Sunday, April 28, 2013

May The Fourth Be With You!

I love Star Wars. I probably love it more than my own son, whom I tried to indoctrinate into the culture when he was only four. Our former residence was near the Strong Museum of Play; we attended Star Wars Day. My son and I even went to an outdoor concert to hear all of John Williams' songs and had a fake light saber fight into the wee hours of the the night (well, for him - it was really only 9pm.) If you ask me when the right time to show your kids Star Wars I can tell you, as soon as possible. In fact, 19 other dad bloggers and I participated in answering this question called the Definitive White Paper on When To Expose Your Kids to Star Wars.

When Hasbro then asked me to review their new line of Angry Birds Star Wars toys, I was as excited as Luke Skywalker when he first left Tattoine. Seriously, I was probably more excited than my eight year old son. I have been collecting since I was a kid with my brother and we created our own collection by raiding every garage sale and flea market from Dagobah to Endor. Naturally, I was excited to learn Hasbro decided to take their Angry Birds Star Wars app game into a 3-D game experience.

My son loves video games but even those become trite. Now that he is 8, he has been taking an interest in board games more and more, so Star Wars and Angry Birds? That seemed like a huge winner. Hasbro sent me an Angry Birds Star Wars AT-AT Attack Battle Game, an Angry Birds Star Wars Millennium Falcon Bounce Game, and an Angry Birds Star Wars Foam Flyer.

I used my focus group, my eight year old son, his 7 year old friend, and my 5 year old daughter, to test out the age restrictions for the games which were 5 and up. We tore into the first game Angry Birds Star Wars AT-AT Attack Battle Game, mostly because as a kid, this was one of my prize possessions in the collection. My group couldn't have been more excited, as they plotted their strategy.

(Approximate retail price: $39.99; Ages: 5 & up. Available: Now)

Stack, launch, and destroy with the AT-AT™ ATTACK BATTLE GAME, which includes 21 blocks to create the signature AT-AT, a LIGHTSABER LAUNCHER and 12 ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS figures — including two that are exclusive to this set! Players can also unlock ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS in-app content with a special code in each pack.

We set up the game. This was the hardest part by far. We had it set up on a card table that wasn't quite stable and every little bump sent the pieces crashing to the table. This was a minor hiccup in our excitement as building is half the fun but if games like Don't Break the Ice and other games which take a lot of time to set up irk you, then this game is not for you. The kids seemed unperturbed about this and started to rebuild. I would definitely suggest you play it on a nice sturdy table or the floor which we eventually did to fix stability issues.

So, you take the Angry Birds, that they have a hole in the bottom. You place it on the lightsaber launcher, pull back the launcher and let it fly. Much like the app, you aim to take out the bad guys perched on top of the blocks. Here is my son's reaction to his first successful shot.

My son liked that you were able to build what you wanted. He even said that you could switch roles and have the bad guys go after the good guys. There's just something about Darth Vader Pig isn't there? We didn't like the shakiness of the product but quickly resolved that by using a sturdier playing surface. One thing I did not like was that after it was assembled, there was no case for you to store them in. It would be nice to have a carrying case so that the game could be more portable. I had to put them in Ziploc bags in order for the pieces to not be lost. I was a bit surprised with the retail price that this was not included in the set.

(Approximate retail price: $19.99; Ages: 8 & up; Players: 1-2; Available: Now)

Bounce into action with the new ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS MILLENNIUM FALCON BOUNCE GAME. Bounce three balls at the MILLENNIUM FALCON to knock down as many enemy pigs as possible, and land in the cockpit to score big! Players can also unlock ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS in-app content with a special code in each pack.

Take the game of PONG and cross with with ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS and you get this fun hybrid of a game that is sort of like skee-ball. The point is to bounce your good guy ping pong balls onto the table and to either land in one of the openings or knock down bad guy characters. Based on where your ball lands, you receive points for your superior aim and coordination.

When we were putting it together, it harkened back to the old STAR WARS sets which I had to construct from plastic, cardboard, and labels. A few annoying things though. The cockpit is the ultimate point system but the ball sometimes gets stuck in the chute and the front of the MILLENIUM FALCON'S cockpit often falls off quite frequently. Also, after it is assembled, it doesn't fit that easily back into the box as is and there are no bags to keep the pieces in.

Other than those little details, both of my kids LOVED playing with this game and they got quite competitive.

(Approximate retail price: $9.99; Ages: 5 & up. Available: Now)

Toss around these 3.5-inch soft foam, iconic characters for a new way to play ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS! Available in LUKE SKYWALKER, CHEWBACCA, DARTH VADER and STORMTROOPER. Each sold separately.

