TIME

Michigan Woman Expecting Baby Girl Gives Birth to Boy Instead

"I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me"

Bentley Thomas Williams of Belleville, Michigan, isn’t even a month old, and he has already given his parents the surprise of a lifetime.

Back in October, a 20-weeks-pregnant Danielle Williams and her husband Kyle visited the doctor’s office for a sonogram to determine the sex of their baby, reports ABC News. The technician who performed the procedure informed them they would be welcoming a second daughter to their family in March.

So imagine the look on the couple’s faces when the doctor delivering Danielle’s baby on March 3 lifted up their newborn and announced, “It’s a boy!”

“I had been up for 24 hours and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me,” Kyle said of the reveal.

While inaccurately identifying the sex of a fetus at 20 weeks is extremely rare given today’s technology, professionals say parents should use more than an ultrasound to learn if their child is a boy or girl.

“The point of the sonogram at about 20 weeks is to check for the important stuff like brain development and the chambers of the heart,” Ob-Gyn Dr. Jennifer Ashton told ABC News. “Sex is impossible to confirm without a test like an amniocentesis that looks at chromosomes.”

Once the Williamses determined their new baby boy Bentley was healthy and not hiding any other surprises, the parents decided to have fun with the gender switch. To reveal the real sex of their baby to the boy’s grandmother, mom and dad asked grandma to change the infant’s diaper and filmed her reaction.

Baby Bentley also met his older sister Peyton, who is excited to have a brother in her life. The 2-year-old took the name planned for a (formerly) female sibling, Charlee, and gave it to her new doll instead.

Just by being Peyton’s brother, Bentley is automatically a member of Peyton Pals, the nonprofit started by the Williams family to raise awareness and funds for those with Diamond-Blackfan Anemia (DBA), a rare blood disorder.

According to Fox 2, Peyton is one of 800 people in North America with DBA and requires routine blood transfusions to stay healthy.

The entire Williams family is now back home and working on getting Bentley settled, including shopping for baby clothes that aren’t pink.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Family

They Called Her the ‘World’s Ugliest Woman.’ It Only Made Her Stronger.

Lizzie Velasquez arrives at the premiere of "A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story" at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2015 in Austin.
Michael Buckner—Getty Images for SXSW Lizzie Velasquez arrives at the premiere of "A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story" at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2015 in Austin.

The experience inspired Lizzie Velasquez to appear in a new documentary

Lizzie Velasquez will never forget the day she came upon a YouTube video with 4 million views and thousands of mean comments naming her the “World’s Ugliest Woman.” She was only 17 years old.

“When I saw it my whole world just felt like it crashed at that moment,” Velasquez, 26, tells PEOPLE of the experience that inspired her new documentary A Brave Heart, which premiered on Saturday at SXSW in Austin, Texas. “I thought, how in the world can I ever pick myself up from this?”

But Velasquez – who weighs just 63 lbs. due to a rare syndrome that doesn’t allow her to gain weight – did just that by becoming an anti-bullying activist and motivational speaker.

“If I ever see that person [who made the video] I would jump on them and give them the biggest hug in the world and tell them, ‘Thank you for bringing the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life,’ ” she says. “That video changed everything and it has given me the platform that I have now to be the voice for anyone who’s ever been bullied – and not just myself.”

After giving a TEDx talk that went viral, Velasquez was approached by the group Women Rising and director Sara Bordo, who asked if she could document Velasquez’s daily existence and efforts to lobby for the country’s first federal anti-bullying bill. She also gained the attention of YouTube star iJustine who is an executive producer on the film.

“I’ve met so many people who have come up to tell me their personal stories, and a lot of them express the same feelings that I have, especially reading things online,” says Austin-based Velasquez. “Hearing those stories really validates what we’re doing.”

Though her goal is for people to know that “for you to be able to do anything, you have to learn to love yourself first,” her life is not without struggles.

“I experienced bullying as early as the first day of kindergarten and there were times where I wish could escape out of my body,” says Velasquez, who is also blind in one eye.

“But I have the most incredible support system in the world,” she says. “They let me have those times when I just want to cry. But I give myself a deadline and say, today’s my sad day but tomorrow when the sun comes up it’s done.”

This article originally appeared on People.com

Read next: See 100 Years of Korean Beauty Trends In Just 90 Seconds

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TIME Family

I Bullied Myself Into Breastfeeding

Mother holding newborn baby in arms.
Julia Wheeler and Veronika Laws —Getty Images Mother holding newborn baby in arms.

