The House Built On L♡VE & Shenanigans

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


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Respect My Recycle

For years now my sister would get on me about recycling.  Of course, every time we’d stay with family in Baltimore, I’d invariably need to throw something away.  Whether it was a damp plastic cup from a recent trip to a local food joint, orange peels, bread crusts, a milk carton that one of my daughters just finished off, or an empty can of tuna; my only concern was how quickly could I find a place to dispose of it, so I could move on with my day.

Not being a recycler myself, I wouldn’t hesitate to toss the waste into the nearest receptical I could find.  But soon after doing so, I’d hear my sisters agitated voice booming at me from the kitchen, “MAAARC, YOU’RE MIXING GARBAGE WITH REUSABLE’S AGAIN…RESPECT MY RECYCLE MAN!!!”

Dude, come on, ain’t nobody got time to be going through all that organizing, sorting and picking through trash.  I’ve got better things to do than rummage through all that mess.  This is what I thought to myself as I walked back into the kitchen to receive yet another lesson in “what goes where” from my sis.

It’s not like I didn’t see the value in recycling, I just had never gotten into the habit because:

  1. It takes more time (stay-at-home dad with three daughters…time is at a premium).  For me it wasn’t very convenient.
  2. It was just so confusing. I didn’t know what was recyclable and I had better things to do than to figure it out, I justified.
  3. Mostly I’d just plum forget to recycle…not an activity that was in the forefront of my brain!

Ignorance is bliss!

Plus, even if I did recycle, where the heck was I supposed to take all that stuff?  Seriously, I’m expected to put my hands in all that rubbish to sort out that junk then load it up in the car and lug it somewhere too? It’s not like we have curbside pickup for recycle.  Please…I just wasn’t gonna be able to do it.

This went on for years as I continued to toss out pound after pound of perfectly reusable materials, doing my part to increase the size of my local landfill without a hint of guilt or shame (well maybe just a ping of remorse).  But not enough to cause me to make a lifestyle change, even though somewhere in the back of my mind – probably from the seed planted by my sister, it seemed that recycling was the right thing to do.

And then my well guarded bliss was suddenly shattered like glass, splaying a thousand splintered daggers across the recesses of my mind!

Well no, it wasn’t that dramatic, but it was interesting that one day out of the blue, one of my girls had randomly suggested that we should start recycling; not realizing that just the day before, I had for the first time seen an obscured unassuming sign marking the location of the McIntire recycling center.  This center was so close to my house that I must have driven past it over a hundred times, never realized it was there.  I knew of its existence from word of mouth, but I never knew how conveniently located it really is.

Realizing it’s close proximity to our residence and coupled with my daughter’s random recycle request, a light bulb went off inside my consciousness, illuminating my dull state of unawareness.  It was as if something was whispering to me through this case of sheer serendipity.  The alarm had sounded and the bell had tolled.  I had no more excuses.

According to conserve-energy-future.com, there are many reasons why we should recycle, and one individual or family can truly make a world of difference.  “Averagely, every American produces about 1600 pounds of waste every year and that up to 1100 pounds of waste, is able to be recycled every year per person.  That represents a half a ton per individual.  This means a family of four can minimize waste by more than two tons each year just by the easy task of recycling.”

This week marks one month since we as a family made the commitment to recycle.  I don’t know that I’d agree that it’s an “easy task” to recycle, but it certainly feels good to believe that you are doing something good for the environment, while teaching your children a valuable lesson about their responsibility to our global community. For we are all one people, and are responsible for one another.

The girls have really taken to sorting out the different types of reusables, and it’s become yet another fun activity heading down to the recycling center.  We feel our efforts are going a long way toward preserving our environment because surprisingly, it seems that more than half of the stuff we used to throw away can actually be reused!

I always knew about recycling, but knowing about it and actually doing something about it are two different things.  I’m glad we have now made it a part of our lives.  And now like my sister, I’m a proud recycler.  There was a time when I scoffed at this proposition, now I put some “respeck” on it!

 

MB

 

 

 


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The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff, Ready for Festival Season!

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We are pleased that on November 1, 2015, after a considerable amount of time and effort expended by a family of committed people, we were able to bring The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff book project to life!

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This young reader seems very pleased.

I continue to feel truly grateful and in awe of how well our labor of love is doing.  The book is  finding its way into the hands of many readers, bringing tons of smiles to the faces, and joy to the hearts of the many little ones who have experienced this thoughtful tale.

And now I’m pleased to announce (drum roll please) that The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff, was accepted to the 2016 Virginia Festival of the Book! 

