My Toddler’s Amazing (?) New Magic Tricks

April 16, 2012 at 9:53 pm , by 

17 months.

After learning the phrase “ta-da!” from my wife recently, Jack has officially become the best magician since Ed Alonzo playing “Max,” the occasional owner of the same-named hip hang-out spot on Saved By The Bell.

Yes, everything’s a magic trick now.

When Jack stands on top of a pillow without falling over… Ta-da!

When he pulls a blanket over his head, waits five seconds, then pulls it off… Ta-da!

When he pulls two fake Lego blocks apart… Ta-da! 

Heck, when Jack simply pulls his fake Lego blocks out out their storage bag… Ta-da!

Even better, his pronounced version of the word sounds more like “tahhhh!”

As winner of the Father of the Year Award in both 2010 and 2011, I wish I could say I didn’t immediately laugh out loud in his face when he proclaims his newest magic trick. But I do. Every time.

Fortunately, he assumes I’m cheering for him through my laughter, followed by my applause. I figure what this really is about is him wanting my approval and acknowledgment of his newly learned skills. Sure enough, he gets that with every “ta-da!” moment.

Right now Jack is proving to be such a sponge for learning new things. That’s why his current favorite toys are actually books.

With every new animal sound he makes when he sees a picture of one, I truly am impressed.

He’s also the only baby I know that actually asks for prunes during dinner. If you ask me, that’s truly his most impressive magic trick so far.

 

What Do You Visualize When You Think of a Person’s Last Name?

Surely something comes to mind, no matter who the person is.

Throughout my whole life, I have always visualized a noun or idea whenever I hear anyone’s last name.  Maybe it’s just me that does that.  But I felt that the habit was worth expanding on.  So I asked my facebook friends what they thought of when they hear my last name, which is Shell- the German adjective for “loud and noisy”, originally spelled “Schel”.  Their responses can be found at the very end of this post.

Then to demonstrate my thought process, I returned the favor:

Johnson- Johnsonville Brats

Rogers- a 1950’s milkman

York- the state, not the city

Clements- the Clampetts from the Beverly Hillbillies

Majer- the sitcom Major Dad

Kregenow- a city I made up in Michigan, that is only said best with a Midwestern accent

Hegar- Sammy Hagar

Alexander- Alexander the Great

McElhaney- Scottish people and GI Joe’s

Hardin- German people who love friend pickles

Welch- Welch’s grape juice

Creel- the Tori character from the final season of the original Saved by the Bell, played by actress Leanna Creel

Jenkins- Fat Albert and the Junkyard Band

Chapman- Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian singer

Britt- a member of a British glam-rock band from the Eighties

Wilder- Gene Wilder, the Jewish actor who played the original Willy Wonka

Gordon- the singer Gordon Lightfoot

Part of my writing style is that I almost always try to bring the topic to a close by ending with some sort of ironic twist.  So here it is:

How did we get last names in the first place?  There are basically three major ways.  First, the name could be referring to the town of where one of our ancestors lived: A common trait of Scottish last names is that they end in “ton”, which means town.  So “Pinkerton” means “from the town of Pinker”.  Second, the name could be recognizing an ancestral father or father figure: A common trait of English last names is that they end in “son”, which implies “son of”.  So “Davidson” means “David’s son”.  Similarly, Irish last names often begin “O’”, which also implies “son of”.  So “O’ Conner” means “son of Conner.”

Thirdly, and most interestingly, the last name is referring to an adjective or physical trait that an ancestor was known for.  Like the last names Short, Brown, Swift, Freeman, and Blessing.  Notice how many Jewish last names refer to monetary wealth: Goldberg, Silverman, Richman, Diamond, and Sachs (as in “sacks” of money- though the actual reference is to a city in Germany, it’s still an interesting coincidence).  With that being said, my habit of visualizing people’s last names is not a new thing at all.  People have been doing this since… well, since people have had last names.

Nick Shell New assignment for you, friends: “What do you visualize when you think of my last name?” (If you answer me, I will answer you regarding your last name, on your wall; as well as tag you in the post when I publish it.)

December 1 at 11:44pm ·  ·  

    • Brad Johnson I think of you and the gas station that my grandfather used to own.

