Dear Jack: The Paradox of Receiving a Berenstain Bears Book and HALO Action Figure on Valentine’s Day 2018

7 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

I don’t know how normal it is to receive so many little gifts from your parents on Valentine’s Day, but apparently, you are one lucky kid. Because before you even left for school yesterday, you got all your Valentine’s Day gifts from Mommy and me.

It was funny to me; I remember on your 2nd Valentine’s Day, Mommy asked me to pick out a little toy for you. This was a new concept for me. I had never heard of parents getting their kids gifts for Valentine’s Day.

I picked out an 88 cent Hot Wheels red monster truck for you. And since that day back in 2012, I have seen your Valentine’s Day gift selections grow a little bigger each year.

This year, you received a mini Hatchling, a stuffed animal ball, a bag of Trolli gummies, and an inflatable Hulk.

But looking back, perhaps it was slightly ironic, and definitely easily hilarious, that two gifts in particular couldn’t be more opposite:

A Berenstain Bears book called Valentine Blessings, which includes Bible verses about the Biblical definition of love.


A Mega Construx HALO action figure, ready for war!

But in addition to it being both ironic and hilarious, I also see it as perfectly ideal for you right now, as a 7 year-old, 1st grader boy.

While you very much enjoy action of any kind, including your now growing collection of HALO figures, as well as your obvious and, by default, fascination with super heroes like the Hulk, you still are very excited to receive a fluffy stuffed animal or another book from that lovable family from Bear Country.

You are a sweet and sensitive boy, yet I see those undeniable glimpses of you as a pre-teen, as well.

And really, this is exactly how I remember being, 30 years ago, when I was this age.

I think your Valentine’s Day gifts from Mommy and me were a perfect representation of who you are to us at this age.




Despite the 1990s Sitcom Cliche, I Actually Really Like My Mother-in-Law (Featuring the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring)

I feel like there’s this familiar cliche from family sitcoms of the 90s where the mother-in-law comes from out to town to visit, which inevitably yields 23 minutes of zany frustration for the husband and father of the household; accompanied by laugh tracks, of course.

Maybe that’s true for some men out there, I don’t know.

What I do know is I personally can not relate to this stereotype at all.

My wife and I have been married for nearly 10 years. I can honestly say that I have never once felt frustrated when my mother-in-law comes to visit or when we visit her in California. In fact, she has the opposite effect on me: I feel more relaxed with her around.

I assume I’m the typical American dad in that I am heavily involved not only with the kids, but also with the household chores. The only real free time I have is when everyone else is asleep.

During my waking hours, I’m either taking care of at least one kid or I’m helping clean up a mess. Because with young kids, there’s always a mess to be cleaned.

But when my mother-in-law is in town, I get a break from reality. I actually have pockets of time where I can do things like, you now… learn what it feels like to sit on my own couch for 5 minutes; thanks to my mother-in-law insisting on preparing dinner without my help, telling me, “Now Nick, sit down. I’m taking care of all this over here. You just take a seat and relax.”

This is all especially fresh on my mind, as my mother-in-law is currently staying with our family here here in Tennessee this week.

When the folks at Mazda heard about our special guest flying in from the West Coast, they dropped off a 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with a full tank of gas, to make the week-long visit extra special.

It’s funny because despite only living about 40 miles south of Nashville, I only see that wondrous and trendy city a few times a year. But knowing we had a fancy car to get us there, we loaded up in the Mazda 6 and took our mother-in-law out for a magnificent lunch.

My wife suggested this cool Lebanese bistro called Epice.

Wow, seriously. It is now officially my favorite restaurant in all of Nashville. It was like being introduced to a whole new world of food. Not to mention, they were easily able to cater to me being a vegan.

The restaurant shares a parking lot with a very swanky “Nashvilley” shop called White Mercantile, which happens to be owned by Holly Williams; the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.

I admit, the decor there was so cool, I took lots of pictures, made it into a collage, and debuted it as my new Facebook banner picture.

My mother-in-law just loved that store! Despite being born and raised in Oakland, California, she definitely has a fascination with the Southern motif.

After lunch, my wife and mother-in-law decided we would be stopping by an organic grocery store called The Turnip Truck; as it is soon to be a place frequented by Country Music stars.

Apparently, there were no celebrities there at the time, but at least I got a Mexican coffee out of the deal, and my daughter was able to enjoy one of her favorite snacks for the drive back home.

The next day on Saturday, my mother-in-law decided she wanted to take us out for dinner at our town’s official favorite restaurant, Viking Pizza Co. of Spring Hill.

