Being A Dad

 
 
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Somewhere along the line, in the not too distant past, Jackson and Griffin discovered Regular Show on Cartoon Network.

At first I didn't really notice but I became more aware of it as their obsession grew. When your 3-year old starts quoting lines of dialogue, it might be time to take a closer look at things.

As many of you know, there are many cartoons on Cartoon Network that aren't exactly kid-friendly. And so, it would probably have been a good idea to screen the show first before letting them watch it but I've been so busy with fantasy baseball drafts, Rogaine experiments and what-not that somehow I never got around to it.

Well, I can tell you this - it's pretty freaky. The show stars two slackers, Mordecai and Rigby, who happen to be a blue jay and a squirrel (don't ask me which is which, but feel free to ask my kids). Mordecai and Rigby live with Benson (a walking gumball machine), Pops (a walking lollipop), Skips (a Yeti), and a couple of other guys I can't quite identify. 

Each 15-minute episode deals with storylines like being chased by a ghost car from a scary movie, accidentally seeing an old man naked, the perils of lip synching, etc. 

The show is peppered with words such as "sucks" and "crap", which sucks but my kids were bound to hear that crap eventually anyway. 

Oh, and the show is pretty funny in a kind of Beavis and Butt-head sort of way. 

So, appropriate for young kids? Probably not. But is there any long term damage to be wrought here? Gee, I never considered that, but I guess we'll find out eventually.

 

 
 
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There are things that are good. There are things that are bad. And then there are things that are good for kids but as an adult, you'd rather be hit in the face with a bat (baseball or mammal) than to be in their presence. Hence, the new category.

There were many contenders here but, at the moment, the thing that saps my parenting powers the most has got to be Wonder Pets.

If you've never seen the program (and don't worry, I'm pretty sure it's playing on a continuous loop on Nick Jr.), it's kind of like getting root canal by a drunken dentist while simultaneously being kicked in the groin by an angry mule.

What's the problem, you might ask. Is it the theme song that drills itself into your head and stays there for days? Possibly. Is it the saccharin sweet character names like Linny, Tuck and Ming-Ming? Could be. What about the weally, weally annoying speech patterns? Sure, why not? How about my long standing intolerance of Guinea Pigs? How about all of the above?

Technically, there's nothing wrong with the program. It might even be, I don't know, educational. And what-not. But the next time the phone... the phone is ringing? Head for the hills. Or the liquor cabinet. Whichever is closer.

 
 
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Jackson has been doing a lot of independent reading lately, which is great, but it does limit my exposure to books for kids.

Every once in a while, however, he does prefer that I take the reading reigns and one of our recent selections was Slumpbuster from The Super Sluggers series by Kevin Markey.

I picked this up around the holidays when Jackson started to show an interest in chapter books and since he's a walking encyclopedia of baseball knowledge (the other day he was talking about Juan Uribe's home run totals from last year), I figured the subject matter was a slam dunk (look at me mixing sports metaphors).

The Super Sluggers series follows the exploits of the Rambletown Ramblers, a little league baseball team. The lead character of Slumpbuster is the Ramblers third baseman, Banjo H. Bishbash aka The Walloper. As you might have guessed from the title, the story involves Banjo's first ever batting slump. To make matters worse, the slump is a visible, tangible black cloud that follows him wherever he goes.

The book is set in the modern day but is written in a Runyon-esque style with colorful character names and expressions that sound like they were plucked from the Great Depression. Some might find this is over the top, or even cheesy, but Jackson really appreciated it. 

A nice touch by the author is at the end of the book where he lists the full Rambletown Ramblers roster (say that three times fast) along with their stats for the season. Jackson ate that up with a spoon (and a kid-sized bag of chewing tobacco). 

So far there are two other books in The Super Sluggers series and we'll be picking up the next selection shortly. If I'm lucky, Jackson might even let me read it with him.  

 
 
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This is a tricky one.

On one hand, I really liked it. On the other hand, it's not really for kids.

Let's tackle the second issue first. Rango is certainly being marketed for kids - the trailer appeared in front of every kids movie for the past six months or so and Burger King is even giving away Rango toys (even though this is the least cuddly cast of characters since Deliverence). But unless your kid recognizes and appreciates references to Don Knotts, Lee Van Cleef, John Huston, Clint Eastwood, Hunter S. Thompson, or Apocalypse Now, he or she is probably not the target audience for this movie. And remember how confusing the plot of Chinatown was? Well, Rango is basically using the same premise. Throw in a bunch of killings and a pace that's more Leone than Pixar and you realize this isn't your typical animated fare (as an aside, what do we call these movies? They're not cartoons, they're not live action, they're animated but by computers... any suggestions would be appreciated).

Cautionary tales aside, there's a lot to like here. For starters, it looks amazing (and not a third dimension in sight, bless their hearts) and the soundtrack is really good (featuring one of my personal faves, Los Lobos). And it's kind of refreshing to see a movie like this that makes no attempt to cater to a younger audience (no Bieber references, for example). The cast, led by Johnny Depp, is top notch too.

So leave the little ones at home and take the older kids - just don't be surprised if they start showing an interest in Walter Brennan and rolling their own cigarettes.