The House Built On L♡VE & Shenanigans

The In's and Out's of Family Life in Charlottesville, VA


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40… and I’m feeling good♬♬♪

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Turning 40 on the 20th of July was the most amazing birthday experience of my life. Not necessarily because I got to spend it in Jamaica with my beloved family, or that my experience there was quite epic! But more so because I felt and still feel an awakening, a growing sense of unbridled potential, and a renewed source of energy and creative power.

I feel as if I’ve connected with an awareness of my mind, body, and soul’s synergy, and deep down I feel more at peace with myself than I have ever felt before.

During the couple of weeks leading up to my birthday, I engaged in some self-reflection, and as a result, I created 40 lessons that I’ve learned in 40 years.

This was not an easy task!

How often does one stop to really think about the things they feel they’ve learned over the years? Some lessons were easy to incorporate into my daily life, and some were very painful.  Many mistakes had to be repeated several times over in order to get it through this thick skull of mine, and I’m still a work in progress.

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So, here are my 40 Lessons in 40 years:

1. Being comfortable with saying no, even when it’s tough. Too many past years spent giving away that power.
2. Drama is no longer luring, it’s merely repetitive and gets old fast ( like the old saying, save the drama for your
momma).
3. Accepting responsibility. Keep doing what you ‘re doing, keep getting what you’re getting!
4. Happiness is a choice
5. Trusting myself and my intuition. So what if I’m wrong, I learned something.
6. Simplicity reigns supreme. The more simple, the less complicated.
7. “I’m Sorry” doesn’t fix Everything.
8. Being ok without a “Thank You.”
9. I believe in 2nd, 3rd, 4th,10, or even 100 chances. Keep trying until you get It right.
10. Things don’t have to be perfect.

11. Able to reflect on accomplishments and failures, and redirect focus.
12. Looking at mistakes differently. You don’t win all of the time. And that’s ok
13. Better able to understand many lessons thus far ( not all, that ‘s a whole nother post, lol) and make them
work for me .
14. The preciousness of time. It’s amazing how fast time seems to fly. But the real deal is understanding how
to slow it down ( living in the present), which I am still learning how to master.
15. People pleasing does not serve me. I’ve learned to be ok if someone does not like me.
16. Friends are important. Wish i had more.
17. Total shift in the idea of beauty which entails wholeness, vulnerability, and grace, which I aspire
to. When I comment that someone is beautiful, rarely is the comment based upon physical beauty, although
most times that’s present. (direct quote from the movie Color Purple, “If you ugly on the inside,
you ugly on the outside.”
18. Fear only begets more fear.
19. I don’t have to be my story (if you only knew). To God be the Glory.
20. No longer think about the past in ” shoulda, coulda’s.” I focus on what I “can.”

21. Asking for what I want, instead of toe tapping around the subject.
22. Along the same lines, learning how to ask for help and understanding that it ‘s ok (tough lesson
for me).
23. Acknowledging and expressing appreciation to those who have made a moment, my day, or even
life better.
24. That nasty thing called PRIDE. Recognize it. Lose It. Still a struggle
sometimes, but at least I can recognize it most times and make a conscious choice.
25. No such thing as being taken advantage of if you’re giving from the heart and without
expectation.
26. Holding onto grudges and malice only hurts YOU. I can honestly say I can’t think of a single person
whom I have any ill-will towards.
27. Owning that your body IS your temple. Don’t want it to be too late before learning this one.
It ‘s the only body you ‘ll ever have. Treat it kindly and with respect.
28. People learn to treat you by the way you treat yourself.
29. Once you’ve “found yourself ” you can then work on creating yourself
30. Sometimes you have to loose in order to win.

31. To live my life being the person I want to be and doing the things I want to do is my definition of a successful life.
32. Discovering our purpose in life usually lies within those things that motivates us and brings us joy. A certain level
of self awareness is necessary, which complicates the issue.                                                                              33. Prayer changes things.
34. Can’t expect a Gallon from Pint sized people. You have to meet people where they are.
35. “Just Win Today.” Currently, my favorite motto that Marc taught me.  Sometimes you can’t see the forest, for all the trees.  Don’t worry about anything else, other than what’s right in front of you.

