education

How to Get Your Kids Excited About Summer Reading

June 17, 2019 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, THINGS MY KID DIGS

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.

summer reading - Novel Effect

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My Obesity Journey: There & Back Again & There & Back Again & There & Back Again…

February 13, 2019 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

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. 

Obesity

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…

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Stan Lee Made a True Believer of Me

November 15, 2018 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, POP CULTURE

To say that Stan Lee and Marvel have had an impact on my life as a parent and my relationship with my son would be a galactic understatement. And while most may know me as a big comic book nerd enthusiast, I didn’t grow up a Marvel fan.

R.I.P. Stan Lee

“WERE YOU A DC KID OR A MARVEL KID?”

That’s the ultimate question when it comes to classifying comic book fans. You have two choices and you can’t be both, lest it throw the multiverse out of balance or something. This battle between the superhero companies has raged on for decades, though it’s now spilled into the mainstream and involves multi-billion dollar movie and TV franchises.

I was an unapologetic DC kid. Maybe it was my age or the lack of older siblings or just the alignment of the planets, but my love for superheroes was sparked by a trio of campy TV shows featuring DC Comics characters: Batman, Super Friends, and Wonder Woman. Along the way, Aquaman became my all-time favorite character. The Superman and Batman films of the 70s and 80s were life-changing experiences. By the end of college, I’d amassed many, many boxes of comic books, 100% of which were DC.

While I’d been exposed to characters like Spider-Man and Hulk, Marvel’s roster as a whole seemed so strange and underground and anti-hero-y to me. That all changed when I became a dad.

My son’s birth coincided closely with the release of the first Iron Man movie, which inspired me to declare myself an equal opportunity comic book dad. I was determined to buck the system —my son would be both a DC and a Marvel kid. But why would I make this seemingly impossible parenting goal?

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Amplifying the Young Voices of March for Our Lives

March 29, 2018 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

and On March 24, 2018, hundreds of thousands of people attended March for Our Lives — a protest and call to action held in hundreds of cities in every state across the U.S. Yet even more amazing than the massive crowds were the many young speakers raising their voices in frustration, fear, anger, and mourning.

They voiced their frustration at the lack of any real change to America’s gun laws in the last decade. They voiced the fear they experienced at school or in their neighborhoods as they were terrorized at gunpoint. They voiced their anger at the NRA and its influence over Congress, local legislators, and gun owners in general. And they voiced their sorrow — mourning siblings, cousins, classmates, teachers, friends and neighbors whose lives were — and continue to be — cut short by a culture of unfettered gun violence.

Yet with all of this against them, they spoke out — bravely, with purpose, and with hope.

On February 14, 2018, the latest (at this writing) mass shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, fourteen of them students. As there’s not much new I can add to the conversation, I thought the best way to honor the silenced students was to amplify the same number of young voices from March for Our Lives.

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EMMA GONZÁLEZ – 17, Parkland FL
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Students rally for gun control at March for Our Lives

Watch Emma’s entire speech to get the full effect of her message. And then please (PLEASE) leave a positive comment on YouTube to counter the avalanche of hatred she’s enduring.


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The ABCs of Trump: Words My Kid Has Learned Since 45 Took Office

August 31, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, POP CULTURE

The other day my 7-year-old was chatting away about some odd thing or another — a not infrequent occurrence. But this time instead of pretending to understand words like Zombie Pigmen or Squirtle, I heard a word I recognized: egomaniac. I didn’t catch the context, but knew immediately why this had entered my son’s lexicon: Trump. This got me wondering… What other words has my kid learned since DJT became president?

As a candidate and up through his first 222 days in office (but who’s counting?), 45 has introduced the American people to new levels of divisiveness, self-involvement, and volatility. He’s also introduced Americans — and our children — to a whole lot of new words.

Some of these are words adults don’t typically teach to kids due to them being entirely inappropriate. Many are words whose definitions have been tainted by POTUS-association. And quite a few are completely made up — maniacally spewed from Cheeto-In-Chief’s raging maw.

So as it’s a brand new school year, I’ve compiled a vocabulary list — an ABCs of the unfortunate, vulgar, disturbing words my child and others have learned these recent dark months.

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THE ABCs of TRUMP

WARNING: As with everything Trump-related, some language may not be suitable for children. Or anyone, for that matter.

