Thursday, August 30, 2012


I did it!  I did it!

I want to run around chanting, waving my hands in the air.  I kinda already did, after I saw it.

Did what?  Saw what?


A link to me - my writing - is actually on the front page of the Huffington Post as I write this.

I know it won't last.  I know it will change soon - as headlines shift.

But let me have my moment.

I'm a writer!

And yes, I know not everyone will like it.  I know there will be negative comments, cause I moderate them every day in my gig as a comment moderator for HuffPost.

And I also realize the first piece published from my blog to a wider readership is about penises.

I have no shame.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The C Word

Circumcision has been in the news lately.  When Johns Hopkins comes out with a new study, it tends to attract attention.  It got me thinking about my position on circumcision.  As the mother of three boys, you can bet I have one.  My husband and I arrived at a decision on what we would do regarding circumcision while I was pregnant with our first baby.  It was all hypothetical, of course - we didn't know it was a boy until he finally emerged.  But we'd made up our minds ahead of time, just in case.

We took a lot of things into consideration.  I researched what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended at the time (almost 14 years ago).  I was surprised that they did not  -and still do not - recommend "routine neonatal circumcision".  I was surprised because everything I was hearing from other moms and parenting magazines was that there was a medical need for it - that it kept things cleaner.  I'm all for clean.  So I jumped back into my academic training as an anthropologist and was only able to track down studies done in remote areas of the world where access to clean water, and therefore personal hygiene, was an issue.  My potential son would have no lack of safe water.  Or soap.

So with the AAP recommendation and the cleanliness issue debunked, I turned to the next argument almost every soon-to-be-mother of a son will hear:  "It's just easier if he looks like his father."  This assumes the father is in the majority -- an ever declining majority, mind you -- and is circumcised himself.  This argument carries weight among guilt-ridden mothers.  Why would you deliberately want your child to be different from everyone else, including his father?  Ah.  What a mean mom.  So I did what any self-respecting, overwhelmed pregnant woman would do:  punted the issue to my husband.  "You're the one with the equipment.  YOU decide."

Except my husband and I usually make big decisions together.  And, because I'm a total Type A personality, he usually relies on me to do the research so that decision can be an informed one.  It ended up right back on me.  He did say that he could care less if his penis looked different from his son's, especially if it meant a useless procedure was becoming extinct.  Then he asked a really good question:  "What about the whole masturbation thing that's attached to it?  You know...the story that circumcision was about discouraging 'sinful' masturbation?  If that's what it's about, then we're definitely not doing it."

I researched some of the history of circumcision that was available online at the time (Google had just been founded.  Imagine!) and confirmed that it did indeed have ties to some religious doctrine that proclaimed masturbation a sinful act and promoted the use of circumcision to discourage it.  I wanted no part of that, either.

I also looked into the numbers and found that in a few decades, the percentage of American males circumcised declined from around 80% (during my upbringing) to about 55% (the era in which my own children would be raised).  That eased my mind a bit to think that my child might be in good company.  At least the odds were 50/50 that he'd have friends that were also uncircumcised, if we decided to go that route.  And this thought kept cropping up in my brain:  If we don't ever stop doing something - even when we know better - how will we ever see true change?  Not that I wanted my kid to have to be the trailblazer in the proud, intact penis debate.  But still.

There are no trailblazers when it comes to foregoing circumcision.  There are no lists of "Uncircumcised World Leaders" like there are "World Leaders who are Left-Handed" or "Highly Successful People who are also Dyslexic".  People magazine isn't publicizing a  "Top 10 Uncut Actors of the Millenium!" spread.  It is simply not talked about in what may be considered polite company.  But I think it should be.  Let's bring this topic out of the dark ages.  Away from this implication that you're somehow dirty or unclean unless you're circumcised.  Because I can tell you from experience that it is simply not true.  If there was any chance that uncircumcised males were somehow "dirtier", then I'd have three boys with constantly raging penis infections.  Cause I can hardly get them to take a shower without threatening to take away their xBox.

So yes, my husband and I decided not to circumcise our first child, who turned out to be a boy.   Nor did we circumcise his brothers - twins - who came 18 months later.

But when this stuff pops up in the news, as it periodically does, it always makes me pause and think about our decision to not circumcise our sons.  Recently, an NPR segment reported on an initiative by the Kenyan government to circumcise teenage and adult males in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV.  I heard it in the car while I was running errands.  With my 13-year-old sitting next to me in the passenger seat.  Awkward, right?  As they talked of the potential of circumcision to reduce the rate of HIV in Kenya, I wondered aloud, "Why aren't they just encouraging the use of condoms?  That would do more than performing a pointless surgery."  My son said nothing.  But he listened to my diatribe against the government of this country promoting an ineffective, painful and costly procedure because of outdated and questionable arguments.  I felt it was my duty.  Rather than address the issues associated with unprotected sex, this country was encouraging the alteration of its male population.  But then again, the recent Johns Hopkins study is based on the same studies that circumcision effectively reduces STD and HIV rates.  So do condoms, people.

