Monday, October 17, 2016

Seven great children's shows you don't know about because you lack children

In my spare time, I edit a fun podcast called TV 4 Vendetta. My insincere apologies for the bad pun, but it's a really fascinating conversation about great TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash, Westworld, and others. But the two co-hosts, Brian and Michael, do not have children, and as such, do not mention children's shows on their podcast.

I get it. If you don't have a child, there's no way you're willingly watching Bo on the Go or Paw Patrol. But I have two children, 4.5-year-old Lucy and Neil Flynn, who turns 2 on Thursday, and I have seen a great deal of shows aimed at children. Some of it is terrible, like Caillou. Heyvi Kabisa this show is terrible. The main character is mind-numbingly annoying, and the moral lessons the show imparts on the viewer are lacking a great deal. In a nutshell, Caillou teaches you that if you whine and throw a big enough tantrum, the grownups in your life will suddenly bow to your superior wisdom.

Thankfully, not every show is terrible. Some of them are actually quite good, with great production values, a wry sense of humor, and a finished product that shows how much fun the creators had making it. Here is a list of shows, mostly unranked, that make the cut. The criteria for including shows on this list is that I've either watched them when the children weren't watching, or kept watching long after they've started a different activity.

First, the honorable mentions
Lazytown. I love the production values but that's about it
Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. I LOVE watching this with the kids, but never continue watching after they've stopped.
Arthur. See Above. I really do enjoy this show, and the characters are great. But I clock out when the kids do.

And here's the list. Starting with my two favorites.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Episodes to watch: Twilight's Kingdom Part 1 and 2 (great anime-style fight scene in this one).
I had heard of Bronies (adult fans of the show) long before Lucy started watching, and dismissed it as something weird and bizarre. Years later, it's still weird and bizarre, but a lot of fun. (Full disclosure, I consider myself a brony but do not have any costumes). What drew me in were the colorful characters. The show's artwork and production design is fantastic, with a lot of pop culture nods that grownups can appreciate.

Doctor Whooves and Rose

That's a reference to the rebooted season 4 episode Doomsday, in which The Doctor uses 3D glasses to look into the void.

David Tennant as The Doctor

Seriously, what other kid's show throws in a Doctor Who reference? There's been other nods to great films, such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles,  The Big Lebowski, Back to the Future, etc. Part of the fun of the show is just looking for those things.

And the other fun part of the show is the six main characters. Each of them has such a distinct, defined personality, and over six seasons, the show has done a great job at showing each of the Mane 6 mature. The wide variety of episodes, ranging from dealing with personal conflict with friends, to saving the country from impending doom and gloom, ensure that there is truly something for everyone. And with such a negative society (I'm looking at you, 2016 Election season), it's so refreshing to see something truly positive and devoid of any hatefulness.

Speaking of that great anime fight scene I mentioned earlier, my 11-year-old nephew Brent told me he thought MLP would be boring, thinking it was just for little girls. I showed him that two-part episode with the fight scene. He turned to me and said, "Ok, that was actually pretty cool."

If you had asked me if another children's show would come around that would be just as good as this one, I would have said no, this is the pinnacle of children's programming. Until Disney stepped in with...

The Lion Guard

Episodes to watch: The Return of the Roar (Pilot-movie) and Can't Wait To Be Queen
I've always admired Disney for making sure that their products had the better production values than nearly everything. True, some of their direct-to-video stuff leaves something to be desired (well, used to: their new DTV stuff is really good), and they churn out their share of obnoxiously bad programming (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is at the top of my list, despite my love of Mickey Mouse), but when they want something to be truly great, it will hit that mark.

Kion demonstrates The Roar, which channels roars from his ancestors.

Disney has a storied history of great TV programming. Duck Tales, Goof Troop, Gargoyles, to name a few. And while Lion Guard is aimed at a younger crowd than those aforementioned shows were, it is not short on fun. It's a spin-off of The Lion King (my second-favorite Disney film and probably, you could argue, their best film) featuring Simba's son Kion, who leads a group of animals, including a cheetah and hippo, called The Lion Guard. Simba has the power of the roar (think dragon shouts from Skyrim), which overpowers foes due to its strength.Their job is to protect The Circle of Life, which leads to run-ins with greedy Hyenas, crocodiles, and jackals, among other foes.

