Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Halloween!

In case I don't get a chance to update before Halloween, here are some early wishes for a good one to you and yours. Trick or treat safely!

(Thank you, hubby o' mine, for carving our pumpkin like my monster shirts! Aren't you clever?!)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rah Rah Roh

When I posted last week's Toddlerese word, I had already started thinking about making the following video. Unfortunately, I'm not a techno geek; but I live with one! Many thanks to my dear hubby for spending a few hours splicing some video clips together. I'm sure the fact that Kieran and I were hanging over his shoulder the whole time made it that much easier.

For your viewing pleasure, this video will reveal the true meaning of last week's Toddlerese word.

This video is dedicated to my lady Kelly, who always belted out "Old Time Rock & Roll" almost as good as Seger himself on karaoke night.
And Tia Tammy? You rock. ;)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bitter Haikus 2

Fuzzi Bunz Catastrophe
Smelly blow-outs on
unseasonably warm days;
Life is bittersweet.

No es bueno.
Spring forward, fall back;
I can never keep them straight.
Travel . . . time change . . . damn.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Toddlerese 3

It's Tuesday, which means it's time for another one of Kieran's special toddlerese words.

If you're still wondering about last week's word, wonder no more. Kieran was saying "potty chair." He doubles the first consonant sound of most words, so potty became "pah-pah". Chair has always been some version of "cow", we're really not sure why. So there you have it: "po-po coooo" = potty chair.

Here's number 3:


Monday, October 19, 2009

Homemade Applesauce

My mom motivated me to try making homemade applesauce, and it was a huge hit. Mom brought me some apples, and my very nice neighbor had given me some apples they'd picked at the orchard last week, so I started with about 2 dozen apples. Here is the very easy recipe.

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce

1 dozen apples
3/4 cup water
Cinnamon to taste (I used about 1 tsp)

  1. Core and peel your apples. We also cut ours in half even after using the apple corer, thinner slices = less cooking time.
  2. Put apples in a large pot and pour in the water. The water should definitely *not* cover the apples, just add enough to cover the bottom of your pot. Your apples will cook down and add more water after simmering.
  3. Simmer on medium low for approx. 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Once apples are mashable (check with a fork), put them in a blender or food processor. I blended about a cup at a time. I used the ice crusher/pulse button on my blender, then used the liquefy button after they were sufficiently chopped up. Mom just mashes hers with a potato masher, but I wanted mine less chunky. (Add more of the water from the pot to make your sauce runnier, less to make it thicker.)
  5. Cool and eat.
I made two batches - one last night and one this morning. We froze the batch we made last night. We shared half of this morning's batch with our Monday Fun-day buddies (thanks for the name, Jesse!) and gave the other half to a friend who helped me with a huge sewing project. Each batch probably made 12-16 cups of applesauce. The boys LOVED it; Kieran had 3 servings after we painted this morning.

Helping Grandma start the applesauce

What made it even better is that Kieran helped us make it. He put the apple slices in the pot and then helped me push the buttons on the blender. It was a fun family activity. What a yummy way to usher in the fall!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rice Diving

I have a friend who has a son that is almost two months older than Kieran. We are both stay at home mamas, and we both enjoy doing fun, "educational" things with our toddlers. Neither one of us is drilling our kids with flash cards or making them memorize things by rote, but we do like to plan fun activities that happen to have a bonus, like painting with colors or talking about seasons. The best part is that they live less than ten minutes from us by car, so we have started meeting on Monday mornings to do a "Toddler Activity Time." (Please help us think of a catchy name, I love catchy names and have not come up with anything acceptable yet.)

We take turns hosting each week, and last week was my turn. I planned two activities. The first activity was simply making pictures with stickers. My mom got Kieran some fall-themed foam stickers, so while the boys stuck their stickers everywhere we talked about the red and yellow leaves, the orange pumpkins, the brown and red turkeys, and the green trees.

For our second activity, I filled a bowl with rice and buried seven or eight small toys (magnets, small wooden playfood, marbles, and matchbox cars). This one was definitely the bigger hit. Our friend loved digging his hands deep into the rice and groping around for the toys. Kieran was a little more tentative - he delicately moved the rice around the top, then he started digging deeper when he felt comfortable with the material. They both got so excited when they found something buried. Kieran has actually requested that the rice bowl be left on the table - he's gone back to play with it several times in the past week.

Depositing a wooden broccoli tree in the basket.

A marble!

Sensory activities like finding toys in rice, digging around in sand or beans, or getting messy with finger painting or shaving cream drawings are not only fun, but they also help improve something called "tactile perception." Tactile perception is the term that describes how your brain sends information to and from your fingertips. Improving your toddler's tactile perception helps him feel more confident performing tasks with his hands and fingers.

