It’s the Man’s Job to Deal With Mice

When we moved into our new house, we went from a tiny little ranch with only an extended one car garage for storage to a space with two full size storage rooms. We decided to only use one – we still don’t have enough overflow stuff to take up the space and I’m not organized enough to remember where everything is spread out.

The second space is right off our basement stairs, so we keep our wine and home-brewed beer in it since it’s convenient and cool. I used to think nothing of going downstairs to grab a bottle for dinner until one day I came across a dead mouse.

I abandoned my wine mission and ran shrieking upstairs. Frank dropped his dinner prep and came running – I’m usually not so easily freaked out. When he found out the commotion was about a mouse, he got a twinkle in his eyes. Frank loves playing into the traditional “male” roles – opening jars, moving heavy furniture, and taking care of icky rodents.

Last week, I wrote about wanting to raise daughters who open their own doors. And, I do. But not so much out of pure gender equality (though that’s part of it.) I want to raise kind, considerate humans who help other humans because they need help. Not because of their gender. I appreciate doors being held for me, especially when I’m loaded down with babies and groceries or books, but from anyone – old, young, men, or women. I appreciate the help because we all need help sometimes.

I appreciate that my daughters are being raised in a home where Frank is the chef – he loves cooking and experimenting and makes sure to include Bea and Elle as his sous chefs. I cook, too, and the girls see that, but they see that both of us contribute to our family’s nutrition. We try to emphasize the fact that each of us do certain things because we’re good at them or enjoy them, not because of a gendered prescription.

I still don’t like going into the “mouse room,” as our storage room is now called. It will always be Frank’s job to deal with rodents in and around our home. And, I’m ok with my girls seeing that. I want them to know that when mom can’t do something, dad helps. But, I don’t want it to stop there. I want them to see the reciprocity of our relationship and the acknowledgement that we each have strengths and we all need help.

For me, that’s the key in raising strong, independent women. It’s not teaching them to never ask for help or to be too proud to accept help. It’s raising them to know how and when to ask; how to be gracious when help is offered; and how to say no when they truly don’t need or want help.

What is something you hate dealing with on your own? What areas are you most likely to ask for help?

Review: Subversive Jesus by Craig Greenfield + Giveaway

Frank and I are very conscientious about giving to charity. We try to spread out or giving to a diverse group and research ones that mirror our values – for both our family and the world. We are not good about actually getting dirty and experiencing life with those who are “least” up close. I always tell myself, When the girls are older; When we’re out of the baby stage; When I have more time… The reality is that there is never a good or opportune time to just hang out with the poor. But, that is what Jesus has called us to do. He’s called us to reimagine hospitality and to invite others in.

_140_245_Book.1913.cover.jpgCraig Greenfield and his family do this. They live with the poor. They eat dinner with drug addicts. They truly live out the message of Jesus. From living in the slums of Pnom Penh, Cambodia to the slums of Vancouver, Canada, Greenfield believes strongly in literally living out the radical message of Jesus – of loving his neighbors, of feeding the hungry, and of treating the poor like people.

In his newest book, Subversive Jesus, Greenfield chronicles his family’s move from Cambodia to Vancouver. They realized that there is a hero assumption when people heard about their work in Cambodia – of course it’s poor; they were amazing for living with “those people.” But, they wanted to bring that same awareness to one of the richest cities in the world, where poverty is still prevalent and where the poor are still marginalized.

I underlined most of Greenfield’s story. He writes with conviction and without sugarcoating our role as Christians. Yet, he does it in a way that is more sharing his own story and journey than judging my choices. He does it in a way that point-blank asks me to rethink why I make certain choices, but is also gracious and loving with my own journey. (At least, it feels that way as I read through his smart-yet-conversational style.)

I won’t share all of my favorite quotes, but this one stood out most for me, probably because I use my kids as an excuse to not get involved with the poor as much as I could or should:

“In making our children into idols, we’ve lost sight of the central place God has for our kids in his purposes. [My wife] and I learned that as we trust God with our family, we will see him at work – not only in our neighborhoods but also in the lives of our children” (pg 70).

Greenfield has me rethinking how I teach my kids about the poor. Unless we meet others and get to know their stories and their faces, it’s more of a commandment than a way of life. Something to check off the “good Christian” checklist rather than truly living how Jesus asked us.

Subversive Jesus is a book that has changed my thought process of parenting and living life. It’s a call to flip our thinking of family, of hospitality, and of relationships upside-down as we reimagine the kingdom of God.

How do you teach your kids about the poor among us? Any advice on how to get hands-on as we open our homes?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Subversive Jesus. Leave a comment about how you actively interact with others who aren’t like you and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, April 29, 2016. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

My Daughter Can Open Her Own Door

The problem with raising strong, independent girls is that they’re, well… Strong and Independent.