This is my 2 year old daughter. When she saw this ball she said "This for me?" The packaging says 3 and up, so we gave it a whirl. How could I say no to this smile?

The foam flyer is a foam ball that is squishy. It was soft enough for her to grip and throw easily. After playing catch with it, I came up with a game we could play. We set up some blocks and placed our own pig on the top of the blocks and tried to knock it down. She loved it! The foam flyers come in all different characters, so if you have a little one, playing this game might be an option for you.

Now for the fun part. Let's celebrate May the 4th in style. Want to win your own ANGRY BIRDS™ STAR WARS® AT-AT™ ATTACK BATTLE GAME? One lucky reader will! Go to the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the entry specifics. One random winner will be chosen. Retail Value $39.99. Available now in stores nationwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Legal Stuff: Promotion open to U.S. residents ages 18+, void where prohibited. Winner will be chosen at random on May 2, 2013, and will be notified via email to obtain their shipping address. If no response within 24 hours, an alternate winner will be chosen. Shipping address must be a street address - no P.O. Boxes, must reside in the U.S. Prize provided by Hasbro Gaming and delivered by Hunter PR. Not responsible for lost or misdirected mail.

FTC Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Hasbro. This company has supported my imagination through play for many years and continues to do so. The material posted here are solely Chris Bernholdt's opinions and what I have observed by three very excited children. Thank you Hasbro for giving DadNCharge the opportunity to share your wonderful products.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When You Stay At Home, Peeing Alone Is a Priceless Rarity

It has almost been five years since I started staying at home. I definitely do not get to enjoy my "me time, pee time" like I used to. If you are a stay at home parent you have probably experienced hands under the door, knocking incessantly while you try to go, and questions like "What are you doing in there?" But if you do manage to steal away some time away from the urchins, I highly recommend a book called I Just Want To Pee Alone. This is a hilarious collection of stories from 37 different mom bloggers.

This is the perfect book for any mom out there who has spent time with her kids and the collection of stories has something for everyone. Not only that, but if you are any stay at home parent, male or female, you will be able to relate to these stories. While I can't comment on things that moms have to deal with that are specific to their gender, I still felt as a stay at home dad that this collection of stories had a great variety of laugh out loud moments. Everyone should read it.

The woman spearheading this anthology is Jen, author of the blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat. She collected essays from mom bloggers big and small, who have experience writing for the likes of The Huffington Post, Babble, NickMom, Mamalode, and InThePowderRoom; have been published in Parenting Magazine, Redbook Magazine, and various newspapers; made appearances on programs such as The Katie Show, Ellen, The Dr Oz Show, and Raising America with Kyra Phillips; who have been published in books, won awards for their blogging, and are simply talented enough to run a home and tell a great story.

So head on over to Amazon and buy one for your mom, aunt, sister, cousin, or wife. It would make a great Mother's Day present for that special mom in your life.

I Just Want to Pee Alone is available on Amazon in paperback for $9.99 and on Kindle and iTunes for $4.99.

Below are the links to the contributor's pages. Check them out and read their stories. You won't be disappointed.

People I Want to Punch in the Throat

Insane in the Mom Brain

The Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva

Baby Sideburns

Rants From Mommyland

You Know it Happens at Your House Too

The Underachiever's Guide to Being a Domestic Goddess
My Life and Kids

Bad Parenting Moments

Let Me Start By SayingFrugalista Blog

Suburban Snapshots
Ninja Mom

Four Plus an Angel
Honest Mom

Binkies and Briefcases

Naps Happen
Kelley's Break Room

Toulouse & Tonic


Hollow Tree Ventures

The Fordeville Diaries

Mom's New Stage
Nurse Mommy Laughs

The Dose of Reality

The Mom of the Year
Life on Peanut Layne

Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine

Confessions of a Cornfed Girl
I Love Them Most When They're Sleeping

You're My Favorite Today
 Funny is Family

My Real Life
Random Handprints

Monday, April 15, 2013

Picking Up The Pieces

Yet another horrible event goes down in the U.S. today. Two separate explosions went off near the finish line at the Boston Marathon today. Watching video of how things unfolded reminds me of every time I have ever had to deal with tragedy in this world. My first time as a teacher when I wrote about what happened on 9/11, the year I explained to my son why we sponsor a child in Haiti whose mother died and is not around to care for him anymore, and when a madman gunned down innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary. We all know that talking to your kids about tragedy is hard. How do we make sense of these tragedies and move on?

