Sunday, May 1, 2016

Birth Control

Yesterday BeYoYo took a longer than usual nap after The Boy's soccer game. At one point I heard him talking on the monitor but then it was quiet again, so I figured he'd fallen back asleep. When he woke up for real, I went up to go get him. I was on the stairs on my way up when I could smell what happened. It was stanky.

I opened the door of his room and was assaulted with the smell of poop. It was like a thick cloud pushing me back out of the room, and BeYoYo laughed at my physical reaction. I asked him if he poopooed, and he smiled. I pulled up the back of his shirt to look (why?) and saw poop not only in his diaper, but also up his back and on his shirt. Gag.

We don't really use his changing table anymore because he's Frank the Tank, but I needed something that could be washed easily, so I carried him at arm's distance to it. When I laid him down on the too-little changing table I noticed there was also poop on his hand. A lot of poop. On his hand. Dried. I think he'd done the ole poop scoop during nap. GAG. He laughed at my gag. And then I saw poop on his chin. GAAAAG. He looked like some Lifetime story of a feral child raised by wolves and never socialized with humans. In the movie he'd walk on all fours and forage with the pack for meat and shelter, and the pack would love him like their own. I think they'd call it Beyoyo's Journey.



I called The Husband on speakerphone. It was a code brown situation.

Where are you??
-On my way home.
But where?
-About to turn on our road. Why?
BeYoYo played in his poop at nap and I need reinforcement.
-Awesome.

I wiped the poop butt and tossed the diaper. I pulled off the shirt and shorts and tossed them in the laundry. I wiped off his back, and carried him at a distance to the tub. He cried that he wanted his brother in the bath with him, but I didn't dare add anyone to this bath.

The Husband came in to help. He asked what I needed.
"Well, someone needs to empty the trash in his room. And open a window! And pull the cover off the changing pad and put it in the wash. Do you want to do that or bathe him?"
"What about the sheet?" he asked.
"I haven't had a chance to check it yet." I told him.
-"I'll bathe him" he said, clearly weighing his options.
"Okay.... And there's poop on his hand and his chin" I added as I walked out of the bathroom.

I went in his room and took the trash out first. I turned on the fan and opened a window. I tossed the changing pad in the hamper with his clothes, and went to the bed. There was poop on the quilt. There was poop on the sheet. There was poop on the pillowcase. I stripped it all off and tossed it in the hamper, and took the hamper down to put in the washer. The Husband finished washing him and put some fresh clothes on him. Then The Husband sprayed Lysol everywhere he could think of and lit every candle in our house. So then it smelled like Lysol and fresh meadows and vanilla and autumn breeze all at once. And also poop.

Several hours later our neighbors came over to grill out with us. I was taking my neighbor upstairs to show her something and The Husband yelled "don't let her go up there! It smells like poop!"

Here is my lesson for the day: if you think you might be ready to have children, light a bunch of candles with competing scents until you've got a migraine, and don't let your neighbors into parts of your house. Once you've got that sensory scenario playing out, imagine what it would be like to clean up someone else's poop from multiple surfaces in your home (it's not true when people say it's not as bad when it's your kids). Then invite two small monkeys in to run around while all of this is happening. If you don't feel like you're ready for this scenario, please practice safe sex. It could happen to you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Anniversary

Yesterday was our anniversary. Eight years of marriagedom in the books. It was a lovely day.

The day before, I'd given The Husband his anniversary gift. I told him "it has a theme: favorites for my favorite." It was his favorite snacks, candle, t-shirt, socks, BBQ spices and running accessories. Later he and The Boy went to the store and came back with a gift for me. He said "It has a name. It's called....uh...things you love.....for the....one I love." He's very creative in that way.

Yesterday he also gave me 12 coupons he'd created that read " this certificate entitles the holder to one session of talking about feelings". The fine print includes "not redeemable for cash. Redemption value not to exceed one hour." He knows the way to my heart.

I guess when they went to the store they picked out some Reese's Pieces for me (my favorite), and decided they were a surprise. So at 6:15 I was asleep but in the distance heard The Boy's feet running down the steps. He then slung open the door to our room, ran to my side of the bed, and flung the Reese's Pieces bag on my back in excitement, saying "happy anniversary!" You can't say that guy isn't full of surprises. We got up and fixed everyone breakfast.

The Husband worked. I played with the boys and cleaned the house. (That's not actually true, because it was no cleaner in the afternoon than it had been in the morning. I just cleaned up after them and kept the status quo and made no actual progress on anything looking cleaner. I just mostly maintained. Which, by the way, takes a lot of effort.)

