family traditions

Author Judith Viorst Talks Alexander, Movies & the Benefit of Bad Days

November 12, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

A couple of months ago my husband mentioned that he had a client whose mother was a children’s book author, and that a movie was being made of one of her books. He couldn’t remember the mother’s name, so I asked him his client’s name: it was Alex Viorst.

“You mean like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Alex?!?” I asked excitedly.

It was indeed the same Alex. And his mother — and the author of the book (and many others) — was Judith Viorst.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, was published in 1972, has sold over 2 million copies and won a myriad of awards. It spawned three sequels, the most recent published in September of this year. In 1998, Viorst worked with the Kennedy Center to turn the book into a musical production. On October 10, 2014, Disney released a film version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.

Judith Viorst - Alexander and the Terrible book

Like many kids who started reading in the 1970s, Alexander was a perennial favorite. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled to talk with an author from my childhood. Many thanks to Nick and Alex for arranging this wonderful opportunity for me to chat with Judith about her books, the movie, her family, and the importance of bad days.

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Designer Daddy: I know you were involved in the creation of the musical of Alexander at the Kennedy Center. How much were you involved in the creation of the movie?
Judith Viorst: Zero. There’s a different set of principles between what authors do in the theatre and what they do in the movies. In the theatre, they really cannot change an and or a the without consulting you. So I wrote the script for the musical, I wrote the lyrics, and I worked with a friend of mine, Shelly [Markham], who wrote the music, and I was at every rehearsal. If they needed something, I wrote it. Nobody else did. And of course there was a huge amount of brilliant input from the director. But with the movie, they buy the book, they give you money, and that may be the last time you have anything to do with each other. They did arrange for a weekly fee for the 12 weeks they were making the film, if they felt the need to consult me. But they never felt the need to consult me. The musical was my take on the book, and the movie was Disney’s take on the book.

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Big Hero 6 Review: A Big Hit with the Whole Family

November 10, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

To cap off a truly epic 5th birthday weekend for our little (sorry, BIG) guy, we put down the LEGO sets and headed out to see Big Hero 6 as a family. This had been in place for several months — long before we’d planned the birthday party or bought presents or spent way too much time stuffing the hero-themed goody bags.

On a previous family movie outing, we’d seen the trailer for a new film we knew nothing about called Big Hero 6. Yet by the end of the preview we were all hooked. Disney + Marvel + superheroes + martial arts + huggable robots = DUH. And then it said it was coming out November 7 — OUR SON’S BIRTHDAY. We made plans then and there to be back opening day.

Since the characters and story were new to us, I had fun doing some “research” and then “educating” Jon in preparation for the birthday viewing. We had a blast on the film’s web site, which included character profiles, video clips and a couple of cool games. I even bought a picture book to read at bedtime. Disney — ever the marketing masters — already had quite a few books (for all ages) available prior to the movie’s release.

And it probably comes as no surprise that I made lunch notes of all the characters. But okay, enough set up — what did we think of the movie?

Big Hero 6 - Hiro

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Movie-Inspired Halloween Costumes

October 28, 2014 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

If you’re frantically looking for easy, last-minute Halloween costume ideas, this is probably not the post for you. But if you love Halloween, creativity and the movies, you’ve come to the right place!

I recently started writing family-related content for Fandango, and my first assignment was an article about creative family Halloween costumes. Our family has always had a blast dressing up together, and I knew I had more than a few friends out there who did the same. So I pooled my massive sea of Internet resources, and they delivered… TOO MUCH! I ended up with more content than Fandango could use, so I wanted to give these other cinematically-creative families the spotlight on my own site. Go grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy these picturesque, movie-inspired Halloween costumes!
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Halloween costumes - Rocket Raccoon - Guardians of the Galaxy

Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy
An avid comic book fan, James decided to make his young son into Rocket Raccoon for an upcoming comic-con, who had seen (and been enamored by) the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer he’d seen on TV. The costume was a simpler version than shown here, but James made it all himself. At the convention it caught the eye of an experienced costumer who ended up making the custom mask, feet and tail shown in the photo. Way to work a room, Rocket! James’ son will, of course, be trick-or-treating in his full Rocket gear this Halloween.

Get the look: The jacket was made by cutting up and sewing pieces from a red t-shirt onto a navy turtleneck, accented with gold buttons. The raccoon tail (found at a frontier shop) was sewn into the seat of blue sweatpants. Read more here.

