family activities

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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BOOYAH! It’s a ‘Teen Titans Go! To the Movies’ Combo Pack Giveaway!

October 20, 2018 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE, THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Teen Titans Go!

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies ranks along with another superhero saga as our family’s favorite animated movie of 2018 so far. And if you’ve got a superhero-loving kid between the ages of 3 and 10, you’re likely the same.

My son and I were shouting “BOOYAH!” when we got to attend an early screening this summer, and have been counting the days until the home entertainment release. Well, the day has finally arrived… and you can score your own FREE copy right here!

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Theatre Review: ‘Head Over Heels’ in Love with The Go-Go’s Musical

October 15, 2018 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Head Over Heels

What do obscure Elizabethan poetry, a superstar drag queen, and the music of The Go-Go’s have in common? At first glance, not a damn thing. Yet when these elements are combined in the new Broadway musical Head Over Heels, the result is a wacky, heartwarming explosion of fun.

A BIT OF BACK STORY

My connection to this musical is multi-layered, and probably not very fascinating to anyone but me — but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. I was attending Dad 2.0 Summit (as I do every year), where I met that rarest and most fabulous of creatures, a fellow gay dad blogger. I thought I knew them all, so was excited to make the acquaintance of Mr. Gavin Lodge. In addition to being a father, a husband and a blogger, Gavin mentioned that he was an actor and that he’d been cast as a standby in a new Broadway musical. My interest was peaked.

He described the show’s story as taken from an obscure, Elizabethan text, and would be performed largely in iambic pentameter. (!) He told me it was called Head Over Heels, and would feature the music of The Go-Go’s. (!!) He said it would also include the first trans actor to originate a role on Broadway. (!!!) I texted Papa about the show and that it would be in previews in New York starting in June and that we were going to get tickets. It was not a question.

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Have a Crafty Halloween with Amazon Prime!

October 19, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

Amazon Prime Halloween #Boxtumes

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Amazon, as part of my participation in the Mom It Forward Influencer Network; the content and opinions are my own.

Since my son’s very first Halloween, I’ve had a blast channeling my creativity into our family’s costumes. I love the challenge of trying to pull together something unique, fun, and not too difficult — all while placating the kid and not embarrassing the husband (too much).

This year I’m kicking the challenge up a notch in a partnership with Amazon… our costumes will include repurposed Amazon Smile boxes! The official term is “BOXTUME,” by the way.

GET STARTED!

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After you’ve read through my step-by-step directions, go grab all the Amazon Smile boxes you can find, get to brainstorming, and come up with your own boxtume masterpiece! If you don’t have any boxes, take the opportunity to get a head start on your holiday shopping, or empty out your own wish list! Amazon Prime has pretty much anything you need (including everything used to make these costumes!) and has the fastest — and free-est — delivery around!

Then snap a photo of your cardboard creations and share it on social media using the hashtag #Boxtumes.

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OUR COSTUMES

First of all, I didn’t want to make anything too literally boxy. Who wants to walk around a party or crowded sidewalk in a giant box? That’s a spilled bag of candy waiting to happen!

So to keep things relatively easy, these start with a toga base. Why togas? Togas are comfy, simple to make, and can be easily layered with long johns or sweats if it’s chilly on trick-or-treat night. Also because I came up with some awesome visual puns around everyone’s favorite toga-wearer, Caesar!

LIL’ CAESAR

Amazon Prime Halloween #Boxtumes

Click for extra-sized adorableness!

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Monstrously Delicious Back-to-School Meals with Barilla

October 3, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Monstrously Delicious Back-to-School Meals with Barilla

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla; the content and opinions are my own.

Jumping back into a school year schedule can be scary. Trying to serve school night meals that are quick, simple, healthy, and delicious can be downright terrifying.

Adding to the terror is the fact that I’m not much of a chef. What I am is a crafty mad scientist. I don’t so much mix ingredients as I do assemble supplies. Hence my most successful creations end up looking more like experimental DIY projects than respectable meals prepared by an adult.

And yet, all that playing with food and making things more fun than they need to be works well with being the dad of a picky eater. And I’m not talking prefers-blanched-asparagus-over-steamed picky. I’m talking eats-roughly-the-same-number-of-things-as-he-is-years-old picky.

Luckily, my persnickety seven-year-old loves pretty much every variety of pasta. Also lucky? Barilla has 38 different pastas and 14 different sauces with which to satisfy my hungry, finicky beast.

