On Life, Legacy, and Lessons From Dad2.0 Summit

I cried this weekend. Scratch that. I cried a lot this weekend. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Why did I cry? I stubbed my toe, obviously… You want the real reason? I spent four days in Washington, DC for Dad2.0 Summit. And it.was.amazing. Honestly, it was up there in the pantheon of great experiences of my life. And before you ask, no it doesn’t top the births of my kids or my wedding day. But, it’s up there. Continue reading

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Toying With The Imagination

If you’ve known me for any period of time, you’d know that if there were two things I loved as a kid, they were toys and cartoons. And not just on their own. Together. If I was watching my favorite show when I was a kid, chances are I was sitting on the floor playing along with the toys. It’s just what I did.

What?! No, I don’t do that now… Ok, FINE, I still do it, but not all the time, ok?! Lay off me, you guys. I’m still a kid at heart. Or am I just immature? I hear both things about myself all the time, so neither is surprising. Anyway, where was I? Oh right: toys and TV. Most times, my play would continue long after the episode had ended. Ya know, like any normal kid. I’d make up my own story lines and keep that little party going. And, that is something I’ve tried to instill in the girls. Why? Because it’s awesome, that’s why!

They’ve taken hold of that idea and really run wild. Like SERIOUSLY wild. Half the time, I have no idea what they’re even talking about. Sophia’s busy saying “sweetie” over and over, while Maddie sits there mimicking her and laughing up a storm. It really doesn’t matter that the show they were watching has been over for two hours. If they’re into it, they just keep.on.playing.

That’s one of the reasons I was super-excited to partner with Hasbro for this really cool Yo-kai Watch campaign. Not only did they send us this big ol’ box of toys from their Yo-kai Watch line, BUT, they also sent us the first four episodes of the show to watch. They literally joined together two of our favorite activities in one neat (ok REALLY messy) package. I figured the girls would love it. Umm, duh, of course they did!

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Toys everywhere.

So, we did what any sane parent would do. We had a small, informal viewing party consisting of the girls and me. I’ll be honest with you: I had never heard of Yo-kai Watch before. What is it? Good question! The story centers around a young boy, Nate, who finds a special watch that allows him to find and summon some mysterious–and funny–Yo-kai. They help him solve problems–which are usually the fault of those other trouble-making Yo-kai.

Sophia laughed so much while watching the episodes. Also, she laughed hysterically while pulling toy-after-toy out of the box and immediately ripping open the packaging.

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Their favorite toys–for both of them–was the actual watch that comes up with a character medal that can be slotted inside the watch. Press the button and the watch plays the character’s name and tribe song. What’s pretty cool about the medals, is that there are a lot of them. LIKE A LOT. And, there is a Medallium Collection Book, too, so the kids–or you, I’m not judging–can keep the medals all in one place. Ya know, to keep your house clean.

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What was fun about watching the episodes and playing with the toy line is that the girls went absolutely nuts. They didn’t even know what the show or toys were, and there they were yelling “kai Watch!!!” Because, I guess yelling “Yo-kai Watch!!” was too much?

They played with the watches, running around like crazy people, changing medals, pretending that their were some trouble-making Yo-kai hanging ’round the house–and even gave them weird names. I don’t know, man, kids do weird things with their imaginations. And that’s kind of the point, right? Toys and cartoons do that. I want the girls to be creative and imaginative. And if they don’t like a story line, make up their own. It’s one of the best parts about being a kid. Play on, little ladies, play on.

If you want to check out the first episode, watch this video.

If you–or your kids I guess–want to check out the series, it airs on Disney X D on Mondays at 5pm Eastern.

Yo-kai Watch World

Youtube- Yo-kai Watch Official Channel

Facebook- Yo-kai Official Facebook Page

Twitter- Yo-kai Watch News

Hasbro Twitter

I was compensated both financially and in product by Hasbro for the #YokaiWatch campaign. All opinions mentioned above and below are 100% my own.

Snacking For The Picky Eater: #FlatoutIsMyCanvas

Eating healthy can be a challenge. Not just for us, as adults, but for kids, too. I don’t know how it works in your house, but in ours, Sophia is the pickiest eater I have ever met. Well, expect for me as a kid (and well into adulthood), that is. She has her few foods that we know she will eat and not fight us over. The standard kid stuff: chicken nuggets, pizza, mac & cheese, hot dogs, etc. So, trying to get her to try new things has been a bit of a challenge. Maddie, on the other hand? That girl will eat anything we give her and ALWAYS wants to try something new.

