Dear Holly: Your Hysterical Crazed Reaction to Getting Your 1st American Girl Doll on Your 1st Birthday

1 year.

Dear Holly,

Back in December, Mommy and I proactively bought your main birthday gift. We picked Willa, the American Girl doll, as she seemed to best match your complexion and personality.

After months of living in a closet, Willa finally got to meet you this week for your 1st birthday!

I will never forget your reaction to realizing what was in that box, as you were tearing off the wrapping paper. Once you saw her face smiling through the plastic window, you literally jumped out of Mommy’s arms and scurried on top of the box.

Mommy picked you up and lifted the box up so you get a better look. Your eyes opened wider than I’ve ever seen before. It was a crazed, and hysterical, look you had.

You were immediately fanatical, as if to say, “Hey, how do I help her get out of there?!”

I must say, I saw a side of you I had never seen before. It was as if a new part of your personality became unlocked.

Granted, you authentically loved the Guardians of the Galaxy raccoon I had gotten you just a few days before; which is marketed more as a boy’s toy. You naturally can appreciate a toy that is not specifically a “girl’s toy”, which is also evidenced by your fascination with your brother’s Monster Jam monster truck he lets you play with each morning before school, as I’m packing everything in my car.

However, it was very obvious that as a sweet little girl, you instinctively were connected to Willa, the American Girl doll.

It was a thrill for me to see you that way. I am just so happy I get to watch my little girl grow up.

I guess you’re starting the American Girl doll obsession early.

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: I’m No Longer in Denial that It’s Difficult (and Stressful!) for Our Family to Make It To Church on Time

Is there any such thing as a family who doesn’t struggle to arrive to church before the service actually begins? Perhaps equally challenging is to show up without being stressed out or upset with each other.

The pastor of The Bridge Church, Josh Howerton, brings this up frequently- how ironic it is that it’s normal to fight in the car all the way to church, then put instantly put on smiles once the car ride is over and you walk through the doors of the church.

Last Saturday night, I decided to attempt to prevent this problem. And it actually worked- as simple as my plan was. Here’s what I did…

First, I initiated the conversation with my wife, acknowledging that our family is habitually late for church, and it’s typically a stressful morning, and that I wanted to do my part to change that.

So I asked her specifically what time we all needed to be up in the morning, so that everyone would have ample time to get ready in time.

Then I set my own alarm to the new time, to ensure that I led my family in our slight routine change.

I have to admit, it was a peaceful morning. It was enjoyable, actually. We even got to church early enough for one of the church greeters to take our family’s picture; to make up for the fact we forgot to do an obligatory Easter picture of our family for Facebook the week before.

So apparently that’s what it takes. It requires specific planning. But it all begins with the parents recognizing that an easygoing, on-time car ride to church is not the default.

I feel I am no longer in the denial of believing my family is the exception to the rule when it comes to the cliché stressful car ride to church.

And because of that, I am proactive enough now to change that for my family.

Here’s to getting the family to church on time and without the stress… for the 2nd time in a row.

This is 36.

Dear Holly: Our Family’s Celebration of Your 1st Birthday/Your Disgust for Birthday Cake

1 year.

Dear Holly,

This has been such an exciting week for our family, because on Monday, you turned one!

For a one year-old little girl, you sure had a lot of presents! Granted, your brother was eager to help you open them.

I’m sure for any girl, clothes make up a good amount of her birthday presents. That definitely was the case for you. Whereas your brother Jack only seems impressed by clothes is there is a Pokemon or Yo-kai Watch character on the front, you instead were genuinely excited to see every item of clothes Mommy held up for you to see.

And of course, what little girl wouldn’t love a tea party set as well?

After dinner, we presented you with some chocolate cake from Whole Foods, to which Mommy added some homemade frosting for you. Instead of Mommy making an entire cake, we all shared a big slice.

To our amazement, you instantly gave your birthday cake a true look of disgust. Even when I forced a few crumbs in your mouth to try to convince you it was a dessert, which you’ve never had before, you still turned away.

Mommy came up with a credible theory as to why you were disgusted by the sight of it. Just a few days before, Mommy introduced you to beans, which she prepared in the food processor.

Apparently, the chocolate cake looked too much liked the beans.

You were just not impressed with the birthday cake. Instead of giving it another chance, you discretely began picking it up in little clumps and wiping it on your seat, next to your leg… as if to hope we would notice.

To you, that was the best use for birthday cake.

I love being your Daddy! This is the best.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Learning to Walk, Leading Up to Your 1st Birthday

1 year.

Dear Holly,

Two weekends ago, as I was with you downstairs watching you play, while Mommy was upstairs working on laundry and while your brother was at the kitchen table working on drawings, I saw you do something amazing.

You were sitting down on the carpet, sort of Indian style, when for no apparent reason, you decided to stand up. So you did. And you remained standing up for about 5 seconds.

Then, you took it upon yourself to take 5 steps toward the sofa chair!

Of course, I was the only one to witness this marvelous event. I made sure you knew what a big deal it was. And you did. You were clearly so proud of yourself, as I was obviously proud of you too.

Then, a week later, this past Sunday, the day before your 1st birthday, your brother Jack wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii, so he could play as his favorite Pokemon characters.

You and Mommy were upstairs with us, hanging out.

It was in the middle of a Pokemon fight that you decided to show us all your stuff. You pulled yourself up on the book case, turned to Mommy, and started walking towards her; making it the first time she and your brother saw you walk.

