Monday, June 29, 2015

Are We Safe To Enjoy Summer?

Will they be okay when we are away? Will they need our attention once we are gone? Will anything happen when we are out of sight? What happens if we go on vacation and something happens?

Are these questions that keep you up at night when thinking about the safety of your home?

We all worry about these things especially in summer when the routine of school has started to fade and summer plans are racing through our heads. If you've asked yourself these questions you might be a homeowner or have a beloved family pet who is home alone all day.

Part raising the children includes keeping them safe whether it be in the parking lot, crossing the street, or while they gleefully jump off the nearest playground equipment stopping your heart for a few moments. But what about those moments we take for granted, when we are away or sleeping? 

Or maybe you aren't ready for kids and have fur babies instead. Either way, when you are away from your home, you want piece of mind that all is okay on the home-front. 

It's the little details that make all the difference in keeping your family safe in your home. Most fatal fires happen at night. Did you know a home fire happens every 85 seconds? It's the reason why we test smoke alarms, change the batteries every time the clocks change, and install carbon monoxide detectors in our homes. It's preventative maintenance to keep our homes safe and protected places much in the same way we make sure our cars are running smoothly.

So how can I be aware of how my house is doing when I am away? Maybe my neighbor could take time out of his daily life and check it every few hours or I could spend crazy amounts of money on video monitoring and alarm system. Sounds crazy right? That's why Kidde came up with the RemoteLync System, a simple and affordable way to monitor your home and keep your family and pets safe.

The RemoteLync Monitor from Kidde notifies homeowners of a home emergency when you're away- offering piece of mind at a great value. Ideal for a primary residence, vacation home or rental property , the device plugs into a single outlet, listens for smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, and uses your existing WiFi to remotely alert you via your cell phone or tablet. 

There are no monthly fees and the app for your phone or tablet are free. When triggered, the monitor sends an alert to the homeowner and anyone who has been designated to receive automatic messages. Once you receive the alert, there is an option to call 911 directly, temporarily hush the warning, or call a contact in the network you set up.

Here are the Highlights of the RemoteLync Monitor:

  • Connectivity: Listens for existing UL approved smoke and carbon monoxide alarms 24/7 and notifies the homeowers via a mobile app, using the home's existing wireless Internet connection
  • Full Home Coverage : One device is designed to cover the average sized U.S. home (approximately 2,000 sq. ft.) can cover any size home with hardwired, interconnected alarms so when one alarm sounds, they all sound
  • Plug and Play : Plugs into a single wall outlet; voice prompts and a user friendly app interface make set up easy
  • No Extra Costs or Subscriptions : No need to purchase additional products and no monthly fees; the app is free

It's easy to set up right out of the box and includes voice prompts for easy set up. All you have to do is plug it into a single wall outlet and follow the directions given by the unit. Using the app, you can start a test from your phone or tablet, then test your furthest smoke detector to see if the unit can hear it. Once it confirms, you can test your CO alarm as well. Once programmed, the RemoteLync Monitor will listen for these alarms for you and send text messages and email to your phone letting you know it has detected an alarm.

The RemoteLync Monitor costs $99 and is available at and nationwide and Home Depot stores. 

FTC Disclaimer : I was compensated for the review of the product. All opinions are my own but if you ask me, this is one cool gadget you should have for your home. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

My #FirstCarMoment: The Ultimate Hand Me Down

Being the third in a line of four brothers meant that hand me downs were an inevitability. I inherited their snow boots that were too tiny, their clothes that they grew out of, and their old baseball mitts when they got new ones. I actually liked it and took in interest in anything they had in their rooms often asking if they were done with this or that just like any little brother should.

Our driveway was always so filled with cars that any thought of a  basketball game near the garage had everyone scrambling for their keys to put them in the street. Cars in our family had a series of lives with new owners once they had "outgrown" them.

My parents, like many parents in the 70s had a station wagon but my very first car driving experience was in a 1976 Monte Carlo which we lovingly called The Woobie. I learned how to drive sitting in the laps of my older brothers in the cemetery near our house long before seat-belts were required. At least I couldn't kill anyone there.

Growing up with my older brothers driving around in their cars while I waited for my turn. When I was sixteen it became my moment when the 1983 Honda Accord hatchback my oldest brother was driving was suddenly an option. He sold it to me for $100.  It was my first car moment like this video from Michelin.

The Honda and I did everything together. It took me to school. I was so glad to be off the bus and picking up my friends in it. It took me to work at Dairy Queen and later when I became a stock boy at a local general store, I used it as a delivery vehicle for the pharmacy.  I remember when 5 bucks from tips could fill a third of my tank with gasoline and I could rock out to the sweet tape deck that automatically flipped the tape! I was extremely proud of my ride.

