Movie Review: ‘Storks’ Better Than Expected

September 23, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

storks movie review

Movie: Storks (PG, 86 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (47), Jon (6-3/4)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★

Plot Snapshot: Storks deliver babies…or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for a global internet retail giant.  Junior (Andy Samberg), the company’s top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when he accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine, producing an adorable, and wholly unauthorized, baby girl. Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip, the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop – in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks’ true mission in the world.

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[The remainder of this review contains mild spoilers.]

Storks is actually two stories told simultaneously, merged at the end. The synopsis above is from the film’s marketing materials, but it fails to mention the other plot line of an overworked couple and their only child, Nate, who longs for a baby brother.

Trigger warning: If you’ve got an only child longing for a baby brother (or sister), be prepared to squirm a bit. I know I did.

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Running to Third & Other All-Star Moments

September 19, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Sometimes the big picture of parenting can be overwhelming. Taking the time to enjoy and celebrate individual moments is so important — a lesson I continually learn from my always in-the-moment son.

All-Star Moments Embassy Suites

This past spring, Jon played on his first baseball team. We were excited to have found a county league that emphasized fun and learning, with each practice ending in an unofficial “game” that only loosely adhered to big league rules.

While never much of a jock myself, I have fantasized about being a Cool Sports Dad. The emphasis on “Cool” — not the hot-headed kind of dad that screams obscenities at umpires and such. There are plenty of other things to hound my kid about (flushing, for example), so Papa and I were looking forward to his first team sports experience being on the low-pressure end.

The season had lots of stops-and-starts, with several rain delays and a week skipped for holidays, but the last game day finally arrived. Not unexpectedly, there was a much higher percentage of parents in attendance — and I imagine expectations (real or imagined) weighed heavier upon the players’ sweaty heads. I hung back for most of the game, only walking up to the fence to encourage and cheer when Jon was up to bat. The innings consisted of each child getting to bat once, with unlimited strikes until they got a hit.

As the game wrapped up, it became apparent that Jon would be the final player at bat. Even with the loosey-goosey rules, my heart quickened a bit — nervous for him, excited for me (or probably the opposite).

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We Are the Dreamers of the Dreams: RIP Gene Wilder

August 30, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, POP CULTURE

RIP Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka

I love Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka so much. Like most people my age, I saw Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory many, many times growing up. I was drawn to Wonka as a kid, and even more so as a parent. Not because he’s sweet and colorful and cheesy — well, not JUST those things. It’s because Wilder also plays him as clever, sarcastic, and a little intimidating.

My son doesn’t scare easily. He was largely unfazed by The Avengers  or The Force Awakens or Jurassic Park. Yet Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one of the few films that sent him crawling into my lap — of course during this scene. Any kid’s movie that can creep out my un-creepable kid (and cause him to need some cuddles) — while encouraging him to both behave and follow his dreams — is tops in my book.

Speaking of following dreams, the quote on my son’s lunch note today is from one of my favorite WWATCF scenes. Just reading the words themselves, this looks to be an inspiring, heartwarming sentiment. But when Wonka said it, he was smooshing Veruca Salt’s face in his hand, scolding her for doubting the existence of snozzberries. As well he should have, because Veruca was being a whiny brat. And because if Wonka says something is real, it’s real, dammit.

My other favorite role of Wilder’s was Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. In it he played opposite the most amazing comedic actress of all-time, Madeline Kahn. I’d like to think they’re up in heaven reenacting this romantically riotous moment…
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Rest in Peace, Gene. Thank you for sharing your magic with us — your smart, stupid, silly, sarcastic, snarky, sweet, scary, splendiferous magic.

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Check out the lunch notes I make for my son every school day, by following me at SuperLunchNotes on Instagram.

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5 Ways Same-Sex Parents Can Prepare Their Kids for School

August 29, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

Preparing kids of same-sex parents for school

Back-to-school time can be chaotic and stressful; and families with same-sex parents have even more issues to anticipate. Kids with two moms or dads may face situations with potential to both alienate or confuse them, whether it’s a child’s first time attending school or just the next grade up,

To supplement my own (limited) wisdom and experience, I enlisted the help of 10 teachers. While not all have taught kids of same-sex parents, they were all generous and thoughtful in their responses. Here are 5 of the issues same-sex parented families often encounter, along with input from my awesome panel of educators.
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1. FAMILY MATTERS: Talking About Parents in Class

In many schools, the younger grades have discussions and activities related to family. Students are often asked to create a family tree or a collage showing the members of their family. For many kids of same-sex parents, this is when their family’s differences become most apparent. If not handled sensitively, it can amplify feelings of “otherness” and isolation, potentially affecting a child’s social development and ability to learn.

Early in the year, inform the teacher of any family details that fall outside the mother-father-bio child “norm.” In addition to having two moms or two dads, this could include adoption and birth parents, foster experiences, surrogates, siblings, multiracial/multiethnic families, etc. Particularly if it’s something you’ve already discussed with your child. If your kid knows about it, it’s likely to come up.

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R.I.P. R2-D2

August 14, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

RIP R2-D2

Kenny Baker 1934-2016 Rest In Peace

While the character of R2-D2 will be around for a long, long time, I wanted to pay respect to the actor who played him in the first six Star Wars films. Special effects aside, Kenny Baker was the one who brought everyone’s favorite droid to life.

