Dear Holly: Your Monster Feet Slippers

1 year, 5 months.   

Dear Holly,

Grandma got you some fun bedtime slippers to wear with your pajamas. They turn your cute little feet into huge monster feet!

For the past couple of weeks, Mommy has been trying to get you wear them while she reads you a bedtime story. You have been quite skeptical, only leaving them on for a few seconds each night.

But perhaps that is changing, now that you are really getting into shoes. Even when we’re not about to go outside, you still walk over to the closet and insist on picking out a pair of shoes for me to help put on you.

It’s a normal thing for you to be playing with your toys in the living room, while wearing your pink Nike running shoes; not because you need them, but because you are a shoes girl!

I think in your mind, you’re not fully dressed until you are wearing shoes, even if you’re just hanging out at the house with us.

You are forming your identity. It’s becoming obvious that shoes are a part of who you are.

So, even if the “shoes” are actually funny monster feet during your bedtime story… you are recognizing, they are still shoes!

This past weekend you decided to go public with your monster shoes. And by public, I mean that you decided to walk out of your bedroom during story time and show your brother and me.

I’m not quite sure if you fully realize that the monster shoes are meant to be silly, but as you strolled around upstairs in them, you proudly showed them off.

Your fashion show was met by us praising you for how cute you looked in them.

Yeah, you are going to be a shoes girl… even if they turn you into a fury monster!




Dear Jack: Your Semi-Biographical (?) Portraits of Your Family Members

6 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

Sunday evening as Mommy was preparing dinner as I was helping Holly play with her toys, you snuck away to the kitchen table. You eventually surfaced to hand-deliver drawings to the three of us.

You had drawn a picture for Mommy, for Holly, and for me. I immediately saw some inspiration from Pokemon characters mixed with the Mr. Man book characters.

The one you gave you sister showed a cute little person with a pink crown.

The one you gave Mommy showed a person crying.

And the one you gave me showed a person so mad that his hair was on fire and smoke was coming out of ears.

Naturally, I immediately asked you, after thanking you for giving them to us, “Are these pictures of us?”
You insisted they weren’t. But I am thinking there’s a little bit of a Freudian slip in there…

I can easily understand how you wanted to show your acceptance of your sister as the sweet little girl she is.

As for Mommy’s character crying, as she’s just not one to cry, perhaps it symbolizes her need for my emotional support from me; as the husband and father. On a daily basis, you subconsciously observe me carefully listening to Mommy unpack her thoughts from the day.

Whereas for me, I typically don’t have much to say about my day when I get home. Instead, there are times when I walk through the front door after working all day and driving an hour to get home, to find that you and your sister are restless, tired, and hungry.

That puts me into a position where I am managing two young kids while Mommy tries to get dinner made.

So while I would love to be as care-free as Jack Johnson all the time, perhaps by default, I ultimately adopt the character of the mad and angry boss.

Again, I could be looking way too much into why you decided to draw these pictures for us, individually; then directly hand them to us.

You’re a clever kid who has a healthy sense of awareness. I think you made this drawings as a way of categorizing the members of your family.



Dear Holly: You Assume All Other Adults are Nurses and Doctors Wanting to Give You a Shot?

1 year, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

As our family met up with some of Mommy’s family for Labor Day Weekend in a cabin in Boone, North Carolina for our fall “Road Trip to the Boonies” in the 2017 Toyota Sienna, you were definitely the youngest there.

Your cousin Lucy, the 2nd youngest, was especially intrigued by who she only referred to as “Baby Holly.” It was funny every time I heard her call you Baby Holly because it sounded so much like Buddy Holly.

Lucy, in her undeniably kindness, didn’t hesitate to let you play with her Puppy Surprise dolls. All it took was watching Lucy demonstrate how the mommy gives birth to her tiny puppies, just one time, and you were fascinated.

Needless to say, you adopted the 3 puppies whenever Lucy wasn’t around.

