Tag Archives: MJ

The 5 Stages of Spending Time Without Kids

nokids“Holy $*&%, I just need some time for myself and away from these kids!!”

How many parents have uttered some variation of that phrase at some point in time? I know I have. Hell, I just went through life with an infant again this past year. Between Sam’s multiple nightly awakenings, screaming fits, and teething, combined with Will’s adjustments to big brotherhood and the first year of school, I used to fantasize about a life of solitude in a quiet mountain cabin where no one could find me and I could pee alone.

But on the rare occasions we’re granted a parental sabbatical, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend — we miss our damn kids too much!

I don’t know about you guys, but it’s not too long after I’m sprung from the asylum that I start to — gulp — miss it a little. And then a lot. It’s like some sort of parental Stockholm Syndrome. I just spent 55 hours on my own, and here are the stages of kidlessness I experienced.

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Stage 1: FREEDOM!!!!!!!!
The first stage is characterized by an initial and intense feeling of release. Like I’m Andy Dufresne finally escaping Shawshank Prison through 500 yards of shit smelling foulness. Or like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only if I skipped the torture and got to sleep with Sophie Marceau again instead. Whether your childfree time is going to last for a night or a week, it seems the possibilities are endless and you can do anything. Road trip, baseball game, bar, expensive dinner, or even a movie at the theater that doesn’t have cartoons — the world is your oyster.

Stage 2: Whatever I Want!
Sure, you’re going to put your Vegas trip into action soon. But that can wait for a minute, while you enjoy the little things you can’t do when the family is around. You know, the simple things you used to do when you were single. As for me, I immediately strip down to my boxers, stretch out on the couch, and watch SportsCenter while scratching myself at will. Either that or all the movies no one else likes. Then I have a dinner that consists of Kraft mac & cheese, beer, and Doritos. Normally I’d be chastised for my post meal bodily functions, but only the dog was affected this time (and she was guilty of a few nasty ones too). And then — as the grand finale — I take up the entire king size bed by sleeping diagonally, as opposed to sleeping on the sliver of bed I have after the wife and dog are accounted for. Sure it might SEEM slightly pathetic that a grown man can enjoy farting in peace, leaving the toilet seat up without reproach, and using a plethora of bed space so much, but best not to dwell on such matters for long. There’s work to do.

Stage 3: Reality Sets In
After you’ve eaten like a pig and reveled in smelling like one as well, it’s time to get serious about this temporary kid hiatus. That’s when you start thinking of all your friends and get ready to call them up to have a good old fashioned rager of a party. You call Jim but his oldest has summer baseball and his youngest has a ballet recital. No worries. Skip right to Brian, only to find out he’s going to a concert. Awesome, right? Because you haven’t been to a live show in years. The only problem? It’s a “Wiggles” concert. Andy and Jake moved away, Ted doesn’t want to stay out past 10 pm because he’s coaching T-ball in the morning, and Bill already went out for a night this month so he’s used up his privileges. Suddenly you realize two things: 1) You’re old, and 2) Spontaneity is officially dead. Which makes you sad. Which leads to additional mac & cheese, Netflix, and gas.

Stage 4: This Kind of Sucks
This stage sees panic setting in. You’ve gorged yourself, farted at will, lounged around in your boxers, and realized all of your friends are now lame. You start calling your wife and kids more often just to hear what they’re doing. While you’re watching TV, you see “Jake and the NeverLand Pirates” and consider watching it because you know how much your oldest likes it. But you’re barely even watching TV now because you’re mostly looking at family pictures hanging in the hall, as you make one more call to the family to see what they’re doing now.

Stage 5: COME HOME!!!
This is when things get really desperate. Suddenly your faltering plans don’t even matter, because you’re too busy playing with Transformers and sitting in the kids’ empty rooms getting emotional. You’re not even watching TV because you’re combing through six years of YouTube home videos. You know they’re due home today so you up your calls to every hour on the hour just in case they get home early. In a fit of total desperation and longing, you flip on Frozen and sing “Let It Go” with tears streaming down your face as you promise never to take your family for granted ever again.

When they finally pull into the driveway you sprint out barefoot because you’re so damn happy to see them. You rip open the door of the minivan to see your precious little angels, only to have the youngest sneeze in your eye and simultaneously take a dump the likes of which makes landfills blush, while the oldest bitterly complains you woke him up from his nap.

