Dear Holly: Learning to Walk, Leading Up to Your 1st Birthday

1 year.

Dear Holly,

Two weekends ago, as I was with you downstairs watching you play, while Mommy was upstairs working on laundry and while your brother was at the kitchen table working on drawings, I saw you do something amazing.

You were sitting down on the carpet, sort of Indian style, when for no apparent reason, you decided to stand up. So you did. And you remained standing up for about 5 seconds.

Then, you took it upon yourself to take 5 steps toward the sofa chair!

Of course, I was the only one to witness this marvelous event. I made sure you knew what a big deal it was. And you did. You were clearly so proud of yourself, as I was obviously proud of you too.

Then, a week later, this past Sunday, the day before your 1st birthday, your brother Jack wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii, so he could play as his favorite Pokemon characters.

You and Mommy were upstairs with us, hanging out.

It was in the middle of a Pokemon fight that you decided to show us all your stuff. You pulled yourself up on the book case, turned to Mommy, and started walking towards her; making it the first time she and your brother saw you walk.

We all cheered and celebrated! What a big deal!

You took another 3 steps Monday morning on your birthday, as Mommy and I were setting up the presents in the living room. It is interesting to see how your 1st birthday and your first steps lined up together.

Granted, you’re not walking around yet- but you are able to take 3 to 5 steps at a time… when you feel like it.

I am very much looking forward to you being my little girl who can walk around the house!

Love,

Daddy

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…

Love,

Daddy

My Thoughts on Turning 36 Today

As Facebook has reminded you, today is my 36th birthday. It was this day in 1981 that my parents had to change the name they had planned on giving me, Mario, because when I was born, I didn’t look Italian and Mexican enough (on my mom’s side) to live up to what that name should look like. I was born with much fairer skin and lighter hair than I have now…

So instead, they gave me a Greek name, Nicholas, which means “victorious.” In hindsight, that name has become a tribute to my Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo. Fate would have it that despite not looking ethnic enough for the name Mario on the day I was born, members of my family unanimously agree that as a grown man, I definitely have an undeniable resemblance to my grandfather; whose own father emigrated here from southern Italy about 100 years ago.

When it comes to my age, I will never be the kind of person who is ashamed or embarrassed by that ultimately arbitrary number, no matter how high it gets. Because the whole point of a birthday is to celebrate your life with the people who care about you.

It’s that one day of the year where you don’t have to do anything but be alive, and accordingly, people make a big deal about you still existing in the universe.

On the day you are born, you are not psychologically developed enough to appreciate the world celebrating your arrival into the world. And when you die, at your funeral, you are not able to physically respond to everyone mourning your passing, as well as celebrating your life that has now come to an end.

But for the birthdays in between those bookmarks, we can all celebrate together, in these living years.

In real time, we can consciously appreciate the precious and mysterious gift of life. We can celebrate our shared memories, that in theory, only continue to exist because we still remember them.

I think birthdays are great.

So here’s to being closer to 40 than 30.

Here’s to being grateful for all I have, including people who celebrate the fact that I still exist in the universe.

Here’s to being reminded everyday, not just my birthday, how much I matter in this world; especially to a beautiful girl from California, and our wondrous blue-eyed children.

Dear Jack: Your Street Fight with “Uncle Owl”

6 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday while visiting my side of the family in Fort Payne, Alabama, we went to our favorite restaurant; a Thai and Japanese place called Toke.

I noticed that throughout the meal, my Uncle Al (who you have always called “Uncle Owl”, and I’ve never corrected you) was teasing you. I remember how after the server gave you some lollipops, Uncle Owl did the classic, “Hey, look over there!” and snagged your candy while you looked behind you.

Of course this only triggered you to want to get him back for tricking you…

As we were all leaving the restaurant, I helped Mommy gather your sister’s diaper bag and Mommy’s purse. Therefore, I was the last to walk out of the restaurant.

When I stepped out into the parking lot, focusing on working my way to the car to load up your sister, I heard some commotion coming from behind me on the sidewalk right in front of the restaurant.

And then I saw it…

You and Uncle Owl had just engaged in a street fight!

At first, I wasn’t sure that you had a chance at winning. But then I realized your specific strategy: to continually run around Uncle Owl and kick him in the seat of the pants.

That was going well for you until Uncle Owl used his classic move again: “Hey Jack, look over there!”

Again, you fell for his trick, causing yourself to end up in a head lock.

The street fight had gained an audience, as our family gathered ‘round the action. It was becoming obvious this was anybody’s fight.

But since we needed to get your sister out of the sun and into the air conditioning of the car, the fight indeed came to an end, with no declared winner.

