A Year of Loss, a Year of Life, Stepping Forward

February 28, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Oren Miller Hadrian's Wall

One year ago today I lost my friend Oren Miller, and the absence of his voice and his friendship is still as profound.

I think of him often, particularly of his “Cancer” post, which not only announced the diagnosis of the disease that would eventually take his life, but also recalled a moment years earlier when he chose to step back into life and be present.

If you’ve never read it, please take a few minutes and do so, now. If you have read it before, read it again.

I think of him often, particularly when I’m feeling out of my element, unengaged, not taking life in as it comes to me. Oren’s epiphany of choosing to be involved in his own life resonated so deeply, and has continued its echo throughout the 365 days since his last.

Think for a moment about the last year of your life. Scroll back through your mental calendar, and consider the holidays, the birthdays, the everyday. Where you were, what you experienced, who you were with. The times you beamed with pride, fell in love all over again, cuddled during story time. And the times you shouted too loudly, held grudges too closely, cursed your job or the lack of one. Think about the losses you’ve suffered and the things you’ve gained.

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For Your Consideration, This Guy

February 17, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Field Trip to SCOTUS

If you’re in the parent blogging community, you may be familiar with the Iris Awards. If not, it’s kind of like the Oscars of parent blogging — minus the million dollar jewelry and with lots more children being told to go to bed.

Last year I was nominated in the Best Philanthropic Work category for the writing and fundraising I (and scores of others) did on behalf of Oren Miller and his family. It was an amazing and unexpected honor, particularly as Christy Turlington was also in that category. (Neither of us won, by the way. This awesome organization did.)

Now this is going to be a bit weird. It is for me, at least. But I’ve been trying to be more genuine and honest about the things I want in life — instead of defaulting to snark and passive-aggressiveness. So in the spirit of Putting Out into the Universe What I’d Like to Get Back…

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Brains, Schmains: How About Some Zombie S’mores!

February 10, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

Zombie S'mores!

S’mores are just about the most perfect snack. First, there’s the simplicity of them: chocolate + marshmallows + graham crackers; heat, eat, repeat.

They’re also super easy to customize, personalize, and accessorize. Maybe you like yours with peanut butter, or Nutella instead of chocolate; or maybe once in college you experimented with s’mores made from Pop Tarts and have always fantasized about trying that again.

And finally, s’mores are always in season: they taste just as gooey and delicious whether you’re huddled around a campfire telling ghost stories or huddled on the couch binge-watching The Walking Dead.

Speaking of zombies…
A while back I made some spooky monster s’mores for my son’s class Halloween party. They were such fun to make (and a big hit with the kids), that I thought I’d revisit this snack-craft and see what other monstrosity I could come up with. Then it hit me — ZOMBIE S’MORES. What could be more fitting than a gooey, melty, drippy snack made to look like a gooey, melty, drippy reanimated corpse?!

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An Adoptive Dad Reviews ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

February 1, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Movie: Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (46), Papa (48), Jon (6)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★, Papa ★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Big Hero 6, Ghostbusters
Daddy & Papa’s Favorites: The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Plot Snapshot: Po is living large as the hero of his village, content to “fight monsters and get high-fives from bunnies.” Two challenges soon arise to rock Po’s world: the supernatural villain Kai, who is stealing the chi of China’s kung fu masters; and the appearance of Li Shan, his long-lost biological father.

Po and Li Shan travel to a hidden village where Po meets scores of other pandas, reconnecting with his inner dumpling-eating, hill-rolling, oversleeping self. But Kai is on the hunt for our hero, so Po must train his new panda posse into fierce warriors in order to battle the otherworldly foe.

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[The remainder of this review contains plot spoilers.]

As an adoptive parent, I’ve always been interested in how movies like the Kung Fu Panda series handle the topic of adoption. I was particularly curious about Kung Fu Panda 3, as it introduces Po’s birthfather into the story. This is something more and more adoptive families can relate to, as open adoption is increasingly the norm.

I went into the film with some concerns about how they would treat the dynamic between Mr. Ping (the goose who raised Po) and his biological father. I was half-expecting a bait-and-switch, perhaps revealing Li Shan was not in fact Po’s father; or maybe Po having to choose between one family or the other.

Yet the moviemakers did a good job of resolving the family-related conflicts — which were almost entirely between the two parents, not Po.

Adoptive dad Mr. Ping seemed to struggle more with this new family dynamic — his protectiveness, mistrust, and competitiveness on full display. While I appreciated the honesty with which they portrayed these understandable (and familiar) emotions, I was glad they didn’t roost there, which might have caused some adopted kids or their parents to feel uncomfortable. However, I thought that within the confines of a 90-minute kids’ movie, they evolved the characters quite nicely.

Kung Fu Panda 3

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Growing Pains

January 29, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Growing Pains

I slowly pushed and contorted my way out of the car, minding the door against a bank of snow, eyeing the slick of ice under my left foot. I was very much feeling all my forty-six-and-a-half years as I gingerly walked towards the pale, blue house. The sitter had agreed to keep Jon for a couple of hours while I attempted to eke out a bit of work and restock our depleted pantry.

