Dear Jack: This is My Favorite Picture of You This Week, Throwing a Sea Cucumber Back into the Ocean

8 years.

Dear Jack,

For me, this picture of you perfectly captures who you are now, at age 8.

It was our first morning out on the beach last week in Destin to celebrate your birthday. The beach was covered in sea cucumbers, most of them appearing to still be alive, but barely.

I suggested that you throw as many as you could back into the sea.

Fortunately, you had your trusty shovel with you, which served as the perfecting launching pad.

While I’m not sure how many lives you saved that morning, I do know that the ones you threw back definitely stood a better chance of survival, had you not come along to rescue them.

I think it’s really cool how in this picture, not only is the landscape beautiful in a way not typically associated with Florida, but how you can see the sea cucumber flying through the air as the immediate result of your throw, still in motion.

This is a memory that I will always associate with your 8th birthday.

Love,

Daddy

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More Stories from Our Family’s Road Trip to Destin, Florida in the 2019 Chevy Traverse AWD Premier

I have no problem admitting that the pictures and stories I share here on my blog and on my social media serve as my family’s highlight reel. There is no shame in that.

As the default photographer for my family of four, one of my roles in our household is to constantly create and maintain a collection of our best memories as they happen in real time. With all the chaos in this life, it’s important for us to celebrate what is good.

So no, you’re not going to see pictures of any meltdowns due to lack of sleep or food while on our family’s recent trip to Destin, Florida in the 2019 Chevy Traverse for my son’s 8th birthday. Nope, just the silly smiles and good times.

For example, I can’t stop thinking about how hours after the fact, I learned that my daughter had placed stickers on my butt.

That’s right. I had been driving around Destin and hanging out at Starbucks with my family, without realizing that dozens of tiny Paw Patrol stickers covered not only my shirt, which I was aware of, but also pretty much everywhere else.

While my wife had been scurrying around the LOFT outlet, I was keeping the kids at bay in the meantime. Fortunately, we made the right moral decision to allow our daughter to buy a package of over 300 stickers from the dollar aisle at Target earlier that day.

I just crouched there in the middle of the LOFT, sort of lethargically, while doing my best to keep the kids from getting into too much trouble.

Later that day, as we wrapped up our outlet shopping spree (amazingly only spending about $300 total), we finished up at the Bass Pro Shop. It just so happened that Santa was there too!

I loved how my daughter just walked right up to him for her free picture, with a huge smile on her face; not afraid at all. Granted, that didn’t mean she was going to actually smile for the picture though.

And speaking of free attractions in Destin, we couldn’t resist seeing the gators over at Fudpucker’s. Of course, my son did enough up spending some of his birthday money there at the souvenir shop.

The last thing we did before we headed back home to Tennessee was to visit one of my wife’s brothers (there are 10 kids in that family!) in Pensacola. We enjoyed lunch at Jaco’s, our token place to stop to eat in that town.

Afterwards, we walked around the marina for over an hour, allowing the kids to burn off as much energy as they could, before beginning the 7 hour return trip to the Nashville area.

It worked.

Much needed sleep was obtained.

Seriously, now that I’ve had a chance to look back on all these pictures and stories from our trip, I can clearly see: We truly had some good times as a family.

Thank you Chevy for helping make our trip so awesome!

Our Family’s DESTINation Family Road Trip for Our 8 Year Old Son’s Birthday, in the 2019 Chevy Traverse AWD Premier

My wife and I gave our son a choice: Would you want to have your 8th birthday party here in Nashville with your friends? Or… would you choose to go on a road trip to Destin, Florida with your family for half a week?

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Turns out, my son is a smart kid. Yeah, he chose the Florida road trip.

I admit: Being a daddy blogger has its perks- like Chevy loaning us a 2019 Traverse AWD Premier with a full tank of gas.

The very first time I worked with Chevy was 7 years ago when our family got to drive a Volt from Naples to Key West. That was also around the time Chevy sent me to Detroit with a bunch of other daddy bloggers to tour the facility where the Traverse is tested and built.

Seven years ago, my son was only one year old. Now he has a 2 and a half year old sister. Therefore, the Chevy Traverse is that much more relevant to our family. It just so happened that the main gift our son asked for was a new Kindle- and the Traverse came equipped with WiFi!

Perfect for a long road trip, for sure.

We totally appreciated all the cargo space, as we sort of overpacked by default, hauling not only swimming clothes along with winter clothes, but also our son’s birthday presents.

When we go on long road trips like this one (7 hours), the kids appreciate being in their own rows. Our daughter can fall asleep easier and our son gets to be in his own world. And up front, the parents actually get to have some uninterrupted conversations while SiriusXM’s Alt Nation plays in the background.

It’s always a gamble when staying in hotels overnight with a 2 and a half year old, but fortunately where we stayed at the Pelican Beach Resort, our daughter absolutely loved her “room”, as she called it: She occupied the bottom of the bunk beds which were built into the walls; each bed having it’s own TV.

Oh, and then there was the beach itself…

By the way, in case you didn’t catch it, the picture above is a play on words: Our last name is Shell and there are 4 of us!

Leading up to our son opening his birthday gifts, I hid a “gold bar” in the sand for him to find. However, he immediately figured out it was just a toy I planted there.

Here’s the video I made as it happened:

As for his birthday cake, we simply pressed the OnStar button and had the directions to Whole Foods sent to our GPS, and let our son pick out a gourmet cupcake for himself; meanwhile my wife and I shared one ourselves.

So this is what happens when as the parents, you decide that helping your child celebrate their birthday is more fun if you have a “DESTINation” road trip instead of a typical birthday party.

