Dear Holly: Just Add Straws, a Tongue Depressor, and a Liquid Medicine Dispenser to Play-Doh for an Easy Hour Long Activity

3 years, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

After watching you brother accidentally yet successfully make creepy tapeworms to fight each other, you decided you wanted to join in on the fun.

You asked me for toothpicks like I gave your brother. I let you have two, but I decided that orange straws to match your orange Play-Doh might be more interesting to you. A few minutes later, I threw in a liquid medicine dispenser as well as a tongue depressor.

For a 3 year-old girl, this perfectly challenged you for an hour. You had so much fun figuring out the many ways you could incorporate the Play-Doh accordingly.

I will have to remember this simply yet engaging activity for next weekend too!


Dear Jack: Making Creepy Tapeworms Out of Play-Doh, Then Making Them Fight

8 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

As I was cleaning the bathrooms Saturday afternoon, I noticed that you grabbed several toothpicks as you were working on a Play-Doh project at the kitchen table.

Eventually, the commentary began:

“Hey Daddy, look! This snake totally just bit the other one but the the other snake stabbed him with the spikes on his back…”

I was happy to see your creativity in action. But I did have to point out that they reminded me more of tape worms. Once I showed you a picture of them on my phone, you easily agreed that you had indeed been unknowingly making and fight giant tapeworms.

Maybe that was better, actually- since tapeworms are arguably creepier than snakes.



Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

5 years.

Dear Jack,

We just got back from your “destination birthday party” in Destin, Florida. Instead of having a party back home in Tennessee, the 3 of us (technically 4, if you count Baby Holly or Logan in the womb) decided to take a family vacation to celebrate your 5th birthday. To make things extra special for you, Lexus let us drive a Lexus GX for the trip!

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

Over the next week or so, I’ll be writing plenty more about your destination birthday party. But as for today, I should mention one of the overall themes our 4 ½ day vacation.

As we were leaving Tennessee, I Instagrammed a picture of you with the stuffed animals you chose to bring on the trip.

Jack is bringing a few of his friends along for the ride.

          Jack is bringing a few of his friends along for the ride.

In the likeness of the 1985 movie Brewster’s Millions, you felt the need to spend all $100’s worth of your gift cards you received as birthday presents before we left Florida.

Mommy and I put the additional cash and checks that you received into your savings account, but as the $100 in gift cards, we decided it was fair to let you manage how it was spent.

After all, it was your birthday party and birthday weekend. Mommy and I wanted it to truly be a big deal to you.

So as soon as we arrived in Destin, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble where you spent your first $15; on a “Shark Week” shark.

I Instagrammed that event as well:

And the beginning of the birthday money spending begins...

 And the beginning of the birthday money spending begins…

We took you to Target to let you possibly spend some of your remaining $85. While Mommy looked around for stuff she needed, I hung out with you for nearly an hour in the toy aisle; serving as your budget manager.

I helped explain to you how much things cost and how much remaining birthday money you would have if you bought that item.

For example, you were interested in a Power Ranger gun that you had seen on their show… but it cost $27!

You ended up buying a $13 Play-Doh ice cream shop. And boy did you have fun with that once we got back to the resort!

However, that was the only item you spent your $100 on that wasn’t a stuffed animal.

You later bought a baby shark while we were on the dolphin cruise. And then a baby penguin when we visited the Gulfarium. Then several more stuffed animals throughout the course of our trip…

Of course, we reminded you that you didn’t have to spend all $100 on the trip. But again, it was your birthday, so we wanted it to be your decision on how you spent the money; since it wasn’t cash that Mommy and I would have put in your savings account without you knowing it.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

We reminded you had enough money to buy anything at all you wanted… even a brand-new bike!

However, the reality of it is that as a 5 year-old boy whose parents both work full time, there’s not a lot of time for you to ride your bike; especially since how weekends are often filled with running errands, like buying groceries and getting maintenance done on our cars.

When I considered which toys you actually spend the most time playing with, it’s not the plastic ones so much.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

Granted, you love building Legos and you love your massive Hot Wheels and Thomas the Train collections… but ultimately, your exhaustive stuffed animal collection gets the most play time.

Every morning when we get ready for school, you always choose 2 animals to take to school with you.

I get it. You don’t see them as toys, but as real animals that you enjoy taking care of. You love pretend that they are babies that you are in charge of.

Granted, that concept goes well with the fact you have a baby brother or sister on the way…

I recognize these stuffed animals serve as tools for your psychological and social development. They’re much more than just stuffed animals.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

So it doesn’t bother me that you spent $100 on stuffed animals (and a Play-Doh set) during your destination birthday party. I’m all for it.

I’m for whatever toys are going to help your development as a little boy. You spent most of your $100 on stuffed animals because in your currency, they hold more value than any other kind of toy.

Ultimately, a decade from now, it’s all the same anyway. Looking back, I’ll know that whether you spent your birthday money on stuffed animals or Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles, it made you happy as a boy on 5th birthday.

And that’s all that matters to me.



Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

4 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

Dear Jack,

This year for Christmas, it worked out for our family to spend about 5 days at my parents’ house in Fort Payne, Alabama.

So last Tuesday after I got off work, and after you and Mommy had visited both Primrose and Rainbow daycare facilities as we decide which one to transfer you to once we move into our new house in a month (our closing date is exactly a month from today), we loaded up the 2014 Lexus LX 570 and made our way across the Tennessee state line.

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

After we settled in that night (December 23rd), I noticed something:

The Christmas tree’s ornaments serve as a 1980s time capsule.

Those ornaments mainly consist of decorations collected during my childhood.

There are crocheted ornaments clearly displaying the year “1987” on them. There is also an array of ornaments I made in school and church, from 1987 to 1991.