Here are a few more sensory activities you can do with your toddler:

  1. Shaving cream painting: find a clean surface (the dining room table? We prefer the outdoor picnic table), spray on some shaving cream, and let your toddler go crazy. We sprinkle in a few drops of food coloring to make things interesting. (You can also use whipped cream or pudding)
  2. Put dried beans in a large tupperware bowl. Let your toddler sit on the floor with the bowl of beans and a few utensils (a spoon, a measuring cup, etc.). Kieran has loved this activity ever since he was about a year old. Just be careful that your toddler does not try to eat any of the beans!
  3. Nature table: go on a walk and pick up different things you find (leaves, acorns, pine cones, grass, rocks). Bring them home and put them on the table for your toddler to examine. This is a great activity to do throughout the year to use when talking about seasons.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Toot Burgers

Kieran used to eat just about anything we put in front of him. Lately, though, he's become more finicky. It's frustrating to make a healthy meal and have it sit untouched. It would be easier if he didn't like certain foods, but it really just depends on the day. Sometimes he loves to eat broccoli "trees," sometimes he won't go near them. Sometimes he loves to munch on tomatoes, other times he takes a bite and spits it back out on the floor. Same thing for just about any food (except crackers of course).

Since he does eat a wide range of foods (albeit not all in one day), I'm not worried about his diet. He's also still breastfeeding, so he's getting nutrition from me. And of course I will continue to offer healthy alternatives. We are also not above making the occasional "chicken helicopter" or "carrot choo choo." Another fun favorite is pretending that we're going to take a bite of Kieran's food, then swerving it over to his mouth. He gets a kick out of "stealing" our bites.

Tonight we had garbanzo bean burgers and sweet potato fries. We've had them before, and they have been a hit for everyone. The last time I made them, I made a double batch and froze several extra patties for an easy freezer meal. This time, however, Kieran wouldn't even take a nibble. I shouldn't have worried since he had eaten about half of a large avocado before dinner, but we still tried to get him to try his burger.

Garbanzo bean burger helicopter: fail
Garbanzo bean burger train: fail
Garbanzo bean burger airplane: fail (even though he specifically requested it)
Garbanzo bean burger swerved away from mama's mouth: fail (but with the added bonus of lots of giggles)

Then I thought of something. The last time we'd had garbanzo bean burgers, my sister and her boyfriend had eaten with us. Tammy had called the next day complaining about the ensuing flatulence. I thought about it and, yes, it had been a little more musical than usual in our house too. But what do you expect after eating a burger made of beans?

I decided to use this information as ammunition. As Kieran was trying to scramble down from his booster seat I said offhandedly: "Kieran, did you know that these burgers will make you toot?" He stopped scrambling.

Tom got the hint and played along: "Yeah, mama and papa are gonna make lots of big toots after we eat our burgers. Don't you want to toot too?"

The impish twinkle in Kieran's eyes was priceless. He quickly considered, then maneuvered back into his booster. "Yup!"

Success! I thought we were so sly. Tom put the bite in Kieran's mouth, Kieran gave it a cursory chew, then spit it back out into his hand.

Foiled again. (We do love the way he says "excuse me," so we really wouldn't have minded a few Kieran toots.)


These burgers are delicious. I modified the recipe I found here, following is the recipe with my changes (this is my double recipe - no need to double it again). To freeze, just cook the burgers as called for in the directions and then put them in the freezer (I wrapped them in foil and put them in an airtight container). To reheat, thaw and broil for a few minutes (I baked them with the fries tonight and they did not do as well as they have under the broiler).

Garbanzo Bean Burgers (aka "Toot Burgers")
Makes approx. 20 patties

2 15 Oz. Can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed (I used dry beans that I had boiled; I used about half the bag and made at least 20 burgers; if cooking with canned beans you might want a third can of beans on hand just in case)
1 Carrot, grated
1/2 of a Zucchini, grated
1 Garlic Clove
1 Small Onion, chopped
2 Eggs
Oatmeal (I probably used 3/4 cup)
2 tsp Flaxseed meal
1 Tbsp Oil

*Place garbanzo beans in a food processor and pulse until combined (I used a blender).
*Place bean mixture in a bowl and combine with remaining ingredients (except oil).
*Form into patties (mixture will be moist).
*Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat.
*Cook the patties for 5 minutes.
*Turn the patties, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
*Serve and/or freeze.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Is anyone going to participate in NaBloPoMo this November? November is a popular writing month (it must be the cold weather that makes everyone turn introspective and put pen to paper). There is a popular novel writing project that challenges writers to churn out a novel in thirty days each November. Not to be outdone, the blogosphere has established "NaBloPoMo," which challenges bloggers to blog every day in November (well, any month really, but in November there are prize drawings).

