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

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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.

Dear Holly: Your Incredible Hulk Face

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

With you having an older brother, especially one who is predictably into Marvel super heroes, it is no surprise that he has taught you how to make “the Incredible Hulk face”.

I started noticing on our trip to Lake Tahoe, that instead of seeing your sweet little smile, you were showing Mommy and me this hilarious grimace instead: a mix between funny and painful.

We even shot a family selfie inspired by the face we kept seeing you make:

Granted, this may be a side effect of the fact your brother is currently going through a phase where he is purposely making silly faces when I try to take his picture. So maybe your Hulk face is your attempt to make the faces he’s making.

Either way, you really enjoy making the Hulk face. You know it’s going to get an immediate laugh from Mommy and me whenever you do it.

Even now has I’m writing this, I’m realizing that perhaps, psychologically, you are at a stage now where you’ve realized you have the ability to make people laugh; and that that’s a good thing.

Your brother is undeniably a funny boy. So it only makes sense his sense of humor is going to rub off on you, as the two of you ultimately by default try to make the other one laugh.

Of course, you’re still a little girl; beyond being able to do a pretty accurate Hulk face.

I shot a quick video of you making the face, in which it didn’t take long for you to start showing off your baby dolls and Minnie Mouse.

It was your way of saying, “Daddy, it’s fun to pretend to be a scary monster, but I want to remind you that what I really like doing is playing with my girly toys right here.”

Love,

Daddy

The Big 50 Foot Long Slide at Mission Hills Park in Pleasanton, California (Featuring the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport) by Nick Shell

As our family finished up our 2 week-long vacation road trip in northern California, we drove the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport from Walnut Grove to Pleasanton, where our kids got to enjoy the playgrounds at Mission Hills Park.

It was such a nice drive, as we saw the countless solar windmills for much of the way. There is so much beauty in the top half of the state of California, which often is not the region people tend to think of when they hear where my wife is from.

The kids also liked the fact that the entire roof of the Outlander was a giant window. It was almost like a ride at Disney, in a way.

The main attraction at the city park was the giant, 50 foot slide; the kind I remember from back in the 1980s when I was my son’s age. These days, it’s rare to see such a tall, metal slide like that.

(To put it into perspective, the standard length of a dry van trailer pulled by an 18 wheeler is 53 feet long.)

My son quickly learned the best way to go down the slide was to lay down, like it was a luge. The slide was up so high, we were up there with the trees!

Here’s a little video I made, in the moment:

To my amazement, my 2 year-old daughter even insisted she get to try out the slide. So I held her hand and walked alongside her as she slid down, quite slowly, with me moderating her speed.

Granted, the rest of the playground equipment was great, as well. There were actually two main playgrounds; one for older kids like my 7 and a half year-old son, including a climbing wall and ropes course.

For younger kids like my daughter, there was a separate playground across the park which was more appropriate for her age.

So if you happen to be driving anywhere near Pleasanton, California and have some adventurous children with restless energy, I definitely recommend you stopping by Mission Hills Park.

The big slide is so cool!

Have you read all 3 of my blog posts featuring my family’s road trip to Lake Tahoe in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport? Here’s a table of contents just to be sure. Click on the title of the blog post you would like to see:

Family Reunion in Lodi, California 
Family Road Trip to Lost Worlds Adventures in Livermore, California
The Big 50 Foot Long Slide at Mission Hills Park in Pleasanton, California

Dear Holly: Your Hair is Nearly Getting Long Enough for a Pony Tail

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

Now that you are 2 years old, the shift from toddler to child is becoming much more obvious.

One thing is that your hair is finally getting long enough to nearly put in a pony tail.

I only took you to get your hair cut  a couple of times; each time, you got a pixie cut.

But I insisted to Mommy that if we just waited a few months, you could have enough hair to pull back your hair so it’s not in your face.

While you would look adorable with bangs, I really like your hair being longer, now that you can grow enough hair to make it work.

Your current look started as what I called “The Unicorn”, where Mommy would pull your hair up into a sprout on top of your head.

Perhaps that’s the reason that one of my current favorite nicknames for you is Little Sprout.

I think you’re now at the stage where if someone who hasn’t seen you in a while sees you in person, their reaction will undeniably be, “That’s Holly? She has grown up! She is a little girl now! When did that happen?”

