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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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Why I Let My Kid Watch Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

A television show featuring the repeated attempted murder of children? Orphans who lose their parents and then their guardians? A grown man trying to take a child bride to steal her family fortune?

I’m tuning in with my 8-year-old son.

The Netflix Original series Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a wonderfully dark comedy that is surprisingly family-friendly for older kids. While at first glance parents would likely ban this show from their homes what with a diabolical murderer constantly threatening young children at knife point, if you give it a chance you’ll likely find what I found — a deliciously dark, incredibly endearing, seriously fun show that kids 8 and older will definitely like.

First of all, Neil Patrick Harris is awesome as Count Olaf. He’s over the top and ridiculous and goofy and despicable all rolled in to one, and sometimes all of those in the same scene. But as good as the man formerly known as Doogie is, I think the actors who play the Baudelaire orphans are even more impressive.

Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and baby Sunny (Presley Smith) are absolutely phenomenal as the orphaned inventors and recipients of often calamitous news. Their dialogue is crisp and my son loves it because in this show, it’s the kids who are brilliant and the adults who are raving idiots. In a kid’s world, adults are so often unable to comprehend or understand, and that translates very well in Lemony Snicket. Throw in Patrick Warburton’s dry delivery as the narrator and you’ve got a truly wonderful and totally macabre bit of television that’s good for parents and kids.

In fact, my wife and I watched it when Will wasn’t even home. When parents watch a show for kids even when the kid isn’t around? Well, to me there’s no higher praise.

So how do I deal with Will and some of the more grown-up themes? We talk about it. He was admittedly horrified by some of it, but he loves the way they talk, how the Baudelaire children invent awesome things, and he cracks up at how “crazy and stupid” the adults are, and wishes they’d just listen to the kids.

The best part about Will getting older is that he’s watching much better TV and films. If you’ve got a kid who is 8+ and likes things a little on the dark side, you’re going to want to give Lemony Snicket a try.

This is a sponsored post. I am part of the Netflix Stream Team and received free products and Netflix for writing this. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own.

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How to Deal With Your Kids’ Sensitive Skin in Winter

My kids aren’t just white, they’re translucent. And they seem to have inherited my Irish complexion, which means anything and everything irritates their skin. Especially during winter.

New England winters are unforgiving and come February, we often wonder why we willingly live in a place where the air hurts your face. As the frigid weather tightens its icy grip and sends temperatures plummeting, parents in cold weather climates turn their attention to how to battle the dry skin, chapped lips, and eczema that plagues kids for 4 months out of the year.

Did you know the prevalence of eczema has increased among almost all kids under 18 from 2000 to 2010, according to the CDC? Whether you’re talking black kids (9% to 17%), Hispanic kids (5% to 10%), or white children (8% to 13%), it’s an alarming statistic to which most people pay little attention.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson fittingly calls eczema the “itch that rashes,” and judging by my own kids I’d have to agree.

Strangers love to stop my kids in public and talk about their “gorgeous cheeks” that are glowing with color. Unfortunately, that rosy pink hue is usually eczema and it’s there because they keep scratching. We try to use lotions and sunscreen (yes, you still need to use sunscreen even in winter) to keep their skin moisturized and mitigate the damage, but it never seems to totally work.

And as a reminder, whatever sunscreen you use be sure to check the label. Sam had a milk allergy when he was younger and we didn’t realize milk proteins are in some sunscreens. The result was — well, it wasn’t pretty. You can’t be too careful, and you can get some great tips by checking out knowyourOTCs.org.

Whether your kids are fair-skinned and ultra sensitive to the elements like mine or not, everyone should take eczema and dry skin seriously so it doesn’t turn into something worse. Adults too, as I can’t seem to put on flannel PJs in the winter without having them stick to the skin on my dried out legs in fits of static cling.

Here’s an infographic with some useful tips to keep handy for quick reference. Stay warm!

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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Buzz-buzz

3h0fhhhefsa-i-m-priscilla

“I SAID IT’S TIME TO GO!”

