How to Involve Dads in Parenting

Dads. There has been a lot written about dads over time. I tried to think of a clever title for this post, but I didn’t want to be misleading. This isn’t going to be a post about 10 ways to involve dads in parenting. Or 50 ways to involve dads in parenting. Or 5 things dads can do to get involved with their kids.

Because my list isn’t any of those things.

Are you ready for my list?

Here goes.

Dads can do everything moms can do.*

I don’t say this to be anti-mom. Really I love moms. Moms are amazing and do so many wonderful things. You all should know by now that I am a mom myself.

But recently-ish, I read about the concept of maternal gatekeeping. The TLDR version is that it’s sometimes very easy for moms to shut out other people because they feel like they are the only one who knows how to take care of their baby good enough. Of course, most moms would never say that out loud. I would never have said that out loud. But yet I recognize, that especially when my oldest was little, this was essentially what I was doing.

And part of it was the attachment parenting I had fallen into because I worried that if I gave him a bottle, that was it, doom for our relationship. I can recognize now that this is not the case, but in the beginning, I was sucked in hard to all the – I’ll say it – rhetoric. And I didn’t even realize I was doing this.

Believe it or not, this has actually been studied. “SEM analyses revealed that mothers were more likely to close the gate to fathers when mothers held greater perfectionistic expectations for fathers’ parenting, had poorer psychological functioning, perceived their romantic relationship as less stable, and had higher levels of parenting self-efficacy.” While not all of these apply to me, I can definitely relate to the one about perfectionistic expectations and the one about parenting self-efficacy. I read all the books! I thought I knew all the right things to do! (Oh younger/earlier self) And perfectionism has long been a struggle for me. These two factors co-mingled for me I think and made me anxious. Especially in the beginning, where I still thought that I could try hard enough and do this the “right” way. Whereas now, I have realized that there is not a magical formula where if you do x y and z that your kids will turn out well. I know that sounds silly and I would never have said that out loud, it was the way I was living my life practically.

As moms, we do stand at the gate. We can choose to open the gate and let other people in, to let dads in particular in, but others as well. Or we can choose to close the gate and try and carry everything all on our own. Even when it’s not easy, let’s try and encourage each other not to hold the gate shut. Let’s try and encourage each other to let others in.

How to involve dads in parenting

What do you think are the best ways to involve dads in parenting? Do you struggle with maternal gatekeeping? 

*I feel like someone is going to mention breastfeeding and childbirth. It may be true that dads can not breastfeed, but they can still feed a baby. And fed is best. And while they may not be able to give birth to babies, there are many options for them to be beneficially involved in the process of childbirth, like skin to skin care. The support of my husband in labor was invaluable to me. 

Remembering the Holocaust

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Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I don’t know if you knew that.

But it just had me reflecting. I think that often times with big tragedies, long ago in history, we have a tendency to say this could never happen to us, that was then and this is now, never again – and all those other sentiments.

But the reality is, none of those things happened in a vacuum. None of those was a moment’s decision that changed the world. I mean, sure those things happen – but even “powder keg” type events like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, there were still a lot of moving parts. These things are often a lot of little decisions. Sometimes by ordinary people. Sometimes by people we don’t know will be extraordinary until later. Very rarely do we know who history will remember and who they will forget at the time that it’s happening.

The Holocaust was a terrible tragedy where millions of Jews were systematically murdered. There are no two ways around that. And even though we have said, many times, never again, unless we live with our eyes wide open, we make it too easy to let it happen again. Even now around the world, there are problems. Ethnic cleansing is happening in Myanmar. The situation in Syria. And on and on.

I will leave you with a poem and then some recommendations for reading on the Holocaust.

First They Came 

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

-Martin Niemoller

Martin Niemoller on the Holocaust Remembrance Day

Martin Niemoller

By the way, in case you are curious, I didn’t know this until I was looking this poem up, though I had read the poem many times, but Martin Niemoller was a German pastor. At first he supported Hitler, but then he began to realize there were problems with Hitler and he spoke out against him. He was one of 800 clergy and ecclesiastical lawyers taken to concentration camps for speaking out against Hitler and the Nazis.

