Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

6 years.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Jack,

Two years ago when you turned 4, Mommy and I paid around $300 to have a birthday party for you at one of those play centers. It barely lasted 2 hours and there was only space for about a dozen of your friends. While it was definitely fun, it was a lot of money for such a short amount of time.

Then a year ago for your 5th birthday, Mommy and I took you to Destin, Florida; celebrating over the course of a 4 day weekend. I would have loved to do that again…

But this year was different. You now have a 6 month-old baby sister. Plus, we just came back from a huge trip to San Diego last month.

So between being mindful of our finances and knowing it’s not a wise idea to take a baby to Florida on a road trip, we decided to do something cool and creative for your birthday party this year…

We took you to Opry Mills Mall in Nashville and gave you $100 cash to spend however you wanted. It was a win-win for everybody!

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Fortunately, Nonna and Papa were able to drive up for the event and celebrate with us. It wouldn’t have been the same without them. Mommy and I were therefore able to focus more attention on you, the birthday boy, as Nonna and Papa took care of your baby sister.

I recognize that with Mommy and me both working full-time and taking care of a baby, an extra adult or two to help out is a huge deal; especially in the midst of trying to give you a true birthday celebration.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

The first store you choose to visit was the Toys R Us outlet, where to our surprise, you bought a Puppy in My Pocket collection. Once you got home though, the choice made a lot more sense.

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Your tiny puppy pets received quite the special treatment, as you had each of us 4 adults adopt 2 of the puppies from a plastic “doggie bag.”

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Next on your tour was Claire’s, which confused me at first, until I realized you found a special holiday-themed “big-eyed animal,” a reindeer with a red nose. Immediately after, I had Mommy take my picture at Sprint, next to my cardboard cut-out doppelganger.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

Similarly, you took us to a candy store next, called It’Sugar, but not for the sake of buying candy. Instead, you found a snowman big-eyed animal from Ty.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

After that we made a trip through the Lego Store, where you picked up a few packets of Pixels.

Now that you had purchased smaller items with your stipend, you began moving on to bigger purchase items. At the Aquarium restaurant, you found a really cool alligator that I liked.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

By that point, it was getting time for us all to eat lunch. In addition to the $100 cash, we also told you we would take you to lunch anywhere you wanted in Opry Mills Mall. You you opted for Moe’s Southwest Grill. Granted, I had no complaints, as Moe’s is very accommodating to my vegan lifestyle.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

Welcome to Moe’s!

We were also still celebrating Papa’s 60th birthday, from the day before. That means he got Moe’s for his birthday lunch too.

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For your official birthday cake, we headed over to the Rainforest Café and ordered the volcano cake, which you thought was awesome. You loved seeing the animals “come to life” throughout our visit there.

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Plus, you spent some more of your money there. You bought a shark tooth necklace and a snake slap bracelet.

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

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But of course I would have to say that the main event was going to Build-a-Bear Workshop. Though I know you were tempted by Pete the Dragon, since we saw that movie back in August, you ended up choosing a blue reindeer instead.

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You went all out: You had her scented with peppermint, you bought her a cloak, and you even purchased a backpack to carry her around in.

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After all that excitement, we had been at the mall for nearly 5 hours and you had spent nearly all your money; with the exception of a few quarters.

So you used them for the toy dispenser machines, buying some little robots and monsters.

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We all had a wonderful time! If it’s up to me, I would love to have your next birthday at Opry Mills Mall as well.

Not only is it cheaper than a birthday party at most party places, but it gives you more freedom to explore and spend the money according to exactly what you want.

You definitely had a Happy Birthday!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Your 6th Birthday Party (and $100 Shopping Spree) at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee

@shOpryMills @ToysRUs @claires @ITSUGAR @LEGO_Group @Moes_HQ @RainForest_Cafe

@buildabear #vegan

Dear Jack: Our Ride on “Those Animals” at the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville

5 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: Our Ride on “Those Animals” at the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville

Dear Jack,

After we saw the premiere of the movie Pup Star last Saturday, we decided to walk around the Opry Mills Mall since we were already there. With that mall being about an hour from our house in Spring Hill, it’s not a place we get to go to often.

