Food & Football: Miami Hurricanes Kickoff 2017

Whether you’re here to find new recipes, check out the family adventures, or hear my take on Miami Hurricanes Football, thank you for taking this journey with us.

Welcome to the kickoff for the 2017 edition of the “Food and Football” blog.  The 2016 football season was the blogs inaugural year and there were a lot of lessons learned on and off the field that will make this year even better.  For the new recruits to “Food and Football’, let me catch you up!  Being from the south, (Georgia), Summer does not precede Fall or Autumn. The only season that we recognize after Summer is football season.  When this season comes around, there is a perfect storm of the 3 Fs of Family, Food and Football.  This blog captures the good food and great family moments with our two sons, “Osito” and “Deuce”, as we follow my wife (Mami) and I’s alma mater, The University of Miami Hurricanes aka The U.  So whether you’re here to find new recipes, check out the family adventures, or hear my take on Miami Hurricanes Football, thank you for taking this journey with us.

The Food: 

Shttle U (close)
Space Shuttle Discovery (STS- 133) on the Launch Pad (2011)

The food is inspired by the Hurricanes’ football schedule.  Since the Air Force has moved us to Texas, we aren’t able to attend games like we did as students or at my first duty station in Cape Canaveral, FL.  With the location change and the added challenge of traveling with two kids under 2, every Saturday we bring the tailgate into our home.  The idea is to create a “Game Meal” that represents The U’s opponent that week and as we feast, hopefully, the canes are feasting on the field.  The primary influences on the meals are the opponent’s mascot, school name/nickname, or a signature dish from the location of the school, like I did for the Pitt Panthers.  However, the meal inspiration can have a petty aspect to it, but that is usually reserved for rivalry games like FSU.

Coming up with game meals last year did become challenging since a lot of the school’s mascots or names had nothing to do with food.  I found myself relying heavily on school location, which is fine, except the majority of opponents were in the state of North Carolina (App State Mountaineer, Duke Blue Devils and NC State Wolf Pack).  This limited the game meals to either sweet potatoes (state vegetable) or Carolina style BBQ.  But on the positive side, with some loose interpretation of mascots, we had the opportunity to explore some meals that aren’t a staple in our diet like lamb (UNC Tar heels), quail (FAU Owls) and tuna steaks (UVA Cavaliers).  This year, the plan is to expand the game meal inspiration to include the opponent, the home team and our family adventures.

The Family: 
Second only to my faith in Jesus, my family is everything to me.  Nothing makes me happier than spending time, sharing a meal, and watching football with them.  This could be the family I was born into, married into, or those friends that have become family.  In this blog, family serves an important role for two reasons.  First, without family you can’t have weekend adventures.  This is the perfect time for us to explore the city and surrounding areas of our current duty station, Houston.

Houston
Photo from our Maternity Shoot around Houston.

Last year we saw trips to the Houston Zoo, College Station, Tx and Miami.  This football season holds our last few months in the Houston area, and there are a few adventures we need to check off the list before leaving.  As an added bonus, this will be Deuce’s first season, so it has to be a memorable one off the field and hopefully on.  Second, without family how can the “Game Meal” be rated?  As it is on the field, so must it be in the kitchen, where there are losers and winner.  The rating is a standard 1-10 on presentation but mostly taste, but the true litmus test is when people go back for more.  My regular panel includes Mami and Osito, but special guests will show from time to time.

The Football:Sleep
While the food has been good and family is always great, the football, well, it has been
“a snooze fest” dating back to my college days.  I was going to use this time to talk about the past and everything The U hasn’t done, like play for an Conference Championship (in 14 years), beat FSU (in 8 years) or won 10+ games (in 14 years), which is a far cry from being relevant, much less a contender like in the glory days.  But no sense in crying over spilled whiskey.  Plus, if Mark Richt’s first year as HC is a sign, the future is bright and the “swag” appears to be returning.  Like with the food, the football will also receive a rating and throughout the year we will gauge the team against my predictions and the Hurricane Standard Checklist (see below).  I don’t call out individuals, because as a father, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize these kids that are playing a game.  However, I will highlight position groups, but remember football is the ultimate team sport.

                    2016 Recap: 
Last year, in my opinion, was a great start to the Richt era.  After a 4-0 start to the season,Kaden 2017.JPG the team faced some turbulence and had a 0-4 stretch that included losses against the eventual division winner, VT, and FSU.  In years past, the team would implode after facing this type of adversity, but not this team, not this coach.  They rallied and finished the season strong with a 5 game win streak capped off by the first bowl win in 10 years.  The streak and bowl victory will serve as momentum into the 2017 season and inch them closer to upholding the standard set by the Godfather of Miami football, Coach Schnellenberger, who coached Richt during his college days.  Overall, it is easy to see the potential of the canes as we saw a complete turnaround in defense from being ranked 69th under the old regime to 20th last year.  On offense, though things were slow at times, you could see the influx of young talent.

