Dear Jack: What I Learned from Father’s Day 2017

6 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

Father’s Day morning was quite special, as my very first gift was getting to sleep in, thanks to Mommy. I didn’t wake up until 9:30. It was glorious!

We then made our way to the living room, where I was bombarded with goodies from you and your sister. I now have a Captain America dad shirt. (He’s my favorite super hero.) Plus Mommy got me some vegan treats too.

And of course I was especially delighted to see crafts from you and your sister. You made me a special “shrinky dink” keychain, featuring a drawing you made of your and me; where you’ve again drawn us the same size. I’m so happy because I was a little jealous when Mommy got one for Mother’s Day last month…

Your sister made me a glittery “World’s Best Dad” award, based on the shape of her hand.

I took special care to read through all the questionnaire answers you gave,

as they reveal how you perceive having me as your Daddy:

My dad’s hair is black. (That’s darker than I realized!)

He’s as tall as a boy. (Are you saying I’m short?)

He weighs about 60 pounds. (Last time I checked, I was closer to 160. Guess I recently lost 100 pounds!)

My dad looks handsome when he wears hair gel. (I think you gave this answer because I fix your hair and mine at the same time.)

My dad always says “no.” (Hey, just trying to balance out how nice Mommy is to you. Though on the next page, you said, “My dad is my superhero because he is nice.”)

He’s not very good at cooking. Once Daddy was cooking before I was born and Mommy didn’t like it. (Very true- and very good memory!)

My dad’s favorite song is Metallica. (Yes, just Metallica. I’ll always think of you when I think of them because I really got into them back in January when I stayed overnight without you in the hospital, of all things!)

My dad’s favorite place to go is Whole Foods. (True, I’m there nearly every day, picking up groceries on my mountain bike during my lunch break.)

He always forgets… I don’t think he forgets anything. (True, unless it relates to where some obscure kitchen utensil goes in the drawer. In that case, I need Mommy to draw me a diagram with directions and instructions!)

He really likes to hike. (Yes! And I love the creative way you drew us hiking together, with our backs turned. That’s cool.)

My dad’s job is truck driving. (Actually, I’m the manager of the retention department for a trucking company- but that’s a mouthful!)

He likes to wear plaid shirts. (Right on, good eye!)

He reminds me of a bozo. (If you’re saying I’m funny, I’ll take the compliment!)

I love my dad because he plays Hungry Sharks with me. (Not only did I spent countless hours of our Christmas vacation earning you extra points on that game, it also was a game we took turns playing while you were in the hospital.)

Father’s Day really was special. It actually reminded me of a birthday or something.

I very much enjoyed celebrating fatherhood with you and your sister, and gaining your personal perspective.

Love,

Daddy

Is The Pfunky Griddle in Nashville a Vegan Friendly Restaurant?

Hi, I’m Nick Shell, the manliest vegan on the Internet. (No other male vegan has ever disputed this!) And yes, I can confirm that a vegan can indeed dine at The Pfunky Griddle. Because I recently did…

A few weeks ago, my family had a great time at the Nashville Zoo. But first, we had a splendid breakfast at The Pfunky Griddle, which is only 4 miles away.

I admit, I had my doubts whether or not I would just be assisting my wife and kids in preparing their meal, yet myself not having anything to eat.

So before I left the house, I had some coffee and made myself my famous “Manly Vegan Smoothie”, which consists of a banana, a cup of blueberries, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a tablespoon of chia seeds, and a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder.

That way, I had a solid base of vegan protein and fat already in my system in case things didn’t work out for me at The Pfunky Griddle.

My main role in being there was ultimately indeed to prepare and serve my family their pancakes. They are vegetarians, so they can have eggs and dairy, which I can not.

That is the reason I specifically didn’t order the pancakes. Instead, I had the hash browns and the veggie sausage.

I assume that you know the whole premise of The Pfunky Griddle is that you make your own breakfast, thanks to a griddle which is built into every table.

