Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Alan Thicke's Impact On Fatherhood

Hollywood and the world is morning the lost of a great actor, Alan Thicke who is the father of R&B singer Robin Thicke. I recently discovered that Alan Thicke wrote and sang the theme to Different Strokes. The late “Mr. Seaver" from Growing Pains, composed several well-known jingles to television shows during the 70’s and 80’s? It makes perfect sense now. Considering the musical career that Robin’s father had, it all of a sudden makes perfect sense. This kid probably had music on 24-7 in his house while growing up. It is quite naturally in his DNA to be musically inclined.

My point in all of this is that a father’s legacy is something that God gives all of us dads and we should take this seriously. Alan Thicke's kids have some of his talent genetically, but it was his commitment to fatherhood, that nurtured their talent. The many dreams and aspirations that burn deep inside the hearts of us fathers (and mothers for that matter) are not just some “silly dream.”  It is part of God’s design. I remember talking with my biological father about my career as a television producer. We were on the phone and I simply mentioned my career path and the phone went dead silent. I asked if he was still there and he said, “yes.” I asked about the silence and he said, “I can’t believe you just said that. I’ve always been fascinated by video cameras and television. I wanted to get into that line of work but never did.” I was somewhat blown away that day myself.
"Alan Thicke's kids have some of his talent genetically, but it was his commitment to fatherhood, that nurtured their talent."

You see, I didn’t grow up with my father, which means he had very little influence in my development over the years. So, there’s no way possible for me to have chosen my career path because of something he mentioned. I was well into my education and career when we had that conversation that day. There was something “hardwired” into my DNA that I apparently inherited from my father that inevitably influenced my professional goals. My wife and I can only imagine what accomplishments our daughters will achieve as they grow up with the hopes and dreams that have been transferred to them through our DNA.

Alan Thicke not only wrote music for family shows, he was very much the family man. Many have commented on how in spite of his successful career, his family knew that they were his priority. The fact that he passed away spending intentional time with is son is fitting. From his music, to his shows, and books, Alan Thicke seems to have made the most of his Dad Days. His role on Growing Pains helped shaped my fatherhood style.

So, I encourage fathers to take seriously that book, blog, or movie you keep saying you’re going to get to one day. Stop putting off going back to school to get that degree because you’re not sure how it will turn out. It will turn out fine!!! Your wife, your kids, your community, and your world need you to be everything that you were put on this Earth to be. Your Dad Days are uniquely yours!!! Go out and make a difference!!! I’ve got your back!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Be Intentional in 3 Steps

I recently hosted a Donuts with Dad event which was attended by several fathers and their kids from my community. Everyone had a good time connecting while doing crafts, playing games, and eating donuts. The gathering gave me a chance to talk with several dads from local neighborhoods that I probably would not have met otherwise. It was refreshing to see dads from all backgrounds that were connected with a common purpose...spending intentional time with their kids. These guys could've been taking care of thousand other things, but instead they were willingly getting glue all over their hands while they helped make the thankful turkey craft.
It reminded me that while it is important for fathers to be present, it is more important that they learn to be intentional about connecting with their kids. The fact that for two hours not one child cried or threw a tantrum, proves the power of the intentional dad. Dad and kid alike, blocked out everything in order to focus on enjoying the moment with one another. Nothing was more important to everyone in the room than the candy corn toss, the football toss, and making the thankful turkey craft. The kids especially had a certain level of contentment mixed with excitement to have daddy's undivided attention. The dads were equally as fulfilled.

"...while it is important for fathers to be present, it is more important that they learn to be intentional about connecting with their kids."

It's not always feasible to attend an event, like this, but it is fairly easy to find ways to let your little ones know that daddy thinks they're important. During this holiday season here are a few tips that helps me stay on top of my intentional dad game.

1.) Make Eye Contact-In a world that is ever increasingly focused on their phones, we have neglected the all important body language known as eye contact. In another post I discussed how important eye contact is when interacting with your kids. To not look a person in the eye when they're speaking leaves the other party feeling like they're not being heard. Part of being intentional means we dads must put our devices, tablets, tv's, newspapers, magazines, down to allow time for our kids to SEE that we're interested in what they have to say.  My kids know exactly what I mean when I say, "I need to see the whites of your eyes."

