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.

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Dear Jack: Your Sister Truly Adores You More than I Realized

5 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: Your Sister Truly Adores You More than I Realized

Dear Jack,

It is important to me that the good and healthy relationship between you and your baby sister is not fabricated or superficial. I don’t want you to hear me saying to another adult, “Ah, he loves his sister and she loves him. They really love each other,” and then in turn you began fulfilling the script in an effort to please me.

Instead, I want to see true mutual love between you to; real and natural.

I have to say, my expectations have been exceeded greatly. You have yet to ever act intimidated by the attention she gets for being the cute little baby girl she is.

What I see instead, is that you are confident in yourself. You are not competing with her.

I say this because one of the first thoughts I had when Mommy and I learned that Holly would be coming, was, “I need to proactively make sure Jack gets enough attention since he won’t be the only child anymore.”

But honestly, it has yet to be an issue. You’re our Kindergartner boy. You are independent and assured.

Your identity is secure in being our firstborn son, not our baby girl. I see no struggle on your end for you to compete for your parents’ attention.

Just take a look at this picture I took of you and your sister before school. Obviously, you’re so proud to have her as your sister.

But just look at the way she looks at you.

That’s how it always is.

I can be on the living floor playing with her while Mommy is making dinner, but the moment she hears or sees you walking in from the other room, she immediately turns her attention directly to you.

She loves you. I think you need to expect her to look up to you from here on out.

Love,

Daddy

What Your Father’s Day Card Reveals About You

June 12, 2013 at 10:46 pm , by 

2 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack,

As I picked out my own dad’s Father’s Day card today, I noticed how they are designed for all the major types of dads. For example, there’s…

The Serious/Sentimental Dad– His card features a sophisticated black and white photo of dad and child.

As well as…

The Funny Dad– Expect a witty cartoon, a humorous photo, or some kind of lighthearted joke on his card.

And similarly…

The Fart Joke Dad– Like The Funny Dad, but specifically capitalizing on flatulence.

But don’ forget about…

The $1.99 Dad– This card tends to feature more generic language, steering away from words of affection like “dad” and “love.”

And of course…

The $.99 Dad– Here’s to one step away from not sending a card at all.

Yes, no kidding: At Kroger, they have both a$1.99 section as well as the $.99 section in the Father’s Day area.

It’s an interesting thought- that kids and adult children have to subconsciously figure out whether they have a serious/sentimental dad, or a fart joke dad, or a $1.99 dad.

I wonder if it changes throughout the years based on the child’s age.

For example, I could totally see you getting me a fart joke Father’s Day card when you’re 10 years old.

It sort of reminds me of an article I read onYahoo! Finance called “What You ‘Like’ On Facebook Can Be Revealing.”

For example, in theory, because of the fact I “like” Non-GMO ProjectOccupy MonsantoJulie BorowskiRon PaulParents Magazine, and Bruce Springsteen on Facebook, I am evidently making it somewhat obvious that I’m a a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, vegan dad who has accidentally caused his 2 and a half year-old son to now get upset in his car seat if he doesn’t get to listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits album on the way to school in the morning.

To me, a Father’s Day card is just as indirectly telling of what kind of dad one is perceived to be, at least in that moment, that year by their child.

I will never look at Father’s Day cards the same…

 

Love,

Daddy

 

Top photo: Night Drive Long Exposure, via Shutterstock.

Bottom photo: Knocked Out, via Shutterstock.

My “Greatest Hits” List of Parenthood, So Far

May 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm , by 

17 months.

My wife and I can’t relate to the concept of “trying” to have kids.

At the very beginning of 2010, we decided that we might consider starting our family around November of that year. Instead, our son Jack was born, not conceived, in November 2010.

(I’ll spare you the mysterious details on how exactly that happened ahead of schedule.)

Meanwhile, our very good friends Dave and Karen were living the opposite version of that story. For Christmas 2009, Dave told Karen that all he wanted for Christmas was to be a dad. Accordingly, she very much wanted to start having children as well.

But it hasn’t been easy. They have done everything in their power to get pregnant; from cutting edge new technology to alternative medicine. None of it has been effective.

I know it’s been an emotional journey for them. If there has been one thing Jill and I have prayed more for on a daily basis, it has been for Dave and Karen to be able to have a child.

