Friday, April 25, 2014

my truth: I am 1 in 4

During college I attended a production of The Vagina Monologues in which my roommate had a role. I went with a group of friends and enjoyed the show. The end included some brief statistics - like the fact that one in four females is sexually abused or assaulted in her lifetime.
The speaker then addressed the audience, asking for victims of sexual abuse to stand. The number of people - mostly women - standing in that theater was a bit staggering. I remained seated. 
I should have been standing. 

Because I am that statistic: 
I am one in four. 

It's something that took me a long time to come to terms with, to get past. And at that point back in college, the thought of admitting that was me? It was too much. I was too embarrassed. Why would I want my friends to know that about me?

I am reminded of an episode of Oprah (oh how I miss you on TV, Opes!). Oprah, as a victim of sexual abuse as a child herself, did quite a few shows on the subject during her television reign. This particular show featured three different sexual abusers. All had abused children. All were serving prison sentences. All three were on the show to speak of their crimes to shed some light on how they were able to do what they did, with the hope that parents could arm themselves with information to help prevent this heinous thing from happening to their own children. 

One of the abusers was speaking of his much younger cousin that he had abused: 
"I killed someone. I killed the person that she was supposed to become."

At the time, and even now, that really made sense to me. 

I will never know the person I would have been. 
In a way that person died when I was 7 years old. 
How much differently would I have turned out if I could have continued a blissfully innocent childhood? If years of my childhood hadn't been dedicated to keeping a secret and worrying constantly? 
Thinking back to that sad, anxious little girl who spent night after night for years pacing the upstairs hallway, waiting for the perfect moment to share that painful, horrible, ugly secret... it just makes me sad for her. My heart breaks for her.

But now, some 20 odd years later, I am not that little girl.
I know that the embarrassment and shame I carried around for so long wasn't ever mine to begin with. After years of tears and therapy and gradual self-awareness, I am at a place of forgiveness. I can't change what happened to me all those years ago, but I can try my hardest to prevent it from happening to my own kids.


So why am I bringing this all up now?
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Throughout this month I have seen a lot of info about ways parents can help protect their own children. So much of it was great, easy to implement teaching and tips so I wanted to pass some along. Because I know as parents our main goal for our children is that they be safe, happy, and healthy.

A couple stats.
  • It's estimated 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
  • 93% of juvenile victims know their abuser.

Teach your children the proper names for their body parts.
A vagina is a vagina. A penis is a penis. 
Teaching kids the proper names for their private parts helps them understand that while our privates are private, they aren't so private that children cannot talk about them. Also this gives kids the proper language so they can ask questions or communicate concerns should they have any.

Let children decide who can touch them.
Children are in control of their bodies and shouldn't be forced into situations they don't want to be in. So yeah, is it a tiny bit awkward when Junior refuses to give Grandma Caroline a kiss goodbye? Probably. But teaching kids that they shouldn't be pressured into personal contact against their will increases the chances that they will refuse or report other less-benign contact that makes them uncomfortable. 

Everyone has the right to privacy.
Just as kids should respect others' right to privacy, they also deserve privacy. Children need to know that no one should be touching their private parts without permission.

We don't keep secrets.
There is a big difference between a surprise and a secret. A surprise is something we keep from someone for a short amount of time - like a birthday present. A secret is different. Many abusers pressure their victims to "keep a secret." Tell your children that you never expect them to keep a secret from you, especially if it is something that makes them uncomfortable. 

Don't have just one big "talk"
Make sexual education a non-taboo topic in your house.
If you start talking to your kids at a young age - meaning starting at age 3 - and keep the dialogue open, adding new information as is appropriate, it should be much less awkward than you would imagine. 
Kids follow our cues. If we act uncomfortable or avoid the subject, they will know it isn't something to be talked about. You want your kids to be able to come talk to you, especially on a topic as important as this. The more accurate information your kids are armed with, the more likely they are to realize when a situation is inappropriate and come talk to you about it. 
Good information on how to start the conversation can be found at No Place Like Home

Be available.
Tell your children that they can come talk to you about anything.
Emphasize that whether it is good, bad, fun, sad, difficult or easy to talk about, you will be there to listen. And follow through.

Be involved.
Know as much as possible about your child's life. 
Know their coaches. Know their friends. Know their friends' parents. Know other adults that your child might talk to or confide in. Ask about what they did at school or while playing with friends. Know the kind of television shows they watch and the video games they play.

