Dear Jack: You and Your Sister Can Entertain Yourselves Now, Sort of…

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

The only thing Mommy and I are used to you spending your own money on is stuffed animals. You’ve got a bedroom full of them; literally hundreds now.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when you decided to spend your last $6 on a coloring activity kit.

And then the following weekend, after Mommy revealed there was still a $25 Target card left over from your birthday, you spent it on two packs of Pokemon cards.

I think it’s so cool that you’re at the stage now where you and your friends take your Pokemon cards to school and trade them. You are serious about stuff.

When we got home from Target, you immediately set out all your new cards, along with the ones you already had in your collection.

Very carefully, you began placing the cards into their holders. You spent a solid hour doing this.

Never once did you smile, nor did you talk. But you were in your glory.

Meanwhile, your sister was being quiet and sneaky.

She had discovered both her diaper bag and Mommy’s purse there on the floor. Holly took it upon herself to unpack them both.

Applying Mommy’s Chap Stick wasn’t as easy as she thought. She didn’t realize the cap had to come off first. Yet still, Holly felt like a big girl at least trying to put it on.

Mommy and I have noticed that the chaos is becoming a little more organized these days.

Sometimes the two of you can entertain yourselves, other times you can entertain each other.

Either way, it’s freeing up your parents to be able to get more housework done, while you do.

This past Sunday, we even had enough time to lounge on the couch as a family, just playing and talking. Mommy smiled in amazement, “Man, we never get to do this as a family.”

Things are getting a little bit more relaxed and balanced now. The chaos is a little bit more organized these days.

Love,

Daddy

I’ve Got Walls Up, because I’m a Guy

Welcome to the deep, mysterious, likely un-relatable, rarely revealed cavern of the emotionally intelligent male mind.

Back in 2010, when my wife was pregnant with our son, my blog was featured in American Baby magazine; which eventually led to me becoming the official daddy blogger of their sister magazine, Parents; from May 2011 to June 2014.

In the initial write-up in American Baby, they pitched my blog to their readers with this invitation: “Wondering what your hubby’s really thinking?…”

At the time, I remember reading that and thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not that kind of guy. That’s not me. I don’t keep things to myself. My thoughts are no mystery to anyone…”

That was in 2010, before I actually had kids. Plus, I had only been married about 2 years at that point.

One of the great advantages of being married now for 8 and a half years and having 2 kids is that, by default, I have gained emotional intelligence. I grew up on in the inside. I got toughened up.

I became the husband and father I needed to be. The sensitive, and therefore “offendable”, guy I was before wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Essentially, to the outside world, I transcended from “optimistic nice person who everybody likes” to “hopeful yet realistic personable man who doesn’t necessarily measure up to everyone’s expectations anymore.”

Nostalgically put, I evolved from Luke Skywalker into Han Solo.

It was a necessary transformation for me. Perhaps one of the major milestones of this journey was when I published a blog post (and accompanying video) inviting the free world to attempt to offend me.

I had discovered that the only person who has power and authority over my emotions is me. In other words, no one in this entire world can “offend” me or “hurt my feelings” if I don’t first give them permission.

So I simply stopped giving anyone permission to offend me. And up came the walls…

I now live in a reality where I am unoffendable. Since making this conscious decision, the quality of my life has undeniably…

Improved.

Things in life just don’t bother me as much. Life is smoother now.

I am now in control of my emotions instead of them controlling me. For example, I have no shame in admitting I allow myself to cry every time I watch Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. I am in touch with, and in control of, my emotions to the point where the cartoonish yet realistic presentation of a parent’s love for their child gets to me.

Needless to say, on the other hand, other people’s Facebook comments claim no effect on my day.

I have simplified my life so that I can enjoy and appreciate it that much more.

Granted, there’s a perceived downside to the lifestyle of male emotional intelligence.

I’ve got those walls up now. I’m more detached from the popular distractions of the world- and I know this.

But this, for me, is safe- and it’s efficient; less complicated.

In other words, I’ve become that guy I couldn’t relate to back in 2010:

I keep a lot of things to myself. Most of my thoughts are now a mystery to everyone.

I’ve adopted a Libertarian approach to the opinions and lifestyles of other people. What they do doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother them. I don’t try to change them. I don’t need to change them.

Because now, I am truly confident in myself and my beliefs, despite being completely aware of my unending faults.

This is not a classic case of bottling up my emotions, only to erupt later on. To me, that would be weak.

Instead, it’s a matter of consciously deciding not to let people or things bother me anymore.

In turn, I have noticed that I am that much more focused on my own family and close friends, in real life. Not on Facebook.

The 2010 version of me simply wouldn’t function in my life today in 2017. I have evolved out of necessity.

I now see life for the tragicomedy it is. Life is both sad and funny. It’s both inspiring and depressing.

By evolving to my emotionally intelligent state, I have made it possible to recognize when to express my emotions, accordingly.

