Monday, July 14, 2014

Finish Along 2014 Quarter 3 Plans!

I'm linking up to the Finish Along again, in hopes of getting some serious project-finishing done!

Finish Along 2014

I've been in a bit of a sewing rut the last few months--well actually, I've been super sick and tired and miserable, and have spent most of my time sleeping whenever possible. But I'm finally starting to feel better, and have a lot of projects that I am supposed to be finishing, so this is just the impetus I need! Most of them are Secret Projects though, so I can't tell you too much about them, since I'm not sure if the recipients read my blog. Onward!

Secret Project #1:

I just finished this top at about 11:30 last night--I spent about 9 hours at my work (The Intrepid Thread) to use the design wall and big cutting table, and it almost beat me. I always think, "Oh, I'll just figure it out as I go," or "I don't need to follow the pattern!" and then it always comes back to bite me. This one has a definite due date, so I've got to keep up the momentum!

Secret Project #2:
This is going to be the same pattern as the one above (argh!). I need to make about 10 more blocks, then find another 9 hours to spend at work to piece it all together! Also, it has the same due date, so it's in speed-mode processing.

Secret Project #3:
 Ideally this would be done already, so it's next in line, but Christmas wouldn't be bad either, so I'm not TOO stressed about getting it done. I'm using the Concerto Pattern by aria lane. I'm hoping it doesn't turn out too Dallas Cowboys-looking.

Secret Project #4:
This is a companion quilt for #3 above, using the same pattern but different colors.

Quilt for Baby Henry:
 Henry is due at the beginning of September, so I should probably make a quilt for him! I saw this gorgeous quilt on Flickr, and my awesome Maxine figured out all the math for me. Ideally this will be done before Mr. Henry arrives, but with all the other projects I have going, the chances aren't looking so great.

Will's Ninja Star Quilt:

My son Will started this about 3 years ago, and I have been lame and haven't sat down with him to work on it in a looooooong time. So hopefully we can work on it soon! It's baby size, so he's planning to give it to Henry.

Ben's First Quilt:
This one actually has ninjas. Ben picked out the fabric almost a year ago, but we haven't started it yet. He plans to give this baby size one to Henry also, then make a twin size for himself. He's very exctied to start working on it!

Gigungous Star Quilt:
 This has actually been basted for over a year, it's just so huge and I had no idea how to quilt it, so it's been sitting around. I finally decided to do horizontal lines 1" apart all the way across, which will of course take a million years. But it's nice to have something on my quilt frame to work on in the evenings when we're watching a movie or something. Once I finish piecing and basting the projects above this will have to be set aside again, but I'm going to try to studiously work on it and make a dent in it.

My overall plan is to sew at least and hour a day, and quilt two lines on the Giant Star quilt every day, until Henry is born. I've been doing way more than that since I made this goal on Wednesday, so hopefully I'll be able to keep it up! I'll probably be able to finish 8 quilts in 3 months, and have a baby in the middle of it all, right?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Super Fun Adventure!

So, my oldest son Will is in fourth grade. Here in California, that means he has to do a Mission Project, where he studies and builds a model of one of the 21 Catholic Missions started by Junipero Serra and others. Since the kids were on Spring Break, I decided that we should drive 5 hours down to Ventura, spend the night, visit the mission he was assigned to study, and drive back. Without my husband. Sometimes, adventures must be had.

We left Thursday morning, and stopped at Pinnacles National Park for a few hours on the way there. It was beautiful, and the weather was perfect.

After talking to some friends and researching on the Park's website, I chose a ~2 mile hike that went through some cool caves. The kids were happy to all have their own flashlights.

(Sorry about the crazy red-eye, I'm not computer savvy enough to do anything other than plug my camera into the computer and click on what pictures I want to put in!)

Even I had to duck and scootch around rocks and scraped up my forearms a bit because, while very doable, this isn't a modern super-easy trail! It was built by the CCC in the 30s, and the whole place had a great kind of freedom and trust in the visitors' common sense that you don't really see here at the County parks in the Frivolous Lawsuit Capital of the World Bay Area.

