Friday, July 24, 2015

A Play Date That I Like

Isn't it ironic? Don't cha' think? A little too ironic? Yeah, I really do think. 

It's like a guy who professes he doesn't like structured play dates, talking about a band called Play Date?

But in my defense this Play Date is awesome. Greg Attonito formerly of The Bouncing Souls and his wife Shanti Wintergate made this album for kids and parents alike. The promise there is the opportunity to listen to a punk legend turn kindie rock into something me and my kids can rock out to when we are together. A punk rock play date if you will. 

There's a great thing about the musicians of our youth making albums for our children. They were fun when we listened to them back in high school or college and their ability to make great tunes never really diminishes, it's just what their singing about that changes.

It's fitting that Greg and Shanti feature a gramophone emitting a rainbow on the cover because their music is like a cornucopia of sound. Songs like Ninja Pajamas start off slow and melodically sweet but are balanced out with a dope rap by underground rapper P.O.S. in the midst of the keyboards and Shanti's voice lulling you to sleep.

Says Shanti Wintergate about their music "It's important to Greg and myself that we convey a sense of sweetness and the care that we feel for each other in every song. Treating one another with love, care and compassion is one of the most important things that children- along with the rest of us - can learn. This feeling of love and caring finds expression in the way we interact in our songs. It may be the words, the sound, or how our voices play together. Hopefully there will be more than just musical harmony felt in our music."

Ramp up the good times with songs like Ruin Your Appetite which harken back to the style of The Offspring in a song that could easily be written about my four year old's eating habits. One of our favorites is Cardboard Box a song about the possibilities of play that a box can hold for a child which may remind you of the guitar licks and fast paced jams of Veruca Salt.

Interspersed in the the album are sporadic "Public Service Announcements" about broccoli, apples, carrots, and bananas. They are quick little jams heralding the benefits of eating these things. Catchy little tunes that will teach your kids why Folic acid and Vitamin C are good for you and how they help you be healthy.

Round out the album with family friendly anthems like L-O-V-E You and Hug Hug Hug and Play Date celebrates what it feels like to be cared for and loved by someone close to you who will do anything for you.

Play Date's album We All Shine debuts today July 24th and if you live in or near Philadelphia, you can see them perform tonight at the Smith Memorial Playground's Annual Kidchella Music Festival

Like Play Date on Facebook and follow them on Twitter today!

If you like this review and want to learn about more kindie music, go to DadNCharge on FB too! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A True Art Attack

I'm bored. There's nothing to do.

It's too hot! I'm tired of playing outside, what can I do inside?

It's raining out, there's NOTHING to do!

These are common phrases parents hear when the fun runs out and they turn to their cruise director for guidance. In instances where you don't have a camp or play date lined up, you'll need something to keep them busy AND happy.

In the past, I've turned to ideas from Pinterest and I've taken out old art lesson plans to engage them in a project that will keep them busy. I've even turned to duct tape and cardboard to build superhero and Star Wars creations of my own. Turns out, I am not the only dad.

Crafteeo kits were created by a San Diego dad who resorted to crafting to disengage his son from electronics. Though a lot of parents have the same approach, there are very few craft projects out there that are thoroughly engaging and challenging to both the parent and the child!

Wanting to engage his son in more creative play, How-Lun Chen started up-cycling left over cardboard boxes and created incredible designs of armor pieces which include Sword, Helmets, Shields, and body armor.

He eventually turned these designs into craft project kits so that other parents could share the building experience with their children. How-Lun created Crafteeo a year ago and his kits have amazed people at the craft trade shows that he has participated in and everything is made here in the U.S. in San Diego.

My son and I spent a day building the short sword that they sent in a mailer to my house. The kit comes pre-punched with all the necessary pieces to build the creations in the envelope. All kits except for the short sword come with the paint necessary to finish them but the assembly products being paper means you can decorate them as you see fit.

 Instructions in the form of a video on how to build them are located online and are easy to follow. We worked together as a team to build their short sword craft and were amazed at the results! All it takes from you is the dedication and commitment to do it together.