When I think of the biggest-hearted people in my life, they both instantly come to mind.

In fact, they took us into their home twice (a total of over 6 months) as we were moving to Alabama and then again when we moved back to Nashville. Interestingly, when we brought Jack “home” from the hospital, it was their house we came back to. (In the picture above, they are holding the newborn Jack.)

They have sacrificed greatly for us; amidst the ease of us being able to have a child.

And this whole time, they’ve acted as if it was their privilege to do so.

Dave and Karen recently returned from a 2 week in vitro fertilization session in Colorado. We didn’t ask them about it because we knew they would let us know if it was successful.

Yesterday my wife Jill saw that she had missed a call from Karen. This video that Karen posted on her Facebook wall pretty much sums it all up:

It just so happened they we found out their wonderful news as we were watching a Season 3 episode of Lostcalled “Greatest Hits” where Charlie learns how and when he will die; he must sacrifice his life so that his girlfriend and her son can be rescued from the island.

In the hours leading up to his death, he writes out a greatest hits list of his entire life to give to his girlfriend for the moment she would learn of his death: The #1 “hit” was when he met her.

So that’s what got me thinking about this “Greatest Hits of Parenthood” list for myself.

My list so far would be A) Jack’s safe arrival into this world, B) the fact that we has blonde-hair and blue eyes though it doesn’t make much sense when you look at his parents, C) how at 15 months he started recognizing me as his dad and choosing to want to hang out with me even if my wife was in the room too, and D) Jack surviving his febrile seizure.

But never in my life have I ever felt so much joy because of a blessing in someone else’s life.

In fact, finding out that Dave and Karen are having a baby is definitely included now on my “greatest hits” list of being a parent.

And now they get to start their own greatest hits…

You get to help me with a small part for my upcoming “dad from day one” entry…

Give me an example of a popular and current father/husband on TV who is respected and loved by his family and is NOT known for constantly making comical messes- especially when it comes to goofing up home repairs or misbehaving in social outings.  *Bonus points if the guy is not shlubby and overweight yet married to a thin wife who is smart-witted, as to humorously contrast the father/husband’s character.

Examples of who I AM NOT looking for:

Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy”, Kevin James of “King of Queens”, and Jim Belushi of “According to Jim”.

Remember, I’m looking for a current example, so Ward Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” would be disqualified.  I will define “current” as “since 2004”, which is the year Friends went off the air and Lost began.

Also, he has to be a popular character on a decently cool and relevant show.  No ABC Family or Hallmark stuff.

He must be intelligent as well as faithful to his family, but he can’t be nerdy either.  So Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” won’t work.  Also, he can’t be a widow who is overcoming his wife’s death.  He has to be currently married to his wife on the show, giving an ongoing example of what a good husband and father is.

And… he can’t be killed off the show or marginalized in any way.  He has to be a solid, consistent character.

He is not perfect; he does make mistakes.  Therefore he is a real man and human being; he is not an alien or a robot.

The winning example will be published in the upcoming “dad from day one” post (possibly as part of the title itself) for thousands to see.

Answer the question: “Who is the modern Ward Cleaver?”

Impress me, friends.  Because in all my creativity the only example I can come up with is Adam Braverman on the series Parenthood.

***

Since writing this, I finished the post.  You can read it by clicking the title below:

dad from day one: The Return of the Classic American Father (Being the Modern Day Ward Cleaver)

dad from day one: Baby Boys Make Me Think of Middle-aged Men [Home Video Enhanced]

Week 12.

Whenever I see a baby boy, I usually think of a man between the ages of 45 and 65 years old, because while taking a child psychology class in college at Liberty University, I remember seeing side-by-side photographs in my textbook which compared a baby boy and a middle-aged man. The example showed how as a man grows older, he begins to look more like he did as a baby. (Baby girls don’t look like middle-aged women, though.)

Something that has become pretty apparent this week is that Jack (my son) and Jack (my dad) have a special connection. Baby Jack gravitates his attention towards my dad if he is in the room.  Not only is he fascinated by hearing his voice, but he also will get the biggest smile anytime my dad looks his way. And as these YouTube clips below will show, a certain side of Jack’s behavior only opens up for my dad.  Their relationship is unmatched even to my own relationship with my son, therefore convincing me there really is something to this “baby boy/middle-aged man” deal. I think it’s really cool to see the dynamics between Baby Jack and his Pappy.



