Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tortillas. Not just for tacos in this house.

In my ongoing tenure as a stay at home dad I have learned how to improvise. One item in particular that has come in handy is the flour tortilla. Lunch, dinner or dessert - the tortilla has yet to fail me. It has also been a fun way to get Elle involved in the kitchen. She always looks forward to helping me cook.

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly on a tortilla is one of Elle's favorites. I just flip on the broiler on low to warm up the tortilla and then Elle helps to apply just the right amount of PB & J.
  • Quick Tortilla Pizza. It's as easy as sauce, mozzarella, and toppings. Elle's favorite additions at this moment are olives and mushrooms. I either bake it 'til the cheese melts or I use the broiler on low.
  • Need a quick and easy snack or lunch? All you need to do is toast the tortilla and slice it into triangles with a pizza cutter. I serve it with hummus and feta cheese. Sometimes I set the slices up and sometimes Elle likes the independence of doing it herself.
  • Super easy dessert is accomplished by adding the always great Nutella either by itself or accompanied with fresh fruit. I prep the tortillas, fold and place them under the broiler on low for about two minutes per side and dessert is served.  
  • Often for breakfast I make eggs and place them on top of the tortilla, add salt & pepper, cheese and again make use of the broiler to melt the cheese.
As you can tell, I use the broiler quite a bit. I really never used it until I started my at-home-dad gig. I have learned two important lesson with the broiler. One: it gets hot very quickly, so I keep an eye on what I have in there. Two: It is really really easy to burn yourself (my knuckles have fallen victim to the broiler more times than I can remember). So, I learned from trial and error. When I do the grocery shopping I look for the authentic tortillas. The name brand tortillas in my experience have an odd almost chemical taste to them. I know I'm not breaking new culinary ground with what I'm sharing, but it has definitely made life a little easier and hope it will do the same for you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts over breakfast and a cup of coffee. Wk.2

  • As one of Elle's bedtime routine, every night her mother reads two chapters to her. The current book in the bedtime rotation is "Henry Huggins" by Beverly Cleary. When I glanced at the book I noticed all of the illustrations had been modernized (just doesn't seem right). While my wife was reading to Elle she called me over. As soon as I walked in the door she read this, "At the pet store they stopped while Henry bought two pounds of horse meat from Mr. Pennycuff."(For Henry's dog Risby) Now most of the day I have been explaining to Elle that our dog's do not eat horses. 
  • Elle's idea for the day. "You know, Dad, I have a great plan about what we can do for dinner. I think we can surprise Mom with dinner. You need to take me to the grocery store so we can get supplies. I'm not big enough to drive. So you will take me there."
  • The song that I have been ordered to sing throughout the day. "Boggis, Bunce and Bean. One fat, one short, one lean. These horrible crooks so different in looks were nonetheless equally mean." From Roald Dahl's, "Fantastic Mr. Fox".
  • My wife and I are very fortunate that Elle's grandparents are incredibly engaged and loving towards Elle. When Elle gets to spend the night or weekend with the grandparents it gives my wife and I a chance to reconnect after the automatic busyness of the week. Wonderful and priceless.
  • I just want to thank everyone that has been kind enough to visit and comment. I am happy to share my journey through fatherhood. It's extremely encouraging to see so many sharing and embracing the challenges and joys that come with parenthood. I don't know any other parents yet in our area. So, with this blog and the truly great ones out there, I have felt a sense of community that I was missing as a stay-at-home dad. Thank you.

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    The Great Bedtime Experiment (aka The Great Bedtime Debate)

    Elle is three-years-old and her mother and I have spent half of her life trying to get her to sleep in her own bed. As an infant, Elle easily slept a solid eight hours in her crib. Being first time parents we here often in a state of paranoia. We checked on her multiple times throughout the night. Every single time she was out cold. Long ago seem those fortunate days now. It may have been once Elle hit a year old that she made her way into our bed. I don't know if my wife recalls the reason for her appearance - may have been a thunderstorm or ear infection. The end result was three people to a queen-sized bed. 