His story, I think, illustrates two things. That sometimes the right thing costs us. And that it’s not too late to change your mind if you realize you’ve made a mistake. He could have kept his head down, kept supporting Hitler, but he didn’t. He realized things were wrong and he made a change – even though it cost him. Because of this change of sides, he is considered a controversial figure. People argue about his motives. Ultimately, why he did it is between him and God, but either way, he did change his mind. And I think that’s powerful.

Here are three fiction books I recommend for reading about the Holocaust.

And three non-fiction books.

Instead of asking a question like I usually do, I’d just like you to reflect on history and reflect on our future and what you (and we) can do to contribute to making the world better and not worse. 

Photo By J.D. Noske / Anefo – Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28946076

I Want So Badly to Love Mug Cakes

The mug cake. There are so many things appealing about them. They are single serving size. They are cake. They are a use for a mug. And let me tell you, I need uses for mugs. There are so many cool and cute mugs out there and I don’t drink coffee or tea. I mean, I do drink hot chocolate, but you still only need so many mugs. As it is, I probably have too many mugs, but there are so many more cool ones that I wish I could have.

But, every time I try and make a mug cake, they turn out all wrong. Even following different recipes, they never taste quite right. Frequently, they taste quite eggy. And, the time element. Most recipes boast being five minutes. I actually made one a few nights ago and I timed myself and it took me almost 15 minutes from start to microwave, then I had to wait for it to microwave. You have to measure a lot of ingredients. Prep time wise, it takes me less time to make a box cake. Of course, then you say, it’s only a box cake. But on the flip side, if I’m going to measure as much as I have to to make a mug cake, I could be making a cake from scratch. True, it does take longer in the oven, but box cake or from scratch, both taste better than a mug cake. Plus, then you have leftover cake. A mug cake is a one and done deal. But if you take the time, then you can have cake today and tomorrow. And even longer if you freeze it!

But who knows – maybe I am expecting too much from something that I threw in the microwave. But the concept seems so glorious that I can’t help but want to love it. And I can’t help but try it again. Even if every time I’m left eating a cup of disappointment.

Mug Cake

My most recent failed attempt at a mug cake. Looks deceptively delicious. I even frosted it!

How do you feel about the mug cake? Sweet treat or do you too find them to be a cup of disappointment? 

The Pro-Life Whole Picture

Part of me is absolutely terrified to write this post. I know, already, that by reading this post is about pro-life, you are likely making assumptions about me. About what I may or may not believe. But stick with me, because I am trying to make a point. (Hopefully succeeding in making a point anyways haha 😉 ) I’ve been working on this post for something like a month now. I really want to say it in a way that will be well received. And I am also partially chicken to publish it.

Let me preface this by saying, I am going to use the word we. But I don’t mean it for any specific person. And I don’t even mean it about myself. There are things in here I have not said. I just didn’t want to use something as pointed as you, because I felt that would come off the wrong way. I feel like I’ve already apologized too many times at the beginning of this post 😉

The Pro-Life Whole Picture

But fellow pro-lifers, we have got to talk. If we really want to be about doing what’s best for women. If we really want to be about not just being anti-abortion like pro-choicers say. If we really want to do these things, we have got to start looking at the big picture of the candidate.

Because what does it mean when we say we want to support women, but that the only way to do that is to pick candidates who give lip service to being pro-life but then they have sexually harassed women? What kind of message does that send? Because we pro-lifers fight so hard against being labeled as only caring about the baby and not the woman, but if we give in to candidates who campaign on pro-life but act in a way that’s reprehensible towards women, what do our actions say? Those actions speak far louder than any words do. When we say that we are pro-life, but then we elect candidates who are against things like paid family leave and other benefits that would make parenting a better option for many people, what does that say?

When we say that every baby is wanted and every baby is welcome and then turn around and cut welfare and cut programs that help many people like WIC and Medicaid, what does that say? When we make snarky comments about how you shouldn’t have had children if you couldn’t afford them, doesn’t that go in direct opposition to the culture of life we say we are trying to create?

