Oh, Like, Baby, Baby, Baby…I messed up!

Justin Bieber taught me a lesson about not being a big jerk. On Tuesday I was driving my four year old to the zoo and she was in charge of the music thanks to the bluetooth connection between the car radio and an iPad.

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Justin Bieber at the Tacoma Dome in 2012. Photo taken by the author, who attended the concert with his two teenage daughters and 20,000 other screaming fans.

While listening to a young Justin Bieber sing Baby, my daughter asked if the person singing was a boy or a girl. I told her it was a boy named Justin Bieber and she giggled, saying that he sounded like a girl. I didn’t really respond but was laughing inside because I thought it was hilarious. I shared that brief exchange on my personal Facebook page to bring a bit of levity to my timeline. What I didn’t expect was to realize that I had missed an opportunity to talk to my young and impressionable child about a very important topic.

A dear friend shared a very personal comment on that thread about his lifelong (he’s 62) struggle with not fitting in with society’s gender expectations because he doesn’t look or sound like a man. Part of his message is here.

The answer to your child’s question should be guided by grace and understanding. That voices and bodies sometimes don’t match up. Every man’s voice is not like Daddy’s. Every man’s body is not like Daddy’s. The the most important thing is God has made us all in his image. My condition has caused me lots of emotional pain, depression, heartbreak, and embarrassment, and left me…sometimes angry.

As I read and reread my friend’s words I began to realize that I was wrong. And that I was a pretty big jerk for not having that kind of conversation with my daughter when she innocently asked her question. It’s an important reminder to me that sometimes our parenting moments are not in what we say, but in what don’t say. In this case, the moment passed me by and I failed to respond how I should have. I did, however, bring it up to my daughter later that afternoon and shared with her how not all men or women sound or look the same and that we can love and affirm them no matter what.

Additionally, I realized I was an even bigger turd as for fishing for a few laughs by sharing about it on social media. Here I am, at age 45, thinking that I’m a champion for equality and compassion and kindness and all that kind of stuff, yet I didn’t even realize that mocking a teenage Justin Bieber’s voice was basically bullying. So, I’m owning my mistake and publicly acknowledging that the change that I want to see in others needs to start with me. If I think that toys and colors and clothes and such aren’t necessarily boy or girl, then the same goes for how people look or sound. I’m sorry to people like Justin Bieber and the Hanson Brothers (of Mmm…bop fame) for mocking you. I’m sorry for any pain I may have caused to any of you who feel that you don’t fit in with society’s gender expectations. (Please know that you are dearly loved!) Now that I know better, I will do better.

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Idahoan King Of Soup

**I have partnered with Life of Dad and Idahoan® Foods for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.**

As someone who grew up less than an hour from Green Bay, Wisconsin, I developed a love for the Packers and have been a fan no matter where I lived. Five years ago I moved to Washington state, the heart of Seahawks fandom. My move across the country hasn’t changed my support for my team. In fact, I’ve been able to proudly represent my fandom while watching my favorite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, make some ridiculous plays. Over the couple of years he’s completed three Hail Mary passes, including two in the playoffs. For those that don’t know, the Hail Mary pass is one in which the quarterback throws the ball up for grabs at the end of the half or the game, hoping and praying (hence the Hail Mary moniker) that one of his receivers can miraculously come down with the ball. It’s an act of desperation and no quarterback in history has ever been as successful at that play as Rodgers has been over the last two seasons. More often than not, the defense knocks the ball down or intercepts the pass. It’s a very low-percentage play that is a last-ditch effort.

Now, the last two Sundays my beloved Packers have played a playoff game in the afternoon and I’ve used that time to fold laundry while watching them emerge victorious each time.

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Steakhouse quality soup in five minutes!

What I neglected to do was give much thought to what I was going to make for dinner. One Sunday my wife ended up cooking something so I was bailed out. The other Sunday she was out of town, so I had to scramble to come up with something at the last minute that was both tasty and healthy. So, channeling my inner Aaron Rodgers I took just five minutes to complete my culinary Hail Mary by making a pot of Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Loaded Potato Soup to compliment a grilled cheese sandwich. My 12 year old son and I enjoyed steakhouse quality soup (minus the steak, unfortunately) within a scant few minutes of starting the meal. All I needed was four cups of water, a pot, and a heat source. Be warned, though, that these soups are as tasty as they are filling. My son and I each enjoyed our soup and were completely full after just one bowl each! Unlike Aaron Rodgers, I didn’t need to literally throw a Hail Mary to become the #KingOfSoup in my own kitchen. Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups deliver the flavorful, slow-cooked taste of restaurant-quality potato soup straight to your table.

