Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dropping the Ball Directly Onto Dads

I've read lots of books lately about what it means to be a man or woman in this world raising a child. Everyone is an expert but no one really knows what they are doing. There is no LEGO manual for making every day awesome because no two families, let alone people are the same.

Finding balance between work and family life is constantly in flux for all of us no matter what your work and home situation may be. In the latest book which tells you everything you are doing is wrong, Tiffany Dufu has dropped the ball right onto dads in her book, Drop the Ball which perpetuates the lazy dad stereotypes of old. 

I mean, I'm sure Dufu meant well. She meant to share her personal experience backed by some semblance of research on how other moms feel about their perceived lazy husbands. But be warned, these, "experts" scream to you from bookshelves that the reason your husband doesn't clean the toilet taint (you know that area between the bowl and the tank) is because men don't want to share the worry and work that accompanies managing a home.

Wrong. We both worry though we probably worry about different things at different times. Let's be honest though, you can't be a parent and not worry about something.  Our mental health issues are on the rise on both sides of the coin. Men's mental health issues are steadily increasing with many men's worries escalating towards suicide which they believe is the only way out. Read up on Josh Levs' book All In where he conducted interviews with countless men over the ways they and their partners teamed up together to find a solution for their families. He will shed light on these sources who claim that women are doing most of the heavy lifting.

Teamwork is and always will be the key to any relationship and it is where most success resides for individuals and companies. People didn't get where they are today without influence from other people, period. Sometimes that meant that they took the lead and other times they were a support person.

The same holds true for relationships. Think of examples where teamwork works the best; on sports teams where their motto is "I don't want to win it for me, but the person next to me." It happens in businesses where people play specific roles that ebb and flow. Oftentimes a project manager takes on a role because they are the best at it while their supporting players may not be as strong. Nothing gets done in America without teamwork. But keeping score and holding that over your team will never make you a star.

What isn't productive is the claim that one gender works harder than the other at something. Claims that men work harder than women who work at home or claims that women work harder than men because they don't do as much housework doesn't bring us closer together, it divides us even more.

Authors like Dufu want to show one side only. They know extreme examples sell books. They want to prove that one sex is superior to the other based on quantifiable reasons. Why does there have to be this giant scale where we keep score?

I'm not in competition with my wife for who can do more. We don't keep a tally of all the things we accomplished that day like some maniacal tail-gunner taking out enemy planes. We don't compare notes at the end of the day over who did more like scars on a small fishing boat hunting down a shark.

We divide and conquer, together. I'm not good at the finances and she hasn't changed the cat litter since her first pregnancy. It works because we do the things that we are good at. In her case it's organizing and numbers and mine is just dealing with crap.

Dufu makes a claim that "When men change a diaper, they feel like they’re helping us out; when we change a diaper, we feel like we’re just doing our job.” If this is you, I'm sorry if you've been around men that don't see that caring for your children is an equal partnership.

The men that I know don't think of changing diapers as helping out their wives. We had children TOGETHER. We take care of them TOGETHER. We will always raise them TOGETHER. The very definition of a partnership is doing something together. 

If I were babysitting a neighbor's kid, that is helping out. If I were changing the diaper of my nephew, I might be helping out. If I am picking up someone's son to bring him home in addition to my own, that is helping out.  Being a parent and managing the household is not a job, it's a responsibility you both enter and navigate together.

I ran into this so often as a stay at home dad of nine years who was praised for doing the everyday tasks any parent would do with their children. People would say I was a good dad because I took my kids to the grocery store alone or because I could make an afternoon recital that my wife couldn't because she was working. These stereotypes make it hard to gain ground when it comes to equality on either side. 

I feel this way every time someone calls me Mr. Mom or asks me if I am babysitting. Stop referring to me as a character from a movie made in 1983. I'm a dad caring for my children while my wife works to support our family. The care and worry won't change once I am back in the workforce, it will just intensify since I won't be with them during the day anymore.

I recently started teaching again and now that I have a job, I'm still caring for the children. That part never changes no matter whether you are working or staying at home. I'm still carting the kids to after school activities and making dinner in the evening. Now that our family dynamic is changing again, we are figuring it out all over again.