As you can see, with these two, meal time can be a challenge. Heck, even snack time can be tough. We’ve seen what happens when we give them sweet or salty snacks to hold them over between meals. They crash really hard in a short amount of time. Which is tough when there are things we need to get done. Sophia has ballet class and needs to have her energy up for that. Plus, she’s in Pre-K now, so homework has to get done after school. YES HOMEWORK IN PRE-K.

So, with the help of Flatout Flatbread, we started trying to come up with some healthy snack ideas that maybe, just maybe would appeal to Sophia–even at her most picky. First, we thought if we she at least got in the kitchen with us and helped make her own food, it would help her at least want to try something. Second, we thought of ingredients that she liked on their own and figured out a way to combine them that she would like.

So, we came up with these tasty little Apple Peanut Butter Rollups. Check out the recipe and instructions below the image.

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Ingredients

  • 1 Flatout Light Original flatbread
  • 1 small apple (flavor of choice)
  • Peanut butter

Instructions

  • Lay flatbread flat and spread peanut butter generously 
  • Dice apple into small 1″ squares
  • Lay apple squares into two lines, a quarter of the way in from each end 
  • Roll flatbread from one end to the next
  • Cut into six pieces

That’s it. It’s pretty simple and was really tasty. Sophia actually loved them and gave them a thumbs up. Plus, she had an absolute blast putting them together.

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You can see that Flatout breads are a great blank canvas in the kitchen and the possibilities are virtually endless. So, grab some Flatout flatbreads, grab your kids, and get in the kitchen and start creating the perfect food masterpiece. Maybe Don’t try to hang these on your fridge though… Remember, #FlatoutIsMyCanvas!

To find a store near you that carries Flatout, visit the store locator:  and try a $.50 off coupon.

If you want some more  delicious recipe ideas, check out the Flatout Facebook page to see what they–and other bloggers–have come up with.

**I was compensated by Flatout Flatbread for this post, however the recipe and views are our own**

There Goes My Hero–No, MINE!

Stop me if you’ve seen or heard this scene unfold:

*Toys strewn about on the floor. Your kids playing quietly next to each other. Then it happens. They both reach FOR THE SAME TOY*

“No, that is MINE. It’s for BIG kids, like me. You can’t play with it!”

*Insert crying kid here*

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Aside from the fact that IT IS MY LIFE right now. Ok, it’s my life all the time. It also WAS my life growing up. What, that’s impossible, you say. Nick, I’m sure you and your siblings got along famously and shared toys like little angels… To which I reply: Have you met the Browne siblings??? Perhaps you haven’t. But, many times, it was like Mad Max in our basement. You give me that toy RIGHT NOW OR ELSE. Tiny kid rumbles ensue. Really pleasant memories here, you guys.

Need more examples? Of course you do. I don’t recall the year. But, I was a kid. It was Christmas Day. In our family, for a long time, we didn’t unwrap presents. They were laid out in individual piles, unwrapped. So, as soon as we would come down the stairs and turn towards the living room, we would see just what presents we had received. One year, a toy that I REALLY wanted and asked for specifically was in my brother’s pile of gifts. And I threw a fit. Why? Because it was on my list. Duh.

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It was MY toy. I asked for it. I wanted it. It should have been for me, right? Talk about ungrateful… I deserved a worse punishment than I received. That’s the honest to goodness truth. I shouldn’t have thrown a fit, I knew eventually my brother would share with me. And he did. Like, that day. Lesson learned (for a day).

Fast-forward to today where I’m the parent. Sophia and Maddie are at the ages where they both like the same toys, but Maddie isn’t quite up-to-speed with how to handle all the toys that Sophia plays with. But, she still wants to play with them anyway. So, they fight over them. Tears. Screams. SO MANY TEARS.

Honestly, as a way to remedy this, we have been looking for toys they can both play with. Together. Let them team up sometimes. You know how in the Marvel Avengers movies, they bring the characters together to fight as a team, but then they spin off into their own independent franchises, as well? That’s what we’re looking for here. Play with each other some of the time. Other times, be the hero on your own. Makes sense, right? Well I thought so…

And, something that can give Maddie the experience of playing with toys that may not be in her age-range but she can still get enjoyment out of. Plus, if we get them the same toys, that kinda sorta maybe saves us some money. So, that’s a win, too, right? Right.

