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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Gender-Neutral Parenting

Gender vs. Sex.

Have you ever thought about it?  Have you considered the differences between the two words?  Well, some have and while it seems that the vast majority of people haven't given it much thought at all, there is a very small but growing faction of those that have apparently thought about it so much that they've filled the thought quota for the rest of us.

The words 'gender' and 'sex' are used interchangeably throughout our culture.  Though, according to some sources, it is said that sex is biological and therefore more black and white, while gender is sociological and better thought of as a scale.

They say that gender is more of a culturally learned thing.  And, it is true that many things are decidedly masculine and decidedly feminine (certain behaviors, activities, interests, etc.). I'm reminded of all my years of learning French.  Like many latin languages, nouns are given a gender.  The gender of the word denotes whether you say 'la' or 'le' preceding it.

So, with all this assumed gender being thrown around, there are those that take issue with it.  They believe that girls are unfairly missing out on "boys" activities and, likewise, boys are missing out on "girls" activites.  They suspect that with all the societal gender's understood do's and don't's, children are being limited to certain activities and thus only acquire certain skill sets.  Hence, enter gender-neutral parenting.

But, what is gender-neutral parenting?  It seems that the answer to that question is a parenting style in which the parents attempt to avoid all gender stereotypes for their children.  They do this by keeping their children's environments free of "extreme" gender-specific clothing, toys, colors, etc.  They may also try to keep a balance between the toys and such that are made available to them to allow for the freedom to choose what they want to play with.  They might take efforts to balance playtime so the child gets equal exposure to playing with both sexes.  It could be said that they are simply parenting their children while consciously avoiding stereotypical situations that might "force" their children into a stereotypical social slot.

The issue that proponents of gender-neutral parenting have (as far as I can gather from articles I've read) is that they believe that children growing up in traditional settings (with which some label "gender-specific" parents) at the very least will be limited in their skill development or at worst be oppressed by this setting.  The idea is that a boy will be led to believe, whether directly or indirectly, that he shouldn't need to learn how to cook, sew, do laundry, etc., and that they will be limited in their vocational scope due to these inabilities. The true would be the same for a girl but in regards to other "decidedly male" skills.

Here are some situations that would pass as "gender-specific" parenting examples:
  • A girl's bedroom appearing to be a "girl's" bedroom.  Same would be true for a boy's.
  • Telling a girl that she looks "very pretty" weightedly more when she is wearing a dress than when she is wearing pants.
  • Having an imbalance of traditionally boy's toys versus traditionally girl's toys in any play area.
"Gender-enforcing" is more directly from a parent as opposed to the child's surrounding environment.  Here are some situations that would pass as "gender-enforcing" parenting examples:
  • Telling your son "boys don't cry."
  • Telling your girl "to sit like a lady" as opposed to "sit properly."
  • Not supporting your son if he wants to wear pink or your daughter if she wants to play football.
  • Discouraging play with toys that are decidedly the opposite gender of the sex of the child.
I'm sure that people who support gender-neutral parenting can come up with a slew of more reasons to support their belief that it is the better parenting option.  But, this provides you the basic idea.