The right decision was definitely made here!

Thanks for reading my blog today. If you liked this story about our family’s recent road trip to Destin in the 2019 Chevy Traverse, stay tuned… I have a sequel blog post with more pictures and stories from our adventure!

Dear Jack: You’ll Be Turning 8 Years Old Next Month!

7 years, 10 months.

Now that it’s October, it occurred to me: You’ll be turning 8 next month!

Just like for your 5th birthday, you have chosen a family road trip to Destin, Florida; instead of a birthday party.

Considering that we’ll be staying for free using hotel points and that Chevy will be sending us a Suburban filled with a full tank of gas, we’ll actually be able to have a pretty amazing road trip cheaper than it would cost to throw you a birthday party around here in Nashville.

I think you’re making a very smart decision. Why have a party when you can have a road trip with the fam?

 

Dear Jack,

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack:  Our Break from the Real World (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

After nearly a week of adventures in Florida, our vacation was coming to an end. The treasure hunt. The go-karts. Watching UFC and the ongoing Harry Potter movie series before bedtime at the condo.

Undeniably, our family’s “Ride the Lightning” tour of Destin would not have been the same without Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca there with us; as they drove over from Pensacola to join us. I’m so glad you got to spend quality time with them, as they stayed at the condo with us for the last part of our trip.

At Miramar Beach, you got to attack Uncle Joe at the beach with goopy wet sand. He just went along with it.

Back at the condo, you were able to introduce him and Aunt Rebecca to the Jack version of the rules of Monopoly…

It had more to do with “unlocking” the animals from the kennels after making enough money to buy them.

Even your sister played. She was eager to get her hands on that money…

While it might sound crazy to say that we took you and your 1 year-old sister on a 7 hour trip to Florida, and back, I’m just grateful we were all able to get away with it.

We needed a break from the real world. We got it.

And our successful trip proves that we can, and will, do it again.

I loved how on the last day together, as we had lunch at Whole Foods, Aunt Rebecca asked you, “Jack, I’m going to miss you. Are you going to miss me?”

Very emotionless, very monotone, and without any thought, you instantly mumbled back:

“I dunno.”

You may not have the capacity to truly express missing someone yet, but I can answer for you:

Yes. Yes, you will.

Love, Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Go-Kart Race against Uncle Joe (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

After our lunch at Don Pedros, in which I took Mommy’s food to her out in the Prius, as she stayed back with your sister who was asleep, we made our way to The Track to race go-karts.

This event was a year and a half in the making, as it didn’t work out last time we were in Destin, due to rain, and then you falling asleep in the car.

You and I were in the double go-kart and Uncle Joe was in the single. We were about halfway back in the starting line-up and he was the very last. However, his kart was faster than ours.

For 4 fast and furious laps on the 3 story spiral track, you and I did our best to pass other karts; as we learned how much the downhill loops made it possible to pass other people if we rode the inner track and sort of bumped the other go-karts of the way.

At the beginning of the final lap, I looked back and saw Uncle Joe gaining on us. I spent half of that final lap with my head turned around to keep an eye on him, to make sure I kept him blocked out from passing us. You even said, “Daddy, turn around, we’re going to crash!”

But we didn’t crash. And we didn’t let Uncle Joe pass us.

I guess in the end, we technically tied him, though. Because by the end of the race, we finished middle in the line-up of the double go-karts and Uncle Joe finished middle of the single go-karts line-up.

The three of us walked back to the Prius, nearly talking over each other, as we excitedly recalled the details of the race.

It is obvious that we will have to visit The Track every time we go back to Destin! I even heard you mumble something about wanting to race cars when you get older…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: The Pirate’s Treasure and Saber Tooth You Found at Miramar Beach! (“Ride the Lightning” 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

During the weeks leading up to our recent road trip to Destin, you had been telling me, “Daddy, I think we’re going to find treasure at the beach. Maybe even some bones. Maybe we can find a saber-toothed tiger skull because they’re the hardest to find in the whole world!”

I kept assuring you that if you looked in the right places, we just might find a buried something.

So during our 2nd morning at the beach last week, while your sister was out with Mommy and Grandma and Aunt Rebecca as they took the 2017 Toyota Prius Three to the outlet stores, you and I went out searching on the shore.

Just about 5 minutes into you playing in the sand as the water kept washing up and flooding your feet, I called you over to me, as I was just about 15 feet behind you.

“Jack, come over here. I think this would be a good spot to dig! The sand looks sort of different where this spot is.”

You rushed over.

After you dug down about 8 inches deep, there it was… a scratched up treasure chest!

With great excitement, you pulled the black metal box out of the sand. Fortunately, there was no lock, so you were able to open it right away.

Amazingly, there was a letter right there on top. We read it together:                                                                                          

July 1, 1733

To the Person Who Finds My Treasure,

If you are reading this, it is too late for me. This means my ship sank on the sea. I was keeping my gold safe in the sand, but now it is all yours. And one more thing, watch out for the dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers…

Henry the Pirate

But you were more impressed by the gold coins inside the treasure chest. You counted them all: “Daddy, there’s 73 gold coins!”


This immediately inspired you to continue searching, as now you were becoming preoccupied with finding some bones in the sand. Just a few minutes later, a few feet away from where the treasure chest was buried, I started digging.

“Here, why don’t you take a turn now?” I suggested to you..

It couldn’t have been a minute later that you shouted, “Daddy, I found something!”

Without me having to explain anything, you figured it out:

“It’s a saber-toothed tiger’s tooth!”

And that tooth ended up being worth more to you than all that gold.

Love,

Daddy