Dear Jack: The Elf on the Shelf is Your Newest Stuffed Animal

5 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: The Elf on the Shelf is Your Newest Stuffed Animal

Dear Jack,

A year ago, Mommy bought a slightly smaller version of the Elf on the Shelf, on clearance after Christmas.

She unboxed it this past weekend and…. the next day he suddenly appeared in a different place.

That was the last time the Elf on the Shelf demonstrated his magic, because since then, you have been carrying him around with you everywhere: to school, to dinner, to bed…

In other words, you saw the Elf on the Shelf as an opportunity to adopt another stuffed animal.

This weekend when Nonna is in town, I’m going to have you and her count exactly how many stuffed animals you have now. I won’t be surprised if that number is very close to 100.

In fact, let me put in my official estimate. How about 83? I could be way under, but I think you have at least 83 stuffed animals.

As people have been seeing you in public, walking around with who you have named “Elfie,” some of them have looked at us in a state of surprise, as if it was taboo to carry about an Elf on the Shelf.

I’ve recently learned that legend says if you touch the elf, he loses his magic.

That theory checks out, as he hasn’t disappeared since the day you started carrying him around.

Granted, Mommy told me that this slightly smaller version is specifically designed to be held, as she read on the packaging.

However, people don’t know that when they see you holding him. Your friends at school and church were so shocked.

It makes no difference to you. He’s another stuffed animal and you managed to once again outsmart the system.

You let the rest of the world play their reindeer games with the Elf on the Shelf. Meanwhile, you just got away with a new toy before Christmas.



Dear Holly: The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby

22 weeks.

Dear Holly: The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby

Dear Holly,

This week Mommy got your brother Jack a new book to help him transition into his upcoming “big brother” status: It’s called The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby; where Brother Bear gets a baby sister.

(By the way, you will be born into a family that greatly appreciates the folksy Jewish/Christian cultural perspective of the Berenstain Bears’ book collection.)

It’s important to me that I make sure your brother doesn’t feel left out when you get here. Whereas you’ll always know what it’s like to have a sibling, he will have 5 and a half years’ experience as an only child before that changes for him.

Mommy and I are going to be on the lookout for a special toy for him, upon your arrival; it likely will be a stuffed animal, as that’s the main thing he’s into.

My own parents did the same for me when my sister was born; I got a Garfield stuffed animal.

Similarly, last week Jack got you a doll for when you get here.

You are going to get so much attention from everyone once you arrive. You are our precious little girl.

I just want to make sure I do my best to proactively prevent this from being more difficult than it has to be as he soon will become a big brother.

Fortunately, he’ll be old enough to where I think it will work to his advantage; that he will be eager to use his “helper” skills.

Your personality will be formed, and his may be altered, as the two of you begin interacting; especially in your first couple of years together.

So as your Daddy, I feel responsible for creating the atmosphere and environment void as much as possible of competition, but instead, cooperation.

I think that this new Berentstain Bears book is a good way to help set the pace right.



P.S. Here’s a picture your brother Jack drew of our family so far. Before too long, he’ll be drawing 4 people.

Dear Holly: The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby

Dear Jack: Your Possible New Part-Time Pet Named Whiskers (or Oliver?)

5 years.

Dear Jack,

Dear Jack: Your Possible New Part-Time Pet Named Whiskers (or Oliver?)

Last weekend while we were in Alabama visiting my side of the family for Thanksgiving weekend, Mommy and I went on our usual 2 mile morning walk that we always do when we go there.

As we were half way through our route, a little black kitty started following us; desperately meowing as if to say, “Won’t somebody take care of me? I’m so hungry. I don’t have anyone.”

I kneeled down and petted the cat, then we continued on our walk. It followed us briefly, but then couldn’t keep up.

Fifteen minutes later, as Mommy and I rounded back down that road, the little black kitty was waiting for us.

We didn’t slow down, as we assumed there was a good chance it actually lived on that road. But this time, the cat kept its speed; even though we were ignoring it the whole way back.

Once we arrived back at Nonna and Papa’s house, we soon realized the difficulty of even trying to feed the kitten; as your grandparents don’t have any meat; much less, cat food, in their house.

So Mommy suggested we beat an egg, and serve it in a bowl to the kitten. It worked.

It was obvious the cat was in great need of nutrition. Throughout the day, I cut some slices of cheese I found in the refrigerator and feed it to the kitty.

To everyone’s surprise, we woke up and the little black kitten was still there; asleep on the back porch where we had fed it the eggs and cheese.

After all, he apparently had nowhere else to be or to go.

For the record, we did attempt to feed the kitten some of our food, which is vegan and vegetarian, but the cat was uninterested; after all, felines are carnivores, not omnivores.

