Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Don't Get Buried By Your #FallFixUp

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media® and Rubbermaid, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade #FallFixUp http://my-disclosur.es/RgFrEH

The summer is over and just when you thought things would be cooling down, they are heating up again. All those fun projects you did with the kids over the summer and the outdoor activities you focused on with the family has left your home in a sad state of disarray. Your garage looks like an episode from Hoarders and your landscaping needs more than a backyard crash. You need to Do It Yourself back into your neighbor's good standing and Rubbermaid can help.

For tough jobs like these it is Rubbermaid to the rescue! Forget spring cleaning, it's time for a #FallFixUp to get your house back in order. Rubbermaid Roughneck products can help you get reorganized in a hurry. Take advantage of low prices in stores now at your local Home Depot . With their totes and garbage cans, you can make light work of a daunting task.

Let's start with that backyard which looks like Sharknado just ripped through it. First off, get the kids to help. Giving them a task as simple as putting brush into a garbage can isn't something they can mess up right?

Then it is on to that place I like to call The Black Hole of Stuff. Don't have room in your house? Put it in the garage,  where at least you can't see it anymore! At least that is my position since I don't actually get to park my car in our garage because that Powerwheel your neighbor so graciously gifted you to free up room in his garage, is taking your spot. You'd think from this picture that we might have ten children but it is actually only three.

Kids aren't good at putting things back where they belong, so you may have to take the initiative to actually get things organized.  Problem is it may become an archeological dig site. You start pulling all of these things out from the garage and the kids start playing with them because they haven't seen them in a long time. I pulled something out of this pile and expected a boulder to come crashing down my driveway.

As you can see, the Rubbermaid Roughneck storage totes are great for organizing gear. The 18 gallon one I am holding can handle even your toughest little messes and as you can see, the 54 gallon tote easily handles multiple challenges handily.

Rubbermaid Roughneck products are aptly named because as you are tossing them around and filling them to the brim they will take everything you throw at them. So go out and get some totes and garbage cans and get avoid getting buried by your #FallFixUp. Make your shrewdest of neighbors realize that while the robe you use to get the paper doesn't have you sufficiently covered, Rubbermaid does.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Correctly Counting Stay At Home Dads : An Interview with Dr. Beth Latshaw

Stay at home dads are rising in numbers with the roles of caregiving shifting and some men have become more willing to make sacrifices so that they can stay at home. Dads over the years are becoming more involved in the raising of the children and have found that this role as the primary caregiver is really what they were meant to do. Most who decide to stay home to raise the children see it as an opportunity to be active in the raising of their children, a cultural shift that has been gaining momentum in our society.

And while The U.S. Census and Pew Research Center has sought out to count these men, unfortunately the research that has been available is sometimes prohibited by the parameters that define what exactly is a stay at home dad. National surveys don't ask many questions about fatherhood and they try to fit the ever changing roles of fatherhood into a neat little checkboxes that do not apply to everyone.

Dr. Beth Latshaw,  a Sociology Professor at Widener University has been conducting research on the ways that we accurately count stay at home dads and her count of those of us who do stay home is the most accurate of all the research available. The latest survey is aimed to find and count all of the dads that don't fit in a one category box and to gain a real understanding of stay at home dads as primary caregivers.

She is asking SAHDs about their well being in a survey that the National At Home Dad Network supports that not only will help find different demographic profiles of dads but also whether dads are receiving the support they need in a world that has often been referred to as a "mommycentric" society.   I had the privilege of speaking with her about her survey and asked her some questions about primary caregivers and just why her survey is so important to our society.

bethlatshawCB - How do you feel that the numbers of the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Pew Research are wrong when counting Stay At Home Dads?
BL-  This is one of the reasons I wanted to study stay at home dads. As a family sociologist, I started to think about how families are changing so frequently, almost faster than we can keep track of. So in many ways, the definitions of family are fluid because people are transforming what it means to be a family, what roles we have in our families, the boundaries between work and family are blurring and our data that we have on families are only as good as our measures we use to produce the data. I started to notice that the Census Bureau had a very rigid definition of stay at home dads.  The criteria they used were restrictive and you couldn't give more than one reason why you might be staying at home or give an open-ended question to explain why.  When I was doing my dissertation on stay at home dads, I found that over half of them were still in the labor force in some capacity while they stayed home. Immediately, that half  was being left out even though they self identified as a stay at home dad.  I started to think that a lot of stay at home moms did the same thing so maybe it was time for us to redefine what a stay at home parent is.  I figured that the the best way to do it was to ask men " Why stay home? Who are you? What is your demographic profile? What's your story?" That is the best way to understand families, which is to actually ask families who they are.