In October 1977 I was eight years old, and my dad took me and my younger brother to see Star Wars. There were so many moments in that first viewing that have stayed with me ever since. Certainly the adventure and fantasy are incredible, but the characters are what make the films more than just a thrill ride. Luke was the everyman I related to most; Chewbacca, the furry bodyguard I wished I had; and R2-D2 was the loyal friend — filling the screen with mischief and humor, all without a face or uttering a word.

Not long after seeing the movie (maybe the same day?), we got our first Star Wars t-shirts. My brother got the one with Sand People; I chose R2-D2, and I never really stopped…
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Designer Daddy & Kelley Blue Book Pick the 5 Best Cars for Dads

August 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Does choosing the right family car drive you crazy? Do you get confused having to shift gears between comfort, affordability and style? Does the entire process cause your brain to stall out? Do you ever tire of car puns?

Recently I was invited to the Kelley Blue Book headquarters in California, as part of an elite squad of “experts” — the KBB Dads! Our mission: choose the NUMBER ONE BEST CAR FOR DADS OF ALL TIME! Well, for 2016 at least.

Kelley Blue Book Best Cars for Dads
The #KBBDads

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Movie Review: ‘Pete’s Dragon’ Soars With Disney Magic

August 11, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

Disney's Pete's Dragon

Movie: Pete’s Dragon (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (47), Jon (6-3/4)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★★, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Ghostbusters (all versions), Despicable Me

Plot Snapshot: For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliott. Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon.

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[The remainder of this review contains mild spoilers.]

Disney’s new remake of Pete’s Dragon is a truly enchanting experience, and a welcome improvement on the rather dated original. Directed by David Lowery and filmed entirely in New Zealand, the movie is at its most magical when it’s just boy and dragon. Fuzzy, purring Elliott acts as both loyal pet and doting parent to Mowgli-esque Pete. And while I rarely think 3D is justifiable, the flight scenes alone make it well worth the extra cost.

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What’s in a Name? Summer Camp, Cancer, and 84 Miles To Go

June 27, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

.Camp Kesem summer camp

Imagine yourself a kid at summer camp.
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Perhaps it calls to mind bunk beds with flimsy mattresses. Potato sack races and three-legged races and racing around at dusk playing hide-and-seek. Scratching mosquito bites, catching fireflies, watching sparks swirl up from a fire into the night sky. A night sky so black and stars so bright, it’s like you’d never seen them before. An escape from school and parents and all the baggage that entails; a chance to be on your own, yet surrounded by others in the same, wonderfully wobbly paddleboat called childhood.

Now imagine one of your parents has cancer. Perhaps they’re in remission, or they’re enduring chemotherapy; or maybe they lost their battle and now you’re a teenager (or preteen, or younger) without a parent.

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Did You Get Dad What He Really Wanted for Father’s Day?

June 18, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Did you get Dad what he really wanted for Father's Day?

I’ll bet if someone took a poll (and I did) asking dads what they really wanted for Father’s Day, there’d be a lot of answers like these:
🙂 Do something fun with my kids
🙂 Do “something fun” with my partner
🙂 Take a nap
🙂 Eat good food, drink good drink
🙂 Health and long life

There would also be a couple of “Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster” and “world peace” answers in the mix, but you get the gist. What fathers really and truly want is time with family, good health, and a happy (sleep-filled) existence.
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But what does Dad actually get?

Based on another poll (& personal experience) it likely included the following:
a tie 🙁 socks 🙁 underwear 🙁 golf tees 🙁 a mug 🙁 key chain 🙁 paperweight 🙁 t-shirt 🙁 an apron 🙁 a coozie 🙁 coupon book 🙁 weird crafts 🙁 a chamois 🙁 box of half-inflated balloons

Sounds like a swag bag from the lamest convention ever.

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How Can I Celebrate Pride in the Face of the Orlando Tragedy?

June 13, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

A friend recently asked if I was going to the Pride festivities in DC this year. And for the first time in nearly 20 years, not only was I not going — it had completely slipped my mind.

I came out as gay my first year in DC, and Pride has been an important part of my history ever since. I’ve braved the crowds as a newly single man, sung with the Gay Men’s Chorus from the main stage, took my brother to his first Pride as an out gay man, and marched in the parade with my husband and son, dressed as superheroes. DC Pride also falls near my birthday — often on the very day, as it did again this year.

But the weekend was already booked solid with decidedly non-gay activities, chores, and other familial stuff long before my friend’s reminder. On Friday night — as younger LGBTs were disco-napping and float-building — I was corralling my son into bed and mentally reviewing the weekend’s busy schedule, when I was inspired to create this graphic:

gay pride orlando birthdays

I posted it on Facebook Saturday morning, with this caption:

So how do LGBT parents celebrate gay pride? Well, for this gay dad, mimosas are replaced by juice boxes; Dykes on Bikes give way to tykes on trikes; shirtless go-go boys become toddlers streaking thru the sprinkler. And the only drag is us dragging our tired bodies to bed well before midnight.

 

Our hair may be grayer, but our lives couldn’t be any more colorful!

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I don’t do a lot of memes, but I was feeling a bit out of the loop, and this made me feel a bit more Pride-y. By the reactions I got from many of my LGBT parent friends and readers, it rang true with them as well.

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