Ultimately, I choose joy. I choose hope.

My hope today is that others can relate to my transformation.

You are no longer dealing with the young and naïve Luke Skywalker.

For better or worse, you’ve got Han Solo now.

Dear Jack: The Cowboy T-Rex, Because… ‘Merica

6 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

Like me, you may never really dedicate yourself to team sports. Sure, you may play soccer a year here and there, but really I predict your extracurricular activities will be in the field of art; as was the case for me.

I come home from work each day to see such masterpieces, which are just casual drawings from school. But they are full of thought, detail, and character.

This painting of a sheep impressed Mommy and me so much we have decided to keep it aside so that you can enter it into the Williamson County Fair.

And this amazing painting of a fish is proudly hanging on our fridge.

You particularly delight in drawing dinosaurs. It’s so impressive the way you can just draw these different types just from memory, in addition to being able to immediately tell me the correct names of each one.

But I must say, my favorite recent drawing of yours features two personified dinosaurs. On that fateful Saturday morning at the kitchen table, you asked me, “Daddy, which kind of hat should this T-Rex wear?”

I effortlessly suggested a cowboy hat, which you immediately agreed to.

You then decided that the country T-Rex should be wearing overalls and holding an American flag. I love how you automatically knew how to make that connection from just a cowboy hat.

Next came another T-Rex. In contrast, you drew him wearing a pair of shorts, a baseball cap and a waving a Digimon flag.

There are two ways of interpreting this piece of art.

Either the two dinosaurs are about to engage in a duel, using their flags as symbolic weapons…

Or, they have decided to become friends, despite their cultural differences. And that likely is the case, as you created speech bubbles for each of them, so they could say “hello” to each other.

You finished off the drawing by turning those speech bubbles into smaller versions of the dinosaurs, which wore hats just like the actual dinosaurs wore.

Yeah, you’re going to be an artist.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Our Walk in the Park at Aspen Grove

10 months.

Dear Holly,

Last Saturday was such a beautiful day so we made good use of it. We met up with our friends Mohamad and Lena, and their daughter Hanna who is just a month older than you. We stopped for lunch at Noodles & Co., the same vegan-vegetarian-kosher friendly place that your brother Jack and I dined at after we saw Rogue One back in January at the Green Hills Mall in Nashville.

We all took a moment to appreciate Hanna’s awesome new shirt that her parents found for her in downtown Nashville. Jack said, “Daddy, I keep thinking that’s really her arms and legs. It looks like she’s really playing the guitar!”

After lunch, I suggested we drive right across the other side of I-65 and take a walk in Aspen Grove Park; which is right behind my office, where I take my mountain bike, skateboard, or just go running during my lunch breaks.

Fortunately, we took our double stroller to push you and Jack. However, he let you have it all to yourself since he wanted to check out the creek that followed the trail.

For me, there’s nothing like being able to take a leisurely stroll through the park on a nice day. There’s a reason the saying goes, “Well, it’s no walk in the park…” when referencing a tough situation.

That’s because a walk in the park is a standard measurement of happiness and inner peace. It’s a universally enjoyed occurrence.

And hey, if you can share that experience with people you care about… even better.

I watched the wind blow through your blonde hair, as you took the whole experience in. Ultimately, you were ready for a nap. But you just couldn’t bring yourself to the point of falling asleep.

You saved that for two minutes into the car ride home.

Love,

Daddy

How Southern am I? You Decide…

How Southern am I? You Decide…

I have lived my entire life (35 years) in the South. Sure, I’ve traveled the world, spending weeks at a time in Thailand, South Korea, New Zealand, Trinidad, and Equator… but as far as permanent residence, I was born and raised in Fort Payne, Alabama; and only lived in the South.

After I graduated high school, having just turned 18, I went to college in Hudson, Florida and then Lynchburg, Virginia. Then I moved to Nashville, Tennessee; where I’ve been for over 11 years now.

The very first “record” I ever heard was by the Country group, Alabama (who happen to be from my hometown). It was their 1984 Roll On album that I would lip sync to as I walked around on my parents’ bed, pretending it was my stage.

I am a Southerner. It’s true.

But… how Southern am I?

Here’s the evidence I’ve got going against me.

First off, I don’t have a strong Southern accent. It’s there if you’re looking for it, but it’s never been enough to convince anyone I’m actually from Alabama.

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Then I explain to people: My mom moved from Buffalo, New York (which is near the Canadian border) when she was 15. Eight years later, when she was 23, I was born. In other words, I was pretty much born to a Yankee mother; at least, she was at the time.

Plus, her parents were the grandparents I was around the most, as they only lived a few miles away: A full-blooded Italian grandfather named Alberto Victoro Metallo from Kenosha, Wisconsin and a full-blooded Mexican grandmother whose maiden name was Delores “Lola” Gonzales Mendez from Buffalo, New York. Growing up in proximity to such Old World influence and foreign culture, it undeniably watered down the sweet tea of my Southern raising.

