Educators… MOUNT UP!!!

As the reality of homeschooling, home offices and quarantines sets in it’s easy to forget what we’ve left behind. On Friday, I walked the silent halls of my Elementary School. I was alone, everyone had left for the day… maybe for the year.

There were no colorful backpacks hanging on their hooks, or any voices of students working together on a rigorous task. Students’ chairs were turned upside down on their desks and the SMART boards were dark.

However, school was in session. Teachers were hard at work. They’re preparing for a completely new way of teaching the children they love so much. They’ve had no time to prepare for this. These educators,the ones I work with everyday, took what public education has been for centuries and flipped it upside down and inside out. The school district I work in has taken on the task with determination.

Washington, DC didn’t tell us what to do. The state didn’t tell us what to do. It was the public educators. The ones in the trenches. We are going to “war” with traditional teaching and also with the “virus” that has become a world wide pandemic. And… there is no one… not one staff that I would rather go to war with than my staff at Huntington.

There’s little we can do, us educators on the front lines. The teachers, principals and central office staff members want nothing more than to be on the front lines. We want to visit our families and help serve grab and go meals. But, we know there are people on the front lines already… the nurses, doctors and medical professionals who need us to stay back and help from afar.

So that’s what we do. We do what we can from afar. I’ve been lucky enough to have the platform to do that. From this blog I’ve been able to reach out to so many of my school families. I decided last week to do a live read aloud each night to help keep some sort of connection to my students.

The funny thing is I was hoping to reach a few students, maybe even a few from my last school… but then something happened. Hundreds, thousands of people tuned in. Channel 8 News asked for an interview and Chronicles of a New Dad and Jax were lighting up the 6:00 news.

It become a family affair, a way for a community to gather (or at least I see it that way). I feel that it helps me do “my part.” While I joke about another 15 minutes of fame, the message is clear… educators are doing their part to keep their students engaged and in the end, as a society, that’s all we can ask.

Coronavirus scare: Teachers, administrators, and students turn to social media for traditions like storytime

Has it Been Two Weeks Yet?

We’re on day two of the coronavirus pandemic which has canceled much of society. Schools are closed, libraries are empty… and most businesses are so full of panicky people you’re better off staying home.

That causes quite the quandary when you have two small children who have the attention span of a fly. The number of activities they can breeze through in even a small amount of time is incredible. We’ve read, we’ve drawn pictures, we watched a movie. We’ve taken the dogs for a walk and we rode our bikes. That’s it. We’re done!

That is until the oldest of my brood had the idea to write happy messages to the neighbors in chalk on their driveways. While some of the messages are less inspiring then others, it’s the thought that counts.

So friends and neighbors check your driveways for something special courtesy of Jax and Ollie.

I Almost Lost My Son

Almost six years ago I became a father and it’s been a long six years of worrying! I still check on the boys when they are asleep just to make sure they are ok. I cut grapes and hotdogs into tiny bite size pieces because I’m afraid of them choking, which they did do (and still do), so I panic and lose it after every single bite.

We had a pool installed and now I‘m afraid of them drowning. I had a pool my entire life. Growing up my parents were diligent in ensuring we were safe. We were always supervised and even as a teenager, someone was always around just in case, but still now it’s my kids… so I worry. I worry about them in the tub, and riding their bikes. I worry about them jumping off the couch and not being buckled in their car seats tight and/or loose enough.

All of this leads me to the ten minutes (which felt like ten years) that I almost lost my son.

The place we visited was split into multiple sections, divided and roped off areas and metal fences to separate the older kids area from the younger. A wall to wall adventure course, arcade games, flashing lights and indoor playscape. Trampolines lined the floor and the place was packed with sweaty little children and parents on their cel phones. The kids were having a blast and we were all enjoying watching them smile from ear to ear. It was great to see our friends again.

Jax. The oldest and easily the fastest of the group was darting from area to area. It was an overload of excitement. As soon as he entered the darkness that is the indoor playscape, I knew I’d never see him again. It’s weird, they say parents have a sixth sense. I felt it. It didn’t feel right and about three minutes in with no sight of his return… I didn’t think… I KNEW something wasn’t right.

I hurriedly walked from corner to corner. I began to move children out of my way like I was Ryan Reynolds playing ice hockey in “Just Friends.” Then… as time went on with no sign of him, I began to panic. I tried to think clearly. Where could he be? But I couldn’t. My normally clear thinking in times like this, I had nothing.

It took me a little bit to realize that I was there with other people… Of course Stephanie. And amazing friends that we’ve known forever… they share the same level of anxiety as me when it comes to parenting, so they were amazing in attempting to find Jax.

I was resisting the urge to shut the place down, go over the loud speaker and curse everyone out for not helping me find my son. The tension was palpable… I was losing it… and no one seemed to understand what was going on. Things at this point are at a boiling point, everything is fuzzy, and I’m not running at full speed and not even sure what I’m doing or where I’m going.

I tried to slow down, take a deep breath and clear my head, just as our friend came running towards us with Jackson in tow. I didn’t know how to react. Should I be mad or cry. I thought about situations I’ve seen, movies, TV, the news. I scooped him up and held him so tightly I was sure he’d never escape (to the neon lit ball pit and obstacle course on the complete other side of the building, or anything like it) ever again again.

