Monday, February 1, 2016

All Aboard the Dad Bus

I created this post as part of a sponsored series with Socialstars and Shell; all opinions are those of DadNCharge's alone. #ShellCrowd

My phone has this cool function on it that updates the traffic situations based on how much time I spend in a particular place. For most of the time, when I worked out regularly it would tell me that I would have a fifteen minute commute to my local YMCA, assuming I worked there as I religiously exercised almost every day. My phone therefore would refer to the place I spent most of my time as "work" and give me approximate travel times to get there periodically about the day.

Recently, I injured my back and while I have been taking a two month hiatus from the gym, I have been able to go about my normal routines of housework, grocery shopping, and running errands with and without the kids. Sometimes it means I am taking them to school or driving them to an after school activity but all the while keeping the minivan going most of the day from place to place. 

But work took on a whole new meaning the other day when my phone notified me that it would only take me five minutes to get to "work". I didn't recognize the location so I looked it up on Google maps. It was my local gas station. 

Apparently, I spend more time at the pump than I realize. It's understandable though as I am usually in one day driving one kid to preschool, driving to run errands, driving to pick up kids and drop them off all day long. On weekends, family time is spent going on adventures together. In the winter it is especially hard because you want to escape being trapped inside so you drive, somewhere, anywhere to not be stuck at home doing laundry. Anything but the laundry. 

I remember when I was younger, I worked at a pharmacy where one of my jobs was to make in house deliveries of patient's prescriptions. It wasn't a normal service you'd see today and I used my own car to make the deliveries. That meant making sure I always had gas but as a high school student, that wasn't always easy to come by. Sometimes if I got lucky, a person would take pity on me and tip me for coming to them and I'd use that money to fill up my tank. Most of the time that crumpled up wad of ones would sit in my front jeans pocket until the needle was close to E. 

Of course back then, a gallon of gasoline was less than ninety-nine cents but I never worried about the price of gas, as it seemed pretty affordable. Fast forward to today and factor in a family of five and out everyday needs. All of that driving around really adds up.

I don't know how many times I've looked at my fuel gauge and have done a double take thinking "Didn't I just fill this up the other day?"  So the real question is how can we help our families be more conscience about our spending? How can we get rewarded for the things we already buy so it helps us out with fuel costs?  Enter the Shell  Fuel Rewards® program

Whenever you shop, dine or make other day-to-day purchases at any merchant or restaurant participating in the Fuel Rewards program, you earn cents-per-gallon discounts on fuel known as Fuel Rewards savings. The savings you earn between fill-ups are then combined to drive down the price you pay at the pump. Shell's new Fuel Rewards® program helps its members save at least 3 cents per gallon and the sign up is completely free. 

Join the #ShellCrowd by signing up for the Fuel Rewards card and start saving your family money at the pump. You can link existing credit cards with the Fuel Rewards card and start earning points through dining, on-line shopping, and travel plus Shell will provided exclusive offers for Fuel Rewards members.

Saving can be easy with Fuel Rewards and everyday savings will add up instantly. You won't be scrounging those pockets for money just to fuel up because your card will automatically give you discounts right at the pump. Sign up as new member today and start saving $.25 cents per gallon bonus! Pretty soon you'll find that you're approaching the prices we used to remember so you can spend it on more important stuff like coffee.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Boys, Come Date My Daughters

I grew up in a house full of brothers. There were black eyes and broken windows, a garage overflowing with every sports related implement and a fridge that had to be stocked constantly as our bodies grew and our appetites remained ravenous. When I became a father for the first time I was somewhat relieved that the first baby was a boy. It was what I was used to and comfortable with and I knew my knowledge of what it takes to become a man would come in handy.

When my first daughter arrived, I was more scared because caring for girls was an unknown for me.I laugh now at the old me who thought it would be different. Caring for an infant whether it be a boy or girl is generally the same. I still love them the same way even if their diaper changes were done slightly differently.  But I sang them the same songs at night and attended to their cries the same and I still hug and kiss them goodnight the same.

Right around the time I started staying at home is when I discovered that how I was raising them, as a stay at home dad might have a huge impact on them later in life. I wondered how me being with them at home might change their perceptions about their own lives in the future. I wondered how watching their mommy leave for work every morning would strengthen them when it came to their future ambition for the workplace or in seeing their father at home with them would they also make that choice for their family?

That's why it bothers me when I see dads wearing shirts setting rules for dating their daughters. I get weary of the photos of dad with a gun threatening future suitors with violence if they don't behave themselves. I'm all for protecting my daughters but this implied violence towards young men accomplishes nothing.

