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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival

I finished this quilt a long time ago, and for one reason or another never got around to posting about it. Seeing the Blogger's Quilt Festival going on this week was just the inspiration I needed!

I made this as a baby quilt for my niece Gracie. Heather Ross is my all-time favorite designer, and when she came out with this line, Far Far Away II, a few years ago, I was in love! I was lucky enough to find a bunch of it on sale online a while ago, and stocked up! 

These prints are all a linen-cotton blend, with a nice heavy drape. I thought it would be great for a Fall baby! I love the way this colorway is so vintage-looking, yet so fresh at the same time!

I had a hard time deciding which pattern to use for this quilt. There are so many little scenes and characters, and I didn't want to cut anything off. I finally drafted my own pattern using two different 12" finished blocks. 


There were just enough prints, that at this size there wasn't too much repeat! I'm planning on making a Real Big size quilt with all three colorways for me to keep forever my daughter soon!

The only bad thing about this pattern, and this fabric line honestly, is that in order to have full fussy-cut scenes, there is a lot of waste, especially with the Rapunzel towers. I cut the Owl & Pussycat print two different ways, so that saved a bit of fabric, but I had quite a lot of towers & other scraps that I couldn't bring myself to throw away! Then I remembered Megan's beautiful quilt using my all-time favorite fabric line, also by Heather Ross, Far Far Away 1. So I trimmed my scraps to 2 1/2" x whatever size they already were, arranged them all over my dining room floor, commissioned my husband to figure out the math, added in a bunch of Essex linen in natural, and came up with this:

The binding is also Essex linen. It was the perfect match for the FFA2 in both weight and color. I really hate mixing fabric types, so finding the Essex was great! Binding in linen, and to be honest, quilting with it, is a little bit of a pain. It wasn't horrible by any means, but way more difficult than regular quilting cotton!

I hand quilted it in a light pink Gutermann hand-quilting thread, 1/4" away from each seam. I love how it frames each little square!

My great friend Hilary Reimers took all these pictures for me while our kids played at the park--she is always so awesome and generous and kind, and I love being able to have her as my friend! I think she deserves the "Best Quilt Photography" award, don't you? :)

Blogger’s Quilt Festival Stats
Finished quilt measures : ~36" x 48"
Designed, pieced, and quilted by : me!
Best Category : Baby Quilt, Hand-Quilted Quilt, Favorite Quilt Photographer

Be sure to head over to the Blogger's Quilt Festival to vote and see almost 500 (yes, really!) amazing entries!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Incredible Experience

I want to share with you, and remember for myself, something amazing.

Yesterday was kind of a hard day: it was a day where Scott had a full day of school and then a full day of work, so I was on my own all day. Some creepy guy came up onto our porch and was babbling nonsense right in front of my unlocked glass front door, and freaked me out completely. The afternoon was busy and hard--I'm supposed to be in charge of the pirate costumes for Will's upcoming school opera (The Pirates of Penzance), which involves me having to be in charge of things and call and email people and coordinate things and ask people to do things, and is just way out of my comfort level. Anyway, then my friend Monique randomly called and said, "Can I bring you dinner tonight? Great, I'll be over in about an hour." What? How awesome is that? It was just such a kind and spontaneous thing for her to do, which totally lifted my spirits, made me stop whining to myself about how hard things were going, and totally turned my day around. It also made me feel a little guilty. So many people over the last year have helped us so much, and I haven't really done anything awesome for anyone. I felt like I needed to start looking for opportunities for awesomeness, and be more awesome!

After the kids were in bed, I read this post from an amazing woman who is parenting traumatized kids, and whom I have long admired. She mentions a moment where she was overcome with grief, and then 

"Hearing a very kind voice ask, 'May I hug you?'  I accepted, and received a very thoughtful embrace.  'What are you feeling?'  I explained the loss of my friend and how he died.  Didn't expect to feel as overwhelmed as I was, by the sight of the fire.  This complete stranger asked me questions about my friend and created a space for me to grieve for a few minutes.  J was exactly what I needed at that very moment." 

