The Line

Every horror story has it’s setting. Dark and scary houses, a ship alone at sea, a graveyard during a storm, sitting for a test you know you have not studied for.

Mine is a bit different. My horror story has lots and lots of people, all going in the same direction. In fact, they are all untied for one single purpose, to check out. Yes, my horror story is being stuck in line with my kiddos at a large discount retailer or some other store where the cashier is REALLY taking their time on this particular day.

Parents, we have all been there before. If you haven’t, please reach out and comment below. I want to meet you and pick your brain. Really, there are few things that I fear more. Spiders, heights, speaking in public. I’m usually OK with those. Well, maybe roaches in the bathroom when I have bare feet. But I HATE being stuck in a slow line at a major retailer with all of my kids. They all want something. They all need something. And the listening ears that they had and prided themselves for possessing when we walked through those magical doors, are gone. They are completely and utterly nonexistent.

And some people in this place of horrors look at me as if they have never seen a child or don’t believe children can act this way. There is the woman picking her teeth with her fingernail, or the man scratching his belly, hoping no one will notice. Yes sir, I notice, and I also notice how you are glowering at my children. Yes ma’am, I see you picking your teeth, discarding the contents on your jeans.

And then the dredded sound, the one that I have nightmares about inside of my nightmares. The cashier, who is acting with absolutely no immediacy, has a question for their supervisor, and activities the buzzer. The light on their station glows, and all of us in the line collectively grown. Our sentence has grown just a bit more. My children could not be happier. I want to stomp my foot. Belly Scratcher and Tooth Picker don’t seem phased by this new turn of events.

Finally, the line starts moving again, although it seems more slowly this time, and eventually we reach our destination, the van, which will eventually lead us to our main destination, home. We survived, but I feel like years have been taken off of my life. I have nothing left in me, and it is only 12:01pm, on a Monday.

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Laundry

OK, so we have all seen the commercials.  The scene opens over a beautiful rural landscape. The grass is green, probably somewhere out west with big mountains or hills and there is perhaps a cornfield in the background.  It’s mid afternoon and the breeze is lazily blowing through a large load of laundry that is hanging on a clothes line. A woman wearing a HUGE smile comes out of a perfect hous to walk gracefully through the drying clothes and sheets.

Or…how about this one?  Again, the scene opens, yet this time it’s inside.  Again, a woman is clutching a towel that she brings to her face.  She inhales deeply and her grin lights up her face, as if to say “I have never smelled a more wonderful towel.” Her perfect kids are playing in the background.  

We hear the voiceover say something about how incredible the brand of laundry detergent is and how wonderful it will make our lives if we use it to wash our clothes.

Yes, each time it’s the same.  Engaging in washing clothes is something that is a treasured tradition and time itself stops so you can easily go about your task of providing clean clothes for your family using their product.

But it seems like these ad campaigns are from another planet.  Personally,  I have never had the chance to walk through laundry that is drying on the line somewhere out west in the mid afternoon, or a rooftop for that matter. Usually, I grab a load out of the dryer on the way to grab a child from nap.  I try and fold that load while one is playing in the bath, the other is in the shower, and the youngest is trying his best to get in the bath in his jammies.  Distribution of said load of clean clothes happens whenever it can.  Sometimes right then, but many times the next morning.

Never has laundry been easy.  Never (or very rarely:)) have I had the time to gaze lovingly at my children while I fold our designer clothes, wearing designer clothes myself. As a side note, this post is just rambling about laundry.  One day I may write a tutorial, but that day is definitely not today.  The fact is, laundry is hard.  Laundry is never ending. And, laundry is tiring, especially on those days where it seems EVERY shirt comes out of the dryer inside out and you have 10 pairs of unmatched socks, with another twenty pairs in the drawer, just awaiting their mates.  I hate socks, truly hate them with a passion.

Most days, I do sort the clothes before I get them in the machine. Other times, not so much. And I have learned this the hard way, I try my best to check the tags on my wife’s work clothes. Yes, I have ruined some of her outfits by either drying them too much or not long enough. One time, I accidentally dried a prized sweater of hers (that was 100% cotton mind you), and after it had gone through, it could fit our daughter, who at the time was 20 months old. Yeah, not good, not really good at all. Always check, or try to check the care tags in the clothes.

There it is, my thoughts today on laundry. It is never perfect, but must be done.

Plated Review

Disclaimer: This post is a review of the meal service Plated. This is not a partner post, we have not received any goods or services from this company so that I could write this post. What follows is an honest and brief review. That being said…

My wife hit it out of the park this Valentine’s Day.  She got really thoughtful gifts for the kiddos, and for me.  You see, I had been in a grocery rut.  It seemed like week after week, we were sliding into sameville. Sameville is a place where the meals are pretty much the same, with a little variety.  I was not happy in sameville, but could not see how to climb out.  My wife, being the brilliant woman that she is, (yes I am shamelessly bragging on my partner), saw this and came to the rescue.  She signed us up for Plated. It was my ticket out of sameville.

The idea is simple.  You visit their website, sign up for an online profile, look through and select the numerous meals, and go on your way.  Then, on a date that you choose, a box with all the ingredients is sent via fedex to your address.  All you have to do is pick the box off your front porch (that’s me assuming that you have a front porch), bring it into your house, open it, and begin prepping the meal.  Sounds simple enough.

The Not so Good

OK, so many blogs start off with the good stuff about the item that is being review.  Me, I’m going to change the narrative.  That being said, probably the most frustrating thing about Plated is the time required to prep the ingredient.  We received four meals from them, before canceling (continue reading below), and for two out of those four meals the ingredient prep phase took me 30 to 45 minutes.  Now, that may not seem like a lot of time, but when you have three little ones running around, it is OCEANS of time.

Next on the not so good part is the quality of the ingredients.  For our first meal, the chicken breasts, which came individually wrapped, were tough and did not have the best flavor.  It made us ask where they got their chicken from, and how were the animals treated?  That is something that is important to our family. In addition, the Kale was dry and the scallions were partially brown.  That was disappointing.

The Good

There is a good point here, the variety.  There are numerous recipes to choose from, and the recipes have pictures and are easy to follow.  Honestly, had we not gotten this service, I might not have found these recipes.  And there is a lot to choose from.

Overall

So, in the end, after four meals, we decided to cancel the service, based on the meal prep time and the quality of the ingredients.  Also, one of our eaters is really picky so they were not necessarily thrilled with the new options, but that is not PLATED’s fault.  The concept is a good one with the convenience of the ingredients being delivered to your door.  Where it falls short is the unboxing and the preparation. I would not recommend this service, even if you have the time to prep the ingredients.  Next, we’re going to try another meal service that uses more organic ingredients.  This service is just like Plated, in that you select the meals that you want and they deliver them to your door.  Unlike plated though, they say they use organic ingredients from locally sourced farms.  We’ll see.  Stay tuned.  And as always, thanks for taking the time to read this, it means a lot.

 

If this wasn’t by choice

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First, thanks so much for taking some time out of your day to read my blog.  I hope it will encourage you and help you gain some perspective on wherever you are in your  journey through fatherhood.

So, this post is pretty self explanatory.  Maybe you are in a situation where you are in the role of the at-home parent and it wasn’t your first choice.  Maybe you are between jobs, are facing a life transition, or some other experience that has you in this role.  It may be scary but fear not, you were made for this.

Yes, you read that right, you were made for this.  Yes, it is perhaps bewildering when your partner leaves for work, to be around adults, to have adult conversations, and you are facing eight, nine, or ten hours with your little one (or ones).  You’ve got this. Take a breath and settle in.  Perspective is everything!

Something I have to do, everyday, to break up the day, is GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.  Go somewhere.  Yes, even if it’s around the block.  Load up with diapers, snacks (or bottles), a positive attitude, and go.  It doesn’t really matter where you go. Many days, it will take you more time to get out of the house then to actually be out of the house. You will probably forget diapers or wipes or snacks or someone’s sunglasses or your sunglasses or someone’s shoes anything else that will cause you to have to go back to the house. It’s OK.

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My wife will agree with me on this 100 %. If I don’t get out, I am in a bad way when she gets home.  I am MUCH happier especially get outside, like to a park.  Sometimes I get into a season where it seems like all I do is errands, but outside time is so great for the soul.

Nap time is great too, for you.  I say this from lots of trial and error.  I know there will be a temptation to  catch up on things and work through nap.  But self-care is everything.  Know yourself and how you recharge.  Take some time for yourself.  Yes, you can sit on the couch at 1:30 in the afternoon and watch a show.  Truly, there is nothing wrong with that.  If you recharge by exercising, do that.

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Also, and again I say this from experience, being the at-home is very unpredictable.  You can plan the perfect day, down to the minute, and nothing can go according to your plan, NOTHING!!  Be ready for it, and adapt accordingly.  In education, this is called a mid course correction.  It is the ability of the teacher in the classroom to take the lesson in a different direction if she/he/they see that student engagement is suffering.  This one is especially hard for me.  I like to stick to a plan always, to a fault.  Many days when I have to make mid course corrections, it is REALLY hard for me.

Lastly, resist that voice that says.  “You can’t do this”. Or “You’re a man, you can’t care for children.”  Push back, audibly if you need to, and tell that voice to stop.  As I said at the top of this post, you were created for this.  There is nothing about your gender that says you can’t care for children.  Sure, if you haven’t done it, it may be very clunky to start with, but the great thing is that you will learn.  As a great friend says, you will grow a muscle for it.  A year into this, you will be amazed at what you can do…cook dinner, pay bills, break up fights, dress and undress and redress dolls, build forts, cook breakfast, cook lunch, sing songs, go on outings, put kids down for naps, and the list goes on.

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Dad, you can do this.  Men, we were created for this.  Yes, you will learn a lot.  Yes, it will be extremely hard at times. But we do not grow when things go easy.  It may feel good, but true growth comes through adversity.  Take a breath, buckle up, and enjoy a crazy, wild ride that comes with being at-home with your kiddos.  You’ve got this.

Trip Planning

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So, this will be the first in hopefully a new thread here on my blog, travel.  Yes, Dads, you can travel with your family and it can be tons of fun.  Let’s unpack this together below.

Our first trip together as a family, apart from visiting extended family, happened a few years ago when my wife was pregnant with our youngest. I know, we were probably crazy for going, but Disney called, and we went.  My wife planned it out to the hour and we had a fantastic time.  Honestly, I think that was why it was so great, it took a lot of planning.  We’ve since been back twice, this time most recently with the grandparents and my sister.  It was a lot of work, and took a lot of planning but it was great.

Here are a few thoughts.  This is not exhaustive and it doesn’t always happen like this but here it is.  Let’s break it down so it won’t seem so overwhelming.

  • START EARLY This summer we are planning a trip to Boston and we have already booked our hotel.  Start early, six to eight months before the time of planned travel.  If you are traveling internationally, it’s probably best to start 18 months to a year out.  Sit down with your partner and decide on where to go, and when to go.  Those two points will determine where the planning can commence and gives you a target to shoot for.
    • If work schedules allow, consider traveling during the “shoulder” seasons, fall or spring.  Depending on where you go and when you go, crowds tend to be smaller and the weather can be more manageable. Our first Disney trip was in September and the weather was steamy but manageable.
  • Be Honest about your budget Have conversations with your partner during the planning about finances.  If you can afford luxury accommodations and you will enjoy that, go for it.  If not, it probably won’t make sense to look at those accommodations.
    • Pay it off before you go.  Better still, pay it up front.  This way, you can enjoy your trip and not have the frustration and burden of debt.  Again, and this is hard especially for me, if you can’t afford it, don’ t do it. Be honest about what is realistic.  You do not need a lot of $$ to have a great time on your adventure.
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  • Transportation How will you get there? Fly? Drive? Take a ferry or cruise?  What would be most enjoyable for your family?  This summer we are taking a major leap, we are flying.  I’ll let you know how that goes:)  Most airlines, unlike hotels,  make you pay up front and getting a refund, even with trip insurance, can be really tricky.  It’s best to be sure that is what you really want to do.
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  • Accommodations  Where will you stay during your vacation? Hotel, AirBnB, hostel, cabin, somewhere else?  Again, where and when you go, your budget, and your preferences will determine this.
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  • Itineraries  What will you do once you get to wherever you to your destination?  Again, the more planning, the better the experience.  When we traveled to Disney, my wife planned and planned and planned. Then she planned some more.  Really, plan to over plan, then you will be, and feel, more prepared.
    • Breakout the maps. Get to know your destination.  Pore over the maps about the site.  Try to build your itinerary with what’s around you.  Build with efficiency in mind.  It doesn’t make sense to travel all the way across the city to eat at this one place for lunch, then put everyone back in the rental to go to something on the same side of the city that you started off on.  Be where you are.  The next day, move on and see what’s there.
  • This is YOUR trip
    • This is a big one.  Remember, you (and your partner) control what you do on your trip.  If you are in Paris, if your family won’t like the Eiffel Tower, don’t go there.  If your family doesn’t like museums, don’t go to any.  It will be a major drag if you spend all of your time seeing sights that other people (or blogs) say you should see. Plan your trip for you, not anyone else.
  • Plan for the unexpected
    • Pack medicines. Know where the closest hospital is, or where the nearest urgent care is.  There is a BIG probability that something will not go according to your plans.  It may not necessarily be medical related, but be prepared for something to happen.  That way, when it does, you were mentally there and not as taken aback.  If your daughter is running a fever, handle it there and readjust your schedule.  If your son falls and skins his elbow, break out the first aid kit.  If it’s raining and you had planned to spend the day outside, where can you go that’s inside and fun for everyone. You’ve got this.