      December 1 at 11:47pm · 
    • Debra Johnson A sea shell

      December 1 at 11:57pm via Facebook Mobile · 
    • Ashley Rogers Seashell…that always comes to my mind when someone has the last name Shell….and then I drift off thinking about how i”d love to be at the beach…. lol

      December 1 at 11:58pm · 
    • Crystal York Allen I think of the beach and the ocean. It is quiet calming.

      December 2 at 12:20am · 
    • Bobby Clements Sea shell (the smooth pretty kind) – then thoughts drift to the beach – then the waves – then the ocean – then to wonder why James Cameron is making a sequel to Avatar involving the ocean – then to why is James Cameron making a sequel at all.

      December 2 at 12:30am via Facebook Mobile ·  ·  1 person
    • Jessica Mager Toney i think of a sea shell…more specifically a conch shell.

      December 2 at 2:53am · 
    • Sarah Kregenow Issac Running out of gas and the color yellow.

      December 2 at 3:47am · 
    • Rebecca Hegar velveeta shells and cheese

      December 2 at 3:49am · 
    • Amanda Smith Alexander Not Shell gas station- they were too involved in the Holocaust. You’re a Jewish sea shell from the Sea of Galilee. Creative? 🙂

      December 2 at 5:47am via Facebook Mobile · 
    • Russell McElhaney The white sandy beach

      December 2 at 6:43am · 
    • Christy Perkins Hardin OK, so I’m different… I see that we are all start as just an empty shell, and the experiences of life fill us and mold us into the kind of person we become… ever-changing, as we add new experiences into our being. That shell may be filled with mostly good or mostly bad, and the choice is ours. Clearly, that shell is a God-shaped void…imagine what we would be if we actually filled that void with Him!

      December 2 at 6:44am · 
    • Jason Welch The “shell game” where there are three shells with a ball under one. You know, move them around and guess which has the ball.

      December 2 at 7:26am · 
    • Hjordis Maddock Creel Sea shells, any and all of them. I grew up in Florida and I love shells. I’ve got a collection of shells and I am always pondering what to do with them.

      December 2 at 7:54am · 
    • Will Jenkins a 70’s drawing of a little green turtle

      December 2 at 9:56am · 
    • Rita Gail Chapman I see seashells at the seashore…..three times, real fast!

      December 2 at 10:39am · 
    • Sherry Britt Shell I SEE A LONG WALK ON THE BEACH HUNTING SEASHELL

      December 2 at 3:27pm · 
    • Ben Wilder I think of you singing on stage. That’s the image of you I have in my head when your name comes up. And you laughing and shrugging your shoulders.

      Friday at 10:40am · 
The TMNT theme song. if you want the song, download it here: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=DYBVTBGD

December 2 at 1:20am ·  ·  · Share · See Friendship
    • Melinda Gordon in response to the question about your last name 🙂

      Friday at 4:30am · 


dad from day one: Honestly, Baby Jack Could Be Born Any Day Now

Thirty-seven weeks.

In a matter of days (most likely no more than 20), dad from day one will no longer be a blog about pregnancy from a dad’s perspective; instead of pregnancy, it will be about a real life baby.  Like the way that the first season of Saved by the Bell was really called Good Morning, Miss Bliss and took place in Indiana, then by the next season Miss Bliss was gone and Zack, Screech, Lisa, and Mr. Belding magically reappeared in California, yet it was still basically the same TV show, only better and livelier.

My work place had a "masculine baby shower" for me, meaning there were no games- just food and a bucket full of gifts.

What this means is that this post of dad from day one could be the last one before “Baby Jack is Born!” is published.  Or, I could easily post two more new ones before he’s born.  No way of knowing.  It’s like waiting for the clown to jump out of the jack-in-the-box while turning the crank.  Any day now, our Jack may pop out of the box!  (Unavoidable metaphor.)

Pork-free soup is hard to find in the South; at least in my office.

His due date is November 11th, on my dad’s birthday, but my wife and I are both convinced that Baby Jack will be born on the 5th.  We met on October 5, 2006.  Our first date was on February 5, 2007.  We got married on July 5, 2008.  And November 5, 2010 will be Week 39, close enough to Week 40- it’s very possible.  Though I love to joke that he will be born on Halloween and he’ll be our Jack-O-Lantern.