The other day, on the way into preschool, Bea got in an altercation with a little boy who wanted to hold the door. She wanted a turn and was grumpy that he wouldn’t move. The grandma looked at me and said, I’m just trying to raise gentlemen. She should say “thank you.” I half smiled and replied, And we’re trying to raise independent girls.

On our way out of preschool, we happened to leave at the same time as this same boy and his grandma. And again, he opened the door for us and refused to pass it off. This time Bea flipped out. I had to carry a screaming, independent girl to our car.

What I wanted to tell this grandma was that she’s not raising a gentleman, she’s raising a chauvinist. If he’s only holding the door because we’re women, that’s not ok. If he were a real gentleman, he’d recognize Bea’s feelings and share.

We got home and processed how to respond to situations like this. On the one hand, I told Bea that we have to take turns – that’s life. (And ultimately, for the kids, that was at the root of this interaction. They each wanted a turn.)

But because of the grandma’s comment, we also delved into how we respond to boys raised to treat girls as people who need to be helped. We talked about how, if a boy wants to do something for us that we don’t want or don’t feel comfortable with, we say no.

In hindsight, we should have pulled aside and let the boy and his grandma leave. It may have meant waiting a bit longer to leave school, but what do I ultimately want the lesson to be? I want Bea to retain her independence, to feel empowered to help her family, and to not feel pressured to thank a “gentleman” for something she didn’t actually want.

It may seem like a small thing and, again, the root of the issue was more the inability to take turns. But, I also recognize that if I don’t seize these opportunities to empower Bea, I’m losing to the chauvinists. If this little boy is hearing at each door that women need him to open it, then I need to counter that with allowing Bea to open it herself.

By making this choice, I’m probably inviting more screaming exits. But I’m also inviting more opportunities to discuss how to handle these situations. Hopefully I’m inviting my daughters to gracefully decline help they don’t need.

Moms of Boys, Do you teach them to hold doors for women? What’s your perspective on this?

Mod Podge Isn’t Easy

When I was a teacher, I banned the word easy from my classroom. It stemmed from kids who got their work finished quickly loudly complaining, That was too eeeeeeeasy! And then the kids who took longer (for whatever reason) would get discouraged because they weren’t as fast. But, fast wasn’t always best. Some of my slowest kids were my most meticulous and rarely needed to go back to fix things.

When I knew our class had mastered something, we’d do an activity and get to call it easy. The kids would make up rhymes: Easy peasy lemon squeezy macaroni cheesy! And we’d celebrate mastering a skill as a community.

Even with other adults, I try to restrict the use of easy. What’s easy for my super crafty friend is not at all easy for me. Anything involving mod-podge puts a project into the extremely difficult category, in my opinion. And I’m sure that things I call easy are not at all for others.

I’m learning to ask for help from others who find my difficult work easy. When I surround myself with people whose strengths are different, I find that not only do they help, but I learn that those difficult tasks perhaps aren’t as difficult after all.

Do you like to outsource difficult projects? How do you find the balance between learning something new and recognizing strengths in others?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “easy.”

Don’t Box Me In

I love the idea of personality tests. At their best, I learn vocabulary that helps me understand my nature. At their worst, I feel put in a box, unable to achieve beyond what my personality dictates.

Nothing drives me crazier than someone noting, Oh! Your an ETXR? That’s why you love hosting parties! or I’m surprised you enjoy this – usually KDFTs like to stay home. Even the introvert-extrovert labels drive me crazy. I love people and value welcoming others into my home. I’m equally protective of my daily quiet time and crave more alone time than I can get.

Hosting with an Introvert

At this stage in their development, Bea and Elle seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Bea loves it when we have people over and is always talking about her “ten friends” visiting. If we’re out running errands too long or if too many people are in our home, Elle is tense until the house quiets and she can explore on her own. We laugh and call them our classic introverts and extroverts.

When we were reading the crucifixion story in the Bible with Bea, she wondered why Jesus was sad as he hung on the cross, after all he had two friends with him. He shouldn’t be lonely! But, later that day, when we were talking about things we wanted to do, Bea said she just wanted privacy – she loves her alone time.

It’s easy for me to want to box the girls into personality types. I have this idea that it will make my job easier. If I understood exactly why they tick and how to connect with them, life will run smoothly. In some ways, that does work.

I recently read The 5 Love Languages of Children. Recognizing that Bea’s love language is most likely physical touch has changed our relationship. If I can fill her “love tank” with snuggles and hugs and side-by-side physical interaction before a transition, we usually avoid meltdowns. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell are quick to point out, however, that it’s difficult to identify a love language in a child before the age of 5. And even then, we all need all the languages – some are just more prominent.

Like so many things with life and parenting, I’m learning to hold my knowledge loosely. I watch the girls and am constantly trying to see what works and what doesn’t; what they respond do quickly and what doesn’t seem natural. But I also know that my findings can change in an instant. That what worked one minute may not work the next – not because of a personality trait but because we’re people. Complex, undefinable people.

