The Fine Line Between ‘I can’t’ and ‘I can’t – yet’


He can’t quite reach that high. Not yet.

To a 7-year-old, grownups are magicians. We can reach stuff in the high cabinets. We can make toast. We can drive a car. We can produce endless LEGO sets out of thin air. We can do things their developing minds consider mini-miracles.

I kind of like it. Makes me feel useful and smarter than I actually am.

Chris got frustrated at breakfast trying to open one of those applesauce pouches. You know the kind, and come on; it’s the easiest thing on Earth to do, right? Grab the cap in one hand, hold the pouch firmly in the other hand, apply counter-clockwise pressure to the cap, and voilà! One of your oh-so-vital servings of fruit, ready to inhale at your convenience.

He could not figure it out. So, he threw it across the table and yelled, “I can’t!”

I retrieved the pouch and placed it in front of him, unopened. I bent down to his level and smiled. He crossed his arms and stuck out his lower lip.

I ducked my head to look at him eye-to-eye and asked, “Can you fly a rocket ship to the moon?”

He said, “No!”

I asked, “Can you drive a car to the movies?”

He said, “No! No! No!”

I asked, “Can you ride your bike without training wheels?”

He said, “No, and I don’t want to!”

I asked, “Can you determine the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

He looked up at me and said, “What?”

Then I backed away a bit and, smiling, asked him quietly, “Can you put on a shirt by yourself?”

He uncrossed his arms and said, “Yes.”

He reached for the pouch and I gently swatted his hand away. He laughed and waited for the next question.

I asked, “Can you take a bath by yourself?”

He said, “Yes! A shower.”

I asked, “Can you go to the bathroom by yourself?”

He laughed again and said, “No!”

I looked at him sideways and he said, “OK, yes!”

Then I said, “You can’t drive a car … yet. You can’t ride a rocket to the moon … yet. You can’t ride your bike without training wheels … yet. You can’t cure cancer, or make a plan for world peace, or feed the world’s hungry, or invent a flying car. There are a lot of things you can’t do. Not yet. But that’s because you don’t have the experience you need to do those things. Your mind and body are still growing. You’re still learning. Everything is still new to you. You aren’t unable to do these things because you’re seven; your age is just a number. You are unable to do these things yet because you haven’t had the time to learn how to think, how to allow your intelligence to work on a problem until you find the solution.

“Plus,” I said, “you’re just too short to reach the cabinet.”

Then I said, “The answer you give when someone asks if you can fly to the moon is, ‘Not yet.’ ”


Almost …

I asked, “Does that make sense?”

He shrugged and said, “I guess.”

“OK,” I said. “Good.”

Then I asked, “Can you open your applesauce pouch on your own?”

And he said, “No.”

Then he added, “Not yet.”

He smiled, reached for the pouch, and turned the cap with all his might.

13 Things Horrible Parents Let Their Kids Do

If there is one thing I have learned in nearly a decade of parenthood, it is that there is no way to know for sure if you are doing it right. Only time will reveal how much you have screwed up your kids, and by then it will be too late to do anything about it.

This is oddly comforting. It is liberating as a parent to let go of the illusion of control.

Yet, we remain culpable. It is our responsibility to guide our children through their formative years, to place them on a path of happiness and productivity.

Yes, this is a contradiction. Clearly, parenting is a no-win proposition.

That said, some parents are worse at juggling this great contradiction than others. And some are much, much worse. Some, apparently, just don’t give a crap.

How can we identify these incompetent moms and dads? Who, exactly, are these people responsible for the decay of society and the end of civilization as we know it?

Simple: Only terrible, horrible, no good parents allow their kids to do these 13 things:

1. Play baseball.



2. Play golf. 


Source: GIPHY

3. Gymnastics. 

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

4. Power wash the driveway.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

5. Go camping.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

6. Walk.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

7. Sit.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

8. Yard work.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

9. Fly on a magic carpet.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

10. Fly an airplane.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

11. Go to the beach.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

12. Fall in love.

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

13. Become sentient. 

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY


If you enjoyed (or hated) this horrible take on terrible parenting, please take a moment to click the social share buttons below. You might also fancy Han Solo’s parenting advice, the only other GIF list in the history of this online journal. For much more from DadScribe, give me a “like” on Facebook. Thanks!

And Miles to Go

Kind Snacks

The boys and I walked, jogged and biked together in the neighborhood, in the Florida wilderness, at Busch Gardens, in Savannah and in North Carolina for the #KindMilesMatter campaign, earning boxes of Kind Snacks for the USF chapter of Feeding America Tampa Bay.

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


We reached our goal along an ancient dune a half-mile from the Atlantic shore. The wooded trail adjacent to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores provided shade, but scant relief.

It was July, and the sun was high.

Sweat stung our eyes. Mosquitoes buzzed our ears. My weary legs wobbled a bit, an after-effect of the 800-mile drive north from our home near Tampa for a Fourth of July getaway with family.

Still, we walked.

The boys and I walked for kindness and for KIND. We walked for the Feeding America chapter at my alma mater, the University of South Florida. They’re working with the USF Wellness Center to start a student food pantry there, and that matters.

We walked for ourselves, because that’s what it was about – staying fit together, working up a sweat, getting the legs and blood pumping. We also biked and even jogged a little bit during our two-plus-week #KINDMilesMatter challenge, physical activities we admittedly have not made a priority over the years.

I’m glad to say that has changed. We will always walk together. And when we do, we’ll remember why we started.

For every mile of walking, biking or running we recorded on my iPhone’s Runkeeper app during our allotted period (June 22-July 10), KIND Snacks agreed to donate a box of its nutritious and tasty products to a charity we selected. After talking it over with my sons, Jay (9) and Chris (7), the Feeding America initiative at USF seemed perfect.

Kind Snacks

The boys, ready to put in a few KIND miles on their bikes.

Feeding America USF is affiliated with Feeding America Tampa Bay, which is part of the national Feeding America organization. They are needed.

In the 10-county region of West Florida served by Feeding America Tampa Bay, more than 700,000 people are food insecure. One in six Tampa Bay area residents do not know where or how they’ll get their next meal.

Almost half of the food insecure people in West Central Florida are children or seniors. In light of that statistical reality of hunger in our region, you might think college students can fend for themselves.

But not every college kid is at school on mom and dad’s dime. Many students at USF juggle the demands of school work and full-time jobs that barely pay tuition and rent.

I remember being hungry during my time at USF in the early 1990s. I never thought of myself as food insecure, but money was tight and food – especially healthy food – often was relegated to a low priority.

Kind Snacks

While big brother was at day camp, Chris and I put in a couple of KIND miles along the boardwalk at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa.

When we did eat, my college friends and I subsisted on cheap fast-food burgers, cheaper pizza and the cheapest microwave noodles we could find at our local supermarket. We very often scrounged for $10 to order the large cheese special from Gumby’s pizza. By pooling our resources, we sometimes managed to afford the extra $1 for cheesy bread sticks.

Life as a newly independent college kid can be tough enough without having to face it on an empty stomach.

When I saw a story in the local paper about the Feeding America USF student food pantry initiative, I knew I had found the ideal organization. It will be nice to know this fall that a college student at my old school might find an extra burst of energy he or she needs to get through a demanding day, thanks to this initiative from Life of Dad and KIND Snacks.

I became acquainted with KIND Snacks at the Dad 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this past February. KIND was an event sponsor, and the company’s representatives were generous with their samples of the savory Strong & KIND line of snacks.

I nommed the heck out of the hickory smoked and honey smoked BBQ throughout the weekend, and made sure to grab a bunch of bars from the KIND booth before I left town. They were so good. Better, certainly, than my old standard afternoon pick-me-up snack of a chocolate-caramel-nougat bar and a bottle of sugary green carbonated caffeine juice.

This was a grand experience for me and my sons, a super lesson about the importance of giving, staying fit, eating well and having fun together outside.

Kind Snacks

Our 2-mile stroll through historic Savannah was, like, three times longer because STAIRS! So many stairs.

Our #KINDMilesMatter journey sent us on family walks and bike rides through our Central Florida neighborhood; a stroll through historic Savannah, Ga.; a brisk walk through the coastal woods in North Carolina, where we could hear the waves breaking at nearby Atlantic Beach; and a hard trek along the Neuse River in Eastern North Carolina, where giant army ants carpeted the pathway and had us swatting at our ankles.

We encountered rabbits, alligators, storks, snakes and an industrious dung beetle. We walked or rode along little-used dirt paths, well-tread concrete sidewalks, lakeshore trails, grassy meadows and tourist-jammed walkways at Busch Gardens Tampa.

Every step of the way, the boys inquired about our progress. How many miles now, Dad? How many boxes is that? How many KIND bars does that equal? How many people have we helped?

Our goal was 20 miles for 20 boxes. We passed that mark in North Carolina and added five more miles once we got back home from our Fourth of July excursion. We finished with a modest 27 miles for 27 boxes. The boys and I talked it over, and we decided to go ahead and contribute a further 13 boxes ourselves – a total of 40 boxes for Feeding America’s student pantry at USF.

It’s a tiny drop in an enormous bucket of food insecurity, but it’s a start, and we are more than glad to do our small part to help combat hunger in the Tampa Bay area.


If you would like to help, Feeding America USF accepts donations of non-perishable items and toiletries at the Feeding America Tampa Bay warehouse located at 4702 Transport Drive, Building 6, in Tampa. The USF chapter can be found on Facebook.