Now, alas, my opinion.  I agree that "gender-enforcing" in most examples is probably wrong.  Of course, boys can cry.  But, I think it's fine to tell a girl to sit like a lady.  So, I can't agree whole-heartedly.  And, I don't really agree with most of the "gender-specific" examples as being in any sense "bad".  Ultimately, I find the psychology of gender-neutral parenting to be well-intentioned but nevertheless flawed.  In no particular order, here are some issues that I take with it:
  •  It ignores behavioral science.  Our biology does affect our behavior, our likes, our priorities, etc.  It's very well established.  Gender is not just culturally learned.  Yes, it is culturally learned, but not exclusively.
  • It inherently disrespects the "extreme" ends of gender.  It wrongfully assumes that people who are in a "traditionally stereotypical" position are so because of their socially-ingrained gender-specific limitations. Lots of people willfully choose "traditional" roles and live fulfilled lives, and it's disrespectful to purposefully try to avoid that end result with your own children for fear that it is a result from limitations.  Society already fails to put enough well-deserved value on roles like stay-at-home moms and blue collar dads.  Why reinforce this backwards concept?
  • It denies children all of the so-called extremes.  If you're refusing to provide your daughter a pink dress on principle then you are limiting your daughter's development (by the definitions set forth by pro-gender-neutral-ness) while claiming the high-road that states the opposite.  The irony is that, in an attempt to avoid the perceived limitations of a stereotypical childhood, the parents are limiting typical childhood things and activities.
  • It takes the "you can be anything you want to be" lie to the furthest extreme.  Yes, I said lie.  Let's face the truth.  You can't be anything you want to be.  Limitations are very real and vary from person to person.  Also, skill sets vary from person to person.  Encourage your children to break out and do amazing things, sure.  Champion the skills they do have.  But, feel free to tell them that the levels of resistance will vary between differing goals.  They'll appreciate the truth.  Also, I find it very strange that any parent would encourage their boy to be as feminine as he wants to be, while purposefully avoiding the same for their daughter just because that would be stereotypical.
  • It assumes that there is value in the sheer number of opportunities provided.  I'm reminded of those little Asian children that are full-on concert soloists in their adolescence.  It's an extreme example, I know, but isn't it also valuable teaching your children to master a handful of skills instead of a million skills somewhere shy of mediocre?
I believe that the core goal of gender-neutral parenting is to protect children from having their identity "imposed" upon them by our culture.  I can relate to this goal quite well and find it to be a good one.  In many cases such as morals, ethics, moderation, modesty, etc. I would completely agree that our culture is a bad influence and thus, I support counter-cultural efforts in these categories.  Where we disagree is the case of gender.  I don't believe that gender is necessarily a cultural imposition.  I believe that children's discovery of gender traits is part of the natural development of a child and, dare I say, a necessary one.  Children categorize things and activities naturally.  My young children ask me all the time questions with a false dichotomy in an attempt to classify things.  "Is McDonald's good or bad?", they'll ask.  I often provide a "gray scale" answer such as, "It's bad if you eat there all the time, but a meal there every once in a while shouldn't hurt us."  This is all fine to do when answering questions like my example, but providing gray scales for everything in an attempt to allow the child to find his/her own way isn't parenting at all.  Purposefully trying to filter out the black and white found virtually everywhere trying to force a gray scale on certain things such as gender could not only be non-beneficial but potentially detrimental to the child's normal development.

Remember that the main arguments being made for gender-neutral parenting are against "forcing" children into categories.  Perhaps, the creation of a new category, the non-category, is equally "forcing" your child into something.  Perhaps, even more limiting?  Perhaps even greater prejudiced?

I Love Weekends

We had a pretty productive weekend.  It was nice to be around the house and do some fun things.  I started it out by drafting up a long "to do" list on Friday.  I knew that there was not much of a chance that I would get even half of it done, but I thought that having it all on there would help to give me choices as to what project was best for any particular moment.

Lyric had a soccer game at 9:00 for which the weather was hardly ideal.  It was cold and everything was wet from the overnight rain.  The kids played great, though, and walked away with a 11-0 win.

Shortly after the game, the sun came out and dried up all the rain.  And, the itsy-bitsy spider went up the spout again.  Well, I don't know about any spiders, but it did turn out to be a pretty nice day.  We were all very excited to welcome the delivery of our wood to build our deck.  Lowe's came and managed to get it all in our backyard right up close to where we will begin building.  It was nice enough that Jodi and I both were itching to just jump right in and start on the deck project, but unfortunately, we can't start that for a few weeks.  So, Jodi helped me mask off 3 lockers and I got a terrible-looking first coat of primer on despite some problems with my sprayer.

On Sunday, I became extremely frustrated with my sprayer and almost threw it to the ground in anger.  But, I managed to compose myself long enough to finally ask God for help.  And, of course, He did.  I got to looking at my sprayer and wondered what the clear rubber tube coming out the top was for.  It just looped back into the frame.  I turned over the sprayer to examine the underside of the frame to find that the opening was clogged with old paint.  I pulled the hose off the frame connect and proceeded to finish primering the lockers with the most consistent sprayer I have ever used.  I figure the hose is a pressure relief for the canister.  With it clogged, the sprayer would only work for a minute until the pressure inside the canister would be so low that it would refuse to let out any more paint.  The hose just lets air in to replace the product coming out to equalize the pressure.  Wish I would have done that sooner.  Oh well.  Lesson learned.

After two days of working around the house, I felt like we could all use some fun.  So, with our newly acquired fire pit (thanks Craigslist) and plenty of brush that needed disposed of, we had s'mores for dinner.  Yes.  For dinner.  I know, not exactly "Parent of the Year" material, but I think that we all really enjoyed it.