                    2017 Prediction: 
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF), the 2017 Miami Hurricanes will have a 10-2 regular season.  I’m not a gambler but Vegas has them at 9 wins (cough cough take the over).  My process of prediction is broken down into 3 areas: internal analysis, external analysis and scheduling.

                              Internal Analysis:
The foundation for success this year will start with a defense that gives “unbelievable effort”.  The entire front 7 is returning and the staff did a great job of reloading at CB with help from the grad transfer and junior college transfers after 2 departed for the NFL.  Offensively, the story line for the entire off season has been who will be the quarterback.  While everyone knows the QB position is important, it has been proven in college football that you can win with just a “game manager” as long as you have a strong run game and defense, see Alabama Crimson Tide.  These are two things the Canes should have and then you add in the talented WRs and you have the making of a solid team.  However, if you don’t have a solid O-Line, it wouldn’t matter if you had Peyton Manning at QB.  Over the past few years, poor blocking resulting in limited time for the QB and no space to run has plagued the Canes.  The consistent play of the O-line will determine how far The U goes this year regardless of which of the 4 candidates win the starting job.

Kaleb
Don’t sleep on the Canes

     External analysis: 
Once the schedule is released, I will break it down into the following sections: Should Win, Toss Up and Probably Lose.

Should Win:  This section is comprised of your annual cupcake game, non-Power 5 teams, and teams that have been struggling lately or doesn’t match up well against the Canes.  There are 7 teams that fit this category, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas State, Toledo, Duke, GT, Syracuse and UVA. While we should win these games, any given Saturday, if you don’t bring it you will take an L.  GT can be tricky with their triple option especially if they get a QB that can throw.

Toss Up:  This section is mostly filled with rivalry games, but there are some wild cards that can go in this section.  In rivalry games, records don’t matter and one inch or the bounce of the ball can be the difference.  This year, I see 5 toss up games, FSU, VT, UNC, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.  While FSU is a given, there may be some “side eye” on the other 4 games.  Three of them, UNC, ND and VT, will be breaking in new QBs and Pitt hasn’t had much of an offense. However, VT always has a solid defense and between them and UNC, the Canes have found a way to lose to at least one of them.  ND had a terrible 4-8 season last year, but I expect them to be much better with their HC on the hot seat.  By the way, one of their 4 wins was against the Canes.  I will explain the Pitt game during the scheduling section.Schedule

Scheduling:  The U’s schedule is very favorable and most of the key games are late in the year which bodes well for breaking in a new QB.  The exception is a week 3 match up in Tallahassee (Talla-trash-see) vs FSU.  Note that FSU will be one week removed from playing Bama in week 1 so there could be some hangover from that depending the outcome.  Looking at the other toss-up games, ND and VT are at home. They are on the road at UNC, but they will be coming off a tough trip to VT.  The “at” Pittsburgh game in late November will be intriguing if the cold weather plays a role.

When it’s all said and done, I see the Hurricanes checking off the following from the Standard Checklist: 10+ wins, beat other rivals, win division, and win bowl game.  The wild card is beating FSU. If they win in week 3 the Canes will take a higher trajectory for the season, but if not they may get another shot in the ACC championship.  This means winning the ACC can get checked off and keep in mind it’s hard to beat a team twice.  But if everyone stays healthy and solid QB play after being eased into college football the first half of the season, the sky is the limit.

Follow me on IG & Twitter @outer_space_dad

   The Hurricane Standard Checklist  
◻ Beat FSU – If Miami had a 1 win season, it better be this game
◻ Beat Other Rivals on Schedule – 2017: Notre Dame and VT
◻ Win 10+ Games – Double digit wins (for most teams) starts the convo of a “good year”
◻ Win Conference Division – ACC Coastal: includes Duke, UNC, VT, GT, Pitt and UVA
◻ Win Conference Championship – ACC: vs winner of Atlantic Division
◻ Win Bowl Game – Hopefully the CFP Playoff semifinals or New Year’s Six Bowl
◻ Win National Championship – Why they play the game
◻ Undefeated Season – The icing on the cake

U at night

Food & Football Bowl Week 14 2016: The U vs West Virginia

My Beloved Osito,

After a month long hiatus from Miami football, The U is back in action for bowl season.  This time of year is bittersweet for all college football fans.  While you get a month of nonstop action with some intriguing match ups across conferences and the College Football Playoffs, it signals the end.  The U’s final game will take place at the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando against an old foe from their Big East days, the West Virginia Mountaineers.  Just like the The U, we also spent the end of our “season” in Florida.  We traveled to Miami to be with your grandmother (Wella) and Aunt (Titi) and the rest of Mami’s family for the holidays.

The game meal for this match up, honestly, had nothing to do with the game.  Partly because their mascot, a Mountaineer, and the state aka the Mountain State, did not intrigue me to explore food possibilities.  However, the main reason was because your Jonathan KimbleTiti made a request.  With that request, Chicken and Waffles were on the menu and a brunch style game meal felt right being in Miami.

