No-Fail Pasta For Busy Back-to-School Families

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Barilla. The opinions and text are my own.

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When my kids head back to school, it seems like our family mealtime becomes a challenge worthy of advanced strategic planning. Mom, dad, and kids all have different schedules, and bringing us together for a healthy, meaningful dinner suddenly moves to the top of my list of daily goals.

Pasta dishes have always been my go-to recipe for delivering fast, fun, and healthy meals to my family. But I have to be honest here. Over the years, I may have relied too heavily on the standard kid-favorite pastas, namely spaghetti and lasagne, with the occasional elbow and fettuccine thrown in for variety. Those are the pastas my kids have asked for, both to eat and to make on their own.

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Recently Barilla gave me the opportunity to switch things up with my usual pasta selection, to try a few different recipes that were as fast and flavorful as those I’ve made in the past. My kids helped me look through the wide variety of Barilla’s pasta shapes, finally deciding to fancy things up with their Barilla® Farfalle (pronounced “Fahr-Fah-Ley”) pasta. Farfalle means “butterfly” in Italian, but my kids think the individual pasta pieces look like bowties.

We paired the pasta with Barilla Traditional Sauce, one of 14 delicious sauce varieties they offer. My kids picked out meat and veggies for additional texture and flavor, all with the requirement that the preparation of the meal take no longer than 30 minutes. This recipe actually takes almost exactly that much time if you have at least two sets of helping hands.

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BARILLA FARFALLE
with Traditional Sauce, Ground Beef, Veggies, and Romano Cheese

INGREDIENTS
1 box Barilla® Blue Box Farfalle pasta
1 jar Barilla® Traditional Sauce
1 pound ground beef
1 14.5oz can French-style green beans
1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced thinly
1 cup grated Romano cheese

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DIRECTIONS
Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot, then cook pasta for 11 minutes.
Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook the ground beef, breaking apart any large chunks.
Add Barilla® Traditional Sauce, green beans (drained), and red pepper slices to ground beef, then simmer.
Drain cooked pasta, combine with sauce mixture, sprinkle with Romano cheese.

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The beauty of this stress-free recipe goes beyond its simplicity and delicious taste. It also gets your kids to eat their veggies. The thin green beans and peppers easily stick to the pasta, almost guaranteeing there will be no little piles of leftover ingredients on your child’s plate.

Barilla Farfalle pasta, as with all of their pasta cuts, cooks to a perfect “al dente” texture every time, making mealtime prep simple and straightforward. For families with busy schedules, ingredients you can always count on are a must.

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I have partnered with Life of Dad and Barilla Pasta for this promotion.

Greener Grass

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Being a stay-at-home dad is a privilege and a joy. I would not trade places with anyone if it meant not being able to parent my kids on a full-time basis. I am absolutely, perfectly content.

Well, most of the time.

I think most stay-at-home parents have those moments when they feel a bit envious of those who command respect and authority through their jobs. At home, our authority is always in question by belligerent children, while respect is… well, mostly non-existent.

I have a friend who is a well-known TV news anchor. He gets to interview politicians, celebrities, and business leaders. Viewers trust and admire him. From the outside, his career seems exciting and challenging. It’s the kind of life I had once envisioned, before the children came along. I’ve had those moments, when talking with my friend, where I wished I could trade places with him and experience some of the prestige and energy of a job like his.

So it came as kind of a shock when my friend sent me an email expressing his desire to trade places with me! He wrote: “I work hours you would puke at. I’m known around the company as the Devil Who Wears Prada. Everyone’s scared of me around here. It’s all about BS on the air and stroking egos. I envy your life, you’re my living example of Adam@home. You’re doing well, my friend.”

Maybe he was just telling me what I wanted to hear. Or maybe he was having one of those moments where the grass looks greener on the other side.

Or perhaps he’s realizing that when his kids are grown, he’s going to wish he’d spent more time with them instead of at the office where friends are few and memories are trivial at best.