CB - Why do surveys like the Census and others lack nuanced questions to determine just how the roles of fatherhood have changed?

BL - In general, nationally representative surveys don't have very many questions on fathers at all. They mostly ask questions like "Do you live with your child" or "Do you read to your child" but they don't ask questions like "How do you define your role as a father or what does fatherhood mean to you?" , "What is it like to be a dad"  or "What are your daily interactions with your child like ?" This is where a qualitative study is important, to come in and ask dads what it is like. To have them tell us, in their own words what it is like.  That can sort of fill in these gaps where these national surveys are lacking. 

CB - So how do you think that the census should be altered to include these men in its count?

BL - From what I have heard, it is incredibly hard to change the Census. Changing one question could take years of debate. But, in a perfect world, I think that most people have more than one reason why they may not be in the labor force. Maybe allowing people to choose more than one reason if they are out of the labor force or provide an open ended question that they can elaborate on [would be helpful]. I also think that they could look at the people who are in the labor force and from there  be able to quantify how many say they are the primary caregivers of their children. Allow people who work in some minimal capacity to also specify that they are the primary caregiver 75% of the time, thus eliminating the rigid categories the census follows.

CB - At the convention in Washington DC, we took a photograph with all of the participants. Then we took a picture of the group with only those that the Census would deem us as stay at home dads. As you mentioned, it was about half of us who met their criteria. What other factors have you come across that hinder this count being accurate?

BL - Most of the stay at home dads that we have surveyed had been married but if you are cohabitating or are a gay couple, those families would be left out as well. Cohabitation is increasing and with the increase of gay rights we see that there are different dynamics to families that are changing. As those change, our definitions also need to change.

CB - What have you found to be the main factors that determine whether a dad considers himself a stay at home father?

BL- As we are interviewing these dads, most of them have said that rather than checking a box that they would like to see it based on a percentage of time that you spend caring for that child. In some cases, SAHDs work the thirds shift or on the weekends, but that doesn't mean they aren't a stay at home parent during the week or during the day. If you think about it we don't say, once kids are in school, that you aren't a stay at home parent just because your kids are at school for 40 hours a week.

CB - What would you say to those people who suggest that caring for children is a "feminine trait" that is ingrained in women and not men?

BL - My personal belief is that parenting skills are learned behaviors. Our society certainly socializes women to be caregivers. Of course there are basic biological differences between men and women but our society reinforces that message that women should be natural caregivers through socialization and media. We give little girls dolls to take care of when they are young so we tend to think that it is natural even though much of it is cultural and social. So, I personally believe that there are women who are terrible caregivers and there are men who are wonderful caregivers. If you take the time to learn and understand the qualities that it takes to be a good caregiver then it is something based on the learning you have achieved and not gender.

CB - Why are women gatekeeping when it comes to the father-child relationship?

BL - When women were entering the workforce and still facing barriers there, one place that they could feel power and validation was as a mother. As men started moving into more of these roles as the caregiver this became more of an issue because they lost a little of that validation. This is where society was telling them that it was their role and what they were "supposed to do".  I think that, generational speaking, women are moving away from that and are sharing parenthood with their partner. The importance of having a more equal relationship and how that can be helpful for everyone involved is becoming a more common goal. Sharing and balancing seems to be the direction people are heading in as there are more co-parents instead of gatekeeping, which will hopefully fade away.

CB - What would you say is the main difference generation-wise, which is defining modern fathers?  Why is the switch in roles more common now than before?