The One Million Stairs of Death

Most of the cave was made like this--gigantuous rocks that happened to fall into crevices at some point and will hopefully stay there during our entire visit. This was just at the end of the caves. Max, who is only 3, totally rocked this whole hike, without being carried, even up those crazy One Million Stairs! And I,  being 5 months pregnant, totally made it without being carried either, so surprises all around! Thankfully, there weren't even any small earthquakes while we were in there, so we all got out unscathed.

At the top of the stairs was this beautiful reservoir. Evy did a great job getting over her fear of walking down steep slanty hills:

Max practiced throwing everything within reach into the water:

And Will & Ben almost immediately started climbing what appeared to be a pretty much sheer cliff face. They thought it was awesome, I quietly tried to not have a panic attack.

That one above is the zoomed-in version. Here's what I saw while sitting helplessly on the ground too far away to do anything:

We stayed here for about an hour, then headed back to the car by the other half of the loop. Back near the parking lot a Ranger noticed the boys climbing around in a dried up creek bed, and said to me, "It's completely fine for them to be playing and climbing in there, but make sure they watch out for poison oak!" That totally surprised me--he didn't holler at us for going off the trail, but instead just tried to help us. It was a great little trip, and the kids all want to come back here and camp, and especially want Scott to be able to come next time.

We drove for several hours, then ate dinner at Chik-fil-a (yay!). Our hotel was really nice (the Country Inn and Suites in Ventura). I decided it was a great idea to give Max & Evy a bath, then we all went to bed. Those kids were so excited and amped up from the long car ride that they didn't fall asleep until almost 11:00, and I slept horribly because I was getting sleepy at one point in the drive and had to get some Dr. Pepper, which unfortunately took a while to get out of my system.

We woke up early the next morning and ate the free hotel breakfast, which was really great & generous and the kids thought was awesome. Then we headed over to the Mission.
Mission San Buenaventura, the 9th California Mission

We got there before the museum part was open, so we explored the outside and the courtyard for a while. I've never been to a Mission before (my fourth grade teacher was a bit....eccentric and didn't exactly follow the standard curriculum), but this one seemed a bit weird--it was right on a big street, there were very few other buildings, and it was right in the middle of downtown. It seemed a bit cramped, but it was still a great building--it was built in 1782, and might be the oldest building I've ever seen. 

Part of the courtyard and garden, side entrance (the big front doors are barricaded, presumably against rebel Indians)

Ben ran around this fountain 21 times. It's really important that you all know that.

Sorry this one is blurry, I let Will be in charge of the camera most of the time. This is one of the original wooden bells from when the Mission was first built. Apparently, this was the only Mission to have wooden bells. Which isn't too surprising, because it doesn't seen like wooden bells would be overly resonant.

We ended up walking up & down the downtown strip while we waited for the museum to open, but it was pretty disappointing, because none of the stores opened until 11:00, even on weekdays. Weird, right? We did find a Goodwill that was open, and bought Evy a Princess bike for $10 (yay!), Max used his last $2 from Grandma & Grandpa for a really cool little water gun, and I succumbed to brand-name pressure. Most of the time you guys, I don't care about brand names. But Orla Kiely is something different. Everything everything everything she designs is so perfect and gorgeous, and since I can't afford the bags or clothes, I always buy all the soaps from Target--even the ones that don't smell good! I'm telling you, this is a problem. Anyway, I bought this gorgeous iPad case for $12.
Super amazing perfect, right? The problem is, I don't have an iPad. Nor do I think I ever will. I'm hanging on to the hope that when the iPad 73 comes out, someone will take pity on me and sell me their iPad 2 for super cheap, and I can finally look at this gorgeousness all day and not be considered super weird.

In the end we did get to visit the museum, and bought a mission packet with some cool handouts and postcards and a little book about the mission, which was great because it gave Will lots of extra information, and he "got all the points," so I assume his project did well. He built an amazing model of the Mission out of LEGO bricks (we bought two of those big Pick-a-Brick containers full of white & red bricks from the LEGO store). I'll update with pictures of it when he brings it home from school. That kid has a mind that I just can't understand when it comes to building. He's incredible.