Claire Howorth is the books editor at Time.

Isn’t the strident case for breastfeeding just one more way of putting women in their place—as selfless slaves to the furthering of the human race rather than members of it?

Brace ourselves, mamas. Scientists in Brazil have discovered more evidence to support the theory that the breastfed shall inherit the earth. Not only are breastfed babies supposedly more resistant to sickness, better bonded with their mothers, and less likely to die from SIDS, but now we are to believe they are going to grow up to be smarter and richer, too.

And I include my own infant daughter in “they.” Despite the fact that my daughter has a cleft lip and is undergoing a presurgical treatment that makes nursing impossible, I have exclusively breastfed her by pumping all of her milk. I’ve done it partly to give my baby all of the potential benefits, real, exaggerated and imagined. But, if I’m being honest, I’ve also done it under pressure and guilt.

Feeding your child should be the ultimate you-do-you. Instead, it’s become everyone-else-do-you-dot-dot-dot-or-else. For all the talk about evil formula companies plying us with propaganda, like so many ounces of corn syrup down a newborn’s unwitting hatch, I have only ever felt swayed — or rather, forcefully wrenched — by the other side. By breastfeeding proselytizers whose boobie-thumping sounds a lot like mom-shaming. Add yesterday’s headline to their gospel.

When we have a technological option — formula — but we are made to feel as though there shouldn’t be a choice, isn’t the strident case for breastfeeding just one more way of putting women in their place? Selfless slaves to the furthering of the human race rather than members of it? It’s not a nanny state; it’s a mommy state.

Sure, I sound a little purple, but so does all of the breastfeeding hype. If you properly mix your formula with clean water, your baby is just as likely to kick ass on the SATs, and probably inherit some of the earth him or herself, like my boss, my boss’s boss, and my boss’s boss’s boss, who were all formula-fed and none the shabbier for it. To think that a woman is seduced into a feeding decision by the Willy Wonkas at Nestle or Mead Johnson gives none of us enough credit, or power.

I have had resources that many women do not: a supportive husband and family, an unusually generous paid maternity leave, guilt- and stress-free time and space to pump at work, and the intellectual background to fully understand all of my options, never mind research the hell out of them. Those things have allowed me to make the “natural” choice.

Recently, formula tempted me. My daughter is a string bean — healthy and long but lean — and I thought I would drop a couple ounces into her diet in the hopes it would help chunk her up. (One feeding fable is that formula-fed babies are bigger; breastfeeding, by the way, does not prevent obesity!) I also fantasized about giving up pumping — more time to play with the baby in the morning, a long night’s painless sleep, the ugliest of the yellow machines returned to its native hospital. Then, yesterday, I reversed course. It seemed crazy to give my daughter anything other than breast milk when I had stayed in the game for three long months, never mind she had caught a cold and suffered diaper rash — maladies breastfed babies are supposedly more likely to avoid. If I want her to be richer and smarter, I’ve gotta stick with it for nine more months. “So far as I can tell, people need to believe that breastfeeding is better precisely because it’s harder,” Amy Sullivan wrote. I may be one of those people, an overachiever who needs to be “mom enough” by Searsian standards.

So there I sit with my pump, the Jack to my Ennis, muttering, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” (Shout out here to my fellow EP’ers [Exclusive Pumpers, for the uninitiated], the overlooked underclass of breastfeeding moms who “do it with a bottle,” as I would like our spring break t-shirts to read.) I smugly tell my mom friends about my ability to feed the baby her daily intake while continuously growing my freezer stash, where I’ve obsessively, almost perversely, stockpiled slender bags of frozen milk so my baby can survive nuclear winter my return to work. The bottles of thick, hearty Similac lie in a plastic bin under her crib, shamefully out of sight but never out of mind. I tell myself I am able to feed her from my own body, and that I should be proud of this. What would people think if I had never even tried to go this route?

As Laura Kipnis writes in the excellent forthcoming book Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, “What’s with all the sentimentality about nature anyway, and the kowtowing to it, as though adhering to the ‘natural’ had some sort of ethical force… Sure, we like nature when it’s a beautiful day on the beach; less so when a tidal wave kills your family or a shark bites off your arm.” She goes on to say that technology has liberated women more than suffrage. Kipnis is specifically mulling labor and childbirth, but let’s throw formula in with C-sections as medical alternatives to whatever biology intended for those of us who are biologically incompetent. And I suppose I mean alternatives to death; if we didn’t have formula and C-sections, that’s one “choice” biology would give us. (C-sections — I had one — are a mom-shame topic for another day.)

