It has been a long time since I posted. In this time I have ushered my kids off to college and I have re-started my Architecture practice. It has been a difficult and yet rewarding transition. But that is not really what this post is about, or maybe it is.

We live in privileged times for many of us and not so privileged for many more. Social media, the internet, 24 hour news, heads of households working full time, and an overabundance of children's activities have nearly collapsed our sense of community. And by community, I mean the secular public forum. The place were a variety of backgrounds meet, discuss, work and come together in a voluntary effort of good that illuminates our common humanity and grace.

In this environment it is even more important to teach our children how to sit and listen to others, respect other's philosophies, and speak up in a respectful manner when you believe there is injustice. Educationally, we need to pass along these skills to our children:
  • critical thinking
  • curiosity
  • life long learning
  • engagement
  • listening
  • analysis and reasoning
  • sympathy
  • alternate ways of thinking
  • volunteerism
  • community engagement
  • speaking skills
  • ethics
  • group dynamics
  • respectful communication
  • desire for knowledge

It is not too early to model and teach these skills. I started with my children when they first came home from the hospital. Communication knowledge and style are the first skills. I never spoke "baby talk" to them. I modeled appropriate verbal communication speaking as an adult using not only introductory language words and concepts, but higher levels that I repeated over and over for years. I believe this process strengthens a child's understanding of language and complex concepts. With a strong basis for language it is much easier to each all of these other concepts.

My take is that we underestimate our children. They go through a rough process of maturation and should be respected like any other being. If we are patient, accepting, respectful, and understand that they deserve a mature approach, they will evolve with a strong desire to sit well with and advocate for others.


By Russell Peterson
DayParentDad
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
 
 
Unethical behavior, disrespect, and possible plagiarizing in competition dance. Surprise!

This week in Minnesota, several teams at the state dance competition accused one of the top winning teams of plagiarism. The winning team had copied costumes, music and a bit of choreography. They claim they were "inspired" by the other team. Many people believe they plagiarized with a few changes around the margins. Instead of filing a complaint, other competition teams stood on the sidelines and held hands in objection. Those teams were disqualified. Seems to me neither behavior was appropriate.

I entered my daughters into dance programs when they were in preschool. I remember going to my first competition dance as an at home dad and seeing little girls with almost nothing on running around wearing huge hats filled with fruit. Carmen Miranda wore way more clothing than these first graders. After hours of watching thousands of dancers and hundreds of moms push and pull and cajole and scream, I called my wife in disbelief. Who would do this to children?

Why would anybody pay thousands of dollars to a studio with a damaged floor where kids got injured year after year in over training on a bad surface just to win a trophy? Why would a parent spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to an out of town dance organization to come in for a few "rock star" hours and try to teach thousands of kids on a dirty, carpeted ballroom floor? Why is hazing with ropes, kitty litter, and assorted other shaming techniques allowed in any environment - especially a so called education one?

These things arise, because the system is pervaded by back stabbing and gossip and cheating and lying and child abuse and theft. The world of crazy dance moms and unethical dance instructors does not just exist on television. It is real. Leaders in the industry need to name it, take decisive action, and stop it. Which is exactly what the state high school league needs to do in this instance.

We eventually found a couple of good schools with quality, ethical environments. My advice if you chose to participate is the following: keep your head tall, smile and wave at others no matter the drama, be respectful, walk away from the bad behavior, and role model healthy attitudes for your kids. I did the best I could at protecting my children. I hope you can do the same.

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Photo Russell Peterson | The Great Minnesota Get Together | Pay attention. Re respectful. Live your true life.
After 16 years of being an at home dad and the primary caregiver, I've come to the conclusion that there are three basic lessons every child needs to learn:

1. Pay attention to the world around you.
My children will tell you that they have heard enough of this phrase. I'm glad. Because I see this as the biggest problem in our world today. We walk around talking on our phones while hands are attached to a 2,000 pound vehicle's steering column not even knowing that the semi truck next to us is merging. We walk down the street eating our lunch or listening on the headphones without acknowledgement of the kindness and beauty around us. We fail to maintain our built environment, so that it decays and must be discarded. People starve in the streets, die from preventable diseases, and suffer needlessly because the end game at times seems to be take as many green backs with you to the grave as you can.

