Preschool Graduate

Our second child is graduating pre-school. Next year, he’ll be entering Kindergarten. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Your baby is growing up!” Most parents get all teary at this revelation. In fact, the teachers gave parents tissues at the gate before the ceremony… all the parents in my son’s class get glassy-eyed when we talk about “graduating.” Especially those, like us, whose youngest child is the upcoming pre-school graduate.

Last week, mom wrote the last check we’ll ever write for preschool. For the better part of the last eight years, we’ve have had a kid in daycare or “preschool”. We loved our boys’ schools. Everyone one of them. Their teachers, their email updates during the day with pictures of our children interacting and having fun with their friends.

In preschool, there are programs for every holiday. Sweet little songs and children dressed up in costumes. Handmade Christmas gifts with photos of our kids and Mother’s/Father’s Day poems and stories and some very sketchy art projects that often resembled those ink blots that you see psychologists use in movies.

The best teachers ever!!!

The preschool teachers are family. They are more than one and done. They have watched Oliver grow from the time he was a few months old until now, in cap and gown accepting his preschool superlative Caring Classmate (I would have voted for Crazy Classmate).

Preschool graduation means no more hand-holding while walking into school. Oliver, our baby, will trade in the preschool drop-off, for the big, yellow school bus. His class size will double. We will say goodbye to the teachers who have known him since he was born. We will say goodbye to many of those hand made gifts. Kindergarten is the big time, but this time we’re ready. (Or at least we say we are). There is no doubt that Oliver is ready for the big time. He’s a leader, kind, helpful, FUNNY and his graduating class’ Caring Classmate.

Mom and I watched our baby on the preschool stage (wood chips) wearing a pint-size cap and gown, we sat through the slide show from the past five years, we saw pictures of our little boy across multiple rooms from his past five years, but the tears I anticipated didn’t come.

Instead this time, all I could do was smile and nod. This time, I was prepared, ready and confident that we did the best we could. I was confident that nothing can ever be totally planned and that the most important aspect in life is trusting that what got you to where are now will help you continue to succeed. So with that being said, Oliver keep being the caring, crazy classmate you are! Mom and I could not be anymore proud of the little boy you have become.

Oliver, you will be successful in whatever you do as long as you always put forth your best effort. Always be kind to others, treat those who need help with respect and kindness and never stop asking questions and learning from everyone you meet.

So with kindergarten on the horizon, I didn’t think I would be… but I’m ready this time. And, more importantly, so is our son.

Happy 8th Birthday Jackson

Dear Jackson,

Eight going on EIGHTEEN! Seriously, when I woke up this morning I feel like you had a full beard and were reading the Wall Street Journal. It’s insane to me how much you have grown. You are such an exceptionally hard worker, a fierce, fierce friend and most importantly a loving big brother.

Eight years after you were born and we (mom and I) are still amazed by you every single day. Yes, you drive us crazy, there is a lot more talking back and many, many more “No’s” than all those years ago, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Covid has put a damper on so much of your childhood, but you continue to persist. Masks, virtual learning, vaccinations and social distancing are as much part of your birthday as cake and balloons. Yet, here you are… eight years old and still making the best of everything.

I’ve watched you pick up your brother when he falls, then push him back down five minutes later, then pick him back up again! I’ve watched Oliver have a meltdown and you try to calm him, then laugh. (Always with him, never at him… just like a big brother should do and I would know!)

You have become such a leader in your school and among your friends. You know right from wrong and always make sure to advocate for anyone that needs help.

Mom and I want nothing more than you to be happy, healthy and grow into a caring, kind and respectful young man… and if the past eight years are any indication… then you’re already there!

Happy 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
April 27, 2021
April 27, 2022

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

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Part Three in our Read Aloud Series)

This blog entry will Chronicle (pun intended) a father and son’s continuation of the first time reading the Harry Potter series together. We finished Book One and Two and now will move onto Book Three: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (my personal favorite of the series). I’ll update it after each chapter so that I can capture the most memorable moments. Come back often and check in on our progress and leave us a note or some feedback!

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I know Jax and I will.

Chapter 1: Owl Post

The excitement is building and we are officially at the point where the second one book ends Jax is ready for the next book. Ollie came along for the ride of chapter one tonight too, but only made a few pages deep before he was off with visions of Cornish Pixies dancing in his head!