Needless to say, it’s been a very enjoyable week for our entire family with my mother-in-law in town. Especially for me. I have enjoyed being able to remove myself just enough from the household chores, as my mother-in-law has assumed many of my roles this week, so though I could have some moments of sanity.

I don’t care what happened in 90s sitcoms. All I know is, I definitely like having my mother-in-law in town!

If you would like to learn more about the specifics of the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, check out another article I wrote; which as the title of it implies, will answer many of your immediate questions. Just click on the click below:

2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Back Seat Space with 2 Children’s Car Seats, Fuel Door Release, Volume Knob for Stereo, Extra Trunk Space, Gas Mileage, Price

And don’t forget to catch up with me on The Lifetime Network’s “This Time Next Year” on February 20th, at 10 PM Central/9 PM Eastern; as I journey over the course of an entire year in attempt to find and meet my doppelganer!

2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Back Seat Space with 2 Children’s Car Seats, Fuel Door Release, Volume Knob for Stereo, Extra Trunk Space, Gas Mileage, Price

This week I was sent a 2017 Mazda 6, so that I could review it from the dad’s perspective. Perhaps my top priority in featuring vehicles on my website is always this:

How much seat space is there in the very back seat if an adult has to sit back there?

After all, you never know when you might need to fill the vehicle to full passenger capacity, but have to work around two child car seats.

That was definitely the case this weekend as my mother-in-law was in town from Sacramento.

It was her, my wife, our 7 year-old son, our 21 month-old daughter, and myself in the vehicle as we made our way to our town’s favorite restaurant, Viking Pizza Co. (in Spring Hill, Tennessee).

The drive was only about 3 miles away. On the way there, I drove, and my wife sat in the back seat sandwiched in-between our 2 kids; with my mother-in-law sitting up front. On the way back, my wife and I swapped places.

I made this video to demonstrate exactly how I fit into the back seat in this situation. But at 5′ 9″ and 171 pounds, I was surprised at how “unsmooshed” I felt back there. My head didn’t even graze the roof.

It’s also worth bringing up that the 2017 Mazda 6 has an unsuspecting amount of truck space! I was nearly able to fit my guitar back there longways; with plenty of room to spare on both sides. So if you’re planning on taking this car on a road trip, you can afford to pack heavy.

For some, the “volume knob” for the stereo may be difficult to find. That’s because, to my knowledge, there’s not one. Just simply use the volume buttons on the left side of the steering wheel.

On a similar note, should you find any difficult finding the fuel door release, just look a little lower.

As for gas mileage, it averages 30 miles a gallon; 27 in the city and 35 on the highway. The model featured here on my blog, which is basically fully loaded, has a total MSRP of $34,695.

Okay, there’s your briefing.

Be on the look-out for more blog posts I have in store on the 2017 Mazda 6. Thanks for reading!


I Sincerely Need Your Help Today as a Stay-at-Home Dad! I Have to Get 1,000 Subscribers on My YouTube Channel by February 20th, 2018. I Currently Have 328. Will You Help Me?

If I don’t get 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel for this blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog, within exactly a month, it will mean I will cease to make money from it. This is a big deal, because as many of you know, I was forced into becoming a stay-at-home dad 3 months ago, when my entire branch was shut down.

Since then, my family has been relying on the supplemental income we get from both of my main YouTube channels. The other is fine, as it currently has 2,888 subscribers. But this one is only a third of the way there. (It had 328 subscribers as of the publishing of this blog post.)

Interestingly, my YouTube channel for this blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog, has only about 10% of the subscribers of my other channel, yet it brings in nearly half of my YouTube revenue.

YouTubers like me get a cut of the ad revenue from the ads that show before my videos, but that will no longer be the case for this YouTube channel if I don’t get 1,000 subscribers by February 20th, which is exactly a month from today.

So I sincerely ask you: Will you click on my YouTube channel for this blog, and click the “Subscribe” button?

This is sort of like that episode of Saved by the Bell where they had to raise $10,000 in order to save The Max.

But the difference is, I’m not asking for money. I don’t want money.

I want subscribers, so that I can continue to use my creativity to work to earn money, as a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a YouTuber and blogger.

Subscribing to my YouTube channel today is great way to truly and instantly help out another human being.

Thank you for your consideration of helping me as a stay-at-home dad continue in my side hustle.

I am worker. I am a creator. I want to continue making money for my work.

If I don’t have 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel by February 20th, which is a month from today, I will stop receiving pay for my work.

Additionally, I need need 4,000 total “watch hours” from my viewers, but I feel that will work itself out in a month if I get the required number of subscribers. I currently have 173,346 minutes; which is 2889 hours of the 4,000 hours requirement.

Will you please help me?

I am Nick Shell and this is a true story.