As a part of this 5 day event, I was invited to present at:  The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Thursday, 3/17, and The Village School on Saturday, 3/19.

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Corbin H. loves the book!

I will also host a program at the Congregation Beth Israel on Thursday, 3/17 at 10 am, and I have a book signing at Alakazam Toy & Book store on Sunday, 3/20 from 3-4:30. All of these events are in Charlottesville, VA. so if you happen to be in the area, please come and check us out.

In addition to that, the book will also be presented at the 2016 Baltimore Book Festival! This festival is taking place on Saturday, September 24, 2016.  Please visit my website for more updates (times, locations, etc.) as they become available.

My hope is that this “little-book-that-could,” will continue to be used to inspire both young and old to follow their passion — to be bold, and to live this life on your own terms, by truly living and breathing your unique authenticity!

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That’s what we are here for!

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Kojo S. shows off his copy!

To create, love, encourage others…and to dream! But we mustn’t stop there.  Oh no homie, we must then act on those dreams in an effort to BE the change we seek to make in this universe.

Thank you to all those who have supported our book.

Let’s keep it movin’!

MB

 


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Hooray, The Books Have Arrived!

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Great news!

My first shipment of books arrived in the mail today.  Hot off the press…fresh out the box, and ready to be delivered to your doorstep.

Just in time for the holiday season!

Be sure to pick up your copy on Amazon November 9th.

Thanks again for all those who have supported this project.  I truly appreciate you all.

Also

For all those who’ll be in the Charlottesville area, I’ll be reading the book and signing copies on Sunday, November 1st at 3pm in Crozet, VA. at Over The Moon Bookstore.  Come on out and bring the kids.

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MB


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Whoops!

Have you ever had one of those days where things just don’t seem to be going the way you expected? Well let me tell ya, I seem to be having one of those WEEKS.

I can’t figure out exactly why, but maybe it’s because we are in the process of moving and our place looks like a warehouse, filled with stacked boxes, tape, and bubble wrap, that was hit by a typhoon. Couple that with all that goes along with moving (transferring bills, forwarding your address with the post office, renting a u-haul) has me feeling a bit addled.

Or is it that I’m still adjusting to having all the girls in school which has me feeling out of sorts?

With all that’s going on lately I’ve been very preoccupied – which has led to a series of minor mishaps.  As a result, there is one word that has defined my week and has become a main stay in my vernacular, and that word is…WHOOPS!

Here’s a brief list of the happenings that have led to my new overused expression:

  • We went out of town over the weekend and I left my cell phone charger at home. Whelp, no phone calls for me for a few days.  WHOOPS!
  • On the 3 hour drive back to Charlottesville, took the wrong highway, which added an additional 1 1/2 hours to the trip. WHOOPS!
  • Got back and began unpacking and realized that I left my laptop charger out of town. WHOOPS!
  • I was working on a blog post and pushed the “Publish” button instead of “Save Draft”, and accidently posted an unfinished piece that was totally not ready for public consumption. WHOOPS!

It’s all so annoying, frustrating, inconvenient, and unpleasant when this stuff happens to us. Those times when we don’t get what we want or things don’t go our way.

And here I sit typing this post on an IPad that belongs to one my girls because without my power cord, the battery on my laptop died days ago, which is an awkward nuisance and disruption to my routine.

I guess I could sulk around, cursing the heavens, while wondering, “why is all of this happening to me right now?” Or, I could choose to put all of these worries into perspective.

I’m quickly reminded of the poem by Michelle Sedas entitled, Welcome The Rain:

As the first raindrops fall to the ground

A businessman lets out an angry sigh.

Knowing traffic will be slow he thinks,

Why me? Why today? Just tell me why!

Outside of town, a farmer scans the horizon

As the storm clouds begin to roll in.

With joy and celebration he calls out,

We are blessed! At last, this drought will end!

In every life storms will come:

Adversity, Inconvenience, or Pain.

Only we can choose how we respond:

To be overwhelmed or to

Welcome The Rain.

When we are in the midst of our troubles it’s difficult to conceive that when these storms roll into our lives, they could be designed to make us stronger. These tough times never last, and if we gain nothing, hopefully we understand that they may serve to remind us that we’ve survived them before.  And by going through it, we have greater empathy for others who may also be struggling.


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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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Bedtime Just Got Real – Death and Bereavement in Children’s Books

IMG_3268“When I came home from school the next day, Mommy told me Lulu was dead.  She took me on her lap and we both cried.  ‘Do you want to see her and say goodbye?’ Mommy asked.  I wanted to say goodbye, but I was afraid, too.  Mommy held me close.  It was Lulu’s body, but so still, still as the floor or the walls or the chair.  Mommy reached out and ran her hand along Lulu’s back.  She held my hand so I could touch Lulu’s fur.  It was soft and fuzzy.  I wanted to say goodbye to Lulu, but all I could do was cry.”

