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10 Best of COVID-19 Film Festival for Families

10 Best of COVID-19 Film Festival for Families

Our 10 best of COVID-19 Film Festival for families includes movies that entertain parents and expand the kids’ world. That’s the E.C.Knox standard.

(And Disney need not apply.)

When venturing beyond the Disney/Minions/blockbuster realm, movies get more nuanced and profound. They’re frequently calmer and quieter, which might not cater to our current, fast-paced, frenetic society.

But in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve all got time to slow down and let our attention spans adapt, right? That might be most important for our kids.

The following are a top-ten in our personal “COVID-19 Film Festival”. And even if kids say “this is old-fashioned”, nine times out of ten they’re catatonic when a screen is illuminated, anyway, amiright?

So go ahead: stretch their limits and encourage them to see classics that deal with more mature topics that aren’t Disney-fied and simplified.

Consider it part of their cultural expansion during this hell of online learning and homeschooling.

Our 10 best of COVID-19 Film Festival for families should actually count as “online learning”.

You’re welcome.

The Black Stallion (full review)

is a high quality movie for the entire family…a Coppola film from the 70’s that doesn’t look or feel like that. It will enthrall your kids, provide the excitement that only horse-racing movies can inspire, and bring stunning visuals less dialogue that will leave you appreciating the silence. Further – you can cash in on the equally interesting sequel, The Black Stallion Returns. Watch on Amazon and Hoopla through your local library. WATCH THE TRAILER.

A Dog’s Purpose (full review)

What particularly moved me was the provocative questions the movie inspired: thoughts about reincarnation, mortality, kindness and mindfulness that are beautifully posed for young viewers. Watch on Amazon and Netflix.

The Little Prince (Full Review)

In short – your soul will be filled, the kids might lose focus, but screw ’em – they have the TV on, don’t they? And it’ll make them better little people. Watch on Amazon and Netflix.

The Red Balloon

A classic French tale with rapturous views of Paris in the 1960’s. Very little dialogue (luckily…since young kids won’t be interested in scanning subtitles over French speakers). But the simple relationship story of a little boy and his new favorite pet is universal (not to mention the heart-break of bullying) will be thought-provoking for your kiddos. A must-see. Watch here.

Coraline

One of the few animated movies I wanted to include. Just quirky and bizarre enough with lots of child-appropriate darkness. Remind your kids that Disney isn’t the end-all/be-all for animation. Watch here and on Netflix.

Heidi

This isn’t the Shirley Temple version, don’t you worry. So you won’t suffer from saccharine perspective of a hard life in the 19th century Alps (pre-Swiss bank accounts and highest global standard of living.) If you’ve never actually read the book (for reals: who has?) you’ll be surprised at some of the twists and turns of this movie. It’s also an excellent bit of exposure to “life in different eras and locales” for the kiddos. Watch on Amazon and Hoopla.

Matilda

This version of the classic Roald Dahl children’s story is hilariously quirky (directed by Danny Devito, after all). It lacks some of the actual darkness of the book, but it’s still just off-beat enough your kids will see “oh, that’s a fun way of telling a kids’ story.” Buy on Amazon or stream on Netflix.

Sound of Music

You know it’s been too long since you watched this with your own family on Thanksgiving. It’s long, it has Nazis, it might not seem like pre-school viewing. But didn’t you watch it in preschool? Exactly. It’s a classic. Re-familiarize yourself with the most classic of American movie musicals. Stream on Amazon.

Babe

In that charming way that foreign movies just don’t feel, well…American, Babe is heart-warming and adorable without feeling nauseatingly sappy. Once again, it opens your mind and heart with just the right amount of cheeky humor to delight the parents. Find it here and all the other places you should google. 🙂

Chicken Run

Why not show your kids the hilarity of stop-motion animation? It’s an entirely different art form that brings such different expression to stories and characters. And Chicken Run sends enough jokes over the kids’ heads to make you howl. Everyone can learn more from chickens. Stream on Amazon.