In the afternoon our neighbors came over to see if The Boy wanted to go down to the creek with them. He did. So off he went with them, happy as a clam. And a bit later I got this text:

That's exactly why he loves to go to the creek. And that's a t-rex I facepainted on him earlier, at his request. And also some of it is mud and some is nutella.

When he came back I hosed him off and he put his jeans back on. His shirt was soaked, so he decided not to wear a shirt. The neighbors cleaned up and came back to see if he could jump on their trampoline. He told everyone "I'm not wearing a shirt. Know why? Cause I don't have to, because boys' breasts aren't their privacies!" No one responded to this. I sat chatting with our neighbor, who Beyoyo calls Gretchy, on her porch while the kids played and their dinner burned inside. Oops, sorry about that.

The Boy came up to me and asked if he could eat dinner at their house. I told him no, because their dinner was burnt anyway. Prissy came over and got their dogs all riled up and she wouldn't go home, so the boys and I said our goodbyes and headed home. The Husband and I had a date night planned, and a sitter would be coming soon anyway.

The Boy was disgusting, so we put him right in the bath. The Husband started vacuuming. Beyoyo walked around the house holding my phone and saying "cheese!" even though the camera wasn't on. I was getting the boys' dinner of fish sticks and cheez its ready (because nutrition) when The Boy started yelling from the bathtub "mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy!" Now he does this about 100 times a day, so I knew it could be anything from a small kitchen fire to a lego head that wouldn't fit on just right. I made my way quickly into the bathroom to see what the emergency was, and saw Beyoyo trying to get in the tub fully dressed. I asked him not to do that, just as one shoe and a pant leg were completely submerged. The Boy said "mom, Beyoyo is putting your phone in the bath." PANIC at the disco. I grabbed the phone and grabbed Beyoyo and thanked The Boy for telling me.

I yelled to The Husband to come for backup, and handed one very wet and mad toddler to him. "Bath! Bath! BATH!" he wailed. I dried off the phone, which was still working, if you don't mind big colorful streaks across your screen. I scanned the pantry for rice and found none, and ran out the door back to our neighbor's house. She came to the door and I asked "do you have any rice? Beyoyo put my phone in the tub and I couldn't text you." She scanned her pantry and found none. "Hmmm." she said "Would quinoa do?" as she handed me a bag of ancient grains. I told her it was better than nothing and called out "thanks Gretchy!" over my shoulder as I headed home.

A few minutes later the sitter arrived. The Boy was naked on the bathroom floor, covered in a towel and pretending to be a turtle. Beyoyo was in his high chair eating fish sticks and rolling his eyes at anyone who would look at him. I gave the sitter instructions and told her to text The Husband if she needed anything, since my phone was in quinoa on the counter.

And then we left. We had a most delicious dinner where we didn't even talk about our kids, we went to a bar where a friend was working to enjoy a drink, and we walked around hand in hand downtown the way we did 10 years ago. We didn't know any of the bands that were playing and we sounded like old people when we noted that a college girl's shorts were too short. Then we came home to relieve the sitter. She said the boys were good, and that The Boy didn't eat any dinner but wanted crackers before bed. She asked him if he was allowed to have crackers and he said "you're in charge."

My phone wouldn't turn on. I'd been up since 6:15 and was tired. My kid had crackers for dinner, with a side of wisecrack for a sitter. They are exhausting, they are filthy, they are loud and they are nonstop, but I sure do appreciate them. Especially when there's a sitter involved. When I told The Husband what my most meaningful moments over the last 8 years had been and asked him what his were, he said I'd need to submit one of my coupons if I wanted to talk about feelings.



Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fools

Y'all know I love a good prank. Like this one. Or this classic one. So naturally I love April Fool's Day. This is the first year The Boy has been REALLY old enough to understand it, and turns out he loves it too. This morning when he woke up he came tearing in our room, yelling "mama! Mama! Come upstairs! Come look at my door!" When I tried to interrupt him he wouldn't let me. "No, mama. You have to come and see what's on my (bedroom) door. Somebody put something on there and I couldn't get out!" I told him it was me that saran wrapped his door frame, and reminded him it was April Fool's Day. He laughed. I asked him what he thought when he saw it, and he said "I was karate chopping it and I couldn't break it and I had to crawl under it!" He also said he thought maybe his elf on a shelf did it.

