Dear Jack: Hiding in an Ocean of Stuffed Animals, Like E.T. in 1982

5 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: Hiding in an Ocean of Stuffed Animals, Like E.T. in 1982

Dear Jack,

Last weekend we were in Alabama, celebrating Aunt Dana’s birthday a month late, since the blizzard happened the same day we were supposed to go there on our actual birthday weekend.

You and your cousin Calla enjoyed playing hide-and-go-seek with Uncle Andrew.

With the two of you both being 5 years-old now, you’ve mutually reached a convenient dynamic: You come up with fun and weird ideas, and your cousin goes along with them.

When it came time for your final hiding place before we left to drive back to Tennessee, you discovered the perfect hiding place.

In your Aunt Dana’s dormer window upstairs, there is a display of 1980s and 1990s stuffed animals; including, but not limited to, a Popple, a giant Domino’s Pizza teddy bear, Shoney Bear, and Alf.

You saw it as the perfect opportunity. Quite seamlessly, the two of you immersed yourself in the ocean of stuffed animals.

Instead of hiding out of sight, the two of you hid in plain sight.

Just your expressionless faces were showing in the collection of stuffed animals. I admit, I wouldn’t have found the two of you- I would have walked right past.

Fortunately, your Uncle Andrew snapped a picture of the event on his phone and ran downstairs to show us all, before officially “finding” you two.

It would have been one thing if an adult had given you this idea. But no- this was the result of two 5 year-olds hiding from an adult.

Even more impressive, you have never seen the movie E.T.; since it is not available on Netflix streaming.

One day, when you finally get to see that movie, you’ll watch the scene where E.T. himself hides in a closet full of stuffed animals.

You didn’t get the idea from adults or from a movie. You thought of this all on your own.

I am definitely impressed.



Dear Jack: Pandy’s Birthday is Today, Blue Cheetie’s Is on Kwanzaa, and Ellie’s is on Christmas (But No One on Hannukah)

5 years.

Dear Jack: Pandy’s Birthday is Today, Blue Cheetie’s Is on Kwanzaa, and Ellie’s is on Christmas

Dear Jack,

Last night as we were finishing up dinner, you stated that you wanted to work on a paper hat for your stuffed Panda bear, Pandy.

I explained that you might not have enough time to really get started on that, as it soon would be time to go upstairs and get ready for bed.

Immediately, out of nowhere, you began crying, “But Pandy’s birthday is tomorrow!”

I had to turn my head to keep you from letting you see me laugh; Mommy too.

Somehow I had not been informed that Pandy’s birthday was coming up. Therefore, I gladly let you work on Pandy’s birthday party decorations. From there, you explained to me that also, Blue Cheetie’s birthday is on Kwanzaa, and Ellie’s is the day before, on Christmas day.

Dear Jack: Pandy’s Birthday is Today, Blue Cheetie’s Is on Kwanzaa, and Ellie’s is on Christmas

Shortly after, I learned that this week at your Pre-K, Rainbow Childcare Center, you have been learning all about the tradition religious and cultural holidays of this month.

You quickly explained to Mommy that Hannukah has 8 days of celebration and Kwanzaa has 7 days.

Obviously, you’ve been paying attention at school; so much so that you are incorporating it into your playtime at home.

Though apparently, none of your stuffed animals’ birthdays happen to be on Hannukah. I was really hoping to see you make a menorah out of paper. Maybe next year.

It’s such a coincidence that their birthdays all happen to be on special days like all these you learned about at school. But I suppose it’s similar to the way that your baby sister, Holly, is due right around my 35th birthday; on April 20th, 2016.

My favorite part of this story is that Pandy is turning 2 today, yet you’ve had her for over 4 years now. I guess in Panda years, a year takes twice as long.



Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

5 years.

Dear Jack,

We just got back from your “destination birthday party” in Destin, Florida. Instead of having a party back home in Tennessee, the 3 of us (technically 4, if you count Baby Holly or Logan in the womb) decided to take a family vacation to celebrate your 5th birthday. To make things extra special for you, Lexus let us drive a Lexus GX for the trip!

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

Over the next week or so, I’ll be writing plenty more about your destination birthday party. But as for today, I should mention one of the overall themes our 4 ½ day vacation.

