Dear Holly: Bear Hugs with Papa at Thanksgiving

1 year, 7 months.

Dear Holly,

In the midst of the four days we spent at Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama for Thanksgiving, one afternoon you decided to just lay low with Papa on the couch.

You had discovered the giant D.A.R.E. teddy bear wearing a Domino’s Pizza uniform. (Your Aunt Dana won it back in the early 1990s when she was the winner of a coloring contest.)

The bear hugs started with Papa pretending the bear was attacking you, but it didn’t take long before the look on your face gave it away: You were almost tired enough to take a nap.

So after one of the many times the bear jumped on top of you, smashing you in between Papa and the bear, you decided just to take advantage of the situation by cuddling up to both of them.

I actually started wondering if at some point you would just fall asleep, resting your little head on the giant bear’s shoulder. For anyone walking by you in the living room, there was an unspoken level of respect:

Just let Holly hang out with Papa and the bear.

Had this all happened a little earlier in the day, it could have been a 20 minute wrestling match with the bear; making its way all the way to the floor.

But no.

Your vibes attract your tribe. Therefore, you defeated the giant bear though cuddles alone.

Sometimes the best way to win a fight is with a big hug.

The bear was no match for your sweetness.

And not only did you win the fight against the bear, but you also won the fight against giving me a reason to take you upstairs for your afternoon nap.

Enough chill time was had with Papa and the bear, so I just let serve as your 2nd nap that day.

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Jack: Our Hike at Little River Canyon with Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca

7 years.

Dear Jack,

This Thanksgiving was extra special because your Uncle Joe (one of Mommy’s 7 brothers) and Aunt Rebecca drove up from Pensacola, Florida to spend the holiday weekend with us; even though they knew there would be no turkey at our vegan Thanksgiving feast…

They must have really wanted to visit us!

We made sure to show them a good time; Northern Alabama style! That means participating in mandatory fun by hiking some of the many awesome trails that I grew up near.

Just 5 miles from Nonna and Papa’s house, where lived during my high school years, is the epic Little River Canyon.

We started out my taking an up-close look at the waterfall, by standing on the deck. But you weren’t too impressed. You were ready to hike the trail that traverses along the side of the mountain, making its way down to the river.

Amazingly, this is a trail that I had never hiked once, in all my years of growing up in Fort Payne, Alabama. Somehow I never knew about this one.

As we started hiking it and I realized not only how beautiful it is, but also how challenging, it made me wish I had known about it much sooner; like in high school.

I will admit, the hike was much more challenging that I had anticipated, but we all safely made our way down to the river… and back up!

It was so cool once we got to the water; like showing up in the middle of a white water rapids course. When I think of Alabama, this is the kind of thing I think of.

I grew up on a mountain with a river running through it. This is what I think of when I think of growing up in Alabama. These trails are just a well kept secret.

It was so cool that your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca drove all the way up to see us for Thanksgiving. Had they not been there, I’m not sure we would have embarked on such a special trail.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: I Experience Guilt for Not Being Able to Spend as Much Time with You Right Now

6 years.

Dear Jack: I Experience Guilt for Not Being Able to Spend as Much Time with You Right Now

Dear Jack,

Once we got back from our Thanksgiving trip to Nonna and Papa’s in Alabama, as we were walking through the front door of our house, I put my arm around your shoulder and said, “You did so good on the trip. I am really proud of you.”

As I was saying those words, it’s like it hit me all at once: You were so independent. You didn’t really need me for much the whole time. I didn’t have to worry about you.

Though I was in the same house as you, and often the same room, you and I were interacting with other family members instead of each other; compared to the norm.

So you and I didn’t really have much quality time together, though we did with other members of the family who we don’t see as often.

We did the right thing. After all, the holidays is for catching up with people you don’t see as often.

Yet, I suppose I still somehow experienced some guilt over it. Because as we settled back in after Thanksgiving, I realized how much of my time is required by your sister Holly.