For more information about KIND Snacks’ mission of making the world a little kinder one snack and one act at a time, click here. For information about KIND’s partnership with the Made to Matter — Hand Picked by Target line of products, click here.

Disclosure: I partnered with Life of Dad and KIND Snacks for this promotion. While this post is sponsored, opinions are mine.

Kind Snacks

An array of delicious and healthy KIND Snacks, a selection of Target’s Made to Matter products and the book, Do the KIND Thing by KIND founder Daniel Lubetzky.



My First Car: the Legendary AMC Pacer

MichelinRVBThis is a sponsored post for Michelin’s #FirstCarMoment campaign to raise awareness about the important role tires play in driving safety. Opinions are mine.


First Car Moment

Sadly, no photos of the Bubble survive. But this Creative Commons image of a Pacer is sort of what it looked like. Imagine this, only MUCH bigger tires and a lot of rust where the paint should be.

My high school friends called it the Bubble. A grayish contraption of rusted metal, cracked plastic, torn fabric and glass — lots and lots of glass; 5,615 square inches of glass, to be exact. That was my first car: the 1975 AMC Pacer X.

It sat in the parking lot of our South Florida town home complex rusting away in the sun for months, a FOR SALE sign fading on the unnaturally enormous front dash. When I turned 16, my parents fronted $400 of the $500 purchase price, and I had myself some wheels.

Speaking of which, the one thing that actually looked safe on the Bubble was the set of HUGE racing tires that the previous owner had decided were necessary to complete the image of absurdity that was my first car. I doubt my parents would have allowed me to buy that car, frankly, if not for those tires.

The Pacer was a wide car. That was how it was pitched in the mid-1970s, in fact: the widest small car in the world. How wide? Well, check out this vintage Pacer commercial, which made much of the wideness.

My Pacer, the Bubble, was a rolling space capsule. I once fit 11 people into it, which I admit was not safe. But I was 16, and we all needed to get to whatever important destination we sought, and I remember feeling proud that the Bubble could accommodate so many. It was a rolling party.

Who cared if there was rust? What difference did it make that every time I drove through a puddle, the engine stalled until I detached the alternator cap and sprayed on a liberal amount of carburetor cleaner? How could it possibly matter that I could see the road pass below through small, rusted-out portions of the floorboard?

The car was mine, and so was the road. Simply, the Bubble represented freedom. And? According to a fairly recent documentary called the Unfortunate History of the AMC Pacer, my first car was revolutionary. Until it wasn’t.

I always thought, secretly, that I was ahead of my time behind the wheel of the Bubble. But I’ll be honest – like many teenagers, I abused that freedom a little. And I abused that car a lot. The bottom-heavy wideness of it – along with those huge, relatively new racing tires – might have been the only thing to keep me on the road at times.

Frankly, memories of myself as a teen driver are not sources of comfort as I contemplate the future of my own children behind the wheel. In retrospect, I should have been much more responsible.

My kids will certainly reap the benefit of my (sort of wild and crazy) first car moments, and Michelin has a few safety facts and tips to remind us about the importance of driving safety and to help me and other parents be sure our kids are as safe as possible on the road:

  • Automobile accidents kill more teenagers than anything else in America.
  • Driving on under-inflated tires or tires with poor tread can be hazardous; 12 percent of the 2.2 million accidents involving inexperienced drivers are attributed to under-inflated or worn tires.
  • Many of these accidents are preventable by paying attention to tire pressure and tread depth. Teach kids how to use a tire gauge and check tire tread depth, and have them check each measurement every month.

Summer is when millions of new drivers first experience the true meaning of the open road. So, it’s no surprise that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Safety Council say that statistically, the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the most dangerous time of year for teen drivers.

Now is the time to remind your kids that no matter how junky or rusty their first car might be, there can be no compromise when it comes to safety. The video below is full of moving moments that depict the rite of passage when kids receive their first cars. As important as that milestone is for a young driver, it is important that they understand that safety is the priority, and that starts with the tires.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Michelin for this promotion. I have received compensation for my participation, but my first car memories are my own.

First Car Moment

Yes, Wayne and Garth’s Mirth Mobile was a Pacer. Party on! Images: Creative Commons

9 Tips for a Safe, Fun Summer with Kids

Tracking Pixel

Shriners Hospitals for Children

We learned about summer safety and had a good time at the Shriners Hospitals for Children® On Track for a Safe Summer campaign event in Tampa. All Photos: Carter Gaddis

Our family was invited to Shriners Hospitals for Children® in Tampa to learn about the On Track for a Safe Summer campaign. In this sponsored article about our experience, I share a few tips on how to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries this summer, while still having a lot of fun.