Yellow Submarine

Go ahead. Take your kids on a 1960’s head trip. It’s incomprehensible to the non-imbibers of edibles, but the incomprehensibility is also full of dated hilarity. Go ahead. Take the kids on a yellow submarine head trip. They’ll look at you like your crazy, but also it’ll make them the coolest kids on the playground…or at least serve their cool factor amongst the intelligent elite at college.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The lesser-known of the 1960’s family classics like Mary Poppins, this is still a classic movie musical that you won’t hate and the kids will this is cool. Just indulge your inner child, again, and go along for the ride. Hollywood movie musicals at their 1960’s best. Stream on Amazon, free on Hoopla, or on Netflix.

And some honorable, self-evident choices that are must-sees in life:

Please add to our list! We need to grow beyond 10 best of COVID-19 Film Festival for families.

8 Ways Child-less Travel is the Best (Spring Break 2020!)

8 Ways Child-less Travel is the Best (Spring Break 2020!)

Last February I learned that child-less travel is the best kind of travel. But before realizing so, I frantically brain-stormed a last-minute timeshare getaway to warmer climes with the family. It would include our 2-year-old and 10-month-old.

My stress over rising airline tickets and dwindling hotel availability prompted my partner to say, “You could just go on your own.”

(Disclaimer #1: Getting away for an adult vacation wasn’t feasible. We don’t have family nearby on whom to foist two kids under 2 and we can’t afford 4 days of round-the-clock baby-sitting.)

“What?” I sputtered.

“Yeah, I mean it’s so much work to take the kids. It’s expensive, it’s a headache, and it’s not relaxing. I’m all about taking my own solo mini-vacation, later. You want to get away more than I do, right now, anyway. Seems to me child-less travel is the best kind of travel.”

(Disclaimer #2 True. I’d been very full-time daddy for the past couple months…along with titles of “actor“, “writer” and “entrepreneur“.)

“So you just go for a couple days.”

“But, but, but…” I sputtered, “No! We need to go somewhere exotic and force ourselves to have a fantastic time and take the perfect family-of-four picture that’ll serve as our Christmas card that shows how insanely happy we all are on our vacation that’s really been a total pain-in-the-ass, unrelaxing, sleep-deprived getaway from our convenient snack cabinet”.

Even I couldn’t even finish that run-on sentence without laughing at my own absurdity. I knew such a trip would be 70% headache, 25% mildly fun, 3% relaxing and 2% exhilarating.

After talking to some friends with kids who all said, “YES! GO! DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I’D LOVE TO GO AWAY ON MY OWN FOR A FEW DAYS?” I realized I was being given an incredible opportunity.

So I did.

Here are the reasons I’m a complete convert:

  1. Saving money. Lots of it: food, airplane, drinks for one instead of four, fewer chintzy souvenirs. (I looked up how to spell “chintzy”. You’re welcome.)
  2. Saving my smart phone. I don’t have to worry about getting sand in it, recharging the batteries because Toca Boca games drained it, or capturing limitless pictures of the fifteen minutes that the kids actually entertain themselves and act cute. Instead, I Instagram my beer and my book and then run the battery down, myself, playing my own inane games.
  3. Pitying the exhausted parents around me. I got real sleep. Or I slept in. Or I lost sleep by my own volition. But I didn’t wake to a screaming child or a child demanding, “I want milk! I want milk!”
  4. Speaking of demanding: there are none. But mine. And I want them NOW!!!
  5. Anxiety-free meals. Let’s start with where and what to eat: my only dilemma was choosing the right meal for myself. No worries about whether the kids will eat or that I have to wolf down my food as fast as possible before post-dinner attention meltdown begins.
  6. Read a book. Or not. The point is, I don’t have to worry about drowning children or sun-burnt children or fighting children or napping children. Just me. Read. Or not.
  7. No more pressure to take the perfect family vacation photo. Nobody but parents want to see vacation pictures, anyway. Now I don’t need to get frustrated trying to stage the perfect vacation photo-op. Those pictures create more angst in myself than pleasure for others. I’ll take more candids at home. On vacation, I’ll just Instagram my beer and my beach read.
  8. I get to miss my children and be excited to come home. Even a mere 5 days (two of them were travel days, so do they even count?) away made me homesick for my kids. What a wonderful way to end…excited to come home. Plus, I got excited to dream about vacations that will be much less hassle-free and much more appreciated by my kids WHEN THEY’RE A BIT OLDER. In the meantime…daddy solo time. Me likey.