My first car, a 1983 Honda Accord hatchback
But like any teen with a license to drive, I soon had my very first accident in the Honda turning left on a green while waiting for oncoming traffic to pass. I made a bad judgement call and nicked the corner of a woman's car.With all the freedom I didn't realize just how much my responsibility needed to be heightened when it came to caring for my car and keeping it safe on the road.

Part of that was learning to maintain my own car to help prevent accidents. Michelin wants us to know that the cold, hard reality is that automobile accidents are the number one killer of teens in America. They account for a shocking five thousand deaths annually. In fact, did you know that the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is often referred to as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers, based on accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Safety Council?

All drivers and especially teens should treat their car with the same reverence they would for their own body getting regular checkups and making sure all its features, especially the tires are in tip top shape. Because it doesn't matter what kind of car you drive, it's the tires on the car that make the difference. It's where the term "where the rubber meets the road" comes from. After all, what matters most to you is riding on those tires. In fact, the only thing holding your car to the road is an area on the tires that’s the size of a hand!

Michelin, a tire manufacturer focused on road safety for over 125 years wants us to know that 12% of the 2.2 million accidents that occur each year with inexperienced drivers are due to tire-related issues. Most of those are due to low tread depth and improper tire pressure. Luckily, there are easy steps to prevent these accidents.

Two easy tasks to maintain your tires include checking your tire pressure with a pressure gauge monthly and learning the proper way to check tread depth (See the Penny Test) Both can help you correctly maintain your tires and contribute to overall vehicle safety. Not only that, but I would personally throw in having your tires rotated and aligned will help with the wear and tear they will have over time. Protect everything you have riding on your tires by maintaining them so we can cut down on these preventable accidents and keep our #FirstCarMoment intact.

All cars I inherited or drove. Apparently, I was born a van man.

    Looking for more tips on car safety? Visit Michelin's Car Safety Website for more information.

    Thursday, June 18, 2015

    We All Scream For Ice Cream

    I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Klondike. I received free product coupons to facilitate my review as well as compensation for my participation.

    You'll remember exactly where you heard it the first time you traded in your books for uninhibited bike rides. You'll remember forsaking everything else just to locate that sound like a bloodhound on the hunt for that summer time bell. It caused a Pavlovian sensation that had us scrambling for money left in cushions and induced haphazard smashing of piggy banks. 

    Ah, summertime. The rays of sunshine, thoughts of vacation, and the emptying of young minds as their thoughts turn from math tests to what really matters. Ice cream. 

    Is there anything more comforting than ice cream on a hot day? It's the one thing we will stand in line for an hour on a hot day, the topping to an already good pie, a summertime staple that will have children begging on their knees for some sweet relief. It's that one thing in our household that gets kids eating their Brussels sprouts and emptying their plates ready for dessert.  

    Want to turn your usually defiant toddler into a compliant angel? Do you have a kid that is as stubborn as a mule when it come to cleaning their room? Show them that your freezer is stocked with Klondike ice cream this summer and they might turn it around. 

    Klondike gets our wants, our desires. That's why they created 12 varieties of Klondike flavors like the new Cookie Dough Swirl, as well as Heath, REESE’S, Mint Chocolate Chip, Krunch, Caramel Pretzel, OREO, Dark Chocolate, Rocky Road, Double Chocolate, Neapolitan, and Original.  

    Following up on those flavors in 2014 launched Klondike® Kandy Bars which are the perfect combination of the thick, chocolatey Klondike shell and creamy ice cream with mouth-watering candy bar goodness, and are available nationwide in the following varieties: the new Mint Fudge Cookie, as well as Caramel & Peanuts, Fudge Krunch, and Cookies & Cream. 

    My kids went crazy for every flavor. They even "let" me have Rocky Road since it was my favorite. Chocolate infused with almonds and chocolate and marshmallow ice cream inside? Yeah, you're thinking you should head out right now and pick up some.

    Klondike Bars are available in six-packs and Klondike Kandy Bars are currently available in four-packs at grocery stores nationwide for a suggested retail price of $3.99. Even better, why not win some FREE ICE CREAM?

    Enter the giveaway below and you can win 1 FREE COUPON for a Klondike variety of your choosing. FIVE WINNERS WILL BE CHOSEN.  Contest entrants are only eligible to win once per sweepstakes, per household as part of a campaign sponsored by Influence Central and must be 18 and reside in the United States. If you win, you must provide your name and address for the coupon to be sent to your home directly. Winners will be notified by email.