Books like Drop the Ball reinforce these negative stereotypes about dads who are unwilling to be an active part of the household beyond just raising the children.  Society may keep those stereotypes alive but it's our job to disprove them, not reinforce them. Instead of figuring out who is doing more, let's focus on how doing it together looks like instead. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

You're The Reason Mommy Drinks

Parents,we are hurting our children in the worst possible way. It has nothing to do with gluten free anything or not slathering the clown makeup sunscreen on our children before heading out into the sun. It has to do with our drinking and the way we are allowing our kids to perceive just what alcohol means to us as adults.

I'm sure you've joked about it to your friends. You've probably posted a meme on your Facebook page with a comically large glass of wine. You may have even shared a picture via text with your buddies about how many beers you've needed to get through the day or laughed at t-shirts that claim "You're the reason daddy drinks." If you have, you're sending the wrong message to your children.

If you think these posts are all in good fun then you're being hypocritical. We can't say one thing and then totally mean another because we are probably telling our kids before they get to that responsible age that drinking is not okay. We're probably telling them that drinking lowers inhibitions and impairs their ability to think straight. We're probably telling them just how dangerous alcohol can be especially when they get behind the wheel of a car. These are all good messages but we lose all credibility when we use our dependency on alcohol to get through the day and then talk about it on social media.

A typical day for a parent on social media includes pictures of coffee, kid stuff for 12-18 hours, then alcohol. Complain about how hard it is, how you never get any sleep, and then repeat.

At some point when our children are on social media they will see our messages about how we deal with a tough day. I'd be embarrassed if my son were to ask if if that's how I really felt about being a dad.  Parents who post about how necessary drinking is to our survival as primary caregivers is the wrong message to send. Using alcohol to escape from reality or to deal with stress is incredibly careless of us.

Had a rough day? Grab a bottle of wine! Drink a six pack! You kids and all your shenanigans are the reason why we drink.

Oh and don't worry kids, you'll get here someday. Have a tough math test? Are your parents stressing you out? Faced adversity today? Just drink until you forget.

Never fear kids, alcohol is the answer. Someday, you'll be a parent and understand why it is necessary.

At least that is what our impression of what it takes to be a parent looks like on social media. We love to post about how many glasses of wine will make us forget about the day or how drinking this magic elixir will get us to tomorrow.

It's just a way to unwind after a particularly difficult day dealing with the children. What's the harm in that? I'm not saying that you should give up drinking. That's just crazy talk. That would be like saying play dates should be eliminated.

I like a beer or two from time to time. I just don't go on the internet complaining afterwards about how necessary this dependence on alcohol is to a taxing day with the children. Can we all agree that drinking in excess and posting about drinking on social media is a terrible message for our kids?

Maybe it's just me but I find that griping about being a parent and then drinking to "escape" from all the "hardships" I've faced that day with the kids seems counterproductive.

Go ahead and Google "mom and wine meme" and you'll get 866,000 hits. Mom wine culture is rampant on the internet. A search for "mom wine blog" will get you 4,290,000 hits. I'm not knocking those that enjoy a glass of wine or a beer at the end of the day but drinking to drown your sorrows about being a parent in that comically large wine glass is setting a dangerous precedence.

But it's just funny memes! What's the big deal? Well, as my kids get older and internet searches increase, they are bound to come across these images of adults coping with their hardships with alcohol. We aren't promoting responsible anything, only that the answer to life's problems is to drown them until they can't breathe anymore.

How can we honestly look at our kids in the eye and tell them that drinking their troubles away will not solve anything when we post about it all the time?

Remember that anti-drug commercial when we were kids where the kid screams "I learned it by watching you!"? We are doing it again. Our kids are watching us and emulating our behaviors. Is this the message we want to send?

The next time you reach for the alcohol do what I do and remember all the joy your children have brought you and smile. Here are some alternatives to posting on how hard your life as a parent is:

Go look at baby pictures on the computer or wistfully admire your wedding photos of your pre-kid dad-bod or lack of a muffin top.  If you're so inclined, go for a walk or a jog and then drink some water. Do some yoga or sit in a quiet room and rock yourself in a corner. Binge watch some Netflix and post spoilers on Facebook like the rest of us. You could even start your own parenting blog and tell other people what to do!  Anything but taking pictures of you drinking and whining about what you had to do today.

The point is, let's stop using alcohol as a reason to cope with having children. And while them getting up every thirty seconds after you've tucked them into bed sucks, no amount of beer or wine is going to get them to go to sleep. For some of you, alcohol may have played a role in getting us here in the first place but it shouldn't be the reason we continue to be parents.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Make Your Breakfast Berry Fast and Berry Good

The slow descent down the stairs is usually the first thing I hear as my kids make their way to the kitchen for breakfast. The shuffling feet, the soft padding of fleece lined slippers create this slow whooshing sound a bit like sandpaper against the grain.

Slowly, like sheep roused from their stables headed out to pasture my children saunter into the kitchen. Hairdos all akimbo, eyes, hardly open, they manage to mumble a good morning but just barely.

They don't know it yet but they've got it pretty good. The youngest at six years of age goes to bed at 7:30 pm and she sleeps until 7:00 am. That's a good solid eleven and a half hours though she is resistant to waking at all when it is time to actually find where that one shoe has gone off to before heading out the door.

As the kids get older in age, our oldest a tween, we extend bedtime for shows he can't watch with his sisters. My son stays up a bit later but still manages nine and a half hours of sleep though the teenage years are creeping up on us. Those days when growing made you tired and you felt like you could eat everything under the sun.

But there's just no time in the morning; it's hectic and fast paced. You'll want to minimize the drama so it won't carry over. Sometimes, things get combined to maximize efficiency.

Breakfast is a time to fuel up for the day. It's a time to pack our backpacks, make sure our lunches are actually with us, and eat something quick before we head out the door. That's why cereal, especially Cheerios, are a part of our morning routine.

To cut down on the amount it steps before our minds are fully awake, we put the spoons and bowls out the night before to set ourselves up for a successful day. Each kid places a cereal before their bowl like an offering to the breakfast gods.

I've bought cereals as a stay at home dad for the last nine years. I can tell you that a terrible tasting cereal gets shoved into the back of the pantry, banished from ever seeing the bottom of a bowl. You know the one thing that always goes? Berries. Anytime I've bought berries at the store, I have to ration them out. Once, my daughters ate an entire two quart package of raspberries!

That's why our family is pretty excited about Very Berry Cheerios. I don't know how General Mills did it, but I'm envisioning a giant vat of berries and those whole grain oats in a gigantic blender. They also managed to make them gluten free and they contain no artificial flavors or colors. Thank you cereal scientists!

Now instead of putting berries on our cereal, we have berries in our cereal. Getting a spoonful of berries in every bite is always going to be a recipe for happy kids, now if I can just keep them eating them all before I get a bowl. 

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Cheerios for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Get Stuff Done With Verizon FiOS Instant Internet

I didn't mean for it to happen so quickly so I'm glad it did. I came back from a wonderful Christmas holiday buoyed by the spirit of the season looking forward to the new year. What I didn't know was in roughly three days time after returning, I'd be interviewing for my first job in eight and a half years after being a stay at home dad during that time.

I was a little scared, a lot nervous, but excited at all the same time. Was I prepared for this? Only time would tell whether I was up to speed on today's youth. I haven't totally stopped teaching during the last eight years. I've volunteered plenty in my kid's classrooms and even have volunteered as the art teacher for our church's vacation bible school the last two years.

Well, it turns out that I got the job. I would be teaching Graphic Design to high school students. It has been a long time since I have tackled Adobe Illustrator so I knew I had to brush up on my techniques so that I could pass what I know onto the kids.

Teaching, as you can imagine requires lots and lots of research and preparation. It's time spent writing lesson plans, researching techniques online, and filling out lots of documentation prior to your start. In the days leading up to my position's start date, I spent time talking to a friend online about lesson plans and his approach with his students. I talked to him over the phone for almost two hours getting the lowdown on what teaching Graphic Design is like almost a decade later.

I combed lessons on Pinterest, I watched endless videos on YouTube, and I spent lots of time setting up a cool new feature that more and more teachers are employing, Google Classroom. Google Classroom is a virtual classroom that allows teachers to upload assignments, communicate with individual students, grade work remotely stored on their Google Drive, and grade work from afar.

