ScreenTime: How “Spirit: Riding Free” Saved Me $38,760 (Approximately)

(YouTube)

ScreenTime is not an educational column. Sure, sometimes you learn something, like Which Paw Patrol Puppy Is The Worst, or How Barbie: Life In The Dreamhouse Prepares Your Kids For The Apocolypse, but today you will learn something even more valuable: How to save $38,760 with nothing but a basic Netflix subscription.

This Friday, November 17, 2017, marks the release of Season 3 of the Netflix/Dreamworks Original Series Spirit: Riding Free. The surprisingly controversial spin-off of the 2002 movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has many admirers, but my daughter and I will not be returning to it. This is the story of why.

(YouTube)

When my daughter first pointed at the title screen for Spirit: Riding Free and screamed, “NEIGH!!! WAMMA WATCH NEIGH,” I clicked with no small amount of trepidation. Netflix’s kids programming isn’t exactly Stranger Things-quality, and given the lackluster approach content makers often take when it comes to shows aimed at young girls, my expectations were at rock bottom. But I don’t like to judge a book by its cover, so we gave it a shot.

If you watch the show’s title sequence, you might think my apprehensions were well founded. The theme song is a country-pop tune blander than a Kidz-Bopped Florida Georgia Line and the animation is ripped straight from the cut-scenes of an early 2000s PlayStation 2 RPG about horse grooming. The particularly savvy amongst you may have noticed aspects of the aforementioned controversy. But you, like me, are focusing on the wrong aspect of the sequence. The key scene, the scene that unlocks the true heart of the show, is the one of the girls dodging flying boulders as they charge down a narrow canyon.

(YouTube)

It is here that we see the first hints of what this series is all about: putting humans and horses in legitimately, unnecessarily terrifying situations, over and over again.

The first season of Spirit: Riding Free only has six episodes in it, but it is not until the second episode that it reveals to the unsuspecting viewer its harsh message. The pilot is inoffensive and straightforward: girl arrives in town, makes some friends, makes some enemies, the scene is set. We are introduced to our protagonists, Lucky and her horse Spirit. Yeah, along the way she witnesses a horse being wrangled in a somewhat unnecessarily traumatic way, but it’s a minor blip.

(YouTube)

This lulls the viewer into a false sense of security. This is going to be a nice show about a girl, her friends, and their horses. Then Episode 2 begins and the facade starts to slip.

“Lucky & The Treacherous Trail” starts with Lucky’s horse Spirit going nuts and smashing through the walls of a barn, and climaxes with a set of scenes in which Lucky and Spirit ride through a dangerous trail about which we have previously been given dire warnings. First they mess up a jump and we see the deadly results of one false move. Then the unstable cliff edge gives way causing Lucky to trip, nearly plummeting to her death, with poor Spirit hurting his ankle trying to save her. I’m not too proud to admit, my heart was in my mouth.

(YouTube)
(YouTube)

The show presents the lesson of the episode as one of listening to your friends and not being too proud, but the true lesson it seeks to impart is this: Don’t Fuck Around With Horses. You Will Die.

I had learned my lesson, and was ready to move on, but my daughter is made of sterner stuff than I. I have seen her sit through scenes like Tai Lung’s escape in Kung Fu Panda, or the final battle in How To Train Your Dragon, that have made lesser children literally shit their pants. So we persisted.

As if Episode 2 hadn’t put Lucky, Spirit, and my nerves through enough, Episode 3, “Lucky & The Mysterious Map”, opens with exactly the kind of terror-inducing vertigo that drove me to drink at the end of Episode 2. Here, Lucky, her father, and her two friends, Pru and Abigail, are ascending a steep and narrow canyon pass when Spirit freaks the fuck out and causes their wagon and all their possessions to careen off a cliff. The wagon nearly takes two horses and Lucky’s dad with it, and it’s only because Lucky’s dad is some kind of super-powered acrobat that he survives.

(YouTube)

Already I was concerned: If this is where “Lucky & The Mysterious Map” starts, at what fearful pitch will it end? Sure enough, it isn’t long before Lucky, Pru, and Abigail are TRAPPED IN A DARK CAVE BY A WILD BEAR. And this isn’t some friendly, picnic-stealing Yogi Bear type. It is made clear that this bear is trying to maul and eat these preteens.

