Thursday, April 19, 2018

Could You Identify a Child Being Abused or Neglected?

If you didn't already know, I am a child abuse investigator. Family members, community members, teachers, medical professionals, and countless other people report via a hotline when they suspect a child is being abused or neglected. My job is to follow up on those reports, visit the children, the caregivers, other people familiar with the family, collect medical records, speak with teachers, and gather any other information which can help me determine if a child is a victim of abuse or neglect.

By far the most frequent form of child abuse is neglect. Dirty homes, lack of food, caregiver/parent substance abuse, failure to send the child to school (or effectively home school), and many other factors could be considered neglect. In most cases children are not removed from the home, but programs and services are put in place to help correct the conditions. Child Welfare's goal is to keep a family in tact, not to remove children from the home.

Abuse may be physical (Beating, hitting, slapping, confinement, etc), emotional (verbal abuse, isolation, etc.), and sexual abuse (molesting, touching, exposure to adult sexuality, etc.). Abuse is not always obvious, but you can be sure if one type of abuse is noticeable, there is most likely other types of abuse going on as well. Again, Child Welfare's goal is not to remove children from their home, but with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, removal is not uncommon.

I often hear the same concerns from folks who are reluctant to disclose knowledge of abuse or neglect. Those concerns are the children aren't really being mistreated that badly, they don't believe the abuse or neglect to be significant enough to have to report, they fear becoming involved, or they don't trust government enough to involve them in protecting a child.

I want to help reassure those of you out there who have concerns about or knowledge of a child being abused or neglected you may remain anonymous. We do not disclose who makes the reports of abuse or neglect. I also want to reassure you we are highly trained in the identification of abuse or neglect. This is not the type of job where you get hired on Thursday and are out knocking on doors on the following Monday. I myself, in addition to college degrees and 17 years of teaching experience, have close to 300 hours of additional training in the identification of abuse and neglect.

So, that being said, here are some of the signs of abuse and neglect that should raise red flags for you:
  • Marks or bruises from being struck. Bruises should NEVER been seen on a child who is immobile. Until a child starts to walk (holding onto objects while learning to walk counts), children should never have bruises. Children who are spanked for discipline do not get marks or bruises. Marks or bruises are left on children when they are spanked or struck out of anger. Spanking your children is not illegal, but a spanking should never leave an injury. Discipline should be reasonable and age appropriate. I have seen autopsy photos of a 5 week old baby who was spanked. 5 week old babies do nothing that would warrant a spanking.
  • Signs of neglect include dirty, malodorous children. Babies with dirt under their fingernails and around the creases in their neck. Severe diaper rash. Listless babies. Babies whose eyes are open, but appear vacant. Babies being fed whole milk instead of formula. Children who are not being fed (underweight, begging food, etc.) Young or small children outside unsupervised. Children who cry for extended periods of time for no apparent reason. Small children left home unsupervised.  Children who are ill, but not being seen by medical professionals. 
  • Significant injuries of unexplained origin or explanations that don't make sense/explain the injury. If you see a child with an injury and are offered an explanation that does not seem reasonable, ask more questions. Be especially concerned if the child is not yet verbal and/or the injuries are blamed on siblings who are not verbal as well. 
  • Burns of any kind. 
  • If a child appears fearful of a parent or caregiver, pay attention. One of the most common phrases we hear when responding to allegations of abuse or neglect is, "The child was being cared for by mother's boyfriend when the injury occurred." Also don't assume because Susie is a great person, she is above getting angry or frustrated enough to lash out on her child. Remember, child abuse knows no economic status. Rich people abuse children too. Just because a child lives in a nice home and the parent has a higher economic status does not mean they are immune to being abuse. 
  • Target children are something child welfare workers encounter with terrible frequency. These "targets" are the children who are reported to always be in trouble, always be doing something wrong, and are often described in terms of behaviors that would be intentional (He cries on purpose and knows it makes me mad. He pees his pants just to irritate me. She wets the bed just to make more work for me. etc.) Often target children are the children from previous relationships. Siblings and others in the home will often participate in the abuse as well. Sadly all too often, if the target child is removed from the family unit or dies, the abuse will move on to one of the other children. 