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The 7 Queerest Questions I’ve Been Asked as a Gay Dad

August 20, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

7 Queerest Questions I've Been Asked As A Gay Dad - Designer Daddy

I always imagined myself as a father, but I never imagined being asked questions quite like these.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I went with queerest questions — other than the obvious alliteration and overall cleverness, that is. Because while some of the questions are offensive, some are annoying, and some are downright stupid, they’re not all offensive, annoying or stupid. But they are all queer — as in odd, strange, bizarre. Much like the entire experience of parenting.

Now, if we’re done questioning the queerness of my headline… on with the questions!

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“He doesn’t have a mom… because she’s dead.”

July 16, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Mommy's Dead
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HOW IT HAPPENED

So here I was, my not-small frame perched on the teeniest of tiny wooden chairs, clad in a retina-searing-orange t-shirt emblazoned with my son’s preschool logo, waiting for the class to be corralled before we headed to the petting zoo for a field trip. All of these kids knew me as “Jon’s Daddy,” the one who picks up — as opposed to “Jon’s Papa,” the one who drops off. There are other quite noticeable differences, but I can imagine that from a 4-year old’s perspective, we’re both just gigantic, bespectacled, goateed man-parents.

Yet it still came as bit of a surprise when I overheard my son’s classmate say, “Jon, your Papa’s here!” As expected, my son quickly corrected his chum, and things seem to be right with the world.

There was a lot going on, kids hopping up and down, excited about the field trip, distracted by the several parents scattered and squatting around the room. But amidst the melee, I hear mention of “mommy” something. I turned back toward my son and his posse, and the same friend exclaimed to all who would listen, “Jon doesn’t have a mommy… because she’s dead.”

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Boys Kissing Boys

July 2, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, MAKING MEMORIES

Boys Kissing Boys

We were winding down from a particularly drama-filled play date. There had been sharing-related skirmishes; LEGO lay strewn about the playroom like carcasses on a battlefield; there had been tears. And after much cajoling and promises of future bounty, there had been an “I’m sowwy” from my little force of nature to his playmate and host. Jon can sometimes be like a giddy locomotive off its tracks. Full steam ahead, tooting its merry horn, nary a thought for the fact that it’s derailed and tearing through the countryside, mowing over everything and everyone in its path.

Yet while he may be full of drive and boundless energy, he’s always been very affectionate. Which, for me — his somewhat introverted and decidedly less adventurous Dad — makes it all manageable.

After we’d made our apologies and gathered our things to go, Jon approached his friend — 6 years old to Jon’s 4 and-a-half — to tell him thank you. He followed with one of his epic hugs — both arms flung out fully extended, not closing them until he’d fully enveloped the huggee. His friend seemed a little overwhelmed, but hugged back; then my son tilted his head, stretched up on his toes, and moved in to give his pal a smooch on the cheek.

The friend jerked his head away, reacting with an annoyed “WHAT THE…?!?” Jon just kind of shrugged and let go. But my heart broke a little.

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25 MORE Reasons Having Gay Dads Is Awesome!

June 28, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Due to popular demand (the original post was one of the most-viewed ever on this site), as well as an over-abundance of photos from awesome gay fathers, I had to do a sequel — which I’m hoping is as good as (or better) than the original. Think Empire Strikes Back, not Teen Wolf Too.

So as we wrap up Pride month, I wanted to share 25 more reasons having gay dads is uniquely, similarly, lovingly AWESOME!

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1. You’re always surrounded by love
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Gay Dads Are Awesome! - Andy Miller

Especially when you’re smooshed into a photo booth. [Photo courtesy of Andy Miller & Brian Stephens]
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Proud Papa Gallery of Greatness 2014

June 20, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, THINGS DAD DIGS

Father’s Day has come and gone, and yet those of us who are dads are still dads, and still have dad stuff to do. One of the most important is instilling self-confidence and a sense of achievement in our children. Stereotypes dictate fathers only appreciate the physical accomplishments of their children — especially for their sons. But the best dads appreciate the artistic as well as the athletic — and man have I found a great bunch of art-loving dads for this year’s (POST) FATHER’S DAY PROUD PAPA GALLERY OF GREATNESS!

Welcome to our virtual fridge, take your time, and please visit the gift shop on your way out.

Please note that many of the images can be enlarged if clicked on. So click and enjoy!