36. My family is one of my greatest blessings and purposes. They teach me there’s a greater depth to Love than I have ever known.

37. We are deserving of ALL things good.

38. The places in our personality where we tend to deviate from love are not our faults, but our wounds. God does not want to punish us, but heal us. And this is how we should view the wounds of others (Marriane Williamson).

39. Look not to the seen but to the unseen. For what we see is merely the effect. The cause is created by our conscious & unconscious thought, beliefs, and faith. If we
think lack, poverty, and limitation, then that’s what we’ll manifest. Likewise, if we think abundance and positivity,    that ‘s what we’ll manifest. It all begins with our thoughts.

40. Age ain’t nothing but a number! You are as young as you feel you are!

I feel so blessed to have had such an amazing 40 years, enjoying both the sweet things life has to offer and also feeling the strength of resilience of enduring the challenges. I am ready to embrace this next 40 plus years of my life and the many more lessons that I have yet to learn.  I look forward to the continual discovery of all life has to offer.


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New York Is Alright With Me!

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A couple weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of spending some much needed big girl time in New York City with my couSiS (cousin/sister) Julie, and our very young and super hip aunt Cherelle.  This visit was long overdue!

Let me tell you, it was one hysterically gut busting, good eatin’,  smorgasbord-for-the-senses-good time!


Having only been to the “Big Apple” once before with my in-laws several years ago when Marley Bear was just a baby, I really wasn’t able to get the full flava of the city.
This time was very different.

I was completely immersed in that iconic NY culture, so much so, that well…I pretty much felt like a born-again New Yorker.

But you have to be in good shape, both mentally and physically, to live in the big city.  I’m pretty sure we walked nearly 15 city miles, and caught no less than 10 brain-twisting trips on the subway daily. Plus we increased our carbon footprint by discarding no fewer than five fliers, pamphlets, and brochures per block for shows and various activities.  After awhile, I even learned how to not accept them… politely.


And how about all of my preconceived notions about New Yorkers? Loud, arrogant, gruff, rude, and inconsiderate – armed with their thick accents, coney dogs and pizza slices!  Heck, I thought half of those city slickers were intent on picking my pocket or swindling me outta my travelers checks.

I was expecting to see a parade of drug addled, sideshow freaky people (well, we did see a few of those, but hey, no judgement) who planned on accosting me at every turn while I walked, eyes down and shoulders hunched, clutching my purse for dear life.

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Ha!

Instead, I discovered very helpful, friendly, hospitable, seemingly honest folks, who contributed to an amazing and  flavorful trip.

Julie even lost her credit card, but it was returned to her the next day.  How’s that for busting the stereotype of the impatient, wise-guy borough dweller!

Heck, we even scored free breakfast our last day there at Cherelle’s cute little neighborhood coffee shop.

Not to mention, all the things that the big city has to offer. Our itinerary over the course of two days included a lot, but my favorites included:


  

This trip was such a fun and eye-opening event, that we’ve decided to make it an annual affair!

We felt like Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte.

Until the next time ladies…

And speaking of Charlotte…Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Charlottesville, the husbands where dutifully holding down the fort like good daddy’s should…a couple of regular ol’ Good Fellas.

Big Eddie, Lil Eddie, and Langston came up from North Carolina to keep Marc and the girls company while we were living it up in Gotham.  Instead of Three Men and a Baby, there were Two Men and Five Babies.  But no surprise, they held it down like they do!

Thanks gentlemen for helping to making this trip possible.  Get ready to do it all again next year.

Keep your burp cloths handy!

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The Real Good Fellas

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Introducing…Lil Eddie!

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Delaney…the little helper.


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The End Of An Era

 

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Ahh, peace and quiet.

Just me, my thoughts, and my computer.

It’s one of the main things I’ve always wanted.  Something I’ve always talked about.  You’ve all heard me mention how I couldn’t wait to be alone in a tranquil house, free to write, feeling unencumbered with no distractions.

