Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: Single Father's Book Club

Quite a bit has been written about the E.L. James literary phenomenon, Fifty Shades of Grey. This single dad's significantly less prolix take?

There's too much space between the covers.

Don't roll your eyes at me.

To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, connect with Matthew S. Field on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Top Ten Films about Single Dads

I don’t know what got me thinking about single dads in film. One of my favorite film genres, I’m only a little embarrassed to admit, is the 1980’s John Hughs teenage coming-of-age movies like Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and, yes, Pretty in Pink, which I think got me started on this.

In Pretty in Pink, Harry Dean Stanton portrays the on-screen, drunken, unemployed father of Molly Ringwald’s character, Andie Walsh. In spite of the loss of her mother sometime before the film begins, Andie (Ringwald) somehow is able to cobble together a second hand dress and get the rich guy, Blane, played by Andrew McCarthy. Similar portrayals of single fathers can be seen in other films like Runaway Bride. Paul Dooley's character may be the reason Julia Roberts’s character, Maggie Carpenter, has commitment issues. In Must Love Dogs, a shiftless Dermot Mulroney manipulates his way into Diane Lane’s bed. (I can think of worse reasons to employ Machiavellian devices to get close to Diane Lane, but I digress.)

This all got me to thinking, what are the best stories and portrayals of single dads? Here is my list of the Top Ten Films about Single Dads:

Overboard – After Goldie Hawn falls off her yacht and loses her memory, a playfully vengeful Kurt Russell convinces her that she’s his wife and enlists her to keep a home for him and his four boys. The story would be a little creepy if it weren’t a comedy, and besides, who wouldn’t have wanted Goldie Hawn as a pretend wife?

3 Men and a Baby – Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg were metrosexuals before the word existed. One fathers a child, who is delivered via basket outside their luxury apartment door, and all three become dads.

We Bought A Zoo – Matt Damon’s portrayal of a single father is eerily close to reality in this somewhat embellished “based on a true story” story. "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage."

The Pursuit of Happyness – Jaden Smith plays the son of his real life father’s character, Chris Gardner, in a story about the lengths to which a father will go to provide a life and future for his child. This very touching film is also based on a true story.

Finding Nemo – A computer animated film about an overprotective clown fish whose son, Nemo, is lost at sea a captured by dentist. (What could be worse?) Nemo loses his mother when a barracuda attacks the nursery. There is a great deal of metaphor in this one.

Signs – A man-of-the-cloth who loses his wife (and his faith) after a freak automobile accident. Mel Gibson’s character protects his children, his brother, and his home during an alien attack.

There Will Be BloodDaniel Day-Lewis is incredible as self-made oil man, Daniel Plainview, in this film adaptation of the Upton Sinclair novel. “If I have a milkshake, and you have a milkshake . . .”

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee’s novel is better than the film in which Gregory Peck portrays Atticus Finch, one of the most important and influential characters in literary and film history. More than once I’ve asked myself in the context of single fatherhood, “What would Atticus do?”

Chitty Chitty Bang BangBased on the novel by Ian Fleming, yes, the Ian Fleming who created James Bond, and a screenplay by Roald Dahl, yes, the Roald Dahl who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang features Dick Van Dyke as the scatter-brained, Caractacus Potts, Salley Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious (I’ll bet she was), and a really cool car that I wanted my own dad to build.

Unforgiven Clint Eastwood wrote, directed, and starred in the story of a former hired gun whose wife passed away and left him with two young children and a pig farm. To provide a future for his kids, William Munny (Eastwood) joins his old friend, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), and “The Schofield Kid” (Jaimz Woolvett) to avenge the attack on a prostitute (back when prostitution was a respected career choice) in a town called Big Whiskey.

So, the next time you see a movie in which a single dad is portrayed as an unemployed alcoholic or a shallow womanizer, don’t think twice about it. You can join Daniel Plainview, Will Munny, and me when we go over and have a talk with the writer of the screenplay. I just hope Atticus Finch is there and cooler heads prevail.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Single Dad's Big Stones

There's no question, some times of the year are busier than others. In my experience, the last six weeks of the calendar year and the last six weeks of the school year are the times, it seems to me, when time is the tightest.

