Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

4 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack,

For this past week our family was given a 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring Sport Edition to review as a family.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

With us having just got back to Tennessee from our annual family vacation in Sacramento, where we reviewed a 2015 Toyota Camry, we decided to lay low this week.

Yet still, Saturday we managed to travel to midtown Nashville to visit the all new Baby+Co.; a spa-like place to give birth, sans the epidural.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

Then on Sunday we decided to trek to Franklin to see the iconic Natchez Parkway Bridge. You nor Mommy had ever been there; whereas I had last summer when I reviewed the 2015 Lexus NX.

While I had the camera rolling as you used the parking lot curb as a balance beam, you stopped in your tracks as you discovered a butterfly that had breathed its final breath.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

You were inspired to give it a proper (yet impromptu) funeral, so we did.

As we were getting ready to leave, after taking some family pictures, you were concerned:

“Where is the food? I thought there were nachos?”

I explained that the name of the place we were at was “Natchez”, not nachos.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We are a family who essentially never goes out to eat; not only because we are vegan/vegetarian and our options are extremely limited, but also because we are Dave Ramsey followers and it’s difficult to justify weekly restaurant money when it could be going to our “new car” fund.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

However, you apparently caught Mommy and me at the perfect moment, because on the drive home Mommy discretely asked me, “Is there somewhere on the way home we might want to stop for lunch?”

Granted, I was happy to oblige; it would save me from dish duty.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We saw a Chili’s coming up on the right. Mommy told me that she recently went to a Chili’s with Grandma and your Aunt Jenny while we were on vacation, and she was surprised how accommodating they were to her vegetarian lifestyle.

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So we turned into the Chili’s parking lot. They were so accommodating to my vegan and your and Mommy’s vegetarian requirements, that they actually had a whole page for “dietary restrictions” on their kiosk on the table.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

I’ll keep that in mind the next time we’re on a road trip…

Of course, I made a fun video about all this so you could see it all; along with my super catch jingle I made up, “Come along, in an Avalon…”

You and I also made a walk around video for the Avalon…

And of course I made a video for your 1st day of Pre-K, which also featured the car as well…

So it looks like even on a “lay low” week, we still managed to have a lot of fun!

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

A few weeks ago, Cast Iron Productions reached out to our family about the possibility of us being in a brand-new show on NBC, called The Family Project.

I have to admit, I feel honored that they chose us because A) they found our family simply because of my blog, which makes me very happy about my SEO, and B) because they said we seem like a really fun family based on what they saw on my blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog.

After an email exchange, a phone interview, then a 2 hour Skype interview with our family, we were told we were good material for the show.

They liked specifically that we are a Christian, vegan/vegetarian family who doesn’t believe in spanking and who lives by an extremely enforced “Dave Ramsey” budget and who keeps our home spotlessly clean and who doesn’t own smart phones.

As far as what the show is about, here’s my best understanding:

It sounds like the concept of Wife Swap and The Real World combined. Instead of 2 polar opposite families swapping the wives in each family, it sounds like The Family Project will combine all the family members of both households in the same house.

They were clear with me that we would still have to work jobs, but it would be whatever my wife and I consider our “dream jobs”. As for me, that would mean full time blogging and making videos for my YouTube channel.

We had a lot of fun during the Skype interview, but I do have good reason to believe that ultimately, NBC will not be officially choosing us:

I was very clear with the casting agency that we have a complete Libertarian approach when it comes to our lifestyle:

In other words, we have no desire to enforce our beliefs on others. Therefore, I seriously doubt a camera crew would be able to get a rise out of me, which typically makes for “good reality TV.”

After all, conflict and chaos serves as the fuel of reality TV. From there, the audience watching is subconsciously prompted to pass judgment, thinking to themselves, “At least I’m not as crazy as that person!”

If one of the parents of the other family in the house tried to get me to debate with them on why we are vegans/vegetarians or Christians or why we won’t spank our child or why we live by a super strict budget, I simply wouldn’t argue back.

I am a man who is completely confident and secure in my beliefs. I have no desire to seek confirmation from anyone else.

While I’m always happy to explain any parts of our lifestyle, I back off the moment the other person thinks I am defending myself.

I have nothing to defend.

And I especially have no reason to argue with a non-Christian. Jesus didn’t argue with or try to fiercely convert those who were close-minded to His teaching.

Instead, He said time and time again, “Whoever has ears, let him hear.”

In other words, His teachings were meant for those who were listening; not those who tried to heckle him or prove him wrong.

I am a man who is completely confident and secure in my beliefs. I have no desire to seek confirmation from anyone else.

Where would the drama be in a reality show episode like that? Where is the conflict and chaos?

The only thing I can think of is to “try to get the Christians to crack” after being so irritated by the other family’s opposing “annoying” habits.

I’m not saying that’s impossible, but as Christians, our role isn’t to judge, but to serve others.

So I’m thinking, if their dirty dishes in the sink got in the way of our family making our own vegan meals, then we should probably help them out with their dishes.

