Fridge Wisdom: Four More States Make It Over the Rainbow

November 23, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

And then there were 15. Just over a dozen states remain either defiant against or dragging their heels on legalizing same-sex marriage. 62.4% of Americans now live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal. As we get down to these last few hangers-on, I’m tempted to highlight the ironies of the infamously anti-gay events and people these states have produced. But I’m in more of a celebratory mood, and will refrain from such pettiness.

For example, it would be tacky to mention Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die outside Laramie, Wyoming. Or that his death and the ensuing outcry is what many consider the turning point for LGBT rights in the United States.

I’d certainly never remind you that while Kansas is where Dorothy Gale hails from, it’s also where Fred Phelps called home and set up his hate-mongering “church.”

And heaven forbid I list some of South Carolina‘s greatest hits, which include Strom Thurmond, Linda Oliver, Earl Ballard, Lindsey Graham, Mark Sanford, and Bob Jones University.

As for Montana… well, I honestly don’t know much about Montana. Isn’t that where Miley Cyrus is from?

In all seriousness, I was particularly excited about same-sex marriage in South Carolina. The legal announcement also brought with it the engagement announcement of some very dear friends. Rob and Dwight have been together for 13 years; they moved back to Charleston from DC several years ago to be closer to their extended families. It was a difficult move to make, so I’m beyond ecstatic the courts have rewarded their commitment to family by allowing them to become a legal family at long last. Congratulations, guys! I’ll be waiting by the mailbox for an invitation!
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Same sex marriage in Wyoming

Wyoming: same-sex marriage legalized Oct 17, effective October 21, 2014. (L to R: Magnets courtesy of Chad Welch and Brad Gordon)

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Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Not Just for Girls

November 16, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES

It’s difficult to fathom that 25 years have passed since The Little Mermaid ushered in the “Disney Renaissance” — with no signs of the Mouse House’s dominance of popular culture waning anytime soon. Debuting in movie theaters November 17, 1989, the film and its music went on to win two Oscars, two Golden Globes, two Grammies, and has earned over $200 million worldwide. In 2007, an adaptation of the film made its way to Broadway, bringing to life the tale of the headstrong princess and all the magic and music found under the sea.

Ariel and company have swam their way across the country and around the world, finding themselves currently on the main stage at the Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Maryland.

Disney's Little Mermaid

The serendipity of the film’s anniversary allowed our family to re-watch it on The Disney Channel just a day prior to attending the live show. However, over the last year, gender stereotypes had begun to sink their claws into my 5-year-old son, so I was worried he might not be too excited to see the play.

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Being Present

November 15, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

I don’t know who first said it, but I heard my father weave it into countless sermons when I was growing up: “No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I’d worked more,'”

The same struggle often plagues me when I’m busy chronicling my parental journey on this site. That’s not to say there aren’t some positive things to be gained from all the e-yammering I do. From time-to-time I’ll hear from a reader that something I’ve written resonated with them. Or an experience I shared was sweet or hilarious or inspiring. Interactions like those are precious to me, and keep me keeping at it. Yet I also know our family is as struggling and imperfect as anyone else out there not publishing sweet, hilarious, inspiring stories about their kids.

I’ve also heard more than a few times, “Your son will really appreciate reading all of this when he’s older.”

Maybe. Or he might be embarrassed and pissed off. He’ll most definitely think it’s lame — at least for a couple of years between learning to read and adulthood.

As with many (all?) modern parents, I get too wrapped up in not only chronicling, but also planning, prioritizing, scheduling, worrying about and second-guessing any and everything related to being a parent. And as with many modern parents, I risk missing out on the most important: being present.

I’m not talking about being around. I can spend 10 times the amount of hours with Jon as my husband does, but when Papa takes a few minutes to let him help water the lawn, or shows him how to play a game on the iPad, or calls Nonna with him, it can have more impact than an entire afternoon or running around doing errands or birthday parties or play dates or clothes shopping.

I’m not sure why it is — perhaps the onset of cooler weather or the start of my fifth year as a dad — but I’ve been more conscious of taking time to actually be with my son. To watch what he’s watching, to play what he’s playing, to interact and not just oversee. Starting dinner or banging out a few sentences or sketching a logo can wait a few minutes more.

