All posts by Aaron Gouveia

The Long Road to Our New House

Our new house
Our new house

In five days this will be our new home.

The road to this point has been long, difficult, and even broken in some parts. But a place of our own that we actually own has always been the goal. Always. The specter and possibility of it loomed behind every decision MJ and I made, and home ownership is the impetus for every hour I work. Every side job I take. Every penny MJ meticulously saves. Every minute I’m away from my family has been spent in order to one day provide them with a place that’s ours and ours alone.

Some people shake their head at my tunnel vision and tell me it’s not worth all the worry and stress and especially the money. But honestly, a single family home is about more than the money for me.

I’ve lived in apartments or condos for the last 16 years. Which is fine — it’s not like I’ve suffered. But you know what I’m looking forward to? Light from all four sides of the house. Think about it. For a decade and a half I’ve had one wall that is essentially a dead end. A barrier. A windowless stretch of darkness which is enough to block out the light, but not the sounds and annoyances of neighbors residing on the other side. When we walk into our new house, I’m going to stand in the middle of it all and bask in the sunlight streaming in from all directions, and not give a damn about people upstairs, downstairs, or adjacent.

This move also means security and permanency for my family.

Sturdy walls on the outside tough enough to weather the elements and a welcoming coziness inside that keeps my family warm and comforted. It’s an old house to be sure, and a century worth of life has taken place in and around it. But we will breathe new life into it. Revive it. Let it revive us. It will be our sun and we’ll revolve around it as our clan ages in orbit, and hopefully it will create a gravitational pull for our boys that keeps them coming back occasionally even after they take up residence elsewhere.

The yard isn’t big but it’s enough room for three boys to play and pretend our patch of woods is a far-off forest. The rocks mountains. The trees far better climbing structures than any playground.

The neighborhood is centrally located but tucked away and quiet. School is now a short walk instead of a drive, allowing us a slice of Americana that has all but disappeared. The town is safe, the schools are well funded, and we even have friends within walking distance.

The garage is an enigma to me, having never had one. A happy puzzle to solve, to be sure. Will the car go in there? My canoe and kayak? My snowblower? Crap, I’m gonna need to buy a snowblower!

But mainly, this place is our home base. Our little corner of the world. Ours. No more worrying about whether or not the landlord is going to sell or finding a place after our lease is up. No more stopping the kids from hanging out in the backyard because the people we share a wall with are already out there and we don’t get along with them. No more guilt about not providing something more substantial and permanent for the kids. This will be our little universe and a place where untold memories will be made.

Yet what I just realized — and I mean it actually dawned on me right now while writing that last paragraph — is this isn’t really a new home. It’s a new house. Home? That’s wherever MJ and the boys are.

She is my sunlight on all four sides and she is the tough and protective exterior with comfort on the inside. The kids are my warmth and the memories are made no matter what and where we are. A house has an address but home is a state of mind that can’t be mapped. I’m thrilled to be in the new place and proud of how hard we worked to get there, but ultimately I’m proud of us and what we’ve built together as a family.

Wherever they are, I’ll be home.

My family is home
They are home, wherever they are.
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Losing Sight of the Shore

I fear the ocean. The waves, the unseen terrors, drowning, that salty taste that has always turned my stomach, the sand — it all combines to burrow into my mind and pushes my big red mental DANGER button. My wife, on the other hand, can’t get enough of it. And because I love her, I swallowed my oceanic disdain.

We went kayaking yesterday. Walking to the beach in our life jackets and helmets brought vastly different reactions. MJ was drawn to the sea like a magnet, as if being beckoned by an old friend. She practically galloped toward the waves and let her toes feel the water. As for me, I saw frenzied foam fingers of the deep crawling up on shore to claim me, as the ocean inevitably retakes all things.

We paddled out head-on into the waves in an attempt to get safely past the break. It didn’t work. A 5-footer crested at the wrong time and knocked MJ out of the kayak, which left me and my considerable weight in the rear to tip over backward. The current caught me and for a second my feet couldn’t find the bottom. I panicked and began mentally writing my own obituary until I saw MJ floating nearby. Laughing. Smiling. Literally soaking it in. My feet found sand and my hands grasped the kayak and paddle. I flipped it over, got in, and tried again. Success.

The undulating waves soon made me nauseous but MJ was glowing, so I paddled. We saw cliffs with ancient striations and layers that prove all paths eventually lead to the sea. We saw the house where Dr. Suess lived and the nearby mountain that inspired the home of the Grinch. I silently wished I was in such an apropos place. We saw ocean caves carved by water, time, and pressure. But nothing prepared me for what we saw next.

A sea lion popped up next to our kayak. It looked at me and I back at him in stunned silence. It was close enough to reach with my paddle on my right side and slightly behind me, but I didn’t move. I didn’t even tell MJ. We just looked at one another for a few seconds and then he was gone. And I was moved, although I’m still really not sure why.

