Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack,

You are I are Southerners; born and bred. We are rough, tough, and dangerous. So while Mommy buys groceries on Saturday mornings, you and I go look for trouble… I mean, adventure.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

This past Saturday we decided to climb some mountains around our neighborhood. Both of these “mountains” were technically large piles of dirt that had been pushed in piles while the neighborhoods were being developed.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

I actually filmed some webisodes of my show Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest on them…

As I mentioned last week, when you and I get together, we are always dangerous… we just don’t get hurt.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

On our way up the mountains, which were very steep, I let you lead the way- so if you stumbled and fell, I could catch you.That’s exactly what happened at one point.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

And on the way down the mountains, I led the way- again, I could catch you if you started sliding.

We noticed there was a 3 or 4 foot deep trench that was dug out leading up to the base of one of the mountains. You immediately decided it was in your best interest as an explorer to jump across this trench, back and forth as we journeyed.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

I was very surprised at your ability to jump across these wide trenches. You are quite agile!

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

After a couple hours of traversing across the unpredictable landscape of suburban Tennessee, we decided to finish off the morning by throwing rocks into a huge mud puddle in the parking lot next to where I parked my Honda Element.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

When I asked you what your favorite part of the morning was, you replied, “What we’re doing right now.”

I took that as a compliment. Despite the high-octane excursions we had just encountered, you could appreciate the time we just stood there next to each other, throwing gravels into water, watching the mud stir up in the water like storm clouds.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

But you had one more idea in mind before we left to go back home and help Mommy unpack the groceries from Sprouts:

“Daddy, can we drive through that puddle?”

My dependable and paid-off 2004 Honda Element with 155,000 miles and a salvaged title is only worth $500 at this point. So I figured, what’s the worst that could happen?

The answer: just the need for a car wash.

And that, ended up truly being your favorite part of our morning together.



Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: We Built the Pullback Race Car at Lowe’s… Twice

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: We Built the Pull Back Car at Lowe’s… Twice

Dear Jack,

Last night as a family we drove to Lowe’s, which we can see from our upstairs windows facing the backyard, to build a free pullback race car; as part of their Build and Grow program.

I was eager to serve as the camera man, since we just got our new Canon PowerShot G7 X as part of my upcoming 35th birthday. Meanwhile, you and Mommy took turns hammering in the nails.

We were all so busy doing our jobs that no one us happened to see the obvious warning in the instructions that one of the panels had to be facing a certain way.

Needless to say, we didn’t see that part in the instructions until the car was built. Therefore, your racecar didn’t propel forward after you pulled it back, like it was designed to do.

A fellow dad came up to me just then to discreetly explain he had made the same mistake and had to rebuild his.

Fortunately, the lady kindly gave us another car and so we started over. At least we knew exactly what to do the 2nd time around. After we built it the right way, you had so much fun testing out the race car’s pullback action!

I’m glad that Lowe’s has this program. And it’s really convenient that we live so close.

We used to take you more often to these events at Lowe’s when you were a toddler. I don’t know how we got out of the habit, especially now that you’re at the perfect age. Perhaps in the process of building and moving into a new house last year, we just sort of forgot.

Oh well, I have a feeling we’ll being going quite regularly now. And I guess we’ll be more careful to follow all the instructions; otherwise we’ll do the craft twice… even though, you didn’t seem to mind that at all.



Dear Jack: We Built the Pull Back Car at Lowe’s… Twice

dad from day one: Baby Jack is Born!

Born on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 8:50 PM

22 hours 20 minutes of labor

8 pounds 6 ounces

20 ½ inches long

Head full of black hair

There is only one person who directly assured me back before we knew the gender of our baby that he would be a boy.  That was Tommy Huong, a Vietnamese co-worker who had already predicted the gender and birthday of another coworker (he has evidently memorized the 12 year patterns of the Chinese calendar).  So last Friday (the day after the due date) when someone at work suggested we all do a “baby pool” to predict when Baby Jack would actually be born, a better idea instantly surfaced:Go ask Tommy!

I ventured over to his desk and as he turned around it was as if he already knew why I was there, being that he was too far away to have heard the recent conversation.  “When was the due date?” he asked me.  “Yesterday,” I answered.  Tommy turned to his calendar and without any hesitation, placed his finger on Tuesday, November 16th.  “Tuesday, he will be born Tuesday.”

So we enjoyed the weekend.  Then I worked a full day on Monday.  That night around 8:45, my wife said I should finish the last two episodes of Dexter on the disc from Netflix so we could mail it off the next day- and so I have could time to watch my new favorite show before our schedules became forever changed.  I watched my two 50 minute episodes of Dexter, walked to the bedroom in perfect time to hear my wife proclaim, “I think I’m in labor.”  And she was.

From 10:30 Monday night until 5:11 Tuesday morning, she labored at the house.  Then we drove in the rain to the hospital; a 40 minute ride.  After laboring for 12 hours without any pain medications, she then pushed for four more additional hours while not furthering past the 8 centimeters mark (and 100% effaced).  By that point, it became clear that after making it that far, she no longer had the strength to push without some outside help.  So my wife chose to get an epidural.  Because ultimately, we wanted to do everything we could do to avoid major surgery.