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There’s no wisk in choosing which flavor to try…they’re all delicious!

Filled with real Idaho® red potatoes and red potato skins, these hearty soups deliver exceptional taste and texture in every spoonful. Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups are available in four delicious flavor varieties: Creamy Potato, Loaded Potato, Cheddar Broccoli and Three Cheese Chipotle. And, at less than $3 per pouch, these soups are more budget-friendly for a family than a trip to an actual steakhouse. Look for them at your local grocer and see how easily you can transform your kitchen into a steakhouse.

 

For more information, please visit Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups and follow @IdahoanFoods on social media.

 

Extra photos to help persuade you that I’m the King Of Soup!

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It’s good to be the King!

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Two hands!

Gas + Motor Oil = True Love?

Do you want to see a real picture of “true love”? Right here. You’re looking under the hood of my wife’s ’86 Volvo parked at the AM/PM at 11:15 pm. Why? Because she asked me to fill up her car tonight so she wouldn’t have to do it tomorrow morning on her way to a work conference in Seattle. Of course I agreed, knowing that she would appreciate having that done for her. During the two minute drive to the gas station I noticed the “oil” light was illuminated. So, while the gas was pumping I popped the hood and checked the oil level. It was off the stick! Not good. Once done with the gas I went inside and bought four quarts of motor oil and poured them in. 
I understand that this story isn’t a romantic story like The Princess Bride, but it’s real life. Sometimes simply putting gas and oil in your wife’s car so she doesn’t have to and so it won’t break down is an expression of true love.

I brought Dick’s to a circumcision protest!

Yesterday I went to Seattle to participate in a rally to protest circumcision. I’ll write a full post about that soon. But, today’s post is about laughing at myself for being so boneheaded. Here’s the story. My younger three kids wanted to come along with me to the protest near Pike Place Market and as we neared our destination they informed me that they were hungry (it was almost noon) and begged me to take them to Dick’s Drive-In to get their delicious burgers and fries. While in line for our food I decided that the people protesting might benefit from some sustenance and so I ordered an extra ten cheeseburgers and fries to share once we got to the protest site.

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Dick’s Drive In

Upon our arrival I introduced myself to some of the protestors and offered them the food I had brought. As I held out the paper bag of food, which clearly has the name of the establishment on it, the guys looked at me a little funny but didn’t say anything. I explained that Dick’s Drive-In is a Seattle institution and that my kids ask to eat there every time we go to the Emerald City. The whole time I was there it never occurred to me that I was pretty much trolling my own generosity.

Once I got home one of my teenage daughters asked how the protest went and as I shared with her about bringing the burgers to the circumcision protest she started to shake her head and laugh. I hadn’t said anything funny so I asked her why she was laughing and she stopped and said “Dad, what did you bring them to eat?”. And then it dawned on me what I had done.

I brought Dick’s to a circumcision protest! Seriously. How on Earth did I possibly do that without realizing it until it was pointed out to me four hours later? I’m pretty proud of my sense of humor and ability to make awful Dad Jokes that make my kids roll their eyes. But to bring burgers from Dick’s to a circumcision protest without even trying? That’s almost grounds to lose my imaginary Dad Card. I mean, if I had realized what I was doing before handing them over I probably still would’ve done it and laughed about it. It would’ve been a next-level Dad Joke, possibly joke of the year in my mind, at least. Yeah, even at 43, I’m still a little bit immature sometimes. I mean, it is funny and Dick’s is pretty delicious!

