Happy 6th Birthday Jackson

Dear Jackson,

As I sit here and contemplate the words that are needed to wish you the happiest of happy birthdays during this unbelievably unprecedented time we are living in right now, I am struggling to even come up with a way to start. How do we explain to a six year old that he can’t be with his friends, or go somewhere for a birthday party? That’s what 2020 is for you at this point… an everlasting, unexplainable time that you have somehow become accustomed to.

So I guess this is where we start. During a time that even grown ups can’t understand or handle. Yet, you, a six year old, have handled it with humor and confidence. You ask questions and want to learn what is going on. That’s who you are. That’s who you’ve become these last six years. From the little boy who brought joy and happiness to everyone around him to the six year old… not so little boy who brings joy and happiness to everyone around him even in the darkest of times.

I enjoy being around you more than you know (yes you drive me insane sometimes but then again I had a hand in creating you! I never realized how annoying I could be until I created a miniature version of myself and started arguing with it daily). Yet, even in those times I never stop loving you. Your mom and I will never stop loving you.

Tonight, as we readied you for bed as a five year old one more time, you called us back to your room fourteen-million times. You just wanted is to lay with you and talk. You apologized for keeping us up so late, but wanted us to know you were just being a “chatterbox” tonight. How do we stay mad at you when you come up with things like that?!??

What has stood out to me the most in this past year is how you have taken your little brother under your wing. I’ve written about how you love him, but recently you have become a mentor, the way an older brother should. Today I listened in as you taught him how to play bingo and smiled as he just threw the balls across the table, not once did you lose your patience with him. That’s a lie, you lost it a few times, but never gave up hope that he’d get it in the end (he didn’t).

While we have been distance learning/ homeschooling you have been teaching Oliver how to hold a pencil, how to do reading centers and most importantly have been a shoulder for him to cry on when he is upset. You share with him and always tell him you love him.

The last month and a half has defined the year 2020 so far. The CoronaVirus will forever be tied to your kindergarten school year and your sixth birthday, but it will never define you. You are creative, passionate and caring. You want to do things for others and recognize that something as simple as making a heart out of red construction paper to hang on our window makes other people smile. You are stronger than any virus, hell you’re stronger than me in many ways too.

I love the big boy you have become, but wish you could slow down growing up so fast. This family is lucky to have such a loving little boy, who’s smile lights up a room and who’s laugh can brighten even the darkest of days.

Happy QUARENTINED Birthday, Jackson. We all love you very much!

Love Always,

Dad

April 27, 2014
April 27, 2015
April 27, 2016
April 27, 2017
April 27, 2018
April 27, 2019
April 27, 2020

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore

A Decade to Remember

As 2019 its door and the start of a new decade opens, it’s a time to reflect and look forward to the amazing things on the horizon. As far decades go… the 2010s were as Larry David would say, “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” And considering this last one was my fourth… I know a good decade when I see one. But really… four decades… that is pretty crazy. I’m now 40 – as in 40 years old.

This decade saw so many ups and downs, So many gains and so many losses. However, all of the losses make the gains so much more exuberant. I became a dad and also an uncle (which is like being a dad, except you can just send the little tyke home when you are done playing with them!!!)

This decade was pretty nuts… I “went viral” as is the popular phrase these days for my Harry Potter Cupboard Under the Stairs that i build for the boys… so that in of itself is pretty indicative of what this decade was like!

If I had to summarize the last ten years in a sentence or two it would read something like this… I fell more deeply in love with my beautiful wife then I ever imagined possible. I lost my person, my grandfather, but I gained two of the most amazing little boys anyone could ever ask for. (ohh… and I won a Super Bowl)!

The decade started out with me taking the career path I always envisioned, as I took my first administrative job as an assistant principal, which I later parlayed itself into becoming a principal, including turning that first building around from a “Tier 3 Schools” in need of improvement to a “Tier 1 School of High Distinction, High Achievement and High Growth” in under three years. I’m proud of what was accomplished and I’m proud of the amazing students that worked so hard every day.

