Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa!)

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

Dear Jack,

This past weekend, you had an unforgettable weekend! You finally were able to go my to hometown’s ever-growing festival call Boom Days; which celebrates the people and culture of Fort Payne, Alabama; where I was born and raised.

Being there reminded me that I didn’t grow up in a stereotypical Southern town, as typically featured in media. No, Fort Payne was always special.

Basically half of the city is on the mountain (where I lived) and the other half is in the valley.  There was always this artsy, Americana feel to the place. I was surrounded by DeSoto State Park and all its hiking trails, as well as well as Little River Falls (the tallest waterfall in Alabama) and Little River Canyon.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

It was a fun place to grow up, and apparently, a fun place to return to; and especially, with a nearly 6 year-old boy.

With Mommy’s youngest brother getting married in two weeks in San Diego, I convinced her to take the weekend off by staying in Nashville where we live, and to let me take you and you baby sister to Nonna and Papa’s house for the weekend.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

That way, Mommy could get us packed for the upcoming California trip, run errands, and relax with no parental responsibilities for a full weekend. I’m glad she took me up on the offer! She works full-time with a 2 hour commute round trip each day, so she definitely was in need of some down time. She got to go to the spa; getting her hair and nails done.

Meanwhile, we were with Nonna and Papa, and Baby Holly, in downtown Fort Payne at Boom Days. The first big stop for you was to go inside a “gerbil ball” which was a giant inflatable sphere in which you got to run and roll around the Alabama Band Park.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

You apparently got into a thrilling “fight” with another boy in another gerbil ball. I saw the two of you smiling as you both attempting to knock each other over.

It was funny because there weren’t really any rules and I was never told how long you got to be inside there. Turns out, it lasts as long as you do…

The guy running the event explained to me, as you finally were ready to come out, “He’s stayed in there longer than anyone else ever has!” You were very proud to hear that you won the unofficial contest of endurance.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

You also enjoyed riding a pony. I think your favorite part about that was getting to pick the one you wanted.

Next we made our way over to the jumpy house, where we definitely got your money’s worth. I paid just $3 and you stayed in that thing for over 90 minutes. You just didn’t feel compelled to leave.

Back in Nashville, whenever you get to go one of your friends’ birthday parties, you always hope there will be a jumpy house. And when there is, you are never ready to leave.

But for more than an hour and a half, I hung out with Nonna and Papa in front of the jumpy house, as we showed off Baby Holly to passersby.

That’s when I saw and flagged down two of my Class of ’99 friends, Kim Hester and Brian Winkles. They enjoyed meeting you; granted, it was the extremely sweaty version of you, as you only took a short break to get some water.

Turns out, they weren’t the only “Ninety-Niners” I saw while we were there. Out of our graduating class of 183, there were about 20 that I saw there.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

Therefore, I am convinced that from here on out, we need to attend Boom Days every year; that way I don’t have to wait to see my classmate every 5 years for each official class reunion.

Speaking of, a little while later on the closed down the main street, I ran into more classmates, Jason New and Kris Holcomb. Kris’s daughter Libby had just bought a pet baby turtle she had named Raphy. You loved petting the turtle.

You also got to hold a baby squirrel as well, at the pet adoption tent.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

So everybody got what they needed: Mommy got rest and relaxation back home in Nashville. I got to see my kids enjoy themselves at the festival. Nonna and Papa got to spend time with you and your sister.

And as for you, Boom Days made all your dreams come true. It was the perfect place for a Kindergartener boy to get to burn energy and explore.

We shall return in 2017!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

P.S.

I made this video with Papa the next morning featuring the park where Boom Days took place, which features the Alabama band monument.

Dear Jack: Your Sister Truly Adores You More than I Realized

5 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: Your Sister Truly Adores You More than I Realized

Dear Jack,

It is important to me that the good and healthy relationship between you and your baby sister is not fabricated or superficial. I don’t want you to hear me saying to another adult, “Ah, he loves his sister and she loves him. They really love each other,” and then in turn you began fulfilling the script in an effort to please me.

Instead, I want to see true mutual love between you to; real and natural.

I have to say, my expectations have been exceeded greatly. You have yet to ever act intimidated by the attention she gets for being the cute little baby girl she is.

What I see instead, is that you are confident in yourself. You are not competing with her.

I say this because one of the first thoughts I had when Mommy and I learned that Holly would be coming, was, “I need to proactively make sure Jack gets enough attention since he won’t be the only child anymore.”

But honestly, it has yet to be an issue. You’re our Kindergartner boy. You are independent and assured.

Your identity is secure in being our firstborn son, not our baby girl. I see no struggle on your end for you to compete for your parents’ attention.

Just take a look at this picture I took of you and your sister before school. Obviously, you’re so proud to have her as your sister.

But just look at the way she looks at you.

That’s how it always is.

