art + illustration
NOTE: I started this early in March for Women’s History Month, and then Coronavirus happened. Yet girls still need to be celebrated and kids still need to read, so better late than never!
In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve pulled together 10 of my favorite recent picture books about girls. You’ll notice I didn’t say these books were for girls. Because while girls were likely the primary audience — and there really can’t be enough kids’ books celebrating girls — boys need these books just as much… if not more.
While Papa and I have always tried to raise our son to value and appreciate girls as much as boys, it’s still an uphill battle. For every Wonder Woman movie, Serena Williams victory or Elizabeth Warren speech there are dozens (hundreds?) more male superheroes, athletes and politicians being given the spotlight. Teaching equality and respect takes work, and one of the best ways we’ve found to communicate these values is through time spent reading to and with our child.
As a gay dad, teaching my son to celebrate the LGBTQ community has been a top priority from the beginning. Doing so not only ensures he feels proud of his own family, but it also reinforces the compassion I want him to show to others, including those that are bullied or excluded because of who they are or who they love.
Once again, pop culture has proven to be a fun and creative tool to introduce my son to all manner of colorful, queer characters. Not surprisingly, they made their way onto quite a few of the notes I put in my kid’s lunchbox, which I’ve pulled together in this list of LGBTQ superheroes.
Some of these may come as a surprise, as they are depicted as LGBTQ in certain media but not in others. Unfortunately, few are clearly and consistently portrayed as queer, so I’ve provided context and resources when warranted.
Ah, summer! Is there a three-month period more fraught with dissenting objectives between kids and parents? Moms and dads of course want their children to have fun, be outside, and all that other wonderful summertime stuff. But we also want to make sure they don’t lose every bit of knowledge, motivation, and discipline they gained during the school year.
The go-to solution for many parents is summer reading. But unless you have one of those magical make-believe children who LOVES to read every minute of every day, getting our kids to crack a book during summer break can be a challenge. And as the dad of a 9-year-old with ADHD and serious addictions to swimming, video games, scootering, and anything that’s not sitting still with a book, it can be downright excruciating.
In an effort to make story time more engaging — and less of a chore — this summer we’re trying out a new app called NOVEL EFFECT.
I previously worked with Med-IQ on their campaign about depression. I was excited to work with them again, this time to raise awareness about obesity (and obesity support) and to share my own story. After reading my post, please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked at the end. This is a sponsored post — I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
Over the course of the last six months I’ve lost more than 85 pounds, and it’s been truly, literally life-changing. I achieved this through gastric sleeve surgery, radical changes to my diet, and regular exercise.
But I couldn’t have done any of this on my own.
A while back I wrote about my obesity journey — the ups and downs of my life and how that affected my weight and health in general. Now I want to focus specifically on how support from others helped me along the way — to where I am today. And where is that? Happier and healthier than I’ve been in… well, longer than I can remember.
Again, the details of all the words can be rather cumbersome and tedious, so I’m employing my doodling skills once more to share my experiences and drop some knowledge. See whimsical graph thingies (and important data) below.
Support = Science = Success
Studies at the Mayo Clinic show that identifying and connecting with supportive and understanding relationships improves long-term success with weight management.
This graphic shows some of the different ways I’ve found support for my own health and well-being.
There are lots of ways to teach children about diversity… and not just during Black History Month. Certainly it’s important to introduce your kids to African-American culture through leaders like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Dr. King. But I’ve found some of the most effective lessons are those integrated into everyday life.
As a family of gay fathers and an adopted son, it’s vital our child feels visible, included and loved. Beyond surrounding ourselves with other queer and adoptive families, we also make racial diversity a priority. This has informed all aspects of our lives — from where we chose to live, to the friends we make, to the school our son attends. It also factors into the books, TV shows and movies we expose our son to. And of course that includes superheroes.
For those new to the blog, I’ve been creating superhero lunch notes for my son since preschool. They’ve been a great way not only to send him a bit of encouragement (or remind him to flush), but also a fun tool to introduce him to a wide array of heroes. And since this is Black History Month, I thought I’d highlight some of the awesome black characters I’ve doodled for my kid over the years.
I’ve listed family-friendly sources under each note so you and your kids can learn/watch/read more about these heroes. Feel free to copy or print the notes for your family’s lunches — be sure to send me a photo if you make your own!
