Dear Holly: You Ate Your Cupcake Like a Little Kitten

2 years, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

Last weekend as we visited my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama for their annual Boom Days celebration, we stopped in a cafe called The Spot. Your brother chose ice cream as his treat, but you weren’t interested.

Instead, you grabbed a cupcake with blue frosting on one side and purple on the other.

As we sat down, you carefully unwrapped the plastic, then just became stoic as you discreetly enjoyed the cupcake; like you were getting away with something extra special.

It was like watching a little kitchen eat a cupcake.

You were so committed to finishing every last crumb, that by the end, you put your face down in it as if were you a contestant in a pie-eating contest.

That must have been some cupcake!

Love,

Daddy

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What It Was Like Meeting Cat Deeley, Both Times, on The Lifetime Network’s “This Time Next Year”

Other than the lead singer of the country group Alabama, Randy Owen, whose son Heath is my age, I had never actually met anyone famous before. (I grew up in Fort Payne, Alabama; the same hometown as the group, during the 1980s and 1990s, which was the prime time of their success).

Honestly, I’ve never been the kind of person who has been too caught up in meeting celebrities. Since 2005, I’ve lived in the Nashville area, where you assume that everyday you’re unknowingly standing in the same room as some successful musician or songwriter.

But the way I’ve always perceived it, I felt it would be dehumanizing to reduce a celebrity to approaching them in an attempt to get their autograph, or these days, a selfie.

That’s why back on Valentine’s Day 2010, when I just happened to be in the Cool Springs Whole Foods getting flowers for my wife, and Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman where there having lunch, I did my best to pretend I didn’t see them.

Granted, I immediately texted my wife a picture from far across the store where Keith and Nicole hopefully didn’t catch me, but still… I had no interest in going up to them and making a fool of myself and saying, “Uh, hey, uh, Keith, man… I love your songs, man… that one where you talk about driving a car… and Nicole, you were my favorite part about the Val Kilmer Batman movie…”

But now, I have officially met a world-famous celebrity. And let me secret the record straight: She is the real deal.

I’m referring to Cat Deeley, the host of So You Think You Can Dance, and now also, This Time Next Year; the show where I made my TV debut this week.

In case you’ve seen my episode, “Dudes From Different Latitudes”, you know that I met Cat Deeley twice; with a year in between.

She truly is an exceptional human being. I can see why she was chosen as the host for this show; serving both as a sympathetic cheerleader and a bright narrator.

Granted, I was the token comic relief for my episode, as the other 5 guests on my episode had deep, heart-felt stories. So when it came time to meet me on the show, she had to shift her role to reflect the quirkiness of my personality and the novelty of my year-long goal.

I have to say, I wasn’t nervous at all. But had I been, she would have put my nerves at ease. That’s one of her many talents.

When we shot the first part of the episode out in some nameless, mysterious studio in Hollywood in November 2016, the director had Cat and I redo the end of the scene.

That’s because right before I stood up to go walk out that magical door for my year-long journey, she hugged me in support of my goal.

But the moment after I walked through the overly illuminated door, I was greeted by the producer, who explained with a smile, “You did great! But I’m being told we have to reshoot that last part. Cat hugged you. She’s not supposed to hug anyone on the show.”

So we redid that part, and this time, she remembered not to hug me. But right before they pressed record, during those couple of seconds where no one could hear what she was saying but me, she told me, “You’re freakin’ awesome.”

I share that story because it illustrates how warm and encouraging her personality is. I also sensed that was her way of saying, “I could use a laugh right about now,” in the midst of all the serious stories she had been hearing that day.

If so, I’m glad I could brighten her day, as she surely brightened everyone else’s.

Even if it’s a long shot, I hope she’s reading this now. I want her to know what an amazing job she’s done as a host on This Time Next Year.

And that’s the case with all the other people who were featured on the show with me. We all spent a lot of time together and got to learn each other’s stories. This was a common theme in every conversation:

“Wasn’t Cat just great? She has such a way of making a person feel comfortable and natural.”

So yes, that’s what we were all saying about her. And that’s what I’m saying about Cat Deeley again today.

Honestly, it would be my dream to co-host with her someday.

If nothing else, I can now officially say I have met a famous person. Plus, she handed me my guitar.

Yes, a famous person, who is really really cool, touched the same guitar I played the song “Dudes From Different Latitudes” on.

I think I’ll be bragging about that for a while.

Dear Jack: Carving the Halloween Jack-o’-lantern for the Thanksgiving/Hike at DeSoto Falls with Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca

7 years.

Dear Jack,

After having ventured to Gentry’s Farm to get our family’s pumpkin to carve for Halloween, we just didn’t get around to actually carving it in time. So we took it to Nonna and Papa’s nearly a month after Halloween… for the wrong holiday.

Papa then built a bonfire in the backyard to extend the feeling of pumpkin carving season.

Since your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca were visiting from Pensacola, we also spent part of Thanksgiving break to introduce them to DeSoto Falls; not that far from where I grew up.

