Dear Jack: You Made a Real Cobra Head Necklace and Wore It to School… So Yeah, That’s Pretty Awesome.

7 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Unlike Indiana Jones, you are clearly not afraid of snakes.

Last week, you found an old key chain I brought back as a souvenir from Thailand, when I was in college. I had bought it from this man who professionally hunted and skinned snakes. He used the leftover heads for key chains.

Realizing you could disconnect the crystal arrowhead necklace that you got at Ruby Falls during Spring Break, you then replaced the arrowhead with the snake head.

In your own initiative, you had created a cobra head necklace and decided to wear it to school.

As you were leaving that morning for school, I assured you that you’d be the only boy in America to wear a real cobra head necklace to school.

No, this story doesn’t end with me saying that your teacher told you not to wear it to school anymore. You totally got away with wearing the head of a poisonous snake to school.

You came home and bragged to me, “Daddy, on two people thought my cobra snake wasn’t real!”

Coincidentally, just a few days later on Sunday, I had put your sister down for her afternoon nap and decided to take you to play in the creek at Brenthaven in Franklin.

As we were walking across the bridge over the creek, you and I both noticed something we assumed was a rope that had surfaced on a rock, in the middle of the stream.

But as we made our way closer, I announced to you with both caution and joy, “Jack, that’s a real snake!”

I tossed a few pieces of mulch at it- but it never budged. Then I tossed some rocks at it- it still never budged.

Finally, I found a stick long enough to pick it up with. It was obvious the snake was not only dead, but it had been dead there overnight.

You pointed out to me that its tail looked like it had been chewed up. My theory is that a neighborhood dog found the snake and broke its neck by slinging it like a whip, then the snake crawled onto the rock to die.

Turns out, it was either a venomous Cottonmouth or a harmless Brown Watersnake.

But since it was definitely dead, I let you throw rocks at it. I’m pretty sure you’ll remember that day as a highlight of your boyhood.

So yeah, you’re not afraid of snakes.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

This past Sunday afternoon, leading up to Mommy taking you to see The Secret Life of Pets, you and I had a solid hour to kill. So I decided we both ought to take a meandering walk outside in the Tennessee July heat.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

You decided to start out our adventure by grabbing a toy dinosaur that has been left outside our back porch. It was the kind that costs a dollar and grows 5 times its size when it’s emerged in water.

Given the fact it’s been sitting outside in the sun and rain for several weeks now, it has defaulted to a sort of gooey, slimy, puffy version of itself. You decided to take your extinct friend on our journey.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

You also grabbed a test tube from one of your experiments that you had worked on the day before. Without surprise, the dinosaur got slimed with the goo.

After that matter was resolved, we began our trip along the empty sidewalks; as no one else was crazy enough to be outside in that heat.

One of the warnings I remember receiving a lot when I was a young boy was not to play with sticks; granted, I had a young sister too.

But you and I were outside, with no one else around. So when you took it upon yourself to pick up a few sticks use as crutches and/or weapons, I didn’t stop you.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

We made our way to the edge of our neighborhood where they are finishing up the last of the new construction.

Your first self-assigned challenge was for me to find a rock too heavy for you to pick up, but light up enough that you could hold. You enjoyed the glory of holding it while I took a picture.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Then you decided you wanted to watch me pick up the biggest rocks I could and throw them against the other rocks so you could watch them break each other. You were amazed to see such an event.

Next, with the sticks you brought, you decided to explore all holes and crevices by poking the stick inside; I assume you were hoping that some kind of critter would come crawling out. It never did.

However, one of your sticks broke, in the process.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Somehow in the midst of all that, you skinned your leg. The funny thing is, you never seemed to notice. Even when I brought it to your attention, you didn’t seem impressed.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

We finished our excursion with you climbing the gravel and dirt piles. You had been wanting to climb them for months, so the opportunity finally prevented itself.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg) p13

I’d say we did a good job of killing an hour. And you learned an important lesson about life:

Sticks and stones may break other sticks and stones… and maybe even skins your leg, as well.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Dear Jack: The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

5 years, 4 months.

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

Dear Jack,

This past weekend for our tradition of being dangerous but not getting hurt, we decided to explore the McCutcheon Creek at Jerry Erwin Park.

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

I insisted that you jump across every possible crevice with water flowing under it, as you have quickly proven you have a remarkable ability to hurdle spaces you shouldn’t physically be capable of.

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

Of course, I made sure you wore your Spiderman rain boots, to be better equipped to walk across the water.

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

While that was a decent amount of fun on Saturday, we decided to venture out again on Sunday for an afternoon of mud.

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

After driving through that big puddle again, we made our way to the field behind Lowe’s, which features the same creek from the park the day before: McCutcheon Creek.

At first, I wasn’t so sure our surroundings would be that unique. That is, until you asked me if you could go down to the water:

You got stuck in the mud on the way there. It was like the mud was pulling you in as you attempted to step out into the nearby water.

