growing up

Dad Brag: The Eye of the Tiny Tiger

March 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Though I don’t dump much of it here, a lot of what I feel and think about my parenting lately tends to be whiny, worrisome and negative. In an effort to counteract that — both in myself and in my attitudes toward my son — I’m making a concerted effort to focus on the positive, particularly what makes me proud.

My inaugural Dad Brag is about Jon’s adventures in Taekwondo. About a year ago we attended a classmate’s birthday party at a local martial arts studio, and it should have come as no surprise that our energetic then 4-year-old took to it like a duck to Kung Fu.

We enrolled him in the Tiny Tigers class a few months later, and have since watched him flourish under the unimaginably patient tutelage of the instructors. You can feel the energy pouring off of him as he runs laps at the start of class, a telltale sparkle in his eye. And nothing warms my heart more than him completing a task successfully, turning back towards me and giving me a thumbs up, awaiting my reciprocation.

dad brag taekwondo

I take him on Thursday nights, Papa takes him on Saturday mornings, and at the end of January he graduated to Little Dragons — now sporting a cool cammo-patterned white belt as he learns alongside a group mostly older than him. And yet he already longs to advance further, admiring the older kids’ skills as he waits for his class to begin.

dad brag taekwondo

dad brag taekwondo

One Saturday morning, the mom of the other “John” in the class asked Papa if our Jon had older brothers. Answering no, Papa asked why. She replied that he looks like he’s having so much fun all the time — that surely he must have a houseful of older brothers where there is never a dull moment. Papa told her that what he did have was two fathers, to which she smiled and responded, “Well that must be why!”

I don’t know that Jon’s oftentimes tired, old dads can take much credit for his boundless enthusiasm, but in the right setting and mixed with some focus and padded floors, it’s a sight to behold.
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Feel free to brag about your own kids (or yourself) in the comments!

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5 Ways Little Kids Wash Their Hands

January 13, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

5 ways little kids wash their hands

They don’t call this the dead of winter for nothing. Bitter cold. No sunshine. Cooped-up kids tearing the house apart as you slowly tear out your hair. No new episodes of The Walking Dead  for nearly a month.

And the sickness – the never ending cycle of sickness.

Mid-winter is always rough for families with kids, and this year has been particularly infectious. Aside from getting a flu shot, the most effective way to prevent illness is to wash your hands. Every doctor, childcare professional, teacher, parent, and educational Muppet has been drilling this into your kids’ heads since birth. And yet, based on personal experience of how regularly my child practices responsible (unassisted) hygiene, it’s a wonder we’re not in the midst of a full-blown toddler zombie apocalypse. Here are five reasons why…

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Designer Daddy’s Top 14 Blog Posts of 2014

January 2, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

DESIGNER DADDY'S TOP 14 BLOG POSTS OF 2014

A lot of people seem to be glad 2014 is behind us — in a hurry to forget all about it. Certainly it had its share of frustration, failure and loss. But there was also plenty of good I want to remember. I interviewed an author I’d grown up reading, wrote some movie-related stuff, shilled for the enemy, won Halloween, defended manliness (for mature audiences only), reviewed some children’s books, gave advice to parents of gay kids, added a buttload of magnets to my fridge, attended a couple of conferences, and helped raise over $35,000 for a dear friend in need.

And somewhere in there, I found time to write other things. Personal, soapboxy, silly and celebratory things. These are my 14 favorite blog posts of 2014, in chronological order.

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Old Spice and the Horrors of Adolescence

December 15, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

I grew up the son and grandson of Baptist ministers — men not historically well-versed in the art of scented body sprays. While I learned many valuable lessons from my father, his knowledge of man fragrances was not something he passed down to me. I recall in 9th grade wondering why my dad’s new aftershave smelled so familiar. Upon investigating his medicine cabinet, I discovered he was slathering himself with Charlie every morning. The smell was familiar because my most recent (and much more experienced) girlfriend had worn it. I was horrified. Disgusted. Confused. Now I understood why every time my dad walked by I had flashbacks of being cornered in the church kitchen during Vacation Bible School. The combined memories of her ample bosom and the cloying amounts of perfume she wore still causes me to gasp for air.

Thus, I was left to learn how to “Scent Responsibly” on my own, experimenting with all manner of colognes and deodorants, with varying degrees of success. But my son will never have to endure what I went through. Nor will any other young man, ever. Thanks to Old Spice and their line of Re-Fresh Body Sprays.