It could happen to anyone. It was horrific. Losing him and finding him again… this was the lowest of low and the highest of high moments as a parent… and I don’t want to experience either of them ever again.

PS: Not to make light of the situation, but this is an almost realistic depiction of me running through the playscape looking for Jax…

Dinosaurs Eat Vegetables

To quote a beautiful women (my wife)… “Hell hath frozen over!”

On the menu for dinner on a regular night for Oliver…

1. Chicken Nuggets (he’ll eat two)

2. Mac and Cheese (he’ll have three spoonfuls and feed the rest to Max)

3. Spaghetti with Cheeseballs (he’ll lick the parmigiana off the pasta and give the rest to Buster).

That was until this:

Yup… he’ll has frozen over… and this dinosaur is all about his vegetable medley!

Hubris

hubris. noun

[ hyoo-bris, hope-bris ]

excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.


There is little doubt that the second child in most cases, definitely in our case, is a daredevil. The second child thinks they are invincible. I’ve seen some pretty incredible things out of this little one. Some scary moments, some funny moments, but for the most part a lot of moments that just make me say, “hmm.”

“Let’s see how this plays out,” seems to be a pretty common quote in our house of late. Oliver thinks he can do just about anything. I’ve seen him lick anything he gets his hands on to claim it as his, Ive seen him take his close off and run around naked… in public… and I’ve seen him think he can jump from heights that would make Evel Knievel jealous.

But, just like anyone else… any human… any animal… anyone… HUBRIS is not something to mess around with. The Gods are less forgiving then ever these days… and they do not play favorites… not even to toddlers.

Oliver’s display of confidence today was the classic case of Hubris. Hubris as stated above refers to excessive pride or overconfidence, which drives a person to overstep limits in a way that leads to their downfall. In Greek mythology, the legend of Icarus involves an iconic case of hubris as he is given artificial wings made of wax in the hopes that he can fly. All he was asked to do was essentially to be careful and not fly to close to the sun as this would melt the wax and essentially cause him to fall to his death.

Icarus is given artificial wings made of wax and feathers so that he can fly (a superhuman feat), but he ignores his father’s warnings and flies too close to the sun, melting his wings and drowning in the ocean.

In the end, Hubris was the downfall of Icarus. Hopeful we can get some more supports in place for an overtly confident person such as Our second son. Oliver might not have ended falling from the sun… but he sure as hell has some confidence that is scary as hell for his parents.

Teamwork

“Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller

Watching these two work together to get through the obstacle course and down the zip line (especially with the leadership employed by Jackson) was an amazing experience for me today.

These two are going to continue to make a great team as they grow.

“Teamwork makes the dream work!”

Christmas Ninja Stars

We do this family Christmas photo event every year and every year it’s a debacle. I just don’t understand why we continue to put ourselves through it. More so, I don’t know why Staci keeps letting us back. Although, this year she smartened up and made us take photos deep in the forest where no one could hear the screams.

The best way to describe the process is to break it down into chunks. Each section brings its own problems and creates its own issues. All atr equally chaotic and none are mutually exclusive… they occur naturally and each that proceeds the next creates and increases the chaos.

The Pre Photo Phase:

The whole morning routine is thrown to shit. Everyone is up at the same time, which means my morning coffee is sucked down while trying to wrangle two cranky toddlers who want nothing more than some apple juice and a few episodes of Blaze and the MonsterMachines. Instead I’m squeezing their heads through matching button down flannels and cardigans. The screams can be heard from neighborhoods afar. Feeding them goldfish for each article of clothing they successfully put on is all I can do to stop child protective services from showing up at my front door.

Once everyone is layered up with enough fleece and corduroy to protect from even the deepest freeze of Mount Everest, we all realize that mom hasn’t even started to get changed. Her 12 outfits still lay neatly on the bed each screaming to be lucky enough to be chosen as this years Christmas’ photo regalia.

As the tiny humans begin to unravel downstairs they wait for their fashionista of a mother to emerge from behind the velvet curtains and through the fog machine to cheers and excitement like a Victoria Secret Model on some primetime fashion show.

The Travel Phase:

Each of the past five years has ended in some sort of travel mishap, or disaster. The cars aren’t the same, but the results always are. Somehow, someway the travel phase always results in violation points on someone’s license and children so tightly squeezed into their booster seats that their eyes are likely to pop out.

Each round trip to and from family photos has produced some pretty significant accidents and lofty fines. Two accidents (one involving the photographer herself), a half injured turkey, and a speeding ticket (or two). We’ve been lost so many time we now know the backroads of New England better than Cookie Monster on Waze.

Let’s get this show on the road

The Photo Phase:

Cue the most amazing photographer who’s ever walked the Earth. “AUUUUNNNNNTTTTIEEEEE STAAAAAAACCCCIIIIIIIIIII!!!!”

You can heat them from across the Christmas tree farm. You can see her turn slowly, like it’s a horror movie. Her hair flips slowly as her wide smile turns into a grin that is half happy to see you… maybe it’s more half paranoid about what’s about to happen.

