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