I can be on the living floor playing with her while Mommy is making dinner, but the moment she hears or sees you walking in from the other room, she immediately turns her attention directly to you.

She loves you. I think you need to expect her to look up to you from here on out.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: I’m So Tired I Could Cry, But You Sure are Worth It

20 weeks.

Dear Holly: I’m So Tired I Could Cry, But You Sure are Worth It

Dear Holly,

These are the days when my lunch breaks are spent sleeping in my car; waking up to the sound of my cell phone alarm after 55 minutes of deep sleep in the passenger seat of my old Honda Element.

These are the days in which Mommy and I try to be in bed by 9:00 PM; knowing that you’ll be waking up 3 more times before we have to officially wake up for work before 5:00 AM.

These are the days where unless we drive nearly 3 hours to Nonna and Papa’s for the weekend, we don’t get a break.

We both work full-time plus we are both fully involved parents.

But none of that is a burden because of the baby. That’s you.

You are so worth it.

How could I look at you and not just melt? How could I not simply be willing to do whatever it takes to make sure my little baby girl is cared for?

I keep reminding myself that to some degree, things will be much easier in about a month and a half, once you’re able to start eating solid foods. Even though there will be more prep and cleaning, the plan is that you’ll be able to sleep more solidly through the night.

So my eyes won’t always be bloodshot and my head won’t always feel like a bowling ball.

But as for now, these are the days of feeling like a zombie. When people ask me how I’m doing, I always positively respond, because I’m so grateful to have a healthy, happy little girl. That’s the part I focus on.

I choose not to tell them how that physically, I’m barely standing up.

Because other parents already know how this thing works.

You do anything for your baby- that’s normal. It is simply being a parent.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: “Naughty Nick”- My Awesomely Bad Video Series on YouTube

5 years, 9 years.

I Dedicate My “Naughty Nick” Video Series to a Special Boy Named Hatcher, with Down Syndrome

Dear Jack,

You and I spent hours working together on our Jack-Man superhero video series (23 webisodes) on YouTube.

Additionally, I spent even more time on my children’s program Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest (27 webisodes). Those were shows I created that I truly cared about.

But over Labor Day Weekend, I decided, on a whim, to make a fake WWE audition tape… just for fun, while our family was at Nonna and Papa’s house. I therefore invented and became the wrestling character, Naughty Nick.

After I made that first video with my phone on selfie mode, I decided to make 4 more webisodes. Papa helped out with the 4th and 5th, serving as the villain.

I suppose my motivation in making this series is ultimately to add to my Rolodex of sketch series on my YouTube channel. I believe it’s important to showcase my abilities as an actor, director, and writer.

The Naughty Nick series is admittedly a farce of the media’s perception of masculinity, with a throwback to 1980’s professional wrestling.

Naughty Nick presents his own fictional YouTube audience with his fantasy version of reality; though to him it’s actually real. In his world, no one can ever be more masculine or American than he is; nor can anyone ever defeat him. These are things of value in the character’s life.

With nearly 700 videos uploaded on my YouTube Channel and 540 subscribers, I am building The Nick Shell Network. I want serious stuff and I want silly stuff. I want something for everyone.

My hope is that one day, I can catch the right person’s attention with my amateur, yet ideally popular, videos.

Now that you’ve seen the first 5 Naughty Nick videos, you now want to be a part of the series. So I suppose we’ll make that happen in the near future; like maybe this weekend!

Love,

Daddy

Why I Auditioned to Be Kelly Ripa’s Co-host for a Day on “LIVE with Kelly”

Why I Auditioned to be Kelly Ripa’s Co-host for a Day on “LIVE with Kelly”

Last Thursday on the radio I heard that Kelly Ripa is currently holding a contest in which the winner will get to co-host “LIVE with Kelly” for a day. So I didn’t delay in applying.

Over the weekend, I shot my “60 seconds or less” audition video and submitted it to the website, along with my “100 words or less” bio:

“I am Nick Shell, a 35 year-old seasoned daddy blogger (FamilyFriendlyDaddyBlog.com) and vlogger (YouTube Channel: Nick Shell) from Nashville, Tennessee. It has been my dream for a decade now to be a TV host. After you see my video submission, I believe you will feel my energy and passion for communicating and interacting with people. My background is in theater and teaching Elementary school students. On my YouTube channel, my Kindergartner son and I do a superhero series, Jack-Man, where he is the hero and I play the villain. I also do a children’s program called Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest.”

The surely thousands of submissions will be narrowed down to the top 40, and eventually down to the sole winner.

This is my motivation in applying: It has been my dream to be up in front of an audience, for a living.

Granted, I feel that until about a year ago, I wasn’t ready.

It took until about age 34 for me to become emotionally intelligent enough and to have the life experience to be relevant to a universal audience, and therefore to gain the confidence in my abilities, to consider myself qualified for something like this.

