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 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why I Am Teaching My Kids to Hate The Packers

When my son was 20 months and was repeating everything I said, I would regularly take him downstairs to our basement landing where I had hung three banners. The first was of Mike Ditka, Da Coach who led us to victory in 1985. The second was a banner of Walter Payton arguably one of the best running backs I have seen play for the Chicago Bears. The last banner honoring the Superbowl win in 1985.

When my son was born in 2005, my wife got me my own personalized jersey commemorating his entry into this world and every time I wear it to watch games, it brings us good luck. Superstitions and football go hand in hand. As he grew he watched me watching football on Sundays and learned on his own how to say TOUCHDOWN when he would see his dad jumping up and down in front of the television celebrating a score.

When we would walk down those basement stairs I would make it a point to have him touch each banner and say a word or two about each one. At first he would just listen and look at me when I said "Coach Ditka. Walter Payton, Da Bears!" and would always laugh at the last one depending on how loud I would say it. Eventually he started saying it too and if you haven't seen a toddler say Ditka, it's pretty darn cute.

He has grown up only knowing one team though we have lived in Pittsford, NY home of the Buffalo Bills training camp where they would work out prior to the season at St. John Fisher College a mere two miles from our house. Not once in the three years we lived there did I take him. While it would have been a cool experience it would have felt to me like a betrayal.

Growing up as a fan of another team is tough though my kids have handled it well. They regularly complain about all the Packers paraphernalia that stores seem to carry and lament at stores' terrible decisions not to stock them with the Bears stuff instead. My hate for all things Packers related has transferred nicely to them. Once when he was five while at the YMCA my son saw a man wearing a Packers winter hat. He booed him all the way out the door as if he were Aaron Rodgers himself. While I publicly scolded him for this as people were staring at us, I privately high-fived him later and told him I was proud for sticking up for Chicago.

I now live in Philadelphia, behind enemy lines in Eagle country and fly my Bears flag with pride no matter what their record is. My minivan is adorned with Chicago Bears stickers, front end license plates, and a back end license plate holder. Let's just say that people know who I am rooting for though they often ask me what the tiger symbol on the side of the swaggerwagon is. People ask me "Why aren't you an Eagles fan? Why don't you adopt the home team?" It's because I'm a Chicago fan and no move will ever change that.

There's something to be said about the stout sports fan who never backs down from the jeers of opposing team's fans. Having faith in your team through the low times and the highs shows my kids just how much dedication I have to the Chicago Bears. But it's that rivaly between Green Bay and any other NFC North team for that matter that I hammer into them. There is no better way to talk smack about another team than to wear it proudly for everyone to see.

Smack Apparel has been doing just that since 1998. If you're a Bears fan like me, you need to let these Packer fans that they will get their comeuppance one of these days. It doesn't matter if we've had 22 different quarterbacks since 1985, we will still stand behind our team. Packers fans don't like Cutler? Guess what? We LOVE him. In our hearts they will always be the Monsters of the Midway and we will show up every Sunday just to prove it. The point is, we will never give up. We will never quit. We've won three straight games and the Packers just lost TO THE LIONS! That's just pitiful.

I grew up watching my own dad turn off the TV sound and only listen to the broadcast through Chicago sports radio. I cheered alongside him in the basement whooping and hollering at the TV when they scored or when the refs made a terrible call. It's a family thing that gets passed down from generation to generation. Want to pass the love of your team down to your little ones?  Smack Apparel also has its Rookie Wear line to start them off early. Smack Apparel has every team and every sport represented whether it is pro football or college, baseball or soccer.

Looking to get your holiday shopping done early from the comfort of your own home? Smack Apparel's Black Friday/Cyber Monday special is 25% off all orders made from the Smack Apparel website. If you act now before December 31st all shipping is FREE on direct website orders!