As we were leaving Tennessee, I Instagrammed a picture of you with the stuffed animals you chose to bring on the trip.

Jack is bringing a few of his friends along for the ride.

          Jack is bringing a few of his friends along for the ride.

In the likeness of the 1985 movie Brewster’s Millions, you felt the need to spend all $100’s worth of your gift cards you received as birthday presents before we left Florida.

Mommy and I put the additional cash and checks that you received into your savings account, but as the $100 in gift cards, we decided it was fair to let you manage how it was spent.

After all, it was your birthday party and birthday weekend. Mommy and I wanted it to truly be a big deal to you.

So as soon as we arrived in Destin, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble where you spent your first $15; on a “Shark Week” shark.

I Instagrammed that event as well:

And the beginning of the birthday money spending begins...

 And the beginning of the birthday money spending begins…

We took you to Target to let you possibly spend some of your remaining $85. While Mommy looked around for stuff she needed, I hung out with you for nearly an hour in the toy aisle; serving as your budget manager.

I helped explain to you how much things cost and how much remaining birthday money you would have if you bought that item.

For example, you were interested in a Power Ranger gun that you had seen on their show… but it cost $27!

You ended up buying a $13 Play-Doh ice cream shop. And boy did you have fun with that once we got back to the resort!

However, that was the only item you spent your $100 on that wasn’t a stuffed animal.

You later bought a baby shark while we were on the dolphin cruise. And then a baby penguin when we visited the Gulfarium. Then several more stuffed animals throughout the course of our trip…

Of course, we reminded you that you didn’t have to spend all $100 on the trip. But again, it was your birthday, so we wanted it to be your decision on how you spent the money; since it wasn’t cash that Mommy and I would have put in your savings account without you knowing it.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

We reminded you had enough money to buy anything at all you wanted… even a brand-new bike!

However, the reality of it is that as a 5 year-old boy whose parents both work full time, there’s not a lot of time for you to ride your bike; especially since how weekends are often filled with running errands, like buying groceries and getting maintenance done on our cars.

When I considered which toys you actually spend the most time playing with, it’s not the plastic ones so much.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

Granted, you love building Legos and you love your massive Hot Wheels and Thomas the Train collections… but ultimately, your exhaustive stuffed animal collection gets the most play time.

Every morning when we get ready for school, you always choose 2 animals to take to school with you.

I get it. You don’t see them as toys, but as real animals that you enjoy taking care of. You love pretend that they are babies that you are in charge of.

Granted, that concept goes well with the fact you have a baby brother or sister on the way…

I recognize these stuffed animals serve as tools for your psychological and social development. They’re much more than just stuffed animals.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

So it doesn’t bother me that you spent $100 on stuffed animals (and a Play-Doh set) during your destination birthday party. I’m all for it.

I’m for whatever toys are going to help your development as a little boy. You spent most of your $100 on stuffed animals because in your currency, they hold more value than any other kind of toy.

Ultimately, a decade from now, it’s all the same anyway. Looking back, I’ll know that whether you spent your birthday money on stuffed animals or Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles, it made you happy as a boy on 5th birthday.

And that’s all that matters to me.



Dear Jack: I’m Feeling Guilty About Rushing Through Our Daily Routines

3 years, 11 months.

I’m Feeling Guilty About Rushing Through Our Routines

Dear Jack,

Last night I had a dream in which I could see myself rushing through our bedtime routine; which is pretty much what happened in real life last night.

In my subconcious, I guess I felt bad about not living in the moment enough.

Sometimes I wish we lived in some village in Thailand where we owned very little material things and had more quality time as a family.

On my conference call with Kirk Cameron yesterday, he referenced this guilt we have as parents in knowing the paradox of balancing a demanding schedule with quality family time.

So while I’m not being hard on myself, it is a real and legitimate issue than I am forced to think about.

Even today on the drive to school, I rushed us out of the house, rushed us down the Interstate, rushed you into school; only to forget your stuffed animal in car.

I left your school with you crying and was still a few minutes late to work anyway.

For my lunch break, I drove back to your school, just in time to deliver your stuffed animal to you for your nap time.

I’m Feeling Guilty About Rushing Through Our Routines

I know this is a normal feeling, but it’s really on my mind right now.

Granted, we’re in the process of selling our townhouse, moving our stuff into storage, and buying/building a new house.

