Dear Jack: You Wrote and Illustrated Your Very 1st Original Book, “Creepy Animals” (Or As I Call It, “The Fluffy and the Furious”)

6 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

I am so proud of you. You took it upon yourself to write, and illustrate, your very first book. It had nothing to do with any assignment at school.

Sure, I knew this day would come… I just didn’t realize it would happen so soon!

But especially with you being in “A.R.” (Advanced Readers), in your Kindergarten class, you naturally have an interest in applying what you know to your already existing level of creativity.

The funny thing is, I had no idea you were even working on a book until the day you finished it. You had been working on it each day at the house after school, before I got home.

With no further ado, here is your very 1st original book, Creepy Animals:

One day there was a new monster. The monsters were creepy.

They were furious. And were fluffy.

They were dangerous and could fly. They had horns.

There could be creepy birds. They had sharp, pointy teeth.

There could be spidercats. And thorns.

And weird animals. And sharp, and pointy spikes.

The end.

Right away, I appreciate how the story begins in suspense, as we are presented with a new monster. Then we learn he is one of many monsters.

The suspense continues, and the curiosity arises, as we wonder why the monsters are so furious. Somewhat ironic is the fact that these same furious monsters are also fluffy. Typically, things that are fluffy are not also furious, but these monsters are definitely the exception to the rule!

We read on to learn how prevalent horns are among these monsters- and we are even given a mention of spidercats!

These are weird animals, indeed.

Thank you so much for writing and illustrating your first book. I know there will be many more. I especially look forward to us eventually working on a book together- where I write it and you illustrate it.

That’s going to be awesome!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Learning to Walk, Leading Up to Your 1st Birthday

1 year.

Dear Holly,

Two weekends ago, as I was with you downstairs watching you play, while Mommy was upstairs working on laundry and while your brother was at the kitchen table working on drawings, I saw you do something amazing.

You were sitting down on the carpet, sort of Indian style, when for no apparent reason, you decided to stand up. So you did. And you remained standing up for about 5 seconds.

Then, you took it upon yourself to take 5 steps toward the sofa chair!

Of course, I was the only one to witness this marvelous event. I made sure you knew what a big deal it was. And you did. You were clearly so proud of yourself, as I was obviously proud of you too.

Then, a week later, this past Sunday, the day before your 1st birthday, your brother Jack wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii, so he could play as his favorite Pokemon characters.

You and Mommy were upstairs with us, hanging out.

It was in the middle of a Pokemon fight that you decided to show us all your stuff. You pulled yourself up on the book case, turned to Mommy, and started walking towards her; making it the first time she and your brother saw you walk.

We all cheered and celebrated! What a big deal!

You took another 3 steps Monday morning on your birthday, as Mommy and I were setting up the presents in the living room. It is interesting to see how your 1st birthday and your first steps lined up together.

Granted, you’re not walking around yet- but you are able to take 3 to 5 steps at a time… when you feel like it.

I am very much looking forward to you being my little girl who can walk around the house!

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: Without Saying a Word, My 1 Year-Old Daughter Convinced Me to Buy Her a Stuffed Animal from Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

Last Saturday as our family was out running errands, since our plans to visit the Nashville Zoo for my daughter’s 1st birthday were cancelled due to the rain, we ended up at the classiest Wal-Mart I’ve ever been to in my life: It’s just the one in our neighborhood; we can basically see it from our house.

My wife and I were counselling our son as he tried to pick out the best birthday present for one of his classmate’s birthday parties coming up at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I was holding my daughter in sort of a rickshaw position as we followed my wife and son down the toy aisles.

As we journeyed through the classiest WalMart this side of the Mississippi, my daughter was over all not impressed by the toy selection that she was being exposed to, as it all was for “older kids”. Like Shopkins and action figures kind of stuff.

But then, she saw it…

A fury face on the shelf. She was mesmerized.

It was a Hero Plushy of the mutant raccoon named Rocket, from the cast of the upcoming movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2.

But it wasn’t just a normal stuffed animal. It had a tiny body and a big head, like a caricature.

My daughter’s tiny hand was the perfect size for the undersized body of the toy.

She could easily hold it like an ice cream cone.

By this point, my wife had already picked up on what was going on, as she had turned around to see the two of us petting an arguably ridiculous stuffed animal.

It was pretty obvious at this point that not only would my 1 year-old daughter not have to even attempt to ask for the toy, but that I myself wouldn’t even have to have a conversation with my wife about the fact we were about to spend $10 on a Marvel character plush toy.

My wife’s only attempt to thwart the inevitable was to reach out a grab a pink girly-looking pony stuffed animal that cost $6.

But our little girl definitely didn’t have the same glimmer in her eye as she did for the Guardians of the Galaxy raccoon that she was already turning back to.

As if I needed to give a seemingly legitimate excuse as to why we were about to make this impulse purchase, I suggested to my wife:

“We can let this be my gift to her for her birthday.”

I have to give my little girl what she wants. Especially when it’s a cool mutant raccoon from a Marvel movie.

This is 36.

This is 36: The Story behind My 1 Year-Old Daughter’s 1st Face Palm at the Mexican Restaurant

By now you’ve probably already read the first entry in This is 36, which explains the motivation behind this new series; how being surprisingly pie-faced on my 36th birthday at Tito’s Mexican restaurant in Spring Hill, TN serves as the perfect symbolism of my life at age 36.

As my wife and I were looking through the other pictures from that night, we found another photo that actually has enough merit on its own.