Gone of the days are handouts and copiers. Create all your documents in Google Docs and you can upload the assignment right to the Google Classroom. If you set a date and a student turns it in late, it records the date and time that they upload it right there in your record and sends you an email letting you know!

Of course with all this renewed online activity, I needed an internet provider that isn't going to slow down when I am speeding up. That's why I have Verizon FiOS and if you live in Philadelphia like me, you might have Instant Internet available to you already. Instant Internet is different than any internet other providers can offer. Up to 750 mbps Upload AND Download speeds mean no waiting for videos to load and you can share your content with others just as fast.

Do you have a lot of devices that share bandwidth? With Verizon FiOS Instant Internet, you can have 100 devices streaming content at the same time. My wife can work on her laptop, myself on my PC, and the kids can all watch movies or play apps on their devices so we can get work done. With all that speed you can get a lot of stuff done and still enjoy streaming your movies later because your work will be done in no time. Go to Verizon.com today and get rid of your slow connection and into the fast lane with Verizon FiOS Instant Internet.

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Watch Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events

If I were you, I wouldn't read this post. There is bound to be any number of things you could be doing right now instead of reading this, and I suggest you do it for what I am about to tell you about is most unfortunate. The Baudelaire Family and their misadventures are the absolute epitome of a train wreck. Epitome means a perfect example but I'm sure you already knew that. They are the reason why everyone slows down on the highway and rubbernecks to see what happened hoping that they can piece together the events that have unfolded. The same could be said for their new series on Netflix. There are just some things in this world that are mysteries that cannot be explained.

1. Neil Patrick Harris 

If you loved him in How I Met Your Mother or Doogie Howser M.D. this show is not for you. His character Count Olaf is a dastardly villain hellbent on obtaining the Baudelaire Family's immense fortune and he will go to any lengths to get it.

2. Melina Weissman and Louis Hynes 

Violet and Klaus Baudelaire are portrayed, that means they are acting, by Melina and Louis respectively. If you don't like child actors who perfectly capture the essence of their characters you should not watch this show. Even Neil Patrick Harris can barely stand working with them.

3. Presley Smith 

I mean, come on Netflix! Who wants to watch a perfectly adorable baby steal the show by saying unintelligible things during the show that are completely hilarious? You are really running out of ideas here. I only really got excited in the episode when Sunny was put into a giant bird cage and suspended from the top of the roof.

4. Patrick Warburton

Your choice for Lemony Snicket as the narrator, that means the person telling the story, in a perfect deadpan manner despite all the horrible things that happen to the children along the way is questionable. He's mysterious about his past and his appearances prior to flashbacks or missing parts of the story really help you understand the events that are unfolding. Hearing it from Lemony Snicket's side while things happen is probably the perfect way to tell this story.

5. The Cameos 

How do you make a show successful? You parade in a bunch of our favorite actors and actresses to keep our attention. We get it, we love that the cast isn't a bunch of has-been actors like Count Olaf. SPOILER ALERT: With appearances by Joan Cusack and others, you are trying to keep us guessing about who might appear in Season 2. Thanks for getting us hooked on the show. Sheesh.

6. The Costumes of Count Olaf 

Yessica Haircut is probably my favorite character that the renowned actor, Count Olaf plays in the series but it gets confusing every time Olaf appears when the children move on after another Series of Unfortunate Events happen and we are introduced to a new character. Neil Patrick Harris plays so many different people that I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't know who he was by the end of the day.

7. The Elaborate Sets 

Nothing could capture this very rich and amazingly detailed book like elaborate sets. If you are a fan of the setting, these are about as lavish as they come. You're probably used to regular TV so it may take some time to adjust to the elegance of the visuals in this series. This is normal and you may have to look away repeatedly until you assimilate.

8.  These Two Creepy Ladies 

Count Olaf's henchman are among the most dishonorable humans you could come across but nothing sends a shiver down my spine more than these twins who finish each other's sentences. Thanks for the nightmares!

9. This Eyeball Symbol

If mysteries are something you like, then this infernal appearance of this symbol in the series over and over again will drive you insane. My kids keep asking me what it means but I really have no idea and every time we get close to figuring something out, we lose another clue. So, the only recourse is that I have to keep watching. Sigh. 