I didn't think I would ever be courageous enough to do something like that--to get out of my comfort zone in that way, to, in my mind, invade someone's privacy like that. But it would be really good if I could.

Today we went to Park Day, which is honestly just as much fun (if not more so) for me as it is for the kids, because it's the only time I have with my friends. Afterwards I decided to go to the new Chik-Fil-A that just opened up, which is about 20 minutes away. I had to drive on 880, which I really don't like, and was worried about getting lost. Then I started thinking about that story up there again, and said a tiny prayer that I might be able to notice and act if a similar situation arose near me. Finally I got to the corner where Chik-Fil-A was, and as I was stopped at the light, I looked over, and there was a young man doing some seriously awesome stuff with a sign for some new housing development. He had earbuds on, and was throwing and spinning the sign, and smiling like crazy, and sweaty, and waving at people, and he just looked SO happy. I know it sounds simple and just something you might see anywhere, but it just gave me such a fluttering of happiness. Immediately, this video came to my mind. If you haven't watched it, please do. It will seriously make your heart feel so good:

I wanted to thank that young man for making me feel so happy. I wanted to thank him for working hard, smiling, and being so full of joy. When is the last time I did that? Did my very best work at my job, so hard that I got all super sweaty even on a cold cloudy day, and still had a huge smile on my face, still waved at and interacted with those around me? Has there ever ever been a time when someone has seen me doing my "job" of parenting my four kids and had a spark of joy? Because I want there to be. I want people to think, "Wow, look at that lady with all those kids! She must be so busy, but she looks so happy!" instead of "Wow, look at that poor lady with all those kids! She must be so busy and overwhelmed! I feel sorry for her!" I was so inspired by that young man, and I was so grateful for it. Plus, positive reinforcement is the best way to influence desired behaviors, and I want our society to be full of people like that young man, who work hard and are happy. I wanted to do something. I realized that I had some cash in my wallet, which very, very rarely happens. I decided I would go talk to him and give him a couple bucks. I started getting all shaky and sweaty and nervous as soon as I decided this. What if he were just faking it? What if he was really a jerk and would yell at me? What if he was an alcoholic and would just go binge tonight? Then I remembered that video. I wasn't expecting tears or heartfelt prayers of thankfulness, but by this time I had decided that I was hoping for a chance to do something good, a chance arose, and I needed to take it! So after we ate our food, I took my sleeping Max and confused Evy out of the car and walked over to him. I went up to him, and said something along the lines of, "Hey dude, I just wanted to let you know that you totally made my day, and it makes me so happy to see someone working so hard and doing such a good job and looking so happy, and, um, thanks, and, um, can I give you this?" And I shoved the money into his hand, and said "Have a good day man" (yes that was a direct quote--I'm not so great at thinking during anything the least bit confrontational). He said thanks and gave me a big smile, and I walked away. I was still shaking at least 15 minutes afterwards. I wish I had articulated a little better, and looked him in the eye better, and asked his name, and checked out the sign company's name from his shirt and then call them and tell them how great their employee is. But hopefully he understood, from my super-fast nervous little speech, how happy I was to see someone working hard, being good at what they do, and being happy about their work. That's what I hope to be, and what I hope my kids will be when they grow up. And hopefully he felt a little good, and appreciated.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Starting something new!

The other day I was sitting in our new mint green chair in the entryway, staring at my fabric cupboard, and I decided that I really need to use up some of my fabric. I have all the fabric needed for several quilts that I planned over the years, and for one reason or another never started. I think there are two  big reasons for this: Firstly, that there's not enough time in the day to take care of my kids, house, and husband, and make all the quilts I want. This is OK with me. I know the day will come way too soon when our house is empty and lonely, and I'll have all the time I could possibly want, but will be missing my little ones. The second is that I feel really bad (for some reason) about all the quilts I started in the past but have yet to finish. I decided the other day while contemplating all this that I would rather have a finished top, or a basted quilt that I set aside for months or years, than just a cupboard full of fabric and wishing I had made something. So, I have decided to start slowly finishing up old quilts in the order they were started, and allowing myself to use up fabric, make those things I want to make, and loosen up on my "rules." I mean, quilting is what I do for fun, so why am I forcing myself to work on things I'm not inspired to work on? The other night after all these decisions I drew up a plan for some fabric that I bought at JoAnn a good 4 or 5 years ago, added in a few other prints from my stash, and came up with this:

I was surprised that I really couldn't find any tutorials on a diagonal rectangle quilt. Then I started trying to do the math, and realized why not too many people seem to be doing them. Eventually Scott took over, because I think it was getting frustrating for him to have me keep asking questions from the other room! That might have been what I was hoping for anyway though!

I have no plan for now as to what to do with this quilt, but I assume the perfect recipient will be easily found whenever it's done. I have a few other things I need to work on, and doing life is still a bit slow going for me, but I'm hoping to start this next week or so!

I'm linking up to my friend Diane's blog for her from blank pages linky party! There are some great projects starting up over there!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I finally miscarried on Tuesday. It wasn't nearly as bad as last time, although I almost didn't make it home from picking the kids up from school. I'm hoping to get back to normal soon. I suspect I'm still pretty anemic, so it will probably take a few weeks to get any kind of regular energy back. Thanks to everyone for the meals, groceries, kind words, thoughts, and prayers. We feel and are very grateful for your support!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stuff and Things

Well, I have neglected this blog for quite a while, and mostly it's because the thing that has been filling my mind lately is something I wasn't sure if I wanted to write about. Partly because I'm trying real hard to be positive about stuff, and partly because I think I've gotten to the point where I have about even numbers of people I know in real life and people I've only met through Flickr and such reading this blog. But, this is sorta my journal, so here goes. This will most likely be too much information, and if words like "vaginal ultrasound" are something you don't want to hear, you might want to skip this one.

If things had gone differently, I'd have two babies right now, a couple of weeks old. Instead, I am in the  middle of what seems to be the longest miscarriage ever. I am mostly OK with what happened in December. I'm still sad, I don't know why things happened the way they did, but I'm at peace about it. It was hard and awful, but we survived, and are stronger for it. I'm sure I'll feel the same way about this in 8 months, but for now it is pretty hard.

So, back on July 6, my period was two days late. I did a test, which was negative, and then my period started that day. After ten days of bleeding, we were super worried. Like when I found out I was pregnant with Max, and when I got the positive pregnancy test last time. This time the test was positive. After the awfulness of the surgery and missed ectopic pregnancy last time, I had to find a new doctor. I spent all day calling doctors, asking friends for advice, and totally stressing out. I honestly was kinda mad. Scott & I had discussed just buying a Kaiser plan for me a few weeks before (so I could see my old doctor who I love), and decided not to. I really wanted to, but it's hard to justify choosing to spend an extra $3600 a year when you can have something similar for free. Eventually one of the offices I left a message for called me back, and I went in that afternoon. My new doctor was pretty amazed at how "educated" I was and my giant 3-ring binder with copies of all my records. At this visit we just did an hCG level. It came back at 228. This is so low, we were hoping that maybe I had already mostly miscarried, and this would be a short easy thing. Two days later it was 448, two days after that it was 584, then 3 days later (weekend) it was 1365. I had been talking to my doctor, and they kept saying that it was going up, and almost doubling appropriately, but things could go either way. I had my first ultrasound on July 23. The gestational sac was so small, that the ultrasound couldn't do it's calculation of gestational age--so it measured less than 4 weeks, and should have been 5 1/2. I told the ultrasound tech about last time, with having BOTH an ectopic and a uterine pregnancy, and he was so surprised--he said "so you're one in 50,000!" I had another ultrasound a week later on the 30th, and there was a visible yolk sac, but the gestational sac still only just measured 5 weeks (should have been 6 1/2). I had my next ultrasound two weeks later, on August 13. This time we confirmed that there is no baby--there is a growing mass of tissue, but it's not baby-shaped, there's no heartbeat, nothing. I have my next ultrasound Wednesday the 29th. Basically, all this time I have had the option to a) wait until my body figures out that this isn't a viable pregnancy, b) have a D & C, or c) use Cytotec to convince my body to finish miscarrying on my own. And I am choosing to wait. I can't even read that whole D & C link I put up there. I can't do that unless I'm going to die without it. And Cytotec has all kinds of labels about "DO NOT LET PREGNANT WOMEN EVEN LOOK AT THIS OR THEIR UTERUS WILL EXPLODE!!!" right on the bottle (it's used in animals for other things so I saw plenty of it at work), is used off-label and against the recommendations of the FDA for use in labor, so there's NO WAY I'm doing that.

