Dear Holly: The Pink Unicorn Your Brother Won for You at the Fair

1 year, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

Last weekend we made our annual visit to the Williamson County Fair. Your brother Jack had entered an amazing picture of a sheep so we enjoyed seeing it on display. But really, his main agenda was to get over to the carnival games. Thanks to Nonna and Papa being in town, his “game allowance” was a little padded.

While Jack definitely enjoyed throwing darts at balloons and picking up “lucky ducks” in the water, he tried out a new game that was just right for a 1st grader boy. He used a cork gun to shoot green Solo cups off of a shelf. Inside some of the cups were special markings, which determined the value of the prize he would win.

After much consideration of the prizes, he ended up choosing a small white tiger stuffed animal. However, he had earned enough points to win a larger prize instead. But he liked the face of the small one better, so he didn’t mind choosing a less valuable prize; because to him, the smaller tiger was more valuable.

Once the man in charge of the game realized Jack’s decision was final, the man looked up to you in Mommy’s arms and said, “Well, since your brother didn’t take the bigger prize he won, I’m going to let that pretty little girl have a prize too!”

Mommy and I checked out on the prizes available. There was an undeniable, obvious choice…

A pink unicorn!

You were so happy to get your prize. And truly, it’s all because of your brother Jack.

So the way I see it, he won you a prize at the fair. I know that made him happy.

What also made him happy was the samurai sword he won from the “lucky ducks” game.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You’re Back from Summer Vacation 2017 at Nonna and Papa’s

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

This has been the longest amount of time that Mommy and I have spent without you; 10 whole days!

Obviously, we called you on video phone at least once a day, thanks to Facebook messenger. That way, CIA members in Hawaii were also able to catch up on all you’ve done while spending your summer vacation in Alabama.

I say that jokingly (?) because Mommy and I went through the trouble of renting some movies from Redbox while you were gone; Snowden being one of them.

Yes, it was much quieter without you in our house for 10 days, but I have to say, it wasn’t as good. Mommy and I are too accustomed to having a 6 year-old expert inform us of little known facts about dinosaurs and Pokemon.

And obviously, your baby sister kept looking for you the whole time. She kept pointing to your pictures on the wall, doing her best to pronounce your name.

But finally, you got back a week ago and now we can get back to the norm. We missed our little boy!

Speaking of Facebook, Nonna was faithful to keep us posted every couple of hours on whatever fun thing that she and Papa were taking you to do. It became obvious quick that you were not simply just hanging out at their house. No, you were on the move!

You went hiking, to a splash pad, to scrap yard, and to see The Emoji Movie; just to name a few!

Of course, you loved being able to spend time playing with your cousins the whole time as well.

And now the summer has officially come to a close. A week ago you started 1st grade!

Yes, you are now our brilliant 1st grader son. First grade is going to be great.

Love,

Daddy

MyHeritage DNA Test Results are Back… But Do You Agree with the Results?

Either my DNA results from MyHeritage are inaccurate, or what my family has believed this whole time about our ethnicity has been inaccurate.

Currently, I am sort of baffled. I am still sorting out the confusion. My Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo, whose own father arrived in America a hundred years ago from Italy and could only barely speak English when he died in 1983, was Italian.

However, my results from MyHeritage do not remotely reflect my Italian heritage. Instead, the test shows I am literally 0% Italian. I went through the trouble of looking up exactly what countries of origin my DNA traces back to, according to the regions that MyHeritage provided, and removed the countries in which the test showed I have no DNA connection.

Here’s my DNA:

Nick Shell

100.0%

37.4% Central Western European (Germany, The Netherlands/Holland, France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland)

31.8% Iberian (Spain/Portugal)

21.6% Central American (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama)

6.1% Eastern European (Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia)

2.3% Balkan (Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania)

0.8% Middle Eastern (Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan)

0% (England, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, Sardinia, EstoniaLatviaLithuania, Ashkenazi Jewish, Yemenite Jewish, Mizrahi Jewish, Native American, South American, Indigenous Amazonian, African, Asian, Oceanic)

My whole life I have had reason to believe I am one quarter Italian, but I was open-minded to the idea my test would reveal instead of being 25% Italian, maybe I would only be 12.5%, as my great-grandfather Joseph Metallo (the one who came here from Italy) married a woman named Maria Vite; who could have possibly been of French descent, based on vite being a French word.

(That’s my Italian grandfather pictured above on the left; opposite me, with my son.)

However, my great-grandmother also emigrated here from Italy and spoke Italian. Maria “Mary” Vite died at age 38 in the year 1938, so there is definitely some mystery as to her family tree. But even if she was 100% French yet born in Italy, my great-grandfather would have had to been mainly of Spanish or Portuguese descent and his family would have had to at some point adopted Italian names, including their last name, Metallo.

