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.

Love,

Daddy

Advertisements

This is 36: We Celebrated Our 9 Year Wedding Anniversary by Taking Our Kids on a Road Trip to Louisville, Kentucky

Yes, it was indeed nine years ago today that my wife and I were married at Brenthaven Cumberland Presbyterian Church. We purposely got married right next to a holiday (July 4th) so that we’d sort of always have a built-in day off for whatever we ended up doing for our anniversary.

For our 9th anniversary this year, we decided there was no better way to celebrate, than the load up our 6 and a half year-old son and our 1 year-old daughter and take a random road trip to one of my favorite cities in America:

Louisville, Kentucky.

Perhaps a more normal couple would have ventured there without the kids- and checked out some venues that are little more anniversary-ish and perhaps not so focused on catering to the attention spans of children.

Nah. Not us.

If we’re going to spend the money on a road trip, even just a 3 hour one across the state line, we might as well make it a family affair.

Being the world’s most famous vegan family friendly daddy blogger, Toyota helped us out by sending a 2017 4Runner; which proved to be ideal for our laid-back adventure to the Blue Grass State.

Because we’ve got our annual family zoo pass from Nashville, we were able to get in the Louisville Zoo for half off.

And because we’re cool adventurous people, we even took an unplanned stop at Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky on the way back home to Tennessee.

Thanks to some points we’d earned, my wife was able to cash in a free stay at the Marriott Courtyard Louisville East, just a few miles from the zoo.

I must say we were quite entertained by the “New Japan Pro-Wrestling” tournament that happen to be on, while we enjoyed our dessert treats from Whole Foods Louisville; which was also just a few miles away too.

Two queen size beds between the four of us…

You can imagine how it must have been getting our daughter to sleep too; in the pack-and-play bed next to ours.

It was around 10:30 PM by the time both our kids were asleep. To ensure we didn’t disturb them, we laid out a towel on the bathroom floor in front of the sink, and enjoyed our gourmet vegan cupcakes from Whole Foods.

This is 36.

My Parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary Celebration in Hawaii

Yes, today is Father’s Day. So, Happy Father’s Day! (Even though 73% of my blog readers are actually female.)

But for my parents, it’s an especially epic day: Exactly 40 years ago today, my parents got married.

The date was June 18, 1977. My dad was 20. My mom was 19.

And now, 40 years later, they have two children and four grandchildren.

For their special 40th wedding anniversary, they decided to go big, as it was literally years in the making:

They had been planning and putting aside $20 a week, for the past few years, to fund their tropical vacation/anniversary celebration in Hawaii.

And now, after a whole week spent in the Aloha State, my parents are back.

The whole time they were out there, my mom kept me up to speed by sending me pictures from her phone. I am glad my parents were not shy about asking strangers to take their photos, at each place along the way.

So much for taking it easier. Instead of the word vacation, it seemed more like an expedition!

They were so proud of the Mazda 3 they rented and were able to go exploring in.

It is obvious they made the most of their journey to Hawaii. Instead of just hanging under an umbrella on the beach all day, they were on the move!

Among many other adventures, they hiked a volcano, swam in a waterfall, and visited Pearl Harbor where they met a 97 year-old survivor of the attack.

Not to mention, they definitely enjoyed the local cuisine.

It’s funny because if it were my wife and I taking this trip, I am convinced we wouldn’t have been so ambitious! But my parents were dedicated to making the most of their 40th wedding anniversary celebration.

They got their money’s worth.

And now, they will have these memories as their souvenirs.

Happy 40th Anniversary to my parents!

This is 36: Taking Shifts with My Wife, As the Baby Sleeps in the Car

As you know, our family recently spent a week down in Destin, Florida for a family vacation over Memorial Day weekend. As you can imagine, with a 1 year-old little girl in tow, we largely had to base our schedule and activities around her sleep schedule.

For example, on the way down to Florida, we left our home in Tennessee immediately after an early dinner so that we could get to our condo in Destin by 1:30 AM. This created an environment for our daughter to be able to sleep through the entire drive. Granted, we only stopped once during the 7 hour trip for a bathroom break; to help ensure she didn’t wake up.

Since this formula proved effective, we did the same thing for the drive back home from Florida. That’s right- just 2 bathroom breaks during the 14 hour round trip.

Uh… impressed much?

We continued to cater to our daughter’s slumber throughout the course of our vacation.

One day we took a day trip over to Pensacola where one of my brothers-in law and his wife have recently moved. After we toured their new home which is currently under construction, everyone decided to walk through some of the model homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

So my mother-in-law and her husband (who were also in town for the weekend), my brother-in-law, his wife, my wife, our son, our daughter, and I successfully toured two model homes.

But as we drove to the next neighborhood, our daughter had fallen asleep in just a matter of minutes. I volunteered to stay in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Toyota Prius Three as our daughter took her afternoon nap behind me in her car seat.

There in the driveway of that model home, I pulled out the classic 1984 Ride the Lightning album by Metallica to enjoy for myself. Fortunately, the symphonic distorted electric guitars helped keep my little girl asleep. She’s not too picky when it comes to music, yet.

Even after my wife and son returned from the tour of that model home, they returned to the car, only to inform me that there was yet one more model home to visit before we made our way back to Destin.

Honestly, I didn’t mind one bit. It was peaceful and relaxing for me. It gave me not only a chance to think, but a chance to help my wife out by giving her some time to see something new and exciting and to take a break from constantly caring for a baby.

Of course, it was no surprise that less than 24 hours, my wife would be taking the next shift of “chill out in the car while the baby sleeps.” Because for lunch the following day, as went out for Mexican food for lunch, our daughter had fallen asleep in the car.

