My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

Last week for Spring Break, we were presented with a 2018 Mazda CX-5 to enjoy for the week. One of the things we decided to do with it was to take a little family road trip over the mountains and through the woods to Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In case you’ve ever driven anywhere in the Southeast, you’ll know that when it comes to winning the award for “Seemingly Omnipresent Billboard Signs”, the only competition to Rock City, is Alexander Shunnarah.

In other words, Rock City billboards, with their famous red birdhouses and “See Rock City” slogan, are a familiar concept; even for people who have never actually been to Rock City.

I grew up just an hour away in Fort Payne, Alabama, on the other side of Lookout Mountain; so I had been there a time or two as a child. Back in 2007 when my wife and I were dating (we’ve been married a decade as of this July), I took her there on a date. But this marked for the first time that we’ve taken either of our children to Rock City.

It was a family adventure for sure!

And now for anyone reading this today who has never been, I will provide some glimpses of what it’s like for a fun family like mine (and yours too, of course!) to see Rock City.

I even took it upon myself to write an original theme song and produce a 1 minute walk-through video promo for Rock City, as well. Here it is:

One of the things Rock City is known for is its Swing-A-Long Bridge, which when I was my son’s age 30 years ago, sort of terrified me. Not my son, though.

He just strolled along like it was nothing; just casually looking down (way) below.

The bridge leads up to the main look-out point, where you can find another famous attraction at Rock City: The “See Seven States” Stone; where you can… you guessed it: See seven states!

Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Our family just happened to visit Rock City on the day before Easter, so we lucked out and my kids got to meet the Easter Bunny. I think my daughter might have been afraid of a giant rabbit under normal conditions, but her big brother had his arm around her and that made everything okay.

I felt that our kids were the perfect ages to visit Rock City. Our son is 7, and loved leading our family through all the winding trails of towering rock walls.

Our daughter turns 2 in a few weeks and was mesmerized by what surely seemed to her as a magical enchanted land.

Not to mention, it’s fun for the parents too. I loved being outside, breathing in fresh air and being able to move along such beautiful natural scenery, now that winter is over.

So if you’re planning on driving through Tennessee anytime this year, it would be a shame not to swing by Rock City and take the family on a quaint adventure hidden up at the edge of Lookout Mountain.

And as you’ve already noticed, Rock City is basically a constant tour of photo ops. I know that normally, we don’t take near enough photos of our family of four.

But on our visit to Rock City, we couldn’t help but keep taking family selfies and asking fellow visitors to take our picture. Of course, they were happy to help, as I instantly returned the favor each time.

Before our adventure could come to an end, though, we had to stop by the gift shop. My son had been wanting a bald eagle stuffed animal for quite a while now, and he was so proud to find the perfect one.

My daughter instantly spotted a singing bird stuffed animal and immediately grabbed it and held it tightly as to say to us parents: “This is what I’m getting.”

She was right.

From there, I punched in “Whole Foods” on the GPS in the Mazda CX-5 and we made our way down the mountain for lunch. My grandmother met us there and she got to hear all about our adventure.

And as for the way back to the house, neither of our kids lasted 15 minutes before they were fast asleep.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of Rock City today. If you’re considering taking your family there, I highly recommend it!

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Dear Holly: You are the “Pop” Police, Calling Out People When They Pass Gas

1 year, 10 months.

Dear Holly,

I believe the most appropriate term to call you these days is rascal. You’re old enough to know you’re being cute while at the same time being sneaky. And on top of that, your sincere curiosity only adds to the cuteness and the sneakiness.

As you are now becoming quite ambitious in your attempts to add words to your vocabulary, you have stumbled upon the word pop. A couple of weeks ago while I was holding you, you passed a little bit of gas… I knew immediately as I felt the vibration on my arm.

You looked up at me, as if you were asking for my confirmation, and asked, “Pop?”

I obviously immediately laughed: “Yes, good. You did just have a pop.”

To equate passing gas with the word “pop” was not something I could credit anyone in our family with. You just took it upon yourself to associate the sound you made with a word you already knew.

Therefore, you now make a habit of announcing every time you pop. But what I really love about it is that you continue to still sort of ask for my confirmation.

And now you have moved on to calling out everyone else’s pops.

Without surprise, you say “pop” a lot when your brother is around. He enjoys your special skill in identifying his mischievous actions.

I will say, I didn’t expect that you’d be able to identify what it meant to pass gas, or that you’d have your own designated word for it, before your 2nd birthday.

But hey, you have a 7 year-old brother. It comes with the territory.

Therefore, sometimes without me even realizing what I have done, you’ll look up at me:

“Daddy, pop?”

That’s your special way of saying, “You and I are the only ones in the room right now- and I know it wasn’t me, so…”

Then I have to admit:

“Yep, that’s good, Holly. Daddy had a pop.”