How about we just teach our young boys what respect and love are truly about and give them the tools to make good decisions? We can be better fathers by setting the example for the next generation and not using scare tactics. Our daughters are not unattainable prizes to be won, they are treasures to be cherished.

In a post on Facebook recently, a soon to be dad posted that if he and his wife have a baby girl, that he hoped she would be born ugly. Let that sink in for a moment.

While it may have been in jest, the rudimentary feeling there is that women aren't safe from men because we only think of one thing. It's exactly this thinking that an attractive young girl is going to have a tough time in the world today, why we must prepare them better as fathers who believe in them.

Here's some news for that guy. Locking your daughter up in an ivory tower is never going to go well. Do me a favor new dad, go see Tangled right away. If you have a daughter, she's going to be beautiful. You're going to look at her and see yourself or your wife in her eyes or her little nose. You'll hear yourself in her laugh and spend hours looking at her toes. Those same toes will carry her far away someday.

She's going to be curious about what is out there and you'll want to protect her. But here's the thing, you'll also want to watch what she becomes. I can tell you firsthand that raising a daughter is nothing short of magical. She will go through an amazing transformation seemingly overnight from the helpless little girl you once held in your arms to the teenager asking for the keys to the car. Don't keep her from the world.

Both of my daughters are beautiful. They are smart. They are tenacious. I've seen those traits before somewhere. Oh yeah, from their mom! I mean, I purposely dated their mother because of those attributes. Instead of being afraid of your daughter garnering attention for who she is, embrace it.

I get it, you're scared. You think that the world is inherently evil and that they can't fend for themselves. Trust me when I say this. That keeping her from experiencing anger, fear, and sadness will only make her wonder what else is out there.

Instead of relying on threats, let's empower our daughters. Let's give them the tools they need to succeed. Your gun will never protect them in the way their humor, wit, and creativity ever will. Let's encourage them to be strong and smart. Let's be better fathers by teaching them to be curious and inquisitive. Let's learn when to step back so they can be independent women who will make their own decisions and learn from them. Most of all, let's be there to support them when they fall and believe in them so they get back up.

You'll do all of this without even realizing when she is a baby. She'll be curious about the world. She will want to explore and you'll let her. Some day, she will be reaching for a block and you will want to give it to her but know you should hold back. You will want her to get there so badly you might be tempted to just give it to her.

Some days she will never get there and she will cry like it's the end of the world. That's when you'll scoop her up in your arms and tell her it will be okay. She will forget all about that block and you'll be there to console her. Then there will come a day when she finally reaches that infernal block and raises it triumphantly in her little hand. That's when she will look at you with the light catching her eyes and you'll say to yourself "Everything about you is beautiful" and she will smile and say "Thanks Dad."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Getting By Winter With A Little Help From My Friend

My kids are sick, my wife has a sore throat, and I'm the last man standing in the germ infested house knowing things still need to get done no matter how I'm feeling. Winter Storm Jonas was bearing down on Philadelphia last week and people were buying milk and bread from the grocery store like an asteroid was hurtling towards the Earth. I saw people at the gas station loading up on gasoline like doomsday preppers and actually witnessed someone stocking up on toilet paper knowing they might be eating frozen burritos cooked in a fireplace for the next week.

As Jonas was bearing down on the East Coast, I had to laugh at the Midwesterners like The Rock Father claiming to be toughing it out through the cold. Oh, you have lake effect snow? That's cute. We're getting pounded from forty mile per hour winds and are slowly being buried alive by snow. There's a reason it's called a Nor'easter and not a Mid'wester.

Don't even get me started on those West Coast storm wannabes like Patrick Quinn from Life of Dad who claim they are toughing it out. Those California guys think it's cold when they have to put on pants instead of shorts and get scared when Mickey Mouse comes out and doesn't see his shadow. That's not tough guys, it's sad.

What is tough is braving the winds and snow of a blizzard knowing you have to make a path to what used to be a street. Being from the Windy City it has prepared me for the worst. The first purchase I made after my wife and I got married was the biggest baddest snowblower I could find. I call her Black Thunder and she has never let me down. Through record winters in Chicago, Rochester, and Philadelphia it helps to have a friend to help you get through it all.

While Black Thunder is there for me when a blizzard hits she can't help me when that tickle hits my throat. That sore throat is your body's first indication that a cold is coming so how can we tough it out when the driveway is waiting to swallow me alive?  Did you know back in the day that people used to grease their throat with chicken fat or lard and then placed dirty socks around their throat to induce sweating just find relief from a sore throat? Yikes. Thanks to Fisherman's Friend you don't have to suffer through your teen's dirty gym socks for a cure.

