Top Ten Reason NOT to Circumcise

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When my husband and I found out we were having a boy, our first reaction was unbridled excitement. A week later when my doctor was reviewing the ultrasound and found out it was a boy, her first reaction came in the form of a question. “So are you going to circumcise him?”

I have to admit, it wasn’t a topic I had given much consideration to. After all, daydreaming about nursery themes and baby names is a lot more fun than thinking about my son’s penis status. But like all of the less than ideal parts of parenthood, I knew I couldn’t avoid the issue forever. So what did I do? I talked to my doctor,  turned to family and friends for advice, and searched around online. I was hoping this would just be another one of those easy parenting decisions (you know, like the decision to feed the baby (yes!) or the decision to bath the baby from time to time (yes again!)). Boy oh boy, was I in for a surprise

Reactions ranged from “why wouldn’t you circumcise?” to “I can’t believe you would circumcise!” Arguments swung from wildly emotional to purely scientific. Personal biases ran rampant. Cultural and religious justifications added to the confusion. After my initial investigation, the only thing I was clear on was that both sides of the controversy believed they possessed irrefutable evidence for why their viewpoint was correct.

Facing this maelstrom of opinions, I did the only thing I could do—I put on my thinking hat and uncovered the facts for myself.

After weeks of research, sifting through evidence-based studies, reading the testimonials of medical professionals, and, probably most important, listening to the nagging feeling I had in my own heart, my husband and I decided NOT to circumcise our son.

At the time, I knew we had made the decision that was best for our family, but I was hesitant to say our decision should be applied universally to baby boys everywhere. Today, after educating myself even more about the topic, I would openly encourage all parents-to-be to pass on routine-infant circumcision and leave their baby boy’s penis intact. Want to know why? Here are my top ten reasons.

1) Important protective function

Human males, like all mammals, evolved to have a foreskin, and like most things evolution selects to retain, it serves a vital protective function. A good analogy is to think of the foreskin like the eyelid for the penis—it keeps out irritants, lubricates, and protects from abrasive surfaces.  Throughout childhood, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis (glans) and covers the opening through which urine passes (urinary meatus), making contamination difficult. On the rare occasion that a contaminant does make it inside, the foreskin produces antibacterial and antiviral proteins to prevent infection, along with hosting a rich flora of good bacteria. Additionally, the foreskin creates the optimal environment for penile health by maintaining healthy pH levels, warmth, and lubrication, which prevents hardening (keratinization) of the skin.

2) Important sexual function

The foreskin is home to a high density of nerve endings and blood vessels that make it the most sensitive part of the penis. Couple that with the fact that it comprises about one-third to one-half of all the skin covering the penis, or approximately fifteen square inches, and it’s easy to see how removing it could impact sexual function. During sex, the foreskin helps to maintain lubrication, reducing vaginal dryness and making intercourse less abrasive for the female partner. Intact men are also significantly less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction disorder, and their partners are more apt to experience frequent orgasms.

3) A murky history

The first documented case of circumcision appears on an Egyptian tomb dating back to around 2400 BC. While the exact purpose of circumcision is debated, hypotheses include: a religious sacrifice, a rite of passage for young men, a sign of social status, a way to alter sexual pleasure, or a health preventative measure. It gained popularity in Western medicine when two French doctors linked masturbation to a host of diseases like polio and tuberculosis. By circumcising boys, the doctors believed they could prevent masturbation and in turn, prevent illness. This same thought process was applied to a host of diseases and disabilities, and before long, circumcision became the new snake oil of preventative medicine.

Circumcision gained popularity in the Victorian-era United States amidst a climate of negative attitudes toward sex. It was believed that through circumcision sexual desires and promiscuity could be curbed, cases of rape reduced, especially the rape of white women by black men, and marriages saved. During the World Wars, rates increased as the military led a concerted effort to circumcise soldier serving in sub-Sahara Africa in order to prevent the spread of AIDS. In the period of prosperity following World War II, families chose to deliver their babies in hospitals where it was common to offer routine circumcision. Since most fathers were already circumcised, they saw it as only natural that their sons be too, thus passing on the tradition for decades to come.

