Dear Jack: Our Trip to Mars

6 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to Mars

Dear Jack,

We’ve now lived in our new house in Spring Hill, Tennessee for two years. One of our missions we just never got around to was to explore the cleared land across the street from the movie theatre. Originally, I had planned to shoot an episode of our superhero web-series, Jack-Man, there. But it just never happened.

So this past Sunday, instead of making you take a nap, I took you to the site we’ve been curious about for so long now. I couldn’t have known how much it would end up meaning to you.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to Mars

After all, I’ve taken you to some amazing places in nature, like Cloudland Park last summer near Chattanooga. But in the likeness of how kids often find more excitement from the cardboard box a gift comes in, instead of the actual gift itself, you were quite fascinated by the huge pile of red dirt that is slowly being developed across from the Spring Hill movie theatre.

It is clear that our father-son bond is most naturally strengthened when we are out in nature. That’s our thing. We can make a big deal of just dirt and rocks. We’ve always been good at that.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to Mars

You had forgotten your winter coat at school, so Mommy had you wear your oversized Columbia fleece pullover, as you brought along a “papered airplane” to fly over the canyons, and ultimately, for me to drop big chunks of dirt on top of.

“Wow, Daddy! We’re up so high!” you kept proclaiming.

Despite just being across the street from the hundreds of people of at the cinema, it was like you and I were in our own isolated world. You agreed it was kind of like being on Mars.

Amazingly, we made the drive home in less than 15 minutes. Not bad for travelling back from another planet.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Trip to Mars

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: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Going to Chili’s with Grandma

5 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

Dear Jack,

This week Grandma left to go back to California, as she’s been here since a week before your sister Holly was born on April 24th; as we’ve transitioned into life with a newborn again. It’s been so nice having her here.

On Sunday, for one of our last meals with her before her flight, we took her to Chile’s; a place that actually serves vegan burgers for me and has mac-and-cheese that you are crazy about: “Daddy, this is the best kind!”

On Sunday, for one of our last meals with her before her flight, we took her to Chili’s; a place that actually serves vegan burgers for me and has mac-and-cheese that you are crazy about: “Daddy, this is the best kind!”

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

The day before, I took you out for some adventure as Grandma helped Mommy with Baby Holly back at the house.

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

Since it was raining, we drove to Jump Street in Cool Springs, which is an indoor trampoline park. It was the best decision. Not only did you burn more energy more efficiently there compared to any other way I can think of, but you truly impressed me.

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

You showed no fear with jumping off a 10 foot ledge several times. Granted, you landed on an inflated cushion each time, but there’s no way I would have done something that daring when I was your age.

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

We took a picture of ourselves together right before we left. You were soaked in sweat! And that’s a good thing, because like I said, it was raining outside and you had too much reckless energy to stay home with Grandma, Mommy, and Baby Holly.

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

That afternoon after your nap, the rain had stopped so we decided to go “bug hunting” outside. I taught you the trick over turning over big rocks, in hopes of finding bug underneath.

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

The only luck we really had though, was apparently discovering the skeleton of a crawdad (crayfish). You proudly placed it in your bug case and took it home to Mommy and Grandma.

Maybe we’ll find more interesting bugs this weekend.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Bug Hunting, Base Jumping, & Saying Goodbye to Grandma

Dear Jack: We’ll Definitely Be Dangerous… We Just Won’t Get Hurt

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack:

Dear Jack,

I suppose it’s safe to say a new weekly ritual is in full swing. This makes the 3rd weekend in a row where you and I have gone exploring in the surrounding neighborhoods, using a creek that begins in our backyard
as our road.

Dear Jack:

Before Mommy left the house to get her “pre-going into labor haircut” and then to Kroger to buy groceries, she smiled and told me, “Be safe. Don’t be dangerous out there.”

I smiled back and promised her,

“Oh, we’ll definitely be dangerous- we just won’t get hurt.”

About 20 minutes later as you and I were about to turn out of our neighborhood in my Honda Element, I asked you, “Jack, where you want to explore today?”

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

We decided to pick up where we left off last week, this time following the creek in the opposite direction. You quickly found the wooden plank you discovered and left behind on Sunday, deciding to take it with us for today’s entire journey.

The plank served three purposes:

#1. A shovel to help you make “chocolate milk” in the creek.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/03/24/dear-jack-our-new-canon-powershot-g7-x-camera/

#2. A portable table to help you see your instantly growing rock collection.