My friend Ralph and I were having a discussion a while back and he said something profound that made me think about it several times since then.  He pointed out the problem with using Groupon to market your business.

He explained that when consumers use Groupon for a product or service, they may feel good about the deal that they just received, but they also will likely associate that good or service with the price that they paid.  Here lies the problem.  If you get a nice meal for your family for $30 at a restaurant you've never been to before, you likely won't feel good about visiting that restaurant again at a later date and getting the same meal with a bill for $50.  So, in essence, by offering your goods or services at a discounted rate, you are inevitably setting the value in the minds of the customers that take advantage of this rate.  So, while you may certainly generate some extra business at a minimal profit, you won't likely gain any repeat customers.

And, he's right.  I have personally experienced this where I have not returned to a restaurant after our first visit with a Groupon in hand.  It was at ReRico Brazillian Grill. Well, actually I did return but only with another Groupon in my pocket and I haven't been back since.  And, my failure to return has not been for any lack of quality or quantity.  With excellent food and all of it you can handle, they have both mastered.  It's because I'm in no hurry to go drop $50+tip for a meal.

Contrast that with my experience of having first shopped at Devo (olive oils and balsamics) before I knew of Groupon.  Yes, it's pretty expensive but we loved the quality and it opened us up to new recipes and some fun experimentation in the kitchen. One day I bought a $25 Groupon for $50 at Devo. Score!  But, I've shopped there since then, too.  The difference?  The Groupon didn't set the value since the value had already been set in my mind.  And, that's just it.  This is a matter of perceived value.

So, since this initial conversation, I've given this much thought and wondered how this may apply to other areas of our lives.  For example, teenagers with new driver's licenses might "peel out" in their cars, "power brake", skid to a stop, or otherwise quickly ruin their tires.  Make that same teenager purchase his/her own set of new tires and you'll find that same young driver all of a sudden with a new found sense of content with driving responsibly.  The teen simply didn't value the tires until they were made to shell out the $500 +/- it takes to replace them.

Worse than the tires, is when people fail to value services.  Failing to value goods can have detrimental effects, sure.  However, services have people directly tied to them.  So, it's even worse because now it's not just a failure to value something.  It's a failure to value someone.  And, sadly, it's not usually the intent of the person to offend or to fail to value a person, it just works out that way due to how they have been taught (or taught themselves) the perceived value of a service.

Allow me to use someone with a Bachelors in Information Technology (computer guy/gal).  It doesn't take long after people finding out what they do before they're asked "Will you look at ______ for me?  I've been having trouble with it?"  The only problem here is that usually this is being asked in the sense of doing a favor for a friend.  In other words, there is no intention of paying the person for their work.  Never mind the fact that they literally paid thousands of dollars and spent hundreds of hours on training to be able to know what they know.  Sure.  Go ahead.  Ask them to do it presumptively for free.

IT professionals are not hardly alone in this phenomenon.  This scenario plays itself out all the time across all kinds of different skill sets.  Artists get asked to help with painting projects, hair stylists get asked to cut/color hair, mechanics get asked to perform auto repairs, people get asked to babysit, musicians are asked to entertain, people with trucks get asked to help move, etc. (I realize that owning a truck isn't a skill, but I think it still qualifies to be in the list of things you get asked to do for free based on something you have that others may not.)

So, can we not ask our friends and acquaintances for help when we need it?  Of course, you can.  But, recognize the actual value of a good or service (not just your perhaps flawed sense of perceived value) and be prepared to pay for it.  Offer to pay for it.  If the friend wants to discount his/her own service/goods then that's another thing entirely, but certainly don't suggest it yourself.  Also, be prepared for the person to decline.  Your relationship is more valuable than the good or service for which is being asked.  If asking a friend for goods or a service, try to provide a reasonable way out.  Keep in mind that it's difficult to say no to a friend even if there is a multitude of perfectly great reasons for declining.  If they seem reluctant to accept, it's because they're probably searching for a good way to decline without hurting your feelings.  Take the hint, don't pressure them, and let them off the hook without applying any guilt.  And for crying out loud, do NOT take offense because someone won't do something for you.  What a lame and self-righteous reason to have an issue with someone.

I recently had an epiphany about value.  I used to believe that the value of something was set solely by what the market was willing to pay for it.  I no longer believe that.  While this is true to some extent, the value of something is also, if not primarily, set by the owner's reluctancy to sell the item.  For example, there is no "blue book" value on a 1942 Buick with no engine.  However, if the owner won't sell it for less than $2,000, then the value is $2,000, regardless of what the market is willing to pay.

