Dear Jack: Webisode 21 of Jack-Man, “Vegan Bear Scare”

4 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: Webisode 21 of Jack-Man, “Vegan Bear Scare”

Dear Jack,

We attempted to film webisodes 21 and 22 of Jack-Man on Saturday morning… but the cold, the light rain, and the realized need for a 3rd person to serve as cameraman and props holder got in the way of that.

Fortunately, your Pre-K teacher Ms. Aimee heard about what was going on and saved the day.

She came over on Sunday, when the weather was slightly better, and we filmed both webisodes back to back. There’s no way we could have done this without Ms. Aimee’s help:

In “Vegan Bear Scare”, we introduced the new character, Vegan Bear. Originally, I intended for him to be a gorilla, but the suit was too expensive.

By default, this is our Halloween episode, as I admit: Vegan Bear is by far the creepiest villain Jack-Man has ever encountered.

The theme song to Jack-Man states this about the series:

“Jack-Man knows just where to hit ‘em, when it comes to creepy villains.

He packs a punch and eats a healthy lunch.”

Perhaps this webisode capitalizes on that concept more than ever, with such a creepy villain and such a focus on healthy eating.

Vegan Bear explains where vegans get their protein and nutrients, from 6 sources:

Veggies, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.

Ultimately, “Vegan Bear Scare” is technically the 1st half of the story; as Webisode 22, “Tin Roof Rusted,” will immediately pick up where Webisode 21 left off.

But I decided to release them as 2 separate webisodes because of their unique content.

Also, both of these webisodes feature Vegan Bear driving Jack-Man in the 2015 Toyota Corolla!

Here’s a piece of trivia about “Vegan Bear Scare”: it’s the only other webisode, besides Webisode 2, that doesn’t feature Green Meanie.

That’s in part because I wanted all the “villain focus” to be on Vegan Bear, not Green Meanie. The other reason is because Green Meanie shows up on the 2nd half of the story line, in Webisode 22.

I think “Vegan Bear Scare” turned out to be very exciting. However, the next one coming up, “Tin Roof Rusted” is… simply epic.



Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971): Family Friendly Movie Review

For the past several weeks now, my 4 year-old son and I have been listening nothing but the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, on the way to and from school and work each day in my car.

I’m pretty sure he and I have all the words to the songs pretty much memorized by now…

Willy Wonka blank meme phot

When it comes to musicals, they’re not really my thing. However, the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (not the Johnny Depp version) is the exception. It has remained, by default, one of my favorite movies since I first saw it 25 years ago when I was in 2nd grade.

This past weekend, I was able to get my hands on a copy of the DVD so I decided it was time to see what my son Jack thought of it. Not to mention, I was anxious to see it again; it had been at least 15 years for me; plus my wife had never seen it all the way through.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was rated G, back in 1971, when it was first released in theatres and that is the rating that the DVD upholds as well. It was given that raiting only 3 years after America’s movie rating system was set in place. In certain regards though, the ratings system was much more liberal back then.

I think if this version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were released today, it would at least be rated PG; possibly even PG-13.

Willy Wonka Nick Shell

Just for the boat ride scene alone. Enough said, right?

In addition to this part of the movie being extremely suspenseful, Willy Wonka screams about “by the fires of hell a glowing” as footage is shown of an actual chicken getting its head chopped off.

However, my son was completely unfazed by the boat ride scene. He actually seemed to like it!

For Jack, the “most inappropriate” part of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was actually some of the lyrics to one of the Oompa Loompas’ songs:

“What are you at getting terribly fat? What do you think will come of that?”

Right now we are currently teaching him how it’s not okay to say that someone is fat. So I imagine it seemed like a double standard to him when the Oompa Loompas used that phrase.

Other than that, there’s also the fact that all of the other children appear to die while in the chocolate factory. Granted, Willy Wonka (somewhat generically) assures Charlie at the very end of the movie that all the kids are okay.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971): Family Friendly Movie Review

It just depends on whether or not you want to believe a bipolar candyman who uses the labor of little people whom he supposedly rescued, then who turns over his candy factory to a young boy whose grandfather stayed in bed for 20  years who magically was able to sing and dance the moment his grandson found the last remaining golden ticket.

While there are some elements of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that may be a bit inappropriate for a 4 year-old, it’s still a movie that I ultimately had no concerns about exposing my son to.

In fact, most of the movie is perfectly appropriate for a 4 year-old. The chocolate, the absurdity, the songs, the pure imagination…

It was even better than I remembered it! Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a bit creepy at times, but still I think it’s less creepy than The Wizard of Oz.


Dear Jack: Our Visit To The Ghost And Skeleton Museum

3 years, 10 months.

Our Visit To The Ghost And Skeleton Museum

Dear Jack,

Since your Uncle Andrew introduced you to it, you’ve been requesting to watch “Too Spooky For Me” on YouTube:

As I just mentioned in Part Of My Job Is To Scare You, I explained how you actually enjoy me scaring you, as you hold on tightly to me for reinforcement of the fact that I’m here to protect you.