2.) Do Something- Kids (especially younger ones) really aren't particular about what they're doing with their parents. They're only concern is doing that dad is doing something with them. This makes it easy to start doing things with them at early ages. My 8 year old daughter looks forward to going to the gym with me. She's cool with events with my wife and her sister, but one on one gym time with me means so much to her. The key here is just do something with your kids on a daily basis. It could be as simple as reading a story before bedtime. Whatever it is that you end up doing, your kids will likely remember it forever.

3.) Talk to Them-The evening news shows just how crazy a world we live in. That's why it is important for us dads to talk to our kids regularly about what is going on in their lives. As a parent you want your child to come to you as they attempt to deal with the crazy thing called life. The only way to ensure that is to develop a lifestyle of open and honest conversations. If you start with conversations about Cookie Swirl C's newest video post when they're young, they'll naturally come to you when that boy breaks their teenaged heart. If you're not quite sure how to start talking, my friends at Family Dinner Project have some pointers for you. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 Christmas Gift Guide for All the Women You Love

If you are anything like me, shopping for the women in my life brings the most anxiety.  From deciding what to get someone who has everything to braving a shopping mall---a man's worst nightmare!

As promised in my last post, here is a list of items you can get and score big. The best part is you don't even have to step foot into a mall. These Christmas gift ideas aren't just for your significant other but several of these are perfect choices for a mother or grandmother too.  Now a word to the wise, don't get them all the same thing.   If you get the wife gift #1, then get mama option 3 or 4.  Feel me?!

 I'm hooking you up with a  link to a website so that you can purchase the item in the comfort of your home. Do your research now to get those Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

1.  Blanket Scarf --This scarf is so versatile and can be worn with almost anything.  It comes in various colors, you really can't go wrong with picking any style.  It's one size fits all.

2.  Faux Fur Vest--All things fur (per my wife) is a win for a lady this Christmas season.  If you are unsure about a full fur vest or if she already has one, go with this lovely faux suede and fur vest.  According to my wife, this style is apparently trending for this season.

Plus Size Option

3.  Custom Love Necklace --Anything custom with your children's name on it will be a hit with the lady in your life.  This necklace comes with an authentic pearl and is hand stamped with names of your choice.  You can add additional hearts for each child.  This is available in gold as well.

4.  Bissell PowerFresh 1940 Floor Steamer -- This steamer is for ceramic, tile, and wood floors.  The Bissell Steam mop cleans and sanitizes floors in as little as 15 seconds. If you have crawlers and little ones that eat stuff off the floor, this will be a priceless addition to your cleaning routine.  The removable pad is washable too.

5.  Massage---I'm not sure of what woman wouldn't love to be pampered and treated like a queen.  Let's face it most of the ladies in our lives are always taking care of someone else's needs and generally neglecting their own.  They are overworked, stressed, and tired yet they keep going.  Give them a gift of love this Christmas with a  stress free massage or day at the SPA.  This will express to them that their health and peace are important to us.  They even have couples massages that you can do together.  Perfect for an anniversary gift or Valentine's Day surprise.

Image result for spa massage

Monday, November 21, 2016

Top 4 Gifts for Dads 2016

Black Friday is almost here. If you're still looking for some things to add to your list, I've got your back. Here's my pick for the top 4 gifts that most guys will be happy about opening on Christmas morning. So send your loved ones a link to this page when they ask for your list. We'll have a list for the ladies later on.

1. Action Camera- We all know that other company that put this type of camera on the map. We also know that they are notoriously expensive. Well, that's all changing. There are a ton of different ones out there on the market these days. I am particularly biased to one company. That's because I recently got a good deal on the Activeon CX (which falls in the middle of the spectrum) $99. It recently dropped to $59.99. The announcement of  a new model () is part of the reason for the price drop for the CX model. I took it with me on a recent Carribbean vacation and it performed wonderfully. I took it underwater everyday for about 6 days. This camera has exceeded my expectations and in my opinion actually beats the high-priced competitor. For one all of the Activeon Cameras have a built-in screen. The expensive "big named" competitor is charging you $200 to purchase a screen that cuts your battery life in half. Right now, I have no need for a 4K action camera but some of you do. So for $400, you can own an awesome action camera that recharges by solar energy.  Just go Activeon and forget the competitor, trust me, they give you way more bang for your buck.
2. Drone- The whole world has gone drone crazy lately. DJI has just released a compact drone that almost fits in your pocket and can safely fly indoors. The Mavic is a game changer that can help you get the shots that will leave your audience breathless. For $1,000 (USD) you can't beat this turnkey compact drone system that includes an onboard 4K camera (stabilization system included).

