Sunday, February 28, 2010

Easy Alfredo Sauce

My boys don't always eat spaghetti sauce. So I've tried to mix it up with Alfredo sauce on our pasta every once in a while. I came across a recipe with ingredients we have on hand (we're more likely to have cream cheese in the fridge than actual cream).

1/4 cup butter
1/2 pkg (4oz) cream cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 c milk
3 oz (6 T) Parmesan cheese
dash pepper (1/16 tsp)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add cream cheese and garlic powder; whisk until smooth.
Add milk gradually, whisking out lumps.
Stir in Parmesan and pepper. Heat until thickened; remove from heat & toss with pasta.

I halved this recipe from the original, but we still end up with leftover sauce when it's just our family eating.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Glimpses of Nils

Today I heard Nils talking in his room. He was using a toy periscope as a phone and having a conversation with the person on the other end. He was in his underwear pretending to be Ahsoka Tano (from Star Wars: The Clone Wars). He was reading a Scooby-Doo book at the same time. I wish I could have gotten his phone conversation down--it was pretty amusing.

Yesterday, Nils pulled a pair of newborn preemie pants off one of their stuffed teddy bears and managed to get them on and wear them as shorts. They actually fit him pretty well--especially since he's in undies now.

Nils likes to qualify statements with the word "actually." As in, if I call, "Hey boys, come to the table." Nils will respond: "Actually, I'm a girl."

Now that Anders has been in school this year, I'm getting more time with Nils, discovering his unique personality and getting to know him more. It's kind of fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering

Anders is sitting on the toilet reading a Scooby-Doo book (yep, it's a sit-and-read moment, but that's another posting), when I heard him ask his brother, "What's the difference between zombies and skeletons?"
Nils: "I don't know."
Anders: "Zombies have hair."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Children's Museum

After church was done yesterday (actually, a few hours later since we had a church meeting afterward that went long and then had to grab a bite to eat), the boys and I headed to the Children's Museum. It was the third Sunday of the month which Target sponsors so admission is free (which, of course, is why we went). The last time we went was shortly after we moved here when Beth's cousin & his family took us. Frankly, free admission to places is the only way we're able to go. And I'm grateful for those who make that possible.

The place was crazy, of course, with everyone else taking advantage of the free admission. But since we got there a little later than planned, it wasn't as bad. I honestly don't enjoy it as much as some of the other museums, but then, of course, it's not targeted to adults.

The boys did have fun. There was a new dinosaur exhibit (that's them looking for "fossils" in the excavation pit in the middle pictures), and a new exhibit on China (they're "plowing" a rice paddy in the first picture). With the crowd, we didn't get to do as much learning with the exhibits, but there's plenty of activities and things to play with--which is the biggest part in getting out on some days (especially in the winter).

Friday, February 19, 2010

We Feed Him, Honestly!

So after breakfast this morning, I heard our 3-year old tearing open something. I couldn't see him. Naturally, I became suspicious. I found him under the table. He had clearly opened a bag of something and was eating it. I wasn't sure what he would be eating that he would feel a need to hide it from me--his older brother's Valentine's Day candy was well out of reach.

It turned out to be an envelope of instant oatmeal.

I said that if he had asked I would have gladly made some for him, which I proceeded to do. After heating up the water, mixing it in and putting a little milk on it to cool it down, he didn't eat another single bite. I guess some fruits are best eaten when (you at least think they're) forbidden.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sunshine and Sleds

I have to say that this February sunshine is wonderful. Yesterday I got in a brief walk around the pond, enjoying the sunshine and the chance to stretch my legs. The past two days the boys and I have gone out sledding. It not only gets us out of the house, out into the sunshine (which is much needed this time of year), but those hikes up the hill are good exercise. Exercise for all of us (yes, I sled down with them--the exercise is a good excuse, but the truth is I just enjoy it). We build up a bit of a jump, though, and I'm not sure my body is going to be able to handle that for many more years.

The sun is bringing everyone outside, too. We're finally seeing others around, walking around the lake and just being outside. It's a nice reminder that there's a community around us that we'll be getting to see more of in a few months.

We've had what I'm calling a "real" winter. We haven't had one for a while. Something happens for a lot of people between their childhood and adult years: we go from loving winter to hating it. I still love winter. Sure, it's a nuisance at times, but with the right attitude (and the right clothes) it can be a lot of fun. So, I'm trying to pass that on to the boys as well--hopefully, when they're adults, they won't complain about the changing of the seasons, but embrace them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Global Lessons

We recently invested in a new world map. Most of our atlases don't include many of today's countries: Most of Asia is encompasses by one massive union instead of separate nations.

Right now it's hanging on our bookshelf in easy eyesight of our boys. We're showing them where the countries are located that they hear of during the Olympics. They don't entirely get the geo-political boundaries (who does?). They know where a few places are located. But it's hard to comprehend from a map how far apart Minneapolis is from where we used to live outside of Vancouver. Then to try and explain the differences of states and countries and how far apart Australia is from Minnesota . . . they're at least seeing how vast our world is.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Child Tax Credits = Homemaker's Salary?

I got paid earlier this week. At least that's what I like to think of our tax refund as. Child tax credits = homemaker salary? Not a great salary, but better than nothing.

I'm not one of the lucky ones who is able to work from home while doing this stay-at-home dad role. I'm looking (though, admittedly, not to the best of my abilities) for something I can do to bring a little extra money in while staying at home. It seems like you kind of need to already be in a company that lets you do that or be a web designer or graphic artist. Maybe something will come along someday.

Sometimes that can be the toughest part of this role--the feeling that you're not contributing. It's silly, of course. Homemakers contribute plenty. More than society acknowledges. Still, our contributions don't pay the bills. Maybe they enable us to be more frugal or cut down on expenses (such as day care or eating out), but there are always bills to be paid.

Admittedly, I'm still learning how to manage my time the best. Sometimes I make great use of it; sometimes I waste it frivolously. Plus, there's that balance between getting things done and spending time with the children in ways that doesn't accomplish anything other than pretending and imagining (which, can accomplish quite a lot, actually).

So, I still don't have much extra income yet. I'll keep exploring ways to make that change. Still, I've at least got some good bosses.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A New Dad; Old Memories

So today at the Stay-at-Home Dads gathering for my area there was a new dad (a couple actually, but only one that is pertinent to this tale). I overheard that he was from Iowa originally. I asked him where in Iowa. He said a town that was twenty miles away from where we used to live in Iowa--the town where both our boys were born. I guessed his last name. I was right. When he was in high school, he re-shingled the roof on a barn that was at the camp where I worked.

It's a small world. It's fun to meet another dad with whom I have previous connections. I have another good friend from college who is a stay-at-home dad. The last person you would have guessed. I think the stereotype of what a househusband looks like is out the window.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Making the Most out of Dishes, Laundry and Other Tasks

My friend John recently was ruminating on his blog about shoveling snow and other tasks. He said there tend to be four mindsets we find ourselves with while doing such tasks. Here's his list:
  1. Resentful: why is not someone else (i.e. child, partner, roommate) doing this it is their turn.
  2. Tired: I just want to get through this and go to bed.
  3. Happy: Oh joy I get to wash more dishes (I have never experienced this one)
  4. Meditative: using the physical movement as a way to center your body to free your mind to wander where it may. (His is my definition; not necessarily the proper definition.)

My goal when I do the mundane work around the house is to use that time wisely--ultimately to have focused meditation/prayer. I all too often get distracted by unproductive thoughts or I just forget to spend the time being focused--I got at it simply to get the job done. Or I turn on the TV/CD player/radio so it's not so quiet.

I do think that the daily routines of life are meant to be gifts to us, but we often treat them as a pain in the rear. I think they're meant to be gifts that give us the time to gather our thoughts or have a spiritual minute in our day. I think they're meant to be gifts that provide us with opportunities to reflect, plan or just have some time where we don't have to think. Maybe we're not able to be alone during those tasks, but they give us opportunities to teach our children how to do them and how to be diligent workers. Or they're just some time to talk--whether with a child or a spouse.

So, I admit I fail at making the most of these moments the majority of the time. I know I need to go into them with discipline to use the time as I desire and not let things distract me or let myself be unproductive. Developing my self-discipline is part of that.

How about you? Are there things you do to make the most of those routine tasks?

Monday, February 1, 2010

E = Exceding Expectations

Report cards came home recently. Anders' first report card. It's really not a monumental occasion. We've had a conference with the teacher earlier in the year. We're aware of his strengths and areas he needs to focus on a little more.

The hard part is that we're not there to be a part of what the report card reflects. I mean, we are there for the books he has to read at home, special projects and whatever else we work on here, but we're not the ones doing the bulk of the teaching anymore. We could be, of course. Homeschooling is a viable option, but Anders really needs the social interaction. Plus, the bus ride is often the favorite part of his day.

A child's education is supposed to be a joint venture. Yes, the teacher is the one with our child during the day, but we're not off the hook. And education is a life-long (not to mention day-long) process.

I think when the report card comes home with good marks we tend to praise ourselves (for the genes we passed on), but when the marks are low we tend to blame the teacher. Let's affirm everyone involved and keep pushing onward.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others (It's Me)

Anders had his third swimming lesson today. He had it for a half hour after lunch. There are four other kids in the class. They all come with their moms. They all sit on the bench together and talk. But not to me. Even last week when two of the kids were gone, the mom who sat on the bench with me didn't exchange more than a couple of words. Today was a little better. We had a few minutes of conversation.

Admittedly, I'm not very outgoing. But I am generally quite friendly. Maybe the moms just need a few more weeks of this to get used to me. Maybe we'll be good friends by the end of the lessons. It seems if moms are together for an organized thing, they seem suspicious of dads there. But if I'm at the park with the boys and there's a mom there (not part of a play group), then we tend to be able to chat. Usually. Some of our good friends from the neighborhood are couples where I first met the wife at the park.

Maybe someday dads will no longer be second-class citizens (I say tongue-in-cheek--I guess now we have some idea of what women have gone through in the work place).

But as far as swimming lessons go, Anders is doing well. He was back-floating for a little by himself today. He's quite comfortable in the water. And I think he's ready to be able to do it by himself.