Dear Holly: Your First Time at a Japanese Steak House

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

This past weekend you got to go to a dinner theater, of sorts. We went to a Japanese steak house and it just so happened that you got a front row seat for all the action!

The show started out with a bang… or should I say, flame.

I held on to you tightly as we felt the heat and saw the huge flame right in front of us.

But in addition to being entertained by watching our food get cooked in real time, you also truly enjoyed the meal!

I’m glad we were able to go there and have a great time together.



Dear Jack: Going to Olive Garden is a Special Treat for You and Your Sister

9 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Friday while Mommy and I were enjoying our final full day in Colorado, you and your sister got to go somewhere special for dinner: Olive Garden.

Shortly after you arrived, you quietly announced, “Wow, this Olive Garden is really fancy!”

I find that hilarious because I’ve never known you to be impressed by a “fancy” restaurant.

It’s funny because when I was a kid, my idea of a good time at a restaurant was any place where the meal came with a toy and where there was a playground to enjoy after I ate.

But now, for the modern kid in 2020, maybe Olive Garden is the new McDonald’s!



Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

4 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Jack,

Now that we’ve officially lived in our new house in Spring Hill for a full week now, I realize the importance of specifying what events take place in Nashville; which is 35 miles away from where we live.

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

With that being said, yesterday we went to the glorious Pinewood Social in Nashville.

We went to lunch with Mommy’s boss, his wife, and Grandma (Mommy’s mother) who is in town this week (from Sacramento) this week to help us unpack.

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

The way I would describe Pinewood Social is that it’s a classy, upscale, hip, “new Nashville” restaurant with a subtle 1950’s flare.

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

They even had vegan options for your Daddy: I had a Thai veggie sandwich; along with fried green tomatoes and fried broccoli which our table shared.

Mommy’s boss made a point to pull me aside to express to me how impressed he was that for the whole hour while we were at the table, you were perfectly behaved.

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

It’s moments like that where I feel confirmation in knowing that the way Mommy and I are raising you, with limited TV time and no access to artificial colors or flavors in food, is paying off.

(We didn’t really let you watch TV at all until you were 2 years old.)

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

You were simply content and behaved the whole time there at Pinewood Social, completely occupied by drawing pictures of our family on sticky notes provided by your new preschool you are starting next week.

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

Eventually, you caught a glimpse of the bowling alley, which is part of the restaurant. So you spent a good 20 minutes bowling, with the help of the kiddy ramp.

I was amazed you were able to pick up that standard size bowling ball yourself.

Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

On your last turn, you got your first strike!

Obviously, we had a great time at Pinewood Social. I have a feeling you’re going to ask to go back…



Dear Jack: Our Visit To Pinewood Social In Nashville, Tennessee

Going To Get Tater Tots Makes My Son Feel Special/The Great Food Truck Festival Of Nashville

3 years, 10 months.

Going To Get Tater Tots Makes My Son Feel Special

Dear Jack,

Recently as part of an art activity at school, you were asked to draw a picture that answers the question, “What’s something that makes you feel special?”

I would have thought you would have said playing with Legos, or getting a Hot Wheels car at Kroger, or even simply playing at home with Mommy and me.

Going To Get Tater Tots Makes My Son Feel Special Burger Republic Nashville

Instead, you answered, “Going to get tater tots.” You drew a picture of yourself with 5 tater tots. To you, that apparently equals feeling special.

This weekend turned out to be a “stay in Nashville kind of weekend”. Coincidentally, “The Great Food Truck Festival” just happened to be taking place in the neighborhood next to ours, in the parking lot of the only place you have ever eaten tater tots: the critically acclaimed and award winning Burger Republic.

So Mommy and I decided to officially make you feel special…

In anticipation of the tater tots arriving, I helped distract you by drawing tomatoes on the Burger Republic coloring sheet for you to “run over” with your new acquired Jeep Scrambler. (I would scribble over each tomato after you rolled the car over each one that I had drawn on your race track.)

Going To Get Tater Tots Makes My Son Feel Special Burger Republic Nashville

I could tell, just being there was a big deal to you. I could clearly see you felt special once those tater tots arrived!

Of course, I can’t fail to mention that we were visiting some of our wonderful friends there. (You’ve grown up with them and their dog.) You were fairly oblivious to their presence until after you had consumed the famous tater tots and we were outside on the playground next to Burger Republic.