Any others? What justifications can you add to save future guilt-ridden parents the agony of indecision and realize child-less travel is the best!

10 Best Children’s Books in 2020

10 Best Children’s Books in 2020

Obviously many books can serve as the ten best children’s books to delight and educate your children. This is especially true since it’s not about the substance you read to your kids but the act and tone and exposure to words.

But what about the grown-up’s experience? – shouldn’t the best children’s books delight us, too?

I’m far too selfish only to think of my kids when reading. I better be delighted and educated, as well – and that, for me, is what qualifies books for being on a list of the ten best children’s books.

Below are 10 of the best children’s books in my kids’ collection, as well as a few more foregone conclusions for classics that should just be in your collection by default.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud & David Messina – Feelings are sometimes abstract and hard to articulate for kids. Even grown-ups often wonder “what’s the point in being kind for kindness’ sake?” Further, why bullies are mean is particularly complex. But this book gives you tools for explaining the self-interest in being kind and why bullies are mean. It feels like a corporate H.R. in-house self-publish. But trust. You’ll find it unmissable.

Tuba Lessons by T.C. Bartlett and Monique Felix is magical. Plain and simple – evocative illustrations inspiring children to fill in their own blanks. Trust me – open the cover and watch the kids dive in. There are very few words – so challenge your kids to narrate the pictures, themselves!


Little Boy by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds – For those of us who struggle with being present and mindful, this book, with its unique cadence and adorable illustrations helps parents slow down and think of the importance of days made of now.
It’s too bad the book is specifically gendered and focused on a white boy’s perspective. The only improvement would be to expand the lens to universal gender and skin color.

I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan The best children’s books lend themselves to creative voicing and a personality that leaps off the page. This, the first in a series, is educational and entertaining and allows the reader to be as ridiculous as possible. You’ll never look at garbage trucks the same way.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry

The importance of cooperation and teamwork is one of the most fundamental we should pass on to our littles. And Little Blue Truck always shows that life is easier when we work together. Further, the rhymes and illustrations are entertaining for everyone.

The Secret Circus by Johanna Wright Similar to Goodnight Moon, this beauty combines uniquely simple illustrations with quiet language perfect for lulling little ones to sleep and allowing grown-ups to take their time with the sparse language and just revel in the quiet of the story.


Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak – – The author of Where the Wild Things Are created masterpieces of childhood wonder and unique illustrations. This series of mini-books allows kids to experience unique stories (and alphabet repetition) in a tiny package that kids can organize, discover and (re)organize.


Press Here by Heuvé Tullet – Reading this book requires children’s interaction giving them a sense of cause and effect. They will insist on executing every page’s instruction and will result in tons of delight. And if your kids are like mine, hours of repetition and ripped pages that have been repeatedly over-loved.

Stuck – Oliver Jeffers – Another element of children’s book magic comes from nonsensical storylines that delight. This is one of those. Just trust me.
How Much is a Million? – Conceptualizing large numbers is tough for anyone. This book actually illustrates a million. It’ll expand your mind and warm your heart.

City Dog Country Frog by Mo Willems While Mo can do no wrong, and all of the pigeon books are must-haves and Piggy and Gerald are modern classics, this wonderful book about a friendship through the seasons gently introduces loss and sadness in a way that may introduce your children to your own tears.