Don't give those Packers fans the chance to tell you how great their team is. Shut them up with some Smack Apparel wear this holiday season. Let your fan wear their team pride on their sleeves and to all those Packers fans, BRING IT. Daaaa BEARS!

Follow Smack Apparel on Twitter , Facebook, and Instagram 

Disclaimer : I was compensated by Smack Apparel for this post. All opinions expressed are those of DadNCharge alone. Now go buy some Smack Apparel and tell your rivals what you really feel about them. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 Ways You Can Help The Man on the Playground

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

I'm sitting here on the bench of the playground surrounded by laughter. The kids are laughing and having fun swinging like monkeys from rung to rung; sliding down twisty slides with reckless abandon. The moms on the playground are swapping stories about their children chuckling about diaper changing woes and bedtime routine meltdowns. I've been there too I'd have so much to share if they would only let me in.

Women have this ease about them when it comes to chatting someone up on a playground. I always marvel at how easy their conversation begins and the long duration of their discussion can become. Soon, they are exchanging numbers and making future play dates just like that.

Staying at home can be isolating. Now take that feeling of loneliness and compound it with the knowledge that I am the only dad here with my kids. Can you not talk to me because I am a man? Is being friendly going to be misconstrued as flirting? Will your husband be comfortable when you tell him later that you met a stay at home dad and his daughter played so well with your daughter?

For many of us stay at home dads not knowing if we are "allowed" at Mommy and Me classes or part of the playgroup can be intimidating. We've been in classrooms where volunteers are always referred to as "Class Moms" and overheard you referring to your husband as an overgrown child as we are putting on a puppet show for the kids at story time.  If seems like we are standoffish it's because we don't know how you feel about us being there.

In my experience, conversations between myself and a mom are more forced like we've been thrown together on a date with nothing in common. The reality is, we do. We are both parents. We are both staying at home. We have both seen and heard it all so let's just share the joys and struggles we both have experienced. Parents should support one another without judgment because every family is different. Here are a few ways we can all be more welcoming and supportive to one another as fellow parents; remember we are all #doingood.

1) Put your phone away 

I make a concerted effort to leave my phone in my pocket while at the park. A parent on his/her phone at the park says "I'm busy. I'm not available to talk. Move along, nothing to see here." Putting the phone away allows us to actually have eye contact before we have a conversation and not having distractions means we are invested in actually talking to each other.

2) All we want to do is talk 

We aren't there to hit on you, we are with our children! We love our wives. We've spent most of the morning scraping Cheerios off the floor and watching the same episode of Peppa Pig on an endless loop. We just need to have a conversation with someone who doesn't say potty when they are referring to the bathroom. Forget what When Harry Met Sally has taught you, men and women can be friends.

3) Don't be intimidated

As a 6'7" bald guy I get it. I'm ginormous. Your kids probably think I am straight from the Jack and Beanstalk story or maybe my green sweatshirt is giving them a Jolly Giant flashback to their favorite frozen peas. Many of us have beer bellies and beards but that doesn't mean we don't have feelings. We are staying at home because we are caring and nurturing just like you. Please don't judge us for our outward appearances and give us a chance and take that leap.

4) Start the conversation

We love talking about our kids as much as you do. An easy ice breaker is asking how old our children are. Find out what we have in common and we'll probably talk your ear off. Many of us are introverts or have anxiety about friendships with other parents that we don't know. In many cases, we may be new to the area or don't know any other stay at home dads. Be willing to open up that door with us.

5) Be encouraging

How good is it to hear a compliment from a total stranger about how you are doing something right with your children? Many dads like to play along with the kids while at the park and aren't passive. Does he hang back and let his kids explore? Is he helicoptering around his toddler? Either way, he's doing things his way. Compliments reinforce that we are doing something right with our children, We've all questioned whether what we were doing was right for them so hearing that someone else is supportive of our choices is a great feeling.