My answer is that it happened around your 2nd birthday.

You changed so much physically, as well as psychologically. You can talk. You can role play with your toys. You can throw a ball. You can socially interact.

This is what people are talking about when they say that cliche, “Don’t blink, ’cause they grow up so fast!”

Fortunately for me, I haven’t been blinking. I’ve barely been sleeping. But I have definitely taken a lot of pictures. And from October to May, I was able to spend 6 months with you as a stay-at-home dad.

I am grateful. Most dads don’t get to experience that. I’m lucky I get to be your Daddy.

Love,

Daddy

Today is My 37th Birthday, Meaning I’m Now in My Late 30s and Officially Pushing 40… And I’m Very Happy About It!

In a way, birthdays are sort of funny to me. It’s almost like “Happy Birthday” translates as “congratulations on not dying so far”; especially the further along you get to certain milestone years, like 40, which I’m now officially pushing.

But my mom, who turned 60 last week, has always been the perfect example of what it means to age with grace; to embrace and celebrate every year you’ve shared with the people who love on this planet.

I am now officially in my late 30s. And I am very happy about that.

No, I would not wish to be younger. Because I am now too reliant on all the wisdom I’ve earned by being alive 37 years.

I’m sure I used to, but I no longer fantasize about going back in time with the knowledge I have now.

That’s ridiculous. Instead, it’s about using that knowledge to make the most of the rest of my life.

What are some of these nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned in my 30s?

It’s always a personal decision whether or not you let other people offend or insult you.

Likewise, it’s always a choice whether you forgive another person. But if you take responsibility over your own emotions and don’t let the rest of the world have control over how you feel, then there’s much less need to forgive other people anyway.

I’ve learned that the default of the human experience is to allow yourself to be the victim. But it’s a proactive choice to decide to be a victor instead.

Maybe those things sound like Joel Osteen’s leftovers, but to me, they are trophies. Applying that knowledge has undeniably improved my quality of life.

And no, I didn’t learn those things from a pastor of a megachurch or a multi-million dollar motivational speaker.

I learned them from surviving my early and mid 30s. I learned them the hard way.

I lived it. I earned it. I value it.

So you can imagine, I’ve very excited about using that psychological gold for the rest of my 30s.

Alright, 40s, here I come!

Dear Jack: You Made a Real Cobra Head Necklace and Wore It to School… So Yeah, That’s Pretty Awesome.

7 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Unlike Indiana Jones, you are clearly not afraid of snakes.

Last week, you found an old key chain I brought back as a souvenir from Thailand, when I was in college. I had bought it from this man who professionally hunted and skinned snakes. He used the leftover heads for key chains.

Realizing you could disconnect the crystal arrowhead necklace that you got at Ruby Falls during Spring Break, you then replaced the arrowhead with the snake head.

In your own initiative, you had created a cobra head necklace and decided to wear it to school.

As you were leaving that morning for school, I assured you that you’d be the only boy in America to wear a real cobra head necklace to school.

No, this story doesn’t end with me saying that your teacher told you not to wear it to school anymore. You totally got away with wearing the head of a poisonous snake to school.

You came home and bragged to me, “Daddy, on two people thought my cobra snake wasn’t real!”

Coincidentally, just a few days later on Sunday, I had put your sister down for her afternoon nap and decided to take you to play in the creek at Brenthaven in Franklin.

As we were walking across the bridge over the creek, you and I both noticed something we assumed was a rope that had surfaced on a rock, in the middle of the stream.

But as we made our way closer, I announced to you with both caution and joy, “Jack, that’s a real snake!”

I tossed a few pieces of mulch at it- but it never budged. Then I tossed some rocks at it- it still never budged.

Finally, I found a stick long enough to pick it up with. It was obvious the snake was not only dead, but it had been dead there overnight.

You pointed out to me that its tail looked like it had been chewed up. My theory is that a neighborhood dog found the snake and broke its neck by slinging it like a whip, then the snake crawled onto the rock to die.

Turns out, it was either a venomous Cottonmouth or a harmless Brown Watersnake.

But since it was definitely dead, I let you throw rocks at it. I’m pretty sure you’ll remember that day as a highlight of your boyhood.

So yeah, you’re not afraid of snakes.

Love,

Daddy