Thunder rumbled and late-morning sunshine gave way to fast-moving gray clouds. It happens like that in Florida during the summer. If you’re outside with the kids, you keep one eye on your young ones and the other eye on the sky.

Most of the time, an approaching thunder storm is the last thing you want to hear on the playground. Last week, though, as my sons romped and climbed and slid and ran around the fantastic playground at the Tampa site of the Shriners Hospitals for Children®, the timing actually was ideal.

Shriners Hospitals for Children

Moments later, a brief, passing shower (complete with occasional thunder) forced us inside for a few minutes. Lightning in the area? Get inside immediately.

We were there to learn about the summer safety message of the On Track for a Safe Summer campaign. The sound of thunder interrupting their outdoor fun was the perfect opportunity to reinforce one of the most important things to remember about staying safe during the stormy summer months in Florida:

With thunder comes lightning. And when lightning is in the area, get inside immediately.

Here’s what I loved about that moment: My sons, 9-year-old Jay and 6-year-old Chris, did not need to be reminded.

“Dad, I hear thunder,” Jay said calmly, stopping his basketball game to peer through the trees at the quickly gathering clouds. “We need to go inside. Right now.”

So, inside we went. We waited long enough for the brief and isolated storm to pass us by. Then it was back outside, where all the kids played and had a good time in the sun.

I love what Shriners Hospitals for Children® is doing with the On Track for a Safe Summer campaign, because it’s a great reminder that kids can have fun without increasing the risk of injury. We aren’t “helicopter” parents by any means, but we do practice common sense when it comes to giving our kids the freedom to explore and play and learn about the world.

Shriners Hospitals for Children

Summer safety tip: On or near the water, wear a life jacket.

Last week at the beautiful medical and rehabilitation facility adjacent to the University of South Florida campus, the boys got to be Summer Safety Superheroes as they earned badges by completing their training in how to stay On Track for a Safe Summer.

The tips already were in our family’s common-sense portfolio, but the activities were fun and the reminders were welcome. To reduce the risk of accidents and stay as safe as possible during the summer, Shriners Hospitals for Children® recommends the following safety tips:

  1. Sun: Apply water- and sweat-proof sunscreen thoroughly to all exposed areas of skin before going outside during daylight hours.
  2. Swing: Always stay seated while playing on a swing.
  3. Slide: Go down a slide feet first, never head first.
  4. Playground: Never push or shove others while playing at a playground.
  5. Swimming: Always swim with a friend.
  6. Water: Wear a life jacket when boating or otherwise near the water.
  7. Mower: Never play on or around a lawn mower, even if it’s not running.
  8. Fire: Keep a safe distance from open fires, and never play around or in a fire pit, even if the fire looks burned out.
  9. Weather: As mentioned above, keep an eye out for bad weather and seek shelter when lightning is in the area.
Shriners Hospitals for Children

Even if it seems to be burned out (or made of cardboard), stay well clear of fire and let a grownup light it and put it out.

Shriners Hospitals for Children® leads the way in specialty pediatric care, including surgery and rehabilitation provided for children with orthopedic conditions, spinal cord injuries and burns. Treatment is not dependent on families’ ability to pay, which lifts a potentially debilitating financial burden from parents and caregivers who already have more than enough to think about when it comes to taking care of their kids.

Jay and Chris were impressed with the Tampa facility, particularly the video game lounge, the peaceful indoor courtyard lit by soaring skylights, and the big playground. It’s a comfort to know that right here in our community, there is a warm, caring environment where children who need special medical care can go and feel safe, loved and well-treated.

It’s a comfort, also, to know that Shriners Hospitals for Children® is helping to remind parents and caregivers everywhere that a little common sense this summer will go a long way toward keeping their kids as safe as possible.

June is National Safety Month, a great time for reminders about ways to help kids enjoy an injury-free summer. For more information about the On Track for a Safe Summer campaign and additional summer safety tips, as well as fun and educational activities for children, visit the campaign information page at the Shriners Hospitals for Children® website.

Shriners Hospitals for Children

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Shriners Hospitals for Children®.

Bike Lessons


He’s afraid to fall, but he’ll figure it out. The training wheels are off.

We are going to ride our bikes around the neighborhood. It’s a nice morning for it.

A little muggy, maybe. We’ll have to keep an eye out for the puddles left behind by last night’s thunder storm. The sun is out and the occasional rivulet of sweat already can be seen to flow from under their helmets.

As I fill the tires with air, I think of the danger ahead.

Spills on the asphalt. A head-first flight over the handle bars. An unseen and unseeing car backing out of a driveway. A giant and angry dog off its leash, hunting for ankles to gnaw.

Wait … there’s a truck. It’s kind of big. It’s moving kind of fast. Looks dangerous. What’s it say on the side?