BL - The movement of women in the labor force and women in higher education made a huge fundamental change in the way families thought about gender and work/family responsibilities. In the past, the breadwinner, never at home dad was the dominant cultural form of fatherhood. He'd bring home the bacon and we equated good fatherhood with earning money. Providing is what defined you as a good father.
As our society has changed, women who entered into the labor force started to rethink "OK, how are we going balance all of this?" As a result,  the doors opened for men to take a more active role and many of them realized that they were really good at it and it was really important to them. As society changes we start to think of involved fatherhood as being the new cultural ideal. Men want equal support and want to be respected as parents. As you well know, media in general has portrayed fathers in a less flattering light and dads are sick of it.  As generations change, people will want to move away from traditional gender roles . They understand that both men and women are equally great parents and want to be given the opportunity to spend time with their kids and have meaningful relationships with them.
If you know a stay at home dad or are one. Please consider taking the Stay at Home Father Well Being Survey conducted by Dr. Beth Latshaw and Widener University.  
Let the NAHDN what you liked/disliked about the survey on their FB page after you have completed it and thanks for being a part of the sample if you do participate!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Not Just Another Fan : Discovering Lolly & YoYo

My girls danced in their bright colored frocks in a circle to the music, inspired by the fun lyrics and rhythms of the guitar, they soon were gliding around like small butterflies do, flitting around from place to place, so light and airy that I felt as if all gravity had left the earth. They twirled like wind catchers on your front porch and were holding hands and laughing together with such delight that I had to just stand back and watch in amazement.

Music can inspire this feeling. I have felt it in my own experiences as a youth where music just transformed me and sent me to another time and place. Startling how words and notes put in so many different combinations, the limitless possibilities can make us feel right down to our very soul. 

This is the way Lolly & Yo Yo's music has affected my children and in turn, me as well. It all started with an event to go see them in a local mall in Plymouth-Meeting. We organized The Philly Dads Group to attend the concert as part of their Kids Klub event which happens every second Tuesday of the month.  My children had never heard their music before but sat raptly waiting on the small circles of carpet ready for their first concert. Who knew it would change them so?

Lolly Hopwood and Yo Yo (Yvonne) Kusters are a duo that combines kindie rock with activity and dance that gets children moving and exercising. On the day I first heard them with my girls we  all fell for their music and spirit let alone their kindness. 

After their performance, I walked up and introduced myself and told her about our group and my blog.  Lolly immediately asked "Do you have our CD?" to which I replied no. She headed back to her table and grabbed one and kneeled down by my girls and wrote this out to them personally : To Sarah & Heidi, Shine like the stars you are. Love Lolly & YoYo.

What an awesome gesture that was and one I am very grateful for. As my girls are growing up I don't want them to be tentative about how they are.

I want them to be themselves and show the world what they can do. I think that Lolly and YoYo see that in all of their fans.

Back in the car, we couldn't wait to put in their CD and my girls were rocking out in no time. Their CD, An Adventurous Day is a must have for any Kindie Fan. Lolly has a voice like Sarah McLachlan, the kind you sort of just get lost in; a voice that transports you to a dreamy wonderland. Pair that with YoYo's high energy and infectious smile and you can see why their harmony is a match made in heaven.

Of course, being a camp counselor, they won me over with a rendition of Baby Shark and Go Bananas. You must give Hey Alligator a listen not only because it is done echo style but you may feel like you are transported to New Orleans with the rich jazzy horns of this song. Tracks like Glow in the Dark will mesmerize you with the sweet simplicity and dazzling imagery. You may want to close your eyes as you can almost see it right in front of you, just don't do it in the car! My favorite track is I Don't Want To Go Sleep because it really sums up what a day with kids is all about. Lolly and YoYo's vocals of this song reminded me of The Sundays. 

I can't stress enough to give Lolly and YoYo a try for your children but also for yourself. You'll fall for them too like we did. Follow them on Facebook and check out their website for more info.

If you are interested in kid's music, visit DadNCharge on FB, for CD giveaways and free downloads.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Score Tickets the Easy Way with ScoreBig.com

There were explosions and stunts, motorcycles and explosions, fighting and superheroes. Did I mention explosions?  It was all part of Marvel Universe Live's show this past Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center here in Philly and I got to attend thanks to ScoreBig.com.

