Reviews, stuff my kid (or other kids) digs

Feeding a Toddler is One Big Game

July 15, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Okay, so maybe that title isn’t the most revelatory ever. But once in a blue moon I have a moment of true parental creativity. I want to savor those moments, as they are few and far between. So this is me savoring…

Like any average toddler, JJ is a picky eater. I don’t even know why you would qualify a toddler’s eating habits as “picky” — it’s just understood. Sure, there’s the occasional hippie/hipster-type who’s little lamb has been vegan/organic/locally-fed from the womb. Don’t you just wanna slap those parents with a cold fish stick?

One of JJ’s favorite snacks are gummies. For a long time he ate only the Gerber ones, which seemed all fruit-filled and healthy. Then he got seduced by the Dark Side, and now joneses for Spider-Man, Batman, or <shudder> Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-flavored gummies. I can only imagine what manor of chemical imbalance is found in them. But I’ve all but convinced myself they’re still fruit-adjacent, and certainly better than soda, hard candy or Doritos. (Hands off, those are Daddy’s)

We were in Connecticut visiting family over the July 4th holiday, and I ran into a Whole Foods to look for the snooty dog food we forgot to bring (for the dog, just to be clear), and I saw these beauties at the register, looking very natural and juicy and non-turtle shaped:


Where in heaven can I find some more?!?

They were labeled with a small white sticker, “Juju Stars.” I snapped them up and then promptly forgot about them.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, and the nightly battle over dinner is in progress. Unless his afternoon snack is timed just right, JJ won’t be hungry at a normal dinner time. It might also have something to do with the tides or cicada migration or something. Who knows? Furthermore, we’re not only arguing that it’s time to eat, but also what to eat, how much to eat, and of course STAY. IN. YOUR. CHAIR.

Then I notice the Juju Stars sparkling on the counter in their little generic plastic cup. Bells, whistles and the Dora theme go off in my head…

“Hey buddy! Do you want to play a game?”

Miraculously, he stops whining.

“How about I give you one of these MAGIC DORA STARS* for every bite of food you eat? How many stars do you think you can win?!?” My voice was probably sounding a bit crazed at this point as I tried to amp up his excitement.

“YAY! I want to win FIVE!”

So the game began. And he ate a fish stick. Then another. Then his spinach patty. Then drank his fruit smoothie. “DUDE! You won ALL FIVE STARS!”

And yes (THANK GOD IN HEAVEN) he liked them.

The game has now been played (and won) for the last three feedings. Woohoo! Daddy wins, too!

But now we’re out of stars. And I Googled the hell out of them, and only found a couple of old photos from 2010. Looks like Daddy will be playing Find the Juju Stars all day tomorrow.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


*If you’ve watched much Dora the Explorer, you know there are occasional episodes that feature these annoying stars she has to collect on her adventures. Because the show wasn’t already enough like a video game. One morning JJ and I stumbled across this video on YouTube, while having “VIDEOS TIME!” on Daddy’s computer. It’s a video of a video game. So each time JJ begs to watch it, he tries to click on the big green PLAY button, and it pauses the video. DUDE. It’s not going to work. Let’s move on, PLEASE. How about I give you a gummy star?!?

My Baby’s First…


If you’re a normal parent (or just otherwise normal) you probably finished this post’s title with the word “word.” Or if you’re the motivated type, the word “step.” Perhaps “tooth,” for the orally fixated. But it takes a special breed of parent to remember their child’s first logo.

I’ve met a lot of other dads in recent months, thanks largely in part to a Facebook group of Dad Bloggers. Among them are several sports nuts, a battalion of Star Wars fanatics, a few Lego freaks — all of which are hoping to pass their passions on to their offspring. While there’s definitely some overlap with many of the other dads, my love and appreciation of design — and where it mashes up with marketing and pop culture — is tops on my list.

From the onset of JJ’s visual development, I’ve kept a mental list (oh alright, an actual list) of the logos and brands he’s recognized on his own. Had he the memory capacity or verbal skills at the time, he might recall differently… but I’m pretty sure THIS is the first brand my kiddo knew:


If I have to explain the significance of the above logo and the role it’s played in my life these last three or so years, you’ve clearly never been or met a new parent.


Happy Earth Day: Let’s B Global!

April 22, 2013 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

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!


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].


Rolling With My Homies: The 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll

April 11, 2013 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, THINGS MY KID DIGS

I’m about a week behind on life (checking calendar… make that two weeks), so pardon the untimeliness of this post. However, I couldn’t NOT document it for JJ — and for myself, as I am getting older and more forgetful. Plus, have you ever actually met anyone who’s been to the White House Easter Egg Roll? I hadn’t, so thought sharing a bit of our eggsperience might be eggciting* for you.

The White House Easter Egg Roll (henceforth, The WHEER) is one of those things you grow up knowing about — especially around these parts — but never imagining you’d go to. I even remember a few years ago hearing about same-sex parent families attending, and that it was kind of a big deal. But again, I never thought I’d end up at this DC Bucket List-worthy shindig.

But out of the blue, a few days before The WHEER, I got an email from a friend offering us some tickets! He’s got major Obama connections and had taken his nieces last year; but he thought of our family this year. [Thanks RyRo!] Needless to say, we hopped at the chance!

