Dear Holly: The Giant Rat Who Came to Breakfast (and the Return of the Ewok)

10 months.

Dear Holly,

Sunday morning, with Nonna and Papa in town, Mommy had made breakfast for us all. I immediately noticed that you and I had matching “bedhead” hair. The conversation topic was the fact we heard coyotes howling during the night.

Somehow, that discussion inspired me to run in my closet and pull out my “rat pack” puppet. I had bought it right before you were born, as I had planned to use it as a character on one of my children’s programs on my YouTube Channel. But I haven’t had the time to dedicate to making new episodes since you were born.

I got the hunch you would find an appreciation for who I call Magellan the Mouse.

And I was right.

At first, of course, you were skeptical of the giant rat who was apparently trying to share your Cheerios with you. You weren’t afraid of him, you just didn’t know if you were in the mood to share your food with a non-human.

You eventually warmed up to him, though. Then you weren’t so much annoyed with him, as you were just confused on his origin story.

How had you never met this friendly rodent before? After having lived on this planet for nearly a whole year now, and in our house, how does a giant rat just show up?

Why did everyone else just instantly welcome him, like we’d always known him?

But that’s how it is for you. Being the baby of the family, you’ve just learned to roll it, whatever it is… including a giant rat who wants to help you eat your cereal.

A few hours later after lunch, you were winding down, getting ready for your nap. I have no idea how my Ewok action figure from 1983 showed up with your toys, but you chose to clench it in your little hand as Mommy wrapped you up in a blanket to feed you your bottle and then to rock you to sleep.

But before you actually fell asleep, Magellan the Mouse made one more appearance. I have a feeling he’ll be sticking around.



Dear Holly: I Have Cuddlebugs for Kids (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

5 months.

Dear Holly: I Have Cuddlebugs for Kids (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Dear Holly,

We had just left the San Diego Zoo Safari Park when Grandma (Mommy’s Mommy) decided that after a morning in the California sun, frozen yogurt sounded like a good idea.

So we used the GPS on the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander to find a glorious place called The Golden Spoon, a franchise which has apparently been in existence since 1983.

Dear Holly: Everyone Loves to Hold You (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander) Dear Holly: Everyone Loves to Hold You (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

I’ve learned that “pay by the ounce” frozen yogurt shops are indeed safe for me as a vegan, because they always have a sorbet option and fruit selections for my toppings.

We all were very pleased with our choices and it turned out that Grandma had made a good call in suggested we go out for frozen yogurt.

Dear Holly: I Have Cuddlebugs for Kids (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Your brother Jack wanted to eat outside so I took him out to the patio while you, Mommy, and Grandma remained on the sofa inside.

After Jack and I finished our treats, Jack wanted to come see what you were up to.

Fortunately, I took several pictures of what happened next, on both my phone and camera. It made me so proud and gracious as the dad of such precious children.

Dear Holly: I Have Cuddlebugs for Kids (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

I captured the moment, as your brother hugged you and held you close. The look on your face clearly revealed how fascinated you are by him. You are truly amazed by your brother. And similarly, he loves to engage you in being cuddled up together.

It’s official: I have cuddlebugs for kids.

And this isn’t something that only happens occasionally. Instead, he does this daily with you.

Dear Holly: I Have Cuddlebugs for Kids (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

But in that paramount moment, I felt required to send out an Instagram pretty much immediately, sharing, “Whole lot of love.”

It could have simply been a fun trip for frozen yogurt, but fortunately, I saw a heart-warming moment that I will never forget.



Dear Holly: I Have Cuddlebugs for Kids (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Parental Review: Stranger Things (Netflix Original Series- Season 1)

Parental Review: Stranger Things (Netflix Original Series- Season 1)

It appears that 2006 is the year for 1983.

First was this summer’s X-Men Apocalypse, and more recently, Disney’s reboot of Pete’s Dragon, both same in that marvelous year in history. And of course, Netflix’s Stranger Things.

I personally have had an obsession with 1983 since I was in Junior High, about a decade later. The culture, the style, the music, the movies, and the TV shows were so enjoyable.

Even John Mayer backs up my theory in his song, “83”, where he admits, “Had it make in ’83.”

