It’s OK to Say Goodbye to Saturday Morning Cartoons

By | Custody, Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Technology, Toddlers | No Comments

bugs bunnyLike other kids of my generation, Saturday morning was Shangri-La. We had a respite from the crazed world of learning math or doing chores. We had our Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was incredible.

Bugs and his Looney Tunes pals rocked.

Rocky and Bullwinkle rocked.

Schoolhouse Rock …well, you know.

(The Tick ‘Spoooooooned’)

With the roof of my mouth barely healed from last week’s shredding from sugary cereal, I would bravely refill my bowl and the Cap’n and I would head off for some quality time.

But earlier this week I learned that the cable channel CW was the last ship to set sail on the showing of the animated awesomeness that was our kids’ God-given right to punch out from reality.

And that’s ok.

You may think it strange for me to say I’m glad my daughter lives in an “on demand” world but in some ways I completely am. I’m rooting for it.

When I have her, my “Saturday mornings” (and hopefully this is how she’ll recall them, too) consist of going all out for breakfast with Daddy’s cinnamon pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit. We find crafts to do or practice reading and writing. If it’s summer, maybe we get some pool time in. How much can we do together? What cool memories are going to be made today? How much more can I love you?

Why would I want her to check out? Screen time is a last resort in our house.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want her to know who Mickey Mouse is. For the record, there’s a Mickey Mouse short about Minnie putting on too much perfume that is reigning supreme in the iPad’s replay numbers.

I just don’t mind the fact that we can decide when and for how long that time is.

I do the same thing with my “House of Cards” or “Walking Dead” fixes. I watch them at a time we don’t spend together or she’s in bed. Thank you, Netflix and DVR. I can be a present parent and still get to watch my favorite shows. Win/win.

So why shouldn’t she get the same entitlement to convenience? I don’t think being able to watch her shows at a whim will turn her into an entitled citizen, expecting the same treatment from everything in her life. We figured it out pretty quickly, she will too.

Plus it frees up time for her to “be” in the room. You remember that blank stare we all had as kids. Our folks had to say our name 4 times before we snapped away from the boob tube.

So, goodbye Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was fun. It really was.

You’ve gone the way of the VCR and Atari.

Parting is somewhat-sweet sorrow…maybe more than I care to admit.

That’s your cue, Porky.

If you like this, maybe you’ll like some of my other favorites? My Guppy,  My New Morning Show,  Men Suck… , The Wonder of a Weed, and the G-Talk series

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Review: The School Zone Little Scholars Tablet

By | Activities, Daddy, Daughter, Development, education, Fathers and Daughters, Parenting, Play Time, product review, Technology, Toddlers | One Comment

little-scholarLately, I’ve been on a huge “lo-tech” kick with my daughter.

Instead of watching a movie, we make a craft together. Instead of playing Clumsy Ninja on the iPhone, we play hide-and-seek, and instead of using the iPad as a Netflix babysitter, we (gasp) play… outside! (When the weather lets us, that is).

As a guy who was often raised by episodes of Gilligan’s Island, Saturday morning cartoons and Atari, I wanted to break the cycle of small screen addiction.

Don’t get me wrong. Electronics are awesome for kids. The educational apps and toys available have me believing my gifted girl is going to be valedictorian of her Kindergarten class someday. Plus, these devices can be used as great rewards for good behavior. Giving her time on them is motivation for clean rooms, fewer tantrums, and well-behaved young lady. So it’s a bonus when the “iPad” she uses is a School Zone Little Scholars tablet.

But first I had some questions. Would she be able to adjust to the different look and feel of an Android-based piece of equipment after being an Apple kid? Would she like the content and games? Would I have to re-learn a new system to keep her from downloading other content, etc.?

Looks like I had nothing to worry about.

It’s been one month since she’s gotten it. She calls it her “school iPad” and prefers it over the Apple.

I had the thing charged and connected to my home’s Wifi in a cinch. I didn’t have to download a thing. It comes with over 150 preloaded apps, videos, ebooks, and songs that help her master math, reading, and spelling.