    Summer is a time to relax and to forget awhile about school and focus on family time. Reward your kids for their hard work this year with any of the 12 varieties of Klondike ice cream to show them that you're proud of their accomplishments. Ice cream and summertime go hand in hand. With a Klondike in one of those hands, it's a perfect fit. 

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    Passing Down Saturday Mornings - 5 Heirloom Shows To Pass To Your Kids

    If there is one day out of childhood that children of the 80s can all remember, it has to be those early morning Saturdays. While the parents tried to squeak out more minutes of sack time on the weekends, we crashed our way downstairs into the basement to stare slack jawed at the TV wondering what was going to happen next on episodes of our favorite shows from last week.

    I remember watching GI Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Super Friends, and Spider Man and his Amazing Friends. Our day was filled with Snorks and Smurfs, Dungeons and Dragons, Scooby Doo and Bugs Bunny. There was action and adventure, mystery and suspense, and lots of laughs provided by many anvils along the way. Kids today probably have no idea what an anvil is and why it is funny to be dropped from a cliff only to end up on the coyote that dropped it. That is of course, if we teach them why by passing down part of our childhood.

    Here comes that old school dad again talking about how hard it was when he was a kid. Back in my day from 8 a.m. to noon there were back to back cartoons and shows just for us. We had that ONE day. Kids have it much easier these days for sure when it comes to watching these awesome shows. They're lucky, they have Netflix with so many choices right there at their fingertips.

    It hasn't kept me from influencing what they watch though as I have been indoctrinating them into 80's cartoons since they were old enough to actually pay attention. I like to think of it as a family heirloom passed down to the next generation, a way I can influence them to see a glimpse into my life as a kid without handing down some dirty old relic I might find under their bed one day when they go off to college.

    There’s a powerful connection that comes from bonding with your kids over the stories you loved growing up. According to new research from Netflix, 85% of dads around the world have already or plan to introduce their kids to the cartoons they grew up watching. Not only does it let them feel like a kid again (75%) and help them teach life lessons (76%), but dads take seriously the role of keeping alive the pop culture references from their childhood. And 66% of them are turning to internet TV services like Netflix for this new family tradition.

    There are certain shows that made an indelible mark on me as a child and when I found them on Netflix I was stoked to be able to share them with my own kids. So here's my list of five heirloom shows I have passed down to my children that we enjoy together.

    1. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends 

    Having three kids that like to pretend to be the actual characters in the show means that Spider Man and his Amazing friends has been a hit. My son is always Iceman and the two girls alternate between Spider Man and Firestar when they pretend. What I love about the show is that the action is not too intense and people don't get hurt. There is always a lesson with a resolution and lots of joke cracking by all of them. You can find the entire season of Spider-Man and his Amazing friends on Netflix.

    2. Care Bears 

    If anyone can teach my kids about the kindness in their heart and that everyone has a special ability that makes them unique, it's the Care Bears. Themes of friendship and caring are in every episode and show children that everyone makes mistakes but the way you make up for it is what counts. Netflix has a variety of old school Care Bear shows as well as newer versions like Care Bears: Adventures in Care-A-Lot.  I once had a Funshine bear and it's hard to argue their draw when you see these cuddly teddy bears in person. I dare you to resist their cuddly and cute appearances, it's hard to resist. You can watch many different versions like Care Bears : Journey to Joke-A-Lot, The Care Bears Movie, and Care Bears: Ups and Downs on Netflix.

    3. Inspector Gadget 

    Take a spy with incredible gadgets, a smart girl who helps him along the way, and an even smarter dog that tries to prevent his mayhem from getting out of control and you have the formula for a great show. Inspector Gadget on Netflix is a reboot of the classic I used to watch as a kid with Gadget, Brain, Penny, and Chief Quimby trying to thwart the Evil Dr. Claw. Any of us who have seen the show all wonder what Dr. Claw still looks like to this day, a diabolical twist to our mysterious childhood past.  Having long arms I always relied on my Go, Go Gadget Arms to help me out of jams. This is a great show especially for my girls to see as Penny has always been a strong female character in this series. You can watch the Netflix Original Series, Inspector Gadget right now!

    4. Scooby Doo

    Velma has lost her glasses, Freddy and Daphne are off exploring, and Scooby and Shaggy have found the kitchen and the ghost inadvertently. Doesn't that bring back childhood memories? Watching The Gang pile in the Mystery Machine has been a favorite of mine for some time. Mysteries, ghosts, clues and plans that sometimes go awry, Scooby Doo is packed with crazy action and spooky settings followed by the teens figuring out that all along it was someone trying to cash in and that they "Would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids!" Want to share this with your kids? you can watch Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated on Netflix.

