Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let's Talk about Circumcision

I recently heard an interview with Cameron Diaz about the film, What to Expect When You're Expecting.  In the interview she stated that in order to maintain a PG13 rating, much of the dialogue in a scene about circumcision had to be edited out.  Frankly, I find it disturbing that a discussion about the details of the procedure would earn the film an R rating, but the practice itself is routinely performed on baby boys (in the US) in their first days of life outside the womb.  

I'd hadn't given much thought to the subject until I was pregnant with Riker and Brian informed me that no son of ours would ever be circumcised.  It was then that I started to research the subject and the more I learned, the more I felt angry and profoundly sad that this is a socially acceptable practice in this country. Circumcision is rarely discussed openly and as a result new parents may not give the subject much thought until a doctor or nurse offers the procedure and suggests that it's beneficial and painless. Nothing could be further from the truth.  So, in an effort to bring a taboo subject to light, let's talk about circumcision.


* * * * *

Circumcision is NOT recommended by medical organizations:

Infant circumcision is elective cosmetic surgery. No major medical body in the world recommends routine neonatal circumcision including The American Association of Pediatrics.*  The Royal Australasian College of Physicians states:
"Ethical and human rights concerns have been raised regarding elective infant male circumcision because it is recognized that the foreskin has a functional role, the operation is non-therapeutic and the infant is unable to consent. After reviewing the currently available evidence, the RACP believes that the frequency of diseases modifiable by circumcision, the level of protection offered by circumcision and the complication rates of circumcision do not warrant routine infant circumcision in Australia and New Zealand."
The policy statements of  major medical organizations around the world concur; none recommend routine neonatal circumcision.


Intact is the norm:

Almost 90% of men worldwide are intact and the US is one of the only countries to routinely circumcise infant boys for non-religious reasons. Circumcision rates among US newborn boys fell from 63% in 1999 to 56% in 2006 to 33% in 2009
 
One of the most common reasons parents in the US give for circumcising their boys is because they want them to look like their fathers.  I highly doubt that their sons are going to be comparing nor would most men have vivid recollections of their fathers penises anyway.  Most men wouldn't make the choice to style or color their hair to match their fathers let alone surgically alter their bodies to match.  Since when does parent/child bonding require a matching set of genitals?  And since fewer Americans are choosing to circumcise, parents needn't worry that the intact boy will stand out in the locker room as some argue. 


Circumcision is painful:

Circumcision is extremely painful and traumatic for babies. In babies and children, the foreskin is fused to the head of the penis with the same type of tissue that adheres fingernails to the nail beds.  In order to remove it, a baby's arms and legs are strapped down to a board and a blunt probe is inserted between the foreskin and the head of the penis to tear it away before it is clamped, crushed and cut with a surgical knife.

Infants are usually returned to their mothers asleep, not because the procedure is pain free, but because they go into traumatic shock from the overwhelming pain of the surgery. Anesthetics are not always used because they are contraindicated for infants and few have been found to be safe and effective in preventing circumcision pain.  No anesthetic that would be strong enough to properly numb a baby for such an invasive procedure would be safe to give to an infant. Tylenol and a pacifier soaked in sugar water are frequently given as pain relief.  Would you go into surgery with only Tylenol to numb the pain?  And even if an effective anesthetic were always used, surgery and its recovery are always highly unpleasant.  Then consider that the resulting open wound is placed in a diaper where it's constantly abraded and showered with urine and feces.  For details on the procedure and infant pain response see Neonatal Circumcision (a video for healthcare professionals), Plasitbell Infant Circumcision and Infant Responses to Circumcision


The foreskin is useful:

The foreskin is a highly functional piece of skin with both protective and erogenous functions. In an adult man it is about 15 square inches of skin or the size of a 3x5" index card.

The foreskin is a double-layered sheath of skin that covers and protects the glans, or head, of the normal penis. The glans was designed to be an internal organ; the foreskin protects the glans and keeps it moist and clean much the way the eyelid protects the moist and sensitive eyeball.  The foreskin and glans contain an extensive array of over 20,000 highly sensitive nerve endings.  Amputation of the foreskin not only removes this erogenous zone, but also forces the glans to build up many layers of calloused skin to protect itself, causing the loss of even more sensitivity.
 