10.  The Power of the Underdog 

The Baudelaire children has lots of bad stuff happen to them including losing their parents to a terrible fire which sets off these misadventures in the first place. But, you won't be able to look away. You'll want to see how Violet's mechanical know-how, Klaus' book knowledge, and Sunny's super sharp teeth get them out of trouble over and over again. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Reign Supreme at Dinnertime With Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups

I'm master of my domain. I am the king of my castle. I'm the chef and my family relies on me to get dinner on the table. You would think as a king, I'd get a break from preparing the meals but it's quite the opposite. My subjects are always taken care of at the end of the day. This is why I am the #KingOfSoup.

After school there is homework, music lessons, and extracurricular activities so when they come home from a long day, food on the table needs to be there and it needs to be something that we all feel good about eating. When it's rush, rush, rush in our house it's hard to provide food for three hangry kids and two starving adults with not lots of time before it starts all over again.

Getting dinner on the table in a timely manner can either make or break you as a parent. Our kids are perpetually hungry so stretching out time between meals can be difficult.  The easy but unhealthy choice is opting for fast food because in five minutes, how can I whip something up that will sate their appetite?

You'll be happy to find out, that thanks to Idahoan®  Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups five minutes is all it takes to make that happen. Delicious quality ingredients make this soup the star of the table. It's filled with real Idaho® red potatoes and potato skins and those are ingredients you can see the first time you make the soup.

All it takes is four cups of boiling water and a package of  Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soup which comes in four delicious varieties including Creamy Potato, Loaded Potato, Cheddar Broccoli, and Three Cheese Chipotle. These delicious flavors bring that authentic all day to make steakhouse soup to your table in the comfort of your own home without slaving over a hot stove and prepping ingredients all day long.

Keep your kingdom happy and your royal subjects full with all varieties of Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soup and turn your home into a steakhouse with these quick and easy to make packages of premiums soups.

Disclaimer: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Idahoan® Foods for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Daddy Is Home

It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in some time; this tiny human clutching to my pant legs fearful that I am about to leave. “Daddy, you’re NOT a teacher, you’re a stay at home dad forever!” she cried out. She tells me this as I have one foot out of the door, the very same foot that is about to take the first step back to work in almost a decade.

For the past eight and a half years we have spent every waking moment together. So many times I walked that hallway in the pitch black tossing off my covers at the first sign of distress. I’d creep in the room with a minefield of toys, barely lit by a three- watt nightlight bulb to sometimes find her sound asleep or having night terrors.  I’d brush the hair from her face with my hand and stroke her temple until she nuzzled it back. “Daddy is here” I’d whisper quietly and she would nestle down into the covers as if she were a tiny caterpillar in a cocoon.  

Sometimes a mid-night cry was just her blanket coming off or the flu rearing its ugly head at the wee hours of the morning. There was always a certain comfort that came from her calling out to me in the night. As much as I complained at the time, I’m glad I was there.

Now, here I am walking away from her for the first morning in all that time a little bleary and teary eyed at the thought of being apart. Would she eventually accept that her dad, who has been there for flu shots, doctor’s appointments, emergency room visits and the like still always be there for her?

I used to live in track pants and a hoodie, the equivalent of a stay at home dad’s life to yoga pants and an over-sized sweater. And now, that I’m headed back to work, I’ve found a use for all those ties in my closet that have languished on the lonely tie rack unused and only taken out on Sundays. As cool as I look in ties as a teacher, I have to say that I miss my hoodie at bit. The transition for my daughter has also been tough. “Why are you dressed so fancy?” she asked quizzically. when she saw me after school. "Because I'm a teacher now, honey" I say as she skips alongside me to the car. "No you're not, you're a stay at home dad." 

It’s hard to change what you know so quickly. Going back to work has been like a week old Band-aid ripped from the flesh; a little jarring but necessary. Sometimes when something becomes too familiar, it is time for a change.

And that’s what it feels like now when I pick up my daughter. That sensation I haven’t experienced since my older two kids were in daycare and I’d go to collect them. The way their faces would light up when they saw me and come running for my legs.  That feeling came back to me today in a sea of elementary school kids when I called her name, she turned as if in slow motion, her eyes lighting up with comprehension and she came barreling towards my legs. 

