Dear Jack: Helping Your Sister on Papa’s New Zipline Chair Ride

9 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

This past weekend was Papa’s grand opening and big reveal of the commercial quality playground that he has been working on for the past couple of years.

Saturday morning, Papa used you as the final test subject for his invention “the zipline chair”, before he let any other kids try it out.

After the zipline chair proved to be a success with you, by default you became other kids’ guide in getting them set up and launching them down the hill.

It’s especially hilarious to me how much fun your little 4 year-old sister had on that thing. Not scary at all to her!

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Holly: Three 4 Year-Old Girls on a Playground!

4 years, 5 months.

Dear Holly,

Saturday morning you got to spend the whole day playing on Papa’s new playground with not only your cousin Darla, but also a new friend named Emery who came to the grand opening.

It just so happened that are three of you are 4 years-old! In fact, you and Emery were born just about 9 days part.

Watching you all run along from one end of the playground to the next was like seeing triple!

I don’t recall hearing my words spoken from the three of you… just a constant stream of giggles.

I’m really starting to believe that 4 year-old girls are universally the same:

Sweet, playful, and adventurous!

 

Love,

Daddy

When You Reconnect with a High School Friend and It’s Like Picking Up Right Where You Left Off

I have no memory of actually meeting William Coulter. He transferred in from Colorado our junior year of high school and it seems we just immediately and effortlessly became friends.

We never even had a class together. But we ended up hanging out together a lot, as teenagers in a small mountain town in Alabama.

I think it started when we went to go see Adam Sandler’s new movie at the time, Big Daddy.

Then William came to some church youth function where the manager of Hardee’s donated hundreds of burgers to feed everyone. Yet still after the event ended, there were dozens of hamburgers left- and because I personally knew the manager, she gave me all the left overs to take home.

So I took two garbage bags full of unwrapped hamburgers to my house that night. William and I decided to make our challenge to eat a minimum of 24 burgers throughout the hours of the night.

We failed. But we ate more for breakfast that next morning.

There was also the time, on a very short notice and a whim, that we went on a road trip to Pensacola, Florida our senior year. Our high school had allotted us a few days to go look at colleges and we hadn’t used them up yet. So we hopped on a van and visited a very conservative college that we had no intentions on attending. (See the picture where he and I were buried in the sand from 1999.)

And thinking back on our adventures driving my parents’ Ford Aerostar minivan, equipped with paintball guns, out on back roads at night, it easily reminds me of the Alan Jackson song, “We got a little crazy but we never got caught…”

Now, we are both married and have two kids who are nearly the same ages. Another coincidence is that his wife’s name is Holly, while my wife and I named our daughter Holly. And our son’s middle name is William.

Last weekend, my dad officially unveiled his new playground, which he has been building for years now. After remembering that William and his family only live a little more than an hour away from my parents’ house, I invited his family over.

My sister’s family was there too; whose children are also in the same age range; a total of three 4 year-olds, two 9 year olds, and one 11 year-old. Our families ended up all being a perfect match, as expected.

William is one of those close friends where we always pick up right where we left off. We get older, along with our hilarious shared memories from high school.

But we relate to each other just as easily now in 2020, as we did in the late 1990s.

Dear Holly: Your Brand-New Industrial Grade Playground Swing

3 years, 5 months.

Dear Holly,

Having a Papa who works at a playground equipment factory means that you when visit your grandparents’ house in Alabama, you have access to a backyard playground that is above and beyond the norm.

Last weekend, the debut of your brand-new industrial grade swing was revealed.

You loved it so much, you just didn’t want to stop swinging in it.

At one point, you swung in it for a solid hour and a half before Mommy said it was time to go in for dinner.

You have the Cadillac of all playground swings for a 3 year-old girl!

Love,

Daddy

The Big 50 Foot Long Slide at Mission Hills Park in Pleasanton, California (Featuring the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport) by Nick Shell

As our family finished up our 2 week-long vacation road trip in northern California, we drove the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport from Walnut Grove to Pleasanton, where our kids got to enjoy the playgrounds at Mission Hills Park.

It was such a nice drive, as we saw the countless solar windmills for much of the way. There is so much beauty in the top half of the state of California, which often is not the region people tend to think of when they hear where my wife is from.

The kids also liked the fact that the entire roof of the Outlander was a giant window. It was almost like a ride at Disney, in a way.

The main attraction at the city park was the giant, 50 foot slide; the kind I remember from back in the 1980s when I was my son’s age. These days, it’s rare to see such a tall, metal slide like that.

(To put it into perspective, the standard length of a dry van trailer pulled by an 18 wheeler is 53 feet long.)

My son quickly learned the best way to go down the slide was to lay down, like it was a luge. The slide was up so high, we were up there with the trees!

Here’s a little video I made, in the moment:

To my amazement, my 2 year-old daughter even insisted she get to try out the slide. So I held her hand and walked alongside her as she slid down, quite slowly, with me moderating her speed.

Granted, the rest of the playground equipment was great, as well. There were actually two main playgrounds; one for older kids like my 7 and a half year-old son, including a climbing wall and ropes course.

For younger kids like my daughter, there was a separate playground across the park which was more appropriate for her age.

So if you happen to be driving anywhere near Pleasanton, California and have some adventurous children with restless energy, I definitely recommend you stopping by Mission Hills Park.

The big slide is so cool!

Have you read all 3 of my blog posts featuring my family’s road trip to Lake Tahoe in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport? Here’s a table of contents just to be sure. Click on the title of the blog post you would like to see:

Family Reunion in Lodi, California 
Family Road Trip to Lost Worlds Adventures in Livermore, California
The Big 50 Foot Long Slide at Mission Hills Park in Pleasanton, California