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Teaching Your Sister How to Use a Cardboard Box

7 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

It had been a particularly difficult night, with your sister waking up several times every couple of hours. I received little rest, as I got up each time to help get her back to sleep. So by the time Mommy left for work around 6:15 AM, I collapsed on the couch in the living room, as I trusted you to take care of your sister while I was out of commission.

When I woke up about an hour later, I was delighted to see that, in your creativity, you took it upon yourself to transform an Amazon shipping box in to a couple of helmets for both you and your sister to wear, in the boat you also constructed from the same box.

I am always so proud to see you take initiative to lead your sister in fun activities, which require no direction from me or Mommy. It’s important that you figure out on your own what to do with your time, without needing me as your entertainment supervisor all the time.

The look on your sister’s face, too, is just priceless. She obviously didn’t quite understand why the two of you had box helmets, but she gladly went along with it; just like the day before when the box actually arrived:

You convinced your sister to walk back and forth from the far end of the living room, to the far end of the kitchen, with both of your heads in the box. For good reason, it reminded me of the kind of horse costume where it takes two people to walk; one in the front and one in the back.

I’m just glad that because of your creativity with a shipping box, I was able to catch a solid hour of sleep, while getting confirmation you’re old enough to take care of your sister with your sleeping dad on the couch.

Love,

Daddy

Despite the 1990s Sitcom Cliche, I Actually Really Like My Mother-in-Law (Featuring the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring)

I feel like there’s this familiar cliche from family sitcoms of the 90s where the mother-in-law comes from out to town to visit, which inevitably yields 23 minutes of zany frustration for the husband and father of the household; accompanied by laugh tracks, of course.

Maybe that’s true for some men out there, I don’t know.

What I do know is I personally can not relate to this stereotype at all.

My wife and I have been married for nearly 10 years. I can honestly say that I have never once felt frustrated when my mother-in-law comes to visit or when we visit her in California. In fact, she has the opposite effect on me: I feel more relaxed with her around.

I assume I’m the typical American dad in that I am heavily involved not only with the kids, but also with the household chores. The only real free time I have is when everyone else is asleep.

During my waking hours, I’m either taking care of at least one kid or I’m helping clean up a mess. Because with young kids, there’s always a mess to be cleaned.

But when my mother-in-law is in town, I get a break from reality. I actually have pockets of time where I can do things like, you now… learn what it feels like to sit on my own couch for 5 minutes; thanks to my mother-in-law insisting on preparing dinner without my help, telling me, “Now Nick, sit down. I’m taking care of all this over here. You just take a seat and relax.”

This is all especially fresh on my mind, as my mother-in-law is currently staying with our family here here in Tennessee this week.

When the folks at Mazda heard about our special guest flying in from the West Coast, they dropped off a 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with a full tank of gas, to make the week-long visit extra special.

It’s funny because despite only living about 40 miles south of Nashville, I only see that wondrous and trendy city a few times a year. But knowing we had a fancy car to get us there, we loaded up in the Mazda 6 and took our mother-in-law out for a magnificent lunch.

My wife suggested this cool Lebanese bistro called Epice.

Wow, seriously. It is now officially my favorite restaurant in all of Nashville. It was like being introduced to a whole new world of food. Not to mention, they were easily able to cater to me being a vegan.

The restaurant shares a parking lot with a very swanky “Nashvilley” shop called White Mercantile, which happens to be owned by Holly Williams; the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.

I admit, the decor there was so cool, I took lots of pictures, made it into a collage, and debuted it as my new Facebook banner picture.

My mother-in-law just loved that store! Despite being born and raised in Oakland, California, she definitely has a fascination with the Southern motif.

After lunch, my wife and mother-in-law decided we would be stopping by an organic grocery store called The Turnip Truck; as it is soon to be a place frequented by Country Music stars.

Apparently, there were no celebrities there at the time, but at least I got a Mexican coffee out of the deal, and my daughter was able to enjoy one of her favorite snacks for the drive back home.

The next day on Saturday, my mother-in-law decided she wanted to take us out for dinner at our town’s official favorite restaurant, Viking Pizza Co. of Spring Hill.

Needless to say, it’s been a very enjoyable week for our entire family with my mother-in-law in town. Especially for me. I have enjoyed being able to remove myself just enough from the household chores, as my mother-in-law has assumed many of my roles this week, so though I could have some moments of sanity.

I don’t care what happened in 90s sitcoms. All I know is, I definitely like having my mother-in-law in town!

If you would like to learn more about the specifics of the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, check out another article I wrote; which as the title of it implies, will answer many of your immediate questions. Just click on the click below:

2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Back Seat Space with 2 Children’s Car Seats, Fuel Door Release, Volume Knob for Stereo, Extra Trunk Space, Gas Mileage, Price

And don’t forget to catch up with me on The Lifetime Network’s “This Time Next Year” on February 20th, at 10 PM Central/9 PM Eastern; as I journey over the course of an entire year in attempt to find and meet my doppelganer!