When we say “all lives matter” (I put this in quotation marks because I recognize that it is a problematic phrase meant to dismiss the concerns of an entire group of people), but then we tell certain people they aren’t welcome here or dismiss their concerns that there is a lot of racism around us and how it affects their lives, what are we really saying? There are so many complicated things in this one sentence alone that I’d like to unpack farther. I hope to at some point.

How can we say children are precious and turn around and continue to cut funding for education and special needs education?

I have, somewhat intentionally, shyed away from specific examples. It’s not that I couldn’t find them, because I definitely could. But more because I don’t want to get this post bogged down by a thousand links and have my point be missed. However, I recently finished the book Overwhelmed* and I did want to bring one specific example to light because I think it so very well illustrates all the other general points and because I would say it’s relatively unknown among people my age. The fact of the matter is, the United States once came very close to having universal childcare. However, it was killed, largely in part, due to Pat Buchanan, who worked for then-president Nixon. I have watched my friends struggle to find safe and affordable care for their children. It almost didn’t have to be that way.

The reality is, when we continue to dismiss the very legitimate concerns of people, when we continue to cut funding, when we continue to refuse to listen, we are hurting our own cause. We are becoming deaf to the big picture. I am not writing any of this to say that abortion is okay. The reality is, I don’t think it is – that for me is very cut and dry. I feel very firmly pro-life in respects to my personal ethos. But I am writing this to say that abortion doesn’t exist in a vacuum – that the other political realities matter too. And we can’t let politicians merely pretend to be pro-life in order to get the votes of a certain voting block. We need real change, not someone who is just saying what they think we want to hear.

I used to think, once upon a time, that a candidate’s position on abortion wasn’t the only one that mattered. But then, I met some in the pro-life movement who I respected and who were older. I thought, therefore, that meant they were wiser. They had lived through more history than I had. And they told me that it was the only thing that mattered. And for a while, I felt that way too. But, I’ve come to realize, that I can respect them and listen to them. However, that doesn’t mean that I have to think the same as them. And I’ve swung back around to my original position. Abortion isn’t the only issue that matters when it comes to who we vote for.

I have struggled in this post to figure out a way to explain this, without offending anyone, but it’s hard. I know, on this subject, I’m pretty sure it’s impossible. Do I still want abortion to be illegal? Yes. But I don’t just want to make it illegal and leave thousands of people unsupported. I don’t want to live in a culture where we’re always thinking we are better than the next person who needs more help than us. Life has humbled me many times and I have learned that it could always be you who needs help.

In many ways, I feel unqualified to write this post. I’m no longer as active in the pro-life movement as I once was. That isn’t because I stopped caring, but because my life got totally consumed for a while by these two small humans I’m raising. I’m trying to teach them to be compassionate and caring human beings. That takes a lot of effort and energy.

I don’t write this to tell you guys how to vote or how you should do your politics or anything like that. I mainly write this because writing helps me process. I’ve learned, sometimes it is the stuff I am most afraid of saying that I need to say the most. I could be wrong – I’m not so arrogant as to think that I have every political problem figured out. But I would like to start a discussion. A respectful, civil discussion – is it still possible to have one of those? I hope so. Life is complicated. I don’t have all the answers. I can only do my best to think and pray and try and figure out every day how to make the world a better place.

What does it mean to you to be pro-life? 

*It was an excellent book, I highly recommend it. 

Image courtesy of yodiyim at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Learn Through Drawing (Review of Draw and Learn Animals and Places)

Disclaimer: I received Draw and Learn Animals and Places for free from Timberdoodle in exchange for my honest review. Regardless of getting it for free, the things that I share here are always 100 percent my own honest opinion. 

Draw and Learn Animals and Places Draw and Learn Animals and Places

Today I’m excited to introduce you to Draw and Learn Animals and Places. I had the opportunity to try this book both with Allen (3 years old) and Dominic (5 years old). In this post, I’ll go over the book, what I liked about it, and what I didn’t like about it. Overall, it’s a solid book and I’m so excited to share it with you!

