Dear Jack: You Subliminally Taught Your Sister to Ask for Chips at Starbucks

7 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

There has been an unspoken rule in our family for years now:

When we go out as a family to run errands in the car, Mommy is always going to ask me, “Coffee?”

That’s her way of saying she wants to go to Starbucks. I always say yes; knowing that I might as well enjoy a cold brew.

And if Mommy and I are getting coffee, you know that you can ask for a snack:

“Can I get a croissant?”

And the answer is always yes:

“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? -Matthew 7:9

So after quietly watching that scenario play out weekend after weekend, your sister decided it was her time to join in on the action.

As our family made our way to the Nashville Sounds baseball game a couple of weeks ago, as we pulled up to the drive-through at Starbucks, you said the magic words:

“Can I get a croissant?”

Without missing a beat, your sister immediately jumped in:

“Chips?…”

It was equally amazing and hilarious how she already had a prepared request. She knew the place, she knew the cue, and she even knew the specific yet seemingly random food she wanted while the gettin’ was good.

However, you suggested to her that she get a croissant instead. In your experience and wisdom, you knew she might want some of yours once she saw it.

That was a good call. Both of you ended up with your own personal croissant.

I couldn’t help but notice though, she completely downloaded hers by the time you had taken the third bite of yours.

Well, I guess now it will be no surprise what will happen the time next our family ends up at Starbucks:

There will be two simultaneous requests:

“Croissant?…”

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Holly: You and Mommy are My Beautiful, Lovely Ladies

2 years, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

Last week, one morning before Mommy left for work, I snapped a picture of her holding you. Though I see the two of you in person every day, there was something about seeing you both in that photograph, which reminded me of what I already know:

Half of the population of our household consists of beautiful, lovely ladies.

While your brother and I serve as the court jesters and the adventure enthusiasts, it is you and Mommy who bring a necessary sense of elegance to our home.

That’s not to say that your brother and I don’t inevitably influence you to appreciate things like the Incredible Hulk; that on your own, you might not naturally gravitate towards.

In fact, I have you convinced that your class pet, a dwarf hamster named Gus Gus, drives a big pick-up truck. Each morning as I’m dropping you off at your school, you now have a routine and verifying with me:

“Gus Gus drive truck.”

You’re asking me…. but you’re also telling me. I always assure you that indeed, Gus Gus drives a truck. Admittedly, I’m confused on some of the logistics on how that could be true. Maybe sort of an updated version of Ralph S. Mouse…

But you know what a truck is. You know what a Jeep is. And you know that those are desired vehicles to be driven by humans and/or dwarf hamsters.

Still though, our boyish influence on you is ultimately to serve as irony against the naturally girly ways that you and Mommy so effortless display.

I just don’t see it in the cards for you to be a tom boy.

Instead, you’re a girly girl who has an appreciation for Marvel and Star Wars related characters. But I’m pretty sure you’d still choose Peppa Pig over Chewbacca.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: In 3 Weeks’ Time, You Watched All 50 Episode of Disney’s Bunk’d for the 1st Time

7 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

We began our recent two week-long family vacation in northern California by staying a few nights in a cabin in Truckee, which is just a 25 minute drive from Lake Tahoe. Whenever we travel, you discreetly take advantage of the fact that I tend to let you get away with binge watching The Disney Channel.

It was then and there you were introduced to a summer camp-themed kids’ show called Bunk’d.

By the 5th episode, you had already memorized all the words to the opening theme song and were singing along.

When I was kid, the summer camp-themed show for kids to watch was Salute Your Shorts or even Hey Dude. But for your generation, it’s definitely Bunk’d.

I think the fact we were staying up in the mountains of California only reinforced the concept of the show. We even ended up going out on pedal boat on Lake Tahoe, thanks to your insisting on it.

Could that notion have been inspired by the adventures you had been seeing on Bunk’d? I submit that it was.

By the time we got back to Grandma’s house where we stayed for most of our 2 weeks, you were able to continue watching your new favorite show each day on her TV.

Meanwhile, back at our home in Tennessee where we only have the free channels that came bundled with our Internet, you discovered that Bunk’d is on Netflix!

Needless to say, you spent all of your designated screen time on finishing every episode you didn’t already see in California. Apparently, you watched 50 episodes of Bunk’d in about 3 weeks’ time.

But never fear, it just so happened that the newest season of Bunk’d, Season 3, recently premiered. So give it until Christmas vacation, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to watch the entire new season before you even get a chance to open the presents.

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Holly: That Week You Refused to Take Off Your Brother’s Captain America Mask

2 years, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

It was a typical evening. Mommy picked you and your brother up from summer day camp. I had just driven back home from work.

As I began to help Mommy prep dinner, your brother mentioned something about taking you upstairs to see something.

Ten minutes later, I looked up to see that he had brought you back down, but decked out in his Captain America mask from his Halloween costume 3 years ago, with the accompanying shield.

You didn’t say a word, but I could tell it was important to you that I recognized that you were now Captain America.

Then during breakfast the next morning, I stepped into the kitchen to realize you were wearing the mask again; refusing to take it off while you ate breakfast.

A little bit later as Mommy was getting ready to leave for work, you added Mommy’s slippers to your superhero outfit. It somehow made sense.

This week will be remembered as the week you refused to take off your brother’s Captain America mask. And actually, your commitment to your superhero outfit actually inspired your brother:

He has been making some serious plans about making his return as an actor on YouTube again. Your brother asked me, “Hey Daddy, do you think when Holly’s a little older, we could do Jack-Man videos again?”

