Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dear Ehren: 22 Months

Dear Ehren,

I am not sure the words to describe how I feel about you even exist. You make me smile, laugh, and generally just feel amazing. You bring out instincts that I never knew I had. As your mother I have managed to find a way to look laid back even when I'm ready to jump out of my skin because you're screaming/tantruming/climbing all the scary stairs. And then there's the love. This feeling of hot tears building behind my eyes when I think of how much and how deeply, and how naturally, I love you. With all my being. That's how much I love you. They say that your heart grows to make room for the love in your life with a child, and I have to believe that's true. 

You're finally saying new words every day, I've been worried about your speech for a while now, but it seems as though you've caught on. Toddler-speak is difficult to interpret for daddy and I, so it means that we pay extra close attention when you talk. We want to understand you and want you to feel heard. Sometimes, you're just making noises, and honestly, I think sometimes you're just messing with us.

Currently, you're obsessed with Sam and his flat crackers. You get so excited to see Sam, dad's carpool buddy, every morning and it cracks us all up. He is just as excited to see you, and it's pretty great to see you trusting other adults. 

Basically, right now, you're the perfect mix of heart-burstingly awesome and horrendous toddler and it's an awesome phase. It's pretty cool to be your parent, thank you!

Love you forever, 


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dear Ehren: 16 months

Dear Ehren,

It is so awesome to watch your personality unfold and as we head into the hectic holiday weeks I want to pause to relish some of your currents and firsts.

Fresh Ink: Mom gave you your first tattoo. We are calling you baby bruiser because you look quite badass with a Burgerville tattoo.

Holiday Traditions: Mom and dad kind of failed on the tree front out of fear of Toddler vs Tree wars, so we opted for other traditions. It turns out that you are a chocolate addict and that an advent calendar at 16 months may not have been my brightest idea. You totally don't understand that there is a 1 piece per day limit and scream when it goes back on the wall. We are storing it 5 feet off the ground for obvious reasons. Maybe next year you'll get it. Or I'll do a book thing. Nah, you'll probably get the chocolate again. (Mom and dad get 1/3 of the chocolate, so let's not pretend like we don't have a stake in this!)

Babywearing: Absolutely necessary, even more so since you have started to learn how to run. Bumps and bruises are easily healed with lots of close baby time. I know one day you will not want to be worn anymore, but I am happy to live in this moment instead. It's a good, warm, snuggly moment. <3 p="">
Nursing: I never thought we'd make it this far in our nursing journey. The beginning was soooo hard, but we made it through. I guess this is the result of two stubborn people making a stubborn hybrid. I hope that your perseverance leads you to successful heights.

video videoFood: Yeah, you really only eat goldfish crackers and chocolate with any dependable regularity. We offer you a variety and so does daycare. If you grow up only liking 1 or 2 things, then I hope you enjoy some fantastic food adventures as an adult. In the meantime, I'll keep offering you my food since it seems to be more exciting when served to me instead of you.

Fun and games: You have your own ways of doing everything. From hugging the dog when I ask you to be gentle with her to playing hide and seek in plain sight with daddy. The happiest versions of you are always found when we let you be you, and drink your water with your hands.

It is a busy time of year, and I look forward to opening some Christmas presents with you, making a gingerbread tree, taking you to Montana, and exploring the snowy fields with you. You are my sunshine and I love you beyond compare.

Love always,


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dear Ehren: There is no shame

Dear Ehren,

For the past 23 years, I've been hiding a big dark secret. I've been ashamed. I've lived in fear of what other people would think of me. My entire adult life, I've held this secret close and rarely let a colleague know. My inlaws and extended family and 99% of my friends have no idea that I'm hiding something. So, here it goes:

For nearly 3 years I was raped in my own home repeatedly.

That it. That one statement has owned so much of my life. I have given it so much power over my existence. My life has been ruled by fear and shame of what others might think of me. So, dear son, I told you grandma and grandpa about this, and some other abuses, and this is how the conversation went.

Grandma G: You really seem upset with your mother about something
Me: Yes, I am. This isn't going away anytime soon.
Grandma G: It really can't be that bad.
Me. This is something I've hid for a long time in fear and shame.
Grandma G: (Gives puzzled look)
Me: For most of my childhood I was physically abused by my mother and her partners. And I was sexually abused by a live-in baby sitter for years.
Grandma G: Oh, I'm really sorry to hear that.
Me. Yeah.

And then, you know what happened? Nothing. There were no repercussions of telling these people about the abuse. They loved me for me. The horrendous response I always feared was all in my head. I realized something that day, I have nothing in my past to be ashamed of. I did nothing wrong. That's it. I. DID. NOTHING. WRONG.

What happened to me were the actions of an adult who wrongfully pursued a 6 year old for sexual pleasure. An adult man who violated parental trust and raped, molested, sodomized, and assaulted an elementary aged girl repeatedly in her own home, bed, living room, and parents' room. A man who knew I wasn't related to him and justified it because "it wasn't incest." This man had previously been accused of abusing another child. This man would have continued to abuse other children had a teacher not been bold enough to teach us about inappropriate touching.

