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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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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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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Barre, Anyone?

For quite a while now, I’ve been hearing about one of the latest exercise crazes, known as Barre.

If you’re unfamiliar with Barre, it’s based upon ballet movements…and yes, you guessed right, using a ballet bar.

It is a combination of strength-training, dance, orthopedic back exercises, and Hatha yoga all rolled into an intense, hour-long mind-body workout.

Founded by Lotte Berke,

A dancer and teacher, Barre promises to deliver a sensual and satisfying fitness system that firm, lengthen, and shape muscles to their most optimal form: high rounded seats, flat outer thighs, lean long torsos and defined waistlines…every woman’s dream, no wonder the popularity!

I was quite geeked when my coworker informed me of a free introductory class tonight at one of Charlottesville’s premier Barre studios, appropriately called barre.[d]

 In eager anticipation, I hurried through my work day to ensure I could make the 6:30pm start time.

Upon arrival, I quickly discovered why the class was offered for free – because it was being instructed by a brand new teacher, and we would be her guinea pigs.

I also did not know that I had to pre-register! The class was packed full, with no space for me sadly.

Disappointed, I asked the owner if I could watch from the side.  She was very nice and excited to see her new pupil earn her wings, and welcomed me to observe as she explained to me the Barre philosophy.

The class began as the novice instructor beckoned the participants to stand and initiate a warm up stretch.

Instructor: “Get into 2nd position, bring your arms up over your head,” as she unabashedly flung her arms up over her head.

And just like that, the class was over!

Unfortunately, when the instructor swung her arms up over head, she knocked out one of the long, low hanging cord lights. The bulb broke sending shards of glass flying everywhere!

Now these weren’t your run-of-the-mill lights mind you.  They were beautiful, old, mercury filled Edison bulbs.

Although these bulbs may have been strategically placed to contribute to the overall aesthetics and allure of the studio, I would be very surprised if this was not the first time this had happened!

With horror on the instructor ‘s face, and the class nervously not knowing what to do, the owner announced the class was cancelled.  The broken mercuried bulbs had to go through a thorough clean up process to avoid contamination.

The new instructor offered embarrassed apologies and assurances that her 2nd attempt would yield better results, and a make up session would be sure to follow.

And as soon as the class started, it was over.  I guess sometimes you get what you pay for (tee hee).

On a serious note, I wish her well, and in the words of Arnold Schwartzenger, “I’ll be back.”

The owner invited those who were interested, to come back around 7:45pm for the next class, in which she would be instructing.  Of course, this class was not free, but one of her regularly scheduled classes.

Still somewhat interested, and remembering that I had already paid for parking, I decided to hang around and take myself to a nice dinner, and perhaps a drink.  It’s rare, that I get time to myself, so why not, I thought.

I chose a cute little outdoor restaurant two doors down called Mono Loco.  I ordered a fantastic watermelon margarita, and some surprisingly good, but strange shrimp tacos that came with, believe-it-or-not, barbecued potato chips as a topper (yeah, I know).

I finished my meal, headed back over to barre.[d], thinking I was only going back to watch.  The class had already started, and to my surprise, the owner called me by name, and asked me to come join them.

I’d consider myself to be in pretty good physical shape, I mean I do workout (to tute my own horn), but this was perhaps the most physically challenging, muscle burning, multiple rest break requiring exercise activity that I have done in a very long time.  I could barely hang!

I am super excited to accept this challenge and can’t wait to return again in the future.

Word of advice, don’t go to the bar, then go to the Barre.