How do you feel about personality tests? Are they insightful or do you feel constricted?

Earning Resets Instead of Rewards

Bea loves making reward charts (or, as she calls them “award” charts.) She’s surprisingly good at drawing rows of squares and we have pages of charts, ready to be filled in.

Right now, we have an award chart hanging outside her bedroom for sleeping through the night. Especially with Frank getting home late, she often gets up to check on him. And for a drink. And to fix her pigtails. Etc, etc, etc. There’s always something to get up for.

The biggest problem with the chart system is that Bea is not motivated by rewards. She loves making the charts but doesn’t care so much about the end result. We’ll take her for a yogurt date or Frank will do a sleepover on her trundle bed, but those are just fun things. I’m not sure she’s actually linked it to the chart itself.

Last night was a horrendous bedtime. It started out well – we went through our routine quietly and snuggly. And then, as I tucked her in, a switch flipped and she was wild. Over an hour later of removing all books, putting her back again and again, and finally losing my temper, Bea asked if she’d ever have anything fun again. I said, Probably not!!!

Testing out the tent

Tonight, we have a sleepover at my parents’ planned. My dad has the tent set up in the basement and he and Bea will camp out. It’s been planned separately, for fun, without regard for any chart.

Part of me wanted to take it away. See? You get nothing fun!! But then I realized the grace of parenting is still doing fun things, even when our kids don’t “deserve” it. That we often need fun resets rather than fun rewards.

So tonight, Bea has earned a reset. Hopefully it’ll be a great night and she’ll receive the undivided attention that is most likely at the root of last night’s struggle.

And I’m reminded, again, that parenting is a communal effort. That I can’t be a whole parent on my own – it takes not only my partner, but my parents and friends and neighbors to fill in those gaps.

Any advice for an easier bedtime? Are you motivated by external rewards or intrinsic success?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “whole.”

Redeeming a Lost Weekend

We have two weeks left in tax season. These will be the craziest two weeks, but it feels good to be in countdownable mode. On my desk calendar, I have an x-ed out Hooray tax season is finished!!! on April 15 and had to move it to April 18. A whole weekend farther away.

These girls can’t wait for tax season to end!

For some, the extra weekend will be welcomed – they will have a few more days to squeeze into the deadline. For us, it means one more weekend without Frank. One more weekend of bedtimes alone and one more weekend explaining to Bea that daddy actually does live with us. (Something she’s not always convinced of.)

Whenever April 15 falls on a Friday, the deadline is pushed to the following Monday. This is because Washington, DC celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16. And if it falls on a Saturday, all city offices shut down the Friday before.

The first time this happened, I was furious. I wrote a letter to the mayor of DC, wondering why Emancipation Day couldn’t be observed the following Monday. Or, why one city’s remembrance affected the entire country.

This year, my initial response was frustration. It seemed so selfish of DC to steal this weekend from us. I’m certainly not against remembering the emancipation of slavery, but I am against extending this already stressful season two more days.

But then, Frank and I were talking about laws and holidays and how something that seems good and obvious and helpful to me can actual be detrimental and frustrating and even harmful to others. I guess, especially with a heated election season, so many issues are coming to light that can be polarizing – laws that help some but hurt others; policies that keep some safe but put others in harm’s way.

It had me thinking about how I want the world to suit me. I want holidays to recognize my ancestor’s achievements; I want laws that make my life easier; I want job opportunities that help me achieve the lifestyle choices that make me most comfortable.

That’s not reality, is it? I think any one of us would agree that the world doesn’t actually revolve around us… Until we want it to. Until it’s a complete inconvenience. Until our own privilege is stepped on.

I suppose, what I am ultimately learning from this Emancipation Day inconvenience is that remembering a movement toward racial reconciliation is important. That for many, this is a day of celebration, of remembering, and of working toward a better future. And I guess, when I view it in that light, I remember that the world is bigger than a tax deadline. That, if I’m going to teach my kids about living in a just world, I need to use every opportunity to do so. That for us, we may not have even known about Emancipation Day unless it directly inconvenienced us.

It’s sad to admit it. That, unless something messes with my plans or schedule, I’m not going to recognize it or observe it. So, this year, instead of being grumpy that Frank is working yet another weekend, we’ll drop off homemade treats for the office and then we’ll find a way to observe Emancipation Day.

Perhaps it will be to introduce Bea to the Black American West Museum or simply go to the playground at Curtis Park. Either way, I’m going to choose to redeem our lost weekend. Hopefully I’ll keep this lesson in mind – that when life’s circumstances frustrate me and my own needs, I can step back and find a way to honor and remember the needs of others.

How do you respond to inconveniences and seemingly unfair situations? Do you naturally view life through the lens of others?

And, Denver friends… Any ideas of an activity we can do to honor and remember Emancipation Day?