Dear Holly: Do You Realize We Have Different Sized Feet?

1 year, 7 months.

Dear Holly,

Throughout the day with you at the house, it is necessary for me to at least straighten up the house as we go along; from each activity you choose. This past week, you have been entertaining yourself in the meantime by taking it upon yourself to go get my shoes from the closet, carefully put them on, then walk around the kitchen in them.

And it’s not something you did just one time. Instead, this has now become a daily routine.

The moment you see me cleaning up the table after you had a messy breakfast consisting of yogurt and oatmeal, which you insist on feeding yourself with no help from Daddy, you quietly retreat to my shoes.

It’s funny because 10 minutes or so can pass, and the whole time, without me giving you confirmation of what you’re doing, I will look over the counter and catch you meticulously working to put my shoes on.

Once you’ve got them both on, you then make your way over to me, with such a cute little smile on your face.

I’m not sure you realize that we have such different sized feet- and therefore, that my shoes are ridiculously over-sized on you.

You figure that our whole family should just be able to share each other’s shoes; even though you have the tiniest feet in the house and I have the biggest.

It’s great that you are able to find such intriguing entertainment in wearing my shoes. I have to admit- you’re pretty easy to entertain.

Sure, you like your dolls and their baby stroller, but it’s like Daddy’s shoes are just as much fun!

You make my job as a stay-at-dad pretty easy. Not only can I get a little bit of housework done, but I also get free entertainment as well!

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: Carving the Halloween Jack-o’-lantern for the Thanksgiving/Hike at DeSoto Falls with Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca

7 years.

Dear Jack,

After having ventured to Gentry’s Farm to get our family’s pumpkin to carve for Halloween, we just didn’t get around to actually carving it in time. So we took it to Nonna and Papa’s nearly a month after Halloween… for the wrong holiday.

Papa then built a bonfire in the backyard to extend the feeling of pumpkin carving season.

Since your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca were visiting from Pensacola, we also spent part of Thanksgiving break to introduce them to DeSoto Falls; not that far from where I grew up.

I’m fortunate to be from such a cool outdoorsy town (Fort Payne, Alabama), as it is not the average hometown to spend the holidays in. I was very proud to be able to entertain your aunt and uncle by showing them the giant waterfall up on the mountain.

It’s especially neat because we were able to get pretty close to the water, but kept from certain danger thanks to some guard rails.

While we were enjoying the views, we looked up and saw a few drones flying above us. I imagine it must be an awesome place to fly one around; as long as it doesn’t get caught in the rapids.

I have to assume in a just a few years, you’ll be asking for a drone for your birthday or Christmas, as compared to just Pokemon cards like you are currently obsessed with.

Turns out, your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca enjoyed their Thanksgiving visit so much, they decided to drive back up from Florida again for Christmas- and this time they are bringing their teenage daughter who you enjoyed spending time with at Uncle Jake’s wedding in San Diego last year.

Whatever we all end up doing during our 5 days in Alabama for Christmas, I know we’re all going to have a great time!

Love,

Daddy

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: What I Eat During the Day, As a Vegan

The thought seemed intimidating when I was first immediately launched into my new career as stay-at-home dad:

“But what will I eat?”

Turns out, the answer was simple. I eat the same stuff I ate every day back when I commuted nearly an hour away to an office; only minus the oatmeal with trail mix and a banana.

I eat a little less because I am a little less hungry, and I suppose that might have something to do with the fact I’m not getting outside to exercise as much. When I worked at the office, I took my breaks walking or biking or running outside; as for now, I have an 18 month-old daughter and cold or hot weather to consider.

My calorie consumption begins each morning with a cup of instant organic iced coffee. (Honestly, it’s only 2 calories; but I’m not counting!) The entire container only costs about $5, the same amount of just one Starbucks latte.

While I could opt for the unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the fridge to add some flavor and creaminess, somehow along the way I discovered I genuinely like the taste of cold, black coffee.

But I do bring out the unsweetened vanilla almond milk about an hour later for my official breakfast, which is the manly vegan smoothie I invented. My recipe is high in protein and total fat, but contains very little saturated fat and zero cholesterol.

The ingredients, in addition to the almond milk: A whole banana, a cup of frozen blueberries, a half cup of plain oatmeal, a teaspoon of chia seeds, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or carob powder, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Then I put that all together in the blender for about 20 seconds.

My lunch is quite predictable for me as well. There’s a brand of organic ramen noodle available at Whole Foods and Sprouts, called Koyo. They are around a dollar a package, and I cook 2 of them for my lunch. They are also high in protein, like my smoothie. I typically go with the “low sodium” version, but if it’s not available, I don’t let it bother my conscience: I usually consume under my daily allowance of sodium, since I don’t eat meat.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I may go for another cup of coffee, but I’m typically not really hungry after having consumed so much protein and good fats earlier in the day.