Here's the cool thing, Crafteeo has started their own Kickstarter campaign where you can pledge a certain amount to back the project and receive your own kits based on your level! Check out the cool new Pulsar Helmet and Battle Armor project:

Don't have the funds to back the campaign? No problem!

You can enter to win your own 3 Pack Build Kit below. Crafteeo is offering a Helmet (fits heads up to 22 inch circumference, about 7 year old), a shield and a short sword, Use the Rafflecopter entry below to enter. You can earn more entries by Tweeting about their Kickstarter once a day.Be sure to follow Crafteeo, by joining their email list so you can be aware of new projects that come up and happy crafting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FTC Disclaimer : I received compensation in the form of building kits from Crafteeo in exchange for the review of their product. All opinions expressed are my own. You should really enter because these kits are cool!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Five Endless Summer Adventures on Netflix

Summertime is an adventure that awaits us at the end of every school year. Children trade in their books and homework for the fancy free feeling of time away from all of that when their imaginations can run wild. The kids may be swinging from a rope into a lake, braving the hiking trails armed only with trail mix, or going away from you at a sleep away camp for the first time. Whatever journey they are embarking on this summer, it is probably one chock full of good times and laughter.

But when those first catalogs arrive in the mail claiming "Back to School SALE!" it's a harsh reminder that the summer adventures are fleeting and we need to hold on to those excited feelings. Luckily, Netflix has us covered with shows that deliver plenty of action and adventure especially on those hot days of summer when just stepping out your door has you clambering back for the air conditioning. If outside is stifling and you're wondering what you should pull up on Netflix, here are some suggestions.

1. Dragons: Race to The Edge TV-Y7-FV

Join Hiccup and Toothless, from the critically acclaimed How to Train Your Dragon films embarking on unparalleled adventures in the all-new Netflix original series Dragons: Race to the Edge. Hiccup decides that there must be more dragons beyond the ones they have already discovered. He manages to find some of the most exciting dragons yet, each with its own amazing abilities -- shock waves, cannon balls and fire blasts, just to name a few. With the magical Dragon Eye, an artifact Hiccup finds aboard an abandoned ship, Hiccup finds more than he bargained for and embarks on many adventures with his new dragon friends.

Watch this preview of the new series:

2. Bo on the Go TV- Y7

Bo on the Go is a great show for those kids who just tire of staying put while watching. Bo lives in a castle with her friend Dezzy the dragon and together they go on adventures with the help of Wizard who gives them their quest for the day. Bo can only react if the children watching the show get up and move. Their movements give her energy to act in this show that will get children active. The theme song will be sung all over your house and if you have energetic toddlers, this is a great show to get them up and moving while watching the show. 

3. Super 4 TV-Y7

Ruby, Twinkle, Alex, and Gene, heroes united! By far my kids' favorite show on Netflix to date follows the adventures of the Super 4. Each character hails from a different part of the world in which each of them has an adversary that causes problems. Gene, is from Technopolis where technology and logic prevail, Alex is from King's Realm where his father rules and the Black Baron is always trying to overthrow the throne. Ruby is from Gunpowder Island where pirates rule and the fearsome Sharkbeard is always after her treasure. Twinkle is an exiled fairy who can do magic but sometimes not that well. She was kicked out of Enchanted Island for turning the Queen of the fairies into a frog by accident. Together, with their sidekick Alien, they combine their special abilities in adventures across the land. The animated series featuring Playmobil figures is full of silly situations and funny moments. Be sure to watch the episode called The Song of the Stork.

4. H2O : Mermaid Adventures : TV-Y7 

What happens when three girls Cleo, Emma. and Rikki go exploring on an island and fall into a grotto where they can't escape? They transform into mermaids under a full moon and soon discover other superpowers like manipulating water and talking to animals. They return to Mako Island where they received their powers to figure out what happened to them. This show combines the enchantment of mermaids and the combination of superpowers in three very smart female characters who are interested in the science of the ocean.

