Dear Holly: Your Surprise Christmas Gift Arrived in the Mail!

1 year, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

The plan was for Uncle Joe, Aunt Rebecca, and your cousin Savannah to drive up from Pensacola to spend the Christmas holidays in Alabama with us at Nonna and Papa’s house. That was inspired by how well their Thanksgiving visit went just a month earlier.

However, the three of them got way too sick to ever leave Florida. So sadly, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them as planned.

But even still, our family was pleasantly surprised this past week when an expected box arrived on our doorstep.

It turns out, Aunt Rebecca had our Christmas gifts shipped to us in the mail, so we could celebrate Christmas a little bit longer, into the new year.

I loved watching you open your gift. Your face lit up, “Baby!!!”

It was a Cabbage Patch Kids Cuties doll. And since that day you opened it, you’ve yet to spend a day without it.

You take the doll with you to bed, you push it in the stroller, and you attempt to even eat your meals with it.

As for your brother Jack, he was obviously pleased to receive a whoopee cushion, silly string, and slime. And Mommy loved her Mary Kay products.

Even I received something cool!

It’s a new mug with a big pickle for a handle. The next day at lunch, you sat next to me as I enjoyed my standard Ramen noodles it; while you munched on oatmeal.

There’s just nothing like getting a gift after you weren’t expecting to get anymore gifts. Typically, if there’s a mysterious box waiting for us on our doorstep, it’s because Mommy ordered something on Amazon, like a new water filter for our refrigerator.

But not this time.

This time, our whole family got a fun surprise!

Love,

Daddy

Advertisements

Dear Jack: Monster Jam Triple Threat Series 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee

7 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Last weekend you and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the Monster Jam truck show: Triple Threat Series. Mommy and I were planning on bringing your sister, but at the last minute we decided it might be best not to take her out in the cold weather.

While I would have been happy had our whole family attended Monster Jam, I have to say: I really enjoyed the monster truck show, just the two of us; father and son.

I feel you were definitely able to appreciate the competition and the action more, knowing that you had all my attention to yourself. So much of my time these days is occupied by caring for your baby sister; therefore, I truly appreciate getting to spend time with you alone.

And the Monster Jam event was the perfect way to do just that.

We saw the monster trucks do tricks during the freestyle event, which inevitably led to some of them flipping over. I filmed the process of how they get flipped back over, to share on my YouTube channel.

I was so caught up in the trucks flying through the air, meanwhile you were actually keeping up with the score. Just like last year, you were cheering for Zombie, with its arms sticking out.

I’ve been taking you faithfully each year to Monster Jam since you were 3 years old. It’s simply become a family tradition at this point.

And it’s so… American.

When you are an adult and look back on your childhood, I believe you will think of our trips to go see Monster Jam as some of the best times.

You’ve been playing with your toy Monster Jam trucks for 4 years now. It’s funny because even your sister is learning how to play with them.

Maybe next year she’ll be able to come along.

But as for this year, it was meant to just be you and me.

Love,

Daddy

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I Actually Get Less Sleep, Less Exercise, and Less Time to Relax; Compared to When I Worked a “Real Job” in an Office

I am definitely not complaining. I love being a stay-at-home dad who works on the side as a freelance writer and YouTuber. This is who I am now.

My kids are amazing. My heart melts every time I see them. I am one lucky dad!

Just look at them… ah!

But I will say, if I’m allowed to be honest (?)… back when I worked in the office doing a “real job”, I undeniably got more rest, more time to myself, and even more time to exercise.

As a stay-at-home dad who works from home, I am “on” from the moment the first child wakes up (around 6:15 AM) until the moment I get the last of my YouTube videos shot for the day (around 10:30 PM). Not to mention, it is also my role to get up with our daughter in the middle of the night when she suddenly wakes up; I’m the one who gets her back to sleep, if she’ll go back to sleep.

And all throughout the day I’m racing to get work done, during any break I get, like when my daughter falls asleep for a 90 minute naps; which is how I’m typing this now).

Compare that to when I worked in HR in an office, which was a nearly hour-long drive from my house. Even though I was the one dropping off both kids at their separate day cares, it still gave me close to an hour to work, then an hour from work, to myself.

I could sit in a car for nearly two hours a day and listen to music as I commuted. I had time to be by myself and think.

Plus, I had two 10 minute breaks in addition to an hour lunch break each day.

There was even an abandoned closet in the back of the building where it was an unspoken rule that you could take a nap there during your lunch break; which I regularly did, sleeping on the floor, using a jacket as my pillow.

Additionally, I used the park next to my office as my gym, where it was easy to get an all natural work-out.

Yeah, I don’t have those advantages now. I’m working on blog posts, YouTube videos, or household chores during every free moment I get. And I can’t just take a 20 month-old little girl outside in the extreme temperature, to get exercise for myself.

It’s always a constant race to get work done before my daughter wakes up. (I’m currently about 12 minutes away from that happening now…)

So you can imagine, I find it a foreign concept when I read a comment like this on one of my videos:

“You are a good stay at home dad. My husband would just be napping or watching the TV. I know what my husband’s DNA is, the lazy gene ha ha ha ha ha. Love your videos…”

I love having the privilege of staying at home with my kids while my wife sacrifices by being the one to work full-time; bringing in the majority of our income, as well as insurance and benefits.