Know the signs
Many kids who have been abused or are being abused exhibit signs that adults might pick up on. Withdrawal or clingy behavior, bedwetting, angry outbursts, sexualized play, sleeping problems, a change in eating habits, or fear of new people and places are all signs that could point toward possible abuse. In older children or teens the signs can include drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, depression, and even attempts at suicide. Even if you aren't a parent yourself, it is helpful to know what to look for. Teachers, coaches, daycare providers, or just friends and family members can benefit from knowing this information and potentially make all the difference in a child's life.

None of these tips is a guarantee to keep your child safe from harm, but hopefully they will be a starting block to help us begin to protect our kids. 

Links and references

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday randoms

Using some of the money given to Bailey at her last birthday, we bought her a new bike. It arrived yesterday afternoon by UPS and Jared put it together without her knowing it had even arrived.
The look on her face when she was surprised with it was priceless.
Pure excitement.
And of course we had to take it out for a quick spin.
As you can see, it is a Disney princess-themed bike.
Jared asked in an exasperated sort of way, "Does everything have to be princesses?!"
Clearly the answer is yes.

This morning the kids and I hosted our Wednesday play group at our house. 
Princess dress-up was a big hit, especially since Graham was the sole male in attendance. 
Here are some of the playgroup kids minus a few.

And some other random photos from the past week or so (because I have nothing else of value to add):







Tuesday, April 22, 2014

easter 2k14

Easter is probably my favorite holiday.
So much more laid back than Christmas, plus the weather is (usually) nicer too.  There are no shopping trips to make or presents to buy, just a bag of candy and some cheap plastic eggs are all that's required. 

Speaking of cheap plastic eggs, last week was a constant game of hide and seek with those colorful plastic suckers. Someone would hide them and the rest would find them. It was good practice apparently. Even Graham was good at retrieving eggs this year.




At this particular egg hunt they were giving out scooters and bikes through a random drawing. All the kids and parents were gathered around waiting to hear the names called. After one or two names were called, we asked Bailey to be quiet since she was making a lot of noise. It went a little something like this:

Jared:  Bailey, you have to be quiet so we can hear the names.
Bailey: Okay. When are they going to call my name?
Jared:  We don't know if they will call your name. 
           Not everyone's name can be picked. 
           There is just one more name to be drawn for your age.
Bailey: Okay I will listen for when they call my name.
Jared:  Not everyone can win. They might not call your name, okay?
Bailey: *nonchalantly* I think I am going to win. They will call my name. 
   ** ten seconds go by **
Announcer: Bailey Solko! Bailey Solko come claim your prize!

Bailey gives her dad and me the toddler equivalent of an I-told-ya-so look as she scampers up to collect her winnings.

And with that, Bailey won herself a scooter.

On Saturday we had supper at my Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Ronnie's house with family. My grandma hid eggs for the kids and had little goody bags for them to take home. I ate way too much dessert - my usual holiday tradition.

That night the Easter bunny outdid herself. Eggs were packed full of candy and hidden around the house. 
And let me tell ya, it took about ten times longer to fill and hide those eggs than it did for the kids to find them Sunday morning! 
I actually woke before the girls and heard Avery whispering to Bailey, "Sister. Sister. Wake up, the sun is already awake! It's time to get up!" Her attempts would have been in vain but Bailey spied some eggs in the hallway and remembered it was Easter morning. Within ten minutes all the eggs were collected and candy wrappers were already littering the floor. Success.


We dressed up for church and met my family there.
The older they get, the harder it is to capture a decent photo of these little clowns.
We also attempted a family picture later, but you can see for yourself how well that went. Hey, at least no one is screaming/fighting/bawling in the photo. That is a win, right?






I really love going to church on Easter Sunday.
And there is something about attending the service in the tiny little church I was raised in. 
I know all the songs. 
I see all the same friendly faces that I have known my whole life. 
It is comforting. 
And I really love that Bailey told me this week, "Jesus died so that we could live."
(To which Avery responded with, "And then he comes back to hide eggs!")

After church we gathered - just our immediate family - at my parent's house. Since we did the traditional ham route the day before, we grilled instead. We ate more dessert. We played a board game. We started to plan a family vacation for next Christmas. 
Naps were taken, but alas, not by me.  

It was a relaxing day for everyone, especially one little boy who quickly learned the freedom that is not wearing pants. 
(He takes after his aunt Justy. Okay... and his mom back in her skinnier days.)
Graham with Grandma Sherri and Great Papa Lyle

We spent the late afternoon outside, in a way reminiscent of many of my own childhood afternoons - driving motorized vehicles around the farm with zero purpose other than the thrill of riding something with its own engine. 
So maybe this was a country Easter.
Or perhaps even a redneck Easter?
No matter. It was good day in my book, one spent with my favorite people.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Parents' night out

Jared and I escaped our normal routine this past Monday. With our children entrusted to Justy's care, we headed to a local casino/resort. (Although "resort" is really pushing it in my opinion.) We each signed up for a player's card at a concert a few months back and for doing so they rewarded us with a free night's stay in their hotel.
We weren't gonna turn that down!