I Sincerely Need Your Help Today as a Stay-at-Home Dad! I Have to Get 1,000 Subscribers on My YouTube Channel by February 20th, 2018. I Currently Have 328. Will You Help Me?

If I don’t get 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel for this blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog, within exactly a month, it will mean I will cease to make money from it. This is a big deal, because as many of you know, I was forced into becoming a stay-at-home dad 3 months ago, when my entire branch was shut down.

Since then, my family has been relying on the supplemental income we get from both of my main YouTube channels. The other is fine, as it currently has 2,888 subscribers. But this one is only a third of the way there. (It had 328 subscribers as of the publishing of this blog post.)

Interestingly, my YouTube channel for this blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog, has only about 10% of the subscribers of my other channel, yet it brings in nearly half of my YouTube revenue.

YouTubers like me get a cut of the ad revenue from the ads that show before my videos, but that will no longer be the case for this YouTube channel if I don’t get 1,000 subscribers by February 20th, which is exactly a month from today.

So I sincerely ask you: Will you click on my YouTube channel for this blog, and click the “Subscribe” button?

This is sort of like that episode of Saved by the Bell where they had to raise $10,000 in order to save The Max.

But the difference is, I’m not asking for money. I don’t want money.

I want subscribers, so that I can continue to use my creativity to work to earn money, as a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a YouTuber and blogger.

Subscribing to my YouTube channel today is great way to truly and instantly help out another human being.

Thank you for your consideration of helping me as a stay-at-home dad continue in my side hustle.

I am worker. I am a creator. I want to continue making money for my work.

If I don’t have 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel by February 20th, which is a month from today, I will stop receiving pay for my work.

Additionally, I need need 4,000 total “watch hours” from my viewers, but I feel that will work itself out in a month if I get the required number of subscribers. I currently have 173,346 minutes; which is 2889 hours of the 4,000 hours requirement.

Will you please help me?

I am Nick Shell and this is a true story.

Dear Holly: Your “Ashes, Ashes”, Peppa the Pig Christmas

1 year, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

It is my job to remind you what Christmas 2017 was like, since you likely won’t remember. For one, you were quite proud of the Peppa the Pig sneakers Nonna got for you.

Since Christmas, you have insisted on wearing them inside our home; even for your naps in your crib. As I wrap you up in your blanket before I lay you down, I have to wrap the blanket around your shoes. But this is what you want.

You also took a liking to the nursery rhyme, Ring Around the Rosie. Much of your fascination for the song and dance is that now you are beginning to repeat certain words, you like to say, “ashes, ashes” while holding hands with anyone who will sing with you; as you know that is the key phrase that allows you to immediately stumble to the ground and laugh.

Therefore, you have a habit of inserting “ashes, ashes” pretty much right after the opening line, “Ring around the rosie…”

Since coming back from Nonna and Papa’s during those 5 days for Christmas break, I have helping you play with all your new toys.

It’s not uncommon for you to suddenly smile at me, stand up, reach out for my hands, and then wait for me, as if to say, “Daddy, aren’t you going to start singing the song?”

The moment I do, you’re ready for your favorite part… ashes, ashes.

I should point out that you’re not simply just falling down in a carefully calculated, casual way.

No, instead, you act like you just slipped on a sheet of ice and then tumble and roll on your side, and lay still for a moment; as if you’re waiting for someone to say, “Oh no, Holly fell down! Holly, are you okay?”

But there you are, smiling up at your audience, so far not realizing that no one else ever takes the fall in Ring Around the Rosie as seriously as you do.

Love,

Daddy

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Were Completely Fascinated by Visiting Santa

7 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

I must say that after celebrating 7 Christmases with you, this has so far been the most exciting for me to see you anticipate. Yes, that’s right… I get excited to so you so excited!

The best way I could word it, is that this year, you took your visit with Santa so seriously, that you nearly treated it as a business transaction.

You knew you must depend on him seeing your wish list and that your presentation may have an affect you actually getting what you asked for. On your list, you specifically wrote on your paper:

Hatchimal

Halo sets

Pokemon

You were truly on your best behavior. I’d even go as far as to say you were the most polite, well-behaved child in that room.

And as your sister became frightened by Santa, as she doesn’t understand who he is, the way you do, you were there to help calm her down.

However, I’m sure Santa must have been a little confused as to how he’s supposed to bring you more Pokemon cards, when you already seem to have them all! Oh well, we will just have to let him sort that one out.

As we were leaving, I discreetly asked you, “Jack, was that the real Santa?”

You immediately replied, “Yes. You could tell because his beard was attached to his face and he had long hair.”

To you, there was no question about it. Not only was that the real Santa, but you definitely believe in him. Similarly, you still have just as much imagination and faith to hope that Pokemon characters are real, too.

So I know this is going to be one of your favorite Christmases. It’s so much fun when you have so much to believe in… and so many Pokemon cards to expect underneath the tree!

Love,

Daddy