My son is nine and has always liked superheroes since he was very small. He used to run around in pajamas with a cape most of the time.  I wasn't sure if he would still be into it. Would he still buy in to the hype around this show? Was my little mini-me losing that side of him?

Fortunately for the geeky dad in me, he loved the show and we talked about our favorite stunts and characters. He loves theater and acting and was really impressed as I was with the story and choreography of the fight scenes. All of this, this experience together was made possible by ScoreBig.

ScoreBig.com asked me if I would be interested in trying out their site. It was super easy to learn and the whole process was very positive. All you have to do is find the event you want to attend and under their "Enter Bid" section, put the amount you wish to pay for that event based on the seating arrangement. Under that amount, an indicator will show you just how successful a bid might be for that seating.

If you don't win with the bid that you initially entered, don't worry. You'll have to wait 24 hours before making another offer or you can change your seating choice and start all over again.

After entering my bid, I immediately got an email confirming my price, where my seats where, and all the information about the event.  Once the tickets are confirmed, you can choose a delivery method either through FedEx, through E-Ticket, or pick them up at the Will Call. They guarantee that your tickets will always be located in the seat rating you selected and that they will be delivered in time for your event! 

It was so easy to use and just like their name implies, you too can ScoreBig with their service! 

FTC Disclaimer: I was compensated tickets to this event in exchange for a review of ScoreBig.com's website. All opinions are my own. Now, go attend a concert or something and get offline for a bit!

Banish The Playdate Media

Here is a collection of all of my media appearances surrounding the Banish the Playdate post:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Watch more news videos | Latest from the US

The links to those who covered it or wrote about it:

The Huffington Post - Banish the Playdate
The Daily Mail  Ban the play date!' Meet the stay-at-home dad who says formally arranged meetings between children 'alters their spontaneity'
The Mama Mary Show   Video is at the end of the post and comes on at 2:33
The View   Hot Topic
Mommyish - This Stay At Home Dad Wants to Ban Playdates and It's Just Not Possible
Action News 6 - Philadelphia - Philly Dad Calls for Ban on Playdates
Kidspot - The dad who wants to see an end to playdates
iVillage - Why I'll never let my kid have another playdate
Fox 32 Chicago - Stay at home dad blogger wants playdate banished
Parent Toolkit - Why One Dad Wants to Ban Play Dates 
Seaside Staffing Company - What One Dad Has to Say About Playdates is HILARIOUS! SheKnows.com - This is why we shouldn't banish playdates
Deseret News - Erin Stewart: Boycott the playdate? Why not just do it right?
Out With The Kids - Preserve the Playdate!
MSN Living - Banish the playdate
amotherworld.com - No Need to Ban the Playdate
News 9 - Oklahoma - Hot Topic - Ban Playdates?
TakePart.com -Want More Creative, Healthier Kids? Ditch This Social Activity

Friday, August 8, 2014

Through The Looking Glass

The light filters in through the window of the car door; that sort of flashy brilliance from a summer afternoon as signposts and roadside reflectors whiz past on your way from point A to point B. Your headphones are on because your brother whom you are trying to drown out, just retracted that finger that moments ago was only God knows where. He's crossed that imaginary line dad had pointed out prior to barreling down the driveway with half of your house strapped to the car.

Mom might be pointing things out to look out for or talking about the sandwiches in the trunk and lamenting that she should have brought more than 50 napkins for lunch. And your family dog, whom you can't board because your sister couldn't bear to be without him, has his head firmly outside the window. He's lapping up the rush of cool air in his face, relishing the ride and his avoidance of the dreaded kennel. Behold, the family road trip.

While they can be the trip that Vacation made laughable, and you hope Aunt Edna is not along for the ride with you, a roadtrip with the kids or travelling to a family destination can be amazingly rewarding as long as you get them to actually experience it along the way. Ferris Bueller was right "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it. "

Friends of ours were headed on a long trip with their children for eight hours. They have never taken more than a two hour car ride with them to the shore and were trying to think of a way to explain to the kids just how much time it would take to arrive there. In a circle of parents discussing how to explain time to the kids, one parent said  "Just tell the kids that you are basically watching Frozen four times on your way there."

