Saturday, January 30, 2010

Today I will accomplish nothing!

So today I am proud to say I accomplished very little and in all likelihood I will forget this entire day in a year or two.

I woke up this morning with A and the RP as usual. We actually slept into 7:45! Last night was a night of musical beds though. A and the RP went to bed in their rooms and the Wife and I slept in our room. Somewhere around 3 I woke up with A, RP, the Wife and myself all in one bed. So I grabbed the RP and she and I went to A's room (he has a queen bed) and went back to sleep. Then around 5, A woke up and went looking for me. He then climbed in bed with the RP and I. So I wake up in a queen with two kids and the Wife is sprawled in her own king bed(what is wrong with this picture)!

But I digress. So having woken up successfully, we woke up C2 and went to Starbucks. For some reason C2 has gotten very clingy lately. He wakes up for breakfast with me everyday and now he wants to be woken up on Saturdays for the breakfast trip. Surprisingly enough on Sunday's when we have Mass he seems fine with the the idea of sleeping in and missing church!

After Starbucks it was off to Walmart and then(drum roll please)....nothing. Absolutely nothing.We spent the rest of the day sitting around, reading and watching TV. C2 and I spent a bit trying to clean up the playroom (sort of a never-ending task we tackle every once and a while) but other than that we have been gloriously unproductive. A is actually running around with no cloths on and watching TV (he is only 4 so I guess it is okay).

I think it is great sometimes to just stop and enjoy life. I spend all my time endlessly doing something but every once and while it is great to look at your day and say "Today I will accomplish nothing!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fun things about living in South Florida

I thought I would put together a list of some of the interesting things I have experienced/learned over the last year living in Miami:

1) Every Saturday morning a Spanish language newspaper is delivered to my house. I have no idea why or who is paying for it. I don't know how to speak enough Spanish to figure out how to cancel it. But the paper has not stopped in a year and it just keeps coming.

2) By my office close to the airport in Miami there are people who sell fruit and water bottles beside the road. As you stop they run out to the cars and sell their wares. It is like being in a foreign country! There was even a guy who sold these great churros (a sugary pastry) but he disappeared one day and I have not seen him since.

3) The further south you go, the more optional the stop lights become. I was driving home recently and basically both sides of a stop light were running the lights. So all the people with the red light were driving through it. That meant that the green light side was stopped. So when the green light started to turn red that side started going...and ran their red light. Then the cycle began again!

4) Cuba is not just a concept down here. It is very real. You meet many people who fled the country and they are not amused by Castro at all.

5) It is really that hot. You get about two weeks of cold and then it peaks back up into the 70's and 80's during the day. At night it is in the 60's. Most neighborhood pools are heated so people swim all year here. You can go to the beach in January and it is packed with people sun bathing.

6) People think a lot about hurricanes. They are sort of the elephant in the corner of the room. No one wants to talk about them but you always have to think about them. People sit around talking about the best way to maintain generators and what neighborhoods have the most buried power lines.

7) The Caribbean is literally in your backyard. For 25-$30 you can hop on a boat and go over there anytime.A boat leaves from the port 20 minutes from my house. It goes out every day at 8 and is back by 10PM.

8) It is really one long city. From the tip of Miami to the north of Palm Beach is 100 miles of residential neighborhoods all stretched along the coast.

9) The freeways are huge and rarely full. Most of the major roads here are built to get a lot of people out of town as quickly as possible(hurricanes again). I rarely drop below 80 on my morning commute. I am frequently passed by police doing 85-90!

10) It is actually a great place to live if you do not mind that you have to learn some Spanish and you basically have no seasons.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A typical weekend

This is not going to be an interesting post. Mostly me just getting background down in the blog for later posts. I really hope through this blog to better remember my two youngest children's early years. Now that C1 and C2 are getting older it seems like I cannot remember much of what it was like when they were really young. I know we had a blast but is all seems a bit vague. So through this blog I am hoping that in ten years I can look back and remember better all the great times I had with the kids.

Now that we are in Miami we have settled into a pretty good weekend routine. The routine starts on Saturday at the bright and early time of 6:30 AM. A and RP are used to waking up then Monday through Friday and they don't really care that it is Saturday and we are supposed to be sleeping.

So up we go at 6:30-7:00 AM. We load up on the bike and ride to our local Starbucks (about 4 miles away). We eat breakfast and sit around there for about an hour. The Starbucks folks are used to me and my kids showing up in various stages of undress every day. I am dressed but sometimes the kids are in PJs!.

After we get back home it is time to clean up the downstairs and figure out our shopping list for the week. Then the RP, A and I head to the Super Walmart. We tried to shop at the local grocery store but when you are feeding 6 people it is just too expensive. The 15-20% I save at Walmart is well worth the 10 miles I have to drive to get there.

