Stay-at-Home Dad 101: What I Eat During the Day, As a Vegan

The thought seemed intimidating when I was first immediately launched into my new career as stay-at-home dad:

“But what will I eat?”

Turns out, the answer was simple. I eat the same stuff I ate every day back when I commuted nearly an hour away to an office; only minus the oatmeal with trail mix and a banana.

I eat a little less because I am a little less hungry, and I suppose that might have something to do with the fact I’m not getting outside to exercise as much. When I worked at the office, I took my breaks walking or biking or running outside; as for now, I have an 18 month-old daughter and cold or hot weather to consider.

My calorie consumption begins each morning with a cup of instant organic iced coffee. (Honestly, it’s only 2 calories; but I’m not counting!) The entire container only costs about $5, the same amount of just one Starbucks latte.

While I could opt for the unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the fridge to add some flavor and creaminess, somehow along the way I discovered I genuinely like the taste of cold, black coffee.

But I do bring out the unsweetened vanilla almond milk about an hour later for my official breakfast, which is the manly vegan smoothie I invented. My recipe is high in protein and total fat, but contains very little saturated fat and zero cholesterol.

The ingredients, in addition to the almond milk: A whole banana, a cup of frozen blueberries, a half cup of plain oatmeal, a teaspoon of chia seeds, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or carob powder, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Then I put that all together in the blender for about 20 seconds.

My lunch is quite predictable for me as well. There’s a brand of organic ramen noodle available at Whole Foods and Sprouts, called Koyo. They are around a dollar a package, and I cook 2 of them for my lunch. They are also high in protein, like my smoothie. I typically go with the “low sodium” version, but if it’s not available, I don’t let it bother my conscience: I usually consume under my daily allowance of sodium, since I don’t eat meat.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I may go for another cup of coffee, but I’m typically not really hungry after having consumed so much protein and good fats earlier in the day.

Depending on what’s for dinner, I may start prepping for when my wife and son get home. What’s really great is when my wife has already put together a crock pot meal the day before and placed it in the fridge. I can have that heating up during the afternoon so it will be ready for dinner. Plus, I can throw together a festive salad.

If I do stray from my ramen noodles routine for lunch, it’s only to finish off any leftovers from the night before, like my wife’s homemade vegan pizza; and maybe a bowl of cereal as well.

And consider, this meal plan is coming from a guy who said most of his life, “I got to have meat! I need more meat! I’m still hungry. I could never be a vegetarian. I couldn’t do it. Especially not a vegan!”

Obviously, there was dynamic character growth in the person narrating this story.

But I have embraced my identity as a manly vegan; and here more recently, as a stay-at-home dad as well.

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3 Non-Romantic Reasons I Love My Wife

On the surface, it’s easy to see why I chose to spend the rest of my life with the woman I married over 9 years ago. She’s universally beautiful, she’s unselfishly kind, and she’s humble yet confident in herself.

I am a lucky man. I have the ability of knowing in all confidence, I made the right decision.

Not only did I choose the right person to marry, but I made the right decision that fateful night of October 5, 2006, when I spotted her in a crowded room full of hundreds of people and decided to take a chance: I walked up to her and attempted to woo her with my interesting stories, my charming, yet off-beat personality, and my average looks.

It worked.

Now here we are in our mid-30s, having been married nearly a decade, and having produced two blue-eyed, Dutch-looking children despite our DNA.

So while I could easily write 841 words on the romantic aspects of how much I love my wife, I’m instead going to take a different direction. What about the non-romantic reasons I love her?

What about the reasons that would be symbolized not by a heart emoji, but instead, by a house or a stack of money, or by a clock or even a skull?

If for no other reason than to challenge myself as a writer, I now present to you 3 non-romantic reasons I love my wife.

  1. We make a good business team.

I feel like this isn’t emphasized when a couple becomes engaged, but marriage is a business, and it needs to be ran that way. The longer we are married, the better we become at running our family’s business.

During our first year of marriage, before kids, we were able to pay for my wife to go get her Master’s Degree, without going into further debt. That investment paid off, as my wife has since then, consistently made considerably more money than I have all these years. My wife also handles our family’s weekly budget.

On my end, I have been faithfully building my experience as a writer (thanks to this blog) since 2009, and as a YouTuber for the past 3 years. Now at present day, we are seeing the possibility that my “side hustles” (as a blogger, ghostwriter, SEO expert, social media influencer, and YouTuber) are starting to pay off. I actually speculate that by January 2019, our monthly mortgage payment will be covered from my YouTube earnings alone.

My wife is the detailed accountant and investor. I am the creative entrepreneur. Together, we run a family business.

            2. We make a good parenting team.

In the same way we are counterparts as co-business owners, we function the same way as parents. My wife is the nurturer, the schedule keeper, the travel planner, the head chef, and the laundry engineer.

Meanwhile, I am the disciplinarian, the head of communication, the chauffeur, the before-and-after school program director, and the “wake up at any hour of the night to get our daughter back to sleep” technician.

We are not great at doing each other’s roles. Instead, we embrace our individual parenting strengths as part of our own identities. We’ve got a good system. And we’ve got good kids.

Whereas I see marriage as a business, I see parenting as a talent management agency. We have two young recruits who we are responsible for molding into respectable and independent adults, preparing them for the real world.

        3. I want to be around her even during the predictable, seemingly uneventful, non-                          Facebook-status-worthy moments of life.

For me, it all comes back to the famous line in our wedding vows: for better or for worse.

Yeah, I’m totally cool with slowly aging alongside my wife for the next 40 years as we live happily ever after, until ultimately one of us finally dies first, leaving the other person with the insurance money- and unimaginable sadness.

But what about the in-between of better or worse? Not everyday can be a Michael Bublé song. Many days are more like Huey Lewis, when he sang, “Yes, it’s true, I’m so happy to be stuck with you.”

I love my wife for the moments in our life together that are just normal and forgettable; the B-roll footage that no one would care about watching if our lives were a reality TV show on TLC, called Our Crazy Vegetarian Life. Being grateful for your spouse through all the filler moments, which honestly, make up most of our time on this planet, is what real love is all about.

So maybe I’ve failed to hold true to the title of this article. Maybe there really is something romantic about building a life together, running it like a business, creating and raising mini-me’s, and choosing to love a person until the day you die, even if most of those days don’t have fireworks and champagne.

Maybe there’s something undeniably romantic about the unromantic parts of loving the person you married.

If so, consider me a hopeless romantic.

Photo credit: Mohamad Alaw.

About the Author:

I am an accidental stay-at-home vegan daddy blogger based in Spring Hill, Tennessee. I have no spare time, but by default, my hobbies include playing guitar, singing, songwriting, mountain biking, skateboarding, running, and going on road trips across America with my family in vehicles that Toyota and Lexus provide for free because it’s smart advertising for them.

Additionally, I enjoy making videos for both of my YouTube channels: Nick Shell, which is a mentorship program for younger men who are psychologically dealing with going bald, and Family Friendly Daddy Blog, which celebrates and explores ethnic diversity based on DNA test results.

Dear Jack: You are the Student of the Month for Your Class for December 2018

7 years.

Dear Jack,

Mommy and I were very proud when we learned this week that you were awarded Student of the Month.

I have this way of forgetting that you live in a completely different society for 7 hours each day. You interact with kids your own age and have independent conversations that I am unaware of.

In the meantime, you are learning from your teacher all day long. You live in a foreign land for nearly a third of each day, Monday through Friday.

I tend to forget about this; that you have to manage and maneuver. You have to take care of yourself.

So sure, it makes me proud to know that my son can do all these things, and on top of that, be recognized by his teacher for being exceptional.

Just yesterday morning I was telling you, before you sister woke up, how you are an especially smart kid; smarter than I was.

I told you how you are going to be successful in whatever you grow up to do. While the words seemed to just fly over you, I hope that some part of that sunk in to your identity.

I’m sure it’s a universal thing as a parent, to strive for your child to have it even better than you did.

It’s not that I doubt myself, as your Daddy. And it’s not that I need anyone’s confirmation that I’m a good parent or that you’re a good kid.

But when you come home from school with an award like this, it’s definitely a bonus; it’s a nice feeling.

You can go out into the world each day, absent from my guidance, and do just fine.

I tell you often that I am proud of you. Maybe it means less coming from me so regularly.

But you definitely give me reason to feel that way.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Having a Big Brother is Pretty Great

1 year, 6 months.

Dear Holly,

This past Monday morning after Mommy left for work, your brother invited you to join him on the couch, as it happened to be one of his days he’s allowed to watch Netflix on the Kindle before school. To accommodate what he correctly assumed would be your preference, he chose some kind of “Barbie Goes to Space” cartoon.

I looked up to see you and your brother sitting very close to each other, by choice. It was completely your brother’s idea and you immediately went along with it.

It’s not easy as a parent to be able to take your picture together and have you both smiling or looking happy. But this wasn’t for a picture. It was already happening and I was just fortunate enough to grab the camera in time.

Plus, you just happened to be wearing one of my favorite shirts you own.

It has a cloud raining down smiley candy. I just love the way you were cuddled up so close to your brother, quietly fascinated by whatever was playing on the screen your brother was holding.

I love the way he was more interested in being close to you than he was the Barbie show he was providing for you.

The thing is, your brother truly always wants to be near you. But right now, I am still in the process of helping him understand how to just hang out with you.

I am trying to teach him there is a time for light wrestling and crawling out on the carpet, but it’s not most of the time.

Instead, most of the time would be moments like this; where the two of you just chill out and lay low.

Eventually, the two of you will find that easier to do.

But for now, his natural inclination is to rush toward you like a mad bull, and you laugh and cheer, which only encourages his rambunctious behavior right before school, dinner, or bedtime.

Love,

Daddy

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: Trick Your Kids into Eating Store Brand Cereal by Switching the Boxes

After my “drinking and driving” incident at the grocery store, I arrived home and took my Eggnog Latte-infused daughter upstairs for her afternoon nap. Then it was time to put away the groceries, which were still in the back of the car.

My wife had clearly written “Cheerios” on the scavenger hunt list, but after seeing I could easily save three dollars by buying the store brand, I did the right moral thing.