Originally launched in January with the viral video “Mom Song,” Old Spice introduces new scents and products via the fatherly response, “Dad Song.” Check out this new masterpiece below…

As you can see, “Dad Song” illustrates in song (weird, weird song) the contrast between the long-held notions that moms want their boys to never leave home, while dads can’t wait for them to grow up and get out. I was the oldest of 4 boys, yet I found the portrayals in the ad did not mirror my experience. While both my parents were understandably forlorn when their eldest (and best) flew the coop, the couldn’t wait for the other three to pack it up and move on with their lives. I guess I’m just special that way.

In any event, your dear old Designer Daddy and his new best friends at Old Spice have got a mountain of manly merch to stuff the stocking of every man in your life. Poor phrasing aside, every man needs to smell good and this is some seriously bounteous booty.

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A Gay Dad’s Letter to His Younger Self

December 2, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

Dear Younger Gay Self
Dear Younger Me,

Well, it looks like same-sex marriage is about to be legal in the entire U.S. And although it seems like it’s taken an eternity for all 50 states to come around, it’s pretty amazing when I stop and think about it. But you probably have no idea what I’m even talking about, do you? That’s why I’m writing you — to let you know how things will be when you’re an adult, so you can be encouraged and have hope and just hang in there. I’m also writing to remind myself how lucky I am and how far I’ve come.

Remember when you were about seven years old, and you started having thoughts that made you think you were different, not quite right, broken? And how you inherently knew you were doing something wrong, even though you weren’t doing anything but being yourself? And then you started looking in the index of every Bible you ever came across for mention of the word “homosexual” — hoping above all hope for an answer to what was going on inside your head and heart. I’m sorry you had to go through all that.

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“When I’m Five Years Old…” Slow Down Edition

November 6, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

On the eve of my son’s birthday, this is the final installment of “When I’m Five Years Old…” I had a half dozen others I could have used, illustrating things as lofty and disparate as picking up furniture, eating tacos, befriending giant trees, racing bullets and jumping on one foot up to the ceiling. Yet I believe this doodle encompasses all his goals of things to do/be/have when he turns five rather nicely. It gives voice to his greatest desire and my greatest dread — to be grown up as quickly as is humanly possible. Or faster.

when i'm five years old - slow down

When Jon was well into toddlerhood, I started longing for the days of his infancy. Of cuddles and cooing and discovery — and perhaps most importantly, immobility. He’s well on his way to becoming too fast for me, and long ago surpassed me on overall levels of energy.

However, as my 5-year-old lunges toward the future with each uninhibited step sprint, I realize how much of this phase of his life I will miss: the forming of opinions and independent thoughts, while still clinging close to the things Daddy and Papa likes best; trying on words and phrases — sometimes clever, other times defiant, occasionally profane; and beginnings and new adventures — school, friendships, sports, sleepovers, movies, reading — all of the things he’ll never do or experience again for the first time.

I avoid pondering how old I’ll be when my son (40 years my junior) is 8, 9, 10, in high school, college, married, a father. As one who is prone to worry, this does no one any good. I want to enjoy today for today and this age for this age. Not looking ahead in angst, not reminiscing with regret, but being present and learning how to hold and lead and guide while slowly letting go, so Jon can learn to hold and lead and guide himself.

I’m in no hurry for you to grow up, son. I hold these past five years in my heart, but hold my gaze on your path — repeatedly amazed that I get to watch every step and stumble and sprint that you take.

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Be sure and read all of the “When I’m Five Years Old…” posts. To follow along on this wacky, wonderful journey, visit and like Designer Daddy on Facebook.

“When I’m Five Years Old…” Underwater Edition

November 3, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

More than any other parental duty, bath time has changed the most in my nearly five years of dadhood. What started as a quiet time of bonding has gone through quite a few drastic evolutions. There was the move from the kitchen sink to the bathroom; from an infant bath bin to the inflatable duck, to roaming unfettered in the tub; from playing peek-a-boo to silly sing-a-longs to tidal wave-sized splashfests.

Nowadays bath time mostly involves feats of superhuman ability: trying to jump into the tub; attempting to stand on the rim; repeated leaps to grasp the towel hanging from the shower curtain rod. And most frequently, the desire to grow gills, stay underwater as long as possible, and give me tiny heart attacks every night.

Jon’s always been a bit of a fish-in-water — a daring-do of aquatic proportions — though sometimes a bit reckless. Yet thankfully there’ve been no poolside cracked heads or broken tailbone shower slips or (knock on porcelain) underwater catastrophes. Truthfully, he’s much more likely to puncture a butt check from the stew of toys he’s always swimming in.