3. Mirrorless Digital Camera- Ok, my job requires me to use video and still cameras. I've used plenty of them over the years but this year there is a special line of cameras that have caught my attention. Sony's line of mirrorless cameras have revolutionized the market. The Sony A6000, Sony A6300, Sony A7S, and A7R have the look of a regular point and shoot but they're discreetly packed with so many powerful features. First off, they have interchangeable lenses just like a DSLR. That's because it actually is a low profile DSLR. One of the main selling feature with these lines of cameras is that they take high quality pictures in extremely low light. These cameras produce images  ranging from 12-36.3 Megapixels, depending on the model. Sony's mirrorless line also comes with internal wifi like many cameras today. So you can easily send your pictures to your smartphone as soon as you take them. You can also get some sick video (4K depending on the model) from this baby too. The small design of this That means folks like my wife who loathes my traditional DSLR body because she thinks it is too complicated. I can easily hand one of these to her and make her think it's a point and shoot. Sony might just be the last camera you purchase. Whew! I'm done with cameras for this post.

4.)Yeti Cup- Every dad has received a coffee mug as a gift at some point. They will always have their place but, Yeti cups ($30-$40 USD) are a must have this season. These insulated all stainless steel tumblers keep your drink cold or hot for 24 hours. Since they are stainless steel it's save and there's no to be concerned about BPH contamination. There are several different varieties and dad would be more than happy to have a few of these. One for the car, one for the mancave, and one to take to the basketball court.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Championship Dads: Volume 3 (Veteran's Day Edition)

Today we celebrate the bold men and women who are serving or have served their country in the Armed Services. You are all winners that exhibit what it means to be a true champion. Happy Veteran's Day to you all. I'd like to give a special kudos to the ones who pulled "double duty" by protecting our country while also doing the same as a father. I recently, spoke with my buddy David Bradley who is currently serving in the US Navy who is doing just that.  Here's why he is Championship Dad.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Couples Getaway Tips

If a woman's work is never done, then a man is on call 24-7! That's one of my favorite sayings when I hear women discussing all that they have to do in life. 

We guys do our fair share of the "heavy lifting," (quite literally too) when it comes to life. In any good family, husband and wives both work equally as hard to look out for everyone's needs. As a man though, we have an added duty to make sure that we are proactive about getting away from it all with our wives. I'm first to say kids are a priority, but taking time to focus on one another is essential. I know guys who unfortunately, won't even take their wives to a nice restaurant, let alone a trip.  

My wife and I just got back from the Dutch Caribbean, celebrating her birthday. It was probably one of the best vacays that we've ever had. We realize how easily raising kids can put your marital relationship on the back burner. That's why we are intentional about date nights as well as getaways. There is something magical that happens when a husband and wife intentionally block out EVERYONE for 48 hours plus. Sitting there with your spouse looking at crystal clear water, perfect sunsets, and holding a tropical drink, makes is really easy to remember why you fell in love. All of the stress for the moment is gone! Yes, the movie Couples Therapy got it right! Bora Bora is the perfect backdrop to recharge your relationship (I've been there-it's great!)  I know... I know you're thinking,  "I can't afford a vacation." I hear that constantly and many cases, the opposite is true. Most of the people who say that, actually mean, "I'd rather spend my money on other stuff that isn't quite as fun or fulfilling." The truth is many of us Americans spend our extra money (potential trip money) on jewelry, video games,  and or constantly eating out, but put little to nothing aside for traveling. You have to look at it as an investment. If you can invest in the stock market, with crooked investors, certainly your relationship is worth the investment. Sure, some of you just aren't into trips, but there are a lot of guys that are. For those, I'm going to give you my tips for planning the perfect getaway. Your wife will thank you!

1. Sign Up-There are now a ton of discount travel deals to be had out there. Some folks are afraid of these but there's no reason to be.  They don't cost you anything to sign up and "window shop."A lot of these deals are for all-inclusive resorts that include hotel lodging, food, drinks, and even in some cases air fare. You find the best deals during the winter months (off peak travel season).  All you have to do is sign up and you'll get great deals delivered to your inbox each week. Here are a few of my top picks:
-Groupon Getaways
-Apple Vacations

2. Find A Travel Agent-If you'd rather leave the details to someone else, hiring a travel agent is a great way to plan your trip. The best part about using an agent is that you can totally surprise your wife by leaving all of your planning "paper trail" with your agent. Most of the agents are required to visit resorts. That means they know their destinations pretty well and can help you with stuff like avoiding a trip to Costa Rica during the rainy season.