4) Not recommended by any medical association

It’s true! There is not a single medical organization that recommends routine-infant circumcision. In fact, most organizations actively condemn the procedure. Take the KNMG for example, a Dutch medical organization representing 40,000 doctors. In 2010 they issued a detailed analysis stating that circumcision does not have the preventative benefits its supporters claim, does have real and clear risks, and is an ethical issue on par with female genital mutilation. The American Academy of Pediatrics, whose official stance is that preventative health benefits, “outweigh the risks of the procedure,” still does not recommend it for all male newborns.

5) The benefits are exaggerated

Most new parents will do anything if they believe it is in the best interest of their child, so when they hear things like ‘circumcision reduces urinary tract infections, the spread of AIDS, and penile cancer rates,’ it seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately these sweeping statements only tell half the story.

Take UTIs for example. Your doctor would be correct in telling you that circumcision lowers UTI rates in boys. That’s a fact. It can’t be disputed. But the thing about facts is they only tell part of the story; they lack meaning without the proper context. What your doctor is leaving out by only citing this single statistic is that UTI infections are rare. They only occur in about 1% of boys under the age of one, a rate that is much lower than their female counterparts. When baby girls get a UTI they are easily treated with antibiotics. Now I may be in the minority here, but if I have to choose between administering an antibiotic or removing healthy genital tissue, I’m choosing the less invasive option.

What about STDs? Research found that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV by 47%. At first glance this seems like a compelling reason to circumcise. But if you look at the actual data, the risk decreases from 2.49% to 1.18%. Yes, that’s 47%. Again, facts can’t be disputed, but that 47% sure seems a lot less scary when you see the actual percentage of the population that is infected. Something else to note, all scientific research is not created equal (gasp!). Many medical organizations, including the AAP, point out that these studies, carried out in Sub-Sahara Africa with heterosexual men, are full of methodological flaws and are not relevant to the United States where most HIV cases result from homosexual contact or the use of contaminated needles. Similar studies carried out in the United States do not show significant reductions in HIV rates in circumcised men. Additionally, in many European countries where HIV cases are very, circumcision is almost nonexistent.

Let me reiterate, a single statistic does not tell the whole story. And even if it did, say even if the African HIV studies were accurate, promoting circumcision as a way to prevent HIV infection does a disservice to patients because it reduces the use of condoms and other safe sex practices

6) The risks are real

Common risks of circumcision include oozing or bleeding from the surgical site, infection, and irritation from exposure to environmental contaminants or abrasive surfaces. More serious risks, occurring in 0.2 to 0.6% of circumcisions, include damage to the opening of the urethra, the formation of scar tissue, the removal of too little or too much foreskin, excessive bleeding that requires stitches, and partial or full removal of the tip of the penis.

Even without suffering from any of these immediate risks, circumcision still impairs important physical and sexual functions that were discussed in previous points. It also can by psychologically damaging to the circumcised baby later in life, when he realizes the implications of his parents’ decision. Don’t believe me, a quick internet search turns up numerous message forums and websites set up solely for the purpose of talking through these issues with others who have experienced similar trauma. In an interview in Psychology Today, one man who was circumcised later in life expresses a deep regret over undergoing the procedure and mentions both a reduced libido and loss of sensation even with a complication-free surgery.

There is conflicting evidence surrounding whether or not babies experience psychological trauma as a result of circumcision. Some studies suggest circumcision can cause behavioral changes that interfere with parent-infant bonding and breast feeding. Others suggest that, even with local anesthetics, babies still experience pain during the procedure. More research still needs to be done. As a parent, I know it’s impossible (and probably not healthy) to shield my child from all potentially distressing situations, but unless I know the benefits are substantial, I sure am going to try.

7) He doesn’t have to look like everyone else

Would you let your child undergo plastic surgery if he thought his nose was too big? What about if he thought he was too short, too tall, too thin, too fat, too freckled, too…. This list could go on forever. As parents, we routinely tell our children to embrace their differences, so why then does this not apply to his penis—a part of his body that shouldn’t even be on display that frequently to begin with. I realize bullying is a very real concern for many parents, but making a major medical decision to avoid future potential teasing is shortsighted. It also sends the subtle yet very destructive message that the appropriate way to stop bullying is to conform.

