travel

Philadelphia Family Fun: Our Five Favorites

April 23, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

If you’re looking for affordable family fun, look no further than Philadelphia. Our family got to spend four days with our up-the-coast neighbor; however, the first two were just me and my 6-year-old — a challenge I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. Under normal circumstances, my adventurously independent son is a handful. Now we were sans one dad, adding a train ride, a hotel stay, and a bunch of activities in a city I knew next to nothing about. Papa and I had spent an anniversary weekend years ago, focusing mainly on art museums and antiques. I knew my kiddo was having none of that, so we were in uncharted territory.

It’s also important to note that Jon was not as over the previous week’s stomach bug as I thought.

Known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia has plenty of affection for families and kids, too. We made it through the trip with lots of flying colors, great memories, and even learned a few things. And yes, there were lots and lots of trips to the bathroom.

Here are our five Philadelphia favorites — along with a score for the restrooms at each location, based on their ability to accommodate weary, middle-aged dads and a kindergartner whose bowels were constantly at DEFCON #2.

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5. THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE
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Philadelphia family fun — Franklin Institute

The initial draw of The Franklin Institute was the Art of the Brick exhibit — which did not disappoint. Yet on further exploration, the entire museum was amaze-balls, as the kids say. From the giant interactive heart, to the train factory, a planetarium, and pretty much any invention or sciencey thing you can think up — it had it all.

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Family Week 2015: Amidst A Sea of LGBTQ Families

August 4, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

It’s the Monday night after our first vacation of any length in years, and the re-entry has been a trying one. My day was spent burrowing diligently and deep into the pile of work, emails, and kindergarten-related prep I put off while we were away. While the air is similarly sweltering, it’s minus the lovely Cape Cod views and sand between my toes. All that remains is a sunburn I keep absentmindedly scratching (and then regretting), remnants of sand in everything except my toes, and lots of memories.

Papa, Jon and I attended our first Family Week, an annual gathering of LGBTQ parents and their families in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It’s impossible to encapsulate everything from our week on the Cape (that’s what Instagram and Facebook are for), so I’ll just share the few images that make me smile, think, or feel the most.
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ADVENTURE.

The anxiety I feel over my son’s adventurous spirit is matched only by my admiration of it. Stifled at times within the context of school and home, it stretched its wings and flew, ran, splashed and jumped every chance it got.

Family Week - LGBTQ families

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17 Action-Packed, Fun-Filled Road Trip Movies for Families

July 29, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

As summer winds down, families everywhere are taking one last vacation before the rigors of the school year take back the reins. And nothing epitomizes the family vacation more than a road trip. Parents, kids, and other assorted passengers piled into the family car; crisscrossing the country in search of excitement, enjoying the togetherness, pausing for the random road side oddity. It’s an adventure like no other.

For the nights you’re not on the road (but still hoping to cram in as much family fun as possible), nothing beats family movie night! Whether you’re snuggled up on the sofa or camped out in the backyard, these films capture all the adventure, fun, and occasional misfortune of the family road trip.

So grab the popcorn — and your map, compass, flashlight or fairy dust — and settle in for a rip-roaring, vicarious vacation.

Did everyone use the bathroom? We’ve got a long trip ahead of us…

17 Family-Friendly Road Trip Movies

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Considering Christmas

December 24, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES

Christmas is often idealized as a time of reflection, to pause and consider life, family, world peace — lightweight stuff like that. But I can’t remember the last time the days between Halloween and New Years resembled anything remotely meditative or peaceful.

I could blame consumerism, box stores and maga-malls; the colder, shorter days; my rambunctious 5-year-old; Obama. But if I’m being honest, it’s all my own doing. If there’s going to be any inner dialog, it’s on me to stop and listen. So one recent evening I sat in view of our tree* and took it all in. Glowing lights in our dimly lit dining room, twinkling and reflecting off the orbs and odd shapes adorning a sweet-smelling fir. I let my eyes wander from ornament to ornament, remembering where and when they were purchased, what was happening in my life. It was like spending time with old friends — you may not see one another very often, but your history is deep and your reconnection easy.