The cost of failing to recognize value in goods in the marketplace may result in having to needlessly replace them or simply having to go without them.  The cost of failing to recognize value in services in the marketplace will make you a bad customer or not a customer at all.  The cost of failing to recognize value of goods or services among friends is loss of friendships.  It can become a wedge in the relationship that eventually, if not immediately, ends it.  Nobody wants that.  Don't let Grouponitis invade your relationships.  Value things.  Value service.  Above all, value people.

Home Renovators!

Almost everyone who knows us, also knows that we are DIY home renovators.  But, what is a DIY home renovator?  What does that mean?  Allow me to explain.

We are a rare breed of human.  We're superhuman.  We aren't natural.  We're supernatural.

We see into the future.  We don't gaze upon the work to be done, we visualize the finished result.  We peer into the possibility of a potential project and see what others cannot.  With our house, even our realtor tried to talk us out of it.  "Too much work", she said.  Scoff.  Quiet thy tongue, mortal.  This is our destiny.

We walk through walls.  Literally.  To our home, we've added 12 new doorways and closed off 10 old ones.  We changed the floor plan drastically to make more sense and to add 550 square feet of livable space.

We wear tool belts that shame Batman.  He may have a grapple gun for quick repelling and bat-shaped boomerangs to stun bad guys, but we have tools that shape steel, slice wood, shoot nails, and bond materials.  Batman may have items meant for destruction, but we sport the goods for mass construction.

We have immunity to the elements.  We breathe dust.  We shake off electrocutions.  We eat lead.

Our marriage (with God (the ultimate Renovator) intertwined as the third strand in our cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12) defeats the enemy on all fronts.  This article by a leading home renovation magazine states that a poll they took of their readers showed that over 12% of them have seriously considered a divorce while knee deep in a renovation project.  That's sad, of course.  But, rest assured, the most difficult project is no match for us.

All the joking aside, we really are different.  Major DIY home renovators are certainly the minority in this country.  I found this article online and really liked it.  It is a list of 9 things to do to keep your sanity during a home renovation.  It points out many of the difficulties that one will face when attempting even a small home improvement project, much less a large scale one.  Most people simply aren't cut out for it long term.

Proof that we are on the extreme end of DIY home renovators is the following list I also found online.  It listed 10 home improvement projects that you should NOT attempt to do yourself.  Yeah, we have already performed 8 of the 10.  Pshh.

  • Tree Removal
    • Cutting down trees, or even removing branches requires climbing and working with dangerous tools from a high distance off the ground. This is disaster waiting to happen, and definitely something better left to professionals who are trained and paid to do this.
  • Home Additions Or Structural Changes
    • Knocking down walls might seem like a simple task, but behind those walls could be electrical wiring, gas pipes and plumbing that can cause huge problems in your home. Rather than taking a chance, consult a contractor first!
  • Paving Your Driveway
    • Paving stones can turn a boring driveway into a focal point. And while they look relatively simple to install, the reality is that the measuring and positioning of paving stones can be tremendously time-consuming. (Think of it as a game of Tetris on steroids.) But a team of professionals can cut installation down to a day, depending on your driveway size.
  • Electrical Work
    • It's one thing to flip a fuse switch to the power in your home on or off, but another to attempt to repair faulty wiring or any other electrical issues without professional help. Working with electrical wires can be deadly and the proper precautions and knowledge are crucial.
  • Plumbing Repair
    • Unless it's something simple like unclogging a toilet or fixing a drain, messing with plumbing can cause major dilemmas (Just think about an overflowing toilet or unstoppable burst in a pipe...not fun). It's always better to ask a plumber before trying to tackle any plumbing issues on your own.
  • Repairing An Above Ground Pool
    • While we're sure most people wouldn't attempt to tackle a project like this on their own, we figure we should mention that it would be extremely dangerous to make these repairs. All it takes is one loose piece of siding, and the entire pool could collapse.
  • Roof Repair
    • Besides the fact that working on top of a roof is very risky because one could easily lose their footing and slip, it can also be detrimental to your home's structure if you don't know the proper way to install or repair roofing. If you are going to check the roof for damages or cleaning gutters, bring a friend and proceed with caution.
  • Installing Siding
    • If done properly, siding can last for years. But if siding is not securely installed, weather conditions can tear it off, or seep underneath, causing harm to the frame of your home. Rather than taking this chance, it's safer to have a professional install it properly.
  • Adding Or Replacing Windows
    • Specialized tools and methods are required to properly install new windows to make sure they are well insulated and secure. While it can be costly, a professional can ensure that you'll be comfortable in your home for years to come.
  • Creating An Outdoor Kitchen
    • We're the first to admit outdoor kitchens are fantastic, but attempting to put one in yourself could be disastrous. It might seem easy enough (a little flooring and a grill-station) but you could end up with a half-finished patio and plumbing gone awry. So while it might be tempting to build one in your backyard, ask yourself if you'll really use the kitchen year-round...and then, of course, call in a pro. 