    5. Transformers 

    More than meets the eye....Sing it with me! Nothing collectively blew our minds more than Transformers in the 80s. Vehicles that transformed into robots that battled each other? Yes. I was immediately sucked in and I passed that excitement on to my kids as well. I had an Optimus Prime, the original metal toy but lost it somewhere along the line. Unfortunately that heirloom is long gone. The next best thing is passing this show onto my kids because I loved it so. You can watch modern versions like Transformers; Prime, Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters, and our favorite version Transformers: Rescue Bots. Rescue Bots is a great way to get kids interested in the story of Transformers and their budding friendships with humans on Earth. With a dump truck, helicopter, fire truck, and police car as characters, you are sure to find one that your child will love and identify with.

    Netflix Kids a dedicated section for kids under 12 years old featuring dozens of original series for kids as well as TV shows and movies from great partners like PBS, Disney Channel, DreamWorks Animation, Mattel, Hasbro, Lego and Scholastic, all in a commercial free environment. The dedicated section for kids is available across a broad range of devices including PCs and Macs, iPads, game consoles, streaming devices and smart TVs.  Whether it is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Strawberry Shortcake, or My Little Pony, Netflix has your family heirloom to pass down to your own kids. So plop down on the couch and snuggle up and share some real memories and laughter together and create your own family heirloom with Netflix.

    Monday, June 15, 2015

    Skylanders SuperChargers Make Skylands Accessible By Air, Land, and Sea

    Have you ever played Skylanders and wished beyond exploring the level to find hidden upgrades and Soul Gems that you could just fly around for a bit or go underwater? Just when you didn't think Skylanders could get any cooler, Activision is coming out with Skylanders SuperChargers, a game that will include vehicles that you can use to explore Skylands in the air, on land, and in the sea.

    That's right, the coolness of Skylanders characters now includes a whole group of vehicles that are just as unique and awesome as each figure in the Skylanders toy to game line.

    The new game features 20 vehicle designs and types - race cars, motorcycles, boats, tanks, helicopters, jets, submarines and more. A new class of heroes have also been created 20 SuperCharger characters that feature fresh moves, powerful attacks and all-new weapons.

    New characters StealthElf, StormBlade, and SpitFire from Skylanders SuperChargers

    As usual, all Skylanders from previous versions like Spyro's Adventure, Giants, Swap Force, and Trap Team will be able to interact with this newest version and drive all the vehicles. Skylanders SuperChargers will be available on Xbox 360™ and Xbox One™ video game and entertainment systems from Microsoft, PlayStation® 3 and PlayStation® 4 computer entertainment systems, Nintendo’s Wii U™ system, and a different, unique adventure will be made available on Nintendo’s Wii™ system and the Nintendo 3DS™ hand-held system. Additionally, the complete Skylanders SuperChargers experience will be available on iPad®.

    Preview of the Starter Pack for Skylanders SuperChargers

    The game will be available on September 20 in North America, September 24 in Australia/New Zealand; and on September 25 in Europe.

    "We created the toys-to-life category and have continued to lead it by bringing new innovations and new magic to the genre with each and every game. First we brought action figures to life, and now we're bringing vehicles to life with Skylanders SuperChargers,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, Inc. “We love making these games because in order to do it well, you have to constantly tap into your inner kid. What kid hasn’t imagined epic vehicles with amazing powers and dreamed about the adventures they could have with them? Skylanders SuperChargers makes those dreams real.”

    New vehicle HotStreak with SpitFire
    The game’s storyline focuses on Kaos’ latest attempt to rule Skylands. In his efforts to take down the Skylanders, Kaos has unleashed his most sinister weapon ever – a massive “Doomstation of Ultimate Doomstruction” capable of eating the sky itself! Fortunately, Master Eon has seen the warning signs and assembled a special team of Skylanders to pilot an unstoppable fleet of land, sea and sky vehicles with the power to travel through the reign of destruction to stop Kaos!

    Watch this video for a preview of the new game :

    Sunday, June 14, 2015

    Fly Solo This Father's Day

    It's a roller coaster of emotion with many ups and downs. It's a rush of adrenaline fraught with obstacles to overcome. It takes a special skill set that you can only learn by doing. No one is an expert in the field  and it can only be understood as we learn our lessons along the way. Trial and error is the only way to gain this skill and sometimes it takes a leap of faith to get us there.

    Fatherhood is an adventure with limitless possibilities. 