I'm truly tempted to try it, but I want to blog around a theme. There are several I'm considering, but the two it has come down to are 1) winter toddler activities and 2) pregnancy/childbirth/baby resources for new and soon-to-be parents. I've actually started on a couple of posts for the second topic, just to see how difficult it will be. Yikes. They have been time consuming. I'm trying to keep them to two pages in length (in Word) plus footnotes, and I'm cramming as many resources in as possible so that new parents will at least have a jumping-off point for further research. Wading through some of the worthless information on the internet has been a pain, and I don't know if I'm ready to tackle thirty days of it.

What about you? Will you blog for thirty days with me? A support system would be helpful. If you are, talk to me about your strategy - are you going to blog around a theme? Will you be doing more involved posts or will they be lighter/easier?

What would you like to see from my blog? Have you enjoyed the posts that I spent time researching (like the ones on toilet paper or circumcision), or the ones I've considered to be more "fluff" (like toddlerese or bitter haikus)? And if you like the researched posts, would you want to read them daily or less often?

If you are a blogger, please make sure to link to your blog in the comments (if you so desire) so I can add you to my reader/follow you. Maybe we can have a NaBloPoMo blogring (or looking further into the future, maybe we could start a blog carnival).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Toddlerese 2

I'm sure you've been wondering all week what the translation of Kieran's toddlerese word is.

Ready for it?

It was avocado.

Signing wouldn't really help us with that word, as it gets finger-spelled in ASL. While Kieran does know his alphabet (spoken), he's not quite there with signs.

I decided to try toddlerese part 2 - take a stab at this one:

I'll put up a hint later - all I'll say for now is that if you are a signing family, please don't give this one away ;)

Ok, I've been asked for a hint. It is two words - first word, two syllables. He's actually signing the first word in the video.

Bitter Haikus

Dog! What good are you?!
You did not eat the cat puke,
so I stepped in it.

Don't glare at me, cat.
Your stomach would be full if
you hadn't puked there.


Tom has one to add:

Constantly licking;
Always laying in walkway;
Go home big black dog!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Easy Vegetable Stew

In my perfect world it would be 75 degrees all year round, but cold weather does have a few advantages:

1) Fires in the fireplace: While we do have a chimney on the roof of our house, appearances in this case are deceiving - we have no fireplace. No crackles and pops to break up the quiet of a sleepy, snow-covered evening, no marshmallows roasting on skewers, no red glow coloring chubby little baby cheeks . . . it's very sad.

2) Long sleeves and sweaters: I've always loved the look of fall and winter clothes. I'm not sure why, it's just a personal preference.

3) Burrowing underneath the covers: I love piling blankets on and snuggling up to Tom to keep warm. Kieran, on the other hand, has an internal furnace that has him kicking off the covers and sleeping spread-eagle in between us. We have to struggle, shivering, to pull the covers up underneath his leaden body so we won't freeze. Tom claims that I have the same furnace, but I have the courtesy to keep it under the blankets.

4) Stews, chili, and soups in the crockpot: there is nothing like throwing a few ingredients into the crockpot in the morning and coming home to a finished meal that evening. Plus, the smell of whatever is cooking fills the whole house - yum! Another great thing about many crockpot meals is that they can be frozen and stored for later. Every time I make any kind of stew, chili, or soup, half of it goes into a container for one of those days I don't want to cook.

I had some vegetables in the fridge that I needed to use, so I decided to make vegetable stew. I also had bean stock (made from cooking a bag of black beans) in the deep freeze just waiting for a good recipe - I was happy to thaw it out. Here is what I did to make our stew, but the nice thing about vegetable stew is that you can easily improvise with whatever you have in the fridge or in the pantry.

Easy Crockpot Vegetable Stew

Water or stock (use enough to cover all of your veggies plus a little more, depending on how soupy you want it)
3 carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, diced
Tomatoes (I used one can of organic diced tomatoes, undrained; I also had about 12 cherry tomatoes leftover that I diced and added)
2 yellow squash, diced
1 onion, diced
1 can corn, undrained
Garbanzo beans (approx. 1 cup; I had cooked and frozen them previously, you could also use canned)
Spinach, shredded (mine was frozen from the garden, I thawed & shredded it)
Lentils (I actually have a Bob's Red Mill soup mix that has lentils, peas, etc.)
Spices (I used cilantro, garlic, a seasoning salt blend, and a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa)
Cornstarch (optional)

Boil carrots and potatoes for a few minutes in a separate pot to soften them.** Put the carrots/potatoes/water, stock, garbanzo beans, spices, and all veggies except for cabbage and spinach into the crockpot. Add at least enough stock or water to completely cover the veggies. Cook for 6 hours on high or up to 12 hours on low. Approximately one hour before serving, add cabbage, spinach, and lentils. If you want your soup to be thicker, you can slowly add cornstarch while stirring briskly about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with some shredded cheese and a side of bread (cornbread would be good, we had garlic bread though).


