yay toys!

Wry Baby Super Sale & Super-er Giveaway

December 5, 2013 | By Brent Almond | BABY LIKE, DADDY LIKE, DESIGNER BABY

Early on during my dad-dom, one of my favorite places to find cute/cool/clever stuff for the kiddo was Wry Baby. I even got to interview their head creative honcho and fellow designer daddy, David Sapp. The only downside is that JJ has outgrown all of their super fly get-ups — but that doesn’t mean I can’t share the wonderfulness of Wry Baby with the rest of the world!

So just in time for holiday shopping, Designer Daddy is hooking you up with info on a SUPER SALE and an even SUPER-ER GIVEAWAY! Deets on both below…

THE SUPER SNAPSUIT™ SALE!.

wrybaby_one_day_sale

ALL of Wry Baby’s snappy Snapsuits* are half off, so hurry and snap up a sackful!
Great for:
baby showers
stocking stuffers
dressing babies

One Day Only 50% OFF All Snapsuits  |  December 6, 2013  |  wrybaby.com

Begins December 6 at 12:01 am, ends December 6 at 11:59pm. Offer good for in-stock Snapsuits and Super Snapsuits only. Sorry, no rain checks or backorders.

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THE SUPER-ER SWAG GIVEAWAY!
Bypass the over-crowded, non-cool baby superstores this year… Designer Daddy is giving away a pile of FREE AWESOME STUFF! This Wry Baby Swag-A-Palooza prize package includes the following primo items:
A: Born to Be Prom King Snapsuit
B: Born to Be Prom Queen Snapsuit
C: Attack of the 50ft. Baby Stacking Blocks (baby not included)
D: Mysterio Predicts Your Child’s Future T-shirt
E: Bathe Like A Pirate Washcloth Set
Total prize package value in excess of 100 smackeroos!

wrybaby-combo-1

Do the little Rafflecopter thingie below for your chance(s) to win ALL THE STUFF and make your kiddo the hippest/happiest on the block — nay, the world! Contest runs December 5-9, 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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*In case you’re wondering, Snapsuits™ are indeed similar to Onesies.® The difference? Onesies® are a registered trademark of Gerber®. So good for Wry Baby — because nobody wants their baby getting sued.

A gay toy that pees. You know, for kids!

August 23, 2013 | By Brent Almond | BABY LIKE, LEARNING CURVES, MY 2 DADS

A wee bit ago, I got my all-time oddest product review request. It was for UBBAS bath toys, which are essentially rubber cups — somewhat people-shaped — that can hold hands, hug, and pee. They come in four varieties: Papa, Mama, Brother and Sister. Did I mention the peeing part? Because Papa and Brother UBBA pee straight out, while Mama and Sister UBBA pee straight down.

Yup, a gay toy that pees. I told you it was odd.

I OF COURSE SAID YES. Who better to review a cleverly-designed toy for kids with gay parents?

3pp

The family that pees together, um… I got nothin.

.
UBBAS Bath Cups
were created by designer Rob Spalding as a tool that offers a fun, loving representation of family for kids of same-sex parents. Each is sold separately, so I got 2 Papas and 1 Brother, natch. It’s also meant to open dialog with your kids about their bodies. You know, because of the peeing.

Now I’ve been griping since before JJ was born about the lack of books, toys, shows, etc. that portray kids with same-sex parents. It’s a large part of what motivates me to blog or do any of the advocacy I do – to make sure JJ sees other examples of families like his, so that he’s confident and well-equipped to answer questions or deal with conflicts he might face because of his unique family makeup. But I’ll admit to being a little weirded out by this toy. I’m a fairly liberal guy, but the thought of mixing same-sex parents, bath time and peeing just sounded skeevy. Not to mention a tough sell to mainstream America.