So Nonna had me run in to the local grocery store and buy some official cat food.

His name, according to you, is Whiskers.

However, Nana likes the name Oliver; and she, along with Papa, will be the ones actually taking care of him.

And yes, it is a him; as seen in my new web series, Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest. Last night as we were watching the 3rd webisode, you announced, “Hey Daddy, look… I can see his nugget pouch!”

(Previously you had asked me how I knew he was a boy cat, so I explained that his “nugget pouch” under his tail was how I could tell.)

“Kitty,” as he is known on my show, apparently will be a by-default regular supporting cast member (like Gunther on Friends).

In addition to being part of the main plotline of the “Freddie the Fox” webisode, he also is undeniably present in the opening montage of my new show.

I never intended for him to be part of the show, but he just kept showing up during filming, so I wrote him into the script.

You and your cousin Calla definitely enjoyed having him around this past weekend. If he sticks around Nonna and Papa’s place, he just might end up being your part-time pet each time we visit there.



Dear Jack: 3 Funny Things You Said While Waiting to Find out You’re Having a Sister

5 years.


Dear Jack,

We made a family affair out of finding out whether we are having a boy or a girl.

The suspense was getting the best of both you and me as we waited a good 25 minutes’ worth of the nurse showing us all the signs of your sibling being a healthy baby before the mltechnician finally revealed to us that you are having a… sister!

Mommy appeared perfectly calm during the wait… it was you and me that had way too much nervous energy.

During those never-ending 20 minutes of suspense leading up to the big reveal, you said 3 things that were just so hilarious to me…

When the technician asked whether you thought you were going to have a brother or sister, you responded:


Shortly afterwards, the technician showed us the baby’s spine. You looked up at the monitor screen on the wall and excitingly proclaimed,“Oh, that’s the baby’s teeth!”

From then, until we finally got confirmation that it’s definitely a girl inside Mommy’s tummy, you kept asking, “When can I see the baby’s butt?”

I can tell you’re not really able to process yet that you will be able to see baby Holly in April. It’s too big of a concept for you to process right now.

But you celebrated at Whole Foods, to some degree, where we bought you a new stuffed animal for your collection. First you chose a hedgehog, but then after I had always Instagrammed the event…

Jack got to pick out a new animal to celebrate finding out whether he will have a brother or sister... we announce to the world tomorrow!

Jack got to pick out a new animal to celebrate finding out whether he will have a brother or sister… we announce to the world tomorrow!

You changed your mind and got a pink pig instead…

He changed his mind...

He changed his mind…

By the way, Mommy is perhaps the happiest I’ve ever seen her as long as I’ve known her. In her quiet way, I was able to witness just how much it means to her that Holly is on her way.

As for you, I feel a feeling you’ll come around once your sister after gets here.



Nonfiction Rules; Fiction Drools (Why I Would Rather Allude to True Stories of My Own Life Than to Have to Create Characters and Story Lines)

Why make up a bunch of stuff to write about when the story is just sitting there, waiting to be told?

There are many times in life when I believe it’s important to work on my weaknesses until they become my strengths.  Like with the Rubik’s Cube, for example.  Other times, I just run the other way, knowing that the best option is just to stick with what I know best.  And so is the case with writing fiction; I’m not good at it, I don’t enjoy it, and I have no desire to try.  Seems like too much homework to me.  Granted, I very much admire/envy those who have the talent to write fiction.

I write nonfiction, instead, because it comes so naturally to me.  There’s no need to invent clever, yet deep characters- I already have all the ones I need.

The characters of my writings are usually you (both specifically and generically at the same time), friends, family, heroes, idiots, time, life itself, and myself.  The trickiest part of making this work is how I handle both the first and last subject I just named: you and me.

When I do actually use the word “you”, I try to avoid placing it next to the word “probably” because I don’t truly know anything “you probably” do, think, or are.  All I can do is portray things from my own perspective based on what I do, think, and am.  As for myself as a subject (the narrator and host), I’m careful not to make it obvious what a major role I play in the story.  I will quote French author Gustave Flaubert, “An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.”  It’s not about me; it’s about the story.  But the only way I can set the stage for common ground between “you” and me is by accenting the whole thing with my own life.  Like most album covers for the Steve Miller Band’s records where Steve Miller himself was M.I.A., if my face or image is attached or present, it’s almost better.  Let the art speak for itself.

I also love writing nonfiction because it’s pretty convenient how time can be manipulated; I am able to encompass the past, present, and future all in one.  Typically I start out the post with a story that already happened (past), linking it to who I am today (present day), and end it with how that sets the tone for how things will continue to be (future).

Writing nonfiction allows me to serve as my own psychologist, hopefully entertain others, and in a sense, to have the ability to travel through time.