Jack is 7 months older than his cousin Calla; my sister’s daughter who was born last June. I think he’s still trying to figure out how to react to her.
Last weekend as we were visiting my family in Alabama during Easter, I paid special attention to the two of them. I tried to imagine what Jack was thinking:
“Is she a fellow toddler citizen? Not quite yet.
Is she a puppy? Maybe.
What am I supposed to do with her? She keeps staring at me.
Why does she keep touching me? Why does Daddy look upset every time I start to reach back at her?
This is weird, man.”
For me, as Jack’s dad, watching him try to socialize with his very feminine little cousin was kind of like hoping your dog doesn’t bite someone else’s smaller dog at a park.
Fortunately, I think he realizes that she is no threat. That became evident to me when we were hanging out in the storm shelter and Calla stuck her fingers up to the side of his eye, then plopped her leg up over his. He didn’t move; he just sat there, confused.
It was like in an Eighties’ sitcom where someone knows they’re about to get pie-faced but instead of moving out of the way, they just stand there and take it.
By the end of the weekend, I think Jack began to assume she really is a baby friend. They read a book together and then had a lot of fun out on the swings in the backyard.
As many pictures that have been taken of Jack in a swing, none of them have ever been featured on The Dadabase because Jack doesn’t look like he’s having any fun; just very stoic.
This is the exception. Jack’s cousin doesn’t walk or talk yet like he can, but she is able to show him how to have fun; even if she is a girl.
This year’s traditional Easter pictures were taken in my sister’s storm shelter; and Jack just went along with it, not knowing any different. Though I admit, he looks pretty intense in the picture above.
I think it’s safe to say, we may have very well started a new family tradition for Jack; as random as it is.
While spending the weekend in Alabama with my family, my sister wanted to make sure we checked out the new storm shelter that she and her husband just got installed behind their house. (A year ago around this time, while we were living there, we had to flee across the Georgia state line because tornadoes caused the power to go out for the whole city.)
So Easter morning, after we gave our kids their Easter baskets, we opened the hatch (yes, like on Lost) and all descended six feet into the earth; to test out the storm shelter.
Somehow during the process, my dad ended up with a camera and did his best to capture a couple of shots of the glorious event. Between the two shots, mostly everyone was smiling and looking at the camera.
I already know that 10 years from now, the thing I will remember most about Easter 2012 is testing out my sister’s storm shelter. Jack won’t remember it, but I’m pretty sure a new family tradition has been born.
In a few years, as we step down into the white abyss for the current family Easter photo, I’m sure he’ll ask me, “Daddy, why do we always go down here to take our picture? Why not outside in the yard like most families?”
The truth is, I won’t have a real good answer for him. Because like most good memories that make for good stories, this wasn’t planned. So much of life is just simply showing up and participating. A lot of times, from there, something interesting is bound to happen. Especially when we’re surrounded by family.
Note: It has recently been brought to my attention that based on the picture below, a theory has been formed that I caused a stinky situation in those confined spaces. I officially dispel this rumor. It was a mere coincidence that my wife happened to be covering her mouth as I apparently did my best impression of Robert De Niro.
But I will say, give it a few years, and Jack will definitely be the guilty, stinky culprit.
Pictured from left: My mom, my son Jack, my sister, my dad, myself, my wife Jill, my brother-in-law, and lastly, my niece.
As our son Jack is approaching his first birthday on November 16th, my wife and I are doing our best to help him transition into eating solid foods. After all, he has eight teeth now so he might as well be using them.
The thing is, he doesn’t really have an appetite for much more than bananas and wheat bread. Granted, he did take a bite of a styrofoam cup last weekend… and I assume he swallowed it.
It’s weird having to train your kid: “Cheese, good. Styrofoam, bad.”
But that’s where we’re at. In the midst of this, we’re still unpacking from our move back into our townhouse in Nashville. On a recent fateful Thursday, my wife brought us home some leftover boxed lunches from where she works at Vanderbilt University.
While we normally don’t have chips in the house, there was a small bag of plain Baked Lay’s potato chips in each of our free lunches. So maybe for the sake of curiosity; or maybe more in an attempt to entertain ourselves, we gave him a Baked Lay’s potato chip to try out. And this is what happened:
There are so many hilarious things about this 39 second video clip and they are all very subtle. It’s the kind of clip you really need to watch at least three times before you start understanding why it’s so funny and entertaining.
First off, he’s sitting on a box like an old man; or as my sister phrased it, “like a bumpkin.” He very carefully takes each bite of the chip, then looks over to my wife for approval every time.
Thirteen seconds in, he makes a face that says, “Kinda sour, but not too shabby.”
My favorite part about it is when he looks over at my wife the third time, 23 seconds into the clip, like he’s about to say something but then instantly decides against it.
It’s as if he stopped eating to convey, “Hey, I really like this thing.” But then he was afraid if he did, we would take the chip away from him because it’s not as healthy as the vegetables and fruit we normally give him to eat.
Oh, and the crumb on his lip! Classic.
I do want to take this moment to invite you to the official Facebook fan page for The Dadabase, which doubles as my son’s official fan page on Facebook. By joining, you’ll see exclusive pictures and videos of Jack before I ever write about them here on Parents.com; if they even do make it to The Dadabase.
So in other words, you’ll get exclusive content about my son Jack; plus, you’ll be notified immediately every time I publish a new post on The Dadabase because you’ll see the link on your news feed.
