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.

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

Sorry lady, my son still hates the Chewbacca mask

Attack of the Dad salutes Candace Payne, the Texas mom who treated herself to a Chewbacca mask, broadcast the joyous unboxing on Facebook live video and broke the internet.

My son the Champ is a connoisseur of online toy videos. He’s the driving force behind our YouTube channel, our sprawling Batman collection and my frequent trips to every toy aisle in town. He sidled up to me as I was watching this video today, then demanded to watch it a second time.

“Everyone likes this video because she is so happy,” I explained. That’s an understatement. This video has more than 131 million views and is the most watched video since Facebook live launched. Happy for a viral shout-out, Kohl’s bathed this family in Star Wars swag and other goodies.

Have you watched it yet? Most likely you’ll giggle right along with Payne. The Champ didn’t.

“Because it makes sound and it covers up your face,” he says. “That’s why I don’t like it.” That’s not all, though. He and this mask have a history. Continue reading Sorry lady, my son still hates the Chewbacca mask

I took my daughter into a Target restroom. What we learned about ‘Trans’ will blow your mind

Today all my social medias are blowing up about the public restrooms at Target stores. Ignoring it all, I took my kids to Target because we have a houseguest who needed some stuff. Also, we’re on the hunt for the new 2016 Imaginext toys.

After a few minutes, I heard the inevitable: “Daddy, I have to go poo-poo.” I could barely believe my little daughter. That hobbit had a good-size plopper earlier this morning. But I know better than to call a 2-year-old’s bluff.

Isn’t there some controversy I’m supposed to be worried about? I wondered, as we walked into the restroom. But we were the only people in there, so whatevs. Continue reading I took my daughter into a Target restroom. What we learned about ‘Trans’ will blow your mind

Destroy all technology and your parents will love you again

We babies of the ’80s didn’t have much competition for our parents’ undivided attention. Soap operas. Phil Donahue. Sometimes we had to cry a little louder so adults could hear us over their shoulder pads and through their perms. No problemo, as we used to say.

If my 11-month-old daughter could talk in sentences, she’d tell you kids today have it worse. Parents pull shiny toys out of their pockets and can spend an unlimited amount of time staring and tapping at the glowy part. The big TV plays whatever they tell it to. Sometimes it’s Umizoomi, which is great, but a lot of the time it’s grownups droning on in muted-trombone sounds. Like, gag me with a spoon.

So baby has a plan to win the attention war. She’s methodically testing our tech for weaknesses she can exploit. And she’s finding them.

Clever girl.
Clever girl.

Continue reading Destroy all technology and your parents will love you again

The unmanliest thing I’ve done as a stay-at-home dad

Since I’ve become a parent, I’ve done some things I wouldn’t brag about to my bros. I know the name of every Yo Gabba Gabba! character.  I squeal when my son sticks his finger in my belly button. I once went to the mall just to get a limited-edition Yankee Candle, and I bought the matching Illuma-Lid to go with it. That last one I can’t even blame on my kid.

But now my son is getting over a sinus infection, and this forced me to do something unthinkably girly.

The Champ doesn't want to blow his nose.

As a stay-at-home dad, I’m the last person who should be throwing out generalizations based on gender stereotypes. But here goes: If a woman is wearing pants with pockets, she’s got a wadded-up tissue in there. Continue reading The unmanliest thing I’ve done as a stay-at-home dad

DHA Omega-3 milk vs. the dad

I’m scowling at the milk in the Whole Foods dairy case. Mom’s not pumping at work anymore, so 1-year-old Champ gets cow’s milk, and I fill a boy up with premium. The whole point of this grocery run is to score a half-gallon of organic DHA Omega-3 whole milk.

Horizon Organic DHA Omega-3 whole milk

Yes, becoming a parent turned me into a hippie. I grew big and strong on bovine hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified sugars. It’s too late for me. But over time I began developing vague notions like “we use too many pesticides” and “God intended cows to eat grass.”

I don’t often pay the premium for organic produce, but I started buying organic baby foods because they came in cooler packages. The logical next step, I guess, is to feed a boy organic milk.

Adding DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a no-brainer because it’s the trendiest nutrient in infant brain development. If Mom can choke down DHA-supercharged prenatal vitamins every night for nearly two years, Dad can pony up a couple extra bucks of Mom’s hard-earned cash to keep the brain train rolling.

That brings us to Whole Foods. Continue reading DHA Omega-3 milk vs. the dad