Dad Life! Breakfast Machen: Potatoes, Eggs, & Bacon (Workout Edition)

Curt here. I’m the guest blogger who gets to talk about DAD LIFE.

I believe kids should have better nutrition than milk and cereal in the morning. So, I dedicate the first hour of my day to making breakfast for the family. This is the second edition of Breakfast Machen, and it’s a classic with a twist: potatoes, eggs, and bacon (workout edition).

There is nothing special about this recipe. It’s all store bought, and you cook up the whole bag of frozen potatoes so you’ll likely get two breakfasts out of it and won’t have ingredients leftover. It might seem counter intuitive to say it’s nice that the potatoes take a LONG time to fry up (if you do them right) when you have to get out the door for work. Because it takes so long, I have plenty of time for other things. If you’re not trying to get into shape, you can use this extra time for any other tasks that take between five and ten minutes: shaving, getting dressed, reading the paper, checking the weather, sneaking in an episode of The Office, whatever.

This is a classic meal that’s perfect for growing children. I’m not a nutritionist, but growing boys need everything this meal offers. Fatty bacon and greasy potatoes; that’s what the body grows on. Besides, ANYTHING is better than sugar saturated cereal.

Note: this can take about twenty minutes shorter if you have a deep fryer. I’ve survived many years on my $35 flat-top skillet (which is good for mass quantity pancakes also), but the recently acquired deep fryer shortens the potato cook time by twenty minutes. Your choice on what takes priority.

Potatoes, Eggs, and Bacon (workout edition)

Prep: None            Cook: 45 min – 1 hour

Vegetable or canola oil

1 package of frozen cubed potatoes (32 oz.)

1 package of bacon (1 lb.)

Eggs (1 per child, 2 per adult)

1) Set electric skillet to high heat (350) and pour on 1/3 cup of oil.

2) Heat the oil (about 5 minutes) and spread out the frozen potatoes evenly. If it’s coming straight out of the freezer, watch out – it spits!

3) Go and do one set of a workout routine or circuit. (25 jumping jacks, 10 pushups, 20 crunches, 10 squats)

4) Turn the potatoes. Add oil if necessary.

5) Repeat steps 3 & 4 five times or as many times as necessary (45 minutes to 1 hour). When potatoes are crispy, remove to a serving bowl.

7) Cook the bacon to taste (watch out – it spits!) and save the excess grease in a reusable container BEFORE cooking the eggs. (Great for substituting for oil in pancakes or re-frying eggs in the future)

8) Cook your eggs to order.

9) Serve eggs with crispy potatoes and bacon. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts: Better than cereal

BOOM! Hearty breakfast.

Good hot, good cold, good for leftovers, good for pushovers, good on a train in the rain and with the kids that cause of all your pain.

Find our printable here.

Tips for this breakfast

Use the time while the potatoes are frying for something productive.

Don’t feel like you have to eat all this food in one sitting. The potatoes are almost better the next morning refried (don’t add oil) and bacon freezes well if you want to keep it for a while.

KEEP the excess grease, it’s great for substituting for oil in pancakes, frying new eggs the next morning or replacing the oil in biscuits for dinner!

Replace the meat with your choice. I often switch it up with sausage links or patties just to keep life interesting.

Dad Life: Take Your Kids to the Mall Park!

Dad Life: Take Your Kids to the Mall Park!

Curt here. I’m the token guest blogger who gets to talk about DAD LIFE. Dads get to have all the fun with their kids, and this is just one of those examples. 

Mall parks are the coup de grâce of dad activities with kids.

  1. They love you for taking them there.
  2. You don’t have to entertain them; other kids play with them.
  3. Other parents will tell you when your kid is wandering.
  4. It’s FREE.
  5. They sleep well at night (or on their way home if you’re out in the evening: easy bedtime!).
  6. Mom stays at home so she gets a break and loves you for it.

Honestly, it’s too simple. Just grab your Daddy Go Bag (see here) and head out the door. Take the bus for an extra level of excitement (see here for tips).

Dad Life: Take Your Kids to the Mall Park!

Dad Life! Educating a 4-Year-Old

My wife and I firmly believe a child’s education starts at home. It’s great that we have a fantastic public-school system that is available to everyone regardless of race, gender, economic status, etc… But parents are still the front line of a child’s education.

Because of this, we decided to get into the habit of embracing what we call an “Education Hour.” It’s a set aside time that the kids understand is for the purpose of learning.

By the age of four, most kids are ready for some actual sit-down style learning. It’s not daisies and roses, and less sitting than just managing to be at a table for ten minutes. They still have short attention spans; however, we’ve been doing education hours with our son for two years now so he gets the gist of how to behave. Our sessions range from 5 minutes to a whole twenty minutes some mornings when his mind is clearly expanding and he just really likes to do more.