I say, there is another way. Be conscious of where other people are and what they are doing. Look at mother nature and revel in the smallest detail. Celebrate the creations that we have made together. See others in a new light as they walk down the street. Be the one who basks in the sunlight and stops to not only see the roses, but appreciate the gardener behind them. Close the door and turn off the lights because a house is not a barn and conserving energy keeps the planet for our children's children. 

The smallest detail that we notice is the celebration of what makes us unique and powerful.

See the world. Really see the world.


2. Respect the (potential) inherent worth and dignity of every person, but be smart.
The first part of this lesson is a modification of the first belief and principal of the Unitarian Universalist association of churches. Regarding this principal they say, ‚ÄúReverence and respect for human nature is at the core...We celebrate the gifts of being human: our intelligence and capacity for observation and reason, our senses and ability to appreciate beauty, our creativity, our feelings and emotions...We can use our gifts to offer love, to work for justice, to heal injury, to create pleasure for ourselves and others."

To me, the first part of this statement means be nice by being careful with your words and actions. But it is so much more than just a surface existence. Dig deeper. Help others. Think about another's situation before responding or complaining. Be proactive and help those in need and those who are suffering. This is about compassion, love and generosity on the most basic level.

The (potential) part is my modification. I do believe that loving each other, at some basic unconditional level is a very good thing. But we know that not all people act on this potential. In fact, many do just the opposite out of selfishness, greed, hatred, mental illness or a host of other maladies. Thus, the slightly skeptical side of me says: Put yourself out there. Love those around you. Respect their capacity to be good. But pay attention to the signs around you. If this person is taking advantage or demonstrates behavior that is not worthy or dignified. Be smart. Walk away. In cases where people are being abused or taken advantage of by someone who has lost their worth and dignity, advocate for those people. 

This is the only way the world gets better.


3. Live your true self.
Being true to your own being is the best way a parent can demonstrate that their children must be true to themselves. We must give our progeny wide latitude in exploration while establishing boundaries with consequences and at the same time be patient with developmental stages. We must throw aside stereotypes and traditions that discriminate. It will not always be easy for our kids and we cannot protect them from every harm. But if we nurture, support and instill the belief that our kids should be true to their own heart and true to the passion for living their unique life, they have the potential to live an exceptional life.

Live an exceptional life.


Coda
These lessons start before our children are born. It is a way of thinking and living that we and our spouse practice on a regular basis. It begins with the loving way we treat each other. It continues by speaking to our children with respect and not talking down to them. It extends in the love, compassion, and boundaries we establish for our children as they grow. It reveals itself as they encounter the world and mature to adults through our loving and supportive guidance. We have the power to create a fantastic next generation.

Pay attention, respect their worth, and be true to oneself.

By Russell Peterson | Copyright DayParentDad.com All Rights Reserved | 11 February 2015 

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PHOTO | Preus Musum Norway
Both of my children have worked since they were very young. I tried to teach them lessons of hard work, value and respect. They have been babysitters, models and dance teachers. As things go not everything turns out well, but there are lessons in that too.

One of my children had been working for the same company for nearly a decade. She was always available and we never turned down a request to work. As a contract employee she learned many skills, trials, labor laws and responsibilities. The "patience lesson" was probably the biggest struggle, but she gained numerous insights into human behavior and working conditions. 

