photography

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!

A Taste of Wedding Cake

April 28, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

I’m back from a weekend of weddedness, and wanted to pop in to say how truly blessed I am… with a wonderful (LEGAL!) husband, a precious son, devoted family & friends — and an awesome outpouring of love and well-wishes from all of YOU out in Internet-land! Seeing your myriad of comments, likes, tweets and all-around cyber-support contributed to what was pretty much a perfect day.


The Story of the Three Bears

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There are photos and details and heartfelt reflections to come, however today I shut my brain and body off to reboot. But I wanted to at least give you a little taste — of our wedding cake!* The Daddy & Papa bears (which are salt & pepper shakers) topped the cake at our commitment ceremony 10 years ago. As it was in a church and more of a formal affair, they were dressed in white top hats and bow ties. Our wedding this past Saturday was more about home and family. We had it in our backyard and were a little more casual, so after hunting down a small bear to represent JJ (and painting on some eyes, ears & nose) I made them all neckties out of ribbon and felt to match the actual colors we wore.

And oh yeah, the bottom layer of the cake was vanilla, the top layer was pumpkin, and it was ALL delicious.

More to come…

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Hungry for additional fun and feels? Follow Designer Daddy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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*Cake created by Fancy Cakes by Leslie, Bethesda, MD

A Family Walk In The Woods

April 21, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES

We’ve been taking family walks in the woods since our only child was four-legged. Actually a bike path near the local dog park, it’s always been a great place to let Cordi sniff and poop and run around off-leash. (Not fond of dog parks, our baby girl’s more fond of her people.) The path also offers a quiet escape, a shady respite from the summer/spring/autumn heat. And it’s the perfect place to find rocks for Papa to border the landscaping in our yard.

So this past weekend we set off on a family walk/rock hunting expedition, so Papa could get some rocks and check off an item on his pre-wedding to-do list. We loaded up the four-legged kid, the two-legged kid and the wagon, which was for hauling rocks, and ultimately, a tired two-legged kid.

A Walk In The Woods Papa and JJ

As evidenced by the hat and shirt, JJ had been to a friend’s birthday party earlier that day at the neighborhood fire station. It was Papa’s turn to take him (I took him to a party last weekend), but it was Papa’s second fire station party. I think I need to plan better next time, or just claim dibs on the next party featuring firemen. Just sayin’…

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#TBE (Throwback Easter)

April 20, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES

With wedding plans having taken up so much time lately, Easter has been relegated to an afterthought. Having grown up the son of a preacher man, Easter was a pretty big deal. I’ve always wondered what families that celebrate just the bunnies and egg hunts and craploads of candy get out of Easter. But now we’re kind of one of those families, so when I realized we weren’t going to my parents’ house for the Big E, I felt, I don’t know…nostalgic. Perhaps homesick? Maybe even the tiniest bit guilty.

I’m thinking maybe my mom’s super psychic mom-powers are enhanced during Holy Week, because now she and my dad are driving the almost 2 hours to visit us. It’s more likely they want to smooch on one of their favorite grandsons, seen here in a Throwback Easter pic from two years ago…
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throwback easter bunny

Yes, he’s going to hate me for this someday. I don’t care.

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So while having my parents around will ease some of the glumness I felt last week, it won’t keep me from being nostalgic about this little bunny boy who continues to grow and grow by leaps and bounds, and who no longer allows me to dress him up in such adorable humiliating get-ups.

Sigh. I could stare at this all day…but I gotta go hide some eggs. Happy Easter everybody!

Defying Hail Hydra

April 15, 2014 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

I finally saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier last weekend, but cut me some slack, because babysitters are expensive! I also finally saw Wicked a few weeks ago. Cut me some slack again, because… well, I don’t deserve any for that one. I’m a bad, bad gay.

After seeing the former, the “Hail Hydra” meme finally made sense. (Who knew Garry Shandling could get any creepier?) And then I remembered the latter, and realized that no one (that I could find) had done this…

wicked hail hydra meme

Happy Tuesday. You’re welcome.

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And oh yeah, Hail Hydra.

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