One recent weekend we’d taken Jon to the movies, and after being cooped up in the dark for several hours, he ran straight to the backyard get his ya-yas out. Papa had gone out with him initially, but then I heard son and dog romping and yelping and having a good time, so I got up from the computer to watch from the kitchen door. I laughed and smiled as they chased each other and barked and hollered.

And then I stopped watching, walked through the door and got down on the ground with them. My little boy was enjoying himself with abandon, rolling around on the grass, pretending to be shot or swimming in lava or something equally perilous. He rolled my way and I saw his bright green shirt set against the still green grass, and then the sparkle of his blue eyes set something off in my heart. I was momentarily stilled with astonishment at how breathtakingly beautiful my son was. So I did exactly what the moment called for — I tickled him. This set off his eyes and his smile and the green and the blue even more. I kept tickling until I could get my phone out and snap a quick photo to capture just a sliver of the joy of the moment. Then I went back to being present and tickling and watching his eyes and his smile, and his green and his blue spin my world around and around and around.

smiling son - being present

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After you’ve spent some quality time with your kids, come hang out and like Designer Daddy’s Facebook page. No tickling, I promise!

Author Judith Viorst Talks Alexander, Movies & the Benefit of Bad Days

November 12, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

A couple of months ago my husband mentioned that he had a client whose mother was a children’s book author, and that a movie was being made of one of her books. He couldn’t remember the mother’s name, so I asked him his client’s name: it was Alex Viorst.

“You mean like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Alex?!?” I asked excitedly.

It was indeed the same Alex. And his mother — and the author of the book (and many others) — was Judith Viorst.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, was published in 1972, has sold over 2 million copies and won a myriad of awards. It spawned three sequels, the most recent published in September of this year. In 1998, Viorst worked with the Kennedy Center to turn the book into a musical production. On October 10, 2014, Disney released a film version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.

Judith Viorst - Alexander and the Terrible book

Like many kids who started reading in the 1970s, Alexander was a perennial favorite. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled to talk with an author from my childhood. Many thanks to Nick and Alex for arranging this wonderful opportunity for me to chat with Judith about her books, the movie, her family, and the importance of bad days.

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Designer Daddy: I know you were involved in the creation of the musical of Alexander at the Kennedy Center. How much were you involved in the creation of the movie?
Judith Viorst: Zero. There’s a different set of principles between what authors do in the theatre and what they do in the movies. In the theatre, they really cannot change an and or a the without consulting you. So I wrote the script for the musical, I wrote the lyrics, and I worked with a friend of mine, Shelly [Markham], who wrote the music, and I was at every rehearsal. If they needed something, I wrote it. Nobody else did. And of course there was a huge amount of brilliant input from the director. But with the movie, they buy the book, they give you money, and that may be the last time you have anything to do with each other. They did arrange for a weekly fee for the 12 weeks they were making the film, if they felt the need to consult me. But they never felt the need to consult me. The musical was my take on the book, and the movie was Disney’s take on the book.

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Big Hero 6 Review: A Big Hit with the Whole Family

November 10, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

To cap off a truly epic 5th birthday weekend for our little (sorry, BIG) guy, we put down the LEGO sets and headed out to see Big Hero 6 as a family. This had been in place for several months — long before we’d planned the birthday party or bought presents or spent way too much time stuffing the hero-themed goody bags.

On a previous family movie outing, we’d seen the trailer for a new film we knew nothing about called Big Hero 6. Yet by the end of the preview we were all hooked. Disney + Marvel + superheroes + martial arts + huggable robots = DUH. And then it said it was coming out November 7 — OUR SON’S BIRTHDAY. We made plans then and there to be back opening day.

Since the characters and story were new to us, I had fun doing some “research” and then “educating” Jon in preparation for the birthday viewing. We had a blast on the film’s web site, which included character profiles, video clips and a couple of cool games. I even bought a picture book to read at bedtime. Disney — ever the marketing masters — already had quite a few books (for all ages) available prior to the movie’s release.

And it probably comes as no surprise that I made lunch notes of all the characters. But okay, enough set up — what did we think of the movie?