A wise fellow mother recently told me that she refused to ever utter a self-deprecatory “I’m a bad mom.” “You know, ‘I forgot to do tummy time today — I’m a bad mom.’” “Bad moms” don’t mean it, of course. It’s just casual self-flagellation, the result of being conditioned to think that if we don’t do every last self-sacrificial thing we possibly can, even at the cost of comfort or happiness, or, God forbid, pure convenience, then we aren’t doing it right. It’s the same womp-womp tone in which I talk about introducing formula into my daughter’s diet. But you know what? To hell with that.

I hope my confessional encourages myself and other moms to feel good about whatever they need —or want — to do for their babies and themselves. And that’s because I’m a good mom.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

The Grandparent Deficit: Fertility Isn’t the Only Biological Clock

Grandmother and granddaughter walk
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There's often one forgotten variable in the decision about having kids later in life

A few months ago I was sitting in the vast dining room of an assisted-living home in Washington, D.C., watching my 5-year-old niece bounce like a pinball between tables of seniors. It was a startling sight–that small, smooth blond blur amid a hundred crinkly faces. Her audience, mostly women in their 80s and 90s, grinned as she navigated all the parked walkers, canes and wheelchairs as if it were a playground.

Sahar is a bit of a celebrity here. Far younger than most of the other grandchildren who visit, she is a rare burst of kindergarten energy in a place where even the elevators move very slowly. She comes frequently to have meals with my dad, her grandfather. He’s 81, and she doesn’t know what he was like before dementia took hold. Nor does she remember her grandmother who died four years ago, except in the funny stories my sister tells so often that Sahar refers to them as if they were her own memories.

She and my two daughters are among a growing number of kids who will see their grandparents primarily as people in need of care rather than as caretakers. They are the leading edge of a generation whose mothers and fathers had children later in life. They’ve seen us juggle our jobs, their school schedules and their grandparents’ needs simultaneously–one day missing work to be at the bedside of a parent who’s had a bad fall, another day trying to call an elder-care aide from the back row of a dance recital.

It seems naive to say this tripart balancing act came as a surprise to me and my sister, but it did. Somehow, while we were worrying about our biological clocks and our careers, it didn’t occur to us that another biological clock was ticking down: that of our parents’ health. And while medical science keeps coming up with new ways to prolong fertility, thwarting the frailties of old age is harder.

Our parents seemed so vibrant, so capable in their 60s that we couldn’t imagine how fast things would change. We knew that three or four years could make a huge difference in our fertility, but it turned out that three or four years could also mean the difference between a grandmother who can take a toddler to the beach and one who can’t lift her newest grandbaby out of a kiddie pool because of arthritis.

My daughters may face an even greater grandparent gap. I was almost 39 when I had my second child. If she has a child at the same age, I’ll be over 80 when that grandchild enters pre-K. And I’m not alone here: about six times as many children were born to women 35 and older in 2012 as they were 40 years ago.

I’m aiming to stay spry, but by the time I become a grandmother, I’ll likely be past the age that my daughter can drop her kids off at my house for a weekend. Will I be one of those exceptional octogenarians who jogs every day? Will I be able to babysit, or will I need my daughter to find me a babysitter? I don’t know. But with about half a million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s each year, plus the usual maladies of age, there’s a fair chance I’ll need some kind of help.

If I had thought about all that, I might have gotten pregnant a few years earlier, just to give my kids that little bit of extra time with my parents in their prime. Of course, it’s not as if my sister and I could have chosen exactly when we met the men who became our children’s fathers. Nor do I regret spending my 20s and part of my 30s living in different countries, doing all kinds of jobs, soaking up the world. It was glorious, and it made me a better mother. But I do know I’d give anything if my kids could have one more weekend at the beach with my parents in peak grandparenting mode–full of silly jokes and poetry and wry observations from extraordinary lives lived fully.

And now, amid the ongoing debate over when to lean into a job or a relationship or children, my take has changed. I want to tell my daughters, “Don’t forget grandparents in the high-pressure calculus of modern life. I would like to make it easier for you if you want to lean in and have babies at the same time. I’d also like to know your children.” Who knows if I’ll get that chance, given the million variables at play, but I want them to know it’s an option.

