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

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My Mom Just Became the Youngest Looking 60 Year-Old Woman I Know

Today is my mother’s 60th birthday. That really sounds weird to say, because it’s so hard to believe when you see her.

I have an image in my head of what someone is supposed to look like when they are 60, and my mom does not match that image. More than once in my 30s, people have genuinely assumed she is my sister instead.

But in addition to definitely not looking anywhere close to 60 years old, something I really respect about my mom’s perspective on life is this:

She has never once been ashamed of, or afraid of, her age. Whether it was back when she turned 40, and then 50, and now 60, she is simply proud of that somewhat arbitrary number.

A couple of months ago, I actually interviewed my mom on the YouTube channel for Family Friendly Daddy Blog. Feel free to check out the video below, where you can hear her say it herself, that she fully embraces whatever age she is:

I feel that because of how my mom has always viewed her age at the time, I have modeled my own perspective of aging in the same way:

To be vocal about it in everyday conversations is to your remind yourself of how many years you’ve been blessed with life on this planet with the people you love.

It’s very obvious, especially after you watch that video, that it’s against my mom’s identity to focus on the negative aspects of getting older.

Or to use that cliche about it being her 29th birthday instead of her real age.

No, not my mom. She is proud to be 60 years old.

She’s proof that it’s a choice.

You can choose to celebrate each new year of your own life.

Granted, I can’t deny it’s easy for a 60 year-old woman to be proud of her age when she looks so amazing for her age… but still, I know my mom would still feel the same way:

Don’t be ashamed of your age. Be grateful for all the years you’ve lived so far.

Dear Jack: You Were Proudly in Disguise During the Easter Egg Hunt

7 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Fortunately, you didn’t receive too much candy during the Easter egg hunt this past weekend. (I’m pretty sure we’ve still got leftover Halloween candy up in our pantry, actually.) The surprises inside the eggs this year at the egg hunt included a lot of Cracker Jack types of toys.

Honestly, I really don’t know what else you got at the egg hunt, other than a classic disguise kit:

Round glasses attached to thick eyebrows and a big nose.

You ended up wearing the disguise for the rest of the time after the actual egg hunt was over. You even wore it in the picture of you with Nonna and Papa and your cousins.

I guess I could have stopped you. But I didn’t.

You were having fun, so I let you.

One of my favorite parts about you wearing the disguise is that you didn’t acknowledge you were wearing it. You just acted like your normal self during the festivities, almost as if to test the theory:

Will anyone notice I’m wearing this disguise if I don’t talk about it?

It was like you were secretly playing a prank on our family; if not, everyone at the egg hunt.

I think the ironic twist in your social experiment was that no one really said anything because they just assumed, “Oh, that’s just Jack being Jack.”

Or even, “Oh, that’s Nick’s son. That makes sense.”

As for hunting eggs, sure; you still gave it your all. But as you’re now 7 years old, and as you’re finishing up 1st grade, I can see that you’re finding new ways to have fun; beyond just the obvious event.

And this totally reminds me of how I was as as boy, and really, how I still am.

So really, I guess it truly could be summed up as I said before:

“Oh, that’s Nick’s son. That makes sense.”

Love,

Daddy

My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

Last week for Spring Break, we were presented with a 2018 Mazda CX-5 to enjoy for the week. One of the things we decided to do with it was to take a little family road trip over the mountains and through the woods to Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In case you’ve ever driven anywhere in the Southeast, you’ll know that when it comes to winning the award for “Seemingly Omnipresent Billboard Signs”, the only competition to Rock City, is Alexander Shunnarah.

In other words, Rock City billboards, with their famous red birdhouses and “See Rock City” slogan, are a familiar concept; even for people who have never actually been to Rock City.

I grew up just an hour away in Fort Payne, Alabama, on the other side of Lookout Mountain; so I had been there a time or two as a child. Back in 2007 when my wife and I were dating (we’ve been married a decade as of this July), I took her there on a date. But this marked for the first time that we’ve taken either of our children to Rock City.

It was a family adventure for sure!

And now for anyone reading this today who has never been, I will provide some glimpses of what it’s like for a fun family like mine (and yours too, of course!) to see Rock City.

I even took it upon myself to write an original theme song and produce a 1 minute walk-through video promo for Rock City, as well. Here it is:

One of the things Rock City is known for is its Swing-A-Long Bridge, which when I was my son’s age 30 years ago, sort of terrified me. Not my son, though.

He just strolled along like it was nothing; just casually looking down (way) below.

The bridge leads up to the main look-out point, where you can find another famous attraction at Rock City: The “See Seven States” Stone; where you can… you guessed it: See seven states!

Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Our family just happened to visit Rock City on the day before Easter, so we lucked out and my kids got to meet the Easter Bunny. I think my daughter might have been afraid of a giant rabbit under normal conditions, but her big brother had his arm around her and that made everything okay.

I felt that our kids were the perfect ages to visit Rock City. Our son is 7, and loved leading our family through all the winding trails of towering rock walls.

Our daughter turns 2 in a few weeks and was mesmerized by what surely seemed to her as a magical enchanted land.

Not to mention, it’s fun for the parents too. I loved being outside, breathing in fresh air and being able to move along such beautiful natural scenery, now that winter is over.

So if you’re planning on driving through Tennessee anytime this year, it would be a shame not to swing by Rock City and take the family on a quaint adventure hidden up at the edge of Lookout Mountain.