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This is an except from Corinne Demas’ sincerely written book entitled, Saying Goodbye to Lulu.  It’s the touching story of a young girl who is coming to terms with the death of her dog Lulu, her once energetic, and spunky little companion.  Told with deep compassion, and beautifully illustrated by Ard Hoyt, this book tenderly deals with a topic that can at once be viewed as both shocking and scary, but it’s conveyed in a very eloquent and tactful manner.

When we discovered this book on a recent trip to the library, I hadn’t a clue what it would be about until I cracked it open for our evening story time.  As you might guess, we checked out the book in the first place because there is a dog on the cover.  I must say that once I began reading, I was instantly taken aback the profound subject matter.

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Of the countless books that they’ve read themselves, and that I’ve read to them, this is the first (that I can remember) which deals with such a somber subject.  For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I should continue reading, but I chose to press on – carefully judging their reactions.  They seemed to be taking the story in stride, and by the end, gave me the impression that they were rather unfazed by the solemn experience of Lulu’s passing. They seemed to possess a quiet “knowing” that death is just a fact of life.  Maybe this stems from the five goldfish, one hamster, and one rabbit, we once called family, that have since passed on to the great beyond.

My concerns over reading this story to my girls left me with this question:  When is the right age to expose children to the inevitable fate that ultimately awaits us all?

As I sought to answer this question for myself, I remembered that there have been many children’s books that have focused on death and bereavement in the past, but had forgotten about.  Stories like, Charlotte’s WebGoodnight Mister Tom, and The Giving Tree!  And I find it encouraging to see that there are books that attempt to address other moral issues as well as social concerns.  For example, my book The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff, touches on the issues surrounding materialism and over-consumption.

IMG_3272I suppose that these books that wrestle with stronger subject matter such as death and dying are important and valid – and in an essential way, help us remember our loved ones with a tremendous amount of love.

MB


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Fun At The Farmstead

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The afternoon sun was beating down heavily on top of my freshly shaved, uncovered dome.  The decision to leave my hat in the car was a bad move, I thought, as prickly beads of sweat begin to slowly creep down the back of my neck.  And there was not a tree in sight large enough to shield this weary body of mine.  Yet the constant happy chatter and the sound of spontaneous laughter indicated that my kids were somehow immune to this fiery inferno.

We were back in the Kansas City area recently for my brothers wedding, so we found ourselves at one of our kids’ favorite destinations – Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.

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Deanna Rose is a charming petting zoo in Overland Park, KS that’s set up to feel like a family farm.  According to their website, it is a 12-acre “children’s farmstead” where little ones can bottle feed goats, milk cows, take horsey rides, and take a ride on a horse drawn wagon.  Plus, it’s FREE during the week!

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Of course we did all of these things and more.  And after I retrieved my hat from the car, we strolled down to the pond to try our hand at fishing with an old school cane pole.  There were plenty of fish swimming around because we could see them, but unfortunately for us, we couldn’t seem to snag not a one!  Either they didn’t like the worms we were using for bait, or we really need to brush up on our fishing skills, but one things for certain, they were not fooling with us!

The girls where mighty disappointed, especially since there were other kids around who were actually catching fish and shouting with glee each time they pulled one flapping outta the water.  I think it was just my imagination, or maybe my ego was getting the better of me at this point, but it seemed like one little boy actually looked at me as if to say “Na-nana-naa-nah!”

“Oh no he didn’t,” I thought! Oh, he’s lucky I didn’t just reach out and snatch his pole – but I didn’t wanna start nothing up in the family farmstead.

One little girl was catching so many that we tried to ease on down to her spot hoping that some of her magic would rub off onto us! This tactic proved to be ineffective as she STILL caught two more while we stood right there next to her!  There we where, on the soggy bank of the pond, looking dazed and confused with no fish, just a big ol’ useless slimy bucket of worms.  This was around the time that the girls conveniently began to complain about being bored, so we decided it was a good time to hang up our pole.

 

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Aside from the heat, and being bested by those wily fish, we had a blast as usual.  It’s times like these that remind us how much fun it can be when we place our focus on creating joyful experiences for ourselves vs. concentrating on buying too much stuff, in an effort to find fulfillment.  Simply enjoying time together as a family was the order of the day.

Mission accomplished!

MB