By default, life is chaotic for us right now.

And your Mommy and I are actually planners! We are extremely aware of doing our best to ensure as much quality time together as possible.

We’re so extreme we don’t even have cable TV or smart phones or pets; and yet still, there’s that instinct for me to rush through our routines.

Maybe somehow this will get better once we move into our new house, I don’t know.

I don’t want to get in the habit of camping out in the future when the reality is, you’re growing up right in front of me.

Also on my call with Kirk Cameron yesterday, he spoke about the importance of not depending too much on our children’s teachers or coaches or even church leaders to raise our kids; that ultimately, if a child has parents who love each other and set the example, that influences a child more than anything.

So while life is not as easy I as I wish it could be, we’ll do the best with what we have and hope you turn out alright anyway.

I’m pretty sure you will.



shoes family

Shopping For Birthday And Christmas Presents: Done And Done

3 years, 10 months.

Shopping For Birthday And Christmas Presents: Done And Done

Dear Jack,

Your birthday (November 16th) and Christmas are just a little more than a month apart. So all year, Mommy and I have been preparing by secretly scouting out the clearance section at Target, as well as and for ridiculously good deals.

Over all, we only paid a fraction of the cost of what your birthday and Christmas gifts should have amounted to.

For the past several months, these mysterious brown boxes have been waiting for us on our doorstep when we get home…

This week, Mommy and I finally laid all your upcoming gifts out on the floor to evaluate the situation, officially verifying that we are now finished with buying both your birthday and Christmas gifts.

I am so excited about you opening these! I can’t wait to be able to sit down with you and play.

Let’s talk about that anteater…

As I recently mentioned, you have a peculiar fascination with anteaters; as seen in your picture of the anteater who ate a monster. (I love how the monster who was eaten by the anteater is just as happy as the anteater who ate the monster!)

Shopping For Birthday And Christmas Presents: Done And Done

You have been asking for an anteater stuffed animal for quite a while now. So Mommy special ordered one of the Internet. It looks so bizarre!

But I’m confident to believe you will love it. Mommy and I wondered if your anteater will end up in the same privileged category as Ellie the Elephant and Pandy the Panda Bear, who get to ride in the car with you and wear your underwear to school.

These Are The Days Of Stuffed Animals Wearing Underwear

We also wonder what you will name him/her. My guess is “Anty.” I guess we’ll see in about two months for your 4th birthday.

Anty very well could be wearing your underwear to school.



These Are The Days Of Stuffed Animals Wearing Underwear (And Funny Drawings Of Anteaters!)

3 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

These Are The Days Of Stuffed Animals Wearing Underwear

I just want to bookmark which stage of childhood you are in right now. These are the days of you dressing your stuffed animals in your own “big boy underwear.”

It would be one thing if these specially dressed animals stayed indoors where only Mommy and I knew about them.

But… nope.

Each morning you choose an underwear-wearing stuffed animal to ride in the car with you on the ride to school. Then the privileged creature gets to be placed in your cubby all day while you learn.

At the end of each school day, with much pride, you remove your animal from the cubby for the ride home.

Let me just say it again:

Your animals are wearing your own underwear. And you are the one who picks out which pair of your underwear they wear, then you put the underwear on them.

These Are The Days Of Stuffed Animals Wearing Underwear

That’s hilarious!

But part of what makes this so funny is that you don’t appear to be trying to be funny or ironic, in the least bit.

It’s as if you are treating Ellie (your much worn-out purple elephant) and Pandy (your panda bear, who like Ellie, is also a $5 Kohl’s purchase from the check-out counter) as peers who are legitimately encountering the transition to “big boy underwear” as you are.

I don’t know how many other 4 year-old boys in America are doing the same thing right now, but I know that I did the same thing was I was about your age.

These Are The Days Of Stuffed Animals Wearing Underwear

Something else you’re doing these days that I feel is definitely defining you is your funny and creative drawings you do at school each day.

I think I might need to start up a special folder to start saving them in the Facebook page for Family Friendly Daddy Blog in a photo album simply called “Jack’s Art.”

These Are The Days Of Stuffed Animals Wearing Underwear

As for now, I’ll leave you with my current personal favorite; this picture you drew of “an anteater that ate a monster.”



These Are The Days Of Stuffed Animals Wearing Underwear