In taking these moments, in making these observations, I came to realize some of these baubles were among my oldest possessions. Outlasting furniture, clothes, photographs, albums, books. Tokens from nearly every year of my life hung from this tree. It was a feeling both comforting and weighty — but it had given me the space and peace of mind I’d been seeking.

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designer daddy - christmas ornament

Mouse, circa 1976
I’ve owned this mouse made of felt and yarn longer than anything else in my possession. I don’t know exactly where or when it was purchased, but I’ve always known it as being from my brother. The photo may not show, but it’s yellowed and frayed in spots. Yet I’ll hold onto it as long as I can, clutching close the memory of our childhood, our innocence and friendship, before dogma and condition and uncomfortable silence took its place. And I’ll hold a little hope that some of the former will return.

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Barilla Wants to Share the Table, Even with Same-Sex Parents

April 14, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla, but opinions are my own.

In September of last year, the chairman of Barilla made the following statements in a radio interview:

“I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect
but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays
a fundamental role. … If [gays] don’t like it, they can go eat another brand.” 1

“I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who
is not able to choose.” 2

Like many others, I found Guido Barilla’s comments ignorant, insulting and infuriating. Our family is made up of two gay dads (one of whom is Italian) and an adopted son, all of us consumers of large amounts of pasta. I’m not sure there were any ways left to offend us. So like many others, our family made a conscious decision not to buy their products again.

While I’d heard of efforts on the part of Barilla to make amends, I paid them little mind. I was skeptical they could do anything to salvage a relationship with the LGBT community and our allies.

But then I was asked to take part in Barilla’s Share the Table campaign. And I was approached specifically because I’m a gay father. I learned they’d also enlisted other LGBT bloggers, including fellow parents Polly Pagenhart and Vikki Reich.

According to the materials I was given and my own research, Barilla has been making changes ever since the interview and subsequent boycott. They met with and received counsel from GLAAD; established a Diversity & Inclusion Board and appointed a Chief Diversity Officer; participated in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index; and as evidenced by this post, they want to partner with influencers in the LGBT community as part of Share the Table, to ensure families of all kinds are included.

We’ve all heard plenty of corporate apologies, yet this invitation resonated because it was made directly to me. And as I read more about Barilla’s inclusiveness in regards to the importance of family meal time, I was immediately reminded of our trip to Italy two years ago.

Barilla #ShareTheTable Italy family dinner

One of many long and wonderful meals around Nonna’s table

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To Russia, With Friendship

February 5, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED
russianfriend

Me and “Viktor” on Lake Baikal, Siberia, July 4, 1993

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I spent the summer of 1993 in southern Siberia.
The Berlin Wall had had been down for less than three years, and as with other Communist nations, Russia was opening up in ways unimaginable to the world less than a decade prior. The country celebrated Russia Day for the first time that summer on the 12th of June. This holiday marked Russia’s sovereignty from the USSR. It was also my 24th birthday.

This trip abroad was the “final exam” of the missionary training school I attended my first year out of college. Missionary training what now?!? That’s a story for another time… I’m here to talk about my friend “Viktor.”

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We’ve Got Your Back: Impressions of Dad 2.0 Summit

February 3, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

I’m ending my long weekend the way I began it — hanging out in an airport for 4+ hours. Different airports — Baltimore on Thursday, New Orleans on Sunday — but they both have the same unsettling mixture of being simultaneously busy, anxious and lonely. Or maybe that was just me. I’ll spare you the details of my traveling travails, but between the Polar Vortex and my own absentmindedness, it was a wonder I got anywhere I was trying to. And I’m not even on my plane home yet.

I had considered waiting until I’d had a chance to “decompress,” catch up on work, and generally give myself a chance to create something more brilliant and insightful. But I’m taking this time in limbo to journal my impressions of Dad 2.0 Summit while they’re still fresh.