Charity Clothing Pickup

OK. They can stay.

I consider the danger and dismiss it. This is how we roll.

We pedal on.


Big brother is watching.

The older boy has dashed ahead in the impatient way of older brothers. He stops a couple of hundred feet down the street and holds his position. His helmeted head is turned toward us, his posture a picture of brotherly forbearance.

His younger brother is struggling. He will be 7 soon, but he has yet to commit to the bike. Training wheels still provide support – emotional, mental and physical.

I encourage and remind him to keep pedaling along the sidewalk. Don’t stop.

Keep pedaling.

Keep pedaling!


He’s off the sidewalk, in the grass, but still upright. His bike’s front tire faces backward. He struggles to right himself, but does not call for help. He is determined.

I park my bike, call for his older brother to return. He pedals back, all pre-tween grace and elbows.

“You control the bike,” I say to the almost-7-year-old. “Don’t let it control you. Keep pedaling. If you keep moving forward, you won’t fall.”

I tell him this knowing he won’t get it. Fear of falling informs him. It’s a powerful motivator, fear of falling.

I remember how it felt. I also remember that the worst of it wasn’t the jumbled result or the painful skinned-knee aftermath.

The worst of it was the anticipation of the fall. The second-worst was that eternal instant of helplessness when gravity took over and I knew my next sensation would be pain.

Oh, yes. I remember that.

I also remember lying there on the sidewalk after my first bike crash, scared and frustrated, but aware that it could’ve been a lot worse. In fact, I had expected a lot worse.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. A few scrapes here and there. No broken bones. No concussion-causing head trauma. I got up, rode off, crashed a few more times, and finally learned how to ride that bike. Then I built a ramp out of bricks and a board and pretended to be Evel Knievel.

He doesn’t know yet that the fear of the fall is worse than the fall itself, because the training wheels are there to keep him upright. I send him off down the sidewalk for a few test runs. He tries to balance without relying on the training wheels. He makes up a sing-song chant to remind him to balance: “Wiggle, wiggle. Stay in the middle!”



He’s doing OK. Maybe he’s ready. We wiggle back home.

Off come the training wheels. Out comes the lower lip. His eyes get big and moist. He’s not ready. He’s ready. He doesn’t want to learn. He wants to learn.

We try a couple of times up and down the sidewalk in front of the house. His older brother yells encouragement and I hold the back of his seat, a living version of his detached training wheels. Up the sidewalk we pedal – only, he’s not pedaling. He’s afraid he’ll fall.

And of course, he will fall. Then, he’ll get back on and … fall again.

He’s learning how to ride a bike. Falling happens.

He’s learning. Getting back up also happens.

He’ll get it.

We’ll try again tomorrow.

The First Day, the Final Day: Summer Beckons

Summer Fun

They look pretty much the same. I wonder how much they’ll grow this summer? I know they’re going to have fun.

On the first day, they stopped in the driveway and posed. The smiles were not forced. They were genuine expressions of excitement as the sun rose and the boys began third and first grades.

On the final day, they stopped again on roughly the same spot in the driveway. Again, the smiles were genuine. The excitement of ending third and first grades was every bit as palpable as the beginning.

Summer beckons.

I look at those photos of my sons side by side, beginning and ending third and first grades, and I notice that they look … the same. Nine months of physical growth no longer renders dramatic change.

As toddlers, even as preschoolers, a photo like this taken in August juxtaposed with one taken the following June would reveal profound physical differences. They’d be significantly taller in the later image, more angular, less round in the cheeks.

Most of the noticeable growth now takes place on the inside — although the shoe sizes do seem to change every week.

Here, we have two little people in the prime of boyhood. They look happy. They are happy. Yet, they do not understand how fortunate they are. We hope to instill an appreciation within them for all that they have, all that they enjoy, all that they call good.

An appreciation for family and a sense of place, a sense that even though there might be things out there on the periphery of our little world — big things, challenging things — those things can be kept at bay for a while. It’s safe here.

But safe only takes you so far in life. Sure, we could spend the summer huddled inside our air-conditioned house in Central Florida suburbia. Mine Craft and Netflix are powerful (and fun).

We could let the days pass uneventfully in June, July and August, just counting down to fourth and second grades. We could do that.

We will not do that.

We will go places. We will do things.

We will visit the Tampa Bay History Center and learn about our region. We will take a trolley from there to Ybor City for lunch.

We will head to Brooker Creek for a self-made scavenger hunt, using iPod cameras to capture and gather memories. We will learn how to edit photos and video using those iPods.

We will have lunch (Greek, naturally) at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks and run around on the beach at Howard Park. We will make the 90-minute drive north to Gainesville to visit the University of Florida campus and the Florida Natural History Museum.