That was the official start to the day. Breakfast spelled out April Fool's, and the milk had eyes. He thought it was all hilarious, and he helped me make The Husband a chai disguised as coffee. The Husband totally saw it coming and wouldn't drink it but played along. Then The Boy earned enough stars on his chart to earn a prize, and I sent him to choose something from the prize bag. "Moooom!" he yelled "there are POTATOES in here! I HATE potatoes!"



The Boy chose to wear a Halloween skeleton sweatshirt today as a prank(?), so I said of course. Then I carried out my best prank of the day. Before The Husband took a shower I unscrewed the shower head, added a bouillon cube, and screwed it back in. In my haste to not get caught I (accidentally) left the bouillon wrapper on the counter. When he came in the bathroom he said "hon, you been eating bouillon in the bathroom??" "You got me!" I said. I told him that was my prank.

He showered and I could hardly stand how excited I was. He got out of the shower and asked "what were you REALLY doing with that bouillon cube?" I told him it was in the trash. He was suspicious but I didn't let on because I didn't want him getting back in the shower to rinse off in clean water. He went about getting ready for his day, then we loaded up the kids in his truck as he got ready to take them to school. I walked to his side of the car to kiss him goodbye and said "oh hon....you bathed in bouillon." The look on his face...was magical. "How????" he asked, his voice rising. I told him that I'd put it in the shower head and he immediately started smelling himself. "Just great" he said as they drove off. I was proud about this the rest of the day. He posted a facebook status saying I'd been arrested, and even that couldn't throw me off my game.

At work I told a colleague that we had a pest infestation and would have to relocate our office temporarily. On my way home I called The Husband to see what he wanted to do for dinner, and then mid-sentence I threw in some choice words and told him I'd just been rear-ended, and hung up. At dinner I told The Boy that Cracker Barrel was out of pancakes.

Then, when we were at dinner The Husband told me he wanted to do the unthinkable: go to Walmart. Ugh. With our children. Double ugh. And we were all in one car and I was held hostage. I begrudgingly agreed, even though I HATE Walmart. When we got there The Boy and I went one way and he and BeYoYo went another. BeYoYo needs some play shoes for his fat feet, so I got him some while we were there. He screamed "shuuuu! Shuuu!" until I put one of each of the new shoes on each of his feet, their mates dangling down below.


We got what The Husband needed and 20 hours later emerged, ready to check out. Beyoyo was yelling "out! Out!" at this point, so I took him out and held him. Then I passed him to The Husband, who LET HIM GET DOWN AND WALK. The first rule of parenting is always, always contain them if you can. Lord, help us, he was like a squirrel in traffic. Then The Husband let him stand between him and the buggy and push the buggy. He pushed, and he pushed, and he pushed, and he loved it. And in that moment, I saw the writing on the wall. Now that he knows this is an option he'll never be content to sit in the buggy again. I told The Husband all my future grocery trips just got substantially more difficult, and he smiled with great pleasure. And I realized THAT was his prank for April Fool's Day: the prank that keeps on giving. Long after the scent of beef broth has washed off him I'll be chasing a toddler with newfound freedom through a store.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter

Y'all, I mean to blog more often. I really do. But then I accidentally fall asleep fully clothed at 8:30. Because children.

So last week The Boy had his Easter egg hunt and party at school, and on the way home he asked about a cross that we saw outside a church. When he was little he knows that he asked if the cloth on the cross was the Easter bunny's pants, and he thinks that's funny now. When we passed another cross with purple cloth, he asked what the cloth really means. That led to a discussion of the crucifixion and the resurrection, and I explained those basics to him. His response was "but if people come back to life, then they're zombies."

I know. He's got a good point. This stuff makes no sense, logically. Later I googled "zombie Jesus", and I got 1,470,000 results. So he's not alone in his thinking.


And honestly, it's hard for me to explain it to him, because I know it doesn't make sense, and I also don't love the "if you just have enough faith...." approach, because I think it's okay to ask questions and have doubts. He asked what happened to Jesus after he came back to life, and I had to sort of explain that he went up to Heaven in a cloud of smoke a la a Chris Angel show. So he has defeated death, twice actually. Then The Boy was disappointed because he thought Jesus came back to life EVERY Easter, and I hated to let him down that it just happened once. 

So on Easter morning we got ready for church. I bought them new (read: consignment) Easter outfits a few weeks ago and had them try them on well in advance, and no one complained. Then Easter morning the outfits were terrible and ill-fitting and no one wanted to cooperate and there were real, actual tears about them, and maybe The Boy looked a little like a cover for Saturday Night Fever. 