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

In fact, the one from 1987, where I am sitting on (a very lousy looking) Santa, features me wearing a McDonald’s sweat suit.

The irony is very present; never knowing back then that I would eventually become a vegan, nor would I have been able really understand what that word even meant back then.

I also noticed a 25 year-old egg shell ornament. Back in 3rd grade, for Christmas 1989, I had made an ornament in Mrs. Lawrence’s class, where we all brought in an egg, poked it with a needle to drain it, then covered it in sparkles, a sticker, and some glue.

Somewhat miraculously, than 25 year-old egg has never cracked or shattered!

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

I also laughed when I saw the Star of David made out of tongue depressors. It helps explain why I always sort of assumed we were Jewish.

And don’t forget the bubble lights! It’s amazing those things still work…

The next morning on Christmas Eve (December 24th), your cousin Calla came over and the two of you both got to open one present early.

She got a Play-Doh factory and you got a really cool Lego set that was a tree house; which contained a Lego treasure map and a pizza!

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

It’s a bit of a blur, but at some point while your Uncle Andrew helped you build the new Lego set, I ended up wearing the top part of a broken sombrero that I think my Great-aunt Jennie had bought for me as a souvenir while visiting Mexico, where her parents were born.

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

You were pleasantly surprised when you discovered a Brother Bear figurine of the Berentstain Bears (from a McDonald’s Happy Meal); being that you had just watched on the DVD on the drive there in the car, on the Lexus LX’s built-in system.

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

So I guess it’s safe to say in addition to the Christmas tree’s ornaments serving as a 1980’s time capsule, my overflowing collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys helped add to that undeniable sense of nostalgia at your Nonna and Papa’s house.

Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

Just check out that ice cream cone that transforms into a robot!



Dear Jack: My Childhood Christmas Tree, The 1980s Time Capsule

It’s Okay To Mix The Play-Doh Colors Together

Step 1: Obtain New Toy, Step 2: Cover It In Play-Doh

October 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm , by 

2 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack,

When you were much younger, you would break in a new toy (or any random object) by putting it in your mouth.

These days, you instead cover the new toy or object in Play-Doh.

It’s the initation process, in your world.

While I napped for 20 minutes in the Kroger parking lot, like a rock, you were inside the grocery store helping Mommy.

When the two of you came back to the car, you had a new Hot Wheels ’67 Camaro in your hands:

“Look, Daddy! I got a new race car!”

We were home within 10 minutes and the first thing you did was to have me set up your play table and get out your red Play-Doh.


To cover your brand-new car in slime, or mud, or whatever it is you pretend that Play-Doh is.

It wasn’t until hours later that I actually got to see your new toy, because it was consumed by a red blob for its first waking hours.

Sure, Play-Doh can be used to make dinosaurs and animals and balls to roll around.

But ultimately, it’s used as an element of nature.

You get a quirky sense of pleasure out of swallowing your new toys in Play-Doh. Like I said, it’s the initiation process.

Mommy and I actually got to quietly eat dinner in the living room Saturday night, as you were quite self-contained in the kitchen with your Play-Doh torture center, I mean, activity play area.

After the new toy survives at least 90 minutes of conditioning to the extremes of Play-Doh, it must then endure, and conquer, the Play-Doh worms that unravel as the car finally breaks through the stronghold of the Play-Doh encasing.

It’s hilarious to me.

I don’t even mind picking up all the little red dots of Play-Doh before they get a chance to get ground into our light gray carpet.










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Notice To Parents: Play-Doh Contains Wheat (It’s Not Gluten-Free… Yet)

January 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm , by 

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Our family has been vegetarian for over a year now, and to be honest, going over 12 months without meat has been no sacrifice.

We get our protein from beans, seeds, green vegetables, nuts, dairy products, and whole grains.

And when I say “whole grains,” I’m mainly referring to wheat; in other words… the now-stigmatized “gluten.”

Most of our meals are Italian or Mexican inspired, relying on whole-grain pasta or bread of some sort. While we’ve consumed zero meat products since December 2012, we’ve eaten our fair share of gluten.

Fortunately, gluten is not an allergen for our family. However, there is a marketable demographic in America who does have some sort of allergic reaction to gluten foods, including wheat.

Here recently, I’ve even noticed how the phrase “gluten-free” has become a marketing tool. (At least it’s not as illegitimate and misleading in the way that often pink ribbons are marketed to sell products that are actually linked to promoting cancer and disease.)

For example, I’ve seen “gluten-free” on the package of a 2 liter bottle of soda; as if the massive amount of refined sugar wasn’t a health issue.

America’s awareness of gluten has become so high that now Play-Doh has evidently felt liable to address it on their packaging in huge all-caps:


In a smaller font, an additional warning reads, “Fun to play with, but not to eat.”

So while it’s common knowledge that Play-Doh is a toy, not a food, Hasbro has to play it safe with their product, beyond it being non-toxic.

Now, they have to indirectly address the fact that it’s not gluten free; in the event a child with a gluten allergy eats the stuff.

It makes me wonder, is there a market for gluten-free Play-Doh? The answer is yes; I know this because I Googled it.

However, none of the products available were actually Play-Doh products. Instead, they are made by companies that not many people have heard of… yet.

I’m really curious if Hasbro (who makes Play-Doh) will decide to claim their share of the gluten-free Play-Doh market…

Honestly, I don’t know what’s funnier: The fact that Play-Doh has a warning on their product that it contains wheat, or imagining in the near future seeing an advertisement for gluten-free Play-Doh, though Play-Doh is technically a toy, not a food.

Either way, I’m convinced there is a marketing team at the Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island that has already at least one meeting about gluten-free Play-Doh.