A short chapter (for a late night before school after a long weekend is just what Madam Pomfrey ordered. Harry finally gets to enjoy a birthday as he gets some pretty cool gifts including what Jax would describe as, “the book that wants to eat Harry!” (Care of Hagrid). Jax brings up an interesting point… Hagrid has some really cool pets (Norbert, Fang, Fluffy, Aragog and now the Monster’s Book of Monsters).

…and the answer is no Jax, we can not get a three headed dog… and we can definitely not get a dragon 🙄

Chapter 2: Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake

About to get to a phenomenal part of the book (and one of the better done parts of the movies) and Oliver is already snoring next to us. I love that he is so interested in the books, or maybe it’s just soaking up special time with his big brother and dad? Either way, Aunt Marge is about to get blown up like a hot air balloon!

I love how this chapter plays out. Harry is starting to understand the line between the Muggle World and the Wizarding World. Jax loves that Harry says a curse word! Glad this book is playing out to our maturity levels!

Chapter 3: The Knight Bus

There’s a lot to digest in this chapter, but Jax focus is on a new way for wizards to coexist unnoticed with the Muggle world—the Knight Bus, a vehicle that seamlessly navigates through Muggle traffic undetected.

Instantaneously we are both transported back to the summer when Jax met Stan Shunpike and Dre (the shrunken head).

https://youtube.com/shorts/JMIKDpntF9s?feature=share

There’s many questions left unanswered in this chapter… why does Harry keep using magic when he doesn’t mean to? (Jax makes a connection to the glass at the zoo here too). How did Sirius Black escape? Why didn’t he get in trouble for doing more magic around muggles?

Chapter 4: The Leaky Cauldron

We met Crookshanks and now all Jax can think about is getting a cat.

Chapter 5: The Dementor

Dad was at a Board of Education meeting so we had a guest reader for Chapter 5! Mom and her “not so great, but tries really hard” Harry Potter voices!

Jax summary of this chapter… and I quote:

“The train stopped when it was pouring rain and then, we were like, ‘what is it?’ Then we flip the page we thought it was a dead Dumbledore with no head, but we figured out what it was. It was a Dementor; they are like a ghost. What they do to you Is they kill you by trying to get all the happy feelings out of you.”

“The Dementors are like, you know sometimes when you feel really, really sad and your heart hurts a little bit? That’s like with the Dementors make you feel like. “

“We also got a new person for the Defense of the Dark Arts: Professor Lupin!”

Chapter 6: Talons and Tea Leaves

Jax considers who this dog really is and why Harry keeps seeing it after in Divination class Professor Trelawney predicts Harry’s death from the Grim. It only took a few chapters before Jax has had enough of Malfoy again.

Chapter 7: The Boggart in the Wardrobe

Two things in this chapter caught my attention in terms of Jax’ reading comprehension and I was thoroughly impressed.

1. When Harry steps up to the Boggart and Lupin immediately jumps in front of him, Jax says, “Lupin must have thought the Boggart was going to turn into Voldemort! You can’t have Voldemort just sitting in your classroom one day!!!”

2. After Lupin jumps in front of the Boggart, Jax is quick to notice the vaguely described “ball of light” (orb) that the Boggart turns into. “That’s weird, what could that be that he’s afraid of?” He asks inquisitively.

There’s nothing better than turning slowly towards him with a sly smile and telling him that he might be on to something and that he’ll find out soon enough!!!

Chapter 8: Flight of the Fat Lady

This is a chapter that I know I’m going to regret reading. Jax knows we don’t call people names or make fun of people for any reason including looks. But of course we know have “The Fat Lady” starring in this chapter and he enjoys reading her name. 🙄

Overall though, the book begins to turn a bit dark here. Jax isn’t scared per say, but he does have a worried look on his face when he finds out Sirius Black attacked the Fat Lady!!!

Chapter 9: Grim Defeat

I always loved this chapter in both the book at the movie. The night after Black’s break-in, all the students sleep in the Great Hall, while the professors, led by Dumbledore, search the castle for Black. I always liked the closeness of the houses, being all together in the Great Hall… in the movie one of my favorite quotes:

Of course Jax focuses in on how funny Sir Cadogan is!

Chapter 10: The Marauder’s Map

This was a super confusing chapter for a young reader. There was a lot of backstory given in the present time with so many intricate details that intertwine the past and present.