During just the last two weeks of the recently ended school year, for example, our family's schedule has included three birthday parties, two sports parties, two games, six martial arts classes, three school parties, two fund-raising events, two doctor's appointments, two sports practices, one meeting with my attorney, and countless requests for information, materials, and yes, even time, from schools and teachers. Of course, the rest of the world doesn't stop. Groceries still need to be bought, food cooked, floor vacuumed, lawn mowed, bills to be paid, books to be written, well, you get the picture.

If these times of years are challenging for a two-parent family, then double the effort - and the stress - for the single father. The fact is, even the best time managers often discover that there isn't time for everything. The trick is to find time for the important stuff, which Stephen Covey refers to as "Big Rocks."

While this is important for anyone, prioritizing your Big Rocks for a single father is not just important, it's critical. Here's the The Single Father's Guide cheat:

1) Make a list of everything you do daily, weekly, and monthly. Be specific.
2) From the list, move each item into one of three columns labeled, "Critical," "Important," "Would Be Nice."
3) Post the Critical items on your refrigerator, on you smartphone, and perhaps a tattoo on your arm, (kidding about the tattoo), so you'll regularly be reminded of your critical path.
4) On a day-to-day basis, make sure your Critical list, or Big Rocks as Stephen Covey calls them, are done before you continue with items on the Important or Would Be Nice lists.

Don't sweat the little stuff. Important stuff is important stuff, but it's not critical. If important stuff isn't done, the world won't end. Eventually, as you improve your time management skills, you'll discover pockets of time in your life. During those pockets of time, you can move on to the Important list, and eventually, you'll have time to those things in your life that Would Be Nice to do.

Again, single dad, you will not always have the time to do everything you want to do. You may not even have the time to do all the important stuff. To get all of your Big Rocks in the bucket, though, you'll need big enough stones to occasionally say to someone who asks a favor, "Sorry. I can't do that today."

To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, connect with Matthew S. Field on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Top 6 Single Father's Pet Peeves

On the best of days, single fatherhood is an adventure. On the worst, well, it can be a circus and you’re the clown. Speaking from experience, there have been a handful of days during the past several years that I was one digit on my telephone from self-commitment to the circus.

Juggling the responsibilities of parenthood, like homemaking, breadwinning, social scheduling, lawn mowing, clothes shopping, educational consulting, sports coaching, taxi driving, role modeling, meal cooking, and advice giving are regularly more than enough to keep a guy’s hands full. When the single dad already has a dozen balls in the air, but then someone unexpectedly tosses-in the figurative burning torch or running chainsaw and causes everything to fall to the floor, well, it’s just about enough to make a guy want to run away and join Barnum & Bailey.

The following are my The Single Father's Top 6 Pet Peeves, each of which is truly last thing a single father needs:

1.   No Changing Station in the Men’s Room– You’re at a restaurant having dinner with your family and your littlest kidling needs a diaper change. Armed with your diaper bag, you take the little tot into the men’s room, and, voila, no changing station. You’re tempted to find the nearest empty table in the dining room, lay out the changing pad, and do the business right next to the party of twelve whose entrees are just being served. One way or another, you probably won’t be a repeat customer.

2.   The Fragile Teacher – Let’s say there’s been an issue involving one of your kids at school and you’re not satisfied with how the teacher resolved it. It could be anything from how she handled an altercation involving your child to your belief that the teacher is “teaching to the test” rather than to your child. You make arrangements to speak with the teacher about your concern. While you’ve had an otherwise good relationship with The Fragile Teacher and while you remain calm, relevant, and reasoned, she perceives you as a bully and becomes defensive and, perhaps, even gets emotional. Jeez!

3.   The Indignant Mother – More of a downer than any sort of impediment to your practical ends, but a peeve nonetheless, The Indignant Mother is usually an acquaintance, a coworker, a friend of a friend, or even family. She has her own children, may or may not be married, is miserably unhappy, and can never end a conversation without letting you know how much better your children would have been with a woman in the house. Smiling all the while, she’ll also offer unsolicited advice about your haircut, the way your kids dress, and the car your drive. Obviously, you do your best to avoid The Indignant Mother when you can, but there are times when contact is simply unavoidable.

4.   The Clueless Parent – Because your children's friends are your children's friends, The Clueless Parent tends to be a repeat offender. Imagine one kidling needs a ride to a soccer game. You have just enough time to drop off before you taking another child to the school play. Your razor-sharp schedule is predicated on a punctual pick-up of your third from the sleepover birthday party. You'd already explained the importance of the pick-up time to The Clueless Parent(s) who hosted the sleepover, but, when you arrive ten minutes early, the kids haven’t gotten out of bed, much less eaten the super-special birthday breakfast that your child just can’t miss.