We’ll drive over to Lakeland’s Common Ground playground one morning, then stroll around the Florida Southern campus and learn about Frank Lloyd Wright‘s architectural genius.

We’ll take a dad-and-sons trip up to North Carolina to visit family for the 4th of July. We’ll go to Homosassa Springs to see wild Florida. We’ll see more of wild Florida at Highlands Hammock park near Sebring, a city on a circle where I lived for a time in my younger days.

We’ll go back to the Ringling Museum and see the Circus Spectacular there. The boys will like that.

We’ll all go to Cape Cod again, because we always go there and always will.

Oh, but there will be “open” days, too. Days when we wake up with nothing on the calendar except a day ahead full of promise and sunshine. Or promise and rain. We’ll take both. We’ll take summer, and we will revel in it all.

Soon enough, they’ll stand on that spot in the driveway, backpacks full, arms draped around shoulders, genuine smiles beaming in the morning sun, posing for the photo again.

Soon enough, the summer will end.

But today … it begins.



Dad’s New Mealtime Wingman: Delicious, Convenient STOUFFER’S Fit Kitchen Entrees

Fit Kitchen

Me and my wingmen. After a day spent stomping around the theme park, STOUFFER’S Fit Kitchen is perfect for refueling. #ad

I have partnered with Life of Dad and STOUFFER’S® for this promotion. I have received compensation and product for my participation, but my opinions are my own.

I’m the dad. I work at home. I greet the boys off the bus after school.

I help with homework. I resolve the rare disputes. I shop for groceries. I cook supper.

And by that, I’m not only talking about grilling up a mean burger or whipping up a quick batch of macaroni and cheese. Although I do make a mean burger – just ask my sons.

No, when I say I shop and cook, I mean those things are primarily my responsibility at our house. I like to experiment in the kitchen, and I like to go big every now and then. It’s cool. I like to do it. I’ve even gotten pretty good at it, if I say so myself.

Again, don’t take my word for it. My sons brag about my cooking to their friends.

The 21st century equivalent of “my dad could beat up your dad” is “my dad’s omelets make your dad’s omelets taste like liquid cardboard.”

I’m the dad. I shop and cook, but I do much more.

We are out there, me and my boys. We hike through the Florida woods. We play soccer and baseball in the back yard. We swim. We ride bikes and scooters around the neighborhood. We walk for hours – and hours – through Florida’s theme parks under Florida’s hot sun.

Fit Kitchen

We could go out and buy all the ingredients for this delicious rotisserie season turkey entree at the grocery store, but it would take A LOT more time to prepare and there is NO WAY it would taste as good as this tasted.

As they’ve gotten old enough to roam, I’ve found that they have become the ideal wingmen for outdoor fun – and for grocery shopping.

Here’s where STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen meals make their entrance in our family’s little story. Our grocery list could include all of the ingredients necessary to make delicious rotisserie seasoned turkey with all the extras – turkey tenderloin medallions, diced red skin potatoes and sweet potatoes, cut green beans and gravy.

I could send the boys on a wingman mission to gather these ingredients in our neighborhood supermarket or farmer’s market. I could then spend an hour or more with the boys in the kitchen, prepping the food and baking it and hovering over the stove to make sure that all of the delicious and complementary flavors were combined in just the right way.

I could do all of that … if not for the fact that our family is busy. Like, so busy that even getting us all under the same roof long enough to sit down and eat dinner together is a challenge.

That’s why it’s nice that STOUFFER’S® has released its new line of protein-packed frozen Fit Kitchen meals. Every 14-ounce entree has at least 25 grams of protein, and it only takes five or six minutes to prepare in the microwave.

This is a substantial serving. I was pleasantly surprised to find that unlike with many frozen meals, the Fit Kitchen rotisserie seasoned turkey entrée tasted homemade – and didn’t leave me hungry after the last mouthful.

Now, will we eat these scrumptious meals every night? No. I sincerely love to get the evening meal ready for our family every night, and I enjoy showing the boys around the kitchen sometimes, too.

In fact, the six varieties of STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen meals inspire me to actually put the boys to work gathering ingredients and hanging out with me in the kitchen for meal prep.

That said, the reality is this: Like most families, our time is limited. Convenience wins at mealtime. As long as nutrition doesn’t suffer, that is. In that respect, these entrees are a win-win.

Plus, I doubt our turkey concoction would taste anywhere near as good as the Fit Kitchen rotisserie seasoned turkey. I mean … it really is tasty.

So, it’s nice to know that I’ll have STOUFFER’S® around as my new meal-time wingman when time is short but our family still needs a nutritious, delicious option to eat.