Dear Jack:

#3. A bridge to help you get across the creek when you didn’t feel like jumping.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/03/24/dear-jack-our-new-canon-powershot-g7-x-camera/

The further down the creek we trekked, the more exciting and potentially dangerous things became.

You had to make your way across the rocks and the water of the creek by depending on half-rotted boards that were already placed there by other adventurers.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

And then when we finally came across a more legitimate bridge, even it was crooked; like something from a cartoon movie.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

Even as I’m telling you this now, it sounds like some kind of weird dream we both experienced.

When we go exploring together, we never really know what surprises await us. Well, fate would have it that we just happened to be aligned with these two tunnels leading up to the bank of a pond…

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

So we crawled through one. Once on the other side, you found an old pumpkin there in the water. I’m not sure why, since this is March, not November.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

After that, we clumsily journeyed back to the street and found my car; you were exhausted by that point. But we still had about 45 minutes before Mommy would be home, so I talked you to in to letting me take you on a drive.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

You and I have wondered for over a year now, since we moved to Spring Hill, about that that big blue water tower we had been seeing in the distance.

So we checked it out.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

We were high up enough where we could even see our own neighborhood and church.

I’m glad you like exploring as much as I do. I suppose it’s becoming a mutual hobby for us.

And though we were slightly dangerous the whole time, we came back home to Mommy without any injuries.

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

Dear Jack,

Last weekend you and I came up with a fun way to welcome in the warmer weather. I grabbed one of your bath toys from when you were a toddler and we headed out to the same creek we explored a couple of months ago during the blizzard.

The plan was simple: Drop the turtle into the creek and see how far we could follow it.

Because of the recent rain, there was plenty of current to carry your turtle along without much delay. It even made it all the way through a storm drain. I had thought for certain you and I would have to creep in there and rescue it; but no, not at all.

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

Good thing you were wearing your Spiderman rain boots, by the way.

I couldn’t help but sort of notice, the further we went along, that we were technically in between two backyards at all times.

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

The creek apparently serves as the divider between backyards on two parallel streets. Hopefully I was right in my thinking that us walking right alongside the creek, we weren’t actually in anyone’s backyard, no matter which side of the creek we were on.

No one came out and stopped us, at least.

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

The coolest part was when the streets began veering away from each other into a “Y” formation, causing there to be a patch of woods in the middle. It was there that we discovered a really cool tree house!

That was about the place where the creek sort of faded into the woods. By that time, we needed to meet Mommy back at the house for dinner.

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

So the next day on Sunday, I drove you two or three neighborhoods away, in an attempt to pick up right where we left off from the day before.

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

We indeed found the creek, but more importantly, we found an entire flooded field; which was again, technically in was people’s backyards, but not quite.

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

You enjoyed poking a stick into mole holes as well as jumping into the puddles. It’s amazing what interesting things you can find in your own backyard… or someone else’s!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Exploring Other People’s Backyards, Technically

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

5 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

Dear Jack,

I’m overly aware of the importance of making sure you get your fair share of attention and quality time, with your sister Holly on the way.

So last weekend, while Nonna and Papa were in town, we made sure we had nothing but fun adventures with you; knowing that two months from now, that sort of opportunity may not be as easy to make happen.

On Saturday morning, you and I took Papa to the The Crag in Cool Springs, near where I work. You’ve always enjoyed the climbing walls at playgrounds so Mommy and I figured you’d want to join Papa and me.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

While Papa and I spent our time literally jumping off the walls, your favorite activity was swinging on the ropes; which is not an official activity there, but you made it your own.

After we left The Crag, a spur-of-the-moment idea hit me…

Back a couple of months ago during the blizzard, I had filmed an episode of my web series Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest in the storm drain near my office.

After you saw it, you told me you would like to go there sometime with Papa and me. Since the opportunity presented itself, we went for it.

Through our exploration, we even discovered more tunnels I myself never knew were there. It technically was a bit dangerous, but that’s a good thing when you’re with Papa and me.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

The next day, you and I went with both Nonna and Papa to a playground and park nearby our house. I must say, you were very eager to show off your climbing wall skills.

After you conquered the playground, you and Papa and me discovered a hidden creek.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

I was especially proud of you when you agreed to “walk on water” with me. The rocks stood out of the water just enough for us to strategically walk across without getting our feet too wet.

After you conquered the playground, you and Papa and me discovered a hidden creek.

We had some great adventures this past weekend. I’m glad you like doing the same kind of stuff as me!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

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