(YouTube)

It was Episode 5 that finally finished me. Specifically this scene, in which an abused and terrified horse is trapped and panicked. Our heroes can’t go near him for fear of getting a hoof to the solar plexus. Meanwhile, a dam is about to burst, unleashing a tidal wave that tears down trees and crumbles rock. Just look at this damn horse. I can’t take it.

(YouTube)

Maybe one day my daughter and I will return to Spirit: Riding Free, but we will return to it humbled, our lesson learned: Horses are terrifying.

And in years to come, when my daughters’ friends gaze longingly at horses galloping majestically in open fields, or bring home flyers for riding lessons, or for conveniently-located stables, my children will remember “Lucky & The Mysterious Map”, and, fearful of the inevitable bear mauling and near-death experiences that accompany horse-related activities, search for some safer, cheaper hobby.

(YouTube)

So enjoy your approximately $38,760 in horse activity-related costs, parents who haven’t seen Spirit: Riding Free. My daughter and I will be over here on the couch, breathing into brown paper bags, resisting flashbacks of “Lucky & The Treacherous Trail”.

Woman Asks Internet to Send Her WWII Hero Dad Birthday Cards for His 96th

(Facebook/Sue Morse)

Birthdays are special no matter your age, but as you get up in years and they are less of a foregone conclusion, they become more and more meaningful. One proud daughter is doing her best to make her dad’s birthday as special as possible by putting the word out on social media.

Sue Morse’s father has lived an extraordinary life, and as he approaches his 96th birthday, she is hoping to help him get a little extra recognition for surviving it! Duane Sherman turns 96 on December 30th, and when you have a birthday that’s sandwiched between two of the year’s biggest holidays, it’s easy for it to get overlooked. But not if she has anything to say about it.

Sue took to Facebook to give a little background on her dad’s life, and it’s a pretty killer story. The man enlisted in the military after Pearl Harbor, and his service was rather eventful.

She laid it all out on her Facebook page:

“He was a Chief Sonarman on the USS Lamson DD 367. He sailed the world, but saw the most action in the Leyte Gulf and Ormoc Bay in the Philippines. His ship bombarded the coastline and made it easier and safer for the Marines to land. On December 7th, 1944, his ship was hit by a kamikaze plane. Close to 30 shipmates died in that action. Dad tells of jumping from the bridge into fiery waters. He was hit with hot shrapnel and received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained.”

Pretty amazing! And after all that, the man stuck around for another go-round, as Sue’s post notes: “He is very proud of his service and also served as a Sonar Instructor during the Korean War.”

She closed her missive with a request for readers to send her dad some birthday cards to help him celebrate, and posted his mailing address.

The local news also featured Mr. Sherman:

Dad Runs Marathon With Empty Stroller to Raise Awareness

(Facebook/Troy Austin)

Running a marathon is never easy. But it’s especially hard to run one when you have a heavy heart. Even harder still is to run one while pushing a stroller. But that’s exactly what one heartbroken man did, to honor the son he never got a chance to meet.

Troy Austin is no stranger to running marathons, but he’d never run one quite like the Sunshine Coast Marathon in Australia in August 2017.

The marathon came about a year after Troy’s wife had delivered their son, stillborn at 27 weeks. To honor the child, he ran the full marathon while pushing an empty stroller. He wrote about the experience in a Facebook post, where he explained the intent behind the stroller, which caused some confusion during the race. Multiple spectators and fellow runners joked that Troy had lost his kid, only for the dad to explain that yes, he had. And that was exactly why he was running with the stroller.

“Everytime ‘Hey mate you lost your kid’ it took a good mate beside me to have a chat so my bottom lip didn’t tremble, as I would try think up quick ways of saying yes I have lost my kid and I am not getting him back.”

Some people even jokingly asked for a ride, ignorant of the pain behind Troy’s symbolic gesture.