5. Young Justice TV-PG

Follow the adventures of Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash and other teenage superheroes as they battle the forces of evil alongside their older counterparts. As they become more than sidekicks with the Justice League, they begin to show off their real strengths as superheroes and not just accessories to crime fighting.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Teach the Family that #KindMilesMatter

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and KIND for this promotion.

In a world that revolves around social media instead of the world around them, it is even harder for parents to get their kids out and moving instead of zoned out in front of a screen. That's why it is even more important to get outside and explore together what is out there and in turn keep you healthier on the inside. We've found as a family the best times together mean leaving the cell phones and tablets behind and just walking as a family or jumping on our bikes for a ride around the neighborhood.

So when KIND Snacks sent me this KIND kit filled with Made to Matter products from Target I was pretty excited. #MadetoMatter is a program in which Target has selected brands that supported three distinct pillars (unique collaborative partnerships, innovation, and social responsibility) in an effort to offer their consumers better-for-you and better-for-the-world products.

It was filled with wipes from Seventh Generation, hand sanitizer from Babyganics, lip balm from Yes To Carrots, and snacks from KIND including their new Peanut Butter Berry flavor. It was the perfect kit to inspire and motivate me to track our family exercise over a period of two weeks to see just how far we had gone together with all the products that would support us. Since its founding in 2004, KIND has been on a mission to make the world a little kinder one snack and act at a time. But, here's the cool thing about being a brand ambassador for KIND. For each mile the family and I have traveled together, KIND is going to donate one box of snacks to a charity of my choice!

Our very first day tracking our miles was Father's Day and also our 12th year wedding anniversary. My wife surprised me with a weekend away from the kids and we decided to do a high ropes course together for the first time. We logged 6.54 miles that day traversing across cables and climbing obstacles. The end of the day was a highlight for me as we took a zip line down a mountain 4000 feet from the top to the ground.

The remaining first week, I taught VBS at our church which my children all attended, teaching art to 158 kids from 9 am to noon for five days. During those five days I managed to walk 23.35 miles attending to all the children, preparing the room, and walking around the classroom. No wonder I was so tired at the end of the week! 

Summer camps resumed that with my daily average of miles settling down. On June 30th, I took my daughters to Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park to log some miles jumping with them. We managed 6.43 miles that day. 

Afterwards, I was pretty worn out. We fueled back up with some KIND Snacks Peanut Butter Berry Bars are made with a unique blend of five super grains, coated in peanut butter and combined with sweet raspberries and cranberries. Each bar is a good source of fiber, making this new and improved PB&J rendition a nutritious and tasty snack on the go. Gluten Free and Non-GMO, KIND offers six different snacks lines filled with wholesome foods your family will love.

A photo posted by Chris (@dadncharge) on

For the July 4th weekend we ramped it up as a family, taking a bike ride together on Friday and venturing out to Morris Arboretum where we hiked the trails and discovered the gardens. Trying to keep up with the four and seven year olds as they discovered the grounds we soon discovered their hangry mood. You know that threshold you cross when they just aren't consolable and only sustenance is going to fix them? Good thing we packed our lunchbox with plenty of KIND snacks. You saved us!

So I tallied up my miles for the two weeks leading up to my post and we logged 41.14 miles together during that time. Beyond logging the miles and knowing we were helping people with our efforts, it just felt good to be outside together doing something. We use that time to talk to our children and listen to what they have to say. Have conversations with them about what is going on and what they are seeing. My seven year old has started reading and was paying more attention to the signage which was cool to see her not only read them but share some knowledge she learned about plants at school.

The only time I took out my phone was to start the tracker app. I made it a point not to look at it while with them so my focus was on them, not the Internet. Moments like this quickly fade away. I struggle with the capturing and sharing of every moment. Sometimes moments just need to be experienced by you and no one else.

We ended the weekend with family time during the 4th of July weekend. My son had just returned to us after travelling with his grandparents across the country without us for the first time. Instead of driving, we walked to the grocery store the 3.3 miles there and back as a family and got caught in a light rain shower.

