Never wrecking ball a little girl’s birthday

Some Wonder Woman party dresses are simply worn. Some are EARNED. This is the story of one brave birthday girl who survived a real-life Attack of the Dad (me, by accident) and kept on partying.

Let me start at the beginning.

I guess my son is a bit of a trendsetter. His birthday party and always-Batman fashion choices helped inspire a preschool classmate to have a Pump It Up party of her own. The theme: Wonder Woman.

Pump It Up is a huge indoor collection of inflatable play structures. We’ve visited a few times, and Champ has a favorite: A dome with four platforms and a giant, swinging foam ball suspended from the ceiling. He calls it “the big red ball machine.”

So when we arrived at the party, he went right in. Other kids were still arriving, and I felt bad that my son was all alone in the bouncer. One of the bigger boys from his class joined us, and we started swinging the wrecking ball around.

Then the birthday girl got in. Here’s what happened next:

Yep. I wrecked the party in the first five minutes, and somebody caught the whole thing on video. I added the Miley Cyrus for effect. I pretty much had to. Continue reading Never wrecking ball a little girl’s birthday

Teen Titans Go! Series 1 blind bag codes

We’re opening more toys, and the Hobbit is making her onscreen and voiceover debut in an all-new video about the Teen Titans Go! blind-bag mini figures from Mattel.

What’s a blind bag? You can catch up here.

Teen Titans Go! is a goofball show on Cartoon Network about a team of young superheroes lead by Robin. They often fail at protecting Jump City from B-list villains because they’re too distracted by burgers and burritos. Needless to say, I identify. Continue reading Teen Titans Go! Series 1 blind bag codes

I raised my son to love pineapple on pizza, and you need to be OK with that

I live in a carefully curated thought bubble where woke bros and social justice warriors nurture each other’s uniqueness through tolerance and understanding. Recently, however, my you-do-youtopia was shattered when all of social media erupted into an all-out war on one of life’s great joys: pineapple pizza.

Let me back up.

Pizza time at my house can be tricky. The kids are picky. My wife can’t eat tomatoes. But pizza is the only thing I feel like eating about 90 percent of the time, so I’m determined to find a pie that pleases everyone.

Enter Barro’s Pizza, my longtime favorite delivery joint, which recently opened a new location just a couple miles from our house. These local legends are known for their pillowy crust, ample mozzarella, heavenly chunks of Italian sausage and impossibly cheap lunch specials.

They even accommodate a mom’s unique food intolerance with tomato-free specialty pies, including the Hot Wing Pizza (wing sauce) and an off-menu white pizza (olive oil base). The masterstroke came a few years ago when Barro’s introduced the Kona Pizza — chicken, teriyaki sauce and pineapple with mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Continue reading I raised my son to love pineapple on pizza, and you need to be OK with that

Chef Boyardee and the Justice League: No meatballs for girls

What do my kids eat these days? Buttered noodlesEggo waffles. The occasional Wonder Woman sandwich. Mac & cheese. Quesadillas. McGriddles (yeah, we got back together with McDonald’s).

It’s a limited menu, and I’m always looking for ways to mix it up. Lucky for us, the Justice League of America has joined forces with Chef Boyardee to bring us Super Hero Shapes pasta!

And it’s not just Batman, Superman and the Flash. Joining the fight against boring pasta shapes are Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (cue that awesome theme music from Batman v Superman). Good luck finding a female superhero on a Marvel food product.

We snapped up several cans when we first saw these at the grocery store, mostly the ones featuring Batman but also Supergirl and Wonder Woman. That’s when I noticed the weird difference between the “boy” and “girl” cans. Continue reading Chef Boyardee and the Justice League: No meatballs for girls

An ironic iPhone Christmas miracle

The young woman at the Genius Bar said there was nothing more she could do. My daughter, 3, was sleeping awkwardly on my shoulder while my son, 5, fidgeted and looked around the Apple Store. It was his phone, a hand-me-down from me.

For $270-something, I could get a refurbished iPhone 5S to replace it. I also considered something fancier, like a new iPad Mini ($400), but that decision could wait. Dejected, we wandered around the open-air mall in a far-flung corner of town. I bought some Yankee Candles, and the kids spent their Halloween money on plushies at Hallmark.

The phone had died when it ran out of battery during an update. I had docked it on a clock radio that, it turns out, wasn’t charging. I tried to restore it using my home computer but kept getting an error. The Apple Store didn’t have any special tricks.

So I spent the month of November kicking around ideas to replace my son’s phone. He used to spend his screen time watching toy videos on YouTube. More recently, he has developed an interest in games like Batman Doodle Jump. He also has an eye for photography, and you can see some examples on my Instagram.

Kitt took this photo of me and Thor napping yesterday. Naturally I applied the Slumber filter.

A photo posted by Tim Agne (@timagne) on

The answer came on Black Friday: An Amazon Fire 7 tablet for $33. The add-on microSD card cost $15 but came with a $20 Shutterfly credit, so really it saved me five bucks I would have spent printing Christmas cards. I had to pull the trigger — how could we expect to survive holiday travel if one kid is device-less?

All this arrived in a Champ’s stocking on St. Nicholas Day, sort of a mini-Christmas that my family has always celebrated on December 6. Growing up, St. Nicholas Day usually meant a bunch of candy, a new toothbrush and, later, a new videogame to get us through to Christmas.

Nowadays, St. Nicholas usually brings movies, small toys, candy and new Christmas ornaments. I always wear my Krampus shirt the day before. I don’t expect tablets to be a regular thing.

The Amazon Fire 7 is a fine little screen for watching movies, TV shows and videos. Its interface is chained to the Amazon retail environment, and the only things you can share in the kid-friendly view are apps and digital media that you’ve purchased from Amazon, along with a dubious paid suite of entertainments called Amazon FreeTime Unlimited (I skipped this).

