by the numbers

Which Kids’ Movie Song From The Last 12 Months Is The Best?

June 17, 2014 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

With the release of The LEGO Movie on DVD/Blu-Ray, it’s got me reflecting on all the great music to come from kids’ movies in the last year. Three songs in particular have delighted children and adults alike… that is, until they bored holes into our brains from repetition. I’m of course talking about “Everything is Awesome,” “Let It Go,” and “Happy.”

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During the Disney renaissance of the late-80s/90s, songs from the Mouse House’s animated films were all over the radio and the charts. “Beauty and the Beast,” “A Whole New World,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” all cracked Billboard’s top 10; and between 1989-1999, 15 songs from Disney films either won or were nominated for Oscars. Yet since that heyday, I don’t recall a time when songs written specifically for kids’ movies have had such an audible impact as the three in question.

So… between “Everything Is Awesome,” “Let It Go,” and “Happy,” which one is the best? Or perhaps a better question, the least annoying? I decided to break it down scientifically to give you an objective, definitive and 100% fact-based answer. I took into account several factors, then gave points for each category to reach my accurate, foolproof, final results.

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Piechart: My Preschooler’s Well-Balanced Diet

January 17, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

This rotund chart pretty much says it all. I have no wisdom nor special powers nor secret sauce with which to get my kiddo to eat anything other than what he knows — beyond the shadow of a doubt — to be not yucky. His is a well-balanced diet, only in that it’s consistently frustrating and all-around annoying.

well-balanced diet pizza bagels waffles preschooler diet

So please feel free to submit your tips, tricks and tales of success. Or join me in my malnourished misery. Just don’t judge. If you do, I’m pretty sure you’ve never had a kid.

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Won’t you join me on Facebook for even more fun and shenanigans? I’ll bring the pizza bagels!

(Way) Back to School

August 21, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

So I have a kid in school now. Whoever thought I’d be saying (or writing) those words? I guess up until now I’d never thought much about it. With the exception of a few months my sophomore year, I loved school, and my early school memories are full of color and letters and art and really nice, really tall teachers. But leading up to JJ starting preschool, I hadn’t had time to think about those memories. All my time and energy was spent worrying about how and where to find the right school. Private, public, magnet, charter. The only ones we could definitively rule out were of the conservative religious variety. So when we finally found one, the frenzy then migrated to figuring out work schedules, pick up/drop off coordination, and a mortgage-sized stack of paperwork. And the getting of all the stuff: new shoes, backpack, lunch bag, little Tupperware containers. Not that I didn’t love it. Because A) Daddy loves to shop, and B) kids have the coolest stuff.

But in between the searching and the deciding, we visited the school that would eventually be The One. As Papa, JJ and I walked into the brick building, down the hall covered in bulletin boards, and into what would be JJ’s classroom, all those early school memories came flooding back. So much color, so many letters, artwork everywhere; bins and jars and shelves overflowing with untold treasures.

Papa was busy asking the administrator all sorts of responsible, adult questions about money and hours of operation, while I kept an eye on JJ, who was keeping an eye on the class on the other side of the room having story time. I then watched as he walked over to a munchkin-sized table and started taking apart and putting together a group of puzzles that had been laid out, around six or so. As he was finishing the last one, I bent down to watch him more closely. It was wooden, painted in bright colors, and had ten pieces consisting of numbers zero through nine. It didn’t play a song or light up or have any buttons to push, and it didn’t teach any lessons about sharing or the environment or how to speak Chinese. Wood, paint and numbers — that was it. While the numbers weren’t perfectly formed, they also weren’t done in an annoying “child’s handwriting” font. Someone’s hands had obviously been involved at some point in the creation of this.

puzzle1

JJ made quick work of it and moved back to the first puzzle to re-start his process while Papa continued to gather vital information about our son’s education. I leaned in closer to the numbers puzzle and saw this in the bottom right corner:

puzzledetail

Wait… what? 1975?!? If I hadn’t already been awash in nostalgia I might have been concerned this school had such outdated toys for my son to play with. Back to school? More like WAY back to school. We’re talking decades… DECADES of germs. And not to mention such an antiquated teaching approach. There weren’t even any robots or multiracial children or Disney properties on it!

