Sunday, July 30, 2017

5 Ways to Sneak Me Time

It's eventual when you have children who rely on you for everything that they will never leave you alone. They will no longer see boundaries between what you are doing and your expectation that at some point they will tire of asking you for things whether they be play, food, or things.

So, as parents, we have to get crafty in the ways we find me time. We know as adults that a locked bathroom door means STAY OUT I'M BUSY IN HERE while a toddler sees it as an obstruction between them and your attention. Mommy always says that I can talk to her anytime, so why would she lock this door?

That's why fingers under the door or prying eyeballs and mouths pressed against wood, trying to sneak a whisper through the cracks in the door jamb occur. There are times when meeting every demand will make you feel like a negotiator in a hostage situation.

That's why moms everywhere are sneaking time away while they can, fitting in their favorite shows on Netflix. According to Netflix, 71% of moms are sneaking "me time" into some unusual places. Here are five suggestions that this stay at home dad have tried that you may not have used yet.

1. Play Hide and Seek and hide in a place that you deem out of bounds for them.

2. Most kids don't like spiders. Tell them you are going to pull weeds and set up a chair in the shed instead.

3. Hide in their messy room. Camouflage yourself with the thousands of stuffed animals they have.

4. Get out your old toys from your childhood, explain how awesome they are, and fade into the background.

5. Turn on the sprinklers and sit back and relax

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by Netflix and my relationship with them as a #StreamTeam influencer. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Meaningful Connections

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly #ad 

Before I was a stay at home dad, I was an art teacher in a high school that I really loved. The interview I had for that job was by far the strangest I have ever had. I was invited back for a second interview and told to bring my portfolio. I was excited because to me, that meant that they were interested in me enough to want to see my own work as well as the work that my students had completed. 

What I didn't realize when I walked through the front doors was that all the other candidates for the same position were also going to be there! It felt weird. I didn't want to see their faces. Before they were just an idea; the competition lurking in the background. But, here they were against the wall waiting to meet with the entire art department just like me. 

We all walked into the room, met with each teacher at the school, and proceeded to put all of our work out on tables so that we could circulate around and look at each other's work. It was very nerve-wracking and I kept averting their gazes. We all felt super awkward that this was happening. 

But, I decided halfway into the process that I should just relax and enjoy it. I needed to be myself and let the chips fall where they may. As mentioned above, I eventually got that job and stayed there for a very meaningful seven years of my life. 

In 2008, I resigned as my wife's job had us moving away from Chicago to Rochester, New York. For the next ten years, I was a stay at home dad to three kids adjusting to being at home full-time, taking care of babies, cleaning the house, and taking them wherever they needed to be. Those years spent with them are more precious than anyone could imagine and while I felt sometimes like time seemed to drag on, those years flew by right before my eyes. 

When we moved to an unfamiliar city, I tried to find connections in dad's groups near me and that's when I discovered the National At Home Dad Network and attended the NAHDN Annual Convention. Attending my first one in 2012 was life changing for me as I became the blog editor and eventually ran and was elected as a board member.  My blog helped one guy find us and attend, thus changing his life as well. Being a voice for SAHDs everywhere was super important to me.

In 2011, we moved again, this time to Pennsylvania and I began another chapter of staying at home, this time with no family in the area. This was a tough adjustment for me. I felt very alone. That's when I started the Philly Dads Group in an effort to connect with other dads in Philadelphia. The dads I met in Philly have made friendships that started as casual get togethers that have turned into reunions of old friends. 

Being online was an essential connection for me while at home. My network of dads and dad friends increased, my blog started to grow and I attended my first Dad 2.0 Summit in an effort to further network with other dad bloggers. My experiences at Dad 2.0 but more importantly the people I have met through these opportunities have filled a place in my heart. 

I can honestly say that the experiences I have had meeting people first online and then in person has exceeded my expectations. I have met a good friend in Jeff Bogle of Out With the Kids, dad bloggers like Brent Almond of Designer Daddy, Aaron Gouveia of The Daddy Files, and Carter Gaddis, writer and karaoke singer extraordinaire. Without these connections online and in person, I don't know where I would be today. 

They all helped to shape me in some meaningful way. Before I started staying at home, I never travelled. I literally never went anywhere. Without these connections online which turned into friendships in person there would be a hole there that would make me feel so empty. The human connections I have found through miles of wires is as infinite as outer space. 

I have to thank Verizon for always being there for me through all of this. Without a reliable connection online, I wouldn't be able to Google chat with fellow NAHDN board members, I wouldn't have been able to reach out to others dads when I struggled at home or been able to ask for help when I felt lost. 