For me to be a good husband and good parent, I have to be holding a baby most of the time we are all together at the house. While I am proud to take care of your sister, I recognize that the days of you and I just being able to hang out anytime are sort of on hold for right now.

Before your sister was born, we could just easily run upstairs and watch a stupid movie together or go outside for a hike.

But these days, my mobility is greatly restricted by me taking care of your sister while Mommy concentrates on the majority of the housework; like cooking and laundry.

I miss our time together. Things will eventually get back closer to how they were before. But honestly, I think it will be another 5 months or so, when your sister turns a year old.

You’re such a good kid. I don’t want to miss out on truly living every minute I can with you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

7 months.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

Dear Holly,

You turned 7 months old on Thanksgiving, which was your very first Thanksgiving, by the way. It was a larger gathering than normal for us, as your Uncle Andrew’s parents were in town. Plus, your Great-Uncle Al and Great-Aunt Sharon visited us as well.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving a3 a4 a5

Something I officially realized about you during this holiday is that you genuinely love being passed around to different people. It’s a win-win. You love being held- and people love holding you.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving a12 a14 a15 a17

In particular, you like to test people out and their cuddling abilities. It’s hilarious to watch you just lay your head down into a person’s shoulder within a minute of meeting them. You naturally assume that everyone wants to be your friend- and you’re right!

You automatically smile real big anytime you see a new person, so naturally, they want to hold this smiley baby girl.

As I look through these pictures, I love seeing the obvious difference in skin tone, comparing yours to pretty much everyone else in our family. I know I probably mention this a lot, but it really is fascinating to me how you have collected the rarest of genes from the family tree.

We had a vegan Mexican feast for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, you were introduced to a new baby food: applesauce and prunes. Fortunately for your digestion, you liked the combo. I am so happy you are able to rely less on formula and more on solid foods.

Your brother was happy because he got some birthday presents; a Lego set and an electronic board set.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving a7 a8 a10 a13 a16

Before everyone left, we took some family pictures. We should do that more often.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

So there you go- that’s what you did during your very first Thanksgiving! And now we’re less than a month away from your first Christmas. I’m really excited about what Mommy and I got you for your main gift…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

You’re likely reading this because you fall into one of two categories: Either you’re a fellow vegan like me… or you’re simply curious to see what a Thanksgiving looks like without the traditional turkey and dressing.

Well, I can’t speak for most plant-based families out there, but I can definitely tell you what our family did for Thanksgiving this year.

We had a very vegan, and Mexican, feast.

Why Mexican? The main reason is because it was the easiest menu for my wife to plan and prepare; not to mention, we were travelling with the food for 3 hours from Tennessee to Alabama.

The other reason, though it could arguable be a coincidence, is that my side of the family is part Mexican; so it simply seemed natural to do so.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

When we drove in the night before Thanksgiving, my mom made some homemade Michoacán style “tacos” for my wife and me to try. The recipe was one that my Grandma (who was full Mexican) passed on to my mom.

Plus, we made vegan pancakes. Not to mention, avocado toast. And some breakfast muffins, using chia seeds as part of the recipe.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

The next day for our actual Thanksgiving Day feast, we had a taco bar. My wife cooked up 3 pounds of Beyond Meat (made from pea protein) for the main filling. Plus, my mom prepared black beans, pinto beans, and refried beans. We of course had veggies to dress the tacos, as well as avocado, which serves as a high-fat cheese substitute. There was also some really healthy black rice with almonds; so hearty!

My mom also made some bean salads for sides and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

There was so much food that we still had enough left over to have the meal again the next day. Both times we had the meal, we had guests over. We didn’t tell them it was vegan, but they seemed to enjoy it just the same.

So, there you go. That’s what we had for our Thanksgiving feast. And it worked so well, we plan to repeat our menu again for Christmas!

Whatever brings you to this blog post today, please know that you are welcome here. No pressure at all for you to adopt the wildly strange and counter-cultural lifestyle I have lived for many years now.

Just enjoy the scenery and scratch your head in wonder. It’s okay. This is a safe place.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast