This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla; the content and opinions are my own.
Jumping back into a school year schedule can be scary. Trying to serve school night meals that are quick, simple, healthy, and delicious can be downright terrifying.
Adding to the terror is the fact that I’m not much of a chef. What I am is a crafty mad scientist. I don’t so much mix ingredients as I do assemble supplies. Hence my most successful creations end up looking more like experimental DIY projects than respectable meals prepared by an adult.
And yet, all that playing with food and making things more fun than they need to be works well with being the dad of a picky eater. And I’m not talking prefers-blanched-asparagus-over-steamed picky. I’m talking eats-roughly-the-same-number-of-things-as-he-is-years-old picky.
Luckily, my persnickety seven-year-old loves pretty much every variety of pasta. Also lucky? Barilla has 38 different pastas and 14 different sauces with which to satisfy my hungry, finicky beast.
In addition to their endless meal combinations, Barilla products fulfill that whole quick, simple, healthy, and delicious list I mentioned earlier. It’s not surprising they’re the #1 pasta brand in both the United States and Italy… as well as the preferred brand of my first generation Italian husband!
While our family certainly enjoys tried-and-true meals like spaghetti with meat sauce, lasagna, and baked ziti, I like to get creative from time-to-time to hold my son’s interest. Who am I kidding? It’s just as much fun for me! Here’s one of my favorites… MONSTER PASTA!
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Remember (it wasn’t that long ago) when you had to watch your favorite TV shows at a specific time every week, and only then? When there was no DVRing? No pausing or rewinding? No watching it anywhere other than on an actual TV?!? *SHUDDER*
Thanks the TV gods for technological advancements…. and for whoever first used “Netflix” as a verb. [note: I’m not talking about Netflix and Chill, though that certainly has it’s merits.] NETFLIXING is watching what you want, when you want, where you want, and how you want. A Mad Lib of entertainment, if you will. As a parent, this is especially helpful; finding time to watch my “grown-up” shows can be challenging, to say the least.
For an example, fill in the sentence below, with either your favorites or something completely random:
I just watched ___________ (number) episodes of ___________ (show) at ___________ (time) while ___________ (setting / situation) on my ___________ (mode of delivery).
A recent afternoon of Netflixing for me included the following components: 2; Wet Hot American Summer; 3:30pm, waiting at my 7-year-old’s summer camp pickup; phone. The possibilities are endless, and I’m sure most of you have way more awesome/hilarious/interesting outcomes than mine. Share them in the comments, and I’ll repost some of my favorites!
In the meantime, I’ve created some silly, pun-filled scenarios to help inspire you on how, where, when, and what to Netflix.
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Scenario: watching your ferociously cute toddler twin nieces
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SPRING IS IN THE AIR!
Flowers are blooming! Bees are buzzing! And of course lots of excited young’uns are scurrying about, frolicking in the sunshine like kittens on Red Bull.
It’s possible your kids are just excited about spring break; but in all likelihood they’re already looking ahead to summer. Help keep those little minds focused on the last few months of school by celebrating all things spring! I’ve pulled together some of my favorite spring-themed lunch notes to help put some fresh fun in your kids’ lunch.
When it comes to ideas for springtime lunch notes, just look out the window. Plants, flowers, and trees; butterflies, bugs and other creepy-crawlies; birds, frogs, picnics — you get the picture. And don’t forget Earth Day is April 22!
There’s no shortage of springy characters to be found in comics, video games, TV and children’s books. L to R, top row: Bulbasaur (Pokémon), Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy), Curious George, Clayface (DC Comics/Batman). Middle row: Wasp (Marvel comics/movies), Toad (Super Mario games), Kermit the Frog, Ant-Man* (Marvel). Bottom row: Red (Angry Birds), Spider-Man, Superman, Poison Ivy (DC Comics/Batman).
“Big, stylish dad” isn’t a phrase you hear a lot. Dads in general get a bad rap for being devoid of any fashion sense beyond cargo shorts and sports gear. And if you’re size XXL or above, you’re hard pressed to find clothes or shoes that aren’t bland or tacky.
Nevertheless, I persist in incorporating my designer style into my plus-sized dad wardrobe. It takes a good deal of creativity, and more than a little luck.
Recently I was lucky enough try out some shoes from Jambu. I’d not heard of them before, but liked what I saw of their men’s collection. Looking ahead to warmer weather, I decided on their Zion sneakers.
Typical boy. All boy. Boys will be boys. I cringe every time I hear those phrases — whether used to praise, admonish, excuse, or label a boy; especially when it’s my boy. And especially when it’s me saying it about my boy.
Stereotypes are convenient, yet entirely dismissive of a child’s ability (and need) to experience beyond what society expects of them. As his father, I strive to fill my son’s eyes, ears, and mind with all the richness and diversity the world has to offer. And as he’s got two dads, making sure he’s surrounded by strong females is at the top of that list.