The claim is often made that a circumcised penis is cleaner and easier to care for but this is incorrect given the fact that the foreskin's role is to regulate pH, temperature, lubrication, antibodies, movement and functioning of the penis.  The tip of the foreskin is a sphincter which acts to prevent contaminants from entering the body thus preventing infection. 

For more information see:


Cleanliness and Urinary Tract Infections:

As mentioned above, one of the most important functions of the foreskin is to protect the penis and keep it clean and healthy. Some studies suggest that UTIs are slightly more common in intact males. There is a simple explanation for this. Doctors in the US are on the whole incredibly misinformed when it comes to care of the intact penis and frequently advise parents to retract the foreskin for cleaning. The foreskin, however, should never be retracted before it naturally separates from the glans and the boy is able to do it himself, usually somewhere between five and twelve years of age.  The studies showing more UTIs in intact males likely included boys who were forcefully retracted at an early age, thus predisposing them to infection.  Therefore the increased rate of UTIs in these studies is more likely attributed to misinformation and malpractice than to any inherent deficiency in the male anatomy.

The American Medical Association states, "Despite the increased relative risk in uncircumcised infants, the absolute incidence of UTI is small in this population (0.4%-1%). Depending on the model employed, approximately 100 to 200 circumcisions would need to be performed to prevent 1 UTI. In this case, a large relative risk reduction translates into a small absolute risk reduction because the baseline prevalence is low. One model of decision analysis concluded that the incidence of UTI would have to be substantially higher in uncircumcised males to justify circumcision as a preventive measure against this condition."

Intact boys and men contract UTIs to a much lesser degree than girls and women. The inner labia and clitoral hood of the female have more folds than the foreskin. What if someone said that it would be easier to keep the vulva clean if the clitoral hood were removed?  If it is not acceptable for female genitals, it should not be acceptable for male genitals. Equality notwithstanding, all UTIs are treated quickly and easily with a round of antibiotics making the preemptive removal of a functioning body part unnecessary and unethical. 

Some label the presence of smegma under the foreskin as unclean and therefore, a reason for circumcision.  Smegma is a creamy substance made of skin cells and oils and it is present in both males and females.  It keeps the glans moist and acts a lubricant during intercourse. It is not dirty or unhygienic and requires no special cleaning.  The truth is that both male and female genitals are largely self cleaning. An intact penis is very simply cleaned with water (and should never ever be retracted for cleaning before it naturally separates). Read more in this concise guide to foreskin care.


HIV:

Studies conducted in African populations have suggested that circumcision could reduce HIV transmission.  HIV transmission, however, is the result of behavior.  Suggesting that HIV transmission can be reduced by altering male anatomy through circumcision implies that condoms (which are actually effective in halting the spread of sexually transmitted diseases) are unnecessary.  The American Medical Association states that "behavioral factors are far more important risk factors for acquisition of HIV and other sexually transmissible diseases than circumcision status, and circumcision cannot be responsibly viewed as "protecting" against such infections."

Promoting an unnecessary surgery when much less invasive, less costly, and more effective methods are available is a dangerous distraction in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Read more about Circumcision and HIV and HIV, AIDS and Circumcision.


Penile cancer:

Penile cancer is a rare disease in the United States (0.9 to 1 per 100,000). Among intact men the incidence is estimated to be 2.2/100,000.  Identified risk factors for penile cancer include genital warts, infection with human papilloma virus, a large number of sexual partners and cigarette smoking. The American Medical Association states "because this disease is rare and occurs later in life, the use of circumcision as a preventive practice is not justified." 

The AAP cites a study stating that 322,000 newborn male circumcisions would be required to prevent one case of penile cancer and that 644 circumcision complications could be expected for every case of penile cancer avoided.  


Risk and complications:

Complications from circumcision surgery are not uncommon and include skin problems such as adhesions, scarring and skin bridges, desensitization, hemorrhage, infection, surgical injury and death. Millions of dollars have been paid out in circumcision related lawsuits where botched surgeries resulted in death, severed penises, scarring and other traumas. 