Why #BlackLivesMatter to me

I’m not black. So, why would a parenting blog written by a 43 year old Stay At Home Dad of six kids write anything about race? In a word, compassion. I spent the better part of the last week and a half watching multiple tragedies unfold, often in real time. I saw videos of Alton Sterling’s death. I saw Philando Castile die while his girlfriend watched it happen and broadcast it live on Facebook. I saw almost a dozen police officers get shot (five fatally) in Dallas while protecting a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Through it all I wept. I watched those videos and what struck me was the humanity of each person. Each of those lives mattered. Those men were husbands, fathers, sons, boyfriends, best friends…and now they’re dead. I watched the 15 year old son of Alton Sterling bravely standing by the woman speaking, trying to comfort her, only to break down moments later and sob uncontrollably. I want Daddy. I want Daddy. I didn’t see color. I saw my own 11 year old son for a moment there. I wept again for that young man, now fatherless. I watched in shock last Thursday night as the police officers were gunned down in Dallas. I wept. I prayed for our country. I prayed for peace. I prayed for understanding. I prayed for compassion.

As a parent one of the most important things I’m trying to teach all of my kids is compassion. I will have failed as a parent if my children are not compassionate people when they leave home. But, I cannot teach that if I’m not compassionate myself. I believe that being compassionate is the ability to look at things from the perspective of others, to understand them better, so that I can help them accordingly. For example, on Sunday afternoon I was driving home from the mall with two of my kids and there was a woman standing by the side of the road trying to get across the five lanes with a heavy-looking large pull-cart behind her. I stopped my van and motioned for her to cross. After two cars whizzed past she had a chance to cross in front of me, but the oncoming traffic was approaching and she was slow. So, I turned to the left and blocked the two lanes to shield her, to ensure her safe passage. I was about to leave when she told me that she was trying to catch the bus which just blowing past the stop (because she was too slow to make it there). She asked for a ride to the bus terminal a mile away and I instead offered her a ride home. I introduced myself and made a new friend, Samantha. I had been less than two minutes from home, but drove this lady 15-20 minutes to her apartment building in downtown Tacoma (and then 15 -20 minutes back home). Samantha talked the entire way there, telling me about her mother (dying of cancer) and her husband (disabled with seizures after getting shot in the head) and her own injury (motorcycle accident at age 16 that nearly severed her foot) which caused her to limp even now at age 55. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Samantha is black. Interestingly enough, though, the color of her skin wasn’t a factor in my ability to show her compassion when I saw her standing by the side of the road. All I saw was another human being who needed a little bit of help.

I guess this brings me back to the events of this last week. I am saddened by what seems to be a lack of compassion among many of my friends. The black lives matters movement began as a way to draw attention to the ongoing problem of black people being disproportionately targeted by some members of the law enforcement community and then unfairly treated by the legal system. I’ll admit that when I first saw the #blacklivesmatter hashtag a couple of years ago that I ignorantly responded with #alllivesmatter. I didn’t understand. I thought that it had to be one or the other. Thankfully, I have some pretty awesome friends who either wrote or shared articles that showed me the error of my thinking. Some of these friends are dad-bloggers (like me), who have teenage children (like me), but have black skin (unlike me). I learned that these men have been racially profiled all of their lives. They’ve been stopped by the police dozens of times simply because of the color of their skin. I think in my 43 years of life I’ve been pulled over exactly three times. Twice for speeding (deserved) and once for going through an intersection on a yellow light (undeserved, no ticket). Not once for having a broken taillight or a wide nose. Philando Castile, who was days shy of his 33rd birthday, had been stopped 31 times by police over the years. He’s 10 years younger than me. I seriously doubt that he’s that bad of a driver. My friends shared that they’ve had to have conversations with their kids about how to respond if when they have an interaction with police so that their kids will come home safely. For real. This is where I started to really begin to understand how much white privilege I have but I don’t even realize it. I can let my son ride his scooter a few blocks to a nearby Walgreens to buy some candy, even while wearing a hoodie, and not worry that he’s going to get shot by a neighborhood enforcer or a police officer. He’s even managed to sneak a Nerf gun in the waistband of his shorts into public and no one complained or called the cops on him. Moreover, I don’t get pulled over “randomly” when driving around town running errands because I might look like a suspect due the color of my skin or the width of my nose. The inherent privilege of being white in America was something that I had to make an effort to learn about, particularly about how minorities don’t share that privilege. I don’t have to be sorry for being white or ashamed of it. Yet, I believe that I do have a responsibility as a human being to treat others with compassion and to fight for justice wherever I see the need for it. Sometimes that means that I need to educate myself, to learn the stories of my brothers and sisters who don’t look like me, to mindfully build the bridges that lead to a true change of heart and compassion.

