reviews

Take Time for Dad Fashion with JORD Wood Watches

November 13, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

Jord Wood Watches giveaway

When I became a father, my priorities changed. I no longer had the time nor opportunity to do many of the things I deemed important pre-dadhood. Among those were sleep, basic hygiene, and wearing a watch.

I initially started going watchless* to keep from scratching my newborn when feeding and changing him. However, it quickly became more about protecting my timepieces from all of the pee, poo, barf, jelly, juice, snot, dirt and the myriad other substances that go hand-in-grubby-hand with childhood. As someone who goes by “Designer Daddy,” you can imagine this was quite a blow to my semi-stylish sensibilities.

Nowadays we’re past the diapers and puking (mostly), and my 7-year-old can hold his own juice and wipe his own butt (mostly) — so I’ve slowly been rebuilding my collection. But with so many other things vying for my attention, how does a dad find time to be fashionable?

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Designer Daddy & Kelley Blue Book Pick the 5 Best Cars for Dads

August 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Does choosing the right family car drive you crazy? Do you get confused having to shift gears between comfort, affordability and style? Does the entire process cause your brain to stall out? Do you ever tire of car puns?

Recently I was invited to the Kelley Blue Book headquarters in California, as part of an elite squad of “experts” — the KBB Dads! Our mission: choose the NUMBER ONE BEST CAR FOR DADS OF ALL TIME! Well, for 2016 at least.

Kelley Blue Book Best Cars for Dads
The #KBBDads

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Movie Review: ‘Pete’s Dragon’ Soars With Disney Magic

August 11, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

Disney's Pete's Dragon

Movie: Pete’s Dragon (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (47), Jon (6-3/4)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★★, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Ghostbusters (all versions), Despicable Me

Plot Snapshot: For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliott. Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon.

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[The remainder of this review contains mild spoilers.]

Disney’s new remake of Pete’s Dragon is a truly enchanting experience, and a welcome improvement on the rather dated original. Directed by David Lowery and filmed entirely in New Zealand, the movie is at its most magical when it’s just boy and dragon. Fuzzy, purring Elliott acts as both loyal pet and doting parent to Mowgli-esque Pete. And while I rarely think 3D is justifiable, the flight scenes alone make it well worth the extra cost.

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Philadelphia Family Fun: Our Five Favorites

April 23, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

If you’re looking for affordable family fun, look no further than Philadelphia. Our family got to spend four days with our up-the-coast neighbor; however, the first two were just me and my 6-year-old — a challenge I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. Under normal circumstances, my adventurously independent son is a handful. Now we were sans one dad, adding a train ride, a hotel stay, and a bunch of activities in a city I knew next to nothing about. Papa and I had spent an anniversary weekend years ago, focusing mainly on art museums and antiques. I knew my kiddo was having none of that, so we were in uncharted territory.

It’s also important to note that Jon was not as over the previous week’s stomach bug as I thought.

Known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia has plenty of affection for families and kids, too. We made it through the trip with lots of flying colors, great memories, and even learned a few things. And yes, there were lots and lots of trips to the bathroom.

Here are our five Philadelphia favorites — along with a score for the restrooms at each location, based on their ability to accommodate weary, middle-aged dads and a kindergartner whose bowels were constantly at DEFCON #2.

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5. THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE
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Philadelphia family fun — Franklin Institute

The initial draw of The Franklin Institute was the Art of the Brick exhibit — which did not disappoint. Yet on further exploration, the entire museum was amaze-balls, as the kids say. From the giant interactive heart, to the train factory, a planetarium, and pretty much any invention or sciencey thing you can think up — it had it all.

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An Adoptive Dad Reviews ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

February 1, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Movie: Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (46), Papa (48), Jon (6)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★, Papa ★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Big Hero 6, Ghostbusters
Daddy & Papa’s Favorites: The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Plot Snapshot: Po is living large as the hero of his village, content to “fight monsters and get high-fives from bunnies.” Two challenges soon arise to rock Po’s world: the supernatural villain Kai, who is stealing the chi of China’s kung fu masters; and the appearance of Li Shan, his long-lost biological father.

Po and Li Shan travel to a hidden village where Po meets scores of other pandas, reconnecting with his inner dumpling-eating, hill-rolling, oversleeping self. But Kai is on the hunt for our hero, so Po must train his new panda posse into fierce warriors in order to battle the otherworldly foe.

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[The remainder of this review contains plot spoilers.]

As an adoptive parent, I’ve always been interested in how movies like the Kung Fu Panda series handle the topic of adoption. I was particularly curious about Kung Fu Panda 3, as it introduces Po’s birthfather into the story. This is something more and more adoptive families can relate to, as open adoption is increasingly the norm.

I went into the film with some concerns about how they would treat the dynamic between Mr. Ping (the goose who raised Po) and his biological father. I was half-expecting a bait-and-switch, perhaps revealing Li Shan was not in fact Po’s father; or maybe Po having to choose between one family or the other.

Yet the moviemakers did a good job of resolving the family-related conflicts — which were almost entirely between the two parents, not Po.

Adoptive dad Mr. Ping seemed to struggle more with this new family dynamic — his protectiveness, mistrust, and competitiveness on full display. While I appreciated the honesty with which they portrayed these understandable (and familiar) emotions, I was glad they didn’t roost there, which might have caused some adopted kids or their parents to feel uncomfortable. However, I thought that within the confines of a 90-minute kids’ movie, they evolved the characters quite nicely.