The U came into the game on a 4 game win streak and it felt like they were intent on earning their first bowl win in 10 years.  Sadly, I was a freshman the last time The U won a bowl game.  For us, game day began with a Miami style “Weekend Adventure” to South Beach for your Wella’s birthday.  The game was on a Wednesday, but it falls under the theme.

To start the game, there were some good and bad moments.  The bad revolved around the offense’s inability to do anything and they were out of sync in every aspect going Brunch pose“3 and out” on most of their drives.  However, the good part was an impressive defensive effort, despite no help from the offense.  They were able to hold a high powered offense, ~490 yards and 31 points a game, to 7 in the half.  The adventure started with brunch at the “Local House”, picked by Mami.  It was a really nice and intimate spot, but sitting intimately with an 18 month child that wants to touch everything makes for an adventure in itself (looking at you).  Despite having to remove utensils, cups and the flower center piece out of your reach and you trying to throw your toys into Titi’s coffee, you embraced the Miami brunch life effortlessly.

Bike view BayThings finally turned around for the offense when they exploded for 21 straight points with 6:30 left in the 2nd quarter.  The U went into the half leading 21 to 7.  Following brunch, we made our way to the beach through the breathtaking South Pointe Park.  Watching you on the beach for the first time was, well, hilariously memorable.  Initially, you refused to put your feet in the sand, but by the end you didn’t want leave.  Add in cruising around in your ‘Smartrike’ bike and running through the splash pad to remove the sand and you have the making of an epic weekend adventure.

Splash Pad 1

The second half of the game was pure bliss.  The U was able to dominate in all three phases of the game and cruised to a 31 to 14 win.  While the victory was very nice and The U finally ended the season on a high note, the victory meant a great deal more to the future of the program.  For the first time in a long time, it feels like “The U is Back!” (::inhales::) Let me not get ahead of myself, this game showed that there is a real possibility that The U is on the right track to being relevant in the ACC and on the national stage for years to come.  Much like the game, the weekend adventure ended on a high note with a game meal that rates a 7 out 10 and this time there were more judges.  It wasn’t higher because I couldn’t get YOU to eat the waffle, instead you would put it in your mouth and then throw it on the floor.  My guess was because it didn’t have syrup on it.

Waffle on the floor

This marks the end of the 2017 season of “Food & Football”.  This year’s season we saw 4 Facesthe good, the bad and the ugly both on and off the field and it showed.  From teeth getting knocked out and win streaks (on the field) to weekend adventures, quality family time and good and not so good food (off the field).  Next year we’ll be praying and working towards better things on but most importantly off the field.  The countdown begins to September 2018.

Ingredients
Waffles:
1. While holding a shifter over a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon (tsp) baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, 3 tablespoon (TBS) sugar and another cup of flour on top.
2. In another bowl melt 2 oz (= 4 TBS = 1/2 stick) of butter and mix together 15 oz of milk or buttermilk, 3 eggs and splash of vanilla.
3. Pour the liquid mix into the dry ingredients and mix slightly. (I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I pour the liquid in so I don’t make a bigger mess with the flour lest your Mami chop my head off).
4. Let the batter set for ~5 min and then spoon/pour into a hot waffle iron. Cover with nonstick spray if needed, and cook for specified time.

Chicken:
1. Take washed chicken wings and/or breast and cut the breast in half and (if desired) the drumette from the flat. I’m not sure if those are official terms, but that’s what I’ve always heard
2. Marinate in Italian salad dressing, Cajun seasoning, Adobo and a little pepper. The longer the better.
3. Preheat oil to 400 degrees in a skillet. I use an electric skillet and take it outside. (The first time Mami made me, but now I do it because I prefer to not have the house wreak of fried food smell for days.
4. Take two bowls and add flour, Cajun seasoning and dried parsley to one and in the other bowl add an egg, a splash of milk, and hot sauce.
5. Take the chicken and dredge it in the flour and then in the egg mixture, then back in the flour.
6. When you have a few place them in the oil until cooked thoroughly and golden.

Bike Trick

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”
@outer_space_dad

Dads Count as Real Help

This is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.

Mijos,

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)
Dad’s count as real help!  Parenting is very complex and encompasses a wide range of activities and responsibilities which are split differently depending on the family structure and what simply works best for everyone.  However, it was made evident to me that there are people (I hope a small group) that assume that dads just cannot/will not/should not complete certain tasks.  I understand that men are not typically seen as nurturing, and may cringe at the idea of completing domestic tasks like cleaning and laundry.  But honestly, gender aside, who really enjoys doing these things anyway?(Except your mom, she gets an inexplicable satisfaction from cleaning).  However, this is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.  That mayMammoth include bringing a mastodon back to the cave for food or just changing a diaper.  Simply put, a new breed of modern men exist and are thriving.

Mom, you need HELP!
It all started around Mami’s 36 week pregnancy check-up with Deuce.  The appointment started off very routine with the doctor asking how things were progressing, checking Deuces heart beat and the usual “look under the hood”.  The mood of the check-up changed when the doctor used the dreaded “B” word, BEDREST.  Honestly, after understanding it was strictly precautionary to get as close to the 40 week mark as possible and that Deuce was healthy and thriving, my next emotion was jealousy.  Imagine not going to work, chilling in bed with a bell to ring for someone to address your every need, and endless hours of Netflix and DVR binge watching.  It sounded like a mini vacation to me; except for the whole human growing inside of you thing.

I quickly snapped out of my haze as the doctor began listing activities Mami should avoid while on bedrest.  As the list grew longer with orders like “do not pick up/carry your toddler, no vacuuming and no bending over”, I started a mental list of tasks I would need to take over.  Then came the slap in the face…the doctor finished the list and asked Mami, (as if I wasn’t in the room), “do you have any real help close by, like your mom?”  After glancing over to me with a puzzled look, Mami stated “no, my mom is not close by…”

In my opinion, I was expecting the doctor to turn to me and say “Ok dad, your time to shine!” It didn’t.  She started to explain how Mami could do modified tasks while on bedrest.  The modified task that insulted me the most was cooking.  She highlighted that Mami could season and prepare the food on the counter and cook on the stove top, but I would need to hand her any pots and place the food in the oven because she shouldn’t bend over.  While annoyed, I tried not to take it personal assuming she was under the pretense that women do all the cooking in the home, and this may be a valid concern forEating some pregnant moms.

Not Another One
Let’s fast forward to the delivery room the morning after Deuce’s birth.  As usual, the nurse arrived to check on Mami and Deuce, and after going over a few documents and ensuring that feeding and bowel movements were occurring regularly (for Deuce not Mami), the nurse asked Mami if anyone was in town or close by to help her.  Mami stated that ‘Abuela’ was in town, which prompted the nurse to respond “glad you’ve got some help here”…again…as if I wasn’t in the room.

Obviously every helping hand is welcome when bringing a new baby home, especially when this is the second one and we, as a family, could use all the help we can get from whoever is willing. It takes a village.  But, dads count as help too!  Maybe I’m reading into the nurse’s comments too much given the encounter with the doctor.  And it’s possible that I read too much into the doctor’s comments as well, but either way a dad is part of the family team and not a liability when it comes to domestic responsibilities.

“You ‘gon Learn Today”
As a self-proclaimed SSM, “Self-Sustained Man”, I cannot stress the importance of learning how to complete domestic tasks.  As your father, I never want you to be in a situation where you can’t be of help to your family or to yourself for that matter.  So as my parents taught me, I will transfer that knowledge to you.  Let the record show I am doing this in the spirit of caring, but at times, I know it may seem like punishment when I am making you do chores.  Just remember that one of the best ways to learn is to do.  The following is a list of tasks that will serve you well throughout your life and you can “help” with when you have your own family.

cooking

Cooking:   I learned the basics of cooking from watching your grandparents when I was young, but my love of food is what really got me into cooking.  During the holidays, I would spend time trying to help in the kitchen while asking a lot of questions to your great aunts/uncles and great-grandma as they cooked my favorite dishes.  Whether it was Aunt P’s macaroni and cheese, Aunt L’s dumplings or Grandma’s honey ham, I wanted to recreate those dishes because once a year was not enough.  I didn’t realize until I was older that what I learned growing up can save money, make me feel like I am back home or in a particular place/time, and can even impress the ladies (like Mami and your grandma of course).

Laundry:  This is a big one!  For me, I do laundry for a few reasons, first I don’t want Mami touching my gym clothes. They are usually soaked from sweat and have a smell of…. progress to them.  I personally feel that if she was subject to that encounter every week she would begin to resent me.  Secondly, one time she washed my clothes and she didn’t empty my pockets and there went my wallet…so yea, I just do it.  Doing my own laundry served me well, especially when puberty hit, but that subject is for another day.  Just know, it’s probably better for all involved for you to wash your on clothes and bedding yourself than to subject one of us to it.  Laundry is quite simple, the daunting part is separating everything and putting it away after it’s done in a timely matter.

Ironing:  There is nothing like a fresh pressed shirt, even if it’s a t-shirt, but it does take a little effort.  While putting it in the dryer and taking it out right after works to get outdryer wrinkles, a method I’ve used since middle school, it just doesn’t give it the clean professional look you get with an iron.  What I have learned though, is that ironing men and kids clothes is a lot easier than Mami’s.  Be thankful that you won’t have those problems because I still don’t know how to iron a dress with all those creases.

Dishes:  I’m going to pull the “you have it easy because back in my day” card.  Growing up your grandpa used to say “I don’t need a (machine) dishwasher, I have 6 of them right here”.  If you don’t get the reference he is referring to me and your uncles.  We got to the point where we used an assembly line with one person washing, another rinsing and the last person drying and putting the dishes away.  It wasn’t until college that I learned how to use a dishwasher.  However, you’ll still have to rinse off the food and give it a quick wash with the sponge and soap before running the dishwasher to sanitize the dishes.

SweepingCleaning:  Cleaning is a broad term, and depending on the room, the tasks change.  In the bathroom you’ll have to scrub the tub/shower, sink, toilet, and don’t forget to wipe the toothpaste splatter off the mirror.  In the bedroom you’ll need to just keep the floor clear of toys and other objects that will cause me pain when walking in the dark.  Also, make sure your clothes are put away because you can’t have a “chair closet” until you’re grown.  Don’t forget to make your bed and don’t worry, hospital corners are only for show and not practical.  Just keep the Living room in order and you’re done.  The dining room and den, well those rooms are just for show per your mom, so just keep them dust free.  Speaking of dusting, all furniture in the rooms will need to be wiped down and the floors will need to be swept and mopped or just vacuumed pending on the floor type.

There are levels to cleaning, but understand if company is coming over, Mami goes intoCleaning sanitation inspection manager mode and will expect a deep clean.  Honestly, my standard for what is considered clean is not to your Mami’s standards.  I don’t think anyone meets her standards, but she will try and teach you, I can assure you of that. Clean to her standard and you’ll be fine.

Sewing:  When I say sewing I am not referring to operating a sewing machine because I don’t have one nor do I know how to use one.  However, your great grandma had one and created awesome patch quilts, but her impact on me is for a different time.  In short, you will need to learn how to use a needle and thread to sew holes, put on buttons, fix a broken zipper or hem pants if you’re feeling adventurous.  As a parent this skill can be used to conduct eye surgery to give sight sewingback to toys or to ensure they don’t lose their internal organs.  To me, sewing is a lost art, but the trick is always being able to thread the needle.

Fully Equipped 
In college, I witnessed firsthand, other kids that couldn’t do for themselves.  Some were unable to do laundry and literally going home every other weekend just so their mom could do it.  During ROTC training, some couldn’t iron their uniform or make their bed to save their life.  While I learned all these tasks for different reasons, whether it was because I liked cooking or because I was forced to scrub a tub, they have all served me well once I was out on my own.  Again, this is not to be seen as “chores” or “punishment”, this is us (no pun intended, but also the name of one of the best shows ever!  Find it. Watch it.  See your life change) fully equipping you with the ability to be self-sustaining men and “Real Help” to your families.

Love you both to “Infinity…and Beyond”
@Outer_space_dad

The FEAR of Fatherhood

My Beloved Osito,

I always had dreams of my future and how my life would turn out.  That future always included having the “perfect” family, like the Cosby Show, and being the fun, enthusiastic, and involved dad.  But, no one ever explained to me the utter FEAR that comes with fatherhood.  For me, the fear came in three distinct stages, the announcement, pregnancy and labor, and your introduction into the world.  With the arrival of your brother, “Deuce”, I had to relive the fear that comes with stages one and two and now I have a double dose of fear for the third stage.

Stage 1: The Announcement – FEAR of being Unprepared
This is the beginning of fatherhood.  For you, the announcement came one fall afternoon.  As I was watching The U’s football game, Mami came in nervous and hesitant.  After asking her to tell me what was wrong a few times, she handed me the pregnancy test and sheepishly said “I think I’m pregnant”.  For Deuce, the announcement was the complete opposite, occurring one June evening.  As we were sitting on the couch I noticed an inexplicable glow encompassing Mami who had just walked into the loft
from taking a shower.  See, I knew that glow. I had seen it before. Add that, and the fact that in hindsight I noticed she had been getting tired earlier than usual I had the pleasure of telling her she was pregnant.  Disclaimer: She completely brushed me off and life went on as usual until she took a test 2 weeks later that proved I was right.

Along with the shock and the joy of expectancy that comes with the announcement, the FEAR of being unprepared is not far behind.  For me, I feared being unprepared financially, to an extent, but honestly my biggest fear was my maturity level.  You hear stories (and they are true) of the financial burden that comes with having kids, and I knew we were not in a place where I felt comfortable to do more than just meet the needs of having a child.  My plan was to be a D.I.N.K (Dual Income No Kids) for several years before children came into the plan.  As Announcmenta D.I.N.K, my goal was to be debt free, (95% of my debt comes from my school loans), followed by building wealth and then preparing for kids.  However, things did not go as planned and while I still have the same goals, the schedule has shifted slightly.  While managing this fear, I chose to change my lifestyle dramatically and with that my priorities changed.  Since money always goes to your priorities first, things freed up in the budget.  And while some things I enjoyed have been cut out, I honestly don’t miss them because I have us.