In the meantime, I’m leaning into this new phase, one ripe with gratitude even as my father fades, losing more of himself every day. My children are discovering that they are not always the center of the world. And while my little niece may never know what my dad was like when he used to hide Easter eggs or swim after us pretending to be a shark, his white hair pluming like sea foam, she’s learning something beautiful from her mother. She sees my sister visiting him daily, feeding him, talking to him. Sahar is seeing kindness firsthand. And she understands that the thin, confused man in the bed is someone worth loving. That he is family.

Schrobsdorff is an assistant managing editor at TIME


This appears in the March 30, 2015 issue of TIME.
TIME Family

Being a Stay-at-Home Mother Is Not a Job

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I was able to do nothing but focus on giving my daughter the best early years at home that I could provide. That was a gift. Not a career

xojane

Alright, calm down. Before you get angry, you should know that I was a stay-at-home mother of my daughter for five years. I proudly made that choice, too, so I’m not speaking out of ignorance/anger/first-wave-feminist desire to put women down for their decision to parent from home.

And I definitely understand where the desire to complain about being a stay-at-home parent like it’s more rigorous than some lousy 9 to 5 comes from. I lived it. It was really hard. I was lonely a lot. There were many days I wanted to call in sick.

I also understand a stay-at-homer wanting to validate her or his life choice by calling it a “job.” We get a lot of grief from academics and professionals, and we’re very often belittled by our society for not contributing anything “valuable.” There’s a sense that we need to defend ourselves against a culture that wants to make us feel inferior or useless because of the way we’re spending our time, but trying to argue its worth by identifying it as something identical to a full-time career isn’t helping the cause. If you’re proud of how you’re living your life, there’s no need to rephrase it to make it more palatable to those who don’t agree with its worth.

Being a stay-at-home mother to your own kids is not a “job,” no matter how difficult it is or how hard we work. Period. Getting to do nothing but raise a person you opted to bring into the world is a privilege, and calling it anything else is ignorant and condescending.

Sure, parenting is hard work, but so is going camping or throwing a party for a friend; I don’t go around calling those things my “jobs.” And FUN FACT: While there are obviously labor-intensive tasks involved with running a household like cleaning and cooking, those are things every person has to do (or pay someone else to do) regardless of their status as parents, and they don’t define our life’s work.

Obviously, staying at home and taking care of people in lieu of working for wages is a valued lifestyle, but it is not a “career”; people who retire early to care for their elderly parents don’t suddenly tell everyone they’ve gone into the health care profession. Choosing to care for your own small child is no different.

Statistically, it’s unbelievable that I was able to afford being a SAHM at all. I found out I was pregnant three months into a relationship with a guy I’d met our senior year of college. I wasn’t the type who ever wanted children, but the minute I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to keep her. Never mind that I was still living with my parents after moving back in with them during a mental breakdown my sophomore year at an out-of-state university four years prior. Never mind that I was only employed 15-ish hours per week and was due to graduate a few weeks later with a BA in English. Nope! We were havin’ a baby!

The wonderful, unassuming young man with whom I was about to take this ill-advised journey had earned his way through college as the Art Director for the student magazine, and he was able to start working a full-time, professional job literally two days after we graduated from college in May 2007. I started working part-time as an administrative assistant, but I was upfront about being pregnant and knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay on after having my daughter, especially because my pregnancy was rough on my health from the start.

After I gave birth, I worked part-time while my mother watched her free-of-charge, and for the first couple years, we participated in the government’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which helped provide tons of nutritious groceries for myself while I was pregnant and nursing, then later when my little girl was eating solid foods. Once my partner had moved to a more profitable job, we were able to quit the program, and I kept working freelance writing and acting gigs here and there. We survived the 2008 financial crisis (which happened the week we were away getting married all by ourselves, incidentally), and my husband got a new job three hours away from my family.

For a while, I kept plugging away at freelance work when I could find it, but was always confined to staying at home. Ultimately, though, I made the choice not to take the first mediocre full-time job that came along that required me to not be with my daughter in her early years in exchange for a paycheck that would just go back into childcare. We didn’t have any extra money, but I was able to do nothing but focus on giving my daughter the best early years at home that I could provide, and she was happy and healthy. That was a gift. Not a career.