But even after several hours of the epidural, it took everything she had to push our baby out.  In fact, if it weren’t also for the diligence and determination of the midwives to honor our request of avoiding a C-section, cutting the baby out of my wife’s stomach would have been the only option.  But the midwives tried every trick in the book, and finally, it worked.  In the end, Baby Jack turned out to be one big Bambino.  The first words my wife said when she saw him coming out was, “You’re a big baby!  How did you fit inside of me?!”

I realize that the expected Hallmark way to portray the first time I held Jack is to say that I cried, as the emotions surrounding the miracle of life flushed through me.  But for the fact all my emotions were exhausted from helping my wife suffer through over 22 hours of labor, here’s what I thought instead: “You’re darker than us!  If anyone should be Mario, it’s you!”

I’ll explain.  A few months ago I told the story of how the name my parents gave me while my mom was still pregnant with me was Mario.  My mom is half Italian and half Mexican, and therefore, dark skinned.  The name Mario would not only have represented my dark skin, but also cover both my Italian and Mexican heritage.  But as soon as I was born, my pasty skin and seemingly American features brought cause for a name change.  Therefore, a few hours after I was born, I was named Nicholas- a less ethnic name that still points to some kind of a foreign background.

So 29 years later as I held my own son for the first time, I had the opposite reaction from the one my mom had when I was born.  Because as of now, Baby Jack doesn’t necessarily especially look like my wife or me, but instead what I would imagine Super Mario would have looked like when he was first born.  One of Jack’s noticeable features his full head of black hair.  I think he has “Gerber baby” lips.  And as I have already studied his profile multiple times, it’s safe to say he has an Italian nose- which I am so proud of!

My parents holding their first grandchild for the first time.

Right before we were released from the hospital, Jack was circumcised.  I felt really bad for him, yet at the same time realized that I don’t remember my own circumcision.  It’s still sad to think about him having to go through that though.  He’s holding up just fine and so is his mommy, despite a drawn out entrance into this world.  God has answered all of our prayers for his and my wife’s safety and health; we are so grateful for that.  The pediatrician at the hospital told us that she checked him from head to toe and couldn’t find anything that needing fixing or reason for caution or concern.

Jack is a cool baby, if I do say so myself.  He’s pretty low maintenance- he just wants to be held all the time.  But I’m guessing we won’t have trouble working that out.  Thanks for following dad from dad one, so far.  If life is a sitcom, this is the season finale.  The new season premieres next week where I am promising an interesting new plot twist…

dad from day one: One More Month to Go

Thirty-five weeks.

Jack’s due date is November 11th, so it’s pretty likely that within the next thirty days, he will be born.  I am past the stage of being nervous, afraid, or underprepared (because I’ve accepted the fact that no first time parent can truly be prepared enough). Instead, I am completely excited and feeling very positive about it all.  A few nights ago I had a dream that Jack was a few months old and I was holding him, feeling his face against mine, and even though it was a dream, it was a feeling that I have never experienced before.  But it’s a feeling that I know I will be experiencing soon in real life.

This late into the pregnancy, it feels more like our baby is actually born and less that my wife is still pregnant.  We’re so close to meeting him.  I’m already feeling a hint of this great desire to do anything I have to in order to make sure he’s taken care of.  Like an innocent puppy that winds up on my doorstep with sad eyes that say, “Please take care of me…”  Except he’s a human being and I had a part in bringing him into this world.

I look forward to caring for him with my life.  I don’t care about having to change diapers, losing sleep, and just flat-out transforming the normalcy of my life to be a dad.  I want this little boy.  And for the record, he’s got some cool shoes waiting for him out here in the real world.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:



What Not to Name Your Kid

There are some topics I would love to write about but I know they’re way too controversial or potentially offensive- this is one of them.  But if I am vague enough and only give over-the-top examples, I might be able to pull this off.

When naming our son who is due to arrive in November, a few ground rules were that the name had to be easy to say and spell, easily recognizable, and not made-up.  So that’s one of the many reasons we went with the classic American “Jack”.  Other than my dad, I don’t know anyone else with that name, yet it’s highly popular in movies and TV- therefore making it popular but not overused.

I do take requests as far as topics I write about.  “What Not to Name Your Kids” was an idea suggested to me by a few different people and I decided to take the challenge.  After all, we all are familiar with baby names that we say, “oh, I like that” when the soon-to-be mom tell us, yet we later tell our friends “you gotta hear this name, it’s so weird…”  So I have come up with a list of “no no’s” when it comes to naming a North American child.

Last names for first names that are not classic or already decently popular. Madison and Mackenzie are acceptable.  But when I hear more obscure ones like Middleton, Smithwell, Dresden, Spurlock, Applegate, and Hester, I can’t help but feel sorry for that kid.

Wrong gender names. Obviously names like Jordan and Taylor are good names that truly are completely neutral and work well for a boy or a girl.  But when I hear of a girl being named James or Scott or Todd, or if a suffix is added to a boy’s name to make it feminine like Markley, Davidanna, or Johnlyn, I get irritated.

Funny names. Jack B. Nimble, Robert Robertson, and Sunshine Day.

Random, made-up names that are supposed to be cute. Spiffet, Tindle, Gladdon, and Marxon.

It used to be that a person’s middle name might be a little different or off-beat.  But nowadays, parents are going all out on the first names.  That will surely be a trait of the Class of 2030.  Weird names.