Our Family’s 1st Visit to the Nashville Zoo, as a Family of 4

The original plan was to take our daughter Holly to the Nashville Zoo on her 1st birthday back in April…

But between the rainy weather that weekend, and her being sick the next weekend, and our family being out of town after that, it took until this month to finally make our family’s first visit to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, as a family of four.

It actually suddenly made sense though, to buy an annual family zoo pass, since it pays for itself by the 3rd visit. We live in Spring Hill, which is about a 45 minute drive for us; not so bad of a trek.

It pretty much takes at least that long to get anywhere in the Nashville area anyway, if you’re lucky.

Something I didn’t realize was how much the Nashville Zoo has expanded since the last time our family was there, a couple of years ago when we were only a family of three.

They have this new swinging rope bridge that our whole family loved, for starters.

Our 6 and a half year-old son Jack was pleasantly surprised to see the Nashville Zoo now has a Komodo Dragon. To him, that’s one of the most fascinating animals, because it’s ultimately a living dinosaur.

He also really liked seeing the porcupines, which I don’t remember from our last visit back when he was only about 3 years old. His hair actually looks like a porcupine, right?

Which, speaking of, Jack was so excited to be able to feel an actual porcupine quill. Coincidentally, the high school intern who showed him the quill was also named Jack.

Oh! And the kangaroos…

The last time I had taken Jack to the Nashville Zoo, the kangaroo exhibit had just opened. He obviously was in his element, being able to pet the tame kangaroos.

I also don’t remember him being able to see the giant turtles up close until this time either. He could have chilled out with those guys all day!

As for our daughter Holly, she was equally thrilled by the whole experience. She is currently fascinated by any kind of animals, especially birds. Right now she’s working real hard on trying to say the word bird. So it was a big deal to see big birds up so close.

I think in her mind, every other kind of animal is basically a mouse, a cat, or a dog. She loved pointing at each new creature she discovered.

Perhaps by default, her favorite bird was the flamingo. Why wouldn’t it be? A giant, funny, pink bird… perfect.

So naturally, her souvenir was a small stuffed animal version of one.

As for Jack, he choose a clouded leopard, as ultimately, that was the animal he was most enthralled by during this visit.

We were at the zoo for only two hours and only saw half of place. Good thing we have a year-long pass.

Obviously, we had so much fun and are looking forward to our next visit. And yes, it’s a complete coincidence that our last name is Shell, and the zoo just happens to have a section now called The Shell Station. (In case you were wondering.)

As for our next visit, maybe we’ll get around to sharing our experience in seeing the other half of the Nashville Zoo.

Dear Jack: You Won 2nd Place in the Williamson County Lego Competition!

4 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: You Won 2nd Place in the County Lego Competition!

Mommy and I are so proud of you! You had been confidently telling us, “Mommy… Daddy… I’m going to win.”

You were right.

Dear Jack: You Won 2nd Place in the County Lego Competition!

This past weekend as soon as we got in the doors of the Williamson County Fair, we headed straight over to the Lego tables to see how your entry did in the competition.

Right away, I blurted out to you and Mommy, “Jack, you won 2nd place!”

That means out of all the 4 to 8 year-olds in Williamson County who entered the competition, the judges thought your entry was the 2nd best. Seriously, that’s a huge deal!

I love the fact that you competed with kids who were nearly twice your age and still won.

One of the main things the judges were looking for was originality. I can solemnly testify the 3 “space vehicles” you created were completely your own.

Mommy and I had no part in helping you at all.

Building Legos is what you do. You’re constantly building new creations every day; only to tear them apart and come up with new ones by the end of the week.

I’ve actually seen you make more complicated Lego inventions than the ones you entered. The winning entry just happened to be the collection of the ones you made that particular week.

Mommy and I have been saying it for a while now… and your teacher Ms. Aimee has been saying it too…


“We have a future engineer on our hands. What else would Jack possibly be?”

You love to make your own Lego inventions- and they always have to be symmetrical. No one taught you that stipulation, but it’s an unbreakable law in your code to building Legos.

With all that being said, you’re just as talented at building actual Lego sets with instructions. You recently spent some of your own money on a new set that was targeted for ages 8 to 14.

I barely helped you at all. Actually, I was relieved you pretty much took care of building it because I might have gotten too frustrated to finish it.

You and I made an unboxing video for the set: Legend of Chima: Eris’ Fire Eagle Flyer.