There are many, many ways children are abused and neglected (too much to really go into here in this brief blog post), but the key to getting these children (and families) help is by reporting suspected abuse or neglect to your local child abuse hotline.  It is important to remember most states have laws that state if you suspect abuse or neglect, it is a crime to fail to report it. Every state has a hotline and you can remain anonymous.

The hotline phone number for Oklahoma is 1-800-522-3511. If you are located in other states you can phone the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child. If you are a parent or caregiver who needs help, reach out to your local Human Services for assistance or referrals for help.

Intervening in abuse or neglect is everyone's responsibility. You could help save a child's life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Macbook Pro Mid 2012

It is no secret I have long coveted the MacBook Pro. Actually, pretty much any Apple product makes me salivate. However, when I checked the prices to buy myself one, I found the cost too prohibitive. Several of my friends and coworkers own a
MacBook Pro which they have had since their college days, so I got a chance to play around on a couple to help me decide whether or not I thought the cost was worth the investment. I also did some research on the different models to see which one might best fit my needs.

Things I considered while doing my research:

  • I am planning on using the MacBook primarily to produce my podcast and update my blog (I am not a gamer)
  • I want something relatively lightweight and small enough to take on travels
  • I need a model that can easily be updated/have parts replaced as needed

What I discovered in my research was a dedicated cult following for the MacBook Pro Mid 2012 model. Why would anyone want a computer that is 6 years old in this day and age? Well let me tell you what I discovered:

  • The MacBook Pro Mid 2012 model (MD101LL/A) is still being sold today by Apple, it is just buried on their website 
  • It has a CD drive for those of use who still like to watch old school CD's on their computer
  • It has two USB 3, an SD slot, and a Thunderbolt port
  • Bluetooth and 802.11n LAN
  • The battery, RAM, and hard drive can easily be updated/upgraded
  • This model can still be updated to the latest iOS x
  • While it does not have a retina screen, the resolution is still surprisingly good
  • Mac peripherals work with this model as well (iPad, Apple Watch, Magic Mouse 2, etc.)
  • A refurbished or used MacBook Pro can be purchased for $400 - $800 on Amazon

Well, after much consideration I decided to buy one and picked one up on Amazon for just $379. I bought it from a company that sells refurbished computers and it came with 8 gb of RAM and a 500 gb hard drive. This is more than enough computer for my needs and I cannot express just how much I enjoy having the MacBook Pro.

I added a super clicky keyboard for when I am at home writing along with a Magic Mouse 2. Getting familiar with the operating system has been a challenge only because I am so used to Windows based machines. The Apple product is intuitive and it hasn't taken me long to begin using all the great features.

There are many fancy new models of the MacBook Pro, but for those (like me) on a budget, the Mid 2012 model just may be the answer. Remember, living on the homestead is about living well, but being practical. This laptop is a great compromise between desire and need. Who could ask for anything more?

Now to test out Garage Band to produce my next podcast.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, March 12, 2018

Easy Sew Wreath

Last summer I went to visit my folks who reside in Arizona. Notice the word summer. Ugh, it was hot! Ok, that was to be expected. Anyway, knowing we would be indoors for most of my visit, my mother came up with this fun project to keep us occupied.

Her idea came from this pattern she found on Amazon:

 fold N Stitch Pattern
Cut N Stitch Wreath Pattern 

She then found these easy, pre cut squares of foam. Sold in a pack of 12 6x6 inch squares, one side already had iron on interfacing which makes creating this wreath so easy: 

Bosal In-R-Foam 6x6 One Sided Fusable Squares
Now, she had only ordered two packs of these squares, one for her and one for me, but we got really into making these and decided to try to make our own by purchasing foam by the yard and iron on interfacing since the pre cut squares were not available at our local fabric and craft stores. It might sound like the way to go in a pinch, but I will explain further on why this didn't work as we expected. So, my advice is order the foam pre cut with the iron on interfacing on one side already.

The next step is to cut the fabric. For this project you can choose two or three fabrics based on your design idea. I chose to use three fabrics. I played around with them prior to cutting using the photo on the pattern. This helped me decide which fabrics would be the back, front, and middle square. Using the instructions I cut the squares of fabric. Two of the fabrics are cut to 6.5" and one of the fabric is cut to 5.5". 