There’s nothing about my life as a stay-at-home dad that I would trade away. Even in those fleeting moments of “what if” I never forget the value of my experiences with my kids. Hands down, it beats anything a career can deliver.

How to Battle Back-to-School Busy

For my family, the long, lazy days of summer are anything but boring. We stay busy during these warm months, camping and traveling and working on yard projects to say the least.

But compared to the controlled chaos of the school year, summer can seem downright chill. At least, as a family, we’re all on the same page in June, July, and August. Or in the same car. Or even in the same room. That’s not how it is goes once school starts up again. Come September, we all scatter off in different directions from morning until night, and it requires some major tactical planning for us all to stay connected and on track with each other.

File_000 (10)Let me tell you about the recent horrible, no good, very bad semester when I nearly lost my mind and learned a valuable lesson about maintaining my family’s busy schedules. It was early spring, when you just naturally want to be more active after a winter’s hibernation, and neither of my teens were driving yet. My son was dual enrolled at the local community college, with an odd mix of early morning and late night classes. He was also taking a driver’s ed course, volunteering at the food bank AND the library, working on his Eagle Scout project, and tutoring part-time. Meanwhile, my daughter was appearing in two separate theater productions, crewing for a third, involved with three afterschool clubs, volunteering at the library, taking voice and dance lessons, selling Girl Scout cookies, and had recently begun a regular workout schedule at the gym. On top of all that, believe it or not, my wife and I actually had our own work and leisure activities. The hectic and erratic nature of our four schedules was not new, but the sheer number of people, places, and things I had to keep track of was at an unprecedented level for me. It came as a surprise, but luckily I had habits and resources in place to help me settle in, even if it did scare me for a few weeks.

Surviving the busy work and school schedules of your family members takes some simple strategizing. I’ve found that a mixture of old and new technologies can bring everyone together so that nobody feels left out or lost.

Whiteboard
A centrally-located dry erase whiteboard is a must. If you don’t have one of these, of any size, on the wall of your kitchen, you’re missing out on an extremely effective means of family communication. We’ve been through several, some featuring a weekly or monthly calendar, some with attached bulletin board and magnets. In the end, a simple large blank white board with 2 or 3 different colored ink pens does the job perfectly, whether it’s for daily reminders or ongoing shopping lists. The board gives every member of your family pause to read or write a message that is important for all to see.

Calendar
A family calendar is also a must-have item for the wall of your house, if only to serve as a reminder that the days and weeks ahead are going to be busy ones. We use Google Calendar on our phones far more often to plan and coordinate events, but the old-fashioned paper calendar is an important back-up. Also, you get monthly pictures of kittens or Disney princesses.

Going Digital
The old-fashioned techniques still work well, but you absolutely have to bring your entire family into the digital age in order to stay connected these days. And that means everybody gets a smartphone. Sorry, there’s no debate about this. If you have a school-aged child involved in multiple extracurricular activities, and you want to remain sane, get them a phone for voice, messaging, and a synced calendar.

My family has a simple set-up. We each have our own Google account for email, calendar, and online storage. Each of our calendars is synced to the others and color-coordinated, so it only takes a glance to see where everyone is and what they should be doing. We also agreed to use one messaging service, iMessage, for family communication. My teens use other services, like Snapchat, to talk with their friends. Last, we use a locator app, Find My Friends, to find each other on a map. This comes in handy when my daughter is wondering how close I am to picking her up, but I can’t text while I’m driving to let her know.

Smartphones
For several years now, practically everything involving the management of the family schedule has gone through our phones. It’s one aspect of the omnipresent screen that I heartily welcome. Of course, one thing that isn’t so welcome is the huge wireless bill when you have a family of four constantly texting, emailing, locating, and communicating with each other all day long.