Seeing the report that an 8 year old boy was among the dead just sickens me. Just a week ago a spent A Night At The Museum with my own 8 year old. Is there no where we can go that is safe from these attacks? It really scares me to think that even in places like this, with such a strong police presence at an event that is supposed to be a celebration of a great city, that the unthinkable happens. That somehow bombs were set to go off in order to hurt people. That's the only reason you set a bomb. Yes, you've hurt us. The ways that people seek out to hurt one another in this world saddens and frightens me.

I was nowhere near the action and can only read stories from people who were there. The images are gruesome, the videos unreal, and still in the moments that ensue we see people running TOWARD the explosions. Sure most are running away as they should but watching the video and seeing people rush over to the wounded gives me some hope. Those people are stronger than fear. Not knowing if all is safe and wanting to help whomever is hurt, is still a testament to the good in human nature.

I don't think that it is coincidence that today, in Boston,it was Patriot's Day. President Obama himself said at a press conference, "It's a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation." That is not where the significance ends either. Patriot's Day also holds anniversaries with other significant tragic events. Abby Ohlheiser of The Slatest writes in The Significance of Patriot's Day
"So why were people so quick to speculate about the holiday's possible significance? Undoubtedly because they were inspired by the fact that this week does contain a number of unhappy anniversaries:the Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995), the Waco assault (April 19, 1993), the Columbine School Shooting (April 20, 1999), and the Virginia Tech massacre (April 16, 2007), for starters. Two of those tragedies—the Virginia Tech massacre and the Waco assault—were on Monday, the Patriot's Day of those years."
For now I pray for the victims and their families. I pray for the people of the great city of Boston to show us what they are made of. I hold my kids and loved ones even tighter. I pray that doesn't happen elsewhere. Of course my wife is away all week in NYC. Two hours from me seems like an eternity. I pray that we can find out who did this, and why and pick up the pieces and move on.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Night at The Museum

My son is eight. Yeah, I don't know how that happened either. I mean, I do know, but it is hard to believe. This year, and to be fair almost every moment of the day, my wife had a brilliant idea. My son loves science like I love cake. Ok, he LOVES science in a way that 8 year old kids often do. His brain is like a sponge when it comes to dinosaurs and all things scientific. So, my wife found out that at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City they host a Night at the Museum. My wife made the reservation and she allowed me to go with him.

The Preparation

Yes, I said allowed. She's a corporate person. She travels frequently and without hesitation. She can pack her suitcase in five minutes while mine takes days of preparation. Let's just get this straight. I am not a good traveller. OK. Possibly the world's worst traveller. I don't know what it was that made me this way. The boy scout credo "Always be Prepared" isn't exactly my issue. I tend to overpack, but overpack the wrong stuff. Usually my wife edits my packing to set me straight and limit my baggage, but now that she has to pack for three kids when we travel, editing my suitcase is left to the end - if there is time. If she isn't coming with me she also usually leaves me to my own devices. Why do I need 2 pairs of pants and a pair of shorts for one museum overnight? I'm pretty certain other guys I saw just slept and left in the clothes they arrived in.

The whole day before we left I was fumbling around obsessing over odd unrelated details and wandering aimlessly around the house. My wife tried to distract me with activities, but since my behavior was that of a country kid headed to the big city she poked a little fun at me too. I of course denied any anxiety. She finally said to me, "If you'd just admit you are on edge about the trip, I'd stop teasing you and maybe even help you." Right as departure time was approaching, she asks me, did you print your directions or look at the maps I got for you? (Of course I had not...) She sighed, printed out the directions, highlighted a map, and forced me to sit down at the table with no distractions to show me where I was going to go. I am no Magellan when it comes to maps, navigation is a skill my wife and her family pride themselves on. I always rely on the gps in my phone, but when it comes to serious navigation, she always prints the directions and brings a map in case the gps doesn't work or she doesn't believe it. (She's the real scout.) Heck, her family still uses phonebooks and compasses! I know, Right?

Maybe the reason I was so anxious was because of my youthful experience on the Fourth of July in Chicago when I decided to head downtown in my '83 Honda Accord hatchback with the missing front bumper. People on Lake Shore Drive were stopping and getting out of their cars to watch the fireworks on the lake! Literally parking cars on LSD, beginning to block me in and I had to take evasive maneuvers. I had places to be and people to see so I took a detour, or rather created a detour. Now picture Clark Griswold in East St. Louis, only there was no way in hell my windows were down, not that glass would protect me from a stray bullet. Each time I turned I could see the lake but for some reason I could never turn enough times to get where I needed to be to get out of there. This was of course before GPS, and of course I did not have a map in the car. This was burned in my brain as I prepared for my adventure into NYC.