Big Hero 6 - Hiro

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“When I’m Five Years Old…” Slow Down Edition

November 6, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

On the eve of my son’s birthday, this is the final installment of “When I’m Five Years Old…” I had a half dozen others I could have used, illustrating things as lofty and disparate as picking up furniture, eating tacos, befriending giant trees, racing bullets and jumping on one foot up to the ceiling. Yet I believe this doodle encompasses all his goals of things to do/be/have when he turns five rather nicely. It gives voice to his greatest desire and my greatest dread — to be grown up as quickly as is humanly possible. Or faster.

when i'm five years old - slow down

When Jon was well into toddlerhood, I started longing for the days of his infancy. Of cuddles and cooing and discovery — and perhaps most importantly, immobility. He’s well on his way to becoming too fast for me, and long ago surpassed me on overall levels of energy.

However, as my 5-year-old lunges toward the future with each uninhibited step sprint, I realize how much of this phase of his life I will miss: the forming of opinions and independent thoughts, while still clinging close to the things Daddy and Papa likes best; trying on words and phrases — sometimes clever, other times defiant, occasionally profane; and beginnings and new adventures — school, friendships, sports, sleepovers, movies, reading — all of the things he’ll never do or experience again for the first time.

I avoid pondering how old I’ll be when my son (40 years my junior) is 8, 9, 10, in high school, college, married, a father. As one who is prone to worry, this does no one any good. I want to enjoy today for today and this age for this age. Not looking ahead in angst, not reminiscing with regret, but being present and learning how to hold and lead and guide while slowly letting go, so Jon can learn to hold and lead and guide himself.

I’m in no hurry for you to grow up, son. I hold these past five years in my heart, but hold my gaze on your path — repeatedly amazed that I get to watch every step and stumble and sprint that you take.

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Be sure and read all of the “When I’m Five Years Old…” posts. To follow along on this wacky, wonderful journey, visit and like Designer Daddy on Facebook.

“When I’m Five Years Old…” Underwater Edition

November 3, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

More than any other parental duty, bath time has changed the most in my nearly five years of dadhood. What started as a quiet time of bonding has gone through quite a few drastic evolutions. There was the move from the kitchen sink to the bathroom; from an infant bath bin to the inflatable duck, to roaming unfettered in the tub; from playing peek-a-boo to silly sing-a-longs to tidal wave-sized splashfests.

Nowadays bath time mostly involves feats of superhuman ability: trying to jump into the tub; attempting to stand on the rim; repeated leaps to grasp the towel hanging from the shower curtain rod. And most frequently, the desire to grow gills, stay underwater as long as possible, and give me tiny heart attacks every night.

Jon’s always been a bit of a fish-in-water — a daring-do of aquatic proportions — though sometimes a bit reckless. Yet thankfully there’ve been no poolside cracked heads or broken tailbone shower slips or (knock on porcelain) underwater catastrophes. Truthfully, he’s much more likely to puncture a butt check from the stew of toys he’s always swimming in.

When I'm Five Years Old - Underwater

It’s a wonder he can hold anything underwater (breath or otherwise) amongst his maritime menagerie. I made an infographic a while back about bath toys and how to decide when to clean them or throw them out. Nonetheless, our tub has become what amounts to a playroom annex. Actual bath toys are a rarity. Instead, you can find plastic drinking cups and serving utensils, magnetic letters and musical instruments, dinosaurs, action figures, matchbox cars, Happy Meal toys… and on rare occasions, even a washcloth.

I think the next time he’s under for a hundred million minutes, I’ll thin out the flotsam (or is it jetsam?) so we can both breathe (or not) a bit easier.

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Check out the other “When I’m Five Years Old…” posts. And for more splashy fun, be sure to visit and like Designer Daddy on Facebook!