**Ok, I have a change to the recipe since posting this. When it was time to add the cabbage and lentils, I realized that my carrots and potatoes were not anywhere near soft enough. I transferred everything to a big soup pot and boiled it for 10 or 15 minutes, then let it simmer for the next hour. In the future, I will probably give the carrots and potatoes a quick boil in a separate pot before adding them to the crockpot.
I did add cornstarch - probably 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons. It made the broth thicker, just what I was in the mood for.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Simple Homemade Stocking Stuffer Idea

At the risk of revealing some of my family members' Christmas gifts, I wanted to share a few crafts I am making this holiday season.

Today I'm going to show you how to make personalized picture magnets.

Materials you will need for picture magnets
Pictures resized down to the dimensions you want (and printed)
Lightweight wood (about 1/8" thick)
X-Acto knife (or something to cut your wood with)
Low grit sandpaper

1) Select the pictures you would like to use and resize them. There are two ways you can do this: you can either cut your wood to fit the pictures, or you can resize your pictures to fit the wood.
     a) If you want a variety of magnet sizes and  more freedom in selecting your pictures, resize your pictures and cut the wood to fit. Pro: you can choose the pictures you want and crop them however you'd like. Con: This way takes more time (cutting the wood is time-consuming, and you will have to measure each piece individually).
    b) If you want more uniformly sized magnets, decide on the dimensions of your magnets and resize your pictures to fit. Pro: this will save you time in the long run, because cutting wood to fit is a pain. Con: you may have to crop pictures strangely to fit your wood pieces., a free program available to download online, is a good way to resize pictures. The pictures I used here range from one to two inches on each side.

2) Cut your wood. We have used different types of wood - lightweight Balsa wood sheets are too flimsy, we prefer a heavier wood. The magnets shown here used a sheet of wood that was about 1/8" thick. To cut the wood, we used an X-Acto knife, a ruler, and a self-healing cutting mat.

3) Sand your wood. We sanded each piece with a low grit sandpaper enough to smooth rough edges and corners.

4) Print and cut your pictures; make sure they will lay neatly on the wood pieces.

5) Adhere the pictures to the wood with Mod Podge and a small foam brush. Apply one layer, wait about thirty minutes for it to dry then add a second layer.
We used the gloss finish (rather than matte), so the magnets turned out shiny. Matte Mod Podge will give your magnets a more muted finish.

6) After your Mod Podge is dry, attach the magnets. We just used a roll of adhesive-backed magnets. Set something heavy on top of your magnets so they will firmly attach to the wood.

You can make your magnets even fancier by cutting the wood to allow for a border around your pictures. Decorate the border using things like scrapbook paper, glitter glue, stain, paint, rubber stamps, etc.

If you don't have time to be crafty, you can hire me to make your magnets. I will make you a set of 3 magnets on wood for $9, or on antique wooden dominoes for $12. I will give discounts for multiple sets. These are perfect for giving to family, friends, and kids as regular gifts or as stocking stuffers.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Water Sprites

I hosted a particularly messy co-op class today: "Design Your Own Wrapping Paper." I bought butcher paper and some powdered Tempera paint, then everyone used hands, feet, cookie cutters, cars, balls, and various natural objects to paint the paper on our driveway. The plan is to use the paper to wrap presents.

After the painting festivities, Kieran and his friend London (whose mama blogs here) decided that they needed a bath. Who were we to argue?! They had a blast, and we are definitely inviting Jessica and crew back again soon.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009


We’ve been signing with Kieran since he was just a few months old. I’d guess he can sign almost 150 words and recognizes many more than that. Quick tip for anyone who signs with their baby – don’t stop signing just because they start speaking. You may think your toddler is going to be a verbal genius because she can say “mama,” “papa,” “nana”*, and “uh-uh-uh-uh!”**, but you will likely have to wait months or even years before you are graced with things like consonant blends or prepositions.

Signing has been a learning experience for all three of us. Neither Tom nor I knew much about sign language before Kieran, but after reading a little about it we knew we wanted to try it out with him. I really can’t say enough about the benefits of signing. Kieran started signing well before he could say a recognizable word (aside from "mama"). His first sign was “more” when he was about 8 or 9 months old, and as soon as he realized that putting his fingertips together brought about a specific response from us, he said “more” about everything.

By 10 months Kieran had a handful of signs: “more,” “mama,” “papa,” “fish,” “motorcycle,” “hat,” “dog,” “light,” “book,” “hot” . . . We learned signs for anything he took an interest in. He loved pulling the string to turn the kitchen ceiling fan light on and off; we learned the sign for light, and within days he was signing “light” when he wanted to pull the string. At 11 months, he signed his first sentence: “more food.” We patted ourselves on the back for nurturing the next great linguist.