At the last minute we had to do a wardrobe change, but there were complaints about that one too. We tried convincing, reverse psychologizing, asking, and bribing all to no avail, then I resorted to talking through my teeth at all the people at my house. As my brother in law put it to my niece "If Jesus can wear a cross on Easter, you can wear your dress for an hour!" 



We made it to church and promptly lost The Boy. Apparently he'd run in ahead of us and ran straight to his class, either moved by the spirit or glad to be rid of his parents who make him wear good clothes on Easter.  I met up with The Husband and our friends and family in worship, Beyoyo in tow. Because I was the designated worship leader for Sunday, we sat near the front. Beyoyo only lasted for a few songs, then he was like:

And we took him to his class to play. 

The Boy loves communion. When we ask him if he wants to go to worship he says "is there going to be communion?" and only wants to come if I answer yes. No word on if he appreciates sacraments or just considers it a snack, but I always go get him and let him join.  I know that if I go to his class to get him Beyoyo will see me and cry and want to join us, but he doesn't actually want to be in the sanctuary. So I made eyes at Rachel, a high school senior, and asked her if she'd go get him. She did. 

A few minutes later here came The Boy, walking fast down the side aisle. He had a cup of orange juice in his hand, and a 12" lego creation that resembled the number one in the other. He had on no shoes, his white socks padding on the dark carpet. I'm sorry to say for an instant I had a flash of embarrassment. He was rough and tumble, sock-footed, bringing a drink and a random number all the way to the front of the church, past many a watchful eye. And he was grinning. He greeted my mom and sister and sat in their laps before communion. At our church we get up for communion instead of having it passed, and since we were near the front we were one of the first rows to stand. 

As I stood in line behind him, a realization passed over me: he's the one who's getting it right. We try to clean up nice and present ourselves to others but God accepts us as we are. Loves us in spite of our pride and our sin and our shame, knows all the things we try to hide. 

So here I was trying to get everyone dressed and "presentable", caught up in the human side of Easter, and here he was, knowing you don't need no shoes or suit or refined manners, you just come bringing your whole and genuine self, laying out all your cards for God and everybody.  And you come with excitement and a smile on your face, because you love these people and what this means, even if you don't fully understand it. 

My sister tried to explain to him what was going on with communion, but he already knew. He's an old pro. Holy heck,  he clearly knew better than I did. He proudly dipped his bread in the juice chalice, received his blessing, and went on, not realizing the impact this had just had on me or the tears that were threatening my eyes. Easter is about renewal, all right. 


After the service we had the planned Easter egg hunt, but the grass was wet so it was held in the sanctuary. Everyone went out, the eggs were hidden, then they were released back in like the running of the bulls. 



Here's a portion of The Boy's hunt: 

  video

After the egg hunt we went to lunch with family, then went to The Husband's grandmother's house for an afternoon of cousins. The kids mostly played in the dirt and got disgusting. And loved every second of it. 


Here you see some of the kids, wet and muddy, sticky from bubble solution, in various levels of (un)pleasantness, and BeYoYo crying in the background.  The Boy has his eyes closed. There was nothing special about this play time, it was just cousins communing together and (mostly) enjoying each other. Their great grandmother's house is their sanctuary. 

I kid you not, I am certain I will forget all this by next Easter. I will forget that it's not about the clothes and the manners and which hymns were sung and making sure Easter baskets are evenly distributed. I will forget that we're invited to come as we are, and that all the things that I stress about don't matter. And I imagine, if history repeats itself, this child will help me remember. Again. Good thing Easter is about renewal. Again. 
Amen. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Efforts Behind A Rape Arrest

My town is outraged and broken after a girl was held by two boys and raped by a third in a stairwell in a high school. Parents want to know why they weren't informed of the assault, and what took so long for the alleged perpetrators to be arrested. The local paper has written multiple articles covering it. Facebook is lighting up with questions and accusations and letters to principals and the superintendent. Many plan to go to a school board meeting tomorrow night to voice their outrage and distrust in the school system. There are many, many things we do not know.

For seven years I was the sole counselor for a program that provided free counseling to child and adolescent victims of crime. Seventy five percent of the kids and teens that came through that program had an alleged sexual assault. My role was to be their counselor and advocate. I sat with many a victim questioning why this would happen to them. I bet I've assured 300 girls their assault was not their fault. I went to multidisciplinary team meetings where we staffed every case of abuse or crime against children, and sat with law enforcement, DFCS, school social workers, and the children's advocacy center as we brainstormed what more we could do. I want you to know I do not take this lightly.