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

(Way) Back to School

August 21, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LEARNING CURVES

So I have a kid in school now. Whoever thought I’d be saying (or writing) those words? I guess up until now I’d never thought much about it. With the exception of a few months my sophomore year, I loved school, and my early school memories are full of color and letters and art and really nice, really tall teachers. But leading up to JJ starting preschool, I hadn’t had time to think about those memories. All my time and energy was spent worrying about how and where to find the right school. Private, public, magnet, charter. The only ones we could definitively rule out were of the conservative religious variety. So when we finally found one, the frenzy then migrated to figuring out work schedules, pick up/drop off coordination, and a mortgage-sized stack of paperwork. And the getting of all the stuff: new shoes, backpack, lunch bag, little Tupperware containers. Not that I didn’t love it. Because A) Daddy loves to shop, and B) kids have the coolest stuff.

But in between the searching and the deciding, we visited the school that would eventually be The One. As Papa, JJ and I walked into the brick building, down the hall covered in bulletin boards, and into what would be JJ’s classroom, all those early school memories came flooding back. So much color, so many letters, artwork everywhere; bins and jars and shelves overflowing with untold treasures.

Papa was busy asking the administrator all sorts of responsible, adult questions about money and hours of operation, while I kept an eye on JJ, who was keeping an eye on the class on the other side of the room having story time. I then watched as he walked over to a munchkin-sized table and started taking apart and putting together a group of puzzles that had been laid out, around six or so. As he was finishing the last one, I bent down to watch him more closely. It was wooden, painted in bright colors, and had ten pieces consisting of numbers zero through nine. It didn’t play a song or light up or have any buttons to push, and it didn’t teach any lessons about sharing or the environment or how to speak Chinese. Wood, paint and numbers — that was it. While the numbers weren’t perfectly formed, they also weren’t done in an annoying “child’s handwriting” font. Someone’s hands had obviously been involved at some point in the creation of this.

puzzle1

JJ made quick work of it and moved back to the first puzzle to re-start his process while Papa continued to gather vital information about our son’s education. I leaned in closer to the numbers puzzle and saw this in the bottom right corner:

puzzledetail

Wait… what? 1975?!? If I hadn’t already been awash in nostalgia I might have been concerned this school had such outdated toys for my son to play with. Back to school? More like WAY back to school. We’re talking decades… DECADES of germs. And not to mention such an antiquated teaching approach. There weren’t even any robots or multiracial children or Disney properties on it!

Yet deep in remembrance as I was, what immediately came to mind was that I could have played with this very puzzle at JJ’s age. Granted, I  would have been six, and a little old to be learning to count. But it was definitely of my era. It gave comfort to this old dad. As a father that’s grayer than most toddler dads, it’s something that weighs on me from time-to-time, both physically and emotionally. So to see something from my early school days making its way into my son’s made me feel connected to him on his new adventure. And it was reassuring — a sign, if you will — that we’d found the right place for him to embark.

The simplest tools — paint, wood, numbers, letters, paper, glue, paint, water, music, glitter, hand-raising, story time, lining up, recess, tiny tables and really nice, really tall teachers. These are what stand the test of time and truly leave their mark on young minds.

Bath Toys: When to Keep, When to Trash

August 12, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DESIGNER DADDY, LEARNING CURVES

Thanks to Netflix and Hulu, JJ has been watching bits of TNMT and Power Rangers, which induces lots of karate-chopping craziness, and which I do not love. So I convinced him we should scroll down the cool Netflix “By Character” menu, and JJ re-discovered one of his (and my) early favorites, RubbaDubbers.

Inspired by this welcome regression, your old(ish) pal Designer Daddy has whipped up this handy chart to help you cull that tidal wave of crap bath toys amassing in the tub.

Be sure and click on it to enjoy all its squeaky clean wonderfulness. And because teeny, tiny type.

bath toys when to keep, when to trash

CLICK TO BIGGEFY

Some of you may be thinking, “But what if I want to CLEAN the bath toys instead of just throwing them out?”

I have a couple of suggestions for you:
A) Ain’t nobody got time for that!
B) My pal over at The Daddy Doctrines did a post recently on cleaning nasty bath toys.

Happy scrubbing, everybubbly!

