One of the Best Days as a Stepdad

Calvin and Hobbs with dad explaining

Calvin and Hobbs and the dad

There are tough days as a parent. You know them. Nagging the kids about homework. Dealing with heartbreak. Getting them to bed. Making them eat brussels sprouts or something with kale. (Oh, I have a list of these, oh yes I do, but check back in a few days.)

However every so often… something amazing happens.

This happened on Sunday.

Now, it’s nothing big. We didn’t go to Disneyland or find out where they buried Jimmy Hoffa or saw a UFO, we simply lived our simple lives and enjoyed it.

First off, I was able to get some decent writing done while The-Youngest did his hockey practice. If you’ve read the earlier blogs, you know that in the old days, I would have watched that practice and filmed it and blogged about it and talked about it and been about as attentive as a death row prisoner listening to his final meal choices. Now, though I’m 100% there for the games, wincing, cheering, clapping, face-palming as the situation requires, I can use that practice time effectively and get some good work done.

Afterwards, when we got home, The-Oldest was busy creating his latest masterpiece, a string quartet composition that he would enter in the Langley Community Music School‘s Young Composers Competition. We let him be so he could create something amazing, but it was fantastic to hear how his piece developed. It was funny that he talked to the piano while he composed, but I talk to the computer as I write so who am I to judge?

Then after a lunch of grilled cheese, the boyz and I played Catan. We fought with the board as it seemed to want to shoot every tile into the air but eventually got it all pressed down. I got utterly slaughtered. The-Youngest won. Usually, The-Oldest wins, despite all my clever-clever plans. But this time The-Youngest had a ‘grand strategy’ and he bargained, maneuvered and rolled the right dice-roll at the right time and cleaned up.

Darkest Hour Movie

Churchill’s Darkest Hour

But more fun was to come. While The-Oldest and the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World went to see a concert at the Chan Center, including a piano concerto by Stephen Hough, The-Youngest and I went to see Churchill… and have buttery, buttery popcorn. Mmmmm.

Now, The-Youngest is 11. I didn’t think he’d like the movie despite saying he wanted to see it, but he sat through all 22 hours of it and said he LOVED it. He said he thought he was like Churchill, a guy who always sticks by his beliefs no matter what all the other kids in school thought, then, at the end, they all agree with him. Apparently, he was mostly talking about projects they do in class.

Before the movie, I got a chance to chat about history and Churchill and the Darkest Hour and the Battle of Britain and all those cool WW2 things I love to talk about, and… and… and…. This time no one left the room to do laundry or shovel snow or answer a non-ringing phone.

How cool is that?

When The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and The-Oldest came home, I got a chance to hear all about the concert, which was impressive, then hear what The-Oldest had created – a complex and remarkable string quartet composition that I’m sure will impress anyone who hears it.

Catan game

Boys playing Catan. Note The-Youngest plotting our destruction while he eats chips.

I guess, what made the day so great was not the buttery, buttery popcorn, not the Catan game, not the movie or listening to The-Oldest’s composition. It was quality time with the boyz. Serious time. Fun time. Goofy time. Boy time.

It’s a magical time that will all too soon be gone.

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Cooking for Dummies

Being raised by Depression-era parents, I learned to cook a lot of things. Liver and Onions. Yum. Kidney and beans. So delicious. Spam. Spam loaf. Spam and eggs. Spam and toast. Spam and Spam with a side of Spam.

I also learned how to make some of the simple things. Eggs. Oatmeal. Hamburgers. Pasta. Sauces. That kind of thing. They also taught me how to BBQ, how to make a roast chicken with skin so crisp and brown, my mouth waters to even think about it. I learned how to overcook veggies and make tea and fry up bread.

Heck, my parents ground their own beef for meatloaf and if a single scrap of food went to waste, I’d be utterly surprised (I mean, nothing like a good casserole to get rid of leftovers.)

black forest cake

Cake

In school, however, I learned I had no real talent for cooking. I baked cakes that were so lopsided they looked like someone had sat on one end. I cooked a soufflé that had the appearance of a very dense frisbee. And…I managed to boil all the water out of a pot and burn the pot so badly, no amount of scrubbing would ever get it clean.

Later in life, free of my parents, I learned to cook Kraft dinner, heat up microwave dinners and dial up the best restaurants to deliver.

But now, the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I have decided to try a different way of eating, but to do that, I’m having to learn a whole bunch of different things.

In the past 4 weeks, I have learned to make things like smoothies, Swedish meatballs, ham and cheese stuffed pork chops, Caprese chicken, and all sorts of clever salads.

dredging machine

This is dredging to me

I’ve learned to clump, dump, dredge, drizzle, sprinkle, stir, sauté, spoon, scoop, season, pour, blend, mince, blanche, puree, roast, zest lemons, caramelize, clarify, whip, beat and mash. Some of these things I knew how to do, mostly, in a sort of vague way, and some things like ‘dredging’ I did but had no clue it was called dredging. I called it ‘coating’. Or ‘doing that yucky thing with eggs’.