I reported the violations of my innocence to my teacher. The resulting years of the trial and all of its accouterments were hard. They were miserable and demeaning, but the process allowed me to take someone who preyed on young girls out of my community. I was cheated out of the financial settlement of the trial (enough to pay for 1/2 of my tuition) and I was heckled and bullied by ignorant classmates. I did not have much of an understanding on how these incidences would impact my life at 12 years old. I just knew that present time was awful and that I was miserable.

Looking back, there were so many markers that should have told my family I was being abused. There were so many ways a more attentive set of parents could have helped me. There are so many things that could have been different, things that I would change if I could. However, I no longer regret standing up and defending myself. I recognize today that what I did was brave, that how I handled it was mature and adult-like, and how I responded in my own life has been remarkable.

I learned from this horrible time in my life. You will still have baby sitters, you will still get to visit other people's houses, but we won't have any secrets. You, son, will not be intentionally exposed to this abuse, nor will you be naiive to inappropriate touching. I will make sure that you know that your body is your own, that you control who can and cannot touch you and where. I will empower you to be bold enough to say no if in this awful situation and teach you to be resourceful enough to end the abuse before it can even start. Most importantly, I will show you so much love and respect that you will never fear telling me about anything. You will always know that you will be met with love, no matter the subject matter.

I am not the first generation in our family to be sexually assaulted as a child, but I will be the last. This is my promise to you.

With much love,


Friday, August 14, 2015

Dear Ehren: 1 Year

Dear Ehren,

Today, you turned 1 year old. You became a toddler. I am still forever going to call you my baby. The days now look remarkably different than a year ago. On your first day I couldn't walk, get up to care for you, hold you unsupervised, or nurse you alone. Today, we went to the doctor, nursed in 5 different locations, ate cupcakes at the splash pool, drove an hour to pick up and drop off some wraps, ate dinner at Red Robin, and took a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel to celebrate your first revolution around the sun.

The days look remarkably different, but so much the same. You are still our bright-eyed chameleon - one day a Gruss the next a Samaniego. You are well bonded to mom and dad and love to be held and worn as much as you ever did. You are fiercely independent and adorably vocal.

From the moment you were born, it was obvious that you would keep us on our toes and provide us with endless hours of entertainment. From the first smile, first roll, first crawl, first ball throw to the dog to your last days of formula, final worm crawl, and last toothless smile it has been an adventure. It never stops changing, and right now that feels so right.

Also, we're still breastfeeding. Not that it's any one else's business.

Love you always,


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dear Ehren: Ending the physical violence

Dear Ehren,

When your grandma had me, she was still a teenager. From the beginning, her choices left her in a position where she was ill-prepared to care for me. She did her best, drawing on the examples she had from her own childhood. Unfortunately for all involved, the cycle of abuse and neglect goes back for generations in our family. Having a baby as a single teen mother is no easy feat, and your grandma soon found a partner to help her. This partner was the first to hit me, but not the last.

Grandma married this man when I was about 1 year old and concealed from me that I was not his daughter. A few years later your uncle was born, and we all lived in a small house together in a rural community. I noticed from a young age that I was treated differently. The realization that it was because I was unwanted "excess baggage" didn't come until I was an adult. I suffered physical violence at the hands of my "dad", "grandparents", mom, aunts, uncles, other male partners of my mom's, and babysitters. When I recall moments of my childhood, the strongest memories that come to mind involve being struck or abused in some way.

You should know that I didn't take it all without fighting back. I often put my hands in the way so that it was harder to hit me and would try to talk my way out of it. One evening, I was wrongfully accused of stealing a bottle of liquor from the refrigerator. I was pulled from bed where I was sleeping and interrogated. I denied it repeatedly, but the adults in my life did not feel it fit to believe me. Instead, I was beaten across the back, behind, and legs with the buckle end of a belt. I knew it couldn't stand. I was beaten for being honest about a bottle that had simply been moved out of a child's reach. The next day, I went to school where we had gym class and were required to run a mile on a track. I chose that day to wear short shorts to showcase the bruises on my body. I felt so vindicated when my teacher noticed. Child services was involved, and I thought I had finally saved myself and my brother from this man. Unfortunately, this was not the end for us, and we lived with this man for at least 6 more months before a divorce was even considered.

This is where the cycle will come to an end. I will never hit you. I will never spank, swat, slap, or otherwise strike you. From all of this awfulness, I learned to stand up for myself. To fight for what's right. To always do the right thing. That's why I know, and can promise, that I'll always protect you. I'll use words, not my hands. Additionally, anyone who does harm (or attempt to) will be immediately removed from your life permanently. I have no tolerance for an adult exerting physical aggression towards a child. It is inexcusable, immature, and disturbing.

These are my promises to you, sweet boy. Even when you try my patience, I will always love you and never, ever harm you.

Love always,