A Family's Daily Journey to Empower Kids Without Gender StereotypesApril 20, 2018 14:02 2 Comments
We’re so excited to start a new series on Mitz Kids, “Mitz Kids’ Featured Family,” where every month we highlight a different Mitz Kids’ loving family! We came across our first featured family when we followed their journey on the Longest Shortest Time podcast and are so excited to introduce you all to Trystan Reese and Biff Chaplow, along with their three children Riley, Hailey, and Leo.
Biff Chaplow is a social worker and parent. He used to work with formerly-homeless individuals on Skid Row and now works fulltime as a parent to their children. Trystan Reese is a gay trans dad, working as a social justice professional.
They didn't think their story, of adopting their niece and nephew, was an exceptional one. That is, until Stitcher's parenting podcast, The Longest Shortest Time, did a four-part series on their unique situation.
We followed their journey as they decided to grow their family by having their own biological child-- one that Trystan carried and birthed himself. As a transgender man, he has all the parts necessary to do so in a safe manner, and they successfully conceived and had a beautiful, happy baby, Leo. Throughout that process, they shared their story with a wide variety of media outlets in the hopes that their story-- of love and hope and family-- might increase the visibility and acceptance of trans people and LGBT families.
You can find this incredibly fun and sweet family over on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Read on to see what a typical day is like for them, who cleans the house, who cooks dinner...and what do you think their favorite holiday is?
What does a typical school day morning like in your house?
I usually do bedtime with everyone, so I sleep in most mornings while Biff gets up with the kids. Baby Leo is up around 7, and Biff heads downstairs to prep a bottle for him. He makes a little 2-oz bottle and sets Leo up in a boppy on the floor (we learned that he can't be trusted to stay on the couch if we put him there-- oops!), and Leo feeds himself while Biff makes coffee for the grown-ups.
Hailey, age 7, always gets up on her own around this time and makes herself breakfast (cereal or bagel). Biff has to start harassing her almost right away to eat quickly and get ready for school.
Riley gets up much more slowly, requiring a bit more encouragement (Biff has silly songs he sings to wake him up). He gets incredibly hyper once he's awake, which usually wakes me up (I can hear him talking and singing and running around from upstairs).
Biff changes diapers, reminds the big kids about anything special (Friday Spirit Day or whatever), packs lunches, checks to make sure the kids are wearing clean clothes (we keep all kid clothes in labeled boxes in the basement by the washing machine so we don't have to fold them or deal with laundry piles in their bedroom) Editor’s note: BRILLIANT.
Then, it's socks and shoes time ("WHERE ARE MY SOCKS??!!!" "I HATE WEARING SOCKS I DON'T WANT TO WEAR SOCKS ANYWAY!"), the big kids racing out to the car, Biff making another bottle for Leo and bundling him into the carseat. They all drive to school as I get ready for my workday. Leo falls asleep on the way back and gets put down when they get back home... which is about the time I start my workday (I work remotely from home). And that's our weekday morning routine!
How much time do you spend together as a family? What are some of your favorite activities?
I'm not sure what other families do, but we have dinner together as a family almost every single night. Sometimes after dinner I have to duck out for a community event or rehearsal for a storytelling performance or something like that. But most nights I help with bath time, read Hailey a story, do Riley's nightly backrub (he has an attachment disorder and we are working on it with him), or Biff's parents come over and we all hang out together.
If it's nice out, we will go to the park and play catch, run around on the playground, things like that. There's a trampoline place near us, and we like to all go there (it's a great workout for the grown-ups, too!).
Most nights Biff goes to the gym and I hang with the kids on my own for an hour or so before bedtime. If things are really hectic he will wait until after they're in bed so I don't have to deal with all three kids on my own, LOL.
What is your family's favorite holiday?
Oh man, every one of us would give you a different answer. I think Biff and I like Christmas the most, because of the time off from work and lots of food and family time.
Hailey likes Valentine's because she likes giving cards and candy to everyone in her class. Riley likes Halloween because he loves dressing up in costumes and scaring people. Also candy.
How often do you eat meals together? Does the same person cook all the meals?