As I said earlier, there were losses. I lost my last two grandparents. Pop, left us the day after Thanksgiving in 2016. Jackson still talks about him, and unfortunately Oliver will only know him through the stories that are still told at the dinner table like folk tales. Steph lost her father, which was one of the hardest to explain to our little ones.

I was able to walk in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (four times). I caught wide receiver Jordy Nelson during a Lambeau Leap and visited Broadway a few times.

Stephanie and I moved into our dream house in an amazing community with some of the greatest neighbors anyone could ever ask for. Our children love all their new friends and we are so lucky to have amazing people around us everyday.

There is no better part of the last ten years than that of bringing into this world two of the most amazing little boys that have ever lived. Jackson and Oliver have made Stephanie’s and my life so much more than we could have ever asked for all those years ago. They have changed my life. They make every moment of my life better, more important and most of worth living.

To Stephanie,

It hasn’t always been perfect… but two decades have gone by with you and my hope is that the next many decades are spent by your side. Our boys are lucky to have you as their mother, their protector and their best friend.

2010 ➡️ 2020

#BackToHogwarts (again)

Another year another September 1 and I still haven’t received my Hogwarts letter. It’s fine I’m really fine I’m not crying inside the Harry Potter- Cupboard Under the Stairs that I built for my children.

Every year September 1st rolls around, I tweet the same thing to JK Rowling “Dear @jk_rowling any advice for parents sending their little ones to #Hogwarts for the first time?!?? #BackToHogwarts”. I never get a response or any advice from her, so Stephanie and I have to do our best as Muggles to figure out the whole Platform 9 3/4 thing. It’s not easy… but we do it anyway. It’s for the kids, right?

I’m not sure anyone realizes how much work and stress that Back To Hogwarts day is for us parents. It’s hard enough sending your five-year-old off to kindergarten for his first day when the school is right down the road, try sticking them on a magical train with only some old lady as a chaperone. I mean let’s face it Hogwarts isn’t the most safe place for kids. It doesn’t have the most danger-free reputation.

The good thing is Harry Potter is long gone from the Gryffindor Common Room. I get it, Harry didn’t mean to be an black cloud waiting to rain on everyone’s parade, but he definitely was. A murderous nemesis, a giant snake, detentions for all his friends? Not enough? How about dragons that attack children or the fact that the shambles was left in shambles after his last visit. The kid was a disaster waiting to happen.

Now, we are supposed to show at Platform 9 3/4 and act like it’s no big deal? And just because he saved the Wizarding world we are all just supposed to assume that everything is ok? But I digress… bottom line, another September 1st has come and I still can’t get any advice from anyone… I mean even Dumbledore met Harry at King’s Cross and he was dead… come on Joanne… help a parent out!!!

Also while we’re at it Mrs. Rowling… can you please do a guest spot on MuggleCast?!??

Drop it Like it’s Hot

The last few years have been a wild ride. There’s been crying and laughing. There’s been tears and there’s been blood, there’s been puking and then there’s been more blood.

Of course we can’t forget the fact that there has been poop (both human and canine) in every square inch of our house. We’ve got one child who is Semi-appropriately using the bathroom. Yeah ok, so he may pee outside even when there is an indoor toilet within reach, but at least he understands a relatively appropriate way to relieve himself.

That brings us to this little dude. The lower sibling on the totem pole. He’s working hard to keep up with his brother. Don’t forget however, he’s only two years old. We’ve been intermittently trying potty training thing, but this kid is ready. He’s constantly yelling at us, “mom, dad… peeeeeeee- potty!!” We just haven’t gotten it all together.

That was until today…

No big deal… but this little dude, our littlest.. yea he just peed on the potty!

… Pooping however… is still a work in progress!!

Happy 5th Birthday Jackson

Dear Jackson,

Today’s the big day… FIVE! 5! V! Cinco! Anyway you say it… you’re a big boy now. You continue to amaze me at every one of life’s hurdles. It’s not about the easy times that show one’s character… it’s the hard times that define us.