So it makes sense to me that people today, in 2016, continue to enjoy seeing the year 1983 brought back to life.

Stranger Things

I am thoroughly impressed by the seemingly flawless way the Duffer Brothers have captured 1983 in their new sci-fi thriller, Stranger Things.

There is no question that Stranger Things is an exceptional TV show, like Breaking Bad and Lost.

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But the question you might be asking, as a parent, is at what age Stranger Things would be appropriate for your child to watch.

While I can’t answer that question for you, I can give you a brief overview of elements of the show which ultimately give Stranger Things what I deem as the equivalent of an intense PG-13 rated movie.


While there are no major curse words, like “g—d—“ or “f—“, every episode contains multiple uses of “sh—“ and many of the episodes contain the phrase “son of a b—-“ and/or “d-ck”. I should point out that much of the the profanity is by the 12 year-old boys, in addition to the adult characters.


Most episodes are free of sensuality, but there is an early episode in which 2 teenagers (who are protagonists) engage in sexual activity. While no nudity is shown, the bedroom scene is not a quick one. The event is referenced briefly again in a later episode, in which the girl is referred to as a “sl-t” by the boy she had sex with.


There is violence throughout the series, including a girl’s telepathic ability to break bones and even kill people. Additionally, there are many uses of guns and weapons.


There is occasional use of cigarettes and beer by some of the adult characters.

Dark Themes:

The overall theme of Stranger Things has to do with connecting to a darker, sinister parallel universe; as people are being taken there from the 1983 version of Indiana. Again, one of the main characters is able to excess her telepathic abilities.

Stranger Things is by no means a family friendly show, yet it is definitely fascinating, intriguing, and addicting.

As for a child watching it, I say the best comparison for inappropriate content for children would be Lost; regarding profanity, sex, violence, drugs/alcohol, and dark themes.

However, it’s up to the individual parent to decide at what age.

Parental Guide Summary of Pete’s Dragon (2016, Rated PG)

Parental Guide Summary of Pete's Dragon (2016, Rated PG-13)

The new Pete’s Dragon movie takes place in circa-1983, just like this year’s X-Men Apocalypse, as well as Netflix’s summer hit show, Stranger Things. The funny part is, I have no idea why the new Pete’s Dragon movie takes place in the Eighties; it has nothing to do with the plot in any way.

Never at any point do they acknowledge the year. This is simply information you deduce from the clothing, hairstyles, cars, and lack of cell phones. When the movie begins, “1983” doesn’t flash up on the screen.

Similarly, I’m led to believe the movie takes place in either Washington state or Oregon, based on the redwood trees. But they never come out and say that either.

Oh yeah, and, by the way: Take your kids to see this movie!

It is totally worth it. It is the perfect family movie to see in the theater this year. Plenty of heart and adventure, yet not cheesy in any way.

Here’s a breakdown of the new Pete’s Dragon movie, from a “family friendly” perspective:


None; not even any form of “OMG”. There is a mention of literal hell, as the dragon’s eyes are compared to “the color of hell fire.” But I have a feeling no one is going to find that be be offensive.


Not even a kiss.


A crew of men use tranquilizer rifles to hunt down the dragon.


Not even the sight of an empty beer bottle.

Dark Themes:

Just like virtually every Disney movie ever made, the boy becomes an orphan in the opening scene, in the event of a car accident. However, the trauma of this is downplayed greatly: The car is show flipping upside down but the bodies of the parents are not seen.

I strongly recommend this movie. My son just started Kindergarten this week; he’s about 5 and a half years-old. Pete’s Dragon was perfectly relevant and appropriate.

Go right now. Take the kids. See Pete’s Dragon.

Also, here’s the video version of this blog post:


He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown DVD Review

On October 6, 2015, a new Peanuts DVD compilation hit the streets: He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown.

He's a Bully, Charlie Brown DVD Review

The DVD is 69 minutes long and consists of 3 episodes. The first, which is the main feature, is He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown, in which a boy tricks all the other boys at camp into taking their marbles by teaching them how to play.

In It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, the Peanuts gang is back at summer camp again; this time for a fun boys vs. girls competition in camp sports.

And finally, in Snoopy: Team Manager, we see a few shorter episodes together as a regular length episode; all taken from the series, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, from 1983.