I didn’t have time to ponder it much because suddenly the water in front of us was filled with dolphins. A pod headed inland with fins slicing through the water’s surface in between all the boats. A baby dolphin jumping a couple of feet out of the water right in front of us, like it was a planned show. In my amazement, all I could say to MJ was “Wow. It’s like they did this on porpoise.”

She scrunched her face up in a disapproving manner at my pun, and turned back toward the dolphins. I’m not sure why I couldn’t admit to being amazed — to being moved — in that moment. Perhaps because we were far from land and the waves were getting bigger. Maybe because I’m not quite ready to realize all the wonderful things I miss by never losing sight of the shore. After all, I’m the man who has never lived outside of Massachusetts or traveled outside the country. Who has never had a passport. Who has a nearly debilitating fear of airplanes and boats. Who loves familiarity more than anything.

Yet aren’t I familiar with dolphins and sea lions now? Not ones in the aquarium, but in the wild. Far from shore in a plastic kayak pitching all over the place and making me sick and uncomfortable. But without discomfort and trepidation, I wouldn’t have this new experience. Any experiences. How do you know yourself if all you’ve known is familiarity?

On the way back to shore our guide told us to stop and grab some kelp. She urged us to take a bite, saying it tasted like salty lettuce. Caught up in the moment, I took a bite. It was disgusting. But now I know for sure it’s disgusting, because I tried it. I don’t have to guess. I lived it out there in a place I didn’t want to be and never would’ve gone without a nudge.

We capsized on our way back to the beach too, paying the chilly price owed to the sea for beholding its bounty. But this time I smiled more than I grimaced.

The sea is deep and frightening, but it also holds beauty and treasure that can only be seen by those willing to paddle out of their comfort zones. I’ll never be a professional sailor, but losing sight of the shoreline every now and then is a new life goal.

I’m almost 40 and just realizing I may not know myself at all. That’s scary. But then again, imagine how much I don’t know and haven’t seen.

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When Brushing Kids Teeth Turns Into a Battle

Our favorite football team gave us reason to keep our smiles fresh

Every night at 7 pm Will and Sam brush their teeth.

This has been the routine for years, yet it seems to take them by surprise every single night. I announce it’s time to brush teeth and they glare at me with a look of affront as if I’ve just suggested something completely outrageous. And then the fight begins.

Will runs away. Sam starts crying. I grab Will and force him into the bathroom (a task which gets tougher every single day as he nears his ninth birthday), and then MJ drags a screaming Sam in as well. You’d think we were forcing them into a dungeon instead of a bathroom. Will does his best to pretend he’s brushing, and I tell him it would take him less time to actually brush efficiently than to carry out this nightly farce of faux brushing three times until we make him do it right. Sam? He just continues to scream and clench his jaws shut like a caged animal. When we do manage to get the toothbrush in there, he bites it like it’s a bone. Sometimes we need to tickle him to get him to open his mouth just for a few seconds.

But eventually we micromanage Will’s brushing and hold Sam down long enough so hopefully a few bristles hit his teeth, and then release them upstairs for bed. Another battle won in a long war that wears us down and makes no one happy.

With Christmas candy still hanging around the house and Valentine’s Day snacks sure to add to the pile of sugary sweets, it’s important to remember the other thing February is known for — National Children’s Dental Health Month.

Did you know that according to the CDC:

  • At least 20% of children ages 5-11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth
  • Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in kids age 6-11 and adolescents age 12-19

This is why we fight the battle. The people who didn’t take great care of their teeth will be the first ones to tell you they wouldn’t wish that pain and cost on anyone later in life. So to prevent that, we’re doing all we can to promote good oral hygiene in our kids and make brushing as painless as possible. That includes:

  • Letting them pick their own fun toothbrushes
  • Having them pick out their own toothpaste
  • Giving them special treats if they brush for a week with no complaining
  • Allowing them to set the timer to make sure they brush long enough
  • Let them pick their favorite songs to play during brushing
It’s all worth it to get healthy smiles like this one

Does it always work? Absolutely not. Does it incrementally improve things? Yes. And anything that makes the battle slightly easier is worth it.

We also include our 17-month-old Tommy, because in 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their oral health guidelines and said parents should begin using a smear of fluoride toothpaste at tooth eruption. If you need more information on fluoride ingredients and general use, click here.

Here are some additional quick oral health care tips for parents:

  •  Fluoride is an anti-cavity active ingredient available in over-the-counter (OTC) products that helps prevent tooth decay and cavities.
  • Children under the age of 6 should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and be supervised in order to develop good brushing and rinsing habits and to minimize product swallowing.
  • Parents and caregivers should help a child brushing his or her teeth until mastery is obtained, usually around age 8.

This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Health Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are 100% my own. 