I explained to you that’s how quicksand works. As you can see from these pictures, you at some point fell down in it and became what I call a “soggy bottom boy”.

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

It became obvious to me that we will need to be returning this coming weekend to better explore that muddy, swampy part of McCutcheon Creek.

Granted, for all we know, your new baby sister could be born this weekend, which would delay our plans.

But we definitely need to return as soon as possible. That’s because I need to let you get much muddier this next time.

I can help ensure we can be dangerous without getting hurt, but I’m not sure we can get thta muddy without it leaving some stains.

Love,

Daddy

The Quicksand (Mud) at McCutcheon Creek

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

4 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

There for a couple of months, our family was seriously planning on getting a pool table for our living room, for the same price as putting in furniture.

Ultimately, I told Mommy I changed my mind. Instead, I wanted to make sure we created an easily accessible space in our home where we could sit on comfortable furniture and have real conversations, without any threat of media interference.

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

So we ended up doing that in our living room by getting a couch and chair on sale at American Signature. And I am so happy we did.

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

Meanwhile, you and I have really started taking advantage of the great outdoors, in our neighborhood. Though it doesn’t have a playground, you and I have decided what matters more to us as a father and son duo is being able to go explore in the woods around our house.

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

In essence, our cul-de-sac serves as the entrance to a walking trail that is intertwined with a creek and two small ponds.

For me as a boy growing up in Alabama, being in close proximity to something like that was one of the best things I could hope for.

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

And now, you and I get to have that.

This past weekend you decided to release your crystals from your magic set into the water; since they would clog up the plumbing in our house if we flushed them or dumped them into the garbage disposal. You enjoyed watching them swell up in the water.

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

Earlier this week you got to use your sidewalk chalk on our driveway for the first time. You were in your artist mindset.

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

Seriously, the great outdoors! It’s a different lifestyle for us being able to enjoy it anytime the weather is decent.

I never realized how much our quality of life was truly going to improve by moving out of our townhouse community and into the suburbs into a “real house.”

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

Of all the things I love about our new home, the outdoor walking path is definitely one of my favorites. And I know you feel the same way.

The great outdoors are crucial to boyhood.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Why We Decided Against A Pool Table/The Great Outdoors

dad from day one: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Twenty-six weeks.

It’s not so much that I will relive vicariously through him as it will be that I will raise him according to what I know boyhood to be; therefore, Jack’s youth will in certain ways resemble mine.  And not only will I influence him regarding what it means to be a boy, but also by what it means to have a dad, based on how my own dad influenced my life.  Looking back, I can see that my dad was extremely patient with me and willing to spend his free time with me doing whatever goofy thing it was that I was into.

Whether it was helping me make the perfect Pine Wood Derby car for Cub Scouts, going exploring out in the woods, playing “Ninja Turtles” with me (I still have  an impressive collection of those action figures at my parents’ house), or playing Nintendo for hours at a time.

Being a dad to a son also means confronting potentially dangerous situations and keeping him safe through it; whether because he has to, or for fun.  And in the process, the son learns to trust his dad to take care of him, knowing his dad wouldn’t allow him to get hurt.

Like when he was leading our family in a 5 mile hike in Mentone, AL and he encountered a Copperhead snake- he killed it by throwing a huge rock on it.  Then when we got back home he skinned it and displayed it for all of us Cub Scouts.

And like when I was really young, my dad would put me in a pillow case, hold on to the open end, and sling me around the living room.  And because I was a boy, I loved it.

I also would sit up on his shoulders while he stood under the ceiling fan, in front of the mirror, so I could see that my head was just inches away from the spinning blades.  He called the event “The Head Chopper-Offer”.  And because I was a boy, I loved it.

And I always liked to wrestle my dad.  Obviously, it was impossible to beat him.  He was way too strong and way too big for me; not to mention he had a black belt in karate.  And because I was a boy, I loved it.

It was about testing those limits of danger with someone whose job it was to keep me safe.  Ironic, yet necessary.  My dad and I wrestling on the brown shag carpet represents what being a dad to a boy is all about.  The typical “play fighting” allows a boy to test his own strength and power against his own protector and guardian.  And it’s a very natural way for a father and son to be physically close- without even realizing it.

Dads and sons are close in their own unspoken ways.  And as a dad, part of my job will be to initiate some of these weird ancient rituals.  Even if it means confronting danger- it’s part of the journey of becoming a man. And these types of adventures are a rite of passage meant to be passed down from father to son.

Baby Jack is the size of an eggplant.

Here’s what The Bump says about Week 26:

Let your spouse put an ear to your belly — he might be able to pick up baby’s heartbeat (no stethoscope required). Inside the womb, the formation of tiny capillaries is giving baby a healthy pink glow. Baby’s also soaking up your antibodies, getting the immune system ready for life outside the womb. Eyes are forming, and baby will soon perfect the blink — perfect for batting those freshly grown lashes.

http://community.thebump.com/cs/ks/blogs/2ndtrimester/pages/weeks-25-28-month-6-eggplant.aspx?r=0

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

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com