Dear Holly: The Hamster Didn’t Get the Toy Blocks After All

3 years, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

Last week, my coworker Lori was able to get some free cardboard blocks from her community’s “buy, sell, trade” Facebook page. The simple concept was that these blocks would be perfect for our family’s pet hamster.

He loves to chew cardboard and make beds out of small boxes. So it was a perfect idea.

However, the blocks never made it upstairs to the hamster’s aquarium.

That’s because you and your brother have been making up games all week using them. Castles have been built. Escape rooms have been constructed. Towers have been set up.

Imagine- that kids would actually get to play with toys intended for kids, as opposed to a hamster!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Seeing Frozen 2 with Your Cousins During Christmas Break

3 years, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

This Christmas was very special. Not only did you have your two older cousins come to visit from California and Mississippi, but you got to see Frozen 2 with your younger cousins.

You have obviously been very excited to go see Frozen 2- and finally, it worked out for us to see it as a family… alongside your cousins. It was an ideal situation.

The funny thing is, once the movie was over and Mommy asked you what you thought of it, you responded, “I didn’t like it. I wanted the other Frozen.”

Apparently, you were under the impression you were all going to see the original Frozen movie in the theater together… despite you watching it every Saturday morning at our house!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Initiating Trampoline Football During Christmas Break

9 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

It is customary that I always keep a Nerf football in my Jeep. The main reason is it help secures the convertible roof panels when I remove them and store them in the back.

But also, you never know when you might want to throw a football around.

During Christmas break, you saw me taking the top off the Jeep and noticed the football there and asked if you could play with it.

I replied, “Of course! That’s what it’s there for!”.

You then set up a simultaneous game with your sister and cousins on the trampoline. From what I can understand, the concept was this:

As you and your older cousin Calla saw how many times you could throw the football back and forth without missing, your sister and your younger cousin tried not to fall over.

I am proud of you for initiating this game and activity!

Love,

Daddy

3 Reasons Frozen 2 is Far Superior to the 1st Frozen Movie (Or It Isn’t, Based on the Viewer’s Own Current Perspective of Life)

There are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who prefer an upbeat, easy to follow story… and those who prefer a story that is more mature, mysterious, challenging, and darker.

I feel that I have always been very open about how overrated the first Frozen movie is. Over the years, I have expressed this multiple times in other blog posts.

My biggest beef with the first Frozen is that the true villain is not Hans, but instead, the parents; for psychologically damaging their daughters by ultimately locking them in their separate bedrooms without explaining why, while not allowing them to communicate with each other.

Seriously, that’s messed up!

So as you can imagine, I was not overly anxious to finally see Frozen 2 over Christmas break. It was just simply going to be a movie I sat through as my fatherly duty.

Fortunately instead, I was relieved, surprised, and impressed- to the point I knew even within the first 10 minutes that Disney had made the bold move to give Frozen a sequel that it (and an audience who is now 6 years older) deserves; as opposed to a copy-and-paste-of-the-original cash grab.

Granted, there are many people who do not agree with me on this.  As I’ve been talking to people about Frozen 2 in comparison to the first, this what I have consistently found:

Either you love Frozen 2 and think it is far superior to the first…

Or you don’t like Frozen 2 at all because the first one was so much better.

I have yet to meet a person who believes both movies are equally good. No in-between.

You can even see this on Rotten Tomatoes, where the first Frozen got a 15% higher score on the Tomato Meter, but Frozen 2 scored 15% higher with the Audience Score.

I have come up with 3 reasons Frozen 2 is either much better (or worse) than the original. My theory is that a person’s reaction to Frozen 2 is ultimately a reflection of the individual viewer’s perspective of their own life.

