Happy Mother’s Day to the Women Who Made Me the Dad I Am Today

May 8, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Mother's Day

As a family with two dads, Mother’s Day can be challenging. It brings up questions from our son and can at times make him — and us — feel like an outsider. Yet even though he doesn’t have a mom, our son has inherited so much compassion, wisdom, and love from generations of great women.

One of these women was my maternal grandmother, Louise McCullough.

The photo above is of my grandmother, my mom, me and Jon from November 2010. Grandma Louise (or, more informally, Grandma Mac) had been in poor health, having undergone multiple stomach surgeries. She was in her mid 80’s and increasingly feeble, but continued to remain the strong, caring, opinionated matriarch she’d always been.

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Remembering Prince and How His Music Helped Save My Life

April 30, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Remembering Prince & How He Helped Save My Life

In the summer of 1984 I turned 16. I had a year of high school behind me and was living on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific. My dad was a military chaplain, and we’d moved to Okinawa, Japan the previous summer. For several months we lived in a house in Okinawa City, and the top floor consisted only of my bedroom and a wraparound balcony with a view of the ocean. Aside from the occasional gecko scurrying across the ceiling, it was a sanctuary of solitude for this eldest of four boys.

I had a pretty good first year of high school, as years of high school go. My grades were good, I made the tennis team, and had a solid group of friends. I’d even been voted “Cutest Couple” with a girl who I happened to be dating when the votes were cast, though soon after reverting to friend status.

By the summer of this story, we’d moved onto Kadena Air Force Base. Military housing is typically bland, but here was accented with island flavor: a clay tile roof, palm trees growing from the patio, poinsettia bushes along the side of the house. I hadn’t yet attained high school party-attendee status, so weekend nights were spent walking to the movies or bowling alley, days at one of the beaches scattered around the island.

At the end of that June, I bought Purple Rain at the BX. Over the course of the summer and into my sophomore year, Prince’s magnum opus was the soundtrack of our collective youth. Blasting from cars and boom boxes, on every Walkman, every track (and some B-sides) played nonstop at school dances.

Like Thriller the year before, Purple Rain crossed lines of gender, race, and genre. But it went even further, delving into and mixing sex and spirituality. This was exemplified most in the album’s two biggest hits. “When Doves Cry” dripped with sensuality, while “Let’s Go Crazy” sang of the afterlife with raucous, unpious fervor. The latter was a revelation for this preacher’s kid struggling not only with faith, but also with my sexuality… and what that meant for my own afterlife.

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Philadelphia Family Fun: Our Five Favorites

April 23, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

If you’re looking for affordable family fun, look no further than Philadelphia. Our family got to spend four days with our up-the-coast neighbor; however, the first two were just me and my 6-year-old — a challenge I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. Under normal circumstances, my adventurously independent son is a handful. Now we were sans one dad, adding a train ride, a hotel stay, and a bunch of activities in a city I knew next to nothing about. Papa and I had spent an anniversary weekend years ago, focusing mainly on art museums and antiques. I knew my kiddo was having none of that, so we were in uncharted territory.

It’s also important to note that Jon was not as over the previous week’s stomach bug as I thought.

Known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia has plenty of affection for families and kids, too. We made it through the trip with lots of flying colors, great memories, and even learned a few things. And yes, there were lots and lots of trips to the bathroom.

Here are our five Philadelphia favorites — along with a score for the restrooms at each location, based on their ability to accommodate weary, middle-aged dads and a kindergartner whose bowels were constantly at DEFCON #2.

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5. THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE
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Philadelphia family fun — Franklin Institute

The initial draw of The Franklin Institute was the Art of the Brick exhibit — which did not disappoint. Yet on further exploration, the entire museum was amaze-balls, as the kids say. From the giant interactive heart, to the train factory, a planetarium, and pretty much any invention or sciencey thing you can think up — it had it all.

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Back to the White House: Discussing Gender Stereotypes in Media & Toys

April 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

For the second time in less than a month, I found myself an invited guest of the White House. (I don’t think I’ve ever written a more unfathomably awesome sentence.) While hearing the First Lady speak about nutrition and fitness a few weeks prior was certainly amazing, the topic of the second event was much more in my wheelhouse.

gender stereotypes in toys and media

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SuperBunnyEggFriends Easter Craft to the Rescue!

March 27, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

Superhero Easter Craft

If the new film Batman v Superman is too dark for your littlest superhero fan, here’s a nifty Springtime/Easter craft I whipped up. I had a lot of fun recreating my favorite childhood heroes in bunny/egg form, and then putting them in silly scenarios. After I was done playing with them, they made eggceptional prize eggs for an epic backyard egg hunt at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Enjoy the goofy Easter vignettes, then scroll to the end of the post to learn how to make them yourself.

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Batman v Superman: Pick a Side to Win $200 in Fandango Gift Cards!

March 24, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

Batman v Superman SuperLunchNotes

My son’s a little young yet to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but he’s been witness to this epic battle his whole life. Between TV shows and movies, t-shirts and Halloween costumes, and of course multiple action figures of each — my 6-year-old has grown up amidst this greatest of superhero struggles.

Yet nowhere has this played out more frequently than in his lunch box. The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are not only the two most iconic superheroes on earth, but they’ve also made more appearances as SuperLunchNotes than another other character. Between the two of them, they’ve accompanied his PBJ and Pirate’s Booty on nearly 25 occasions. And that’s not even counting notes featuring sidekicks, pets, or rogues galleries.