She discovered no job is perfect - this one in particular. Her employer and supervising staff were always behind schedule, late with schedule notices, lacking clarity in instructions and asking for last minute favors. We thought it was just part of the business and it was an opportunity for our child to learn decision making, deal with ever changing employment situations and to demonstrate loyalty. So we indulged the inconsistencies and chalked it up to new lessons learned.
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PHOTO | Unknown
Then a year ago they asked us to reserve the winter break for some work. So we cancelled vacation plans and waited for them to contact us. They never did. When we mentioned it, the work started to trail off in frequency and amount. This past summer they sent us a new contract only a day and a half prior to her first day of this season's work. It asked for a year and a half of exclusivity, a lower salary prediction and no guarantee of compensation to cover any potential work loss due to the exclusivity. So I contacted a friend in the business, did some research and decided to call them and ask a few questions. They immediately dumped her as an employee. 

This employer continues to do work under these conditions and continues to hire children to work for them. Many stay because they believe it is prestigious or they have attained status or fame. Neither is true. That is an illusion perpetrated by adults to take advantage of children (and other adults).

The lesson learned for the children here is: Don't devalue yourself. No matter where you are on the employee ladder, you deserve to be:
  • compensated fairly for your work without undue restrictions
  • treated with respect
  • valued appropriately

If you find yourself in a situation where your employer is taking advantage of you in any of these areas, find other employment. You, my child, have value.

By Russell W. Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 10 October 14

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Dear NFL, 

There is no rational argument to hit a child. There is no rational argument to keep a player who admits to hitting a child so hard that he breaks the skin in multiple places.

The recent NFL domestic violence incidents and past history reveal a terrible culture within your organization. You need help and I hope you find it quickly. 

Sincerely, 
A Fading Fan
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Now is the time to strike back with arguments because I'm tired of those who believe it is okay to strike a child. Or those who believe there is a difference between a smack on the butt to a whipping with a belt. Or a difference between a whack with a wooden spoon or a lashing with a tree branch. Or the difference between a slap on the face and a punch to the mouth. There is no difference. Hitting another human being is wrong, especially one who is smaller than you, weaker than you, and has a less developed brain. You, the adult, are smarter than that.
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This week it was revealed that Adrian Peterson, NFL football player with the Minnesota Vikings, struck his four year old child so hard with a tree branch that he left bleeding lashes on his legs and hands. The online pictures are gruesome. He was indicted in Texas at the end of last week and as I understand has confessed. He was suspended for a game by the Vikings, and then reinstated two days later to practice and play with the team. He released a statement.

In the statement he talks about how he was raised, clearly thinking this was normal behavior. I just don't understand why anyone in the 21st century can believe that physical violence against a child is acceptable, no matter the degree or personal history. We should all understand there are discipline alternatives proven by science. Maybe he has good intentions, but I think this statement is in big part a cover to make the mea culpa look good. It reads as though it was very carefully crafted by a talented public relations team that is working hard to help save the Vikings season and Mr. Peterson's career. I find it almost more repugnant that there are people more interested in helping others save their financial investment than they are helping to educate the public about eliminating corporal child abuse as a discipline methodology.

If Mr. Peterson were a teacher, he would be suspended until the outcome of his trial and/or punishment. At which point, I'm sure his contract as a teacher would be terminated due to a morality clause. Unfortunately, Mr. Peterson is a teacher. Every week he is on that television demonstrating how a quality football player should work and behave in front of millions of children. The NFL is an education organization. Ethics, morality, and citizenship should be a part of their program.

If I were running the NFL here's what I would do:
  1. Fire those who continue to perpetrate and tolerate domestic violence.
  2. Hire a team of foremost experts to begin training programs within the organization.
  3. Start a media wide outreach educational program to combat domestic violence.
  4. Make large contributions to organizations that actively work to reduce domestic violence and child abuse.

As for Mr. Peterson, he needs to do more than issue a statement and run a good game. Let's hope he understands the consequences fully and chooses wisely.


Dear NFL, 

I don't think it is that hard. Your move.

Sincerely, 
A Carefully Watching Fan


P.S. Next you should tackle player head injury reduction, steroid use, and equity pay for your cheerleaders and other support staff.