Reach for Fisherman's Friend lozenges instead to calm that tickle or soreness associated with the attack on your gullet. Fisherman’s Friend’s throat lozenges are the toughest on the market, originally formulated in 1865 for deep-sea fishermen from Fleetwood, England. If it was good enough for them, imagine all the good it will do for you. The All Natural Mentol & Eucalyptus flavor lozenges offer the highest allowable dosage of menthol per lozenge, a whole 10 mgs! Who wants to take one of these over and over again when you can knock that tickle out with one punch?

If it was good enough for deep-sea fisherman, it's definitely tough enough for me. In Original Extra Strong and Sugar Free Cherry both varieties will provide strong relief for those of us that are strong enough to handle it. No joke, my wife used them on her sore throat and had to take them out three times before she could even finish one. That is one tough lozenge to overpower the strongest woman I know!

Thanks to Fisherman's Friend lozenges I was a able to battle through 28 inches of snow that fell in 24 hours, dug out my car buried by drifting snow, and still found time to build a snowman or three with the kids. No one does #ToughRelief better than Fisherman's Friend when battling a real winter here on the East Coast. By the time you're done knocking out that tickle in your throat, it won't seem like winter in the slightest. Isn't it nice to know you've got a friend to help you get through it all?

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Fisherman’s Friend for this promotion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New Year, New Adventures

The beginning is a good place to start. When the New Year rolls around resolutions get bandied about like kittens with string we make resolutions to give ourselves hope for this new chapter in our lives. This year I'm really going to stick to my diet. This year I am going to religiously exercise. This is finally the year I won't overindulge in anything!

Here is what will happen for the majority of us. We'll see the influx of new people we've never seen at the gym. We'll see them at the grocery store buying only organic food. We won't see them at the donut shop every morning getting their usual 64 ounce mocha coffee and chocolate glazed long john. Then, it will happen as it happens every year. We won't see them anymore as they drop off into old habits and give into temptations that they can't resist.

So let's vow to make a resolution we will stick with this year and promise ourselves to go on more adventures with our families. Whether it be braving the bitter cold of winter to go snow tubing or shoveling the front driveway together whatever you do, do it together. Hold on a second.

Wait, what am I saying? Freezing my rear end off outside in sub zero temperatures does not sound like a fun time. You know what does sound fun? Snuggling up on the couch where there may or may not be a groove created from my derriere with a fleece blanket covering ninety percent of my body while we watch funny shows together. Sipping on warm hot chocolate with the fireplace going? That sounds like the right kind of family bonding that's made for me!

So what am I watching in the new year? I've found my top three family friendly and top three just for me shows on Netflix. Get ready to binge watch no matter where you are this frigid winter and cozy up to my list instead.


Sophia The First - New Episodes!

Sophia is the rags to riches princess that can talk with animals and she's learning slowly what it takes to be a real princess. My daughter is learning many social skills from this show like accepting others for who they are, not what they are, what it means to be a true friend, and how to deal with adversity when things don't go your way. Helped along by friends and family, Sophia always seems to find a lesson among the difficulty she faces as a young girl growing up.

Sammy & Co.

You probably remember Sammy from the movie A Turtle Tale. Well, Sammy has grown up and is now a grandfather raising his granddaughter and her friends among the reef. The kids learn valuable lessons about responsibility and bravery all the while learning that trusting each other is the most important lesson they should always follow. With plenty of action and silly underwater fun, it is sure to get your kids clambering towards the minivan to take them to swim lessons.

Kate & Mim Mim

Remember when you were a kid and you pretended that your stuff animals came to life? That's what Kate does in this show only when she says a special phrase she is automatically transported to a world where her purple bunny Mim Mim lives. Kate's play in the real world transfers over to this world and she goes on adventures figuring out tough questions she has along the way with her friends.


Real Rob 

Follow Rob Schneider in this hilarious show about his family in real life. It stars Rob and his real wife Patricia Schneider as they deal with celebrity status, his role as a father, and his super creepy but wildly efficient stalker. His wife made my wife laugh so hard she was literally crying. If you've had a hard day and need a good laugh, this is the show for you.

Jessica Jones 

In a world where female super heroes are starting to come into their own, Jessica Jones is a gritty look at what it would be like for a super to live among us normal humans without opting for tights and cape. Centered around the Marvel character of the same name, Jessica Jones is a private investigator dealing with a sordid past and she tries to overcome her demons while retaining her sanity. She's a badass but be warned, you shouldn't be watching this around your kids because of the adult content. Save this show for when they've gone off to bed.

Making a Murderer

If you haven't seen this documentary about Steven Avery's life you need to immediately watch it. The show revolves around Avery's life in Manitowoc County and his dealings with the police in Wisconsin. This show will shock and surprise you. It may even make you mad and frustrated. However you look at it, it is a must see and you'll find yourself sucked in to its compelling story.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The 7 Deadly Sins of Holiday Eating

The package arrived right before Christmas and the kids were used to seeing boxes piled on the front step. This one was different though as we couldn't tell who it was from. "What's in the box? What's in the box!" they exclaimed as I fumbled for the scissors. It wasn't a sick joke from Kevin Spacey and it had nothing to do with Gwenyth Paltrow's head. It was a box full of #PinkRelief from Pepto- Bismol. The box had me thinking about all the ways we sin against our usual eating habits when the holidays roll around.

It starts right around the end of October. First it's the Halloween parent tax, then it is Grandma's special Thanksgiving stuffing. It's after your family calls you the human garbage disposal that you start to realize that it's just not possible to maintain the healthy eating facade over the holidays. When your mom asks you "Would you like another mountain of sweet potatoes?" you may start to think "How is this going to affect me later?"

The problem for me is, my metabolism and stomach just aren't what they used to be anymore. Passing the forty year threshold has taught me that I can't just eat whatever I want anymore. Internally though, my mind is still stuck in the glorious college days when eating disgusting things was just a way of life. Realistically, I know I shouldn't eat certain things because of the way my body reacts to it. If you've ever purposely chosen a hard chair over a soft chair to contain your busting insides after trying to go back to the place where you once ate 20 atomic wings, you probably know what I'm saying. I just can't hang with that guy anymore without having serious consequences.

Do you carry Pepto wherever you go? I do. In fact, my wife and I have a safe word to indicate to her in public that I am about to erupt. The safe word came after a bad reaction from some delivery food. When things are spiraling out of control I will say "Domino Fred" named after the delivery guy who brought my demise. I used the word at the worst possible time when my wife had just started a new job.  My wife's boss wanted to introduce her to Philly in the best way possible so he decided to take us to every cheese steak place in the city. One cheese steak in though, the jalapeno poppers and wit were not getting along and I shifted nervously in the back seat trying to make it go away. It didn't and I screamed out Domino Fred! Domino Fred! until he pulled over and I ran for it leaving her to explain why I had practically jumped out of a moving car and headed for the nearest lobby bathroom.

It doesn't stop there though especially when I'm travelling. I've suffered from IBS and traveler's diarrhea enough to know that I'd hate to be stuck on an airplane making that long walk to the in-flight lavatory while crop dusting everyone behind me. Maybe it's the sense of pride that gets in the way. Nope, it's the stupidity. I know what jalapenos do to me but I love them so. Crowding around the spicy cheese dip might be a good thing during the holiday party but the aftermath is not pretty.  For all these reasons and more it makes sense to have Pepto's #PinkRelief on hand not only for the holidays but any time our eyes get bigger than our stomach. Here are seven reasons why I still punish myself to this day.

1. Pride

I grew up with three brothers and ate my food with my arms protecting my plate so they wouldn't steal my portions. I'll be damned if I am going to let them out eat me or out spice me. We idiotically add jalapenos to every meal and think that a hot sauce designed to make your posterior leak like a faucet will actually be good for us. I want to be the one victoriously standing, okay well sitting bloated, while my father marvels at the number of helpings I had at the family style holiday buffet. This is usually followed you thinking unbuttoning your top pants button is going to help with that relief. Now your family knows the real reason you didn't tuck in your shirt for the holiday picture. Did you walk into the family celebration only to be rolled out afterwards? Pepto will be there for you to alleviate the indigestion.

2. Gluttony

Honey roasted ham. Turkey with all the trimmings. Pork tenderloin wrapped up in strings. These are a few of my favorite things. When your grandma, heaps a helping upon your plate, you can't shout out that you need her to wait. When your plate tips because it's far too full, you decide that your salad plate can handle the overflow. We LOVE to overdo it during the holidays like we are getting a holiday hall pass for our stomachs. Eating everything in sight because it is there isn't a good choice but it's one we often make because "Hey! I'm on vacation now!"  Isn't it comforting to know that Pepto has your back for your poor choices and can help you get through that upset stomach?

3. Lust

I recently attended a Christmas party where everything was wrapped in bacon. Bacon wrapped scallops, bacon wrapped water chestnuts, bacon wrapped dates filled with cream cheese. If you're reading this you've probably already decided to have a BLT for lunch and I don't blame you. Bacon is ridiculously good.  Is it weird to lust after a food as delicious as bacon? No. Keep calm and bacon on. But if all that grease is making you pay the price the next day, reach for the Pepto and put out that fire burning in your belly.

4. Greed

We've all been there. We've posted up in front of the holiday spread around the donuts like Shaq in his heyday grabbing bear claws like they were rebounds. We take the last cup of coffee, stab at the last piece of food, and vie for the final coffee cake crumbs like the Grinch in a Who's refrigerator. It's the self loathing afterward and often the cramps that remind us of our poor choices later.  Good thing Pepto provides #PinkRelief for our tummy troubles.

5. Envy

Ever go to a restaurant and order the exact wrong thing even though you sent the server away three times? It's that sinking feeling in your gut as you watch another person eating the very thing you should have ordered. Instead, of that catch of the day that should have been thrown back is sitting in front of you and it seems to not be processing nicely. It's only when we are later sitting on the throne that we relive those envious mistakes as if in slow motion replay. Good thing for us #PinkRelief is just a dose away from giving us respite from our burning mistakes.

6. Sloth

It's always a great idea to eat a ton of food and directly end in a sedentary stasis for hours on end. If you've eaten a turducken and watched football for two days straight, it's no wonder your insides feel like a cement truck. We didn't stop there though as the Christmas cookies came out and your aunt is eyeing you with giddy anticipation. She loves to watch you scarf down her culinary contribution almost as much as she loves pinching your cheeks and saying "How BIG you are!" even though you are a grown man. Unfortunately, my wife takes the brunt of this punishment as the bedroom soon becomes a gas chamber. Luckily, Pepto's #PinkRelief handles gas associated with my digestive by-products.

7. Wrath

You've made it through your family's holiday shenanigans and it's time to go home but all that eating has left you feeling rather nauseous. Your mom doesn't want all these leftovers in her fridge as apparently dad doesn't need to eat anything. But you are eyeing the turkey left over from earlier afraid because you feel like the cheese plate, the green bean casserole, and that turkey leg you tried to eat as if you were at Medieval Times are not getting along anymore now that you are vertical. Gravity can do that to a person. While mom is stuffing the family scraps into a lime green coffin all you can think about is rushing home to have quality time with your toilet.

FTC Discalimer: I was compensated for this post by Pepto Bismol and received product for my post. All opinions expressed are my own but you should heed my warning. Uh oh, DOMINO FRED!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Christmas Poem for Parents

Christmas with kids really is the best.

With my wife in her PJs and me under covers

We just settled down for a short winter's rest

We knew in five hours three kids would be screaming

They'd jump in our bed, yelling and beaming

And although we will groan, be tired, and protest

We really can't wait because it's not Christmas we detest

We love their little faces and their excitement they share

When they say much too loudly, "He really was here!"

As they rip through the presents and they marvel at the bike

You will remember the past 

When it seemed the paper and boxes were all that they liked

But they're growing up fast and you start to see

It is this time right now together, is how life is meant to be.

Though our eardrums might shatter from their volume and chorus

We count on the fact that our kids will never bore us.

We love them and can't wait for tomorrow to come

Though tonight we may have drank more than a surly old bum

Head straight for the tree, though you feel you might die

And enjoy every moment before it passes you by.

Take heart when it's over that you made it to this day

And that at least for two hours they won't ask you to play.

Enjoy your Christmas with the kids like I will

Now, where the hell is my coffee and the Advil?

Merry Christmas to all from DadNCharge and family

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

You're Doing Better Than You Think

This post was sponsored by Socialstars and Minute Maid. All opinions expressed are DadNCharge's alone. #minutemaid #doingood 

The holidays. They meant so much more than presents under the tree for me. They meant more than Santa coming down a chimney based on whether I was bad or good that year. They meant that my grandparents despite one being legally blind and the other practically deaf piling into their van and driving from Wisconsin to Illinois; hurtling towards our home to be with us. They meant sitting on the couch with grandpa telling him all about my artwork and grandma lending every piece of information about every experience she ever had and that was a lot. Most importantly, the holidays mean that parents are going above and beyond to make this magical season the best it can be. I’m sharing my memories of #doingood parents throughout my life during the holidays.

The holidays for me meant my Grandma Bernholdt who lived on the East Coast would come to the Midwest for a spell. It meant dragging out the TV into the living room so she could watch her soaps while she wrote letters on stationary. Sometimes she would motion for my brother and I to come close and slip some money in our hand and with a twinkle in her eye ask us if we could run to the McDonald's to get her a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake. We always knew that returning the change to her she would smile and say "Keep the change and get something nice for yourself"

The holidays meant my Uncle Art cracking "groaner" jokes and and crossword puzzles. They meant bear hugs from the family I hadn't seen in what seemed like forever and my aunt showing up with cookies she spent all week making. They meant lining up year after year with my cousins on the staircase taking a picture together until we all couldn't fit in the frame anymore. 

Remember when their arrival meant everything to you? Remember that moment when the doorbell rang and you couldn't see grandpa because he was behind a pile of presents?  Remember when your family would come for the holidays and stay with you? You probably gave up your bedroom so that your grandma would sleep more soundly or you braved that pull out couch with the bar that always sticks in your back so they could have their own room. 

Holidays are a time for family. Many times that means we are giving something up so that they can be comfortable. Most of the time we are not seeing these as sacrifices because it is our love for one another that helps us see past it. It's in our very nature to give up so that others can benefit.

Parents make sacrifices for their children as they grow up. They may have to give up a career they chose so that they can stay home and raise them or work every day to provide for the family. Along the way there may be instances where parents are missing out and sometimes we feel guilty about that. At the holidays, it’s more important than ever to remind fellow parents that they’re #doingood.

There are also times when we just aren't sure that what we are doing raising you is the right thing. Did I handle that situation the best way possible? Did I confuse him even more? Does she hate me because I imposed some tough rules on her? You should know, you're doing better than you think.

There is no annual review when it comes to parenting. There are no accolades or awards. We don't sit down quarterly with you and have a parent-child conference. You'd be surprised though just how much you are #doingood for your family. 

Yesterday, I sat in a parent-teacher conference and read a journal entry by my daughter about all the things she is thankful for. Though she has sometimes said it to me in passing she praised me for my "yummy dinners" but most of all was appreciative of my wife and I for loving her so deeply. In all the ways we show how much we love and care for her, showing it through caring for her day in and day out is something that even an eight year old can see. 

You can do something similar this holiday. Let your kids show you just how much you mean to them and how much they mean to you. It will be better than any present under the tree this year; that feeling that all the things you are #doingood for them will be right in front of you. It will be a reminder when you aren't feeling like you're doing a good job at this parenting thing that you're getting something right after all. 

Take a moment to share this video with someone who needs to be lifted up this holiday season. Don’t forget to let them know how they are #doingood for their families not only during the holidays, but all year round.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Netflix: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Ever have that person on your list that you just can't buy for? Despite perusing endless blogs and Pinterest boards for gift ideas you still come up short?  Well, don't rush out and kidnap your cousin's boss just yet! You could use this gift to make people happy the whole year through. No, I am not talking about the jelly of the month club! I'm talking about giving the gift of Netflix for an entire year.  Here's five reasons why Netflix should be under your tree this holiday and enter below for your chance to win Netflix for one year FREE!

1. You can't step on these LEGOS

With shows like LEGO Marvel Maximum Overload, Batman: Be-leaguered, and LEGO City the kiddos will have endless episodes of silly LEGO action. Maybe you can set it up for them, knock back some egg nog and actually enjoy an afternoon to yourself for a change.

2. Unleash your inner SUPERHERO

You're amazing the way you can hunt bargains in a single bound and take that parking spot faster than Flash himself at the mall but sometimes you just like to kick back and watch others do it for a change. With shows like The FlashJessica Jones, and Daredevil, you can do just that. Stop elbowing people at sales and watch Matt Murdock kick some tail instead.

3. Leave the DRAMA on the screen

There will be plenty of holiday drama at your parent's house when that uncle that no one claims starts talking about The Donald like he actually has something good to say. Watch shows like Orange is The New Black and The Sons of Anararchy instead and spare yourself the headache.

4. The world isn't ENDING

It may seem like it with all these people in your house eating your food and using all the hot water. Your grandma might be sleeping in your comfy bed while you brave that pull out couch. You can't remember the last time you didn't take a lukewarm shower but when they finally go to bed and you're alone with your flat screen, enjoy a good show that puts your situation into perspective like Zoo or The 100. Zoo explores the possibility that animals one day will revolt and not see humans as a threat and The 100 is a highly addictive series about 100 teenagers who are exiled to a possibly inhabitable Earth by a space stations called The Ark.