But I won’t deny, just like with any job, mine has got its downsides.

Every once in a while, I reluctantly give myself a break, and will take a nap while my daughter is asleep. I’ve done that about 3 times since I began a stay-at-home dad nearly 3 months ago.

But then I wake up and realize how much work I have to catch up on!

Oh… yep… speaking of… She just woke up.

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I Am Now Officially an Overweight Vegan (176 pounds, 5’ 9”, Age 36, Medium Frame)

I am fundamentally opposed to New Year’s Resolutions. I have always said that if a person is truly ready to make a change in their life, then why wait for some arbitrary date on a calendar?

So for me, the first day of the rest of my life was not January 1st, but instead, it happens to be January 8th.

Last night after I took my shower and put on my size large t-shirt, I couldn’t help but notice how tight it felt. So I did something I rarely do: I weighed myself on the scale.

It took me a moment to accept my reality: I now weigh around 176 pounds. The most I’ve ever weighed was 178 pounds, and that was when I was in my late 20s and still eating meat, eggs, and dairy.

The lowest I’ve ever weighed since high school was 153 pounds; easily fitting into size 31 pants. Check out this video I made just 2 and a half years ago in May 2015, to see me in the ideal weight range for my height:

But there was a subtle change that began just a couple of months later, once my wife got pregnant with our now 20 month-old daughter back in July 2015. As my wife began eating more during the pregnancy, so did I… and I never stopped!

For over two years now, I have been slowly and steadily gaining weight; yet remaining faithful to my diet consisting of only vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. That means no meat, no eggs, no dairy.

In two months from now, it will be 5 whole years that I’ve been a vegan.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this “vegan weight gain”. I first brought it up in September, a month before I became a stay-at-home dad, in my first Dad Bod post.

What’s interesting, as my wife recently pointed out, is I’m actually eating one less meal a day now that I work from home and take care of our kids. Back when I worked at the office, I always had a huge bowl of oatmeal; full of protein and saturated fat, thanks to the nuts and unsweetened cocoa I put in it.

But now that I’m constantly caring for a 20 month-old daughter all day long, plus a 7 year-old son before and after school, plus writing and shooting videos whenever I get a chance, I just don’t have much time to eat… until we all eat dinner as family each night; which is apparently when I make up for any lack of calories.

I am convinced that my strategy to get back to my ideal weight is to aggressively eliminate empty or unnecessary calories; especially during dinner, which is my biggest meal. It’s important to me that I don’t go hungry, but instead, that I stop eating once I get enough food. I need to do a better job of telling the two apart.

Just imagine the irony of an overweight vegan. Imagine all those well-meaning, yet concerned people telling me over the years, “Well, just make sure you get enough protein…”

Uh, yeah, that’s clearly not a problem for me.

And in case anyone is skeptical that I am indeed overweight, perhaps because I don’t “look” overweight, just check out the height and weight chart. For my height of 5’ 9” and having a medium frame, I officially became overweight once I crossed 170 pounds. That was about 6 pounds ago.

What’s my motivation to get back into that ideal weight range where I was back in May 2015? It’s not about self-esteem. My confidence is not effected by my weight gain.

Instead, it’s important to my identity that I have control over my own body. In the same way I refuse to let other people control my emotions, I now must refuse to let my overeating habits effect my weight.

No kidding: As I was putting this blog post together, my daughter who was sitting on my lap, looked up at the picture below of my belly, and in all sincerity asked, “Baby?”

I am an overweight vegan. We do exist, yes. But I do plan to change that.

Dear Jack: Tonight was the Night You Prayed to Jesus to Tell Him You Believe in Him

7 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Today has officially become one of the most important days of your life. Just less than an hour ago, you prayed to Jesus, officially telling Him what you’ve been growing to understand and believe for these past couple of years:

That you believe Jesus is God’s son and that He died on the cross for your sins and came back to life to give us eternal life, and to give us hope in this life on Earth in the meantime.

You prayed to God telling him you want to life your life to please Him and help other people.

I will never forget this day. This means so much to me.

Though I knew you have been heading towards to this moment for the past year or so, I had no idea today would be the day. I felt it was important that this was your decision, not mine that I was making for you.

You and I had spent most of the day together, as we made the trip to Nashville to go see the monster trucks at Monster Jam. It was funny because for a nearly hour-long drive, we didn’t say a word to each other.

We just contemplated life and enjoyed the lack of responsibility or conversation, as I played Dierks Bentley’s Riser CD through the stereo. (You had requested Johnny Cash, but my iPod battery was dead.)

But by the time we got to the monster truck show, you came alive. We started talking and enjoying our time together one-on-one.

By the end of the day, I think the fact we had our quality time together as father and son made somewhat of a special impact on you, because you specifically asked me to read to you from your children’s Bible when it was time for bed.

After I read to you the story about how Jesus explained to Nicodemus he must be born again, it led to you asking a series of seemingly random questions about God and Jesus and good people and bad people and what Heaven will be like for people who believe in Jesus and who live their lives for Him.

