Dear Jack: Creeping Critters are Easy to Find in Alabama

8 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

One of your favorite things to do when you stay at Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama is to go outside and find wildlife.

I’ve noticed it never takes much effort nor time for you to come back from the yard with a collection of bugs and/or lizards.

Granted, some of the bugs end up becoming the dinner of the lizards.

So for a 2 grade boy spending his Spring Break in the mountains of Alabama, what better way to spend hours of daylight then to go out explore nature… and then to bring that nature back with you!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Dear Jack,

Throughout my entire childhood, as Papa drove our family to and from Chattanooga where his side of family lives, we would always pass this brown government sign, pointing towards Cloudland Canyon State Park; near Trenton, Georgia.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

I never stopped wondering what was there, just 4 miles off the main road. So I decided to make it an official stop on our 1st father and son road trip.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Neither of our preconceived ideas of Cloudland Canyon State Park were accurate. I was expecting something much smaller and mediocre. And you later revealed to me you thought it was like a carnival with rides.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

However, we were both very pleased with what the park actually is. It was amazing!

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

There’s a walkway that goes along the side of Lookout Mountain, which allowed us to see down into the valley… way down there.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

And at one part of the trail, we were able to climb a staircase down to a really cool viewpoint.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

I think my favorite part of our visit to Cloudland Canyon was when you looked out and announced, “Oh, I see the 10 Commandments.”

(It was actually a set of rock posts that are part of another trail across the valley.)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

When you are older, I will take you back because there’s another trail that is 2 hours long that goes all the way down to where there’s a waterfall! Maybe in a year or two you’ll be ready for that. I am really looking forward to that…

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

So it turns out that my whole life, there really was something pretty awesome, had we just turned 4 miles down that road where the brown government sign was.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Cloudland Canyon State Park is a wondrous place to visit. After we left there, we opened the sun roof in the Lexus ES, per your request, and enjoyed the breeze as we made our way closer to Fort Payne, Alabama.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Ghostbusters and The BFG (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

But first, I had a surprise stop planned: an old chapel built into a giant rock…

Love,

Daddy

P.S.

Here’s the collection of stories from our father and son road trip…

Ghostbusters and the BFG

Nick A Jack Road

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel

Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park

2016 Lexus ES 300h Father & Son Road Trip (Table of Contents)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Dear Jack: We’ll Definitely Be Dangerous… We Just Won’t Get Hurt

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack:

Dear Jack,

I suppose it’s safe to say a new weekly ritual is in full swing. This makes the 3rd weekend in a row where you and I have gone exploring in the surrounding neighborhoods, using a creek that begins in our backyard
as our road.

Dear Jack:

Before Mommy left the house to get her “pre-going into labor haircut” and then to Kroger to buy groceries, she smiled and told me, “Be safe. Don’t be dangerous out there.”

I smiled back and promised her,

“Oh, we’ll definitely be dangerous- we just won’t get hurt.”

About 20 minutes later as you and I were about to turn out of our neighborhood in my Honda Element, I asked you, “Jack, where you want to explore today?”

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

We decided to pick up where we left off last week, this time following the creek in the opposite direction. You quickly found the wooden plank you discovered and left behind on Sunday, deciding to take it with us for today’s entire journey.

The plank served three purposes:

#1. A shovel to help you make “chocolate milk” in the creek.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/03/24/dear-jack-our-new-canon-powershot-g7-x-camera/

#2. A portable table to help you see your instantly growing rock collection.

Dear Jack:

#3. A bridge to help you get across the creek when you didn’t feel like jumping.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/03/24/dear-jack-our-new-canon-powershot-g7-x-camera/

The further down the creek we trekked, the more exciting and potentially dangerous things became.

You had to make your way across the rocks and the water of the creek by depending on half-rotted boards that were already placed there by other adventurers.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

And then when we finally came across a more legitimate bridge, even it was crooked; like something from a cartoon movie.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

Even as I’m telling you this now, it sounds like some kind of weird dream we both experienced.

When we go exploring together, we never really know what surprises await us. Well, fate would have it that we just happened to be aligned with these two tunnels leading up to the bank of a pond…

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

So we crawled through one. Once on the other side, you found an old pumpkin there in the water. I’m not sure why, since this is March, not November.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

After that, we clumsily journeyed back to the street and found my car; you were exhausted by that point. But we still had about 45 minutes before Mommy would be home, so I talked you to in to letting me take you on a drive.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

You and I have wondered for over a year now, since we moved to Spring Hill, about that that big blue water tower we had been seeing in the distance.

So we checked it out.