It was fun to have a chapter that was a bit confusing to Jax for once. Readers need to struggle… they need to figure out how to grapple with text they don’t understand. This was one of the first times Jax was really confused and I loved listening to his questions to try to clarify his confusion! (Of course I left him hanging!!!)

Chapter 11: The Firebolt

It’s a bit early (I wish) for Jax to start considering the consequences of friendship. He’s so sharp… he is starting to consider the intricacies of the “Golden Trio’s” relationship.

Chapter 12: The Patronus

This is exactly what Jax and I picture Harry looked like in this chapter:

EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!

Chapter 13: Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw

Another complex chapter. Jax must have asked 437 questions this chapter.

  • Is Cho Harry’s girlfriend?
  • Why does Harry’s Patronus have antlers?
  • How did Sirius get into the Gryffindor Tower again?

Chapter 14: Snape’s Grudge

Jax is obsessed with the Marauder’s Map. He’s starting to understand how the Invisibility Cloak and the Map are quite the combination for a mischievous group of friends.

Chapter 15: The Quidditch Final

The face Jax makes when Hermione slaps Malfoy is a mixture of admiration, excitement and the knowledge that hitting someone in our household would lose you your iPad for at least two days!

Chapter 16: Professor Trelawney’s Prediction

“Dad, I’m telling you, something is up with this rat!!!!”

Chapter 17: Cat, Rat, and Dog

SPOILER ALERT…
When you find out Scabbers has been Peter Pettigrew all along:

Chapter 18: Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs

Jax: “Wait a minute!!!! So Mooney?!?? You know who that must be… is it Lupin?!?? The moon? Mooney! It’s not an orb he’s scared of from the Boggart!!!! It’s the moon because he’s a werewolf?!!”

Chapter 19: The Servant of Lord Voldemort

“Wait… no way!!! Did Hermione just kill Snape!!! Well she definitely believes that Scabbers was really Peter Pettigrew.”

What a comment from Jax. For Hermione to perform a spell on a teacher is very, very out of character for her. It goes to show how Jax really gets her character arc.

Chapter 20: The Dementors’ Kiss

This is “low key” one of my favorite chapters in the book. So many things have to unfold just right and it’s incredible how carefully planned this book is compared to the first two of the series. So much had to be meticulously planned in order for the events of this chapter to make sense and for the big reveal of this book to work.

There’s a ton here to unpack… One of the most heart-wrenching moments is watching Jax think that Harry is going to get to live with his godfather and finally get away from those “jerks” the Dursleys. He was so excited (at one point jax even thinks it would be funny if Sirius bits Harry as a dog and they get to live as a dog family).

That’s what these books do to you though. As a reader who is really processing so much information (ie: character traits, and how other characters influence them and the world around them), he is beginning to make emotional connections to some of the characters in the story.

Chapter 21: Hermione’s Secret

From a teacher’s perspective this chapter looks at two main plot points that literally effect the entire series:

  • Snape’s existential crisis
  • Dumbledore’s rebellious streak

To Jax it was another HP/Tattoo Connection:

“OMG DAD… that’s a time turner on your arm!!!”

I loved this chapter for how well JK writes the time travel bit. Time Travel can be an albatross to a reader, both confusing and arduous to follow, because it’s one of the toughest literary techniques to pull off well. Time and time again (pun intended) it’s not done well, but she does just enough to help a young reader like Jax make connections to the foreshadowing that takes place throughout this book while keeping the time-space continuum (Back to the Future reference) stable enough for the readers to believe what is happening.

Jax finally realizes the Time Turner is how Hermione kept popping up in/ disappearing from random places and why she was always so tired. He also realizes who actually casts the Patronus Charm to save Harry and Sirius. There’s almost nothing better than how JK foreshadows in this series, the only thing better, watching Jackson figure it out!

Jax is also starting to see how powerful of a wizard Harry is becoming. We were impressed with how hard he worked with professor Lupin to learn the Patronus Charm and how most “fully grown” wizards can’t do it! (The movie does this scene PERFECTLY).

Chapter 22: Owl Post Again

Besides time traveling, freeing Sirius and Buckbeak, not getting caught, Harry getting back both the Maunders Map and his Invisibility Cloak this chapter was uneventful!

The questions begin pouring in… where is Sirius, is Lupin going to be OK? Can Harry use the Time Turner to go back and kill Voldemort before he kills his parents!!??

Then the question I’ve been waiting three books for: “Dad, do we have to wait until tomorrow to start the next book?!??!”

