Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

5 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

Dear Jack,

This past Sunday during your last (assumed) weekend as an only child, I took you to your friend Kendyl’s 5th birthday party on the other side of town. It was a time of several “firsts” for you…

Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

It was the first time you had a friend from school who had their birthday party in their yard at their house, instead of an official party place like Chuck E. Cheese.

Therefore, it was the first time you got to play in a “bouncy house” in a friend’s yard at a birthday party. (It should be no surprise that I helped add even more thrill by serving as the “monster” who chased any kids who tried to escape from the bouncy house.)

Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

You also got to try cotton candy for the first time; as they had a machine there that made it there on the spot. You liked the cotton candy, but you also seemed confused by it.

Another first for you at Kendyl’s party was chocolate coins. You really thought they were cool. Since it was hot outside, you decided to only eat one there at the party, then take the rest home; where they are currently chilling out in our refrigerator.

Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

And perhaps the biggest first was the piñata. You’ve known about them for years now, having seen them on your favorite shows. But finally you got to experience it yourself.

Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

You were 2nd in line; behind the birthday girl of course.

Her mom did a wonderful job putting the party together. No one was in a hurry to leave. We would have stayed longer had we not needed to get home to check on Mommy.

Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

You had a blast. This was the kind of birthday party you see on TV shows and movies. It was a special fun time for your last weekend as an only child… unless Holly is born next week instead.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Coins, and a Piñata

Laughing, Looking Back on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

After 7 and a half years of marriage, my wife took it upon herself to go through our hundreds of wedding photos and put the best of them in a new album for us to enjoy.

So we sat down a couple of weeks ago, before continuing our binge watching of Making a Murderer on Netflix, to look through our newly compiled wedding album.

I soon realized that I had probably seen most of those pictures only once before, about 7 and a half years ago when we first received the photos from the photographer we hired.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

The first thing I immediately noticed was how different I looked. Those were what I refer to as my “bloated Elvis days”.

That was back when I ate whatever I wanted. Those were the days I would secretly sneak in trips to McDonald’s without my then soon-to-be bride knowing about it; she herself hadn’t been there since 1999, when she simply got an ice cream cone from the drive-through.

Granted, my wife’s health conscious-mindset rubbed off on me, and as we all know, now years into my faithfully vegan lifestyle, I now live a life free of pet allergies, sinus infections, headaches, eczema (dishydrosis), and somewhere around 30 pounds extra that I was carrying around in these old pictures.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

The second thing I noticed was my beautiful bride at our wedding (age 26) looks just as beautiful today (age 34).

And the third thing I couldn’t help but notice was that, clearly, everyone there was having a truly wonderful time.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

When you’re in the middle of your own wedding and reception, you can only take in and remember so much; especially 7 and a half years later.

Seeing these pictures showed me that not simply did our guests have fun, but they had a remarkably entertaining night out in the legendary little big town of Nashville.

That’s a good thing, considering the financial investment that a wedding is.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

We had what I would consider a big wedding and big reception. I feel it was the kind of wedding you see in movies.

Even I myself had only been to a few weddings of that caliber.

It was a party. It was a feast.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

It was a wedding of Biblical proportions, where Jesus could have performed His first miracle; when He turned the water into wine.

Not to mention, it was the perfect opportunity for all the Baptists on my side to be able to get away with drinking alcohol; as it serves as a “special occasion” to keep their consciences from bothering them as badly; an unwritten rule in the by-laws of Baptist culture.

Meanwhile, my wife’s guests had no hesitation. (They come from a Catholic background… enough said.)

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

Not one person in any of these pictures look like they’re just standing there, bored. People are smiling, laughing, and dancing.

There’s this one funny picture where one of my soon-to-be brothers-in-law is dancing with one of my soon-to-be nephews, like they are at a prom. I laugh every time I see it.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

One of my favorite pictures of all these is one from the father-daughter dance.

My father-in-law passed away just a couple of months after our wedding. Knowing he was sick, my wife’s many siblings (she has 9) gathered around my wife and my father-in-law while Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella” played.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

I am so grateful for this candid shot of my father-in-law in that historic moment.

So while our wedding cost more than a decent car, looking back on it, it was one amazing wedding.