I need a break…

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Working Parents Squeeze In Their Moments

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The canoe glides along silently, save the “plunk/whoosh” sound of the paddle slicing through the water’s surface. The gargantuan clouds are puffy and impossibly white, but not foreboding — no rain checks needed today. A summer zephyr gently prods us along toward a cove spotted with lily pads, as the oldest and I look to add to our summer bass total.

“Dad, this is very calm. And peaceful,” he says from the front of the canoe.

But all I can do is look down into the clear water to see the milfoil just below the surface. Thick, green submerged weeds like fuzzy fingers reaching up from the depths. I can’t help but feel this invasive species is reaching for me, trying to rob me of time like it’s suffocating the water quality in the pond.

I’m only on Day #3 of my vacation, but already my window is closing and one thought is flashing in my mind like a neon sign — DO MORE!

This is the curse of working parents.

I work two jobs (three if you count the blog) and I struggle to provide as a breadwinner and a father. Rent, bills, and canoes aren’t cheap, which makes the hours at work numerous and quality time scarce. I get three weeks of vacation every year, but I use one for conferences and the other around Christmas when things are crazy. That leaves one week. One week solely for my kids. One week to do everything.

Lately I’ve been envying my wife for being a stay-at-home mom, which is ironic since I’m not even sure I could do her job. Or that I’d want to do it, if we’re being honest. I know her role is filled with damn hard work and days she questions her sanity when our youngest won’t nap because his 1-year molars are coming in and he’s drooling blood in a fit of rage. I know sometimes she feels like she wishes she could trade places with me.

But stay-at-home parents have the thing I’m most envious of — the knowledge that they’re doing the most important thing in raising quality human beings.

They are in the trenches and doing the grunt work. Sure they’re unappreciated now when the kids are young, but in 25 years they’re going to realize my wife was always there. The reliable one. The go-to parent. And they’ll have a bond with her that will be deeper and stronger than one can imagine.

Me? I’m the guy working on the computer. Answering one last email and sending one final freelance pitch. So on vacation, I really pour it on.

“Let’s go the museum!”
“Hey, how bout a baseball game?”
“Want some ice cream?”
“Time for fishing!”

Where MJ is a fire that burns slowly and steadily, I flash hot and bright and then fade back into the office. She’s steady as the tides, I’m a tsunami. I’m an annual meteor shower and she’s the moon.

Working parents don’t witness milestones, they’re told they occurred. The phone call at the office that he got his first tooth. The video she sends you of his first steps, and hey — at least we saw it before all of Facebook. So there’s that. It’s enough to make us feel like spectators, or subscribers to the newsletter of our own lives.

Which is why when vacation hits, I get a little desperate.

We tried to get Will to ride his bike without training wheels last year. It went horribly. He wasn’t ready or physically able, and it ended with lots of crying, pouting, and frustration. Will was also pretty upset.

But this year, I vowed to make sure Will could ride his bike by the end of the summer. And I was going to see it, dammit.

When we went at the beginning of vacation a week ago, it was…rough. I was too hard on him and placed way too much pressure on the poor kid, and his performance reflected that. I was trying to force it so I didn’t miss it, and in the process I damn near ruined everything.

Yesterday was my last day of vacation. After we went fishing, I nonchalantly asked if he’d like to try bike riding one more time. This time, I took an entirely different tack. I told him it didn’t matter if he did it, only that he improve from last time. I had him sit down first and envision a successful ride, and then try to emulate in real life what he mentally pictured. I smiled and told him stories of my learning-to-ride failures as a precocious kid.

He fell. A lot. But then, well…he didn’t.

Once my attitude was positive, so was his. He refused to accept my help because he wanted to do it on his own, and he constantly repeated affirming messages to himself throughout the whole thing. “Just keep trying, Will” and “Will, remember to pedal, steer, and not panic.” 

And then off he went, pedaling furiously away from me as I jogged to catch up. As apt a metaphor for parenting as there ever will be. But this one — learning how to ride a bike — this one is ours. Will’s and mine. I needed a win, badly, and my wife saw that and graciously let me have it. Because she’s awesome and far too good for me.

Back on the pond, the interesting thing about milfoil weeds is there are no known biological controls to fight them off or slow them down. In time, and like time, they come whether we like it or not and eventually they change the existing habitat. Armed with that knowledge, my vacations in coming years have taken on a whole new meaning and level of importance.

If you only have a week, you’d better make it count.

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Raising Boys: Just Put Your Penis Anywhere

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“Will, did you pee in this?”

