Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 7th Birthday

7 years old today!

Dear Jack,

It was still completely dark outside this morning when you walked into the bedroom and quietly asked me, “Daddy, can I open some of my birthday presents now?”

As your sister munched on a waffle, you preceded to unwrap your gifts from Mommy and me; all of which were explicitly Pokemon-themed.

This marks your first birthday in which stuffed animals nor Lego blocks were part of the excitement. No way. You’re seven now. This is serious stuff:

Everything is Pokemon!

Out of all the money spent on your birthday gifts, you appeared most excited and proud of the Pokemon binder we got you to hold all your cards. That was less than 10 dollars well spent!

You even asked me, “Daddy, how did you and Mommy get my name on the folder?”

I didn’t spell out how simple a concept it actually was; that the binder and the sheets only cost a few bucks each from WalMart and that Mommy simply printed off the Pikachu picture and then typed “Jack’s Pokemon Cards” from our printer.

As you spouted off a constant news reel for the rest of the morning about all the Pokemon cards you now have, I heard you say you were “organizing all the Pokemon cards according to how they evolve” and that you now have around 400 cards.

Mommy and I visited you for lunch today at school, just a few hours later. You told us that you had already traded some of the cards you got this morning for your birthday from us.

And I guess that’s the whole point- it’s fun to trade them, even just hours after getting new ones!

We are so proud to have you as our son. You are one intelligent and creative boy. Out of all the little boys in the whole entire world, we’d pick you every single time.

Happy Birthday, Jack.



Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 2nd Birthday

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 3rd Birthday

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 4th Birthday

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 5th Birthday

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 6th Birthday


Everything is in Place- How To Perfectly Organize Children’s Birthday? (By Guest Blogger Angela Berry)

We all know how much children love birthdays and how much they look forward to them, and parents are those who try their best to make it all happen. Every parent wants their kid to have the best birthday party there is, but usually, they don’t know how to begin organizing it. Here are some elementary things you should start from, so better grab a pen and paper and take some notes.


Before actually choosing the space, you have to decide on how many guests you’re going to invite. Are you planning on having a children-only party or are their parents going to be there as well? Do you want kids to be in one room with an entertainer to take care of them, and parents in another where they can chat and relax together? When you decide on the guest list, you can start thinking whether you want to have the party at home or out of the house. If you decide on your home, the advantage is that your kid will be on their own turf, so they will be in a good mood. Also, at home you know where everything is.

You can stop kids from wandering around by defining party areas with balloons and decorations, and keep other rooms locked. If you don’t want all that creative mess happening in your home, so you can decide on renting a play room, having a party in a restaurant or at the park (if weather permits). Again, make sure to define different areas, keep an eye on them and put safety first. Additionally, it’s always good to have a contingency plan in case of bad weather or another unforeseen event, just don’t cancel everything and disappoint your child.

Entertainers will turn the party into a Fairy Tale

You have a big variety of entertainers to choose from today. You can hire a balloon artist, a magician, a clown, a dance instructor, professional storytellers, DJs, hairstylist (check the local hair salon for a recommendation), finger or face painters and many more. Sometimes you will know right away who to hire, but sometimes you will need to ask them about their show. Remember to ask about the age of the kids the show is designed for and how long it will last. You can gather references from other parents, or you can ask about the best entertainers in children’s museums and libraries. Also, if your kid loves animals, in some places you can rent a petting zoo or have a mobile petting zoo brought right to your backyard. Kids usually love those.

Quality food is equally important

Your guests (kids as well as grownups) are going to get tired pretty soon, so you have to prepare some refreshment and some nourishment. Make sure that the food you prepared is fun, creative, healthy and nourishing. If you don’t have time (or skill) to prepare the food by yourself, you can get fun, tasty and colourful food from companies dealing with finger food catering and they will prepare everything for you. Of course, you mustn’t forget about the cake. The cake should be the centre of attention when it comes to food, and make sure it gets nicely decorated. You can opt for your kid’s favourite cartoon character, hobby, sports team, car, musician or actor.