You are kind… you are caring… and you are generous. I’m not sure there are three more important qualities anyone can have. I’ve seen you share your toys, hug and kiss your brother when he gets hurt and look after your friends who need help. Yes, sometimes you’re the one who pushed Oliver off the bed, but you always are the first one to help him back up! You need to continue to be that person. Help those in need, look out for others who aren’t as fortunate as you and smile… always smile.

I’ve watched you struggle with things, I’ve watched you get frustrated and I’ve watched you always come out a better person in the end. Sure you’ve made me curse under my breath a few times, but for the most part those days are few and far between.

I can’t believe how fast time goes. You’re five years old already? This morning you told me you don’t need help getting breakfast anymore because, “dad I’m five now, I don’t need help anymore!” Listen dude, you’re always going to need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. And even if you don’t need it, I’ll still be right there in case you do!

I love you Jackson. Happy fifth birthday!

Love Always,
Dad

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April 27, 2014

2

April 27, 2015

3

April 27, 2016

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April 27, 2017

April 27, 2018

April 27, 2019

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore

Happy Valentine’s Day

In what seems like 100 years ago I met a young lady with the whole world in front of her. She asked for some help carrying things up to her dorm room and of course the gentleman that I was… Could not leave a damsel in distress. In all reality I volunteered to carry some water bottles up to her room… but so started what would become two children, two dogs, a house, some laughs, some tears and a whole lot of love.

There’s been work. There’s been more work. There’s been interviews that have led to more work. Work that’s lead to more work. And then after that there’s been work because the work we do needed more work to be done. And all that work sometimes leads to frustration, short tempers, and the need for a quiet peaceful night. And then you get home to these two amazing, loving, kind, beautiful children and everything is right in the world again.

There are times that are tougher than others, there are times where you can imagine where the last 18 years have gone. I remember continually limping into the orthopedic on crutches and depressed that my track and field career could be over… I remember her accompanying me time after time comforting me helping me through one of the worst times of my life at that point. I knew then she was the one… She was less confident for a while as she wouldn’t agree to be “my girlfriend.” That was until the cast came off and I thought things couldn’t get any better.

I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies I remember the nerves I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies, I remember the nerves, I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice.

I shaved, I put on a purple Abercrombie polo, and I wore sandals. I was such a dork. I walked on stage, got up in front of thousands of people and asked the most amazing woman I’ve ever met to marry me. I’m still not sure if she actually said yes… but all these years later we’ve made it through a whole lot of stuff… good and bad… a couple of houses, multiple roommates, doggie hospitals, knocked out teeth, multiple wetlands violations, wiggle ball tournaments that led to broken vertebrae, parties that led to getting “iced,” winter power outages that led to sleeping like revolutionary war soldiers in front of a fire, baseball games, Football games, Backstreet Boys’ concerts (not my idea), glasses, contacts, Lasic surgery, great friends, great neighbors, great family members, a marriage that is stronger than ever… and most importantly… two of the most amazing children any parents could ask for.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” -Ferris Bueller

I’m glad we’ve taken the time to stop and look around a bit. You’re a better mother than I ever thought possible, you deal with my annoying personality daily and you’re not so bad to look at.

I love you more now than the day we met. Thanks for letting me carry your water bottles up to your room.

Love Always,

Me

…and Jackson

……and Oliver

………and Buster

…………and Max

Happy Second Birthday Oliver

Two years old? Like how is that possible. (I mean I know how it’s possible in a literal sense… but still, I just can’t believe it. Thank you to an amazing mom who has done everything for this happy, healthy little man… a very caring older brother who has not one time pushed him down a flight of stairs… a loving Bammy who has helped to raise this little man. His Auntie buys him more clothes than any child needs and his Mima continues to buy him those damn remote control Magic Track cars which drive me crazy… thanks for that and thanks to all the amazing family and friends who have contributed in one way or another.