I knew the answer before my wife asked the question. I was giving Sam a bath when I noticed a horrible smell. It was pungent and stale, and I immediately knew it was piss — I just didn’t know where it was. The toilet water was clear, Sam didn’t let loose in the bath, and all the rugs on the bathroom floor felt dry.

That’s when my eyes settled on the long, white, plastic cylinder I use to fill up with water and wash Sam’s head. And suddenly everything clicked.

I knew Will had peed in it during his shower and just left it there.

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Teach Kids to Eat Flatout Healthy

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It’s never too early to get your kids eating right.

This is a struggle for me because I never learned healthy eating habits. You’ll seldom hear me complain about my upbringing because my parents were rock stars and I never wanted for anything. But when two busy parents who aren’t cooks combine with the schedules of two busy kids, the result for us was lots of take-out. As in 3-5 times a week. That was just my norm and I carried those habits to college and into my early 20s, during which time I stayed alive by eating copious amounts of Chinese food and pizza.

Then I met MJ, the culinary wizard who would eventually show me the light.

When I lost 60 lbs a couple of years ago I did it by eating right with MJ’s help. She took care of breakfast and dinner for me, but my big problem was lunch. Because she’s not my maid, she justifiably refused to do EVERYTHING for me, and told me I was responsible for lunch. Usually I’d just buy lunch, but because I was in a weight loss competition I had to count my calories and eat healthy.

My main hangup is carbs. I love em — especially white bread. I did the math and realized I’d never fit under my calorie cap if I kept scarfing down white bread all the time, but I also didn’t want to sacrifice taste. Thankfully I found my answer in Flatout.

These wraps and Fold-Its meant I could eat healthier without eating healthy stuff that tastes like cardboard. And the result was losing 60 lbs in just 5 months with diet and exercise.

Unfortunately I got away from my healthy eating habits recently and I’ve put 40 of that 60 back on. Will, my oldest, has taken notice of my weight gain and because we’ve talked to him about the health impacts involved with obesity and the importance of eating right, he’s now concerned about my health. And that’s unacceptable.

So now I’m back on Flatout for my lunches and they’re great for deli meat like turkey and cheese with some lettuce and tomato thrown in there. The Sundried Tomato wrap is my favorite for sandwiches. But with Will’s help, I’ve discovered a new favorite.

Thin-crust Flatout pizza!

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It’s so simple but it tastes so frickin’ good. Just grab some Thin Crust Flatbreads Artisan Pizza (I suggest the Spicy Italian), some pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings and go to town. Or, just follow this future gourmet’s lead.

But then I challenged my wife to come up with something new and creative.

I wanted to know if she could come up with a semi-healthy dessert incorporating my favorite Flatouts, because people with a sweet tooth have a damn hard time going cold turkey when trying to eat right. And, like usual, she didn’t disappoint. I’m calling this recipe “The Martha Jean,” and I’m describing it as “a cheesecake like substance mixed with fruit and flatbread.”

THE RECIPE

Low fat cream cheese (8 oz)
Ricotta cheese (1 cup)
Sugar (3 tbsp)
Vanilla extract (1 tsp)
Mini chocolate chips (1/4 cup)
Strawberries (or whatever fruit you love)
Whole wheat flatout bread
Melted butter
Sugar and cinnamon

First you want to whip the cream cheese, then add ricotta
Blend together until smooth
Add 1 tbsp of sugar in at a time while stirring
Add in vanilla extract
Add in chocolate chips
Put the oven on broil and cook the flatbread
Melt the butter and brush it on flatbread
Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar

Here’s the end result:IMG_0961

And here’s the best news. You can win a whole bunch of Flatout products for your own family meals. All you have to do is follow @daddyfiles and @FlatoutbreadBOS on Twitter, and then tweet us letting us know what you’d do with a Flatout prize pack. If you don’t have Twitter, leave a comment here. I’ll pick a winner in a week.

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Disclaimer: I was compensated by Flatout for this post, but as always my opinions are my own and I only endorse products I’ve used personally and would recommend to everyone.

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Would You Wear Pajamas at the Bus Stop?

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Marriage ain’t easy, and we’ve been through more than our fair share of rough spots.

Pregnancy, not being able to get pregnant, multiple miscarriages, dealing with abortion protesters, financial hardships, mental health issues, and the Great Hershey Bar War of 2009 are just some of the bullcrap MJ and I have endured in our eight years of marriage.

But now we face a much bigger — and completely unexpected — problem which is currently threatening to tear us apart.

Pajamas at the bus stop.

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