And now I’ve got it – that mystical, magical, majestical day has finally arrived.  Oh yeah, IT IS ON!

Wow, right now in this moment, I can attest to the fact that silence truly is GOLDEN!

So I’m supposed to be having the time of my life right? This is supposed to be my time to shine!

Then why am I sitting here alone awash in an overwhelming sense of loss?

Why are there more tears in my coffee than cream?

DSC_0719Then it hit me…I think I’m actually experiencing, of all things,  Separation Anxiety from my kids. Especially from Journey, who has been with me the longest and is the last little birdie to leave the nest.  PBS.org and AhaParenting.com both have interesting articles on the subject.

 

DSC_0568_2I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I feel this way.  For the past eight years, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad – even though it took several years for me to accept and become adjusted to the role of being a full time parent.  There is so much joy associated with being a full time caregiver to ones children, but it is also a lot of work, particularly if you choose to parent consciously.  There are long stretches of monotony associated with the routine of being at home all day with children.

I never thought that I’d ever get used to staying at home with three little girls.

But I did.

IMG_3534I found myself in a unique situation as a dad who stays home with kids. Its true that the numbers of fathers staying home have been steadily growing lately, (2 million dads vs 10 million moms) however when I started out in the gig, I was the only one I knew locally. We hardly ever got invited to play dates by moms in those early years, because I guess being the only guy on the block at home during the day seemed quite unusual to most.

I never thought that I’d ever get used to being the only guy at the park surrounded by a sea of moms, making our own fun.

But I did.

DSC_0076_3When you meet people at social gatherings for instance, they love to ask, “So, what do you do?”  You should have seen some peoples faces when I told them what I did all day.  They couldn’t understand the concept of a man staying home with kids.  It was as if I was just a weirdo babysitter or something. They’d quickly develop a disinterested look, and politely excuse themselves so they could chat with someone who they felt had greater career aspirations.

Later, in an effort to appear like a “normal guy,” I began to preface my answer with, “Well I worked for Sprint for eleven years, and now I’m staying home with my girls for awhile…until they go off to school.” I made sure to insinuate how temporary I felt my current situation  was, and I’d soon be back in the corporate world making money like a man is supposed to.

As time went on, my perspective changed, and I learned to eliminate all pretense. I have come to realize how important my position as a father who stays home with his little girls truly is.

I never thought that I would get comfortable proudly affirming to people that I’m a stay-at-home dad.

But I did.

Because I realized after all these years, that I’ve been more than just a stay-at-home dad.

I am:

  • a nurturer
  • a role model
  • a teacher
  • a chef
  • a nutritionist
  • a first-aid provider
  • a household manager
  • a maid
  • a butler
  • a spiritual advisor
  • a protector
  • an event coordinator
  • the head cheerleader.

These are some of the many hats that stay-at-home parents must wear.  And I finally got the hang of it…accepted it…and for the most part, have relished in it.

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One went off to school, and then there were two.  

Then two went off, and then there was one.  

Now all three are off, and at home there are none.

That chapter of my life is all but done.

So just like that, POOF…its just little ol me holding it down during the day – and a new chapter begins.  Can I get used to whatever the Universe has for me next?

I’m sure I will.

MB

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What’s On The Menu? – Cuban Sandwich

The flight attendant informed us that it was time to fasten our seat belts.  We were beginning our descent into Miami, on our way back from Jamaica.  I looked out of the window to catch an arial pic of South Beach with my phone, but to my chagrin, I only saw that thick and ominous rain clouds had blanketed the city.  I was fortunate to have captured rather decent snap shots of the other cities we had briefly visited  en route to the Caribbean, so I was disappointed to miss out on this one.

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Flying over Baltimore.

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Landing in Philly.

I looked across the aisle toward the girls and gave Delaney a little wink.  “Are we landing Dada?” I nodded affirmatively and smiled reassuringly.

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Journey on board.