If a family-sized wireless bill is stopping you from getting everyone’s schedules sorted, there’s good news from Straight Talk Wireless. They offer easy, inexpensive, family-friendly phone plans. Just in time for school, Straight Talk has added more high-speed data to its unlimited $45 and $55 plans. Now you can get unlimited talk, text and the first 8GB of high-speed data then 2G* for $45 or bump it up to 12GB of high-speed data then 2G* for $55. There’s a reason that Straight Talk Wireless is the nation’s leading no-contract wireless carrier. They simply offer the best phones on the best networks for less. There are no contracts, no credit checks, and no mystery fees.

ST_WIRELESS_LOGOWalk into any Walmart store, or visit StraightTalk.com, for more information and ways to save on your family phone plan. You can set your family up with the latest smartphones if you want, including the Samsung Galaxy S8. Maybe start your younger kids out with something simpler, but don’t leave them out of the family connectivity. Get them used to communicating their activities now, and it will pay dividends later, especially during the teen years when kids seem to have trouble sharing much of anything.

As a parent, it’s extremely satisfying to watch your children pursue their interests, even if it seems like they’re going in a dozen different directions at once. An important part of childhood is trying things out, learning what works and what doesn’t, and developing confidence in favored pursuits. And an important part of parenthood is keeping track of it all. With a few simple techniques, you can save yourself a lot of stress and confusion in dealing with your family’s comings and goings. Most importantly, keep your family members connected with a reliable phone plan, like the ones offered by Straight Talk Wireless. There is no better way to stay in touch and on schedule.

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I have partnered with Life of Dad and Straight Talk Wireless for this post.

*At 2G speeds, the functionality of some data applications, such as streaming audio or video may be affected. Please refer always to the latest Terms and Conditions of Service at StraightTalk.com.

4 Reasons I’m A Thankful Dad

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On the day my first child was born, a dad was also born. That was me. And it was a bit of a surprise. Sure, as the pregnancy moves along and you read the books, attend the classes, and baby-proof the house, you think, “Hey, I’m going to be a dad. That’s cool.”

But then, right in that moment when you see your child for the first time, you can’t help but realize that your life just took a radically different path upon which you are going to see and experience things that you may never have known if not for becoming a dad.

To borrow a bit of philosophy from Doctor Who, a TV show I only started watching because of my kids, the moment you become a dad is a Fixed Point in Time, an event that shapes history to such an extent that everything that follows must change. On that day you first became a father, you didn’t just bring a life into the world, but you also drastically reshaped your own into something unrecognizable from what it would have been.

Since my own birth as a dad, I look back on all the changes that followed and realize how truly blessed and thankful I am to have taken this path, and to have had the experiences, both positive and negative, with my kids along the way. I don’t think much about what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t become a dad, but I’m confident it would have been lacking much of what makes me happy today.

Here are four reasons I’m thankful for becoming a dad.

1. Child’s Play

Having kids gives you a free pass to jump into a ball pit, watch Disney movies in the middle of the day, climb all over the playground, cannonball into the pool, build Lego cities, and basically do all the fun things you used to do when you were a kid. It’s called “being a dad,” and is completely in line with the duties of fatherhood. I would have a hard time getting away with most those activities if I didn’t have children. Most people frown upon childless men frolicking at the park. But if you’re a dad, you can play all day.

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Oh sure, you might point to that verse in Corinthians, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” Me? I’d rather quote Geoffrey the Giraffe, “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid…”

Seriously, though, it’s one of the biggest perks of becoming a dad, to have fun with your kids on their level. Play is so important to children. I would suggest that it’s also important to adults, and we far too often forget that. I’m thankful I’ve had a good reason to be silly, creative, active, and spontaneous with my kids.

2. Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

I’m thankful for the many adventures I’ve had with my kids as we’ve focused on family travel over the years. We’ve been to many places, but there’s one in particular that I would have a hard time explaining if not for the phrase, “We’re taking the kids…” Yes, I love Disneyland. It’s one of my happy places. But I’m not sure I’d feel quite as comfortable there without children in tow, especially when meeting Winnie the Pooh or riding Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train. Yes, I like riding through the giant watermelon, what of it?!