So. I've been bleeding for 8 1/2 weeks. I've been weak and anemic and nauseous and having mood swings and hot flashes and my hair falling out like crazy for 8 weeks. I've known I am carrying a baby that died a long time ago, and I'm hoping for the painfulness that will mean that it's all over. Some days I feel pretty good, and wash some dishes or something, only to have to spend the rest of the day laying on the couch. It's hard to be ill when you're not laid up in bed, because most of the time you look alright. I've felt bad asking people for help, or accepting help, because I can probably make Mac & Cheese for my kids. I can probably function at 100% about 30% of the time, which is enough to pick my kids up from school and go to church, but not enough to vacuum or go grocery shopping. But I'm grateful for that. I try to do the best I can with the time I feel good every day. There are some days when I don't feel good at all, and I'm stuck in a fog of depression, and can't wait until Scott walks in so I can crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep in the fetal position. I've also been hoping against hope that maybe I haven't miscarried yet because the baby is OK, and all the doctors and ultrasound machines in the world are lame and wrong! But last night I finally gave up. I realized that I should be 11 weeks pregnant. I should have a sizable bump. I should be starting to feel little fluttery baby movements, which are one of the very best feelings in the whole world. And there's nothing there. No hard little mound on my belly, no wiggly baby. Just more waiting.

This is a great article on pregnancy and infant loss, with helpful hints of things to say and do (and not to say or do): Understanding and Supporting Pregnancy Loss: Do's and Do Not's

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yellow Brick Road Quilt Along--Introduction

If you're new here, welcome! I'll be teaching a quilt along and ongoing sewing group at my Church.  We'll be meeting the fourth Thursday of every month at 7:00pm, starting June 28. I'm so excited to get this group up and running! We'll be making the Yellow Brick Road quilt by Atkinson Designs:

This is a fun, easy, great beginner quilt! It's also perfect for those who are more experienced! This is the first quilt I ever made. Well, the first I finished anyway--I started a quilt before this one without any pattern or plan, and, not surprisingly, it still isn't finished, 10 years later! Here's the baby size quilt I made for my son Ben:

And here is my sister Amanda's first quilt--she pieced the top, and I quilted & bound it for her:

This quilt-along will be easy, slow-paced, and have no pressure! Feel free to join in any time, and don't worry if you miss a meeting. Our plan is to have fun, learn something new, and spend time getting to know each other better! I'll be explaining all the steps for making a quilt, and will post a recap here each month, so check back! If you have any questions about any of these posts, please ask in the comments. I will answer there, in case anyone else has the same question!

At our first meeting I am going to be discussing preparing your fabric, pressing, and cutting. Before we get to that, though, you need a pattern and fabric! I would like everyone to purchase their own pattern--the pattern writer worked hard to make this, and this is their livelihood. The pattern itself costs $8-$10. You can buy the pattern locally at Prairie Queens Quilt Shop in San Jose, or online in several places, including Fat Quarter Shop. This pattern has directions for 6 sizes, but I recommend doing either the Baby or Lap size for your first quilt. The goal for your first quilt is not to make a super difficult perfect quilt for your King-sized bed, but to learn how to do it and finish something! The baby size requires 6 different Fat Quarters, and the lap size requires 12.