“T.G would have been 1 1/2 years old and sitting in the pram, however there would be no Legacy, no reason and no knowledge because until we were told he had passed we didn’t have any idea it could happen.” he wrote in an emotional Facebook post.

The bereaved father ran several races in the days after his son’s burial, including the Long Course Triathlon Nationals, Ironman New Zealand, and World Age Group Titles. ‘I trained and kept my mind and body so tired it could not grieve,’ he told Australia’s Daily Mail.

He ran the marathon to raise awareness of stillbirths via T.G.s Legacy, named after his son. ‘Stillbirth isn’t publicised like cancer or the road toll, no one wants to talk about a dead child,’ he said. In the process he also raised funds for Sands Queensland which offers support to those who have lost a baby.

Troy and his wife have since had a second son, but it hasn’t taken away the pain they feel for T.G.’s loss. ‘We have had our second son recently, but that does not take away from how much we miss his big brother and never will. We will never forget TG, for he is our son.’

“I think the empty pram is here to stay…. not empty My son was with us.”

(Facebook/Troy Austin)

Elementary School Vending Machine Rewards Readers With Books

(Twitter/writeforapples)

You know what they say: reading is fundamental. It’s one of the primary building blocks of a good education, and it can also be one of the trickiest things to convince young kids to do. In a world full of iPhones, iPads, Fortnite, and Pokemon Go!, picking up a book isn’t always the trendy option.

One public school in Buffalo is doing what it can to motivate kids to read up by installing a brand new vending machine that dispenses books to kids who’ve earned tokens.

After getting the idea during a conversation with a friend in another school district, the vice principal of Arthur O. Eve School of Distinction #61 installed the vending machine in his school’s library.

“I said that I need to do something special. I need to make sure that it’s going to be applicable to the needs of the children here in Buffalo, New York,” vice principal Robinson told Buffalo’s 2 On Your Side. After convincing his principal, Parette Walker, the two set a goal of $3000 to purchase the machine.

They were able to raise the funds over the course of a year, and the vending machine was recently unveiled, wrapped in a big yellow bow.

The books within the vending machine were intentionally selected to highlight different cultures, so something like Pippi Longstocking sits next to Hidden Figures.

“Students in urban communities need to learn about other cultures and other communities in other countries,” Robinson said.

To earn the tokens needed to use the vending machine, students from kindergarten through fourth grade are motivated to visit the library and check out books.

“One of the biggest issues we have in this district is literacy. If our children can read, they can survive,” Buffalo School Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman told WBFO.

Dad Dancing for Son in Viral Holiday Ad Will Warm Your Heart [WATCH]

(YouTube/BETC Paris)

Dad dance moves are infamous for being terrible. Even on the rare occurrence that a father miraculously has some sense of rhythm, the moves themselves are nearly always a total cringe-fest.

But that’s the point.

Fathers know they’re not going to be the next Michael Jackson by showing off on the dance floor (or supermarket… or coffee shop… or another embarrassingly public place). They simply love the self-conscious smile and eye roll they get from their kids as a result—that reaction, honestly, is the lifeblood for a dad.

French telecom brand Bouygues recently released a holiday ad featuring a montage of these special moments between a father and son spanning their decades-long relationship, and it is humiliating… in the most beautiful way.

If that doesn’t make you even the least bit teary-eyed, maybe get your heart checked out, Mr. Grinch.

Set to Redbone’s groovy 1973 hit “Come and Get Your Love” appropriately played from a cassette tape, the ad begins with a dad who simply loves connecting with his baby son. In just about the daddest outfit of all (button-down shirt, boxers, and tube socks), he hip shimmies his way past the Christmas tree across the room to the delight of his little infant boy.

(YouTube/BETC Paris)

In an instant, we’re thrown a few years down the road to childhood. Dad breaks it down on a snowy sidewalk outside of a toy store and son gleefully obliges him by joining in, old enough to realize what his father is doing is a little quirky but, hey, little boys love quirky!

(YouTube/BETC Paris)
(YouTube/BETC Paris)

Then it’s knee-deep into the teen years when it’s hard to tell where a parents’ silliness will fall on a kid’s spectrum of acceptability.