Well, last Thursday on the way to school, you announced, “Daddy, I want to go to a ghost and skeleton museum.”

I didn’t, and still don’t, actually know what you were asking of me. However, I’m your Daddy and it’s my job to provide; or at least, attempt to provide for your requests.

Hey, I like a challenge. I can be creative.

So this past weekend on our fall road trip from Nashville to Asheville, as we reviewed the 4G capabilities of the 2015 Buick LaCrosse, we visited one of those “big tent holiday stores” in the parking lot of the Asheville mall across from the new Whole Foods.

Our Visit To The Ghost And Skeleton Museum

You and I went in together first, while Mommy was in the Ulta (some female store I’ve never heard of) as she used a gift card she had received for her birthday.

Then, once Mommy was finished, you asked to go back, this time as a family. It was important to you that Mommy got to see it too!

In theory, you were slightly terrified on the automated people and monsters. But that’s how committed you were to your request to visit a “ghost and skeleton” museum.

You never sincerely wanted to leave the tent; it was as if you needed to prove to yourself weren’t too scared to be there.

Since our visit, you have enjoyed impersonating the “old man trying to go potty” as seen when we first walked in; you can see it in this video:

On the way back to Nashville I asked you if you liked the “ghost and skeleton” museum.

Your confusing response was this: “Daddy, that wasn’t a ghost and skeleton museum! I wanted to see a skeleton of a ghost!

Yeah, I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.



P.S. Stay tuned for There’s Nothin’ Like Riding Through A Tunnel In The Car, the sequel to this story…

Were you interested in what you just read? Was this post a strangely pleasant distraction to other things popping up on your Facebook or Twitter feed? Ya know… you could always like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or even subscribe to Family Friendly Daddy Blog by clicking on the appropriate icon on the left side of this page. No pressure though…

Dear Jack: Part Of My Job Is To Scare You

3 years, 10 months.

2015 Buick LaCrosse Asheville,NC

Dear Jack,

I think I’ve said before, but as your Daddy, Halloween is one my favorite times of the year. Getting to see you dress up and have fun “seeing monsters” is really cool for me to get to experience with you.

Part of my job and my role as your Daddy is to reinforce the fact that I’m here to protect you. So even when I lead you to a situation where you are afraid, you know that I’m right there to keep you safe.

Granted, I would never scare you to the point of you authentically crying and having nightmares. Instead, I carefully gage your response to the situation…

This past weekend on our fall road trip from Nashville to Asheville, as we reviewed the 4G capabilities of the 2015 Buick LaCrosse, we visited avery foggy (!) apple orchard near Asheville, NC.

I carried you most of the time, and as we walked through the misty orchard, I kept pretending to be the voice of an “apple monster” who was angry that you were there to “take my apples.”

With your hood up on your hoodie, I whispered into your ear, “Jaaaaaaaack… don’t take my apples… go back to the hotel, Jack. I’m the Apple Monster.”

Looking back on this short video of the event, I can see your childlike faith causing you to wonder if you truly were hearing an Apple Monster.

The paradox is that at the same time, you knew it was just me; especially for the fact I was holding you.

Another illustration of this is the fact you kept asking to play “Hide and Seek” in the hotel room.

father and son Asheville, NC

You would stand on the air conditioning unit while looking out the window as you counted; meanwhile, I would hide on the other end of the suite.

I love your adventurous spirit, as you can see in this video, how you so joyfully run to go find me, knowing I’m just going to literally jump out and scare you! (I was standing on top of the couch.)

Yes, I scare you. But I know you love it. You indeed crave that from me. So I give you these “bravery lessons” accordingly.



P.S. “Turn the page” by clicking on Our Visit To The Ghost And Skeleton Museum to read the sequel to this story…

Were you interested in what you just read? Was this post a strangely pleasant distraction to other things popping up on your Facebook or Twitter feed? Ya know… you could always like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or even subscribe to Family Friendly Daddy Blog by clicking on the appropriate icon on the left side of this page. No pressure though…

Dear Jack: Reading Bedtime Stories With A Scream Mask On

3 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: Reading Bedtime Stories With A Scream Mask On

Dear Jack,

This past weekend for Labor Day, we took a road trip in the 2015 Buick LaCrosse through Chattanooga and then to your Nonna and Papa’s house. More on that later…

With all the driving around we did, Mommy and I needed to make sure you got a good nap on Sunday.

As we made our way upstairs to what used to be your Aunt Dana’s bedroom, you saw a Scream mask and a hockey mask I had from high school, lying in the floor of my bedroom which hasn’t been cleaned since… circa 1999.

You asked me to read you a bedtime story, while wearing the Scream mask, before you went down for your nap.

So I did…

For your story, I chose a book from my own childhood: Sesame Street’s Ernie Gets Lost.

I had to make sure my voice matched the character of the mask, so I did my best impression of the voice modulator used in the Scream movies.

You decided you wanted me to use a “quieter” voice instead, so I changed it to a good ole fashioned falsetto female voice, which was much more pleasant sounding- technically.

Keep in mind, this was all your idea. Good thing Mommy and I had the camera handy!