We are entirely convinced that signing has staved off more tantrums than we can count. We learned signs for things Kieran liked, as he liked them. “Cracker” was an early (and frequent) sign. “Mama’s milk,” “water,” “food,” “book, “music”; all these words represented parts of our daily rhythm, and Kieran could ask for whatever he wanted. As his world expanded, so did our signing repertoire.

Interested in signing but not sure where to start? Think about the major activities in your baby’s day: nursing, eating, singing, family, toys. We started with “mama,” “papa,” “mama’s milk,” “more,” and “book.” Once you learn a few, the rest will come much easier. Just keep expanding as your baby’s (or toddler’s) interests branch out. We learned many of our signs because of books that Kieran liked (animals in particular). As Kieran got older, we added action words (“swing,” “slide,” “walk,” “play”) and less ordinary words that we might not talk about every day (“store,” “fire”). And we didn't get any fancy programs to learn sign language, we just learned from the ASL site.

Now that he is working on his spoken language we rely on signing just as much, if not more. He really tries to say things, but he’s right in the middle of Toddlerese – that language unique to the three and under crowd that simultaneously warms your heart, makes you giggle, and frustrates the heck out of you. Because he’s learning things faster than he can make his vocal cords work, we are still introducing new signs. For example, he learned signs for the basic colors around 18 months (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white), but he’s just now saying the same words with his mouth in a recognizable way. Without sign language, it would have taken much more pointing and frustration for us to figure out he understood colors.

I find myself continuously asking Kieran to sign something when I’m having problems understanding his words. Most of the time that clears everything up, but there are still many things we don’t have signs for. I thought it would be amusing to have you all "guess that Kieran word." If there’s any interest, I might make it a regular feature – Toddlerese Tuesdays or something fun like that.

So without further ado, here is the first installment:

Care to venture a guess? Here's a hint: it's one word, four syllables.

*That’s banana, but we all know the “ba” is optional.

**That’s dog. Ok, it’s the sound of a dog barking through the eyes and vocal cords of a 15 month old, but dang it we thought it was brilliant.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Our Perfect Son

While Kieran hasn’t reached that stage where he has discovered the real joy that is his penis, he is well aware of its existence. He can also distinguish between “boyyyys” and “guuuuls” and is more than happy (at 21 months) to inform a complete stranger that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. He’s also entirely too young to care that I’m about to “out” him on the Internet:

Kieran is intact (aka "uncircumcised").

You might find it amusing to know that one of the main reasons Tom and I decided not to circumcise Kieran was for the benefit of his future sexual pleasure. That’s right. We actually had a discussion (before we even knew whether Kieran was a boyyyy or a guuul) about the fact that someday, our potential son would be saying a silent thank you to us (or maybe out loud, who knows what would happen in the moment) for allowing him the blessing of having the full range of penile sensation. (More on that below)

Another of our main reasons? The fact that circumcision just isn’t necessary under our system of beliefs. And I’ll tell you the secret of what tipped the scales for Tom (I was convinced as soon as I saw pictures/video of what actually happens in a circumcision): it was our last appointment with our midwife. We were sitting around chatting and I broached the subject: “Can we please talk a little bit about circumcision?” My midwife looked up in surprise before responding: “For two people who recognize the benefits of a natural, unmedicated birth, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, and responding to your baby’s needs, I’m surprised that you’d even consider mutilating your new baby’s penis.” Tom got it.

I'd like to share some of the information I've found on circumcision. Too often, American parents are culturally pressured into cutting their sons, but they are not exposed to any of the facts that would likely lead them to make a different decision. 46% of new parents are not even provided circumcision information by a doctor! (1) I encourage you to share this post with your pregnant friends and family; the best decisions are informed ones.

There are at least four big arguments expounded by those in favor of circumcision. I'm going to address each one in turn, and I'll give you several more reasons that support leaving your sons intact. (I implore you to read this, even though it is a bit lengthy. If you are a parent, you should never make a body-altering decision for your child unless you are fully informed. If you are not a parent, you should be aware of the facts of the most widely performed and wholly unnecessary medical procedure that insurance companies (and, consequently, you) pay for. If you have time, you should also check out Penn & Teller's half hour episode on the subject: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. And one more from Penn here.)