So I guess this means you’ll be needing a Puppy Surprise for Christmas…

You also bonded with Lucy over a game of cards, as well. I’m not sure what the rules of the Spongebob Squarepants card game were, but based on your confidence level in how you dealt and held the cards, I’d say you knew what you were doing.

I enjoyed watching you play cards in business mode, meanwhile your cousin Lucy and Brother Jack played next to you. I think in your mind, you were playing with the big kids.

It was good seeing you socialize, though most of the time in the cabin with everyone, you had to be with either Mommy or me.

But as you get older, and as we meet up with your cousins and aunts and uncles in years to come, it will be fun to see you open up to everyone more.

While your Brother Jack never met a stranger, you’re the opposite. If it’s not Mommy or me, you treat most other adults with the distrust you have to nurses and nurses; assuming everyone is trying to hold you, only so they can give you a shot.

You especially had your Aunt Jenny tagged this way in your mind. Apparently, she must really remind you of one of your nurses.

I held you in my arms, and as Aunt Jenny smiled and said, “Hi Holly,” she reached out to touch you arm. Before she even could even touch you, you immediately tucked your little arm under mine, so Aunt Jenny couldn’t get you.

Yeah, you’ll eventually grow out of this stage.



The “No Such Thing as a Crazy Baby Name” Theory

People are giving their babies weird names these days. We all know this. It is an epidemic.

Openly, we don’t acknowledge it. But privately, among friends, we talk about it.

It’s a release for us. It’s confirms that we are not the crazy ones.

Right now, you’re probably already thinking of 2 or 3 weird names you know that other people have recently named their kids.

But here’s the thing. We just have to be okay with it.

Because that peculiar baby name is an expression of that parent’s identity and their perception of their own creativity.

And sure enough, you could have this same conversation with someone who named their kid something obscure like, Cheezeburger Rex, and that parent would instantly agree with you that other parents name their kids stupid names.

That parent of Cheezeburger Rex (which let’s assume is a girl’s name just to make this scenario more believable for a crazy name) would predictably say something like this:

“I know, right!? I know this one mom who named her son Spikey Purple. I feel so sorry for that kid!”

So maybe, in theory, the rest of us “normal parents” should assume that we are the ones who named our kids strange names?

I call this the “No Such Thing as a Crazy Baby Name” theory.

It’s inspired by one time when a guy told me, “There’s no such thing as a stupid tattoo.”

I could easily argue that it might not be the best decision to get a Chester the Cheetah neck tattoo. But if that guy embraced the tattoo as part of his identity, making it a way to express himself; to him, it’s not a stupid tattoo. Instead, he’s proud of it.

Similarly, it’s this way with baby names too.

So the next time I hear a parent proudly tell me that their newborn son’s name is “Dracula Titus” or their daughter’s name is “Intelligence Martin”, I know how I’m going to respond:

“That is the perfect name! It’s so creative, too. But that makes sense, because you’ve always been such a creative person. Well congratulations! (He/she) is so adorable!”

By doing so, I am able to give that parent confirmation that they chose a name that accurately reflects their own identity as the parent.

Their identity; not mine, not yours.

And, for better or for worse, the identity of their child, as well.

Dear Holly: Wearing Mommy’s Shoes, but Not in an Ironic Way

1 year, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

As I was working on the dishes in the kitchen, I heard Mommy calling me over from the bathtub in our bathroom, “Nick, come quick! And can you bring your camera?”

I entered our bathroom to find you stepping out of our walk-in closet, with a serious look on your face, as you carefully took each step while wearing a pair of Mommy’s shoes.

To be clear, you weren’t doing this to try to be funny in an ironic way. No; instead, you had simply taken it upon yourself to be like Mommy. Why shouldn’t you be able to wear Mommy’s shoes and walk around just like she does?

It never crossed your mind that her shoes are a much larger size than yours are. Nor did it matter.

You just kept strutting back and forth across the bathroom floor, while your family watched in amazement.

