Dear Jack: You and Papa Watched Your Sister Ride in the Saddest Parade Ever

6 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

This past weekend as Nonna and Papa were in town from Alabama, you took advantage of spending all the time you could with Papa, as the two of you have always been on the same creative (and often physically active) wavelength. You spent hours with Papa at the kitchen table, working on arts and crafts.

One of those crafts included the two of you co-writing your own version of the book, Mr. Nobody, by Roger Hargreaves.

While taking a break from all your hard work, you both sat down in the gray sofa chair in the living room. I was on the floor with your sister, who wasn’t quite tired enough for a nap, nor energetic enough to laugh or even smile while we played.

She used her special Super Mario jump sound to communicate to me that she wanted to ride the zebra scooter. So I helped her up into the saddle and slowly began pushing her across the carpet.

I announced, “Hey everyone, Holly’s in a parade! Here she comes!”

But the look on her face indicated that she was way too sad to be in a parade. As she made her way across the living room, I kindly whispered, “Wave, Holly! You’re in a parade. Everyone’s here to see you!”

Yet still, just a sad little face was all she could muster up. I started feeling sad too at that point, as I thought of her as a poor little melancholy clown.

You and Papa obviously found humor in it: to see such a tired and confused looking, yet cute little girl as the sole member of a parade.

After the parade ended, you and Papa went from resting, to wrestling, to rolling.

It was sort of like the post-parade event.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: I am Training Your Brother How to Teach You, Not Taunt You

1 year, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

You are a very gracious little sister, that’s for sure. For the past several weeks, I have been patiently (?) teaching your brother what exactly it means to gently play with his 1 year-old sibling.

Your brother is 6 and half years-old; he’ll be starting 1st grade a month from now. In his mind, you’re his peer. In his mind, he can play with you the same way he plays with other boys his age. In his mind, you’re not a fraction of his size.

For now, I pretty much have to have a “just don’t touch your sister” rule for him, because he has this habit of either knocking you down, or carrying  you from one side of the room to room but that literally dropping you on the floor.

I’ve also been explaining to him how he’s not competing with you. He has this habit of wanting to play with whatever toy you’re playing with, yet the moment you stop playing with it and he finally gets it, he then wants to new toy you’re playing with.

It’s a cycle of him constantly wanting whatever toy you have.

This week I specifically trained him on his role: to teach his little sister on to do things.

That way, there’s no need for him to want your toy, but instead, to play with you by showing you how to play with it, without taking the toy away from you.

He’ll eventually mellow out and transition into his role.

With all that being said, most of the time, it’s not an issue.

Instead, it’s very clear he loves and adores you.

A few weeks I came home to see you playing with a homemade miniature Pokemon-themed basketball goal and basket. Your brother had made it just for you!

Love,

Daddy

Breaking News: “Manliest Vegan on the Internet” Rides Skateboard to Target for Carrot Juice; Refuses to See Himself as a Hero

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon in Spring Hill, Tennessee when Nick Shell, 36, drove his family in a 2017 Toyota 4Runner to the local “weigh and pay” frozen yogurt shop, Sweet Cece’s; after his wife suggested it would be fun.

Joined by his parents who were visiting for the weekend, he carried in his 1 year-old daughter as his 6 and a half year-old son ran ahead. As the Shell family walked to the back of the shop, deciding which flavor they each were in the mood for, Nick noticed that unlike any other time he had ever been to Sweet Cece’s, the dairy-free option was temporarily unavailable.

He kept this information to himself, though his wife soon took notice, asking him, “Oh no, are they out of the watermelon sorbet for you?”

Allowing his entire family to get their own frozen treats, he waited until after everyone was settled in at the table before he whispered to his wife, “I’ll be right back. I’ll just go pick up something at Super Target across the street.”

He pulled open the hatch door of the 4Runner, where he had been keeping his skateboard for just an event such as this. Within minutes, he found himself at the Super Target entrance.

His family, back at Sweet Cece’s, were not even halfway through their treats, when he returned with a bottle of Bolthouse Farms 100% carrot juice in hand.