3. Find A Sitter-It goes without saying that I'm an advocate for family vacations, however there are times the kids just need to stay behind so mom and dad can unwind. Changing diapers and cleaning up spills should be put on hold for at least one week out of the year for the both of you. I know how hard it is to pull your wife away from the kids, but it has to be done. Initially, the Mrs. might even be upset with you for trying to pull her away from her brood. Trust me, once she gets into the room with the spectacular view,  you'll be Big Daddy again! So, put aside a little extra to pay a trusted family member or a mature sitter to take care of the kiddos. 

4. Plan Ahead- The first rule of thumb to any good trip is to give yourself time. I advise people to plan their trip at least one year in advance. This gives you a chance to do your research. My wife laughs because I'm checking in on TripAdvisor daily when we're looking at a resort. I love the app because it is filled with honest reviews from other travelers. Planning ahead also allows you to coordinate vacation schedules and school schedules. It also gives you plenty of time to find the best deals. Knowing what season to travel can save you hundreds of dollars--literally. More about this later. It's always good to consider planning your trip around a birthday, anniversary, or no particular reason at all. The best reason to travel is because you want to!

What stress?

5. Have Fun-Once you've got the trip locked in and the plane tickets purchased it's now time to focus on letting the good times roll. The point of a trip like that is to have fun and show the lady in your life a good time. Do as many things on your vacation that you CAN'T do back at home. Those memories that you make with just the two of you will help spark that fire you thought was gone or fully engulf the fire of love. I recently saw someone on TripAdvisor complaining about having to pay for Wi-Fi in their rooms at a nice Caribbean resort. I don't know who spends good money to go to paradise filled with water activities, food, drinks, and beaches to gripe about wifi. If wifi is at the top of your complaints on vacation, you've already missed the point. Vacations are made for zero stress and infinite fun. 
The Floating Bridge in Curacao
Photo Courtesy: Michael Vandrunen Photography

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Championship Dads Volume 2

The USA won 121 medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio this past summer. Americans young and old cheered on the athletes who gave it all they had at every event. My girls were especially elated to watch Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and Simone Manuel compete. Of course, now they're eager to be gymnasts and swimmers. It made me wonder, what I'd been doing over the past 8 years of their lives, that they might be emulating. It reminded me of why I'm passionate about fatherhood and why helping other fathers make the best of their Dad Days is so important. Sports athletes are great, but dads are the real MVPs in their kids lives. Check out the video for Volume 2 of Championship Dads for more of my thoughts about all of this.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

5 Keys to Traveling with Kids

Summer is almost over and if you're like most people that end of the last family vacation before school start is high on the priority list. As a matter of fact we just returned from our end of the summer trip. To say that traveling is something my family enjoys is an understatement. Before my wife and I had kids we took 3 cruises in one year. We throttled that back on the amount of travel a bit once the babies got on board, but we still manage to include them in our getaways every year. I know, you might think traveling with little ones sounds like it's more stress than it's worth, but let me assure that the opposite is true. Family vacations will help create memories that your kids (and you) will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Through the years we've learned some things that worked and some other things that didn't work so well while traveling. Here are some notes from our playbook.

1. Plan Ahead-Part of the reason many people I know don't vacation (let alone with kids) is because they don't plan. Not many of us can just up and take that perfect family vacation tomorrow. Meeting the needs of everyday life at times prevents that from happening. There is something to be said for the vacation club account that your granny used to put money in every pay period. Instead of eating out as much or buying that new Iphone as soon as it comes out, tuck that money away for travel. There are many discount deals to be had on Groupon Getaways, Travelocity, and Living Social, but getting them in advance is key. You should also look for destinations that have something for the entire family when you're making plans. There are certain places that my kids would be totally bored in. This is where being engaged and knowing your kids' interests is vital.

2. Make Getting There Fun-One of the challenges that has always been associated with trips with kids, is the dreaded, "Are we there yet??" or "How much longer?" line of questioning. Being constantly interrogated by your five year old can easily kill your vacation vibe. So, it is important to be ready to entertain your brood during the journey. We always have each kid equip with their fun backpack. Some of the things you'll find in them include, books, magazines, portable gaming systems/tablets, and a camera. The key here is making sure that you don't let your child blow through all of the objects in their backpack within the first hour of your road trip or flight. You're in trouble if you do. You have to stay engaged with what they're doing and help them space out their activities. One of the other options that will help is to play games. My girls love the alphabet game, where you find word that begins with each letter of the alphabet on a sign. I Spy is their second all time favorite.