Some things are still familiar. The hugs are still the same and the love for each other will always be there. When I come home, I get back to what is familiar. I shed my work clothes and don my Russell Performance Fleece hoodie. It’s like a hug to my new self and a reminder that I have changed but that I’ll always still be myself.  

It’s especially helpful when we are snuggled together on the couch, enjoying a book and some quiet time together. I still do lots of things in my hoodie that I used to do. I still do the girls' hair in the morning.  I still cook our family meals and clean the house in it. I play Barbies in it and romp around in the snow.  

It's what a Russell #Dadlete would do, donning the very thing that makes him confident in himself. I like mine because it's warm, it has a media cord solution for the times I am working around the house and most of all because it comes in Big and Tall sizes. I hate it when I find the right sized hoodie only to have it shrink up on me after one wash. 

I wore it on our final Friday together with the old schedule, making the last symbolic snowman named Fred together in the front yard with snow that wasn't made for snowballs let alone snowmen. I watched her crawl around the front yard willing a fist sized snowball into a respectable base for Fred.

I got a chill watching her though it wasn't because of the hoodie at all. The interior lined fleece kept myself plenty warm while I made snow angels with her. I’d like to think that donning the Russell Performance hooded sweatshirt is a reminder to her that Daddy didn’t go anywhere and that he’s still here for her to keep her safe and warm.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bundled Up

Holiday break is finally here!

My family is primed to share in all the Christmas cheer.

We'll spend the holidays with family and friends

Cooped up in the house where the fun never ends.

We'll patiently wait around the Christmas tree

to see what gifts are for them and what gifts are for me.

I hope there's some tech and some gadgets to charge under there.

I hope that I can use the bathroom alone without a care.

And though the gifts might change from year to year,

There's something that's constant and that I'll never fear.

I'm bundled by Verizon FiOS, it keeps me in good favor

I can enjoy my time watching the shows that I savor.

Like a warm winter sweater against the bracing cold

Verizon FiOS is there for me to have and to hold.

My Wi-Fi is strong and my guests are all connected

They all use the guest one so they don't feel rejected.

Our signal is strong through the worst of the snows

and I know that I won't need outside hardware to see all my shows.

If uninterrupted programming is your holiday wish.

With FiOS you won't need to go out and knock snow off the dish.

It's wired better to serve you and their support is second to none

You can contact them by chat, Twitter, or phone

The services they offer are like presents in a sack

I guarantee you can't find an area of good value where they lack.

If you have network dead spots they can get you an extender,

and make sure that your emails never get returned to the sender.

This holiday season they will bundle you with service so tight

like a child going out to play in the snow day and night.

Internet, TV, and phone all together like your family is now

and support to ensure happiness with your features is their vow.

To ensure that your holiday season is one and that it is happy

You should stay connected to the family and friends

Okay, this is sappy.

Gather 'round the TV to watch holiday shows

or watch endless un-boxing videos with the kids, you know how that goes.

If you don't know what to get that hard person on your list

Consider Verizon FiOS to ensured they aren't missed.

And enjoy connectivity to the things that you adore

Happy Holidays from DadNCharge to you and to yours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

When The Thrill of Christmas is Gone

Visiting days of Christmas past as a parent we can fondly look back on the way it used to be. Getting kids dressed in warm footie pajamas while they let us dress them however they wanted. While crawling on hands and knees, my children used to once be fascinated with the brightly colored wrappings, the twinkle of the low hanging ornaments on the tree, the way the paper crinkled in their tiny hands, or how they could fit themselves into a gift box like a cat looking for an afternoon nap.

Remember those days when keeping them occupied meant putting them in a bouncy chair or if they could stand, an activity center, where they would bop the same button over and over with their pudgy little hands while you listened to it proclaim that a lion says ROAR! a billion times over?

They grew up of course with each year progressing into all those different stages the books said they would. They began to walk and soon were running. They paid more and more attention to detail and started to respond to your words. As they got older, their tastes in gifts progressed. As they increased in age their attention disappeared from the gift wrap to what was inside the boxes instead.