How Big is a Million? by Anna Milbourne & Serena Riglietti

Again, children grapple with complex ideas of feelings and numbers that are fascinating to contemplate and very difficult to illustrate and understand. And haven’t YOU wondered what a million looks like? Look no further. This gem literally illustrates it for you. This wonderful book is guaranteed to blow your mind as well as your kid’s. Again, children grapple with complex ideas of feelings and numbers that are fascinating to contemplate and very difficult to illustrate and understand. And haven’t YOU wondered what a million looks like? Look no further. This gem literally illustrates it for you. This wonderful book is guaranteed to blow your mind as well as your kid’s.

Also, I have to include the basics, without which your kid’s cursed to live a pointless, unfulfilled life. Kidding. (Sorta.)

Honorable Mention: Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd(?). Despite being a parody (knock-off) of one of the best children’s books of all time (see above), its application to modern life is hilarious and apt. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in cleverness.

And all of these bags could be easily carried in the best daddy diaper bag with confidence that your kids will love them and you won’t be annoyed.

The Best (and/or Coolest) Diaper Bag for Dads

The Best (and/or Coolest) Diaper Bag for Dads

Am I titling this “The Best (and/or Coolest) Diaper Bag for Dads” and including terms like “cool” and “stylish” within the first sentence to maximize my SEO in a way that makes me seem like I know what “maximizing SEO” means?

Absolutely.

However, I’m serious – this is the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for cool dads and stylish dads.

Amanda Kloots thinks so, and she can do like five-minute-long planks:

Additionally, these folks at TTPM? They’re like deadly serious and they think the bag rocks.

So in addition to these highly-scientific endorsements, and the fact that you’re a new parent, there’s no reason you need to compromise your sense of style. It’ll help your entire parenting mojo.

Just like fashion: it’s all attitude.

Perhaps you feel like rocking a cowboy hat walking down Madison Avenue? Just own it and love yourself for it.

Living their best life. Totes jealous, ain’t ya?

Or maybe it’s your jam to sport pink platform boots with googley eyes on Main Street, (or in this case 28th Street), then dude: werq it.

And the ECKnox Carryall diaper bag is a bag new dads (and moms!) can rock with confidence and attitude.

However, “ECKnox Carryall diaper bag” – that’s a mouth full, isn’t it? I gotta get my team on that.

Quick sidebar with the team:

  • Me: Hey, Team!
  • The Voices in My Head: Yeah?
  • Me: Can we simplify the name?
  • TVIMH: Hm-kay.
  • Me: How about just ‘diaper bag’?
  • TVIMH: But then that might limit your commercial reach.
  • Me: Perhaps, but…
  • TVIMH: Or men might think “dudes don’t carry diaper bags”.
  • Me: Eh, it’s 2019. Plus, that perspective of uninvolved dads is what I’m trying to change.
  • TVIMH: And also, you can remove the liner of your bag and it becomes a cool messenger bag for when parents have outgrown diapers.
  • Me: Right.
  • TVIMH: And isn’t that one of the selling points that justify the price of your bag?
  • Me: Totes.
  • TVIMH: That and the fact that it’s a complicated bag with lots of features and super slick styling and high quality nylon and leather detailing that jacks the price up, too?
  • Me: Do we really need to highlight the pricing, here?
  • TVIMH: Just stating the obvious from the voices in your head. Apparently you have insecurities you need to work out. That’s on you, dude.

Anyway.

When I was expecting my first kid, I wanted a slick, masculine diaper bag that announced, “I’m proud to be a new dad and I want to look good being that dad.” But in all my research, I couldn’t find such a bag.

I thought about it for another year, had another kid, and but still was confounded that such a bag didn’t exist.

So I set out to make it, myself – a bag with sophistication, super functionality, and timeless styling.

Something that made people say, “Wow. Nice bag. I wonder what it is? Oh, wait a minute! That’s that designer diaper bag for dads. Ohhhh…he’s a new dad! Ahhhh.”

And all hearts would melt on the subway/playground/street/hottest-new-brunch-restaurant-in-the-trendiest-neighborhood.

(Lucky for you, I wrote about my journey here and here but also here and moreover here.)