The games are progressive in their challenge level and are very creative. There’s nothing cuter than a three year old saying “Daddy, look! These are my metacarpals.” It looks like somebody’s been playing the Napoleon Bone Apart game again.

She likes to take pictures with the built-in cameras (front and back) and we both like to watch “Charlie and Company” videos and try to “puzzle it out” along with Miss Ellie and her golden retriever Charlie. The educational video series combines live action and animation.

EXTRA BONUS: The School Zone company is Michigan-based and features Michigan talent including local musician Brian Vander Ark from the band The Verve Pipe. Local is good.

There is no credit card or registration needed. No apps to download. No upsells within the tablet to buy more apps (that’s huge), no “lite” or School-Zone-Logopartial programs, no advertisements, and no worries about her accessing something her young eyes and ears shouldn’t be exposed to. Seriously, it rules.

But what I really, really love is the A+ report card. This is a parent’s dream with all of the stats: how long she’s used it, which category and school level she spends the most time in (Kindergarten level spelling rules in our house), how she’s performing in each category, and many more metrics. You can play the role of teacher with exact information on what she needs help with. I don’t get anything like that on the Apple iPad. It’s my new favorite thing.

The content is aimed at ages 3-7. You can get all of the hardware stats on their site for details on memory, USB drives, and more. You can purchase one for only $199 and I’d have to say they are fully DaddyDaughterTime approved!


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It’s a Big,Small,Big World

By | Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Technology | 2 Comments

NASA-Huge-asteroid-will-not-destroy-Earth-in-SeptemberIf you’re like me, you remember the world being bigger.

It wasn’t that I was just a kid. That was part of it, but…

People wrote letters to each other. It could took days to communicate.

My news source was the daily newspaper in the morning. The only other option was to watch one of three men on my TV at night or by listening to news radio.

If I wanted to call someone, I had to be in a house (or a payphone).

The world was a planet.

Then, beepers and pagers showed up and were quickly followed by cell phones (brick or bag).

The Internet came along. It was a cute, clunky thing. Most of the general public wasn’t really sure what to make of it. But it wasn’t going to change our lives.

AOL. Napster. MySpace…

…Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Keek, Vimeo, YouTube, any news channel I want… all on my iPhone (which I’m never without).

You get the idea.

I’m instantly connected to more people than I could ever meet face to face.

If I want to know what’s happening in London right now, I’m a few button pushes away from reading their headlines or their citizens Tweeting about what they’re doing right now.

The world is a marble.marble-world

So how could it get any smaller?

Well, my world started out much smaller than a marble and grew to exactly 7 lbs and 3 ounces before Dr. B. helped deliver her into this world.

But at that microscopic moment, when whatever miracle happens that ignites life as we know it, my world began to grow.

And since the moment I held her tiny body in my arms, it has expanded on a sometimes hourly rate.

She rolled over for the first time. The world is bigger.

She spoke her first words. Bigger still.

She’s walking, feeding herself, potty trained, telling you what she wants to wear. Big, big, big.

Every step my daughter takes ripples in a huge sea of possibilities.

What will she experience today that will help shape who she will become? Will she be an athlete? A scholar? A scholar/athlete (a Dad can dream, right?) Will she be kind? Will she be cruel? How will she affect those around her? How will she act when no one is looking?

An entire lifetime of experiences is in front of her and I only get to see some of the show. But yet our world still grows.

Why? Two theories on that…

Either it’s because my focus “got smaller” that it now seems the world is bigger. I’m seeing it again through the wonder of her eyes. It’s a place full of new discoveries again.

Or maybe it’s that when you become a father, you begin experiencing two worlds simultaneously. Yours and hers. (And hers, God willing, will last much longer. That extends your perspective).

I’m still as connected and living in a closet sized, digital world as I ever was. I mean, I’m blogging this to you from West Michigan sitting on a stool at my kitchen counter wearing my pajamas. Who knows where in the world you are?