When I moved to a city where I didn't know anyone and I was the only dad at preschool pickup, a group of moms who I regularly saw once asked me "Hey, would you like to come out with the other moms sometimes? I did and it was great. It started friendships based on one commonality, that we were all engaged parents. It didn't matter that I was a dad and they were moms. Our kids were growing up together and they accepted me into their community.

Eventually we ending up moving away and it was hard leaving new friends behind. What it taught me was that a supportive community means everything to parents. The parents your kids are playing T-ball now will be at baseball games later. That dad volunteering to read in class may be your son's scout leader in the future. Your daughter's soccer coach might be her teacher by middle school. Just like in the video below, that mom raising her daughter by herself may need a little encouragement from you. We are all connected. Let's help one another now and into the future. Take a moment to thank someone for being the great parent who is #doingood for other parents in your community.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Trumping the Bedtime Stallers With 5 Minute Favorites

It's been a long day and you're looking forward to some Netflix and chill parental style. If you're not familiar with the concept it means sitting on the couch with your significant other trying to finish an entire episode before you fall asleep together. That's what you have to look forward to twenty somethings, so enjoy your version while you can.

Nothing can delay our time together like the bedtime stall tactics of our children trying to eke out another five or ten minutes awake just so they can still wake up at 6:30 am everyday. Keep them up late and they will get up early. Send them to bed early and they will wake up even earlier. There is just no rhyme or reason why their internal clocks are always set at wake.

We've heard it all. The never ending request for water like they've been spending all day in the Mojave, the requests for stuffed animals they suddenly are interested in after years of neglect. Just when you think you have tucked them into bed for the last time, you can hear their trying to be quiet padding feet coming down the steps.

We've threatened to take blankies and lovies away and I once told my young son that the floor turned into hot lava when I turned off the lights trying to get him to stay put. I've fulfilled many a request just so I could get back to the couch. There's this internal timer that I have where depending on the request it may mean that my wife may or may not already be asleep and we've missed our window.

Thanks to Netflix and Dinotrux, we may have found a solution. 5 minute favorites.

When the master negotiators come out and plead you for JUST 5 MORE MINUTES, say yes. Pull up Netflix and put up one of these episodes which I promise you, will only last 5 minutes and then it's bedtime. I REALLY mean it this time.

Haven't seen Dinotrux yet?  Take construction vehicles and combine them with dinosaurs and mix it in with DreamWorks animation. It's a recipe for success. After a five minute fix of this show, they will do anything you want with the promise that tomorrow night will also have Dinotrux before bedtime. You may want to start dropping hints to them about the riding mower you have always wanted.

We have a "Let's review the day staller" A chronic "I'm not tired" yawning staller and a "I can't fall asleep unless you tuck me in 5 times" staller. What kind of stallers are in your family and how do you get them to sleep?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Star Wars : The Next Generation

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Hasbro. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation

His backyard was like the moon of Endor, trees everywhere and full of unknown danger. We knew we had to be quiet because Imperial forces were around. My friend and I were helping the rebels though we were smugglers by trade. We piloted the Millennium Falcon, the fastest ship in the galaxy.  

My friend, Willie and I used to run around in the backyard shooting Stormtroopers with sticks. Pretending to have blasters was the only way we could get into character fully. That is, until Willie received his very own DL-44 Blaster for his birthday.  That one toy became our focal point for all our play as kids. 

We couldn't wait to finish school for the day head home and spend some time with our favorite Star Wars toys. Being the tallest kid in the class I naturally became Chewbacca and identified with the tough but sensitive sidekick of Han Solo from then on. 

It's easy to see how Star Wars has shaped a culture of fans who rabidly consume everything within its universe. From the characters, to spaceships, and space age weaponry, the Star Wars trilogy had everything our young science fiction hungry minds were craving and our kids know it. I've been indoctrinating them into the culture for years by passing on my own toys I played with as a child and through dress up and role play with various costumes I've collected over the years. I've been imparting knowledge to them about every factoid I know trying to pump them full of Star Wars knowledge so that they are adequately prepared.