5. LAUGHTER is the best medicine

I'm not talking about the kind of laughter your spouse is doing while rocking him or herself in the corner of the room at the thought of one more meal that involves turkey. I'm talking about gathering together with the people you care about the most and laughing at other's misfortunes. The two best shows for that are Master of None and An Idiot Abroad. In An Idiot Abroad, Ricky Gervais sends a friend who doesn't like to travel to see the Eight Wonders of the World and report back with surprise twists and turns in his itinerary that he never sees coming. In Master of None, Aziz Ansari is Dev, a guy who is trying to find his way in love and life in hilarious and sometimes surprisingly touching ways.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Kindness Is All Around If You Know Where to Look

I'm at the grocery store once again going about my shopping. Normally I would move about the store with my blinders on; my eyes only on the shopping list in front of me. Kindness is all around. There are moms taking their kids to the store, an employee helping a man in a wheelchair get an item off a high shelf, and a son taking his elderly mother shopping together.

I probably wouldn't normally see these things if it weren't for my mindset that morning that I was supposed to be looking for them so that I could reward them for their kindness.

I saw a mom shopping with her child. The daughter was at the end of her rope, the mom was headed to the car to unload and get her buckled in. Shopping with the kids is not fun. I stopped her and said "I notice that you are out with your daughter and taking care of her needs and I want to reward you for being kind"

"Are you serious?" she said.

"Yes. I want you to have this card from KIND Snacks. We are doing a campaign to spread more kindness by celebrating those who are kind to others, and you are #kindawesome."

"Wow. This made my day. Thank you so much...and Happy Holidays!"

Just that simple word, regardless of the card I handed to her changed her and me. I felt really good making someone else happy. I couldn't wait to find someone else.

Showing others kindness isn't a thing we do for rewards. It's a selfless act that demonstrates our true human nature. Deep down we want to be decent human beings to each other and uphold the values that we were raised with about treating others the way we wish to be treated. The Golden Rule is often tarnished by those who seek to harm people in this world.

We can't turn on the television these days without some example of horrific acts carried out by the scourge of humanity. It's hard to believe that we have a chance in this world to flourish when there are others that don't value the immense worth of every human life.

We've all taught our children from the beginning how to treat one another. We've taught them that violence is never the answer. That love is the path to a good life. We've taught them that good triumphs over evil and that the light will always conquer darkness.

So when I was given a chance through KIND Snacks to reward others for the good in the world I was elated. With the holidays approaching I wanted to instill in people that there is still lots of good in the world. I felt like a modern day St. Nick spreading joy to those who needed to be lifted up. Through their #kindawesome program I was able to spread kindness by celebrating kind acts that I witnessed in my own community. I started handing out cards to the people who have impacted me and my children, many of whom have had some sort of influence on my children's lives either through our church's ministry, a scout leader, or children's choir.

At DadNCharge on Facebook, I had people nominate others who they felt exemplified kindness and the stories they shared touched me and the people that they tagged. That's the power of a kind word. It can literally change someone's day or life. Kindness is the key to making this world a better place.

Do you want to be a part of this movement to spread kindness ? Go to KIND's website to learn how you can reward people for being #kindawesome. Register and you can get your own #kindawesome cards to pass out. Let's make the world more kind and change it together.

: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Kind Snacks for this promotion.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Social Media is My Drug

My daughter attended an art camp this summer where the children were asked to draw their families. For each person, my daughter chose an accessory to go along with the drawing. My wife, was holding a paper heart. My son, was holding a pillow because he likes to sleep and my youngest daughter was holding a Barbie.

As my daughter got around to describing me I kept thinking. "Please don't let it be a phone, please don't let it be a phone, anything but a phone.

I asked her "What am I holding? A camera maybe?"

"No Daddy, you have your phone because you are always on it."

I don't want to be the phone guy anymore.

I'm addicted to the internet. I first turned to it when I was staying at home with the kids, isolated and many times lonely with no one to talk to about my day looking for reassurance that everything was normal. I was searching for absolution that I wasn't crazy for feeling despair. How could something like social media that made me feel good, leave me feeling more empty?

You probably can't go many places without seeing someone on a device anymore. It has invaded every aspect of our lives on this planet. It has turned us into The Walking Dead; zombies oblivious to the world around them. Kids zone out in front of devices. People walk out into traffic engrossed by it. Some use it as an escape when the real world becomes boring. It's probably in your pocket or so close by that without it you feel lost and you turn to it every single moment there is a lull in your life.

"I'm just checking something" was my excuse to my wife when she'd question while I was on it. I always knew that was a lie. Seconds checking it turned into minutes, minutes to hours while I discovered that I had spent the last three hours responding to comments and liking profiles in a virtual world where none of it matters. I could disappear off of Facebook and no one would care. Their lives would go on and cat videos would still be played. Trolls would keep trolling and memes would still be made.