Maturity was a completely different battle that I couldn’t figure out with spreadsheets and formulas because it was completely mental.  Prior to both of you, I would constantly have thoughts like “I am not really an adult”, “it feels like I left college yesterday” and “why is the cashier calling me sir, I can’t be more than 4 years older”.  Following your births, those thoughts along with the fact that I’m now supposed to raise and be responsible for a helpless human being…you may understand my fear.  While no switch has ever flipped that I am aware of, each day, I simply try my best, read what I can, listen to the doctors and do what we believe is best for you both.  However, it has been beyond refreshing to realize that I can run around the house in my underwear with you in your diaper yelling and mimicking my every move at the age of 29 without fear of being judged (except by your Mami) because I’m “playing with my kids”.

Stage 2: Pregnancy and Labor – FEAR of Helplessness 
This stage of fatherhood is very hands off and feeling helpless for 9 months is an indescribable FEAR.  Between the 37th and 40th week of pregnancy, there was not much I could do directly for you, but by making Mami comfortable, I knew I was helping…I think.  This phase was very difficult because while the reality of fatherhood becomes real upon hearing your heartbeat, seeing the ultrasounds, and watching Mami’s belly grow, there was nothing else I could do to make sure everything was going as planned.  During the day, to help ease the fear and feel part of the process, I studied like I was trying to be valedictorian in our lamaze class subsequently acing all the quizzes.  At doctor’s visits, I always had a list of questions and just tried to remind Mami of all the questions she had because “pregnancy brain” is real.  However, at night was when FEAR would peak.  Some nights were sleepless, but sleep or not, thoughts of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy and labor crept into my mind.

Labor was more intense than the pregnancy, whether it lasted 3 days (you) or 3 hours (“Deuce”).  Watching the sheer pain that Mami was in and only being able to offer ice chips or suggest a position change, gave me an overwhelming helpless feeling.  And, as she pushed, I offered what felt like empty words of encouragement like “just a few more minutes” and “one more good push”.  As I watched you guys come out, instantly, I counted limbs and appendages and wondered if the purple hue was normal. Specifically, during your birth Osito, your purple appearance had me speechless as the doctor guided you out and stated that the umbilical cord was around your neck.  His calmness didn’t help ease my fears of the worst because I was sure you weren’t getting enough oxygen.  It turns out, 1/3 of babies are born with the umbilical cord around their neck and some doctors don’t even mention it during the labor.

Stage 3: Introduction to the World – FEAR of the unknown. 
The fear in this stage is difficult to categorize, so we will call it the FEAR of the unknown.  I can’t count the number of times I check to see if you’re breathing by watching your chest rise and fall on the baby monitor or by blowing softly in your face while you’re in my arms to make sure you twitch.  While part of my fear has to do with innate behaviors like will you choke on food because I don’t know how you learned to chew and swallow or complications like the risk of putting tubes in your ears, the biggest area of concern is how you will successfully navigate this harsh world and making sure I teach you everything I know to help you do it better than me.  Reading and watching articles and videos on social media of kids getting bullied or an encounter with the police that goes tragically wrong, I find myself analyzing the situations like a case study.  My hope is that I can learn something, anything that I can teach you both to ensure you always come home.  What I have concluded to from my own experiences is that this fear is difficult to overcome, just being a father, but there is an added layer of complexity being a black dad raising his sons to be men.  My fear is that I may miss something and the worst happens to you because of it.

Osito and Duece

Coping Mechanism: 
As the cliché goes, I have a good understanding what my parents must have gone through raising me and your uncles and yet you’re not even old enough to leave the house, drive nor are you even ready for kindergarten for that matter.  I also understand why my parents and grandparents spent so much time praying for us.  Once you’ve done everything you can whether that be by making spreadsheets, reading and making up case studies, you have to turn it over to Jesus and know that he is your help and trust that all things work out for the good of those that trust him.  While fear is a natural human response, I encourage you both to not let it control you and prevent you from living the life that was planned for you before you were a twinkle in my eye. Despite all of this, you guys bring me so much joy with just a simple smile and I will never let fear stop me from being the best father possible.

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad

Food & Football Week 13 2016: The U vs Duke

My Beloved Osito,

It’s week 13 and with this being the last game of the regular season, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel of the 2016 NCAA Football season.  The grand finale will be a match up against the Duke Blue Devils in Durham, North Carolina.  This is an intmiracleriguing game solely based on how last year’s game ended with the “miracle“. It was a crazy last second play that ended with some officiating controversy.  The wildest thing about this game was not the play, but the backlash from the media after the game.  Many across the country were calling for The U to forfeit the game or for the ACC to give the win to Duke.  Anyone who has played sports or been around sports knows that you can’t focus on one play or call and ignore all the other calls throughout the game.  The U isn’t the first team to win (or lose) on a controversial call, yet this is the first time I’ve seen the ‘mob’ calling for a team to void a win.  It just feeds the narrative that the NCAA and the media is not very fond of The U, but I digress.

