Dear Jack: You Made a Real Cobra Head Necklace and Wore It to School… So Yeah, That’s Pretty Awesome.

7 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Unlike Indiana Jones, you are clearly not afraid of snakes.

Last week, you found an old key chain I brought back as a souvenir from Thailand, when I was in college. I had bought it from this man who professionally hunted and skinned snakes. He used the leftover heads for key chains.

Realizing you could disconnect the crystal arrowhead necklace that you got at Ruby Falls during Spring Break, you then replaced the arrowhead with the snake head.

In your own initiative, you had created a cobra head necklace and decided to wear it to school.

As you were leaving that morning for school, I assured you that you’d be the only boy in America to wear a real cobra head necklace to school.

No, this story doesn’t end with me saying that your teacher told you not to wear it to school anymore. You totally got away with wearing the head of a poisonous snake to school.

You came home and bragged to me, “Daddy, on two people thought my cobra snake wasn’t real!”

Coincidentally, just a few days later on Sunday, I had put your sister down for her afternoon nap and decided to take you to play in the creek at Brenthaven in Franklin.

As we were walking across the bridge over the creek, you and I both noticed something we assumed was a rope that had surfaced on a rock, in the middle of the stream.

But as we made our way closer, I announced to you with both caution and joy, “Jack, that’s a real snake!”

I tossed a few pieces of mulch at it- but it never budged. Then I tossed some rocks at it- it still never budged.

Finally, I found a stick long enough to pick it up with. It was obvious the snake was not only dead, but it had been dead there overnight.

You pointed out to me that its tail looked like it had been chewed up. My theory is that a neighborhood dog found the snake and broke its neck by slinging it like a whip, then the snake crawled onto the rock to die.

Turns out, it was either a venomous Cottonmouth or a harmless Brown Watersnake.

But since it was definitely dead, I let you throw rocks at it. I’m pretty sure you’ll remember that day as a highlight of your boyhood.

So yeah, you’re not afraid of snakes.




Dear Holly: I Think You’re Going to Be My Little Wild Child

1 year, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

I am convincing myself that you will not go through The Terrible Two’s. Your brother didn’t. So I want to believe the same can be true for you.

With that being said, your personality is noticeably different than your brother’s was at this age.

For example, it nearly takes Mommy and me both to physically get you dressed in the mornings now, as you’ve made it abundantly clear you believe wearing clothes is a waste of time. You recently crafted a new trick where you ask to go potty, simply so you can get undressed and then run around the house:

“Potty? Potty? Potty?

And like I mentioned last week, during Spring Break at Nonna and Papa’s house, you found a way to climb out of the crib, twice; as a protest to taking your daily afternoon nap. And then when Nonna asked you how you got out of the crib by yourself, you just simply replied, “I climb.”

Your brother has never been shy, but you show a certain fearlessness at such a young age that he didn’t show. There was at least a reluctance he’s shown. As for you, not so much.

And I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that Mommy and I are raising you differently than your brother, by default; since we were first time parents with him.

Raising you, we as the parents are a bit more fearless, as we have an idea of how things generally work now in the world of parenting.

I suppose it doesn’t help that since becoming a stay-at-home dad 6 months ago, you’ve had extra exposure to my exclusive masculine parenting style; alongside having an older brother who I often have to remind to not play so rough with you.

So while I’m confident you’ll never be a tom girl, I am quickly getting the feeling you’re going to be a feisty little girl who knows what she wants; while still charming me with your adorable little smile.

But hey, I’m up for the challenge.



Dear Jack: You Were Proudly in Disguise During the Easter Egg Hunt

7 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Fortunately, you didn’t receive too much candy during the Easter egg hunt this past weekend. (I’m pretty sure we’ve still got leftover Halloween candy up in our pantry, actually.) The surprises inside the eggs this year at the egg hunt included a lot of Cracker Jack types of toys.

Honestly, I really don’t know what else you got at the egg hunt, other than a classic disguise kit:

Round glasses attached to thick eyebrows and a big nose.

You ended up wearing the disguise for the rest of the time after the actual egg hunt was over. You even wore it in the picture of you with Nonna and Papa and your cousins.