Yet deep in remembrance as I was, what immediately came to mind was that I could have played with this very puzzle at JJ’s age. Granted, I  would have been six, and a little old to be learning to count. But it was definitely of my era. It gave comfort to this old dad. As a father that’s grayer than most toddler dads, it’s something that weighs on me from time-to-time, both physically and emotionally. So to see something from my early school days making its way into my son’s made me feel connected to him on his new adventure. And it was reassuring — a sign, if you will — that we’d found the right place for him to embark.

The simplest tools — paint, wood, numbers, letters, paper, glue, paint, water, music, glitter, hand-raising, story time, lining up, recess, tiny tables and really nice, really tall teachers. These are what stand the test of time and truly leave their mark on young minds.

Happy Birthday Son! Love, Your Soon-To-Be (Legally) Married Dads & the State of Maryland

November 7, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Victory Speeches, Birthday Wishes & Wedding Bells

Exhausted from a very trying week and a half, I stayed up as late as I could to watch election (and Question 6) results last night. I gave up around 11 and trudged upstairs to get ready for bed — and when I came out of the bathroom, the election had been called for Obama. I went to sleep happy about that, but stressed knowing the votes for Question 6 were uncomfortably close.

I woke up around 1am to pee, checked Facebook and started tearing up reading all the posts about the victory for marriage equality in Maryland. And not just general “Woohoo!” posts, but status updates from several friends announcing their intentions to get married in 2013, as well as many, many posts, emails and messages to me personally congratulating our family.

After my 1am nature call/sigh of relief/internal jump for joy, I updated my Facebook status:

Woke up to pee and am now tearing up after checking Facebook and seeing that same-sex marriage will finally be legal in Maryland. Can’t wait to tell Jon in the morning (on his 3rd birthday) that Daddy and Papa are gonna get married!

But at 6:30am (after a very un-fitful night of non-sleep) I was awakened by JJ turning on our light and then loudly whining because Papa couldn’t play with him because Papa had to plunge the toilet and couldn’t find said plunger, so then I had to get up and help hunt for it, as well as appease the cranky (now) 3 year-old and change a very wet diaper. Needless to say, there were no birds chirping sweetly, flitting about and putting wedding garlands in my hair.

But as I was changing JJ’s diaper, I wished him Happy Birthday and told him I had a special birthday surprise for him: Daddy and Papa were going to get married! His reaction was to stare in mild confusion and disinterest. I reminded him he had been to Uncle Baby’s and Aunt Amy’s wedding (which he was too young to remember)… still no reaction. I told him, “You get to be the ring bearer!” <Blinks>

A few minutes later when Papa came downstairs, I asked JJ to tell Papa what I’d told him. I of course had to jog his memory about the whole marriage thing, but when I asked him to tell what he (JJ) was going to do at the wedding, he declared proudly, “I”m get to ring the bell!”

We already have rings, so we don’t technically need a ring bearer. And besides, the image of JJ running around ringing a big, loud bell after his Daddy and Papa say their legal “I Do’s” and become his married dads seems just about perfect.

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Here are a few of my favorite congratulatory messages:

Congrats to Marylanders! Brent & Nick, I am so there when (and if) you decide to get married. Whether it’s a big blow-out like last time or a quiet city hall affair, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Love you both!! And your little boo-boo too!

My old friend Brent is just one of many citizens of Maryland who can finally get married to the person he loves! Let go of prejudice! Gold bless America!

My [Facebook] feed is pretty good for now. A few people have been negative nancies, but not too bad. I have one friend in Maryland who made me teary this morning because he got up to pee in the middle of the night and saw that gay marriage is now legal in his state… he was so happy that he could tell his son today, on his 3rd birthday, that his dads are going to get married. That made me happy.