And that brings me to the last argument I have heard in favor of circumcision:  "An uncircumcised penis just looks weird."  Wow.  That's an actual reason for performing a procedure on your newborn?  That's how it's supposed to look.  You cannot tell me that every baby boy is born with a defect that needs to be corrected.  Evolutionarily, that makes no sense whatsoever.  It is not adaptive for the human race.  An uncircumcised penis may be something we're not as used to seeing as the circumcised penis, I'll give you that.  But we've come a long way in what we're used to seeing, haven't we?  Breastfeeding moms in public.  Interracial couples.  Gay marriage.  There are always people that will say, "It looks weird."  It's not reason enough to get rid of it.  Not reason enough to condemn it.  And this argument makes it seem as if circumcision is nothing more than elective plastic surgery on newborn baby boys.  But maybe it is.

Except that I know it's never simple, these decisions we make as parents. I've talked to moms who chose not to circumcise and their baby ended up with medical reasons that necessitated it being done later.  And who am I to argue with that?  I just don't believe that it should be done by default.

Perhaps our oldest summed up my philosophy on the issue best when he was a wee toddler being potty trained.  He watched his dad going to the bathroom (no better way to increase the likelihood a little boy will want to use the potty as well) and commented on the obligatory "shake" that is performed by men at the conclusion of this bodily function.  "Be nice to your penis, Daddy!" he said.  I have no better advice than that.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Free at Last!

I declare this home a boy free zone for the next few days and boy (ha!) am I looking forward to it!

Aquaman just departed in his truck packed to the gills (I am soooo funny!) with fishing, snorkeling and diving gear headed for our old hamlet, Port Aransas.  But that's not the best part.  The best part is that HE TOOK THE REDHEAD, THING 1 AND THING 2 WITH HIM!  (Those all caps mean I'm yelling!  Shouting from the rooftops!)

Yep, I am alone with Yellow Dog.  Just us girls.

I cannot begin to explain the relief that this provides.  Can you feel my giddiness?

So what's the first thing that I did?  I washed the stacks of dishes that were piled in the two sinks, on the table, and all over the kitchen counters.  And I lamented the misfortune of having three children who are simply incapable of using just one cup for any length of time.

This is what was left when I could stuff no more into the dishwasher - eight cups.  Amassed over a 24-hour period.  We only have three children.  When I read my friend Sarah's blog about the same topic, I felt better.  But I only let myself catch up on some blog reading after I tackled the laundry.

No, that's not all of it.  Just what's left on the floor.  There's more in the bedrooms - but I made some headway.  Enough to allow myself to get on the computer and write.  Which brings me to the enigma I've found myself facing all summer:  

I'm a writer that writes about my children and family but they take up so much time that I don't have time to write about them but without them I wouldn't have anything to write about.  

Did you get that?  

Really?  Cause I don't even understand it.  That's why I said it was an enigma.  

This has been a problem all summer.  "School's out for summer!" is the anthem we gleefully cheer in late spring.  But what it really means is that the three musketeers are with me 24/7.  And Aquaman has some much deserved time off.  So all my lovelies are here.  With me.  And it drives me crazy after a while.  

The crazy driving makes for good material.  So I jot things down on post-its and the backs of grocery receipts and in my little Moleskine notebook that I carry in my purse.  But I don't have time to really write about it.  And post it to this blog.  Or polish it and submit it to essay contests and literary journals.  Because I'm busy cooking and cleaning and planning fun day trips and swimming with them and visiting people and driving them to camp and vacation bible school and organizing their rooms.  And working a full-time job from home.  

So what goes?  The writing.  And the reading.  And that really drives me nuts.  I start to become a not-so-nice-momma when I go without reading and writing for any length of time.  And when I feel guilty for sneaking those things in because some voice tells me I really should be watching a movie with my husband or reading to my children before bed (yes, we still do that), or walking the dog - that's when I begin to get resentful.  Resentful is not healthy.  I know this.  

Which is precisely why I am so grateful that they're all gone.  They are on their way to the coast to frolic in the sun and surf and see old friends.  

And me?  Well, I plan on doing a lot of this:

And these two library books are waiting for me:  

I also have aspirations of getting myself to the nearby outlet mall, unencumbered by menfolk, to leisurely browse the aisles of any damn store I feel like without having to answer questions like, "What are you looking for, again?" and "How much longer?"  If you think that's delusional, I also have plans to buy some fabric and make some cafe curtains for the bathroom based on something I saw on Pinterest.  I will also be content to eat hot dogs and corn dogs and other processed meats while Aquaman is not around to see it and make me feel abnormal about my tube steak addiction.  And I will go and buy some expensive chocolate and eat it.  All.  By.  Myself.      

These things will make me happy.  I will be content.  And if enough time passes with me feeling this way, I will insanely begin to wish those bundles of testosterone were home.  So they could drive me crazy.  So I could write about it.  

But not yet.  Not yet.