photography

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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First Day of School: Second Grade!

September 6, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

SUMMER CONFESSIONS

Papa and I certainly could have done better in keeping Jon up on his reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic this summer. Unless role-playing digital comics counts as reading, creating Roblox/Minecraft/Terraria structures out of code counts as writing, or “subtracting” swim trunks, goggles, water bottles, lunch boxes, socks, towels, and underwear during summer camp counts as math.

But what he lacked in academics, Jon made up for in feats of awesomeness. Last November, the pediatrician had tasked us with making sure our son could swim beyond doggie-paddling and ride a bike without training wheels. He now swims like a fish and rides like the wind, though both still with a healthy amount of youthful wobbliness. He also danced and dabbed his little heart out during Family Day at camp, and took on dog-walking (galloping, rather) responsibilities.

First Day of School

Click to enlarge

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

After setting the summer months with a beautiful weekend on the Bay, we are once again here — the first day of school. SECOND GRADE! We’ve been in our new house and Jon’s new school for a year now — so we can’t honestly call either of them “new,” though they still feel that way at times. Despite the occasional rookie parent mistake, we navigated the First Day like seasoned pros. We managed to get up and out the door in time, sans a drop of drama. I even made his lunch note the night before!

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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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Dads4Kesem Day 1: Beginning

July 11, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

For seven days, I and eleven other dads hiked more than 90 miles along England’s historic Hadrian’s Wall. Complications of life (and perfectionist tendencies) kept me from writing about it at the time. Here, now, are some thoughts and images from that life-changing week.

Dads4Kesem Day 1: Beginning

07.10.16, DAY 1: Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle – 17 miles

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Today it’s actually happening.
I’m trying to figure out the pay-by-the-minute shower, packing up all my gear, guzzling some caffeine to make up for a restless night’s sleep. As someone who’s inherently aware of their shortcomings — especially when it comes to anything physical — I double and triple check what I’ve stuffed into my backpack, trying to imagine every scenario possible. I will come to learn along the way what I need more of (water, foot bandages), and of what I need less (pretty much everything else); but this first day I was flying blind.

Last night at the lone pub in town, we chatted over dinner and beers with a grandfather and grandson who had just completed the walk. Having traveled from the opposite direction, they advised wearing long pants for the several patches of nettles, and to be prepared for lots of diversions.

“Diversion” is British for “detour” — a word with which we would become intimately, frequently acquainted.

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Dads4Kesem: An Announcement, A Toast, Preparing to Walk

January 8, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

For seven days in July, I and eleven other dads hiked 90+ miles along England’s historic Hadrian’s Wall. We walked to fund a camp for kids whose parents had been touched by cancer. We walked to honor our friend Oren Miller, who had died of cancer the year prior – and for whom the camp would be named. We walked for those in our own lives impacted by the disease, including several in our group. But we also walked for ourselves.

The experience was exhilarating and exhausting, thrilling and tedious; breathtaking — both literally and figuratively. It was the undisputed apex of my year, and near the top of any other.

Until now, I’d only shared about the walk on social media. Life and all its complications — and my perfectionist tendencies — kept me from documenting it properly here.

But in light of the announcement that the University of Maryland Camp Kesem will officially come to be this fall, I thought it high time I collected my thoughts, memories, and images from that life-changing week in a more permanent fashion.

dads4kesem camp kesem

I still haven’t decided if this can be done in one post or seven (or something in between), so bear with me as I return to the rolling hills of Northern England and allow this epic outing to re-unfold.
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Being Present

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

I don’t know who first said it, but I heard my father weave it into countless sermons when I was growing up: “No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I’d worked more,'”

The same struggle often plagues me when I’m busy chronicling my parental journey on this site. That’s not to say there aren’t some positive things to be gained from all the e-yammering I do. From time-to-time I’ll hear from a reader that something I’ve written resonated with them. Or an experience I shared was sweet or hilarious or inspiring. Interactions like those are precious to me, and keep me keeping at it. Yet I also know our family is as struggling and imperfect as anyone else out there not publishing sweet, hilarious, inspiring stories about their kids.

I’ve also heard more than a few times, “Your son will really appreciate reading all of this when he’s older.”

Maybe. Or he might be embarrassed and pissed off. He’ll most definitely think it’s lame — at least for a couple of years between learning to read and adulthood.

As with many (all?) modern parents, I get too wrapped up in not only chronicling, but also planning, prioritizing, scheduling, worrying about and second-guessing any and everything related to being a parent. And as with many modern parents, I risk missing out on the most important: being present.

I’m not talking about being around. I can spend 10 times the amount of hours with Jon as my husband does, but when Papa takes a few minutes to let him help water the lawn, or shows him how to play a game on the iPad, or calls Nonna with him, it can have more impact than an entire afternoon or running around doing errands or birthday parties or play dates or clothes shopping.

I’m not sure why it is — perhaps the onset of cooler weather or the start of my fifth year as a dad — but I’ve been more conscious of taking time to actually be with my son. To watch what he’s watching, to play what he’s playing, to interact and not just oversee. Starting dinner or banging out a few sentences or sketching a logo can wait a few minutes more.

One recent weekend we’d taken Jon to the movies, and after being cooped up in the dark for several hours, he ran straight to the backyard get his ya-yas out. Papa had gone out with him initially, but then I heard son and dog romping and yelping and having a good time, so I got up from the computer to watch from the kitchen door. I laughed and smiled as they chased each other and barked and hollered.