But tonight I’m seeing the future. I see her future – the one without “me” in it. What some refer to as “The Big Picture.” There’s another entire life to be lived and I get to be a big part of it.

If you were wondering why I put the word “me” in quotation marks, it’s because I’ll still be here long after I’m dead. Grace is a part of me. Who I am genetically, what and whom I bring into her life, and how I raise her as a father will remain part of her until she dies. That’s enormous.

The world is infinite.



Bionic Hearing

By | Activities, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Play Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Summer Time, Technology, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


So Grace has super bionic hearing.

Ok, maybe not… but over Memorial Day weekend she was sitting in a craft room at the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury MI (which has pony rides, ice cream, and indoor waterpark – The holy trinity of toddler heaven) and blurted out “That’s Rapunzel’s song!”

Sure enough. Faintly playing in the background, behind the squeaks of the girl twisting balloons into animals and the sound of the other kids in the room, a song from the “Tangled” soundtrack was playing. Of course, I immediately swelled up with pride at my daughter’s powers of hearing and memory.

That was immediately followed by my own recollection. This same sweet child getting a yellow and blue butterfly painted on her hand who has the uncanny ability to suss out a Disney song in a busy room is the same child who cannot seem to hear her Daddy when it comes to the simplest of requests…especially around bedtime.

Laser-like hearing…selective hearing.

Just another boundary toddlers are compelled to test. Not the first and most certainly not the last.

But I’m currently studying every melody on that soundtrack. If she doesn’t want to go to bed, maybe I can convince her by asking her by changing the lyrics to the tune of “I’ve Got A Dream”. 😉


Thankfully, I Live in the Future (But There Are Still No Flying Cars)

By | Activities, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Technology, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


This one is for the single Dads splitting time with their daughters (or the “Road Dad” whose job has him away from home all the time).

Rejoice! We live…in the future! (Insert dramatic echo with swelling music score here).

If you are like me, you’re probably never going to fully get used to not seeing your daughter every day. It took me a solid year to even start to wrap my head around it. While I simply hate being apart, I don’t let a day go by without talking with Grace when she’s with her mother. I want to know what she’s eating, where she’s playing, what she did… y’know…the usual “How was your day?” chat.

But with a 3-year old, some days a phone conversation can be a challenge. Thankfully, Grace has a gargantuan vocabulary. (I use gargantuan because she uses that word, too. Pretty cool, huh?) But Grace being distracted, or if my ex doesn’t want to be particularly helpful with the conversation, can make it difficult to communicate.

Enter Technology.

I don’t know how Dads 10 years ago did it (I’d like to think they wished they could), but whenever I get the chance I Skype, Google Hangout, or FaceTime with Grace. Thank you Steve Jobs.

The conversation doesn’t have to be so pressed and seeing her (and her seeing me), makes the time apart bearable. Google Hangout even has add-ons that let each of us wear silly hats or animal noses with sound effects and the like. There’s even one that lets you read bedtime books together. It’s good video fun.

I’m reminded of the pre-Internet, pre-cell phone (gasp!) days I grew up in  – and thank God that I wasn’t a single Dad back then.

The abundance of affordable technology at our fingertips has removed yet another hurdle (or excuse) for Dads to connect with their kids. If you haven’t tried them yet, they’re just as awesome as any Google television commercial you may have seen. Facetime to Facetime is the next best thing to…actual face to actual face.

Who knows where it will head in only a couple of years from now? By the time Grace is in Kindergarten we might be able to see holograms of each other? At least by then, she’ll be able to reach out and say hello by herself if she wants to. That kid is scary good with an iPad.

The only thing missing would be my flying car. (We were all promised the Jetson XL SUVs by now, weren’t we?) That would at least cut down on the massive mileage I’m piling up (900 miles a month) to drop her off and pick her up. Somebody tell Richard Branson to stop selling tickets to outer space and spend a few billion on that research. Every extra minute I can get with my girl would be worth any jet fuel I’d have to purchase.

Until then, each day is another day into a future where at least being in the presence of those you love can be as easy as a push of a button.