So to commemorate the premiere of the big screen skirmish, I thought I’d feature some of my favorite notes from each titan, then let you weigh in on who should be declared the winner of Batman v Superman: SuperLunchNotes… And your pick could win one of two $100 movie gift cards from Fandango.com!

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‘American Girl’ Amaya Receives Family Equality Council Impact Award

March 22, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

The “fallout” from the boycott of American Girl just keeps getting sweeter. In November, right-wing fringe group One Million Moms called for a boycott against the American Girl company for featuring an 11-year-old girl with two fathers in their magazine. As Amaya and her dads are friends of our family, it frustrated and saddened me to see them attacked. However, the controversy gave the family an amazing platform to share their story and the amazing work they do through their charity, Comfort Cases. In an ironic twist, the flurry of media coverage resulted in a banner year for Comfort Cases, with a 65% increase in goods delivered to children in the foster care system, and a 300% increase in donations.

So how could it get any sweeter than that?

Dads Rob and Reece, Amaya, and her three brothers were recently honored at Family Equality Council’s 2016 Impact Awards! The family was flown cross country to LA, where they got to walk the red carpet, hob-knob with celebs, and be recognized for their advocacy, their generosity, and for being such an inspiration to us all.

For both Rob and Reece, the most memorable part of the evening were the two standing ovations the family received from the crowd of over 500 celebrities, corporate sponsors, and activist. They were the only ovations of the night!

Family Equality Council Impact Awards
(L) Amaya, Reece, Greyson, (R) Tristan, Makai, and Rob on the red carpet at the 2016 Impact Awards. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

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Designer Daddy Goes to the White House

March 21, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

I was invited to the White House recently, and initially I had no idea why. That’s not to say I wasn’t thrilled to receive the invitation. I’ve lived in DC for 20 years, and while I’ve toured the West Wing and attended the Easter Egg Roll, I’d never been to an official event there. I’d never been inside – not really.

And this was about as “inside” as you could get. The invitation read: First Lady Michelle Obama invites you to a conversation about the health of our nation’s kids…

This was part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. You know, the one trying to get kids to eat healthier and exercise more. Now obviously I want my kid (and all kids) to be healthy, but had they not read my recent post, 19 Things My Kid Has Eaten Since He Last Had a Vegetable? Had they not seen photos of me? They had clearly slacked off in their vetting process.

So there I was, the overweight dad of an under-vegetabled kid, summoned to 1600 Penn to talk about fitness and nutrition. Not one to look a gift house in the portico, I excitedly RSVPed in the affirmative — all the while questioning my inclusion in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

White House Let's Move Event

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SuperLunchNotes: Now I Eat My ABC’s

March 18, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

As the old year rebooted to a new one, I kicked it off with SuperLunchNotes A-to-Z in my son’s lunch box. I was bored at the idea of just doing a character that starts with each letter, so I decided to include a word describing or associated with the subject. A word he could figure out on his own — either in context or using his ever-increasing reading skills. If he wasn’t always going to eat well, at least he could learn something.

I initially thought I’d also choose words that could apply to Jon, either in reality or aspirationally. But you’ll see I quickly hit a snag with “E” and broke that rule.

In any case, grab your lunch salad and a water (or goldfish crackers and a juicebox — I won’t judge), sit back and enjoy an alphabetized study in scrumptious superheroics!

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1.4 Aquaman  |  1.5 Brave’s Merida   |  1.6 Catwoman

superlunchnotes a-to-z

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Reader Response: Growing up with Gay Dads

March 11, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

I wanted to share a particularly sweet note I received from a reader recently. I’ve only done this once or twice before, but this message made me feel extra warm and tingly, as it speaks to the “mission” of my blog, and my life as a dad in general.

It comes from a woman who was raised by two fathers in the 1980s — an extremely rare occurrence at that time. She lost one of her dads to AIDS when she was just a teenager, and sent this message (and awesome photo) to me on the 20th anniversary of his death.

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Growing up with gay dads, 80s style

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“This is a picture of my dad (right) and his partner back in the 80’s (note the awesome handlebar mustache).

We lost Paul 20 years ago today due to an AIDS-related illness. I wanted to post here and say that growing up with gay dads was so amazing, but back then it wasn’t easy.

I wanted to thank you for your blog and for your openness in sharing your story. I wish that I had known even one other family with gay dads, because there were times I felt very alone. It’s amazing how far we’ve come but there’s still work to do.

And when people like you continue to normalize gay families, it goes a long way.”

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The next time someone asks me why it’s important if there’s a gay character in Star Wars, or why I need to label myself a “gay dad,” or whether advocating for more laws protecting LGBT parents and their families really matter, I’ll point them to this.

“Normalize” doesn’t mean trying to become “normal,” or trying to mimic or be accepted by the status quo. It means living our lives and sharing our story in whatever form that takes — whether it’s writing a blog, joining the PTA, or befriending a neighbor. It means being out and proud in the everyday, in the difficult and painful, as well as the bright and joyful. And it means doing all we can to ensure none of us ever feels alone.

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So if you send me a particularly sweet (or sassy) note, you may very well make my day…and I might publish it. You’ve been warned.

Be sure to visit and like Designer Daddy on Facebook.

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