    If you're like me, you like to capture those moments in time together. I can't think of the last time I didn't have a camera at one of my children's events. There have been times when I wish I could have removed myself from behind the lens and be a part of the action. That's the problem with being on the other side of the camera because for many of these moments, you are rarely actually in them.

    So, how to include oneself in these moments?  Best Buy has the answer as the destination for drones including the new Solo™ by 3DR. It's the only drone powered by two integrated Linux computers, making capturing the perfect shot for professionals and novices alike.

    But I've heard that drones are super hard to control. What guarantee do I have that I can fly this thing? Solo™ can define its own flight, freeing users to focus on getting the shot. This intelligent drone is also the first to support full control of GoPro® cameras and deliver live HD video either wirelessly to your mobile device or through the controller’s HDMI port for live broadcasts.

    The Solo™ Drone is the perfect gift for budding photographers and photography enthusiasts alike. I would imagine aerial shots of soccer games, festivals, and birthday parties would be easy to captue not to mention the stunning shots of family vacations this summer. Why not get one this Father's Day for the shutterbug in your family and find out why flying solo can be a good thing.

    The Solo™ retails for $999 at Best Buy and has arrived in over 400 Best Buy stores on June 8th, just in time for Father's Day. Take advantage of this offer at your local Best Buy:

    o Get a FREE Solo Smart Battery (Reg. Price: $149.99) when you purchase the 3DR Solo Drone (Sku: 5354101). Valid 6/7-7/11 at Best Buy.

    o Disclaimer: Offer valid with purchase of the 3DR Solo Drone SKU: 5351035

    Disclaimer : The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free

    Monday, June 8, 2015

    Ten Ways to Protect You and Your Kids Online

    This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal URLs that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world.

    I never thought it would happen to me. My blog had just started out as a way to record what funny or frustrating things were happening when I started staying at home. That's when my blog hit the big time and my Banish the Playdate post went viral.

    My kids at ages 10, 7, and 4 have no idea what that means though they will at some point. They will be watching endless cat videos like the rest of us, taking YouTube challenges to raise money for a worthy cause, and posting pictures of their last meal on Instagram for everyone to see.

    When the post went viral, the media requests also went crazy. My email was stuffed and my phone was ringing off the hook. I couldn't get to everyone and stuck with the ones that I felt would give me the best coverage and do it in a respectable way.  It wasn't until I receive an alert that my name had appeared in another online publication that I took a step back and wondered, are my kids really safe online?

    You see, they had taken photos from my personal Facebook account and used them on their site, pulling images of things that I did with my kids right from my profile without permission. I wondered if that was even legal considering their were pictures of my kids who are minors on the site citing their names and information they must have gleaned from my page. I was sobering to say the least, so I took a look at the ways we need to protect our children online.

    1) Turn off In App Purchases

    A few years ago at eight years old, my son was playing an app called Jurassic World. In the game, once you spend up all your energy, you can "buy" more items in the store. He saw the offer to purchase more gold coins and clicked on it, advancing his game. What I didn't realize was that he had just purchased $100.00 worth of virtual items to play an app on our iPad. I never turned off in-app purchases in the settings which requires a password to make such a purchase. Luckily, iTunes was understanding about it and refunded my money. Clearly this is a problem for many parents so keep your kids and your wallet safe by disabling this feature.

    2) Turn off Chat Modes in Apps

    Many of these online apps and games give you the option, if it is a game where you are playing collectively towards a goal to allow chat with other people who are also online playing the game. Often the language and content on the chat are not appropriate and sometimes children can be bullied via this interaction. Turn off chat for any apps where this is the case.

    3) Computers/Tablets Should Be Used In Common Areas

    There is nothing worse than your child, holed up in their room using the Wi-Fi unsupervised. Make sure their use of these devices is done in a place that is public so that they can all be seen using it. There is nothing to hide when you are out in plain sight, try to keep it that way. You should also set up the privacy settings and have filters for appropriate content for any computer your kids can access. On average, 61% of parents fail to set these restrictions despite it being an easy deterrent. 

    4) Consider Anonymity

    If you are starting a blog and want to share your family with the entire world, consider using aliases. My blog started out as a record mostly for family of all the things the kids were doing. It became more than that as I write about their childhood and do various sponsored posts with them but I never considered that it might have an impact on them later. I was already posting about them and their names for years before the viral post which thrust not only me but them as well into the spotlight. If you or your spouse are okay with sharing stories about them, then go for it but that discussion should be made well before you start posting.