Kung Fu Panda 3

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Toy Box Life Lessons

October 15, 2015 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE, THINGS MY KID DIGS

toys4bw2

My son’s transition to kindergarten has been more difficult than I’d anticipated. He finished preschool a confident, friendly, and bright young boy. I figured he’d just stroll into kinder (as the cool kids call it), turn on the charm, and settle right in.

Yet the first couple of months have been a roller coaster of emotions, for both of us. There are certainly plenty of good days, but also more bad than I’d hoped. The days — both good and bad — are long, a strain on his young mind and body.

My first inclination at pickup is to ask about his day…and if I sense something is amiss, to dig deeper, set it right, and dole out a life lesson on the spot. But often these attempts are met with blank stares from the weary 5-year-old in my back seat.

So when — and how — do I do my digging, setting, and doling? How do I discover what’s going on inside his scruffy little head, so I can then fill it back up with all the good stuff I want to share with him?

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Dinotrux! Netflix Original + 20 Pop Culture Mashups Ranked

September 8, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

netflix dinotrux mashup of fun & adventure

Whenever I hear about a new show or film combining one thing with another (killer robot monkeys, alien zombie bunnies, Sharknado), I automatically think of the scene in the movie Big where Tom Hanks (possessed by his younger self) sits in on a pitch meeting at a toy company. After examining a proposed toy, created entirely from market research, younger self Tom offers this critique:

“It turns from a building into a robot, right?
Well, what’s fun about that?” 

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You can’t just rip off a good idea, tweak it slightly, and automatically expect it to work. It’s obvious when “grownups” are just trying to capitalize on a trend, and when a kid (or a kid at heart) creates something truly inventive — their passion and inspiration clearly shines through.

Such is the case with Dinotrux, a new series on Netflix that successfully re-imagines the “mash-up” genre into something fun and exciting for kids and families. Based on Chris Gall’s series of children’s books, Dinotrux smooshes together dinosaurs and construction vehicles, as well as several Reptools (reptiles + tools). It’s kind of hard to believe no one had done this before!

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The 11 Most Annoying Bedtime Books of All Time

April 8, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Most Annoying Bedtime Books

You’re the parent of a young child, nearing the end of another grueling day. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s…what? A pint (or two) of Ben & Jerry’s? Some TV that doesn’t star singing animals? An adult beverage (or two)? Collapsing into bed and/or your Ben & Jerry’s?

You’ve fed, bathed, pajama’ed and toothbrushed your cherubs. You’re so close to freedom you can taste it. All that remains is story time — then you can enjoy a few precious childless minutes before you pass out and things start all over again the next day. Just. One. Book… You can do this!

But then your little one pulls their selection from the bookshelf, shuffles over and plops it in your lap. That book you hate. The one you thought you’d hidden, or donated to the school, or accidentally tossed in a dumpster. Or you’d meant to the last time it was up from rotation — but of course you were so exhausted and relieved when it was finished that it slipped your beleaguered mind. That book you hate because it’s horrible and you’re weary – and now the final few moments until sweet relief will be sheer torture.

These are those books. Read them and weep.

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Best of 2014 Kindie Music Giveaway

December 18, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

Stuff your stockings and your ears with five awesome albums from some of the hottest names in kids’ music. If you’re not familiar with “kindie” music, that’s a mash-up of “indie” and “kiddie.” It’s way less annoying than it sounds — in fact, some of it is quite good. And unlike those hideous Kidz Bop albums, these are all real musicians, playing real songs, written for real kids. And they come in every flavor/sound/color you can imagine. Check out some of my favorites from last year and a couple of soon-to-be-released/soon-to-be-favorites.

Then jump down and enter to win the whole kit and kaboodle!

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Recess Monkey 2014 Kindie Music

RECESS MONKEY – Wired

The latest release from Seattle-based Recess Monkey celebrates invention, exploration and other joys of a growing mind. As both teachers and former indie rockers, this trio continues to crank out music that appeals to kids’ imaginations, ears AND feet! And if you’re in the DC area, come experience Recess Monkey live, Sunday, January 25 at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA. Shows are at 11am and 2pm. Click on times for more info and to buy tickets.

Standout tracks: Braces, Car Wash, Brick by Brick
Listen / Purchase on Amazon

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Disney’s The Little Mermaid Ticket Giveaway!

December 17, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

Disney's Little Mermaid Olney Theatre

Disney’s The Little Mermaid has been doing gangbusters during its current run at Olney Theatre Center — so much so they’ve extended their run by 2 weeks! Here are some of the great reviews the show has been getting:

“…a solid bet for the family”The Washington Post

“a delightfully rich, spectacular production”DC Metro Theater Arts

“[a] colorful and expertly crafted delight”DC Theatre Scene

“Daddy, those fish are wearing roller skates!”Jon, age 5  [Read my — and Jon’s — full review.]
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BONUS: I’ve got 4 tickets to give away!

Enter the contest widget below before the giveaway period closes at midnight Sunday, Dec. 21. The winner will get to choose 4 tickets from performances between December 30 – January 11.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can’t wait and just want to buy tickets now?

Tickets range from $32.50 to $65 and can be purchased through the Olney Theatre Center Box Office at 301.924.3400 or by visiting www.olneytheatre.org.

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