Suddenly, the pilot turns the nose of the plane upward steeply, and begins to accelerate rapidly! As we quickly climb to a higher altitude, we begin to bank left sharply.  Stunned by what is now taking place, I gripped my arm rest a little tighter, and slowly begin to look around at the other passengers to gauge their reaction to our sudden change in direction…up instead of down.  The faces I saw expressed exactly what I was feeling – utter bewilderment.  Their wide eyed looks told the whole story – many of them I’m sure were hoping that their worst terrorist fears where not actually coming true!

The once talkative folks who had just moments before filled the cabin with pleasant incoherent chatter, where now deafeningly silent.  You could cut the tension with a knife.  By now most of them had focused their attentions toward which ever tiny egg shaped window would give them the clearest view from which to assess this anxious situation.

Updrafts…downdrafts…we rocked from left to right and back again!

Thirty nerve-racking and turbulent filled minutes later, after circling the city, we once again began landing procedures and touchdowned safely into cloudy Miami.  Most of the passengers, including myself, erupted into spontaneous joyful cheers – each of whom would have probably kissed the ground like the Pope once they disembarked, if they would’ve had enough nerve.

We never found out what the deal was!

This is not how we wished to “take our talents to South Beach.”

Still rattled from the whole airplane ordeal, we made our way to the hotel that we planned to stay in for the evening.  We dropped the bags off in the room and headed (legs shaking) down to the hotel restaurant.  I found an old Miami classic waiting on the menu…The Cubano.

It was pretty good.  Good enough to inspire me to attempt to make my own back home.

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There are several sites that offer recipes for Cuban Sandwiches, but I used this one at Food Network.com.  As always, follow the directions from the site, but the recipe calls for:

Ingredients
Cuban Pork:
1 pound boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed with the side of your knife
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 lime, juiced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 long Cuban bread roll      *NOTE – I used Italian Bread because I couldn’t find Cuban.
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
1 cup bread and butter pickles
8 thin slices deli ham
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

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I thought our Cubanos turned out beautifully and were muy bien. I added a side of rice and black beans which was a nice touch.  We had left over roasted pork for a week, but that was just fine with me.

I encourage y’all to try it out…Buen provencho!

The results are in, and here is what the folks had to say about their meal:

Rachael – “This is good, but the meat needs to be sliced a little thinner.”

Marley – “I didn’t like it so much.  I didn’t like all the different stuff inside.”

Delaney – “A little bit yummy.”

Journey – “I want bacon.” 

MB


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What’s On The Menu? – Jerk Chicken

Wah gwaan” everyone, we are back and settling in from a fantastic week on the island of Jamaica.

It was our first time visiting JA, and needless to say, we had a fabulous time.  We sat on the beach, waded into the Carribean, ventured into the hills to pay our respects to a musical legend, and swam with dolphins.

But most of all we ate!

We stayed at an all inclusive resort called The Grand Palladium.  A beautiful establishment which boasts 10 different resturants varying from Indian, Asian, Mexican, and Seafood cuisine…just to name a few.

DSC_0612But to my surprise, one of the most delicious meals we had on this lush island (filled with so many sights and sounds and exotic flavors) was actually – on the side of the road.

In Negril, outside of the very popular eatery Rick’s Cafe, we ran across a very unassuming set up in a most unlikely place.  A couple of guys had a smoker and were busy fixing up authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken.

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Hot thick smoke filled the air from the grill, while cars whizzed by on the narrow road we were standing mere inches away from.  But there we stayed, braving it all to enjoy some of the most flavorful chicken we’d ever tasted.

It was so good that I was inspired to try and make it myself once we returned stateside.

DSC_0616I don’t have a smoker, so I chose to bake the chicken.  Since the guys from Seasoned To The Bone, weren’t about to give up any of their jerk secrets (and I did ask), I used this recipe for Baked Jerk Chicken at AllRecipes.com.

The recipe calls for the the following ingredients, but you’ll find the actual cooking instructions by clicking the link above.

  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

  • 1 (2 to 3 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

 

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Real coconut water to wash it all down with.