“My name in Greek means victorious. I find a way to be victorious in everything I do. I will not allow myself to be a victim. So when I saw that Sweet Cece’s was temporarily out of my vegan option, it did not affect me emotionally. Instead, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to use my skateboard and catch up on some Vitamin A from carrot juice. Some might even refer to me as a hero, but I refuse to see myself that way. I’m just a regular guy who did what any decent manly vegan would do in that instance,” Shell strangely explained.

After clarifying to him that no one was referring to him as a hero, Nick Shell then continued to speak about the incident, but I had to sort of tune him out. He kept referring to himself as “the manliest vegan on the Internet,” even though in the same breath, he admitted no one has ever questioned him on that title.

If you see him in public, it’s best you just smile and nod, while slowly walking away, backwards.

Otherwise, he may offer to let you take a selfie with him for your Instagram account, as he pressures you into tagging it:

#themanliestveganontheinternet

2017 Toyota 4Runner 3rd Seat Space and Car Seat Placement (Videos Included)

This past weekend while my parents were in town, everyone was able to comfortably ride in the 2017 Toyota 4Runner: that’s 4 adults and 2 kids- we even had room for one more person!

I drove, my wife sat shotgun, our daughter sat behind me, my mom sat next to her (with an empty seat between), and then in the 3rd row seat, there was our son and my 5’ 11” dad.

So to be clear, there are 2 seats in the front row, 3 in the 2nd row, and 2 in the back; which totals 7 seats.

If you had to, you could actually fit 4 kids’ car seats in the 2017 Toyota 4Runner; parents up front, younger kids in the 2nd row, and older kids in the 3rd row.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the space in the 3rd row. I’m 5’ 9” and my dad is 2 inches taller than me. We both, at times, rode in the 3rd row seat.

 

We were just riding around town so it wasn’t a big deal. But obviously, it’s not something an average-sized full grown adult would want to do for a long ride-trip.

It’s that paradox where if I sat up straight in the 3rd row seat, I would have to sort of tilt my head forward, but if I slouched down in the seat, my knees would hit the back of the 2nd row seat.

 

However, I would imagine that for a long road trip, the largest riders would likely also most likely be the ones driving or riding shotgun to begin with.

Obviously though, a 5’ 2” female adult would likely have no issues whatsoever fitting in the 3rd row seat.

 

I am so grateful that I just happened to have the 2017 Toyota 4Runner the weekend my parents were in town. It was no problem hauling everyone around in it.

Thanks for checking out my blog today!

Our Long Awaited Yet Random Drive to Henry Horton State Park on July 4th

Ever since we moved into to our new house in Spring Hill two and a half years ago, our family has always been curious about that sign on 840, advertising Henry Horton State Park; which is about 30 miles away from where we live.

The plan had sort of always been, that when we had an extra day off as a family where we had no agenda, or when we had a vehicle from one of our trips, we would finally check out Henry Horton State Park.

Well, this past week, the time had finally come.

Fresh off our Louisville trip, we still had the 2017 Toyota 4Runner. So it was simple:

This past Tuesday morning, on July 4th, our family loaded up in the “Storm Trooper” and made our long awaited yet random drive to Henry Horton State Park.

Since I had driven the entire Louisville trip myself, I wanted to give my wife a chance to drive the 4Runner. I didn’t even have to ask her if she wanted to drive. I just looked up, and she was already in the driver’s seat after I had loaded up the double stroller.

So with our son in the 3rd row seat directly behind me, and our daughter right next to me in the 2nd row seat, we began our journey.

Our daughter Holly was desperately in need of a nap, but she had a case of the munchies. So as we made our way to the legendary (in our minds, at least) state park, I facilitated her in being able to eat her cheddar goldfish.

As one would imagine, by the time we arrived at Henry Horton State Park, our little girl was finally fast asleep. So my wife volunteered to stay in the luxurious cabin of the 4Runner and through the windshield, watched the boys audition for American Ninja Warrior on the extreme playground.