Quite honestly, that is one of the reasons that we loved the PLAYSKOOL HEROES product line. For Sophia, it lets her play with toys that are meant for her age, while also letting her play with some characters that she’s just starting to understand. Like Iron Man and Transformers Rescue Bots. Plus, who doesn’t love the Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic World?

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For Maddie, who has no idea who these characters are, it just gives her the chance to scream “RAWRRRRR!!!” and have the T-Rex eat Iron man because, well, reasons.  It’s just good fun for both of them.

Check out more on the totally and awesomely fun line below.

Marvel Super Here Adventures Iron Man Armor Fortress Playset

Geared for kids ages 3-7, this set lets kids unleash their inner-Tony Stark. They can re-enact favorite movie scenes or create their own!

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Transformers Rescue Bots High Tide Playset

Geared towards kids ages 3-7, this set was inspired by the hit animated TV series TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS. This set is definitely more than meets the eye.

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Jurassic World Tyrannosaurus Rex

Geared towards kids ages 3 and up, the Jurassic World playset lets little hands get a handle on big-kid toys. Complete with a T-Rex that growls and gobbles with sweet light-up eyes and head-chomping action, kids can unleash their inner beast.

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For even more #PlayskoolHeroes action, follow Hasbro on all of their social channels:

Instagram: @Hasbro

Twitter: @HasbroNews

Facebook: Facebook.com/Playskool

*Thanks to Playskool Heroes, who compensated me for this post, for letting me re-live some traumatic toy-related memories*

Do You Wanna Play Repeat?

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We’ve all been there. Hanging out with a sibling, or a friend, or that random dude at the bus stop that won’t stop talking to you because reasons–and they start with “hey, do you, uh, wanna play repeat??” And you reply, nicely “no, I’m good. I hate that game.” So, you think that’s the end of it, right? Big old bag of NOPE. “No, I’m good. I hate that game.”

You try to back your way out of the game that you very clearly do NOT want to be playing. “Seriously, can we not do this right now?” And because they’re your friend or brother or sister or stranger-du-jour they ignore you “seriously, can we not do this right now?” And on and on and on it goes for a solid 20 minutes. It ends when you either walk away or push them in front of a bus. Whichever is easier.

Why am I talking about one of the most annoying games ever? Well, considering that Sarah and I are currently living through a never-ending game of repeat, it seemed pretty apt. No, Sophia isn’t repeating everything we say. Why would you ask that… No, what is actually happening is that Maddie is learning everything she possibly can from Sophia. And repeating it. Or copying it. Like, every.little.thing. Good, bad, other, if big sister is doing it, you can bet your ass that little sister is following suit.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for some things. Like, brushing her teeth. Or going on the swings. Or running around the yard. Or trying something new and different. It’s pretty awesome when she does that stuff. I love it. When she tries repeating words that she so obviously can’t say, it’s beyond adorable. I’m pretty sure Sophia loves it, too. Unless I’m reading things the wrong way when she says “Stop copying me, Maddie!” But, I’m pretty sure that means she’s enjoying it. Right? Right.

Then, there are the things that I wish she wouldn’t be copying. That high-pitched squeal when she’s upset at not getting her way? PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T DO IT AGAIN. Throwing herself on the floor for a tantrum, jumping on or off the bed, hitting me because I SO OBVIOUSLY did something wrong (sorrrrrrrrrrry that I said you can’t go sledding down the steps). Those are the times where maybe not repeating every.single.thing Sophia does would be cool. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Oh. Oh, it is? I wasn’t aware of that.

In all honesty, it’s pretty damn funny watching Maddie play repeat all the time. There have been plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and I’m sure those are going to continue. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go ask that guy over there if he wants to play repeat…

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Call Me a Babysitter One More Time

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There’s this notion. This little bit of language that people use when they see a dad out and about with their kids–alone. What is it? It’s the idea that because there is no mother present that the dad is babysitting. Have you run into this situation before?

You’re walking through the mall, or Target, or are at the park with your kids in tow. And a stranger stops you.

“Oh, your kids are so cute. How’s Daddy doing babysitting you?”

Or, you’re out in public and one or all of your kids are having a meltdown. Someone approaches.

“Don’t worry kids, mommy will be back soon.”