It's all we seem to talk about lately with Star Wars: The Force Awakens only 30 days away. They've seen the trailers and asked questions about theories since it's release was announced. Shortly after, our tickets were purchased online and I will head to the movie with my oldest son ready to experience Star Wars in a new way together.

 One way we can further reinforce their love and admiration of this franchise is by participating in Family Game Nights featuring Hasbro's Star Wars gaming line. My kids immediately were drawn to the Bop It! Star Wars R2-D2 Edition Who doesn't love him?

To play all you have to do is either Bop It! by hitting his head, Twist It! by turning his head, or Pull It! by pulling his legs. With C-3PO manning the directions he will call out the command and let you know when you malfunction. You can either play in single mode challenging yourself to beat dad's high score of 72 or give R2 a bop on the head and pull his legs to play the Pass It version with friends or family. 

A video posted by Chris (@dadncharge) on

I wanted to see if all of my preparation as a dad and fan of Star Wars was paying off and the Electronic Catch Phrase : STAR WARS Edition is the litmus test for anyone passing that knowledge down to the next generation. Often at scout camp my son will try and stump his peers with the most obscure of Star Wars knowledge to challenge the self-proclaimed fans and know-it-alls. 

This edition separates the apprentices from the masters in no time. Given phrases that any self respecting fan would know, one person gives the clue without saying the word. If the team guesses correctly it is passed on to a member of the other team to confirm the answer. Then the other team takes a turn in the same manner. When the timer ends and Chewbacca growls, the team not holding the unit scores 1 point. For an extra point if the opposite team knows the answer and can guess it, they get a BONUS point. Beware of Imperial forces though, they will do anything to win. If you hear them use a word that rhymes, give the first letter of the word, or say a part of the word they are immediately disqualified and awarded a point. The first team to score 7 points, wins.

If these all seem too complicated and you're looking for a game for a younger child, try the Star Wars Loopin' Chewie game. With an armature that swings in a circle, your station will look to deflect Chewie to another player's station knocking down their Stormtroopers. The player with the most Stormtroopers at the end wins. 

Of course, my four year old's strategy was to constantly hit her deflector like a crazed game game of Hungry Hippos. Our family had the most fun playing this one together. Just know that playing with a four year old is somewhat like playing with a Wookie in that letting them win is a good idea, After an hour of playing with it, they became pros and I loved watching all three kids play together and having fun. 

Do these games sound like a fun night for you and your family? Are you ready to prepare the next generation of Star Wars fans? Enter the giveaway below and you could win your own prize pack featuring these three games for your own #FamilyGameNight from Hasbro.  Visit Hasbro Toy Shop for more information about these toys and to browse all the great toys from Hasbro for your holiday shopping. Leave a comment below and tell me which game would you want to play first?

Hasbro Star Wars Giveaway

*I-C will randomly select 5 winners from all program entries and will handle fulfillment of the winning prizes.


BOP IT! STAR WARS R2-D2 Edition Game
(Ages 8 years & up/ Players: 1 or more/Approx. Retail Price: $14.99/Available: Fall 15)
Everyone's favorite character R2-D2 responds to your touch in the BOP IT!STAR WARS R2-D2 Edition Game. Just like the classic BOP IT! game, players must twist, bop, and pull the R2-D2 figure in response to his commands from C-3PO. You'll have to be quick and kids may get frustrated at first. If the high score seems too high, there is a reset button to start all over. Requires 3 “AA” batteries, not included. Available exclusively at Wal-Mart.