The drive home went pretty well. We were all getting pretty sick of being in the car by hour 4 or so, but we survived. I found the perfect place to have my giant horse sanctuary whenever I happen to get millions of dollars. I didn't take pictures because I was driving, but here it is on Google Maps:

It's miles and miles and miles and miles and miles of rolling hills and oak trees and grass and open fields and was the most perfect thing to drive along for a really long time. Cows live there now, but I'm sure my horses would love it too.

Also, we saw a bald eagle on the drive home! Seriously, did you know they lived anywhere but like super remote Alaska!? Again, no picture because I was driving. But, I assume we all know what bald eagles look like. I might have completely freaked out and the poor kids didn't know what was happening at first, but I think they all saw him at least a little bit. 

The last thing I want to show you is my super great Postcard Book. I started this about a year ago after seeing a similar idea on Pinterest. Every time we go on a trip or even an adventure for the day (like the Boardwalk or the Beach or something) I buy a postcard each day we're gone and write all the things we did and mail it home to us. I put all the postcards chronologically in this big scrapbook binder with 4x6 sheet protector sleeves. We all like to look back and remember our trips and look at the great postcard pictures. I'm not one for taking tons of pictures while on adventures, because I'd rather just Experience things, so this has been a great way to help remember fun little details. I have a feeling it will be even more special in 20 or 40 years. Scott's parents also send us postcards when they go on trips, so I keep those in the binder as well.

I just took these pictures with my iPod, so sorry they are so terrible!

Anyway, it ended up being a great trip, and totally wore all of us out, but these are the kinds of things I want my kids to remember about their childhood, and I always love adventures, so I am definitely up for doing it again. And, with 4 more kids to do Mission projects, there is certainly a chance that we'll end up needing to visit others in the coming years!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Finally Finished!

For the last few years I've been a member of an online charity quilting bee. Each month myself and a group of amazing ladies would make a couple of quilt blocks, and we'd each take turns designing & finishing quilts. I had been feeling overwhelmed by life early last year, and when Flickr changed over to their new format, I decided I was done. I resigned from the group and started spending my online hours over at Pinterest instead.

I was supposed to finish this quilt in like May of this year--and I finally finished it at about 2:30am!

I was sorry to leave Do Good Stitches, and hopefully I'll be able to re-join in a couple years when I have more free time on my hands.

This quilt turned out so pretty-I'm so glad to have been able to work with all of these wonderful ladies!

Monday, April 15, 2013

2nd Quarter Finish-A-Long Goals

I'm linking up to the 2013 Finish-A-Long over at shecanquilt!

Right now I'm down to the lowest number of projects-in-progress in recent memory. I only have 9 projects going! Amazing, right? I'm hoping to finish one quilt a month for this second quarter of the year. Here's my mosaic that I started with this year:

I've started one more project that's not on here, but I'm really excited about it! I'll post pictures a bit later, sine I've only started cutting so far.

Here are the goals for Quarter 2:

I've started working on this really old heart applique quilt again, and I'm hoping to finish it by the end of the month. I started it when my friend Katie was pregnant with her daughter, who will be turning 8 this summer. I think she's a bit old for it now! I'm using raw-edge machine applique, so it's going pretty fast! DONE! Finished 5/10/13

Next up is this old farmyard quilt I started making when Ben was teeny-tiny--6 years ago! I used the Yellow Brick Road pattern, which is fun and a great pattern for beginners. I tend to try to add way too many fabrics into my projects, and this is a great example of that. It's really just too much. But, I'd much rather finish it and give it away than have it sit in my cupboard! The blocks are all done, so I just need to piece the top, quilt, and bind it!

My last goal for this quarter is Will's quilt. He wanted to make a quilt, and chose this robot fabric, and this "Ninja stars" pattern. He's done all the ironing and rotary cutting, and I'm going to have him do the sewing and probably quilting too. We started it about 2 years ago, and are about 3/4 done with the cutting. I'm ashamed to say that this has become an old UFO (Un-Finished Object) because of me! He asks to work on it often, but it's so hard to find time when the little kids are occupied enough that I can give him all of my attention while he's using very sharp instruments. I'm pretty sure that's what Bob the Builder DVDs were created for though, so I'm going to try to work on it with him whenever he asks, and hopefully we can get it done by the end of June!