And just like his dad after reading the third book, Jax is absolutely hooked!

POSTSCRIPT: Also, click here for our other alouds:

Sorcerer’s Stone: Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/07/01/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-our-first-read-aloud/

Chamber of Secrets: Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/09/24/harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-part-two-in-our-read-aloud/

Is My Kid Hallucinating?!!

We’re at the point in parenting children (in terms of a nighttime routine) where it’s not just dealing with diapers and trying to get them to sleep w out crying. Those infant stage all-nighters are expected when you have babies. They poop themselves and they want to eat that’s what babies do. But now we have older kids… no more babies. They are supposed to read a book and fall asleep peacefully.

Therefore, taking care of two children who are almost eight and five years old we expect nighttime cooperation. Unfortunately, these damn kids are at the age where they have learned that they have some power in the world, and they’ve decided to seize any opportunity to use it. We’re not surprised by our mini-negotiators saying anything to stall their bedtime—even if they’re about to fall asleep mid-sentence. That’s not an issue. I can deal with that.

But, this is different. This is every night at 1am… 2:30am… every night. They seek us out. They are just there. I don’t know how they get in our bed. I don’t understand the science behind being able to climb over us get under the blankets and not wake anyone up. They just do it. It’s magic, it’s sorcery. Somehow they just appear. Every. Goddamn. Night.

I wake up with either a foot jammed in my back, or with someone crying about a monster that might be in the closet, or bathroom, or on the roof. Listen, I respect that. I had my fair share of nightmares a kid. But, I’m starting to wonder if these stories are just made up. Legit, made up dreams to make mom and I just give in and let them stay in bed with us.

Case in point:

Last week… It was the middle of the night, and we were sound asleep (Steph had already abandoned ship after being up for hours trying to calm a miserable four year old who wanted to stay up and watch tv/ have a drink of water/ have a snack/ read one more book/ etc, etc, etc). I thought I had finally gotten a night of sleep only wake up at 3:30 to the sound of someone having a full on conversation in the bed. It took me a minute to realize it was Oliver talking to someone. I looked around to see who he was talking too. “Steph?,” I whispered. That’s when I realized we were alone.

I jumped out of bed and did whatever a guy needs to do when he believes his home is being invaded, (or his son is possessed), I screamed like a 14 year old seeing Harry Styles for the first time in concert. “Ok, everything is fine,” I said to myself. No one is here. No poltergeist or anything like that, right? But then I heard more mumbling… “Gyro [who is our neighbors’ dog] is barking! His face is right there, but it’s square?!!!”

My first thought: what the heck is he talking about?!? My second thought: Is my kid hallucinating?!!

That’s our life now… waking up to children in our bed at 2am talking about our neighbor’s dog. (And we thought the baby night time stage was hard). It’s exhausting, but the good news is I’ve read some advice from a parenting blog (clearly one that takes themselves way more serious than #ChroniclesOfANewDad. Their advise was:

“Carry your midnight wanderer back to their room every time they bust into yours. If you let them crash with you, you’re setting the stage for a never-ending bedtime battle. Consider hanging bells on your doorknob so you can hear your toddler coming; that way, you can walk them back to their room before they climb into your bed and make themselves comfy.”

“Walk them back, tell them to stay in their own rooms, carry them back yourself”… it’s not working here (there’s no way it’s happening anywhere). Everyone has advise, everyone has ideas until they wake up with child’s foot in their ear and a four year old talking to the next door neighbor’s dog!

“Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is, ‘When can I come back here?’ It’s the carrot that keeps me motivated. Sometimes going to bed feels like the highlight of my day. Ironically, to my children, bedtime is a punishment that violates their basic rights as human beings.”

–Jim Gaffigan

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Our First Read Aloud)

This blog entry will Chronicle (pun intended) a father and son’s first time reading Harry Potter together. I’ll update it after each chapter so that I can capture the most memorable moments. Come back often and check in on our progress and leave us a note or feedback!

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I know Jax and I will.

Finally! “I did my waiting! Twelve years of it!” (Ok maybe seven years of waiting)! But, the day has finally arrived!!! Tonight Jax and I begin our journey at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging… to Platform 9 3/4 and finally on to Hogwarts! Wish us luck… then again, we won’t need luck… we’ll be with Professor Dumbledore.

Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived

We first meet the Dursleys and learn of the peculiar happenings surrounding the arrival of Harry Potter on their doorstep.