Dear Jack: I Will Be Serving as Your Guide to Danger and the Unknown

We were high up enough where we could even see our own neighborhood and church.

I’m glad you like exploring as much as I do. I suppose it’s becoming a mutual hobby for us.

And though we were slightly dangerous the whole time, we came back home to Mommy without any injuries.

Love,

Daddy

 

My New Kids’ Show- Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest (Webisodes 1-3)

Uncle Nick Official Title Card

After filming 22 webisodes of Jack-Man from May through October this year, I decided to take a break from that and create a new web series; one that is specifically designed as a kids’ show, as opposed to the sci-fi super hero sitcom format of Jack-Man.

My idea was to create a show in which my niece could watch and be entertained by on YouTube. So I began combining elements of entertainment I thought would be appreciated by a 4 year-old.

Think of my new show, Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest, sort of as an updated version of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but that is more outdoors based.

The show always begins with me introducing the audience to an old trinket that I just found. In the first webisode, it’s a harmonica.

I taught myself a few riffs the day before I filmed, and decided to record the theme song based off of my experimentation.

Another ritual is that I remind the viewers how to do my “enchanted animal call” before I put on my puffy vest.

Once we arrive outside in the Enchanted Forest, I lead the viewers in officially doing the enchanted animal call, which then invites an enchanted animal to the scene.

These first couple of webisodes feature the theme of bullying.

My plan for now is to continue featuring my son’s stuffed animal collection as the characters in the forest.

I intend to film at least 3 more webisodes during Christmas weekend; with the goal of ultimately reaching 22 like I did with Jack-Man.

By the time I reach the 22nd webisode, the series will naturally evolve to where it needs to be. As I learned from making Jack-Man, making the first dozen webisodes teaches me how to actually direct and produce the show. That way, by the 2nd dozen or so webisodes, the show is more crafted.

In the words, the quality will increase as the show progresses.

As for now, these are the first 3 original webisodes of Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Playground. My dream is to one day host my own kids’ show on a television network.

This is me building my dream.

Dear Jack: The 1st Month Of Living In Our New House

4 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Month In Our New House

Dear Jack,

It was January 29th, more than 5 weeks ago, that we closed on our new house and began moving our stuff in. The next day, we slept in our new house for the first time.

Dear Jack: The 1st Month Of Living In Our New House

I didn’t plan to start chronicling each week in our new house the way I’ve done with my letters to you for the past (nearly) 5 years, but it’s just turned out that way (since these posts about our new house have proven to remain very popular among readers).

Dear Jack: Our 1st Month In Our New House

At this point, we’re obviously settled in our new life, in our new house. Other than finishing up hanging some wall decorations, and waiting on our new sofa to arrive next Saturday, we’re pretty much past the moving in stage.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Month In Our New House

This past Saturday, it was finally warm enough outside for you and me to go out and play together for the first time in our cul-de-sac. For the past couple of weeks since the big freeze, you had been asking to go play where the neighbors’ remaining snowman is on the sidewalk.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Month In Our New House

You have collected a decent number of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars that served as great snowplows. In fact, one of them even buried St. Peter in the snow! Fortunately, a dinosaur helped save him, as the shark from Finding Nemo watched from above.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Month In Our New House

From there, we finally got to walk along the sidewalk trail along the woods, which circles around to our cul-de-sac.

We were able to walk along a treacherous board where the sidewalk ended…

Dear Jack: Our 1st Month In Our New House

Sit on a broken tree, throw huge rocks…

We were able to walk along a treacherous board where the sidewalk ended...

And even go “fishing”…

Before we headed back to our house, you made a “Mintacinno” out of some things you found on the ground as we walked together.

We were able to walk along a treacherous board where the sidewalk ended...

It’s still currently melting on our front porch right now.

I should also point out this was the week in history in which you obtained “Blueberry”, a new stuffed animal that Mommy and I let you get after your marble set we got you for Christmas got broken in the move.

We were able to walk along a treacherous board where the sidewalk ended...

Blueberry means a lot to you; it’s quite evident. I was surprised you actually let me name your new bear.

It’s funny because actually Blueberry it’s one of those “My First Bears,” designed for newborns.

Hi Nick!  Here are some photos of Jack working on his wood working!   He was so proud of himself being able to use a real hammer and nails. He was very adamant about building a house. Even though he hit his finger with the hammer, he was brave and kept going (with a little help from myself) He used paint to decorate his building. He also made an "octopus monster" with styrofoam.    -Aimee

You don’t see it that way.

As for your new school, Rainbow Child Care Center, things couldn’t be better. Here’s a note I got from your teacher this week:

Hi Nick!