So there we are! These three projects are my oldest WIP (works in progress). The oldest one after I finish these was started in January 2012, so I'm really excited to start getting these old things done. Especially since I stopped them because I'm not in love with them anymore, and it will be nice to have them finished and out of my cupboard and my crafty conscience!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

1st Quarter Finish-A-Long Finishes

Turns out I'm not a very consistent blogger. It's been three months since my last post! Oh well--at least I've been using that time to get some good sewing done! I'm happy to say that I finished all of my goals from my original Finish-A-Long post for this first quarter! Yay! Here's the original post so you can see where I started! On to the finishes!

1. Do Good Stitches Lemon Squares quilt:

This turned out to be a pretty big quilt! The quilting pattern looks kinda like stage lights or laser beams or something, which was pretty fun to do. There are close-ups and pics of the back here in my Flickr set. I still need to deliver it, which hopefully I'll do pretty soon here.

2. Doll Cuddle Packs:

I got them all finished! More pics again on Flickr. I'm going to give one away, and possibly try to sell the other two extra ones on etsy.

3. Evy's Dress (and matching doll dress):
The dress turned out looking like a nightgown, and I don't think I'll ever use this pattern again. But Evy likes it, so I think that's what matters most, right?

4. Old-Timey Nine-Patch Quilt

It's FINALLY finished you guys. After 11 years. Incredible. I didn't think it would ever happen, but here it is! More process pics and pics of the back on Flickr again.

5. Old Aprons:

I'm not very happy with these. They looked fine on the dress form the pattern maker used for the pattern cover, but that shape on a real person with real hips is just not flattering. But they are cute, and perfectly functional, so, maybe I'll fine someone to give them to?

6. The Saccharine-Sweet Triangle Quilt:

This was pretty hard to piece, because triangles are weird! I used up every last scrap for the back, and quilted it in an awesome radiating X pattern. 

So there you go! Accomplished all of my goals! Woo hoo! Time to start making and working on goals for next quarter!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back to quilting!

I tend to always have a bazillion sewing projects going on at once. I get really excited about some new idea, work really hard on it, and then end up putting it away before it's finished. Sometimes I put it away because I'm in the inevitable "I hate this because it's too hard and not turning out the way I want!" slump, or I get really excited about some new idea I can't wait to start, or life just happens and I don't have time for much sewing for a while. I was very thankful to find out that I'm not the only one, and that this is pretty common among quilters!

Well, all last year I've been trying to finish projects, and restrict myself when it comes to starting new ones. By September or so, I realized that I was getting bummed out whenever I thought of sewing, because I had given myself a bunch of rules, like forcing myself to finish 2 things before starting something new, etc. So this year, I'm doing something a little different!

I currently have 14 things in progress (well, 15 actually, I started something new yesterday for a swap I'm in!). My goal for the year is to finish all of these projects! It will keep me busy enough so I don't start too many new things, but I'll have a bit of freedom to still be creative when I want to! For motivation, I'm linking up to the 2013 Finish-A-Long and continuing in the Project UFO group on Flickr hosted by Angela. So, my goals for the first quarter of this year are:

1. Do Good Stitches August quilt:
This is already pieced, basted, and about 1/4 of the way quilted, so should be pretty easy & quick!DONE! Finished 2/12/13

2. Finish up these four cuddle packs.
Just need to add a buckle to one of these, but I'm having a hard time finding the right one at stores!DONE! Finished 1/19/13

3. Finish up Evy's dress-the first dress I've ever made for her!
The dress itself is done, but I need to either figure out a way to take in the waist, or maybe add a sash or ribbon, because it looks like a nightgown! Also, I still need to make the matching doll dress.DONE! Finished 2/16/13

