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

All 8 Quentin Tarantino movies, ranked

Podcasts are a big stay-at-home dad life hack. They provide hours of free, portable entertainment. They get me through the dishes and fulfill my oft-neglected need to hear only adults talking.

Some friends of mine have a world-renowned podcast with hundreds of episodes and many thousands of listeners. I don’t often listen because it’s about professional wrestling. But the good folks at The Steel Cage have invited me to appear on two of their off-topic episodes, better known as the Unfunny Nerd Tangent.

In the latest installment, we come up with the definitive ranking of Quentin Tarantino’s films. Don’t forget, dads, that in Kill Bill Vol. 2 (pictured above), Tarantino showed us the best possible way to welcome a stressed-out mom home from work. Continue reading All 8 Quentin Tarantino movies, ranked

The most violent video game just got a dad button

Get ready to be brutally eviscerated right in the feels. Just in time for Father’s Day, Sony debuted a gameplay trailer for the new God of War on PlayStation 4. It’s a must-watch for every parent.

As you’re watching, keep a close eye on the kid. Soak up his innocence and indecision. Watch how he skips and jumps through the snow like a real boy. And at the end, watch the harshness melt from the father’s face as he guides his son’s hand.

The dad here is Kratos, star of the franchise. He’s been a dad since the first God of War hit PlayStation 2 eleven years ago. Back then he stunk at it. Tricked by Ares, He murdered his wife and daughter. Their ashes are what make his skin white. Kratos got so mad he spent three games murdering all the Greek gods.

Now Kratos has moved north to the land of Norse gods and bushy beards. He has a new lease on life, a new axe, a new son, new monsters to fight and an amazing new gameplay feature: THE DAD BUTTON. Continue reading The most violent video game just got a dad button

Father’s Day Game of Thrones: A tweet of the Dad

A handful of Facebook friends unfollowed me because they thought I was serious about spoiling Season 6, Episode 9 (59 overall). Did you know the title of the episode is a spoiler in itself?

Anyway, this tweet is pure fantasy. I’ll watch the episode at 10:30 p.m. Arizona time, four and a half hours after it first airs, an hour after we put the kids to bed and 30 minutes after I glance at a spoiler posted by someone I need to unfriend on the social medias.

I should know better by now, for the Facebook is dark and full of terrors.