Being A Dad

 
 
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Have you ever wanted to see a worm driving a pencil car while wearing a jaunty European style fedora?  What about the inner workings of a firehouse populated by firefighting rabbits?  Or perhaps you'd like to see every item of a fruit stand illustrated in meticulous detail.  If so, Richard Scarry is the guy for you.  

I've been a sucker for his work since I was a wee lad - Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever! was a personal favorite. I read it until the cover came off.  As a matter of fact, I just pulled Jackson and Griffin's copy off the shelf and it too was missing its cover. That's either a sign of devotion or poor binding, not sure which. Either way, it's a great read.  

When Jackson went through his cars and trucks phase/obsession, he read through 3 copies of Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.  

Each and every page of a Scarry book is chock full of entertaining details and repeat readings usually uncover something new.  Oh, and kids will like them too.  

By the way, according to Amazon, I ordered Jackson a copy of Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever! 8 months before he was born.  Guess I was a little anxious.  

 
 
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Griffin doesn't know his ABCs and he can't count to ten, but he's been able to sing Iron Man since before he was 2.  

 
 
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I'm a big old dork and I love Batman. Comics, movies, TV shows, toys - you name it. The problem is, he's not the most kid-friendly character around. Probably has something to do with his parents being murdered in cold blood in front of him when he was a kid, but maybe I'm wrong.  There have been some great Batman cartoon series, starting in the early 90s but the one that strikes the best balance between the dark and the light is Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  

Purists, and those without kids, probably don't like it but they're not reading this anyway, so who cares?  

The Brave and the Bold was a long running comic book that was best known for teaming up Batman with a different superhero each issue.  And that's the premise of the cartoon series.  Rather than depict Batman as a grim avenger of the night, he's drawn more like he was in the 50s - square jaw, barrel chest, with just a hint of humor thanks to Diedrich Bader who provides his voice (you may remember him as Lawrence, the stoner neighbor in Office Space).  

The show does a great job of featuring A, B, C and sometimes D-level co-stars including Green Arrow, Aquaman (portrayed here as a lovable blowhard), Plastic Man, the Metal Men, Wildcat, Kamandi, Metamorpho and many others.  

Like the best cartoons, there's plenty here for the kids and just enough for the grown-ups.  If you're looking for a safe, entertaining way to introduce the kiddos to grown-ups who fight crime in long underwear, this is a pretty good place to start.  

 
 
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I'm going to cut right to the chase: this is a great movie.  Easily one of the best animated features of the past few decades and for some reason, not too well known. On the other hand, how often do you get to recommend movies that people haven't seen already?  

It's directed by Brad Bird, who also directed The Incredibles and Ratatouille (one of which I loved, one of which I didn't - but that's another post for another day), and it tells the story of a young boy named Hogarth who discovers a giant robot from outer space while living in a small town in Maine in the late 50s.  

The cast includes Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr, John Mahoney, Christopher McDonald and Vin Diesel as the Giant. Jackson's favorite sequence is where Hogarth crushes a laxative on top of a sundae about to be eaten by McDonald's character - shocking, a 6 year old boy laughing at doody jokes.  I prefer the Giant's love of Superman.  Regardless, there's something for everyone here (and plenty of something if you like old Sci-Fi and comic books).  

A word of caution: some scenes might be too intense for little ones (Griffin, for example, is fascinated and frightened by the film).  

 
 
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Happy Birthday to the man who taught me the most about Being a Dad and loving every minute of it.  

Happy Birthday Dad.  

 
 
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I'll admit it, at first I was very skeptical.  Like the song says, "overexposed, commercialized..." 

But then I started to read these little board book wonders and you know what? Pretty, pretty good as Mr. David says.  I guess if I had to pick two household favorites it would be Hey, Wake Up and The Going To Bed Book.  But you really can't go wrong with Pajama Time!, Birthday Monsters! or But Not The Hippopotamus either.  

So pick one up, read it to your kids and enjoy. Then top it off with a heaping bowl of broccoli stew - for the bunny, not for you.  

 
 
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Here comes the understatement of the century: Jackson loves baseball.  And that's fine by me, because I love it too. His love of baseball has allowed us to watch a lot of baseball movies together, some good, some not.  Rookie of the Year, Little Big League, The Sandlot, Angels in the Outfield, and of course The Natural and Field of Dreams.  I even caught him watching The Jackie Robinson Story (starring Jackie Robinson) on the MLB Network.  

One of the best baseball movies to watch with your kids is The Rookie.  It's based on the true story of Jim Morris (played by Dennis Quaid), a Texas high school science teacher and former baseball player who attempts a comeback at the ripe old age of 37.  The supporting cast includes Rachel Griffiths, Brian Cox and that kid from Two and a Half Men.  Plus a good mix of old coots for local flavor.  

The baseball is believable (not always a given in baseball flicks), the story is inspirational (for those of you who teach science in Texas and can throw 98 mph) and there's just enough beefcake for the ladies (Dennis Quaid likes to take off his shirt - so does his brother Randy, by the way, which makes for a very strange lesson in genetics.  But that's another post in another blog).  

Most importantly, it stands up to multiple viewings - perhaps the greatest criteria when it comes to movies your kids will watch.  

PS - yes, it's directed by the same guy who made The Blind Side, but there's no baseball in that, so we haven't seen it. 

 
 
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There's this comedian with a bit of cult following named Jerry Seinfeld.  You should look him up on YouTube - funny guy.  I'm pretty sure he was on The Mike Douglas Show once or twice.  Might have been Merv Griffin.  

Anyway, he wrote a book for kids called Halloween and it's very good.  It's written in his voice, so when you're reading it out loud you can't help but sound like him.  And while the title of the book might conjure up images of ghosts and goblins, it's really about a boy's obsession with candy (along with a nostalgic look back at those costumes in a box with the plastic masks held up by rubber bands.)

Add in a few bonus Superman references and you've got a book that stands up to multiple bedtime readings.  

 
 
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Took the boys to the beach today.  While there, I spotted two obese kids about 12 or so wearing Yankee t-shirts - one with BURNETT on the back, the other with SABATHIA.  They were throwing rocks in the water.  I leaned over to Jackson and this was our conversation:

Me: Look, there's AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia at our beach - that's amazing.  

J: That's not really them.  

Me: How do you know?

J: Sabathia doesn't throw righty.  

 
 
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Tax audits... root canals... explosive diarrhea - these are just a few of the things more enjoyable than Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, which remarkably has made over $200 million (making Betty Thomas the highest grossing female director ever - the time has come indeed, Ms. Streisand).  

Now, I know what you're thinking - other than The Sting 2 and Fletch Lives, sequels are never any good.  And you're right, but this one makes the original look like a Preston Sturges classic.  I won't even bother you with the details, because let's face it - your kids are going to want to watch it anyway.  Over and over and over again. And that would be fine if this was sheer, dumb, harmless entertainment.  But it's actually pretty mean-spirited and they continue to use the squeaky voices to cover up not-for-kids dialogue (a reference to pubic hair from the first movie comes to mind).  

And, at the risk of spoiling anything, take a look at the sleeping arrangements in the last scene and you tell me how kid friendly it is.  

The DVD is coming out soon - consider yourself warned.