The kids took turns pushing each other in the stroller estimating distances they could push one another based on their weights. Later, we took our kids to see fireworks and our four year old attended her first show. I loved watching their faces light up as the sky did. When asked which fireworks she loved the most she said emphatically. ALL OF THEM!

Those are the summer moments I'll remember. So get out and experience them together. Make some new family memories of your own and log the miles with your family. As long as you are together, that's all that matters.

Join me, Life of Dad and KIND Snacks on July 14th at 8pm for a Twitter party celebrating your own #KindMilesMatter journey 

Monday, July 6, 2015

LEGO Star Wars : Droid Tales Helps Star Wars Parents

It's a rite of passage for any child, the passing down of lore and legend from your childhood. If you've stared at the covers of Episodes I, II, and III wondering if you should just do it and deal with the consequences later you might be a Star Wars parent.  If you've ever contemplated the order to show the movies, you might be a Star Wars Parent. 

You may have played them over in your head trying to think if there is anything that might keep them up at night.  You might be a Star Wars parent if you may have wondered if the fighting in them might mean you will at some point you'll take a toy lightsaber to your kneecaps while you're wearing a black shirt.  If you think your children are too young to start watching Star Wars, LEGO has fixed that problem for you. 

LEGO® Star Wars™: Droid Tales  is premiering the series starting Monday, July 6th so your entire family can see it for themselves.  Premiering at  6:30 pm (check local listings) on Disney XD, Droid Tales gives your family the chance to start catching up on the entire Star Wars saga before the new film hits the big screen in December with bite-sized, hilarious episodes. 

The series retells the stories of the Star Wars universe in chronological order from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace™ up through Star Wars: Return of the Jedi™, through the eyes of C-3PO and R2-D2. Rooted in the humor and excitement that can only be conveyed through the LEGO brick, the five-part, 22 min episode series is a great resource for families as they gear up for the next movie!

For over 15 years, the LEGO Group has been introducing children to the universe, and bringing an element of playful nostalgia to parents and adults who grew up with the franchise, so we're very excited to make the story even more accessible for families. Whether it is through construction sets, or the new Droid Tales series, fans - old and new - can now explore the universe in whatever experience they prefer, making LEGO Star Wars™ the ultimate catching up tool. 

I've seen a behind the scenes preview at Lucasfilm in February and I can tell you from personal experience that you will be laughing to all the insider Star Wars parents jokes they sneak in there about the series. Also, your kids will enjoy the LEGO way of storytelling that you  are used to in other LEGO films. The re-telling of this classic saga from the viewpoints of C-3PO and R2-D2 is a must see for any parent passing on their love of anything Star Wars to their littlest fans. 

Want to learn more insider information about all things Pop Culture? Go to the DadNCharge FB page!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Rainbows Bright

In the attic of my house are tubs of my old toys from when I was a a kid. He-Man, GI Joe, and Star Wars. Superpowers and Secret Wars. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and M.A.S.K. When I became a parent, I couldn't wait to pass them down to my own kids and I looked forward to letting them experience what it was like to love them as much as I did.

As they got older I worried more about the kids losing their parts and keeping them intact, so I organized them into bins and labelled them and kept them apart in the attic for as long as I could manage.

The first time I let them play with my Star Wars figures, I almost had a panic attack. I didn't want them mixing up the G.I. Joes with the Star Wars figures in my Darth Vader case. No matter what I did they found a way to bring them together. I could never understand why they would want Scarlet driving the Barbie car with She Ra.

Maybe I became so attached to my old ways that my insecurities got the better of me. I wanted them to enjoy playing with them as much as I did so what is so wrong with He-Man playing with Iron Man? Why should I care if GI Joe's Flint and Luke Skywalker just moved into the Fisher Price Dollhouse together?  In one scenario set up by my daughters, Michelangelo and Dusty Hayes are driving the Turtle Van to Barbie's Dreamhouse. Then they are going to pickup Grizzlor and meet up with Grimlock for dinner. In the ultimate crossover experience, my children have taught me that bringing all of these toys together in a Toy Story sort of way, is the best way to play. The toys shouldn't be apart if it makes them happy.