DIY Ghostbusters Halloween Costume

October 31, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE, THINGS MY KID DIGS

At some point I may do a write up of how I turned my occasionally mild-manners son into Egon Spengler, the nerdiest of those superhero/super-scientists known as the Ghostbusters. But for now I’m just going to share the photos of my very happy little boy. And go take a nap…

DIY Ghostbusters Halloween costume

Who you gonna call? THIS GUY, striking an impressive pose in his Dad-DIY Ghostbusters Halloween costume. And next year he’s going as Jonathan Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire.
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FREE FAMILY EVENT! Tysons Microsoft Store 10/30 #FitnessDayDC

October 29, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS

Microsoft Store #FitnessDayDC

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TYSONS MICROSOFT STORE #FitnessDayDC EVENT

Thursday, October 30, 2014  12:00 PM to 6:00 PM (EST)

DETAILS

This Thursday, October 30, visit the Microsoft Store at Tysons Corner Center to jump start your health and fitness goals before the biggest candy-eating holiday of the year! It’ll be a day of fun activities — Kinect and Xbox sessions, Zumba and yoga classes, and more — all designed to keep you and your kids moving. You can also enter to win prizes, some of which will be “big-ticket” items. Which is code for “expensive.”

[Tysons Corner Microsoft Store Info]    [Tysons Corner Center Map]
The Microsoft Store is located on Level 2 of Tysons Corner Center, next to Banana Republic and across from Restoration Hardware.

Designer Daddy will be there to help host!

If you come between 1:00 – 2:00 pm, you’ll have a chance to meet me in real life! Okay, that’s not much of a draw, but I’d love to see/meet/re-meet you and snap a co-selfie (an “ussie?”) before you run off to take a Zumba class, kick butt on Xbox, or enter to win some prizes.

CAN’T MAKE THE MAGICAL HOUR I’M HOSTING?

Want to attend the event but can’t make it from 1-2pm? No worries — but please be sure to take a selfie at the event and send it to me via Twitter or Instagram (@DesignerDaddy or use the hashtag #FitnessDayDC) so I can say hello and get brownie points for getting you to the event!

WHO CAN ATTEND?

The event is open to the public so invite/bring/drag all your friends, family and kids. RSVP’s are not necessary, but it does let me know who’ll be attending so I can keep a lookout for you. RSVP to the event on Facebook.

SCHEDULE & PRIZES (UPDATED)

 10am-6pm: In-store giveaways to first 150 consumers. Other (bigger!) prizes announced throughout the day.
 10am-6pm: Product demos happening all day long!
 12-1pm: Yoga class or store-provided fitness activity
 1-5pm: In-store workouts in Xbox Fitness Area. Optional fitness tests available. Xbox Fitness workout options to include Gillian Michaels, P90X, and Insanity. Trainers in-store to help  with all workouts.
 5pm: Evening snacks provided (see!)
 6-6:45pm: Zumba class or store-provided fitness activity

I will be adding more info about prizes and class times as I receive them.

QUESTIONS ABOUT #FitnessDayDC?

Shoot me an email: Brent (at) DesignerDaddy (dot) com. Hope to see you there!

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Disclosure: I partnered with XYMedia for the #FitnessDayDC event, and was compensated for my involvement.

Movie-Inspired Halloween Costumes

October 28, 2014 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

If you’re frantically looking for easy, last-minute Halloween costume ideas, this is probably not the post for you. But if you love Halloween, creativity and the movies, you’ve come to the right place!

I recently started writing family-related content for Fandango, and my first assignment was an article about creative family Halloween costumes. Our family has always had a blast dressing up together, and I knew I had more than a few friends out there who did the same. So I pooled my massive sea of Internet resources, and they delivered… TOO MUCH! I ended up with more content than Fandango could use, so I wanted to give these other cinematically-creative families the spotlight on my own site. Go grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy these picturesque, movie-inspired Halloween costumes!
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Halloween costumes - Rocket Raccoon - Guardians of the Galaxy

Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy
An avid comic book fan, James decided to make his young son into Rocket Raccoon for an upcoming comic-con, who had seen (and been enamored by) the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer he’d seen on TV. The costume was a simpler version than shown here, but James made it all himself. At the convention it caught the eye of an experienced costumer who ended up making the custom mask, feet and tail shown in the photo. Way to work a room, Rocket! James’ son will, of course, be trick-or-treating in his full Rocket gear this Halloween.

Get the look: The jacket was made by cutting up and sewing pieces from a red t-shirt onto a navy turtleneck, accented with gold buttons. The raccoon tail (found at a frontier shop) was sewn into the seat of blue sweatpants. Read more here.

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