Each year approximately 117 neonatal (first 28 days after birth) circumcision-related deaths occur in the United States or one out of every 77 male neonatal deaths.  This number is likely higher than reported because cause of death can be listed as 'hemorrhage' or other related complication, instead of the circumcision itself.  To put this in perspective, about 44 neonatal boys die each year from suffocation, and 8 from auto accidents. About 115 boys die annually from SIDS, nearly the same as from circumcision during the same neonatal period.  One hundred percent of circumcision deaths are preventable.

Circumcision can also have damaging psychological effects. Psychologists have suggested for decades that we are significantly impacted by what happens to us in the first five years of our lives, especially traumas, whether we remember them or not.

Various studies have found that short-term effects of circumcision include changes in sleep patterns, activity levels and mother-infant interactions along with more irritability and disruptions in feeding and bonding. Long-term effects have not been studied.  

The AAP, in discussing risks involved with the common Plastibell method of circumcision, states that bleeding ranged from 0.8% to 3% of cases; infection occurred in 2.1% of cases. Urinary retention and problems with the Plastibell ring have been reported in 3.6% of cases. Studies of the Plastibell device found, overall, that complications range from 2.4% to 5%.  Ask yourself, what level of risk is acceptable for a child who has no disease and gives no consent?
 

Sexual pleasure:

The absence of the foreskin significantly affects sexual function for a man and his partner. The foreskin provides a gliding function that reduces friction while having sex, making it more comfortable for both partners.  With tens of thousands of nerve endings, the foreskin has the majority of fine touch nerve receptors in the penis.  The foreskin also houses the Ridged Band, one of the most sensitive areas on the male body. This band has a function in stimulating the female sexual partner and is the reason why ribbed condoms were invented.

A 2011 Danish research article found that circumcised men are three times as likely to experience frequent inability to reach orgasm and their partners are at a three-fold risk of frequent difficulties in achieving orgasm and an eight-fold risk of feeling pain during intercourse.


Genital integrity and human rights:

I've heard women say that they prefer circumcised men and cite this as a reason for circumcising their sons. But what if the situation were reversed and men expressed a preference in women's genitals?  Would we then tolerate that preference being imposed on their baby daughters?

When the homologous organ on a female body (the clitoral hood) is altered or removed, it's commonly referred to as female genital mutilation.  This practice was made illegal in the United States in 1997.  Doctors who perform routine circumcision on infant males or females are not acting in accordance with their ethical duties to the patient. Do no harm ring a bell?  Baby boys should be afforded the same rights to genital integrity as baby girls.  Would you circumcise your daughter?


Consent:

When making a choice about circumcision it is important to remember that the foreskin under discussion belongs to a person and he cannot (and would not) give his consent to have it removed. Removal of healthy tissue from a minor should not be subject to parental discretion. As parents we make lots and lots of choices on our children's behalf but circumcision is an irreversible and irreparable cosmetic surgery - it is a decision that should be made by the person who owns the penis. His body, his choice.  


 * * * * *

This list is not exhaustive.  These are the things that stand out to me as the most poignant arguments against circumcision and the most relevant rebuttals to the reasons frequently cited in favor of circumcision.  

I'm not entirely sure why circumcision is such a taboo subject and why people seem to be afraid to question it.  Science has certainly not shown it to be medically necessary and the tradition has robbed millions of men of one of the most sensitive parts of their bodies without their consent.  But this is exactly why we must start talking about circumcision.

For the record, I want to make it clear that this post is not intended to make readers feel guilty about decisions made in the past. Rather, this information is provided for the benefit of baby boys yet to grace us with their presence in the hope that new parents will be fully informed when faced with this decision.  Because when it comes to circumcision, the decision should be clear - bring home the whole baby. Like girls, baby boys arrive perfect just they way they are. No disassembly required.  




 * The 1999 American Academy of Pediatrics position statement found both potential benefits and risks in infant circumcision, but concluded that there was insufficient data to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.  On Monday, the AAP issued a new 2012 statement saying "Although health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns, the benefits of circumcision are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns." 