Of Butterflies, Toddlers & Backyard Safaris

August 7, 2013 | By Brent Almond | BABY LIKE, LEARNING CURVES

BUTTERFLIES IN THE WILD

On a recent rainy day, JJ and I took a field trip to one of our favorite spots in the whole Metro DC area — Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. Set inside Wheaton Regional Park, this hidden treasure was, well, hidden to us up until just a couple of years ago — even though we’ve lived in the next town over for almost a decade.

Fluttering atop the Gardens’ many charms is the Wings of Fancy Butterfly Exhibit, which has run from May to September every year since 1997. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded, so we and the butterflies were able to give each other plenty of room, while still getting some great close-up observation and photo ops.

A few highlights from our visit…
Left: JJ inspects a butterfly wing up close; Right: The disgustingly awesome rotting fruit café

deadfruit

Evil beware! It’s… Butterman? Batterfly?

wings

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

Happy Earth Day: Let’s B Global!

April 22, 2013 | By Brent Almond | BABY LIKE, DADDY DJ, DADDY LIKE

I recently checked in with B, toys, my favorite toy creators on the planet, and they asked me to try out their brand new-ish Global Glowball. Being the clever person I am, I thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate Earth Day!

globe

Looking at the Global Glowball (Their toys just have the most awesome names, don’t they?) online, I was immediately intrigued. B. toys always has top-notch playthings: colorful but not garish; creative, never predictable; exciting without being over-the-top-in-your-face. And of course all their packaging is recyclable or recycled [BONUS EARTH DAY POINTS].

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

The Injustice of Being Wonder Woman

January 28, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LEARNING CURVES, RASPBERRIES

Last year I reached my pinnacle of Fatherdom by forcing the hand (at least in my mind, anyway) of toy giant Fisher-Price into producing an Aquaman figure for their Imaginext line. But in my original suggestion posted on FP’s site, my request was for both Aquaman AND Wonder Woman. At that point, the only female character they featured was Catwoman (a villain) and I thought it a travesty DC Comics’ most powerful female — and arguably 2nd most powerful hero, period — wasn’t already included.

Fast-forward a few months and… Great Hera! The collection now features two new females: Harley Quinn (another villain) and my girl Wonder Woman! The photo on the Fisher-Price site (above) looked pretty nifty, sporting a healthy glow, super chunky bracelets and of course wielding her “Magic Wope!” So I snapped one up.

However, here’s what the actual toy looks like:

Pale skin; bubblegum pink lipstick; smooth, flat face; a blank stare… Yup, she’s a blow up doll.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But I’m not completely off base, am I?

Prior to this figure, I’d found a couple of iterations of the Amazon Princess that, while smaller than the Imaginext toys, were acceptable alternatives. JJ didn’t like playing with them, though — the legs didn’t bend, making it impossible for them to sit and frequently difficult to even stand. But compared to the new one, these feisty figures displayed more of the strength and confidence that Wonder Woman embodies — check out that “Don’t F with me, fellas!” expression or the fierce, full-body armor* and pokey sword!

Why is having a well-rounded Wonder Woman action figure so important to me? Aside from wanting my son to grow up appreciating, admiring and yes, even emulating smart, powerful women, Wonder Woman’s also the one superhero he’s actually met!

Contrary to appearances, Lynda Carter is not my child's biological mother.

Lynda Carter emceed the AIDS Walk in DC a couple of years ago, where we got to meet her briefly. This photo is proudly displayed in my office among my animation cells, prints and action figures. Having watched bits of the 70s TV show on YouTube, JJ sees this now and boasts, “That’s me and Wonder Woman!”

Am I being overly picky about a 3-inch toy? Sure. Will my son’s vacant-looking action figure influence his opinion of women as he matures? Probably not. Could Fisher-Price have taken a couple more passes at the design and given her a less pouty mouth, possibly made her a bit tougher-looking? Definitely. As the only female superhero my son plays with, Wonder Woman should hold her own — not only against Clayface, Dr. Doom and the other bad guys, but alongside Superman, Batman and Hulk as the powerhouse she is. Not the inflatable plaything this version resembles.

