Dear Holly: You Live Up to Your Middle Name, Joy

1 year.

Dear Holly,

Saturday morning our family drove a few miles down the street to Ms. Aimee’s place, for her to take your official 1 year-old photos. She was your brother’s preschool teacher when he was 4 years-old. It just so happens that her roommate, Ms. Michelle, was his teacher when he was 3 years-old. But neither of them had met you yet.

Actually, it was Ms. Aimee who helped us find the American Girl doll, which was your main birthday gift from us.

During the couple of hours we were there, both Ms. Aimee and Ms. Michelle couldn’t help but keep bringing up what a doll you are; that you literally look like a doll that has come to life; especially when someone sees you in person, as opposed to seeing a picture of you.

They also noticed how content and happy you are. You’re also expecting the best out of people and the best out of the situation. You go along with whatever we’re doing with a big smile on your face as if to say, “Oh, I’ve never done this before. This is going to be fun!”

Mommy and I didn’t give you the middle name Joy simply because we thought it was a cute name for a little girl. We chose it specifically because, as Mommy explains it, “When you think of a little girl with Joy in her name, how could she not be a delight to everyone around her?

For sure, nothing about your middle name is ironic. You are truly a joy to be around.

I love to spend time with you and take care of you, because I know you are a source of light and life.

Yeah, I have to admit: Mommy and I did a great job naming you Holly Joy.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Just Love Getting All Dressed Up and Going Places

11 months.

Dear Holly,

A couple of weekends ago, we travelled to Chattanooga for my Aunt Rosa’s wedding. Fortunately, the dress you wore at your Uncle Jake’s wedding back in October still fit just fine. Mommy waited to put it on you until we got to the parking lot of the wedding venue.

As she put the dress on you there in the front seat of the car, you smiled and giggled, knowing that whatever was ahead, it was going to be exciting.

You were so excited as we entered the civic center where knew we half of the people there. And of course, they were excited to see you. For many of them, you were just a little baby the last time they saw you; now, you’re just a few weeks ago from your 1st birthday.

Something I am quickly learning about you is that you truly love to get all dressed up and go places. It’s not that you need a lot of attention on you, but instead, you just like to be part of the action.

You are so fascinated by life.

Even this past Saturday, you treated our day of running errands as a morning of entertainment. We stopped by Sprouts to buy some groceries, then several shoe stores, then Which Which for lunch, then Kroger for more groceries, and then Ross so I can pick out part of my birthday gift.

Each and every time we lifted you out of your car seat, you treated the new parking lot like a land of opportunities. You had the biggest smile on your face as you looked around, with such optimism.

Another way of looking at it is this: you travel well.

And that’s good, because at the end of next month for Memorial Day weekend, our family will be taking your biggest road trip yet- to Pensacola, Florida.

I am confident you are going to be thrilled by the experience.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your Very 1st Valentine’s Day

9 months.

Dear Holly: Your Very 1st Valentine’s Day

Dear Holly,

It just so happened that I had a dentist appointment during my lunch break on Valentine’s Day. No cavities, by the way…

My dental hygienist pointed out they had just refilled the treasure box full of toys. So I got a little pink bear to add to your Valentine’s Day bundle.

Mommy also had me pick up a pink ball for you, to match the pink Strawberry yogurt puffs.

Dear Holly: Your Very 1st Valentine’s Day

Though you weren’t quite sure what the gifts were all about, you still gladly went along with the festivities.

Plus, of course, Mommy dressed you up in cute Valentine’s outfits. Seriously, you are so cute!

Despite being only 9 months old, the little girl in you is very evident. I love what I see of that little girl so far. I love having you has my daughter.

Something that is definitely different about you compared to your brother is that he never cared about having a pacifier. But as for you, it’s a fun accessory.

Dear Holly: Your Very 1st Valentine’s Day

I love it when you’re just playing and then for no apparent reason, you pick up the pacifier and stick it in your mouth. My favorite is when you’re falling asleep in your bed, and your pacifier falls out of your mouth.

Every time, you just take matters into your own hands: You put the pacifier back in your mouth so that you can officially fall asleep.

So yeah, I wonder if you are going to be the kind of little girl who likes carrying it around, like Maggie Simpson.

Dear Holly: Your Very 1st Valentine’s Day

Maybe that means that you won’t still be treating your baby blanket like it’s a member of the family, when you’re in Kindergarten, like your brother does.

And though Jack is quick to help you play with your toys, he never lets you play with his blanket.

As you can see, you really enjoyed your very first Valentine’s Day.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your Very 1st Valentine’s Day

Dear Holly: Daddy’s Little Sweetie/Simply Fit Board as Seen on Shark Tank

9 months.

Dear Holly: Daddy’s Little Sweetie/Simply Fit Board as Seen on Shark Tank

Dear Holly,

As I carry you around through the house on a daily basis, as if my arms are your own personal flying throne like C-3PO had in Return of the Jedi, I am constantly (and perhaps involuntarily) streaming a series of praise phrases to you.

One that I catch myself saying a lot is, “What’s Little Sweetie gonna do today?”

This is a fact: You are a particularly sweet strawberry-blonde 9 month old daughter. Even when you’re mad, it’s simply hilarious. But you really only get upset about funny stuff.

Like last night, Mommy handed you over to me after she realized you had too much energy to fall asleep at your normal bedtime. So I laid down on your bedroom floor, and just let you repeatedly crawl over me. You loved proving to yourself you can cross the terrain of my chest, time after time.

But after nearly 30 minutes, you had finally worn yourself out. It was like you got upset that your arms were too tired to pull yourself up and that your head keep falling on me too.

You got mad because you ultimately had too much fun.