Having read the lengthy new statement, I found it rife with problems.  For example, it relies on a limited number of studies within a five year period (the 1999 statement studied forty years of research), it inflates the benefits of circumcision for UTIs, penile cancer and HIV and it cites controversial studies.  Furthermore, it glosses over sexual impacts, consent issues and concerns regarding pain and then fails to mention at all the function and anatomy of the foreskin, ethical issues involving amputation, a child's right to bodily integrity and it barely mentions the issue of risk and complications. The report states that “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks,” and yet elsewhere in the paper the AAP admits that “the true incidence of complications after newborn circumcision is unknown.”  If the risk of complications is unknown, then it cannot be stated that the benefits outweigh the risks. The AAP lacks the evidence it needs to make this claim. 

The addition of a recommendation regarding funding for the procedure highlights the fact that the AAP is not an advocacy group for pediatric patients - rather they are a professional trade organization that exists for the benefit of its members - pediatric doctors and hospitals - and the new recommendations ensure that insurance companies keep the dollars flowing to a billion dollar per year industry.  This revised statement is an awkward attempt at saving face with other medical societies around the world while at the same time insuring that their members can still profit from the practice.  A medical position statement and the organization issuing it lose credibility when the paper includes a section on financing newborn circumcision by third-party payers.

The new statement includes several quotes that would appear in favor of leaving baby boys intact. For example, "Newborn males who are not circumcised at birth are much less likely to elect circumcision in adolescence or early adulthood." This suggests that men appreciate their foreskins and actually possess the ability to keep them clean and healthy!

Finally, it's worth mentioning again that The Canadian Paediatric Society, the British Medical Association, the Royal Dutch Medical Association, and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians have issued statements that oppose this new position of the AAP. 

Read more:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.


- Kahlil Gibran 

I first read this poem many years ago and back then, it struck a chord with my angsty and independence seeking teenage self.  After rereading it now from the perspective of a parent, I see that it contains more profound messages than I'd realized before having children.  Here's what I take away from it now.

We are but guides for our children. From the moment they enter this world, children are full fledged people with their own needs and preferences.  We have the responsibility of caring for them and guiding them when they are young and vulnerable, but that does not give us the right to dominate or manipulate them.  Too often we think of childhood as preparation for life, a time to mold kids into contributing members of society so that they will be good citizens at some distant point in the future.  But children are living genuine lives from the time they are born and deserve to be treated with empathy and respect rather than power and superiority. 

We cannot control our children's lives (or their thoughts, emotions or opinions for that matter).  We can't shelter them from pain and we can't prevent them from making mistakes, even when we can see that they are about to make them.  And even if we could prevent their mistakes, in wouldn't be in their best interest to do so because they will only be able to draw on their own resources and develop resilience if they are allowed to stumble and pick themselves up again.

I do not know what the world will be like when my children set out on their own, but I hope that the parenting strategies I choose will encourage them to develop self-confidence, resilience and trust in themselves so that they will thrive no matter what life throws at them.  I will know that I have done my job well if they have the courage to be true to themselves and to follow their own dreams.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Deer Friends

I've now seen lots of kangaroos in the wild and I'm certain I'll never get tired of seeing them.  Especially when there's a joey peeking out of the pouch.  And even though I've seen hundreds of deer in my life, I'm pretty sure I'll never tire of seeing them either. I think in both cases it must have something to do with their large size, bright eyes, perky ears and friendly vegetarian demeanor that has me and so many others enchanted.

Riker and I spotted this large buck (and his harem) in our friend's suburban housing development after a morning play date earlier this week. 


Like kangaroos, deer face serious issues of overpopulation due to shrinking habitat.  For this reason, both can frequently be seen nibbling away at greenery in one's backyard.  In fact, here in Ohio, I once had a deer come up on to the back deck to eat my ripe tomatoes right out of their planter boxes!  I was furious when I discovered the damage in the morning, but was somewhat placated to discover that they were kind enough to have left a yellow post-it-note saying: 
Thanks for the tomatoes.  
Love,
The Deer
I suppose I can be willing to share a few of my tomatoes as long as they are willing to stay put long enough for a good photo op now and then.  Enough with the culling - I knew there was a way to come to an agreement about how to coexist peaceably!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Elijah Rainbow


In late June, we heard terrible news about the tragic loss of our Australian friends' baby boy, Elijah Rainbow.   Elijah was just eight weeks younger than Ari and so news of his death shook us to the core. 

