Fatherly Stuff: 2014

Sep 8, 2014

Make Every Birthday Special with Hallmark Poster Cards for Kids

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Although my oldest is only 5, he has somehow managed to create quite the social life for himself. Between classmates at school, the kids in the neighborhood, and his peers from his extra curricular activities such as karate and swim class, he has gained a mini network of friends with whom we do our best to help him stay connected with.  While he does enjoy a steady flow of healthy, social interaction, an unforeseen consequence of this is he tends to get invited to quite a few birthday parties. To my 5 year old, this is an awesome way to live your life, since he gets to eat cake and play games to his heart’s content. For parents however, it not as enjoyable for us as it is for them. The burden of finding the right gift that is both tasteful, yet not too expensive falls squarely on our shoulders. Our already busy, exhausted shoulders.  On top of that, since we’re crazy enough to actually attempt to keep up with all of these birthdays, the number of gifts that we end up buying over the year can get pretty expensive. My frustrations were soon alleviated during a fateful trip to Walmart. I was searching for a card for yet another birthday party, when I came across an intricate display for Hallmark PosterCards for Kids.

At the Hallmark display, there was a wide array of cards that share positive, encouraging messages meant to uplift and child’s spirts high. The characters ranged from The Avengers, to Mikey Mouse, to even Tinkerbell. What sets Hallmark Poster Cards apart of the average, run of the mill birthday card is the surprise inside. Each card can be unfolded into an awesome poster that is over 4 feet tall! It’s a card and the gift in one fell swoop. It’s pretty ingenious if you ask me.

I grabbed a few Hallmark Poster Cards because I knew that there were a couple of birthdays coming up this fall. And although his birthday already passed a couple of months ago, I decided to grab an extra special Planes Poster Card for my 5 year old because I know how much he loves Dusty Crophopper.  When I handed him his card, his reaction was that of slight confusion to sheer elation. It was priceless. Well, it was actually $4.97 plus tax, but you get the picture.

To take advantage of even bigger savings, check you the Hallmark Card Rewards Program. For every 4 cards that you buy at Walmart, you earn a reward!

Make sure you check out Connections from Hallmark to sign up for Hallmark Rewards, and to see great content from other bloggers. Join in the #kidscards conversation on Twitter!  

Aug 4, 2014

Your Kids Will Learn about STEM (and Love It!) with Amazon Studio's Annedroids

How much thought have you given to the amount of STEM education that your child is receiving? As our world advances further into the 21st century, possessing knowledge in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is becoming increasingly important in order to actively compete on the world stage. Children tend to be precocious, curious and creative by nature. These qualities tend to go hand in hand with the fundamental concepts of STEM, so it is not a far-fetched idea to conclude that in order to get them interested at an early age, those innate qualities must somehow be tapped into. 

Amazon Studios seems to have found the perfect formula to accomplish this with their third original kids series, Annedroids, which is now available on Prime Instant Video.

Created by Emmy-nominated JJ Johnson (Dino Dan) and Sinking Ship Entertainment, and aimed at children aged four through seven, Annedroids is a live-action adventure series following a young female genius, her human friends, android assistants and the amazing scientific discoveries they make while undertaking the biggest experiment of them all: growing up.  Addison Holley (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) stars as “Anne,” Adrianna Di Liello (Stage Fright) plays her friend “Shania,” and Jadiel Dowlin plays “Nick.”

I was recently given the opportunity to review this show with my 5 year old and we found it to be an enjoyable experience. Annedroids centers around four primary characters:

Nick- The first character to be introduced in the show, not only was he very unhappy to be moving away from his best friend, he was less than thrilled at the prospect of living across the street from an old junkyard.  He soon discovers however, that the so called junkyard holds the key to more adventures and excitement than he could ever imagine. Something that I appreciated about this character is that he was cast as a person of color; a demographic that I feel is not represented on TV as much as it should be. Furthermore, while it is obvious that Nick’s mother is a single mom, her loving and caring presence is a subtle undertone that further adds to the show’s realism. 

Shania- She is Nick’s neighbor. The two words that best describe Shania would be: “comedic relief”. She is fun loving, enjoys rhythmic gymnastics, is allergic to rabbits (“booger central”) and is often getting herself and her friends into- and out of-and back into trouble. Her unapologetic, eccentric personality makes her a favorite of mine. Shania and her younger brother live with their grandmother, and that again is a reflection of the show’s efforts to recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes aside from the traditional, nuclear model. 

Anne- A young scientist, Anne is the creator of all of the androids on the show. She lives in the junkyard and once she is discovered by Nick and Shania, they all become fast friends as well as her assistants. As a scientist, Anne it always on the lookout for new and exciting discoveries and encourages her friends to do the same. As a female, this character has the potential to inspire an entire generation of girls to get interested in the STEM fields.

Pal- Created by Anne, Pal is an android (not a robot, there IS a difference!) who can walk, talk and think for itself. Almost infant-like in its thinking, Pal continuously develops from listening to others’ speech as well as from its surroundings. Pal is introduced as being neither male nor female and it is programmed to decide on its own which gender it will eventually lean to. This may be a stretch on my part, but that may be a veiled message about gender bias. If that is the case, I think that is pretty awesome!

Throughout the show, the characters (and viewers) learn about various scientific principals such as developing a hypothesis, observation/note taking, chemistry, mechanics, physics and critical thinking. They use all of these skills to turn problems into what Anne likes to call an, “engineering solution”.