Draw and Learn Animals and Places

Even though I would say that I am a terrible drawer myself, I feel that drawing is an important skill for little kids. In the front cover of this book, it goes over some of the benefits of drawing which I agree with. Drawing is great for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. These are really important skills to work on for little kids. I don’t think that drawing should be the only way that they work on it, but it can definitely be a good part of the equation. The book also mentions that drawing builds a child’s symbolic knowledge, which was a new concept to me. I knew what symbolic knowledge was (the understanding of the concept that specific marks mean a specific thing. IE the letter a. If you know that is a letter a, you have symbolic knowledge. If it just looks like a line on the paper, you don’t). I never thought about this in regards to drawing, but it totally makes sense.

Draw and Learn Animals and Places

Some of the things that I like best about it are the fact that it’s very bright and colorful. The instructions are clear and simple. There are a lot of examples so that your child can see something first before drawing it. Some of the pages have a place for name and date, which is cool because then you can see how they change and grow over time. It feels like a good balance between drawing and coloring. I didn’t count the pages exactly, how many were drawing and how many were coloring and how many were both, but from flipping through, it feels like it’s pretty evenly balanced. As far as skill level goes, it is a part of Timberdoodle’s PreK kit, which we used last year with Dominic. I believe it is replacing Doodle and Draw, Inside, Outside, Everywhere. In terms of the two books, I feel like Draw and Learn Animals and Places is a better fit, it seems better suited for a four year old’s skill set. Some things in this seemed too hard for my three year old and too easy for my five year old, so I would say PreK would be a pretty accurate fit. This would also be a great activity book for traveling.

Draw and Learn Animals and Places

Dominic (5) had this to say about the book. “It’s pretty fun. It brings up my coloring skills. It also gives me size power.” I don’t exactly know what size power is, but he told me that the more size power you have, the better you are at drawing.

Draw and Learn Animals and Places

Nitpicky thing to point out, but I would mention that there are no page numbers. This is just my own personal preference, but I like my books to have page numbers. It’s easier for me to lesson plan and it’s easier for me to communicate with my kids what I want them to do. Plus I think looking for page numbers helps with their number sense.

Like I said, overall we really like this book. I would definitely recommend.

Do your kids enjoy drawing? How do you work on their drawing skills? 

Baby Wipes Containers Upcycled Into Spice Containers!

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Let me tell you a story. This is going to be a very short story. Actually, to be honest, you can’t even really call this a story.

But once upon a time, Nick and I we were pretty broke. Not that we are like rolling in the dough now, but considerably, things have improved.

Most things I found ways to wait for or to make do without, but one thing that I always wanted was spice shelves – or some sort of organizational system for spices. I was tired of not being able to find spices that I knew we had. I was tired of realizing that I’d accidentally bought the same spice twice.

But I couldn’t find the money to buy a fancy organizer.

So I started to look around my house, to try and figure out what I did have in abundance. And it turned out, that thing was baby wipe containers. If you have ever used baby wipes, you know that those containers are pretty sturdy.  So when we used them, I didn’t just want to throw them out. I held onto them because I knew they would be useful for something else. (And it turns out, they are useful for storing many things – we have different baby wipe containers for markers, pens, and pencils for example). We couldn’t use most of them for baby wipes anymore because one of my kids had broken the lids.

So when I realized I had a bunch of these, I thought, there has to be a way I can organize these to hold my spices. And so I started arranging the spices in them until every spice had a place. Then, I took a post it note and taped it on the front of the container and on that post it note, I wrote everything that was in that container. Then I lined them all up in my cupboard. Like this! Ignore the peeling post it note, I did tape it on better after I took this picture.