We arrived, checked in, and went to eat dinner. After eating we went down to the casino.
Neither Jared or I are big gamblers. We are content to spend 20 or 30 bucks knowing it is purely entertainment, so we are happy if we break even. We also aren't the most educated gamblers either. We know the basics - blackjack rules and how to pull the slot machine lever.

Since it was a Monday night, the place was essentially deserted. No one was at the craps table so we walked up and asked if they would teach us how to play. They did and we had fun. An hour later we walked away with an extra $60 and some new gaming knowledge. 

We tried out some other machines and lost a combined twenty bucks. Then I tried out a penny slot. 
And lo and behold, I actually won a little bit more!
Not a huge amount of money, but a hundred bucks is big winnings for me. It's been years since I've won more than $10, which shouldn't be a shock since we gamble maybe once a year.

We got to stay up late, sleep in without being woken by needy little people, and eat a delicious breakfast I didn't have to cook. Plus we won money! 
A very successful night away.

Friday, April 11, 2014

G Man

Try and tell me this isn't just the cutest little face you have ever seen!
*I may be slightly biased.*


Graham is currently 16 months old. This developmental stage is amazing to me. 
In the past month he has changed so much. 

He now feeds himself independently - pretty well actually - with a spoon. And man, does this kid eat! Since he stopped nursing last month, he has an enormous appetite. I swear he has gained five pounds in a month!

He has somewhere in the range of 30-40 words: bite and milk and dog are his favorites.

His personality shows even more. This kid knows what he wants.

He still climbs on everything, but is better about getting down without making his mother fear he has a concussion. 

He knows when he is in trouble. Just last weekend he hit me because he was mad. After telling him no and making it clear that hitting is unacceptable, he hung his head and wouldn't make eye contact. About 15 seconds later he lunged at me for a hug and gave me one of his open-mouthed kisses. 
Clearly that was Graham for I'm sorry, something he picked up from seeing his sisters have to apologize after time-outs.

The way he plays sort of astonishes me. I am sure it is because he has two big sister examples to model it for him, but it is still cute to watch. It melted my heart to see him pick up a baby doll, go get a tiny blanket for it, wrap it up, and then make rocking motions while holding it tightly against his tiny chest.  Adorable. 

He is still a huge thumb sucker and I don't see that stopping any time soon.

I am excited for summer to see him experience more and more new things now that he is walking and running and exploring - not just putting every single thing he finds into his mouth (ie: dirt and bugs).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

55 years

My grandma Connie and grandpa Lyle celebrated 55 years of marriage yesterday.

April 5th, 1959
Lytton, Iowa

We went to visit them yesterday morning, the kids, Justy, and I. We brought donuts and my grandparents always have coffee. I wanted to hear some details. As I get older I am starting to realize what a gift it is to have my grandparents close and - let's face it - alive. This world is an uncertain place, and I am lucky to have all four of my grandparents alive and well. How cool is it that my kids get to know my own grandparents?

Anyway, I wanted to hear about their wedding. 
A wedding in 1959 was a very different affair. One might say the focus was more about the marriage, not the wedding itself. After the ceremony they had a small reception at their church. No outrageous catering costs, no DJ or dance. 
Although knowing Grandma, she would have torn. it. up.
When asked about their honeymoon, my grandma said they spent two days in Cedar Rapids at my grandpa's buddy's place. She rolled her eyes in my grandpa's direction. "Not exactly my idea of a honeymoon."
Sounds about right for these two.


Romantic honeymoon or no, here they are 55 years later - 
"still putting up with each other" as they have been known to say. 

Happy Anniversary Grandma Connie and Papa Lyle. We love you both. ♥

Friday, April 4, 2014

Goodnight light and the red balloon

I'm an avid reader, have been as far back as I can remember. I love books. I love reading. And so does Jared. So naturally we would love to instill the love of reading in our children.

We read a lot of books at our house.
Pete the Cat is particularly huge right now.
I think both Jared and I have quite a few books memorized.
And of course we have a few books that accidentally get shoved to the far reaches of the bookcase on occasion...

Graham is particularly in love with Goodnight Moon.
We read it to both girls when they were babies too. Neither seemed overly excited about it.

But it is clearly Graham's favorite. If I tell him to go grab a book, he inevitably sifts through (ie: dumps out) the basket of board books in search of his beloved copy of Goodnight Moon.

It's barely holding on. 
I've had to resort to clear packing tape to hold the spine together. Some pages have also seen their fair share of tape and the cover is constantly being bent in half by little hands. 