I guess I could have stopped you. But I didn’t.

You were having fun, so I let you.

One of my favorite parts about you wearing the disguise is that you didn’t acknowledge you were wearing it. You just acted like your normal self during the festivities, almost as if to test the theory:

Will anyone notice I’m wearing this disguise if I don’t talk about it?

It was like you were secretly playing a prank on our family; if not, everyone at the egg hunt.

I think the ironic twist in your social experiment was that no one really said anything because they just assumed, “Oh, that’s just Jack being Jack.”

Or even, “Oh, that’s Nick’s son. That makes sense.”

As for hunting eggs, sure; you still gave it your all. But as you’re now 7 years old, and as you’re finishing up 1st grade, I can see that you’re finding new ways to have fun; beyond just the obvious event.

And this totally reminds me of how I was as as boy, and really, how I still am.

So really, I guess it truly could be summed up as I said before:

“Oh, that’s Nick’s son. That makes sense.”



Dear Holly: Nearly 2 Years Later, It’s Hard to Imagine You Having Any Other Name

1 year, 10 months.

Dear Holly,

Like your brother’s name, Jack, you also have one of those classic, easy to spell, easy to recognize, but not overly popular names.

Every generation has its Holly, yet the name never quite pings the radar like the names Jennifer or Amanda from my age group, nor Chloe or Sophia in your age group.

Everyone knows a Holly. It’s a name that’s been around for quite a while, too; since the 1930s.

But I am pretty confident to predict that there will never be another Holly in any of your classes throughout school.

Whereas I pretty much immediately named your brother before Mommy had a chance to offer up anything, that’s how it was with naming you, but the other way around.

Mommy always had the name Holly in mind, if we ever had a girl.

So when we found out you were going to be a girl, there was no thinking to be done. Conveniently for me, Holly was a name that easily worked.

I’m trying to imagine you by any other name.

I could potentially see Jenna.

And even though I really like the name Lola, you don’t look like a Lola.

The funny thing is, I don’t know what a Holly is supposed to look like.

Anyone I’ve met named Holly has looked completely different from the next one.

I am very proud of your name. It’s not a name I would have thought of on my own, but thanks to Mommy, it was the only name ever considered.

Perhaps subconsciously, I’ve always seen your name as the perfect feminine foil to your brother’s classic masculine name.

If I’m going to have a son with a undeniably masculine name like Jack, who’s into Pokemon and Halo, then my daughter needs to have an undeniably feminine name like Holly, who’s into Minnie Mouse and baby dolls.

You were meant to be my Holly.



Dear Jack: More than 7 Years Later, I Am Still Very Proud of Your Name

7 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

A poll was recently conducted which showed that 18%, nearly 1 in 5 parents, regret the baby name they chose. But more than 7 years later, I can immediately confirm that I am part of the 82% who has no regrets about this.

I am sure there are some subconscious rules that parents have regarding the overall themes of potential names for their baby.

As for me, it is part of my own identity that my own children have classic, easy to spell, easy to recognize, but not overly popular names.

For me, the name Jack perfectly fits this description.

While Jackson (Jaxson, Jaxon, etc.) is undeniably a popular name for boys your age, it is not the same case for the name Jack.

You are the only Jack in your entire grade. Yes, there are Jacksons, but not other Jack.

And it’s been that way ever since you were 7 months old and began daycare.

Even when I was growing up, I never remember there being a Jack in my grade, or any grade before or after mine.

The immediate reason I chose to name you Jack was because that’s my dad’s name. I gave you your first name, and Mommy gave you your middle name; which is William, the name of Mommy’s father, who passed away shortly after Mommy and I were married nearly a decade ago.

While Jack is a very popular go-to name for male protagonists in TV shows and movies, it’s not very often in real life you meet someone named Jack.

It’s a good, strong, masculine name that is instantly interesting; as if it has its own built-in story.

You were so easy to name. And if this can make sense, you definitely wear the name quite well. It’s hard to imagine you having any other name.

You were meant to be my Jack.



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.”



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.