Dear Oliver,

I’m not sure what it’s like being the youngest or the second born. I was the oldest and loved that role, but I can imagine it’s not always easy being the little guy. Then again you are almost as big as your brother, so I’m not so sure how much longer we can use the phrase “the little guy.”

I guess the first thing I need to say is thank you. You have been an amazingly perfect blessing to mom and me. You have brought so much joy and happiness to everyone around you. Your huge smile and whimsical personality. You walk in and you light up the room. People are in a better mood when you are around. It’s unreal how much joy a little boy’s giggles can bring to so many people.

You’ve given your brother a best friend and especially someone to get in trouble with, although at times I suspect Jax is the one blaming you for his trouble, but that’s what older brothers are supposed to do! I love watching you two play together. I love watching how your eyes light up when you see him. I think Jax is a happier little boy because of you. You just do that to people. You make everyone better… happier.

You’re already such a sweet and caring little boy. You show kindness and compassion at such an early age it makes us forget how young you still are (I’m sure the fact that you eat like a grown man I’m sure contributes to that as well). You’re going to be a momma’s boy for sure, don’t get me wrong… being a momma’s boy is a great thing… just look at uncle Vinny.

Please keep your smile as big as it always is… your laugh as loud and continue to be inquisitive about the world around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, when you say sorry- mean it, be kind to strangers and animals and love your mother and brother. If you do those things you’ll always be in a good place.

I’m proud of you. I love you and I’m so thankful you came into our lives. Happy birthday (not-so) little guy

Love always,

Dad

Please Send Help

Please someone help. Send help. Send reinforcements. Send in the National Guard. I’m so unbelievably tired. At this point my body just doesn’t even know the difference between day and night. I can’t remember what the inside of my eyelids look like anymore.

For some reason everyone thinks it’s just new parents who don’t get any sleep. It’s just understood that a newborn causes exhaustion and endless nights. Of course having a newborn involves screaming, midnight feedings, and every-two-minute baby breathing checks. It’s not that bad though. Honestly. It’s par for the course. So, know you’re not going to get a ton of sleep, people around you know you aren’t going to get a ton of sleep and everyone lends a hand and pitches in. People bring you food and drinks. They offer to hold the baby so you can nap or shower, or nap in the shower.

Then years go bye and a second kid comes along. No one cares. No one even bats an eye about your lack of sleep anymore. No one brings you a lasagna, or asks you if you want to go rest for an hour or seven.

At first, people understand that bringing new life also brings exhaustion. It happens, we’ve all felt it. Even Jackson as a baby, who slept extremely well, at least would be up only a few times to eat. The thing is, everyone thinks it gets better… it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. It gets worse.

I’m positive I’ve read somewhere that it’s a scientific fact that parents never feel like fully-functional human beings ever again. Either that, or the meaning of what a “fully-functional” person actual means just slowly morphs as the years go bye, because I CAN NOT remember what it feels like to NOT be tired. My eyes have finally adjusted to their new norm. You know the one that “feels like you’re driving late at night and you convince yourself that you can just close them for just a second,” just to rest them, and then when you reopen them, you’re seven miles down the road with no recollection of how you got there.

Babys, toddlers… it doesn’t matter. They never sleep through the night. At first you just hope they lay down without screaming like a banshee for hours… then it moves to worrying if they are breathing (OMG he hasn’t moved in 13 seconds. Is he still alive?!?? I better get up and check). Later… no more crib… you hope that little bowling ball doesn’t roll out of bed even with that gigantic wrought-iron fence you’ve strapped to their mattress… you’re still convinced it won’t hold them securely. The worries never end.

The best sleep she’s ever had (hanging over the crib, passed out)

Even as they grow… sleep doesn’t just appear… it’s more of a vision of a watering hole in a dry dessert… a mirage. Toddlers want 18 sips of milk, 12 books, 7 kisses, and a few hours of snuggling before they’ll even consider closing their eyes. The appearance of sleep is there. It’s always there. Not because you are well rested, but because you’ve learned to function on an hour or two of sleep at a time. Even as I write this, I’m amazed at how much I can accomplish with the sleep habits of an insomniac. All parents, in one way or another, just grow and adapt. We’re ready for what our day has in store for us. No matter how heavy those bags under our eyes seem.

