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

Playground Safety Checklist (By Guest Blogger, Ken Allen)

Most parents will tell you that raising kids is very different today than it was when they were growing up. In many ways, that’s true. Consider how kids spend their free time:

Children today have so much of their time outside of school occupied by structured activities that parents need a separate datebook just to keep up with their kids’ daily schedules.

Even though a lot of aspects about raising kids have changed, a lot of parts are just as parents remember them. One of those aspects is the importance of the playground. Even with competition from video games and streaming video, the playground remains one place kids are sure to congregate.

That’s a good thing, too, because playgrounds offer children the opportunity to get some much-needed exercise as well as kick-start other areas of their intellectual and social development.

Although playgrounds remain as popular with kids today as they did in generations past, playgrounds themselves have changed somewhat over the years, particularly when it comes to safety. Whereas playgrounds of the past featured concrete or asphalt underneath many of them, today’s versions are far more likely to feature soft wood chips or recycled rubber to cushion falls. Metal slides have given way to plastic ones that don’t heat up to dangerous levels under the sun. Swing sets often include special swings that will safely hold toddlers without allowing them to slip off the seat. However, just because playgrounds have become safer over the years doesn’t mean parents don’t have to worry about playground safety at all.

Teaching kids how to use playgrounds safely and inspecting equipment to look for potential hazards are responsibilities parents should take seriously, even as playgrounds become safer, in general. In doing so, parents can help ensure that their kids gain the full benefit of everything playgrounds offer them. Consult the following checklist the next time you take your kids to the playground, and you can make sure they’ll have a fun day with their friends, just the way you did when you were a kid.

“Playground Safety Checklist courtesy of Merrillville Personal Injury Lawyer Keneth J. Allen Law Group”

Dear Holly: You’re an Outdoorsy Kind of Girl

11 months.

Dear Holly,

Something I enjoy doing is taking cute pictures of you, then putting subtle captions on them, as I attempt to imagine what you would be saying if you could talk yet.

This past weekend we spent the entire afternoon at the playground at Westhaven with Hanna’s family. Her daddy, Mohamad, took pictures of the two of you the entire time.

One of my favorites is where you are sitting in the bucket swing, with your sun hat and your pacifier. The caption I wrote was this: “I like to come here sometimes just to collect my thoughts.”

It’s funny because it somehow seems real; like that’s really what you’re thinking about, though your just a little baby girl.

Mohamad was able to get several shots of you and Hanna just hanging out. At the time, your brother and I were playing at the creek, so I don’t know for sure what was going on, but I imagine the two of you having fun just staring out into the distance; neither of you knowing what you were looking at, but just knowing you were having fun.

You loved every minute of our time out at the park. Not only did you get to spend time with your friend Hannah, who you’ve known your whole life, but you got to spend a whole afternoon outside, on a wonderful sunny day.

It’s true- you an outdoorsy kind of girl. You love feeling the breeze through your hair. You love hearing and watching the birds fly across the sky.

This makes me happy because I definitely consider myself an outdoorsy kind of guy, as I know your brother is too.

So I have a feeling we have a long future of hiking, canoeing, and just exploring the great outdoors. We’re going to have a lot of fun in life.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw.

Dear Jack: You Have Really Cool Parents

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Looking at the pictures from on our visit last Saturday to Westhaven with our friends Mohamed, Lena, and Hanna, one thing becomes undeniable: You have really cool parents.

Mohamed and I, both being the token “take hundreds of pictures of your kid at every outing” kind of dads, ended up getting some good shots of all the kids.

I like the picture he took of you and me playing on the slide, where you are hiding below, in attempt to scare me as I go down the slide. The look on your face seems to indicate, “Yeah, I know my dad’s crazy… but I’m used to it by now.”

In addition to me purposely pushing you too high on the swing, to test your limits, you purposed we engage in a good classic game of Tag. I thought it was funny how you started by proclaimed, “Daddy, I’m it first.” But then you didn’t start chasing me…

So I turned the tables on you and started chasing you instead, and you ran from me… even though it was supposed to be the other way around.

Once you finally embraced what being it meant, I found a way to challenge you as you chased me. We were standing next to this swinging balance beam.