    5) Stay In The Moment 

    This is an issue that I struggle with as a blogger. The more I post about funny things, the more people like it but at the same time there is a price at my family's expense where I become so focused with posting that I forget about being present to my actual family. People don't need to know EVERYTHING about you. Give them bits and pieces so they want to learn more. Always posting about every little thing will ruin your relationship with your family. My wife always reminds me "Who is more important right now than us?"

    6) Children Don't Need Cell Phones

    There is no reason any child under the age of 13 NEEDS a cell phone. Kids are in school most of the day and most phones are outlawed in the school or students are told to keep them in their lockers. Cell phones at too early an age can be disruptive and children are not capable from a maturity standpoint to be able to manage the responsibility behind a cell phone. Access to the internet from a device such as this is a danger to young people. If they want a phone, purchase one that is prepaid and only uses phone or texting as an option. If you decide that your child absolutely needs a cell phone, consider writing up a cell phone contract.

    7) Talk About Appropriate Posting

    Express to your children your expectations about appropriate posting. Never post on social media your address or phone number. Kids should know that taking a picture of someone and posting without their knowledge is never right. Children should also know that posting anything online is forever. Even though they might feel anonymous, they never truly are and that posting inappropriate things will have consequences both with you and others. They should never post anything they may regret later.

    8) Be Their Friend

    To further monitor what they are posting, parents should be friends with their children on all social media platforms that their children may be on. This is put into place not to embarrass anyone but to make sure they don't post something that may end up hurting them. If they have nothing to hide, this shouldn't be an issue. Until they are an adult parents should be aware of what their kids are posting online.

    9) Talk About Where You've Been, Not Where You're Going

    Posting about a trip you are about to take can sometimes have negative consequences. If someone knows where you live and knows you will be away for weeks, you may become an easy target. Latergram pictures are just as good as posting it right then and there. Let people catch up with you when you are back at home and avoid going into too much detail about where you are in the present.

    10) Talk About Their Virtual Footprint

    My son recently spent time in his fourth grade class discussing their virtual footprint. It's the traces you leave behind on the internet that stay with you forever. As part of their lesson, they had to Google their name. Because of all the Banish the Playdate press, he was one of the only kids that had a multitude of things with his name already associated with our appearances. We decided that it was only fair now that he was ten that I would ask his permission if something could be posted about him or with his face and respectful for me to ask him first. Go ahead, Google your child's name and then go from there.

    For more resource about your safe social media interaction check out LookOut Social

    Friday, June 5, 2015

    Everyone Needs a Wingman

    Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and STOUFFER’S® for this promotion.  I have received compensation and product for my participation, but my opinions are my own.

    I didn't want to go out that night. It had been a long week with students on edge about the upcoming holiday as we were winding down at my job as an art teacher at a K-8 school. The kids were wired before break and we couldn't wait to usher them out the door at the final bell.

    My friend, Roger, the gym teacher came to my room and said "Dude, she said that she'd go out with me tonight....that is...if you also go." All I wanted to do was head home and relax but here was my best friend, eyebrows raised in anticipation, both thumbs up, smiling at me. I knew what had to be done.

    He'd been trying to get this girl, Alison, to go out with him for months with no such luck. I wasn't sure if it was because of her weakened defenses after the long week, but she had finally relented. This was my buddy's only chance and it all hinged on me being his wingman.

    Being a wingman that night changed my entire life. In fact, if I wasn't my friend's wingman I probably never would have met my wife. It was because I was there that I first met her and the rest is history. My friend? Well, it didn't work out with Alison but I was there for him on other nights after that until he met his wife too.

    I agreed that night because that's what a wingman does. The wingman is that never failing friend who has your back despite the roughest of situations. It's the Goose to the Maverick. The Han Solo to the Luke Skywalker. The Tubbs to the Crockett.

    Adding to the great legacy of the wingman are STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen meals. As a busy parent, sometimes dinner doesn't go as planned. It's nice to know that I have a wingman in the freezer who has my back when I need it most. Like all  STOUFFER’S® entrees,  STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen uses quality ingredients that are freshly made simply frozen to be convenient to you. Just seven minutes in the microwave and dinner is served.