Jax: “Wait, Harry’s parents are dead, why didn’t Voldemort kill him too????” “Why can’t they say his name?”

Me: Stop asking great questions, damn it! This is going to be harder than I thought!!!

Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass

We finally get to see some magic happen (albeit unbeknownst to the new reader). Harry grows his hair back in one night, flies to the top of the school roof and helps a snake escape from the zoo after literally having a conversation with it, but Jax is most interested in the VCR Dudley gets for his birthday and “why the heck would a kid want to watch a movie on a tape when he could just use Netflix”.

Chapter 3: The Letters From No One

Tonight was a little difficult to get going on the reading (Jax wants to also read his other chapter book that he’s been reading), but I remember it took me a few chapters (and a few tries) to get into this first book when I started too. This chapter, luckily has a little of everything to really hook the reader. Give us a little bit of magic, some funny scenes (everyone getting hit with Dudley’s Smelting stick), a bunch of “bad words” and a shocking “to be continued” chapter ending! This may be the chapter that has him craving more!

Jax summary of this chapter: Harry gets in trouble because someone keeps sending him like two-hundred forty thousand letters. Uncle Vernon let’s Harry have a bigger room so he doesn’t have to stay in the cupboard anymore, but then says a bunch of bad words like “STUPID and DAMN!” (Jax needed to repeat these words multiple times to really drive home their importance, LOL). So then they tried to get away, so the mailman wouldn’t bring anymore letters to a house across the sea, but someone found them on Harry’s eleventh birthday! I think it might be Dumbledore!!!

Chapter 4: The Keeper of the Keys

Wait, Dad are you telling me I’m a wizard too?

Tonight, Jax was excited to meet Hagrid again. although not as excited to find out that my Hagrid voice sounded more like a defunct pirate.

I was worried a bit about this chapter as we hear a lot about death and literally get a visual of the green flash that kills Harry’s parents and almost kills him. Jax handled it well and inferred the flash of green light was from “Voldemort’s Stupid Wand!” I’d say even JKR herself couldn’t have described it better.

He also got to open the letter that Hagrid gave Harry which he was excited about. Since the book we are reading has lots of pop-up type 3D visuals in it, there’s some manipulatives that add to the experience as we read. After we finished the chapter I showed him the Hogwarts Letter that I had made for him when he was born. He was wide eyed when he asked if he had to start going to Hogwarts for second grade.

Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

I absolutely love this chapter more every time I read it. JK Rowling’s description of where to find the Leaky Cauldron completely throws the reader’s mind for a loop… it’s one of the most important and fascinating ideas about the wizarding world: “it has always been there, if one has the knowledge to find it.” This is the chapter that hooks so many readers, that makes the Lunas and the Nevilles feel at home. After a few reads I always interpreted this chapter (or more specifically the entering of Diagon Alley) as a place for anyone who feels different: that they can find the place where they belong, as long as they know where to look.

This chapter has really begun to peak Jax’ curiosity the most so far. So much so, that we only got through the first half of the the chapter tonight.

He realized it was the “same place” he had been two years ago and actually asked how people become wizards.

The following interaction actually happened:

Jax: “Wait, Dad. How do they all know him… did they read about him in the newspaper?… but I thought only old people read the newspaper?”

Me: “I guess wizards and old people read the newspaper.”

Jax: “But dad… you read the newspaper?”

Me: “That’s because I’m a wizard.”

Jax: “No, it’s because you’re an old man!”

Chapter 5 continued… After resuming the chapter Jax reminded me that Harry needed to buy his supplies and loved the “fold out” of Diagon Alley this book provided. (Maybe a trip to the Wizarding World at Universal is in store soon?)

The most intriguing part of this chapter was in Olivander’s Wand Shop. Jax face when Hagrid lied to Mr. Olivander about “never using his wand anymore” was priceless. He obviously remembered Hagrid’s pink umbrella. Of course then we learned that Harry’s wand’s Phoenix feather had a brother… and that feather belonged to VOL- He-Must-Not-Be-Named (I loved LOVED Jax catching himself, making sure he didn’t say VOLDEMORT! 💀

We ended the chapter with Harry heading back to the Dursley’s until the start of term and right as Jax’ eyes closed for the night.