Fit Kitchen

I have a lot of fun with these guys, but I also feed them well. I love knowing that they will grow up with memories of me shopping for groceries and cooking, as well as hanging out and having outdoor fun.


Our Week with Kia Sorento: Road Trip Memories

I received a 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD on loan to drive and review for a week, courtesy of Drive Shop and Kia. Here are my thoughts.

The timing of the loan was ideal. What better way to really get the feel for a family car like the 2016 Kia Sorento than to drive that car hundreds of miles for a Memorial Day weekend excursion?

Kia Sorento

We made a lot of road trip memories during our week with a 2016 Kia Sorento.

We piled in on Friday afternoon and headed for Gulf County, a five-hour drive north of our home in the Tampa Bay area. A magnificent beach house awaited on Cape San Blas.

Our loaner Sorento had a 2.0-liter turbo gas direct injection, four-cylinder engine; independent front and rear suspension; and full-time all-wheel drive with lockable center differential.

Um … what?

I’m no car expert. I drive them, and I pay attention to things like how comfortable the seats are, how good the gas mileage is and how much space there is for packing. Our Sorento passed those tests with ease.

There also was the Kid Test, though. Would the boys like it?

Kia Sorento

The boys loved the backseat space and Kids Place Live on Sirius/XM.

Short answer: They loved it. The Sirius/XM radio was a huge hit — Kids Place Live became, in just that one week, an all-time favorite. They were fascinated by the navigation display and paid close attention to our progress on the real-time map. There was plenty of room in the back for them to be comfortable during our long drives up to and back from the Panhandle.

I can sum up the experience simply: By the time our loan period ended, the Sorento felt like our car. It took us to a place where we made wonderful memories, and we will always associate our family’s first trip to Cape San Blas with the car we came in.

I wasn’t asked to do this, and it isn’t associated with Kia or Drive Shop at all, but I felt compelled to commemorate our experience with the Sorento in video form. Forgive its sappiness. It’s not an actual commercial, just a genuine expression of how a family trip can bridge generations, and how lifelong memories are made on the road.


We Will Always Go Back to Gulf County, Florida

Visit Gulf County

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Visit Gulf County for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Sunset at Cape San Blas …

The boys leap in sync over the lips of low waves that bubble off the Gulf of Mexico. Peals of laughter drift up the beach and skip across the soft sand to fall lightly upon the dune grass.

Here and there across the sand, quiet islands of humanity stir under portable cabanas. The light of the setting sun angles in and illuminates the glowing row of blue and yellow and orange and red and sand-colored houses that stand sentinel along the ridge.

Visit Gulf County

Sunset at Cape San Blas.

She spots dolphins off shore. An occasional dorsal fin cuts a languid, westward arc above the smooth surface of the water. The boys leap the ambitious waves and sprint with the dolphins along the shoreline, racing the setting sun to the horizon, laughing as the sky transitions from bright blue to dark blue to purple and orange and finally to red-gold.

I watch the boys and my wife and the dolphins and the golden sky, and I resolve: We will always come back to this place. We will always come back to Gulf County, Florida.


Visit Gulf County

At Water’s Edge, Cape San Blas.

It was a sponsored trip, one of those rare and wonderful opportunities online writers are fortunate enough to receive every now and then. This one came via an out-of-the-blue email from a generous agency looking for a writing dad who could bring his family to this secluded place in the Florida Panhandle for a weekend in May.

Yes, I said. Absolutely, I added. We’ll go. We had been almost everywhere else in Florida, but never to Gulf County. It was time to remedy that.

Where. It is on the Gulf Coast, southwest of Tallahassee, east of Panama City. Its only population center is Port St. Joe, home of the 2014 Florida Class A state high school football champion Port St. Joe Sharks. The county consists of forest, marshland, gulf coastline and the scallop-rich St. Joseph Bay.

Visit Gulf County

The path over the dune from At Water’s Edge, Cape San Blas.

Getting there. From our home near Tampa, Gulf County and Port St. Joe are a five-and-a-half-hour drive north, through little Florida towns stuck in time – Spring Hill, Homosassa, Chiefland, Fanning Springs (at the Suwannee River), Cross City, Perry. Then west through the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, along the edge of the Apalachicola National Forest, past Sopchoppy, Carrabelle and down Highway 98 where it hugs Apalachicola Bay.

Where to stay. We left on Friday afternoon and at 9 p.m. we pulled in at Cape San Blas, where we picked up our key and welcome packet from the after-hours check-in bin at Coastal Joe Vacation Rentals.

Our beach house was huge and yellow, like the mid-afternoon sun. It’s called At Water’s Edge, because that’s where it is – on the edge of the gulf, tucked behind the dune on Cape San Blas. There are five bedrooms and four bathrooms. There is a private pool, a wood deck in the back, and a wood porch that stretches the length of the eastern side of the house.