Why would NBC pick us at this point? Yes, we’re a fun (and interesting) family; and yes, we have a different lifestyle compared to the American mainstream, I would assume.

But we have nothing to prove… or to defend… or to be offended by.

I have a feeling that just like with Steve Harvey and Katie Couric, when they approached me a couple of years ago about being on their shows, only to never call me back after they realized I wouldn’t argue with other guests on the show about my beliefs, that The Family Project will air without the Shell family.

Even still, I’m very curious to check the show out when it premieres in a few months!

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

Photos by Aimee Cornelius.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Through Video (Nashville Location)

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

It definitely was an honor this week when Baby+Co. invited me to come check out their new facility in Nashville, which just opened a couple of weeks ago.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

They sought me out, knowing that based on the content of Family Friendly Daddy Blog, I am passionate about… keeping things real.

When my wife had our son nearly 5 years ago, she went through a midwife at Vanderbilt. Coincidentally, the Clinical Director of the Nashville Baby+Co., Margaret Buxton, who you’ll see in both of my videos below, actually was the one who delivered my son.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

Our family visited the new Nashville Baby+Co. facility yesterday in the 2015 Toyota Avalon we are reviewing.

Once we got there, I kept the camera rolling. I wanted to make the most useful videos I could for curious people of YouTube.

As a YouTuber myself, I know the importance of making walk through videos, walk around videos, and unboxing videos.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

So I made a walk through video, with Margaret Buxton giving “you” the tour. Here it is:

 

Being the Millennial (Generation Y, born 1981-1997) I am, I showed up to Baby+Co. without a specific game plan; a life habit that so far, that has seemed to work out for me.

I sat down with Margaret Buxton CNM, DNP to ask 10 frequently asked questions. The goal was to help other people to know whether Baby+Co. is right for them and to help them know what sets Baby+Co. apart from hospitals.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

In this FAQs video below, you will see me ask the following 10 questions:

  1. How do I know Baby+Co. is right for me?
  2. Is it safe to have a baby outside of a hospital?
  3. How is a birthing center different from a hospital?
  4. What does a hospital have than Baby+Co. doesn’t?
  5. What is one-to-one care?
  6. How much does this cost?
  7. Where are the prenatal appointments?
  8. What do the classes consist of?
  9. Where are the Baby+Co. locations?
  10. What is the vision of Baby+Co.?

 

I love it that for our generation, we have other options now; including the way we choose to do childbirth.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

By the way, it would be an understatement to say that the facility is like a spa. So elegant.

Below is the link to the website for Nashville’s Baby+Co.

http://nashville.babyandcompany.com/

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

Our family had so much fun visiting the new place! I hope you enjoy these pictures and my videos… and my little jingle I wrote for Baby+Co. as well.

And thanks for reading!

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

Dear Jack: Your 1st Day of Pre-K at Rainbow Child Care Center

4 years, 9 months.

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Dear Jack,

Last week while our family was on vacation in California, your preschool Rainbow Child Care Center opened its new Pre-K classroom.

So this Tuesday was your first day of Pre-K. I put together this little 90 second video from that morning as I dropped you off.

As you can see from the video, we have a 2015 Toyota Avalon this week which I am reviewing, so I decided to include it in the video. After all, the fancy car ride there was a big part of your 1st day of Pre-K.

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I mentioned a few weeks ago that I don’t feel that you’re growing up way too fast. Instead, I feel you’re growing up at the right speed.

It makes sense it my head that you’re nearly 5 years old and are just a year away from staring Kindergarten. And I think you feel the same way. You seem proud to be big boy.

Speaking of your new Pre-K classroom, here’s the video you and I made together a few weeks about it:

When we came back from California this week and checked the mail, you had received your prize money from winning 2nd place in the Williamson County Fair Lego Competition.

Dear Jack: You Won 2nd Place in the County Lego Competition!

Mommy took you to go spend your $20 earnings. You purchased a $15 toy: the Hot Wheels Snap Rides Truck and Trailer.

It’s something you’ve been talking about for weeks. You love getting to build your own vehicles.

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This whole time I thought you would end up spending your prize money on more Legos, but it also makes sense that you’d buy cars you can build as well.

As we get settled back in from vacation this week, I’ll be working on several more videos and pictures from California.

We had a lot of fun! I can’t wait to share!

Love,

Daddy

pk3

Preventing My Own Inevitable Death

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I’m constantly aware of all the ways that today could be my last day alive… each and every day.

So instead of sweeping those thoughts under the rug, I welcome them and keep my self aware of them, as doing so make me more prepared for them.

And by being more prepared for them, I can do a better job of preventing my own inevitable death; instead of just hoping I win the “long, healthy life lottery.”

Statistically, a car accident would likely be the easiest way for me to “slip into eternity”; as I have a 45 minute commute to work everyday in fast-paced Nashville traffic.

But I do what I can. While I’m driving, I always wear my seat belt, I stay off the phone, and I keep the radio’s volume at a low enough level.