After nap time, the scary masks ended up downstairs and they were passed around for more entertainment. Your cousin Calla appreciated the masks as well, for some reason.

Dear Jack: Reading Bedtime Stories With A Scream Mask On

So yeah, it was pretty much the typical American Labor Day holiday… Scream mask and hockey mask included.

I have a feeling that when we drive back there in a month for your Uncle Andrew’s 30th birthday, you’re going to want me to wear the mask and read a bedtime story again.

This may have been the beginning of a new tradition! What should have been terrifying was simply entertaining, apparently serving as the best way to transition you to peaceful sleep.

[Cue Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”]



dad from day one: A Baby’s Sixth Sense

Week 6.

It’s a sort of eery feeling getting up at 1:30 AM, 3:30 AM, and/or 5:30 AM every morning to feed and change Jack.  While it’s still dark and quiet, while I’m only “awake” enough to put the word in quotation marks, and while my memory barely records the routine actions taking place during the twilight, I’m sure I’m subconsciously looking for something out of the ordinary.  As I hold Jack in one arm and his bottle in the other, the dimly lit room casts a strange shadow on his face.  Sometimes when I look at him during this time I get a little creeped out.  In this situation he reminds me of a baby version of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz (played by the Jewish actor Bert Lahr); that movie and the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, though they are both wonderful classic movies, have always freaked me out a bit.  On a similar note, it also seems like I’m taking care of a little old man, with his receding hairstyle (Jack Nicholson style), his chubby cheeks, and his baby-version-of-cussing-somebody-out cries when he’s really hungry and his diaper is wet.

To make matters more theatrical, there are times when I am taking care of him during the middle of the night when it’s like he peeks around my shoulder and sees something and gets this calm yet curious look on his face. Does he see something?  A guardian angel?  Jesus?  Maybe the ghost of Bert Lahr?

I wouldn’t be surprised if babies can see into the spiritual realm.  It could make sense in a way; babies are completely innocent.  They are unaware of damning traps like pride and greed.  I could see how a baby is naturally closer to Heaven than we adults are.  Sometimes I envy the things my baby may be seeing.  But then again, it would be just another thing to spook me in the middle of the night. It seems every account I can immediately think of in the Bible where an angelic being spoke to a human, the angel always had to start the conversation out with “Do not be afraid…”  But Jack isn’t scared by whatever he is seeing around me that I am less aware; if he’s actually seeing anything supernatural at all.

Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion:

Some Picture Examples of the Weird Houses I Dream About

From “mirror mazes” to “crazy mansions”, it’s often the wacky building itself that is creepy with its peculiar layout, strange placement, and whatnot.

In between bad dreams and good dreams are the ones that are just plain weird.  And while all dreams we have are a least a little strange, some of them specifically can not be classified as negative or positive; for me, I’m specifically referring to the dreams where I’m at an odd location.  It could be a dream taking place in the Swiss Alps (I still remember a dream I had in the 10th grade where I was greeted by a mountain goat on the top of a mountain in Switzerland- it wasn’t significant in any way, but I will never forget the randomness of it) or a remote village in Thailand that I barely remember driving through on a motorcycle from back in 2004.

But I would have to say the most subtle weird dreams are where I am in an unusual house, where it is so odd it’s almost spooky.  Like when I dreamt that 250 townhouses in the development were all attached: The only way to get to mine in the middle of them all was to crawl through hundreds of other people’s living rooms and kitchens, because evidently there were no front and back doors on everyone’s townhouses anymore- just two hidden exit doors for the entire 250 connected homes.

When we think of “spook houses”, our minds often go to some cheesy place we pay $10 to visit around Halloween called Slaughter House! where ultimately a subpar Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and gorilla with a chainsaw (with no blade) jump out at us in the same quarter of a mile stretch.  To me, those obvious caricatures of villains are not scary, because they’re so predictable and anticipated.  Take away the men in costumes, the motorized mummies that pop out from the wall, and the eerie sounds effects streaming from an iPod somewhere.  What’s left is a building.  That, to me, is where the potential lies for spookiness.

And I’m not even taking this to the extreme of an old abandoned house that is rumored to have spirits and ghosts.  I simply mean that the place has a weird layout in which the exits are not obvious.  It’s the idea that I could be lost- and I guess for me, being lost in a strange place is still scary, despite the fact I’m no longer an 8 year-old boy.

If you’ve ever dined at a Buca di Beppo restaurant, you know exactly what I mean: all the kooky black-and-white photographs on the wall, the spumoni type colors of the interior of the walls, the random LP records glued to the ceiling featuring unheard of Italian singers from the 1950’s.  The place is a maze; the first couple of times I went to the restaurant, I got lost finding the restroom, but I had trouble finding the table where I was sitting.

Much less scary than the reality of demons dwelling in abandoned buildings or even the cheap thrills of popular Halloween spook houses, there will always be the kooky and creepy dreams where I’m in a weird house and I don’t know how I got there.  And as for Buca di Beppa- though their Italian food is good stuff, man, their restaurant buildings give me the heeby jeebies.