What’s even more relevant to note is that compared to the worldwide population, circumcised men are in the minority. And with rates declining steadily in the United States, it might not be long before the same is true here.

8) It’s a violation of his rights

Unless it is medically necessary, circumcision is a cosmetic procedure performed for religious or cultural reasons. It violates a child’s right to physical integrity, to freedom of religion, and to protection from physical and mental violence. Many worldwide medical communities are taking a stand, issuing statements that condemn the practice. For example, The Royal Dutch Medical Association issued a statement that “children must not be subjected to medical proceedings that have no therapeutic or preventative value.” The Ombudsman for Children in Norway advocates that boys should not be circumcised until they are old enough to provide consent. The Central Union for Child Welfare in Finland calls circumcision “a violation of personal integrity” and ruled it unlawful in 2006. Many other countries are following suit.

Why then, in the United States, do we extend this protection to women but not men? Many argue there is a difference between female genital mutilation and routine male circumcision. While that’s true, it’s interesting to note that in cultures where female genital mutilation is still common, the rationales cited include many of the same used to support circumcision in male babies—hygiene, disease prevention, improved appearance, and social acceptance.

9) It’s his penis, not yours

As parents, we make hundreds of decisions for our children—whether or not to vaccinate, what kids of food we feed them, the types of medicines they receive. Many would argue circumcision falls under this umbrella of health-related decision making. I would disagree. The majority of the medical benefits cited for circumcision are only relevant to a sexually active, adult male. Circumcising a baby boy does nothing to prevent STDs (he’s not sexually active) or penile cancer (a disease that occurs most commonly in men over 55). Choosing to circumcise as an infant to prevent diseases only occurring in sexually active adults is premature and irreversibly alters a part of his body without his consent. Wait until he is an adult, and let him make the decision for himself. After all, he is the one who will have to live with the consequences of the decision.

10) It’s easy to clean an intact penis

There is a big misconception that an intact penis is dirty. The truth is, it’s only as dirty as you let it get. For babies and children, the best way to clean an intact penis it to leave it alone. An infant’s foreskin is non-retractile and self-cleaning. The fusion of the foreskin to the glans keeps dirt out and sterile urine washes the penis out daily. To care for the outside, washing with simple soap and water, the same way you would a finger, will suffice. It’s important to note that the foreskin should NEVER be retracted during cleaning, until it has retracted on its own. When this happens, usually by puberty for most boys, teach your son retract the skin and wash underneath with soap and water, the same way he would wash any other body part.

Still uncertain what to do? Why not wait and decide later? Circumcision can be performed at any time during a boy’s life. Completely undoing the procedure once it’s done, that will never be an option.

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A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Oliver likes to pick things. The specific sippy cup his juice will go in. What vegetable he’ll eat feed to the dog during dinner time. The shirt he’s going to get dirty before we leave the house. Even his nose from time to time. And much to my husband’s dismay, Oliver loves to pick the not-quite-ripe tomatoes and peppers off the plants he spent all summer nurturing from little seedlings.

We can’t seem to shout “Nooooooo” fast enough. One second the little red tomato is sucking up water, blowing in the breeze, the next it’s flying over the balcony as a smug 2-year-old laughs from above.

So what to do with an overly zealous picker of fruits and veggies? Take him to the one place where he is allowed to pick all the apples he can carry, which turns out to be quite a lot when it’s daddy carrying them in a half-bushel sized bag.

When we proposed the idea to Oliver, he instantly caught on to what we would be doing and ran around the house shouting “pick apples” over and over. This is where we learned our first lesson. Don’t propose any idea to a toddler until you are about to do it. Or better yet until you are doing it. There was a week lag-time between when we suggested going and actually went, which meant a week of listening to Oliver say “pick apples” in the whiniest toddler voice he could muster.

Yea, I guess we deserved that.

The day of the apple picking trip was all blue skies and sunshine. We headed out early in the morning to beat the crowds and had almost the whole orchard to ourselves—a good thing when your toddler’s preferred method of picking fruit also involves chucking it through the air the second it leaves the tree.

Other interesting things I learned about picking apples with a toddler:

1) The apples out of his reach are inevitably the ones he will want to pick the most (thank goodness for a tall husband!)

2) Toddlers do not discriminate between large, perfectly shaped apples and tiny, spotted, brown ones.

3) Instead of placing the apples in the designated bag, it is much more fun to toss them on the ground and watch mommy and daddy retrieve them.

4) Eating apples is just as fun as picking them.

5) But not as fun as eating the homemade donuts the orchard also sells.

6) And any trip to an orchard can be improved by a subsequent trip to the park.

We left the orchard with enough apples to make every apple recipe ever found on Pinterest, assuming the apples would stay fresh through December. (And I possess a Martha Stewart level of craftiness). Thankfully, Oliver’s unique picking style is also matched by his unique eating style. He takes two bites from an apple, hands it back to mommy and demands a “new one.”

Maybe those apples won’t be lasting so long after all.

Are there any fall activities you like to do with your kids? Looking for a great mom-approved apple recipe. We tried and loved these cinnamon apple muffins by Rachel from Add a Pinch.

Oliver’s To-Do List

If Oliver were to make a daily to-do list, one that covered all the most important aspects of his day, it would look something like this.

1) Watch as many episodes of Daniel Tiger as I can get away with
2) Poop
3) Play with mommy’s I-Phone
4) Hide mommy’s I-Phone to maximize play time later
5) Eat suckers, two at a time
6) Move all the toys in my bedroom to the living room floor
7) Do dishes, inadvertently wash kitchen floor
8) Poop #2
9) Eat popsicles, mine and daddy’s
10) Play baseball
11) Drink milk from special milk cup
12) Decide which cup is the “special milk cup” after mommy makes milk in wrong cup
13) Pee on carpet after daddy removes diaper for bath time
14) Take shoes off repeatedly throughout day, bonus if it’s while in the car
15) Make mommy sing Wheels on the Bus for minimum of one hour

When I make Oliver a to-do list, it looks a little more like this:

Because if there is one way to feel like you’ve accomplished a lot, it’s to make a to-do list of things you have already done. Yup, that’s parenting at its finest. And if Oliver helps and cooperates with new baby care as well as he cooperated when making this video it will only take about three hours to change a single diaper. That’s the magic of editing—not to mention a husband willing to play personal assistant (read wrangler) to one demanding toddler actor!

If Oliver Were on Match.com

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Name: Oliver
18-month old dude, but I’m “mature” for my age; already in what I like to call my terribly awesome two stage. I live with my parents, but don’t worry, I have my own crib.

Seeking: 15-21 month old guys or gals, dogs and squirrels of any age are also welcome

Height: 98th percentile; translation: tall enough to get into the drawer where mommy used to keep the knives

Body type: Munchkin

Religion: Disney

Smoke: No

Drink: I’ve been off the bottle for a couple weeks now.

So what should you know about me? I am laid back and easy going (assuming mommy does exactly what I want, when I want). I’m an intellectual who enjoys long conversations—my current favorite topics include poop, dogs, and bubbles—trying to engineer the perfect lego structure, and brain teasers like reconfiguring the cable box. I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of guy who also appreciate a good mid-day cat nap. If you like to sleep in, we probably wouldn’t click. When I’m not sleeping I like to curl up on my daddy’s lap with a good picture book, catch all the latest movies (so long as they star Mickey Mouse), and stay active—couch diving is my new favorite sport. Other interests include wallets with easily lost credit cards, iPhones, basketball, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider—although not necessarily all together or in that particular order. I live a pretty structured life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to let loose and have fun—streaking around the apartment and sneaking chocolate syrup from the fridge are just a couple of the wild and crazy things I get up to.

I’m looking for someone who wants to share in all the highs and lows of toddler life. Someone to share my cheerios with. Someone to celebrate the new milestones with. Someone to cry with when we’re cutting our molars. I also need someone who has a good sense of humor—if you can’t laugh at a messy poop explosion or a fart noise, forget it. Ideal first dates include chilling at the park—the slides are my favorite, baby story time at the library (smart chicks rule!), or any location where my mom can also get a cup of coffee while we hang.

Contact me if you’re interested. I swipe my mom’s iPhone often enough that I’ll respond within the day.

In Sickness and in Hell

Warning: The following image will make you simultaneously tear up and say “awe.” Much like the dogs and cats in those ASPCA commercials, add a little Sarah MacLauchlan, and you’ll be whipping out your checkbooks to contribute to my ‘Oliver is sick’ fund.

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No?

Okay so maybe it just makes me tear up a little, mostly because I know how miserable Oliver was this past week while fighting a nasty cold. For anyone who has ever had a sick kid, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it’s just as rough for the parent as it is for the child.

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First there is the fact that watching your child suffer, for whatever reason, is torture.

I may not be the one with the fever but boy does my head pound when I realize there is little I can do, Tylenol aside, to bring it down.

I may not be the one hacking and wheezing and dealing with a constant stream of snot dripping from my nose, but boy does my chest tighten up when I realize that, besides cranking up the humidifier, I can do little to ease his cough.

Then there is the rarely admitted fact that dealing with a child who is suffering takes that torture to a new level. Like if watching him suffer is the physical equivalent of getting punched in the gut, dealing with that suffering child is equivalent to getting punched in the gut during a WWE cage match with The Rock. (Note: superfluous wrestling reference for my husband’s sake; translation: really really hard).

I may not be the cranky, irritable one dropping to the floor in a fit of rage because mommy handed me the wrong colored sippy cup, but I am secretly wishing I could throw a fit of my own when Oliver does it.

Is it okay to admit that? Does it make me bad a mom?

I’m going to throw this out there, having a sick toddler requires a black-belt, Zen-master level of patience and nurturing. I’m only a yellow-belt on my best days. Despite knowing Oliver’s increased irritability and clinginess were a direct result of feeling lousy, I was barely hanging on to my sanity by the end of the week. If you ask my husband, I might have actually let go.

When the crankiness finally hit the tipping point, I pulled out all my tricks to try and calm him down. I tried hugs. I tried distractions. I tried ignoring the behavior. I tried talking to him, rationally explaining his feelings and the appropriate reaction (Seriously, don’t even waste your time with this one). I tried falling head over heels to accommodate his needs. He’s sick after all I told myself. But nothing seemed to quell the tears—his or mine.

In order to fortify myself against it, I had to admit that, like his fever and his cough, there was little I could do to control it. Once I let go of the expectation—once I learned to embrace the tears instead of fighting them—I was able to stay much calmer and, subsequently, so was Oliver.

Now on the other side of Coldmagedon 2014, with my happy, bubbly baby returned and my own blood pressure back down to a solid 120/80, I can pass on the wisdom I learned from this experience.

1) Set Aside Routine. I’ve discovered over time that as much as Oliver thrives with a solid routine, so do I.  I look forward to his regularly scheduled naptime. I like to be able to predict the order in which our daily activities will occur. There is a comfort there. When you have a sick toddler though, forget about all that and just run with whatever makes you and your sick kiddo happy in the moment.

2) Indulge in “Lazy Day” Activities. You know what I’m talking about, those things we all love to do—watch TV, curl up with a good book, lounge around doing nothing—but feel guilty doing too often. When you’re toddler is sick, you and he have a free pass to do them as much as you want. If he is too distracted by Mickey Mouse cartoons to remember that he feels sick and, subsequently, scream at the top of his lungs for hours on end, that is a win in my book.

3) Pretend You Have a New Born. Remember when your toddler was an infant and everyone told you things like 1) sleep when the baby sleeps 2) forget about keeping the house clean 3) ignore the advice of others and go with your instincts, 4) make time for yourself, and 5) let go of perfect and just be good enough. All these things once again apply, so embrace that middle of the day nap!

4) Accept Help. I want you to go beyond accepting help; I want you to ask for it. Reach out to anyone and everyone, and shamelessly beg for assistance. Even the strongest will is no match for a sick toddler—you’re going to need support.

5) Tell yourself This too shall pass. Repeat as needed.

What would you add to the list?

Babies on a Plane

DSC_3002A little while ago I wrote a blog about the joys of traveling sans baby. Only now will I openly admit that when I wrote that blog I had never tried traveling, at least not by plane, with my kiddo. At the time, I could only imagine the trials involved in carting an uncooperative, screaming toddler through the airport. In my head, it seemed pretty dreadful. Since I wrote that post, I have indeed gone on a plane with my 16-month-old, and I hate to break it to you, but the reality is worse. Much, much worse.

For Thanksgiving this year, my husband, Oliver and I headed out to the Las Vegas area to visit the in-laws. The flight to Vegas is an anxiety-inducing 4 ½ hours. That means potentially 4 ½ hours of dealing with a wailing, thrashing, whining, get-me-off-this-plane toddler. Being the master planner that I am (read: I would normally forget everything except the baby), I headed to the internet for some advice on making the flight less stressful. Armed with my bag of tricks and my list of dos and don’ts we hit the road.

When we landed in Vegas later that day, frazzled and near tears, I ripped up my list and swore to hunt down every last person who said “traveling with a baby won’t be bad as long as you’re prepared.” Allow me to elaborate.

The first mistake I made was in thinking that because I could entertain Oliver all day long while we were at home that I would be able to entertain him just as easily on the plane. Wrong! It turns out his favorite forms of entertainment– running, throwing balls, and going outside, are neither feasible nor safe on a plane. His luxurious 18’ x 16’ playroom at home (read: the living and dining room that have begrudgingly morphed into a playroom) is not the same as a tiny 1’ x 1’ seat. That didn’t stop Oliver from trying to treat it like it was his personal play space though.

He climbed up my body like he was scaling a jungle gym at the park. He bounced and jumped and swung his arms like he was splayed out across our bed, testing the resiliency of the springs. He flung napkins and in-flight magazines across the aisle as if he were trying our for the major leagues. And he screeched and wailed with a renewed gusto I haven’t heard in awhile. A level of volume much more suitable for children who have fallen to the bottom of a well and need rescuing than are sitting amidst snoozing adults in an encapsulated area.

Clearly, I needed different tactics for an airplane seat than our home. Strike one.

The next mistake I made was thinking Oliver would peacefully doze off the second the clock struck eight, his normal bed time at home. If anything, by the time eight rolled around he was more wired than ever, frantically making grabs at the lady’s hair in front of us who made the mistake of letting it fall over the back of her chair.

“No Oliver, put your hands in your lap.” A hint of desperation crept into my voice. “Here want to play with mommy’s hair?” I asked, waving my own locks in front of his face. This was the moment I learned it was a bad idea to try and bargain with a wired, yet insanely tired toddler.

Oliver swatted the strand away and let out a squeal I can only compare to a sick and dying cat. The lady in the seat ahead peaked over her shoulder to investigate the source of her disturbance. She glared at Oliver then at me, her eyes speaking almost as loud as Oliver’s cries, then leaned back in her seat to continue reading an article about steakhouses in Brazil, clearly an important read. I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed that her disapproving turn around also pulled her hair back over the seat, safely tucked away from grabbing hands.

Nine o’clock rolled around and there was still no sign of Oliver falling asleep. His body was fighting him, eyelids becoming heavy, trying to pull him into dreamland, but he was fighting back. Have you ever seen those videos of the cute puppy, slumped over on the floor, its head bobbing as it tries to stay awake? Now picture that, except instead of a soft whimper the puppy breaks into hysterical barking every time its eyes flutter open again. Not so cute anymore, right? That was Oliver.

For almost two hours, Brad I took turns trying to will an exhausted but headstrong baby to sleep. We bounced. We paced. We rocked. We danced. We alternated between standing statue-still and gyrating around the aisle to a silent rendition of the Macarena. Nothing worked. That narrow airplane cabin suddenly felt even smaller—claustrophobic-inducing, I’m trapped inside a coffin small. And I was itching to get out. Only 2 ½ hours to go.

The solo dance recital might not have been quite so bad if it weren’t for my less than adoring audience. Every now and then a fellow passenger from a few rows up would crane her neck around to assess the situation. She’d stare at me disapprovingly, angry that I disturbed her Sudoku, or Ann Rice vampire novel, or celebrity gossip rag. I’d put on my best pity face, willing her to look on me with kindness and understanding and not like I was trying to exorcise a demon from my baby. The stare down ultimately ended when the passenger, realizing her abrasive stare wouldn’t do anything to stop the shrieking, turned around in her seat, arms crossed over chest, and mumbled incoherently to the person next to her. My closed-captioning would insert the sentence, ‘she’s such a good, patient mom.’ Thank goodness I can’t lip read. Strike two.