¬© By Russell Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 15 September 14
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Child Abuse Resources

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The last bag to leave the house.
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Winnie, one of our two cats, came sitting at the corner once the last bag was gone.
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Siskel, one of our two Aussies, the moment after she left.
By Russell Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 2 September 2014

I did squeeze. Hard. I couldn't let go. No words. I tried. Thoughts: I love you. I'm here always. You can call anytime. For anything. Always. All I want to not say is good...

I'm not sure when the animals knew. I think Siskel realized first. He is the only other male in the house. Leave it to the two guys to be the emotional wrecks. He walks around with his head down knowing things have changed. Our other Australian Shepherd, Hooray, has taken to begging as though every piece of food in the house is part of her Last Supper. Perhaps that's why I've eaten half a cake in the last two days.

Winnie, the fluffy cat, will not really leave my other daughter's side or at least her bedroom. She comes out for occasional snacks and a peak around the kitchen cabinet corner to peer at the back door. She expects her to walk through any moment. I do too.

Right now a depressed black cat is sitting on the window ledge next to my table. Her tail draped long down the wall and her head stretched out in sadness over one paw on the wood sill. Her existence consists of either the depressed ledge, sitting at the bistro table waiting for her return, or pooping in front of the family room fireplace. She is kitty messaging. I hear you Flicka. I just can't change it.

When my two daughters were very young, I would walk them out to the bus stop helping them to carry either their 700 pound back packs filled with state mandated educational materials or their brown paper artwork lunch bags I had carefully crafted into the next Matisse. Sometimes both. We would stand at the end of the cul-de-sac and chat or be present in silence until the bus stopped a block away. Then I would lift their heavy burdens onto their shoulders and give them my impressive fatherly guidance: "Have fun. Do good work. And Pinch Your Teacher."

No matter what you do, you should enjoy it. That goes for college. It won't be easy. The best things never are. But have fun. Not too much. Just enough. (That was a joke.) I am positive you will do good work. You always do, especially for the things you love to do. Isn't that true for most of us? Pinching your teacher is a no-no. We all know it, but challenging them is something a student should do just as a child teaches a parent. Hearing, really deep hearing is essential.

As you drive
Away
Fly my little one.

Be true self
Distinct
Empathize caring.

Imagine
You thrive
Opportune moment.

Paint broad depth
Life's time
Colorful nature.

Fragile soul
Warmest
Nature shines on sleeve.

Home remains
Far and
Close and alluring.

I await
Return
Distance no trespass.
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I sit here on this first day of my baby's college classes sipping my coffee; enjoying it a little less and yet a little more...bye.


 
 
Seems we are obsessed with pop stars of late and they are obsessed with us. Our society is eager to cut someone down who has made it and personalities with their entourages are trying to spin a media frenzy in order to avoid being forgotten. Either way, there are more important lessons to teach our children from this foolishness.

Recently, pop star Justin Bieber has been in the news for an arrest, a warrant, drugs, alcohol, resisting arrest, assault, rehab considerations, and drag racing. When I spoke to my kids about this, one of them said, "Imagine growing up in that environment with girls clawing at you and the media hounding you non stop. The push by adults to grow up fast, make loads of money, be popular, but still remain a kid. That could screw you up." They are right. There is something to be said about the unnerving world of "child personalities." Compassion is a value I'm glad they have learned.

On the flip side, I pointed out that every child on this planet is important. Each day 17,000 children die in the world due to hunger. It costs less than a dollar a day to feed those kids. Let's say $17,000 a day.  Every major and minor media outlet covered Mr. Bieber's DUI arrest multiple times these past weeks and not one mentioned child poverty. The pop star is worth $130 million which in total could eliminate child death due to hunger in the world for 21 years.

Although I do believe that Mr. Bieber probably has a legitimate rationale for his environmental pressures, it seems to me that no matter your situation, you must rise above. Justice is as important as compassion. 