I've seen the show described as Avengers meets Lion King. Fitting since each character has their own power (Fuli the cheetah is fast, Beshte the hippo is strong, Ono the egret who has great vision, and Bunga the Honey Badger, who is fearless and is immune to venom and bee stings). Lion King meets Teen Titans is probably a better example, as the Lion Guard, like the TT, are fairly young and just starting to learn about their abilities.

The show has fantastic artwork, very reminiscent of the film, and the songs have a movie-quality feel to them. Here's my favorite, Hero Inside, and my God that baby elephant is beyond cute.

Like MLP, the characters have a lot of depth, and the show really nails the superhero aspect, including some great fight scenes. Do I like MLP more than Lion Guard? An impossible question at this point. I will say that I like the characters of MLP more, but I like the music from The Lion Guard much better (Much as I love MLP, the songs are something I'm always tempted to fast-forward through, and we own The Lion Guard soundtrack).

And here's the rest of my list.

Peg + Cat

Peg + Cat

Episodes to Watch: The Pizza Problem/The Pirate Problem and Peg + Cat Save The World
A charming show on PBS with an elementary-level math focus, something I haven't seen since Square One Television went off the air. Peg and her friend Cat have such a wonderful personality, and I love that show is "animated" on graph paper. That little touch really makes this my favorite PBS show.

Elena of Avalor

Elena of Avalor

Episodes To Watch: Prince Too Charming and Spellbound
Disney does a great job with princesses, and this one isn't any different. I appreciate Elena's caring personality, and willingness to work hard to solve problems. A great role model for my daughter, and really great storylines. This should probably get the theatrical film treatment at some point.


Episode to Watch: Octonauts and the Snapping Shrimp
What if we made an undersea version of Star Trek for kids? That's the setting behind the book series by Vicki Wong and Michael C. Murphy and adapted into a BBC animated series. It's managed to teach me a thing or two about underwater life, and nobody is looking into the camera asking viewers at home to help.

Beat Bugs

Episode to Watch: Blackbird (featuring Sia)
A Netflix exclusive series with a focus on bugs who sing Beatles tunes. The characters, one of which voiced by Ashleigh Ball (Applejack and Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony) are charming in their own right, and the covers of Beatles tunes are really good. It had me and my daughter singing Carry That Weight for an entire week.

Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse

Episode to watch: Episode 6: Best of Barbie
No doubt you've watched plenty of Barbie cartoons that take her way too seriously. Life in the Dreamhouse is much different in that it goes over the top with the characters (Ken invents things that don't work, Barbie has a ridiculous clothes closet, etc.) who know they are made of plastic. It is the funniest show on this list. The sitcom quality and Scrubs-style flashbacks show that with a little creativity, you can do something new with any group of characters.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Texas Forever

"There's no easy way to say this.... the design hub is being move to Austin," our boss told my co-workers and I in a June meeting. I had been sitting in a desk all day, and had elected to stand during the meeting.

I wanted to crumple to the ground. Instead I buried my head in the filing cabinet next to me. Not this again. You see, last year, our company had the same conversation with us. Last year, I faced a bit of a career crisis.

I had moved to Florida in the February 2015 to take a newspaper job. I love page design, and after five years of customer service jobs and monotonous third-shift job, I was ready for something better paying and fun. So our family packed up and we went off to The Sunshine State. A few months into that job, the corporate moustaches announced that they were moving the page design part of the newspaper to their headquarters in Austin, Texas.

Should we stay or should we go? We prayed about it and in early Fall, when the company decided to reverse course and keep the design jobs in Florida, we were relieved. We still could have gone to Austin, but felt at that time that a move was the wrong choice to make.

After we put that to-move-or-not-to-move episode behind us, our son, who we knew was having development issues, was finally diagnosed with Koolen De Vries Syndrome. It's worth reading about, but it is a developmental delay and mild to moderate intellectual disability.

In hindsight, I'm glad we decided against that move, as having to find new doctors to keep monitoring him could have delayed the discovery of that diagnosis. It was stressful enough finding out that our child had special needs. Add being in a new place and a new job to that, and I probably would have exploded.

Also one benefit to not moving last year was getting more experience at my current job. Without an extra 11 months of work, I don't think I would have succeeded as much in a new environment.