Now, was my meal perfectly vegan? No.

It could have been, but I knowingly let two things slide:

I assume the veggie sausage contained egg whites. While I would never choose to eat egg whites, I will overlook it if there is a trace of it in the food, as I did with the veggie burger last month at Mellow Mushroom.

But I refuse to eat egg yolks, which contain the cholesterol.

I am a vegan because it allows me to consume 0% of my daily cholesterol; not for animal rights’ reasons alone.

Also, the spray for the griddle contains butter as an ingredient, though it’s so little that it still registers as 0% cholesterol on the nutritional label. (This spray is not necessary to even use, but it definitely makes the food easier to cook.)

We had fun as a family and we will definitely be going back. As is the norm with my vegan lifestyle, I made it work and I refused to be a stick in the mud.

Because not only am I the manliest vegan on the Internet, I’m also the coolest vegan anyone has ever met in the history of the world!

Our Family’s 1st Visit to the Nashville Zoo, as a Family of 4

The original plan was to take our daughter Holly to the Nashville Zoo on her 1st birthday back in April…

But between the rainy weather that weekend, and her being sick the next weekend, and our family being out of town after that, it took until this month to finally make our family’s first visit to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, as a family of four.

It actually suddenly made sense though, to buy an annual family zoo pass, since it pays for itself by the 3rd visit. We live in Spring Hill, which is about a 45 minute drive for us; not so bad of a trek.

It pretty much takes at least that long to get anywhere in the Nashville area anyway, if you’re lucky.

Something I didn’t realize was how much the Nashville Zoo has expanded since the last time our family was there, a couple of years ago when we were only a family of three.

They have this new swinging rope bridge that our whole family loved, for starters.

Our 6 and a half year-old son Jack was pleasantly surprised to see the Nashville Zoo now has a Komodo Dragon. To him, that’s one of the most fascinating animals, because it’s ultimately a living dinosaur.

He also really liked seeing the porcupines, which I don’t remember from our last visit back when he was only about 3 years old. His hair actually looks like a porcupine, right?

Which, speaking of, Jack was so excited to be able to feel an actual porcupine quill. Coincidentally, the high school intern who showed him the quill was also named Jack.

Oh! And the kangaroos…

The last time I had taken Jack to the Nashville Zoo, the kangaroo exhibit had just opened. He obviously was in his element, being able to pet the tame kangaroos.

I also don’t remember him being able to see the giant turtles up close until this time either. He could have chilled out with those guys all day!

As for our daughter Holly, she was equally thrilled by the whole experience. She is currently fascinated by any kind of animals, especially birds. Right now she’s working real hard on trying to say the word bird. So it was a big deal to see big birds up so close.

I think in her mind, every other kind of animal is basically a mouse, a cat, or a dog. She loved pointing at each new creature she discovered.

Perhaps by default, her favorite bird was the flamingo. Why wouldn’t it be? A giant, funny, pink bird… perfect.

So naturally, her souvenir was a small stuffed animal version of one.

As for Jack, he choose a clouded leopard, as ultimately, that was the animal he was most enthralled by during this visit.

We were at the zoo for only two hours and only saw half of place. Good thing we have a year-long pass.

Obviously, we had so much fun and are looking forward to our next visit. And yes, it’s a complete coincidence that our last name is Shell, and the zoo just happens to have a section now called The Shell Station. (In case you were wondering.)

As for our next visit, maybe we’ll get around to sharing our experience in seeing the other half of the Nashville Zoo.

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!

Dear Holly: You are My Golden Senorita who Loves Munching on Tortillas

1 year, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

I doubt most people would guess it, but you are indeed part Mexican. My grandmother’s parents were born in Michoacán, which is in southeast Mexico. She was born in Buffalo, New York, but was completely Mexican. So Nonna is half Mexican, I am a quarter, and you are 1/8th.

You’re 12 and half percent Mexican. Of course, your golden hair sure doesn’t help imply that. Nor your blue eyes. Nor your fair skin.