So I took my wife’s order, then eventually brought her food to her roadside, while the rest of us ate inside the restaurant.

This is just how it has to be right now. We’re used to it.

This is 36.

This is 36: The CD Player in My Paid Off, 13 Year-Old Car Stopped Working… So I Now I Use My Shattered iPod from 2006

I have first world problems. And even then, the word “problems” is a ridiculous overstatement.

Two weeks ago, the CD player in my old (but paid off) 2004 Honda Element stopped working. I had just purchased every Metallica album for $5.99 on clearance at Best Buy… where they are apparently doing away with selling CDs now that most people just download or stream their music.

(In case you’re not aware of my premature mid-life crisis where I suddenly became a huge Metallica fan and legitimately taught myself to skateboard, read all about it here.)

So now, sitting in the cubby of my dash, there are several CDs that I have yet to wear out, including others I have kept in heavy rotation- until now.

It’s important to note that as a skilled driver in the Nashville area, I have accepted my fate that I will be in the car for a total minimum of 2 hours each day, to drive only about 38 total miles round trip for my daily commute for work.

Just me in the car with my thoughts for two hours, every day.

I depend on that solitude. It is good for my brain and good for my soul.

And that solitude has always been undeniably enhanced by the kinesthetic routine of physically placing whatever CD that I feel like listening to at the moment into the CD player to play through the speakers.

No streaming or digital files. Just a CD. Like in high school in the 1999.

But now, that American right has been taken away.

And it’s definitely not worth buying a new CD player for my car.

Hopefully, I won’t be getting a new car anytime soon. That’s right- hopefully, I won’t.

Last year between having a baby, paying cash for a new car for my wife, taking a big family vacation, and having multiple hospital stays for our kids… this year is all about saving our money to eventually buy me a new car in cash like we did for my wife.

I need my faithful Honda Element to hold up until we can buy me a new car, which will be well over a year. It’s almost like I pray every time turn I turn the key in the ignition, “Please don’t let this be the day it doesn’t start…”

With us being Dave Ramsey followers, I would feel horrible about myself if I had to finance a new vehicle. It goes against who I am as a person.

So here’s who I am as a person: I now proudly drive while listening to a busted iPod that has a battery that dies by the end of my 2 hour round trip commute, even though it’s fully charged when I leave the house.

Anything from before 2007 is on there, though. Time to get reacquainted with The Wallflowers and Sister Hazel.

This is 36.

My Thoughts on Turning 36 Today

As Facebook has reminded you, today is my 36th birthday. It was this day in 1981 that my parents had to change the name they had planned on giving me, Mario, because when I was born, I didn’t look Italian and Mexican enough (on my mom’s side) to live up to what that name should look like. I was born with much fairer skin and lighter hair than I have now…

So instead, they gave me a Greek name, Nicholas, which means “victorious.” In hindsight, that name has become a tribute to my Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo. Fate would have it that despite not looking ethnic enough for the name Mario on the day I was born, members of my family unanimously agree that as a grown man, I definitely have an undeniable resemblance to my grandfather; whose own father emigrated here from southern Italy about 100 years ago.

When it comes to my age, I will never be the kind of person who is ashamed or embarrassed by that ultimately arbitrary number, no matter how high it gets. Because the whole point of a birthday is to celebrate your life with the people who care about you.

It’s that one day of the year where you don’t have to do anything but be alive, and accordingly, people make a big deal about you still existing in the universe.

On the day you are born, you are not psychologically developed enough to appreciate the world celebrating your arrival into the world. And when you die, at your funeral, you are not able to physically respond to everyone mourning your passing, as well as celebrating your life that has now come to an end.

But for the birthdays in between those bookmarks, we can all celebrate together, in these living years.

In real time, we can consciously appreciate the precious and mysterious gift of life. We can celebrate our shared memories, that in theory, only continue to exist because we still remember them.

I think birthdays are great.

So here’s to being closer to 40 than 30.

Here’s to being grateful for all I have, including people who celebrate the fact that I still exist in the universe.

Here’s to being reminded everyday, not just my birthday, how much I matter in this world; especially to a beautiful girl from California, and our wondrous blue-eyed children.

Dear Jack: You Have Really Cool Parents

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Looking at the pictures from on our visit last Saturday to Westhaven with our friends Mohamed, Lena, and Hanna, one thing becomes undeniable: You have really cool parents.

Mohamed and I, both being the token “take hundreds of pictures of your kid at every outing” kind of dads, ended up getting some good shots of all the kids.

I like the picture he took of you and me playing on the slide, where you are hiding below, in attempt to scare me as I go down the slide. The look on your face seems to indicate, “Yeah, I know my dad’s crazy… but I’m used to it by now.”

In addition to me purposely pushing you too high on the swing, to test your limits, you purposed we engage in a good classic game of Tag. I thought it was funny how you started by proclaimed, “Daddy, I’m it first.” But then you didn’t start chasing me…

So I turned the tables on you and started chasing you instead, and you ran from me… even though it was supposed to be the other way around.

Once you finally embraced what being it meant, I found a way to challenge you as you chased me. We were standing next to this swinging balance beam.

As you ran towards me and got close, I simply jumped over the balance beam. Then as you ran around it, I jumped back to the other side.

Speaking of the balance beam, Mommy was really good at crossing it without falling off.

You were so happy when I found a little plastic alligator in the playground mulch. We took it down to the creek, where you used a boat made out of leafs, so he could “sail down the river.”

Yep, you have really cool parents. No playing on our smart phones from the bench. We’re out there having fun with you any chance we get.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw & Nick Shell.