The next step is fabric selection! This is my favorite part! This pattern uses Fat Quarters. You can usually find single pre-cut Fat Quarters (FQs) in quilt shops and online, as well as bundles of coordinating prints. If you find a fabric that you love on a bolt but the shop won't cut you a FQ, you will need to buy 1/2 yard, and save the other FQ for another project. The way the cutting and piecing directions work for this pattern, you really do have to use FQs. There is an amazing series on fabric selection and quilt design called The Art of Choosing on my friend Jeni's blog, In Color Order

I buy most of my fabric online. There are links to some great shops on Jeni's blog mentioned above, and I often find great prices on etsy.

The fabrics bought at most online shops are high-quality designer fabrics. Be sure to feel fabrics before you buy them at chain stores, though. You can get really good deals at chain stores like Jo-Ann, but some of their cheaper fabrics are very poor quality, which feel rough and have a very loose weave.  Speaking of chain stores, we have a Beverly'sHancock, and Jo-Ann very close by! You should pretty much never buy anything full-price at any of these stores. Sign up for their print & email newsletters, and they will send you sales ads and coupons every month. Everything goes on sale at these places, and they're always sending out 40% or 50% off coupons. Fabric usually costs around $9-$13 a yard, depending on where you get it. It's not exactly a cheap hobby, but if you look around different places and use coupons when you can, it's not too bad! Another thing I really recommend you buy, especially if you're pretty sure this quilting thing is something you're going to want to do often, is a rotary cutter, mat, and ruler (a 6" x 24" ruler is great to start with). You can get these at JoAnn for 50% off all the time. I'll have several available at our meetings if you're not ready to jump in that far yet!

(Photo from

That should have us all set to meet Thursday the 28th! Please bring your pattern & fabric, sewing machine, thread, and a snack or treat to share! 

I'd also like to mention that if you have a quilt you're already working on or already have planned, or any other sort of sewing type thing you'd like help or encouragement with, or just want to bring your mending and spend time with nice people who like sewing, you are more than welcome!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Make your own Color Card! (A Little Tutorial)

Whew! The last 2 weeks have been crazy over here. The entire family has been sick, Scott is getting ready for finals, and things have been stressful! I have a ton of sewing commitments due soon, but haven't had any time to sew due to the aforementioned sicknesses, and I was honestly getting quite stressed out about it! So, the best thing to do in a situation like this is to start a brand new, completely unnecessary project! Yay!

I've been wanting a Kona Color Card for a long time. It would be great to have it on hand when trying to match fabrics, especially since I buy most of my fabric online, and it just doesn't work when you try to hold a piece of fabric up to the computer screen to see which color matches best! Last year I was in the Pink Chalk Monthly Solids Club, where each month I got a mystery bundle of solid fat quarters. I kept thinking I should make myself my own card. I didn't want to buy one, since that would mean $20 less for my fabric-buying budget, and also the club sent solids from Moda Bella and Free Spirit also, which wouldn't be included on the Kona card. Anyway, I finally decided to do a kind of paint chip sort of dealie. This way I can add to it whenever I get any new colors, and I can carry it in my purse to the store. So, here's what you need to make your own: (Sorry if the pictures are blurry. I took them inside at night while holding a moving baby!)

--A glue stick
--5" square ruler (any size is really fine, it's just easier with this size)
--Rotary cutter with pinking blade or pinking shears
--A bunch of 3" x 5" index cards
--Paper scissors
--All your solids!
--Some kind of ring dealie to hold your finished cards (I started with that plastic star one, then got the bracelet in the first pic from Joann for $1.29. What I really want is one of those big giant circle ones that Wardens in all movies have.)

So, first measure 2.5" in from the sides of your index card and cut them in half with your paper scissors.

 Next cut a 2" square out of each of your fabrics using your pinking blade. Remember that the blade has width, so keep that in mind when lining up for your first cuts. You also have to push a lot harder with a pinking blade than a regular-type blade.

Apply glue to your card, and then stick your fabric to it.

Write the color on there with your Sharpie! I decided to write the name on the back, so that it didn't get distracting. I was also worried about writing on the fabric, having the letters hidden by the fabric, or the hole puncher taking a bite out of the letters. I did each card one at a time, because I didn't want to get confused as to which color was which. I did 52 all in one sitting though!