3. Lean on Technology-Letting your kids veg out on tablets and phones on your vacation might seem counter intuitive, but technology can be a great resource if used wisely on vacation. For example, we've used Google Maps and the plane locator to help our kids keep track of which state we were traveling across. My wife even prepares worksheets and photo projects ahead of time for them to complete once we get to our destination.
With so many cameras at our disposal, taking pics of all of those fun vacation memories is something we encourage. Vegging out on devices is ok during travel to our destination but once we arrive they're limited to capturing the ocassional selfie .

4. Night Travel- Whether you have younger kids or older kids, taking that trip at night might be your best bet. Hearing those constant questions like, "How much longer?" or "Are we there yet?" can really injected extra stress into the situation. The remedy...,get on the road or book that flight at bedtime. This will guarantee you get a much needed dose of solitude. Of course if you're driving, then I'd advise taking off from work a day early so that you can get rested up for your nocturnal journey. If your wife is an night owl, it could also give you both a chance to check in with one another without kid interruption.

5. Invite Family or Friends-Getting away with your nuclear family is vital, but traveling with extended family or friends is equally important. I have friends who just returned from their family reunion in London, England! The crazy part is none of them are from the UK, but their family just decided they all wanted to experience Great Britain together. They know firsthand, how family bonds can be strengthened by vacationing together. So, don't always leave grandma or auntie behind when you head to the islands. Get an extra ticket or room so that she can continue making memories with you and your kids.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Championship Dads Vol. 1

Championship season is here. The Penguins just took home the Stanley Cup. Within the next few days the battle between Lebron and Steph will be over. This year's NBA Champs will hold up the trophy signifying that they're the best in the league. At the same time this coming Sunday, many days will hold up something special from their kids signifying that they're the greatest dad in the game. As we gear up for Father's Day, I want to kickoff a series of videos I put together highlighting a few Championship Dads that I'm connected with. My friend David will kick things off. He works many hours in the medical field but he still keeps his wife and kids a priority each day. I hope his insight inspires you to make the most of your Dad Days.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When Two Feels Like A Crowd

When my youngest daughter was born it was understood that she and her sister would become "besties" that would share everything. This has definitely been the case for most of their lives. They've shared toys, clothes, and their room. They were virtually inseparable from the first time that they met. Recently, all of that began to change. As their personalities have emerged, their differences have become really noticeable. This means our parenting has been forced to evolve as well. Previously, my wife and I had our parenting game on autopilot. It was pretty much a safe bet that our girls loved doing everything together. Currently, we're dealing with one kid who is displaying the traits of an introvert and the other showcasing extreme extroverted tendencies. As many of you probably know, this can be like oil and water mixing at times. I am very proud of the way that my oldest has expressed her desire to do some things apart from her little sister. 

"After all, the whole point of family is to experience life together." 

It's not that she doesn't lover her sister, it's just that being homeschooled with her, playing with her, and eating lunch together everyday warrants a change of pace every now and then.  At times, I've been so focused on work and making sure I'm being involved with my family, that I'd overlooked their need individualism. My wife has been so focused on their education that the need for individual time easily slips by. We are both now fully aware of their need for independence. So, in order to help our kids be more balanced, we regularly implement the following: 

1. Daily Me Time: My family and I do things together as a family on a daily basis. While we all enjoy our time together, there is still a need to do those things they make us happy as individuals. So, we're more aware about giving that to our kids (yes even the extroverted child). We try to work in at least 1 hour a day to do something on their own without their sibling. This could be as simple as reading a book alone in their room or working on artwork.

2. One on One: As the leading man in my daughters’ lives it's important to nurture my one on one relationship with them. Since my wife works at home as a homeschool teacher, it's important to give her a break as well as the kids. So, I take each daughter for a treat or their favorite meal without their mom or sister on a regular basis. This usually ends up being about once a month. We talk about whatever is on going on in each other's lives. The conversations are happy and other times challenging. Regardless, of the mood, I can see each daughter emotionally recharge during our special time together. Not only does it give me a chance to have uninterrupted bonding time, but it also gives the other sibling a chance to be an individual. They feel safe to be themselves with me without interruption from the little sister or big sister. Often times, I've learned that some tantrums are just my kids' way of crying out for some one on one time. This one on one time is my daughters' first attempt at expressing themselves to a man. Please Lord help me to get this right!