Myth #1: Circumcision prevents disease.
Fact: Circumcision does not protect against getting or giving sexually transmitted diseases (STD's). Rather, the foreskin and its intact mucous membranes act as a barrier to infection. (2) There is also no link between an intact penis and cancer. (3)

Circumcision does not prevent disease:

Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, doctors have been claiming for decades that circumcision prevents all kinds of diseases: from AIDS to tuberculosis, cancer to poor eyesight, epilepsy to mental retardation, and many more in varying degrees of incredulity. No other medical procedure has been credited with preventing such a wide variety of diseases. (4) In reality, circumcision began in the United States during the Victorian era. Its function? To punish boys for masturbating. Even into the 1970's, medical textbooks recommended that doctors perform "routine circumcision as a way to prevent masturbation." (5) Following are quotes by two American doctors:
A remedy for masturbation which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment. In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement. (6)

To obtain the best results one must cut away enough skin and mucous membrane to rather put it on the stretch when erections come later. There must be no play in the skin after the wound has thoroughly healed, but it must fit tightly over the penis, for should there be any play the patient will be found to readily resume his practice not begrudging the time and extra energy required to produce the orgasm. . . We may not be sure that we have done away with the possibility of masturbation, but we may feel confident that we have limited it to within the danger lines. (7)
As Americans grew more liberal in their attitude toward sex, cutting proponents needed more effective arguments than masturbation prevention to encourage circumcision. Hence the panic-inducing reports that intact men are more likely to get cancer and STD's - specifically, AIDS.

The myth that circumcision prevented cancer is credited to Abraham Ravich, a New York urologist who fought bitterly for compulsory circumcision. One of Ravich's most incredible lies (completely unsupported by any medical evidence) is that "foreskin caused cancer in whatever body part it came in contact with." He believed in a fantastical "smegma virus," which migrated from the foreskin to infect its owner and his sexual partners. (8)

More recently, several studies (sponsored, incidentally, by circumcision advocates) have been released linking circumcision to lowered HIV rates. (9) For purposes of these studies, doctors circumcised a group of African adult males. After a short observation period, the doctors concluded that circumcised males contracted HIV at a lower rate than the intact males. What you did not read in their reports, however, is that the newly circumcised males were required to remain abstinent after their foreskins were cut off; this fact, coupled with the early termination of the studies, lends itself to the conclusion that the studies were skewed in favor of the advocates' (predetermined) findings. If the studies continued in time, it is likely that there would be little to no difference in HIV rates between the two groups of men. It also went unreported that these same circumcision advocates had previously done observational studies (where they simply kept track of men who were already circ'd; they did not circ the men). The observational studies failed to show any clear protective effect of circumcision. (10)

The amount of virus present in the body (called the "viral load") "is the chief predictor of the risk of HIV transmission. . . . Male circumcision would not reduce viral loads[,]" so circumcision is an illogical means of reducing infection. Furthermore, "[t]he United States has the highest rate of HIV infection and the highest rate of male circumcision in the industrialized world. Male circumcision, therefore, cannot reasonably be thought to prevent HIV infection." (11)

Remaining intact is medically beneficial:
So if circumcision doesn't prevent disease, are there any medical benefits to keeping one's foreskin? Yes, yes, yes!
  • Protection: "Just as the eyelids protect the eyes, the foreskin protects the glans [the "head"] and keeps its surface soft, moist, and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness." 
  • Immunological Defense: "Glands in the foreskin produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins . . . . Plasma cells in the foreskin's mucosal lining secrete immunoglobulins, antibodies that defend against infection."
  • Proper Circulation: "Circumcision interrupts the normal circulation of blood throughout the penile skin system and glans. . . . The blood flowing into major penile arteries is obstructed by the line of scar tissue at the point of incision, creating backflow instead of feeding the branches and capillary networks beyond the scar." This backflow may obstruct the flow of urine, which can necessitate corrective surgery. 
  • "Circumcision harms the developing brain: . . . [C]ircumcision has long-lasting detrimental effects on the developing brain, adversely altering the brain's perception centers. Circumcised boys have a lower pain threshold than girls or intact boys." There is also evidence of "deeper and more disturbing levels of neurological damage . . . ."
  • The consequences of circumcision: One in 500 babies will experience surgical complications from circumcision. "These complications include uncontrollable bleeding[,] fatal infections[,]" gangrene, pathogenic bacteria which can lead to infections and death, and the tragic mistake of a completely amputated or cauterized penis. (12)
  • Circumcised penises are actually more prone to infection: The foreskin acts as a shield to the glans, protecting it from urine, feces, dirt, and bacteria (particularly during the diaper-wearing years). A circumcised male does not have this protection, so he will be more apt to get irritations and infections, including infections of the urinary tract. (13)
Moral of the disease-prevention myth? Please, please don't circumcise because you think it will make your child healthier. That simply isn't true: you would actually be harming him.

Myth #2: Circumcision is more sanitary and easier to take care of.
Fact: A natural penis requires no special care. In fact, a circumcised penis is actually less clean than an intact penis. (14)

Please continue to read this post at my new site. Here is the direct link:

Thank you for caring enough about your son's genital integrity to educate yourself!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Skip to My Loo

Since I obviously have some readers who are concerned about their impact on the environment (the winner of the free Diva Cup will be announced at the end of this post, by the way), today’s post is a public service announcement on one more way you can save a few hundred pounds of paper from landfills, conserve water, and reduce pollution in our environment.