But even if I don’t make it to the top 40 for this contest, I will at least know that I did everything in my power to be seriously considered. It’s good practice, if nothing else.

Last night my wife and I were watching one of my favorite documentaries, The Comedians of Comedy, on Netflix. Towards the end, Patton Oswald talks about how every performer has their “obsession years,” in which they just immerse themselves into their craft, as they figure out what works and what doesn’t.

When it comes to being in front of a camera, especially as a YouTuber, I feel that I am definitely in my obsession years.

Let it be known to the free world, I fully intend to grow beyond my YouTube audience. I believe I was made for the stage.

Here’s my audition video:

Dear Jack: You were Chosen as the 1st “Student of the Month” by Your Kindergarten Teacher (Despite My Parenting Style)

5 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: You were Chosen as the 1st “Student of the Month” by Your Kindergarten Teacher (Despite My Parenting Style)

Dear Jack,

Mommy and I are proud of you anyway, but last Thursday, you came home from school and told us that your teacher chose you are the 1st boy “Student of the Month”.

That means your teacher saw something quite special about you and the girl in your class who were picked; based on you diligently doing your school work, participating in class, and being a positive influence on your friends.

At just 3 weeks into the school year, you had set enough of an impression on your teacher as the stand-out boy in class. Seriously, that’s a big deal!

Selfishly for me, it’s a confirmation for me that despite my imperfections as a parent in raising you, you’re still an intelligent, involved, and well-behaved little boy.

I have to admit that as your parent, you are technically a human experiment to me. You’re my first born. I will by default make more mistakes on you than your baby sister, who is nearly 5 and a half years younger.

Dear Jack: You were Chosen as the 1st “Student of the Month” by Your Kindergarten Teacher (Despite My Parenting Style)

When you were born, I was a much less experienced 29 year-old guy. Now, I’m a 35 year-old dad who has much more confidence as a parent.

It’s so important to me as your dad that I mold you into a well-balanced boy, and ultimately, a well-balanced young man.

Dear Jack: You were Chosen as the 1st “Student of the Month” by Your Kindergarten Teacher (Despite My Parenting Style)

This past weekend your Papa, Uncle Andrew, and I spent two mornings putting together the new trampoline Nonna bought for you and your Cousin Calla when you visit.

Finally, the time had come to try it out.

You and I played rough for a solid 20 minutes or so before I finally wore you out. I caused “earthquakes” (by jumping hard right next to where you were standing), I wrestled you, and I let you ride me like a bull.

That’s how I like to raise you. I like to show you unexpected adventure. I want you to be wild and crazy. I want you to be dangerous with me, yet hopefully not get injured too badly in the process. I want you to be… a boy.

And then I want you to return to school the next day and convince your teacher that you are still the best behaved and most involved boy in class.

So far, my plan is working.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: The Convenient Double-Standard for Average, Involved Dads

19 weeks.

Dear Holly: The Convenient Double-Standard for Good Dads

Dear Holly,

Last Friday I took off of work since your daycare was closed. While most of my day was spent changing your diapers, feeding you, and playing with you, we did get out of the house when we not only dropped off your brother Jack at school, but later went back to eat lunch with him there at the school cafeteria.

You had a wet diaper as we arrived at his school about 15 minutes early. I didn’t care enough to find the proper place to change you, as I didn’t want to tote your car seat and my book bag (with your diapers) with me, so I just changed  you right there on the bench I was sitting on; which was sort of hidden by the staircase above me.

Afterwards, I stood you up in my lap to face the oncoming students, teachers, and room moms. Of course they all made a point to smile back at you and tell me how beautiful you are.

A few minutes later, we saw your brother Jack leading the line. While carrying you, the car seat, and the book bag, I attempted to follow him in to help him get his lunch.

Mommy usually makes his lunch, but on Fridays, he buys the school lunch, because he can get vegetarian pizza that day. Unfortunately, they had just ran out of pizza and gave him a pork sandwich instead by the time I caught up to him.

Miraculously, his class’s room mom appeared and helped us negotiate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead; even though you had already paid for the pork sandwich.

We ended up sitting with the room mom and her daughter. She commented that she had seen me sort of struggling there with you as I had to find a place to change your diaper.

As we left after lunch, other moms and teachers bragged on me for simply showing up; even if my attempt was a bit awkward and unskilled.

That’s when I began to process to convenient double standard of the good dad:

I simply get praise and credit for just doing my job. Whereas for moms, they are simply expected to do those things.

Granted, the trade-off is that dads and husbands have been historically portrayed as idiots on commercials and sitcoms.

Maybe the ultimately irony is that less is expected of us dads because of the way we’ve been negatively portrayed in media, so that when we are caught “being a good dad”, it makes it seem that much more special, which it totally isn’t.

Love,

Daddy