors. I've walked along side them and reminded them that they shouldn't feel guilty about ANY of it. None of it was their fault. Now that I'm in their shoes, though, and being told the same thing... I get it. I don't understand why I feel this way, but I get it. And it sucks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

edith: 11 weeks old


age: eleven weeks old
stats: 13 pounds and some change
firsts: nothing new this week
milestones: babbling a LOT, bringing toys to her mouth
goings-on: we still haven't nailed down a solid nap schedule yet so days are entirely unpredictable. that being said, edith seems to do best when we lay her in her crib awake during the day. she has consistently been sleeping 9 pm - 6 am so that's pretty stinking awesome--especially the days that i actually have to go in and wake her around 6:15/6:30 to nurse her before i leave for work. elden is still sick but thankfully edith hasn't caught whatever it is he has so that's a huge blessing (knock on all the wood). the poosplosion is now a thing that happens 2+ times a week so we are getting lots of use out of our stain remover. apparently, though, the baby onesies with the broad shoulders are designed to slide down off a baby in such an event (mad thanks to a first time mom friend who filled us in on that!) so that the poop doesn't get all over baby. who knew?! not us. which is why elden got lots and lots and lots of baths in his infancy. edith has been smiling a lot more lately and very rarely goes into a full blown cry without a lot of whining first. she is mostly content to just sit and watch the world unfold around her and doesn't need to be moving at all times like her brother. she really does bring us so much joy!

Monday, January 5, 2015

bravery

originally started 12.30.14.

When I first told my family and a few friends I was pursuing a criminal case, the one thing they all kept telling me was, "you're so brave for doing this."

I hated it. I hated that they thought what I was doing was brave. I'm still trying to figure out why I hated (hate) it so much. I think because it insinuates that those who don't take the path I'm taking are somehow not brave? It's a really difficult feeling to explain.

It probably doesn't help that I'm actually really terrified.

The man who abused me scares me to my core. Yesterday was the first day that I began calling different government agencies to figure out how to go about notifying the police. There are essentially no online resources (at least that I could find) for a case like mine: the abuse happened when I was a minor in a different state (and therefore jurisdiction) than I live in. I looked up the county and called their courthouse. I was transferred 4 or 5 times, having to tell my story to each new person on the phone, until someone figured out I needed to call his town's police. I called the police and they took my information (and his address) and said an officer would call me back.

By the time I got off the phone, I was violently shaking.

I tearfully texted my mom: "I called [redacted] PD. An officer is going to call me back. I'm so afraid once he finds out I'm trying to pursue criminal charges he'll try to hurt Elden and Edith."

That was the day I locked down my Instagram and Facebook. That was the day I made my blog private. I did a Google search for my name and the word 'address.' I created a Whitepages account to make sure they weren't displaying my information to the public. I can honestly say I have not experienced the level of fear I felt when I made that phone call any other time in my life. It's one thing when it's just my life that's being affected. But this man is a lunatic. He is entirely unpredictable. He owns guns and has the world's shortest fuse and I would not put it past him to try to hurt the people that are most precious to me.

I want to make it as difficult for this man to find my family as I possibly can. When I spoke to the officer, I asked if he would know what I was doing. Not until/unless charges are filed, he told me. That gave me a moment of relief--he doesn't know... yet.

So I'm not brave. I fully appreciate the sentiment behind the statement. It's one of support and love and kindness. But please stop saying it, because it's just not true.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

realization

originally written on 12/31/14.

About a month before Christmas, a dear friend of mine shared with me the discovery that someone was sexually abusing her 4-year-old daughter. The more I thought about what was happening to her little girl, the more I realized I was no longer thinking about her little girl, but instead a little girl version of me.

Memories started to come back to me. Then the nightmares started. I had long suspected I may have fallen prey to a man as a child, but up until December I hadn't fully realized what had happened to me.

My memories were almost dream-like. I was watching them unfold as an observer in the room as opposed to experiencing it. I'm told this is detachment and is not uncommon when a child experiences trauma. It's a way to protect yourself. In my earliest memory I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7.

The man who did these things to me was a relative.

The time had come to tell my parents. To be honest, it was a conversation I never wanted to have. I'm a mother, so I can fully understand the feelings my parents must be feeling to know that someone did that to their little girl. I didn't want to break their hearts. I wanted to be able to shoulder that burden for them. But I also knew I wanted to pursue a criminal case against my abuser. You see, this man (if you can even call him that... coward or monster are probably more appropriate) had a reputation in our family. He was a raging alcoholic with the temper of a toddler who didn't get his way. He is a bigot. And after the truth came out we discovered there were others. He abused at least three other family members and based on some other hearsay we speculate there are more.

By the end of his abuse, he was so brazen that he once grabbed my chest in the middle of his living room. There were people all around. He didn't care. He had gotten away with it for so long.

I have a little girl now. I need her to know that if anyone ever hurts her she can tell me. I need her to know that I won't stand for that. Nothing may come of my case. It happened over a decade ago and it will ultimately be his word versus mine. But if I can at least let him know that I'm not tolerating what he did any longer I will feel vindicated. If I can at least let others know what a pathetic excuse for a human being he is, it will all be worth it. One thing we are often taught in Christianity is to forgive. In the interest of full disclosure (and I know I will likely be lambasted by some for so much as thinking what I'm about to type), I don't forgive him. In fact, I hate him. He is the one person I genuinely hope burns in hell for eternity. No need to tell me that's a very unChristlike view. I'm well aware. But Jesus said to come as you are and this is where I'm at.