As this is JJ’s third Holidays, we’re going full-bore, introducing him to lots of traditions so he can be good and indoctrinated in all things Apple Christmas by next year. Aiding in this process have been three awesome iPad/iPhone apps…
1) A Charlie Brown Christmas ($6.99, on sale for $4.99 for a limited time) is not only a great way to familiarize our son with everyone’s favorite Holiday special, but it’s also an interactive storybook. Its subtle, pop-up style animation is also peppered with little surprises (exploding snowflakes!) and as a gigantic, nostalgic bonus, it’s narrated by Peter Robbins… the original voice of Charlie Brown!
2) Toca Hair Salon (FREE) is a goofy little app akin to Wooly Willy (but way more involved), where you can trim, blow dry, color, accessorize and even grow hair on both Santa and a freaky-looking Christmas tree. Santa skeeved JJ out a bit, so we’ve been spending more time with Mr. Tree. Worth the download time just to see the blow dry effect!
3) Christmas Song Machine ($2.99) is a fun way to teach JJ to sing along to several Xmas favorites including “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” The voices (sorry kids, you’re no Sinatra. Or Muppets, for that matter) can get a little grating after a while, but nothing a little eggnog can’t remedy.
As I mentioned in my recent Steve Jobs tribute post, I’ve been having a blast introducing JJ to my iPad: playing games, singing songs, teaching the alphabet, etc. But lately he’d grown tired of his regulars, and the only one he wanted to play was this god-awful-ugly, bug-riddled farm animal app (iCan Learn Animals, in case you want to avoid it). His fickleness was making me hesitant to buy him more apps, or at least be a little pickier.
A couple of weeks ago the “Free App of the Week” at Starbucks was the interactive story The Monster at the End of This Book, starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. (You remember him, the much-less-annoying predecessor to Elmo) Since it was free, I figured — like many of the “Free Song of the Week” offerings — it was gonna suck. I remember loving the book when I was a kid (originally published in 1971), but my hopes were not that high for this newfangled e-version.
We just got around to playing it last night, and it was a HUGE hit. The only other interactive book we’d read up to this point was A Present for Milo (oddly unavailable in the iTunes store). I loved Milo‘s illustrations, but it was too slow and monotone for my rambunctious almost-two year old. However Monster has all the right elements to hold a toddler rapt: simplicity, repetition and expressive narration (Hellllooooo, everybodeee!) Plus it has cool features you can adjust based on your child’s reading level, as well as narration tips for Dad or Mom (or Gramms, see photo after the jump) to make it even more interactive and fun.
I realize posting a “Steve Jobs changed my life” tribute now is probably way past the news cycle, but it took me a while to gather (and edit down) my thoughts.
It seems odd to mourn the passing of a computer mogul. But not when I stop and think about all the ways Steve Jobs and Apple have had an impact on my life…
Apple made me fall in love with computers. Well, with Macs at least. In 10th grade I took my first — and last — computer class. In addition to my teacher being a creepy caricature straight from a bad teen movie, the semester was spent programming flow charts on monolithic terminals with blinking green numbers. I swore I would never, EVER work on a computer again.
Why is everything a phone to a baby? Especially since we hardly ever TALK on our phones… If JJ should be emulating anything, it would be checking Facebook (Daddy) or checking scores (Papa). So… I guess picking up a random object and poking it a bunch of times. Doesn’t make for quite as cute a photo, does it?
The New Gay Dad
Just like there’s every kind of gay, there’s every kind of gay dad. Unfortunately, every group also has its stereotypes. And thanks to Modern Family, every two-father family apparently consists of a couple of well-off suburbanites (one flamboyant, one slightly less so) and an adorably “exotic” child, adopted from a distant land. You think I’m joking? We have at least two friends who refer to our son as Lily. Mainly because they can’t remember his name, (it’s Jon) but still…
Certainly there are worse stereotypes to be had, but with Father’s Day coming up, I felt it was my duty to represent a wider array of gay daddies, so that not all of us end up with the same (high-end and fashion-forward) necktie.
For the Leather Daddy
The chaps and harnesses may be gathering dust, but leather-lovers can still look studly in these subtle — but still commanding — assortment of belts. Suitable for trips to the pediatrician or a (rare) night on the town.
Burberry Bluefly Nieman Marcus ASOS
For the Foodie Father
Every Dad’s Day gift list has to include a grill, so why not show up the breeders with a tasty, tricked-out O-Grill 3000? This James Bond-sounding propane grill is compact, has a push-button igniter, and comes in six delicious colors. Pair it with an All-Clad BBQ tool set, and Dads will be serving it with style.
Travel Q Portable Grill, $199 All-Clad BBQ Tool Set, $119.95
For the Musical Daddy
Give your fave gay dads a handsome (and high-quality) way to drown out Elmo, SpongeBob or the Paw Patrol with a set of headphones or earplugs from Urbanears. Particularly nifty are the Bagis earplugs, as the earpieces snap together around your neck for when the kiddo needs to be heard. Four different models. Thirteen fabulous colors. Musical genius.
Available at Urbanears or Amazon, $40-$60
Do most of the photos of your kids look like this?
Or this? . . . or perhaps this?
As JJ has become increasingly mobile, I’ve gotten increasingly frustrated with the lack of angelic portraits…the kind I used to get on a regular basis. Before he could walk. I had sadly resigned myself to albums full of blurry, oddly-angled, poorly-lit photos of my son’s formative years.
Then I remembered… “Hey, I know a lot of awesome photographers! Why don’t I ask their advice?”
So I polled my fave photogs (as well as a few recommended to me), and got tons of excellent feedback on everything from lighting to distraction techniques to iPhone tips. I compiled and edited (and included some photos from these great shutterbugs) and am thrilled to present to you…
HOW NOT TO TAKE CRAPPY BABY PICTURES
(or 10 TIPS FOR SHOOTING SUPER KID PICS)
What I’d heard all along was true — the first few months of daddydom are the least restful you’ll ever have in your life. And you find you’ll try anything to get the ‘lil nipper back to sleep after his 2am feeding: butt-patting, head-rubbing, pacing, bouncing, infomercials… you name it, I tried it.
One particularly frustrating middle-of-the-night, I trudged down the hall to my office, wee one in tow, and plopped down to check emails and assess the currently pitiful state of my career. As I always do, I cued up my iTunes DJ, and only then did I remember a long-forgotten and rarely used feature — the Visualizer.
I quickly scanned my inner playlist, settled on Coldplay’s “Clocks”, set iTunes to Full Screen and started Visualizer up. JJ was instantly mesmerized by the swirly, digitized kaleidoscope and earnestness of Chris Martin’s piano playing. I added a slow side-to-side swivel in the office chair, and by the end of the song, he was fast asleep.
Thank you, Apple. Forgive me for not coming to you first.
* * * * *
Here are a few of the songs/artists that have worked their best lullaby-magic for us (these aren’t just the slowest, mellowest songs I could find — sorry Jewel — but ones that also created the trippiest Visualizer pattern):
“Dreaming My Dreams With You” – Alison Krauss
anything by Cocteau Twins
“Greek Song” – Rufus Wainwright
“Beach” – Mew
“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” – The Postal Service
“Little Star” – Madonna
“While the Earth Sleeps” – Deep Forest & Peter Gabriel
anything by Frou Frou
“Wild Horses” – The Sundays
“Blackbird” – The Beatles
So what tricks worked best in getting your kids to sleep?