Dear Holly: Your 1st Easter (and 4 Different People’s Birthday Celebrations!)

11 months.

Dear Holly,

With your 1st birthday coming up next Monday, Mommy and I decided to celebrate your birthday in Alabama with my side of the family; while we were already in town for Easter.

Once we arrived in Fort Payne, we immediately stopped at the Easter Egg Hunt that 1st Baptist Church has each year. Honestly, you weren’t too concerned with all the eggs in the grass.

Instead, you were just as happy to simply look beautiful in your dress, and have anyone come over and tell you what a pretty little girl you are.

Granted, your brother Jack was the complete opposite. Actually, I feel a little bit bad about how fiercely he dominated the egg hunt for his age division. He is so competitive that it was more about “winning”. Yet still, I was very proud of him, because I feel he learned that from me.

For lunch, we met Uncle Al and Sharon at the only restaurant we ever go to: Toke. With its Thai and Japanese cuisine, everyone in our family can eat there; including your Daddy, the manly vegan.

That’s when the early birthday presents started appearing for you. Plus, Nonna’s birthday was earlier that week, and mine is actually today.

In what turned out to be a major coincidence, your cousin Calla was invited to a Pokemon birthday party. When the birthday boy’s family heard that you and Jack were in town, they invited our family as well.

Then back at Nonna and Papa’s house afterwards, it was time for a few more gifts…

So yeah, there was a lot of celebrating to be done: Not only Easter, but 4 birthdays!

With Easter moving around the calendar every year (last year it was in March), I imagine that typically, Easter will be about a month before all our birthdays; most years.

But as for your first Easter, it got to be extra special because our family got to begin celebrate your birthday early. Just a few more days now for your actual birthday…




Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House

Dear Jack,

This makes our first Easter as a family where we didn’t travel to Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama to celebrate. With Mommy being 8 months pregnant, she isn’t currently able to be in the car for that long of a trip.

Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House

I never thought of it until this weekend, but this also made the first Easter for our family where I was responsible for hiding the eggs. So I obviously had fun hiding them in our backyard.

When you discovered your Easter basket, you immediately thanked and hugged Mommy and me.

I responded, “But what about the Easter Bunny?”

You instantly replied, “No, it was you and Mommy.”

I didn’t argue with you. Smart kid you are.

Mommy is such a good gift-giver. She found a very appropriate book for you: I’m a Big Brother.

Plus she got you another owl to match the one you got for Christmas. And she found some dinosaur eggs that dissolve in water and leave behind a dinosaur toy.

I know it sounds random, but she even got you a “bath bomb” for bath time. You love that kind of stuff these days!

Not to mention, there were one dollar bills in some of the eggs, plus a five dollar bill in the golden egg. So thanks to Grandma’s $2 bill she sent in the mail, you are now $14 richer.

As far as candy, we did get you some of the traditional stuff, but you were just as excited about the Annie’s Homegrown snacks in your basket too.

Another first for this Easter, this made the first time, as a kid, you’ve ever gone to the main church service with us; at The Church at Station Hill. You love your Pre-K class that takes place while Mommy and I are in the main auditorium, but today, all the kids remained with their parents.

I’m pretty sure you thought it was neat. The story was fresh on your mind as I read the Easter story to you from your children’s Bible yesterday before your nap.

If nothing else, you got to work on an activity sheet where you had to help Mary through a maze to find the empty tomb of Jesus.

What a great Easter day for our family. And imagine, by next Easter, you’ll have a nearly one year-old baby sister!



Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House

Dear Jack: Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

4 years, 4 months.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Dear Jack,

Our Easter tradition every year since you have been born has been to take you to the big egg hunt that Nonna and Papa’s church has at someone’s (very large) house.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

I gave you several coaching sessions before the hunt; sharing with you the effective strategy of immediately running to the far corner of the field, where no one else bothers to go. I also reminded you not to stop to open the eggs; just to throw as many as you could into your basket, then worry about opening them after the hunt is over.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Without surprise, you easily obtained more eggs than the other kids by doing so. While you are still not quite inspired to kick the soccer ball during your games, egg hunting is a sport you can get excited about!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

What’s funny is that you’ve yet to really look through the eggs, even now. You were happiest about bringing home some of my old stuffed animals from when I was your age; not what was inside the eggs.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Later on, we all went to Hawkins Spring Park there in Fort Payne, Alabama; my hometown. Where I grew up, there were several parks around our house, yet I never really went to this one.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Had I known about it back when I was 4, this might have been my favorite park; especially since a giant creek runs through it.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Of course, I didn’t let you and your cousin Calla have all the fun on the playground. They happened to have an adult playground where grown men like me and your Uncle Andrew could test our agility and strength. We were victorious… mostly.