Now, here’s where it gets a little bit tricky for some people. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” upsets a lot of people. They think it means that only black lives matter and that black lives matter more than anyone else. Nope. Nope. Nope. Black-Lives-Matter-quotesThey love to fire back with All Lives Matter, or Blue Lives Matter. Yes, they do. But, until we, as a country and as individuals can act like ALL lives matter then there will remain a need for movements like Black Lives Matter. For example, just last week I shared several things on my personal Facebook page about the deaths of Sterling and Castile. There weren’t many comments and my feed wasn’t filled with anyone posting stuff saying All Lives Matter in response to those two men dying. Yet, within a few moments of the shooting of the police officers in Dallas my feed was full of people sharing pictures of the badge of the Dallas Police Department and using the phrase Blue Lives Matter. People were showing compassion and concern for the victims and even their communities and families simply because the victims were police officers. I respect the men and women in blue as much as anyone and believe that they have incredibly difficult jobs that require them to be “on” 100% of the time. One momentary lapse could cost them their lives, so the national outpouring of compassion for their families is well deserved. But, why couldn’t that same compassion be shown or expressed for the victims just a few days before? Or for any of the countless victims of black on black crime that All Lives Matter folk love to derisively reference? If ALL lives matter then even the lives that some might deem “worthless” should matter. If ALL lives matter then no one will rest until there are ZERO incidents of police brutality. I believe that I can say Black Lives Matter at the same time that I say Blue Lives Matter because I value both groups. Why? Because we’re all human beings. Compassion doesn’t depend on color.

I don’t want to live in a country that thinks it’s okay to racially profile people based on their race or ethnicity or any other trait. I don’t want to live in a country where abusive or racist cops are tolerated and the good cops suffer the tragic consequences. I don’t want to live in a nation that points out the high rate of black on black crime as an excuse to say that the police can use excessive force or that exposes the record of victims in a not so subtle way of saying he got what he deserved. We’re better than that. We owe it to our kids to be compassionate for one another. Step out of your comfort zone and educate yourself. Talk to your kids about this topic. Help them to understand so that they can grow up without the racial tension that is so prevalent in our nation today. As a SAHD, I get to see my children interact with others in a lot of situations where there’s no adult hovering over and directing their every move. I’ve noticed the ease that my 6 and 3 year old daughters have in playing with boys and girls of any skin color in places like a children’s museum, a McDonald’s play place or the playground at a park. I’m thrilled that my 11 year old son’s best friend is witty, respectful, silly, smart, and loves to catch frogs just like my son. The fact that he and my son don’t share the same skin pigmentation is irrelevant to their friendship. Why do we, as adults, make such big deal about this? Why is it so hard to show compassion for one another?

I want to leave you with a quote from my friend Janice, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her daughter and one of my daughters became friends early in grade school and were best friends until we moved to Washington state four years ago. Her twins, now 17, are black and were adopted by Janice and her husband as babies. As a white parent raising black children she offered a unique perspective on my Facebook page last week when I posted a (much shorter) version of this blog post calling for compassion.

Thank you so much, Carl, for speaking truth and compassion. My son and daughter, who you know quite well, are deeply upset. When a 17 year old girl was treated with over the top brutality by Madison, WI, police my daughter became very upset and agitated. When I spoke to my son about the gentleman who was murdered by police officer in Minnesota, he said, “Mom, can we not talk about this now” as he turned his face and his eyes swelled up with tears. My twins have been experiencing this grief and fear on regular basis. They have been ignored, verbally called “n” word, followed in stores, gawked at, frowned at, not given food while waiting in line after ordering and more. The macro and micro agressions cause a human to be in a state of constant vigilance, increase anxiety, create emotional stress and more due to lack of safety and peace. Yes, they are humans with huge big hearts of compassion! They are giving, gentle, hard workers who do treat others with respect. However, when they walk out the door into “society”, they play a game with loaded dice. We need truth and reconciliation talks to really understand our history and the violence against black bodies. Perhaps readers of this thread would like to read, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Thank you again, Carl. It is very hard to turn toward this violence and actually see it for what it is. My 17 year old shared, “I think I will go to school here because I haven’t been shot yet.” The war against black bodies hasn’t ended. The slave codes allowed the beatings, rapes and murder. We as a society have much work to do. I’m open to suggestions as I’m blinded by grief.