Nearly immediately after leaving the theatre and entering the main hall of the mall, you and were pleasantly surprised yet confused to see smiling children riding these giant stuffed animals.

They reminded me of blurry memories I have from my first summer teaching English in Thailand back in 2004. I remember seeing something like this in the bottom floor of a mall, but I think it just rocked back and forth a little bit after you put in a coin.

What you and I saw, though… it was different. Kids were actually driving these animals like a motorized scooter or something, but the vehicles were completely quiet.

Within a few minutes, we had walked far enough in the mall for the mystery to be solved. We had discovered the station for Those Animals; a service that enables children 6 and older to drive electric scooters around the mall.

Since you are 3 months shy of your 6th birthday, I had to ride with you, but it was more fun I did. With a 500 pound weight limit on the vehicle, my 162 pound body wasn’t a threat.

You managed the throttle and I handled the steering. We made the perfect team!

Out of the dozen or so animals to choose from, you quickly chose the red and black dragon. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this experience is how affordable it was.

It only cost $6 for a 10 minute ride.

After we got home and told Mommy about it, we decided that we’re taking you back to Opry Mills Mall for your 6th birthday in November.

We’re going to tour the mall, giving you an allowance for Build-a-Bear and The Lego Store, as well as at The Rainforest Café where we’ll be having lunch.

And of course, I’m sure we’ll take another ride on one of Those Animals. Maybe this time, we’ll ride longer than 10 minutes.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Ride on “Those Animals” at the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville

The Nashville Flood of 2010

As my wife and I drove back to Nashville from a B&B in Burnside, KY on Sunday afternoon, we began receiving texts and calls from friends warning us to stop wherever we were and stay in a hotel for the night.  All three of the major interstates going through Nashville were closed (I-24, I-40, I-65) and that most exits were shut down as well.  Nashville was undergoing a flood.

So we took the next exit, which was White House, TN, not far from the Kentucky border.  Churches had all cancelled.  School the next day was cancelled.  Houses were being destroyed.  People were drowning.

And we had no way to even get to our own house.  So in our room in the Holiday Inn Express, we watched the local news try to sort out what was going on.  The Opryland Hotel, which was scheduled to have a huge conference this week, not only had to cancel all its festivities, but also send away all his guests.

Thank God, our house went untouched by the flood, though just a few miles away, the town center was underwater.  One of the most memorable events we watched was when the local news covered the flood from their helicopter.  As they were filming the parking lot of the Opry Mills mall, which for all practical purposes had became a lake, the cameraman spotted a minivan with two people on top of it.

The water was up to the top of the windows.  They appeared to be a middle-aged Korean couple.  The husband was standing up, waving a red shirt up at the helicopter as his wife remained lying down, appearing to be exhausted from trying to remain on top of the minivan all night in the pouring rain.

About a quarter of a mile away, there were two men driving a motorboat.  As everyone watching from home had hoped, eventually the men in the boat rescued the stranded couple.

When we first saw the man on the van, he was wearing no pants- just his underwear and a shirt.  But by the time the boat got closer, he slipped his pants back on.  My guess is that his rain-soaked pants were keeping him cold, so he just took them off until he realized he was actually being rescued.

Based on their interactions, it appeared the couple didn’t speak much English.  I would love to know the whole story.  That had to be one horrible night for them.

Though we were able to make it back to our house safely on Monday since most roads have reopened, unfortunately, so far around 18 deaths have been confirmed.  And there are countless people who lost their homes and did not have flood insurance, being that Nashville is a low-risk area for floods.

Here is an article telling more about the Nashville Flood of 2010:

http://www.startribune.com/nation/92657684.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUsZ

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one