On my own, I wouldn’t have sat down and looked through our wedding pictures. But thanks to my wife taking the time to put together this new album, it was a blessing to revisit that special day.Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego Themed 4th Birthday Party

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

4 years old.

Dear Jack,

It is true, you are now a 4 year-old! And I can absolutely without a doubt tell you that you had an awesome 4th birthday and birthday party.

Knowing the relevance of Legos, given the fact you will spend hours at a time building Optimus Prime and Dinobots, we booked your party months ago at a place called Bricks 4 Kidz.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

That was the best decision for your party. Not only did you and your friends have a great time playing with Legos, but the parents felt at ease, yet still involved, with all the action.

Dear Jack: We Actually Let You Open Your Presents At Your Birthday Party

There were also optional peripheral activities going on for any of your friends who wanted to mix things up; like making a cool spiral design on a paper plate using a Lego-operated device.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

This made the first birthday party you’ve had outside of our home; I quickly realized how stress-free it truly is when you don’t have to worry about anything.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

Your birthday party was on autopilot; it flowed so well.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

The only thing we were really responsible for was bringing the food, which, you know me… that’s a big deal.

I made sure that in addition to your party having a Lego theme, that it also had a “no artificial anything” theme as well.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

These days, you really have to go out of your way to find “birthday food” that doesn’t have garbage ingredients in it, like artificial food dyes, animal bi-products, or mysterious chemicals.

Of course, for me, your vegan dad, I knew just where to look…

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

I reached out to Annie’s and GoGo Squeez and they helped donate the majority of the snacks for your party. They are just as passionate as I am about spreading the word about the importance of eating real food.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

Obviously, your friends loved our Annie’s crackers & cookies and Go Go Squeez pouch buffet!

And that was in addition to your vegan birthday cake that I special ordered from Whole Foods. You said you wanted it to be chocolate with blue icing, so that’s exactly what you got.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

It was so good…

No eggs, no dairy, no artificial dyes or flavors… no problem! We liked it so much that Mommy and I (jokingly?) talked about ordering another cake from Whole Foods to celebrate when we move into our new house in January.

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

So not only was there plenty of fun to be had at your 4th birthday party, but I was able to feel confident that I was serving you and your friends the best “birthday food” out there: Annie’s, Go Go Squeez, and Whole Foods vegan birthday cake.

Of course, there is that whole part about you opening the presents, but more on that in the next letter…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Your “No Artificial Anything” Lego-Themed 4th Birthday Party

How to Hang Out with Friends and Have Fun

 

An instinct we had as kids is that we always knew how to hang out, without a plan or agenda. In the way that Adam and Eve were not at first aware of their nakedness, we used to have the blessing of being unaware of social awkwardness and social cues. It’s an ability that began to escape us sometime around junior high. When I was a kid, it didn’t matter which friend I was hanging out with after school or spending the night with, we never got bored or recognized that we were about to run out of activities or subjects to talk about.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that as kids we knew “how to play”. Though I may not be a girl, I remember my sister and her friends always seemed to be playing “House”. Females socialize. Males, on the other hand, compete.

As boys we would go outside, often to the woods, to play out some sort of good guys/bad guys scenario. Our version of “Cops and Robbers” was more like Ninja Turtles Vs. Shredder. Bikes and water balloons were often part of the plan. When we got tired, we’d go inside and play Nintendo until we had regained enough energy to initiate a wrestling match on the carpet. And there was the trampoline too. Hours of fun.

But as adults, we don’t use “playing” anymore as the main way to interact with our friends.

It’s not as simple as an adult just to tell a friend, “Let’s hang out at my house after work today”. In many cases, the hanging out is done outside of the home. Instead of playing like we did as kids, adults talk and “catch up”. But there is always a staple to bring the people together. It may be sharing a meal, going to watch a game or movie, or a showing up at a party associated with a holiday or sports event.

But the most simple and common thing I see is people going out for coffee, beer, or wine. The drink serves as a campfire. In the same way people gather around a campfire and find comfort in it with those around them, a drink of choice magically sets the fertile environment for good conversation no matter the location. If by chance the friends find themselves in a noticeably quiet moment, it’s easy to fall back on the easy conversation piece: “Starbucks is wonderful”, “Good beer”, or “I love this wine.” Obviously it’s good. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the modern day campfire.

The one exception and yet another reason to love Paul Rudd in a bromantic situation…