In addition to their endless meal combinations, Barilla products fulfill that whole quick, simple, healthy, and delicious list I mentioned earlier. It’s not surprising they’re the #1 pasta brand in both the United States and Italy… as well as the preferred brand of my first generation Italian husband!

While our family certainly enjoys tried-and-true meals like spaghetti with meat sauce, lasagna, and baked ziti, I like to get creative from time-to-time to hold my son’s interest. Who am I kidding? It’s just as much fun for me! Here’s one of my favorites… MONSTER PASTA!
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So Long, Summer

August 29, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

The original plans for our long-planned, one-and-only summer vacation fell through at the last minute due to bad weather at our destination. It would have been a long-planned but oft-postponed visit with Jon’s birthparents. We’ll make the trip up later this year, wildfires permitting. While it was a disappointment for our son (and a pain in the ass for the hubby and me), perhaps the universe needed us to get away — just our family — just one weekend near the end of the swiftly-passing summer.

Not wanting to brave the masses at an amusement park or one of those water park/hotel behemoths, I remembered a friend recommending the small town of Cambridge, Maryland. It sits on the Choptank River that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. It was a two-hour drive, but felt worlds away from work, housework, and the looming schoolyear. Thanks, universe.

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To give you a taste of our weekend, a conversation between my husband and son, while looking out over the balcony of our hotel room.

Jon: Papa, what is that?
Papa: It’s an Indian wedding.
J: Why are they having it here?
P: Well they rented the area and it’s a pretty place for a wedding.
J: Cool! Can we rent it?
P: For what?
J: (thinks) … for a hug party! 

so long, summer

This gives my heart all the smiles. 🙂 Also, who wants to come?!?

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Are We There Yet? Family Vacation Tips from Well-Traveled Dads

May 30, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

family travel tips

As peak travel season approaches, many parents may be feeling anxious about hitting the road (or skies or open seas) with the kids. Things are crazy enough at home, so you’re probably imagining how much more stressful it would be out in the great wide world — where you have even less control.

Fear not! If you’re freaking out about a looming family vacay, who better to ask for tips, hacks, and general life lessons than a bunch of travel-tested dads?

I reached out to some of my pals from all over the USofA for the very best, most comprehensive Dadvice you’ll find. And in true dad form, these nuggets of wisdom/war stories are offered up with a mixture of common sense, bad puns, and lots of heart.
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Make Game Night Great Again: Board Games & Cocktail Pairings!

May 4, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, POP CULTURE

Board games have been a favorite family pastime for nearly a century, purporting to bring parents and children together and teach valuable skills like colors and stuff. But as many families know, what they really do is drive deep, pie-shaped wedges between spouses, create world-conquering rivalries between siblings; and generally scare the bejesus out of the cat. Even on game nights not boiling over with incessant whining and arguing, there’s still the mind-numbing boredom.

And yet, it is our duty as involved parents — nay, as Americans — to subject ourselves and our progeny to these worlds overflowing with candy and ladders and murder weapons and New Jersey real estate.

I’ve found that a little libation makes any activity run more smoothly. Classy folks look to experts for pairings of alcohol with their cheeses, meals, or cigars. You can even find wine to go with Girl Scout cookies. So why not match up cocktails with board games?

board games & cocktail pairings

I polled a bunch of parents to learn their most-hated games. Then I played them all with my kid while I drank a bunch of stuff to see which combos were most fun tolerable. Here are my scientific/strategic/spirited recommendations.
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Frightfully Easy DIY Halloween T-Shirts

October 25, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Easy DIY Halloween t-shirt

Want to get your craft on this Halloween, but worried you’ll slice off an appendage trying to carve a Pinterest-perfect jack-o’-lantern? Then try these frighteningly fun, eerily easy DIY Halloween t-shirts!

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Movie Review: ‘Pete’s Dragon’ Soars With Disney Magic

August 11, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

Disney's Pete's Dragon

Movie: Pete’s Dragon (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (47), Jon (6-3/4)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★★, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Ghostbusters (all versions), Despicable Me

Plot Snapshot: For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliott. Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon.

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[The remainder of this review contains mild spoilers.]

Disney’s new remake of Pete’s Dragon is a truly enchanting experience, and a welcome improvement on the rather dated original. Directed by David Lowery and filmed entirely in New Zealand, the movie is at its most magical when it’s just boy and dragon. Fuzzy, purring Elliott acts as both loyal pet and doting parent to Mowgli-esque Pete. And while I rarely think 3D is justifiable, the flight scenes alone make it well worth the extra cost.

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