(Ages 4 years & up/Players: 2-4/Approx. Retail Price: $24.99/Available: September 2015) 

My favorite character Chewbacca is highlighted in this fun game for younger kids. Players must help CHEWIE co-pilot the MILLENNIUM FALCON and try to send him swinging straight into the STORMTROOPERS on the other player’s rack. Available at most major retailers nationwide and 

Electronic Catch Phrase: STAR WARS Edition Game:
(Ages 13 years & up/Players: 2 teams/Approx. Retail Price: $24.99/Available: September 2015)

Any self-respecting Star Wars fan should know the phrases in Electronic Catch Phrase: Star Wars Edition. Shaped like the Millenium Falcon, phrases will pop up that you have to give clues to your team so that they can guess.  Shout, gesture, and say anything else but the words in the answer to help your team guess correctly before Chewbacca growls. The ELECTRONIC CATCH PHRASE: STAR WARS Edition game requires 3 AAA batteries, not included. Available at most major retailers nationwide and

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Give Kids a Healthy Dose of Competition with Skylanders Superchargers

I'm at the starting line with the engine revving. The pure horsepower of this vehicle is making the metal rattle and the gentle thrumming of the engine entrancing. I look over at my opponent. He thinks he's going to win by that look on his face but I have news for him, I'm not backing down.

The course was full of obstacles. Anything and everything comes your way in a heartbeat and you have to decide, which way will I go?  We raced until we were neck and neck at the finish line and I hear him utter the worst three words imaginable: "I'm the best!"

Downstairs was our sanctuary, our getaway. A half a dozen or so steps into the much cooler basement felt like a way to get away from everything upstairs that we were required to do. This is where we'd feel like winners and it was us who held our destiny in our hands.

We'd fire up the system and pop in a game making sure to blow in the cartridge just to make sure we weren't interrupted by a glitch. My brother and I would while away the hours in the basement playing video games together not only bonding through game play but creating a healthy competition between us. Who could get the highest score? Who would eliminate the most enemies? Who could gather the most gold?

We often beat levels together in games like Contra but when it came to games that required us to go head to head, the kid gloves came off and I was determined to destroy him. No mercy was shown. There was no medal for runner up. There was only the checkered flag.

In 1996, Mario Kart 64 came out and the competition cranked up a notch. I had just finished college and he was completing his senior year in high school. Granted, he had more practice than I did but the races we would play became super competitive. My brother became his favorite player Toad, and when he's beat me he'd yell out his catch phrase "I'm the best!" and laugh in my face.

Now that I'm older and I have much more real driving experience, I've taken my talents to Wii's Skylanders Superchargers Racing and I've taken on another foe, my ten year old son. This time, we're playing Activision's Skylanders Superchargers Racing for the Wii. Skylanders Supercharger games are brilliant toy to life games with characters that you not only collect but when put onto a portal are transported into the game. Characters can be customized and are upgraded throughout the game to enhance their abilities. My son, so invested in the Skylanders world outside of video game aspect, even invented a way to play with the toys away from the screen.

In a world where participation trophies are passed out almost absentmindedly, Skylanders Superchargers Racing is a game that eliminates the notion that just showing up is good enough. It's healthy to instill a sense of competition in your children and anyone that competes against them. They shouldn't be compliant robots that let others walk all over them. My son is a nice kid but he could use a little cockiness every once in awhile and if he gets too cocky? My inner Han Solo comes out.

There's a great feeling that comes along with winning but it also means that you have to hone your skill, practice and become better everyday. Skylanders Superchargers Racing provides that healthy competition by inspiring you to want to be the best. In split screen fashion, much like Mario Kart, your chosen Skylander and chosen Skylander vehicle team up for head to head racing.

Your racing ability earns you performance points which boosts your level. This allows your character to upgrade armor, speed, weapons and other features that will help you proclaim that you are the best. Not only do you race on land but also air and sea. My favorite part of the game play are the obstacles you have to face along the way. You may have to dive underwater to avoid oil slicks or jump over obstacles which might slow you down. Along the way are upgrades for your weapons to knock the person boasting about being in third place to your eighth place down a peg. In addition to that, you also have a health meter which can be raised by collecting food along the way. Lose your health and your vehicle stalls allowing others to pass you by.