She smartens up each time she meets us, this time she has set up stations. That’s the trick with toddlers. Keep them on the move, keep them guessing and don’t let them catch their breath. It’s almost like running the hurry up offense. Keep the clock moving and keep the entire defense on the field. Eventually they’ll tire out.

The look that says evil is coming

Props are just par for the course when taking Christmas photos. They can provide the perfect backdrop for two brothers. The trick is getting that photo snapped before the props become weapons. The beautifully painted wooden “Let it Snow” sign that bear the calligraphy of a professional become shields for chocolate-chip cookie ninja stars.

And the tricycle that was perfectly set up in between two symmetrical Douglas firs quickly becomes a get away vehicle.

Faster than a speeding bullet and fueled by 12 large cookies

The Post Photo Phase:

Pictures happen quickly. There are lots of moving parts, lots of bribery and lots of tears. It takes the patience of a saint. Staci, Saint Staci that is, has it. She perpetuates sainthood. She’s good, she’s really good.

The photo session comes to end with as much anticipation as the end of a root canal. With puddles of tears, new clothes stained and tattered, the cries slowly quieted (and that was just from mom and dad). The kids on the other hand were hyped from the 15 Candid Cookie Eating takes, but I digress.

After herding these animals back towards the parking it was finally time to breathe a sigh of relief. Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Hell, the photographer is tired. It’s time to hitch a ride out of there.

Things are never easy and we always say we’ll never go through it again. That is… until we see the magic that Staci, Jax and Oliver have created. They are magicians and the photographs will forever be magic.

A Little Good

As a parent you do your best to “teach” your children well. You hope, even though they are like wild animals at home, that in public (at school) they are behaving themselves, or at least don’t act like they were raised by wolves.

You hope that children have empathy and are caring, kind and compassionate. You want you children to add something good to the world. That’s all Stephanie and I want (well that and maybe one night a month we’re it doesn’t take thirteen hours to get them to sleep). You hope that a little SEL can go a long way!

With that being said, I can say that today was one of those days where Jax did exactly that… he added good to someone’s life. We are so incredibly proud of this little boy! A special thanks to his teacher for a positive email home!

The Big-Boy-Bed Game

We made the switch to the big boy bed for big boy Ollie this weekend. It’s always a blessing and a curse when you make that switch. It was more a blessing for Jax as he actually slept better with out the crib front on. Oliver not so much.

Cue the curse

The first attempt was a success… I got him changed and he laid himself down with a. Big smile and he was out like a light. But, that was it. That was the highlight of our transition. From here on out it became a cruel and unusual punishment for mom and dad. That early nap wasn’t a sign of things to come, it was a fluke… there was a flaw in the plan. We didn’t take into account that Oliver is just so much smarter than us. He lured us into a false sense of security and we fell for it.

Bottom line, he won’t stay in the damn bed. We put him in he slid out, walked down the hall and let himself in our room. Over and over and OVER again.

He did laundry:

He wandered aimlessly around saying he won’t go to “sweep” and that he is a dinosaur:

He even pulled up a quiet seat in the bathroom in hopes no one would notice him:

It was a game of wills and in the end a toddler will almost always win. But this kid better recognize he’s dealing with two pros, two seasoned veterans of the toddler nonsense. When you come at these two parents you better come hard because we don’t mess around…

Case in point: toddler gets out of his bed every fifteen seconds… no problem… Front of the old crib gets zip tied back on and then wedge a a large rocking chair to keep it from moving for the night.

Just like in Coach Herm Edward’s locker room, in this house, “You play to win the game!”

And in the end… the way end (like 10:25pm- three hours after we first put him to bed) he fell asleep in his old crib, zip ties and all, and we won… Sort of.

Get Well Soon Bammy

There aren’t many people in life you can count on. There are family and friends. Those are almost always constants and as parents of little ones especially, being able to have someone(s) to count on is priceless. Two working parents put pressure on everyone. Demands are high, works, family, personal time… there needs to be at least 45 hours in a day.

It’s crazy how time fast flies. There are no more naps or relaxing weekends. Don’t get me wrong I love every second of running to school events and baseball practice, every last second of it. It’s who I am now… a dad. It’s the best job in the world.

The thing you reading most when you come a parent is show important it is to have family and friends around to help. Being a working family, both Stephanie and I work what feels like 60+ hour weeks, makes it almost impossible to get in everything we want to be able to do. That’s where you lean on your support systems.

Since both Steph and I started new jobs we have been relying on family more than ever. Having amazing neighbors to rely on is more helpful than anyone realizes, but having someone who is there morning noon or night, when they are sick or tired… knowing that person treats your children probably even better than you do… that’s the ticket. That’s the support system you know you sometimes take for granted, but also appreciate more than you can put into words.

This past week has been so tough on two working parents, since Bammy has been in the hospital. I can’t even imagine how tough it’s been on Bammy. The thing I’ve come to realize is you can not take for granted the people you have in your life… because things change fast. People change fast, luckily Bammy is one of those people who no matter the circumstances you can always count on her!

Get well soon Bammy. We love you!