Even when we go to more “grown up” places, I’ve enjoyed organizing the itinerary around things for the kids. On a family trip to London, we spent time at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, toured Harry Potter sites, and saw Shrek the Musical in the West End. None of those places would’ve interested me if not for being a dad. Other family trips, to the Washington Coast, Yellowstone, and Hawaii, were all planned around the kids. I’m not even sure what adults do in those places, and I don’t really care.

Many years ago, we took my then 3-year-old son on a road trip to the small Idaho town of Emmett to see and ride Thomas the Tank Engine, He was a big fan at the time. So was I. My childless friends felt sorry for me for having to endure the giant blue train and the strange man in the top hat. All I could think was, “Trains are cool. Thomas is cool. This is fun.” The huge smile on my son’s face was awesome, but the smile on mine was kind of nice, and for experiences like that I am truly thankful.

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3. Energy is Contagious

It didn’t take long after becoming a dad for me to learn that kids contain almost endless amounts of energy. And it definitely is contagious. I’ve heard parents say that they feel drained of energy by their kids. Yes, I’ve had those moments, but for the most part it’s been the other way around. Through the years, my kids have kept me young, perked me up, given me new life, and focused my thoughts. Basically, they’ve been like the best cup of coffee you could imagine.

Before becoming a dad, I didn’t lack energy. I just didn’t always have a reason to use it. I could sit down and stay down for hours. No kids to feed, chase, chauffeur, or play with. I’m thankful for every moment where lethargy was interrupted and my pilot light was reignited by one of my kids’ needs. Those moments have always transitioned into renewed spirit and momentum toward personal goals and activities.

4. Think About It

I can’t imagine what interests I would have if I’d never had kids. Much of what I enjoy thinking about and doing these days stems from my 19 years as a dad. My current interest in live theatre has grown from my daughter becoming involved with local community theatre. Over the years, we had attended a musical or play now and again, but I never personally appreciated the performances until I saw how much time and effort went into the shows that my daughter was involved in. She is also responsible for bringing much of my music collection up to modern times, with her love of bands like Twenty One Pilots, Panic At The Disco, and Mountain Goats, not to mention the Hamilton soundtrack, helping introduce me to new sounds. Who knew that any good music came out after 1998?

My son’s interest in Scouting led me to rekindle my own memories and experiences from way back when. I became involved with his troop as a leader, nearly three decades after putting away my Eagle Award. Without my son, I would never have remembered how much fun it can be to camp, build fires, cook in a Dutch oven, and even tie knots. It became a big part of my thoughts for over 5 years as my son worked toward his own Eagle and I helped other boys advance to their goals.

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Mostly, though, becoming a dad has completely changed how I think about the plight of children in this world. I’m not sure how much I ever thought about how kids are raised before having one of my own. Now, every news story, discussion, and issue surrounding children gets my immediate attention. I think about small things like after school programs, park improvements, and movie ratings. And, thanks to my daughter’s involvement with a theatrical education group called Girl, Awake, I pay attention to big issues like childhood poverty, neglect, and violence.

That one moment when my first child was born, everything changed for me. Every single thing. Being born as a dad reshaped my life in ways I never could’ve imagined. And I find myself now, looking back, thankful for every one of them. On this Father’s Day, I hope you are thankful for how your life has changed.

I’m also thankful to Pampers for allowing me to reflect on the incredible feeling that fatherhood has brought to my life. For more than 50 years, moms and dads have trusted Pampers to care for their babies’ happy and healthy development. Visit pampers.com to learn more about their products, join the Pampers Rewards program, and find ideas and information to help your baby get the most out of love, sleep, and play.

Watch this cool new #ThanksBaby video from Pampers that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a child is born and the beautiful journey of fatherhood begins.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.