Even if the test was a little inaccurate, I would still think I would show up at least a little bit Italian. After all, Middle Eastern DNA showed up in me, along with Eastern European, but not Italian?

If you’re wondering why I show up as nearly a quarter Central American and nearly a third Spanish (or Portuguese), it’s because my grandmother (who my Italian grandfather was married to) was Mexican.

(This is her, pictured below, being able to meet my daughter.)

That actually brings up another surprise. By quadrupling my Central American DNA, which is 21.6%, that indicates my Mexican grandmother was actually 86.4% Central American, only leaving 13.6% (that’s close to one eighth) to be Spanish. Then, once I subtracted that 13.6% from the Spanish part of me (31.8%), it left 18.2%. I then multiplied that percentage times 4 again, to assume how Spanish my Italian grandfather must have been: 72.8%.

According to my theory, my Mexican grandmother was mainly Central American (barely Spanish) and my Italian grandfather was mainly Spanish (not Italian at all); leaving the rest of him to have been 9.2% Balkan (Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania). That brings my Italian grandfathers DNA up to exactly 82%.

Next I added the 3.2% Middle Eastern he must have been; now totaling 85.2%. That implies the rest of him had to have been Central Western European, which includes French.

This also means, by default, my dad has to be of Spanish descent as well, because there’s still Spanish DNA to be accounted for.

Most of my test makes sense. My last name is Shell, which in German, means “loud and noisy.” So that accounts for some of the 37.4% Central Western European.

But is this test accurate? Is it possible that I am truly not Italian at all? What do you think?

In the meantime, my mom is taking the test too. Being half-Mexican, half-Italian her whole life, I’m curious to know what the test says about her. We should know by October…

American Plastic Toys: Study ‘n Play Desk & Chair and School Bus Ride-On

Since the beginning of the summer, it has been a daily routine that my daughter and I go outside on the back porch and play golf, thanks to American Plastic Toys sending us their outdoor sports equipment for children.

With fall is on its way and now that the new school year has begun, American Plastic Toys sent us some more goodies; this time for inside.

Little Holly now has a little chair and desk for to play on, as she watches her older brother Jack sit down to do his homework after school. And actually, Jack has been using the chair to sit on as he puts on his socks and shoes each morning before we leave for school.

Plus, Little Holly also has a tiny school bus to ride on or push across the floor.

I love seeing her pretend to be a bus driver as she practices getting herself into the seat, and that once she finally is able to, it’s as if she reminds herself, “Hey, wait… I can move this much faster if I just stand behind it and push it!”

Of course, her older brother likes to push her, too. I am amazed at how she is willing to be pushed so fast. Really, she should like going that fast, but she’s all about adventure; so it all works out in the end.

The bus is just the perfect size for her. She has another pushing/riding toy, but this new one is the ideal height for a 15 month-old little girl. It’s also very light, which makes it very easy for her to turn around as she pushes it back and forth from the living room to the kitchen.

And of course, as the name implies, American Plastic Toys are actually made in America! Imagine that.

Dear Jack: Today was Your 1st Day of 1st Grade and You Were More Than Prepared!

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

It was exactly 30 years ago in 1987 that I started 1st grade, with my spikey mullet haircut and my neon shorts and shoes. Meanwhile, you had much better style this morning as Mommy and I sent you off for your first day of 1st grade.

You literally just got back last night after spending 10 days with Nonna and Papa in Alabama. And the very next morning, it was time to start 1st grade. You didn’t even meet your teacher yet, though Mommy and I did earlier this week.

As you and I were in the car this morning, I attempted to help explain where your classroom is in the 1st grade hallway, but you stopped me, “Daddy, I already know where it is.”

And I thought, “But how? How could you know where to go and what to do and what to expect?”

It simply serves as another reminder that you are one confident little boy. I feel like most of my boyhood consisted of me not knowing what to do, no matter where I was or what was going on.

No. Not you.

Even when I dropped you off today, I hugged you and said a little prayer with you, then you smiled and waved. You then immediately joined the other kids in the class.

I sort of walked away backwards to make sure you weren’t looking back for another wave from me.

Nope.

This doesn’t make me sad. This makes me proud.

I love the confidence you have. I have a feeling that years from now when you begin Junior High, it won’t be that awkward for you, the way it definitely was for me.

Here you’ve spent the past 10 days in a different state, then came back only to immediately begin a new school year.

You are one cool kid.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Love Vegan Avocado Toast!

1 year, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

To say you are a picky eater is an understatement. Plus, like me, you have negative reactions to consuming dairy, so I am so happy to see you less dependent on milk for your food throughout the day. Even just since graduating from formula, your skin is looking much better.

Ah, finally- you are munching on food you have to chew.