Last night we finished our last Lamaze class.  Last weekend we packed the car seat.  This weekend we will make a trip to Target to pick up supplies (snacks) for the hospital stay and finish packing for D-Day.  It’s like preparing for the ultimate first day of school.  But instead of meeting my new teacher, I’m meeting my new baby.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Pick up a copy of the November 2010 issue of American Baby magazine...

...and on page 13 you just might see some familiar faces.

This being the first time my writings have been featured in a national magazine, I have to compare the experience of seeing the copy for the first time to that great scene in That Thing You Do where The Wonders all hear their song being played on the radio for the first time.  I will never forget; during my lunch break I rode my mountain bike to an appropriately named maternity and baby clothing store in Franklin, TN called Pickles and Ice  Cream.

The issue had just arrived in the store.  The two girls behind the counter watched me anxiously and purposely turning the pages until I found page 13, both knowing something was up.  And though I was still wearing my bike helmet, they realized that the squinty-eyed Italian-looking guy wearing a Tom & Jerry t-shirt in the magazine must be me.

The Generation X and Generation Y Hybrid: For People Turning 30 This Year

Here’s to the Class of 1999 (as well as for anyone else close enough in age to relate this).

We were born between the fall of 1980 and the summer of 1981; currently the ones turning 30 within the next year.  It was us who remember having vinyl records in our house during our early Elementary School days, but by the time we got to Junior High we learned the cool kids were getting CD players.  We remember how in the 3rd grade when The Simpsons came out, our parents hesitated to let us watch it, and now we wonder in amazement that they’re still making new episodes of it, and how tame and polite the show seems now compared next to Family Guy.

During our high school days, we came home and fell asleep to a Saved by the Bell marathon until dinner was ready.  We clearly remember the horrific Columbine shooting in Colorado happening just a few weeks before our high school graduation.  (The event actually happened on my 18th birthday.)

 

Yes, we remember Teddy Ruxpin and slap bracelets.  We remember when The Ren & Stimpy Show was the coolest show ever.

We are part of Generation X, barely: The last year of Generation X ended in 1981.  That means the new generation, Generation Y, began in 1982, just 7 full months after I was born.  After a motivation speaker at work a few weeks ago gave characteristics of each generation, I confirmed my belief that I’m not a typical Generation X guy; and if anything, I’m more Generation Y.  The caricatured characteristics of the generations (below) are from notes I took while listening to the speaker that day, Dan Baker:

Generation X: 1961-1981

33% of the work force, first generation to get divorced, “latch-key kids”, high-tech, loner, needs to be happy, reward-motivated, blames everyone else for their problems, high work ethic, works the bureaucracy, cold-blooded practical

Generation Y (Millennial): 1982-2001

20% of the work force, lacks people skills, no sense of authority, no sense of boundaries, not intimidated by threats, has no prejudice, not motivated by money, loves to be mentored, learns by mistakes, learns quickly, knows how to trick the system, “so what?” generation, wants to feel special, wants someone to care about them, needs to “be built”, bad listener, good watcher, needs encouragement, not good at having real friendships- partly because they rely so heavily on social networks (texting, facebook, etc.)

I definitely relate with a few Generation X characteristics: I’ve always born more of a loner and am content being that way.  I need to be happy.  I know how to work the bureaucracy.  And because I’m not a black-and-white, cut-and-dry person, I am definitely cold-blooded practical.

But as a whole, more Generation Y traits jumped out at me: I am not intimidated by threats.  I am as little prejudice as I know to be humanly possible.  I am definitely not motivated by money (I have been preached to my whole life that money isn’t everything and that it doesn’t make people happy, and I believe it).  I do love to be mentored, just as I love to mentor.  I totally know how to trick the system; it’s one of my specialties- taking a machete to red tape.  I’m not so good of a good listener, but I’m always watching, even when you don’t want me to.  And I need encouragement.

I “work the bureaucracy” be being faithful and loyal to people for the long run (Gen. X), but I’m not faithful or loyal to the system because I “know how to trick the system” (Gen. Y).  I am “cold-blooded practical” (Gen. X) about all my decisions and opinions, yet because I am motivated by encouragement and want to feel special (Gen. Y), I am not being practical because I am letting my “feelings” control me and allowing others’ opinions of my achievements to become part of the deciding factor of whether or not I am successful in what I do.