When I'm Five Years Old - Underwater

It’s a wonder he can hold anything underwater (breath or otherwise) amongst his maritime menagerie. I made an infographic a while back about bath toys and how to decide when to clean them or throw them out. Nonetheless, our tub has become what amounts to a playroom annex. Actual bath toys are a rarity. Instead, you can find plastic drinking cups and serving utensils, magnetic letters and musical instruments, dinosaurs, action figures, matchbox cars, Happy Meal toys… and on rare occasions, even a washcloth.

I think the next time he’s under for a hundred million minutes, I’ll thin out the flotsam (or is it jetsam?) so we can both breathe (or not) a bit easier.

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Check out the other “When I’m Five Years Old…” posts. And for more splashy fun, be sure to visit and like Designer Daddy on Facebook!

“When I’m Five Years Old…” LEGO Edition

October 24, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Let’s see… we’ve covered miraculous growth spurts, accelerated maturity, and avoidance tactics. Now we come to the I WANT EVERYTHING portion of this series.

When I'm Five Years Old - LEGO

You’ve got to hand it to LEGO. They were a pretty popular toy when I was a kid, but nothing to lose your mind over. Yet somewhere along the way, they went from being huge piles of plastic bricks you made stuff from to elaborate kits with bazillions of teeny, tiny pieces branded to every pop culture property you can imagine. Okay, there were kits back in the olden days, too — but not like they have now. And my son (and nearly every other boy I know, and quite a few girls) are ravenous for them.

We’re at a point right now where Jon’s fingers and dexterity are still not quite developed enough to put together the bazillions of teeny, tiny pieces on his own. Combine that with my too-large fingers and too-old eyes, and building LEGO sets are not my favorite father/son activity.

And never mind how OCD I get thinking about all of these kits and their bazillions of teeny, tiny pieces being assembled once, played with a few times, falling apart piece-by-piece, and eventually ending up all mixed together in the same box… never to be re-assembled the same way again. AUGH! I’m all for free-form creativity, but if we’re gonna shell out the bucks for the kit, and go through the trouble to configure these things, can’t we just dip them in hot glue, throw them on a shelf and call it a day?

Alas, no. That isn’t the way it works. And by “it,” I mean the mind of an almost-5-year-old. Or perhaps the sinister machinations of the LEGO necromancers. Either way, I don’t stand a chance.
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Check out all the other installments of “When I’m Five Years Old…” and share your own child’s aspirations in the comments.

For more fun and creativity, be sure to visit and like Designer Daddy on Facebook!

“When I’m Five Years Old…” Broccoli Edition

October 20, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

It’s no secret that the struggle with our 4-year-old and food has been long, frustrating and fraught with many, many carbs. As with a lot of kids his age, tastes change as frequently as the Power Rangers’ uniforms. Sometimes it’s Banana Week, other times Apple Week. But it’s almost nearly never an Anything Green Week — which is surprising since green has been his favorite color since he could tell us so.

Yet as we near his fifth birthday, in addition to the personal goals, the promises are starting to pile on as well. Thanks to a book we recently read, Jon now knows that broccoli gives you gas, which elicited the expected glee (and gas). Seeing an opportunity to encourage some veggie digestion, I played up how fun it would be to eat broccoli and all the smelly farts he would have. Being my well-trained son, he of course took it to the next level, proclaiming…

When I'm Five Years Old - Brocolli

As long as he’s eating healthy, I suppose I can wear a gas mask during dinner. But I’m not holding my breath.

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Check out all the other installments of “When I’m Five Years Old…” and share your own child’s aspirations in the comments!

For more delicious fun (and the occasional fart joke), trot over to Facebook and like the Designer Daddy page!

“When I’m Five Years Old…” Movies Edition

October 15, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

As I mentioned in my first installment, Jon’s list of things he wants when he turns five is exhaustive and exhausting. In addition to things he wants to be (taller) and have (all manner of toys), there are things he wants to experience. Things that are well above what’s appropriate for his age. He claims he’s not afraid of anything (except for getting shots, going into a darkened room alone, biting spiders and vegetables) — and I’m proud when he’s my brave, little toaster. But I’m not ready for him to be 100% fearless yet. He’s got stuff to learn, limits to experience, dangers to fully comprehend. Like cyborg assassins from the future.

When I'm Five Years Old... Movies Edition

SPOILER ALERT! THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Stay tuned for more sequels to “When I’m five years old…”

On your way out of the theater, leave a comment telling us what movies well above their age range your little ones are clamoring to see. Or ones you saw long before you were ready.

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For more family-friendly(ish) fun… stampede, swim or crawl (because the lower half of your cybernetic body has been severed) over to Facebook and like the Designer Daddy page. I’ll bring the popcorn!

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