Posting on social media is an outlet for acceptance. We crave that attention. We want people to like what we are posting to affirm that what we have to share in this world is loved and respected. I stopped taking pictures of my food for this reason. What did we do before we took pictures of our food? Oh yes...we just ate it.

I'm guilty of it everyday. Checking Instagram, Twitter, Facebook craving more notifications like rewards for a job well done. You can't be on social media and not crave that praise. I'd feel guilty if I were using it, sometimes hiding in the garage or bathroom not trying to get caught being on it wondering if someone, anyone had responded to my post or something I thought was funny or clever. Likes and comments constantly have me craving for more.

I didn't realize how deep I relied on it until it was almost too late. While going through pre-marriage counseling I first learned about the Five Love Languages. There are five ways we feel loved which included acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation. When it comes to the way I feel loved, I'm a words of affirmation guy and that's dangerous for a blogger. Without it I feel like a failure. I feel like what I have to say doesn't matter anymore. When my Ban the Playdate post went viral I felt compelled to keep the momentum going no matter what the cost. I didn't want to fade into irrelevance.

Social media to a blogger means you must be married to it to have an sort of success.  It's a relationship that is often one sided, sometimes gives back, and frequently disappoints. Much of the time if you don't put the work in you won't get much out. There's too much internet arguing, drama, and possibilities for strained relationships through social media. There's no eye contact or body language to read and in many cases the online persona of most users are way different from those people in real life. So while social media is necessary for success, there are many pitfalls in its use.

This overuse meant that sometimes I shirked my responsibilities as an at home parent all for the high of more likes, more followers, more praise from people I don't know at all. Bending to it's will is easy as it is an addiction like any other. But like any addiction it ends up hurting not only yourself but others around you who care for you.

If you haven't been hurt by social media, it will happen someday. That thing that you have come to rely on as a source of comfort will turn on you. Someone will disagree with your post and you will engage in a virtual argument that will most likely have no discernible resolution. Feelings will get hurt, a disagreement will become personal, and soon you are blocking a person who shouldn't have been in your friends list in the first place.

Overuse can be dangerous. Fall down the rabbit hole of social media and you'll probably come out dazed and confused.  The only solution to break away from this obsession is to not use it. That's not easy as any addict can attest. Walking away will always be a struggle.  I'm not talking about a public ragequit in front of your 987 friends. I am talking about fading into the background and using it less. Remove Facebook from your phone, turn off notifications, and be present in the real world instead.

I sought out counseling for my obsession. I couldn't find a group that identified only with internet addiction near me though I suspect counselors coming out of school these days will be specializing in this area in the future. I sought counseling from my pastor who told me that on a spectrum of addiction, mine wasn't one of the worst. Yet so many men my age who stay home feel this same way.

We are looking for something to fill a void in our lives and often it has to do with a lack of social interaction. We are looking for community and acceptance online because it's easy. We spend too much time on social media or online gaming that it has us hooked. Unfortunately because it is an addiction, we find ways to make sure we get our fix. We may be waking up early or staying up late, lying to our spouse about how much time we really have spent on it because we feel guilty for using.

It's a different world online and when posting on social media became priority one for me, I lost sight of what was really important, myself in real life. I stopped doing the things I cared about like art and photography and when I did take photographs I was more interested in seeing how many people would like it rather than just enjoy what I created.

We have an app for everything now. We keep track of our daily meals, our runs, we GPS every location before ever getting there.  I text more than talk to actual people on the phone so much so now that when someone suggests I call them, I cringe. Social media intended to bring us closer together but it has done just the opposite. Go to a sporting event and most people will be Periscoping it or posting to Instagram that they are there. We take selfies and pictures of our food and post about EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. OF. OUR. LIVES.  It's no longer about the spectacle. We are the spectacle.

So I've decided to use it less and silence the cell phone more. It's been a struggle to pull back but doing that has made me realize how annoying it can be to have a conversation with someone whom whips out their cell phone to "check something". Using it less as made me see more. I am seeing a difference in how my kids talk to me and more importantly how I listen to them. I've become more connected with people in my community in real life. I have been more attentive to my relationship with my wife because that marriage is the one that matters. I'm hoping that my dedication to the real world and not the virtual one will drastically change myself. I can only hope that the portrait my daughter draws of me next year will be one I recognize.

How do you limit your time on the phone or technology? Has it worked for you?  Join the discussion on DadNCharge on Facebook