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While we've been very fortunate to have a pair of healthy kids thus far, I know that many of my readers and friends have been faced with some health challenges as parents. One such challenge is Autism, a topic that I have brought attention to a few times in the past, and something that I seem to encounter an increasing amount of families being affected by. That said, tonight I'm sharing news of an event that will take place in Kentucky on July 27... ROCKSTARS GLUED presents AUTISM SINGS KY. This special event will feature 29 bands performing at the Thompson House in Newport, as part of a day that will include music, games, raffles, food, dance, and silent auctions - all in support of Autism Speaks. Check out full details, along with the impressive list of items that have been dontated to the effort.

Published in James' Journal

Just North of Chicago, right on the line of where Cook and Lake Counties meet, lies the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. It's often referred to as "A Treasure of the Cook County Forest Preserve," and for good reason - it's 385 of the most beautiful acres that you'll find anywhere. Despite living near it, and driving by it countless times over the past few years, we recently made our first family trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden for a full day of adventure as guests of the Garden.  

Published in Gardening

UPDATE #2 - Three+ Years Later: As of 2016, a new line of Sofia the First Toys are being created and sold by Just Play Toys, thus negating this original article... unless, of course, you happen to come across old stock that could still be floating around from 2013. And, in fairness, we did eventually buy some of the later Mattel releases and they were just fine. In fact, the Royal Prep playset is still played with regularly... years later.

UPDATE: Since posting this entry, Rachel Cooper, Senior Manager of Public Relations for Mattel, got in touch. After speaking with her on the phone this evening, I can tell you that Mattel is well-aware of the problems, and that the line has gone through a "complete overhaul." This means that new shipments of merchandise should start arriving in August as part of an inline change. Families that have purchased defective or sub-standard product can contact Mattel Customer Service for a free replacement from the new batches as they arrive. Rachel made it very clear that Mattel is sorry for any issues or disappointment.

There is trouble in Enchancia. Royally-bad trouble, I'm afraid... and as a parent - and a writer - this is one of those times where I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but more than happy to raise the flag to spread the word and hold accountable those who are responsible. Parents and Children across the country are discovering that there's BIG problems with the new line of toys based on Disney Junior's SOFIA THE FIRST. Specifically, the collection of 3-inch scale Dolls (action figures?) by Mattel, and all related accessories, including the "Magical Talking Castle."

Earlier this month, the youngest member of our family hit a major milestone: Finley Renoir turned one! I have to get used to the fact that "Baby Finley" is now a toddler, and I still can't believe that it's already been a year since she came into our lives. This past year has been filled with emotions that I never expected to have, fueled by the fact that even before Finn was born, my wife and I decided that we'd be completing our family with the arrival of our second daughter. With each "first" for Finn came a "last" for Dad... as I'd come to realize that I was doing certain things for the final time as a parent as our baby moved towards completing her first twelve months on this planet. The last folding of a 0-3 months size shirt; the last box of plain rice cereal purchased; and recently, the last bottle of formula created, as the little one "graduated" to 2% milk.

Published in James' Journal

HASBRO's G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS lines are legendary. For a kid like me (I'm 36), the combined punch of the original animated series' and the seemingly never-ending stream of new toys made a major impact. Throw in a third factor - the monthly comic books published by MARVEL - and the adventure was truly a transmedia experience before "transmedia" was even a word. With no VOD, DVD, BD or even VHS (for us), the troops of COBRA and 'JOE would find their battles fought regularly via imagination, with our backyard swingset (the old "T" shaped variety) standing in for G.I. JOE headquarters and Cobra's TERROR DROME. Occasionally, there would be crossovers... with representatives of the Autobots and Decepticons joining the skirmish (with an occasional STAR WARS figure, too).

If your baby is 555 then you're 666, right? Worlds are colliding here folks, as the crew at Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star have announced LULLABY VERSIONS OF SLIPKNOT for a July 2, 2013 digital release. They've unleashed a preview stream of the lullaby version of "Before I Forget" (hear it on The Rock Father below), and if you pre-order the 12-song collection now via iTunes, you'll get that track right away. Corey Taylor and M. Shawn Crahan are both certified "Rock Fathers" in their own right, and the late Paul Gray had a little one as well.

Published in Family Music
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