The picture is from when I decided I wanted my wife to take a picture of me with our kids, after we had finished our sopapillas for dessert. I of course am wearing the cartoonish Mexican birthday sombrero, while my son is undeniably proud to be squeezing his little sister, who is smooshed in between us.

Yeah, I know… The real reason she had her hand on her face is that she was getting tired, as her bedtime was growing near.

But if you’re looking at the picture without knowing that, it easily looks like she is doing a “face palm”, as if to communicate her embarrassment to be stuck in the middle of the two of us goofballs.

It’s just hilarious to imagine a little 1 year-old girl face palming, as if she’s embarrassed to be seen in public with us.

After all, this picture is a pretty accurate illustration of what life is like for her. So much of her time is spent alongside her brother and me. We naturally feel obligated to entertain her, serving as her constant court jesters.

Ultimately, if she doesn’t learn to adopt the silliness which surrounds her, she will likely be doing the face palm a lot more as she grows into her tween years.

But I have a feeling, she will end up joining us in the daily circus.

This is 36.

This is 36: The Story behind the Pie-Face Picture on My 36th Birthday

Last Thursday night as my birthday came to a close, I posted a picture on Facebook that was taken just a couple of hours earlier. The caption simply read, “This is 36.” The picture showed me right after I had been pie-faced by one of the servers at our favorite restaurant, Tito’s.

Indeed, it caught me by complete surprise. I had no intentions that night of being pie-faced for the first time in my life. Sure, one of the waiters leaned over to me and muttered into my ear right before they sang “Happy Birthday” and told me, “We’re going to throw pie in your face… is that okay?”

I just smiled and nodded my head, assuming he was just joking. I still didn’t take him seriously even when he told my wife, “Grab your camera. You will want a picture of this…”

Actually, I didn’t even realize what had happened until I tasted the whipped cream. My mouth just happened to be open with the pie came at me. I never even saw it happen, as the girl who did it secretly had the pie behind me.

(And yes, I just have to count this as a “fortunate accident”, as consuming whipped cream violates my vegan lifestyle…)

Even after 24 hours and two showers, I was still sort of able to smell the whipped cream. It got pretty high up my nose.

To me, that image is the perfect concept of how I interpret being 36 years old.

I had just turned 18 when I graduated high school in 1999. That means just as many years have passed since then. I am 36.

And I am proud to be 36. I embrace change. I accept the minor (or are they major?) evolutions in my personality that come along with being age 36. I gladly commemorate what this seemingly insignificant age symbolizes to me.

It’s like getting surprisingly pie-faced, then instantly laughing because you already know that it’s the little things in life that become the big things.

This is 36.

Dear Holly: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter on Her 1st Birthday

1 year old.

Dear Holly,

In the months leading up to your birth, I tried to imagine what you were going to be like. I pictured this sweet, happy, little girl who not only would be so special to me, but also to everyone who meets her.

Turns out, I was exactly right. You are indeed such a remarkable daughter. The only thing that caught me off guard about you is your blue eyes and your strawberry blonde hair; which make you even that much more special, especially in our family.

I am fascinated by you. I am eternally motivated to watch you continue to become Holly the girl, and eventually, Holly the woman.

There is a special bond I have with you that I have never experienced with anyone else. It’s undeniably the bond between a father and his daughter.

I love the way you look at me, for confirmation that you are indeed loved and beautiful and precious. I love giving you that confirmation.

Being your Daddy is not something I am casual about. I am quite aware of the responsibility I have in being the main man in your life during these first couple of decades. The way you see the world- and the way your see men, will ultimately be based on how you see me.

I refuse to be passive. I refuse to be dominating.

Instead, I am very deliberate to find the importance balance of being a stern yet loving Daddy.

You’ll need that from me for the rest of your life.

Getting to be your Daddy is an epic thing. I am so proud of my 1 year-old daughter.

How could I not be? You are one amazing little girl.

You are so special to me. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Holly.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your 1st Easter (and 4 Different People’s Birthday Celebrations!)

11 months.

Dear Holly,

With your 1st birthday coming up next Monday, Mommy and I decided to celebrate your birthday in Alabama with my side of the family; while we were already in town for Easter.

Once we arrived in Fort Payne, we immediately stopped at the Easter Egg Hunt that 1st Baptist Church has each year. Honestly, you weren’t too concerned with all the eggs in the grass.

Instead, you were just as happy to simply look beautiful in your dress, and have anyone come over and tell you what a pretty little girl you are.

Granted, your brother Jack was the complete opposite. Actually, I feel a little bit bad about how fiercely he dominated the egg hunt for his age division. He is so competitive that it was more about “winning”. Yet still, I was very proud of him, because I feel he learned that from me.

For lunch, we met Uncle Al and Sharon at the only restaurant we ever go to: Toke. With its Thai and Japanese cuisine, everyone in our family can eat there; including your Daddy, the manly vegan.

That’s when the early birthday presents started appearing for you. Plus, Nonna’s birthday was earlier that week, and mine is actually today.

In what turned out to be a major coincidence, your cousin Calla was invited to a Pokemon birthday party. When the birthday boy’s family heard that you and Jack were in town, they invited our family as well.

Then back at Nonna and Papa’s house afterwards, it was time for a few more gifts…

So yeah, there was a lot of celebrating to be done: Not only Easter, but 4 birthdays!

With Easter moving around the calendar every year (last year it was in March), I imagine that typically, Easter will be about a month before all our birthdays; most years.

But as for your first Easter, it got to be extra special because our family got to begin celebrate your birthday early. Just a few more days now for your actual birthday…

Love,

Daddy