Our kids pile their booty in a select area of the house and when all the unwrapping is done and the family is spent, they turn to their piles and explore and re familiarize themselves with what they just opened. It can all be a blur in the moment especially when you are feverishly ripping past red and green paper to discover what is hidden inside like a maniacal Christmas archaeologist.

Inevitably, their interest will wan and even though you have just spent the last three hours watching the rise and fall of joy and excitement leaving their faces as they moved like locusts under the tree, boredom will once again return. Dad, I'm bored. There's NOTHING to DO.

And that's when this year I am going to hand over the iPad open the Netflix app and let them unwrap the first season of Dreamworks Trollhunters. Debuting December 23rd, Trollhunters created by Guillermo Del Toro, is a story about an ordinary teenager Jim Lake Jr., who stumbles upon a mystical amulet on his way to school one morning. He inadvertently discovers an extraordinary secret civilization of mighty trolls beneath his small town of Arcadia.

Strong-willed and seeking adventure but wholly unprepared for the responsibilities thrust upon him, Jim is forced to take on the exalted mantle of Trollhunter, sworn to protect the good trolls from powerful enemies bent on revenge. The first human ever to hold the honor, Jim abruptly goes from fighting his way through the daily mayhem of high school to joining a war that has raged for centuries, a conflict that now threatens all of mankind and troll-kind alike.

He and a few of his friends know of his secret and try to protect it from enemies who know of his secret. It's the perfect show to keep kids occupied this holiday break. After they watch the show, unleash them out into the world and let them play as their favorite characters and more importantly, give you a a chance at a silent night.

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by DadNCharge on behalf of the Netflix #StreamTeam. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

What Friends Are For

I'm sitting in the Arden Theater with a tear in my eye watching A Year With Frog and Toad. I have a tear in my eye because Frog and Toad are all about friendship and it has me thinking, I'm lucky to have Jeff Bogle as a friend. Maybe you don't believe in fate or get squeamish when people say that everything happens for a reason but there is something in this universe that brought Jeff and I together.

Friends are usually the people you grew up with or they might be a roommate from college. Friends might have come from a job that you once had together or an experience you both shared. I found Jeff through a series of fortunate events. It began with the National At Home Dad Network and finding their annual convention which lead to me meeting Chris Routly and Matt Peregoy who I knew both had blogs. "You should join the Dad Blogger group on Facebook" they both said when I expressed interest in sharing my blog with the world.

I had just moved away from our house in upstate New York and had to start all over again making friends. My friends from college are scattered all over the place, my high school friends mostly still in Chicago, many of them I just don't talk to anymore because I just don't get to see them.

In the group, I searched the members and discovered that Jeff didn't live that far from me. So, I asked him to meet me at a bar/restaurant one day. Yep, I asked a dude out on a mandate. I quickly learned that he didn't drink and that he liked the Detroit Red Wings. I felt like the universe was trying to pull an Odd Couple scenario on me. How was I going to get along with this guy?

Without spoiling the show, I can say that friends can be so different but the same in many ways. Frog says to Toad at one point during the show "I'm happy when my friend is happy." That is what friends are for.

If like me, you grew up reading the books of Frog and Toad as a child, the underlying theme in all of the books is the basis of friendship. A Year With Frog and Toad is a celebration of what it means to be a true friend.

And just like Frog and Toad, we've been through a lot together. We've seen Montell Jordan together. Visited the White House. We've even survived rooming with Zach Rosenberg. As different as we are, we are still the same in many things. Great fathers, wonderful writers, champions of daughters, adoring husbands, world travelers, and talented photographers just to name a few.

Maybe it's the way that he writes that drew me to him in the first place. His blog posts are like stories from a close friend. If you follow his blog you'll begin to feel like you already know him. When I'm down I call Jeff just to talk.  Sometimes I complain about something and he listens. Sometimes he cracks a joke and can make me laugh. I'd like to think that when I'm happy, so is he.

Go see A Year With Frog and Toad with your best friend and go for lunch after. See it by yourself and call them after to let them know just how much you appreciate them. Take your children so they can learn what it means to be a true friend. Take your whole family to the Arden Theater and see A Year With Frog and Toad before, like a snail, it slowly passes you by. Performances are going on now through January 29th, 2017.