I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m at a loss sometimes when it comes to raising a boy. I didn’t grow up with brothers, or male cousins. I haven’t the faintest notion of how males work. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be single.

Girly things I can relate to. I know about getting periods, and breasts, and gynecological exams. I can do makeup, and hair, and clothing coordination.

I don’t know the first thing about penises, except that they’re demanding, and seem to take precedence over all things. For the past few days, my son, who’s almost ten, has been obsessed with his penis. He and I can be sitting on the couch, having a perfectly lovely conversation about reading, and suddenly he’ll pull down his pants and treat his penis like a finger puppet—making it speak and move. Sometimes, it’s a volcano, threatening to explode. (I don’t want to read too much into that one.)

When stuff like that happens, my brain goes off in a hundred different directions, trying to decide the best way to handle these situations.

A sexually-repressed mother would probably slap her son, and tell him to never let “that thing” out again—which may result in him growing up and unleashing “his thing” every chance he got.

A sexually-liberated mother might tell her son to embrace his penis, to never be ashamed of nudity—which may result in him growing up and embracing his penis every chance he got.

I find myself falling somewhere in the middle: I don’t want to see his penis, especially in our living room, but I don’t want him to be in therapy over it later on either. I realize he’s discovered his penis in a way that will now make it front and center his entire life. I also can’t help but think that if I had a daughter, I seriously doubt we’d be talking about her vagina in the third person.

Or maybe not. Maybe there are little girls out there who liken their vaginas to, oh, I don’t know, flowers, or walk around pretending their vaginas are meowing.

When your child’s genitalia takes on the importance of say, a best friend, how should a mother react?

I don’t want my son to be embarrassed or ashamed of his budding sexuality, but I also don’t want to have conversations with the “little guy,” if you know what I mean.

So far, I’ve humored my son, and told him to keep the little General in his pants, or I’ll chop it off and throw it in the dumpster. But then I wonder if joking about it may cause irrational fear of castration in his future.

When push comes to shove (no pun intended), all I really want is for my son to learn to use his penis for good, instead of evil.

Anyone have any helpful advice they’d like to share?


I’ve got the winter blahs. I’m in a rut. Even though I live in southern California, it’s still too damn cold for me. It’s been taking me about the middle of my second cup of coffee to form coherent thoughts, instead of the usual one. I’ve been making the diva Chihuahua walk herself at night. My son asks for a tenth Girl Scout cookie and I find myself letting him have it simply because it takes too much energy to say no.

I haven’t made a single addition to my WIP in over three weeks. Haven’t slipped on a pair of jeans in three months, because I haven’t been working out on a regular basis and I don’t care to see the results of THAT. Haven’t ironed the curtains I had to wash after son threw up Girl Scout cookies all over them last week.

It’s times like this when I wish I were a meth head. I’d get so much more done. Or at least think I did anyway.

To make matters worse, I have half my carpet ripped up right now in my casa de mobile due to “BAD DOG!” diva Chihuahua behavior (aka pissing all over the carpet). It was time to rip up all that smelly crap (ICK!) and put down some flooring so she can have a nice, smooth surface to piss all over.

But while the job is being done, there’s nowhere to sit, because the couch is stacked up in the other room. My son’s room is completely demolished, because Miss Diva loved to defile his rug especially, so that means no video games for him. Our TV isn’t hooked up, so that means no DVDs to wind down to after a long day. It’s Day 1 of Spring Break, and I’m debating whether to stick a rusty fork in my eye, or do the slow death thing with some kitchen cleanser.

I tried to be one of those moms who can create an adventure out of any fucked-up scenario, but the best I could muster was, “Think of it like we’re camping” and “You know, sixty years ago there were no video games or TV. People had to listen to the radio.”

My son’s no dummy. He said, “The best parts of camping are the campfire and smores, and we don’t have either. The rest of camping stinks, and so does this!”

“Fine,” I grumbled. “Here, have another Girl Scout cookie.”

Yesterday, I managed to get out of my fleece PJs to put on leggings (not jeans) and drive to a friend’s house, even though it was pouring rain.

Friend has an eleven-year-old son who is ADHD, and so far meds haven’t worked on him. They’re still trying different kinds. He’s a sweet kid, but his hyperactivity manifests in ways like poor grades and sneaking up behind me and yelling, BOO!” every day after school when I’m picking up my son.