Then I immediately felt compelled to say to you, “How long have you known and believed that Jesus is God’s son who died for us?”

You just smiled and shrugged, saying, “I’ve just always believed that, haven’t I? Just maybe not when I was a baby…”

Right then, I knelt down at your bed and explained, “The Bible says when we believe, we should say it out loud. I can help you pray that right now if you want me to.”

(I was referring to Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”)

You seemed grateful for the offer. You smiled and said, “Sure!”

So I guided you through a simple prayer and then answered a series of legitimate follow-up questions like, “Do I have to be baptized, though?”

I then explained that it’s the way you officially share with the world what you believe, but that when you are ready, to let me know and I’ll get it all set up with our church.

It’s interesting how you’ve made this decision almost exactly 30 years after I did. For me, it was just a few weeks before Christmas 1987, when I was in 1st grade myself.

This night has instantly become one of the most rewarding moments for me as a parent.

Years of bedtime Bible stories and Sunday mornings at our church and praying before our meals and having unscheduled conversations about God has finally brought us to this fateful point in your life.

Oh, and a monster truck show, too. I guess that somehow set the course of events, as well.

This is your story.

I love you so much.

Love,

Daddy

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: How I Take a Shower While Caring for My 20 Month Old Daughter

I’ve now been a stay-at-home dad for 2 and a half months. It’s safe to say it’s taken me this long to figure out the logistics of how to take a shower each morning, while occupying my young daughter somehow during the process.

It also took this long for my daughter herself to become accustomed to the routine of me taking a shower while she entertains herself.

We’re finally at the point where she and I mutually recognize that my shower is part of our daily routine, and I can see now that she finds comfort in that predictable routine.

Here’s how it works:

First, I make sure she has a snack that won’t make too much of a mess. The easy go-to is a small cup full of pretzels. My German-Dutch daughter loves pretzels for breakfast!

So once I’m in the shower, she spends the first half of it munching on her snack while she patiently faces me; seeing me through a small opening in the shower curtain. That way she knows I’m right there.

I’ll throw her a line every once in a while: “Hi Baby, I see you. Daddy’s in the shower but I can still see you…”

By the time she’s done with her pretzels, she takes it upon herself to find Mommy’s make up bag in the drawer. So far, my daughter has yet to utterly destroy anything, or at least noticeably apply any lipstick.

Once I’m almost ready to get out of the shower, I announce that to her, “Okay Baby, Daddy needs his towel. Can you help Daddy?”

She then prides herself in the responsibility of handing me my towel; then I dry off behind the closed shower curtain, before making my way to my awesome Captain America sweater or whatever my wardrobe will be that day.

And that’s how it’s done.

I am Zest-fully clean!

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: Reminding Myself that Whatever’s Happening Back at My Old Company is Now O.P.P. (Other People’s Problems)

Back where I worked for over a decade until this past October, in an industry known for remarkably high turnover rates, I was appointed to figure out why our company was losing so many of its workers; a workforce of over 1,000 people at a time, with a turnover which was higher than 100%.

Within the first year, I cracked the code. I figured out the complex industry secret that not even my own company was aware of. (This is a secret that none of the competitors know to this day, either.)

I had invented a 5 point formula to help the new and current employees from wanting to leave the company so quickly; as my system proactively warned them in advance of hurdles that would hurt their ability to make a profit. My system had proven during those 5 years that the number of employees who stayed a year or longer at dramatically increased.

That was my role for the past 5 years of my life. It came so natural to me that I could do it without thinking about it. I had figured out how to prevent the problem and managed a team whose role was to prevent turnover through aggressive onboarding.

Over this past weekend I had a dream that I was summoned back to work there again, as the headquarters of the company realized what a major financial loss it was to no longer have me and my team there. But then I woke up, thinking, “No, that’s not my problem anymore!”

Back in October, it was just my branch in Tennessee that was shut down; which contained the Retention Department that I built up and managed. The other headquarters and other branches are still in business; meaning the company is now without my proven retention system in place.

Apparently, part of my subconscious is still linked to my skill set in helping those individual people who are now confused on why their profits have suddenly slumped since October.

They’re probably being told, “It’s just slow right now.” But in reality, I know the reasons production for certain workers never dropped after my department was shut down; because certain workers continued to apply my method even after I was gone.

Today I happened to drive by the empty parking lot, that just last summer was providing jobs for 83 of us. Employees used to have to park out in the street, whereas now it’s a ghost town.

But whatever’s happening back at my old company is now O.P.P.

It’s other people’s problems.

None of that matters anymore.

I can now enjoy the life of a stay-at-home dad and no longer worry about saving a company money.

Instead, I’m saving my household money by staying home with the kids.

It’s like how despite graduating college well over a decade ago, I still have dreams every once in a while that it’s the semester before graduation, yet I forgot about that one class that will ultimately prevent me from graduating.

I have moved on with my life, even if some small part of me is still functioning in a routine that had become such a big part of my identity.

But unlike the 4th season of Lost, there is no need for me to return to the island to save those who were left behind.

I am not Jack Shephard.