Dear Holly: You are a Little Doll Who Has Come to Life

3 years, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

This week, Mommy and I completed the difficult task of narrowing down the 20 professional portraits taken at your school to just 3. Actually, we were not successful.

Because we ended up paying extra money so we could get 5 instead.

The easiest way to summarize how I feel about these photos of you:

You are a doll.

For me, it’s truly coming to the realization that if toy companies needed a real life girl to use as a model for making dolls, they would use your picture to base it off of.

You are a little doll who came to life.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Family Quarantine Jeep Ride Through Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Area

9 years, 4 months.

For the 3rd weekend in a row now, our family has designated an entire Sunday afternoon to taking the Jeep out to some new random town we’ve never been to, in an hour radius from where we live.

This time, I decided to search “Wildlife Management Area near me”. Having grown up right next to one in Alabama, and having really put the Jeep to the test on that one last summer, I figured that any wildlife management area near us in Tennessee would be worth the drive.

I was right.

Once we arrived at the 15,000 acre park, we immediately saw another black Jeep like mine. I approached the driver and passenger to ask them where the best place to start was.

Billy and Angie offered to show us around, so we just followed them.

Your favorite part was when we drove on top of the dam. You also enjoyed playing on a pile of rocks with your sister.

I’m pretty sure we just discovered a new Jeep-friendly playground!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: What I Was Doing During My Own Spring Break 30 Years Ago in 1990

9 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

This will most likely be remembered as your strangest Spring Break ever. Instead of being quarantined in our house because of the Coronavirus, you were supposed to be at Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama this week.

Being forced to stay home during your 3rd grade Spring Break is definitely in major contrast to what I was doing exactly 30 years ago in March 1990 during mine.

That was when our family went to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the first time.

I specifically remember it being the first time I ever experienced a water faucet with an automatic sensor. I was amazed how I could wash my hands without having to each touch a knob.

And that was only the beginning of the amazing things I experienced in Disney World.

So yes, Disney World vs. lockdown to due the Coronavirus… quite a difference.

We’ll make the most of this, though.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Diggin’ Up Onions

9 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

While Nonna and Papa were in town a few weeks ago, you spent one afternoon with them digging up little wild onions in the community area of our neighborhood.

I had always wondered why often, it smells like onions when people mow their lawns. Now I know why- little wild onions are often growing in the lawn.

Once you collected several pounds of the wild onions, you washed them off over the sink. Your sister helped.

Now that I think of it, the two of you should have opened a “Wild Onion” stand in our neighborhood. Nothing like a refreshing wild onion on a crisp Spring morning!

Love,

Daddy

These are the Good Ole Days… We’re Still Living in Them (Original Song Included)

If 2019 was the year of my existential crisis (realizing I had reached all my life goals before the age of 40 and having to recalibrate my identity accordingly), then it feels like 2020 is going to be the year of me learning to accept that I have already lived the first half of my life.

Perhaps the biggest epiphany I’ve had about it so far is this:

I spent the first 38 years of my life looking back in nostalgia, foolishly convincing myself that somehow, one day, I will be able to return to the good ole days.

But I will spend the next 38 years aware that right now, we’re actually living in the good ole days that we will look back on and wish we could return to.

These are the good ole days. We’re still living in them.

The only possible way to return to previous good ole days is to spend time with people and share memories of those exclusive events you lived through together.

I think the default in the human experience is to fail to recognize it’s harder to recognize the good ole days while we are still in them, because we are always also balancing out the mundane and negative events happening alongside the good things.

In reality though, looking back, we tend to remember the good memories more than the others. Those good times serve as the thumbnails for our past.

That’s why I felt it was important to write my newest song, “These are the Good Days”.

It is a reminder to make the most of life while we still are alive; focusing on the good things, which are often overshadowed by the mundane and the negative.

You can hear my new song below:

All words and music by Nick Shell:

My life is half way over, my life has never been more in focus

No time machine to take us all back, what’s happened is stuck in the past

These are the good ole days, we’re still living in them

I won’t always be here, you won’t always be here

So shake a hand, shake a leg, soon we’ll all be dead

Don’t want to die, so I’ll try to live while I’m alive

This is it, these are the good ole days

You learn to take the good with the bad things

Life is both a comedy and a tragedy

No way to fast-forward or rewind

Just try to catch up if you get behind

Dear Jack: Diggin’ Up Bones (from Owl Pellets)

9 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

It is an unspoken understanding that anytime you have an extracurricular activity sponsored by your school, it will be just you and me. In most cases, Mommy stays home with your sister, getting her ready for her bedtime which is earlier than yours.

Or, in the case of the Super Bowl Breakfast last month, I dropped off your sister first, then ate with you and your school.

Last night, your school conducted his annual STREAM night, where every classroom in the school becomes a different science experience station.

Your favorite was the one where you got to dissect an “owl pellet.”

As I just happened to learn from one of your library books a few weeks ago, owls can’t actually chew up their food.

Instead, they just swallow it whole, digest the meat, then regurgitate a furball of bones.

After you dissected your first owl pellet, which turned to be the remains of a mole.

You enjoyed it so much, you then requested to dissect a 2nd owl pellet! You were the first and only student to make this request.

The 2nd owl pellet was for a shrew; an animal I can’t differentiate from a mole.

It is confirmed that in our kitchen pantry (not sure how that ended up being the most appropriate place!) there are now two plastic baggies containing the bones of two undigested rodents.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your Brother is Helping You Learn to Draw Animals

3 years, 10 months.

Dear Holly,

This past week at our house, we have been focusing more on manners.

I am very pleased with the results I have been seeing since.

Your brother has been very helpful in kindly teaching you how to use flashcards and how to draw on your magnetic tablet.

Yesterday morning as I was making a protein shake, I saw how he made up a fun game for you:

He provided 3 flashcards at a time; each one of a different animal. Then you chose one to draw.

It was precious. Every animal you drew was a smiley face with arms and legs growing out of it.

Except for the buffalo. They had antlers which looked like little arms on their heads.

Love,

Daddy