Pass the uhhhh . . . uhhhhh . . . whatever that is.

Boone Pizza Hut Pizza 1 of 2

Boone Pizza Hut Pizza 1 of 2 (Photo credit: littentegnefisk)

There are three things I’ve learned about cooking in my time as a single dad.

First, ANY pizza is good at ANY time of ANY day!

Second, to¬†paraphrase cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Vacation, “I don’t know why they call it Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkExpbnjsX8

And finally, no matter what I cook, one of the kids won’t like it.

That’s not really my daughter’s fault. My son is an incredibly picky eater. He’s so picky that I actually get excited when he tries unhealthy foods! I thought I’d be smart and solve the problem like any good parent would do – Google it.

So I did a search for kids and not eating, and things you could do to encourage them to eat short of strangling them, and what I found was that there’s this “new” phobia that has to do with being afraid of trying new foods. It all sounded really interesting, and very much like my son. But at the same time, it just kind of sounded like an excuse for kids not to eat their vegetables.

I do have a couple of rules I use when cooking. First, at least one person besides me has to like it.

Second, it has to make enough to be eaten for at least one other meal.

And it can’t be too complicated. I don’t mind several ingredients and multiple steps. But I don’t want it too complicated.

But seriously, back to the pizza . . . I used to think I was doing something wrong if I didn’t prepare a meal every night. But what I found out is that it’s okay to have takeout. It’s even ok to have leftover takeout.

Just because your dinner table doesn’t look like a spread out of Better Homes and Gardens doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent.

It’s okay to order pizza from time to time. A peanut butter sandwich is just as filling a dinner that you spent an hour preparing.

And if all else fails, you can pull out one of Cousin Eddie’s favorite recipes.

That moment when . . .

I can still remember the moment well . . .

Tracie, my wife, had passed away about two weeks before. It was a fall morning, and the last of the family members had just left about an hour before.

It had been, to say the least, a trying previous 10 months. I now found myself a single father with two kids, including a 12-month-son. I had to figure out what I should do next.

But it was the cry of my son, Sam, who then brought me back to the present moment. Time for a diaper change. I remember picking him up, putting him on the bed, and getting all the diaper-changing paraphernalia ready.

And it was at that moment, with my son lying on the bed looking up at me, that it occurred to me – I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I don’t mean with the diapers. There had been plenty of those changed already.

I mean, I had no idea what I was supposed to do as a single parent. What should my next step be? How was I supposed to raise a baby? And what was I supposed to do with the baby food leftovers that I didn’t like? Sure, anyone can eat the pudding and bananas. But what about the English peas and strained carrots . . . ?

It was one of those moments you remember all your life. And I’m still not sure I’ve found the answer.

Over the years, I’ve developed a new sense of empathy for single moms and dads. I think most of us want to put our kids first, which is how it should be. The problem, though, is the obvious: there’s only one of you. And while your kids come first, what do you do about what comes second? And worse, what to do with what comes third, fourth, fifth? And tenth?

Isn’t there an instruction book for this?

First, let me emphasize, I am not a parenting expert. This will become painfully obvious as you continue to read.

This is about my adventures (or struggles, obstacles, daily dilemmas – you fill in the blank) of raising two kids as a single dad.

The one thing I’ve noticed over the last 8-plus years as a single parent, is that there’s never enough time. I’m always trying to invent new ways to do two things at once, which usually leads to nothing getting done. My daughter is in college, so now she is pretty much self-reliant.

But my son is in third grade. And somehow, all that extra time I thought I would have with my daughter pretty much grown, has somehow vanished, much like the last brownie that I thought I had safely hidden. I often find myself trying to compensate in one area of my life, only to find another area completely falling apart. I often feel like Ben Franklin in his autobiography – trying to improve one virtue only to see myself failing in others.

And so, I’ve often joked with myself that trying to hold my life together is a lot like holding together jello – sure you can hang on to some, but inevitably, something always slips through your fingers.