3. Encourage Different Interests: At one time we signed our kids up for the same recreational activities. At their current ages, we see that playing a particular instrument might not be what the other one is interested in. It's ok if one kid excels at sports and the other one prefers art. Yes, juggling multiple practices and recitals can be challenging to parents, but that's the part of the parenting package.

4. Work Through It: Most of the time siblings have to just work through it when they feel "crowded out" by one another. All of the suggestions above can be in place, but let's face it, there are some days that family still just works your nerves. The most united families are made up people with very different personalities that don't always gel. So you figure out how to respectfully create healthy boundaries so everyone can feel the love. At my house that means the girls take turns pretending to be Barbie's mom. Successful families create ways to allow each other to be interdependent as well as independent. Healthy families need both. After all, the whole point of family is to experience life together. Co-existing means you don't have to do the same thing the same way all of the time. There should be equity in our families where everyone's interests get to be experienced by all. I'm not a crafty person by my wife and daughters are. Just the other night we all sat down to work on the girls' scrapbook for family night. Some of the best memories take place when all of the family is together (or apart temporarily), allowing one another the freedom to be themselves-even if it means doing things we might not enjoy for the sake of the other. In the end it's worth it because you've worked through life together as family

Sunday, March 6, 2016

What Your Face is Telling Your Kids

There's never a day when my mind isn't racing a thousand miles per hour. I find myself constantly thinking about all of the places I have to be or what is left on my to do list. Sometimes it's hard for me to turn off my brain to focus once I get home. There have been times when I was mentally stuck at work but I was physically at home. My kids have asked me questions that I answered with my mouth, but my face told them that I'm not interested. The truth is, I'm very interested in what my kids have to say all of the time, but my face is telling them a different story. Just the other day, at the stop light my daughter told me that she couldn't get her seatbelt fastened. The light had just changed, so I said, "sure, "put the car in park and reached back to help her. I could literally feel her awkwardness with having to ask me to do something that she'd done so many times before. I'm certain she was thinking back to another time when she asked me to help her and I made it seem like a burden.

"We as parents need to always be aware of not just what we say with our mouths, but also with our body language."

This time I was so focused on spending time with just her that I was fully of aware of what she needed. This was only about 10 seconds in the car but a lot of information was exchanged in those moments. I noticed how intently she was studying my face as I reached back to snap her seatbelt. It was almost as if she was looking to read my facial expressions to see if I was upset about it. When I became aware of this I threw her a nice smile, which she returned. As I turned back around to go through what was now a green light, I started to wonder how many times in the past 6 years she had been reading my expressions. I thought back to a paper I wrote on nonverbal communication in college several years ago. The most shocking thing I learned from that project was just how much of our  nonverbal communication other people rely on.  My seatbelt incident was a reminder of this fact. The consequences are a little more up close and personal because in this phase of life it relates to my daughters. Our kids are constantly trying to figure out our moods through the look on our faces. It's almost like they aren't socially developed enough to interpret words quite like they are to read our raised eyebrows, curled lips, or a look in our eyes. Think about it, they've been reading our nonverbal cues since they took their first breath. Researchers show that this innate desire continues through adulthood. Studies have also shown that human beings attribute about 55% of all communication to nonverbal cues. We as parents need to always be aware of the not just what we say with our mouths but also with our body language. Raising two girls, I get a lot of practice at being a "self-made psychologist."  Several times, my sweet little ones have come to a conclusion about me for nothing more than an expression I made. As a responsible parent, it is part of my duty to communicate with them so that understand the confusing world of both verbal and nonverbal communication. Here are 4 ways that I'm learning to be a better nonverbal listener with my kids.

 4 Keys to Becoming a Better Nonverbal Listener

1. Connect Intentionally- One of the things that has tremendously challenged our relationships over the past several years has been the increase of the amount of tasks we can accomplish with our mobile devices. With these new tasks, it is so easy for us to always be connected to a device at any given time of the day. Each email notification, Facebook post, Snapchat post, or Tweet can send a direct message to our kids that they're not that important. Just the other night during family movie night my daughter asked my wife and I to put down our phones and watch the movie. My first response could've easily been, "I pay the bills in this house," but she was right. Our bodies were in the room but our body was telling them that we weren't really interested in the movie they wanted to watch with us. Some times just putting our phones in another room so that we can fully engage will do wonders for our kids. I personally think that during the few times my kids act out emotionally, could have to do with a feeling of being disconnected from mommy or daddy. I have to constantly make sure that I engage and connect with them intentionally throughout the week.