Without the online connection, my kids wouldn't have been happy to watch their shows and stream movies as a family. Without a reliable network, they wouldn't be able to successfully get their homework done or effectively complete research and science projects. 

With eleven devices that stay connected to our Wi-Fi, we've never had issues with buffering or slow connections. With the Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway router, I can even stream music to my phone while mowing the lawn fifty feet into my front yard! 

With the dual band router, I can get a signal anywhere in my house and with the FiOS Network Extender there are no dead zones in my house. And when I am feeling like privacy is important, my guests can use the Guest specific Wi-Fi with a separate password. 

If you are with another provider, consider making the switch. You can even get a $500 credit if you make the change. Make meaningful connections with the people you have met along the way with help from Verizon FiOS. Find out if FiOS is available in your area and get busy making memories with the people that mean the most to you. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Road Less Traveled

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Navdy and DadNCharge for which I was compensated. All opinions expressed are my own.

I was standing in the rental car building waiting for directions from our fearless leader. I was about to take six kids I really didn't know that well on a six-hour car ride from Denver, Colorado to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and the van didn't have a DVD player.

We loaded up the luggage, unceremoniously stuffing the backseat with rollaways and duffle bags with wheels like a grown-up's game of Tetris, trying to ensure that I would at least have a foot of clearance to see out of the back window. We did the same with their bodies, taking every available inkling of legroom and headroom the van would allow.

We had five vans full of leaders and high school students following each other via highways and side country roads that no one had ever heard of to arrive at our destination. In my van, I had a front seat passenger who was supposed to be my navigator, but an hour into the trip, she succumbed to the smooth sounds of the pavement rushing past us and fell into a deep sleep.

At six foot six, I marvelled at her ability to curl up into a ball in what I thought might be the most uncomfortable Philly pretzel I had ever seen. I was amazed at the rest of the passengers' willingness to fall where they may, with heads pitched forward or sometimes against the interior window of the car, mouths agape, drool dampening pillows they brought with them. Suddenly, I was quite alone with my thoughts.

As rowdy as teenagers are supposed to be, they sure do sleep a lot. So there I was in a car with nothing but the radio and my cellphone, following the GPS to our destination. The cars did not have in-dash navigation, so I had to rely on my phone, sitting in the cupholder for directions. Boy, I missed my Navdy. Why didn't I bring it with me?

I could have easily taken it from my home minivan and installed it in seconds on the rental car's dash. I thought about that every time I had to look down at my phone for directions while keeping an eye on the road. I did have some printed out maps just in case GPS failed me but I wasn't about to try and pry them out of the manila folder I had carelessly placed between the console and the front seats. So much for my human front seat navigator!

I kept my eyes on the caravan in front of me instead and furtively glanced at my phone from time to time, but the distractions were always present. The most difficult distraction was that we had a group text happening around bathroom breaks and GPS alterations to the original route. With my Navdy, its head up display would have projected my texts right in my line of sight, so I could stay focused on driving. Navdy eliminates the need to by setting up Glances to rely on someone else to keep checking my phone and read my messages - which is quite impossible when they are asleep.

We travelled through Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and eventually reached the border of South Dakota. We miraculously discovered a gas station in Nebraska as the teens bravely held in any liquids despite the rolling Nebraska hills and abundant cows. Sour gummies make you super thirsty and our gas tanks were getting low.

My advice when you pass a gas station in Nebraska: ALWAYS STOP, because the next one may be in the next state. We did manage to find one rest area in Nebraska, but the Wi-Fi was spotty and they only had one restroom. However, they did have a great area for relaxing from the rigors of the road.

Directions through the west are much different than the east. The kids started playing a game of That's My Cow, and we wondered if we should change it to That's My Human because we stopped seeing them for many miles.

Instead, I kept thinking to myself, "How did people who moved out to the west survive the terrain?" and then I remembered The Oregon Trail and it all made sense. Driving a horse and wagon across the plains with mountains in the distance never seeming to get any closer must have been difficult to process.

Today, we are lucky enough to have the convenience of navigation and GPS, but there is still an ever-increasing amount of distractions that can make driving just as hazardous as driving as travel by horse and wagon. Americans are spending an average of 45 billion hours driving per year, and one way to make this time safer is finding a better way to integrate the use of our phones while on the road. This is where Navdy can step in and make travelling in the car so much easier, as well as safer.