Your 2nd place Lego award is your first ever real award! Mommy and I just couldn’t be prouder of you!


Oh yeah, and while we were at the fair, you also won your very first game prize. You popped balloons with darts and got to pick out an animal: You named her Libby the Lizard.

You’re a natural!


We also had a lot of fun this week because we celebrated Mommy’s 34th birthday at Whole Foods, with vegan pizza and cake!



And you even drew these really cool pictures for her!





Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

If you’re a regular reader of Family Friendly Daddy Blog, you’ve probably noticed in the past several posts there has been a presence of a 2015 Toyota Sienna.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

That’s because for my family’s recent mini road trip from Spring Hill, TN (the Nashville area) to Pensacola, FL we had the privilege of being able to test drive it. In essence, we modeled it; showing what it would look like for a family of 3 to take a 7 hour road trip (one way) in the Sienna. (We were in the vehicle for nearly 20 hours total, including the trip back, and driving once we got there.)

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Here’s my newest video I made for the occasion, equipped with our own theme song I wrote and performed:

So today, I want to share my thoughts on taking a road trip in a 2015 Toyota Sienna.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

My wife and I both agreed that the thing we appreciated most about the vehicle is how “road trip friendly” it is. For example, the 2 captain’s chairs directly behind the driver and front passenger’s seat are literally recliners.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

esame Street: Elmo The Musical Vol. 2 Learn and Imagine- Family Friendly Review

That makes watching the large DVD/Blu-ray screen (equipped with headphones) that much more enjoyable for the passengers. It creates such a comfortable and entertaining environment for everyone; including the driver, who can keep the sound to the movie in the back of the vehicle.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

In addition to the Sienna having a great capacity to be both comfortable and entertaining, we also noticed how spacious it is.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

The paradox is that while it truly seems to be a large vehicle, it doesn’t drive that way. I had zero issues with visibility. The turning radius on the Sienna alone was amazing! I ended up having to do my share of U-turns while driving in an unfamiliar city, so I would know…

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

We also definitely appreciated the power sliding doors and back door. I was able to open them remotely for my wife and son before we even got the vehicle.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

I will close by giving you another opportunity to check out my other blog posts involving the 2015 Toyota Sienna. It would be an understatement that we had a great family road trip, as you will read about when you click these links above each picture- and please don’t forget you can also watch the original video I made for these underneath each link:

Dear Jack: Our Homemade Jack-Man Commercial For The Toyota Sienna

Dear Jack: The Treasure Chest You Found Buried in Pensacola

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around/Silly String Fight

Dear Jack: The RV That Exploded In Casino Beach Parking Lot/Highway 98 Bay Bridge Crash

Vegan Friendly Review of Pensacola, FL

Sesame Street: Elmo The Musical Vol. 2 Learn and Imagine- Family Friendly Review

esame Street: Elmo The Musical Vol. 2 Learn and Imagine- Family Friendly Review

Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville: Family Friendly Review

Both last summer and this summer, our family has made a habit of attending the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, home of the All American 400, to watch the races.

Nashville Speedway Races

For a very affordable price (usually tickets are $10 but children 5 and under are free), your family can attend several races featuring many types and sizes of racecars, lasting a couple of hours. (Parking is $5.)

There is no doubt it is entertaining. I think of it as “NASCAR on a budget.”

You can tell that many of the drivers are apparently self-funded, with spray painted race cars and taped on numbers on the sides of the trucks.

I always like to root for those underdogs! (Meanwhile, my young son is smart enough to cheer for the cars at the front of the line-up; since they were the fastest during the time-qualifying pre-race.)

When we’re in the mood for an all-American, blue collar kind of family fun event, this is where we go.

I will say that much of the fan base smokes cigarettes… and this is an open-air event.

Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville: Family Friendly Review

In fact, the demographics for the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville are so predictably smokers, that when you first walk in to the event after handing in your ticket, the first thing you see is a booth in which an e-cigarette vendor is eager to convert anyone they think are smokers.

However, your family can avoid most of the cigarette smoke by sitting in the C section, which is specifically set aside for families: Smoking and drinking are not allowed in that section.

There are some who try to sneak doing it, but typically the hired security guards catch them.

Our family is always entertained when we visit the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Again, it’s inexpensive and entertaining; not to mention, it’s full of Southern flare.

If you end up checking it out, you may see our family there in the C section. Thanks for reading Family  Friendly Daddy Blog today!