So that leads to a nice 1-2 hour adventure in Walmart. We usually end the ride with several opened items in the cart since the kids seem to view our load of groceries as free game if they get hungry.

By the time we are done it is lunch time. So back home we go. Saturday afternoons are sort of free time for us. Usually A, RP and I end up on some type of adventure. The rest of the family sometimes joins, sometimes not. It is really variable. Right now we have built a sort of menu of amusement options. We can go to the zoo, the beach, the playground, the train or some other adventure to be named later. Usually it is just the 3 of us though.

Sunday starts the same way around 7. Except we drive to Starbucks. There are three Starbucks in my area. We call them near, far and downtown (the Starbucks is in the town center). Since we ride our bike to near, usually Sunday is far or downtown. After Starbucks it is time for church.

Church is really an adventure. It is usually A, RP, myself and at least one of the older children. After Church you get to go to brunch which is a big treat. I do not like to eat out (too many kids) so that is the best chance the kids have of going somewhere fun.

Then Sunday afternoon is open time again. Usually on Sunday we combine something local with some work around the house. Then Monday starts the work week again!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to make Cuban Coffee

I had a request to explain what the heck Cuban coffee is. Cafe Cubano (as it is called down here) is a very strong mix of sugar and espresso. The Cubans tell me that you should be able to taste a good cup of coffee for a solid 10 minutes after you drank it. As a certified caffeine addict I begged one of the ladies in our office to teach me the secret of making it.

So you start with an espresso machine (like the picture here). This one cost me $35 at Walmart though I saw it on sale during Christmas for $26 or so.

You are also going to need a small pot to mix the sugar in(see above). I use a metal creamer but a coffee cup works also (though it is harder to use).

For every cup of coffee you are going to need 2 TB of ground espresso and 2 TB of plain white sugar. You pack the ground espresso into the machine just like you always do when making espresso. Then you take the 2 TB of white sugar and put them in the mixing container. Then you crank on the espresso machine.

The next piece is critical. You capture the first 6-8 drops of the espresso right as they come out of the machine. This is the hottest and strongest of the espresso.I thought this was sort of silly when I started making the coffee but it does actually make a difference. Then you put the espresso pot onto the machine and let the machine brew the rest of the espresso.

While it is doing that you are going to mix the sugar. Taking the first drops of espresso you carefully pour a little bit onto the sugar and start stirring it hard with a spoon. You have to get a thick light brown colored paste. Too much and it is liquidy, too little and the sugar is still too granular. So you essentially whip the sugar and the drops of espresso together.

Then you pour the espresso over the sugar paste. Stir that mix and then pour it back into your espresso pot. In the end you should have a cup of espresso with a thick, light brown head on (almost like a beer). Then you drink it! Usually at work the Cubans will drink the coffee from a 2 TB little cup. It is definitely a sipping drink.

Thanks Annie

This is what is left of the buttermilk pie I made based on Annie's recipe on her blog One Mother's Day. This was T + 5 minutes after oven removal. I suspect it will be gone be EOD. And it was easy enough that even a guy could make it! This is about the most complicated cooking I have done in several years since it did not come out of a box (plus water and eggs)!

Ana-Saurus Rex!

I will be the first person to say that when it comes to raising a daughter I am winging it. I come from a family of 7 boys and 2 girls (both older). C1, C2 and A are all very male and now there is the RP (who is very female). So often I make up stuff as I go.

The RP gets frightened very easily. I am not sure if it is the fact she is adopted or just female. At first I would pick her up whenever she was scared. However, one day we were watching Blues Clues and I saw Steve pretending to be Steve-a-Saurus-Rex and thus was born ANA-SUARAS-REX(see picture above).

So now whenever Ana gets scared we play this game. She will say "I'm scared" and I will say "Ana might be scared but I bet Ana-Saurus-Rex is not!. Then I say "Show me Ana-Suarus-Rex" and she roars and makes a dinosaur face. And she is not scared anymore. So, probably not an Emily Post approved method of handling the situation but it seems to work. I pity the first guy who scares her though. He is in for a big surprise when Ana-Saurus-Rex comes roaring out :-)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not sure if this is normal or not

So every morning I wake up at 5 Am to ride my bike 3-4 miles. It is really the only time I can exercise all day. However, recently I have a helper who is waking up with me. A has become almost scary on how he can sense when I leave the bed (yes he sleeps with me, all my kids have and they seem normal enough though some of C1's teachers might beg to differ). So at 5 AM here he comes down the stairs and then what do you do? No one else in the house is up and I cannot leave a 4 year old by himself. So now at 5 AM here I am biking in the dark with a kiddie carriage pulled behind my bike! I am sure I get strange looks!