During this era, I tried joining mommy groups and was constantly astounded by how many women reveled in bemoaning our apparently torturous conditions. Don’t get me wrong; it was nice to have people who could empathize with the frustration of existing in a perpetually disheveled state while someone literally screamed in my face a dozen times per day instead of clearly stating her requests. I loved The Feminine Mystique, and I fully understand that mothering isn’t completely fulfilling to most women.

However, the negativity that comes behind SAHMs’ unabashed martyrdom is belittling to the entire parenting community. For example, I listened with real compassion to one woman I befriended who spent a year (and thousands of dollars) on fertilization treatments to conceive her second child, only to begin whining about how much it sucked being pregnant once it finally happened. Other women in that social circle were happy to join in with her complaints; I was quick to leave.

I’d like to say that this was the scene at just one or two of the groups I desperately tried to fit into, but the truth is, for every mother who is happy with her choice to be a stay-at-home mother, there are at least three who are using its tribulations as a means to smugly declare their superiority to anyone within earshot.

“Mothering is the hardest job in the world!” is a phrase I’ve grown to loathe, but only because of the unemployed, self-righteous idiots who love to proclaim it after spending all their energy harping on their children or bitching about their spouse’s ineptitude. The mothers who don’t have time or interest in repeating that overused trope are the ones who recognize that the stay-at-home lifestyle is an incredible freedom they were in no way obligated to participate in, or are actually working to support the children they decided to contribute to society.

No, Stay-at-Home-Mothers, choosing to create your own little person upon whom you’ll spend all your time and energy is a hobby. It is a time-consuming, sanity-deteriorating, life-altering hobby — a lot like a heroin addiction, but with more Thirty-One bags. Whether you call it a “blessing” or a “privilege,” the fact remains that having someone else foot the bill for a lifestyle that only benefits you and your close family is by no means a “job.”

Have some self-respect, own up to your decision, and call it what it is: a lifestyle that is hard but definitely worth the struggle to you. The people out there who actually have jobs will appreciate you much more if you’re not going around whining about a way of life that is most parents’ dream.

Liz Pardue-Schultz wrote this article for xoJane.

Read next: I Am About to Become a Stay-at-Home Parent and I’m Terrified

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

I Don’t Want My Daughter To Hate Pink

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I suddenly felt ashamed of putting a bow on my daughter’s head

xojane

“Good thing you put a bow on her head, so we know she’s a girl.”
A good friend sent me this text as a joke after seeing a photo of my daughter wearing a tiny silver headband with a bow on it.

This friend knows me incredibly well. She knows that most of my baby’s things are not specifically gendered. She knows our nursery is outer space themed: blue and gray with robots. She knows earlier that week she’d met us in the park where my one-month-old was rocking a Captain America onesie. (My daughter also has several Batman and Superman onesies — and Wonder Woman, obviously.)

But despite my friend knowing we’re just as likely to put our kid in a t-ball uniform as in a tutu, the joke bothered me. I suddenly felt ashamed of putting a bow on my daughter’s head. It was as if all my progressive, feminist street cred was choked out of me with the twist of a shiny ribbon. My gut reaction was to respond quickly (and truthfully), “This is the first time we’ve ever put a bow on her.”

I was about to hit send on this disclaimer text when I had an epiphany: I was feeling embarrassed because I put my daughter in something feminine, because feminine means frivolous and silly. This is NOT OK.

Society teaches us boy stuff is awesome and girl stuff sucks, even for girls.

It’s awesome when my little girl is dressed like Batman or a dinosaur, but why isn’t it just as awesome when she’s dressed like a ballerina? And how did I somehow fall into this way of thinking?

I grew up as a little girl who liked to climb trees while wearing frilly dresses. I’d say that is still a fair description of who I am today. I am feminine in so many stereotypical ways: I love shoes and make-up and getting my nails done is one of my favorite forms of “me time.” But these are things that I feel the need to justify. I find myself adding disclaimers and pointing out the ways in which I am not as traditionally femme: I’m a comedy writer. I know how to change a tire. I’m a lesbian.

But why can’t I just be a woman who kicks butt? Or better yet, a person who is a whole complex being, and as such has a blend of masculine and feminine qualities? To be human is to have a mix of traits and the faster we acknowledge that we aren’t cardboard cutouts predetermined by the way we urinate, the better off society will be.