I am aware that if I do my part, and pray daily for God to keep our family safe, then I’m doing everything I can in my control to prevent my inevitable death.

So that brings me to my next most likely way to go: heart disease or cancer.

I feel that the more I listen to men who are around age 50 talk, I hear phrases like “open heart surgery” and “stomach staple surgery” and “all my medications.”

So while my vegan lifestyle, which includes running and mountain biking, may sound extreme, I would say the other things awaiting me if I don’t live this way now are actually more extreme.

Granted, I’m only 34, so I still have some time before my body really becomes susceptible to going on “auto pilot to self destruction.”

But the way I see it, I actually do have a decent amount of control over my ultimately preventable death.

It could all end today, or tomorrow, for me- I realize that. However, I choose to focus on the parts I do have control over; not the other way around.

I don’t want to work hard my whole life, only to get cancer the moment I retire. I want the quality of my life to good the whole way through; not have to hurry up and try to fix things once it may be too late.

In the end, I won’t have any regrets about my crazy vegan lifestyle if it means I get to spend another healthy day with my family.

I’m Not “A Pretty Good Person”

I'm Not "A Pretty Good Person"

Last Sunday morning, while on family vacation in Sacramento, I decided to get up “early” and go to the little old Presbyterian church there in my mother-in-law’s neighborhood.

For the 8 years I’ve been coming here each summer, I was always curious about that place. So I showed up in shorts, loafers, and a checkered button down shirt.

I appreciate how I can just arrive at a church filled with strangers, yet we all have an understanding of what we have in common; even though they’ve never seen me before.

Something I’ve gained a better understanding of over the years is that my current place in life typically illustrates the words of the Bible and the pastor’s sermon.

While he spoke about Jesus’s parable of the Prodigal Son, the main theme I took away was this:

We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. We are not good enough on our own.

This is actually a boldly countercultural statement. I’ve learned that most people who are not Christians will typically and quickly summarize why they don’t need to believe in Jesus as the Son of God:

“I’m a pretty good person. I’m not an ax murderer or anything.”

But Christianity teaches the opposite:

I am not a pretty good person. My pride and selfish thoughts alone are enough to keep me from being a “good person”, as they serve as evidence I was born with a sinful nature. Therefore, I need God’s salvation from myself, if nothing else; because my nature creates spiritual distance between God and myself.

But “the church of mainstream secular America”, by default, believes that if you’re a “pretty good person” then you don’t really need God.

So for a person to quickly and openly admit they’re not a “pretty good person,” it’s definitely countercultural.

The irony is that a stereotype of Christians is that they are “holier than though”; in other words, self-righteous and judgmental.

For the record, let me be clear. I am completely aware that I am not perfect. I am corrupted.

How can I judge anyone else when I am too distracted with the plank in my own eye?

I am not better than anyone; and if I ever think I am, then I am living in open rebellion against everything Jesus taught His followers.

Christianity is definitely offensive, though. If for no other reason, because it casts all of us in the same boat:

None of us are “pretty good people”. It’s only by setting aside our prideful thoughts of “I’m a pretty good person” that we can begin to learn what Jesus came to teach us.

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5 Reasons Why Inside Out is the More Feminine Version of Big Hero 6

I love both Inside Out and Big Hero 6. I highly recommend them both.

5 Reasons Why Inside Out is the More Feminine Version of Big Hero 6

But I couldn’t help but notice the similarites between the 2 movies. Generically, I would say that Inside Out is a little more feminine in that it’s ultimate a psychological thriller featuring a girl as the main character; contrasted to Big Hero 6, which is an action movie featuring a boy as the protagonist.

I feel so strongly about my theory that I figured it was worth sharing with the world, in the convenient package of 5 reasons Inside Out is the more feminine version of Big Hero 6.

  1. Both movies are made by Disney: Inside Out is Disney/Pixar; Big Hero 6 is Disney/Marvel.
  2. Both movies take place in San Francisco, which is a big part of the action.
  3. Both movies feature a sensitive, yet gender flexible protagonist. Inside Out‘s 11 year-old Riley is a hockey playing girl. In Big Hero 6, Hiro is a 14 year-old an artistic (not athletic) boy. Inside Out isn’t a girl movie, though I would imagine girls would choose to see it over Big Hero 6; and vice versa
  4. Both movies feature a team of 6 individuals who ultimately save the day. In Inside Out, the 6 are Riley (the protagonist herself), along with her 5 emotions: Joy, Sadnes, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. In Big Hero 6, the 6 are Hiro (the main character himself) along with Baymax, Fred, GoGo, Wasabi, and Honey Lemon.
  5. Both movies contain a lovable beast-like character who must sacrifice his own life in order to save everyone else: In Inside Out, it’s Bing Bong. In Big Hero 6, it’s Baymax.

While I’m sure I could come up with more similarities, those are the first 5 that came to mind. Do you agree with my analysis?

I feel that both movies are gender flexible, yet serve as an equal answer to each other.

Also, if you found any other similarities, feel free to share them.