    My wife and I made a resolution for New Year’s: Elle was going to sleep in her room. Since the summer we had been making a soft transition to bedroom independence. January was going to be the tipping point. We borrowed from our potty training method and created the Big Girl Bedtime Sleep chart. Each night Elle successfully slept in her bed she would earn a sticker. We asked Elle what she would like once she filled up her chart. She informed us she wanted to pick out new sheets and get a canopy for above her bed. Sounded totally reasonable to Mom and Dad. At first we headed into this experiment with great excitement.

    Elle luckily isn't the type of toddler that has tantrums. Instead, she is a naturally gifted and skilled debater. This skill is on full display when it comes to bedtime. I originally had the intention to write the rest of this post with the detail of our bedtime adventure. Rather than continue on that path I think it would be more entertaining to share some of Elle bedtime debating highlights. As I write this post, I am stationed in Elle's room right next to her because if I didn't the nightly debate would have continued. My wife has to work in the morning so I’m doing the good husband deed of taking one for the team.

    The setup will start with a creak of the floor and a sliver of light shining through to the hallway. Then we know Elle is coming. We see a 40” shadowy figure emerge and the great debater will soon demonstrate her skills:

    "Hi, Mom and Dad. I just can't sleep. I'm just a little concerned because Bentley (our 7yr old Goldendoodle) is a grumpy old dog who doesn't like to cuddle and I just can't sleep with a grumpy dog in my room. This concerns me."
    Simple enough. The dog that does nothing but sleep will be sent downstairs. Elle returns again.

    "Hey, guys. I'm just a little lonely and I have no one to cuddle with and besides I love you guys and I thought I could keep you company. I promise I'll go right to sleep and I won't kick you or bother you."
    Elle strategically positions herself next to whichever parent she feels will cave to her. She gives a loving embrace while trying to slip one leg into our bed. We get up and escort her back to her room. We set her up with some stuffed animals to cuddle with. But, soon Elle returns again.

    "Mom, Dad, I just don't want to sleep in my room. I think it would be better if I slept with you guys because I'm a little concerned that I'll be lonely and miss you guys. So that's why I think it’s better if I sleep with the both of you. So I'm not so concerned."
    She really works the word concerned or some form of it to the bone. Again she is sent back to her room only to return.

    "Look I just don't want to sleep in my room. I need to move to another room."
    We inform her that there no other rooms are available at this time.

    "Well, I can sleep in your room. That would make me feel better and besides I love you guys and you love me. It would be much better for me to sleep here with you because I just want to cuddle with you."

    This merry-go-round can go most of the night. I get in the bad habit of engaging her debates. At times it's very humorous. She will literally paces back and forth in our bedroom stating her case as she gesticulates her points of reasoning. Elle can easily filibuster with the best of them.

    Sometimes the parents get the win and she passes out in her bed only to wake at dawn. Other times we get backed down and she ends up in our bed because we’re just too tired to go on any longer. Or like tonight, I sit and wait ‘til Elle falls asleep and I can sneak off back to Mommy because she gets lonely and I want to keep her company.

    Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Playbook, sometimes you just have to throw it up there.

    One of the great things about being a father is the unpredictability that comes with the territory. My daughter often throws surprises my way. It might be a spirited and well-framed debate on why she shouldn't sleep in her big girl bed.  Or just having to jump through the hoops of a toddler’s psyche. I stepped in a particular situation that I didn't have the foresight to truly realize the awkwardness of ‘til I was knee deep.