It’s more than sleep deprivation though. You know relaxing time you enjoy to do things like pee or shower? Yea… peace out to those days too. The other day I tried to put Christmas decorations away… actually not even away… just take them down put them aside, so I didn’t have to listen to the animatronic Santa sing one more damn carol. I got about three decorations down before I gave up because… “Dad what are you doing?” “Dad can I have a snack?” “Dad Oliver is flushing the trains down the toilet…” “Dad Oliver is trying to ride the dog again!” Dad can I have a snack…” Dad can Oliver have a snack?” …and that was all in one breath.

I always have a tiny human being hanging off me. Hanging on my arms, attached to my leg, under my feet, climbing the wall… they are always somewhere they shouldn’t be. There is NO downtime. NO quiet time. No time to just do mindless things you used to do to relax. The army should just start using toddlers for training their recruits. The level of functioning parents operate on with constant demands, screaming, toys wizzing through the air, and the high pitched screams that come from a toddler who can’t find their red crayon is magical.

Steph nor I have gone to the bathroom solo in four years. Somehow my oldest son has learned to pick locks. This little Ocean’s Eleven wannabe has figured out how to interrupt the one private time us parents used to have. You’d think you could have a few moments to scroll through your twitter feed, or check a few emails whist in the bathroom. That is, until the door slowly, quietly slides open and your child sticks their little head through like the “Here’s Johnny” scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Have I mentioned how tired I am? The most rest I get during the day is my hour and a half at the gym lifting weights and running a few miles. Yes, that’s rest now. Don’t get me wrong… parents aren’t sleepwalking through their day. We just learn, we grow and we adapt. We got this. But with the lack of sleep I’m functioning on… if I hear the Bubble Guppies theme song one more time, I might just snap.

……

………

…………. please… just five more minutes!

Oll-E > Wall-E

Both are pretty cute and they even sound the same

I’ve blogged about all the normal baby and toddler firsts… I’ve talked about cleaning nuclear-like diaper messes and first solid foods… I’ve written about bubble wrapping and baby gating the house for their first steps. Now don’t get me wrong those are all hugely significant moments in time, but they all pale in comparison to hearing you child speak their first words. I’ve been in educational for nearly 20 years… I’ve taught children to read, to multiply triple digit numbers and I’ve taught children how to explain their thinking, but teaching a child to speak… that’s just magical.

Parenting is just a series of events that makes you feel equally proud and sad… watching your child become more independent each and everyday makes your heart both swell with pride for the amazing little being you are raising and also makes your heart long for the days when your baby needed you for everything. Like Elton John said, “it’s the Circle of Life” (I’m not sure if that analogy works here, but it sounds good so if you don’t mind, please just roll with it).

Listen, becoming mobile matters, it’s a huge step (pardon the pun) in the growth and development of a child. Learning to talk… to have a reciprocal conversation… is like the when the caveman first discovered fire, or first time you realized you didn’t have to actually flip open a cell phone to use it. It’s a game changer

Oliver has been saying words for a bit now… some much more clearly than others. But to hear him say his own name… I don’t know why… it was really cool. It was special. I know he has asked for juice when he’s wanted it and I’ve heard him yell, “dog” when Buster and Max were being naughty, but this… saying his name… I feel like it transforms him from a parakeet to a real person. I’m not sure why (especially since he was literally repeating his name), but just stay with me here… it’s my blog so I can write whatever I want.

Talking is transformative, getting to a point where you’re child knows his name, can say his own name and can string a word or two together changes an entire parent-child relationship I’m just hoping we are getting to the point where we can get a response from Oliver when ask him, “why are you screaming and what was the purpose of throwing yourself on the ground just now?”

But for now… I’ll take the slow and steady progress, even if he sounds like that robot WALL-E when he talks!