Ready for it?

Stop using toilet paper.

No, I’m not advocating for a return to corncobs (ouch – whose idea was that?!), but I would like you to at least consider an alternative to the fluffy, bleached stuff. Let’s take a quick look at that squeezable king of the one-time-use products.

Coming Out of the Water Closet (A Brief History of TP)

Toilet paper isn’t new. As early as the 6th century AD, people in medieval China used actual paper to clean their nether regions. In 589 AD, one Chinese scholar wrote that he refused to use any page with “quotations or commentaries from [the] 'Five Classics' . . . .” (1) (If I’m ever forced to use books in the bathroom for more than reading, I can think of a few authors that I wouldn’t mind sacrificing.)

Later Chinese dynasties worked on the art of toilet paper manufacture to produce softer plies, some of which were even perfumed. Other cultures have used wool, lace, wood shavings, leaves, seashells, sponges, or their hands. (2)

By the late 1800’s flush toilets were becoming the standard, so some of the more natural wiping tools did not work with the new indoor plumbing (corncobs tend to get stuck in the pipes no matter how many times you flush). (3) Hence, modern toilet paper was introduced in the United States in 1857 with the tagline “The greatest necessity of the age! Gayetty’s medicated paper for the water-closet.” (4)

Just like feminine products, toilet paper was not considered a topic for polite conversation. One of Gayetty’s competitors, the Scott Paper Company, “was once so embarrassed that it was manufacturing toilet paper that it wouldn’t put its label on the product.” (5) Another company tried to profit on the taboo nature of toilet paper. Their 1930’s advertisements read: “Ask for a roll of Hakle and you won’t have to say toilet paper!” (6)

Eventually, Americans grew to love toilet paper in all of its fluffy glory. We loved it so much that when Johnny Carson “joked about a toilet paper shortage in [a December 1973] opening monologue[,]” frantic viewers took him seriously and bought as much as they could, causing a national shortage. And companies were no longer afraid to stamp their name on toilet paper. Advertising became so rampant that a 1978 “TV Guide poll named Mr. Whipple -- the affable grocer who implored customers, ‘Please don't squeeze the Charmin’ -- the third best-known man in America, behind former President Richard Nixon and the Rev. Billy Graham.” (7)

Those advertising dollars have paid off. As a country, we spend more than $6 billion dollars on toilet paper every year. And what does that dollar amount translate to in waste? How about 15,202,986,200 pounds*: today, the average American uses over 50 pounds of toilet paper each year. (*That’s my calculation. The current U.S. population is 304,059,724; I just multiplied that by 50 to get an approximate total number of pounds per year for everyone.) (8)

The Ecological Disaster

“‘No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper,’ said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and waste expert with the Natural Resource Defense Council.” (9) I agree. America (and, therefore, Charmin et al.) does not. Millions of trees – including old growth forests in Canada – are harvested each year to keep the U.S. stocked up. And while manufacturers could make toilet paper from recycled materials at a similar cost, consumers demand a softer ply which can only be obtained from standing trees. (10)

One website calculated that we cut down 7,026,856 trees per year to produce toilet paper for the United States. (11) You may be surprised to discover that trees aren’t the real environmental concern, though. Because we have managed timberlands, we replace as many trees (or more) as are cut down. The real issue is two-fold: 1) the amount of paper waste in our landfills; and 2) the effects of dioxin, which is a bleaching by-product produced throughout the manufacturing process. (12)

1) Our crowded landfills: The average American uses approximately 700 pounds of paper products every year, most of which will end up in landfills. If every person in the U.S. traded one regular roll of toilet paper for a recycled roll, we could save 1.2 million cubic feet of landfill space (as well as 470,000 trees and 169 million gallons of water). (13)

2) Dioxin “is one of the most toxic human-made chemicals.” It is made during manufacturing when the pulp is bleached (it is bleached so our toilet paper is white). And once it is released into the environment, it is there for good (until it gets into our food supply, of course), because natural bacteria cannot break it down. (14) Dioxin was the primary toxic substance in Agent Orange, and it has been linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, birth defects, diabetes, immune system suppression, fertility problems, and more. (15)

Using unbleached (or “chlorine free”) recycled paper (toilet paper, coffee filters, napkins, etc.) would greatly decrease the amount of this dangerous chemical building up in our bodies. (On a side note, I was shocked to read that “[i]n just six months of breast feeding, a baby in the United States will, on average, consume the EPA’s maximum lifetime dose of dioxin . . . .” Disgusting!) (16)

Lose the Rolls

So back to my original suggestion: Stop using toilet paper. Or at least stop using the super soft, bleached toilet paper. The effects of switching to a toilet paper alternative are dramatic: “If every household replaced just a single twelve-roll pack of regular bathroom tissue with a recycled variety, it would save almost five million trees and enough paper waste to fill seventeen thousand garbage trucks.” (17)

But even better, just think about the difference your family could make by switching to cloth! We’ve been using cloth wipes for over a year. I’ve also made some cloth wipes to sell – I’d love for some of you to be my very first customers.