For the game meal, I explored a few options. The first was the “Devil” aspect of Duke’s mascotmascot named after the French soldiers of WWI, “Les Diables Bleus”.  This led me to explore devil’s food cake or maybe even loaded deviled eggs, but that didn’t intrigue me.  I reverted back to the state vegetable of North Carolina, the good ole sweet potato.  The game was right after Thanksgiving and everyone was shifting into the Christmas mood and I was craving a homemade pie.  It was a perfect match because I really wanted a sweet potato pie like I used to have at your great grandmother’s during the holidays.  The icing on the cake, or pie if you will, was that we also had a Weekend Adventure planned to Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, TX.

The game, with all the intrigue leading up to kickoff, was basic fundamental football.  You could tell The U had no intentions of putting the game in the hands of the referees again and took care of business.  Despite a very tight game in the first half, 16 -14 UM, The U ran away with it in the 3rd  quarter which gave more playing time to 2nd and 3rd string players in the last quarter.

The pie was very basic in execution as well.  I thought it was a complicated endkaden-patatoeeavor, but after talking with my mom, it is a simple dessert to make.  The game ended with a score of 40 to 21 and the U closed the regular season on a 4 game win streak.  The pie, coupled with all the nostalgia, ranked an 8 of 10 for me and it was Mami’s first time having sweet potato pie.  Next time I make a sweet potato pie, there will be a few tweaks I would like to make to enhance the experience.  For example, making the crust from scratch and adding a crunchy element of some type on top. But overall, this one was really good.  The U’s next game is a few weeks away as we wait for the start of the “College Football Bowl Season”.

crust-and-patatoe

Ingredients:

1.  Take two sweet potatoes and place them in the oven at 350 degrees until the peel starts to blacken and pull away from the flesh of the potatocooked-patatoe

2.  After the potatoes cool, peel and place in a mixing bowl

3.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg

4.  In a separate bowl, mix a cup of milk, two eggs, melted butter, and vanilla

5.  With the mixer on, slowly add liquid mixture into the potatoes and mix thoroughly

6.  Add mixture into the pie crust and sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon

oven-ready

7.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for ~30 min or until filling is set and the crust is brown

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad

Food & Football Week 12 2016: The U vs NCSt

My Beloved Osito,

Week 12 is upon us as The U travels to the state of North Carolina (NC) again to face off with the mr-and-mrs-wufNC State Wolfpack.  Going into the last two games of the season, knowing you don’t have a chance to play for the ACC Championship, can make you think that there is nothing to play for.  I hope this mindset is not the case as The U looks to increase their win streak to 3 games and close out the season on a high note, for a change. Realizing that we play a lot of teams from NC, and in an effort to avoid duplicating a meal, I decided on Carolina pulled pork.  It was basically my only option, given that their mascot, Mr. and Mrs Wuf was a nonstarter and I needed a break from the sweet potatoes, state veggie, trend, but I’m sure it will be back though.

Admittedly, I did not cook the “game meal” on game day, but on Sunday.  I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Air Force lab overseeing testing for one of our experiments.  One of the tests was to make one of the cells in the satellite’s battery burn-up to see if the heat would spread and destroy the other cells. This is called thermal runaway and we were going to create this by drilling a screw into one of the battery cells.

The other test was called vibration (vibe) testing. In simple terms we shake the experiment very hard to see if anything breaks.  Unexpectedly during this trip, I govib-testt some parenting tips. Prior to the start of Vibe Testing, we were delayed for about 10 minutes as one of the Doctors brought his kids in to watch. I thought to myself, how cool is this…not many kids get to see things like this and I need to expose you to things like this. You may like it and you may not, but at least you will know it’s an option because I never thought I would be doing this.

Despite cooking the meal after the fact, the game meal and the actual game were both very similar.  The game started off slow, and as a purely defensive battle, as both teams were only able to score 3 points in the first half.  For the meal, it was a slow process, since low and slow is the best when cooking pulled pork. I used smoke and indirect heat on the grill.  I left the pork on the grill for a few hours as we went to church, but upon our return, things began to pick up pace.  The pace picked up for The U as well after they returned from halftime with some much needed offensive adjustments scoring 14 points in the 3rd quarter.

I picked up tpressure-cookerhe pace for the game meal by transferring it from the grill to the pressure cooker. The U completed the game by outscoring NCST 24-10 in the second half on their way to a third straight victory winning 27-13.  After removing the pork from the pressure pot and pulling it, Mami voted to have loaded baked potatoes. The meal rated out at a 7 out of 10 because the grilled (baked) potato just wasn’t the best, but the pork was really good. Next week in the regular season finale, The U hosts the Duke Blue Devils.