4. The Old-Timey 9-Patch Quilt:

I started this about 10-11 years ago! I had to take it apart at least twice, because I didn't like the direction it was going. I still don't actually actively LIKE it, but this is the best I've gotten it so far, and I'm not changing it again. One thing I do like about it is the on-point construction. All the books and tutorials I found had you cutting setting triangles, but that just seemed crazy, so I constructed it in rows, and then sewed the rows together. It was a little weird in the middle sections where everything is offset, but I kept the whole thing on my entryway floor as I was putting it together, so I didn't get confused. I need to get it done, and out of my head and cupboard!
I finished piecing the back just before Christmas, and it's now basted and ready to be quilted.DONE! Finished 3/17/13

5. These old aprons:

These are almost finished--I got discouraged because they were very floppy and weak since I made them with quilting cotton. I'm going to add some fusible fleece and call it good!DONE! Finished 3/15/13

6. And lastly, this super-sweet triangle quilt:

I made this using the Scrap Attack tutorial from Stitched in Color, and I also trimmed the tips of the triangles like described by Sew Katie Did. This is the first time I've done anything with triangles, and I don't think I'll be doing it again. It looks amazing, but takes forever, and is just a pain to work with the bias edges, and uses up a ton of fabric. But, the top and back are done, so I just need to baste, quilt, and finish it! DONE! Finished 4/2/13 Whew! That's all of them, just under the wire!

Hopefully I'll get all of these finished this quarter, and start on the next batch next quarter!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Child Abuse

For the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about child abuse, foster care, and parenting. I've decided to share my story, and some thoughts, in hopes that it might help someone out there.

I've spoken about parts of my story to many people, but it's hard to put all of this out in the open. It's hard to speak ill of your family, even when they are clearly in the wrong. It's hard for people who are abused to admit that it wasn't their fault. And it's hard to think about things that are much more comfortable to repress. 

My Mom was very physically abusive to me as a child. You know that feeling when you get super pissed about something, and you just want to punch someone or break a window or something? But you don't. Because that is BAD. Well, my Mom did. Whenever she got angry, she would hit me. I remember crying for some reason when I was 4, and she picked me up by one arm and threw me into my old crib, and kept hitting me over and over screaming at me to "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" I couldn't understand--how could I stop crying if she was hurting me and scaring the crap out of me? This became a regular pattern. She would lose her keys and get angry and flustered because we were late for something, and she would hit me because I couldn't find them. She would hide food and candy, and if I snuck something, she would scream at me and hit me. A lot of times I remember the "punishment" but I have no idea what happened to start it off. When I was in 5th grade I remember she threw me on the floor of the kitchen and was trying to spank me, and I was crawling and squirming away and crying, and she kept screaming at me to hold still so she could hit me. I had this 5-foot-tall inflatable T-Rex at some point, and once she threw me across my room, my head hit my bed frame, and then she tried to suffocate me with that dinosaur thing. Stuff like this happened several times a week. I would hide in my room until my Dad came home, or play outside as much as possible. I rode my bike and climbed trees with the neighborhood boys, and spent as much time as I could with my best friend, who lived next door. Her Dad always called me their "rental child," because they brought me to Great America, family reunions, vacations, and I was always over there. I ran away three times. I have very few memories of any other kind of interacting with my Mom--she was always watching TV.

My sister is 5 years younger than me, and as kids we didn't have a good relationship. On the one hand, I wanted to make sure my Mom didn't hit her. On the other, my Mom kept her away from me, and taught her to tattle on me--so a part of me hated the way she would unknowingly bring down more abuse on me. I actually had thought I did a good job of shielding her all these years. But just a few months ago she told me she remembered watching one of the times that my Mom hurt me. She remembered one time she told on me for doing something, and my Mom started strangling me, and she thought my Mom was going to kill me. She was screaming at my Mom to stop, and pulling on her, and couldn't do anything to help me. It kind of hit me then, that I had no idea that she had also been scarred. My sister was never in my mind in the moments when I was being beaten, so it never occurred to me that she might also have been traumatized.  