Depending on what’s for dinner, I may start prepping for when my wife and son get home. What’s really great is when my wife has already put together a crock pot meal the day before and placed it in the fridge. I can have that heating up during the afternoon so it will be ready for dinner. Plus, I can throw together a festive salad.

If I do stray from my ramen noodles routine for lunch, it’s only to finish off any leftovers from the night before, like my wife’s homemade vegan pizza; and maybe a bowl of cereal as well.

And consider, this meal plan is coming from a guy who said most of his life, “I got to have meat! I need more meat! I’m still hungry. I could never be a vegetarian. I couldn’t do it. Especially not a vegan!”

Obviously, there was dynamic character growth in the person narrating this story.

But I have embraced my identity as a manly vegan; and here more recently, as a stay-at-home dad as well.

3 Non-Romantic Reasons I Love My Wife

On the surface, it’s easy to see why I chose to spend the rest of my life with the woman I married over 9 years ago. She’s universally beautiful, she’s unselfishly kind, and she’s humble yet confident in herself.

I am a lucky man. I have the ability of knowing in all confidence, I made the right decision.

Not only did I choose the right person to marry, but I made the right decision that fateful night of October 5, 2006, when I spotted her in a crowded room full of hundreds of people and decided to take a chance: I walked up to her and attempted to woo her with my interesting stories, my charming, yet off-beat personality, and my average looks.

It worked.

Now here we are in our mid-30s, having been married nearly a decade, and having produced two blue-eyed, Dutch-looking children despite our DNA.

So while I could easily write 841 words on the romantic aspects of how much I love my wife, I’m instead going to take a different direction. What about the non-romantic reasons I love her?

What about the reasons that would be symbolized not by a heart emoji, but instead, by a house or a stack of money, or by a clock or even a skull?

If for no other reason than to challenge myself as a writer, I now present to you 3 non-romantic reasons I love my wife.

  1. We make a good business team.

I feel like this isn’t emphasized when a couple becomes engaged, but marriage is a business, and it needs to be ran that way. The longer we are married, the better we become at running our family’s business.

During our first year of marriage, before kids, we were able to pay for my wife to go get her Master’s Degree, without going into further debt. That investment paid off, as my wife has since then, consistently made considerably more money than I have all these years. My wife also handles our family’s weekly budget.

On my end, I have been faithfully building my experience as a writer (thanks to this blog) since 2009, and as a YouTuber for the past 3 years. Now at present day, we are seeing the possibility that my “side hustles” (as a blogger, ghostwriter, SEO expert, social media influencer, and YouTuber) are starting to pay off. I actually speculate that by January 2019, our monthly mortgage payment will be covered from my YouTube earnings alone.

My wife is the detailed accountant and investor. I am the creative entrepreneur. Together, we run a family business.

            2. We make a good parenting team.

In the same way we are counterparts as co-business owners, we function the same way as parents. My wife is the nurturer, the schedule keeper, the travel planner, the head chef, and the laundry engineer.

Meanwhile, I am the disciplinarian, the head of communication, the chauffeur, the before-and-after school program director, and the “wake up at any hour of the night to get our daughter back to sleep” technician.

We are not great at doing each other’s roles. Instead, we embrace our individual parenting strengths as part of our own identities. We’ve got a good system. And we’ve got good kids.

Whereas I see marriage as a business, I see parenting as a talent management agency. We have two young recruits who we are responsible for molding into respectable and independent adults, preparing them for the real world.

        3. I want to be around her even during the predictable, seemingly uneventful, non-                          Facebook-status-worthy moments of life.

For me, it all comes back to the famous line in our wedding vows: for better or for worse.

Yeah, I’m totally cool with slowly aging alongside my wife for the next 40 years as we live happily ever after, until ultimately one of us finally dies first, leaving the other person with the insurance money- and unimaginable sadness.

But what about the in-between of better or worse? Not everyday can be a Michael Bublé song. Many days are more like Huey Lewis, when he sang, “Yes, it’s true, I’m so happy to be stuck with you.”

I love my wife for the moments in our life together that are just normal and forgettable; the B-roll footage that no one would care about watching if our lives were a reality TV show on TLC, called Our Crazy Vegetarian Life. Being grateful for your spouse through all the filler moments, which honestly, make up most of our time on this planet, is what real love is all about.

So maybe I’ve failed to hold true to the title of this article. Maybe there really is something romantic about building a life together, running it like a business, creating and raising mini-me’s, and choosing to love a person until the day you die, even if most of those days don’t have fireworks and champagne.

Maybe there’s something undeniably romantic about the unromantic parts of loving the person you married.

If so, consider me a hopeless romantic.

Photo credit: Mohamad Alaw.