It has happened to me. Thankfully it hasn’t happened a ton. But it has happened enough that it pisses me off to no end. I’m sorry? Did you just ask me if I was babysitting MY OWN KIDS?! Walk away. Walk away now.

This isn’t something that was planning on writing about, to be honest. But it’s long been something that annoys the hell out of me. Yesterday I read a post on Scary Mommy that is asserting the same thing that I am–and it really got me thinking about the subject again. Admittedly, I don’t usually care for most of the content that Scary Mommy puts out. But this one? It hit the nail on the head and I was really glad they published it. Dads are not babysitters. We are parents.

Is there somebody else giving me money that I am not aware of to take care of my children? That’s a big bag of nope! If someone wants to give me money, though, that’s cool. I like money.

But Nick, you say, why is it so bad to ask a dad if they are babysitting? They don’t mean anything by it. No. Just no. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t trying to be insulting or aren’t trying to insinuate that I’m less of a parent than my wife. But guess what? That’s exactly what you’re doing. I bust my ass to be the best damn dad I can be to Sophia and Maddie. And I’m damn proud to be their dad. If you haven’t noticed by the things I’ve written or the insane amount of pictures, quotes, and videos that I share of them, being a dad is my life. So, if you want to devalue that by calling me a babysitter, we’re going to have a problem.

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That’s Chris Routly from Daddy Doctrines, proudly rocking his shirt from the National At-Home Dad Network. Image courtesy City Dads Group.

Look, I’m not saying that I’m going to explode in your face if you call me a babysitter. But you’ll get a death stare from me and probably a few words that you’ll wish I hadn’t said. Stop perpetuating the archaic stereotype that dads are the lesser of the parents. Guess what? Parenting is typically a team sport. And the team is usually 50/50. So, call me a dad, a father, ask me how my day of parenting my kids is going. Just don’t call me a babysitter. You’re better than that.

Sharing My Struggle

11017500_796305033756995_4362691894724985392_nI’m not one to get overly-serious when I write in this space. Do I complain? Yes. Do I bemoan my screaming kids acting like tyrants? Yes, I do that, too. Right now, though, I’m struggling. And I need to get it out.

I’ve written before about feeling like I was failing as a dad. That was after a very long weekend on my own with both girls for the first time–when Maddie was still an infant. It was a tough weekend. I learned a lot from it. It made me stronger. But, right now, I feel like I’m scraping by in my role as a dad.

Perhaps it’s the age that both girls are at right now. Sophia is one of the most strong-willed four-year olds I’ve ever met in my life. And Maddie is right in that terrible twos pipeline, about to turn two next month. But, I feel beaten down. Like I don’t know what I’m doing. Like I’m being overrun by two kids. It feels like my instincts have been wrong on far too many occasions. They act up, misbehave, scream, yell, fight and I go for corrective action–it always feels like I’m doing the wrong thing.

I can feel my blood boil when they don’t listen. My patience dissipates in record time, and I feel like I could snap. I feel like I’m grasping at straws. Nothing works. I read about different techniques, ask for help, and no matter what I do, I feel like it’s wrong. I’ll tell you this much–it sucks. Being filled with self-doubt about the thing that you are most proud to be is heart-wrenching.

I want to be a great dad. I want to be someone that Sophia and Maddie can look up to. I don’t want to be someone they look at and get scared of because they think I’m going to yell. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be that dad. It seems like I’m heading in that direction and I can’t stand it. Maybe I need to look in the mirror and figure some things out, I’m really not sure. But, I feel like I’m failing.

This isn’t some new realization, either. This has been eating at me for some time now. I’ve just been doing what I always do when something is getting to me–push it down a little deeper and hope it eventually stops. It’s not the healthiest way to deal with a feeling, but it’s just what I’ve always done. It’s terrible, honestly. I’m well aware that when something like this is going on, I need to get it out. Talk it out. Get it off my chest, and figure out a solution. I’m not looking for sympathy here or to be told I’m doing just fine. I just need to get this out so that I’m not burying it.

This can’t be something that I let simmer and burn inside of me for a long time. There are too many long-term ramifications to doing that. That’s why I’m writing it out. This is as much for me as it is for anyone else. I know that I’m not the only one out there–mom or dad–that feel like they’re flailing. This is my struggle and I have work to do.

If you’re struggling too, I’d love to hear about it. How do you deal with it? Leave it in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.