I wrote some favorite fabric lines that I've already figured out coordinate on the backs also, in case I ever am wondering what color to use again.

Punch a hole in the top, and you're done! Have fun playing with new color combinations!

All neat & tidy!

I was planning to sew these on and just use the glue to hold them in place, but so far they are holding up really well, and I was worried that the color of the thread would be too distracting. Sometimes it's so hard to match up colors exactly, and a jagged line of white thread seemed like it would make things worse! I cut a bunch of extra cards and put all my supplies somewhere I'll remember (on the top shelf of my sewing corner) so I can remember to make a new card next time I get a new solid! I'd love to see yours, so please come back and leave me a link in the comments if you make one!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

29 Random Things

Well, last week was my 29th Birthday! Here are 29 random things!

1. I have four kids, and I am convinced they are the best kids ever.

2. My husband and I met in High School. He won me over with his awesome hackey-sack skills, knowledge of Weezer lyrics, and (more honestly) the fact that he was a respectful, funny, good person. 
Also his family is the best.

3. I got a My Little Pony for my third birthday, and I have loved horses ever since.

4. I love Jane Austen. I think my favorites are Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice, then Sense & Sensibility. The others are good too, although I don't read them as often.

5. I had my last two children "naturally," without any drugs, after rather awful experiences with my first two. SO much better.

6. When I was in elementary school I had 3 pet gophers. I saved them from the field at my school (the maintenance guy was flooding all the tunnels) and kept them in a 60 gallon fishtank half-full of dirt so I could see their tunnels.

7. I also had fish, frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, lizards, snakes, mice, rabbits, and cats growing up. I told my dad that my kittens climbed in my open bedroom window and moved in. That was a lie. (sorry Dad!) I actually got one from a neighbor and the other showed up in my best friend's backyard.

8. I have all of the original Thundercats comic books.

9. I'm a very happy person. I love my life, my family, my faith, my friends, and my hobbies.

10. I've decided to learn to play piano this year. I played flute for a long time (although very poorly) so I've had a hard time teaching my brain about bass clef. 

11. I really love everything about quilting, from buying fabric, to planning quilts, to the actual work of cutting, sewing, and quilting. I sew almost every day.

12. Some of my favorite movies are Star Wars, Robin Hood (Disney Version), and Moulin Rouge.

13. I don't watch scary movies. I seriously can't handle them.

14. My favorite color has been purple for as long as I can remember.

15. I love Fall. So crispy cold, and blustery, and it just makes me want to curl up in front of a fire with a book and hot chocolate and a nice blanket. 

16. I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) when I was 18. 

17. I haven't worn any makeup ever since my Senior Prom.

18. I love the rare occasions when I'm in the car alone and can turn the music up super loud and sing along!

19. I have one younger sister, who is hilarious and beautiful and awesome.

20. I was a vet tech at an animal shelter before I quit to stay home full time. I've also worked at an emergency animal hospital, and daytime vet clinic, a horse ranch, a tack store, a pet superstore, and a burger restaurant.

21. I spent every summer through high school at my Mom's house in Sacramento, with no air conditioning. That city is not my friend.

22. I would love to have a little farm some day. My kids think it's a bad idea because they think they would have to wake up super early and work hard all day long. Scott thinks it's a bad idea because he doesn't like animals. I'm pretty sure I can still win though.

23. I'm a little bit claustrophobic, and don't do well in super crowded malls and grocery stores. It's not just the close space or commotion, it's trying to do things in those spaces, like change a crying baby in an airplane bathroom or buy groceries in a crowded store with three or four kids all talking and crying at once that freaks me out. That's normal, right?

24. I can drive a manual transmission, and two of my cars were manuals. Since those are dying out and there's very little chance of me ever needing that skill again, I'm secretly hoping for some sort of Jason Bourne-style chase scene to happen in my life where I save the day by being the only one around who can drive the Ferrari.