Our family really enjoyed sitting down together and watching the whole DVD!

He's a Bully, Charlie Brown DVD Review




Release aligns with Anti-Bullying Month in Support of Educating and Raising Awareness of Bullying Prevention 

Official Press Release:

BURBANK, CA (June 15, 2015) — Important life lessons are learned by the Peanuts gang, on He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown available October 6, 2015 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE). This heartwarming collection brings together two Peanuts specials that are paired with an episode of The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show, that have been brilliantly remastered in all-new 4K Ultra HD transfers to DVD. In this must-own compilation, Charlie Brown is called upon to stand up for one of his pals, who is taken advantage of by a bully at summer camp. This title will be released in time for National Bullying Prevention Month, which takes place in October. He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown will retail for $19.97 SRP.

With school out for summer, Charlie Brown and his pals set out for camp. Rerun van Pelt, Lucy’s youngest brother, brings his prized collection of marbles, which once belonged to his grandfather, Felix, an award-winning marbles champ. Rerun is determined to become a marble master just like his grandpa but first, he must find someone who will teach him how to play the game.

At camp, Rerun meets Joe Agate, a tough-talking and disrespectful older boy who takes advantage of Rerun’s naiveté and cons him out of all his grandpa Felix’s marbles. A devastated Rerun confides in Charlie Brown, who is so disgusted by Joe’s behavior that he decides to stand up to him, with the help of Snoopy as Joe Cool, of course. Will Charlie Brown summon the courage to face the awful Joe Agate and win back Rerun’s beloved marbles?

In It was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, which is also featured on this release, it’s a hilarious battle of boys against girls, with Snoopy having to get in the middle of it all.  At summer camp, the Peanuts gang put up with poor food and the girls winning all the sports competitions. To get even, the boys challenge them to an arm-wrestling contest between Lucy and “The Masked Marvel” – aka Snoopy in disguise. Will the boys triumph or stay defeated?

He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown also features an episode of The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show, which includes four delightful segments, including Shoveling, Rerun, Lost Blanket and The Manager.

He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown, sends a powerful message. From time to time, we’re all faced with situations in which we have to be strong, courageous and stand up for what we believe is right,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Vice President Family & Animation Marketing. She added, “We’re delighted to release this inspiring collection. If you love Peanuts, this is one title you won’t want to miss.”

The Toyota “Family Reunion” Press Preview In Pompano Beach, Florida

Last week I had the privilege, as a car reviewing daddy blogger, to be flown from my home in Nashville down to Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Pompano Beach; about 20 miles from Jacksonville, Florida. I was invited to the Toyota “Family Reunion” where the updated Sienna, Camry, and Yaris were featured and available for several hours of drive time.

There were 48 of us journalists, writers, and bloggers attending the 2 day event along with me.

We were all given around 6 hours during the 2 days to drive all versions of the updated Sienna, Camry, and Yaris; as Toyota provided dozens of the vehicles for us to choose from.

I admit, I took full advantage of every minute of drive time in the beautiful palm tree filled landscape of Pompano Beach.

Nick Shell The Toyota “Family Reunion” Press Preview In Pompano Beach, Florida

Toyota provided multiple drive routes for us to tackle with our driving partners, but I often found myself and driving partner so caught up in conversation about the car, and admiring the sunny location, they we would get off course, then just use the navigation system to help us get back to the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club where we were staying.

From there, we would pair up with new partners and cars.

I guess you could say I was “professionally joyriding.”

As for the 3 vehicles being featured at the Toyota “Family Reunion” Press Preview, I’ll start with the Sienna.

The Toyota “Family Reunion” Press Preview In Pompano Beach, Florida

It was the first Toyota vehicle I ever reviewed, back in September 2013; in fact, it’s what got me started regularly reviewing cars for my daddy blog here.

With the updated 2014.5 model, I noticed a lower dashboard, easier to access controls, and of course their new Driver Easy Speak feature which enables the driver to use the cars speakers to communicate with whoever is in the back seat.

The acoustics are designed in such a way that if you are in the backseat, it’s almost like the driver’s voice is inside your head, like your conscience or something. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Moving on the Camry; I had never been in one my entire life until this trip! That’s ironic, considering that it has been the best selling car in America; 12 years in a row! Since it’s introduction in 1983, more than 10.2 million have been sold. And there are currently 6.6 million on the road today.