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This is a very easy dish to make – No Problem.  I’ve got to admit though, it was not the same as in Jamaica…but everything was irie none-the-less.

Ya mon!

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The results are in, and here is what the folks had to say about their meal:

Rachael – “It’s okay…for your first attempt.”

Marley – “It’s in the middle.”

Delaney – “Yeah, it’s in the middle.  Kinda good, kinda not.”

Journey – “I don’t like Jerk Chicken.” (As she pushes her plate away)

MB

 


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What’s On The Menu? – Steak and Chicken Fajitas

Delaney, is a huge fan of Taco Tuesday! It never fails that at some point in the week she’ll ask, “Dada what day is it?” Then depending on my answer, she’ll know how long she must wait until she can receive her terrific Tuesday meal.

But we’ve been engaging in Taco Tuesday consistently for so long that honestly the whole affair has lately, become a bit stale.  The girls have slowly become less enthusiastic about their dining experience each time I serve the typical hard taco, soft taco, and taco salad compliment.

Alas, the thrill was gone!

My brother Khalid and I, which two of his and two of mine.

My brother Khalid and I, with two of his and two of mine.

I recently confessed this fact to my brother Khalid, who also has the honor of being a stay-at-home dad (two in one family…go figure).  I told him that I was considering abandoning, or at least suspending our Tuesday tradition for awhile.

In his wisdom, being quite creative and handy in the kitchen, he suggested that instead of canceling our weekly custom, we should mix it up a bit.  He reminded me that if I were to venture into a Mexican restaurant, there would be more on the menu than just tacos.

Duh, why didn’t I think of that?

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So here is a recipe I found for Steak Fajitas at Simply Recipes.com.  I suggest that you click the link to read the recipe verbatim, but basically it calls for:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Steak
  • Onion
  • Bell Peppers
  • Salt

There is also a tasty marinate which calls for:

  • Lime Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Jalapeno Peppers (which I didn’t include)

The prep time was the longest part, but the meal was whipped up in a matter of minutes.

The Chicken is something I cooked as an alternative to the steak.  Just regular frozen chicken breast baked at 425 for 40 minutes.  Then I sliced it up into strips.

I was very pleased with the way dinner turned out and it was certainly a wonderful way of spicing up our Tuesday!

Thanks Khalid!

 

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The results are in, and here’s what the fans had to say about their meal:

Rachael, “So good, I wanna slap your mama!”

Marley, “Kind of tasty.”

Delaney, “Good, pretty good.”

Journey, “I don’t like Fajitas.”

MB


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What’s On The Menu – Classic Chicken and Rice

I was watching Oprah’s inspirational weekly program, Super Soul Sunday, as I do most Sunday mornings, and author Michael Pollen happened to be on discussing the art of mindful eating!

Michael artfully discussed, “what is means to eat with a fuller consciousness and how having a heighten awareness of the food thats going into our bodies can improve our physical and spiritual well-being.”

His talk was so inspiring to me, that right then and there I made the conscious decision to begin to make no fewer than three home cooked meals per week from now on!

I feel like I owe it to my family to do my part to prepare healthy, tasty, but easy to make dishes.  For me, this harkens back to a simpler time when dinner was not just a source of sustance, but a wonderful social event!

Now that I’ve made this promise, this transformative declaration – next comes the hard part!

The follow thru!!!

I am not a chef by any means, so what can I whip-up for dinner that my wife and three little ones will actually eat?

My search for recipes and inspiration had begun.

chicken and rice

So on the Monday afternoon following the show, I stumbled upon an old fashion recipe similar to the way my grandfather used to make it.

Chicken and Rice! (follow the exact directions from the link above)

  • 4 quarts of water
  • One whole chicken
  • 3-4 celery stalks
  • 1 sweet onion
  • salt & pepper
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • rice

The results are in, what did the family think of there meal?

Rachael: “Very good.  Needs more salt though.”

Marley:   “Sort of good.”

Delaney: “Umm, good, but if I have to eat this tomorrow…I know I won’t be hungry!”

Journey: “I don’t like Chicken and Rice.”

MB