There are many things we do not know about this case. I do not know the victim or the alleged perpetrator or any of the school administration that were involved (nor would I speak about this if I did). I do not know how much evidence was on the surveillance tape. I do not know if the alleged perpetrators were disciplined. I do not know if the victim was required to return to school with the alleged perpetrators before the arrests. I do not know if the culture of this school is one where kids feel safe. I do not know how many perpetrators go to that school without parents or the school knowing. I do not know if the police asked the school not to disclose to parents about the rape until after the investigation. But there are some things that I do know.

I do know that for there to be an arrest in this case many things were done right. 

For there to have been an arrest, the girl had to come forward to school personnel about the rape. That takes courage, and in many cases that means the victim thinks that someone at the school would believe her and take her claim seriously.  Many victims never report because they know they won't be believed.

For there to have been an arrest, the school had to follow child abuse protocol and report the rape to law enforcement. There have been reports that this particular school had not reported crimes to the police in the past, but this time they did. She likely sat in her school counselor's office telling her story while her counselor listened empathetically and walked her through the events that would next unfold. Then the counselor likely called and made a report to law enforcement. Believe it or not, sometimes this doesn't happen. The story could have ended there.

For there to have been an arrest, she had to have a forensic interview. That means once the school reported the rape to law enforcement, law enforcement deemed she needed a forensic interview, and someone from The Cottage children's advocacy center was contacted. They likely stopped what they were doing, came back to work, or stayed after hours, to interview her. A forensic interviewer who is trained to get and document evidence in a non-threatening and supportive environment sat with her and listened to her heartbreaking story, asking uncomfortable questions to get more information, and patiently waited while she formulated her answers. Law enforcement and a DFCS caseworker watched through a two way mirror, while another advocate from the Cottage interviewed her parent. After the interview, both Cottage employees would write a detailed report to go with her taped interview to be given to law enforcement. This interview and report can take several days.

For there to have been an arrest, she likely also had a SANE exam, a physical exam provided by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE nurse) to retrieve physical evidence from her body. Whether or not she had a SANE exam would depend on how soon after the rape she reported it, and what the likelihood would be of physical evidence remaining in and on her body. The nurse would take photographs of her body, noting any bruising or injuries, before doing an internal exam to look for semen and internal physical trauma. Often these nurses stay long into the night to complete an exam that is time sensitive. Then they compose a report filled with pictures, diagrams, and a summary of their findings.

For there to have been an arrest, law enforcement had to have an open investigation. Clarke County police likely did a thorough investigation that included looking at the school security footage, combing the crime scene, watching the forensic interview, interviewing school personnel (and likely asking them not to speak about an active investigation to preserve the accurate memories of witnesses and not pollute them with hearsay), interviewing each alleged perpetrator individually, and reviewing reports from the Cottage staff and SANE nurse. Then once they'd collected all their evidence that pointed to the alleged perpetrators, they have to present it to the District Attorney's office to make sure it can be prosecuted. Unbelievably rape is a hard crime to prove, as even physical evidence can be waved off as consensual. If there is not enough evidence, they will be turned away to produce more, or police and the DA may decide there is enough evidence to arrest for a lessor charge but not rape. All this while working on multiple other open cases that all have an equal amount of urgency for the safety of the general public. As you know, many rape cases take months or years to get an arrest, and tragically many rapists are never arrested.

After all this, The Cottage is likely providing ongoing counseling for the victim and support to her family. Someone from the DA's office is likely letting them know of any court dates that the alleged perpetrators have, and what their rights as crime victims are. Another may be helping her write a victim impact statement to read in court if she would like, or prepping her for potential testimony.

The fact that this all happened within a month is a positive sign to me. It's one of the successes. This system is a complicated machine with many cogs, all of which must do their part to result in what everyone wants: safety for the victim, and justice for the perpetrator.

I think it's wonderful that people are outraged about this case. I wish people were outraged about EVERY sexual assault that ever happens, and I wish that outrage was directed toward perpetrators and a culture that reinforces that consent is a grey area. 

I agree that there are many questions that would be helpful to know the answers to. I also have questions about this case, and I would naturally be concerned if my kids were attending that school. I don't mean to minimize that aspect of this. But before we assume that this was an elaborate multi-agency cover up or another in a long series of failures to protect our kids, I'd also like to explore the idea that many of the people involved did exactly what they were supposed to. These are thankless jobs with low pay, few perks, and fewer thanks, and with all the intense community scrutiny for anyone involved in this case, I'm guessing this is a time when some thanks could really come in handy.