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Remembering to Taste Life

Will is berry good at stacking Very Berry Cheerios

There are silly, goofy dads. Lighthearted dads with incomparable imaginations and bubbly personalities brimming with positivity and unyielding amounts of praise and sunshine and happiness.

I’m not one of them.

Maybe it’s my gruff New England upbringing or the fact that I was raised a pessimistic Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan when the former was cursed and the latter was a joke. But the fact remains, I’m a serious dad. I demand good grades in school and 100% effort in all endeavors and for better or worse, “fun” is probably not a word my kids would associate with me.

But sometimes I wish things were different. I don’t mean changing my personality (because that’s never going to happen), but occasionally I think I need a reminder that life can be pretty sweet if you just slow down and take a taste.

I work full-time at a job I really love. I work a lot — I’m talking being out of the house at least 12 hours a day. I get up at 5:15 am, take a shower, get dressed, and take the dog for a walk. When I get back to the house, I have 20 minutes. Twenty minutes in the pre-dawn darkness to make my lunch, pour myself a bowl of cereal, and prepare for the day. But if I’m being honest, most of the time I wish that predawn stillness weren’t so still.

On my lucky days, that 20 minutes is totally interrupted. I hear the sound of footsteps on the floor upstairs, a door creaks open, and weary feet tromp down the stairs. My oldest turns the corner and gives me a half-awake smile. I grin back, get up, grab him a bowl, a spoon and some milk, and the two of us sit down wordlessly as I pour Will some Very Berry Cheerios.

And for 20 minutes, it’s just me and him. Father and son. Talking and eating some breakfast as we both get ready for the day. It might not be much, but it’s important to take what we can get and find our happiness where we can.

It’s a strange cereal for me to like, which is part of the reason I like it. Normally I’m very bland, but the explosion of berries in just about every bite makes me smile and gets me ready to face the morning. It also reminds me not everything needs to be so serious, and having breakfast with my son is a taste of life to be enjoyed. And as other, cooler dads show, these Cheerios can even be enjoyed in unorthodox places — like a movie theater.

Also, if you need your sweet moments to be gluten free, Very Berry Cheerios have that covered as well. Not to mention, they come in very handy when cheering on the best team in the NFL.

My #VeryBerry @cheerios homage to the @patriots and #tombrady. Let’s go #Patriots! #superbowl #patriotsnation

A photo posted by Aaron Gouveia (@daddyfiles) on

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Cheerios and was compensated for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

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I’m the #KingofSoup Thanks to My Queen and Princes

Sammy making soup
Soup so simple, even a 3-year-old can make it.

If you could create your ideal steakhouse in your own kitchen, what would it look like?

That was the question posed to me by Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups, who challenged a bunch of dad bloggers to battle for the title #KingofSoup. If you know me, you know I love steakhouses, the steak steakhouses serve, and I ALWAYS get soup. In fact, soup is so important to me I once broke up with a girl in college because she insisted soup wasn’t a food. OK, that wasn’t the sole reason our relationship ended, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t play a part.

Anyway…

I love soup, especially in winter. It’s warm and comforting and informal — just how I like my restaurants. If there are peanut shells on the floor of my steakhouse, I’m a happy guy (note: my wife was NOT ok with peanut shells on the kitchen floor). So when I wondered how I could take that level of comfort and inject it into my new steakhouse kitchen, it was easy.

First of all, every king needs his queen so MJ would have to be there. Second, all steakhouses have animals hanging on the wall. Them’s the rules.

Usually it’s a bass on the wall, but clownfish & lobster work too

Next, the #KingofSoup needs the royal treatment when it comes to service. That’s why I hired my two oldest princes to serve the king and queen. From setting the table to taking our order to actually cooking the food, these guys came through in a big way and helped make our homemade steakhouse possible.

You might think amateur princely chefs look cute, but we probably gagged on the food. Well, you’re wrong. Mainly because Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups are so easy to make and taste really, really good.

All you have to do is put four cups of water in a pot, wait for it to boil, whisk in the contents of the bag, and then 5 minutes later you’re enjoying the flavorful, slow-cooked, taste of restaurant-quality potato soup right in your own home.

I went with the Loaded Potato and it was delicious. My wife likes a little more kick, so she hopped on board the Three Cheese Chipotle train. But whether you choose those two, Creamy Potato, or the Cheddar Broccoli flavor varieties, it’s guaranteed your soup will be filled with real Idaho® red potatoes and red potato skins, delivering exceptional taste and texture in every spoonful.

I ended up wearing my PJs and comfy slippers to my in-home steakhouse, meaning I literally applied the comfort of my castle to my newly refurbished kitchen. Just call me Elvis, because clearly I’m the King (of soup).

Don’t believe me? Check out this ridiculously cute behind the scenes video taken in my new steakhouse.

Want to bring some deliciousness to your kingdom by trying some Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups? Here’s all the info you need:

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

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