Think about it. Seize your destiny, don't waste it. I'm sure Mr. Bieber would agree.
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Children are hungry all over the world.
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Please join us in making a continuing donation to Action Against Hunger. Top rated charity by CharityWatch and Charity Navigator.
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Just Bieber arrest photo.
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Just Bieber tour photo.
 
 
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Last night I watched the Miss America pageant with my wife and daughters. We were of course cheering for Miss Minnesota as she is from our home state. But we knew right from the start that Miss California and Miss New York were going to be hard to beat. They all displayed poise, grace, intelligence, and talent. These are all the things of Miss America and should be of all of us. Unfortunately, within minutes of announcing Miss New York had won, there were racists rants a plenty on twitter. Then this morning we woke to a shooting spree at a naval yard in D.C. This afternoon a friend posted this letter on facebook about a woman enduring discriminatory disdain from another while using an EBT (food stamps) card in the grocery store in our community.

These events reminded me about the time 20 years ago when I got in line behind a couple with a young child at a grocery store in St. Paul. As they were checking out it became apparent they did not have enough money for all of their groceries. So they started working with the cashier to take out certain groceries to get down to the amount they could afford. They were well dressed Hmong immigrants who spoke very little English (none of which should matter). They were buying great whole foods (no junk) and obviously distressed at the situation, but very polite. I could have gotten impatient, angry, violent or even discriminatory as we've witnessed by the events of the last 24 hours. But, after about six or seven items were removed I turned to the cashier and said put the items back, I will pay for them. She was stunned. The couple in disbelief started shaking their heads in thanks. As they left and kept thanking me, the cashier just said over and over that I was an angel sent from heaven and she had never seen the likes of that and it was a miracle. I told her thank you and as I drove away I thought to myself I am no angel and this was not a miracle. It was just a little kindness.

I'm so tired of the shooters, and the racists, and the discriminators, and the hate mongers defining who we are. It is time to pick up our collective selves, stand against hatred and oppression, challenge intolerance, and start acting like the human beings we have the potential to be. Angels and miracles? I'll settle for poise, grace, intelligence, and talent...oh, and a little kindness.

 
 
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Ted Coonradt - Oberon Puppet Voice | Rick Miller - Puck
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Chris Rohling - Lysander | Rick Miller - Puck | Rachel Brady - Hermia | Logan Bitz Daum - Demetrius | Hannah Wehlage - Helena
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Maddie Tonjes - Peter Quince | Will Dziuk - Bottom | Kali Jennings - Snug | Alec Lambert - Snout
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Sam Pavich - Tatania Puppet Voice
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Ted Coonradt - Oberon Puppet Voice | Rick Miller - Puck
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Rick Miller - Puck | Will Dziuk - Bottom
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Wesley Erickson - Flute | Kali Jennings - Snug | Alec Lambert - Snout | Will Dziuk - Bottom | Maddie Tonjes - Peter Quince
Since I'm an architect, someone in a conversation invariably says, "I can't draw." To which I reply, "Yes you can." Startled, the person initiating the conversation says, "No, really, I can't draw." To which I reply, "No. You can draw. But your perception of your ability has been socialized out of you. By that I mean that our society believes that only a few people are talented enough to draw, so we don't really even try." 

Drawing is a creative endeavor that is all about perception. For instance, we all have come to believe that a school is drawn with a peak over the front of a door with steps and a flag flying in front. (This was on a test my kids had in grade school and they had no idea what it was.) However, most schools today don't even come close to looking like that. Why then do we teach our children that a school is an old iconic image from the western frontier? Because we are lazy about creativity and don't try to understand how those images create social barriers to perception and inventiveness. Thus most of us have to go back to the beginning to re-learn what it means to be creative. I've used creative techniques that turn perception on its heels from Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, The Zen Of Seeing, and other sources to prove that you can eventually overcome that socialization.