So, I ask you, my dear readers, what are YOU going to do to help bring healing to our country? Are you willing to cultivate compassion in yourself and in your children? I know that I am and I hope that you are as well.

 

 

*****Here are some links to articles that I’ve found helpful in educating myself regarding Black Lives Matter and policing in the United States.*****

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person

Solutions

The Problem with Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

See beyond “the police” for change…

The video of Alton Sterling’s son is the video you should watch

Adrian Perryman’s Video

http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-obama-memorialize-police-officers-killed-dallas-sniper/story?id=40488652

Delayed Satisfaction

I’m writing this at roughly 35,000 feet above sea level, somewhere above the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I should be on the ground in Dallas, Texas, already, except my 5 am flight out of Seattle was delayed over two hours, due to some (obviously) unexpected mechanical problems. Even though I’m anxious to reach my final destination of Kansas City to see my 21 year old daughter and I have already missed my noon-departing connecting flight out of Dallas I am having perhaps the most enjoyable flight of my entire life. I’ve blogged recently about making a conscious effort to look at events through a different perspective and today’s flight offered me yet another opportunity to grow my grace muscles.
I left my house at about 2:20 am and drove north on an almost deserted I-5 to a hotel near the SeaTac airport to park my car and take the shuttle to the airport. I was delighted to see that there was no line to get through security. Granted, it was 3:20 in the morning, but, still, I’d expect a bit more activity in a big airport like SeaTac. I got to my gate and settled in to a comfy chair, spreading out my long legs for what I anticipated would be the last time until I disembarked in Dallas. I’m 6’8″ and too much of a cheapskate to pay for extra legroom on domestic flights. Once I got on board the plane I was happy to note that we were at about 60% capacity and, even better, there was no one in the exit row three aisles behind my assigned seat. Anyone who flies knows that exit row seating is the place to be if you’re looking for more leg room. I casually caught the attention of the nearest flight attendant and discreetly asked if I could switch to one of those coveted spots if no one sat there.
He told me to wait about five minutes more until everyone was on board, but that I was first on his list. My knees were silently praying for a miracle, while my eyes watched every single passenger slowly walk past the exit row seats. Much to my delight, I got one of the seats and, for the first time ever in my life, I had the luxury of being able to fully stretch out my legs while seated on an airplane. As a bonus, there was no one sitting next to me so I had the whole row to myself. Sometimes it’s just the little things in life that can make a 5 am Monday morning cross country flight just a little bit more enjoyable, even on less than three hours of sleep.
I even took to social media to thank American Airlines for the leg room surprise. It’s good to express gratitude. I was mentally prepared for an uneventful flight to Dallas and then on to Kansas City. I may or may not have hummed a few bars of a song I played in jazz band in high school as I stretched out my legs. Goin’ to Kansas City…Kansas City, here I come!
Then, just as our flight attendants were getting their yellow life jacket safety demonstration mojo on the captain interrupted with news that there was a mechanical problem of some sort so we would have a short delay while he powered down and restarted everything. Talk about a mood killer. After a few minutes the captain informed us that we were good to go. So, we taxied out a bit only to come to another stop. At this point the nearest flight attendant, Eric, (the same guy who switched my seats earlier) started talking to me, as his jetseat was a couple of feet away from mine. We talked about a variety of things and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy. 
Well, that short delay turned into something longer and before too long we were back at the gate while the mechanics worked their magic on the plane. As the delay stretched from 30 to 45 minutes many people worriedly started approaching the flight attendants, inquiring about their connecting flights. From my vantage point I was able to see and hear Eric and Deborah and Ana patiently address the concerns of each person, assuring them that American Airlines has a program in place that automatically rebooks passengers once a flight is delayed 45 minutes or longer. (I actually received a phone call from American while we were delayed to inform me that I had been rebooked on a later flight.) As the delay passed the hour mark and crept toward 90 minutes the flight crew continued to be as kind and compassionate as possible despite the increasing level of discontent among some passengers. I’ve been on dozens of flights over my life and have seen such professionalism among flight attendants. I decided to tweet about my positive experience and give a specific shout out to both Eric and Deborah as both of them had, at various points during the long delay, taken the time to ask me if I had a connecting flight to catch and to inform me that there would be multiple flights out of Dallas to Kansas City still to come this afternoon. Again, it only took a moment for me to intentionally show my gratitude.



