Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

6 years old.

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

Dear Jack,

With your birthday and Papa’s birthday only being 5 days apart, we were happy to have Nonna and Papa up for the weekend; as we were able to celebrate both birthdays together.

You specifically asked for Nonna to make and bring some pumpkin pie. Friday was Papa’s actual birthday, so we had the pie instead of birthday cake. I’m glad you made that request because we all loved it!

After we had already eaten the “birthday pumpkin pie” and I was cleaning up, I heard Nonna say, “Jack turns 6 and Papa turns 60!”

I immediately attempted to correct her: “No, Papa is only 59…”

But then I remembered: A year ago I wrote a special blog post about Papa turning 59. Nonna was right!

So after spending Friday evening celebrating Papa’s 59th birthday, I realized we were actually celebrating his 60th birthday instead… What a major milestone birthday to get wrong!

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

On Sunday after church, we all went to Grecian Pizzeria for lunch. Despite having lived in Spring Hill now for nearly 2 years, we only recently tried it out. I wish we would have sooner!

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

It is an ideal place for our family to eat. It is very vegan-friendly and vegetarian friendly; which is vital to our family.

So now we don’t have to drive 30 minutes away to Mellow Mushroom or Whole Foods when we want to go somewhere fun for dinner.

You thought it was pretty cool that the waitress displayed your drawing on their wall.

You thought it was pretty cool that the waitress displayed your drawing on their wall.

During our lunch there, I realized this: Papa is 60 years old, you are 6 years old, and Holly is 6 months old. While that is pretty cool, I’m not sure I feel so confident about three 6’s…

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

To officially celebrate your 6th birthday, we actually spent the whole day Saturday at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville. But since I took so many pictures of the event, you’ll have to give me about another week to get that all arranged…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Celebrating Your 6th Birthday and Papa’s 60th Birthday with Pumpkin Pie and Greek Food

 @GrecianPizzeria

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

4 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Dear Jack,

Last week at school your teacher apparently had read your class a book that talked about a corn maze. So Friday morning as I was helping you brush your teeth, you requested we go to one as a family.

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

The closest “pumpkin patch” that had a corn maze was Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN. So Saturday morning we headed that way.

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

At Gentry’s Farm, the pumpkin patch is basically right across from the parking lot, so as soon as we arrived, you found the very best pair of pumpkins out there.

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Amazingly, they were only $3 each. We also let you pick out an all-white “ghost” pumpkin as well, from the $1 bin.

From there, we hopped on the hay ride and checked out the farm. We got to see some very young calves with their mommies.

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Afterwards, you played on some of the playground a little bit before we finally visited the main attraction, in your mind at least.

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Before entering the corn maze, we studied the map first. We saw there were two openings into the maze; both serving as either an entrance or an exit, depending on which one you started with.

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

We were about halfway through the maze when I figured out the trick:

“Jack, just follow the line of people coming towards us; as they should go where we just came from as well.”

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

You enjoyed your first corn maze. Plus, we saw a lot of people we knew there.

I’m glad you decided you wanted to go. Lots of good memories were created there for our family.

It’s the happening place to be right now in the Nashville area, for families looking to participate in the token American traditions for the fall season:

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Picking pumpkins, going on a hayride, and walking through a corn maze.

We also had a lot of fun actually carving the pumpkins, too. But I’ll save that for another letter to you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Family’s Visit to Gentry’s Farm in Franklin, TN

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

4 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

Dear Jack,

Had you ever told me, “Daddy, I want to ride in a real monster truck,” I have a feeling I would have searched the entire state of Tennessee and the 8 other states it borders; only to possibly find some outrageously priced, yet tame version of riding in a monster truck.

Fortunately, this past weekend while “ridin’ low in that Corolla”, we just happened to stumble into a perfect situation.

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

While ironically attending the Spring Hill Ham Festival (I say ironically since you’re a vegetarian and I’m a vegan), we saw a sign for monster truck rides; only $5 per person.

(Plus, it was free admission and free parking!)

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

It was misting, overcast, and late in the day. There was no line and we were the only riders on that trip.

This video I made shows not only what it was like inside the monster truck, Predator, but also outside of it as well.

Seriously, this was no tame ride. Plus, we chose the best seats in the truck; right there at the edge of the bed.

I would have been terrified at your age to do something so intense.