My son really enjoyed the challenge of pulling himself across the obstacle course with a little help from me.

After he got good and sweaty, we hopped back in the 4Runner, as he held his Hot Wheels version of a 1985 Toyota 4Runner; which he’s had since he was two.

Clutching that older, miniature version of the vehicle that my wife drove us home in, he too fell asleep.

Of course, we would have little stop at the fireworks tent before we were back home for the day.

I will admit. There was nothing groundbreaking about our trip to Henry Horton State Park.

No cool caves. No amazing trails. No big waterfalls.

But for us as a family, it was a mystery finally solved, and a great way to spend the 4th of July together.

And that’s all that mattered.

What Do Vegans Eat for the 4th of July? Just Ask Me, The Manliest Vegan on the Internet!

It’s understood in our American culture that a real man takes pride in eating bacon, sausage, and beef.

Especially on July 4th. He simply (and ironically) laughs in the face of high cholesterol and onset diabetes.

Why? Because it’s manly to eat meat.

And because… ‘Merica!

How else could a man possibly get enough protein?

However, I am currently taking America by storm, as I am stumping both scientists and sociologists alike…

They are being forced to take notice that I am in deed the manliest vegan on the Internet, yet I am still alive and well.

Miraculously, I am perfectly in the correct height/weight/age range. I not overweight nor underweight. In other words… I’m getting enough protein.

How is it that I am not a walking skeleton? Why does I seem so happy and content in life? 

I am currently baffling our nation, as Americans everywhere are trying to wrap their minds around the fact that I haven’t eaten any pork (which includes bacon and sausage) in 8 and a half years, any meat at all in 5 and a half years, and no eggs or dairy in over 4 years.

My protein comes from six sources:

Veggies, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.

So what does a manly vegan eat on July 4th? Whatever I want, as long as it consists of veggies, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.

For this July 4th, my wife made a vegan lasagna (containing noodles and veggies) and some vegan sausage by Field Roast Grain Meat Co. as well. And I liked it.

I didn’t feel left out. I didn’t feel victimized. And I didn’t feel jealous.

Why? Because I am the manliest vegan on the Internet.

Instead, other men surely felt left out that they are not part of my manly vegan club.

(Mic dropped.)

 

3 Rules I Made Up for What I Wear on Road Trips, as the Modern Millennial Dad

As you may have noticed by now, our family takes a lot of road trips: Key West, Lake Tahoe, and San Diego, just to name a few destinations over the years. This is something that makes me special, as a daddy blogger. (In addition to be the world’s manliest vegan, of course!)

During our trip to Louisville, Kentucky last week in the 2017 Toyota Highlander, I realized that I’ve established a dress code for myself over the years when I travel. My simple list ensures that as I drive across America with my lovely wife and our blonde children, I will be comfortable, yet still masculine and charming, but not a slob. Here are my 3 rules:

1) Boat shoes with no socks: It’s almost like driving barefoot, but projects an image of a guy who knows how to have fun, in an adventurous, yet classy way. I picked mine up for about 15 bucks at Old Navy. Plus, they look good with just about anything else I would wear on vacation anyway.

2) Long sleeve, casual button down shirt with comfortable jeans: I’ve noticed that as the driver, I get the constant brunt of the A/C, as my son is typically on the verge of sweating in the back seat. Long sleeves and long pants keep me from getting too cold when I drive, yet I look sophisticated enough when I get out of the car for rest stops, restaurants, and hotels.

3) Classic rock-r-roll t-shirt: This sends a message that despite being a responsible grown-up with a family, I am still one cool dude. Obviously, my rock band of choice is Metallica; an American legend since 1981; just like me. But really, just choose a rock band that that’s been around at least 25 years and you’re good to go. Other options could include Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Stone Temple Pilots.

You’ll never see me road tripping while looking like a loaf of laziness. No!

I am a man with a plan.

Boat shoes with no socks? Check.

Long sleeve, casual button down shirt with comfortable jeans? Check.

Classic rock-n-roll t-shirt? Wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Mic dropped.)