Riding in the car with his groove-tastic dad, it’s clear that the charm from this bit has worn off a tad but dad’s intentionality and goofiness still earns a loving smirk from his son.

(YouTube/BETC Paris)

A few years later, dad has lost any semblance of caring about public perceptions and is going all out. Not only is he willing to dance in a busy, well-lit coffee shop, but he’s jamming out to his own ringtone. With a horrified “he’s not with me” expression, the son tries his best to melt into his chair and out of existence.

Dad lovingly ignores his son’s silent pleas for the torture to end and continues to show off his killer moves.

(YouTube/BETC Paris)
(YouTube/BETC Paris)

One last fast forward and it’s Christmas once again. Dad is home with mom—grey-haired and little less pep in his step—when he hears a buzzing from a present underneath the Christmas tree. Curious, he grabs the vibrating box, unwraps it, and finds a brand new smartphone indicating an incoming video call.

(YouTube/BETC Paris)

He answers, finding his son and baby grandson onscreen, dancing adorably together as “Come and Get Your Love”—their song—blares in the background.

(YouTube/BETC Paris)
(YouTube/BETC Paris)

Look, we all know this is an ad meant to sell phones, but it has all the right ingredients to pull on everyone’s heartstrings and get their tear ducts unclogged.

It shows the unique connections we have as families. It might not be a hit song from the 70s, but we all have special bonds based on things we experience together, whether it’s food, inside jokes, or some other form of media. Even when we don’t say ‘I love you’ outright, these connections are the things that imply it for us.

Special moments like these can span generations…even if you don’t have the moves like Jagger.

Father Figures: My Three Daughters

“I don’t know what I did to deserve my three girls. But however it happened, I’m glad it did. They are the greatest blessing in my life.

Early on, my wife and I had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t have time to read parenting books or go to parenting classes. We were just trying to keep our heads above water and our baby girl alive everyday.

I never knew what kind of strength it took to raise kids, especially three girls, as a guy who grew up with only brothers. But I’ve learned that there is a gentle strength and a comforting strength. I can be the difference in my kids’ security or their confidence. It takes a different kind of strength to grow that well in them.

I have gotten very frustrated at people who make it seem like I have unfinished business because I don’t have any sons. My girls are rock ‘n roll! They are more than sufficient and my work with them is more than enough. I don’t feel that I’m missing anything because I don’t have a son.

And when people say, “you better get your guns ready.” Man, raise the boys to not be a threat to my girls and we won’t have a problem. Or, because I can’t control that, I can teach them what to look for in the people they spend time with.

I can let them know that respect, first for themselves then others, is not negotiable or sacrificed and stands in that order. I can teach them that no matter what, they will have someone who will believe and stand with them. I can teach them that they matter to me and the guys they hang out with had better treat them better than I do.

Most of all, I can teach them that they’re loved. And my whole life up to this point, I didn’t know I had anything to offer anyone else.”

– Paul Kammerzelt

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

Fed-Up Dad Writes Strongly Worded Letter From Tooth Fairy

(Twitter/henrywarren)

Of all the basic life skills parents are tasked with teaching their kids, brushing your teeth is often overlooked.

Walking, talking, potty-training; all of those are hot topics among parents, but we’re all supposed to brush our teeth twice a day.  Until you become a parent, you might not realize how tricky it is to impart this necessity to your children. It’s like pulling teeth. Except the goal is to make sure they don’t rot and you don’t have to pull them.

Henry Warren was so done with his son’s lack of dental care that when he lost his latest tooth, he made his move. The dutiful dad typed up an official-as-hell sounding letter direct from the office of the Tooth Fairy.

The letter calls out the boy for the state of his lost tooth, indicating that there would be a delay in processing any monetary reward “due to the condition in which we found said tooth.” The “Tooth Fairy” even cites specific culprits – Fanta, cereal, chocolate – traces if which were found on the tooth due to a lack of proper brushing.

The letter concludes with the Tooth Fairy conceding payment but warning the boy that next time his teeth had better look better or he was going to wake up empty handed:

“We need your assurances that the condition of the next tooth will be significantly better or we will withhold payment.”