Artwork credits key:
Title of work

medium
Artist name, age
Father of artist (links to their website/blog)
Artist’s (or artist’s dad’s) description

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THE CLASSICS

 

GADDIS-MONET
Monet

tissue paper, construction paper
markers on paper
Chris, 5
Carter Gaddis
Based on the Water Lilies series.
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Fathers and Sons

June 15, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Father's Day - Grandpa - Dad

On June 1st my father preached his last sermon. To clarify, I’m sure he will continue to preach as long as he has breath — but this was his final sermon as pastor of the small Baptist church in Virginia where he’d been for the last 15 years. Prior to that he was a Chaplain in the US Air Force for over 20 years, and before that he pastored at churches in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Illinois.

His father was also a minister. Dad preached his first sermon when he was 18 at his father’s small Baptist church in Arkansas. I know very little about my dad’s dad. I know in addition to preaching he also repaired air conditioners and other electronics. I know he was 6’8″ tall (Dad is 6’5″). I know he neither showed little affection nor talked very much to his son, thus raising Dad to do likewise. I know he held a lot of things in, some that were devastating when unearthed later. I know he died of cancer two years before I was born. I know Grandma remarried to the man I called “Pappaw;” her first husband I’ve only ever called “Russell.”

I don’t say these things to disparage my biological grandfather or to drudge up any of the pain Dad still carries regarding this relationship. I say them because Russell Almond was such a stark contrast to who Johnny Almond, my father, has become.

I know he has shown me affection every day of my life, hugging and kissing me even through the most awkward of my teen years. I know he loves to talk (when given the chance by his 4 verbose sons), and has taught me everything I know about crafting the perfect groan-inducing pun. I know he was always patient with me, even at my most impatient and distant and resentful. I know that he tried to play ball with me and take me golfing and other father-son activities that I hated and told him so, and yet he still showed me patience and kindness and love. I know that after each time he punished me, he always returned to remind me how much he loved me. I know he instilled in me the importance of being compassionate — not by telling me so, but by being the most compassionate man I’ve ever met. I know that he loves and respects my husband, and has said publicly that he is “the kindest man I’ve ever met.” I know he loves and cherishes my son as much as he’s ever loved any of his children or grandchildren, and that my son dearly loves his Grandpa.

During the four and-a-half years that I’ve been a father, I have come to understand the unending joy and deep heartache I must have brought to my dad over the years. I have come to appreciate his commitment to love me, even when I exhibited impatience or embarrassment or hatred towards him; even when I was religiously overzealous and thought his beliefs not strident enough; even when I blamed him for contributing to my being gay; even when I embraced my homosexuality, and he struggled to reconcile this with his lifelong beliefs.

I don’t say these things to embarrass him or to highlight the struggles of our relationship. I say them because my father has done so much to overcome the deficits in his own father/son relationship. I say them so he knows how much I love and appreciate him, though for much of my youth my actions said otherwise. I say them to celebrate what a loving patriarch he has become to his four sons, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law (and another eventual one), three grandsons and two granddaughters. I say them to wish him a Happy Father’s Day.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11:11-13

Father's Day - Dad - Me

Top photo: Russell Almond, behind the pulpit at his church in Arkansas.

I’ve always attributed my drawing skills to the many years I spent doodling on the back of the church bulletin during my father’s sermons. The above sketch was done during his final sermon as a full-time minister. And don’t worry, Dad — I was also listening.

Bottom photo: Dad, Mom & me, November 1970 / Me, Papa & Jon, April 2014

25 Reasons Having Gay Dads Is Awesome!

June 11, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

As we approach Father’s Day, there have been some pretty cool lists about dads floating around the Internet. So of course I had to make a list of my own, ensuring families with double daddies (or one great gay dad) are represented.

I originally intended to intro my list with lots of statistics showing how more and more Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage and adoption. Or how same-sex couples will be counted as families by the U.S. Census for the first time. Or that gay dads have turned up in all manner of commercials and top-ranked TV shows. Or how I belong to a Facebook group of over 3,000 gay fathers.*

But instead let’s just celebrate what makes gay dads unique, as well as what makes them as equally awesome as all the other active, engaged and loving fathers out there.

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1. You’re raised to be caring & compassionate
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father's day - gay dads - compassion

And you learn how to put your compassion into action… and be all cute and matchy-matchy while doing it. [Photo courtesy of Andy Miller]
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