This concept of turning perception on its heels was made perfectly clear to me in a recent production of Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare performed by an inter-generational group of professionals and students in the parking lot at the Main Street School Of Performing Arts this summer in Hopkins, Minnesota. This talented menagerie looked at the story, placed it in a post world war tent encampment that was also a drive-in movie theater. The changed setting forced the actors to re-imagine what the motivations really were behind the characters and made the audience push the bounds of its perception. Creativity and inventiveness were present in every aspect as they used video, costuming, staging, and puppetry to set the scenes. Several of the characters including Helena, Bottom and Puck became even more powerful and relevant giving the audience pause about the lessons from this play.

Some might say, "So what?" This is theater and they are suppose to be creative. Yet, aren't we all? Isn't our job to re-invent and improve? Perhaps the stagnation in our economy and society is about a lack of creativity. What if it really isn't about money, but it is about the way we've been socialized, educated, and manipulated to perceive. That creativity and inventiveness together have been thrown away for popularity, emotion, and vulgarity which drives a societal engine that never really helps people. Are we "painted blind" as Cupid is because we are not looking with our eyes? Perhaps we need a paint scraper and a magically different perspective. Sounds like a Shakespeare twist to me:

Get Thee To The Forest
Go outside and I'm not talking about mowing the lawn. Change your every day location in a big way. Get out of the house. Get out of your car. Get out of the office. Run away to a state park forest or a zoo filled with magic. Daydream. Lie in the grass and watch the clouds. Imagine mother nature using the rustling of the trees to speak to you in new ways. Shakespeare used this technique, why can't we?  

Flip Disadvantage Into Advantage
Most people couldn't imagine working or playing in a cracked, sloping parking lot with dumpsters, parked cars, and weeds. But this theater team made it happen. They took a craggy looking space and turned it into an even craggier looking space with purpose. Find your biggest disadvantage and turn it on its head.

Change One Thing
In one scene Helena rides in on a very long bike. It sets the stage for a more humorous and realistic presentation of her character. The bike says she is unpretentious which is counter to being a desperate and jealous rich woman as many interpret her character to be. Of course the actress breathes new life into her throughout the play, but the bike was the one thing that first began the perception change for the audience. 

Be Inquisitive
Ask questions. Investigate. Imagine. Why can't a god be a monster in a garbage can? The play's controlling god, Oberon, was portrayed by many things: an over sized puppet, an under sized puppet, a cloaked human...even a puppet monster in a garbage can. Who would think that Sesame Street could be any kind of inspiration for Midsummer Night's Dream? Yet, Oscar The Grouch would be proud (really, more grouchy) that he could be seen as a god; after all he did a lot of controlling on Sesame Street. Drawing that parallel to a post war pop culture and seeing the possibility meant that someone had to ask the question first.

Take Risks Together
This summer workshop production took a great deal of collaboration. Midsummer Night's Dream is a complex play with numerous intertwined themes. It would make any business analyst graphing a flow chart get a migraine - long into the moonlit night. No one person can do it alone. A reinvention like this takes collaborative brainstorming and a willingness to open yourself to supportive vulnerability. The end product will be well worth the creative endeavor. 

Throwing aside socialized perceptions and embracing creative endeavors can be daunting, but just as A Midsummer showed us something new and magical might just be created in the end. Perhaps a societal amend.
Additional Cast
Todd Hanson - Theseus | Eryn Warne - Hippolyta | Rob Thompson - Egeus| Lily Lenarz-Hooyman - Philostrate | Danny Noyed - Fairy | Kelalani Jankowski - Fairy | Bailey Roth - Fairy | Robby Miller - Fairy | Carley Guthrie - Fairy | Lilly Lenarz-Hooyman - Fairy

Artistic Team
Robert Thompson & Rachel Brady - Associate Directors | CC Keith - Production Stage Manager | Devin Hueffed - Puppet Design & Creation | Max Lazerine - Technical Operator | Cole Benson - Original Music | Will Dziuk - Up & Down Video | Sam Kenknight - Puck's Costume | CC Keith & Logan Bitz Daum - Graphic Design |
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