The worst of the storm was past, and with it the worry that we’d lose power. Yet as we were midway through what would eventually be a full week without school, new stresses were putting my stomach through its paces. A full week (plus the weekend before it) of no school meant lots and lots of hours spent indoors, or at most, on our unplowed block.

I knew it was coming, and did find comfort that we kept the lights and heat (and TV and Internet), but that barely made the challenges any less so. My aspirations were grand — to bake, to craft, to LEGO — but were slowly and monotonously eclipsed by my desire to keep the peace and my wits.

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‘Snapdad’ Creates Adorable Masterpieces While Baby Sleeps

January 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

One of the first things new parents learn is the art of getting baby to sleep. And by “learn,” I mean reading books, scouring the Internet, texting your friends, calling your parents… and then winging it out of panic. Whether it’s naptime, nighttime, or OMG-WHY-IS-HE-AWAKE-time, getting an infant to sleep (or back to sleep) can be a harrowing, tedious, mind-numbing experience.

Then there are new dads like Lukas Costeur, AKA SNAPDAD. Since the birth of his son Felix, Lukas has been using Snapchat (and his creativity) to capture the special moments spent lulling his wee one to sleep. With nothing but the Snapchat drawing tool — and a willing subject — Snapdad has begun a whimsical gallery of pop culture baby pics.

snapdad

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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #1-10

December 31, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time

At long last… the Top 10. As with much of the list, this final batch is a mix of expected crowd-pleasers and personal favorites. I toiled long and hard on it, so if you take issue with some of my rankings, please be gentle.

Without further fanfare, the final installment of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

10. TEEN TITANS / TEEN TITANS GO!

2003-2006 / 2013-present

Anime-inspired Teen Titans balanced fun and sophistication, as did its retro-cool theme song. Cancelled after its fifth season, the show was reborn in 2013 as Teen Titans Go! Though the spin-off features the same heroes voiced by the same actors, that’s where the similarities end. As an appeal to a younger audience, everything was shortened: the length of the episodes, the characters’ stature, even the theme song. The Teen Titans theme was chopped and remixed, now buzzing with frantic layers of electronica — a perfect fit for this over-the-top send-up of young superhero life.

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A Deaf Husband Learns He’s Going to Be a Dad, and It’s a Beautiful Thing

December 31, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

The skeptic in me grows weary from the barrage of über-personal things shared on social media (which I realize is ironic, coming from a blogger). However, I don’t have a problem with birth announcements, proposals, etc. themselves — my skepticism stems mainly from so many of these e-moments seeming staged or insincere.

This video, however, is truly beautiful, amazing, and full of real emotion. As a deaf man (David Welch) learns from his partner that she’s pregnant, in the span of a few seconds you witness his curiosity, realization, shock, fear, joy, and love. Without any words, we have the privilege of watching a man’s life change forever.

I don’t know David or what his life has been like, but I imagine anyone who has to try a little harder at life appreciates the “normalcy” of something like fatherhood a bit more.

I’m still amazed sometimes that I’m a father, but not because of the atypical ways I had to go about it. I spent my whole life wanting to be a dad, even picturing myself as such — yet because I also knew from a very young age that I was “different,” I never really believed I could wear the mantle of fatherhood. Eventually I came to accept myself, society evolved a bit, and I met and fell in love with a man who also wanted to be a father. And the impossible became possible.

So thank you, David, stranger from the Internet, for reminding me that the impossible is possible, that real men bare their souls, and that being a father is a beautiful, wonderful, emotional thing.

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If you’re not seeing the ASL translation, adjust the settings in YouTube to see the captions.

Join me over on the Designer Daddy Facebook page for all the fun, family and foolishness you could ever want.

Designer Daddy’s Top 15 Blog Posts of 2015

December 30, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

Designer Daddy Best of 2015

2015 was quite a year for me, for my family, and for several communities to which I belong. A flurry of sticky-note success; a milestone in equality; venturing into kindergarten; the return to a galaxy far, far away; the tragic loss of a friend — all of these contributed to one of the most eventful 12 months in my recent history. And it’s been exciting, fun, cathartic, intimidating, and inspiring for me to chronicle it all here (and a couple of other places) in word and doodle.

So if you’re a new reader curious to know what this site is all about, or a familiar friend sharing some moments of reflection, welcome. These are my 15 favorite blog posts of 2015.

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My Favorite Superhero Wears Pink

December 29, 2015 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, MAKING MEMORIES

Through nearly every phase of my life, comic books and superheroes have been a source of entertainment, enlightenment, and inspiration. Yet there’s a real-life superhero that has had my back through it all — one that has gone heretofore unrecognized. Whether venturing out on my own, finding my soulmate, or settling into domesticated dad bliss, this unsung hero has never failed to protect, comfort, and heal. All while swathed in soothing shades of pink.

I’m of course talking about Pepto-Bismol.
Or as I like to call it…

Pepto Bismol — Captain Pepto to the rescue!

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