2. Intentionally Disconnect-It's important to give kids their time, but I feel it is equally as important for them to see you being fully engaged with something/someone other than them. They must understand boundaries and that the world doesn't revolve around them all of the time. The best way to do that is to spend face to face time with other people in your life. When they see my wife and I working on a home improvement project or serving at church it shows them a whole new realm of life. Recently, my wife politely asked one of my daughters, "Daddy has been away from me all day, could you to please allow me some time to speak to him?" Of course, my little one agreed and went on her way. My wife then turned back to me to continue our conversation. Setting those boundaries will curb some of the innate selfishness that kids are naturally born with.

3. Eye Contact-No matter what your kids are discussing it is vital that you give them eye contact on a regular basis. Now that's hard to do when they're jabbering in the backseat while on highway 13, but when possible stare them down. I tell my kids from time to time, "I need to see the whites of your eyes." They know that means we haven't had a chance to talk face to face that day. Everyone feels appreciated when they have the undivided attention of their loved ones. Yes, at the moment you might not care to hear about all of the character's names in Zootopia, but it's important to your child. So, why not just look them in the eye and let them know that you hear them?

4. Know When to Hold 'Em-A big portion of a child's development involves physical touch. When life seems ridiculously overwhelming, some times the little people in our house need a loving hug from us big people. This crazy world we live is becoming crazier than it ever has and our kids need to know that we are a safe place that they can come to. It's not easy for some of us dads to do the mushy huggy thing, but all kids at some point need their daddy to affirm them with a hug, kiss, or pat on the back. As we connect with them over the years, they'll teach us our own nonverbal signals and we'll just know when they need our affection. This is true for the 4 year old as well as the 40 year old kid. The Dad Days never end!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day Stress Disorder

Photo courtesy:
Recently, Stacey Dash made an outrageous comment about getting rid of Black History Month. Now I do not agree with her on this, but I do feel like we should get rid of Valentine's day. A lot of us guys think this day is nothing short of ridiculous. Just when you catch your breath from Christmas, someone comes up with the bright idea to have Valentine's day. Thanks! Here come the jewelry ads with the "perfect" guy handing his girl a box...she opens it and she beams with joy and gives him a big kiss. Next comes the annoying jingle ..."Every kiss belongs to_ _ _" or "He shopped at J _ _ _ D." Then comes the glaring eye from your significant other who just watched the same commercial. No words are spoken but you've been around long enough to know the "Why Can't You Do That" look. Now, the pressure is on. 

Even though, most of us men would love to cancel this day, we still roll up our sleeves like true world class lovers every year to try and wow her. Come February 13, we will converge upon Walmart's card aisle like true Love Minions leaving nothing behind but a trail of stepped on empty envelopes. We will sweat out our shirts when the hostess informs us that there is a 4 and a half hour wait for that romantic dinner we promised her. Personally, I've done well over the past 12 Valentine's days that I've shared with wifey. I'm sure she'd agree that I've treated her like the queen that she is, but I like most men have experienced my share of Valentine's Day Stress Disorder. 

VDSD is that traumatic feeling of intense pressure involved with trying to figure out what to get her. Ladies don't realize how much pressure this day can put on us. Well, maybe they do, but they enjoy watching us sweat. But do we bring this stress on ourselves? I personally, think instead of focusing on this one day we should put more focus on all of the days in between Valentine's days. If we use February 14 as a "State of our Love Life" day to reflect on how well we showed love over the past year, most of the stress will go away. Many women hold Valentine's Day in such high regard because they feel like it is the only day that their man will put forth any romantic effort. I get it. The notion that the true extent of a man's romantic prowess hinges on this one day is absurd. It is the retailers that feel the love on Valentine's Day. My wife actually forbids me to give her roses on Valentine's day mainly due to the ridiculous price mark up. She's actually happier when I give her flowers on any other day knowing that I also saved a few bucks. 

I'm telling you guys, we can free ourselves from Valentine's Day Stress Disorder once and for all if we learn the art of romance throughout the year. Let's remember that God is the creator of love and His word shows us how to love properly with no commercial interruptions. Here are 3 keys to romance that you can use throughout the year that will drain the stress out of February 14.