As my arrival in New Orleans was 6 hours later than planned, I missed the conference’s opening party. I had to force myself not to imagine all the hugging and backslapping and toasting going on as my network of dad blogging pals reconnected or (as in many cases) met in person for the first time. My tireless and generous friend Don left said party to pick me up from the airport (it was his fourth trip of the day) and as I trudged wearily into the lobby of the hotel, several of the men I’d become closest to came bounding out of the bar to greet me with all that hugging and backslapping I’d not been dwelling on. As I made my way through the lobby and up to my room, I was met with cheers of “Brent!” from even more of my until-then virtual friends. I felt like a rock star. Or at least Norm. It was already shaping up to be a pretty stupendous time.

aaron

After a very late dinner of bourbon and beer (and more meeting and backslapping and hugging), I called it an early night.

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SalonLGBTQ: Reconnecting, Simplifying & Loving the Ladies

October 30, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

Lately I’ve been lacking the time and energy to be an effective dad or a productive designer, much less a Designer Daddy of any measure. And I’ve got no one to blame but myself. But a recent trip to Atlanta brought about some much needed refocusing.

A couple of weeks ago I attended SalonLGBTQ, the first social media conference of its kind – for and about the LGBTQ community. My work schedule had slowly been reaching capacity, and culminated with several projects being due in conjunction with the conference. Amongst the professional stress was the ongoing struggle with our feisty almost-four year-old and his increasing use of falling on the floor and cry-whining as a means of communication. Add to that the pressures of preparing for this trip —where I’d also be making my debut as an “expert” blogger as part of a panel discussing parent blogging, social media and all things homosexual.

Despite all that, I managed to make it to the conference in one piece, though soaked to the bone from my walk across the street 2.5 blocks in the rain from the subway to the hotel. After cramming in some work and drying my socks, I went downstairs and enjoyed the hell out of the opening reception. It was Spirit Day, so everyone was wearing purple…except me. You know, the graphic designer who’s super keen on color and stuff. But it was a thrill meeting all manner of wonderful folk, including my longtime internet hero, Sarah/Nerdy Apple, and my new-found hero, Amelia. These two awesome moms have sons who don’t fit the normal norms, and they spend their time celebrating and championing them every chance they get. Plus these ladies both like to party. We were fast friends.

socks

Here’s my #SpiritDay purple, drying out from my trek through the rain.

purple

Flanked by some of my new favorite gals: Sarah “Smut,” Sarah “Nerdy” & Amelia “Blogger.” ©SalonLGBTQ.com

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Taking Up Residence on Twitter: Talking About LGBT Family Travel

October 29, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

If you’re an LGBT parent, you are statistically more likely to travel with your children than your straight counterparts. Okay, that statistic is based on no actual data, but on my well-traveled stint as one of two fathers of an adopted son. Yet even if your kids aren’t adopted, we gays LOVE to travel. Think having kids will slow us down? Are you kidding — and pass up a chance to sport matching outfits at Disneyworld, win over hearts and minds at a family reunion, or show our younguns the world in style?

So mark your calendars: Join me Wednesday, November 6 at 9pm EST, as I’ll be a panelist for a Twitter party all about LGBT family travel!

We’ll be chatting up these topics:

  • Legal/practical aspects of travel, both interstate and internationally
  • General tips for traveling with kids
  • Extended stays out-of-state or internationally during the adoption process
  • Hilarious and harrowing tales of tot-travel

Please come join the fun with all your questions and/or ideas to share!

And yes, THERE WILL BE PRIZES:
Register early at TravelingMom to win
one of two signed copies of Iron Chef/lesbian mom Cat Cora’s cookbook, Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes.
or
Grand Prize: a $250 Residence Inn gift card

This shindig is sponsored by Residence Inn, along with partners TravelingMom, Family Equality Council and Mombian.

NEW-RI_Logo

Travel Itenerary:
Party time: 9pm – 10pm EST • Wednesday, November 6, 2013
How to join: Follow hashtags #TMOM and #RIFamily
To be eligible for prizes: RSVP at TravelingMom’s party page

babyonboard2

Bringing JJ home – our first family trip.

Personal note: Okay, who in the world gets sentimental about being asked to participate in a Twitter party? This gay dad, that’s who. Residence Inn has played an important role in our family’s history. We flew cross-country in order to be there the night JJ was born; we spent two nights in the hospital with him, then were released into the wild. Yet we had to remain in Oregon until our ICPC cleared and we could cross state lines with our cute little contraband. So our first two weeks together as a family were spent in the Residence Inn Portland Downtown/RiverPlace.