5.   Party Hearty Marty –If you still have any of these, your Party Hearty Marty’s have never really matured past age 16 and are the same guys who, after you got married or started your first job, still wanted to go out every weekend (or weekday), get loaded and chase skirt. Frankly, there may be a time for chasing skirt and the occasional cocktail isn’t such a bad thing, but you just can’t do the same things you did B.K. (before kids). Like The Indignant Mother, Party Hearty Marty is akin to ants at a picnic: he may be a nuisance, but he won’t stop you from having your picnic. Unlike The Indignant Mother, however, Party Hearty Marty can be avoided or will usually stop bugging you after hearing, “No,” a few times.

6.   Late People – Writer, E.V. White, once said, “I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.” Time is the single father’s most valuable resource and, if wasting is a sin, there’s no greater sin than wasting the single dad’s time. Whether you have an appointment for check-up’s with the pediatrician, a plumber or electrician for a home repair, or anyone else, a professional who doesn’t have the respect for you to be on time doesn’t deserve your business.

Some peeves you may never be able to molt. If your sister or a coworker is The Indignant Mother in your life, well, you can’t choose your family or the people you work with. If one of your children has The Fragile Teacher, you’re probably stuck, at least until next school year. On the other hand, there’s quite a bit you can do. If a restaurant doesn’t have a changing station in the men’s room, then spend your money somewhere else. You can choose your friends; tell Party Hearty Marty you can’t go to the bar for Monday Night Football because you have to get your kids on the bus on Tuesday morning. As for Late People, well, just fire them. If someone else wants your business, he or she will be on time. If not, there are others who will be.

With any luck, you may even be able to avoid joining the other clowns.

To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, connect with Matthew S. Field on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Friday, July 6, 2012

VIDEO BLOG: Single Father's Microwave Oatmeal

So, single dad, what do you do when the power goes out, the alarm clocks don't wake you, and you only have twenty minutes to get the kids dressed, fed, and on the bus? (It's a trick question.) The answer, of course, is the Single Father's Microwave Oatmeal. See just how easy it is to make in the first in a series of The Single Father's Guide video blogs:

For more great recipes, parenting advice, and healthy lifestyle ideas, pre-order Matthew S. Field's The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball!

To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, connect with Matthew S. Field on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Healthy" Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

I know. I really do. Single father, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Are you s****ing me?" First, you're saying to yourself, "How do I have time to make pancakes?" Second, you're wondering, "How in the h*** do I even make pancakes?"

All right. Just for a moment, I need you to willingly suspend your disbelief. It's easier than you think.  Here's the recipe:

Dry Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of wheat flour
1/2 cup of soy flour
1/2 cup of Stevia (or other non-sugar sweetener)
1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of chocolate chips
1/4 cup of chocolate syrup
1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt

Wet Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of milk (soy milk, coconut milk, whatever)
2 eggs (or 4 ounces of egg whites)
1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal (preferably leftover from yesterday's breakfast)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 dash of vanilla extract

Preheat pan on stove to medium-low or medium heat. Combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until batter is smooth and consistent. Coat preheated pan with cooking spray and ladle batter onto pan. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side and serve with fruit garnish. Makes 8 - 10 large pancakes for the single dad and his chocolate loving children.

Okay, so what?

Well, first, if you can follow the directions to assemble a Barbie Jeep for your four year old daughter, then you can make these pancakes. I promise - and I know this from experience - making these pancakes is not nearly as complicated as putting together the Barbie Jeep. Second, if you have just ten minutes the night before what you know will be a busy morning, you can make the batter and put it in the refrigerator.

Then, voila! You've got a great, tasty, surprise breakfast for your kidlings that you can feel good about. Sure, the chocolate chips and chocolate syrup are little indulgences. Considering the high protein content from the soy flour, walnuts, milk, and eggs, and the fiber from the wheat flour, walnuts, and oatmeal, you can feel good that you're starting your kids' day with all the nutrition they need.

Now, stop your thought-cursing.

P.S. You won't find this recipe in The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, but you'll find 26 other recipes that are just as healthy, just as fun, and just as easy.