    Elle was finally embracing the freedom of potty training. Her goal was to be in big girl undies full time. Part of being a stay-at-home dad for me is that I try to take care of as much as possible during the week so the weekend is free and clear for quality time. The task for the day was to stock up on big girl undies for Elle. A no-brainer, simple task, right? I headed to the store, found the undies and went straight to check out. Didn't have to buy anything else. I took my place in line behind an elderly woman who creeked her head back and shot me an odd look. I didn't think much of her laser-like glare at first. I just took it as the usual stare I get for being a slightly darker skin tone than most people in our area.

    It wasn't until it was my turn to pay and the cashier gave me the same look that it hit me. I am a grown man buying little girl underwear and nothing else. The cashier’s look of disgust said it all. In my head, I was screaming to myself: “Say something. Just casually mention your kid. Tell her you’re so glad to get past potty training. Mention how happy your kid is to finally be getting big girl undies. Com-on, man, say something!” But nothing came out of my mouth. I just looked down, shuffling nervously to get to my wallet. Which probably made it look worse.

    Those few minutes felt like an eternity and I couldn't get out of there fast enough. So, mission accomplished, Elle had hers well deserved prize but, a valuable lesson learned. I will never go solo to buy Elle underwear. I'm bringing reinforcements. 

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Thoughts over breakfast and a cup of coffee.

    • I almost forgot how a beautiful spring day feels. Sometimes it takes my daughters enthusiasm and unfiltered joy to remind me. She makes me feel excited for the rest of spring, gardening and taking walks around the city. We had great weather and Elle was in a fantastic mood which definitely made for great weekend.
    • My wife and I watched Twilight: New Moon this past Saturday. I have to say we both don't get what makes the whole franchise so popular. Like the first movie we spent most of the time goofing on it and waiting for the brooding to lead to some action. At least there will be more films to lead to our entertainment even if we don't get it.
    • My wife and I have a dry sarcastic sense of humor. We often wonder when will Elle get sarcasm?But, she is very funny in her own way. She often tries jokes followed by her saying "get it".
    • I think with age and marriage I have made a transition from beer to wine, comic books to cook books, and from video games to watching old movies on Netflix. Maybe maturing or maybe just shifting to new things to be geeked out over.
    • My wife gets US weekly and on the cover is a feature about celebrity children. I briefly glanced thorough it and I dumbfounded by the expensive cloths these kids sport. I know their parents are in the tax bracket where they can indulge. But, even if we were I'm still going with the Payless kicks. The way Elle goes through shoes I often think she's going to tower over her father and be an easy six feet.
    • I just wanted to thank those of you that have checked out this blog. I really do appreciate you sharing your adventures in parenting and I enjoy sharing mine. Again many thanks.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    March Madness, my daughter still remembers Bat Madness

    Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

    This took place over the summer, but Elle still brings it up so I thought I would share:

    Early one morning the three of us were in bed discussing our breakfast possibilities. I got up to start the breakfast prep and made my way down our back staircase that leads into the kitchen. Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn't have my glasses on, but I could clearly see that we had a good sized bat hanging on the door frame. I turned and slowly crept back up the stairs, adrenaline pumping through my body. I shakily walked into the bedroom and said “you both have to stay here for a while - we have a bat in the kitchen.” My wife's face expression dropped and she turned pale. Elle didn’t seem to understand. Now we have two dogs, but apparently they were more concerned with sleeping than worrying about protecting their owners from bat attacks. So it was on me to MacGyver a way out of this.

    I raced around the house looking for something, anything, that would help me wrangle the beast. I found an extendable duster – jackpot, this would give me enough reach. My plan of attack was simple. The kitchen had two doors leading outside. One opened to the backyard the other was a side door leading to the alley. I would go out the rear door, use the key to open the side, then duck and poke the bat ‘til it flew out. Doors open and duster in hand, I headed towards my opponent.

    The bat was as cool as can be, just hanging from the side door’s frame. I did an exploratory poke. Its eyes opened. So did its mouth and it let out a loud hiss. I got a little scared. I collected myself, I had to win this one. I got lower and gave the bat a soft nudge. It was still hissing and my mind was racing: “I think I just saw teeth. Yes, definitely lots of teeth. Oh, good, now it’s pooping. Wow, that’s a lot of poop. It must be really mad.”