But if nothing else, you have definitely been showing your Mexican roots in that you are currently obsessed with Tortilla Land brand tortillas.

I like them because right there on the package, it says there are only 5 ingredients: wheat flour, water, canola oil, salt, sugar. No unpronounceable chemicals or preservatives. Plus, I can eat them because they are vegan.

Mommy gets them at Kroger, which is where we buy most of our groceries each week.

You just can’t get enough of these tortillas. I love watching you use your little figures try to aggressively grab the little morsels that Mommy and I tear for you. You quickly stuff them in your mouth as if each time were the last time.

Of course, your brother regularly eats them for breakfast, so I suppose there is indeed some legitimate concern that we could run out of these tortillas before you’re ready for another one.

And Mommy makes quesadillas out of them as well. She uses avocado instead of cheese, since I can’t have dairy.

I’ve been trying to get your brother into spicy foods, but he thinks black pepper is spicy. So if I can’t convert him, maybe I can convert you. I need to have at least one kid who can appreciate spicy food.

Perhaps it all starts with a 1 year-old little girl’s fascination with tortillas.

Love,

Daddy

7 Intriguing Science Experiments for Your Kids (By Guest Blogger, Sandra Cobain, of Best for the Kids)

As we all know, getting our kids to take an interest in school and lessons and homework and all the rest is a complete nightmare. Going through my kid’s textbooks, dated from at least five years ago, all I could see was boring diagrams, tedious equations and faded pictures. It’s no wonder that kid’s these days play up in school because they find it so hard to engage in lessons.
One of biggest subjects my kids find it hard to get into is science. Whether it’s biology, physics or chemistry, the long words, meanings and just the overall concepts can be extremely difficult to explain, especially to a child. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case.

By putting the infographic below from BestForTheKids.com to good use, you will be able to stimulate your children’s minds, showing them how fun and exciting science can be with these seven simple experiments:

 

• The Fire-Proof Balloon
• The Straw Through the Potato Experiment
• The Water Defying Gravity Experiment
• The Egg & Toothpaste Experiment
• The Tea Bag Rocket Experiment
• The Turning Pennies Green Experiment
• The Making Fake Snow Experiment
These are all incredibly easy experiments that you can conduct in the comfort of your own home and they’re sure to leave your kids stunned and excited. Who knew science could be so fun? All these experiments are incredibly fun and will help you introduce your child to the wonderful world of science!
 

Infographic by BestForTheKids.com

Dear Jack:  Our Break from the Real World (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

After nearly a week of adventures in Florida, our vacation was coming to an end. The treasure hunt. The go-karts. Watching UFC and the ongoing Harry Potter movie series before bedtime at the condo.

Undeniably, our family’s “Ride the Lightning” tour of Destin would not have been the same without Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca there with us; as they drove over from Pensacola to join us. I’m so glad you got to spend quality time with them, as they stayed at the condo with us for the last part of our trip.

At Miramar Beach, you got to attack Uncle Joe at the beach with goopy wet sand. He just went along with it.

Back at the condo, you were able to introduce him and Aunt Rebecca to the Jack version of the rules of Monopoly…

It had more to do with “unlocking” the animals from the kennels after making enough money to buy them.

Even your sister played. She was eager to get her hands on that money…

While it might sound crazy to say that we took you and your 1 year-old sister on a 7 hour trip to Florida, and back, I’m just grateful we were all able to get away with it.

We needed a break from the real world. We got it.

And our successful trip proves that we can, and will, do it again.

I loved how on the last day together, as we had lunch at Whole Foods, Aunt Rebecca asked you, “Jack, I’m going to miss you. Are you going to miss me?”

Very emotionless, very monotone, and without any thought, you instantly mumbled back:

“I dunno.”

You may not have the capacity to truly express missing someone yet, but I can answer for you:

Yes. Yes, you will.

Love, Daddy