Topics We Cover

Writing letters and numbers

Doing basic math (1-10)

Identifying words he knows on a page

All topics of science (usually involving a demonstration or some kind of outing)

Expected Behavior

They’re four, so by now they should know what bad behavior is and what is poor behavior. I’m not saying they always behave well, but there’s less training at four about what is bad, just reinforcing good behavior and discouraging bad behavior.

Examples of bad behavior we actively intend:

  • Markers and paint are for paper only, not tables, walls, couches, etc…
  • No screaming
  • You have to try, no matter what the outcome is
  • No telling your younger siblings the answers to questions

That’s mostly a made up list. They’re only four, so I still let them get away with a lot until it’s over the top. There’s no reason they can’t fidget and sit-stand-kneel at different times while they think or do. I try to help them focus by removing distractions and giving them something to work towards (“When we’re done with education hour, we get to eat dinner!”). We’re going to do whatever is next anyway, but it gives that thing on the horizon to drive towards.

They should be able to recite their new knowledge to other people. I have the most fun with science topics. One evening, I thought “we should do an education hour” and immediately my son asked if we could do a bonfire that night. Perfect! Education hour is the Fire Triangle. We all went out back and we talked about fuel, oxygen and heat and then he had to go tell his mom and grandpa about the Fire Triangle, and then we ate s’mores. I like those kind of education hours.

Kids gets frustrated and don’t want to participate many days, but as you revisit tough topics (like writing a six versus a nine) he gets more comfortable and soon his sixes look pretty good, and I’m embarrassed to demonstrate mine anymore.

If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Good luck dad!

Dad Life: Rides on the City Bus!

Dad Life: Taking your kids on the bus!

Curt here. I’m the guest blogger who gets to talk about DAD LIFE. Dads get to have all the fun with their kids, and this is just one of those examples.

I have uncovered the simplest form of pleasing my wife, my children and myself for approximately two hours on a regularly occurring basis: taking the bus.

In most cities, there is a bus route within walking distance of your house. It doesn’t matter which line it is or where it goes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a commuter bus (meaning you can’t take it back home) or if the buses stop running after a certain hour. Any bus that you can walk to is good enough.

Here’s how you do a bus adventure:

Step 1: Go to the bus stop

Step 2: Take it somewhere

Step 3: Get picked up by mom later

No need to plan. Kids will love the bus more than the destination. Everything in life is exciting and new for young children. If you never forget that, then it’s easy to come up with simple destinations for your kids. Plus, they start to see the world differently. My kids knew the bus numbers that ran by our house, so they would see those buses on the road and get excited about seeing THEIR bus.

No need to explain to your wife where you’re going to go. She has two hours of uninterrupted time to herself to accomplish anything she wants. She doesn’t care where you go. She now has two hands to get one big project or many small projects done. Or maybe a couple of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy which I refuse to watch with her.

But you might be thinking how you might enjoy a bus ride. I’m going to tell you, I have the most fun of everyone. I get to go have adventures. Any adventure I choose. For the entire fall, we picked blackberries on long walks through a local walking trail. In the winter we’d go to different places like the mall park, Barnes and Noble, the library and maybe the occasional ice cream or donut shop. Spring and summer were the best because we could go anywhere: parks, trails, micro-breweries. Sometimes, we just took the bus to the end of the line just to see what was there. We got overconfident and took a transfer a couple of times and got really far from home. Most nights we had a blast. It was addicting. I was taking all three kids (ages 4, 2 and infant) out 2-3 times per week for nearly a year, and it never got boring.

Our normal routine:

Early dinner at 5:00pm (I got home from work around 4:30p,)

After dinner, mom tanks up our infant on the mama juice (in other words, she breastfeeds) and I strap baby in our Beco Gemini (see here) and walk all three kids to the bus stop!

Pick up the next bus that comes along. It’s best if we knew the schedule so we weren’t waiting thirty minutes. Then go to a destination we’ve been to before or try a new stop.

Two to three hours in, the kids and I usually lose our minds and I call my wife for a pickup. We dress them in their PJs and drive home (during which they usually fall asleep).

That was probably the most well-balanced years of our family life. Mom got enough time to recoup her mind, I got to enjoy the kids and they me. Plus, I frequented the micro-breweries a lot more this way. Very enjoyable year for me.

Common Destinations Included:

  • Playgrounds or parks
  • Walking trails
  • Mall parks/Barnes & Noble
  • Micro-breweries
  • Library
  • Taking a bus to the end of its line

If you like this idea, don’t go into it without preparation. When I started, I had three kids under four and there were plenty of things I learned I should always bring with me. Because we did this so regularly, I would pre-pack a backpack and just leave it in the closet. That’s way easier than trying to throw things together last minute. See my post on my Daddy go-bag here

Pre-packed Backpack Items

  • Snacky foods like trail mix, granola bars or an apple (to curb those hangry moods)
  • Water (always, even when it’s cold. Also effective at combating angry moods)
  • Book or newspaper for you (I don’t recommend smart devices, because they absorb too much of your attention, but bring something. The ultimate adventure is when the kids get to run free in a park, and it’s best you have something you can do)
  • Cash and change (for the bus, they rarely give back change)
  • Diapers and Wipes (for all sizes your kids need)
  • Extra clothes (for those inevitable messes)
  • Trash bag and gloves (in case you do some nature diving, see here
Dad Life: Taking your kids on bus rides!