The tweet has received nearly 20,000 likes and over 6,000 retweets, no doubt from fellow parents who know the teeth brushing struggle all too well.

A Gift Guide For What She REALLY Wants. Which Is Pockets.

Pockets tweet
(Twitter/@DelilahSDawson)

It’s a question that has spanned generations, toppled nations, and carried one mediocre Mel Gibson movie:

What do women want?

The answer is surprisingly simple: equal rights and dominion over their own bodies. But also, pockets. Moms in particular carry the weight of the world, so get them something that can hold their chapstick.  Here are some of our favorite gifts and stocking stuffers for the mom in your life, guaranteed to make her say “it’s got pockets!”

1. This jacket with more than the normal amount of pockets

SidePocketLongJacket
(Walmart/)

Look at that third pocket up there. They’re not even trying to hide it. Compared to a jacket with two pockets, the storage possibilities here are endless…or at least increased by 50%. This comes in different colors, but she’ll like red one because it says “hey, don’t mess with me. I have more pockets than you normally would expect.”

Zip it up!

2. Some portable pockets that are definitely not fanny packs

GoBelt
(Source)

Okay, hear us out. The Go Belt is super functional. Some genius remembered with a shiver the vacations we all took in the 80s and 90s, took one look at those old-school fanny packs our parents wore and said, “never again.” These things are closer to a utility belt, which is appropriate since moms are superheroes. We’re not suggesting she wear them out to dinner, but this is a mic drop product for playground dates and bike rides.

Strap in!

3. This sweatshirt that tells it like it is

One Strong Mother
(Scarry Mommy)

A sweatshirt? No, a statement. The One Strong Mother hoodie from Scary Mommy tells the truth, yes. But also, it has pockets. She’ll want more than one.

Get it here!

4. A blanket that has, wait for it…pockets

BlanketWithPockets
(Walmart)

This is a no brainer. Not to generalize, and say that women are always cold, but… *Jim from the Office-style look to camera.*

It’s a Dad’s sacred duty to prevent anyone from touching the thermostat, so we are big fans of blankets. This wrap is like a dressed up Snuggie, it’s super affordable, and the reviews prove our point:

This item revolutionized the blanket game. It has the warmth and softness of a traditional throw blanket, but with POCKETS

Wrap it up!

5. These pajamas that prove your loyalty and support a good cause

GoAskDadPants
(Scary Mommy)
GoAskDadCloseUp
(Scary Mommy)

Earn major brownie points with this act of self-sacrifice. When the kids want extra dessert, or a pet tarantula, or to know where babies come from, all mom has to do is  point to her hip, then slide her hands into her pockets, as if to say “I’m chill. I’ve got my hands in pockets.” These pajamas are technically called “joggers” but that’s just so she can wear them to drop off if she wants.  Pick up a pair from the Scary Mommy shop, and a portion of all proceeds will be donated to Every Mother Counts, helping women around the world get access to essential maternity care.

Double points!

6. This cool strapped phone case thing

Bandolier Case
(Amazon)

Phones keep getting bigger, but most women’s pockets are, like, vacuum sealed. Rather than trying to squeeze a phone and wallet into a vice grip, this Bandolier phone case has slots for credit cards, ID, and cash. (Slots count as pockets.) It’s great for beach days, hikes, or when mom somehow ends up carrying everyone else’s stuff at the mall.

Strap it in!

7. Overalls, the unsung hero of mom-wear.

Mom in Overalls
(Getty/Tang Ming Tung)

Overalls don’t get enough love. They’re comfortable, have pockets everywhere, and look great…at least on women. I don’t care if you’re doing Chip Gains-level home maintenance, any dude in overalls looks like Huckleberry Finn, don’t @ us. They’re win-win, because overalls are casual and stylish for her, but practical and comfortable, also for her.

Button it up!

8. This coat with the normal amount of pockets, but they’re really big

Big Pocket Teddy Jacket
(Walmart)

This is called a Teddy Jacket, and without doing any fact-checking, we’re going to say that’s because it looks like a teddy bear. But unlike teddy bears, this gift is useful because of it’s massive pockets! She could fit a whole novel in each, and still have room for keys, and a couple different Paw Patrol toys.