It made my day to get to see you and their daughter Parker get along so well. Not only did you play perfectly synchronized, but I even think the two of you look a lot a like.

You were lucky. You didn’t have to take a nap because of the fact we met up with them about the time you should have been in the middle of your nap.

Fortunately, you were able to burn off 100% of the extra boost of energy you ironically get from not taking a nap.

I’m so glad to know that the the of you with be attending the same elementary school and be in the same grade once you graduate out of pre-school. I think Parker is going to make a great friend for you!

You were even able to successfully share your Jeep Wrangler with her. Man, that’s saying a lot…

We finished off the afternoon by walking in between all the glorious food trucks there for the festival.

The Great Food Truck Festival Nashville TN

Having already eaten the food that makes you feel very special, your main concern at that point was to find out which color truck was the coolest.

As I would imagine, you chose the pink one.

When you live in a fun city like Nashville, even the “stay at home weekends” end up being pretty interesting… and special.



Going To Get Tater Tots Makes My Son Feel Special Burger Republic Nashville

FYI: Burger Republic was unaware I was writing a “family friendly review” on them at the time. I was simply a paying customer who happened to be taking a lot of pictures of my son. In other words, I did not “work for free tater tots.” I simply have always enjoyed going to Burger Republic and thought they deserve a shout-out. In case you’re wondering, they do serve vegan burgers too.

The Sussudio Effect: Why We Secretly Love the Mysteries of Life

Whether we will admit it or not, we like unexplained mysteries.

Do we really need an answer for everything?  Isn’t omniscience (the ability to know everything infinitely) a trait we reserve for God?  Could we handle the responsibility of having all the answers?  We like to think we want all the answers, but if we did, that would be a life without surprise, suspense, and ultimately, much excitement.

Much of the mystique we deal with revolves around our origin, purpose, and ending.  But even without all the big idea concepts like “why am I here?” and “what exactly happens the moment I die?,” both of which the element of ignorance is attached to, life is still full plenty of petty mysteries to think about.  Which at best, simply reflect the fact that mystery is a part of life.

Like the song “Sussidio” by Phil Collins.  It became a number one hit in July of 1985.  And though I wasn’t quite in pre-school yet at that point, the song has definitely kept a solid spot in the Soundtrack of My Life.  I can’t say that I like the saxophone-enhanced song just because of its feel-good vibes and groovy melody.  A big part of why I like the song is because of its quirkiness.  Because let’s face it, no one really knows what a “sussudio” is.

In recent years, thanks to Phil Collins’ interviews that have surfaced and have been referenced in Wikipedia, I have learned that Phil always did a lot of ad-lib and improvising in the studio.  He often would record the music to the song before he wrote the words, just making up random words and phrases to hold the place; then coming back later to replace the gibberish with actual lyrics.

“Sussudio” was a place-holding made-up word that he never came up with a replacement for.  And so it remained.  The word still doesn’t mean anything.  It’s not the name of a girl, as some have assumed.  It’s just a mysterious word.  You get to decide what it means.  Weird concept, but after all, the song did make it to the number one spot.

Why?  It’s a great catchy song.  And it’s mysterious.

I will deliberately bypass the way-too-obvious fact that LOST’s popularity is associated with its strategic and clever uses of mystique (LOST- Answering Questions that Were Left Unanswered) and instead close with the fact that we can spend a lifetime just unveiling the mysteries of the people closest to us in our lives.

It’s not like we sit down with our parents or spouses or best friends and interview them with a #2 pencil and steno pad about their childhood and see what we can learn about them that we didn’t know before.  Instead, we just wait for those random trigger words to show up in conversation, which prompt a story that we’ve never heard before about them before.

Sometimes when my wife and I are out at a restaurant, we (being “people watchers”) will notice an older couple sitting in silence, only really speaking to say predictable things like “How’s your steak?”  We want to be cooler than that when we’re older; we want to have cool stuff to talk about, even now.

There are so many hidden stories in each of us.  We can only try, in a lifetime, to extract them from each other.  Not that they all can be told even in one lifetime, we ourselves can’t remember them all.  Because unlike God, we mysteriously ended up without an omniscient memory.