Dad Life! Four Ways to Improve your Restaurant Experience

Restaurant Essentials for Kids

Curt here. I’m the token guest blogger who gets to talk about DAD LIFE.

When your kids are less than five years old, going out to eat is a nightmare. Your sanity and your pocketbook suffer. Restaurants often become a broken record of “Stop doing that,” “Put that down” and “Get down from there!” Plus, I’m the type of parent who lets their kid wander around the restaurant uninhibited. Which means I also get a lot of “That’s a terrible parent” looks.

Going out to eat is inevitable though. It’s often the only way you get to hang out with your non-parent friends and to see extended family. For parties and celebrations, eating out is in your future and you will find yourself dragging your kids to a restaurant and dreading the mere thought of it.

Here’s a few ideas we’ve embraced that have made our restaurant experience less dreadful.

1) Order food, then take the kids outside

No shame: I usually find the back-parking lot area (or the delivery entrance) and let my kids run wild. There is no way I’m going to try to keep their attention on crayons and a placemat for twenty minutes until the food arrives. Two-year-olds are more interested in eating the crayons than drawing with them. Plus, there is a direct relationship to the amount of time a toddler is sitting in front of a glass of water and the chance of that water being spilled.

I, the dad, usually take the burden of ushering the kids to a “safe enough,” somewhat open area for them to run around in. When the food arrives, my wife texts me and I usher them back in to eat. It at least alleviates the pre-meal drama.

2) Bring something else to do

Crayons and a placemat are nice for kids with the finger control, but are worthless on three and younger. For an eighteen-month-old who still thinks every corner brings a whole new world, good luck keeping her strapped into a high chair for twenty minutes. After several iterations and experimenting with various toys, we have settled on the best toys to bring to a restaurant. They have to be easy to carry in and out, easy to clean up and nothing we’re attached to. The solution: A couple of matchbox cars and washi tape. That’s it!

Essentials Restaurant Bag for Kids
Essentials Restaurant Bag for Kids

Why the washi tape? So, they can build roads on the restaurant table! It’s great! Not only do they spend time building the roads with the cool thing they only get at restaurants, but when their attention wanes, they can drive on the roads they built. And then go back to building more roads, and then more driving. Round and round they go… it’s glorious. The fun usually lasts just long enough to order food, which is when we step outside for running around (see tip #1).

This cleanup is easy. Washi tape comes off without leaving a residue and if they built their roads consecutively you start at the beginning and all the individual pieces come up together. Don’t leave the tape for your server. Your kids left a big enough mess under the table. 

Essentials Restaurant Bag for Kids
Essentials Restaurant Bag for Kids

3) Move the condiments

If you have little kids, you’ll know restaurants have all the things that are on a top shelf in your kitchen made accessible to your kids’ ten-inch-long arms: salt, pepper, creamer, sugar, ketchup, napkins, silverware (knives)…

I have never asked a waitress if this is ok, but I’ve never been corrected for it. I move the entire condiments contraption to another table, or I kindly ask the waitress to take it away from us. I don’t care whose kids they are: any child between 1 and 3 will grab for those items and create a catastrophe that only increases your pity tip! Just remove them from the picture, and you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

4) Bring in the baby wipes

It must be a cost-saving move, but restaurants never seem to offer those alcohol wipes. They usually have them, but they’re never offered, no matter how disastrous your kids turn out after dinner. I’ve always been given some if I ask, but 1) I hate asking and 2) holding my kid at arms-length until I can flag down a waitress and wait for them to return with the wipes which could be seconds or minutes or lots of minutes isn’t pleasant.

You have baby wipes if you have small children – use them! My wife has a backpack that functions as our everything-kids-need bag. It goes everywhere with us, especially into restaurants! Sometimes, my wife just pre-stages the wipes on the table before the meal starts. We know we’re going to need them.

However, I do tend to ask the waitress for extra napkins when we order our food, because wipes don’t work well with spilled fluids. Bring in the baby wipes and ask for extra napkins.

Maybe you’re a mom reading these tips, great! I hope they’re helpful, and you make them work!

If you’re a dad, take the initiative on these tips. Going out, even with kids, is always a chance to treat your wife. You should strive for it to be enjoyable for her first, which is why I usually take the burden of relieving her of the kids until the food comes! If you can make less stress for her, then you will be, too. Happy wife…

Essentials Restaurant Bag for Kids. Dad Life!
Essentials Restaurant Bag for Kids