This experience started out like all the rest the last few months — with the best of intentions and me trying to find my back to involved fatherhood. And then it ended like it always has for the last few months — with me getting impatient and yelling at the boys.

This time it was Sam. I took him to walk the dog down the dirt road across the street from our house. The road ends at a small pond that Sam loves, mainly because it’s now frozen over and he discovered that when you throw a rock on a frozen pond it makes a really cool noise. But when 3-year-olds find something new and fun, they want to do it again. And again. And again and again and again. Over and over until they’ve squeezed the enjoyment out of it like so much blood from the stones they seek to skip along that ice-encrusted surface.

I knew he’d want to linger and I told myself to be patient with him. After all, with the hours I work we haven’t had much time together and I know he just misses me.

So we threw rocks for five minutes and it was fun. Then I felt the familiar sensation of a buzz in my pocket. Work email. Dammit, I’ll have to respond to this. I gently say “Hey bud, it’s time to go back, OK?” He ignores me in favor of picking up another rock and tossing it down to smash against the ice.

Buzz-buzz.

I feel the discomfort growing as I try to read the email, herd Sam, all with the dog’s leash attached to my wrist, which is yanking me as I try to catch up on what I need to do when I get back to the house. I put my phone in my pocket and kneel down beside him and tell him again how we have to go home. He cries and says “NO!” and I can see him digging in his heels. I take a breath and try to reason with him and tell him “Peanut is cold, we need to walk back so he’ll be warm.”

Buzz-buzz.

I’ve now lost my patience and the thought of emails I haven’t yet responded to fills me with more dread and loathing than is healthy. But that buzzing is my job, that job is my future, my future is that house, and that house is everything I want for my family. Which means whatever that email is is the most important thing right now. The ridiculousness of that statement is not lost on me, even in the moment. Yet it has taken hold of me and I can’t fight it. Not now. Not there at the frozen pond with my phone abuzz and my son’s temper flaring and the dog pulling — pulling me in a thousand different directions so that I’m everywhere and yet nowhere all at the same time.

Buzz-buzz.

“SAM, I’VE HAD IT. LET’S GO OR YOU’RE LOSING A TOY!” I scream, too loud. Too close to him. I’ve now triggered Sam’s fight or flight response and he almost always chooses fight. He scrunches up his face, balls up his fist, and grunts like it’s Lord of the Flies. He’s savage now and I made him this way, only now I’m off the reservation too.

I snatch him up but he’s big and I have the dog, who pulls me off balance and forces me to put Sam down. He views this as a victory and runs back toward the pond as I yank the dog to give chase. He’s screaming about wanting to throw rocks. I’ve just threatened to take every toy he’s ever owned or will ever own. Our father-son walk has turned into a grudge match and neither of us is going to yield an inch.

Buzz-buzz.

This imbalance can’t be blamed on the kids or work. It’s my fault. I didn’t do it on purpose but that doesn’t matter, and it’s up to me to fix. I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to excel at my job without working the hours I work. I don’t know how to be a good parent if I routinely go 2-3 days during the week without seeing them, and then spend my weekends being annoyed by them and the work I didn’t get to during the week.

It’s easy for others to tell me I just need to spend less time at work, but my job is what’s allowing us to move into a great house. My wife would work if she could, but she can’t. It’s not good for her health and I won’t have her in that situation again. So I stumble on, hoping to find a middle ground I’m not even sure exists and wondering how much human leeway I’ll be afforded by my family until I’m nothing more than a stranger passing in the night who shows up late for events and spends time screaming at little kids for wanting to throw rocks on the icy pond.

I have no answers, just anxiety. It is the fear of worrying you’re screwing everything up and realizing you won’t really know the answer to that until it’s far too late. It’s the terrifying notion that a job you love and the people you love could very well need more time and attention than you have to give, yet something has to give. Otherwise you end up having WW III over rocks on a pond.

Buzz-buzz.

 

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