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Boys Night - Chrysler 200

By concretin_nik December 15th, 2014

Boys night. Steak house. And we are rolling out.

You can almost hear the soundtrack thumping as my two sons and I slow walk to our ride.

And what better way to roll on a night out with my boys on the town than in a ride imported from Detroit.

Chrysler 200

Ready to roll.


My wife and daughter are in Dallas for the weekend at a soccer tournament, leaving me and my boys, now 16 and 10, to fend for ourselves. It seems the right time to splurge, to get my boys off the sheltered boarding school campus where we live, and into the big city. Time for some boy talk. Time to live large.

To help us to that end, we have a Chrysler 200 at our disposal, and it fits right in with the program. Our loaner is a deep, almost oxblood color that the brand calls Velvet Red Pearl, and with the sculpted lines you might expect to find on an import; the thing is extremely handsome at the curb. When seated inside the high tech interior, my first question — how big is this car? It’s like some kind of fun house. From the outside it looks like a smallish midsize sedan, akin to a Altima or an Elantra, but once inside, it feels big and substantial. My giant teen — who now towers over me at 6’1” opines that this is a “big car.”

Fire it up using the push button ignition and the tech geek in you goes wild. My tester had so many technological safety and entertainment features that I can only start to describe them here. You have to live with this car for a while before you can really appreciate all the features.

It doesn’t take long, however, as my teen quickly points out, to discover that the Alpine speakers can deliver the kind of beat that makes even the old dad feel cool as we head out to the steakhouse. The Panoramic moonroof amplifies the coolness effect and also contributes to the feeling of spaciousness in the cabin.

Using the knob on the console to shift the car into reverse activates the back up camera and the sensors that surround this car — it just about parks itself. Once in forward motion, the large dash mounted screen brings the excellent nav system back into view. I’ve used a lot of these systems and this one was the best in several categories. The touch response was outstanding, and the voice recognition was the best I’ve ever used. I used it to find addresses and change entertainment. I found myself looking around at my companions in amazement after this system did its thing.

Cockpit. (Heh.) Stylin'.


The seat and steering wheel had more buttons on them than an F1 car, and it took some orientation, but I soon came to appreciate both. While I was exploring all the technical options, I also came to appreciate the lane departure system. The system gave me a welcome nudge through the steering wheel when I became distracted by gizmos and began to wander.

Winding through the hills west of downtown Austin, the car feels competent and comfortable, over various pavement conditions. The nine speed automatic transmission (yes, you read that right) is smooth and subtle, though it did intimidate me out of trying to manage the paddle shifters. So many gears! The 3.6 liter V6 makes a nice noise when you hit the throttle, but the car doesn’t really encourage aggressive driving overall. Which was fine with me and boys. We wanted posh on our ride downtown.

Diggin' our ride.


When we pulled up at the stylish and upscale urban steakhouse, I was more than proud to turn over the keys to the valet — the car can hold its head up against much pricier competition.

The steakhouse wasn’t the only destination the 200 ferried us to. We also hit the road for a visit to the grandparents. On the highway, the 200 is a first class ticket all the way. The huge trunk swallowed our gear with ease. The adaptive cruise control was impressive, the cabin quiet, the seats comfortable over a longer haul, and the ride smooth. I felt good about the incredible array of air bags and other safety equipment.

The car uses gas more like it feels inside than it looks outside — we got a modest 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving, and while the car is available at a modest $26k entry price, our loaded model topped out at more than $36k. Still, with all the features and technology, I felt like I was driving a much more expensive ride. It feels like an entry level luxury car.

Our steak dinner was amusing and satisfying. My boys and I swapped stories, gave each other a bit of grief, worked on our table etiquette (just a little) and generally had a fine time. It was money well spent. Like a fine modern steakhouse, the 200 was satisfying, classy, distinctly domestic — a fantastic iteration of a long standing tradition. Any family looking for a safe, stylish and high tech companion on the road should certainly take a look.

Good times with the fellas.


Disclaimer: A test vehicle and a tank of gas were provided to DaddyClay free of charge.

Crafting with Kix! You can WIN!