We met Lauren and David while camping when Lauren was in her final weeks of pregnancy with Elijah.  With four gorgeous daughters, they were thrilled to welcome their fifth child, a boy, to their family.  We felt an immediate affinity to this nomadic family who were living outside the box and rethinking everything.  As a fellow blogger, Lauren writes about their fascinating travel adventures and her family's insights on parenting, unschooling, faith, spirituality and life on her blog, Sparkling Adventures, and we've been following them online ever since we met.

Then I saw Lauren's Facebook post:

“I was so blessed to meet Elijah Rainbow. 26.11.11 – 23.06.12. I love you, little one. Go with God.”

My heart sank into the pit of my belly and all these weeks later it still hasn't quite found it's way back. 

Having known this family for only a short time (and being so far away), we've struggled to think of ways we could help.  Words seem so feeble and even more so when they can't be delivered with a warm touch or a gentle hug.  But, having lost two very important people in my own life, I know that thoughtful sentiments do in fact matter.  And so, in the event that kind words and loving thoughts offer even a smidgen of comfort, I've compiled a list of five important things that Elijah experienced in his time here. His life was too short, but knowing his family, I know that the life he lived was good.  I've labeled the experiences A through E in honor of the five children (Aisha, Brioni, Calista, Delaney and Elijah) who were, as Lauren says, conveniently born in alphabetical order.


Abundance
Be it love, food, attention or hospitality from strangers, Elijah's experiences would have shown him that there is always enough to meet ones' needs.  And then some. 

Beauty
Surrounded by adoring family and witness to many of Australia and New Zealand's stunning landscapes (not to mention lovely people), Elijah was surrounded by beauty of the purest and most uplifting kind. 

Camaraderie
Mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.  With four older sisters doting on him, Elijah had a crew of playmates, storytellers and friends always at his side.

Devotion
Whether referring to the love between a mother and her child or the example set by a family who lives the ideals of their faith, Elijah surely felt secure in both physical and spiritual embraces. 

Euphoria
Children know and understand joy in a way that adults, sadly, seem to forget. They seek it out and display it with their whole bodies - wide smiles, bright eyes and jiggling bellies.  Elijah too, knew joy and surely served it up in good measure in return.  If you were a sling-riding, breastfeeding, co-sleeping baby with adoring sisters and thoughtful, devoted and conscientious parents, you'd be pretty happy too. 


Elijah had a good life - of that I am sure.  There has been an incredible outpouring of support from around the world for this beautiful family and to the chorus of well wishers I add my own notes of love and support and hope that a whisper of it makes it all the way to Queensland.


Keep reading:
Follow the Fishers via the Sparking Adventures blog or Facebook page.
Donate to help the family find its way forward at the My Cause fundraiser site.
Follow Sparkling Elijah Rainbow, a support page on Facebook
Read Eternal Rainbows, an inspiring blog post about lives touched by Elijah and Helping the Hurting, a terrific post by the same author, offering thoughtful tips on comforting the grieving. 



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Awesome Boy

Toddlerville can be a challenging place.  Two year olds are full of energy, appear fearless, have limited reasoning skills and don't listen all that well at times.  Fortunately, they are also incredibly positive, seek out happiness at all times and spread it to others with their infectious laughter and adorable banter.  They remind us of what's important if we slow down, pay attention and try to see the world from their perspective.  

A while back when Riker and I were having a cuddle on the couch, I told him what an awesome boy he is and listed some of the things I love about him. Then, the other day I was feeling very grumpy as he wouldn't get dressed, had pushed his brother over and was throwing clean laundry all over the floor.  Finally I said, "Riker, I'm just so grumpy at you right now!"  And he came up close to me, stroked my cheek, cocked his head and said, "awesome boy mama" in the sweetest voice I've ever heard.  This of course made me smile (which made him smile) and reminded me that there is much to smile about.


Digital Masterpiece



A Riker original design in Microsoft Paint.  What an eye for color - truly an artist in the making!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympics

I'm a bit sad that the Olympics are over because I don't know about you, but I could watch gymnastics and synchronized diving all day. In fact, despite my general lack of interest in sports, I've really enjoyed watching a number of Olympic events over the past two weeks. I suspect that Riker has too if his jumping and leaping around the living room is anything to go by.