Now, you're probably thinking, "Where was your Dad? Why didn't anyone call CPS? She should be in jail!" Honestly, I'm not sure what that time was like for my Dad. I told him about it, it distressed him, he talked to my Mom about it. There were times when I called him from work begging him to come home. I appreciate the sucky place he was put in, and I don't blame him, but obviously the behavior continued, so more should have been done. Many other people in my family knew about it. They saw it. People at Target or the grocery store saw it. But it wasn't bad enough for CPS to get involved, even if someone had called. I never had any bruises. I remember my Mom once proudly telling a friend that she never hit me where it would show, and she never used anything but her hands. Her dad had hit her with hairbrushes and belts and had purposely slammed her foot in a car door--she would NEVER do anything that bad.

The thing is, my Mom could not control herself. Her problems had a long history. There is a known history of depression at least four generations back in my family. Her father was extremely abusive. She had lifelong health problems, depression, weight problems. She didn't have the tools to deal with the challenges of parenting. Every single time she hurt me, she would come back and apologize, and mean it; a lot of times she would stop in the middle and just burst into tears. She asked me a bazillion times if we could "just start over." I'm not trying to excuse her behavior. It was awful. But throwing her in jail or taking me and my sister away would have been the wrong answer. We hear of child abuse or other crimes, and our automatic reaction is to throw them in jail forever! In my Mom's case, having a Nurse visit regularly while I was a baby to help with breastfeeding, attachment, and to be a resource when she was having a hard time would have been invaluable. Having my grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc., offer help when she was yelling at me in their presence, instead of just waiting uncomfortably in another room, could have helped her to realize how bad things were. Having a social worker or general practitioner who was in contact with all of her doctors and could coordinate the different medications, could be in charge of her overall well-being, and make sure her mental health was addressed would have helped a great deal. Also, there were so many times that she would be screaming at me or hitting me in a store, and people just walked away. As a victim, that is so discouraging. It perpetuates the feeling that you deserve it, that you're bad, and that the behavior of your abuser IS ok, so there's no reason to try to do anything. I had thought about calling the police several times, but the fact that so many people had seen it and walked away convinced me that would futile. I even tearfully told one of my Mom's coworkers who I really looked up to. About 15 minutes later, her friend came over, and she laughingly told her friend how much she loved babysitting me, and how sweet it was that I told her about my Mom hitting me. I still don't really understand their reaction--why was this revelation and my trust in her funny? That made me decide that there was no point in trying to get help. The abuse finally stopped when I was almost 13. My mom pushed me across the kitchen, slamming me into the kitchen table. I ran at her and pushed her as hard as I could, knocking her down. I screamed at her that she would NEVER hit me again, burst into tears, and ran out and locked myself in my room.

My parents got divorced very shortly after that. My Stepmom moved in the same day my Mom moved out. My Dad and Stepmom are still alive and might read this blog, so I don't want to go into a lot of stuff, but my stepmom also had a horrendous childhood that left her ill-equipped to deal with my sister and I. She was very emotionally abusive, although she never "yelled" or hit me. She would bring up every wrong thing I had done in recent history every time I did something wrong. She would get right in my face and remind me of every time I had ever messed up or done a bad job or didn't listen. Middle school was pretty awful for me. I had three parents, but wasn't a priority to any of them. I made a lot of choices that I knew were just plain stupid, but when you're alone and constantly told how awful you are, you tend to look for any kind of acceptance, even though you know it's a lie. My Stepmom would also always try to "teach me lessons." For example, once I forgot to empty the dishwasher, so that night when I called to get picked up from work, she "forgot" to come. I didn't have a cell phone or change, and everyone else had left, so I had to walk home alone at midnight. I didn't thank her for making dinner once, so she decided she would show me how easy I had it by not making me dinner for a wekk or something and making me try to deal with it--because that would make me appreciate all her hard work! I moved out right after I graduated High School, but the abuse didn't stop until several years later. I had gone over to their house when Will was a few months old. She started talking to me about all the terrible choices I had made, and all the bad things I had done, and how awful my wedding was, and Will was in his carseat screaming and I was crying and I just was paralyzed, because that's what happens when you have someone like that doing that to you. And then I looked at my baby, and I decided that THIS SHIT IS GOING TO END RIGHT NOW. My baby would not suffer from anyone who had made me suffer. I picked up his carrier and walked out--and honestly, it was MUCH harder than fighting off my Mom years before.