Fun decoration is the key

When it comes to decoration, first visit a party store. You can practically spend hours in there. There you can get piñatas, flags, party hats, balloons of all sizes and shapes, confetti, costumes and sculptures. You can also buy straws, party cups, plates, plastic forks and tablecloths there. Some stores rent bouncy castles and slides, so you can book those if you have a big backyard. Basically, you will be able to get everything in one place. If you’re planning on having the party out of the house, prepare balloons and everything to decorate the place. To put everything up, use something that won’t smear the walls, such as low-tick tape, string, and removable adhesive hooks. Here you can go back to your childhood days and just be creative with decoration. Also, you can prepare a nice outfit for your kid. Make sure your kid can easily move in it, and that it can get dry-cleaned.

A professional photographer

Maybe your kid won’t care about this aspect of the party, but you will. You want to keep memories of that happy day and remember all those smiling faces forever, so it’s best if you get all that on camera. You can tell the photographer to concentrate on some things you want to see on photos, but it’s best if they focus on emotions rather than setting and decoration.

We believe this little guide will help all of you who got stuck with planning and organizing your kid’s birthday party. What’s important is not to leave everything for the last moment and always have a contingency plan. This way, you’re going to throw your kid a perfect fairy tale birthday party they will remember forever.

Angela Berry
Editor, Ripped me W

Dear Holly: Our Family’s Celebration of Your 1st Birthday/Your Disgust for Birthday Cake

1 year.

Dear Holly,

This has been such an exciting week for our family, because on Monday, you turned one!

For a one year-old little girl, you sure had a lot of presents! Granted, your brother was eager to help you open them.

I’m sure for any girl, clothes make up a good amount of her birthday presents. That definitely was the case for you. Whereas your brother Jack only seems impressed by clothes is there is a Pokemon or Yo-kai Watch character on the front, you instead were genuinely excited to see every item of clothes Mommy held up for you to see.

And of course, what little girl wouldn’t love a tea party set as well?

After dinner, we presented you with some chocolate cake from Whole Foods, to which Mommy added some homemade frosting for you. Instead of Mommy making an entire cake, we all shared a big slice.

To our amazement, you instantly gave your birthday cake a true look of disgust. Even when I forced a few crumbs in your mouth to try to convince you it was a dessert, which you’ve never had before, you still turned away.

Mommy came up with a credible theory as to why you were disgusted by the sight of it. Just a few days before, Mommy introduced you to beans, which she prepared in the food processor.

Apparently, the chocolate cake looked too much liked the beans.

You were just not impressed with the birthday cake. Instead of giving it another chance, you discretely began picking it up in little clumps and wiping it on your seat, next to your leg… as if to hope we would notice.

To you, that was the best use for birthday cake.

I love being your Daddy! This is the best.



Dear Holly: Your 1st Easter (and 4 Different People’s Birthday Celebrations!)

11 months.

Dear Holly,

With your 1st birthday coming up next Monday, Mommy and I decided to celebrate your birthday in Alabama with my side of the family; while we were already in town for Easter.

Once we arrived in Fort Payne, we immediately stopped at the Easter Egg Hunt that 1st Baptist Church has each year. Honestly, you weren’t too concerned with all the eggs in the grass.

Instead, you were just as happy to simply look beautiful in your dress, and have anyone come over and tell you what a pretty little girl you are.

Granted, your brother Jack was the complete opposite. Actually, I feel a little bit bad about how fiercely he dominated the egg hunt for his age division. He is so competitive that it was more about “winning”. Yet still, I was very proud of him, because I feel he learned that from me.

For lunch, we met Uncle Al and Sharon at the only restaurant we ever go to: Toke. With its Thai and Japanese cuisine, everyone in our family can eat there; including your Daddy, the manly vegan.

That’s when the early birthday presents started appearing for you. Plus, Nonna’s birthday was earlier that week, and mine is actually today.