Friend also has an autistic three-year-old son. I’ve never been around an autistic child before, except for my son, who autistic “professionals” think is slightly autistic. I was under the impression all autistic children avoid eye contact and all forms of bodily contact, but her boy wasn’t exhibiting these behaviors. I told her how lucky she was.

“Well, my son has sensory issues, too,” my friend explained. “So he needs contact with your body and specifically, pressure on his chin.”

Her son, after he was done pacing the room, went behind his mom, got her in a vice-like grip around her neck, and proceeded to press his chin down hard onto the top of her head.

“Imagine dealing with this all day,” she said, untangling his arms from her neck.

“I can’t imagine,” I told her.

And then I could, because a half-hour later he did the very same thing to me. And let me tell you, he was pretty strong for a toddler. His chin felt like an anvil on the top of my head.

Did I mention my friend has a fifteen-month-old boy as well?

The guy who’s helping me out with my floor is letting a woman friend of his stay with him until she finds an apartment. She has a high-school sophomore-aged daughter in a wheelchair, and a twelve-year-old mentally-retarded or challenged—or whatever the hell is PC to call it nowadays—daughter who cannot speak and wears diapers.

How many long, hot relaxing baths with salts, candles and a glass of wine do you think she gets to take?

Or my other friend, for that matter.

I only have one nine-year-old ADHD boy with a minor heart condition.

Eh, I don’t have it so bad.


Ahhh, the holidays. A time for family members to gather together and celebrate their unconditional love and support for one another; a time for reflecting upon the joys of — oh, who the hell am I kidding? It’s a time when family dysfunction rears its ugly head. A time when folks who normally don’t drink do, and those who do, drink too much. Cops are called, holding tanks fill to capacity, and faster than you can say “emotional suicide,” an accusation of “How could you forget the mashed potatoes?” turns into “How could you sleep with my sister?”

What is it about the holidays that brings out the worst in people? Stress? Mounting credit card bills? Food-induced hostility? Can’t we all just get along? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

Here are some suggestions for HOW TO AVOID FAMILY FIGHTS:

1. Become a Stepford listener: When your ignorant Uncle Frank starts spouting off about how the demise of society can be pinpointed to the exact moment women began burning their bras, and how, if we want the divorce rate to go down all we need to do is get the “little woman” out of the boardroom and back into the kitchen, put on your best blank Stepford expression and nod.

Inside you may be thinking, “Ugh, I can never get back these wasted minutes of listening to this dumbass,” but outwardly you appear as cool as gelato. Uncle Frank thinks you’re the embodiment of the perfect female, because “women should be seen and not heard,” and you’ve succeeded in avoiding a family fight.

2. Jackrabbit visits: The longer you are in proximity to toxic relatives, the more likely you will revert back to a twelve-year-old. Keep the visits lightening short. If you’re attached, blame the late arrival or early departure on your SO. “I lost at rock-paper-scissors, so we have to do dinner at her folk’s house.”

If by some stroke of hell, you must spend days with the offending party, for dyslexic Dog’s sake, stay at a hotel. Broke? Sleep in a tent in the backyard and tell them you’re training for a wilderness survival expedition.

3. Channel Tony Robbins: Nobody likes a braggart. You know, the one who can’t seem to say enough great things about herself and her life; where nothing ever seems to go wrong for her and when it does, it’s never her fault. I used to get off on specifically pointing out the braggart’s failures or weaknesses, but now I give as much as I get. I pretend I’ve just taken a hit of speed and I become everything I hate in an optimist: My voice raises two notches and I become effusive. “That is so amazing! Really?! If anyone deserves it, it’s you. Faaabulous! You go, girl!”

Remember, the person who brags the most usually has the lowest self-esteem. Revel in your ability to have your feet firmly planted in stone-cold sober reality, and delight in knowing that others don’t want to slap that smug egotism right outta you.

4. Remember, it’s all grist for the mill: There’s a saying among writers, “Careful or you’ll wind up in my novel.” What this means is writers get their revenge through their words. You screw me over, and I will get you back as the entire world reads about it. Thinly disguised, of course. Take a Gorillas in the Mist approach and simply observe.

My father, for example, would always become enraged over the slightest provocation. Maybe the dog looked at him wrong, or his wife over-salted the gravy, or his daughter gained forty pounds…Anyway, first his nostrils would flare like a bull about to charge. Then, his eyes would begin to bulge from their sockets like a blowfish, and his chest heaved while screaming loud enough for the next town to hear. He was like an egg left too long to cook in a microwave. KAPOW! Bits of exploded egg everywhere. If I ever need to do a character study for Explosive Personality Disorder, I won’t have to look far.