Yet here I was ready to begin subtle coding on my one month old, apologizing for girlhood, womanhood, and femininity. “Cool girls” like boy stuff. “Cool girls” don’t wear bows. Girl stuff is silly.

Forget that. Femininity is not less than masculinity. It is a different kind of strength, but it is powerful and wonderful and deserves our respect. And that respect is way, way overdue. Why do we associate weakness with wearing lipstick? Didn’t lipstick-wearing women do the tough task of giving birth to and raising many of us? Weren’t suffragettes rocking high heels when they fought for, and won, our right to vote? Wasn’t Rosa Parks in a skirt when she became the catalyst for a civil rights movement? There is nothing fragile about feminine power.

Now, I’m not saying I’m suddenly going to cover my daughter in pink and bows. It grosses me out when people pretend like it’s shocking for a girl to be in blue or for a boy to snuggle his baby doll. Women are often still forced into femininity and trapped by it. We need the extra push and support when we do things that don’t fall in line with gender expectations. I love a woman who defies stereotypes and I hope my little girl has a thousand more women like Janelle Monae to look up to. Luckily, my wife, her mama, is one of those role models: a comic book illustrator working in the very male world of superheroes.

We don’t want our kid to feel confined by her sex, or societies expectations for gender roles. My wife and I have no idea at this point how she will identify later, but I want to make sure that as we present the world to our daughter it’s a world of “and,” not a world of “or.”

She is allowed to love sports AND fashion. She can spend her allowance at Game Stop AND Sephora. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that in order to be thought of as intelligent or treated as well as “one of the boys” she has to turn up her nose at anything “girl.” Or that girls who are smart and love to read can’t also want to be cheerleaders or love cute, fluffy things.

I want my child to grow up with no concept that any door could, or should, be closed to her. I want her to feel entitled to walk into any room and enjoy anything she wants to enjoy, but I am suddenly aware that needs to include pink rooms, too.

Amanda Deibert wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Ground Zero in the Clutter Wars: My House

A stock photo of a messy room
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It's not easy being a purger in a house of hoarders. Here's how I coped

I do not get along terribly well with clutter — and I frankly have no interest in improving our relationship. I believe shelves, closets and drawers were invented for a reason — so they can remain completely empty. My feeling is, if Ikea’s display of its stylish new Framstå system can do it, why can’t I?

But I don’t live alone. I live with a wife and two daughters — ages 14 and 12 — and they take a less antiseptic view of things. Our home, which was originally advertised as a “sun-drenched two-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side,” has instead become something of a longitudinal study in the second law of thermodynamics, which, if you’re like me, is your least favorite law of thermodynamics, since it’s the one that states that all closed systems move inevitably toward entropy.

By closed systems, I don’t mean such who-cares stuff as the environment or the planet or the cosmos. I mean my personal space. And by entropy, I don’t mean molecules or thermal gradients. I mean schoolbooks and empty glasses. I mean shoes and clothes, dropped mid-floor, real-time, in such perfect simulation of the body that shed them that they look less like a mess than like a preteen parade float waiting to be inflated. I mean flyers for Memorial Day sales at stores that closed in 2006, subscription cards for magazines that ceased publishing when our children were in pre-K, discount offers for a first generation TiVo.

More and more, our home is developing what can only be described as geological strata: here are the crayon traces of the preschool epoch, which lie below the glitter of the Princess epoch, which itself was buried by the fabric-and-plastic sediment of the American Girl epoch. A thick layer of Tiger Beat precipitate is now fluttering down atop that, which, given enough heat, pressure and millennia, might at least compress itself into a useful fossil fuel.

I rage, rage against the rubbish — and do what I can to reduce it. I move about the apartment, gathering things up in what feels to me like an efficient stride-and-sweep pincer movement, but which even I realize is increasingly resembling a bustle. I collect dropped belongings and put them away in any handy drawer or armoire, a behavior I call helpful and my family members — along with most trained clinicians — call passive-aggressive. And when I’ve put something somewhere its owner doesn’t want it and therefore can’t find it, my refrain is always the same:

“There is one way to ensure that things are where you want them, and that’s to put them away yourself.” This argument has the twin qualities of both unassailable logic and a perfect, 0% success rate in changing anyone’s behavior.

One answer to our family impasse is an open dialogue, a frank exchange of feelings and a willingness for collective compromise. The other answer is the one that actually works: money.