However, the past has a way of repeating itself, even when you don't ask it to. The meeting we had in June that I spoke of at the beginning of this piece had no air of optimism about keeping our jobs. Last year, there was that faint chance that things could be reversed. Not this time.
I always had a feeling that our jobs would be moved to Austin at some point. I just didn't expect it this year.Thankfully, I left a good impression on the folks in Austin when I interviewed for that position that I didn't have to interview again, and ended up being offered more money than I would have gotten last year.

After our summer of prayer, my wife and I decided that moving was the best option for our family. For one, all of my son's specialists are in one city. Right now, my wife has to take Neil Flynn to Pensacola and Gainesville, all places nearly two hours away. Those drives can get tiresome when presented on a regular basis. So that's a benefit.

There are other benefits, such as a pay raise, living in a cool town (no beach but OMG retro video games abound!), but the one benefit will be living closer to my family. Especially my grandpa. He's 78 and has a history of bad health problems. He could conceivably die tomorrow. In Florida, they live 13 hours away. In Austin, they'd be 7 hours away. It's not like they'll be living next door, but we could see them on a weekend, or my family could meet us halfway, without me having to take time off of work. Austin is also only 13 hours away from Neil Flynn's godmother, and my podcasting co-host James Ryan.

Austin sounds really cool so far. I know there are some doubts, such as the financial hit we're taking to move again, but long-term I think we'll be better off.

I just hope I'm not writing this same article a year from now. 
I was born in Texas. I might as well die there. 
Texas forever.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Getting Active

I'm trying to find ways to increase my activity level without feeling like I am on an exercise conveyor belt.. Insert our new favorite game: Memory Yoga

This game is fantastic.  We've played several times already.  It comes in a sturdy box with a slide out tray.  Super for keeping all the pieces together.  The memory tiles are thick and very good quality. When we only have time for a short game we just chose less tiles.  The slide out box makes this even easier by not having to get the box apart which always seems to be the hardest part about playing memory in our house.  

We are learning new poses and really enjoying playing, while secretly exercising.  It might seem silly, but I love how low pressure it is.  Yoga videos and classes can seem overwhelming when you are a beginner.  And can you even imagine taking your preschooler to a grown-up yoga class... I know mine would get us kicked out before it even started, kids are meant to wiggle and giggle.  It isn't easy to find a kids yoga class.

Lucy trying out Tree Pose
This has been a great way to teach my daughter that staying healthy IS fun.  We aren't worried about how perfect our poses are.  We are able to be goofy when we are trying a funny pose.  We are able to giggle about momma not touching her toes.  We make up names for the poses even though they have 'real' names.  We are really having a blast playing with this game. 

Flynn hasn't quite worked out Plank Pose yet
Even Flynn gets in on the action... well, for a while anyway.  He tires much quicker than us girls!

Get  your own here:  Memory Yoga by ThinkFun

Disclaimer:I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.


Fun with STEM

Disclaimer:I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

Up next in the review series is a super cute little game that is good on the go!  We tried out Stratos Spheres recently and I can really see some great uses for this product!  Here's the official link: Stratos Spheres by ThinkFun  (I do not use affiliate links and will not receive any bonus for you clicking the links on our page)

On first look, this game reminded me of those chemical strands that you can build.  Which (Nerd Alert) look like so much fun. So, I was already excited to try this game.  Since Lucy is only 4 we didn't really use the rules as much as we explored with it.  I want her to see learning all around us.  So we played.  We stacked as many as we could, we built them passing back and forth, we built it upside down.  Then, she didn't want me to play with her anymore and took them to play by herself for about 20 minutes.  Clearly, a hit!

A photo posted by Allicia Faber (@alliwait) on

Some likes/dislikes:
The spheres have two strong connectors, these wont break off, and they stay well connected.  It was a little hard for Lucy to fully connect some of the pieces.  I believe this is due to hand strength, which means the game actually works to strengthen that! Also, this durability means this game is ideal for the car.  It can be easily passed back and forth even to a sibling in the third row.

I was happy to see that a drawstring bag was included. While adorably shaped, the box Stratos Spheres comes in is not too durable itself.. thus, happily, the drawstring bag. It's mesh on one side and the ThinkFun logo is on the other.  Great to be able to see what is inside.  All of the pieces fit in the bag.

Honestly, I enjoyed tinkering with this game and look forward to some 3D thinking and playing in our home.