As a parent, this show receives high marks from me due to its originality, diversity and its educational value. My 5 year old is definitely a fan too because lets face it; a walking talking android is just plain cool. 

Be sure to catch Annedroids exclusively on Amazon Prime.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Jul 17, 2014

Stuart Scott Discusses Fatherhood in an Emotional Speeh at the ESPYS

Last night's ESPY awards ceremony was a star studded event  that celebrated some of the greatest individual and team athletic achievements for the year. There were many great moments and many awards were handed out to the most deserving people, but the one that stood out to me the most was the speech that Stuart Scott delivered after winning the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

Scott, a long time anchor for ESPN, has been battling a rare form of cancer since 2007. Instead of making excuses and allowing his illness hold him back, he has made the commitment to continue to live life to the fullest. During his speech, he credits his desire to be there for his two daughters for giving him the strength to fight on and endure rounds of surgeries and treatment.

The courage and humility that Mr. Scott has displayed throughout his ordeal is truly inspirational. It is a reminder to celebrate life and the people that are in it, each and every day.

The entire clip is approx. 15 minutes, but it is well worth your time. I can almost guarantee that anyone who watches this video cannot help but become a better human being afterward.

Jul 15, 2014

Out of Tragedy, Two Fathers Come Together

On Friday, May 24th, 22 year old Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Santa Barbara that injured 13 people and took the lives of 7 more, including his own by suicide. The aftermath of this tragic event added more fuel to the fire of a fierce, decades-long debate about mental illness and gun control that has once again been pushed to the forefront of the American consciousness.

From Columbine, to Sandy Hook and now to Santa Barbara, these horrific events continue to occur, yet because our nation is so polarized on the issues, that the effort from our political and business leaders to actually solve them is virtually non-existent. As a result, it seems as though no meaningful laws or regulations have been able to get passed.

But there's a sliver of hope. A few weeks after the event, Peter Rodger and Richard Martinez, the fathers of Elliot Rodger and one of his 20 year old victims, respectively, met with each other.

Photo Credit

Martinez gained notoriety due to his emotional outcry condemning gun violence, the inaction of our government and his desire to meet with Rodger:

"I've been told that the shooter's father has said he wanted to devote his life to making sure that doesn't happen again. I share that with him," Martinez said. "He's a father. I'm a father. He loved his son. I love my son. His son died. My son died."

While we don't know what conversation took place between these two fathers who seemingly formed a bond out of terrible circumstances, we can only hope that the end result will inspire our nation to finally enact change within our broken system that have so many fall through the cracks.

Jul 2, 2014

Playgrounds, Jungle Gyms and Disney Values of Courage

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
As a parent, I think that it's important to be on the look out for ways to take the seemingly simple moments in life and turn them into important lessons. For instance, there was a time that such an opportunity presented itself and I was able to help my 5 year old learn about courage.

My son’s lesson in courage took place at the local playground. With the way that it’s set up; with its slides, swings and obstacles that start off basic, but gradually become more challenging as you move higher in a particular age group;, it is the perfect breeding ground for self-exploration and discovery. Up until this point my son has managed to conquer all of the equipment, with the exception of one. Far on the other side of the playground territory lies a jungle gym that is approximately 30 feet high and made almost entirely out of stretchy rope which interconnected into a pyramid-like structure. The first time that he tried to climb it, he grabbed hold of the bottom rope, looked up and froze with fear. Seeing how high it was along with noticing that the only kids that were climbing the jungle gym were a bit older intimidated him.

Usually, I try to make it a point to occasionally take a back seat and simply observe in order to allow my son the space that he needs to develop his independence, but this was a moment where I knew that I needed to step in. I came over, took him by the hand and listened while he told me why he was so afraid to climb the jungle gym. I smiled and let him know that it was perfectly normal to be afraid; But not allowing that fear to keep him from doing the things that you want to do? That’s the meaning of courage. I even invoked the memory of one of his favorite characters, Dusty Crophopper from Planes the Movie. My son has a special connection to Dusty because this was the first movie that he saw in a theater and he's been hooked ever since. In the first movie, Dusty is faced with a number of hurdles that stand in the way of his goal, including fear. However, he digs deep and finds the courage to win the race. Now that the sequel, Planes: Fire and Rescue is coming out really soon, it was the perfect time to remind my son of Dusty’s display of courage and it definitely seemed to motivate him.
All Planes: Fire and Rescue merchandise can be found at your local Walmart. My son was particularly fond of the bedding (shown in the first picture) and now he gets his daily dose of courage every night as he pulls his comforter over himself.

After we finished talking, he was determined to try again. As he hoisted himself on the first level, I shouted words of encouragement and coached him along the way as he climbed higher and higher.

It's #PlanestotheRescue!
Once he finally reached the top, he looked down and yelled, “Daddy look. I did it”. Seeing him up there feeling accomplished was one of my proudest moments as a father. He confronted his fear and did not let it deter him from reaching his goal. I can only hope that teachable moments such as these will continue throughout his life, so his character can develop even further.

Nowadays, there is a different tone at the jungle gym, fear and apprehension has been replaced with confidence and excitement as he attacks the obstacle with the agility of a spider monkey. He has even gotten me into the act by challenging me to climb alongside him. I do my best to keep up, but I don’t want to get myself stuck, or else I’ll have to get Dusty to come to my rescue!

And it's all thanks to his good buddy, Dusty Crophopper !