More Funny Craigslist Posts

Yes, we're all used to seeing strange fees from the companies that we deal with, but from an individual?  Come on.  Save us the "re-homing fee" mumbo jumbo and just admit that you're selling your four-legged children on the black market.

Magizings r grate cuz uv all da purdy pikshurs.

It's no wonder there's a misspelled word in this post.

No explanation necessary.

I love unnecessary quotation marks!  Let me translate this for you: New mass-manufactured sofa table in Rustic Style plastic!

I guess, I give people a hard time who spell things incorrectly on the Internet because they obviously had Google at their fingertips when creating the post.  Spell check, people!  When in doubt?  Google it!


Evidently, this girl has moved on.

This isn't Craigslist, clearly.  However, this made my list of funny posts anyway for the obvious reason (to everyone but the person who posted this, no doubt).  And, in case, you happen to see your own post here: Sorry and congratulations for making the cut. :)

Recent Craiglist Purchases

I know that I've been talking about Craigslist a lot lately and I'm sorry about that.  It's just that I've been using the junk out of it lately and have been scoring some sweet deals.  And, whether you want to hear about them or not, I want to write about them.  So there.  Oops.  Now my apology doesn't seem very sincere, does it?  It may not be.  Just sayin'.

So, what have I scored now, you ask?  Last night, I picked up two brand new (still in the boxes) glass inserts for our back patio doors.  The guy who listed them for sale had them listed for a while, but I don't think that he knew what they were for.  He was listing them as fixed glass windows, which they are, I guess.  It's just that he thought that they were some custom special ordered items.  When, in fact, they probably fit in most wood-framed glass doors.  I told him what I was doing with them and he seemed genuinely happy that they would finally be put to use.  He said he bought them at a discount building materials store at $80 for the pair.  I bought them at his listed price at $40 for the pair.  Booyah!  Thank you, God!

This purchase is awesome because we put in a lot of work several years ago transforming an old windowed-in back porch into a new 130 square foot addition to our living space.  We got the patio doors for free from a friend who spotted them being given away at a garage sale.  It's a little hard to tell from the photo, but moisture got in between the two panes of glass in the functioning door which makes it permanently cloudy.  The stationary door had one pane broken, so it's actually clear and can be cleaned, but radiates cold in the winter and heat in the summer pretty awful.  So, with the new panes, they'll be beautiful, clear, and efficient since they are dual pane and insulated with low-E glass.  I'm going to be installing them this weekend so, no doubt, I will post some before, during, and after photos.

The night before last, I made two purchases.  The first was a really nice furnace for our second story (and I have a lead on a matching AC condenser that I will likely pick up from a guy tomorrow).  These deals aren't anything to write home about, really.  However, I've looked at several furnaces and with the dollar range that I've been narrowing my search to I managed to see some pretty rough units that were nothing short of questionable.  The unit that I got, though, is in great shape, isn't very old, and came from a guy in the HVAC business.  He finished out his full basement and then had to upgrade to a larger unit to handle the increase in square footage from 1900 to 3800 square feet.  I'm really excited about the prospect of upgrading our home by splitting off the second and third stories from the first into two separate climate-controlled areas.  The two individual systems will not only make it more comfortable in our home, but will also take the load off the one unit and run more efficiently overall.  Adding an all new system plus all the duct work would run us several thousand in normal circumstances, but we should have it all done installed and running for under eight hundred.

The second purchase was two sandblasting tanks.  I got them for $20 for the pair!  They currently sell for $139.99 each at Harbor Freight so I'm thinking that I pretty much stole them.  I'm really looking forward to having these bad boys around.  It opens us up to the possibility of doing a lot of projects that we wouldn't have even attempted previously.  I've never used a sandblaster before, but that will soon change.  Rest assured that I'll post some before and after pics of the first project that we use one of them for.

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