In what turned out to be a major coincidence, your cousin Calla was invited to a Pokemon birthday party. When the birthday boy’s family heard that you and Jack were in town, they invited our family as well.

Then back at Nonna and Papa’s house afterwards, it was time for a few more gifts…

So yeah, there was a lot of celebrating to be done: Not only Easter, but 4 birthdays!

With Easter moving around the calendar every year (last year it was in March), I imagine that typically, Easter will be about a month before all our birthdays; most years.

But as for your first Easter, it got to be extra special because our family got to begin celebrate your birthday early. Just a few more days now for your actual birthday…



My Thoughts on Turning 36 Today

As Facebook has reminded you, today is my 36th birthday. It was this day in 1981 that my parents had to change the name they had planned on giving me, Mario, because when I was born, I didn’t look Italian and Mexican enough (on my mom’s side) to live up to what that name should look like. I was born with much fairer skin and lighter hair than I have now…

So instead, they gave me a Greek name, Nicholas, which means “victorious.” In hindsight, that name has become a tribute to my Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo. Fate would have it that despite not looking ethnic enough for the name Mario on the day I was born, members of my family unanimously agree that as a grown man, I definitely have an undeniable resemblance to my grandfather; whose own father emigrated here from southern Italy about 100 years ago.

When it comes to my age, I will never be the kind of person who is ashamed or embarrassed by that ultimately arbitrary number, no matter how high it gets. Because the whole point of a birthday is to celebrate your life with the people who care about you.

It’s that one day of the year where you don’t have to do anything but be alive, and accordingly, people make a big deal about you still existing in the universe.

On the day you are born, you are not psychologically developed enough to appreciate the world celebrating your arrival into the world. And when you die, at your funeral, you are not able to physically respond to everyone mourning your passing, as well as celebrating your life that has now come to an end.

But for the birthdays in between those bookmarks, we can all celebrate together, in these living years.

In real time, we can consciously appreciate the precious and mysterious gift of life. We can celebrate our shared memories, that in theory, only continue to exist because we still remember them.

I think birthdays are great.

So here’s to being closer to 40 than 30.

Here’s to being grateful for all I have, including people who celebrate the fact that I still exist in the universe.

Here’s to being reminded everyday, not just my birthday, how much I matter in this world; especially to a beautiful girl from California, and our wondrous blue-eyed children.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

6 years.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Jack,

Two years ago when you turned 4, Mommy and I paid around $300 to have a birthday party for you at one of those play centers. It barely lasted 2 hours and there was only space for about a dozen of your friends. While it was definitely fun, it was a lot of money for such a short amount of time.

Then a year ago for your 5th birthday, Mommy and I took you to Destin, Florida; celebrating over the course of a 4 day weekend. I would have loved to do that again…

But this year was different. You now have a 6 month-old baby sister. Plus, we just came back from a huge trip to San Diego last month.

So between being mindful of our finances and knowing it’s not a wise idea to take a baby to Florida on a road trip, we decided to do something cool and creative for your birthday party this year…

We took you to Opry Mills Mall in Nashville and gave you $100 cash to spend however you wanted. It was a win-win for everybody!


Fortunately, Nonna and Papa were able to drive up for the event and celebrate with us. It wouldn’t have been the same without them. Mommy and I were therefore able to focus more attention on you, the birthday boy, as Nonna and Papa took care of your baby sister.

I recognize that with Mommy and me both working full-time and taking care of a baby, an extra adult or two to help out is a huge deal; especially in the midst of trying to give you a true birthday celebration.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

The first store you choose to visit was the Toys R Us outlet, where to our surprise, you bought a Puppy in My Pocket collection. Once you got home though, the choice made a lot more sense.


Your tiny puppy pets received quite the special treatment, as you had each of us 4 adults adopt 2 of the puppies from a plastic “doggie bag.”