You only showed one quick look of concern, at first; to be following by smiles and laughing for the rest of the ride.

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

Needless to say, we had a great time; in what might turn out to be a once in a lifetime experience.

And again, amazingly- it was just 10 bucks total for the 2 of us to ride!

While we were there, you also enjoyed climbing up and sliding down the “jumpy houses,” as well as getting to visit the petting zoo… or farm, I guess I should say.

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

You also asked to play one of the games.

Basically, you spun a big wheel in which all but 3 of the options were literally labeled “Free Pixy Stick,” while the remaining 3 were simply left blank.

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

Going to the Spring Hill Ham Festival was such a great experience for us as father and son!

Lesson learned: Even if you don’t eat ham, go to the Ham Festival if you get the chance!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We Rode in a Real Monster Truck at the Spring Hill Ham Festival!

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

4 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack,

For this past week our family was given a 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring Sport Edition to review as a family.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

With us having just got back to Tennessee from our annual family vacation in Sacramento, where we reviewed a 2015 Toyota Camry, we decided to lay low this week.

Yet still, Saturday we managed to travel to midtown Nashville to visit the all new Baby+Co.; a spa-like place to give birth, sans the epidural.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

Then on Sunday we decided to trek to Franklin to see the iconic Natchez Parkway Bridge. You nor Mommy had ever been there; whereas I had last summer when I reviewed the 2015 Lexus NX.

While I had the camera rolling as you used the parking lot curb as a balance beam, you stopped in your tracks as you discovered a butterfly that had breathed its final breath.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

You were inspired to give it a proper (yet impromptu) funeral, so we did.

As we were getting ready to leave, after taking some family pictures, you were concerned:

“Where is the food? I thought there were nachos?”

I explained that the name of the place we were at was “Natchez”, not nachos.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We are a family who essentially never goes out to eat; not only because we are vegan/vegetarian and our options are extremely limited, but also because we are Dave Ramsey followers and it’s difficult to justify weekly restaurant money when it could be going to our “new car” fund.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

However, you apparently caught Mommy and me at the perfect moment, because on the drive home Mommy discretely asked me, “Is there somewhere on the way home we might want to stop for lunch?”

Granted, I was happy to oblige; it would save me from dish duty.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We saw a Chili’s coming up on the right. Mommy told me that she recently went to a Chili’s with Grandma and your Aunt Jenny while we were on vacation, and she was surprised how accommodating they were to her vegetarian lifestyle.

n9

So we turned into the Chili’s parking lot. They were so accommodating to my vegan and your and Mommy’s vegetarian requirements, that they actually had a whole page for “dietary restrictions” on their kiosk on the table.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

I’ll keep that in mind the next time we’re on a road trip…

Of course, I made a fun video about all this so you could see it all; along with my super catch jingle I made up, “Come along, in an Avalon…”

You and I also made a walk around video for the Avalon…

And of course I made a video for your 1st day of Pre-K, which also featured the car as well…

So it looks like even on a “lay low” week, we still managed to have a lot of fun!

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell): 2004 Honda Element

If I was an action figure, what would my accessories be?

My wife always goes to sleep before me.  Sometimes, when she’s lucky, I sing her a lullaby to help her transition into dream mode, to coax her into visions of happy clouds and riding unicorns.  Of course, I only serenade her with original songs that I sing as I compose them, on the spot.  Last week, with Avatar fresh on my mind, I sang to her in my finest Styx performing Mr. Roboto voice:

“Nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life

So put on your purple jump suit and watch a pterodactyl fly by

Because nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life”

Pause.

Then she asked, “How can I prepare for the unicorn ride when you just said nothing could ever prepare me?”

She made a good point.  The only disadvantage of having the ability to make up and sing Grammy award winning songs on the spot, is that sometimes I forget the lyrics I’ve already sang earlier in the same song.

Ironically, I was the one who wasn’t prepared.  As for the rest of the time, in everyday life, I am prepared.  Because from 1st grade to 5th grade, I was in Cub Scouts and one of our main mottos was Be Prepared”.  Evidently, that has become a law of life for me.

Take my car, for example:

Honda Elements have been compared to a lot of things: a boot, a shoe, a toaster, a box.  And I’m okay with that, because after 4 ½ years of owning one, I am still in love.  And when the day comes to get a new vehicle, my plan is to simply buy another Honda Element.