Remote Out Of Control

This is how my family watches movies together. Sitting down for a viewing of the 1964 Disney movie The Three Lives of Thomasina…

Me (pausing DVD): “Hey, look, it’s the girl from Mary Poppins!”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Cool. Her father is Patrick MacGoohan from The Prisoner.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Kids, see that little boy? He played the girl’s brother in Mary Poppins.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Whoa. You know who that is? The vet’s assistant? That’s the actor who played Paul’s grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night! He looks so different.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “What? I don’t believe it. Honey, do you recognize her? C’mon, we just watched the last season of her TV show. Hello? Monarch of the Glen? That’s Molly McDonald, only 40 years younger.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Did you know that the girl playing Mary is the daughter of…”

Everyone Else: “Somebody take the remote away from Dad!!!”

Visiting Yellowstone with Kids

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our National Park System. It was the first of its kind, and remains the most unique and diverse wilderness experience that you will find in this country.

It’s also an extremely cool place for kids.

But with almost 3500 square miles of lakes, geysers, canyons, and hot springs, there’s too much to see in one short stay. So, after four visits to Yellowstone, and consultation with my own children, I have compiled the following list of park sights and activities that will make your family trip an especially memorable one.

Ten Cool Things For Kids (and Grown-Ups) in Yellowstone National Park:

1. Dragon’s Mouth Spring

Dragon's Mouth Spring

How can you resist telling your kids that a dragon lives in a cave near a mud volcano? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this cavern, with its growls and thumps, and spitting steam, might just hold a real dragon.

2. Fishing Cone

Yellowstone Fishing Cone

It’s probably just a tall tale, but the story goes that the early trappers and explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake, swing them directly into the Fishing Cone geyser just off shore, and have a meal of boiled fish in just minutes. “Hook and cook,” they called it. Like the dragon cave, another cool sight that will fire up the imagination.

3. Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn lobby as seen from Bat's Alley; Jim Peaco; October 2003

What kid won’t love the largest log hotel in the world? Just walk inside the 100-year-old Inn’s lobby, with its four stories of lodgepole pine balconies and 500-ton stone fireplace, and your kids might just want to sit for awhile. Preferably in one of the many handmade wood rocking chairs. Better yet, stay in one of the Inn’s rooms. Prices are reasonable, and the food in the dining room is first-class.
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When Bad Things Happen

Parents play so many roles, but one of the most important is that of protector.

I still remember the feeling that came over me when we brought our first child home. Driving away from the hospital, I was on full alert, ready to defend my newborn son with every ounce of my being. I had our car surrounded with a psychic force field the seven miles it took to reach the safety of our house.

Those early years were easy. My job as protector was mostly physical — making sure the house was baby proofed, or that my son didn’t get carried away by eagles. The perceived dangers were clear.

But as he got older and started learning about the world around him, suddenly things got complicated.

When he was three years old an airplane flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. My wife and I couldn’t help but watch TV coverage for days, but we didn’t encourage my son to absorb any of it. “Go play,” we’d tell him. I felt he just wasn’t old enough to think about this kind of evil.

You don’t sit a 3-year-old down and teach him about things like terrorism, rape, torture, and disease.

Eventually, though, they have to start understanding the harsh realities of life.

One of the saddest things about your children growing up is when they start to figure out that the world isn’t a blissful paradise with smiling people living on candy mountains.

I just want these feelings to come slowly. Step by gradual step.

When my son was nine, he took a big leap in his grasp of how cruel this world can be sometimes.

We were learning about Anne Frank, and how her family hid from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands. We read about the years of isolation, and then the betrayal and arrest of everyone in the hiding place.

At first, my son was mad that somebody had ratted them out. But then he asked me, “So what happened to Anne?”

I answered, “She was sent to a concentration camp.”

“And?”

“And, she died there.”