Every night. Biff does the cooking 99% of the time, but he hates it. We finally broke down and got HelloFresh, to cut out some of the meal planning and food buying a couple meals a week.
We're vegetarian, but not creative or ambitious in our food choices at home-- it's veggie chicken nuggets and tacos and make-your-own pizza and the occasional soup.
What are your favorite weekend adventures for the family?
We really love going to visit my parents, who live on Vancouver Island. It's a drive of a few hours, then a ferry ride, then another small drive up to their house. But their house is really calm, and they really love our kids so it's worth it to visit them.
Occasionally we will go stay at a tiny beach house that Biff's friend rents out (they give us the family rate so we can actually afford it), or sometimes I'm scheduled for a training in a nearby city so we all go and make a little trip out of it.
Pretty much any time I get a hotel room paid by someone else... we will try to all go.
What was your most recent family vacation?
Great Wolf Lodge! We weren't sure we would feel welcome there, since we are a super non-traditional family, but we've had a blast every time we've gone. The big kids love the slides and the wave pool, and Leo likes to kick his little feeties in the baby area.
Does everyone in the house have specific chores? How do you keep the house (somewhat) clean?
Each kid has their standard chores, which include cleaning their rooms, cleaning the bathroom, tidying up the entryway (vacuuming the rug), picking up the baby toys on the floor, putting away clean dishes, wiping tables and counters, spot mopping (they can't be trusted to sweep). Then when it's nice out, they have add-on chores we are willing to pay them for because we hate doing them so much-- raking up pine needles, picking up dog poop.
They are expected to clear their own plates after every meal... that's just a given. We don't care about homework, so that doesn't get done. Then Biff and I mostly split the rest!
If the trash or recycling is full, one of us takes it out. Same with loading/unloading the dishwasher (if the kids are asleep when it needs to get done), and the laundry and tidying our room.
Biff stays home fulltime, so he does the regular tasks like sweeping, vacuuming, and any household emergencies (leaky pipes, etc.).
Does your family have any life hacks you've invented?
We don't fold or put away any item of kids clothing. The kids clothes get washed and dried and then put into a labeled box in the basement. Every morning they go downstairs, take off their dirty clothes and put them in the dirty clothes pile. Then they go to their boxes and dress themselves. That happens every morning, so we never have to get dirty clothes from their rooms or yell at them for rifling through folded clothes or tell them where their pants are. There's a box with pants in it, so they can always get their own items. Except socks, which no one can ever find.
When things get really hectic, like around holidays, Biff uses paper plates and cutlery. Then at the end of the event, dirty paper plates go in the compost, cutlery goes in the trash and he doesn't have to stay up all night cleaning up after everything.
What is the one chore which often gets totally neglected due to busy days?
Laundry laundry laundry. Biff hates laundry, and it's the first to go with things get crazy. Also our bedroom. The rest of the house is usually immaculate-- Biff runs a VERY tight ship. He's incredibly disciplined about the house being clean. But our bedroom is a free-for-all. No one sees it but us, so he doesn't put in much energy there. If it gets cleaned, it's usually because I've done it. :)
What is the last book you've read with the kids?
I'm embarrassed to say it, because I can see how most people would think it was age-inappropriate, but I read Hunger Games to Hailey. She LOVED it. She understood the complicated interpersonal dynamics, and I was able to use it as a springboard for talking about capitalism, US imperialism, and the commodification of poor bodies and bodies of color. Obviously I didn't use any of those words, I used words that she could understand, but those were the core ideas we talked about.
What does Mitz Kids mean to you and your family? What are your kids favorite designs?
For us, we want our kids to be able to express themselves without too much input from us. It's hard to let Hailey do her princess thing when I have so many issues with the way femininity is forced down girls' throats. But she loves feeling smart AND cute.
Mitz clothes empower her to be colorful, smart, and expressive, and each item is made with the kind of construction she needs-- they are clothes that go down slides, get muddy on a hike, survive a hula hooping, and look amazing in a candid photo.
She's stoked to show off the little details, like the dinosaur spikes or the rainbow cloud, and they make her feel super special. And at the end of the day, that's what we want... for her to know that she can be all the things: bold and smart and beautiful and fun, and Mitz has helped us do that.