I instantly assured him that we could make our own superhero videos now if he wanted to.

But after he thought about it, your brother decided that instead of reprising the titular character of the 22 episode series, Jack-Man, he would like to try writing his own series.

So if this ends up really happening, I will be making the video, and he’ll be writing and starring in it. He’s also having Mommy look into buying him a lizard costume for it.

We’ll see where thing things goes. If it’s mean to be, it’ll be…

Love,

Daddy

Today is Our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

As of today, my wife and I have been married 10 years. Admittedly, that is a fact I am very proud of, as it is an honor to be married to this woman.

I am even more in love with her now than I was on July 5, 2008.

That’s something I can honestly say. Because over the course of the past decade, we have both evolved as individuals, while at the same time we have chosen to grow together in the same direction.

Therefore, I can now appreciate who she is as a person more than I could 10 years ago. We have made “happily ever after” our daily choice.

It helps that my wife is full of grace. I think that was an underlying trait of hers that I always knew that attracted me to her.

Now at age 37, with the life experience of 10 years of marriage, and 7 and a half as a parent, I have undeniably evolved.

I can’t see how a man could go from bachelor to married man and then father, over the course of a decade, without being forced to change for the better; as he is stripped away of his sense of selfishness, and trades it in for selflessness.

Back in 2008, at age 27, I knew so little about adulthood and how the world actually worked.

As I recently mentioned, the search for wisdom, truth, and meaning ends with life’s responsibilities; including marriage, children, and a mortgage.

I am not the same person I was a decade ago; neither is my wife.

With each passing decade ahead, I know we will continue to evolve as individuals, as well as together.

We knew each other for 4 months before we started dating, then dated for for a 11 months before we became engaged (nearly half of that time she was overseas in Australia serving as a nanny), then were engaged for 5 months before we got married.

And now 10 years have passed.

That is our story so far. We’ve got the rest of our lives to figure out what comes next.

The Search for Wisdom, Truth, and Meaning Ends with Life’s Responsibilities; Including Marriage, Children, and a Mortgage (Or, “I Used to Be a Lot More Fun, Yet Self-Centered and Emotionally Needy”)

As my 20th high school reunion is coming up in less than a year, I think it’s funny how certain people probably remember me as a person I no longer am; for better or worse.

Sure, I used to be a lot more fun back before I was so well immersed in all my current responsibilities. But I also know for a fact that I used to let a lot of things bother me that I no longer do.

One of the least favorite years of my life was when I was 20 years old, back in 2001. And no, it wasn’t necessarily because that was the year of the September 11th attacks. It was because, at the time, my identity as an adult was still forming.

I was finishing up community college, before transferring to Liberty University where I would get my English degree. I had a part-time job as the supervisor of an after-school program. I was a Junior High Sunday School teacher and youth leader at my hometown church. And I was single.

Back then, I was still on a noble quest for things like wisdom, truth, and meaning in life.

Fast forward to present day: I’m 37, I have been married for 10 years (as of next Thursday), I have 2 kids, and I have a full time office job in the Nashville area; in addition to my 4 side hustle jobs that also generate income (this blog, doing SEO for a major university, and 2 YouTube channels).

My wife and I are on a passionate mission to pay off our mortgage early, as we’ve been otherwise debt-free for many years now; including no car payments. We are very inspired to outsmart the system of having to work our entire adult lives just to pay interest to the bank for our home loan.

That’s where I’m at in life.

So honestly, I can’t remember the last time I thought about searching for wisdom, truth, or meaning. I don’t need to.

By default, I get my daily share of wisdom, truth, and meaning through all of my many responsibilities in life; as a married father of 2, with a total of 5 income-generating jobs.

It may seem a bit anticlimactic or unromantic, but responsibility is the answer to trying to find wisdom, truth, and meaning.

Nashville-Based Vegan Daddy Blogger Takes His Family of 4 to the First Tennessee Park to See the Nashville Sounds Play Baseball, By Nick Shell

Just a few days after returning from our 2 week-long family vacation to northern California, including Lake Tahoe, we went to our first baseball game, as a family of four.

Here in Nashville, the home time is the Nashville Sounds. We got to finally check out the new stadium, which is called First Tennessee Park.

Back in April, I was invited by Toyota to go on an all expenses paid road trip across Florida to check out the MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League. That’s where I got my personalized Braves jersey with my last name on the back. Aren’t I cool?

I figured this Nashville sounds game was the most appropriate time to wear it. Turns out, I was one of many wearing a Braves jersey.

My kids easily had a great time, as there was much excitement in the air. Things got especially interesting when my son got his picture take with Booster the Hot Chicken, who serves as the official new mascot of the Nashville Sounds.

Because in case you didn’t know it, Nashville has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years over our city’s famous “Nashville hot chicken“.

Granted, there’s some irony in that my wife and kids are vegetarian and I’m a vegan, so we’ve never eaten Nashville hot chicken.

Or on second thought, maybe it makes even more sense for my son to hug a giant chicken…

Needless to say, our dinner at the Nashville Sounds game consisted of vegan burgers.

In addition to watching the game, you can also play miniature golf or corn hole. And of course, only in Nashville is the scoreboard and JumboTron a giant guitar!

I’m glad our family go to experience the Nashville Sounds game at their new stadium. We really do live in such a cool town.