Toilet paper has been around long enough to have many nicknames: “‘loo roll/paper,’ ‘toilet roll,’ ‘dunny roll/paper,’ ‘bathroom/toilet tissue, ‘TP’ or just ‘tissue.’” (18)

I’d like to help make cloth wipes mainstream enough to enjoy their own nicknames. My sister and her boyfriend fondly refers to hers as “pee pads" (credit to Darin for coming up with that particular alliteration). Most cloth wipe makers call them “family cloth.” Personally I like to call the ones I make “Tee Pee,” because they are two sided – one side is made of soft, snuggly flannel, the other side of 100% cotton recycled t-shirts (hence the “tee”), and they are made with your pee in mind. Well, maybe not *yours* specifically, but pee in general. Poo, too, if you’re brave (and are already doing a load of diaper laundry anyway).

Speaking of laundry, you can just throw your Tee Pee in with your regular wash. Think of it this way – have you ever laughed so hard that you peed yourself? Come on, admit it. Yeah. Did you throw out your undies? No, you laundered them without a second thought. These shouldn’t give you pause either – just toss them in the laundry basket. And as for the practical question of where to put them after use but before laundry day, I have a washable bag hanging on my bathroom door – I throw them in there and then grab it on my way to the washing machine. Easy peasy.

Here are a few pictures of some of the wipes I have available for sale. Let me know if you’re interested in getting some. They are .75 per wipe or 5 for $3.50. They will more than pay for themselves since you will not be buying over 50 pounds of toilet paper for each person in your house every year.


They are also super handy to use as baby wipes (I can also make & sell you some wonderful wipe solution, if you're interested). I can even get cutesy flannel for those of you who want to coordinate with your bathroom or your baby decor.  :)


I’d like to thank everyone one more time for reading my post on feminine products. I know that time is a precious commodity, and I’m honored that you chose to spend a few minutes with me. Like I said before, I wish every one of you could win a free Diva Cup, but they’re only giving one away. And because I am unable to commit to one winner, many thanks to Brookie-Lee from Happybottomus who was impartial enough to select one lucky lady.

Be sure to head over to – everyone who commented will get 10% off of non-diaper items and 5% off of diaper items. Brookie-Lee carries Diva Cups, cloth pads/panty liners/nursing pads (I got mine there at an incredibly reasonable price!), and more.

Drum roll for our winner . . . MEGHANMONGEON will receive a free Diva Cup!

Here is what Brookie-Lee said about her choice:
I have found through the last several years that the best way to help parents to improve their health, their child’s health, and keep the environment healthy is through education. People just don’t know about a lot of things. They don’t realize how their waste is impacting the earth, they don’t realize that the chemicals in disposables are dangerous, they don’t realize there are better options that will save them time and money. I used a diva cup for the first time for a few cycles between my second and third child. And when my menses returns I will use it again. I love it and as many have stated it’s like I don’t have a period. This product is not only a waste free option, it is the healthiest alternative(along with cloth pads) to tampons and conventional pads. And the most comfortable option for mom in my opinion. So in reading through the different responses to Dionna’s blog, meghanmongeon's post really stuck out to me. Not only does she sound like a mama that could benefit from the gift of a Diva Cup but her passion for education and her access to new mamas is exciting for the natural movement. Hopefully more people will learn about healthy and eco-friendly products like the Diva Cup and these products will become mainstream someday. But for the time being the more families that can be reached, the healthier our fellow man. Congratulations meghanmoneon! And please spread the Diva Cup love!

I also loved the post from Aravinda, “The cup is the eco-feminist solution of the century!” I may have to put that on a sign in my store. :D

Brookie-Lee Glaser

Mother of 3

Owner of Happybottomus
MEGHANMONGEON - I know you through MDC, right? Send me a PM so I can get your info to ship you the Diva Cup!

(1) ("Wikipedia")
(2) Wikipedia
(3) ("CNN")
(4) Wikipedia
(6) CNN
(7) CNN
(8) CNN
(9) ("NY Times")
(10) NY Times
(12) ("Toilet Paper World")
(13) Toilet Paper World
(14) Toilet Paper World
(17) Rogers, Elizabeth & Kostigen, Thomas M., "The Green Book" at 66 (2007)
(18) Wikipedia