In Australia, we never had a television so if we were there, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have watched the games at all. But, since we're in the US (and staying somewhere with a big screen TV) we've been tuning in regularly.  I'm not one to be terribly patriotic but I've felt great pride in cheering for Team USA.  

One of the things that has kept me interested (in addition to the spectacular demonstrations of human ability of course) is the depth of human emotion displayed in the games. We see drama on television all the time but it's contrived. In the Olympics we are witness to the crushing grief of shattered hopes and the sheer elation of accomplishing one's grandest dreams. I found myself getting teary eyed when Jordyn Wieber missed out on the all-around gymnastics competition and feeling giddy when the US women relay sprinters were about to break a world record.  These very real emotions are truly moving - reality TV at its best. 

The closing ceremony has put an end to the games and it's probably a good thing to go back to watching less TV. But you know you've been watching the Olympics for two weeks when the first song that comes to mind for the baby's lullaby is not Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but the Star Spangled Banner.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Great Lakes Science Center

Today we spent the afternoon at the Great Lakes Science Center.  I've really been enjoying the opportunity to visit a number of places that we might not make the effort to get to without kids.   

Having seen lots of hot air balloons over our house in Canberra, Riker enjoyed the exhibit where the balloon would float up to the ceiling at the touch of a button.

We spent the first part of the afternoon at a special exhibit about frogs. I can't tell you the names of most of the frogs below because I didn't manage to take notes (imagine that), but cool to see nonetheless.


Poison Dart frogs


 Another Poison Dart frog

 Ari and Riker play at the wall of gears.  Riker LOVES clocks!

Riker, Gavin and Edward in the ball pit feeding balls into the tube that sucks them up and shoots them into a bucket overhead.  With the pull of a lever you can open up the bucket and dump them all back into the pit.

We spent lots of time poking around amongst the various really awesome gadgets demonstrating all sorts of interesting phenomena including the science of light, optics, sound, resonance, motion, mechanics, electricity, magnetism and weather.  We saw Flying Monsters with David Attenborough in the IMAX theater but the kids didn't make it all the way through even though we thought they'd really like the movie about dinosaurs.  Three out of four kids were asleep by the time we got back to the Mother Ship so it must have been another good day!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Resemblance!

Most everyone has always thought that Ari looks like a McMillin.  After Grammy Jan dug out some of Brian's baby photos, the resemblance has been definitively confirmed, right down to the dimples!



Ari and Brian are both around 4-5 months old in the above photos. When Riker was small I posted one of my baby photos - you can see it here for reference.

Milestone report:
At ten months, Ari crawls at lighting speed, cruises along the furniture, stands on his own for a decent amount of time, reaches door knobs when standing on his tip toes, is seriously opinionated about what he wants (and exercises his lungs when he doesn't get it), eats only when he can feed himself and frequently exclaims BUH BUH with gusto.  He continues to adore his big brother and is thankfully becoming a more interesting playmate to him every day!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Cleveland Children's Museum

My niece and nephew, Cael and Teagan, are in Grammy's care on Tuesdays and this week we decided to have an outing with all four kids and visit the Cleveland Children's Museum.  It's not so much of a museum really; it's more of a network of really interesting and interactive play spaces.  The first room we visited was the Big Red Barn which was clearly designed with toddlers in mind. It featured a two story barn and silo, farm animal dress-up costumes and puppets, farm machinery toys, a variety of books and lots of garden fruits and vegetables.





Next we moved on to the Young Architects: Designing the Future exhibit.  It highlighted famous architects from around the world with hundreds of assorted building blocks – wooden, plastic, foam, and cardboard in a huge variety of colors, shapes and sizes.  The children all enjoyed building up towers (and knocking them down of course)!

Riker contemplates the skyscraper of giant legos.

Building a train in the Frank Lloyd Wright section of the exhibit.

Next we moved on to the Bridges to Our Community exhibit which featured the following:

A two story house with fully equipped kitchen and bedrooms.  Here Ari and Brian play in one of the bedrooms while Teagan plays with baby dolls in the other for much of the afternoon.