25. I used to be kind of a punk/skater chick. I was pretty terrible at skateboarding, but I could Ollie up a curb, which I thought was pretty great.

26. When thinking of names for my kids, I wanted them all to sound good as royalty, just in case. Prince William, Princess Evaline, Emperor Maximus, King Benjamin. You never know, so I didn't want to stick them with something that would sound ridiculous if the need arose.

27. I've only gotten my hair cut by a professional twice in my life. Once when I was 8 and once in high school. My Grandpa always cut it when I was a kid, I did it later on, and Scott does it now. I can't handle my hair being in my face, so it's always up, so I've never cared!

28. This was my Tasha dog. She was the best. I had her for over a decade, and she was the sweetest friend.

29. I've felt so young for so long, it's weird to be almost 30. Every where I go people are amazed that I got married so young, had kids so young, already have so many kids even though I'm so young. Maybe I'll just take it all as a compliment! 

Me at about 2 years old

Will's portrait of me a few months ago

Me and Evy last week

Hopefully you all don't think I'm a crazy person now! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Failure

Last week, I finished this quilt. And I hate it.

I started this a really long time ago, when a friend was pregnant. Her baby is now almost a year old! Oops. I saw the backing fabric (Parisville by Tula Pink) and I thought it would be awesome as a whole cloth quilt--just that print on one side and lavender Minky on the other. Then I saw the scallop stripe print, and got this great idea of borders with mitered corners. I worked on the blocks when we visited my in-laws last July, and got really discouraged. Mitered borders are hard. And use a LOT of fabric. I made 5 blocks, and ran out of fabric, and did NOT want to make any more. I put it away for a few months, because I just couldn't handle it! I got it out again, and decided to just put something else in there with the blocks, and came up with that blue from Joann's. It matches perfectly, but it's just too much! I used my last little bit of fabric for the back, basted it, and put it away for a few more months. Then Angela started Project UFO, so I got it out again. I finally decided to quilt it in this great Big Diamond, Little Diamond pattern from Film in the Fridge. I even used a BLACK Crayola Washable marker to mark my lines--honestly, I couldn't really like it any less, so who cares if there are black lines all over it?

 The lines washed out perfectly, without a trace, surprisingly. 

Anyway, the point of this is that I made this here thing, which I thought would look great, and I really just don't like it at all. To the point that I'm too embarrassed to give it to my friend. I'll be donating it to the charity that my quilting bee donates to, My Very Own Blanket. Because that way, I'll know some little baby in foster care will be getting a quilt that will be just for them, but I won't have to hand it to anyone and see the look on their face when they see it.

After feeling pretty lame about this and two other disaster quilts I've been working on, I read something that made me feel SO much better. I'm reading this great book, Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes. There is a section about having realistic expectations of your abilities in art, and understanding that just as you have to learn how to run or ride a bike or anything else, you also have to learn how to create art.

"Like the rest of us, professional artists are often dissatisfied with their work. Knowing this, we ought to give ourselves and the children we work with the freedom to be dissatisfied and to learn from experience. When an adult beginner doesn't like his or her first couple of drawings, he tends to throw them away and conclude he has no ability. When a child tells an adult she doesn't like something about her drawing, it is quite common for the adult to begin praising the drawing and trying to talk the child into liking it. If you do this, you rob a child of the ability to solve problems and develop creative thinking skills. When I was learning to play the flute no one was surprised when I hit wrong notes or tried to tell me how wonderful it sounded. Our society is totally unrealistic about what to expect of beginning drawers. We have created an unwillingness to take risks and to enjoy the process of learning."

This made me feel much better about my failures. I attempted this quilt without any real plan, measurements, a drawing, or anything, and it didn't work out. Now I know that if I'm going to work without a pattern, I need to draw everything out on graph paper and have Scott do the math. Which led to this piece of amazingness:

Seriously the coolest thing I've ever made. 
(photo courtesy Hilary Reimers)

So it's a learning experience for quilting, and that book gave me some great insight into parenting. Double high five!

Photo shoot out-take!