Spice Containers out of Baby wipe containers - baby wipe containers upcycle

I have been using it this way for at least a year – probably longer. They hold up really well to abuse and pulling in and out of my cupboard. I can find everything easily and I don’t accidentally buy duplicate spices anymore. Actually, the other day Nick said “We could get you real shelves.” And I actually turned him down because I like it so much I don’t want to change it. Though I think I would like to alphabetize it soon, but I admit, I have an addiction to alphabetizing things! I’m surprised I didn’t do that from the start, to be honest.

How do you upcycle your baby wipes containers? How do you organize your spices? 

On the Struggle to Be a “Good Mother”

What does it mean to be a good mother?

Picture of the mythical good mom that I think I’m not but can’t define.

I don’t know if you all are like me, but I have to admit that I struggle with feeling like I am not a good enough mother. I often feel like I am a bad or terrible mother. I promise you, I am not writing this to elicit comments from you all that I am a good mother, but stick with me and you’ll see my point eventually.

I think the most frustrating part about this is that if you asked me to define a good mother, I don’t even think I could. I have a ton of friends who I would classify as good mothers. And none of them parent the same. Or I would come up with artificially high and inflated standards like always does the dishes or other ridiculous stuff like that.

It seems pointless to strive for something that I don’t even know how to define. But I have this very concrete fear of being a terrible mother. And sometimes, I even feel like a terrible mother. I get caught up in all the things that are going wrong. Like the fact that one of my kids is very whiny and I try soooooo hard not to give into his whining, but sometimes I’m just tired. Sometimes I’ve just hit my whining limit. And the fact that getting the toys picked up before bed is a struggle almost all the time. I feel like there’s some mythical mother out there who doesn’t yell at her kids, whose kids always pick up their toys, and who is somehow impervious to whining. I feel like somehow if I just try harder, I can be her. I can be this amazing magical mom.

But I can’t. I’ll never be perfect, no matter how hard I try. And lots of times I think this struggle to be a good mother is just my perfectionism expressing itself in a different way. And perfectionism is a trap. Perfectionism is a slave driver that will whisper in your ear that you failed because you aren’t enough. That you should try harder. That you should always try harder, even if you feel like you’re already trying with everything you’ve got.

I talk with Nick about this. I talk with him about it so much so that he’s exhausted. Because in his eyes, I am a great mother and he doesn’t understand how I question this. But he texted me something once and I have held onto that text in all the hard times. And what he texted me was the three most important questions that I should ask myself every day to try and figure out if I’m a good mother.

So here, for you, are the three questions. In case it helps you the way it helps me.

Do you love your kids?

Do I love my kids? Yes, I absolutely love my kids. I do this, every day, without fail. There’s no time that I’m ever not loving them. Even when they upset me. Even when they drive me up the wall. I still love them. This love for them makes me a good mother. Even my imperfect love, it’s still love.

Are you trying to do what’s best for them?

I am a research personality if you didn’t know that already. I like to read and research everything. And parenting is no exception. I have read so many pregnancy and parenting books that I have all this knowledge in my head. Sometimes, it’s too much knowledge. But still, at the end of the day, I take this knowledge and try and use it to make the best decisions that I can for my kids. Sometimes, what’s best for them changes – sometimes we get more information. But still, I am trying to do what’s best for them every day, and that makes me a good mother.

Are you working on raising them in Godliness?

My husband and I both believe in God. And we both believe that it is important to pass that faith onto our children. And that that faith is more than just showing up for church and Sunday school on Sunday mornings to check a box. Even though this is the last question, it is the most important. If my kids are perfectly behaved angels all the time, but they don’t know God, it’s meaningless. If they can do calculus and write 10 page essays, but don’t know God, it’s meaningless. Our works can’t earn us heaven and neither can my kids’ behaviors. This is the big picture. And sometimes in the day to day, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture when you’re just trying to make it through another 5 minutes.

While I still have days where I struggle, when I try to keep these things in mind, it definitely helps. Nobody is perfect – even me – but in the day to day struggle of things, it can definitely be easy to lose track of the things that are going well. It is much easier to focus on everything that’s going wrong.

How do you define being a good mom? Do you struggle with feeling like you aren’t a good enough mom? What questions do you need to ask yourself? 

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