As you ran towards me and got close, I simply jumped over the balance beam. Then as you ran around it, I jumped back to the other side.

Speaking of the balance beam, Mommy was really good at crossing it without falling off.

You were so happy when I found a little plastic alligator in the playground mulch. We took it down to the creek, where you used a boat made out of leafs, so he could “sail down the river.”

Yep, you have really cool parents. No playing on our smart phones from the bench. We’re out there having fun with you any chance we get.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw & Nick Shell.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

Dear Jack,

After leaving Saturday morning at 5:30 AM from our home in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and having a few adventures in between, we finally made it to Fort Payne, Alabama, about 13 hours later; where Nonna and Papa live.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d3

The next afternoon, we loaded up for our final stop on our 1st father and son road trip. Nonna and Papa joined us in the Lexus ES; while Uncle Andrew and your cousin Calla followed us in their Toyota Highlander.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

On route to the hiking spot, I made a quick detour to show you the little brick house I grew up in, until I was a high school freshman in 1995 when the “new house” (which serves as your summer camp headquarters for the week) was built.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d13 d14 d15 d16

Just a few miles away was the DeSoto State Park, where we began our journey down the Azalea Cascade Trail.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

I chose for you to go on this trail as a way to keep you from having to take a nap: In the afternoons, you get way too much energy if you don’t sleep; so I catered to your needs by providing an agenda and landscape for you:

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

It was a long, strenuous trail for the likes of a 5 and a half year-old boy. I was very pleased with the results.

You encountered a wall of a hill…

d12 Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

A treacherous bridge…

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And a giant rock or two for us to climb together.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d27

Perhaps one of your favorite parts of the trail was when you amazingly found a baby slug that you took along for a leg of the hike.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d26

About 15 minutes later, you declared, “Daddy, it’s time for me to part ways with Sluggy.”

And so you did.

I helped you find a nice place in the grass for him to hang out.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d21 d22 d24

Hiking that trail with you showed me what you’re capable of for next time!

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d6 d7

I figured it would be a good idea for you and your cousin to cool down by playing at the playground across from where we parked the Lexus ES.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d30 d31

It just so happens, the playground equipment company Papa has worked for since 1979 made and installed the equipment the two of you played on.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h) d33

From there, we got cleaned up and got ready for your goodbye dinner at the Thai restaurant…

Love,

Daddy

P.S.

Here’s the collection of stories from our father and son road trip…

Ghostbusters and the BFG

Nick A Jack Road

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel

Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park

2016 Lexus ES 300h Father & Son Road Trip (Table of Contents)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

Dear Jack: Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

4 years, 4 months.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Dear Jack,

Our Easter tradition every year since you have been born has been to take you to the big egg hunt that Nonna and Papa’s church has at someone’s (very large) house.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

I gave you several coaching sessions before the hunt; sharing with you the effective strategy of immediately running to the far corner of the field, where no one else bothers to go. I also reminded you not to stop to open the eggs; just to throw as many as you could into your basket, then worry about opening them after the hunt is over.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Without surprise, you easily obtained more eggs than the other kids by doing so. While you are still not quite inspired to kick the soccer ball during your games, egg hunting is a sport you can get excited about!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

What’s funny is that you’ve yet to really look through the eggs, even now. You were happiest about bringing home some of my old stuffed animals from when I was your age; not what was inside the eggs.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Later on, we all went to Hawkins Spring Park there in Fort Payne, Alabama; my hometown. Where I grew up, there were several parks around our house, yet I never really went to this one.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Had I known about it back when I was 4, this might have been my favorite park; especially since a giant creek runs through it.

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

Of course, I didn’t let you and your cousin Calla have all the fun on the playground. They happened to have an adult playground where grown men like me and your Uncle Andrew could test our agility and strength. We were victorious… mostly.

p6

Oh, and we rescued an old abandoned tire from the creek. We helped the environment!

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park

A common question I have been getting this week is, “Did you have a good Easter?”

I did. We all did. We have nothing but good, fun, quality time as a family… while visiting family.

Love,

Daddy

Our Easter 2015 Egg Hunt/Visit To Hawkins Spring Park