I’m fortunate to be from such a cool outdoorsy town (Fort Payne, Alabama), as it is not the average hometown to spend the holidays in. I was very proud to be able to entertain your aunt and uncle by showing them the giant waterfall up on the mountain.

It’s especially neat because we were able to get pretty close to the water, but kept from certain danger thanks to some guard rails.

While we were enjoying the views, we looked up and saw a few drones flying above us. I imagine it must be an awesome place to fly one around; as long as it doesn’t get caught in the rapids.

I have to assume in a just a few years, you’ll be asking for a drone for your birthday or Christmas, as compared to just Pokemon cards like you are currently obsessed with.

Turns out, your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca enjoyed their Thanksgiving visit so much, they decided to drive back up from Florida again for Christmas- and this time they are bringing their teenage daughter who you enjoyed spending time with at Uncle Jake’s wedding in San Diego last year.

Whatever we all end up doing during our 5 days in Alabama for Christmas, I know we’re all going to have a great time!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: How You Got Papa to Buy You a Fursians Stuffy at Addie Kate’s (with No Words Exchanged!)

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: How You Got Papa to Buy You a Stuffy at Addie Kate’s with No Words Exchanged

Dear Jack,

As we walked down the closed main street of my hometown of Fort Payne for their annual Boom Days festival, you saw that I was catching up with some classmates I haven’t seen in 17 years. You knew it would be a while; as you stood there holding Papa’s hand and while Nonna held your baby sister.

So you discreetly tugged on Papa’s arm, asking him to go with you to Addie Kate’s, a store across the street.

I saw this happen peripherally, thinking to myself, “Why would Jack want to go into that store? It doesn’t look like there’s anything for kids in there.”

About 20 minutes later, you and Papa emerged from the store. Turns out, Addie Kate’s does have something kids would want.

You proudly lifted up a new “stuffy”… a Fursians snow leopard named Slushy, with a huge tail but tiny legs.

“Look at what Papa got me!” you excitedly announced, as Papa stood next to you attempting to hide a smirk.

Papa explained, “Yeah, and he didn’t have to even ask me for it. He just looked around at the stuffed animals, picked up the one he liked the most, and looked up at me with those eyes. Then I walked up to the counter and paid for it.”

I couldn’t stop laughing, yet I wasn’t surprised.

It is hilarious to imagine that whole process.

You then admitted, “Daddy, I saw some stuffed animals in the window, from the street where I was standing.”

Your plan worked: See toy. Take Papa into store. Speak no words. Exit with toy.

Yes, you are a clever boy. I’m guessing from the moment we left Nonna and Papa’s house for downtown, that you had already reminded yourself to look for an opportunity to find a toy for your grandparents to buy you. I have to give you credit for your dedication to a plan clearly worked.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa!)

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

Dear Jack,

This past weekend, you had an unforgettable weekend! You finally were able to go my to hometown’s ever-growing festival call Boom Days; which celebrates the people and culture of Fort Payne, Alabama; where I was born and raised.

Being there reminded me that I didn’t grow up in a stereotypical Southern town, as typically featured in media. No, Fort Payne was always special.

Basically half of the city is on the mountain (where I lived) and the other half is in the valley.  There was always this artsy, Americana feel to the place. I was surrounded by DeSoto State Park and all its hiking trails, as well as well as Little River Falls (the tallest waterfall in Alabama) and Little River Canyon.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

It was a fun place to grow up, and apparently, a fun place to return to; and especially, with a nearly 6 year-old boy.

With Mommy’s youngest brother getting married in two weeks in San Diego, I convinced her to take the weekend off by staying in Nashville where we live, and to let me take you and you baby sister to Nonna and Papa’s house for the weekend.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

That way, Mommy could get us packed for the upcoming California trip, run errands, and relax with no parental responsibilities for a full weekend. I’m glad she took me up on the offer! She works full-time with a 2 hour commute round trip each day, so she definitely was in need of some down time. She got to go to the spa; getting her hair and nails done.

Meanwhile, we were with Nonna and Papa, and Baby Holly, in downtown Fort Payne at Boom Days. The first big stop for you was to go inside a “gerbil ball” which was a giant inflatable sphere in which you got to run and roll around the Alabama Band Park.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

You apparently got into a thrilling “fight” with another boy in another gerbil ball. I saw the two of you smiling as you both attempting to knock each other over.

It was funny because there weren’t really any rules and I was never told how long you got to be inside there. Turns out, it lasts as long as you do…

The guy running the event explained to me, as you finally were ready to come out, “He’s stayed in there longer than anyone else ever has!” You were very proud to hear that you won the unofficial contest of endurance.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

You also enjoyed riding a pony. I think your favorite part about that was getting to pick the one you wanted.

Next we made our way over to the jumpy house, where we definitely got your money’s worth. I paid just $3 and you stayed in that thing for over 90 minutes. You just didn’t feel compelled to leave.

Back in Nashville, whenever you get to go one of your friends’ birthday parties, you always hope there will be a jumpy house. And when there is, you are never ready to leave.

But for more than an hour and a half, I hung out with Nonna and Papa in front of the jumpy house, as we showed off Baby Holly to passersby.