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This is the black superhero everyone now knows, thanks to the record-breaking, history-making Black Panther film. WAKANDA FOREVER! GOOD LUCK AT THE OSCARS!
FUN FACT: Black Panther was originally conceived by artist Jack Kirby as a character named “Coal Tiger.”
I previously worked with Med-IQ* on their campaign educating people about depression. I jumped at the chance to work with them again, this time to raise awareness about obesity and the misconceptions surrounding it. After reading my post, please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked at the end. I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
On October 22 of last year, I had 75% of my stomach removed. After struggling with my weight for nearly three decades, I decided to undergo laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, also known as gastric sleeve surgery. This decision was neither easy nor quick, but it was the best one for me.
My journey with obesity and weight loss is long, bumpy, and full of (literal) gut-wrenching twists and turns. I initially had written a whole bunch of words chronicling the ups and downs, progress and regress, complete with years and weights and BMIs and such. But I realized that didn’t tell the full story — at least not a story others could relate to and that would make the points I want to make. So instead I doodled this whimsically twisty timeline/infographic thingie…
POLAR VORTEX! SNOW SQUALL!! THUNDER SNOW!!! As much of the country is plunged into the coldest winter in recent history, I thought it would help pass the stay-indoors-at-all-costs time to share some of my favorite chilly-themed lunch notes.
Living in the northeast, we get more than our fair share of snow days. We’ve even had a couple of school closings due to extreme cold and/or wind (like this week). But mostly we still cart our kids off to school a) so that they don’t end up attending classes until the fourth of July, and b) so the teachers can get on with enjoying their all-too-brief summers.
I’ve pulled together some of the lunch notes I’ve done for my son over the years — on days when he needs to bundle up a little tighter and hopefully not lose his thirteenth pair of gloves.
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Yo, VIP! Let’s kick it off with a Vanilla Ice pun!
What did you do on your summer vacation? Before we’re all too entrenched in the new school year, allow me to regale you with a harrowing tale. A tale of childhood. A tale of fun. A tale of absentmindedness and excuses and going commando. And a tale of a very, very frustrated dad.
Last summer my son attended a daytime summer camp and had an amazing time. I’ve never been much of a summer (or any type of) camper. I was/am too uptight to deal with nature or filth or a lack of personal space for long periods of time. But my kid is almost exactly the opposite. Which meant he squeezed the fun out of every moment of camp, but tended to not sweat many any of the details. Which also meant day-after-day-after-day of his shit being left behind at camp.
It boggled my mind, pushed all my Angry Dad buttons, and eventually became comically surreal. Nearly every parent I told said their kid was exactly the same, so I swore that the next summer I would document it somehow. There was some cathartic, empathetic humor to be mined.
Yet as this past school year wound down and quickly burst into summer, I found myself rushing around preparing for camp and completely forgot about my idea. It wasn’t until the first afternoon of pick-up that I remembered; when I opened my son’s backpack to put away his wet clothes and found none. On. Day. One.
I sat on the floor of my son’s room amidst a sea of books, surveying those he’d carefully selected yanked off the shelf for inclusion in a yard sale. Memories from the last eight years of nightly bedtime stories flooded my thoughts (and my eyes a little, too).
Few moments in parenting are as special as those spent reading with your kids. Yet it can be a challenge finding quality children’s books that include a positive — or any — portrayal of fathers.
Some progress has been made, but society still often works overtime against dads making emotional, creative or educational connections with their kids. Books that feature fathers can play an important part in bridging that divide. They help lay an early foundation for equally involved parents, regardless of gender. And for two dad families like mine, representation is crucial to helping our kids feel nurtured, included, and seen.
As I proceeded to cull, it came as no surprise that the “dad” books were making the “keep” pile rather tall. So as we near Father’s Day, I thought I’d share my favorite “keepers” — my favorite children’s books about dads. Each of these father-centric books carries the official Designer Daddy (and son) seal of approval, and is guaranteed to keep dad(s) showing up for story time.
Having taught my son about superheroes since birth, it’s no surprise that he values a warrior’s strength and power. Whether it’s an over-the-top wrestler, nonsensical ball-encased creature, transforming car/alien/robot thing — or hammer-wielding demigod — nothing gets my kiddo more pumped than good triumphing over evil.
While my 8-year-old’s heroic ambitions are clearly evident in how much time he spends leaping from and jumping on our living room furniture, he also embodies the warrior spirit in other ways. Pardon me while I brag.