So my wife is awesome. She let me have a road trip with my boy and I was determined to conquer the anxiety that trips give me. I was going to do it for him. (I'm sure she would have gone in a heartbeat if I had waived the white flag.) And do you know what? It wasn't that bad. Many times we build up more anxiety over the unknown rather than attack it. If my children end up nervous nellies, I am the first one to blame.

On the Road

We started the trip listening to the radio but the boy soon grew bored of and asked me to play Kidz Bop 22. After him belting out New Direction's "You Don't Know You're Beautiful" for the third time I decided it was time for a rest stop. When we got off I knew that the restaurant part of the rest area was closed but thought the bathrooms would still be accessible. Not the case. We faced with our first lesson of a road trip: porta-potties. These, as many are, were disgusting. He's been in a porta-potty before, but never on his own. This time, he went in on his own. "On his own" is something he is doing a lot more lately and something I have been struggling with. He's becoming independent and while my wife was appalled that I let him go in there alone, it's not ideal for a 6'7" 245 lb guy to squeeze into a porta-potty to try to protect his son from falling in or touching too many things. Don't even get me started on airplane bathrooms.

He came out of his port-potty telling me, "Mine was so smelly, I had to put mints in there to get through it." WHAT? I never gave him "mints" and I hoped that whatever he threw in there didn't belong to the last guy that seemed to be in a hurry to get into mine next. I am guessing by "mints" he meant a urinal cake, and if he did, what would possess him to grab one out of the urinal? Thoroughly disgusted, I doused his hands in hand sanitizer and told him to get in the car. Five minutes later he comes up with this "Daddy, do you know what stinks about porta-potties?" "What?" I said. "Well, when you poop in there it seems like a hundred years before it ever goes anywhere." "Yeah," I said, "that does STINK!"

The agenda for this event ran until midnight. Our kids typically don't make it much past 9pm, so my son kept saying how we was going to nap in the car to ensure he could make it to midnight. Despite his intentions, his excitement kept him alert and he buried his head in his books until I told him he might want to start looking out of the window as we approached NYC. It was somewhere in North Jersey when my son got his first lesson on Hell's Angels. As eight guys on hogs blew by us weaving in and out of traffic nearly clipping my bumper on one maneuver, my son says, "Daddy, do they let girls into Hell's Angels?" "I think so buddy. Not sure" "Oh, well I think they do because most of those people had long hair. But I am confused because one of them had a beard."

On the way to the Lincoln Tunnel, Adam says, "Who is KID?" He was seeing graffiti along the side of the road. So I launched into my explanation about taggers and how it was illegal and how tagging was about marking territory. Adam says" Well, Kid must be very busy, his artwork is EVERYWHERE!"

We hit NYC traffic in the late afternoon, turning onto West 42nd street like every other person that night it seemed. My old Chicago self came out... before the July 4th incident. I invented my own lane, cut off people like a boss, and I got to the lane I had my eye on moving from the right turn lane to the far left turn lane like a Hell's Angel. Adam says to me "Why is everyone taking their own sweet time?" Daddy must watch what he says in the car a little more carefully. "Well bud, all of these people also have places to go and in some cases they think that they can go wherever they want. That's why you have to drive defensively but be aggressive." Just as I said this, a bus sideswiped a car forcing it into a sidewalk full of pedestrians. "I am NEVER going to live in a city" he tells me. "My friend Trey lives here" I say. "HE DOES? How did he put up with all these crazy people?"

An hour into NYC traffic and mere blocks from the museum, Adam tells me he has to pee really bad and has been holding it for awhile. I suggest he uses the emergency jar in we carry for such situations but he wants to hold it. He does and we get there but there are no parking spots and I am envisioning the Seinfeld where Jerry gets arrested for public urination. We finally find a spot, grab our gear and head for the museum, managing to locate a potty. After the porta-potty incident, I made him wash before he went as well as the usual after. I swear he put his hand against the wall, old man style, but it might have been my imagination, and let out a "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Some people say half the fun is getting somewhere. Usually,this isn't the case for me but with my son everything was an adventure. Once we were there my son was so excited I thought his smile just might jumped off his face and run down the hall gleefully. I did enjoy the random hugs, the big smiles, and every time he looked up at me and said "Thank you for taking me!"