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A is for ARMAGEDDON

Armageddon was one of those films I look forward to watching with my son in a few years. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon, devouring popcorn and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Now the actuality looms on the horizon, thanks to our posturing POTUS. Where’s a squad of slow-motion-walking misfits you need them?  Additional As: arrogant; alternative facts; alt-right
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ABCs of Trump
B is for BIGLY

His ego knows no bounds — so it made sense Trump would make up a word to exaggerate his exaggerations. But it turned out that a) he was maybe saying big league instead; and b) bigly is an actual word, though categorized by Dictionary.com as archaic (meaning nobody uses it anymore, so you’re weird if you do). Either way, Merriam-Webster honored bigly as one of the most-searched words in 2016. And what was the top Word of the Year for 2016? Surreal. Bonus Bs: buffoon; Breitbart; blowhard; bigot

(Aren’t you proud I made it through that without a single joke about Trump’s decidedly non-bigly hands?)
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5 Things I Won’t Tell My Kid About Sex

June 9, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

5 Things I Won't Tell My Kid About Sex

Not nearly long enough ago, our 7-year-old shared a conversation he’d had with a friend… about sex. It was retold with a mixture of curiosity, amazement, and giggling. And was alarmingly detailed.

I have to admit it took me off guard. I thought we had a little longer before all this! I’d done my duty as a progressive, gay dad to teach my son to be proud of his “different” family, not to tease or exclude anyone for how they look or who they were, and that Donald Trump is a horrible example of humanity.

But now it was time to step up and have “The Talk.” Or more accurately, “The Ongoing Conversation.” We’ve had lots of practice sharing the important stuff at the appropriate age regarding Jon’s adoption, so this should be easy, right?

RIGHT?!?

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5 Ways Same-Sex Parents Can Prepare Their Kids for School

August 29, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

Preparing kids of same-sex parents for school

Back-to-school time can be chaotic and stressful; and families with same-sex parents have even more issues to anticipate. Kids with two moms or dads may face situations with potential to both alienate or confuse them, whether it’s a child’s first time attending school or just the next grade up,

To supplement my own (limited) wisdom and experience, I enlisted the help of 10 teachers. While not all have taught kids of same-sex parents, they were all generous and thoughtful in their responses. Here are 5 of the issues same-sex parented families often encounter, along with input from my awesome panel of educators.
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1. FAMILY MATTERS: Talking About Parents in Class

In many schools, the younger grades have discussions and activities related to family. Students are often asked to create a family tree or a collage showing the members of their family. For many kids of same-sex parents, this is when their family’s differences become most apparent. If not handled sensitively, it can amplify feelings of “otherness” and isolation, potentially affecting a child’s social development and ability to learn.

Early in the year, inform the teacher of any family details that fall outside the mother-father-bio child “norm.” In addition to having two moms or two dads, this could include adoption and birth parents, foster experiences, surrogates, siblings, multiracial/multiethnic families, etc. Particularly if it’s something you’ve already discussed with your child. If your kid knows about it, it’s likely to come up.

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The In-Between Boy

September 17, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

In-between boy

Last night I sat and watched as my son played out an allegory for his life at this moment in time. Having eaten his dinner, my five-and-three-quarters-year-old requested ice cream. I got one of his “baby bowls” from the cabinet, after a second or two of consideration as I skimmed through the options in my well-oiled (though oft -addled) dad-brain:

“Though he does fine with the plates, his clumsiness rules out a ceramic bowl. The plastic ones Papa and I use for ice cream are rather deep — he’s still a bit short to reach inside… Plus a smaller bowl would do better for a smaller portion. Baby bowl it is.”

I placed the ice cream in front of him at the table, then ever-so-carefully scattered out sprinkles until he’d declared there were enough. He then jumped up, scrambled to the cutlery drawer, and came back wielding a large, red-handled spoon. He explained he needed a grown-up spoon because “my mouth is so big.” Truer words.

As I finished my salad, we talked about school and who his new friends were and the song about elephants he learned in music class that day. And he ate his ice cream. Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, in a too-small baby bowl, with a spoon too big for his talkative mouth. He would pick off the tiniest of bites with his giant spoon, careful to get a couple of sprinkles in each nibble, placing some atop the ice cream if the spoon failed to snatch some. Perhaps his micro-bites were an attempt to avoid brain freeze or him wanting it to last longer or trying to avoid catapulting the entire scoop out of his bowl.

Whatever the reason, I continued to soak in the image of my newly-minted kindergartner with his tiny bowl and huge spoon, reflecting on recent weeks and the growing pains it had brought us. His final morning with preschool classmates and teachers closely preceding the afternoon he met his kindergarten teacher; his first day of class a mere two days later. I worried it was too quick; too abrupt a transition, but he took it in stride. No tears, only excitement tinged with nervousness.

On that transition day, after seeing his classroom and chatting with his Mrs. Kelly, we roamed the halls of the new school as a family, dodging teachers and parents, kids of various sizes and speeds, exploring the cafeteria, the library, the gym. As we maneuvered these large, crowded, foreign halls, my in-between boy would absentmindedly reach up for my hand, feel it was there, then drop his back to his side. Never looking up, never taking hold, always moving forward. My hope, that it was with the knowledge I was by his side, had his back, and was ready to take hold when he needed it. And to let go when he needed that, too.