He looked up at me suddenly, and I could see it in his eyes, this sort of angry bewilderment. It was like he was thinking, “What the hell is wrong with us that we do these things to each other?!”

He thought about it for a minute, and then the understanding dawned. Yes, this is, was, and always will be a cruel world. Bad things happen sometimes.

I think he really truly gets that now.

As his protector through the years, I’ve slowly guided him toward these moments of wisdom. Because of that, I think he’ll be better able to process the information and make good choices for himself.

But at the same time, I’ve given both my kids the chance to grow up with a foundation of hope and love, to know that the world is, first and foremost, a beautiful place with countless reasons to be happy and optimistic.

Even in our worst moments, I trust they will never forget that.

Walking for a New Camp

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In just a few weeks, I will begin walking the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path in Northern England, along with 11 other dads. We are raising money to open a new Camp Kesem chapter at the University of Maryland in honor of our friend Oren Miller, who passed away last year. Camp Kesem is a free summer camp for kids that have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.

At Kesem, each child is given a special name tag during their stay. I have seven of these blank tags to bring with me on our week-long hike. For each day of the hike, I would like to wear the name of someone you know who has battled cancer or is currently fighting cancer.

In order for me to wear the name, donate at least $100 through our dads4kesem.org fundraising site. Make sure you list in the comments the name you want me to wear, or send a message to me directly. I will take pictures and video during the hike while wearing the name tag, and will honor your loved one’s memory all that day.

Thanks for any donation you can make. It will be greatly appreciated by the kids who get to spend a week at Camp Kesem.

5 Surprising Changes That Come With Fatherhood

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Becoming a new father changes you in ways that you could never imagine. When a baby is born, a dad is born. I underwent the transformation from dude to dad almost 18 years ago, and most of the changes have settled in, while a few still seem strange and new.

But change is a good thing and, when it comes to fatherhood, change is absolutely necessary. Just don’t be too surprised when you feel them coming on. It might happen the first time you hold your new baby, or when someone refers to you as “daddy,” or in the middle of a particularly messy diaper cleanup.

Just to help you out, here are five surprising ways that fatherhood has changed me.

1. Most bodily fluids no longer bother me. It might not have been during the first diaper change, but it certainly happened soon after. Babies poop a lot, and you just have to deal with it. Your brain quickly adapts to the mess by downgrading its perceived toxicity. What you once saw as a biohazard requiring a Level 4 containment system, you now view as nothing worse than rancid chocolate pudding.

Babies also throw up a lot, usually on your shoulder, hair, or face. Again, your brain takes over to calm you with the thought that the vomit isn’t too far removed from being food in a dish or breast. And, of course, babies are mucus-producing machines. You will be wiping your child’s nose for the next decade. Get used to it.

Blood? No, you never get used to seeing blood come out of your kid.

2. I’ve lost all control of my emotions. That’s right, once you become a father you are no longer in charge of being happy, sad, angry, confused, scared, and all the other myriad of emotions that you haven’t even discovered yet. Who’s in charge? Mostly your child. They will push your buttons in weird and wonderful ways. You will never see it coming, and you’ll have no idea how to make it stop. They will drag you through the day like a stuffed animal on a leash, completely in control of your various feels. One minute making you cry with pride, the next making you cry with fear. Oh, you’ll also laugh hysterically, bristle with anger, and pull out your hair in frustration, sometimes all in a manner of minutes. Your new baby is in charge of you now, and they won’t even realize it until their teenage years.

3. I know things I never thought I wanted to know. A huge part of fatherhood is introducing new interests and experiences to your kids. And I don’t mean wine tasting or skydiving, although those can certainly come later, much later, on. From day one of being a new dad, you want what’s best for your child. Suddenly, you have to know the nutritional value of baby food, how to change a diaper, and the effects of sleep deprivation. As they get older, you learn about children’s literature, kindie music, and why some poor animated kid named Caillou is so reviled. Before too long, you’re learning the difference between a tenor saxophone and an alto saxophone, and which type of earplugs works best for you. Without my kids, I might never know Lin-Manuel Miranda, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Gerard Way, all of whom I follow with great interest now. My kids have given me an education greater and more varied than any college degree.