And then I stopped watching, walked through the door and got down on the ground with them. My little boy was enjoying himself with abandon, rolling around on the grass, pretending to be shot or swimming in lava or something equally perilous. He rolled my way and I saw his bright green shirt set against the still green grass, and then the sparkle of his blue eyes set something off in my heart. I was momentarily stilled with astonishment at how breathtakingly beautiful my son was. So I did exactly what the moment called for — I tickled him. This set off his eyes and his smile and the green and the blue even more. I kept tickling until I could get my phone out and snap a quick photo to capture just a sliver of the joy of the moment. Then I went back to being present and tickling and watching his eyes and his smile, and his green and his blue spin my world around and around and around.

smiling son - being present

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After you’ve spent some quality time with your kids, come hang out and like Designer Daddy’s Facebook page. No tickling, I promise!

BlogHer 2014: Proof I Was There

August 13, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES
BlogHer Voice Of The Year Honorees 2014

Click to enlarge (and to actually see my face)

If you’ve yet to read about my full (and inflamed) experience at BlogHer 14, go here. Otherwise, click on the photo above to see all the awesome Voices of the Year honorees, including yours truly under the giant “I WAS HERE!” scribble.

Thanks again BlogHer for a memorable conference and such wonderful, witty, talented company you put me in.

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For more me and other more interesting things, visit (and like) Designer Daddy on Facebook or follow Designer Daddy on Twitter.

A Boy, A Stick & A Walk in the Woods: Setting Boundaries & Letting Them Go

August 4, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES

Setting Boundaries - Designer Daddy

Instead of trying to corral him within the confines of the play area, I decided to follow my son’s lead — and even encouraged him — in exploring beyond its borders. We were once again searching for the bad guy. It doesn’t matter to my memory who it was… but it was Shredder, in case you were wondering. I followed my boy, who was armed with just a stick. I say “just a stick,” but in the hands of a 4-year old, it can be just about anything. A light saber. A bow staff. A magic wand. Today it was a womper. No use looking that up, as it sprang from my young co-adventurer’s search engine. I felt the tension ease as I unclenched my jaw, lowered my parental guard and let Jon and his imagination be our guide.

Less than an hour before, he’d had yet another mealtime meltdown, intensified by a long weekend of play and compounded by relentless flurries of pollen, exhausting nonstop sniffling and constantly watering eyes. And after being told every five minutes to not rub his eyes, and to blow or wipe his nose, he had grown weary of being bossed around by his dads and by Mother Nature.

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R.I.P. M.A.

May 28, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

RIP-MA Rest In Peace Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou 1928-2014  Rest In Peace

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I initially published this drawing without words. How is it possible to honor someone so eloquent with any language of my own? But as I thought about Maya Angelou, I recalled a special memory I wanted to share.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published the year I was born, and from my earliest memories it sat on my parents’ vast bookshelves amongst my minister Father’s religious books, my English professor Mother’s literature, the World Book Encyclopedias. Long before I read Caged Bird, I remember asking my Mother about it, as the title (and cover) intrigued my young mind. She painted only the broadest strokes of the plot, but in the process I received my first lesson about racism.

The book is set in Arkansas, birthplace of Ms. Angelou, as well as both my parents, and home to nearly all my relatives. I lived there between the ages of 2 and 7, and one of my frequent playground pals was Felicia, a black girl. Racism was confusing when my Mother explained it then, and I dread the confused look on my son’s face when I explain it to him.

I’m thankful to Maya Angelou for finding beauty in the midst of horrible humanity, and for teaching generations (and generations to come) what it means to have hope.

Beware the Blark-Blark!

May 14, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Somehow I was able to convince Jon not to play outside after preschool yesterday. Both our allergies were killing us, and given the chance, he’d keep rolling around in the pollen-covered grass until his eyes swelled shut. I instead agreed to play Power Rangers upstairs after dinner. When we finished eating, I hauled my tired butt upstairs to our bedroom (AKA, Jon’s Playroom Annex), and fell to with the Power Rangers play.

I’m admittedly a longtime hater of Power Rangers, whether they’re Mighty Morphin’, Mega Forcin’, or Samurai Warriorin’. But if you’re going to play make-believe, the Rangers and their enemies make for some great inspiration. String together any number of nonsensical words, and you’ve got yourself a weapon, costume upgrade or villain that will fit seamlessly into the established vernacular of the never-ending series.

Case in point, meet Blark-Blark! A creature I made up on the fly, accessorized only by a pair of oven mitts. I’m not really sure of his origin, but his powers include stomping around yelling “BLARK-BLARK!”, shooting Blark missiles at random times/angles and of course, tickling.

blark blark - power rangers - dad

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And here’s Baby Blark-Blark. While his stomping may not be as loud or his tickling as effective, his Blark missiles are infinitely more deadly than his father’s, as they are infinitely more random in their aim and trajectory. Sometimes they don’t even come off, yet are still delivered with a forceful Baby Blark-Blark hand inside it.

blark blark - power rangers - jon

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What’s your child’s favorite form of make-believe play? Feel free to share your own creative ideas, as I’m always looking for more!

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For more fun and games, visit and Like the Designer Daddy Facebook page or follow along on Twitter!

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