By concretin_nik November 5th, 2014

As a DadBlogger, the internet today would have me believe I should be outraged with Kix cereal and the “Kid Tested. Mother Approved” tag line. Sure, it could say Dad Approved. Or perhaps, Parent approved. But guess, what? (ChickenButt) I don’t care. It really doesn’t bother me. They’re not dissing Dads like so many companies and sitcoms. Just stating that Moms dig ‘em. Well, me too. And now, even MORE. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Crafting. That’s right… cardboard, construction paper, glue sticks, and make-a-mess-with-your-kids creativity. Kix has launched new packaging with punch outs and online interactive stories. Not only does this inspire and spark children’s imaginations, it also promotes creative reuse and recycling. They also sent me a full creative kit with pipe cleaners, sequins, popsicle sticks, glue, glitter, pom poms, and googly eyes.

Craft supplies aplenty!


While we planned to do more, we started out with just the items from the box. (With some Kix snackage too, of course.)

Cardboard shark building.


TheBoy then went online to read the stories that go along with the characters and creations from the box. (kixcereal.com/adventures) The stories are cute and fun and very easy for even very young readers.

Let the adventures begin!


He really liked the basic interactive elements of the story, encouraging him to use the character he held in his hand to “swim” through the ocean scene that was moving on the screen.

Just keep swimming!


I laughed when he said we needed to get more boxes to make the characters for the other stories. “When we finish eating these, we can get more.” (Which will take a bit of brain power to remember, as these special boxes are only available at Target. While we do shop there, it’s not generally for grocery items.) After reading the 3 “ocean” adventures, we went back to the pile of craft supplies… TheBoy had his heart set on doing something with those pipe cleaners.
He created a “Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

He's hungry. And sparkly.


Afterwards, he still had the ocean stories on his mind, and he wanted to play cards, which meant “Go Fish” of course. My craft switch was still in the ON position(who am I kidding, it never turns off), so I did this while fishing…

BubbaGump craftin'.


And as if colored paper, googly eyes and pipe cleaners weren’t enough of a party (only slightly kidding), here’s where YOU really get to let loose! You can win one of TWO $100 Target gift cards! We’ll give one away via Twitter and one via Facebook.

Twitter: twitter.com/DadLabs
Post a pic of one of your child’s craft projects and tag us (@dadlabs) and use “#Kixstories”. It doesn’t have to be from a Kix cereal box. Even the latest fingerpaint pumpkin art hanging on the fridge will do. (If you like our content, please RT it, but that is not required for entry, nor will it count as additional entry. Only one entry per person.) Enter by Saturday, November 8, Noon EST.

Facebook: facebook.com/thedadlabs
Like us on FB and comment with a craft story or craft photo on the Kix creative post tagged with “#Kixstories”.
Does your child come home covered in marker ink and/or finger paint with a new masterpiece for the gallery? (TheBoy often does.) Tell us about it! (Again, if you like our content, please share it on FB, but sharing is not required for entry, nor will it count as additional entry. Comment only once.) Enter by Saturday, November 8, Noon EST.

We’ll announce the winners on those platforms on Sunday, November 9. We can’t wait to see your creations and read your stories! You can read the adventures (even without the punch out characters) and see lots of craft projects at KixCereal.com. They are even on Pinterest with the crafts, Creative Kids, and great snack recipes using Kix cereal of course! Check ‘em out on Facebook and tell them DadLabs sent ya!

Disclaimer: While I (Concretin Nik) was compensated for this post, the opinions and experience relayed above are mine (and TheBoy’s).

GenderBent Halloween 2014

By concretin_nik October 28th, 2014

So what do you do when your 6 year old boy wants to dress up as a female character for Halloween? Let me spend some time thinking about that… no, I don’t think I will. You let him. End of story. (What? You were expecting controversy? #sorrynotsorry) Moving on.

That grin!


I’ve begrudgingly accepted that TheBoy doesn’t dig StarWars and superheroes. (My disappointment is selfish and action figure/toy related, it has nothing to do with him.) We’ve completely embraced the fact that he digs My Little Pony(hey, they have action figures). Yea, almost the entire MLP Universe is female characters… but the stories are great and friendship issues addressed in the show are age appropriate for a 6 year old. They are presented with minimal snark and lots of pop-culture references for the adults. But don’t call him a “Brony.” He doesn’t like that. He says he’s “just a boy who likes My Little Pony.”