4. I’m broke. I knew children were expensive, I just never realized how much. At first there are all those necessary baby gadgets, like a stroller, crib, and high chair, but then you start filling your home with toys, stuffed animals, and Dr. Seuss books. Me, I got hooked on kids’ books, bringing them home new, used, and in between. My attitude was that books were an excellent investment for a child’s education, which they are, but a costly investment nonetheless. And then you have to feed and clothe your kids. And take them to the zoo. And out for ice cream. And to Disneyland. It never ends, and it’s never as cheap as you budget. So, in the end, despite the best possible financial planning, you’ll be broke.

5. I’ve become a neat freak. Everything must be in its place. That’s the “neat” part. But things are never in their place. That’s the “freak” part. Basically, fatherhood has brought out the part of me that needs order. I want my kids to be safe, free from worry and illness, and focused on personal growth. How can any of that happen in a messy house? I see dishes piled up in the kitchen and think, “There’s an incubator for disease.” I see toys strewn across the living room floor and think, “There’s a tripping hazard.” I find books stuffed onto a shelf upside down and turned around and think, “There’s a waste of knowledge.” The struggle against chaos began even before my first child was born, as I surveyed our home for dangers and baby-proofed everything I could find. Over the years, my pseudo-OCD has only grown worse. And it’s a losing battle, one in which I refuse to wave the white flag.

There are so many other ways in which fatherhood has changed me. Some were expected, some were not. All of them are a part of me now, for better or worse. A man who is not changed by becoming a dad is not much of a man. Diapers are not the only thing that need changing when a new baby comes into your life.

I’d like to thank Pampers for giving me reason to celebrate these changes, and the incredible feeling that goes along with being a dad. Fatherhood is the biggest, and best, role a man will ever take on in his life, and it’s important to recognize that. Whatever changes may come your way with becoming a dad, embrace them. You’re helping your baby have a better, more fulfilling life.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.

Eat Your Worries

It’s been a long time since a stuffed animal has impressed me, and that’s going back at least 5 years when my daughter went through a significant Webkinz phase.

But the cutest little creature recently showed up on my doorstep.

Worry EaterHis name is Flint. He’s missing an eye, has crooked horns and stubby feet, and sports a zipper for a mouth.

And he’s here to eat your worries.

Flint is one of the Worry Eaters, the colorful family of cuddly creatures that can help a child express their fears and concerns in a playful way.

Children are able to write or draw their worry and place it into Flint’s wide zippered mouth, so he can munch on it for awhile. It’s a great way to start a discussion with your kids about the things that are weighing on their mind. Even parents can get in on the act by sharing a worry or two and letting the Worry Eater hold on to it for awhile.

No matter how big or small the worry, it’s good to acknowledge that a problem exists. Giving their worry to a Worry Eater, and then sharing it with a parent or caregiver, is the first step that kids can take toward resolving conflicts and developing healthy coping skills.

Introduced by The Haywire Group, the Worry Eaters come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, guaranteed to be cute, cuddly, and very hungry. There are nearly two dozen to choose from, with names like Biff, Polli, Flamm, Saggo, and Pomm.

And choose you will, if you win my Worry Eater Giveaway!

Use the widget below to enter in several different ways. The winner will get to pick their very own Worry Eater to bring home. See the entire family of them here. All Worry Eaters are washable, either by hand or on machine gentle cycle, and made with quality soft velour. They don’t just eat worries, but they’re also pretty good snugglers.

No matter how big or small the worries, they are all important in the life of a child. Parents can help kids learn to manage stress and tackle everyday problems with ease using Worry Eaters as a tool.

Enter now, and I’ll pick a winner in about a week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Worry Eater Family