    This bat meant business. Another nudge and the bat let go. “Victory! No, wait. Oh, crap, it’s coming right at me!” It swooped towards my head and I hit the deck swinging the yellow duster blindly. Then silence. I looked up it was gone. All that was left was the poop. I did a quick clean-up job and raced back to the bedroom. My heart was pounding as I entered and I said “I just have to sit for a minute.” Once my heart rate was in check I told the tale of how I defeated the nasty scary bat. To this day, Elle still brings it up. She’ll say "do you remember the time the scary bat was in the kitchen and you had to swat it away and it hissed at you and had sharp scary teeth and you told mommy and me to stay in the bedroom till it was safe?" I say "I do remember - it was a scary bat” and can’t help but feel pretty good about myself. In the Daddy v. Bat incident of 2009, Daddy emerged victorious. I was a superhero in her mind.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Starting School

    Elle's first day of preschool was on March 2nd. She was over the moon about going to school - the day couldn't come fast enough. Her mother and I dropped her off and before we could even get a hug and kiss she was off. Elle was working the room like a politician looking for votes. She put one hand on a child’s back and gestured with the other: "Hi, I'm Elle. Can I play with you?" Then she’d go over to a group of kids, put her arms around their shoulders and say “Hey, guys, do you want to play together?  We could share.”

    Seeing how happy Elle was, we had no worries. She’d be just fine. When it came time to pick her up I was a little fearful that a blow-up might be coming if she didn’t want to leave. Fortunately she only started a fake cry once I showed up. Before we could leave, Elle had to work the room once again. One-by-one she went around the room and said to each kid, "bye, I'm so sad I have to leave, I'll miss you."

    The week ended very well. She would come home wired and tell us about all the things she did that day.  She thought that is was hilarious that the teacher kept calling her the wrong name and loved all of her new friends. Then the weekend came around and Elle got sick. She was "very discouraged" that she had to miss school. Thankfully, she was able to recoup enough to make it through two days but didn't face it with the same enthusiasm as the first week. Drop off was tear-filled and we’d get strange reports from her each day: someone poked her with a stick and “they locked me in a strange room and left me alone.” This was not like last week and we really didn’t know what to make of these horror stories. With some prodding, we were able to figure out bits and pieces of her day. We never got to the bottom of the stick-poking incident, but did figure out that the teacher had to leave early and her class was merged with another – amazing how toddlers see the world. 

    So, now we are in our third week and she is finally getting back up to speed and enjoying herself again. And I couldn’t be happier. When I started school around the same age I was less than thrilled. I remember trying to hide in the back of my mom's car. She drove a wood paneled Ford station wagon with the fold down seats in the trunk of the car. I would climb underneath them thinking she wouldn’t notice that I didn’t get out of the car. I tried to escape from school a few times, too, but I am foggy on the details. I don’t recall getting locked in a strange room, though.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Finding your Manhood through Fatherhood

    Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

    Often times as a teen and through my early adult life I can remember looking in the mirror and asking myself, 'who am I?' Becoming a husband and then a father has brought me closer to finding the answer I was, and still am, looking for. My idea of who I wanted to be when I was twenty-one is certainly different than the reality that is me at thirty-one. 

    Ten years ago, I thought driving a luxury car, living in a four bedroom home on two acres, going to work in designer suits and having three kids was my ticket to happiness. Time and reality soon made me realize that this picture I had painted wasn't me, it was my parents. The programming of my expectations began early and was unrelenting: you must be more successful than your parents, things are an expression of happiness. That is what it means to be a man.