Oh, and we rescued an old abandoned tire from the creek. We helped the environment!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

A common question I have been getting this week is, “Did you have a good Easter?”

I did. We all did. We have nothing but good, fun, quality time as a family… while visiting family.



Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Dear Jack: Your Easter Ride In A White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

4 years, 4 months.

White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

Dear Jack,

Obviously, a lot of what I do on this blog is review cars from a family friendly perspective. All you have to do is click on the Family Friendly Car Reviews page on the upper left side of this page to be able to see the dozens of different vehicles our family has now reviewed.

What happened over Easter weekend was a little bit different though…

You and Papa got to test drive his the 1980 MG MGB convertible he is fixing up for his Daddy!

White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

He installed your car seat in the only passenger seat the 1980 MG MGB convertible has and you guys drove down to the end of the road and back. This marks your first time in a convertible and your first time in the front seat of a car.

Granted, I doubt you two even reached 30 miles per hour, and it was basically on a closed course, but still… that’s a big deal for you!

This weekend was basically Papa’s official debut of his 1980 MG MGB convertible. He’s been spending a lot of time working on it; getting it into drivable condition.

White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

You took your “new” stuffed animal who you named “Killer Whaley” with you. I got him back in 1987 when our family visited MarineLand on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls during my only visit to see where Nonna grew up; in Buffalo, New York.

After Papa gave you, then your cousin Calla, a ride in the 1980 MG MGB convertible, we had planned to follow everyone else in the Toyota Highlander down to the park. However, right as we were all about to leave, Papa realized one of the tires had lost a lot of air.

So it look like you were pretty lucky to get to cruise in it… I didn’t even get to myself!

Maybe next time…



White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

Dear Jack: Your 1st Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

4 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday you had your first ever soccer game! It might be expected for me to tell some high energy story where you scored a goal, in which I feature a picture of you kicking the ball into the net in a very pivotal moment in the game…

However, my goal for you last Saturday was a bit different: “Jack, just finish the game.”

I promise I’ll never be that stereotypical 1990s TV dad who tries to get his son to live out his own sports career dreams.

It doesn’t matter to me if you decided after this season that you never wanted to play on a soccer team again.

I just want you to be able to know that you gave it a shot so that you could decide for yourself whether you truly like soccer or not.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

You have good soccer skills, as demonstrated in your practices with Mommy and me in our driveway and even at the soccer field right before the actual game began on Saturday.

The thing getting in your way is that you don’t want to be forced to play soccer in front of other people… with other people.

Therefore, my goal for you will simply be for you to join the rest of the kids on the field by choosing to at least chase the ball around.

I say that because you just stood there, looking at the ground. It was pretty hilarious, actually. I shot this video of you doing the kick-off; you kicked the ball, then just waited and watched the other kids chase the ball as to say, “Alright, my job’s done here.”

It sure beats being the couple of kids who cried their way off the field and never finished.

Your challenge isn’t physical; you are very skilled in that department. Your challenge is a social one. (Not to mention, it was only 36 degrees outside!)

Granted, you are only 4 years old, so I think it’s only natural that you’re not eager to prove your physical skills on the field before a live audience.

If your coach and I can help you overcome your “stage fright”, then I can feel you really got something out of your first soccer season.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Your cousin Calla (and Aunt Dana and Uncle Andrew) drove up from Alabama to see you. We carpooled in their Toyota Highlander.

To help us find the way to the soccer field, you had painted us a map with your watercolors. You also made sure to bring along your newest stuffed animal, Spot; a $5 purchase from Kohl’s.

So we’ll see how the rest of the season goes. I just want you to have fun. I think after a few more games, you’ll start coming out of your “shell.”