HUGS!!!! Yay to your family!!!

CONGRATULATIONS my friend!!! Happy happy joy joy!!

I just found out that my brother and his partner of 15 years are now allowed to get married and have a “legal” family with their son. I love and look up to them both so much. They set such a wonderful example and inspiration not as gays but as people who love and make it work every day. They’ve taught me so much over the years and guided me out of my naiveté, to prevent heartache and prolonged drama that plague so many in our community. They deserve the best life and happiness. When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

DooDad of the Day: Number Tree Growth Chart

October 19, 2012 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS

I haven’t done a DooDad in awhile — there’s such an onslaught of cool/cute stuff out there, I sometimes don’t know what to focus on — although I have started throwing some stuff up on Pinterest. But this one comes from someone I actually know, so wanted to give it a special shout out.

Growing Tree growth chart & detail

Designing a growth chart for JJ has been on my (much too ambitious) to-do list, and he’ll probably be 6 feet tall before I get around to it — so I might just have to buy one of these awesome charts from Mixt Studio, owned by Californian designer/mom Marcie Carson. We met a few years ago in Louisville, KY where we were judging a design competition. She was also blogging at the time and hers was one that inspired me to start Designer Daddy, so I’ve kept up with her ever since.

I really dig these because they’re smartly designed and fun, but not over-the-top kiddie-looking. Plus it’s nice to see a kid’s product that’s not tied into a TV show, movie, or — dare I say it — superhero. Marcie gave me a little extra info on the growth charts… and a deal on FREE SHIPPING!

Do they come with any stickers or ways to mark a child’s height?
They are made of canvas, so you can write directly on them with a pen. A Sharpie is best, but even a ballpoint will do.

What inspired the designs?
Most of my inspiration comes from my two children… what they (and their friends) like to play with. I also pay close attention to decorating trends in children’s rooms. All of our designs are playful without being too cutesy.

Do you have any new products coming up soon?
We just added several new growth chart designs, including some cool new themes like 70s beach, retro skateboard, and Guatemalan stripes. Please offer a FREE SHIPPING CODE to your readers: “GoodKarma”


Check out all the styles… and take some time to poke around all the other cool products while you’re there. And be sure and tell Marcie I sent ya.

Back-to-School Giveaway!

August 18, 2012 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

Just in time for back to school — or, for my non-parent / math nerd readers — I’m giving away a pair of numerically awesome goodies! The prize includes magnetic numbers from Mudpuppy and a tin of Fox Run mini number cookie cutters.

The varnished wooden numbers (that come in this awesome storage carton) are exponentially cooler than your run-of-the-mill fridge magnets! They’re bright, bold and funky, and the 40-piece set includes numerals 0 to 9, plus symbols for adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing and equaling. Among their many other gorgeous and creative products, Mudpuppy also makes a matching set of letter magnets.

I also own a tin of these cute-as-pie cookie cutters, and have put them to good use in many attempts to lure my toddler to eat. I haven’t yet used them to make cookies, (And really, who wants a cookie that small? Seems pointless.) but they’re great for using cheese to turn dinosaurs into cars or cars into racecars or whatever shapes these nuggets were supposed to originally be.

In any event, magnets + cookies x numbers = MATH FUN! And anything that helps make math less torturous is tops in my book.

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TO ENTER:
In the comments, share an idea for how you’d use the cookie cutters
OR
Share a word or phrase you can spell upside down with numbers (like on a calculator).
Sorry, “BOOBIES” is already taken — see above.

EXTRA ENTRIES can be earned by posting/liking/sharing on Facebook or retweeting/favoriting/DM’ing on Twitter. I can’t make it any easier for you, sorry.

Winner chosen at random. Contest closes midnight (EST) on TUESDAY, AUGUST 22.

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