In addition to the real women in our lives, superheroes have been a way to introduce Girl Power to my son. From the books we read, to the notes I put in his lunch, and of course the TV shows and movies we watch — he’s never lacking for examples of strong, wondrous women.
Below are 10 of the best examples of Girl Power shows for boys* currently on Netflix, all “Boy Approved” by my “all boy” boy.
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Powerful Girl: STEALTH ELF
Show: Skylanders Academy
On Valentine’s Day, I shared my not-so-scientific gay/straight Relationship Comparison Study. It illustrated some of the ways gay and straight parents differ, many of the funny ways we’re alike, and how all our relationships need a little help sometimes — the message behind Plum Organics’ fun Do Your Part(ner) campaign
I also mentioned that my husband and I took Plum’s Do Your Part(ner) Pledge, making a commitment to try some new ways to rekindle and reconnect. I’m here to report back on our successes and failures, as well as to give away a bunch of nifty Do Your Part(ner) kits from Plum I’ve unofficially named BOX OF BOW-CHICKA-BOW-WOW.
Nick (AKA Papa) and I will have been together 20 years this October. We became parents when we were 42 and 40, and Jon is now seven (you do the math, we’re old and tired). As with any parents — gay or straight — we have to work to find time to be intimate, whether it’s in the bedroom or sitting down to snuggle or just finding out how the other is doing.
Luckily, Plum Organics is here to help. They sent us this nifty (and sexy) kit to spark some ideas on how we can reconnect both physically and emotionally.
< record scratch noise >
Waitaminnit… why is a baby food company sending out sexy-time kits?
The “straight” answer is that sexy-time leads to babies, which leads to potential new customers. But the real story is that Plum is a brand by parents, for parents that believes in honest (and sometimes messy) conversations; they’ve been at it for years with their #ParentingUnfiltered campaign.
So back to the kit. It’s part of Plum’s Do Your Part(ner) campaign, which involves taking a pledge to make your relationship a priority, with the end goal of making the entire family happier and healthier. Plus it’s also a lot of fun.
Whoever invented Santa Claus should be ashamed of themselves. As should all of us who have continually used him to leverage good behavior from our kids. And we bestow upon Santa all of these mystical powers and superhuman abilities, setting expectations at nothing less than Magical Candy Nirvana.
Then we, as parents, HAVE TO DO ALL THE WORK!
But instead of drowning your sorrows in hot cocoa, or stress-eating an entire roast beast, sit back and enjoy a holiday poem about a nifty device that’s been helping me make it through this crazy-making most special season.
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‘Twas ten days before Christmas, and all through my head
Every detail was spinning, filling me up with dread;
The stockings weren’t hung and the cupboard was bare,
Tho in a fortnight, fam’ly all would be there.
As a parent, I wear lots of different hats;
Chef, chauffeur, coach, doctor, and of course, diplomat.
Yet at Christmas I don the most stressful chapeau;
It’s red, and requires I say “Ho, Ho, Ho.”
In addition to all my normal dad duties
There’s shopping and cooking, and trimming of trees,
And wrapping and boxing and lighting and stuff;
It’s enough to make any parent cry, “Enough!”
Does my kid still believe in St. Nick? Matters not.
That to-do list is now my list, and entails quite a lot.
So how will I tackle these tasks on my own?
And how will I do them sans bitch, gripe, or moan?
Through nearly every phase of my life, comic books and superheroes have been a source of entertainment, enlightenment, and inspiration. Yet there’s a real-life superhero that has had my back through it all — one that has gone heretofore unrecognized. Whether venturing out on my own, finding my soulmate, or settling into domesticated dad bliss, this unsung hero has never failed to protect, comfort, and heal. All while swathed in soothing shades of pink.
I’m of course talking about Pepto-Bismol.
Or as I like to call it…
It’s been a banner year for same-sex parents. Marriage equality finally became the law of the land; and as marriages increased, so have the number of LGBT parents. Gay dads and lesbian moms appeared in national ads for soup, shampoo, pain reliever, and formula. And as is becoming a yearly occurrence, NPH and his family slayed with their Halloween costumes on social media.
Yet with all of this increased exposure and acceptance comes increased expectations; expectations to have THE MOST FABULOUS WEDDING, THE MOST PERFECT HOUSE, and of course THE MOST ADORABLE, WELL-BEHAVED CHILDREN. On top of that, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told how “lucky” or “blessed” our son is to have my husband and I as his dads. That’s nice and all, but that’s a lot of pressure. And I’m pretty sure he’d beg to differ sometimes. (See #2 below)
I’ve heard it said that parenting is the great equalizer. Stop by our house sometime, and we’ll be happy to demolish every stereotype you’ve ever heard about gay men being tidy… or put together… or having the energy to stay up past 9:00 pm.
So in lieu of THE MOST LEGENDARY HOLIDAY NEWSLETTER, I’m opting for something a little more honest. Unfiltered, even. Please enjoy a glimpse into our family’s 2015 — along with a few holiday “traditions” — in this (very loose) version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.