Do I harbor the illusion that men are going to flock to buy bags for themselves? In some cases, yes. But don’t worry, I’m not delusional – this bag is branded for men and marketed to the women who will be 70% of the purchasers.

So.

Why’s this the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for stylish dads?

Form and function.

The features:

This is the best diaper bag for dads because it has 14 pockets.

How can you go wrong? This is also the best diaper bag for dads because two of those pockets are for bottles and it’s REALLY the best diaper bag for dads because one of those bottle holders accommodates a bottle of wine for those particularly tough days on the playground. (Might want to get your own paper bag to protect your assets while drinking in a playground, though.)

This is the best diaper bag for dads because there are frequently no changing stations in men’s rooms.

So I made it the best diaper bag for dads because there’s a zip-open changing station for those times there’s no changing station in the restroom. However, there might be times you can’t be bothered to leave the playground; in which case you wanna show your parenting badassery by changing your kid’s diaper on the playground like a BOSS (who’s not overly freaked out about germs. Because kids are petri dishes. Make peace with the germs. It builds character and resilience and immunity.)

This is the best diaper bag for dads because there’s a padded laptop sleeve.

Not only is there a laptop sleeve that makes this the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for dads, but there are also three sleeves in which you can stow wallets, phones, pens, sunglasses and those quick-access things you just don’t feel like carrying in your pockets (cuz your ass looks better in your pants when you aren’t carrying bulky things. More on that at another time.)

The best diaper bag for dads has mesh pockets inside the liner so you can organize how you want, but see what’s in the pocket.

The coolest diaper bag for dads would have to be easy to clean, so we made it that way. The liner is removable with a hidden zipper. That way, you can wash the liner and even replace it (INSERT LINK FOR NEW LINERS, HERE. OOPS – however I need first to design and manufacture replaceable liners and THEN insert the link for purchase).

Furthermore, what REALLY makes this the best diaper bag for dads is once the liner is removed, there’s an inner liner that’s slick and black and professional, so you can continue to use the bag for years as a messenger bag after you’re done with the diapering.

You can also quickly convert the bag to a backpack (which many bags can do, but they aren’t the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for dads.)

Finally (and seriously, y’all…this is my favorite feature) what makes this the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for dads is the instant access to wet wipes.

Through an interior pocket open with a magnetized flap, you can be friggin’ Oprah on the playground.

  • You want a wet wipe? Boom. Here ya go.
  • Need a wet wipe? Boom. Here, Daddy.
  • Ahhhh…forgot your wet wipes? Boom. Here ya go, Mommy.
  • You definitely need a wet wipe, snot-nosed kid whose mom is buried in her phone and isn’t paying attention to the fact that her kid is wiping snot and kid pink eye all over the monkey bars.
  • Oh, and you need a wet wipe, son. Yes, you do, kid. Come here. Please come here, now. Right here to Daddy. Come, right – Junior? Come here right now and make Daddy look good so the other parents on the playground don’t judge him for being just another helicopter parent whose kids don’t actually mind him at all. Junior? One. Two. Don’t make me get to three. Two and a half. Two and three quarters. Boom Here’s your wet wipe.

There ya have it, folks. The best and coolest diaper bag for dads.

And in no way is this bag just meant for dads. All my girlfriends say “why would you only make this for dads? I’d totally carry this. I never liked my stupid pink, puffy bag!”

Exactly, ladies. You’re invited, too. But I started the company to cater to, well, me.

And I’m an only-child actor. So my needs come first.

Lemme sell a few bags, establish my brand, and bring a ton of other really cool things to market to expand into a lifestyle brand, and then this bag will be all about the gender-nonspecific stylish parenting.

For now? I gotta grow my niche.

Won’t you help?

Buy a bag.

It’s an investment that’ll make you feel good inside and out for years to come.

Can any other bag do that for you?

Nope. Because they’re not the best and/or coolest diaper bag for stylish dads.

Simple Surprises about Parenting (In this case – Just 5)

Simple Surprises about Parenting (In this case – Just 5)

These are trite and silly, but stick out in my mind as simple surprises about parenting I never, ever expected. My mind was blown at my lack of preparation – no matter how prepare I felt.