Once we get back it is time to wake up C1. That takes 15 minutes. I have mastered the art of waking up a teenager. First there is the open door, some lights on in the hall and I call his name until he acknowledges me. Then I tell him "ten minute warning" and get the heck out of there before he can yell. I then spend the next 5 minutes making Cuban Coffee for him. Then another wakeup and a "five minute warning". Finally, five minutes later there is the final wakeup and I hand him the Cuban Coffee. So far it has worked everytime and I get no yelling or argument. Victory!

Next usually the RP comes sliding down the stairs on her behind. Finally, I go wake C2 and I have all four of my kids to eat breakfast with me every morning. It is a really great way to start the day!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Now that winter is over it is back to the beach!

Having survived both weeks of the brutal Miami winter, temperatures have now almost returned to normal. The crew is getting some much needed R&R on the beach!

The two youngest kids and I have been spending a lot of time at the beach. When I lived in Tampa we used to go to Disney World all the time. However, it is now sort of too far to Disney to just hop in a car and go. Disney now requires a hotel stay so it is not on the list as much. Sometimes A, the RP and I will go there and stay in some cheap hotel but in general we are trying to find cool things to do down here. The beach is certainly up there for us. We probably go at least once or twice a month.

Actually today it was not that warm. It got up to about 72 today and the crew and I decided to hit the beach to try out my new beach shelter.

If you are ever in the market for a beach shelter I would hands down recommended the ABO Gear Instant Max Pop-Up beach shelter. It is SPF 50 and sets up with only one person in a matter of seconds. It is a bit more expensive than most beach shelters but it is one of those products that is really, really worth the extra money. Take it from a guy who is constantly juggling multiple children and trying to set stuff up by myself.

Anyway. We went down to the Ft. Lauderdale beach and played in the sand for 3 hours! It went by so quick I was amazed. You would really not think that playing on the beach could keep a 3 and a 4 year old occupied but it sure did. After playing there though we got into the car and instant sleep! Both kids were out like a light until I got them home.

I was looking at these pictures and I realized it made it look like it was just us. There were actually a ton of people at the beach. However, the kids and I were at the end where the locals hang out. There were not as many people there since 72 is still a bit chilly for Floridians to hang out at the beach. If you went up the beach a quarter mile or so it was packed (which is why I don't go up the beach a quarter mile or so!).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Glad I have a kid friendly church!

Today I am very glad I go to a kid friendly church!

A little background is probably in order. In Florida if you are Catholic you bring your kids to Mass. There is no nice day care/Sunday school for them to go to during the service. There is a kid's church for older kids (6-10 or so) but nothing for younger kids. Religious education is on Tuesdays for us and on Sunday the whole family goes to Mass. Kids are expected to either sit through the service (which an amazing number do) or there is a special sound proofed area where you can sit with them and watch the Mass (which is where my clan hangs out).

I am Catholic and so are my four kids, but my wife is not. She refuses to have anything to do with a Catholic church so on Sunday's I show up to church with some number of kids in tow and just me. A and RP are always with me but C1 and C2 are somewhat more spotty. C1 I tend to be easier on since he goes to a Catholic school and has Mass once a week at school. C2 I harass a bit but he can come up with an amazing number of reasons he should not have to go!

So back to my story. This week it was just me and A and RP (ages 3 and 4). I start walking into the church and A and RP start running. Into the church, PAST Father Pedro, the Deacon and three alter boys lined up to start the procession, through the back of the church loudly laughing, and into section where we normally sit. With me frantically running behind them the whole time.

Not really my normal entry into church. Luckily this is Miami. I am surrounded by Hispanic women who consider males somewhat helpless in dealing with children. I think I get points just for being there with the kids. So instead of stern glares I got amused looks. Poor Papacito they are thinking!

In the future I am walking IN FRONT OF the kids as we enter church!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Like most kids my children love trains. So I decided we needed to go on a super train adventure one weekend. Armed with a system map for the Miami rail system A, the RP, a double stroller, one dad and a bag of Goldfish launched out one Saturday.

We started on what is known down here in Miami as the Tri-Rail. It is a big train (3 stories!) that runs 100 miles from the West Palm Beach airport to the Miami Airport. We got on in Ft. Lauderdale and rode it 30 minutes down to the connection station with the Miami MetroRail.

The Metrorail is an elevated rail system similar to Chicago's L. Basically a subway only elevated over the streets instead. We rode that all the way down to the central station in Miami (the Government Center).

Then we really got crazy. We got off and rode the PeopleMover (sort of a downtown shuttle on a rail) out to a park called Bayfront park. Then we played in the park for hours! It was a lot of fun. The kids loved the train and dad enjoyed sitting beside the water in Bayfront park and enjoying the view.

We had such a good time that we did not get back until 8 PM. The Wife was as usual wondering where the heck half her family had disappeared to!