My stepmom had NO idea what a good parent-child relationship should be. She had such severe abuse as a child, which hadn't been dealt with yet. Again, I'm not excusing her, but I see why she was so broken. Personally, I think that there should be court-ordered counseling for the whole family in cases of divorce when kids are involved. That would have been a good step for my sister and I, and hopefully a counselor would have been able to see my Stepmom's need for help.

My Mom died about a week after Will was born, and I haven't spoken to my Stepmom for several years (her choice). I see my Dad several times a year, and things are pretty good there.

I've wondered (and honestly so has Scott) why I'm not "more messed up" after having such awful mothers and such a traumatic childhood. I've come up with several reasons. Firstly, while I never attached properly to my mother, I did to my father. He worked nights until I was 4 or so, and cared for me during the day. He held me while he bottle-fed me, read me books, took me to the park almost every day. He loved me, and spent time with me, and talked to me, and cooked with me, and looked me in the eyes and made sure I KNEW that he loved me. He might not have been able, for whatever reasons, to stop my abuse, but he was able to prevent it from ruining me completely. Secondly, my Mom didn't enjoy hurting me. She wasn't sadistic or psychotic. She just didn't know what to do. She did the wrong thing, and she knew it. children who are maliciously abused often suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder and other life-long issues. I was spared that, because I knew I was worth a lot to someone. And lastly, meeting Scott's family and joining the Church.

In high school, I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of good, dorky Mormon boys. They were nice. They rarely swore. They didn't drink. They said nice stuff about their moms. When my Stepmom decided I couldn't have lunch money for a while, Scott bought me food and Dr. Pepper. Once Scott and I started spending more time together and I met his family, I honestly thought it was fake. I couldn't believe that his parents both were that kind and worked that hard every day and loved each other like that. I couldn't believe that they had three boys who loved them and looked forward to spending time with them. Scott was a 16 year old kid who talked with and joked with his mom, and listened when she asked him to do something, and had birthday parties. They are such a typical family, but they love each other, and work to help each other. They didn't yell at each other, didn't hit Scott when he was a kid, forgave each other. Once I decided it was for real, I realized that it was possible for me, too. When I started investigating the church, I loved the up-front teachings on the importance of parents' roles and responsibilities in the Family Proclamation. Admittedly, I still made plenty of mistakes and bad choices, even after joining the church. Breaking through my selfishness and desire for self-preservation over all else is one of my biggest struggles. But I've gotten to the point where I am so content and at peace with my life, and happy that things have happened how they have. I have married someone who is amazing and good and loves me, and wouldn't ever even think of being intentionally unkind. And I finally got a mother who is an example of what I hope to be, rather than what I desperately DON'T want to be. And I have a chance to make things right in my own children, who are seriously awesome.

So, here are some things we all can do, in my opinion, to help prevent and heal child abuse:

--If you see someone yelling at, insulting, or hitting their kids, PLEASE say something. DO NOT go over and yell at or be angry at the parent, but kindly and calmly saying something like, "Hey, it seems like you're having a tough day! Is there anything I can do to help?" or "She looks very scared, and you seem like you're having a hard time" is good. Look the child in the eyes. Try to find a way to non-confrontationally let the parent know that the behavior is not ok, and that you'd like to help. They may tell you to piss off. They may take that kid home and beat them more. But that kid will be given a tiny speck of hope, that maybe it's not their fault, and maybe it IS wrong for their parent to do that to them. And you might be able to actually help someone get through a difficult time. Good people, with good families, don't just somehow end up being child abusers like the media so often portrays. Many have VERY high ACE scores that affect their ability to deal with stress. Be compassionate and empathetic, and don't assume that a person is just evil.

--Listen to your friends and family members. Thinking back, there were several times that my Mom tried to tell her friends how hard it was for her to keep her temper and how she didn't want to hurt me. But they just laughed it off with variations of "Oh, my kids drive me crazy too!" and "You have to punish kids or they'll never learn!" She was severely depressed and needed help, compassion, and understanding.