    These aren't your ordinary run of the mill entrees. Packed with 25g or more of protein in six delicious contemporary flavors with sides to match. Every entree contains protein, complex carbs, and veggies to keep you at the top of your game and satisfied. See for yourself:

      • STEAK FAJITA in smoked red chile sauce with a mix of red & green peppers and seasoned brown rice
      • CILANTRO LIME CHICKEN white meat chicken with a black bean & corn mix, seasoned brown rice and a verde tomatillo sauce
      • ROTISSERIE SEASONED TURKEY with a mix of diced red skin sweet potatoes & green beans
      • MONTEREY CHICKEN with diced red skin & sweet potatoes, lightly buttered green beans with BBQ style sauce
      • BOURBON STEAK with chipotle mashed sweet potatoes, seasoned broccoli & red peppers
      • OVEN ROASTED CHICKEN with diced red skin potatoes, seasoned broccoli and a savory wine sauce

    My wife was away on business recently and we had just come back from after school activities.On our way home we stopped at our local Wegmans and found the STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen meals in the frozen entrees aisle. I had a hard time deciding as they all looked and sounded delicious. I picked out the Bourbon Steak and Cilantro Lime Chicken and let the kids carry them to the checkout. 

    Sometimes I don't have a plan for dinner so it is nice to know that the Fit Kitchen meals have my back. In fact, I needed to get the kids fed and ready for bed so I could watch my Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    My kids had never seen an entire frozen dinner before and were amazed that "It's ALL in there?" After we ate I was anxious to get to the hockey game but before that was to happen, we needed to take our after dinner walk together. We're trying as a family to eat healthier and exercise more often. That's where theSTOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen meals come in. If you've ever taken a walk with a four year old you know that they need a wingman to keep them focused and on task. Thanks to the delicious meal with up to 25 g of protein in every serving I was up to the task.

    A video posted by Chris (@dadncharge) on

    You can find STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen in the frozen aisle at your local Walmart, Target or grocery store or visit to find a store near you that carries them. If you had to choose, which Fit Kitchen meal would you pick and why?

    The Day I Almost Killed My Son

    My son, he is floating away. He can't swim, he's only three. The water is cold, my hands are numb. I'm not sure how long I can hold on. I'm afraid we are going to die. I may have just killed my son.

    I've relived this nightmare in my dreams more than I care to remember. Every time I get near open water with my children it all starts rushing back and it paralyzes me. You would think that even when it happened this early in his life that he would have no recollection of it but my son reminds me of it every time he sees a canoe which makes it much harder.

    August of 2008 we spent a weekend in Canada at some friend's cabin on a lake I didn't know. Susie and I went out with Adam in the canoe, circled once around the island and came back. On the other side of the island is where it got choppy and windy. Luckily, with both of us in there we made it back.

    When I suggested another time around Susie bailed (this is why she is the smart one) and I continued on solo determined to keep the fun going. I wouldn't say that I am generally a risk taker. What I was trying to do was create a lasting memory with my son. I learned the hard way that sometimes we need to not force a memory.

    When I got past the island the wind was too much for one person. It kept pushing the canoe in the opposite direction and we started to drift. Trying to stay positive, I worked at trying to get back but it was no use. My arms were tired, the wind was winning and I tried to readjust myself in the canoe. That's when the canoe tipped in the middle of the lake. I had no life jacket but Adam did. I saw Adam floating away and reached out.

    When I was younger I was a camp counselor and we did some canoeing. We used to teach the campers to tip the canoe in the pond and get it back to shore. This memory came back to me as I reached out and grabbed the back of his life jacket and wrestled Adam back into the center of the canoe while it was swamped.

    I tried to keep him calm, telling him to hold onto the boat. I grabbed the far side with my arms on either side of him. Then I just prayed. I prayed that someone would hear me screaming for help as we drifted further out into the lake.

    No matter how hard I kicked towards the shore, the island got further and further way. I prayed for God to keep us safe and to protect Adam. I prayed that Adam would be safe even if it meant I didn't make it. My arms were waning, the water frigid, my hands were becoming numb. I didn't know how much longer I could hold on. Was I going to die? What would happen to Adam?

    I could only hope that everyone back on the island would realize that we had been gone too long. I am not sure how long we were out there or when exactly my sandals, the paddle, and my seat cushion floated away. I scanned the water for someone, anyone and spotted a boat to my left and tried to flag them down. But two heads bobbing in the water is hard to see in a fast moving boat and they went right past us.

    I continued to talk to Adam while trying in vain to scream for Susie.  The wind was too strong and we were just too far away. Every time I screamed so did Adam and when he was screaming "Mommy!" and crying it broke my heart over and over again. I tried to reassure him as he sobbed inches from my face. I told him that it would be okay and that we would just wait for Mommy. No one could hear us. No one could see us. No one was coming.

    I was tired after holding onto the boat to keep him inside. My hands were aching and numb, like holding on to an edge and you know you can't let go. What seemed like forever finally came to an end when I heard boats in the distance firing up. I saw a boat on the horizon that seemed like a speck canvassing the water. I took my red baseball hat off, the only thing that didn't float away and waved it in the air as high as I could reach trying to get their attention.