So I predict that most other people born around 1981 are in this similar situation where they don’t identify fully with either generation, but instead with elements of both.  And I’m sure the hybrid traits I have adopted are not necessarily the same ones as other people born in 1981.  But I do find it pretty interesting how my way of thinking and outlook on life resemble specific X and Y traits.

So now you know.  It’s official.  You’re Generation X, but there’s a good chance you act and think more like Generation Y.  We’re the in-betweens.  And I think that makes us feel special; which for our generation, is pretty dang important.

Humble and Embarrassing Beginnings: Five Years of the Writings of Nick Shell

An autobiographic look at the Scenic Route Snapshots franchise.

Scenic Route Snapshots: Est. August 2005.

When people show you a picture of themselves from five or more years ago, the tendency is often to laugh at their longer/froey hair and outdated clothing and say, “That was you?” Because ultimately that younger, less experienced version of a person was more naïve and goofier than the version of that person we know today.  Of course, it’s no different for each of us.  We too have many laughable aspects about ourselves when we look back on them, five or more years later.

This month makes exactly five years that I’ve been writing online.  In August 2005 I was in the process of moving from Fort Payne, AL (having just graduated from Liberty University a few months before) to Nashville, TN to start my career in music (which I decided wasn’t what I really wanted to do, after a year of being here).  I starting writing MySpace blogs as a way to document new life pursuing a career in music.  It’s not that my writings were all horrible those first couple of years; looking back, I can actually see some jewels in the gravels.  But for the most part, they were pretty cheesy, not to mention they were all about me and “making my dreams a reality”.

Obviously it was those early years in particular that helped me realize ways to improve my writing, eventually giving birth to The Code.  That means my older writings consistently violated The Code and I’m sure that’s part of the main reason it’s so difficult for me to go back and read them.  But anyone who has ever been successful in any kind of enterprise surely endured the same sort of sloppy early years as well.

Yes, that generic version of what we know as good and relevant was probably not always good and relevant.  Like the episodes of Saved by the Bell with Miss Bliss or the Tracey Ullman version of The Simpsons or the British version of The Office.  Sure, hardcore fans will always approve, but the rest of us know to stay away, lest we become disappointed and somehow allow our idea of a pure thing to become tainted.

And the still, the irony of this whole concept will surely prove itself that much more five years from now, when I use this post as a point of reference to show the place in time where Scenic Route Snapshots really started taking off.  The point where 1,934 were my highest views in one day (happened this week) instead of that being a slow day.  The point where I could admit that humble beginnings were over for Scenic Route Snapshots, yet the big break had not happened yet.

What started in August of 2005 as a goofy blog that just a handful of my friends read has evolved into an actual website that currently receives around 1,000 hits per day.  I sure don’t know where the future of Scenic Route Snapshots is going, but as long as I can still claim to be a writer who never experiences writer’s block, the posts will keep being born.

Bonus!

Read my very first “blog” from August 16, 2005, entitled “I Choose to Be a Fatalist” at the bottom of the page at this link:

http://www.myspace.com/nickshell1983/blog?page=13

It was this 2005 version of me that laid the ground work to get me where I am today.

Good Men Still Exist; They Just Don’t Make the Headlines as Easily

“The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard has been set so pitifully low.” -Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs

Yes, everyone is well aware that despite all the good men in history who have left a good name for themselves (along with plenty of quotable quotes, with many of them being strong military leaders or respected writers), there are enough deadbeats, scoundrels, and cads to cast a negative connotation on the word “man”.  Women are expected to be saints and givers; sadly, men are expected to be… well, not a lot is expected of men anymore.  But not all good men are long gone.

In the aftermath of Father’s Day last week, the Internet was full of freshly published articles about the modern man, father, and husband.  Two in particular really got my attention.  The first one reviewed the history of TV dads from Leave It to Beaver, to Married with Children, to Parenthood.  It brought out the fact that in the 1950’s, dads were too perfect, in the 1990’s they were often portrayed as bumbling idiots, and now in the 2010’s, TV dads have finally began to look more like real dads.  See http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/37758834/ns/today-entertainment/.  (Though I would argue that the 1980’s were good to TV dads…)

The other article that really got me thinking was one I found on Stuff Christians Like, http://stuffchristianslike.net/2010/06/the-wild-difference-between-a-mothers-day-sermon-and-a-fathers-day-sermon/, which explained how many fathers in Christian churches feel miserable on Father’s Day Sunday because the sermon is about how men need to step up to the plate and be better fathers, while the Mother’s Day sermon provides nothing but praise for women. 