Fluff it up!

9. This sweater that says “my pockets are as vast as time and space itself.”

Galaxy Hooide
(Walmart)

Okay, the pockets aren’t that big, but the design is perfect for telling your wife she’s out of this world.

*Holds for applause.*

…ahem. Fair warning, this isn’t the warmest of hoodies – it’s fairly thin, just like the fabric of our universe. But it’s cool, because that way she can be far out year-round.

Engage!

10. A fancy robe for feeling fancy, even with kids

Robe Mom
(Getty/Paul Bradberry)

It’s time to upgrade the robes you swiped from the hotel on your honeymoon. Little things make all the difference, like having 5-star resort level comfort while getting peanut butter out of a kid’s hair. That means microfiber, baby! Why robes have pockets is something many have wondered. But that is not our place to question.

Check in to luxury!

11. This long hoodie that says “it’s over for you bitches”

Long Hoodie
(Walmart)

The one problem with normal hoodies is the pocket design. They’re too close to hem, and it feels weird. Wasted pocket potential. Well, no more. This shirt/dress/jacket is the best of all worlds.

Make the power move!

The Best Comments of the Week 12/9

(Lego.com Getty/Kemter)

Every week we pan for comedy gold in the comments section of our Facebook posts. If your comment cracks us up (or warms our hearts) we’ll showcase it here!

Here’s this week’s roundup of the Best Comments of the Week:

1. In Cahoots

2. Remote Control

3. They Grow on You

4. Awesome 80s

5. GTFO (Get The Family Out)

6. The Hills are Alive

7. YouTube Generation

8. It’s a Breeze

9. All is Forgiven

10. My Diet Spirit Animal

11. Ho Ho Ho

12. Ouch

13. Over-Complicated

14. It’s a Boy!

15. No Friends

16. Slipped a Disk 

17. Kids are the Fountain of Youth

18. Little Known Fact

19. See Ya!

Check out the previous edition of our The Best Comments of the Week here.

Tear-Jerking Nike Ad Features Kyrie Irving’s Dad [WATCH]

(BU Athletics & YouTube/Nike)

If you’re an NBA fan, you’ve undoubtedly seen Kyrie Irving dominating the court, most recently for the Boston Celtics.

What you might not know, though, is that the five-time NBA All-Star grew up competing against another great Boston player: Drederick Irving, Kyrie’s dad.

(BU Athletics)

Drederick racked up points for Boston University in the late 80s, which is also where he met Kyrie’s mom, Elizabeth Larson, who played basketball and volleyball.

“He was a great player,” Kyrie says in a recent Nike ad that features the two of them playing one-on-one at TD Garden, the Celtics’ home court.

And considering how well the 52-year-old vet still matches up against his all-star son, it’s not hard to imagine him lighting it up from the floor in his heyday.

“He’s the reason I wear number 11,” Kyrie continues in the ad. “I want to be the reason no one else will.”

(BU Athletics)

Drederick’s number was retired at Boston University in 1988 right after his graduation, and it’s no surprise why looking at his stats. The BU record books are brimming with his name.

He finished his career with the Terriers as their all-time leading scorer and his 161-point senior season ranks as the 5th highest scoring season in BU history.

Once the NCAA introduced the three-point line in the mid-80s, Drederick proved just how impressive a shooter he was, shooting 42.3 percent from behind the arc for a total of 97 three-point buckets.

(BU Athletics)

After college, Drederick had a free agent tryout for the Boston Celtics but didn’t quite make the cut. Instead, he chose to follow a fellow Terrier and play overseas, being recruited to the Bulleen Boomers of the South East Australian Basketball League in 1992. Kyrie was born that same year.

Four years later, tragedy struck when Kyrie’s mother passed away after contracting sepsis during a hospital stay. As a result, Drederick decided to close the door on his basketball career in order to raise his young children alone.

Now, with a daughter working as a successful fashion designer and a son adopting the dream that was once his, Drederick can be considered an amazing success off the court just as much as on it.