And as you’ve already noticed, Rock City is basically a constant tour of photo ops. I know that normally, we don’t take near enough photos of our family of four.

But on our visit to Rock City, we couldn’t help but keep taking family selfies and asking fellow visitors to take our picture. Of course, they were happy to help, as I instantly returned the favor each time.

Before our adventure could come to an end, though, we had to stop by the gift shop. My son had been wanting a bald eagle stuffed animal for quite a while now, and he was so proud to find the perfect one.

My daughter instantly spotted a singing bird stuffed animal and immediately grabbed it and held it tightly as to say to us parents: “This is what I’m getting.”

She was right.

From there, I punched in “Whole Foods” on the GPS in the Mazda CX-5 and we made our way down the mountain for lunch. My grandmother met us there and she got to hear all about our adventure.

And as for the way back to the house, neither of our kids lasted 15 minutes before they were fast asleep.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of Rock City today. If you’re considering taking your family there, I highly recommend it!

Dear Jack: Let Me Just Savor You at This Age for a Moment, Age 7

7 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

I am taking a moment to deliberately freeze this moment in time; as if to keep you this age long enough for me to process the concept.

It is clear to me that you are in a transition between two different stages of boyhood.

You’re old enough to recognize that “Sesame Street is for babies”, yet you will happily watch it alongside your sister, while giving critical yet intelligent commentary on the plot line.

You’re old enough to finally stop spending all your birthday and Christmas money on stuffed animals, yet you genuinely celebrate receiving a new one as a gift.

You’re old enough to walk across the street to catch the bus every morning to school, yet you still can’t tie your own shoes.

Speaking of shoes, it’s as if you’ve still got one foot in the world of Young Boyhood but now have the other foot in the land of Middle Boyhood.

I feel like I’m even catching a glimpse of your early teen years, when it will no longer be cool to be seen in public with your dad.

I keep that in mind, even now, knowing there are times when I need to give you space; yet the very next day you may be very needy of my attention.

It’s obvious to me that you have gained a sense of your own identity at a much younger age than I did. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I feel you’ve already formed the confidence in yourself that I didn’t gain until junior high.

Perhaps I feel that this is one of those fleeting stages in your life, where if I’m not careful, it will already be gone before I had a chance to acknowledge it.

So I’m acknowledging it.

Before too long, you’ll be openly mocking Elmo and tying your own shoes.

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Jack: Monster Jam Triple Threat Series 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee

7 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Last weekend you and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the Monster Jam truck show: Triple Threat Series. Mommy and I were planning on bringing your sister, but at the last minute we decided it might be best not to take her out in the cold weather.

While I would have been happy had our whole family attended Monster Jam, I have to say: I really enjoyed the monster truck show, just the two of us; father and son.

I feel you were definitely able to appreciate the competition and the action more, knowing that you had all my attention to yourself. So much of my time these days is occupied by caring for your baby sister; therefore, I truly appreciate getting to spend time with you alone.

And the Monster Jam event was the perfect way to do just that.

We saw the monster trucks do tricks during the freestyle event, which inevitably led to some of them flipping over. I filmed the process of how they get flipped back over, to share on my YouTube channel.

I was so caught up in the trucks flying through the air, meanwhile you were actually keeping up with the score. Just like last year, you were cheering for Zombie, with its arms sticking out.

I’ve been taking you faithfully each year to Monster Jam since you were 3 years old. It’s simply become a family tradition at this point.

And it’s so… American.

When you are an adult and look back on your childhood, I believe you will think of our trips to go see Monster Jam as some of the best times.

You’ve been playing with your toy Monster Jam trucks for 4 years now. It’s funny because even your sister is learning how to play with them.

Maybe next year she’ll be able to come along.

But as for this year, it was meant to just be you and me.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Hike at Little River Canyon with Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca

7 years.

Dear Jack,

This Thanksgiving was extra special because your Uncle Joe (one of Mommy’s 7 brothers) and Aunt Rebecca drove up from Pensacola, Florida to spend the holiday weekend with us; even though they knew there would be no turkey at our vegan Thanksgiving feast…

They must have really wanted to visit us!

We made sure to show them a good time; Northern Alabama style! That means participating in mandatory fun by hiking some of the many awesome trails that I grew up near.

Just 5 miles from Nonna and Papa’s house, where lived during my high school years, is the epic Little River Canyon.

We started out my taking an up-close look at the waterfall, by standing on the deck. But you weren’t too impressed. You were ready to hike the trail that traverses along the side of the mountain, making its way down to the river.

Amazingly, this is a trail that I had never hiked once, in all my years of growing up in Fort Payne, Alabama. Somehow I never knew about this one.

As we started hiking it and I realized not only how beautiful it is, but also how challenging, it made me wish I had known about it much sooner; like in high school.

I will admit, the hike was much more challenging that I had anticipated, but we all safely made our way down to the river… and back up!

It was so cool once we got to the water; like showing up in the middle of a white water rapids course. When I think of Alabama, this is the kind of thing I think of.

I grew up on a mountain with a river running through it. This is what I think of when I think of growing up in Alabama. These trails are just a well kept secret.

It was so cool that your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca drove all the way up to see us for Thanksgiving. Had they not been there, I’m not sure we would have embarked on such a special trail.

Love,

Daddy