I always love to see “what Little Sweetie is going to do today.”

One of the things you love to do is to take a ride on my Simply Fit board, which I ordered after seeing it featured on an episode of Shark Thank. You think it’s normal to hold on and get a tour of the bonus room upstairs.

I never had to teach you to do this. You just saw it one day, and then looked at me as if to day, “Okay, Daddy, I’m ready to ride it!”

It makes me wonder how many other infants appreciate the thrill of their Daddy pulling them around on a Simply Fit board.

You and I both like to keep things interesting. We’re a good match.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Daddy’s Little Sweetie/Simply Fit Board as Seen on Shark Tank

Dear Holly: I Can’t Imagine Having a Daughter I Didn’t Completely Adore

6 months.

Dear Holly: I Can’t Imagine Having a Daughter I Didn’t Completely Adore

Dear Holly,

I love you in a way I’ve never loved anyone before. You have completely added to my quality of life over these first 6 months of your life.

It reminds me of a song called “Everything” by Lifehouse, which is actually a song about God. However, there is a line that I feel completely describes the effect you have on me:

“How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?”

It is beyond my comprehension that throughout the history of the world, including now, there have been and still are fathers who don’t feel the same way about their daughters as the way I feel about you.

I cannot relate to the concept of a father brining a daughter into this world, only to ultimately abandon her, neglect her, or simply not completely adore her.

Before you and your brother were born, it was quite normal for me to consider what the meaning of life was.

However, this is the first time since 2010, when your brother was born, that I’ve thought about “the meaning of life.”

Because since becoming a parent, I haven’t needed to think about that.

God has given me great blessings and great responsibilities: You and your brother.

I don’t take my role as your Daddy lightly. I’m a big deal to you both, whether I want to be or not.

The outcome of your life is largely based on how I express my love to you and your brother.

And while I love your brother just as much as I love you, there is undeniably a specifically different role in being a father to a daughter, as opposed to a son.

I simply must adore you and nurture you and guide you and protect you and lead you.

Anything less would simply be heresy.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: I Love You, Period

5 months.

Dear Holly: I Love You, Period

Dear Holly,

In the routine of coming home from work each day and playing with you while Mommy makes dinner for our family, one of the things I catch myself saying is, “Daddy loves baby ‘cause baby’s soooo sweeeeet!

And while it’s true that you are undeniably sweet, and everything I could ever hope for in a baby girl, I began overthinking my catch phrase; in an “if/then” format.

It’s not, I love you because you’re so sweet.

It’s, I love you, period.

While I do my best to love everyone, even those who may be perceived as frenemies, enemies, or people who are simply indifferent towards me, it’s different for you and it always will be.

You are my daughter. I love you in a way that I love no one else in this world. The way I love you is so special.

No one else can make me feel the way I do about you.

I felt it from the moment you were born on April 24th. I will never forget holding you for the first time.

It wasn’t that I simply had another kid now. Instead, it was the instant and euphoric understanding that for the rest of my life, I will be the loving father of a daughter.

I will be responsible for showing you what love looks like. I am honored to be the most influential example of what a man is, in your life.

That’s huge responsibility and I take it very seriously.

You will be loved. You will know every day you are loved. Yet at the same time, I will carefully balance giving you room to grow on your own.

I never realized until this year, 2016, how much I needed a daughter. You have already changed my life forever.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: The Postpartum Beard and My Ability to Burp You

1 month old.

https://nickshell1983.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/beard1.jpg?w=680

Dear Holly,

I love having a little baby girl! I really do. I love knowing I get to come home each day and hold you, talk to you in my special baby voice, stare at you, change your diapers, feed you, and perhaps most important to Mommy… burp you.

Oh yes, that’s one of the biggest ways I can help Mommy take care of you right now. It’s currently my exclusive niche.

Mommy actually depends on me to get that done each time either one of us feeds you. I have a special yet effortless way of sort of tossing you over my shoulder. You instantly seem at peace, as you do this combination of a purr and a grunt. Usually within a couple minutes, a huge burp escapes you.

It makes me feel good to know I have a new official super power.

You are now a month-old and I do admit, it doesn’t seem you should be that old already. The time has flown by. It hasn’t been chaotic, though. Mommy and I have naturally worked out a system to share the load of caring for you.

Your brother Jack is the only one at our house who gets to sleep through the night, but that’s alright. Mommy and I are teamed up to care for you as you need to be fed, changed, and burped every 3 hours.

In the midst of all this, I have accidently invented something I call… the Postpartum Beard.

I’m a low-maintenance, low-overhead kind of guy. Therefore, I traditionally just shave once a week, every Sunday; so I’m only clean-shaven that one day and then quite stubbly for the rest of the week.

This has been my tradition for quite a while now. But now, it’s clearly been more than a week since I’ve used my Norelco.

I know people typically associate the word “postpartum” with depression, but the word simply means “following childbirth.”  I have a feeling I’m not the only dad of a newborn out there who like me, accidentally ended up with a beard.

The Postpartum Beard demonstrates something we as happily married men already know, something that apparently the media will never choose to legitimately celebrate:

As far as all of my friends who are dads, we are all very involved as parents; even with infants.

I personally don’t know of even one happily married dad who doesn’t get up in the middle of the night to help his wife with the crying baby. To me, that’s simply a given.

That doesn’t make us heroes or even special. It makes us good modern husbands and good modern fathers, which is something that we find much identity in as men, here in the year 2016. It’s masculine to sacrifice sleep and hobbies for our babies and kids.

And it’s pretty masculine to have a super power of being able to burp a baby.

You and I are a good match. Thanks for burping so easily for me.

 Love,

Daddy