Thankfully, just after our delay passed the two hour mark our pilot, Captain Stewart, announced that the needed paperwork had been completed and that the plane was good to go. I’m pretty sure an audible sigh of relief was heard aboard flight 1228. Eric returned to his safety seat and we resumed talking. He thanked me for being so patient and not complaining. I mentioned that I was actually quite grateful that the mechanical issues had been found while our plane was on the ground instead of while we were already airborne. He laughed a little and I mentioned something about the importance of perspective and that it wasn’t his fault, or the captain’s fault or the mechanic’s fault that there were issues. Besides, it’s a major inconvenience for the flight crew and various support staff as well. Several of the flight crew were returning home after a few days away from their loved ones and would also arriving later than expected. Some of them also had missed their connections (home), just like the rest of us. I’m sure that they were just as frustrated as the rest of us, yet there was no evidence of it based on their body language. They all were happy to assist passengers as quickly as possible and always with a smile. While we were still ascending to our cruising altitude I told Eric that I had tweeted American Airlines about the positive experience during the delay and he joked that I should mention him by name. What’s especially funny is that I had already sent a tweet that praised him specifically, even though he was only joking about me actually doing that. I told him that I’m trying to be more purposeful in expressing my gratitude and was particularly appreciative of his efforts that went above and beyond the call of duty. I hope American recognizes this entire flight crew for their outstanding efforts today. Disclosure: I was in no way compensated or even asked by American Airlines or any of the Flight Crew to write this post. I genuinely appreciate their fine work today in the face of intense customer dissatisfaction.

The Perspective of My Messy Kitchen

At just after 2 am Pacific time last Wednesday morning I pulled our van into our driveway, arriving home with my youngest three kids (ages 11, 5 and 2) after a week-long vacation at Grandma’s house in Florida. Nearly 17 hours before, we had hugged her goodbye and made our way diagonally across the U.S., taking a variety of planes, trains and automobiles to get back to our home in the state of Washington. We were all exhausted from traveling, yet my kids were still excited to go hug Mommy, who was already sleeping. They ran in ahead of me as I brought in a couple of bags, dropped them on the floor inside the front door, and followed them upstairs. The first thing I noticed once I got upstairs was the clean floor of my girls’ room, which had been totally messy with clothes, shoes, toys, and plastic bins when we left a week earlier. My wife had cleaned it all up while we had been gone, so it was a pleasant surprise to find upon our return. It was a job that had taken her a considerable amount of time to complete and I made sure to thank her for doing it before I went to sleep that night.

At about 5 am my five year old woke me up, complaining of a headache and hunger. Obviously the three hour time change and long day of travel was catching up to her. I brought her to the kitchen to get her some yogurt and a glass of milk. I wasn’t prepared for the mess that was revealed when I turned on the lights in the kitchen. Every surface of the counter was covered with what appeared to be week-old wrappers and boxes from several restaurants, dirty dishes, mail, textbooks, half-filled soda cans and mostly empty cups. I slowly shook my head in disbelief, got my daughter her food. After two bites she was full and I put away her yogurt and milk in the fridge and turned out the lights. The messy kitchen could be dealt with later after I had more sleep.

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My Messy Kitchen.

Thankfully, my younger two kids slept in until about 10 am that day, so I was feeling reasonably well-rested and appreciated the warm sunshine as we began our first day back home. The girls marveled at their now-clean room and I made sure to remind them that it was because of the hard work of their mother that it was so nice for them. They wasted little time in bringing some dolls and stuffed animals into their room to play on the expanse of clean carpet. While they entertained themselves upstairs I snuck away to the kitchen to assess the mess in the light of day. It was just as bad as I had remembered from the middle of the night. Only, this time I started to feel really angry at my wife and two teenage daughters. It felt like a literal and figurative F-you to see a full load of clean dishes in the dishwasher, dirty dishes piled up in the sink and on the countertops, and the rest of the mess all over the place. Even the dining room table, which had been completely cleaned (by me!) after our Easter dinner the day before we left, was full of all kinds of stuff that didn’t belong there. I debated taking my little girls to a nearby favorite cafe to eat because of the mess. I really wanted to teach my wife and older kids a lesson about respect and responsibility. I felt this almost righteous indignation because I had worked really hard to make sure that the house was tidy before we left so that there would be no excuse for it to be messy upon my return. I really wanted to just leave the mess for them to clean up. I didn’t deserve this extra work. This was literally their mess to clean up.

