Dear Jack: What I Learned from Father’s Day 2017

6 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

Father’s Day morning was quite special, as my very first gift was getting to sleep in, thanks to Mommy. I didn’t wake up until 9:30. It was glorious!

We then made our way to the living room, where I was bombarded with goodies from you and your sister. I now have a Captain America dad shirt. (He’s my favorite super hero.) Plus Mommy got me some vegan treats too.

And of course I was especially delighted to see crafts from you and your sister. You made me a special “shrinky dink” keychain, featuring a drawing you made of your and me; where you’ve again drawn us the same size. I’m so happy because I was a little jealous when Mommy got one for Mother’s Day last month…

Your sister made me a glittery “World’s Best Dad” award, based on the shape of her hand.

I took special care to read through all the questionnaire answers you gave,

as they reveal how you perceive having me as your Daddy:

My dad’s hair is black. (That’s darker than I realized!)

He’s as tall as a boy. (Are you saying I’m short?)

He weighs about 60 pounds. (Last time I checked, I was closer to 160. Guess I recently lost 100 pounds!)

My dad looks handsome when he wears hair gel. (I think you gave this answer because I fix your hair and mine at the same time.)

My dad always says “no.” (Hey, just trying to balance out how nice Mommy is to you. Though on the next page, you said, “My dad is my superhero because he is nice.”)

He’s not very good at cooking. Once Daddy was cooking before I was born and Mommy didn’t like it. (Very true- and very good memory!)

My dad’s favorite song is Metallica. (Yes, just Metallica. I’ll always think of you when I think of them because I really got into them back in January when I stayed overnight without you in the hospital, of all things!)

My dad’s favorite place to go is Whole Foods. (True, I’m there nearly every day, picking up groceries on my mountain bike during my lunch break.)

He always forgets… I don’t think he forgets anything. (True, unless it relates to where some obscure kitchen utensil goes in the drawer. In that case, I need Mommy to draw me a diagram with directions and instructions!)

He really likes to hike. (Yes! And I love the creative way you drew us hiking together, with our backs turned. That’s cool.)

My dad’s job is truck driving. (Actually, I’m the manager of the retention department for a trucking company- but that’s a mouthful!)

He likes to wear plaid shirts. (Right on, good eye!)

He reminds me of a bozo. (If you’re saying I’m funny, I’ll take the compliment!)

I love my dad because he plays Hungry Sharks with me. (Not only did I spent countless hours of our Christmas vacation earning you extra points on that game, it also was a game we took turns playing while you were in the hospital.)

Father’s Day really was special. It actually reminded me of a birthday or something.

I very much enjoyed celebrating fatherhood with you and your sister, and gaining your personal perspective.

Love,

Daddy

Is The Pfunky Griddle in Nashville a Vegan Friendly Restaurant?

Hi, I’m Nick Shell, the manliest vegan on the Internet. (No other male vegan has ever disputed this!) And yes, I can confirm that a vegan can indeed dine at The Pfunky Griddle. Because I recently did…

A few weeks ago, my family had a great time at the Nashville Zoo. But first, we had a splendid breakfast at The Pfunky Griddle, which is only 4 miles away.

I admit, I had my doubts whether or not I would just be assisting my wife and kids in preparing their meal, yet myself not having anything to eat.

So before I left the house, I had some coffee and made myself my famous “Manly Vegan Smoothie”, which consists of a banana, a cup of blueberries, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a tablespoon of chia seeds, and a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder.

That way, I had a solid base of vegan protein and fat already in my system in case things didn’t work out for me at The Pfunky Griddle.

My main role in being there was ultimately indeed to prepare and serve my family their pancakes. They are vegetarians, so they can have eggs and dairy, which I can not.

That is the reason I specifically didn’t order the pancakes. Instead, I had the hash browns and the veggie sausage.

I assume that you know the whole premise of The Pfunky Griddle is that you make your own breakfast, thanks to a griddle which is built into every table.

Now, was my meal perfectly vegan? No.

It could have been, but I knowingly let two things slide:

I assume the veggie sausage contained egg whites. While I would never choose to eat egg whites, I will overlook it if there is a trace of it in the food, as I did with the veggie burger last month at Mellow Mushroom.

But I refuse to eat egg yolks, which contain the cholesterol.

I am a vegan because it allows me to consume 0% of my daily cholesterol; not for animal rights’ reasons alone.

Also, the spray for the griddle contains butter as an ingredient, though it’s so little that it still registers as 0% cholesterol on the nutritional label. (This spray is not necessary to even use, but it definitely makes the food easier to cook.)

We had fun as a family and we will definitely be going back. As is the norm with my vegan lifestyle, I made it work and I refused to be a stick in the mud.

Because not only am I the manliest vegan on the Internet, I’m also the coolest vegan anyone has ever met in the history of the world!

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 are Trying Violin Lessons for the Summer

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

A couple of weeks ago as our family was driving down the Interstate, your sister was having a hard time falling asleep that morning. Mommy turned the radio station to 91.1, which is the classical musical station.

You call it “the violins.”

During the time it took to get your sister to sleep, you were staring out the window listening to the music. To my surprise, you sincerely enjoyed what you were hearing.

You expressed this out loud.

Within a few minutes, you proclaimed to Mommy that you would like to learn to play the violin.

Well, it was an easy sell.

It’s the summer. You’re a very intelligent boy. You need something challenging and productive to do to keep your brain engaged in things beyond shark and dragon games on the Kindle.

So this week, I took you to a performance center, just around the corner from our house where they teach violin lessons. How convenient!

We got you fitted for your violin. You’ll be starting your lessons soon!

Granted, Mommy and I are just having you try this out for the summer. We’re not expecting you to become a prodigy at this. You may decide by the end of the summer that this just violin thing just isn’t for you.

We are just so proud of you for wanting to take on this challenge, on your own. You have truly been so excited for the weeks leading up to this.

Who knows? Maybe you will truly end up committing to it. Maybe you’ll continue playing the violin beyond the summer of 2017. Maybe this will even led to you playing other instruments as well.

A 6 and a half year-old boy who is genuinely excited about learning to play the violin. Seriously, how cool.

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: 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

Dear Holly: Your Little Feet and Hands in the Sand for the 1st Time (“Ride the Lightning” 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

1 year, 1 months.

Dear Holly,

It was everything I had hoped it would be, seeing your reaction to the ocean and the sand and waves.

As your Daddy, it was so rewarding to see your precious little toes in the sand. I got to see how you used both your hands at the same to pick up the sand then let it run through them.

It became very obvious to me that if you could, you would be perfectly happy spending all day out there on Miramar Beach.

But your favorite part was when I took you into the water. As you wore your “Sweetie” bathing suit that I adore on you, I stood with you in the shallow water and lifted you up as each new wave came to you.

You just loved it! You weren’t afraid of the waves at all.

There were a few times when, as I lifted you up as a bigger wave splashed, you would shake like you were crying. But each time I looked down and saw your face, you were laughing instead.

I know it was asking a lot of you, at just one year-old, that Mommy and I took you on a 7 hour road trip to Florida with your brother.

Fortunately though, you slept through most of the driving as we journeyed on in the 2017 Toyota Prius Three. Perhaps it’s not necessarily normal for parents to drive all that way to take such a young little girl to the beach… I don’t know.

What I do know is, I’m glad our family was able to make this trip happen. And because of how well you handed it, you’ve now got Mommy and me convinced that our next trip to Florida doesn’t have to be another year from now.

Hmmm… maybe this fall? Yeah, we might need to make that happen.

Love,

Daddy