Dear Holly: Your Surprise Christmas Gift Arrived in the Mail!

1 year, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

The plan was for Uncle Joe, Aunt Rebecca, and your cousin Savannah to drive up from Pensacola to spend the Christmas holidays in Alabama with us at Nonna and Papa’s house. That was inspired by how well their Thanksgiving visit went just a month earlier.

However, the three of them got way too sick to ever leave Florida. So sadly, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them as planned.

But even still, our family was pleasantly surprised this past week when an expected box arrived on our doorstep.

It turns out, Aunt Rebecca had our Christmas gifts shipped to us in the mail, so we could celebrate Christmas a little bit longer, into the new year.

I loved watching you open your gift. Your face lit up, “Baby!!!”

It was a Cabbage Patch Kids Cuties doll. And since that day you opened it, you’ve yet to spend a day without it.

You take the doll with you to bed, you push it in the stroller, and you attempt to even eat your meals with it.

As for your brother Jack, he was obviously pleased to receive a whoopee cushion, silly string, and slime. And Mommy loved her Mary Kay products.

Even I received something cool!

It’s a new mug with a big pickle for a handle. The next day at lunch, you sat next to me as I enjoyed my standard Ramen noodles it; while you munched on oatmeal.

There’s just nothing like getting a gift after you weren’t expecting to get anymore gifts. Typically, if there’s a mysterious box waiting for us on our doorstep, it’s because Mommy ordered something on Amazon, like a new water filter for our refrigerator.

But not this time.

This time, our whole family got a fun surprise!




Dear Jack: A 1st Grader Boy’s Christmas is One that Requires Pokemon

7 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Every couple of years, the theme changes and you’re suddenly into a new toy; one that will further challenge your current state of mind. I enjoy seeing shift that occurs every couple of years. I have grown to expect it now.

For example, when you were 2 years-old, everything was Hot Wheels. When you were 3, it was Thomas the Train. At age 4 and 5, you couldn’t get enough stuffed animals.

But at age 6 and now 7, your obsession has been Pokemon. You even told me you still believe there’s a chance that Pokemon are actually real. You are serious about Pokemon!

It’s becoming difficult for me to understand how you can even trade cards anymore with your friends, as I would have to imagine you already have two of every card ever made!

Apparently though, that was still not the case, even after Christmas, when multiple friends and family members gave you gift cards; which are mostly being spent on more Pokemon cards.

Even our next door neighbors surprised us with a gift package on our front door, which included a pack of Pokemon cards!

To really top things off, my Uncle Al brought you a shoe box full of vintage Pokemon cards from 20 years ago. They came with some baseball cards he ordered off of the internet.

Not to mention, Nonna ordered you a big bag full of Pokemon figurines, as well.

What else could you possibly need?

Uncle Andrew and Aunt Dana figured you could use a few new books:

Farting Pokemon Coloring Book and I Need a New Butt!

Yeah, those are just right for what you and your friends at school talk about when you’re not talking about Pokemon.

I just can’t imagine though, a year from now, how you could still be in to Pokemon cards. How will there be any left?




Dear Holly: Your “Ashes, Ashes”, Peppa the Pig Christmas

1 year, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

It is my job to remind you what Christmas 2017 was like, since you likely won’t remember. For one, you were quite proud of the Peppa the Pig sneakers Nonna got for you.

Since Christmas, you have insisted on wearing them inside our home; even for your naps in your crib. As I wrap you up in your blanket before I lay you down, I have to wrap the blanket around your shoes. But this is what you want.

You also took a liking to the nursery rhyme, Ring Around the Rosie. Much of your fascination for the song and dance is that now you are beginning to repeat certain words, you like to say, “ashes, ashes” while holding hands with anyone who will sing with you; as you know that is the key phrase that allows you to immediately stumble to the ground and laugh.

Therefore, you have a habit of inserting “ashes, ashes” pretty much right after the opening line, “Ring around the rosie…”

Since coming back from Nonna and Papa’s during those 5 days for Christmas break, I have helping you play with all your new toys.

It’s not uncommon for you to suddenly smile at me, stand up, reach out for my hands, and then wait for me, as if to say, “Daddy, aren’t you going to start singing the song?”

The moment I do, you’re ready for your favorite part… ashes, ashes.

I should point out that you’re not simply just falling down in a carefully calculated, casual way.

No, instead, you act like you just slipped on a sheet of ice and then tumble and roll on your side, and lay still for a moment; as if you’re waiting for someone to say, “Oh no, Holly fell down! Holly, are you okay?”

But there you are, smiling up at your audience, so far not realizing that no one else ever takes the fall in Ring Around the Rosie as seriously as you do.