As I was starting to really get myself worked up over this my two year old wandered into the kitchen to ask me to make her some pancakes for breakfast. Pretty please with sugar on top, Daddy? Of course, even though there was not even one spot on the counters clean enough to to fit a mixing bowl, much less a griddle, I told her that I would be happy to do that once I cleaned up a little bit. Without being asked, she cheerfully started to empty the dishwasher. If my little one could help clean, I figured that I really had to figure out a way to get over myself and get a better attitude about this mess, but, oh boy, I was struggling. I decided some upbeat Christian music might help change my angry spirit, so I plugged my iPhone into some speakers and started cleaning alongside my little girl. It took a few songs until I really started to realize that cleaning up someone else’s mess wasn’t really the end of the world. Sure, it was irritating and disappointing. Yeah, it would’ve been nice to come home to a cleaner kitchen. But, as I began to clean, I started to gain a different perspective from my messy kitchen.

For one thing, while we were having a great time at Grandma’s pool and at the beach, my wife was busy working at her job to provide financially for our family and my teenage daughters were busy with school, homework and water polo practice. Because of my wife’s faithfulness in working hard at all times, even while I am on vacation, I am able to be a Stay At Home Dad. I am able to take these kinds of trips with my kids. Sure, it was a working vacation for me because my SAHD duties didn’t end just because I wasn’t at home, but it was still a vacation all the same. Also, it dawned on me that this was an opportunity for me to really practice what I preach, or, at least blog about. Just a few weeks ago I wrote What’s In Your Garden?, a blog post about cultivating kindness and gratitude in all of my relationships by focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. After all, since my wife had done a great job of cleaning up the girls’ room and my girls had taken care of their school responsibilities, cleaning up the kitchen shouldn’t be that big of a deal, right? Even if my attitude hadn’t fully caught up with that positivity, I was sure that it would at some point. Then, my phone rang, cutting off the uplifting music and my mojo along with it.

It was my oldest daughter, calling to talk about some other stuff. I wasn’t really in a mood to talk at that moment and I was, sadly, a little short with her, as I let my frustration with the situation in my kitchen affect my conversation with her. As I was talking with her and flipping pancakes my teenage daughters arrived home from school (it was an early-release day) and came in the kitchen to say hi, as they hadn’t seen me since we had gotten back home. Instead of returning their greetings, I shot a very sarcastic “Thanks for the mess, girls!” at them. So much for that attitude of gratitude. Epic dad fail. That, obviously, set a negative tone for the next few minutes, until I realized what a complete tool I was being. I asked their forgiveness (both my girls at home and my oldest who was still on speakerphone) and shared with them my feelings of frustration and that I was really trying to have a good attitude about it all. They graciously forgave me and I finished serving pancakes to my little girls while the older ones made themselves some lunch. After the kids all finished eating and cleared out of the kitchen, I finally had a chance to eat my own pancakes, enjoying the sudden peace and quiet. It was then that I fully released the burden of being angry about the messy kitchen. It’s just stupid stuff. What really matters to me is relationship with my family, not if my kitchen is perfectly clean.

It took quite a bit more effort on my part to get the kitchen cleaned up. I think I ran the dishwasher three times in the first 24 hours I was back and did a load of hand-wash items as well. I also took moment to consider the fact that we’re fortunate enough to live in such a beautiful home with plenty of food and dishes to get messy in the first place. And we even have a functioning dishwasher to help. It’s really all about perspective. It’s been almost a week since I came home to that messy kitchen. I realize now that it was an opportunity to really teach my family a lesson. Only, the lesson was one of grace, not one of punishment. And it was not just their lesson, but mine as well.

EDIT: Please note that I’m sharing this to encourage others to examine what’s really important in life. In no way was I trying to embarrass my wife or daughters for not cleaning up the dishes. It’s only a temporary mess that was cleaned up within a couple of hours. Much more meaningful to me are the lasting relationships in my life with my wife and daughters.