If my son logs into my grown-up account, he can watch and download Amazon Prime videos. I’m talking every episode of Batman: The Animated Series, which is still the best adaptation of Batman on any screen. I also found an easy workaround to download Google Play apps on the Fire tablet, but those only work in the grown-up view.

We haven’t played many games on the Fire 7 yet, but I don’t expect it to perform as well as the 3-year-old iPhone 5S. I doubt we’ll use its camera much. And I can’t bring myself to spend $20+ on a case for it (never mind what we spent on my wife’s iPad Smart Cover).

No sooner than we get this tablet, before I have time to sell my magnificent beard hair in order to buy my wife a watch chain, Apple rolls out a software update for iPhones. Just for the heck of it, I try to restore the old brick of an iPhone 5S that the Geniuses had declared dead.

I get the Apple logo. The white progress bar starts. I expect it to sputter, to throw an error code on my computer screen, but slowly it fills up. I flash back to the eve of my son’s second birthday, when I spent the night camped in a different outdoor mall to get that phone the moment it launched. My old, reliable 5S is back and ready for more Doodle Jump.

It’s a Christmas miracle. Or maybe a Krampus miracle.

I don’t know if the Amazon Fire 7 will replace the iPhone 5S as my son’s go-to device. These days, he seems to prefer our biggest TV, the Xbox One and LEGO Dimensions (a game I should write a whole post about).

And as much as I feel I should learn some kind of lesson here, it’s hard to regret spending only $28-ish on a tablet. Now it’s time to wrap up the Christmas shopping. Hey Siri, remind me to remove the fancy beard comb from my Amazon Wish List.

Congratulations Chicago Cubs, you stupid jerks

I didn’t bother telling my son that the Chicago Cubs had won the World Series as I carried him to bed tonight. Sometime during the rain delay, he fell asleep watching Batman v Superman, an appropriately angry movie for these dark times.

He had been rooting for the Cubs, in part to mess with me and in part because his grandmothers (both now estranged) had poisoned him against reason. My mom told him the Cubs had never won before, which was a lie. The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in 108 years. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won in 68 years, an equally unfathomable length of time to a 5-year-old. Continue reading Congratulations Chicago Cubs, you stupid jerks

I was all-in on bad science, and I’m sorry

I was selfish. I was arrogant. I willfully contributed to an environmental and public-health crisis that is putting my children, your children, everyone at risk. All I can say is I’m sorry, I’ve changed, and I’ll do my best to make this right.

I’m talking about antibacterial soap. Chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban have contributed to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA. They’re known endocrine disruptors that our babies wind up consuming in breast milk. They’re contaminating our water supply.

The state of Minnesota has banned triclosan, and the FDA is mulling a national ban on antibacterial soap (big update on this below). For more on the problem, check out this article from Arizona State University (go Devils).

But I’m not here to lecture you on the dangers of antibacterial chemicals. For me, the issue is personal. I remember my high-school biology teacher sounding the alarm 17 years ago, and I didn’t listen. Continue reading I was all-in on bad science, and I’m sorry

Never let go of your Pre-Dad Self

The tallest water slides in Arizona are two miles from my house. In order to ride them, you have to be a guest at the pricey Arizona Grand Resort. When some friends got married there this summer, I jumped at the chance to get a room on the cheap.

The morning before the wedding, my wife was busy because always. But her parents were at our house early to watch the kids, leaving me with a couple free hours. I buzzed over to the resort, suited up and spent a solid hour trotting up four stories of stairs and plunging down the punishing Free Fall and Roadrunner water slides.

It left me tired and bruised. It’s also the best thing I did for my mental health all summer.

Why? Because deep down, I’m still a 12-year-old boy who has no regrets about breaking his nose in a water-slide collision with his brother. Because a part of me still believes George Carlin when he says, in the opening monologue of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, that the value of a civilization will be measured by its quantity of excellent water slides.

george-carlin-rufusNow water slide boy faces a threat more dangerous than reckless horseplay. From the dark realm of mommy blogs comes a chilling mandate — Dear Pre-Mom Self: It’s time to let you go. Continue reading Never let go of your Pre-Dad Self

Instagram: Wonder Woman sandwich

The Hobbit just started going to preschool, and she asked me to cut her peanut butter and honey sandwich into a Wonder Woman shape. Using only an IKEA steak knife, this is what I made on my first try.

I need to work on my humblebrags.

She ate almost the whole thing, which is a big win. And yes, she’s allowed to bring peanut butter to class.

Also, if you like the new DC Super Hero Girls toys, you might still be able to buy the Comic Con-exclusive Katana action doll at Matty Collector. Save her for Christmas. Or just keep her in the package forever.

My four hours of useless

Hey there, jobber. Employed person. Working so-and-so. Whatever you call yourself. How would it feel if you suddenly got a four-hour break from all work activities? How about if this break became a regular thing, happening twice a week?

I’ll tell you how it feels. My son (almost 5) and daughter (newly 3) just started going to preschool at the same time. A wonderful group of teachers is imparting essential skills and molding these animals into better people with no help from this stay-at-home dad. I’m useless for about four hours, twice a week.

It’s an electrifying opportunity to catch up on elusive goals like fitness and creativity. It’s a focused moment for chipping away at big projects around the house. It’s prime time for personal errands like haircuts and doctor visits as well as boring stuff like auto repair, lunch with grown-ups and stores that don’t sell toys.

The only drag on my newfound freedom is this haunting truth: We’re paying a lot in tuition, and I don’t make any money. The longer the kids are in school, the less being a stay-at-home dad makes financial sense.

That’s why I’m resolving to make the most of every four hours of useless. Here’s what I did the first day: Continue reading My four hours of useless