About the Author:

I am an accidental stay-at-home vegan daddy blogger based in Spring Hill, Tennessee. I have no spare time, but by default, my hobbies include playing guitar, singing, songwriting, mountain biking, skateboarding, running, and going on road trips across America with my family in vehicles that Toyota and Lexus provide for free because it’s smart advertising for them.

Additionally, I enjoy making videos for both of my YouTube channels: Nick Shell, which is a mentorship program for younger men who are psychologically dealing with going bald, and Family Friendly Daddy Blog, which celebrates and explores ethnic diversity based on DNA test results.

Dear Jack: You are the Student of the Month for Your Class for December 2018

7 years.

Dear Jack,

Mommy and I were very proud when we learned this week that you were awarded Student of the Month.

I have this way of forgetting that you live in a completely different society for 7 hours each day. You interact with kids your own age and have independent conversations that I am unaware of.

In the meantime, you are learning from your teacher all day long. You live in a foreign land for nearly a third of each day, Monday through Friday.

I tend to forget about this; that you have to manage and maneuver. You have to take care of yourself.

So sure, it makes me proud to know that my son can do all these things, and on top of that, be recognized by his teacher for being exceptional.

Just yesterday morning I was telling you, before you sister woke up, how you are an especially smart kid; smarter than I was.

I told you how you are going to be successful in whatever you grow up to do. While the words seemed to just fly over you, I hope that some part of that sunk in to your identity.

I’m sure it’s a universal thing as a parent, to strive for your child to have it even better than you did.

It’s not that I doubt myself, as your Daddy. And it’s not that I need anyone’s confirmation that I’m a good parent or that you’re a good kid.

But when you come home from school with an award like this, it’s definitely a bonus; it’s a nice feeling.

You can go out into the world each day, absent from my guidance, and do just fine.

I tell you often that I am proud of you. Maybe it means less coming from me so regularly.

But you definitely give me reason to feel that way.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Having a Big Brother is Pretty Great

1 year, 6 months.

Dear Holly,

This past Monday morning after Mommy left for work, your brother invited you to join him on the couch, as it happened to be one of his days he’s allowed to watch Netflix on the Kindle before school. To accommodate what he correctly assumed would be your preference, he chose some kind of “Barbie Goes to Space” cartoon.

I looked up to see you and your brother sitting very close to each other, by choice. It was completely your brother’s idea and you immediately went along with it.

It’s not easy as a parent to be able to take your picture together and have you both smiling or looking happy. But this wasn’t for a picture. It was already happening and I was just fortunate enough to grab the camera in time.

Plus, you just happened to be wearing one of my favorite shirts you own.

It has a cloud raining down smiley candy. I just love the way you were cuddled up so close to your brother, quietly fascinated by whatever was playing on the screen your brother was holding.

I love the way he was more interested in being close to you than he was the Barbie show he was providing for you.

The thing is, your brother truly always wants to be near you. But right now, I am still in the process of helping him understand how to just hang out with you.

I am trying to teach him there is a time for light wrestling and crawling out on the carpet, but it’s not most of the time.

Instead, most of the time would be moments like this; where the two of you just chill out and lay low.

Eventually, the two of you will find that easier to do.

But for now, his natural inclination is to rush toward you like a mad bull, and you laugh and cheer, which only encourages his rambunctious behavior right before school, dinner, or bedtime.

Love,

Daddy

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: Trick Your Kids into Eating Store Brand Cereal by Switching the Boxes

After my “drinking and driving” incident at the grocery store, I arrived home and took my Eggnog Latte-infused daughter upstairs for her afternoon nap. Then it was time to put away the groceries, which were still in the back of the car.

My wife had clearly written “Cheerios” on the scavenger hunt list, but after seeing I could easily save three dollars by buying the store brand, I did the right moral thing.

Sure, I personally would prefer the real version, but I also would prefer to save three dollars more than the classic perfect taste of that General Mills goodness.

As I was about to make room for the Kroger version of Cheerios in the pantry, I noticed there was only a little bit left of the actual Cheerios still in the bag. I learned at the grocery store that my daughter already has brand recognition with that yellow box.

So I emptied the remaining few ounces of the real Cheerios out of the bag and poured them into the fake Cheerios bag. Then, I placed that entire mixed bag into the actual Cheerios box.

The next several days will serve as a proving grounds, as to whether my daughter will know the difference. If this works, I will feel very accomplished.

This will be a major win.

If it doesn’t work, I’ll have a disappointed, intuitive little girl who will call me out on my bluff without; being able to necessarily legitimately say the words.

She will likely scold me with, “Dad-da Cheer-cheer, no no Cheer cheer!”

Either way, with pride, I shall embrace my identity as the cheap dad who takes just a little bit of the fun out of life, for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Why have Cheerios when you can have Toasted Oats?