The House Built On L♡VE & Shenanigans

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


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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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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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Water Babies

10408985_10204198263213998_1236879833410148847_nEarlier this summer, I sat chilling poolside watching as a soft breeze agitated the water just enough to create small ripples in the cool sparkling water – when suddenly, Marley strode over to where I was sitting.  By the look on her face I could tell she was very upset.  “Dada”, she said while desperately fighting back tears, “that girl over there was teasing me and said, ‘Ah ha, you still wear floaties!’ I instantly empathized with her,  as I looked in the direction that she was pointing to see who had dared to riddle my child! I took a deep calming breath, and I did my best to console her by affirming that it’s alright that she was still wearing floaties because for now, they are very necessary to helping her to stay afloat in the water.

I asked her if she was having fun? Head down looking at the ground, she sniffed and replied, “Yes.”  I then asked her if we allow other people’s thoughts of us to curtail our fun, or to diminish the positive opinions we have of ourselves? She looked up at me and quietly answered, “No.” However, I don’t think my attempts at a pep talk carried as much weight as the taunt she had just received from this little tormentor, because she took off her floaties, slipped them back into the beach bag, and slunk down in the chair behind me for the remainder of the pool visit.

Although before today, she was always too nervous to swim without her floaties – no matter how much Rach and I insisted. But little did I know at the time, she had sat there and made the mental decision to never wear a pair of floaties again!

From that moment on, it became her mission to learn how to swim without the assistance of a flotation device. Not only was she no longer interested in being helped by any sort of life preserver, but once while Rach was in the pool attempting to give her some simple instruction, Marley stressed – “No Mama, I have to do it by myself…don’t help me, not even if I drown!”

Of course that would never be an option!!

But this certainly is a testament to her unwavering determination! And in no time at all, wouldn’t you know it, Marley was out there swimming on her own like a little mermaid! Not to be out done, I knew it wouldn’t be long before Delaney would see this and follow suit. So now two of my little daughters are in the water plunging, dipping, spinning, floating, and whirling! They are doing their own thing in the pool! They’ve taken to the water so well that we signed them up for swim preparatory lessons to refine their skills in anticipation of them one day soon joining an area swim team.

So thank you little tormenter! (Na Na Nana Naa Naa)…you unwittingly provided the proper incentive to further their aquatic potential.

MB