(I never felt prepared.)

But despite my instincts, these simple surprises about parenting never failed to astonish me.

1. “Granny Hour”

Back when my first kid was born, I watched HAPPIEST BABY ON THE BLOCK. I understood the “5 S’s” but didn’t necessarily know when or why I’d employ them.

But at about six weeks, when my kid became inconsolably irritated and annoying, my sleep-deprived mind didn’t realize THAT is when they need the 5 S’s. I just wallowed in their irritation without THEN employing the 5 S’s. Consequently, I was suffering more than they.

A friend told me it was “Granny Hour”.

In olden days when we lived in tribal villages (read: without YouTube), Granny realized that Daddy needed a drink around 5pm and she’d come over and bounce Junior so that Daddy could get fresh air (into his glass of wine). Nobody told me that the 5 S’s were for what would become Granny/Witching/Hell hour…and that it would go on for the first three months of infancy.

I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t a daily 4:30-6:30 hellish period of whining and suffering (MY own.)

2. That 3-6 months would be relatively easy.

Hate to break it to you, new parents, but after your kid eases their incessant irritation, starts sleeping through the night, and even Granny hour becomes less severe, you’ll have a couple months of bliss (months 3-6).

But don’t worry – it gets infinitely harder.

Enjoy those months of happy baby who doesn’t actually do anything but coo and poop and charm you. Go out to eat, NOW and OFTEN while your kid still fits in the car seat bucket. Your world is about to get rocked.

With the era of sitting up and cruising around furniture comes the beginning of the end of your independence. That kid needs stimulation: now and always. Thus begins the era of you needing to hide your phone in your best daddy diaper bag as you double-task playtime. You have to start the mind-numbing process of baby babble and shaking rattles for what feels like hours (but is only 7 minutes). But that’s seriously when everything changes.

It’s all good. You’ll love it, blah, blah, blah. But you have it so easy in those first six months.

I wasn’t expecting that.

3. Raisins in poop

My kids eat lots of mixtures of yogurt, apple sauce and raisins for breakfast. It took me a few diaper changes to realize they hadn’t swallowed whole kidney beans for lunch the previous day. Those are raisins. They’re swallowing them whole and, apparently, they bloat during their journey down the digestive track. Now, I knew corn doesn’t fully digest (Corn? When did I eat corn?), but apparently if baby teeth don’t chew through raisins, they don’t digest, either. Food for thought.

I wasn’t expecting that.

4. “I don’t love you”

Once after a nap, my then 3-yo declared “Daddy, I don’t love you”. It was out of nowhere. I wasn’t yelling, they weren’t in time out, there was no stress; they just walked out of their room, looked at me, and said it.

I kept my cool and responded, “Well, that’s OK. I’ll love you always forever and no matter what.”

They looked at me.

Then they asked, “Can I have some juice, please?”

I figured since I passed that little test, we both deserved some juice.

(But I wasn’t expecting “I don’t love you” for another 6 years.)

5. Babies and toddlers can be assholes

They don’t want to be assholes. It’s not their intention. But mine terrorize me with their dissatisfaction toward everything. They can be happily playing for a record-breaking twenty minutes. Everyone’s happily babbling along. Then the seal of happy cuteness is broken.

They trip over an errant Thomas train (though they trip 72 times/day).

Or a blanket is stuck under a chair (Really? You have to have THIS blanket right NOW)

Or that book that they’ve never ever paid any attention to is held by the terrorist sibling so a tug-of-war/screaming/crying fight ensues. Over “Pajama Time”.

Really? You never even LIKE this book!

And then they’re dissatisfied for what feels like the next seventeen hours. Yes.

Toddlers are terrorist assholes.

So apparently “Granny Hour” isn’t left behind in infancy. The cycle begins anew.

I just wasn’t expecting that.

I know this is the least comprehensive list in parenting history, but they’re list missives about those infinite surprises on the parenting path.

What simple surprises about parenting do you experience?