Here are some photos of Jack working on his wood working! He was so proud of himself being able to use a real hammer and nails. He was very adamant about building a house. Even though he hit his finger with the hammer, he was brave and kept going (with a little help from myself). He used paint to decorate his building.He also made an “octopus monster” with Styrofoam.
-Ms. Aimee

Hi Nick!  Here are some photos of Jack working on his wood working!   He was so proud of himself being able to use a real hammer and nails. He was very adamant about building a house. Even though he hit his finger with the hammer, he was brave and kept going (with a little help from myself) He used paint to decorate his building. He also made an "octopus monster" with styrofoam.    -Aimee

It’s been a great first month! This move has been a great thing for us. New house, new school, and a new version of life.

And, thanks to your teacher Ms. Aimee letting us know about it, we ended up buying tickets for the Repticon (reptile exhibition) in Franklin, TN next weekend!

Oh yes, pictures will follow…

Love,

Daddy

Hi Nick!  Here are some photos of Jack working on his wood working!   He was so proud of himself being able to use a real hammer and nails. He was very adamant about building a house. Even though he hit his finger with the hammer, he was brave and kept going (with a little help from myself) He used paint to decorate his building. He also made an "octopus monster" with styrofoam.    -Aimee

Book Review: The Truth About Nature, By Stacy Tornio And Ken Keffer

I’ve had a few people curiously ask me why it seems I never seem to review products that I don’t like; from cars, to food, to toys, to books.

Here’s why: I don’t feel it’s worth my time and effort to type up 500 words on a product I don’t believe in.

That’s why I do my research on a product before I review it, to make sure it meets my strict qualifications and standards before I invest in it.

Review of The Truth About Nature Book By Stacy Tornio And Ken Keffer

With that being said, I believe in this book: The Truth About Nature: A Familiy’s Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors, written by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer; illustrations by Rachel Riordan.

My nearly 4 year-old son believes in this book too, but for different reasons.

Jack likes the book because he makes a fun game out of “finding the animals” in the 212 pages, most of which contain at least one illustration of the animal that page features.

“Daddy, I found the blue jay!” he proclaims from the back seat on the way home from school, with our copy of The Truth About Nature in hand.

The Truth About Nature Book

What I personally like about the book is that in a few years, once Jack is able to start comprehending words other than his name when he reads them, he will learn some really cool facts about animals that most people don’t know.

Here’s an excerpt:

Myth 106: Animals sleep with their eyes closed. Sleep varies a great deal from one animal to the next. Some sleep standing up. Some sleep during the day. Some even sleep with their eyes open… Dolphins are the most fascinating sleepers. They actually sleep with one eye open and continue to swim while they’re sleeping!

Like my son, I also appreciate the book’s illustrations. I want to classify the style as “Portland, Oregon postcard from 1983.” The drawings are classic, nostalgic, and enchanted.

The retail price is $18.95. Again, this is a beefy book, with 212 pages.

Our family has discovered it makes a great “road trip” book with all our reviews of cars that we do. This book is entertaining in an interesting way, not simply just in a trivial way.

Review of The Truth About Nature Book By Stacy Tornio And Ken Keffer

The authors, Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, have already proven they know what they’re doing when it comes to writing books. Their previous book, The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things To Do In Nature Before You Grow Up, was a winner of the National Outdoor Book Award.

Also, FYI, in case you’re interested in the authors coming to your child’s school, they are currently having a contest for that:

So there you go: I officially endorse The Truth About Nature. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the time and effort to be telling you about it today.

You can learn more about the book here on their website. Thanks for reading my blog today!

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dad from day one: Baby Jack the Boy Scout at DeSoto State Park (Nature Vs. Nurture)

Week 15.

Now that the weather is getting nicer, we the parents are very excited about taking advantage of the dozens of trails near us at DeSoto State Park.  That means Baby Jack gets to go hiking with us.  Fortunately, he actually enjoys hiking, even if he’s asleep for most of the time.

I should point out these aren’t simply 20 minutes walks I’m referring to.  I’m talking 3 and a half mile hikes- not just easy, flat trails.  When he is awake during his hikes, he loves to look up at the blue sky, which matches his eyes. Conveniently, we haven’t had to change his diapers during these journeys.  But of course, we feed and change him right before we embark into the forest, to make things easier for Jack and for us.

I don’t know if it’s normal for a 3 month old to enjoy hiking.  But I guess now it’s normal to him.  I help create his reality like that.  It’s a classic case of “nature vs. nurture”.  I am nurturing him to appreciate nature.  And he’s buying it.