--DO NOT HIT YOUR KIDS. DO NOT INSULT YOUR KIDS. Please familiarize yourself with normal stages of child development. I love the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. Remember that it is your job to teach your kids proper reactions to situations by word & example, not to punish them for not knowing. Think, now, about strategies for avoiding hurting your kids when you are angry. Think about the triggers that make you the most mad, and what you can do in the moment to prevent bad decisions. Walk away, put your hands behind your back, take three deep breaths, count to 10--think of ways you can avoid outbursts. Never insult your children. This is especially hard when you're talking to other people. It's so easy to say something that may be true, but is unkind or unnecessary when your children are present. Involve them in conversations if you're speaking about them. They are there, they can hear you! It hurts them to know that their parent is willing to share their inadequacies with others. Think of how you would feel if your spouse said something similar about you in front of your friends. Is it an insult that would make you feel hurt & angry? Or is it a compliment that would make you feel proud & loved?

--Admit it when you make a mistake. It is very important for you to apologize to your child when you do something wrong. This does not make you seem weak. It is a wonderful example to your kids, and shows how much you love them. Feeling that shame, apologizing, and being forgiven in order to move on, will be instrumental in helping you avoid that behavior in the future. If you ever do something, and think, "Geez, I'm glad my husband/wife/a social worker didn't see that...", you need to talk to your spouse or someone else. It's very important to admit your wrongs right away. The more little things abusers get away with, the more big things they will be willing to try. I'm not trying to say that you will become a child abuser, but it is important to you, your kid, and your spouse to admit it when you do something bad, and talk about it. Maybe talk about this together now, before something happens, so you both understand that when these confessions come, they are to be met with love and helpful advice on how to prevent future problems. We all make mistakes, we all do things we regret in parenting. Understanding that, and candidly looking a your mistakes, allowing yourself to forgive yourself and be forgiven by your spouse, and solidifying a game plan for the future will help you so much! Don't wallow in your guilt, don't blame your kids. You should never ever have any kind of variation of "Why do you make me hit you!?" going on in your thoughts. Accept what happened, accept that it sucked, and move past it, and try to do better. Because you CAN, and WILL. Also, be sure to forgive your kids, and let them know that they are forgiven. Help them learn about their mistakes, don't rub them in their faces. Don't bring up past wrongs. Trust me, they remember. Wait until you've calmed down and don't feel the need to berate or lecture. Remember that kids (and adults) all make mistakes, and our goal is to learn from them, make them right, and do better next time, NOT to make people feel really bad about how stupid they were to teach them never to do it again.

--Your children will not be taken away if you admit that you're suffering from depression. The world will not scorn you if you admit that parenting is freakin' hard, and that you need help. Please, please, reach out. Talk to your spouse, parents, friends, doctor, church leaders, or try to Google for resources in your area. Don't compare yourself to others. We all have struggles. We all are fighting a hard battle. For some people it is much less obvious, but that doesn't mean it's not still there. Only compare yourself to you. Some days you will feel like you are stuck and will always be an awful parent. Please, at these times, remember all the little good things you did. There are lots of them. Think about one thing you want to work on tomorrow, and congratulate yourself for your effort and any little achievement. None of will EVER EVER EVER be perfect, but we can be a teeny bit better every day.

--If you have been, or are being abused, please seek help. There are programs all over the world to help people in abusive situations, even if you're told by your abuser that it won't work. You deserve to be loved and treated kindly. Seek out counseling or someone you can trust to talk to. And as hard as it is to comprehend, I can confidently say that peace will be very elusive until you can forgive those that hurt you. It took many years, but I have learned this myself.

Now, I'm not a professional. I'm not an expert. My situation wasn't "that bad," and I know that. But what I want you to know is that hurting kids is BAD, we all can help in little ways that might not seem significant at the time, and that it IS possible to end the cycle of abuse. I still live in fear that my kids will hate me, and that I'm just a really terrible mother. But I also have hope, and a great support system, and the faces of 4 kids that actually love me and each other to inspire me to be better than my ancestors. And, someday, we'll be foster parents, so we can help other kids who have had it much worse than I did to know that they are loved and good worth it.

Email me at colleenamareena (at) gmail (dot) com if there's anything I can do to help or encourage you.