After all the plotlines my wife and I have lived through in accordance to our move from Nashville to my hometown in Alabama, and now back to Nashville again, it’s only natural for us to wonder: Why?
Q) Why did we spend seven months and [x amount] of dollars to live here in my hometown, only to have to go back to where we came from?
A) It took moving away from Nashville to cause us to become positively changed people so that we could go back to Nashville as the necessarily improved versions of ourselves. But we didn’t know any of this when we left Nashville.
I can confidently say that living in the small town of Fort Payne, Alabama has caused us to fully adopt the millionaire mindset (living as frugally as possible.) Because we became Dave Ramsey followers shortly after we got married and have since been living on a budget, we thought we were doing pretty well when it came to financially planning our lives.
But we had much more to learn. And I know for a fact I would have never learned to be this much of a penny-pincher if it weren’t for my unemployment and my wife’s inability to get a job, despite having a Master’s degree.
The move to Alabama has been the most humiliating process I have endured in my life: Note that when I used the word “humiliating” just now, I meant it in the sense of being humbled and disciplined, not embarrassed or shamed. (Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission.”)
Looking back, I can see how our former budget allotted my wife and I too much “blow money” (Dave Ramsey’s term for extra cash for personal enjoyment), too much “gift money” (money spent on gifts for birthday and Christmas gifts for our friends and family), and too much “food money” (money spent on eating out at restaurants and going out for coffee on the weekend). Not only that, but now we have learned to ask the question, “What will cause us to earn/save the most money?” when making any decision, big or small.
The version of me from a year ago just didn’t care about money. I only cared about happiness. And that was an epic flaw in my thinking. Now I realize that without conservative financial planning, I will not have sanity. And without sanity, I can not be happy anyway.
The truth is this: Without moving to my hometown and being psychologically broken down, I would have never been a responsible enough decision maker when it came to finances. Moving to Fort Payne was the only cure for my disease.
It’s more than just refusing to use a credit card or to buy name brand products. It’s a matter of taking my finances nearly as seriously as I take my love for my wife and son, health, and my religious beliefs. So now as we rebuild our lives again, we will be able to be better stewards of our income. Our money will be better saved, better spent, and better given away.
Photos courtesy of Moments in Time Photography in Fort Payne, Alabama:
Yes, you did read that right. No, this isn’t a rerun from March. This coming Saturday on July 16th as Jack turns eight months old, we return to Music City for keeps.
Imagine you’re me. You were raised in the Eighties and were taught that money isn’t everything but that being happy is. You were constantly told that if you really believe, you can achieve your dreams. So at age 29, you decide to choose happiness over money and move your wife and 3 week old son back to your hometown to be close to family. You willingly choose less money and less busyness with the purest intentions.
Enter four months of unemployment, then living from savings despite eventually getting a job. Then after eight months since moving, you come to the realization that it is not a choice to move your family back to Nashville, but simply the only option.
It’s ironic how it took me four months to find a job and how my wife was sent countless rejection letters for all the places she applied, never landing a job that would keep us from dipping into savings every month; yet in a matter of just a few days and few emails, both my wife and I have jobs lined up in Nashville where we will begin Monday, July 18th.
Our former employers are taking us back. It’s that simple. Granted, this means we have to put Jack in daycare. We will barely see him on weekdays because by the time I drive him home from daycare, he will only be awake for an hour before it’s his bedtime.
So, how do I feel about this? Bittersweet.
We came here truly believing that we would be spending the rest of our lives here; thinking it would be the last time we would have to unpack our things. And when it seemed our expectations were being threatened, we only tried that much harder to make this work. But our resistance was futile.
As I have mentioned before, a married man can never stop thinking about his need to provide for his family. So imagine what kind of psychological toil this constant wondering has taken on my own sanity. For the fact we will be able to pay our bills without dipping into what’s left of our savings; well, that’s more relieving than I can say. But yes, we will have to move away from my family and they won’t see Jack as much as they used to.
He and his cousin were going to be attending the same school and be in the same grade. Not now, though. It’s only a 2 and a half hour drive, but still, things will be somewhat different.
By this point, I am nearly emotionless when it comes having to repack our lives again. Because again, it’s not a choice to be made; it’s the only option.
So I am accepting my fate. I was not meant to live in my hometown with my family. Instead, I was meant to live and work in Nashville, one of my favorite cities in the world.
I am choosing to move forward and be positive about it. There have been a lot of things we’ve missed tremendously about Nashville: Our church, our friends, our quirky restaurants, proximity to Country music stars, and surprisingly more than you would think, shopping for groceries at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.
As much as I enjoyed growing up in my hometown and the great memories I always have, it has ultimately proven to be the wrong fit for the 2011 version of me, which includes my wife and son. And that’s not my hometown’s fault. It’s just that Nashville is simply where we belong.
My wife and I met there. My wife was baptized there. We got married there. Our son was born there. Heck, even this blog was born there.
One of our mutually favorite movies is Away We Go, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. As they prepare for the birth of their first child, they travel to several cities to figure out where their new home as a family is. It’s obviously very relatable for my wife and me.
After sticking it out this long, we were obviously more than willing to make this thing work in my hometown. But now it’s time to return to where our home, as a family, is.
Need another pop culture reference? This reminds me of the best TV show ever made (and that ever will be made), Lost. Those who crashed on the island were “chosen” by the island for a purpose. Even when six of them eventually found a way to leave and go back to their homes, they ultimately had to return because the island still needed them there.
For us, Nashville is the island. We just need to watch out for those darn polar bears.