You can watch the sun rise over St. Joseph Bay from that porch. Later, you can sit on the other side of the house and watch the sun go down over the gulf.

Visit Gulf County

The At Water’s Edge pool was nice. Very nice.

There is a private path over the dune that opens onto a beach of white sand and gentle waves. It’s a place for sunsets, where dolphins dance with laughing children. When we left late Monday morning, it still was guarded by a mighty sand fortress of our design – not even the overnight tide had penetrated its walls.

I imagine that when we reminisce about this trip to Gulf County, we will think first of the house. Not because it was spectacular, comfortable and huge. It was all of those things, certainly.

What we’ll remember, I imagine, is the time we spent together at that house on the beach, in the pool, or sitting around playing cards or doing nothing. That, in the end, truly was what set this trip apart for me – the rare chance for the four of us to simply be together in a place where the cares and worries and schedules that waited back home could not intrude.

Visit Gulf County

Beth and Chris set out on our guided kayak tour of St. Joseph Bay.

Everything else fell away for a long weekend, and it was just our family and the house at Cape San Blas.

What to do. We had only one scheduled activity pulled from the extensive and detailed Gulf County Adventure Guide: an eco-tour of the St. Joseph Bay by kayak, with Dan VanVleet of Happy Ours Kayak and Canoe Outpost as our guide. The sun shined bright and the sky was blue on Saturday morning, but a strong wind blew from the south and east and made the going tougher than usual on the water for four novices like us.

Still, Chris (6) took to it like a natural. The next day, he asked if we could kayak across the entire length of the bay. By the end of our guided tour, Jay (9) was able to handle Dan’s sleek, pro-style craft on his own.

Dan, a former teacher who founded Happy Ours in 2000 with his wife, Debbie, taught us how to tell the difference between a St. Joseph Bay whelk shell and a conch shell. Dan also explained why male horseshoe crabs latch on to female horseshoe crabs in the water (yes, it’s related to procreation, but there’s more to it that we did not know).

Visit Gulf County

Dan VanVleet of Happy Ours Kayak introduces us to a King’s Crown Conch.

He also asked us one at a time if we knew why a bald eagle is called that. None of us knew, but I won’t spoil it – it’s much more fun to hear it from Dan himself.

We saw starfish and hermit crabs and, as we drifted along a little saltwater channel, Dan regaled us with the unfortunate history of the original town of St. Joseph. We learned that at one time, the forerunner to the current Port St. Joe was the largest population center in the territory of Florida, and the state’s first constitution was signed there in 1838.

Events in old St. Joseph took several disastrous turns after that, but the misfortune of Florida’s early white settlers helped make Gulf County and the St. Joseph Aquatic Preserve what it is today – a pristine, secluded destination where “real” Florida flourishes still.

Visit Gulf County

We found a starfish in St. Joseph Bay.

Back on land, Dan introduced us to his seven chicken friends – his “girls” flock quickly to him when he calls, and that delighted the boys no end. We bid Dan and Debbie goodbye, and promised to see them again on our next visit.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed a tasty supper at the Sunset Coastal Grill in Port St. Joe before heading back to At Water’s Edge to swim in the pool, to hunt for unusual seashells, and to watch the sun set.

Sunday, we explored the 2,516-acre St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, which takes up the outer tip of Cape San Blas. It was another windy, warm day, perfect for hugging the shoreline of St. Joseph Bay along the sandy Bayview Scenic Trail there at the park.

Visit Gulf County

Everywhere we looked at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, we found natural beauty.

We then made the 20-minute drive around to Port St. Joe, where we let our curiosity guide us to the base of the Cape San Blas light. It was moved to its current location at George Core Park on the Port St. Joe waterfront from the cape in 2014, along with two former lighthouse keeper residences.

There was so much more we could have done. We had the chance to ride horses on the beach, something we’ll definitely do next time. We also could have taken a shuttle out to St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge, a no brainer for a future visit.

Instead, we were drawn back to At Water’s Edge, where we ate hotdogs and chips for lunch and whiled away the afternoon by alternating between building sandcastles on the beach and cooling off in the pool.

Visit Gulf County

The boys on the beach at Cape San Blas.

At sunset, our collective sense of relaxation began to metamorphose into memory as we bathed in light refracted endlessly by airborne salt crystals and sea foam. We were lulled by the lapping low waves into believing it would never end.

And you know? It won’t end. It didn’t end when we drove away from Cape San Blas on Monday morning, and it didn’t end when we pulled safely into our driveway back home on Monday afternoon.

This was not how the story ends. It was how it began.

I know this, because we are resolved: We will go back. We will always go back to Gulf County, Florida.


A video diary of our Memorial Day weekend visit to Gulf County:


Visit Sponsors Site