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 Jack: You Wrote and Illustrated Your Very 1st Original Book, “Creepy Animals” (Or As I Call It, “The Fluffy and the Furious”)

6 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

I am so proud of you. You took it upon yourself to write, and illustrate, your very first book. It had nothing to do with any assignment at school.

Sure, I knew this day would come… I just didn’t realize it would happen so soon!

But especially with you being in “A.R.” (Advanced Readers), in your Kindergarten class, you naturally have an interest in applying what you know to your already existing level of creativity.

The funny thing is, I had no idea you were even working on a book until the day you finished it. You had been working on it each day at the house after school, before I got home.

With no further ado, here is your very 1st original book, Creepy Animals:

One day there was a new monster. The monsters were creepy.

They were furious. And were fluffy.

They were dangerous and could fly. They had horns.

There could be creepy birds. They had sharp, pointy teeth.

There could be spidercats. And thorns.

And weird animals. And sharp, and pointy spikes.

The end.

Right away, I appreciate how the story begins in suspense, as we are presented with a new monster. Then we learn he is one of many monsters.

The suspense continues, and the curiosity arises, as we wonder why the monsters are so furious. Somewhat ironic is the fact that these same furious monsters are also fluffy. Typically, things that are fluffy are not also furious, but these monsters are definitely the exception to the rule!

We read on to learn how prevalent horns are among these monsters- and we are even given a mention of spidercats!

These are weird animals, indeed.

Thank you so much for writing and illustrating your first book. I know there will be many more. I especially look forward to us eventually working on a book together- where I write it and you illustrate it.

That’s going to be awesome!

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.

This is 36: The Story behind the Pie-Face Picture on My 36th Birthday

Last Thursday night as my birthday came to a close, I posted a picture on Facebook that was taken just a couple of hours earlier. The caption simply read, “This is 36.” The picture showed me right after I had been pie-faced by one of the servers at our favorite restaurant, Tito’s.

Indeed, it caught me by complete surprise. I had no intentions that night of being pie-faced for the first time in my life. Sure, one of the waiters leaned over to me and muttered into my ear right before they sang “Happy Birthday” and told me, “We’re going to throw pie in your face… is that okay?”

I just smiled and nodded my head, assuming he was just joking. I still didn’t take him seriously even when he told my wife, “Grab your camera. You will want a picture of this…”

Actually, I didn’t even realize what had happened until I tasted the whipped cream. My mouth just happened to be open with the pie came at me. I never even saw it happen, as the girl who did it secretly had the pie behind me.

(And yes, I just have to count this as a “fortunate accident”, as consuming whipped cream violates my vegan lifestyle…)

Even after 24 hours and two showers, I was still sort of able to smell the whipped cream. It got pretty high up my nose.

To me, that image is the perfect concept of how I interpret being 36 years old.

I had just turned 18 when I graduated high school in 1999. That means just as many years have passed since then. I am 36.

And I am proud to be 36. I embrace change. I accept the minor (or are they major?) evolutions in my personality that come along with being age 36. I gladly commemorate what this seemingly insignificant age symbolizes to me.

It’s like getting surprisingly pie-faced, then instantly laughing because you already know that it’s the little things in life that become the big things.

This is 36.