  1. Major Character Growth: Taking place 6 years (in real time) since the first movie, Frozen 2 gives us a realistic look at what “happily ever after” actually looks like. That means we need to see Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf experience the next new challenge to help their growth as individuals. (That’s because happiness requires character growth.) Specifically, Olaf openly encounters a full-on existential crisis, as noted in his song, “When I Am Older.”
  2. More Complex, Introspective Songs: Instead of using the easily likable universal guitar chord progression (G-D-Em-C) exploited in “Let It Go” (similar to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”), Frozen 2’s lead track “Into the Unknown” actually requires much more of the song performer and the listener. These songs aren’t as instantly catchy as those from the first Frozen- they grow on you, just like Frozen 2.
  3. More Challenging Plot for the Viewer: The first half of Frozen 2’s technically falls into the category of a thriller/horror movie, as Elsa follows a mystical and ominous voice only she can hear; which serves as a metaphor of how part of the human experience is simultaneously following our hearts, while not allowing our own questions about the future to turn us into our own worst enemies. Some of my favorite quotes of Frozen 2 illustrate how the characters (and the audience) began to understand the importance of emotional intelligence as individuals:

Elsa: “That’s just your fear. Fear is what can’t be trusted.”

Kristoff: “My love is not fragile.”

General Mattias: “Be prepared, just when you think you found your way, life will throw you into a new path.”

That last quote ultimately reveals the theme of Frozen 2. This sequel forces us to come to terms with whether or not we are willing to move on from what life was like 6 years ago.

That is fundamentally what determines whether a person believes Frozen 2 is superior, or inferior, to the first.

Image credit- Disney.

Hiking Gilliam Loop Trail and Pogo Ridge (9 Miles) in DeSoto State Park During Christmas 2019

Christmas 2019 was extra special in that my nephew Matt (who is in the Air Force, stationed on Mississippi) and my niece Sara (who is a school teacher in California) were able to spend the holidays with my family in Alabama.

With all the Christmas cargo we had to take down from where we actually live in Tennessee and then bring back from Alabama, my wife and I decided to take both her Hyundai Elantra and my Jeep Wrangler for the nearly 3 hour drive there.

For me, it was just an excuse to be able to serve as a Jeep tour guide during Christmas vacation. I started out by taking Matt and Sara (and their mother Jeanene) on a 23 mile drive along Little River Canyon on Christmas Eve.

And for the day after Christmas, I announced I would be heading up a 9 mile hike in a “hidden gem” of a trail in DeSoto State Park, called Gilliam Loop (which begins at Cabin 21)- or at least, my version of it.

Matt and Sara agreed to join me, with zero hesitation.

Gilliam Loop is actually a mountain biking trail, but if you know where to veer off the path, you can connect to Pogo Ridge.

Back in 1934, the Civilian Conversation Corps (known as CCC) built culverts along the trail, which runs parallel to Little River.

So it is really cool to see these 86 year-old structures still in place.

Pogo Ridge leads a crossing point of Little River itself. However, we opted not to cross through the river, which would have meant we would have had to hike the rest of the day in wet clothes.

Therefore, we took Exit 4 of the trail back to the Road 12.

When it was all said and done, we had hiked 9.25 miles in 3 hours.

Before heading back to the house, I took them by Howard’s Chapel; the church built into a giant rock, where the founding pastor’s ashes are contained.

Oh, and I failed to mention:

Christmas Week 2019 contained perfect Fall Weather, which allowed us to have this much fun!

I had the top off the Jeep the entire time, as the temperate remained in the 60s for most of the time.

It will be a Christmas I never forget!

Dear Holly: You Love S’mores… Maybe a Little Too Much!

3 years, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

Last weekend when our family visited Bell Buckle, Tennessee with Nonna and Papa, there was a s’mores station set up in the area as we waited for the hay ride with Santa.

I had my doubts that you would actually eat the S’mores sandwich I made you. Instead, I assumed you would just each the chocolate bar.

To my surprise, you labored over eating the whole thing; as it was much, much bigger than your little mouth.

You were still finishing it off once we got to the hay ride; as seen in the family photo of us, where your mouth is wide open and you are clutching the s’mores in your hand.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Your New Converse All Star Shoes, with Flames

9 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

You’re at the age where you are constantly wearing out your shoes, as well as outgrowing them.

For your “2nd half of 3rd grade” shoes, you decided it was time for a new pair of Chuck Taylors; like I have.

However, when we went to Kohl’s, we learned that Chuck Taylors are not made is size 4 for boys.

Instead, we had to buy you the slightly more cushioned upgrade:

Converse All Stars.

You got some really cool black ones with flames on the bottom.

And, they aren’t designed to lace up all the way, so they look extra cool!

Love,

Daddy