When it comes to mixing up different toys, kids just don't see size differences or types. They see toys and they love them all just the same. Love is love, there is no difference.

In a momentous civil rights win for America, SCOTUS announced recently that same sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Instantly, my Facebook page list of friends looked like Rainbow Brite and Rainbow Sparkle met up with Cheer Bear and had a rave. Ever spot a rainbow after a dark and stormy time? It's a glorious thing to witness a rainbow spreading across the land.

As a Christian myself I support this decision and I hope the way we are raising our children to deny prejudices and embrace acceptance of all people. We have encouraged our children to love one another as they want to be loved. Isn't that a lesson worth living in your own life?

Have you ever witnessed two children meeting on the playground for the first time? It doesn't take long before they become friends. It may all start because of a toy they both like and BOOM! they become pals.

It's because they are taught to be open and accept others almost instantaneously. It's too bad that fades as we get older and not necessarily wiser.  We want our children to learn about accepting everyone and not excluding anyone yet in our own government, we have been doing that very thing by denying this basic right. Thanks to the Supreme Court all of that has changed.

Here's where my children really will learn that love is love and that including everyone is the best way to be. They will not only live in a time where there has been a black president (I wish you could have seen it Tupac) but my kids also get to live in a time where people regardless of whether they are gay or straight can marry legally without jumping through hoops to do so.

My kids will look back on this day in history and wonder "Why did it take so long to get there?" Why shouldn't all people be considered equal? I personally think it comes down to fear. Fear that gay marriage will somehow ruin straight marriages. Fear that if we allow this, what will happen next? Dogs and cats living together? Mass hysteria?

Nope. I'm still married to my wife and so are all my other straight friends. My gay friends who have been together for years waiting for their state to pass a law just became like everyone else who wants to get married to their partner. Just two people in love who want to be together forever. Double rainbows all the way!

Of course, not everyone agrees that it is so great. We have Christians who are using the Bible to explain it all away. They think gay marriage is an abomination. This is shameful and goes against everything you learn as a believer, that love is everything. As a Christian myself I get upset when those railing against the change use the Bible to explain why something should not be in existence.

It's not just gay marriage though. Religious fanatics have tried to demonstrate to me that I am a sinner because I am a stay at home dad. According to parts of The Bible it says that the only way to provide for your family is to make money with a job and that raising the children is woman's work.

The Bible had slavery people! Let's take the lessons God is trying to teach us and use some common sense.  I assume these prejudiced people must have no hands because according to Mark 9:43 it is better to cut off your hand than sin. Are we still doing that? Is that not a thing?

Of course it isn't a thing because it is a different time and how would I be able to write this blog post with no hands? Use the teachings in the Bible as a guide to live your life not for the intent to ruin other's lives.

Excuse me Mr.Attorney General in Texas that publicly announces that he supports any clerk's decision to deny same sex couples a marriage license because of "religious freedom". You must be reminded that we must not judge others. Maybe you should read up on James 4:11-12 : Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

The highest court in the land has determined that this right should be available to all people. It's hypocritical to say it is okay to judge based on "religious freedom" If you're judging homosexuals based on who they love then you are by definition sinning because there is only one who can judge.
God doesn't support your argument, your judgement is based in bigotry, not love for your neighbor.

More importantly this decision for future generations was a day that has changed history. In much the same way the civil rights movement gave voting rights to women and the fight against segregation freed people from opression, these changes better our nation. It's the acceptance of everyone getting along together without judgement for who they love.

It's a win for love whether we are Donatello and Duke, Barbie and Ken, or Princess Leia and April O'Neill.  For me, I'm going to bask in the glory of those rainbows not for gay marriage but for the simple fact that I am teaching my children that I accept them no matter who they love and that's the way it should be for everyone.