    The challenge for me has been trying to reconcile what I grew up with to the man I am today. I know that in their eyes I am a failure - I am not the lawyer they wanted me to be, I married out of my race and religion. Those saddle bags of guilt weighed heavy on me, and sometimes still do. But their views and values didn't fit me. And they still don't, but I'm beginning to see I don't have to carry that weight. Defining myself as a man has not been a journey I've taken on my own. For me, it's being a part of something larger than myself. It comes from seeing my daughter's innocence and growth; the love in both her and my wife's eyes when they look at me. I can't imagine my life differently than it is now. I am sure I can always have bigger and better things. But, "things" don't fuel my desire. I have found the man I want to be through our family. I am a loving father and husband and that's where I have found my manhood.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Electronics that I'm Digging.

    I love keeping up with tech devices. Granted I am not in the tax bracket to afford them. There are three devices that I am digging. Thanks to the generosity of my in-laws over Christmas I received a HD Flip video recorder. Which Elle and I have made great use of. I have not wanted to be that guy that has the camcorder ready at a drop of the hat. But, we have used it as a outlet for fun. A way we can make videos for my wife when she is out of town. Which helps my wife a great deal. We have made several YouTube videos of Elle being silly and dancing around. So far it has been super easy to use and it's nice and small which is a big plus.

    The second electronic device I have been digging is the Roku. This small handy device gives us access to Netflix's instant queue, Amazon Video On Demand and Pandora music service. The Roku is nicely priced under a hundred dollars. I got this particular model when they were running a special. I know since I got my model they have released others. The one I have is the Roku HD player. The HD looks great and you have the option of running it through your wireless network or connected via Ethernet cable. I have done both and the connection is consistent without any hiccups in playback. All in all worth part of the proceeds from selling baseball cards on eBay.

    The third device that has been a nice addition to the home is the Tivo HD DVR. My wife jumped in on a upgrade deal which knocked the price down considerably. Set-up was easy. The only place I ran into difficulty was with Comcast installing the Multi stream cable card. The cable card is needed to get the HD channels and other digital channels. It took two visits for them to install it correctly. After that it was smooth sailing. The HD was a nice addition and the upgraded features are great. I can access Netflix and YouTube videos. Also finding programs is easier both online and through the DVR.


    I love being a husband and a father. I saw a trailer for a new film called "Evolution of Dad" by Dana Glazer. I look forward to seeing it. The trailer made me think about my father. I have a father who was in my life till my early twenties. Thinking back I can't say I know the man who is my father. He was present physically but, mentally he seemed checked out. I remember going to work with my father and seeing all of his coworkers and colleagues hold him up on a pedestal. When my parents would have a party he came alive he would tell jokes, dance and entertain with brilliance. It was as if he was a completely different person. Where was this man when he came home. What returned through the door was a shell of a man, shut off and distant. I vowed to myself and my wife that I would not be my father. I may not have the genius or accolades that my father has but, I know there is a love and a bond that I never experienced growing up. I hope when my daughter is grown that she can say that she knows her father and he loves her.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Pluck Off

    The other night I was getting dinner together and I heard a tiff between my wife and toddler. Elle was asked by her mom to stop doing something. Elle responded "Pluck Off". My wife was stunned and asked her "why she would say that"? Elle gave a simple matter of fact answer. "Well I didn't say the bad word". When I walked into the room heard what transpired I felt mortfied. A few months back while I was running errands with Elle I was behind a slow driver and I dropped the f-bomb. Later that day we were stuck in traffic and Elle as natural as can be says, "what the f***, come on". I quickly jumped in and told her she could not say that word, it is a very bad word and daddy made a big mistake by saying it.
    I am guilty of dropping an obsenity while driving. It's a bad habit I picked up from learning to drive in the D.C. metro area. Now I realize I have to really hold my tongue. The last thing I want is a toddler who can curse like a pro or at all.

    Vacuum Cleaners?

    I saw a commercial for a Dyson like vacuum cleaner. After seeing it I got pumped. I went from being excited by foreign luxury cars to vacuum cleaners.

    -- Posted from my iPhone