This is the fabric my mother chose for her wreath. Fall appropriate, no?
She chose to go with two fabrics. 
Once you have all your fabrics cut, it is time to start sewing. Place the two of the 6.5" squares of fabric right side together. Center them on the side of the foam squares that have NO interfacing. Sew the seam around the foam square. Carefully cut an X in the center of ONE of the squares, the one not touching the foam. Now Carefully turn the square right sides out through the hole the X created. If you did this correctly, you will end up with the X side on the interfaced side and the foam sandwiched inside. 

Next, layer on one of the 5.5" squares you cut and iron the square so the X is as closed as it can be and the smaller square conceals it. Using a decorative stitch, stitch down the edges of the 5.5" square. Voila! You have a square finished. Do this 11 more times.

Using a hard piece of plastic or a piece of cardboard, make yourself a template of the stitching line pattern. I made mine out of a piece of stencil plastic. Mine looked like this: 

Stencil plastic was used to make my stitching guide. 
Side note: Have you tried those clips you can see in the picture above? OMG, my mother gave me a bag for Christmas and I don't think I will ever use pins again! They are super easy to use and hold tight without poking your fingers or getting lost in the carpet only to be found later when you have bare feet. They looks like this: 

You can get a bag here.

Ok, back to the sewing. Use the guide to determine where to sew your squares together. You must be consistent in order for the circle to be accurate and lay right.

Here you can see how the squares are lined up and sewn together. This was my fun Halloween wreath. Once all the squares are sewn together you will find a circle has formed. It should look something like this: 

Wreath once squares are connected
At this point, you begin sewing the points together. First you want to hand stitch them like this: 

Sew the points together. 
Next, I chose to add a little button as an embellishment. You don't have to, but I thought it turned out nicer, looking a little more finished. Don't you agree? 

Adding a little embellishment for extra pizzazz.
Once you have them all sewn together you can add a hanger to the back to hang the wreath on a door, or, as I chose, make it a centerpiece for your table. The pattern shows additional bows and decorations for a door wreath. I put a candy bowl in the center of mine.  

Finished Wreath
So there you have it. Easy as pie for just about any skill level. 

**Oh, remember how I said I would tell you the problem with cutting your own foam? Ya, well I cut mine a little smaller for the Halloween wreath without considering I would need more squares to make a circle that would lay flat. My Halloween wreath does not lay flat. As a result, I stuck a jar shaped like a pumpkin full of candy in the middle to hold it down, but in hindsight I should have cut more squares. 

Notice how this one does not lay flat? 
Happy sewing! If you give this fun project a try, be sure to post a picture in the comments below!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why is it so Hard to Find Other Blogs?

Lately I have been taking a breather in the morning before I leave for work. Instead of rushing around, I sit with a cup of coffee and try to read a little, then I start my day. I really enjoy reading blogs of a wide variety written by folks who are living their experiences.

Something I have noticed it how difficult is is to just find new blogs to read. There is no real directory and most of the time I stumble upon them by accident. Keep in mind I am not talking about the popular blogs that are boosted by advertising on social media and email your inbox endlessly about offers and past posts. I am speaking of ones like mine, written by by everyday folks, not those who have an endless budget and a marketing team. You know what I mean?

Sure some small time bloggers have managed to parlay their blog into a good source of income, but most of the time those blogs turn into a great big advertisement, repeat the same information over and over, and really do not engage me long term. I read blogs almost as a voyeur; I get a chance to peek into the lives of others, seeing the good and the bad, the ups and the downs of their day to day lives. Those are the blogs I feel are genuine and interesting.

So, I thought I might do some of those smaller bloggers a solid and mention them with a link here in my blog. There are a wide variety of folks to follow in this list. Some are religious while some have quite the colorful vocabulary, some are on a budget, some are living in ways we may never considered. Here are five of my favorites:

  • The Broke Costumer: This gal creates amazing costumes on amazingly small budgets. She really has a knack for recreating the past on a dime. I love how she can reuse parts from other costumes to stretch her budget. I also love that she details how she goes about saving and explains her inspiration for her creations.  I also enjoy the history lessons tucked into each of her creations. She truly is an artist.