Yes, I have to say, it was quite impressive seeing you move in those shoes!

I don’t remember you falling, even once. Nor did you smile or laugh, even once.

Please know that Mommy, your brother Jack, and I were all laughing the entire time. You were unfazed.

Shoes are a big deal to you. It’s actually part of our daily routine that you walk to the shoe closet in the living room each morning and tap on the door, then you do a signature grunt which translates as, “Daddy, aren’t you going to open the door? I have to put my shoes on.”

Without fail, you always attempt to put the shoes on yourself, first. You sincerely struggle to figure out why they won’t just magically slip on, as you place them upside down on the soles of your feet.

Yeah, you love shoes. Who cares if they’re really Mommy’s? You’ve now proven that won’t hold you back.



This is 36: How I Got Locked Outside of My House While Accidentally Wearing a Mustache

Tuesday afternoon my wife took our kids out to run an errand. We all had the day off, since we had just returned from our vacation to Florida. I decided to stay home while they were out, as it would give me about an hour and 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to finish unpacking from our trip.

The first order of business was actually to shave my beard. I had made a point not to shave while on vacation- just one less thing to worry about in my attempt to relax for a week in the sun.

I already had several days’ stubble before we even left for Destin, so by the time we got back nearly a week later, I had a decent beard going on.

But before I shaved it off, I decided to shoot a quick video for one of my YouTube channels, which caters to young men who are freaking out about seeing the first signs of hair loss. (Yes, I make a supplemental income from that; currently about $50 a month.)

I wanted to make a video which made it seem like people were demanding I grow a mustache, which is hilarious, because obviously a white guy under the age of 40 who isn’t a cop can’t get away with wearing a mustache.

So I shaved off everything but the mustache and walk outside, where there was better natural lighting, and began shooting the video; which again, was a complete joke in itself. I like to keep my 1500 YouTube subscribers on their toes.


But after I recorded the video, I realized I had locked myself out of the house. I knew it would be more than an hour before my wife came back home with the kids.

Then down came the rain, accompanied by some light thunder and lightning. And I was barefoot too.

At least I was able to find shelter on our covered front porch. Before my phone battery died, as I was down to about 15% at this point, I figured I might as well commemorate the occasion with a video explaining, behind the scenes, what had happened.

So there you go. That’s how I ended up locked outside of my own house, in the rain, barefoot, while accidentally wearing a mustache.

This is 36.


This is 36: My Back Yard is Constantly Littered with Plastic Grocery Bags Filled with Poopy Diapers

It makes perfect sense, I’m sure. Actually, I’m confident that my story is not unique. It’s pretty simple and (assumedly) universal, really:

When our 1 year-old daughter has a poopy diaper, we reach for a plastic Kroger bag from underneath the kitchen sink, using it has an insulator for the smell. Then, without fail, I open up the back door and toss it towards the garbage bin near our fence.

Every couple of days, I have to take out a big bag of trash anyway. That’s when I pick up the 2 or 3 bags of poop to place them in the garbage bin.

What’s the point in walking out to the garbage bin every single time my daughter has a dirty diaper? That doesn’t work for the lifestyle of the Shell household. It wouldn’t be prudent.

On a daily basis, when we’re all home together, my wife is constantly running around the house in the midst of cooking meals and doing laundry, while I am constantly entertaining and occupying not only our daughter, who isn’t quite walking yet, but I am also doing my best to make sure our 6 and a half year-old son is keeping himself productive in some sort of activity.

It’s not worth the time to run outside for the sake of a dirty diaper that is already inside of a plastic bag. I’ve got too many duties that relentlessly need my attention, inside the house.

Besides, our yard is fenced in. It’s not like the neighbors can see the dirty diaper bags; not unless they specifically go upstairs in their homes then look over to our yard.

That would just be nosy.

Therefore, it remains one of our family secrets.

No one can see, so no one can know.

It’s not like I’m posting pictures of the dirty diaper bags on the Internet, bringing attention to it.

This is 36.