But he loves it.

He loves turning the pages.
He loves hearing me say the word moon.
And he loves the pages with the kittens especially. He points to them and smiles his goofy Graham smile. And then he attempts his version of "meow" which sounds more like the typical response to "What does a cow say?" than the sound of an actual kitten.

I love that when I mention anything about books, he lights up and says, "Moon!" and tears off across the house to grab his book.

It sort of reminds me of another child, one who also had her own all-time favorite book...
Bailey loved Bubbles Bubbles - a cheap Sesame Street book that was purchased from the $1 section at Target.
To this day I can still recite it all.
Bubbles bubbles on my nose.
Bubbles bubbles on my toes.
Bubbles bubbles in my hair.
Bubbles bubbles everywhere!

It made such an impression that one of her first words was bubbles, which was particularly adorable to her father and me. She loved that book so much that it was pretty much worn out by her first birthday. I went to replace it - can't beat a dollar book! - and I couldn't find it anywhere. When I finally found it months later, I bought another three or four copies. Just 'cause.

With Graham now approaching a year and a half of age, we are leaving some of the simple board books behind. We are finding some new favorites (Pete the Cat and his different colored shoes, anyone?), but the girls still enjoy a quick reading of Elmo and his friends and their bubble rhymes.



Maybe Graham just has a thing for moons?

What are some of your kids' favorite books?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sisters' Night Out: Year 2

This past weekend my three sisters and I met up in Des Moines for a little mini shopping excursion, also known as our yearly Sisters' Weekend.

Justy and I carpooled.
And I now know way more of Eminem's discography than your average stay-at-home-mom.
We are clearly a couple of wannabe bad-asses.

We arrived a few hours before Fe and Beaner, and we ended up spending close to two hours in Sephora. I had never stepped foot in the place before and had a lot of different things I wanted to try out - lipsticks especially. I am never sure what actually looks good. And all three of my sisters are lipstick virgins, so they are no help. I think I tried on like ten or so, and by the end, I looked like a 12 year-old who had been using her hand for hours of kissing practice.

I ended up buying two: a pink shade 
and an orchid shade. (The color of the year, don't cha know?)
Lipstick is new for me, but I am liking it so far.

After our other two sisters arrived, we completed some more shopping. 
I found a pair of Toms that I really liked. But when I tried them on, they felt really tight. The salesman assured me that it was normal and guaranteed me they would stretch out and be very comfortable within an hour. So with that I wore them out of the store.
.....And wore my old shoes back in an hour and a half later, Toms boxed back up.
I am always told I have a high-instep, but damn those shoes were horribly uncomfortable on my feet!
I wasn't too torn up about it as I found a knock-off pair at Payless for $17.
They won't last nearly as long, but they also aren't causing me pain. 
So I am calling that one a win, despite the fact that I felt like a bit of a moron returning them the same day I bought them. 

After shopping we hit up a local sports bar, watching a basketball game and discussing topics inappropriate for a normal restaurant. Usually some movie quotes are thrown in and much harassment takes place. This time was no exception.

Honest to God, I hope we are all hanging out in our 80s and still cracking jokes about my bossiness, Fe's frugal tendencies, Beaner's anxiety, and Justy's indecisiveness.
I would really love that.
Childhood stories involving the green van without shocks and riding the bean bar will be more than welcome too.


Whenever we get together for stuff like this, we always attempt a group shot. 
And we very rarely get anything too great. 
Someone always has a double chin, weird hair, or crazy eyes. So these next two are as close to quality as we ever get.

late night Perkins run.... Clearly the glasses seemed like a good idea at the time.

**And some of the outtakes, which are probably entertaining only to us.**
the opposite side hair flip
someone looks stoned
Yep, there I go, messing up a potentially good one
it's getting a bit out of hand
I think we are done here.

So yeah, anyway...
Our hotel room was pretty nice. 
I had quite a few Mango-ritas, and they were surprisingly delicious. And potent.
Thankfully the pre-teens vacated the pool area in time for us to enjoy the hot tub in peace. (Aka: laugh obnoxiously, play explicit music, and drink banned alcoholic substances.)

One of the best parts of the whole trip might have been sitting in the hotel breakfast area drinking coffee and chatting about everything and nothing for the better part of two hours. 
Whenever we get together like this it always strikes me just how different we are and yet how freakishly the same we all are too. 
And thank God for that; someone needs to recite and/or recognize obscure Billy Madison quotes! 
....Miss Lippy's car is green....
Luckily for me I have three highly qualified sisters who meet that requirement and I am happy to do the same for them.
Love you, my fellow Ellis girls!  :)