1. Read The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman- It is an easy read that shows explains how you and your spouse interpret and receive love. My wife made me read this book before she would agree to marry me. The concepts continue to help us understand each even up until this very day. Presenting her with a His and Hers book and a commitment to read it together could be the only gift she'll need this Valentine's Day.

2. Play Together-Do something at least once a month with your woman that you don't necessarily enjoy, but she does. Most women will be blown away by this act of service. This will also give you some leverage for her to return the favor by doing something you like to do as a couple. If you go all out throughout the year Valentine's Day begin to feel overrated to her.

3. Celebrate Milestones-If there's ever a day that is worth going all out then it is your significant other's birthday. Going all out for birthdays shows the wife and kids just how glad you are that they were born. Check out my previous post on this topic. It is always good to celebrate other milestones of course like promotions, graduations, etc.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

5 Benefits of Eating Dinner as a Family

Family Crab Feast
It's 2016 and it seems like our fast paced lifestyle never lets up. Some days as soon as I get done with work at 4pm, I'm zipping home for a quick bite to eat before rushing off to make my next all important meeting by 5pm. Oh yeah, on the nights that I'm actually off from after work meetings, there's sports practice, or some random friend that needs a hand. Before you know it, 10:57pm has arrived and it's time to get some shut eye. If you've ever felt out of sorts about finding that work life balance, you're not alone. The majority of families in America think it's not the norm to have dinner together on a regular basis. I feel like I'm constantly, doing a self-check to make sure I'm balanced in that area. Surprise medical bills and work demands make it hard to remember that work is not life. At the same time if you don't work, your life will be off track in many areas. So how do you strike just the right balance and stay connected with your family in 2016? I think the answer is dinner!
My wife and I made connecting a priority early on in our marriage. We put a great emphasis on shutting out the rest of the world during dinnertime/date night. Almost 12 years and 2 kids later, we still treat the dinner hour as something sacred. Now, you might be saying, I live in the real world and don't have time for that! Guess what? I live in the real world, as does the President. Recently, I watched President Obama's appearance on the reality show Bear Grylls. In that episode, he talked about how he now spends more time with is family than he ever has.
Mr. Obama stated, "It's actually my joy, my pleasure, because if I've had a day full of world nonsense, for me to be able to come home and just listen to the girls and let them tell me about their day, it just gives me a whole new perspective and renews me." 

Wow! The most important man in the free world finds his way home for a family dinner each night to connect with the ones that mean the most to him! Now obviously, no one can be home every night but the point is to make family dinner a priority. My family and I don't eat together 7 nights out of the week, but we do manage to enjoy  most of our meals together as a family each week. The majority of our meals happen at home, but we do go out as a family a couple of times a month (usually on the weekend). The point here isn't necessarily quantity but quality. If you can't do dinner together 5 nights out of the week, start with one. Any amount of intentional dinnertime (lunch and breakfast count too) you invest around the table with your family means more to them than you know. Check out a few benefits of eating with your loved ones.

1. Emotional Connection-We play the "High- Low" game after dinner. Whoever gets done eating first has to tell everyone about the High (best) part of their day and the Low (worst) part of their day. Our kids even added a new category-the silly part of your day. Each person takes turns. In the end we all feel a little closer to one another because we hear about something that happened in one another's "world."

2. Learn Together- Nothing makes a bond tighter than trying a new recipe with your wife and/or kids. There's never a time when my girls don't want to help fix a meal. The beauty is one day soon, they will completely take over the dinner duty!

3. Emotional Security-Kids who have regular dinner with their dad feel more stable emotionally. According to the 2012 Journal of Adolescent Health, these kids achieve higher in school and are less likely to do drugs or become promiscuous. 

4. Relaxation-We all have to eat on the go sometimes, but there's nothing quite like being able to enjoy a meal minus the stress. With all the craziness in your life, you deserve 30 minutes to an hour each day to be enjoy your food and those around you. I promise that you will feel less stressed if you make this a regular habit. 

5. Healthy Eating-If you're preparing a meal at home, it's most likely going to be healthier than fast food. If you're planning the meals together,  you tend to me more aware of whether or not the meal is balanced. So, family dinner could actually help you live longer!

If you want to see how other families are making the commitment to spend more meal time with their families, visit The Family Dinner Project, and let the fun begin.