It was a bittersweet moment, and a portend of the weeks ahead, between then and the ice cream. Weeks that have seen a straining to grow more, to catch up, to chase after the big kids, to be his own person. And the fall-out from falling short or trying to go too far, too soon. Meltdowns and tantrums. Defiance and anger. But with moments of joy and triumph, laughter and maturity in-between.

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8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

August 10, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

It’s T-Minus three weeks until my son starts kindergarten, but I’m not stressed at all. I know there are a lot of other parents out there just like me, who will be sending their baby out into the big, bad world of crafts-making and rule-following and bells ringing…and them being away from you all day, and you not knowing what the hell is going on and why can’t I give him a cell phone so he can text me if he needs me but his spelling is still pretty terrible…oh no he’s already behind and it’s my fault plus he’d only use a phone to play Minecraft and won’t learn anything and flunk out of school on his first day thus ruining his chance of any happiness in life!!!

Nope, not stressed one bit.

Preparing your kid (and by “your kid,” I mean you) for their first day of REAL SCHOOL is easier than you think. Just follow these few simple suggestions and everything will be absolutely, positively, one hundred percent perfect.
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1. GET THE LAY OF THE LAND

Obtain schematics for the school, including drop off/pick up spots, location of the nurse’s office, routes to bathrooms, and all fire exits. Make a recording describing these layouts in detail, then play them while your child sleeps so they’re subliminally committed to his or her memory. Conducting middle-of-the-night fire/disaster/poop drills are also beneficial. Air horns recommended.
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2. KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE…

Do background checks on all the kids in your child’s classroom, as well as their parents. Find out which have a record of pulling hair, spitting or biting (applies to kids or parents), and make flash cards so your child can familiarize him or herself with this “Bad Seed” list.

Additionally, hack the school’s computer and maneuver your child so he’s seated next to that super genius musical prodigy with the millionaire parents.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

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Testicular Cancer and Embracing Your Nuts

October 6, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

embracing your nuts

When your last name is “Almond,” you learn at a young age to live with the “nut” jokes. From the constant jingle-singing* (“Almond Joy’s got nuts…”) to the crazy/nuts remarks, the cracks start early and get old fast. And ’round about puberty, anything and everything testicle-related gets thrown at you. But I got used to it, eventually able to celebrate my surname’s uniqueness. I even named my graphic design company Design Nut. You could say that I’ve come to embrace my nuts.

TCF-ParentBlogger-badge-SQUARE-150px150px2SO LET’S TALK ABOUT YOU EMBRACING YOUR NUTS.

I’m proud to be a member of the Testicular Cancer Foundation’s MAN UP MONDAY Blogging Team. I’m doing my part talking about nuts to spread the all-important message of Testicular Cancer self-examination and early detection.

I still remember the video we watched in Junior High health class of the guy feeling himself up in the shower. For a young gay kid, this was ALL KINDS OF AWKWARD. But it left an impression, and I checked myself regularly throughout my youth. I never had any cancer symptoms, but it made me more aware of my body and some of the risks I faced. And it’s not like it hurt or anything.

YOU’D BE NUTS NOT TO KNOW THESE FACTS:

Testicular Cancer is the #1 cancer in young men ages 15 to 35.
 Testicular Cancer is highly survivable if detected early.
Young men should be doing a monthly self-exam. (Which is a no-brainer, since they’re going to be down there anyway…)

WHAT CAN YOU LEARN TO EMBRACE YOUR NUTS?

Stop by the Testicular Cancer Foundation website for more information on Testicular Cancer.
Request a FREE shower card with self-exam instructions – it just might save a young man in your life!
If you’re feeling a little awkward about this conversation, check out this nutty little video from some parents who feel the same way…
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PARENTS, YOU’D BE NUTS TO SEND THIS TO YOUR SONS.

Since we’re being honest, I’m pretty sure most teenage boys would think you’re off your nutter if you showed them this aticle. But you know what? They already think that about you, so what have you got to lose? NOTHING. What have they got to lose if you don’t? EVERYTHING. So nut up and text them this post during gym class. Play the video before family movie night. Sneak a shower card and an Almond Joy into their lunch. Get creative. Get silly. But get them the info. You’d be nuts not to.

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SEMI-RELEVANT EPILOGUE: Think your toddler is too young to talk testicles? The other day JJ and Papa were talking skeletons, as we’re getting close to Halloween. My son was sitting in the tub, pointing to different parts of his body (arm, hand, head) and asking “is there a bone in here?” Inevitably, he pointed to his wee bits. Papa let out long laugh, told him “No, but…” then decided that conversation could wait and splashed around to change the subject. All that to say, A) my son is awesome cute, and B) yup, he’s already talking testicles.

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*At least my last name wasn’t “Mounds”

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