My last mistake was thinking that Oliver could easily be distracted by novel toys and snacks, per the advice of every mommy blog online. Preflight I loaded the diaper bag with dollar-store trinkets, books that we’ve never read, and enough Dum Dum suckers to supply a pediatrician’s office for the entire year. All the advice said to reveal each toy, one-by-one, throughout the flight to entertain and distract your child.

Just before take-off I grab a small coloring pad and crayon and place it in Oliver’s lap. “Look, Oliver, you can color!” I announce with the same excitement you would muster to tell a blind person he could now see or a deaf person he could now hear. Oliver looks at the crayon, picks it up, gingerly pressing it through his fingers as my excitement over this success builds. He brings the crayon down to the pad of paper, but instead of creating a refrigerator worthy masterpiece, he flings it on the floor.

Next I pull out a squeezable fruit pouch for him to eat. I twist off the cap as he watches; I can tell he’s curious, and I hand him the pouch. He arches his back, attempting to do a 180 in Brad’s lap and refuses it. I try to hand it to him again. “Yummy, this is so good.” I pretend to take a sip. Again Oliver looks intrigued. I extend the snack, hoping that this time he will just grab it and sit there quietly eating for at least two minutes. The moment it gets within six inches of his face he’s back to twisting and screaming. I screw the cap back on, feeling defeated, and tuck the now sticky pouch back into the diaper bag.

On and on it goes. A new flavor of puff? Nope. A fuzzy, purple finger puppet? Nothing. Tiny barnyard animal figurines. Tossed to the floor with all the rest, an island of misfit toys accumulating under the airplane seat. Strike three.

Mercifully, Oliver did finally fall asleep, and we landed in Vegas with only a few new gray hairs sprouting up along my hair line. Sitting in the comforts of my in-laws apartment a couple days later, the trauma of the flight becoming a distant memory, I came up with this fancy-schmancy table* to enlighten those who are about to embark on their first journey with a toddler. To say I have a newfound appreciation for traveling sans baby would be a gross understatement.

* a pre-formated table in PowerPoint

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Mommy Confessions: Halloween Edition

Last Halloween Oliver was 3-months-old. We dug a Santa hat out of our Christmas decorations, took a picture, and called it a day.

This Halloween, at 15-months old, we are going all out. So far we have checked off trick-or-treating at the zoo, at the retirement home, and at the mall. With Halloween night right around the corner we aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. On top of wanting Oliver to get the full Halloween experience, I may have some other motives for our holiday gusto. For starters, since Oliver is on the verge of becoming an opinionated toddler, I view this as my one and only chance to have total say over what costume he wears. Next year he will surely revolt if I try sticking him in something this stinkin’ cute:

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And then there’s the matter of candy. I may be too old to trick-or-treat myself, but I’ll never be too old to appreciate free candy*. It just tastes better when you get it from complete strangers versus buying it yourself at the store. No?

As the mom of a too young to eat more than a couple pieces of candy trick-or-treater, I have a few confessions to make. I sincerely hope my son’s cuteness will make up for these if you happen see me at your door come Halloween night.

1) When I reach into your candy bowl to help Oliver make his selection, it’s only because I want that Reese’s that is hiding under the tootsie rolls and I do not trust Oliver to get it.

2) When my son innocently tries to grab multiple pieces of candy, there is nothing innocent about it. We have been working on his grabbing technique for months.

3) Likewise, if he rings your door bell again immediately after receiving his treat, he is simply utilizing yet another candy-accruing ploy I’ve taught him.

4) When I pick up and carry Oliver in between houses, it’s not because he’s tired. This kid just walks so darn slow and I want more candy!

5) After trick-or-treating Oliver will promptly go to bed so that his poor short-term memory will remove all recollection of said candy.

6) After setting aside all the suckers, I will then spend the next hour doing this:

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Happy Halloween all!

*Cost of “free” candy: $20 costume + $6 zoo admission + $1 candy bucket