  • The Paratus Familia Blog: I stumbled on this blog years ago and have been a faithful reader. This family lived in a Shouse in a very rural area and embraced a semi-off-the-grid-life. I found the blog while researching cooking on wood stoves. This blog documents the ups and downs of their lives and Enola Gay (yes that is a pseudonym and you get 5 points if you make the connection) even produced a cookbook (you can find it here) on prepping along with cooking and baking on a wood stove. The family recently made a big move and opened a Butcher Shop to process meat for hunters.

  • Can We Have a New Witch? This One Melted: An irreverent and explicit blog, I adore Leanna. A self-described Texas Housewife, Leanna has some significant health struggles and helps keep a positive spirit by blogging. Dirty jokes, political opinion, and lots of cussing keep this blog on my radar. I crack up reading all the memes she has skimmed and posted each week, as well as the stories she tells about her husband, David. If you like dirty humor and don't get offended easily, check her out. 

  • Sadie Seasongoods: Sadie is truly an inspiration when it comes to upcycling and recycling goods. Sadie scours thrift shops and resale shops then turns what she finds into relevant, updated creations. I am amazed by her endless creativity. The bonus is she sells a lot of her creations in an Etsy shop. If you like a particular creation, you may just be able to purchase it! 

  • WindTraveler: The family this blog follows lives in the British Virgin Islands on Tortola. They live on a sailboat and run their own business of excursions on other sailboats. Together with their three children they live a "tiny life" on a boat. Well, they did, until Hurricane Irma destroyed Tortola and sank their boats. Thankfully the family was in the states visiting family when the storm hit. Life has not been the same for them since. They recently, after four months of being displaced, returned to Tortola. Their lives are an epic journey and now we can all follow along as they rebuild. 

How about you? What blogs do you follow? Please leave some links and info in the comments below.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Part II: Out to Sea - December 15th and Costa Maya, Mexico December 16th

Day at Sea December 15th

The best part of cruising is the sleep. I know, ya'll are thinking it is traveling and sight seeing, however as an insomniac, good sleep is worth its weight in gold. I actually slept in until 9:30 am!! The motion of the ship was gentle and the seas calm, so I felt absolutely no seasickness. Professor and I discussed whether we wanted a cabin with a balcony, stateroom, or just an inside cabin. I voted for an inside cabin because they are pitch black when the lights are out. I also felt for the $200 difference a day, the balcony was not really a worthwhile investment. With the quality of sleep I was getting, I was glad we chose the inside cabin. 

The cabin was cozy and comfortable. 

After getting up and moving, we headed up to get breakfast. One thing that is not lacking on a cruise is food. Oh my, the selection was incredible. I went with poached eggs and Canadian bacon on an English muffin, bacon, a small waffle, and black coffee. 

This first day in the Gulf of Mexico was "at sea" meaning we would not hit a port until the following day. Professor headed off to the Casino and I went to find the library as I am not a gambler. I brought along my laptop with the plan to spend a good deal of time writing, but when I got to the library I discovered I needed a 220 plug converter as all the plugs in the library all required one. Of course I did not bring one. In fact, I couldn't even buy one on the ship. I was disappointed, but used my laptop until it would run low, would take it to the cabin to charge, and go find something else to do. That was how I discovered I am a lousy shuffleboard player. 

The ship  offered plenty of entertainment. That evening we went to the Bliss Ultra Lounge which offered Karaoke. Professor is an accomplished classical singer, so he belted out his best tunes and ended with The Impossible Dream. It was a fun evening and there were some folks who really sang very well. This gal, however, is not one of them. Watching and listening was enough for me. 

We called it a night around midnight and headed back to our tiny cabin. My first night of great sleep was an anomaly. I couldn't sleep well, so I got up quietly, grabbed my laptop, and headed to O'Sheehan's Pub, which was open 24 hours. I parked myself in a booth with view of the ocean (which I really couldn't see because it was dark) and set to writing. Sometime during the night the winds had picked up and I could feel a gentle sway in the ship. 