5. Plan a Houdini: When all else fails, and your newfound Zen attitude has taken a nosedive, the Lamaze breathing isn’t working, and you know you’re about to take a trip down Lose It Lane, make a quick escape. You can use the same strategy you would to get out of a horrendous first date. Have a friend call and feign an emergency. Get the hell out of there and go get drunk.

Or, if you can’t come up with a reasonable emergency, just say you have the runs and leave it at that. Get the hell out of there and go get drunk.

Here’s one last tip to attempt to put the fun back in dysfunctional: I read about it in an article written by O columnist, Martha Beck. It’s called “Dysfunctional Family Bingo.” Before the holidays, get together with friends and pass out blank bingo cards. Have each person fill out each bingo square with dysfunctional phrases or actions that are likely to occur at their family get-together.

For example: If your well-meaning mother always makes comments like, “Have you ever considered Weight Watchers,” as you’re in the middle of scarfing down your pecan pie topped with whipped cream, then you’d write “Comment about weight” inside one of the boxes. If your alcoholic brother-in-law always passes out by six, write “Bro-law passes out.”

Each time someone says or does something at the family gathering that has been written in a box, check it off. The first one to get Bingo needs to call everyone and tell them; they should win a free lunch, or a cannoli, or a session to the therapist of their choice. Remember, the only losers are your dysfunctional family members.

Does anyone have any disastrous and/or ridiculous holiday family stories? The more dysfunctional the better…


I’ll never forget my grandmother’s friend telling me years
ago, “It’s the darndest thing. I still feel twenty-five-years-old inside, and
then I look in the mirror and remember I’m old.”

I decided to be Catwoman this Halloween. Michelle Pfeiffer’s
Catwoman. I ordered a rubber mask online. It even had pretend white stitches
all over it. When I tried it on, I felt like I was being suffocated. This baby
was so tight that not only was it cutting off all the circulation in my face,
it was literally pushing up my cheek fat and accentuating any and all wrinkles
around my eyes. These were no sexy, sultry cat’s eyes; these were wrinkly sixtyish-looking
grandma eyes.

Purrfect, I thought. I’ve become Catgrandma. Instead of a
vinyl jumpsuit with stiletto heels, I’ll wear a black velour track suit with
orthopedic shoes. I’ll keep a supply of tissues up my sleeve, and add a smudge
of red lipstick on my two front teeth. Maybe I’ll even have a piece of toilet
paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe to complete the look.

Really, it was a rude awakening. I realized all the other
ways I had gotten old.

If I bend a certain way, my once- beautiful rose tattoo now
looks like a flabby, sagging, cellulite-ridden red ass.

The fact that I am still wearing a belly ring makes me a
member of the embarrassing belly-ring club, filled with twelve-year-olds,
strippers, and forty-something cougars who make sex tapes with their cubs.

My PMS lasts the entire month. There is no reprieve. I imagine this is
a premonition of what’s to come when I hit the big M, and it isn’t going to be
pretty. A friend told me recently, “Wow, your ex was right. You can be a
bitch.” I said, “Honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

When my son calls out, “Mom,” people look to my twenty-four-year-old
sister standing next to me.

My fantasies are no longer about some sexy policeman
frisking me or a hot neighbor needing to borrow a cup of sugar. Now they
involve Dr. Oz performing an exam, or Tyler Florence, the chef from the Food
Network coming to my house to cook for me.

I don’t have plugs in my earlobes, but if I had gotten them
at a younger age, I’m betting the gaping holes in my lobes would be starting to
resemble another hole in my body if I had given birth to four kids the natural

And yet, I still call my son and his friends, “Dude;” I play
Wii Sports, not Wii Fit; I wear a
2-piece without a muumuu over it; I’ll admit I drink straight out of the juice

I don’t act my age. I still feel like I’m in my twenties, just like the friend of my
grandmother. Until I start embarrassing my son to the point where he doesn’t
want to be seen in public with me, I imagine I’ll always act younger than my
age. Right now though, he thinks I’m the coolest mom on the planet. I’ll roll
with that, because I know the day will come when he will tell his friends, “No,
that freaky lady’s not my mom. She’s just the babysitter.”