 Cael drives an RTA bus while Riker drives an awesome car with with working lights and turn signals.  Kids could also pump the gas and fix the engine!

By far, Riker's favorite part of the museum was the grocery store.  He enjoyed pushing the trolleys around, filling them up with fruits, vegetables and dry goods and paying with the pretend money.

Above, Riker stops to move all of his groceries to the trolley with the red handle when it becomes available, because as you know, Riker loves red.  I love the second photo with Riker clutching a baby doll while filling his trolley with bananas.  One of Brian and Riker's special activities back in Canberra was walking to the Lyneham shops to buy bananas so that they could then sit on a bench and eat them.  Since then, one of our regular bedtime stories has become the adventure where they go to several shops to buy bananas but there are none to be found anywhere.  Eventually they fly to Queensland, buy a banana plant and then return home where they plant it in the front yard so they will never again be without bananas. 

All of the kids enjoyed being the cashier, scanning the items, bagging them and collecting money.

This exhibit also had an airline ticket counter, a bank teller counter and a replica doctor's office from Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. 
 
Next we visited the water exhibit which was designed to teach children about water transportation, weather and the water cycle.  Mostly the kids just liked to splash around with all the colorful toys and water spouts. 

Thankfully, rain coats were provided for water play.

While none of our kids were very interested in it, there was also a really cool mock Weather Forecast Center where kids could use the anchor desk to present their very own forecast in front of a camera so  family could see them as meteorologists!

Cael enjoys one of the most interesting indoor climbing structures I've ever seen.  He spends much of his time working through educational games on the computer.

You know it's been a good day when this is the scene on the way home.  

What a fun day!  While the "museum" could use a little TLC and updating, it was a delightful and engaging way to give the kiddos an entertaining and educational experience.  We'd definitely visit again!


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Metroparks Zoo

As I mentioned in my catch-up post, we've been keeping ourselves busy with a number of fun outings since we've been back in Cleveland. We were very pleased to have recently had Brian's longtime friend Walter and his family visiting from Eugene, Oregon. It was great to have them around and to have an excuse to get out and visit a few more interesting places around Cleveland - Mentor Headlands, Tower City, the pool at the Ritz and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Cael, Sierra, Teagan and Walter at the zoo.  Photo courtesy of the lovely Heather.

We spent most of our time at the Australian Adventure section of the zoo.  Always fun to see kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, blue tongue lizards, echidnas and sulphur crested cockatoos.

Bit of a walk to Sydney!

The Aussie slang on all the signs was rather endearing, but not quite sure what "Hoo-roo and enjoy the Adventure!" means...

It was awesome to see Walter, Christina and Sierra again - if only we could catch up more than once every eight years or so!



Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Birthday Week

The first week in August is big for the McMillin family.  Carl and Aunt Leah share a birthday on the 4th, Keith's birthday is the 5th, Gavin arrived on the 6th and Aunt Nancy celebrates on the 7th. 

The grown-ups all celebrated with a fun Friday evening at Oak Grove pavilion in the Brecksville reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks.

 
 Ari and Riker with their cousin's cousin, Bella.  Riker adored her and kept following her around while Ari tried to steal her pacifier at every opportunity.

 Heather, Cael and Teagan. 

 Ari, now standing for a few seconds at a time (and clearly feeling very proud of himself)!

Back to the Mother Ship for cake.

The following day was spent at Vintage Ohio, an outdoor wine tasting festival.  Gavin and Edward's Grandma Penny offered to watch Riker as well and we gratefully accepted.  It was incredibly hot and as the designated driver, I took refuge with Ari in an air conditioned building where we found a kids play area with lots of info and playthings related to dairy and ice cream.

  Ari finds the mother lode! 

Waffle or sugar cone?

The same building was home to several dairy cows and Cael tries his hand at milking.

The following day was spent at the Jump Yard where we helped Gavin celebrate by jumping in a fleet of giant jumping castles, dancing with the Jump Yard dog and eating pizza and cake.  Fun!

And, we were pleased to once again have a visit from Joan and Ross who came from New York for the festivities.

It's been so much fun to be around to join in on special occasions!  Big love to everyone!