As the sun rose in the east, which just happened to be on the side of the ship I was sitting on, I could see fat rain clouds in the sky. The affect of the suns rays passing through the clouds was just gorgeous. I headed back to the cabin to try to get some rest until it was time to head into port at Costa Maya. 

December 16th Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is a typical tourist port. The assorted shops offered all the typical goods such as sugar skulls, Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) figurines, knock off purses, and over-priced jewelry. I browsed through the shops while Professor tried to find an internet connection to check his email. I luckily had free international on my cell phone, so I was up to date at each port. I found him camped out at a Starbucks with 25 - 30 other folks doing the same. 

We chose not to participate in an excursion at Costa Maya. The only real excursion of interest to us were the Mayan ruins. The excursion would have taken the entire day. I really did not want to be limited to one activity as I would prefer to people watch and enjoy the beautiful climate. It was actually pretty warm this day and being out in the sun for hours at a shot was not on my list of fun activities. 

A tender on its way to port.
After browsing the shops we headed back to the ship and ate a nice leisurely lunch while enjoying the views. Because so many people were still in the port, we found the ship to be pleasantly under populated. We finally pulled out of port around 4pm towards our next destination, Grand Cayman. 

Costa Maya, Mexico as seen from the ship.

My Tiny Life on the High Seas - Part 1

December presented me with an unprecedented opportunity - a 9 day Western Caribbean Cruise!!

Let me fill you in since it has been a bit since I have updated the blog. I started dating a very nice man in the autumn of 2017. Of course the topic of Tiny House Homestead came up which inevitably led to the topic of my bucket list. Intrigued, my boyfriend who I shall call Professor to keep his identity private, asked what else was on my bucket list. Of course I rattled off a list a mile long, but on that list was travel to other countries which would require me to use a Passport, taking a cruise, and visiting New Orleans.

Professor enjoys travel and travels frequently. He has traveled to many of the places I wished to travel and has yet to travel to some of the other places I wish to visit. Jumping into action, Professor booked us a cruise to the Western Caribbean which left from the Port of New Orleans. I was speechless. What an opportunity!

December 12th we flew to New Orleans and stayed the night in a LaQuinta Hotel close to the airport in Kenner, LA. It was a nice enough hotel, but it could have been a dive and we wouldn't have cared because we were so tired from traveling.  Early the next morning we dodged the traffic and ran across the road to a small restaurant for breakfast. Fanny's was fantastic! The food was delicious and the waitress was delightful. If you get a chance, stop in for breakfast, you won't be disappointed.

With our bellies full, we trotted back across the street to catch a shuttle to the Port of New Orleans. We shared the shuttle with another couple who were taking the same cruise. They were from Canada and cruising was their retirement lifestyle. That is certainly something to aspire to!

We were scheduled for a 2 - 2:30 pm embarkation, so we got drinks and sat outside people watching and observing all the luggage being loaded into the ship. Our cruise was with Norwegian Cruise Lines and our ship was the Pearl. Being next to such a behemoth of a ship really is incredible. I know there are bigger ships out there, but the experience was something else. I had to use panorama settings on my camera just to try to get the ship in one picture!

Finally it was our time to go through customs and I pulled my passport out with pride. I was worried when I sent for my passport in November that I may not have had enough time for it to be processed before the cruise. I was elated when I found it in my mailbox just two weeks later. Now I was was finally able to cross off getting a passport AND using my passport off my bucket list.

We boarded the ship and found our cabin. After living so long in a tiny house, the small cabin did not seem small at all. The cabinetry and storage was clearly well thought out. After dropping off our carry on items, we headed down to our safety drill.

Breaking in my unlimited drink pass, I stopped at a bar and ordered a Bloody Mary to enjoy as we pulled out of port. Professor and I headed off to the deck which would allow us to watch the ship cast off, however cast off was delayed and we got bored. Heading inside we found a buffet and seating located on the back of the ship. We watched the sunset as we pulled out of the Port of New Orleans and traveled down the mighty Mississippi River.

Follow along on part 2

Monday, February 19, 2018

Tiny House Homestead Episode #37

Life continues to be A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!

Check out this episode!