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

Slander on Sesame Street

November 14, 2012 | By Brent Almond | RASPBERRIES

Kevin Clash’s Accuser Calls “Take Backs”


As a follow up to my most recent post, I am happy — and honestly, quite amazed — to learn that the Kevin Clash sex scandal has gone away. Not amazed Clash is innocent, but that his accuser retracted the malicious statements about their supposed pre-legal relationship. Stories like this rarely end with the liars telling the truth or the suspicious being blameless. (I’m looking at you Petraeus. And Schwarzenegger. And Armstrong. You know this could go on forever…)

Perhaps the media cycle of scandals and supposed scandals is in such high turnover, the fact that the world learned of Clash’s homosexuality in the same breath as accusations of sex with minors will move along to the non-news aisle without a hitch. And keep fewer fools from continuing to relate the two. I’ll also be watching Sesame Workshop to see if they continue to stand by their man behind the Elmo.

So congrats, Mr. Clash! I hope before too long (after suing the pants off hell out of your ex) you’re back at work spreading love and joy and silliness to the kids of the world.

And if you wanna send some sexy emails, might I suggest a cell phone?
This one looks nice..


Making Waves! or How I Got a Major Toy Company to Do My Bidding

August 11, 2012 | By Brent Almond | BABY LIKE, DADDY LIKE, LEARNING CURVES

I’ve been buying the Fisher-Price Imaginext DC action figures for JJ for a while now. I will be the first to admit I get as big a kick (or bigger) out of them as he does. Although he DOES love them — he carts them around in a little bee lunch bag thing, takes them out and lines them up, has them fight each other, forms alliances and families, etc. And as with all things Fisher-Price, they’re super sturdy and cute as hell. (I’m a FP fan from waaaaayyy back.)

But my gripe with these toys is that they didn’t include an Aquaman figure. And anyone who knows me well realizes what a big gripe this would be. To add insult to injury, Marvel has an equally adorable (and similarly-sized) line of action figures, many of which I’ve bought for JJ as well. I grew up almost exclusively on DC Comics, but I’ve bitten the bullet for an opportunity to teach my son diplomacy and bi-partisanship. And did I mention the cuteness?

DC and Marvel in peaceful co-existence

I did find an Aquaman (and Wonder Woman) that are almost the same size. However they’re not as posable and can barely stand. JJ repeatedly gets frustrated and either asks yells at me to help or just chucks them on the floor.

JJ demonstrating how easily this Aquaman figure falls down on the job

Wonder Woman should consider more sensible footwear.

So in my frustration obsession I poked around and discovered you can suggest toys to Fisher-Price — and I was pleasantly surprised to find I wasn’t the first to complain about the lack of Aqua-presence (or Wonder Woman/general female presence) in this particular line. So I went ahead and created an official “My FP Ideas” page for both an Aquaman and Wonder Woman figure, then rallied my friends over at The Aquaman Shrine. They in turn encouraged quite a few others to add to my request in hopes that our voices would be heard. I felt satisfied I’d done all I could, but wasn’t particularly hopeful.

Fast-forward a couple of months… The other night I went on the Fisher-Price site to use a coupon for some early birthday shopping for JJ, and Atlantis be Praised!there was the Aquaman figure, all shiny and cute and orange/green/gold*… and for sale! JJ will have to wait a couple more months to play with the Bat Cave I bought him, but he’ll be kicking bad guy butt with his new Aquaman in 5-8 business days! And yes, so will Daddy.

If you’ve read this far, you must either be a fellow Aquaman fan, or are intrigued by my level of geekiness. Either way, I do feel proud — if not a bit delusional — in having contributed to this figure being produced, and thus my son (and me) having a super cute Aquaman to battle alongside Supes and Spidey. Someday when JJ’s a rebellious teenager, complaining how I never did anything for him, I’ll just direct him to this post.