It was also where the photos used on JJ’s birth announcement were taken, which were featured in Designer Daddy’s very first post.

And we stayed in the same hotel during our most recent, memorable trip back to visit JJ’s birthparents. So to Residence Inn, here is my sincere, personal note…

THANK YOU

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[Disclaimer: I am being compensated by Residence Inn for this post and participation in the Twitter party. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are mine and/or JJ’s.]

Cottonelle & Designer Daddy Have That Can-Doo Spirit

October 14, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

Greetings Dear Readers! It’s me, your bums-talking Brand Ambassador, bringing you another message from the fine folks at Cottonelle!

I and the other BA’s have been on a roll reading (and judging) all the wipe-related haikus you’ve been Tweeting out the wazoo. We’ve already given away $200 Amazon gift cards to 3 potty-mouthed poets. Check out their cheeky, winning work*:

Week 1 winner: @dad_strangeland
Did you wipe? I ask / My four year old shakes her head / Pants already raised.

Week 2 winner: @jesteram
Cottonelle sheets, wipes— / like yin and yang for your butt: / Two forces, one whole.

Week 3 winner: @DeadTurkeyBlog
Please try Cottenelle. / Like wiping with a pillow. / Without the divorce.

These lucky lads are now in the running to win the Grandest of Prizes: an all-expenses paid trip to Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans! And we have 4 more winners to choose over the next few weeks, so you still have lots of chances to score a gift card and a seat at Dad 2.0!

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While scrutinizing all these haiku hijinks has been hilarious, it’s also caused me to wax nostalgic. All the poop-talk got me reminiscing about the times in my life I could have really used some Cottonelle TP and Cleansing Cloths. Please indulge me as I over-share one such occasion…

WARNING: DO NOT READ IF ON YOUR LUNCH BREAK

I spent the summer after college in Siberia on a mission trip with a group from my church. We were in Irkutsk, a city of nearly a million people — yet we often found ourselves in rather sub-standard plumbing predicaments. One afternoon we were giving a presentation at a high school, when my lunch of dried fish, pork-filled dumplings and mysterious cabbage concoction decided to take the Trans-Siberian Express out of my body. I raced down the halls to the bathroom and scurried into one of the stalls. Not only did the stall not have a door, the bowl (which was common) didn’t have a seat. And to my horror – nor the toilet paper dispenser, toilet paper. Starting to panic, I hobbled around and check the other stalls. Nyet, nyet, nyet. No doors, no seats, no paper.

While this is not the toilet in the story, it was the one in our flat. That we used every day for 3 months.

While this isn’t the toilet in my story, it WAS the one in my Siberian flat… that I used every day for 3 months.

Lunch had now taken its leave, yet here I sat on my seatless bowl, not sure what to do next. I rifled through my pockets and found two very disconcerting options. Option 1: a small religious pamphlet illustrated in comic-book form. Option 2: my Bible.

The pamphlet was slick and varnished, with rather sharp corners. My Bible, on the other hand, had soft, tissue-like pages. It was my Sophie’s Choice of sanitation.

Luckily I remembered my Bible had several blank pages in the back for taking notes. My choice was made, desecration was avoided, my ass was saved! However some Cottonelle toilet paper and wipes sure would have been a god-send.

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Okay, now it’s your turn to confess.
What’s your scariest scatalogical situation? Please post in the comments. My favorite will get a shout-out on Facebook (anonymous, if you like) and my deepest admiration and sympathy.

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careroutine3

Late to the poop party and have no idea what I’m talking about? Take a second and go read this. I’ll wait… Okay, all caught up? Great! Now get to Tweeting haikus about Cottonelle and bums and wipes and poop, and maybe I’ll see you in NOLA!

*To read all eligible haikus as well as full contest details, visit the Haiku Challenge web page.

[Disclaimer: I am being compensated by Kimberly-Clark for my participation in my role as a Brand Ambassador. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are mine and/or JJ’s.]

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