If you have a Wii like our family has, you're in luck. The Skylanders Superchargers Racing is available for this system and as an added bonus, Bowser who doubles as an Amiibo character is included in the starter pack along with his Clown Cruiser which can be fully upgraded to the vehicle below.

If you play on any other platform, you can play Skylanders Superchargers in a whole different way. You will follow the story line as Kaos once again tries to take over Skylands only this time the adventure not only has battling elements but you get to explore the environments in the various vehicles too! Also just recently announced, you can play Skylanders Superchargers on iOS devices! That's right, now you can play it on the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Apple TV. Not only that but game play can be saved with your iCloud account to keep your game moving forward across all devices. So dust off your shelves to make room for your trophies and play the game that promotes a good sense of competition in your children with Skylanders Superchargers

Disclaimer : I was compensated for this post by Activision all opinions expressed in this post are those of DadNCharge alone. You should totally play it with me but I'd beat you because "I'm the best!" 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Turn Meals Into Works of Art

The concentration is there, a look of sheer determination on her face. She is creating a masterpiece with every stroke. Her canvas has endless possibilities.

The placement of colors is a conscience choice and not just slapped about her canvas with reckless abandon. The artist wants you to feel something from her creation; she wants you to look at this masterpiece and lose yourself in its beauty.

Her hands move deftly around the canvas making decisions based on the power of her creative mind. Then she picks up the canvas, smiles, and takes a huge bite out of it.

I'm a stay at home dad in charge of keeping my kids fed and healthy so they can grow their minds and bodies. No pressure there. To be honest, going to the grocery store is on my list of least favorite things next to being there to hold them down during flu shot season. 

You would think as the one that volunteered to stay home that cooking would be somewhere in my repertoire but it's not. I can follow directions in a recipe but sometimes you have to be able to improvise because you forgot an ingredient at the store and there's no way you can fit another trip in before piano lessons.

But, I look at cooking just like art; while there are certain supplies that help you achieve a great work of art, it is the person combining those things together that makes it special.
Creating in the kitchen is just like creating anywhere else. It begins with choices that determine how successful or in this case, how delicious or nutritious something can be.

When it comes to kids they are the Dalis of dining. They all like weird stuff and their choices are questionable. Not only that but of our three kids not one of them likes all of the same things! Clearly there are no reproductions in this family. Combine that stress with a picky eater and it makes the entire process that much more daunting.

So just how did I get my kids to eat something nutritious and delicious? I put the creation in the hands of my little artists with Flatout Flatbread. They have a variety of products to choose from so there is something for everyone. From flatbread pizzas, tacos, and sandwiches there is bound to be something these Warhol weirdos DO like to eat. To find Flatout varieties in a store near you visit the store locator and try a $.50 off coupon today!

Does one kid like sandwiches? Try their Flatout Foldit Artisan Flatbreads. Does another like tacos? Give him a Flatbread Wrap. Parents, you can get in on this deal too. Are you trying to slim down? Use their Protein Up, Carb Down flatbread that contains 12 grams of protein and only 8 net carbs. Flatout has so many products with your healthy eating in mind that you can't go wrong. There is literally endless possibilities and combinations to be creative and no two works of art will be the same.

Give a kid a piece of bread and they may it eat but give the kids a Flatout flatbread and they will treat it like a canvas, creating their own edible masterpieces. With a little sauce, cheese, and toppings you have after school flatbread pizza ready in six minutes that they will actually eat it. Maybe you're not the creative type and you're afraid to step into the kitchen. The key is to make it fun! Still not sure or having artist's block? Try my Pepper and Pancetta Flatout flatbread pizza recipe below.

If you have difficulty getting your kids to eat something you made, put them in charge of the creation. You may find that when given more choices they will make healthier decisions while sticking to their special palettes. Your little culinary artists want to dazzle you with their creativity so let's let them by making Flatout their canvas.