Finally, enjoy your time.  Have fun.  Enjoy being together as a family.  Yes, it takes a lot of work.  Yes, things can and probably will go wrong.  Yes, it will be tiring and you probably will not get ANY time to yourself.  But trust me on this, you will not regret it.  Give your family fun experiences, memories that will stay with them for a lifetime.  It is worth it.

Dairy-Free Pancakes

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We have lived in the land of food sensitivities for a good amount of time.  As any parent whose children have food sensitivities (or allergies) knows, it can be a challenging place to live.  It is also a great excuse to be creative.  Here is a recipe for dairy-free pancakes that my wife and I have perfected over the years.  It is simple and our kids always love them. The recipe below is just enough for our family of five, so we usually double it so we can heat up the leftovers the next morning.

Dairy-Free Pancakes (the ones pictured above we cooked this morning)

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
21/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups non-dairy milk (we think coconut is best, but you can also use almond, soy, or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Sprinkling of cinnamon to taste
1/4 cup non-dairy spread.  We use smart balance.
Serving suggestions: maple syrup

Directions:
In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Stir in eggs & milk with the dry ingredients (making sure eggs are fully stirred into mixture). Stir in vanilla and cinnamon (if desired). This will yield a lumpy batter, no need to over mix.

Heat part of non-dairy spread in a skillet over medium heat. Pour desired amount of batter into the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes each side until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve with non-dairy spread and maple syrup. It is also easy to add fresh berries to the batter or over cooked pancakes. Enjoy!

He’s all boy

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I am going to do my best to blog more regularly.  I have been saying that for months.

OK, so I have thought about this post for a while now.  It has been crawling around in my head and I am going to do my best to get it untangled.

Before I go further, I am becoming more aware of the perspective from which I write.  I, like any other writer, have bias.  My bias comes from being a middle aged, heterosexual, cisgender caucasian male living in the South.  The older I get, the more I realize the extent of my bias.

Now, that being said, I have a problem, a big problem with the phrase “He’s all Boy.”  Why, might you ask?  Well, the answer is twofold.

First, there are the assumptions associated with this phrase. These assumptions are in essence stereotypes. Stereotypes that tell us that boys should be wild, free to explore, be interested and accel at sports, only be interested in the opposite sex, and be born leaders. These traits are elevated over others such as shyness, good character, and empathy.  We are in essence saying that boys are better than girls because boys (should) possess these traits.  When we see these traits expressed in boys, we lean back, smile, and utter “He’s all boy.”

Well, to follow that, does the phrase “She’s all girl,” exist? If so, I do not remember ever hearing it spoken. Would it mean then that the particular girl being spoken of was into stereotypical girl activities, such as dance or coloring or dolls? What if she was more into sports or going outside?

Would we look at her and say “she’s all boy?” Do you see the inherent confusion and loaded assumptions in these phrases?  What if my daughter asks me “What does that mean, he’s “all boy.” I like to get rough too.” I am sure that I would be unsure as to how to answer.

Second, I am not always sure what the phrase means. How is the person using the phrase defining the word “boy”? Miriam Webster, my go to when it comes to words that I don’t understand, defines “boy” as “a male child from birth to adulthood.” Fine, I can accept that.

Although, most all of the times that I have heard this phrased used, it is when the boys in context are being wild and physical, either with toys or with other boys.  So then the assumption could be made that all boys are wild and that is socially accepted.  So then, a follow-up question comes along with that.  If one of my sons is less physical or wild, is he less of a boy? If he enjoys reading or art or other activities deemed “less male”, is his maleness somehow diminished or lacking?

Nothing should define our boys, or our girls, by their interests.  Really, no one interest is better or cooler then another, and by using the phrase “he’s all boy,”  we are further perpetuating a view of boys that has existed for a long time. At our house, we present activities in as much of a gender neutral way as possible.  If she wants to, our daughter can do any activity her brothers do, and vice versa.  If one of our boys wants to study dance, we’d encourage it.  If our daughter really wanted to play baseball or other activities dominated by boys, we would encourage that as well.

So, to wrap up, the phrase “He’s all boy,” is loaded with assumptions and stereotypes.  If it is a phrase you use with lots of regularity, I would urge you to consider where it is coming from.  These are not easy points to consider here in this post, but I think necessary in order to examine our motives and thus become better parents and caregivers.