Fortunately, despite the public spectacle, no complaints were filed nor were the authorities notified.

But I have a feeling there will be a rematch…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You’re an Outdoorsy Kind of Girl

11 months.

Dear Holly,

Something I enjoy doing is taking cute pictures of you, then putting subtle captions on them, as I attempt to imagine what you would be saying if you could talk yet.

This past weekend we spent the entire afternoon at the playground at Westhaven with Hanna’s family. Her daddy, Mohamad, took pictures of the two of you the entire time.

One of my favorites is where you are sitting in the bucket swing, with your sun hat and your pacifier. The caption I wrote was this: “I like to come here sometimes just to collect my thoughts.”

It’s funny because it somehow seems real; like that’s really what you’re thinking about, though your just a little baby girl.

Mohamad was able to get several shots of you and Hanna just hanging out. At the time, your brother and I were playing at the creek, so I don’t know for sure what was going on, but I imagine the two of you having fun just staring out into the distance; neither of you knowing what you were looking at, but just knowing you were having fun.

You loved every minute of our time out at the park. Not only did you get to spend time with your friend Hannah, who you’ve known your whole life, but you got to spend a whole afternoon outside, on a wonderful sunny day.

It’s true- you an outdoorsy kind of girl. You love feeling the breeze through your hair. You love hearing and watching the birds fly across the sky.

This makes me happy because I definitely consider myself an outdoorsy kind of guy, as I know your brother is too.

So I have a feeling we have a long future of hiking, canoeing, and just exploring the great outdoors. We’re going to have a lot of fun in life.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw.

Dear Jack: You Have Really Cool Parents

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Looking at the pictures from on our visit last Saturday to Westhaven with our friends Mohamed, Lena, and Hanna, one thing becomes undeniable: You have really cool parents.

Mohamed and I, both being the token “take hundreds of pictures of your kid at every outing” kind of dads, ended up getting some good shots of all the kids.

I like the picture he took of you and me playing on the slide, where you are hiding below, in attempt to scare me as I go down the slide. The look on your face seems to indicate, “Yeah, I know my dad’s crazy… but I’m used to it by now.”

In addition to me purposely pushing you too high on the swing, to test your limits, you purposed we engage in a good classic game of Tag. I thought it was funny how you started by proclaimed, “Daddy, I’m it first.” But then you didn’t start chasing me…

So I turned the tables on you and started chasing you instead, and you ran from me… even though it was supposed to be the other way around.

Once you finally embraced what being it meant, I found a way to challenge you as you chased me. We were standing next to this swinging balance beam.

As you ran towards me and got close, I simply jumped over the balance beam. Then as you ran around it, I jumped back to the other side.

Speaking of the balance beam, Mommy was really good at crossing it without falling off.

You were so happy when I found a little plastic alligator in the playground mulch. We took it down to the creek, where you used a boat made out of leafs, so he could “sail down the river.”

Yep, you have really cool parents. No playing on our smart phones from the bench. We’re out there having fun with you any chance we get.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw & Nick Shell.

Dear Jack: Our “Skateboard and Stroller Vs. Sprinters” Race!

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

This weekend I was supposed to take you to go watch the new Power Rangers movie, but you were satisfied with watching Trolls from Redbox. So instead, our family made the most of the wonderful spring weather in our cul-de-sac.

It all started when Mommy decided to push you and your sister in the double stroller, while I skateboarded alongside you all. But that didn’t last long…

Because you soon realized you didn’t want me to be able to move faster than you. There’s too much competition running through your veins to be okay with me going faster than you, in any capacity.

This quickly evolved into a series of official races.

You sprinting versus me pushing your sister in the stroller while I skateboarded.

There were some close ones, but you beat us every time. You are truly a fast runner.

And I was legitimately trying to win! I’m not the kind of dad who lets his son win. I suppose that only adds to your competitive spirit. You have to earn a win with me.

Then Mommy wanted to see if she could run faster than you. She’s fast, but not fast enough for you. So it stands, you are the official champion of the “skateboard and stroller vs. sprinters” race in our cul-de-sac.

For anyone happening to drive through our neighborhood this weekend, just casually looking for houses on the market, I’m sure they were in for a surprise when they saw a family conducting a series of wacky races! It had to be such a strange, yet fun-looking event.

But hey, it’s our cul-de-sac. Our neighbors are used to our antics by now.

Though we’re often on the go, when we are home, we’re bound to be doing something that’s not quite so normal.

By the way, let our “skateboard and stroller vs. sprinters” race serves as proof that you undeniably having really cool parents!

Love,

Daddy