However, the biggest change for us was simply making sure we planned out all our meals. Sure it takes time, but with proper planning, we can try to hit up mass sales on things like chicken or kale or vanilla beans, eat a great variety of foods, and still have leftovers for those days we have no energy.

The new eating plan, you ask? Keto. Seemed like a good idea at the time and we certainly have eaten well, but man, I am getting sick of eggs, cauliflower, and stevia. Still, so far, this month, I’m down 13lbs in three weeks. I don’t think I’ll be able to maintain it for my entire life, as some have, but when I reach my ideal goal, I’ll continue with eating healthy, but have the odd double-double or cheeseburger or bag-o-popcorn with lots and lots of buttery butter.

Keto book.

In the meantime, I’ll continue with no sugar, low carbs and lots of water.

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What No One Tells You About Having Kids

Things No One Tells You About Kids

  1. sSouthpark head lice episode

    Head lice, as seen by the mad minds behind Southpark.

    You get emails from the school about head lice. HEAD LICE!!! It’s just so NOT something I worried about before kids.

2. Colds. You get a lot of them. The math is simple. Take 10% for each child. Multiple that by the number of sports they play, then add 50% by having them in school germ factories. Add another 20% if you have a child that likes to lick or touch everything in sight. Our math is as follows… 2X10% = 20%. 20% X 3sports = 60%. 60% + 50% =110%. Add in The-Youngest and it’s at 130%. Daily! It’s a wonder I’m even walking around.

3. They are way harder to train than dogs. Think more like cats. Cats who have thumbs and can figure out the internet. At best, you can guide them along or ban them from stuff.

Oregon beach

Watching the waves roll in and making sure The-Youngest doesn’t get dragged out to Japan

4. There is absolutely no telling what advice they’ll listen to. Don’t stick your tongue into the light socket has held up pretty well so I’m counting that as a win. But ‘no standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon’s abyss’ is something that eludes them or don’t swim in the riptide.

5. They are not your audience. This came as a huge shock to me. I thought they’d be there to laugh at all my jokes, listen to all my incredible stories about back in the old days or nod with amazement as I told them how WW1 started.

6. You have to discuss sex with them at some point. Now, some people have this down, even discussing sex with their friends all the time, but me, not so much – I blush and start stammering and blinking a lot. It’s not pretty. It looks like I’m having a stroke. So, I rely on hand gestures, cartoons and, when it gets really tough, I tell them to go see their mother. Oddly, both of them seem relieved by this.

7. You must talk to other people, mostly parents. Being socially awkward, I find this hard sometimes. I’ll walk up to a group of hockey dads discussing, well, hockey. Them: “Did you see that game last night? Outstanding shot by Victor Ugumoff.” (or something) Me: “I like cake.”

8. It is even harder to lose weight. At a restaurant, after proclaiming that they are STARVING, they leave a mountain of French fries. Being, you know, frugal and all, I eat them up. Same with left-over pizza, one last cookie in a cookie box, or a candy bar found wedged between the car seats. It’s a war of frugality vs diet, and diet usually loses.

9. Your car will be a mess. Even your Mustang. Constant, daily cleaning will be needed and time being so minimal, it might be weeks before you discover that banana peel wedged under the front seat. Get used to dirt, chocolate smears, melted candy and a surprising collection of toys you thought got banned for choking hazards.

child leaving home

Leaving home

10. Time will fly by. In days, it seems, The-Oldest is growing a mustache. Before you blink, The-Youngest will want to be borrowing the car. Look away for a moment, and their rooms are empty, their beds untouched. No one needs a lunch made, or a hug, and the house is silent.

 

 

So, despite all the ‘fun’ of being a parent, I’m learning to cherish all the moments, good or bad, and embrace everything no one told me about.

What surprised you about being a parent?

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New Year’s Resolutions or “Do Betters”

calvin and hobbs

Calvin and Hobbs New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to think about things I could do better. So here is my Do-Better List.

Eat Better – cuz man, last year I ate like I was 12 and lived in a fast food restaurant.  Changing won’t be easy and won’t be fun, but I’m going to cut down on everything tasty and yummy, while learning to love kale, coconut oil, and veggie burgers.

Grow 2 feet – This will certainly be easier than the first one, but jeez, Rick, I seem to be the shortest one in Langley. Maybe BC. Every kid over the age of 11 (and even some of them), are taller than me. Walking in a High School, I feel like I’m 6 again. It’s not right. Who’s fed these kids so well? Time to act. I’m sure the internet will have some good advice.

new website

A preview of my website

Get a Website Up and Running – I thought I’d get time for that last year, but this year, I mean it, I’m going to get a better website. Wait for it. Check back every week or so. It’s coming and it’ll be awesome.

Read More – I was down to 3 novels read last year. 3!!! That’s terrible. I did quite a bit of non-fiction reading, but that doesn’t count. So, a book a month. First up, Stephen King and the Stephen King drinking game.  Mr. Mercedes.

Drink More Water (or tea) – I am a coffee nut but health-wise, despite a whole ton of internet articles on the subject, coffee may not be my best choice of drink. Switching to scotch may seem like a better choice than water, and certainly a very understandable choice, but it costs more, it makes me sleep more (some say pass out), and I’m more likely to end up dancing on a table in my underwear. So, yeah, water. I hear there’s a new craze called raw water. Maybe I’ll try that.