I have transformed my already versatile duckbill-platypus-like SUV into the vehicular equivalent of a Swiss army knife.  It’s time to take a tour of my Honda Element and see what I keep on hand at all times, just in case I need it…

Typically I keep one backseat always folded up so I can have my mountain bike with me.  It stays secured between the wall and other seat.  The blue t-shirt helps prevent scuff marks on my seat from the bike and doubles as an emergency back-up shirt.

The way I got that shirt was way back in the summer of 1998 when I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.  One of the old t-shirts I had packed for the trip was one that I got from a church youth conference from the summer of 1993.  It was a white t-shirt with the phrase “JESUS IS FOR NOW” on it.  And that’s all it said.  (In Junior High, my classmate Scott Rothell joked with me: “Jesus is for now; Satan is for later”.  He was a funny guy.)

So when I was in Ecuador, a guy my age (17 at the time) saw me wearing the “Jesus is for now” t-shirt and said he liked it so much that he wanted it.  Because I have developed a friendship with him that week doing skits in city squares and painting schools, I negotiated a t-shirt trade.

He let me look through the old t-shirts he brought along, and the blue one was the one I chose: “Con Amor de Tennessee a Temuco, Chile” (With love from Tennessee to Temuco, Chile”.  Which was the official t-shirt my friend got from a previous mission trip.  It remains a comfortable t-shirt after the 12 years of me owning it.

Behind my passenger seats is where I keep my helmet.  In the cubbies on the sides, I have an old atlas I stole from work, a bandana (for days I don’t feel like wearing a hat but want to cover my head- works well in sweaty or rainy situations).

This is also where I keep my bike maintenance tools and restaurant coupons (which I’ve made several copies of on a color copier so I can reuse them).  As well as flyers for selling my house.  And an atlas in case my GPS stops working.  And windshield defroster spray.  Plus a back-up t-shirt just in case…

In the backseat that is not folded up I keep a black fedora.  Because this kind of hat will instantly make me look classier if need be, even if I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  Plus an old baseball cap I got in 11th grade (1997), as well as a new stylish hat that my mother-in-law mailed me on my birthday.  The right hat for the right situation is key to being a model citizen.

Underneath the seat I keep my Birkenstocks (Christmas present from my parents in 1999).  They make the perfect back-up shoes in case I’m wearing nice shoes and it starts to rain.  In the rear side doors, I keep two books at all times.  Just in case I need to kill some time.  One is about speed reading, the other is about “reading people”.

In between the two front seats, I keep some musk incense I bought at an Indian grocery store, to help keeping my Element smelling like a forest.  I received the toothpaste and toothbrush from my most recent dentist visit- always good to keep around.  And of course it is vital to always have nail clippers handy.

The plastic cup remains empty.  Maybe I’ll end up in a place where there’s water but nothing to put it in.  Then the cup saves the day.

I put Velcro on the back of my iPod (with an FM radio receiver so I can listen to it through my stereo speakers) and my steering wheel so it’s always right in front of me.

In the hidden cubby next to my steering wheel, I keep a few spare wedding rings (made out of hemp) just in case I ever forget to wear my actual one.  Next to some papaya supplements to aid indigestion (for my pregnant wife).

Up in the front passenger dashboard caddy, I keep sugar-free gum, business cards (mainly so I can write my website on them to give to people I meet who after talking to me, are curious about my website).  And a bendable Pink Panther- just because he is awesome.  He is my animal cartoon role model.

There are also some pictures from my wife and I from exactly a year ago when we met her aunt in Chattanooga.  The felt letters say “amp” but they used to say “camp”.  But the “c” fell off and I never found it.  I just wanted to enhance the “camp” theme of my car.

Lastly, in the passenger seat of my Element, I keep my Gap one-strap bookbag.  Inside are my laptop, earphones, camera, Bible, and whatever the main current book is that I’m reading at the time.  I usually bring the bookbag with me when I take my mountain bike for a ride so I can be prepared to entertain myself if I need a break.

With the exception of my TV and my Wii and guitar and my clothes which are in the house, the things I keep in my Element are my earthly possessions.  My Element is like an overnight bag.  Like a turtle’s shell.  My action figure’s accessories.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on Honda Elements, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one