I definitely see how good men often don’t get the praise they deserve.  Like Zack Morris once said on Saved by the Bell when Jessie declared that all men are jerks, “Hey, don’t judge us by our worst specimens.”  What can we do to enhance the minority of men who are truly good fathers, husbands, and hard-working citizens?

My guess is to call them out on their goodness when you see it.  It seems that if we as a culture began to celebrate the men who are doing right, it would be more of an incentive for those who are just half-way doing it, seeing there is praise and appreciation for being a “good man”.  But when the goal is simply to be better than Charlie Sheen (both the actual person and his fictionalized character on the totally lame yet successful sitcom Three and Half Men), there’s a certain lack of motivation to become a better man. 

In an age where stereotypes of men who are drug to church by their wives end up jumping in a 15 passenger van for a weekend trip to their nearest major sports arena to learn from a former NFL player at a Promise Keepers conference that they should spend more time with their kids instead of watching sports games and that they should share the household responsibilities with their wives and stop looking at pornography on their home computers, then they go back home a changed man for a month, then repeat the process each following year, there are still plenty of men in America who actually already are indulging themselves in being the husbands and fathers they need to be.  There are actually good men in America who don’t have to be reminded to be good.  Because they are already aware of the reward in being a respected man who lives for his family, not himself.

Celebrate the good men in your life.  They may instantly brush aside your compliments or seem embarrassed when you do, but inside it means the world to them.  Of course with good men being the coveted gem in a parking lot full of gravels, my guess is, you already do.

Drinking Kool-Aid and Watching the Smurfs

Childhood isn’t a place too long gone for me; it’s what the attic of my head is wallpapered in.

For many of us, childhood was one of the brightest, most promising times.  Therefore, it remains today as a safe, heartwarming place in our minds.  A place where we can return to, like remembering a good dream, whenever we want.  And thanks to the people who are still alive who share those memories with us, we have access this seemingly imaginary fantasy world that we were all once a part of.  In a land called The Eighties.  Or Nineties.  Or Sixties.  (There are several to choose from.)

My literary teacher Michael Chabon explains it (he doesn’t know who I am, in reality) in a way that would make me jealous that he thought of it first, except for the fact if it weren’t for studying his style, I wouldn’t be the same writer I am today.  He refers to mutual collected memories in his book Manhood for Amateurs as “an entire network of tunnels, secret passageways, into the past”. 

We carry the exclusive memories of each other in the hard drives of our own minds, sporadically reminiscing to make sure of the validity of the events, and to glean from the enhanced emotions attached to them. 

The way my mind works, I can’t just simply open a file in my head entitled “Childhood: 1981-1993”.  Instead, these scattered gems are embedded along with all other memories and knowledge.  So when I click on one file, there’s sure to be a random childhood memory hanging on to it. 

And sometimes I just have flashes of them.  Like the Spring and Summer of 1989 (2nd grade) when I played baseball.  The pings of the aluminum bats, the crickets singing their alien songs in the moist, freshly cut baseball fields.  The sun going down as each game began. 

And when I go to that place, I remember how I had the biggest crush on Meg Guice, who never had a clue.  Yes, those were the days were drinking Kool-Aid; my favorite flavor being the short-lived “Sharkleberry Fin”, only second to Hi-C’s “Ecto Cooler”.  When Saved by the Bell hadn’t quite arrived, so The Smurfs pretty much taught me what I needed to know about society. 

Memories of being in Cub Scouts, riding the bus from school every Tuesday to the First Methodist Church, where my parents (the scout leaders) met us there with the aforementioned Kool-Aid and some adventurous craft assignment, like a bug collection (in which Matt Hall brought in a dead bat) or brainstorming about the upcoming Pinewood Derby race (which I won 1st place overall in 1991, thanks to my dad’s craftsmanship). 

I could go on, but I have a feeling by this point, some of your own childhood memories have been stirred up.  Don’t let me interrupt that for you.  Have fun.