Not long ago, my wife mentioned that she’s had her eye on a new platform bed. A platform bed, of course, would go in our bedroom — a room that on any given day is just one copy of Oprah away from needing its own Chernobyl-style containment dome.

So I made a deal: we would get the bed — and two new dressers, and two new night tables, and an upright chest, and a vanity, and discard all of the existing furniture if all of the clutter went. I would also surrender our entire walk-in dressing area to my wife and confine my clothes to my new drawers. It was the marital equivalent of land for peace.

My wife, to my delight, took me up on the deal. The clutter is now slowly being peeled back and thrown away, and the furniture delivery has been scheduled. My daughters, with the gimlet eyes of bazaar merchants recognizing a sucker with a Fodor’s guide and a wad of American money, requested the same arrangement and I agreed.

I am now buying them a new bedroom set too. In return, they promised two things: to keep the room neat and — much more important — to let me think I won.

Read next: Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

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TIME Parenting

How to Talk To Kids About Art

Mother and daughter in art gallery
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Even when you know nothing about it

It’s not always easy to talk about art. As the dancer Isadora Duncan is quoted as saying, “If I could say it, I wouldn’t have to dance it.”

Still, art is good for kids. Studies show that when they get into art, they’re more empathetic and more involved with their communities. They have higher career goals, better critical thinking skills, and better academic outcomes. Yet schools are increasingly finding art is squeezed out of their curriculum in favor of more “useful” subjects.

So how can a parent start good conversations with kids about art?

Barbara Hunt McLanahan, executive director of the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York, says that the first thing parents need to understand about art is that “there’s no right and wrong. That’s the joy of it,” she explains. “Especially today when there’s so much emphasis on testing and standards. With art, you can encourage individuality. It’s good to be different.”

Parents may feel like they’ve got to be experts in art to talk about it, but McLanahan suggests a different perspective: learning along with your kids. “Side by side learning is one of our philosophies,” she says. You don’t have to know everything to start a conversation on art with your kids – you just have to be curious, and willing to learn.

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Michelle Lopez, Director of Community Programs at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, suggests starting conversations about art with elementary school kids with three simple questions. When looking at a work of art, start by asking, “What’s happening?” Give them a chance to form some opinions by asking, “What do you see that makes you think that?” Then keep exploring with, “What else can we find?”

Middle school, McLanahan says, is a good time for kids to start getting curious about the artist. Parents and kids can talk together about questions like, “Why would an artist make those choices? How would the piece change if they’d made a different one?”

As students move into high school, Lopez says, art can be an interesting way “to get to know your children as they get older.” When looking at art, kids often “project their views, thoughts, and emotions.” Then parents can “demonstrate that you respect their ideas or disagree” – all within the “safe space in the conversation about the artwork.”

The most important thing for parents and kids at any age to know about art? It’s pretty simple, McLanahan says: “Have fun with it. It’s all about having fun.”

TIME advice

34 Life-Changing Tips for a More Organized Home

organized-wardrobe
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Organize any part of your home from entryway to bathroom to kitchen to bedroom

We asked pro organizers for strategies that help them conquer chaos in their own lives. The result: secrets that will streamline your day and restore your peace of mind (promise!)

Entryway: Furnish the Space

Take inspiration from Jenkins, who uses a Victorian-era dresser to organize her entry. “The drawers hold gloves, hats, and other outdoor accessories, and the mirror on top gives us a place to do a spot check before we leave,” she says. Another popular option: cube storage systems with fabric bins for each family member’s gear.

Entryway: Map It Out

Make organization a no-brainer with thoughtful placement. Put sports equipment or school bags on the way to the car or very nearby. Then kids can grab them as they’re headed out the door and put them right back as they return. “The farther away you put those things, the harder kids have to work and the less likely it is that things will get back to where they belong,” says Tokos.

Entryway: A Place for Everything

Get the most out of entry storage by giving each group of items its own designated space. Labels can help. Says Morgenstern: “If a shelf or a cabinet or a drawer is marked miscellaneous, it’s easy to put things into but impossible to retrieve things from.”

Entryway: Peg Rail

Shaker-style wood pegs hung by the door make it easy to hang hats, scarves, and even leashes on your way in or grab on the way out.

About $25; landofnod.com

Entryway: Charging Station

Create a neat place to power up phones and tablets. Make one, as we did, by drilling holes in the bottom of a wood mail sorter, to thread cords through, then give it a coat of color.

Read the full list HERE.

This article originally appeared on This Old House.

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