The Main Event

This event is so awesome. I recommend you try it at least once. These are the things we did:

1. We spent time in a butterfly conservatory

Learned the biggest moth in the world is called the Atlas moth

2.Learned about whales

Learned whales are descendants of Andrewsarchus, a four legged land animal!

3.Heard a demonstration on Live Nocturnal Creatures other than the hundreds of girl scouts who were also visiting that particular night

Learned frogs can breathe oxygen out of their butts! And, they can suck their eyes into their heads to accommodate larger food items, Science rules!

4.Saw an IMAX film called Flight of the Butterflies

Learned Monarch butterflies are the planet's most efficient migrators.

5. Went on a Fossil Hunt by flashlight. We explored the fossil galleries with the lights off using only flashlights!

6.Listened to a bedtime story of Night at the Museum before nodding off. Me, not him. OK, we were both wiped but only because of my favorite part...


Each person was given a itinerary about the parts they could visit during certain times. The night capacity in the Whale room was 465 people and they had a full house that night. But, I convinced Adam to go on a hunt for things in his favorite movie instead. Night at the Museum, with Ben Stiller. We wanted to find the Easter Island Head, Dexter the monkey, Miniatures, Theodore Roosevelt, and others. Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be in the museum after hours when everyone else is gone? It's creepy but exciting. Even a little scary in places. I could see how you would think these things could come to life!

8. The morning after we visited Central Park. It really is an amazing park. He and I were in awe of just how big it was.

In the end it was about the journey with him. I get to experience lots of everyday moments with him and thanks to my wife one extremely special extraordinary one with him too this weekend. The smile on his face at the end of the day says it all.

Even thought my wife wasn't there, the things he does reminded me that she was; like the way he tried so hard to stick the itinerary, how he talked about what was next constantly, and revisited each activity with a recap... and the constant questions, which for a scientist who is going to Cornell in ten years is probably going to be a good thing.

To see just how much he appreciated the adventure, check out his video Thanks Mommy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Splish Splash

Bathtime used to be a fun time. I remember the giggles and squeals that a bath used to elicit.

One of my favorite things to do with our kids when they were infants was to give them a bath. I loved it so much that we found out the hard way with our first born, that we didn't need to scrub him like he was a sweaty teenager when his skin resembled a raw naked mole rat when we were done. You learn that sort of thing along the way.

That is pretty much over with our three kids. Well, at least when it comes to playing in the bath. They LOVE that part. They love trying to get all of the water onto the bathroom floor, they love to pretend to wash the tub with their washcloths, and pretend they are deep sea divers.

But, when it comes to the time when I actually need to clean them so that my kid doesn't become the "stinky kid" they scream and cry and scream at me to "STOP IT!". While I realize that there is a fatal flaw with my family and its aversion to "water got in my eyes", my kids act like I am water boarding them when I am just trying to get the shampoo out of their hair.

Never mind the bath toys, I have tried just about everything to distract them. Bath crayons, squirter toys, cars that change color in cold or warm water, bath time body paints, even waterproof books, you name it, I have probably tried it. But, once the cup comes out for rinsing, bath time gets "real".

Squirter toys are just about the most disgusting thing I can think of which your kids will love due to the fact that water gets in but never really gets out. And then the mold that grows inside that warm, wet, contained piece of plastic will be shooting out spores instead a steady stream of tickling water. Throw these out often.

My wife used to use bathtime as a time killer. Sometimes when the witching hour approached, that time after dinner and before bedtime that my kids seem to ramp it up a notch when we would rather they bring it down, we would announce bath time and let them play. Now, we know better. Bath time has become a chore instead of fun.

I guess that this happens with lots of things when your kids are little. Dressing them used to be fun also up until they could gleefully run away yelling "I'm naked! I'm naked!" while you stress to them that you were supposed to be somewhere 10 minutes ago.

I try to get my girls clean but their ability to shriek and scream at ungodly decibels even has this former headbanger wincing. This of course is only amplified in an enclosed shower by at least tenfold, and your eardrums may be ringing for a bit afterward.

I miss that after bath time smell of a baby, I'm not going to lie.
There is nothing quite like that scent.

Instead I am dealing with skid marked underwear on the bathroom floor and kids peeing in the tub like R. Kelly taught them a new trick even though I said to go BEFORE they get in. Now my son is too tall to really fit in the bath with his sisters like he used to. He has graduated to the shower. Sigh.

I guess that for now, I can fondly look back at these pictures of my babies in the tub and remember their faces when they used to splash in the water or make bubble beards on their faces.