On a less sentimental note, Jack reminds me of things other than just a middle-aged man.  When my wife is holding him on her shoulder, he often reminds me of a Glow Worm.  And when when gets confused, he looks like Mac the alien from the mostly forgotten movie Mac and Me.  And when he’s passionate about eating, he makes this grunting sound that is so similar to Mr. Peepers from Saturday Night Live: “Bah-bah-bah-bah!”

Eventually, he will make me think more of a little boy.  For right now, what I am seeing in him are his attempts at being human: like his attempts to walk, his attempts to talk, and even his attempts to show affection.  Whatever he reminds me of at any certain point in the day, something I am aware of is how adorable he is. Whether he reminds me of  a pet, an alien, or a stuffed animal from the Eighties, I just know I can’t imagine life without him.



Things that Baby Jack reminds me of right now:
 

Middle-aged men, like the magnificent Phil Collins

Mac the alien

Mr. Peepers (sounds like while eating, but doesn't look like)

a Glow Worm (when Jack is sleepy)

 



dad from day one: The Role of Control in Life (and What That Has to Do with “Guest Towels”)

Week 11.

You are looking at a picture of our “guest towels”.  If you are one of the 7 (maybe less?) males to actually be reading this, you will be just as confused as I once was to learn that despite their name, guest towels, these are not actually towels intended for guests to use.  Granted, we do have extra towels for when guests do actually stay at our home- but those are in our “guest bathroom” on the other end of the house.  As a guy, who is unable to see any logic in having guest towels in the bathroom attached to our bedroom that are actually only there to look nice and for decoration, not actually for guests to use,  I found comfort in watching many male stand up comics who made a routine out of the same topic.

I am becoming more and more aware of how little control I actually have over my own life; much less my own house.  Because another common topic that married male stand up comics talk about is the fact that they don’t know where anything in their own house belongs: like the mixing bowl, the stapler, and of course, the real guest towels that are actually intended for guests for use.  And now it makes so much more sense why it is so common for the man of the house to spend time in his “man cave”, whether it is his garage, his shop, or even the yard.  Why? Because while in his solitude, he has a sense of control over something on the land he owns or rents.

Jack's first taste of a pineapple.

I’m at a point in my life where I am constantly reminded of what little I actually do control right now.  With tomorrow reaching the 2 month mark of unemployment, the dignity of providing for my family has been surrendered. And without that, I also feel like I can’t control my time (because I feel guilty if I’m not constantly doing something constructive to find a job).  Starting on Christmas Day and ending yesterday (Groundhog Day), after my wife and son went to sleep each night, I would spend an hour or so revisiting my video game past.  I took take the time to go through all 3 Super Mario Bros. games on regular Nintendo, Super Mario World for Super NES, and New Super Mario Bros. for WII,  and beat them without using any Game Genies or Warp Zones (which again may only interest the 7 or less men reading this).  And while there is something seemingly pathetic about a jobless, 29 year-old guy cheering out loud because he beat Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time in his life; for me, it was a major sense of accomplishment.

I controled those old-school, 8-bit Nintendo games.  And in some slightly true sense, I had control over my time as well.

I think it’s easy to overlook the importance of control in life.  Why is it that if you drive into certain “bad neighborhoods” that the residents stand in the road or take their sweet time crossing the street, knowing that you need to get by?  It’s gives them a sense of control.  Why are there rapists in the world?  Well, the easy answer is “the depravity of man” or “lust” or “an unfulfilled sex drive”.  But to me it’s pretty obvious that their hideous crime is also largely fueled by a lack of control in their own lives.  For more times than I can remember, it seems any time I watch a story on NBC Dateline about a rapist, he was emotionally, physically, or sexually abused growing up.  Some people will do anything for the sense of control in their own life.

So what can I do right now?  What can I actually control in my life at this moment? I can help with the basic needs of my son.  I can control whether or not he gets fed, held, played with, and nurtured.  And perhaps the best part, I can make him do funny, weird stunts to be featured on YouTube.  Because hey, what else am I going to do until I get a real job?