It ultimately gave me the ability to hear everyone else’s Alabama accent, which I likely disassociated myself from, subconsciously.

The Southern Accent became as noticeable to me as the Midwestern Accent, like I had heard on TV; meaning it sounded theatrical, not natural, to me.

But it’s not just in my more neutralized accent, it’s also in my detachment from Southern culture. I didn’t grow up watching sports, since my dad (who actually is a full Southerner himself) was into karate instead. Therefore, I wasn’t too interested in playing sports. Admittedly, I barely understand the basic rules of football.

Instead, I was interested in exploring the woods and riding my bike. I grew up in the mountains of northern Alabama, surrounded by DeSoto State Park, DeSoto Falls, and Little River Canyon.

However, going back more the way of the Southerner, I regularly attend monster truck shows. If I could own any vehicle, I would either choose a Toyota Tacoma or a Jeep Wrangler.

I’m in the midst of a minor identity crisis. How Southern am I?

It’s Time to Retire the Cliché “You Can Have ‘Em if You Want ‘Em” When a Stranger Compliments a Child in Front of Their Parent

It’s Time to Retire the Cliché “You Can Have ‘Em if You Want ‘Em” When a Stranger Compliments a Child in Front of Their Parent

It’s always bothered me.

To be out somewhere like the grocery store or a restaurant and see a stranger compliment a child in front of their parent:

“Oh, look at what a well-behaved little boy you got there.”

Or…

“I see a pretty little girl with her mommy. She’s just precious, isn’t she?”

Then the understandably exhausted parent jokingly responds with, “Well, you can have (him/her) if you want. You want to take them home with you?”

Of course, it’s all said in jest. And I totally personally relate to what it means to feel ready for a break, as a parent.

But.

I simply think it’s in poor taste for a person to joke about giving their child away. Especially when the child is right there.

Though I personally have had no issues with fertility, I personally know people who do. We all do.

And it’s not a joke to them.

The right thing to do when a stranger compliments someone’s child in front of them is for the parent to immediately express acknowledgement and appreciation of having such a good child. After all, a stranger made the effort to give the child (and by default, the parent) a compliment.

Not only does it show the stranger that the exhausted parent knows how to take a compliment on their parenting skills, but it reinforces the parent’s love to their child; in front of them, among adults. Because the child needs to hear it. They need that positive verbal assurance.

I think one of my biggest psychological fears in life is for the general population to think I have poor taste.

Yes- poor taste.

People can say I’m boring, not funny, too short, balding, overweight, underweight, unintelligent, not talented, that I have a big nose or that I’m too hairy… whatever they want in a useless attempt to offend me.

But being labeled as a person indulging in poor taste is the only insult I actually fear.

The way I see it, a parent jokingly offering to give their kid away is the epitome of poor taste.

It’s time to retire the cliché of offering to give kids away to strangers.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek)

6 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek)

Dear Jack,

No monster truck or motorcross shows for February, but with this winter being so mild, we definitely took advantage of being able to trek through the waterways of Spring Hill, Tennessee. That’s how we stayed in touch with our masculine side, despite living in a house with two girly girls.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) c5

Our multiple trips over the month of February to McCutcheon Creek led to adventure, as expected.They also led to finding treasures, perhaps a little unexpected…

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) m6

Your Spiderman boots are must when we are sneaking through McCutcheon Creek, which snakes through the middle of Spring Hill; including Harvey Park, which also has a playground.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) c3

At one point we had to construct a bridge from an abandoned piece of sheet metal we found nearby. It was the only practical way to us to cross the deeper part of water.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) c8

Shortly afterwards, we found an old pair of wire cutters sticking out of the dirt. You swiftly adopted them as your own, as you joyfully began clipping the briers in our path.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) c9

I could tell you felt so proud to be entrusted with such a powerful (and potentially dangerous) tool. It was so the opposite of the caution you have to use back at the house with your baby sister.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) m3

The weekend before that, you had found a wooden stake, which you officially become your sword. I didn’t realize how useful a wooden sword can be while exploring the waterways of Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) t4

One of our favorite places to go is a tunnel underneath the road, which allows McCutcheon Creek to flow underneath. Maybe we could call it our man cave.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) t3

You continually demonstrate your bravery in our adventures.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek)

Perhaps the most impressive thing I saw you do was when you climbed up, and then back down, the 7th foot cliff; alongside the creek. It’s hard enough for me to do it, but you do it with ease.

Of course, in between your bouts with treachery and bravery, you would ask, “Hey Daddy, can we go back to the playground?

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) p2

On the surface, it might appear the playground served as a place for leisure.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek) p4

But I know better- you simply used the playground as your training facility to build your strength and endurance for our next expedition.

Dear Jack: Our Water Treks of Manliness in February 2017 (Harvey Park/McCutcheon Creek)

Good times.

Love,

Daddy