I won’t go into too much minutia — I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anybunny with dreams of going themselves some year… But hare are the highlights:


White House Easter Egg Roll

The throng waiting in eggticipation. It started out overcast, and was drizzling about the last 1/2 hour we were in line. Papa also tried to teach JJ to say “obelisk.” I commented to a woman next to us, wondering aloud how many of these kids were going to be sick the next day. Despite all this, it was a surprisingly well-behaved horde.

White House Easter Egg Roll

Papa and I took turns holding JJ, as he’s a runner. Hare’s a huggy photo I’m particularly fond of.


JJ’s Top 10 of 2012

January 6, 2013 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, THINGS MY KID DIGS

As with any toddler, JJ’s moods tastes shift like the wind. Make that a whirlwind. But these ten things stood out in 2012 as being particularly popular with our breezy little boy…


DooDad of the Day: Portrait of a Superhero

December 28, 2012 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Okay, so this is the best Christmas present of the year, hands down. My wonderful, long-suffering husband has often complained that I’m impossible to buy for. I wouldn’t say I’m impossible to buy for, but I can be kinda picky. And as a collector of many things, I tend to buy said things for myself a lot. So I understand where he’s coming from.

However, this year Papa genuinely surprised me with this hilarious Superman-ish portrait of me and the kiddo. And JJ was just as excited as me to see us in costume (and recognized us immediately). I admit I teared up a little bit — at both the image and at JJ’s shared enthusiasm. And damn, I’m looking fit!

Want to purchase your own customized portrait? You can get them from There’s quite a large selection, including a bunch of other superheros and even some licensed Marvel Comics characters (Spidey, Hulk, Thor, Cap). However, I think I prefer our Superman knock-off getup, as it adds to the cute/cheesy factor.

Good job, Papa! You’re my hero!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year & Buon Natale!


Now that I’ve trotted out several Christmas cards from years past, I wanted to share this year’s…

Since becoming a Dad, I’ve struggled with designing a Holiday card that would appeal to both my clients AND satisfy family and friends that wanted baby pictures. Prior to parenthood, I’ve done just one card for both purposes — but that was before we had such a good-looking kiddo to show off! Yet I wondered if sending a more personal-looking card to clients would come across as unprofessional.

As usual, time and money ended up being the determining factors. I didn’t have the energy or hours to generate a fabulous/unique/award-winning “business” card, and a second one for friends and family featuring an adorable portrait of JJ and a “form letter” describing all the awesome things we’d done this past year. So I decided to pick one event — our trip to Italy — and threw in a whole mess of photos. I collaged them onto three panels: one of predominantly green hues, one in whites, one in reds. The colors of Christmas… and also the Italian flag. Aren’t I clever? 😉

Front of card: click to biggefy

Back of card: click to biggefy

I concluded that the design and quality of the photography would showcase my talents, and the pictures of happy toddlers eating giant bowls of pasta would melt hearts. And if someone decided not to hire me because they didn’t like my warm and fuzzy Christmas card, bah humbug on them.

Turns out I shouldn’t have been too worried about how the card would be received. So far I’ve gotten 42 emails complimenting the card — 14 from family or friends, 28 from clients or colleagues — by far the largest number of personal notes I’ve received about a Holiday card in 10+ years. Let’s hear it for pics of babies and food!

On a final note, I’d like to once again thank all my family, friends, clients, colleagues and other folks who’ve read, shared and commented on the blog. Every bit of your interaction and support means the world to me. All the best to you and yours for a spectacular 2013!

(PS: Click here to view an interactive version of the card — complete with captions and larger views of the photos!)

QuickPic: Stars & Stripes for Dinner

November 6, 2012 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

Election night-inspired dinner for JJ: Old Glory composed of Gorton’s Tilapia fish sticks and ketchup stripes with Swiss and American (duh) cheese stars. Delicious AND patriotic!

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


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.

Daddy’s iPad Playlist 08.05.12


JJ and I spent part of a rainy, Sunday afternoon in one our favorite places — snuggled up together transfixed by the soft glow of my iPad. I try not to expose him to it for too long in one sitting (especially when playing games) and never let him have it alone. I know how hard it is for ME to put it down, so I get how traumatic it is for a toddler to have his fix suddenly cut off. I also try to make every experience just the tiniest bit educational. Sometimes it’s miniscule.

08.05.12 PLAYLIST:

Some Pink Panther:
Movie remake opening credits
and “Pink Lemonade” 1978 cartoon episode

Followed by greatest hits from “The Wizard of Oz”:

“Follow The Yellow Brick Road”
“A Munchkin Welcome”
(Lullaby League/Lollipop Guild)
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

A little Wonder Woman tutorial:

Theme song (he’s heard it before, but it’s not memorized like Spider-Man or Batman. Gonna take a little extra work.)
How to spin (JJ had been swinging around a dog toy all day pretending it was Wonder Woman’s “wope” so I figured I’d show him how to spin like her, then watch him get dizzy and laugh. Like I said, it was raining—we were bored.)

and finally…

Super Friends: Hawaiian Ice Mystery interactive book/game
This is a relatively new interactive story book from the DC Super Friends line of characters that heavily features my main man, Aquaman! You can go through the story with narration or without, and even record your own voice to tell the story! There are also several activities to choose from including coloring pages, puzzles and a Colorforms-type sticker page. $4.99, ages 4+ (JJ’s not yet 3 but it’s still keeps him busy and entertained. And oh yeah, educated)

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