Check out the cute little video about the game,

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sleeping during Eucharistic Adoration

A few weeks ago, we had a speaker named Fr. Larry Richards who came to our parish to give a pep talk of sorts. I came away with two things from the talk: I need a structured schedule in my life (no more hitting the snooze button on my alarm, as I have work, child and cleaning responsibilities), and I need to start doing an hour of Eucharistic Adoration.

The first thing was just something that God is nudging me towards, as Richards said nothing about giving me a schedule. The second part was more direct, as the good priest said that the reason we didn't have 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration was because we as a congregation were lazy.

He's right: He said that if someone offered a million dollars to anyone who spent one hour a week in adoration for 52 weeks, we'd take that bet. So why isn't time with God as important as that mythical million bucks?

So I decided to volunteer for one hour a week, every Saturday morning at midnight. Why midnight? I work 8 to 5 now, yay, so going during the day is out. I like spending time with my family after work, so I'm not going at 5. Nope, I chose midnight.

Actually, the main reason I chose midnight is due to the 18 months I spent working third shift (2300 to 700). I always felt like nobody truly understood what it was like working those hours, and that nothing was catered to folks on that schedule. So I am giving back, so to say. I am making sure that chapel is always open at that time of night for those third-shift folks who may need a bit of prayer before their job.

However, the last two times I've done adoration, I've promptly fallen asleep. I'll say the Lord's Prayer, a Hail Mary, go to open my Bible.....and next thing you know, an hour has flown by!

Am I short-changing God?  I felt that way. More than just answering the challenge of Fr. Richards, I felt the need to get more spiritual nourishment, but after sleep, I've only prayed for 3-4 minutes. Am I like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, who Jesus bewilderingly asked why they couldn't stay up for an hour with him.

I don't want to be like that, that's for sure. So I reached out to my friends in collars, and I felt a bit better after getting this tweet.

And this! Pope Francis even said he falls asleep during nighttime prayer, telling folks, "'Sometimes I doze off, the fatigue of the day makes you fall asleep, but he (God) understands."

So no, I won't be treating adoration as an excuse to take a nap, although sleeping in front of Jesus is certainly a relaxing and peaceful sleep. But perhaps this time, I'll make it through three Our Fathers before passing out.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Babywearing Elsa Style

I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

I recently received this baby carrier to review. I love the pattern, it reminds me of Anna from FROZEN... I can't escape that movie no matter how hard I try! Lucy is obsessed with everything that looks even remotely like Anna or Elsa would enjoy it. So of course she instantly wanted to go up in the carrier.

Now, I will mention here that the RECOMMENDED WEIGHT LIMIT for this carrier is 35lbs. Lucy is closer to 45 so I only put her up for a minute to make her happy. Surprisingly, she (and I) were very comfortable in a back carry for about 10 minutes. I didn't want to stress the carrier over its recommended weight for very long on first use so we made it a short walk around the house to check her out in every mirror (her request).

Trying this out with Flynn, I opted for a standard front carry that most will be familiar with. Flynn is about 26lbs, 15months old, and not yet walking. Because of his low muscle tone I do not use a back carry with him in general. His low muscle tone and global developmental delays are caused by a genetic condition called Koolen-deVries Syndrome. We'll be getting into that in another post, I just haven't found all the words to re-cap the last year. So, back to baby-wearing... We grabbed this cute little carrier and off to the post office we went. This is super light weight, great to toss in the diaper bag or leave in the back seat for a handy way to get baby around without dragging that dragon stroller out of the trunk. I highly recommend this style carrier for people (mom, dad, nana, sitter, anyone) who are new to babywearing and want to have their hands free to do things while keeping baby close and happy. It was great for our trip to the post office today because I needed both hands and there is never enough room to bring a stroller in that tiny building.

Now, I have additional criteria when deciding if a carrier is a good fit for us... FIT! In case you were not aware, I am not a skinny person, If fact, I am plus-sized. And not "plus size model" plus size either. I am a size 24/26 and often am very worried that investing in a carrier will end up in sadness. I was very pleased that I did not have any trouble with this carrier. I was able to securely tie a square knot/ double knot behind my back. I had enough of the arm straps to wrap and tie in the front. Most average size people are able to wrap again and tie in back, this is not the case for many plus size women, or even men with a muscular build I suppose. I felt secure with the ties. The baby was happily seated and enjoyed his ride.