Sure, I personally would prefer the real version, but I also would prefer to save three dollars more than the classic perfect taste of that General Mills goodness.

As I was about to make room for the Kroger version of Cheerios in the pantry, I noticed there was only a little bit left of the actual Cheerios still in the bag. I learned at the grocery store that my daughter already has brand recognition with that yellow box.

So I emptied the remaining few ounces of the real Cheerios out of the bag and poured them into the fake Cheerios bag. Then, I placed that entire mixed bag into the actual Cheerios box.

The next several days will serve as a proving grounds, as to whether my daughter will know the difference. If this works, I will feel very accomplished.

This will be a major win.

If it doesn’t work, I’ll have a disappointed, intuitive little girl who will call me out on my bluff without; being able to necessarily legitimately say the words.

She will likely scold me with, “Dad-da Cheer-cheer, no no Cheer cheer!”

Either way, with pride, I shall embrace my identity as the cheap dad who takes just a little bit of the fun out of life, for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Why have Cheerios when you can have Toasted Oats?

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: Don’t Drink (Coffee) and Drive (the Grocery Cart)

I found out this afternoon while doing a mid-week grocery store run for my wife, that it’s not as easy as one might think, to push the grocery cart with a kid, while drinking coffee.

As I entered the Super Kroger in Spring Hill, Tennessee, I thought to myself, “Okay, this is my first time as an official stay-at-home dad buying groceries. Enjoy this errand and make it part of your identity. This is part of your job now. So… what would my wife do in this situation to make it more fun?”

And there it was, Starbucks. She would definitely buy a $5 coffee to begin her journey. So I ordered an Eggnog Latte with coconut milk, as my daughter played inside the two-seater Kozy Coupe-looking car attached to the front of the shopping cart.

I tried to order the manliest drink I could think of, but unfortunately, they don’t make the Spicy Mocha that High Brew in Franklin makes: cayenne, cinnamon, and mocha.

Once the nice young man handed me my unregulated caffeinated beverage, I made my way towards to organic section. But immediately, I found out it’s quite difficult to make a right turn when your right-handed and are pushing a shopping cart with a giant car attached to the front of it, still while holding a $5 drink in your other hand.

How was I going to make it all the way through a ten acre grocery store without spilling my coffee?

The answer: I wasn’t.

Historically, I have stayed home with the kids while my wife buys the groceries early on Saturday morning. I have yet to memorize where everything is in that grocery store so big it needs its own zip code.

Some of the items on the “scavenger hunt” were in the baby section, some were in the organic section, and some were just mixed in with the regular stuff.

In case my Instagram photo doesn’t show the details, then just believe me:

Each time I suddenly had to jerk the cart to make a turn in time, or simply bumped into the corner of the aisle I was trying to enter, an eager ounce of the Starbucks magnificently shot out of the adult sippy lid of my coffee cup and landed in the cart.

Needless to say, my daughter’s clothes still smell of Eggnog Latte, as she had eventually exited the faux Kozy Coupe and asked me to place her in the normal kids’ seat; right where the majority of the two dollars’ worth of Starbucks had made a miniature puddle.

I know there will be a learning curve to this stay-at-home dad thing, but today I learned that I shouldn’t be drinking Starbucks and driving the grocery cart.

They Finally Tore Down the Rock Silo Tower in Spring Hill, Tennessee on Highway 31 on December 4, 2017

Yesterday morning at 9:30 AM as I was driving my daughter to her 18 month-old check up, I happened to look over and see a bulldozer clearing the brush around the iconic rock silo tower on Columbia in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Less than an hour later, as I drove back to my house which is just about a mile away from the silo, my speculations were accurate:

They had completely flattened it. Only rubble remained.

Later that afternoon, I kept getting notifications from the “i heart spring hill (TN, y’all)” Facebook group after a professional photographer named Rick Sweeney happened to also be driving by, and took pictures of the event.

It was somewhat of an emotional response that I was seeing in the comments of his photos. I feel like it was just an unspoken agreement for anyone who lives in Spring Hill, that we perceived that old rock silo tower as one of the town’s official landmarks; though we never really talked about it.

By the way, a very special thank you goes out to Rick Sweeney for allowing me to use his photos to illustrate this story. Here is a link to more of his work, beyond the silo:  Rick Sweeney Photography.

My family moved to Spring Hill three years ago. I always knew it was a matter of time before whoever has holding on to the property finally decided to sell their family’s land and instantly become millionaires.

So exactly three years ago I took my son out to the silo and took some pictures with him there. I wanted to provide a special way to remind him of that place years after it was torn down.

I also filmed an episode of one of my YouTube shows, Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest, on location at the silo.

After that, I made my peace with it; knowing it would probably be a few months later before the tower was destroyed.

Fortunately, I was wrong. It took a couple of years. Yesterday was the day: December 4th, 2017.

This event is the modern day Spring Hill version of, “They paved paradise and put a parking lot.”

We all knew this day would come.

I will miss you, old abandoned rock silo tower that no one really talked about until know.

We don’t know what we got ’til it’s gone.