Ingredients:
Meat Prep:
pork-in-seasoning
1. Fully unthaw pork butt and place in a large pan. Pour a bottle of beer into pan
2. With a sharp knife cut small slits (aka season pockets) all around the meat
3. Coat with olive oil, then cover and stuff season pockets with dry rub and minced garlic
4. Let marinate for at least 24 hours turning the butt over half way through the process

Dry rub:
1. In a bowl mix brown sugar, Cajun, dried onion flakes,
adobo, parsley, thyme and black pepper

Cook Prep:
1. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry
2. Lightly coat with soy sauce and add another layer of the dryer rub

Grill Prep:
1. Soak wood chips (I used cherry wood) according to packet instructions
2. Light the grill using the indirect heat method with fire on opposite side of chimney
3. Place the pan with liquid marinade under the rack where the meat will be placed

Cooking:
1. Place meat on grill for ~5 hours rotating the meat on all sides
2. Make sure to keep the heat going by adding coal and soaked wood chips as needed
– The flames died out a little when we went to church
3. Remove meat and cut into chunks
4. Place meat in pressure cooker with some of the liquid marinade from the pan
5. Place on high ~15mins depending on pressure cooker
– Ensure meat is done and it should easily pull apart

Potatoes:
1. Take baking potato and cut a few slits into it and coat with olive oil
2. Place the potato in foil with a slice of butter, salt and pepper and seal completely
3. Cook until soft, turning to ensure even cooking

final-meal

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”
@Outer_space_dad

Christmas Traditions: All of the Lights 2016

My Beloved Osito,

Christmas traditions come in various forms and develop under different circumstances for each family. Despite the tradition or how it was developed, pPresent.JPGeople cling to these events, activities or foods and find comfort in them and admittedly I am no different. Growing up, our traditions never revolved around presents. Presents were not a focal point, not
because we didn’t want things like every other kid, but because Mom and Pops only had enough to provide us with our basic needs most years. And thankfully, now that I’m grown, I am glad they were not the type to go into debt to get us things we were convinced we needed to survive.

As a kid, outside of dreading the presents aspect of Christmas; when other kids asked “what did you get for Christmas?” while showing off their designer clothes, shoes and overpriced toys from their parents; I looked forward to one thing (other than family), Christmas light displays. Going to see lights was not a tradition in our family, but more of a coincidence. Honestly, I don’t know why I enjoy the lights, but the art behind these master pieces with different colors, inflatables, and the surrounding environment
brings me joy. As a kid, there was one stretch of road, merry-texashighway 278, which always had an enormous display that stretched across multiple houses. I remember being in the backseat seeing all the vibrant colors and pointing out all the characters and designs screaming “did you see that?!”

Now, this childhood “coincidence”, has now become a part of our family tradition. As the Air Force moves us around through the years, we will explore the    Christmas lights displays in those areas and surrounding cities. This year we had a very “Merry Texas Christmas [Y’all]”. Comprised of two Hutchins’ Weekend Adventure(s), we went to Magical Winter Lights in Texas City and Santa’s Wonder Land in College Station, Texas.

Magical Winter Lights (MWL)

The environment of MWL did not create a Christmas mood, at all, given it was a gigantic parking lot right off I-45. Once you enter, there was no organized fchinalow, but just isolated displays scattered throughout the parking lot. Once you get over the highway noise, the street and business lights in the background and the huge Waffle House sign that looked like it was part of the park and focused on the displays, it was really awesome. We started at the enchanted forest, fully stocked with deer, unicorns and a carriage and then made our way around the world with stops in several different countries. We then took a step back to the “Land before Time” and visited with the dinosaurs. We then rushed to ‘Houston’ making it in time to catch the Space Shuttle. (Don’t be confused, you know the Shuttles were launched from my first base, Cape Canaveral, but there is a replica at Space Center Houston. We ended the adventure with a view of the solar system.

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Santa’s Wonderland (SW):name

SW completely nailed it when it came to putting someone in the Christmas mood. Once you walk through the over-sized red doors, you instantly felt transported to a scene out of a Christmas movie. The design of the different shops, the fire pit in the center of town and the music made for an amazing ambiance. The food was good and decently priced, but you can easily bring your own food inside. I am not sure if this is against policy, but you do what you want/need to when you have a baby bag and a sometimes picky baby (looking at you). The main attraction of SW is the hay ride through a wooded area full of lights and displays. The line was long, but worth the wait. Plus it didn’t seem that long since Mami held our place in line as I walked you around to keep you occupied. SW’s displays ranged from military tributes to magical castles with national landmarks and scenes from the North Pole in between. It was definitely worth the trip and you loved your first hay ride. However, I would suggest going during the week for a lower cost ticket and a smaller crowd.

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Overall, Christmas 2016 was composed of two really good adventures, but they both had their good and bag. If you could take the environment and ambiance from Santa’s Wonderland and combine it with the displays from Magical Winter Lights it would be an epic park.

1-houston

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

Outer Space Dad