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Get it? Because our last name is Shell?

Meanwhile, at your school this week, your teacher Ms. Aimee gave me a fun update:

Here are some photos of Jack from today! We had a blast playing outside with chalk! 

My favorite photo is the grumpy face, I couldn’t help but take it when I looked at him.

“Ms. Aimee, I can’t draw my picture!”

“Oh, why not hun?”

“Because, you’re STANDING on it!”

I about died laughing, while evilly taking his picture… hehe.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Looking ahead, we’ve got Easter coming up. I’m sure it will be great family fun! I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it in my next letter to you…



Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

A “Religiously Neutral” Easter Toy Drive

A “Religiously Neutral” Easter Toy Drive

This morning, I invite you to laugh with me today regarding the uber politically correctness of the advertisements I recently discovered for a toy drive. (I have purposely censored the name of the organizations involved and their logos.)

The concept is simple, according to the flyers:

“Bring the toy, game, or other item to one of our drop-off locations… Donations will go directly to patients of families at [organization] and used to create Easter baskets for the kids.”

That is the only time in the two flyers which make up the advertisement where it mentions Easter by name, but it is very clear in the phrasing that the idea is to make “Easter baskets”.

On the next page of the advertisements, there are a few specific instructions, including this one:

“All donations must be politically and religiously neutral.”

A “Religiously Neutral” Easter Toy Drive

So it’s a “toy drive” in which people donate toys to make “Easter baskets” from a “religiously neutral” perspective.

Confused? I think I am…

It appears as if the people behind the toy drive are using a tradition from an explicitly religious holiday, acknowledging the word Easter (which refers to resurrection of Jesus Christ, one of the most equally popular and yet debated events in the history of the world) but are asking people to deny any reference of the event.

I get it that most Christian holidays ultimately become commercialized. However, I’m not too worried about it as long as it ultimately leads to conversations about why those days are celebrated in the first place.

But this, this is just laughable because it very awkwardly attempts to be… safe.

Granted, I’m participating in this “religiously neutral” Easter toy drive. I donated a gift for the cause; despite the clumsy phrasing on the flyers.

After all, it’s the Christian thing to do.

I Turned 33 On Easter… How Appropriate?

April 20, 2014 at 9:40 pm , by 

3 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

At 5:58 this morning, I woke up to you yelling outside my bedroom,“It’s a pink bunny! The one I always wanted!”

Yes, you woke up, before the sun, and discovered your Easter basket.

After Mommy and I watched you officially unpack your Easter Spiderman bucket, then it was my turn…

Yep, I turned 33 today.

I admit it almost seemed a little bit wrong celebrating my birthday on the same day designated by Christians as the day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

Yet at the same time, it’s pretty interesting because, from what I understand, Christ was 33 years old when He was crucified and resurrected- and here I am, turning 33 on the day that is celebrated.

My birthday was never been on Easter in my lifetime, until today.

So right after you checked out your Easter gifts, I unwrapped my birthday gifts from Mommy- which were perfect, by the way:

A $10 “lunch money” gift card for Whole Foods, two vegan chocolate bars, and a Groupon for Mommy and me to go whitewater rafting on our 6th wedding anniversary in July, while Nana and Papa watch you all day.

Mommy is just so thoughtful.

I had a great 33rd birthday today, even if it means it’s the last year of me being in my “early 30s.”

Being nearly a third of age 100 is fine by me. I feel young… and I know I’ve stil got plenty to learn as human being, and especially as a parent.

You’ll be my age in 30 years. My plan is that these near-daily letters I write to you will help teach you about life lin general, not simply just recap your own life with snazzy collages and cleverly captioned photos.

Great birthday, great Easter.

Your Auntie Dana made you and your cousin Calla some homemade “vegan chocolate peanut butter bunnies” that I think made youcuckoo, as it appears from this pictures.

And if you’re wondering why I’m sitting at “the kids’ table” with you two, it’s because you politely invited me to join you.

So I did.

I ate lunch with the 3 year-olds, instead of the adults.

That was very nice of you to think of me, Son.

Of course, after you celebrated both Easter and your daddy’s birthday, you needed some rest.

Talking you into taking a nap today was unnecessary.