Travel More – It’s hard to get away with the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World working on call, us getting the boys only every other week, and with commitments like hockey, baseball, piano or writer’s meetings. But this year, dammit, we’re going to find a nice place and go there. See it. Walk on it. Buy something to eat there. Smell something nice. Maybe something not so nice if we go to NY.  Who knows? But this year, we’ll have an adventure. Stay tuned.

Be Nicer to People – Not all people. No. But I have noticed as I get older, I get grumpier and less tolerant of morons, ignorant fools, and Facebook trolls. I’ll try to do a bit better this year. Really, I will. (less coffee should help.)

Get Another Book Done – Hard to get back on the writing horse after being rejected by all the horses, but I have to get moving forward. I have a few ideas and just have to fight through all the negative voices. Who ultimately knows what will sell? A book about being a stepdad? A medieval mystery? A fantasy novel about an executioner? A book of limericks? More to come.

Get a Newsletter Up and Running – As part of my website push, I’ll rework the WordPress website so that you don’t need to give THEM your email address so they can sell it to the North Koreans. It should be a nice easy way to connect with anyone who wants to read my blog or books or look at pictures of my stuffed animal collection.

Be a Better Stepdad and Husband – No set agenda here, I simply have to be more present, try harder to not be a complete goober and treat the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and the boyz like they’re the most important thing in my life. Cuz they are.

Does anyone have any plans for 2018?

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Date Night – Bookstore

via Date Night – Flirting in a Bookstore – The Books

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Date Night – Flirting in a Bookstore – The Books

So, for our date night, below is the list of the types of books we were tasked with finding. It’s kind of a cool way of spending some time together and certainly got us looking at books we normally wouldn’t look at.

green eggs and ham

Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham.

Find a book you loved as a child – Dr Seuss – Green Eggs and Ham. Still one of the best books I’ve ever read.

None for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. She had recently just purchased The Tale of Custard the Cowardly Dragon (she said for her boys, but she read it twenty times by herself since getting it.)

Find a self-help book you could use – well, clearly that’s flirting in a bookstore. Flirting for Dummies.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World did not get one which totally makes sense since she’s perfect just the way she is.

books

Eyewitness Guide – Chicago.

Find a book about a place you want to visit – I chose Chicago. Eyewitness Guide to Chicago. I like windy cities. It has great architecture, and one of my characters in a book I wrote came from there.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World agreed with that book, so we bought it.

Find a memory – Not quite sure what this meant, but I found a whole shelf of books about Italy. I loved Italy. I would love to go back there at some point.

Find a book about a subject you’d like to learn – How to properly taser someone? I couldn’t find a book on that.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World chose the Ultimate Quilter’s Bible. She’s been wanting to take a class on it and create quiltie masterpieces.

Find a book about a sport that’s always fascinated you – Pie eating. Is that a sport? Well, there’s a book for it.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World couldn’t find a sport that fascinated her, though I think she spent a ton of time looking at calendars with Jason Mamoa pictures.

Books 1984

George Orwell. 1984. One of the greatest books ever written.

Find a classic you’d like to read1984. I’ve read it, so it really was ‘read AGAIN.’ A simple but brutal look at what could happen to us. A must-read for everyone.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World was still looking at Jason Mamoa pictures. My thinking is he could have picked up anyone using my lines.

Find a book with a recipe you’d like to try –  I didn’t find one. Ran out of time and I’m sure The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had called the manager on me.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got Keto in 28 days. We’ll be starting that diet in 2 days. I can’t have sugar or pasta. I may become unstable.

Find a book with a language that appeals to you – Spanish. I think I could yo hablo me some español. Spanish for Dummies. (Yes, I do like Dummy books, don’t judge.)

I tried to talk The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World into learning Ukrainian, but no luck.

Find a book you were forced to read – Neither of us looked for this one.

Find an idea for a romantic date – A cruise through the canals of Chicago? We didn’t find any books, though.

book david sedaris

David Sedaris. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.

Find a book your spouse would like – I got David Sedaris. Funny guy.  Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Yup, that’s the title. Gives you an idea of how goofy this guy is.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got me Jann Arden’s Feeding My Mother.

Find a history book – I found Leningrad Siege and Symphony about Dmitri Shostakovich’s experience during WW2.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World bought 22 Jason Mamoa calendars. Not sure of the historical nature of them, but she said there was one of him as a shirtless scout from the historical show Frontiers.

Find a book you hated50 Shades of Grey. I hated that poor writing could do so well.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World wanted to find whatever book I’d read on flirting in bookstores.

Find a book with provocative thought –  I don’t have deep thoughts anymore. I used to have them, but now they’ve been forced out as my brain fills with hockey facts, Stravinsky symphonies and remembering where I left my wallet.

All-in-all, a date night I would recommend, though I totally hear people who’ve told me it would be odd to flirt with their long-time partner.

What books would you choose?

 

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Date Night – Flirting in a Bookstore

via Date Night – Flirting in a Bookstore

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