As you can imagine, with you being born to a vegan father, I am eager to teach you from a very young age, how to get your proteins and fats from plants, like I do; as opposed to believing that protein and fat from animals is necessary in order to healthy, like our government teaches and like most people believe.

So when Mommy introduced you to avocado toast (bread, avocado, vegan butter, salt, pepper), and you actually loved it, I was in my glory. It’s quite typical on Saturday mornings for Mommy and me to have that for breakfast. Sort of on a whim, Mommy steered the avocado toast to your mouth, in the off chance you would actually taste it and try it.

Apparently, you thought it looked similar to the contents of all those organic fruit and veggie pouches we give you. Even though avocado tastes nothing like what you’re used to eating, you immediately went back for a second bite. And a third and a fourth…

Mommy actually had to make you a 2nd entire piece of vegan toast!

With your brother being a big fan of cheese, I know there’s no chance of me convincing him to convert from vegetarian to vegan until at least past his teenage years.

But as you, my dear daughter, I think I might just be able to corrupt you, I mean convince you of a life dependent on nuts and seeds for fat, instead of dairy.

I will keep trying to entice you…

In the meantime, I will make sure you have plenty of access to avocado toast!

Love,

Daddy

I Hope You Weren’t Listening to Anything I Said Before the Age of 34… Because, Yeah, It was Probably Pretty Dumb.

There are certain milestones in one’s life that create a “before and after” point.

Like graduating high school. Graduating college. Getting married. Having your first kid.

By default, life can’t continue on the same way after each of those occurrences. To try to move on with the same mentality after an event such as any of those, well, it’s pretty much pointless.

We are forced to evolve throughout certain points in life. If not, we become irrelevant to society and to ourselves, in the new stage in life we have just entered.

It’s once we start becoming familiar with the new version of ourselves, after being forced to evolve, that it becomes easier to look back before that milestone and realize, “Wow, I was kind of an idiot back then. I didn’t know better at the time, but still, I feel sorry for anyone who knew that version of me. Oops!”

I have felt that way at many points throughout my 36 years on this planet.

But I must say, I have never been more aware of any milestone in my life so far, than the one I surpassed two years ago at the age of 34.

The milestone? No longer internally allowing anyone to offend me, insult me, or hurt my feelings. It was at age 34 that I realized it’s actually a personal choice whether or not I allow other people’s words to emotionally disrupt me. I lived the first 34 years of my life not realizing or embracing that truth.

Back in 2015, I was very aware of my particular age, as a study had just came out claiming that age 34 is the happiest age to be. And sure enough, I couldn’t argue with that:

My family had just moved into a brand new house in a cul-de-sac far away from the bustle of Nashville. My wife and I found out we would be having another child. Not to mention, our son was 4 years old; more independent and easy to parent him than ever before!

Plus, I had just gotten serious about legitimately becoming a YouTuber on the side; having been inspired by watching the documentary, Please Subscribe, which was on Netflix at the time.

As I taught myself how to build a following on my YouTube Channel, I soon realized how important it was to remain emotionally unaffected by people who watched my videos and harshly criticized me; from a destructive, not constructive, point of view.

I recognized how many of my viewers were strangers to the concept of emotional intelligence; which I had studied in my Human Resources course that I voluntarily had taken a few years prior.

My experience as a new YouTuber inspired me to make a video where I eventually challenged the entire free world to insult me. I bet you can already predict the results…

That’s right. No one was able to offend me or hurt my feelings.

Why?

Because I went into it knowing that it was my decision whether or not I gave control to another human being power or control over my emotions.

And that it was when it hit me like an M. Night Shyamalan twist ending:

If it is my decision whether or not I gave control to another human being power or control over my emotions for some kid who I don’t even know on the Internet, then I also have that same power and control for when the person who “offends” me is someone I actually do know; even someone who I know extremely well. That includes my wife!

My life has never been the same since. I am in control of my own life now.

No one, not anyone, has the ability to disrespect me, offend me, insult me, or hurt my feelings anymore; because I do not allow them to, from within. Because it is a personal choice to give them that authority.

It is a choice to not be a victim.

Just as we choose everyday whether our words and actions will either build up or break down another person, we also have the same responsibility to choose whether or not we allow ourselves to be hurt after another person chooses to use hurtful words against us.

It is a choice. But for most of us, for most of our lives, we just let the default happen.

We allow ourselves to become offended, especially by the people we are closest to in life.

Can you imagine how freeing of an experience that was for me to realize that?

Can you imagine how the quality of my life has dramatically improved in the past two years?

Granted, I’m probably a little more disconnected from the world now. But not in a bad way, I don’t think.

I don’t get angry or emotional about stuff anymore. Nor do I get involved or influenced by O.P.P. (That’s “other people’s problems”, by the way.)

These days, I just get to live my own life. So yeah, forget anything I said before I turned 34.

That guy didn’t know what he was talking about. Sorry about that.