    Bobby, my wife's friend, came to our rescue after ten minutes of searching, he spotted us. He pulled Adam and I into the boat and back to shore with the canoe in tow. It was frightening and embarrassing to say the least. I felt like the worst dad in the world. I had almost killed my son.

    Adam was traumatized and shivering and all I could think of was whether it was God who answered my prayers or just common sense by Susie and her friends that we were gone far too long. It's a memory that I would rather not relive but every time I see a canoe or get near open water, my mind gets the better of me.

    I tried while we were trying to warm him up to lighten the mood by remarking how much of the lake was in his swim diaper. That's when my one year old daughter roll off the bed and knocked her head on the ground. My wife and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. That's when it hit me that anything can happen with kids and that it was part of life to deal with tough times.

    We don't really talk about it anymore.  Adam now says "Remember the time you tipped the canoe? and we can laugh it off because we survived. I try not to think about it because it gives me a terrible feeling in my gut to this day. It was every parent's worst nightmare come true and I lived to tell about it.

    I've been much more level headed since then, maybe too careful at times because when I think about the possibility of something going wrong, this comes to the forefront. I make it a point to always wear a life jacket which admittedly was beyond stupid. I'm lucky to be alive.

    Part of overcoming my fear has been to get out in boats again with my son, though that fear is still there for me. Trying to overcome that mistake has been a long road for me but I am trying not to let it define me because of a bad decision once when he was little. I thought I was in control. I thought that I was being an awesome dad.

    No one infallible when it comes to making decisions for you and your children just consider the fact that sometimes things will be beyond your control. Not letting that fear control me is the hardest part but sometimes I remind myself that I just need to get back in the boat.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    The Force Is Strong In My Family

    I can feel it flowing through me. I can feel that mystical power that connects everything and everyone in the universe. The Force is strong in my family.  Since my children have been knee-high to a pit droid and could grasp a lightsaber, I have been teaching them the ways of The Force.

    For me, there is no better feeling than to see the excitement that I felt as a child being passed on to my own children. When my daughter sees Darth Vader and her first inclination is to ask "Daddy, can I go hold Darth Vader's hand?" Geek parenting. You're doing it right.

    My kids see the cool factor. A story about battles in space with good and bad guys wielding weapons made of pure light and energy? It's not hard to see why it is so fun especially when you are regularly dueling in the backyard with your homemade lightsabers.

    It seems only right to pass on the knowledge and understanding of everything Star Wars™ has to offer a family. It's full of characters we can all identify with.  A princess that doesn't need rescuing, a scoundrel that discovers there is more to life than just money, and a young boy who transforms from a nobody to the savior of the world we know.  I've been captivated by it since my first viewing and every time since then.

    As we hold a Jedi council watching the Star Wars™ saga together, it is only fitting that we have the perfect snack to keep The Force flowing through my young padawans. Pop Secret's pre-popped popcorn in flavors like Salted, Homestyle, Kettle Corn, White Cheddar, and the new Extra Cheesy are the delicious and fast snacks to satisfy even the ever hungry Sarlacc.

    Not only is it ready to go but Pop Secret popcorn is made with only the best ingredients using Non-GMO popcorn, no preservatives, gluten free, 100% whole grain, and 0 grams trans fat. Buy some Pop Secret pre-popped flavored popcorn today and you'll find bags featuring C-3P0, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, and Yoda with fun trivia on the bag to test your true knowledge.  Even Boba Fett wouldn't turn down a deal this easy.

    After consuming our Pop Secret Pre-Popped Popcorn, my family went through this miraculous transformation. It's as if the popcorn was infused with midi-chlorians though I didn't see that in the ingredients. Here's what happened after we started eating our Pop Secret Pre Popped Popcorn:

    The Force Is Strong In My Family
    The Force is strong in my family thanks to Pop Secret. You have that power too. #PopWars Life of Dad
    Posted by DadNCharge on Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    Life of Dad and Pop Secret have combined forces (see what I did there) to bring you a contest to show just how Pop Secret Pre Popped Popcorn gives you and your family The Force.  Enter your own video by uploading your video to Facebook, tagging Pop Secret, and using #PopWars in your post. Entries are due by June 12th by 5pm ET. You could win up to $1,120 in Star Wars prizes!

    Join me and Life of Dad and all the other Pop Secret PopWars brand ambassadors for a Twitter party Wednesday June 10th at 8pm. Follow the #PopWars hashtag to share your Jedi knowledge.

    The Force Will Be With You Always!

    Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pop Secret and was compensated for my participation in this promotion