Something else I want to point out about the Camry is how American made it truly is. The production of the Camry employs 7,000 U.S. workers and the vehicle contains 75% North American content.

The Toyota “Family Reunion” Press Preview In Pompano Beach, Florida

I view Toyota as more of an American car company than many official “American” based car companies. I realized that back in the summer when I reviewed the Highlander and saw the sticker on the door, showing that it was built in Texas.

My last vehicle to drive was the new redesigned Toyota Yaris; which has adopted more of a European look. As expected, I really enjoyed it; especially because I got to choose between a stick shift or an automatic.

The Toyota “Family Reunion” Press Preview In Pompano Beach, Florida

You better believe I chose the stick shift. It’s a lost art these days to drive a stick and I am just the classic gentleman for the job.

In fact, I’m interested in driving more stick shifts when I review cars from now on, but I get it that there are less of them out there.

I hope to review the Yaris, as well as the Camry, in upcoming months. I really enjoyed driving them both in Pompano Beach, but unlike the Sienna, I haven’t already reviewed them back in Nashville with my family.

The Toyota “Family Reunion” Press Preview In Pompano Beach, Florida

It will be interesting to me to see how those vehicles mesh with my family. I can see my son Jack really liking the 5 door Yaris.

He would say, “Daddy, this car has 5 doors? I didn’t know cars could have 5 doors!”

My job here today has been introduce you to the newly updated Toyota Sienna, Camry, and Yaris. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse, as I know I definitely enjoyed getting to be a part of this Toyota “family reunion.”

Nick Shell 20141016_Camry Preview_1485

Stay tuned for more Lexus/Toyota/Scion reviews right here on Family Friendly Daddy Blog! I am reviewing a 2015 Scion FR-S the week of November 11-18 for my son’s 4th birthday.

Book Review: The Truth About Nature, By Stacy Tornio And Ken Keffer

I’ve had a few people curiously ask me why it seems I never seem to review products that I don’t like; from cars, to food, to toys, to books.

Here’s why: I don’t feel it’s worth my time and effort to type up 500 words on a product I don’t believe in.

That’s why I do my research on a product before I review it, to make sure it meets my strict qualifications and standards before I invest in it.

Review of The Truth About Nature Book By Stacy Tornio And Ken Keffer

With that being said, I believe in this book: The Truth About Nature: A Familiy’s Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors, written by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer; illustrations by Rachel Riordan.

My nearly 4 year-old son believes in this book too, but for different reasons.

Jack likes the book because he makes a fun game out of “finding the animals” in the 212 pages, most of which contain at least one illustration of the animal that page features.

“Daddy, I found the blue jay!” he proclaims from the back seat on the way home from school, with our copy of The Truth About Nature in hand.

The Truth About Nature Book

What I personally like about the book is that in a few years, once Jack is able to start comprehending words other than his name when he reads them, he will learn some really cool facts about animals that most people don’t know.

Here’s an excerpt:

Myth 106: Animals sleep with their eyes closed. Sleep varies a great deal from one animal to the next. Some sleep standing up. Some sleep during the day. Some even sleep with their eyes open… Dolphins are the most fascinating sleepers. They actually sleep with one eye open and continue to swim while they’re sleeping!

Like my son, I also appreciate the book’s illustrations. I want to classify the style as “Portland, Oregon postcard from 1983.” The drawings are classic, nostalgic, and enchanted.

The retail price is $18.95. Again, this is a beefy book, with 212 pages.

Our family has discovered it makes a great “road trip” book with all our reviews of cars that we do. This book is entertaining in an interesting way, not simply just in a trivial way.

Review of The Truth About Nature Book By Stacy Tornio And Ken Keffer

The authors, Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, have already proven they know what they’re doing when it comes to writing books. Their previous book, The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things To Do In Nature Before You Grow Up, was a winner of the National Outdoor Book Award.

Also, FYI, in case you’re interested in the authors coming to your child’s school, they are currently having a contest for that:

So there you go: I officially endorse The Truth About Nature. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the time and effort to be telling you about it today.

You can learn more about the book here on their website. Thanks for reading my blog today!

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