That’s when I saw and flagged down two of my Class of ’99 friends, Kim Hester and Brian Winkles. They enjoyed meeting you; granted, it was the extremely sweaty version of you, as you only took a short break to get some water.

Turns out, they weren’t the only “Ninety-Niners” I saw while we were there. Out of our graduating class of 183, there were about 20 that I saw there.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

Therefore, I am convinced that from here on out, we need to attend Boom Days every year; that way I don’t have to wait to see my classmate every 5 years for each official class reunion.

Speaking of, a little while later on the closed down the main street, I ran into more classmates, Jason New and Kris Holcomb. Kris’s daughter Libby had just bought a pet baby turtle she had named Raphy. You loved petting the turtle.

You also got to hold a baby squirrel as well, at the pet adoption tent.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

So everybody got what they needed: Mommy got rest and relaxation back home in Nashville. I got to see my kids enjoy themselves at the festival. Nonna and Papa got to spend time with you and your sister.

And as for you, Boom Days made all your dreams come true. It was the perfect place for a Kindergartener boy to get to burn energy and explore.

We shall return in 2017!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

P.S.

I made this video with Papa the next morning featuring the park where Boom Days took place, which features the Alabama band monument.

Dear Jack: Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

4 years, 4 months.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Dear Jack,

Our Easter tradition every year since you have been born has been to take you to the big egg hunt that Nonna and Papa’s church has at someone’s (very large) house.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

I gave you several coaching sessions before the hunt; sharing with you the effective strategy of immediately running to the far corner of the field, where no one else bothers to go. I also reminded you not to stop to open the eggs; just to throw as many as you could into your basket, then worry about opening them after the hunt is over.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Without surprise, you easily obtained more eggs than the other kids by doing so. While you are still not quite inspired to kick the soccer ball during your games, egg hunting is a sport you can get excited about!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

What’s funny is that you’ve yet to really look through the eggs, even now. You were happiest about bringing home some of my old stuffed animals from when I was your age; not what was inside the eggs.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Later on, we all went to Hawkins Spring Park there in Fort Payne, Alabama; my hometown. Where I grew up, there were several parks around our house, yet I never really went to this one.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Had I known about it back when I was 4, this might have been my favorite park; especially since a giant creek runs through it.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Of course, I didn’t let you and your cousin Calla have all the fun on the playground. They happened to have an adult playground where grown men like me and your Uncle Andrew could test our agility and strength. We were victorious… mostly.

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Oh, and we rescued an old abandoned tire from the creek. We helped the environment!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

A common question I have been getting this week is, “Did you have a good Easter?”

I did. We all did. We have nothing but good, fun, quality time as a family… while visiting family.

Love,

Daddy

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

4 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

Dear Jack,

The way I’m wired, I just can’t stay indoors all day relaxing. I have to get out and feel the sun on my skin and breathe in the fresh, brisk air.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

So while I definitely appreciated all the fun we had Christmas morning, I headed up a trip to Little River Falls, which is just about 5 miles from Nonna and Papa’s house, in Fort Payne, Alabama.

Papa had a sinus infection, so he had to stay at home. However, had he went, all 8 of us could have fit in the 2014 Lexus LX we were driving that week.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

As we made our way down the walkway bridge to the waterfall, I realized something:

Your Uncle Andrew was the one taking care of you, while Mommy was taking care of your cousin Calla.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

In essence, it was like Mommy and Uncle Andrew swapped kids for a little while. Like most little boys, you idolize the men in your life.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

So while you and I do have a close relationship, I appreciate how much you look up to your Uncle Andrew, who has the mechanical skills I don’t.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

We had a fun race back to the car. Of course, Uncle Andrew had a slight disadvantage since he was carrying you!

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

From there, we visited the old abandoned church we discovered last year while I was reviewing the Lexus LS. Last year, you and Calla were asleep so you didn’t get to check it out.

http://www.parents.com/blogs/dadabase/2014/01/01/the-dadabase/what-parents-do-when-the-kids-are-asleep-with-the-grandparents/

As we unloaded from the Lexus LX, Nana was concerned you’d fall out on the ground once I opened the door.

http://www.parents.com/blogs/dadabase/2014/01/01/the-dadabase/what-parents-do-when-the-kids-are-asleep-with-the-grandparents/

However, she saw that because there is an extra step before the running board, so combined with your climbing skills, you managed just fine.

http://www.parents.com/blogs/dadabase/2014/01/01/the-dadabase/what-parents-do-when-the-kids-are-asleep-with-the-grandparents/

So we did indeed attend church on Christmas day; we were just the only ones there.

http://www.parents.com/blogs/dadabase/2014/01/01/the-dadabase/what-parents-do-when-the-kids-are-asleep-with-the-grandparents/

Love,

Daddy

http://www.parents.com/blogs/dadabase/2014/01/01/the-dadabase/what-parents-do-when-the-kids-are-asleep-with-the-grandparents/

http://www.parents.com/blogs/dadabase/2014/01/01/the-dadabase/what-parents-do-when-the-kids-are-asleep-with-the-grandparents/