Kids know how long a movie is or how long an episode of Doc McStuffins will take but trying to explain to a kid that they are travelling for more than two hours and you might find that our automatic response is centered around media as a unit of time. It is a crutch that we too often lean on.

My wife wouldn't let me put the entertainment system in our Swagger Wagon when we bought it. I argued for it saying it would make travelling easier and she said I would rely on it too much.  I am glad she is always right.

I have seen so many people just riding to the grocery store popping in a DVD even though the market may only be a few blocks away. The other day, I was trying to watch Star Wars through a Tahoe's back window pretending that my van was the Millenium Falcon when the TIE Fighter behind me honked and I kicked it into hyperdrive. It's a distraction and an addiction that our kids just don't need on every car trip.

My family regularly takes a car ride to the Adirondacks which is a group of mountains that aren't in Pennsylvania where we actually live. The six hour car ride goes surprisingly fast. How is that possible you may ask? Because we are trying to teach our kids to look out of the window.

Technology is easy; too easy and accessible. Don't want the kids to annoy you? Then we put something up on the screen and turn them into video zombies for some peace and quiet. While some apps are educational and have some merit, there is something to be said about putting limitations on the time we spend with technology. What is our obsession with filling every moment with something when there are things all around us passing us by?

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites that today's children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices and suggests making areas in your home "screen-free" zones. Why not make the car one of those screen free zones and focus on games, books, and coloring in the car?

Part of learning to turn off the screens and focusing on activities that stimulate your child's growth is dependent upon limitations that you set for your child.  Children learn best early in life through direct interaction with people, so when they sit still and watch TV, surf the Internet or play video games, they aren’t getting the exercise and mental stimulation they need to develop. The car ride is an extension of this time where we have a choice; zone our kids out for some peace and quiet or take hold of the time you have together.

It takes effort for sure as I look inwardly, I realize that modelling the right behavior can make all the difference. I try to make an effort in the car not to look at my smartphone and be in the present with my kids. Eliminating all media is not realistic and doesn't teach kids how to be responsible later.

To help combat our reliance on technology, we invented a game called Rainbow Cars that the kids are invested in. So much so, that my nine year old and I discuss the semantics of spotting a car. We have come to conclude that it is officially counted only after one other person visually concurs that we did, in fact, pass a pink stretch limo.  When we take a long car ride, we have to find a colored car in rainbow order on the way there and do it in reverse on the way back.

It is amazing how attentive they have become in the car and how they have discovered patterns in car buying when it comes to the way colors make people feel. There are so many neutral cars on the road today with in influx of wacky colors you might not expect. Red cars and blue cars? Easy! Finding an orange or purple car when you need to move on in the game, not so much. And just so we are clear, trucks and construction vehicles do not count as cars.

All of this essential family time has come from looking out the window and paying actual attention to where we are going. We've noticed a remarkable change in our three year old who randomly will yell out "Red car!" even when we aren't driving a long distance.

Two years ago, I took my son to NYC to sleep over at the American Museum of Natural History. While riding, we talked the entire way and he looked out the window. When we got closer to the city he noticed graffiti from some taggers who had chosen some choice words for names. He asked "What is that artwork doing on the side of that bridge?" So, we had a discussion about graffiti, tagging, and public art; a discussion that never would have happened if his eyes were looking down and not out.

Roadside pie stands, a farmer tilling his field, and mountains so big you can't even imagine how they created the tunnel you are now driving your car through are things my kids see along the way. We spot barns and windmills, license plates from every state. Once, we even had my son write them all down so he could memorize their mottos.  We play "In Granny's Attic" and I Spy. We even crank the radio and jam out as a family or have a reading by the person riding shotgun while we just listen.

Whether you are in a car, train, or airplane we can take these moments as opportunities to inspire and challenge our kids to take notice of the world they live in and not just what is right in front of their faces. In an airplane, on our way to Chicago this summer my daughter commandeered the window seat. Upon take off she exclaimed "I can see the whole world from here!" That window seat is calling you. It is calling you to look out and take notice. Don't let it pass you by.