This carrier has a padded portion of the shoulder. This is a nice touch. Many carriers of this style do not offer padding. A very welcome plus that fit very well in both the back and front carries with both kids. The top of the carrier also has some padding, this was a nice addition as it gave a little extra sturdiness to where the baby is being held on his back.

I did have to do some readjusting to get the straps to fit well over my shoulders the first few times, however, I believe this was user-error and not a fault of the carrier. It had been a while since I used a mei tai style carrier and I have fit issues with most carriers due to my body type. A little practice and a good wiggle/bounce/tie and the fit is resolved.

Overall, I enjoy this carrier. I think it will be our go-to for Daddy's car. I like having a carrier in each car for times when a little extra snuggling is needed when we are on the go. This carrier would be a great starter carrier. The price is great and the pattern is so adorable.

Happy Babywearing!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Brilliant Baby Food, a review of Cutielunch Reusable Squeeze Pouch

Reusable Pouches might just be my new favorite thing!

Just starting with the legal bit: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

Now for the fun part!  Ever thought to yourself it's so expensive to buy those baby food pouches at the store? And then, your baby turns into a toddler and wants the "fun" ones with the pudding which cost an extra dollar... well, solution found!   Cutielunch Reusable Squeeze Pouch to the rescue!

I always wanted to make my own baby food, but since we always qualified for WIC we got tons of baby food jars from them. I am very blessed to have received all this free baby food, trust me.  I always cry when the kids move up to "real" food!  It is great at home, but when we have to go anywhere it is such a mess taking the little container and trying to use a spoon with a wiggly kid.  Besides, I ALWAYS manage to spill on myself opening the foil top.. seriously, how hard does that have to be.

So, reusable pouches have been on my mind for quite a while.  They always scared me a little bit.  When I had the opportunity to review these and receive a set for free I jumped at the chance.  I wasn't going to spend hard earned money on something I just wasn't sure would work.  Boy, was I wrong.

First, cost.  This particular set of 4 pouches is normally $14.99 but right now is marked down to 10.99.  If you have amazon prime (which seriously is a lifesaver in our house) you get free shipping. That comes out to $3.75 a piece at full price or $2.75 a piece if you snatch them up on sale. You might be thinking "but the grocery store ones are only $1" .... and that brings me to the second point...

Second, YOU DON'T THROW THEM AWAY WHEN YOU ARE DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is a huge issue, the pre-filled pouches at the grocery store get tossed when you are done.  Hello, landfill.  These are sturdy, and meant to be used over and over again.  I love that they are reusable, I will be saving so much more money than buying pouches at the grocery store every week.  Even if I still bought baby food at the store the savings just keep going up. The little glass jars are always cheaper than the new plastic ones, and can be used for neat projects afterwards.  Or, instead of buying 15 little plastic boxes of apples I can buy the big applesauce in the fruit section and save cost and trash.  Huge win. Want to have Apple/Squash mix? They don't sell that... you can just grab two single flavors, throw them in a pouch (I added cinnamon to mine) mix and eat!  So awesome..

Lets talk about the practicality, the logistics if you will.  Because we all know it's no good if the food just pops out of the seal and we're no better off than before... guess what?! DOUBLE SEAL! BAM. The bottom has two zip-lock like seals, they are deeply ridged so they catch the other side really well.  After I made my first batch I opened it to check and could see that the cinnamon had gotten between the innermost seal but the outer seal was there to make sure nothing spilled.  It was my fault for using the shaker instead of a spoon to put the cinnamon into the pouch. Learn from my mistakes! Use a spoon if adding spices! But still, there was no leak.

Only for babies? NO WAY! Lucy thought the picture was so cute. She is very picky about which pouches she will get from the store (they have to be purple or pink lately) but with the fun fruits on these she is happily asking for them!  I can up the flavor level when making pouches for Lucy or keep it bland for the baby.  I am tempted to make some for myself!  I'm thinking a little peach and cinnamon with a splash of vanilla might taste just like cobbler!  Cutielunch Reusable Squeeze Pouch has changed the way I look at snacks on the go.  Want your own set? Click here!  (this is not an affiliate link, I'm not cool enough for one of those yet): Reusable Baby Food Pouch (4-pack) for Homemade Baby Food. Squeeze Pouch Is Great As a Food Container and for Food Storage.

I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

SAHM Badge Unlocked: Leggings

This is the story of my first pair of leggings.