His favorite is Twilight Sparkle, so he’s dressing up as Twilight Sparkle. And HisMother & I are showing our support by being other characters from MLP. I will be Discord (an odd creature, made up of many different creature parts, called a draconequus) and HisMother will be Fluttershy (a pegasus, who incidentally is Discord’s only friend). But the second best thing about these costumes, his smile being the very best thing, is getting my craft on, and I mean ON! Another cool thing I’m NOT missing out on with MLP? Fandom. The MLP genre fans rival any StarWars convention goers. Which means cosplay ideas and youtube tutorials are abundant. (click the photos to enlarge)

Supplies/Process/Results


TheBoy and HisMother


Discord Dad!


The wings and tail. Craft foam RULES!


KidJoy!


TheBoy’s smile, craftin’, and easy to follow directions for said craftin’. These are all things that make me happy. Good things happen when I’m happy. This parenting thing ain’t so hard. Today.

Be safe and have a great Halloween everyone!

Monster Treads! JohnDeere RC Gator

By concretin_nik September 25th, 2014

This time, the Cretin family reviews something TheBoy WILL like! The John Deere Monster Treads Gator! At only 6, TheBoy has little experience with RC vehicles. He’s had a couple of basic 1 or 2 button RCs, but nothing too fancy, or fast. His eyes lit up when I revealed this box to him. “Finally, no SuperHero toys.” *sigh* You’re killin’ me Smalls.

A box of KidJoy.

Our first attempt to play was thwarted by the inevitable toy fail of “not enough batteries.” That was my fault. We had the 6AAs, but no 9V for the controller, and my paranoia really didn’t want to set a precedent of thieving one from a smoke detector. We were both pretty disappointed in Dad. So be sure to get those before showing this to the kids.

Something else you’ll need that is not listed on the package, nor would you necessarily think about… a bike pump. The “monster treads” tires require inflation. A plastic “needle” pump adapter is included, but will go unnoticed when freeing the Gator from all of the tape and ties holding it in the box. It wasn’t until I read the manual that I learned of the pump requirement. (Yes internet, I’m a Dad that actually reads the instructions. Neurosis. Just leave it alone.) Also included is a cardboard cut-out to make it very easy to know when you’ve reached the proper size/inflation.

Checking for proper inflation.

PLAYTIME! TheBoy was so excited, even with me driving. He squealed in delight and ran from the Gator, and then wanted to chase it. (Had to put a stop to that as that would inevitably lead to him stepping on it.) The Gator is fast! Too fast for our small house really. When he took the controls, he essentially just bumped into everything, but was having a blast. We ventured outside to the yard with about 5 days of fresh growth since the last mowing. The Gator handled the semi-high grass fairly well, but not as well in reverse. It ran great in the areas where we have gravel. TheBoy never stopped smiling and yelling “Dad! Watch this! Watch this!” KidJoy.

KidJoy!

Of course, when you have a slide, and an RC car, you WILL send it down, over and over. The large wheels didn’t have much grip on the plastic and always allowed it to spin around, usually falling off the edge sideways, causing several rolls and tumbles. But the Gator took every crash and kept on keepin’ on.

So the verdict… TheBoy gives it a big “Thumbs up!” I give it a “Meh, OK.” (Good fun, but pricey.)

TheBoy approves!

Pros: Fast and durable. The stand up and spin is a fun trick that will make kids laugh and giggle. The large inflated tires allow it to roll through grass, and make it very fast on carpet, flat surfaces, and in gravel. Six AAs and one 9V battery isn’t too bad for a vehicle this size. I also liked the quick twist access to the vehicle battery compartment(but the controller still needs a screw driver).

Cons: Unexpected tire inflation required. While it is a bit larger vehicle, for a higher end RC toy price ($59.99), I expect a better steering mechanism. Steering is done by the body of the Gator being tilted which causes the front floating axle to pivot left or right. The servo doesn’t actually control the front wheels at all. This results in a wide turning radius, which is why it is more fun outdoors, but too fast for tight quarters.

The John Deere Monster Treads Gator is recommended for kids 8+ and is available now at www.johndeeregifts.com and local John Deere dealers.

High Rollin'

Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post but did receive the RC Gator free for the review. The opinions above are straight from the Cretin family.


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