*So my only complaint about the new figure (and I have to complain, it’s what us comics fans do) is that Aquaman has YELLOW boots. He’s never had yellow boots. Ever. And Aquaman has had his fair share of costume changes over the years (black briefs/green tights, no briefs/green tights, long hair/beard/no hand, hook for a hand, water for a hand, blue costume, even yellow GLOVES) so I’m not sure where this came from. I do, however, like the nifty Robo Shark. The caption on the site says, “Press fin down for chomping action!” I kinda like that he comes with a shark — it’s more badass than Aquaman’s previous fishy sidekicks, which included Topo the Octopus and Storm the Seahorse.

Congrachoolations National Train Day winners!

May 17, 2012 | By Brent Almond | BABY LIKE, DADDY DJ, SCRAPBOOKING

A big, rootin’-tootin’ thank you to everyone who entered the National Train Day / B. toys giveaway! Here are the winners:

Morgan M. – Stackadoos
Brandi H. – Elemenosqueeze
Bill S. – Train Day swag

Winners have been notified by email, and have 30 days to claim their prize before another name is drawn. So check your spam filters, folks! :)

For some extra fun (and to get people to enter… hello, free toys aren’t enough?!?) on Facebook I had folks post their favorite train song. It was such a great collection of tunes (several of which I’d never heard, or not heard in 30+ years) that I wanted to share them, along with a few (okay, twenty) of my own favorites, in what I’m titling:

The Great Train Collection!

Volume 1 (Reader faves)
C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train) – Quad City DJ’s (C’mon n’ admit it… you love this song, too)
Long Train Runnin’ – The Doobie Brothers
A Peanut Sat On a Railroad Track (One of the oldies-but-goodies from childhood. This version has additional hilarious verses about other foods getting pulverized.)
Peace Train – Cat Stevens
Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight & the Pips
Marrakesh Express – Crosby Stills & Nash
Chattanooga Choo Choo – The Andrews Sisters
Casey Jones – Furry Lewis (Thanks to Bill Steber of The Jake Leg Stompers, who performs lots of train songs!)
Love Train – The O’Jays
Train – Goldfrapp
The Trolley Song – Judy Garland
All Aboard – The Nat “King” Cole Trio
Down By The Station
Trains – Jill Sobule
My Baby Thinks He’s A Train – Rosanne Cash
Morning Train (Nine To Five) – Sheena Easton
City Of New Orleans -  Willie Nelson
Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie – The Manhattan Transfer
I’ve Been Working On The Railroad – Pete Seeger or, if you must The Chipmunks

Volume 2 (DD’s faves)
Conjunction Junction – Schoolhouse Rock (An all-time favorite, and so educational!)
Cross the Tracks (We Better Go Back) – Maceo & The Macks
Jumping Someone Else’s Train – The Cure (coolest train song, ever)
Big Rock Candy Mountain – Harry McClintock
Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
Ticket to Ride – The Beatles (It’s debatable whether this is really about trains, but it’s my blog so I agree with Paul.)
Golden Train – Penguin Prison
On A Train – Yuksek
Freight Train to Nowhere – Mark Heard
Last Train To Clarksville – The Monkees
Orange Blossom Special -  Johnny Cash
The Loco-MotionLittle Eva or, if you must Dora the Explorer (sorry, I draw the line at Kylie)
Locomotion – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Trans-Europe Express – Kraftwerk
Trains And Boats And Planes – Dwight Yoakam
This City Never Sleeps – Eurythmics
Zoo Station – U2
Train Song – Mindy Smith
People Get ReadyEva Cassidy (original version by The Impressions, written by then member Curtis Mayfield)

You can hear the whole playlist on Spotify.

(PS: For an unbelievably EXHAUSTIVE list of train-related songs, go here.)

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Oh yeah, and here are a couple of pics from our ‘lil Train Day adventure to Gaithersburg, MD. There wasn’t a whole lot to it (Hopefully Union Station is repaired by next year) but JJ loved it nonetheless. Plus he got a cool hat out of it.

No, I can't read yet. So?

The Little Engineer That Could

Did anyone else make it to a Train Day celebration? Send me some pics and I’ll post them here. You can also post them on the Designer Daddy Facebook page or share them on National Train Day’s gallery page.