Abstinence Only Education Not Good Choice for Texas

birds-beesHouse Republicans really got it wrong this week when they voted to divert $3 million (yes, million!) from programs aimed at preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Seems these guys want to spend that money on abstinence education instead. 

I guess these folks haven’t seen the numbers proving abstinence education is not working. In 2013, Texas had the third-highest number of HIV diagnoses in the country, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Texas public schools are not required to teach sex ed, so it comes as no surprise to me that the Lone Star State also has one of the highest teen birth rates.

If passed, this budget cut will force us even further along a road that is leading our children to disaster. According to a report released by David Wiley, Ph.D., and Kelly Wilson, Ph.D., health educators at Texas State University in San Marcos, most Texas students receive NO instruction about human sexuality apart from “don’t do it.” I promise you guys, it is far cheaper to teach someone to use a condom then pay for unintended and possibly life-threatening consequences.

It saddens me that not much has changed in Texas classrooms in 20 years. I got most of my sex ed lessons the same places most kids still get them – from the cold, mean streets, school locker rooms and overheard bathroom conversations. In second grade, I brought my Barbie and Ken dolls to my mom after school one day. I stripped them down and started mashing them together and asked what it meant. Some girls were playing with their dolls that way on the playground and I didn’t understand why. That night, I got my first home perm and learned all about the birds and the bees. I was also enrolled into private school the next day. As you can imagine, my hair was awful, but I was a hit in the reading loft with my new-found information. Continue reading

National Sibling Day About Gene Sharing, Belonging and Comparing

Editor’s note: This first appeared in the Midland Reporter-Telegram in 2013

My brother Bodie and I on my great-grandmother's back doorstep. I think I am 3 and he is 2. See, already he is tall and thin.
My brother Bodie and I on my great-grandmother’s back doorstep. I think I am 3 and he is 2. See, already he is tall and thin.

April 10 was National Sibling Day, so I thought I would spend a little time writing about my brother, genetics and comparing apples and oranges.

My brother and I are Irish twins, and I have spent a lot of time comparing myself to him over the years. In fact, it is this obsessive comparing that has led to my revolutionary gene-sharing theory. My theory, also known as My Sibling Got All The Good Genes, hypothesizes that there are a finite number of good genes to go around. That from the very beginning, siblings don’t share well.

Let’s take the I Can Do Math genes as an example. My brother, an award-winning architect, got all of them. He also got all the Tall And Skinny genes. And the Can Drive Backwards, Can Read Maps and Wilderness Survival genes. I got all the Skin Can Tan Without Freckling genes, all the I Know How To Relax genes and Does Not Need Braces genes. He got the Makes Models Jealous Eyelashes, and I got all the You Sure Got A Purty Mouth genes. We both ended up with blue eyes, but his are darker. And they see better.

I got the Thick Skin gene, he the Tender Hearted. Totally glad that one passed me over! He also got the All-Consuming Drive And Tortured Artist genes. I always see those as a blessing and a curse for him — and frankly I am not all that envious.

Oh, and I got the Envy gene. Apparently. But don’t get me wrong, I am envious in a good way. My brother is awesome. So awesome that we named our daughter after him. He is one of the bravest people I know. He says I am the brave one.

I try to avoid making comparisons between my two kiddos. They are, after all, different ages and different sexes. But sometimes it is so hard. When I brought Baby Girl home, Little Son was 2 1/2, her age now. He seemed so big to me. Mature, too. He began speaking in sentences at 1, and I remember talking to him about changing rooms and sleeping in a big boy bed so his sister could have the crib. Baby Girl hardly speaks at all. She knows a few key words and phrases, chiefly “Bumbob Pants” (SpongeBob SquarePants), monster, eat (pronounced EEEEEAAAATTT!), wet, poopy and peeps. She is willful and stubborn, though her godmother prefers that I refer to her as my “dynamic” child. Little Son is really pretty easygoing.

Baby Girl has known most of her ABC’s for quite some time, and I discovered yesterday that she can count to 12. Not that she will do it if I ask her to … but she doesn’t talk! And I find myself quietly wondering — in that sneaky, faithless, ugly voice in my head — “Did he get all the I Can Talk genes?” According to my mother, my brother was slow to talk, as well. Apparently, I was always talking for him. Hmpf. My daughter’s eyes are the same color as her uncle’s. But Little Son got his eyelashes, and both of my children like to build things.

Monday, Baby Girl was hollering from her room. Not unusual. She doesn’t like bedtime lately. I went to check on her, and she imperiously pointed to the sippy cup she had thrown to the floor. She whipped her eyes up at me and said, plain as day, “I want more milk, Mom.”

See? Dynamic. I am pretty sure you know who she got that gene from.

But the real thing I hope my children inherit is a sense of Belonging — belonging to and with one another. Bodacious worships her big brother. Parksalot spends a lot of time doting on “his baby,” praising and encouraging her. To tell you the truth, he is doing most of the work in our efforts to get her potty trained. And while my son is a little young to really understand this, I keep telling him his relationship with his sister will be one of the most important relationships of his life. His sister will be the one person he will always be able to count on. No matter when, no matter what. They might not always agree, but they will look out for each other, care for one another.

So if you missed an opportunity on April 10, take advantage of this day. Tell your siblings they are important to you. Don’t know the words? Here, you can borrow Little Son’s praises from this morning’s potty time success: “Yay, Baby Girl! Good job! You are the prettiest baby girl ever. I love you, you are SO SMART!” Sprinkle in some high fives and finish off with a bone crushing hug.


‘Snow Days’ leave me flaky

The Hubs has been temporarily transferred to Arkansas and we have been calling Jonesboro home for the last few months.

My house and I can't take it any more. How many more construction paper place mats can I make?
My house and I can’t take it any more. How many more construction paper place mats can I make?

The weather in northeast Arkansas has been something that takes a little getting used to for this Midland girl. It’s as hot here as West Texas is in the summer, but add 1 million mosquitoes and so much humidity that I now have curly hair (seriously). And to say that we have been having “snow days” this winter is a complete misnomer. We have ice days here. Sheets of ice fall, leaving the roads as white and smooth as the Jackalopes rink.

And while it has been a little funny to watch the cars skidding along our street like hockey pucks, it has meant that the buses don’t run, schools have been closed and I don’t drive. So let the chips fall where they may, and get your poison pens ready to send me hate mail – but I loathe “snow days.” I especially detest five consecutive “snow days.”

We knew the weather would be getting bad, so we tried to prepare. But again, I’m from Midland. I did not know that I needed to buy industrial-sized bags of salt to coat the driveway. Getting out for Ash Wednesday service was treacherous and fortunately the only one to fall while we attempted to get into the car was Bodacious. But she’s little and still has a lot of cartilage. We also didn’t think about getting a heavy-duty snow shovel. A push broom just doesn’t cut it, folks.

I stocked up at the grocery store though. A ton of cocoa and popcorn. Lunchables, cheese sticks, dog treats, ice cream. Instant mac and cheese, bread, fruit and yogurt. We would not starve. Three gallons of milk. We would not thirst.

What we would do, however, was descend into total chaos. Continue reading