We all cheered and celebrated! What a big deal!

You took another 3 steps Monday morning on your birthday, as Mommy and I were setting up the presents in the living room. It is interesting to see how your 1st birthday and your first steps lined up together.

Granted, you’re not walking around yet- but you are able to take 3 to 5 steps at a time… when you feel like it.

I am very much looking forward to you being my little girl who can walk around the house!

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: Without Saying a Word, My 1 Year-Old Daughter Convinced Me to Buy Her a Stuffed Animal from Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

Last Saturday as our family was out running errands, since our plans to visit the Nashville Zoo for my daughter’s 1st birthday were cancelled due to the rain, we ended up at the classiest Wal-Mart I’ve ever been to in my life: It’s just the one in our neighborhood; we can basically see it from our house.

My wife and I were counselling our son as he tried to pick out the best birthday present for one of his classmate’s birthday parties coming up at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I was holding my daughter in sort of a rickshaw position as we followed my wife and son down the toy aisles.

As we journeyed through the classiest WalMart this side of the Mississippi, my daughter was over all not impressed by the toy selection that she was being exposed to, as it all was for “older kids”. Like Shopkins and action figures kind of stuff.

But then, she saw it…

A fury face on the shelf. She was mesmerized.

It was a Hero Plushy of the mutant raccoon named Rocket, from the cast of the upcoming movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2.

But it wasn’t just a normal stuffed animal. It had a tiny body and a big head, like a caricature.

My daughter’s tiny hand was the perfect size for the undersized body of the toy.

She could easily hold it like an ice cream cone.

By this point, my wife had already picked up on what was going on, as she had turned around to see the two of us petting an arguably ridiculous stuffed animal.

It was pretty obvious at this point that not only would my 1 year-old daughter not have to even attempt to ask for the toy, but that I myself wouldn’t even have to have a conversation with my wife about the fact we were about to spend $10 on a Marvel character plush toy.

My wife’s only attempt to thwart the inevitable was to reach out a grab a pink girly-looking pony stuffed animal that cost $6.

But our little girl definitely didn’t have the same glimmer in her eye as she did for the Guardians of the Galaxy raccoon that she was already turning back to.

As if I needed to give a seemingly legitimate excuse as to why we were about to make this impulse purchase, I suggested to my wife:

“We can let this be my gift to her for her birthday.”

I have to give my little girl what she wants. Especially when it’s a cool mutant raccoon from a Marvel movie.

This is 36.

Dear Holly: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter on Her 1st Birthday

1 year old.

Dear Holly,

In the months leading up to your birth, I tried to imagine what you were going to be like. I pictured this sweet, happy, little girl who not only would be so special to me, but also to everyone who meets her.

Turns out, I was exactly right. You are indeed such a remarkable daughter. The only thing that caught me off guard about you is your blue eyes and your strawberry blonde hair; which make you even that much more special, especially in our family.

I am fascinated by you. I am eternally motivated to watch you continue to become Holly the girl, and eventually, Holly the woman.

There is a special bond I have with you that I have never experienced with anyone else. It’s undeniably the bond between a father and his daughter.

I love the way you look at me, for confirmation that you are indeed loved and beautiful and precious. I love giving you that confirmation.

Being your Daddy is not something I am casual about. I am quite aware of the responsibility I have in being the main man in your life during these first couple of decades. The way you see the world- and the way your see men, will ultimately be based on how you see me.

I refuse to be passive. I refuse to be dominating.

Instead, I am very deliberate to find the importance balance of being a stern yet loving Daddy.

You’ll need that from me for the rest of your life.

Getting to be your Daddy is an epic thing. I am so proud of my 1 year-old daughter.

How could I not be? You are one amazing little girl.

You are so special to me. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Holly.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your 1st Easter (and 4 Different People’s Birthday Celebrations!)

11 months.

Dear Holly,

With your 1st birthday coming up next Monday, Mommy and I decided to celebrate your birthday in Alabama with my side of the family; while we were already in town for Easter.

Once we arrived in Fort Payne, we immediately stopped at the Easter Egg Hunt that 1st Baptist Church has each year. Honestly, you weren’t too concerned with all the eggs in the grass.

Instead, you were just as happy to simply look beautiful in your dress, and have anyone come over and tell you what a pretty little girl you are.

Granted, your brother Jack was the complete opposite. Actually, I feel a little bit bad about how fiercely he dominated the egg hunt for his age division. He is so competitive that it was more about “winning”. Yet still, I was very proud of him, because I feel he learned that from me.

For lunch, we met Uncle Al and Sharon at the only restaurant we ever go to: Toke. With its Thai and Japanese cuisine, everyone in our family can eat there; including your Daddy, the manly vegan.

That’s when the early birthday presents started appearing for you. Plus, Nonna’s birthday was earlier that week, and mine is actually today.

In what turned out to be a major coincidence, your cousin Calla was invited to a Pokemon birthday party. When the birthday boy’s family heard that you and Jack were in town, they invited our family as well.

Then back at Nonna and Papa’s house afterwards, it was time for a few more gifts…

So yeah, there was a lot of celebrating to be done: Not only Easter, but 4 birthdays!

With Easter moving around the calendar every year (last year it was in March), I imagine that typically, Easter will be about a month before all our birthdays; most years.

But as for your first Easter, it got to be extra special because our family got to begin celebrate your birthday early. Just a few more days now for your actual birthday…

Love,

Daddy