Imagine the applications during travel with the family or if you have a teen driver in the family who is easily distracted by his phone. With simple gestures, drivers control their phone's functions from the Navdy display while keep their eyes on the road. Access texts, app notification, receive a phone call, or play music by moving your hand or using the steering wheel mounted dial.  Keeping our kids safe while travelling in automobiles is a top priority, especially when the call for technology connectedness is so strong. Navdy is available for $499 or $28/month for 18 months at 0% financing.

The investment in our family's safety is well worth it with the piece of mind that Navdy provides by insuring your drivers will be paying attention to the road instead of on their phones. And when you finally get there, that's when you can take it all in, and safely use your phone to share with the world where you have been and where you are going next.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Staying as Cool as a Cucumber

This is a sponsored post created in collaboration with Russell Athletic and DadNCharge. All opinions expressed are my own. 

As a dad, I've put myself into compromising situations. I've made a fool of myself on numerous occasions for a laugh, stood out in a crowd when I was supposed to be in the background, and generally acted, mostly because of my size, like a bull in a china shop.

You could liken my dad style to Chris Farley in awkward situations; facing adversity by telling a joke or trying to slip into the shadows like an overgrown ninja with zero stealth. In the same way your out of state license plate excuses you from bad driving choices in visiting states, I stay cool in tough situations because I own them. I'm a dad and I make no apologies for my behavior.

I used to look at my dad and wonder, why does he always wear dress socks and loafers? Why does he still rock the same jeans from the 1990s? What motivates a man to hike his belt up to such heights that he needs inches added to his inseam?  My dad is not worried about his style. Take it or leave it, his look is unapologetically him.

I think that we all say to ourselves at some point: When I'm a dad, I'm going to be cool. I'm going to listen to the latest music, be on top of the fashion trends, and not become the dad that shows up with pens in his front pocket of his polo shirt. I'm going to be the dad that every kid's friends are going to sit back and admire because they are so cool.

What we should be saying instead is that we are going to be unapologetically cool in our own ways. The way I look at it, I need to be me and if kids like me, they do because of me not because of what I wear. Of course, it does help when your T-shirt game is strong and you stay cool because you're on top of the latest thing. Ask any high schooler who has travelled with me, my mixed CD's are legendary, mostly because no one puts music on CDs anymore.

I recently spent one week in South Dakota on a mission trip with twenty-three high school kids headed to Pine Ridge Reservation to do construction projects while the thermometers reached the century marks. On the way there, we flew to Denver and then spent six hours driving through four states to arrive in South Dakota. We discovered at the car rental place that the minivans didn't have DVD players. So much for my plan to wow them with movies from my childhood.

One hour into the drive and all of the kids in my van were asleep. It felt like I had young kids back in the car again. When they woke up, they asked how close we were. "Just five more hours to go kids!" I said with much enthusiasm. How would we pass the time and why was I starting to sweat already?

As with any road trip with kids, you have to think on your feet. Having had experience on long car rides I began a game of Grandma's Attic as an icebreaker, a round of Rainbow Cars, and finished strong with That's My Cow. I successfully kept six teenagers occupied without technology, now that is keeping your cool!

In South Dakota, the temperatures for the week were 100 degrees and we worked mostly outside. Our site had two young trees and not a whole lot of shade. Inside, out of the glaring sunshine and into the stifling stuffiness, I hung drywall with a crew which I advised on taping and mudding and provided encouragement for those who had little to no experience with manual labor.  Through all of this, there was lots of crouching, bending over and sweat. Lots and lots of sweat. This is what being a Dadlete is all about to me; being a team player for the greater good.

While summertime is the best time to go swimming, what you don't want is for that swimming to be happening in your cargo shorts. I sure wish I had my Russell Athletic FreshForce underwear with me on that trip because FreshForce performance underwear isn't our dad's whitey-tighty underwear of old.

Available at your local Wal-Mart, this underwear is soft, supportive, and features Intellifresh which guards against moisture causing bacteria that usually cause odor. Russell Athletic FreshForce underwear uses moisture wicking material to keep you cool and collected in the hottest of situations. There's nothing that gives you confidence more than being fly and fresh.  Head to Wal-Mart and scoop up a pair and follow Russell Athletic for all your activewear needs.

Dads, own your look and be unapologetically you and stay fresh with Russell FreshForce during the dog days of summer. Whether you are grilling up hot dogs in the excessive heat, hitting tennis balls at the club, or trying to show the next generation how to do The Sprinkler, you too can stay cool even if your own kids don't think so.