Next on your tour was Claire’s, which confused me at first, until I realized you found a special holiday-themed “big-eyed animal,” a reindeer with a red nose. Immediately after, I had Mommy take my picture at Sprint, next to my cardboard cut-out doppelganger.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

Similarly, you took us to a candy store next, called It’Sugar, but not for the sake of buying candy. Instead, you found a snowman big-eyed animal from Ty.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

After that we made a trip through the Lego Store, where you picked up a few packets of Pixels.

Now that you had purchased smaller items with your stipend, you began moving on to bigger purchase items. At the Aquarium restaurant, you found a really cool alligator that I liked.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

By that point, it was getting time for us all to eat lunch. In addition to the $100 cash, we also told you we would take you to lunch anywhere you wanted in Opry Mills Mall. You you opted for Moe’s Southwest Grill. Granted, I had no complaints, as Moe’s is very accommodating to my vegan lifestyle.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

Welcome to Moe’s!

We were also still celebrating Papa’s 60th birthday, from the day before. That means he got Moe’s for his birthday lunch too.


For your official birthday cake, we headed over to the Rainforest Café and ordered the volcano cake, which you thought was awesome. You loved seeing the animals “come to life” throughout our visit there.


Plus, you spent some more of your money there. You bought a shark tooth necklace and a snake slap bracelet.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee



But of course I would have to say that the main event was going to Build-a-Bear Workshop. Though I know you were tempted by Pete the Dragon, since we saw that movie back in August, you ended up choosing a blue reindeer instead.

p8 p9

You went all out: You had her scented with peppermint, you bought her a cloak, and you even purchased a backpack to carry her around in.



After all that excitement, we had been at the mall for nearly 5 hours and you had spent nearly all your money; with the exception of a few quarters.

So you used them for the toy dispenser machines, buying some little robots and monsters.


We all had a wonderful time! If it’s up to me, I would love to have your next birthday at Opry Mills Mall as well.

Not only is it cheaper than a birthday party at most party places, but it gives you more freedom to explore and spend the money according to exactly what you want.

You definitely had a Happy Birthday!



Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

@shOpryMills @ToysRUs @claires @ITSUGAR @LEGO_Group @Moes_HQ @RainForest_Cafe

@buildabear #vegan

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

6 years old.

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

Dear Jack,

With your birthday and Papa’s birthday only being 5 days apart, we were happy to have Nonna and Papa up for the weekend; as we were able to celebrate both birthdays together.

You specifically asked for Nonna to make and bring some pumpkin pie. Friday was Papa’s actual birthday, so we had the pie instead of birthday cake. I’m glad you made that request because we all loved it!

After we had already eaten the “birthday pumpkin pie” and I was cleaning up, I heard Nonna say, “Jack turns 6 and Papa turns 60!”

I immediately attempted to correct her: “No, Papa is only 59…”

But then I remembered: A year ago I wrote a special blog post about Papa turning 59. Nonna was right!

So after spending Friday evening celebrating Papa’s 59th birthday, I realized we were actually celebrating his 60th birthday instead… What a major milestone birthday to get wrong!

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

On Sunday after church, we all went to Grecian Pizzeria for lunch. Despite having lived in Spring Hill now for nearly 2 years, we only recently tried it out. I wish we would have sooner!

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

It is an ideal place for our family to eat. It is very vegan-friendly and vegetarian friendly; which is vital to our family.

So now we don’t have to drive 30 minutes away to Mellow Mushroom or Whole Foods when we want to go somewhere fun for dinner.

You thought it was pretty cool that the waitress displayed your drawing on their wall.

You thought it was pretty cool that the waitress displayed your drawing on their wall.

During our lunch there, I realized this: Papa is 60 years old, you are 6 years old, and Holly is 6 months old. While that is pretty cool, I’m not sure I feel so confident about three 6’s…

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

To officially celebrate your 6th birthday, we actually spent the whole day Saturday at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville. But since I took so many pictures of the event, you’ll have to give me about another week to get that all arranged…



Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food