Chapter 6: The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

These chapters alone elicit multiple questions during reading… but, try reading a chapter after spending a day visiting Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as we recently visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

I literally couldn’t read two sentences with out Jax interjecting or questioning something about a character or place that was mentioned… (and it was amazing), every single question gave me goosebumps! He’s starting to catch on.

Our trip to Platform 9 3/4 this past week added a special touch to this chapter

This is where so much of the book and really more importantly the entire series starts to come together. we meet Neville and Hermione and Draco shows his true colors. The chapter is full of foreshadowing, things that I still sometimes notice for the first time all these reads later!

“Dad, wait!!!! Platform 9 3/4… we were there”… “Dad, remember when Harry, Ron and Hermione were outside our room on the train”…………..…. “OK, wait, Draco doesn’t like Hagrid? Remember we saw him on the ride? He was holding his pink umbrella too!!!”

Every word he wanted to reread and every picture he wanted to inspect! It gave me goosebumps! I was closing my eyes as the chapter came to a close and Jax asked if he could stay up and look back at the previous chapters (he promised he wouldn’t read ahead! I hope he doesn’t… but I know I would if I were him!)

Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat

Damn you, Peeves! That damn poltergeist is such a minor character and used for comic relief… but according to Jax, “he’s the funniest so far!!!” Ok, yes he blows raspberries and makes farting noises, but geez Jax… grow up a little bit!

This chapter importantly introduces us to many new characters, the Hogwarts Houses and also forces us to really think about the preconceived notions that we bring with us as we read. Which brings us to the first really, really tough question of our reading.

“Why Slytherin Dad?”

It’s no secret that I’m a Slytherin. It’s tattooed on my arm:

Our hero, who we are experiencing the book through, has very strong feelings about Slytherin:

Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin. “Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. ... You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no? Well, if you're sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!”

Jax has a very valid question, “Why are you in Slytherin? Dad, that’s where the bad guys go!”

I’m having an existential crisis at this point in the book. This chapter doesn’t become so much about comprehension, foreshadowing or character introductions… I had to navigate how NOT TO explain the thematic elements, the changes in characters as they develop though a story and most importantly about not judging a book by its cover.

We’re just not there yet. Jax is not there yet. Harry isn’t there yet either and that’s OK.

Chapter 8: The Potions Master

Jax starts the chapter hoping we can get through it in one sitting (which we’ve tried to read at least three separate times already with no success as one or both of us are always too tired to get past the first few pages). But before we even begin Jax asks if at the end of the books Harry will get a new family. I’m chomping at the bit to give him some info, but I can’t, I won’t!

As we move forward, Jax is not at all happy with Professor Snape as we see his character call Neville “idiot boy” and ignore Hermione who clearly knows all the answers. Jax says he’s mean and nasty. I think that’s the perfect first description of early Severus Snape.

This is an interesting chapter, Jax isn’t picking up on some of the more complex story elements yet. For example there have been a few foreshadowing moments already. This chapter especially (IE: When Hagrid avoids eye contact with Harry when asked if he knew anything about the Gringotts break in, or if Snape had a reason to not like Harry). I make sure to not give too much away, but will definitely come back to them later on as the plot unfolds.

Jax continues to develop as a reader and I know the deeper understanding will come with time. JK embeds some of the most subtle clues that I even missed a number of times the first few times I read the books. I’m trying to remember that this first read for Jax is about enjoyment. He and I can do a deep dive the next 394 times we read the books!

Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel

It’s important to note that while JKR weaves her story brilliantly, there are some chapters that are a bit more wordy than others. This chapter is FULL of back and forth dialogue. Therefore, reading to someone who is still developing higher-level comprehension skills as a reader and also knowing that I can not replicate the amazing character voices of audio book narrater Jim Dale it was important to ask some clarifying questions to Jax to check for understanding as we read through chapter nine. This was a long read tonight.

After some think-alouds and a some well planned questioning Jax summed this chapter up pretty succinctly:

  • Neville got a red glowing ball and broke his arm
  • Draco stole it from him and flew it up into a tree
  • Harry was a really good flyer too and scooped the ball out of the air after diving super fast (faster than an airplane) to the ground because Malfoy threw it.
  • Harry and Malfoy were going to fight.
  • Filch and his cat almost caught them sneaking out for their dual.
  • They almost got eaten by a dog with three heads, three snouts and venom dripping from its fangs.
  • The dog was standing on a secret entrance.

Not too bad of a summary (with some prompting). Jax loved the appearance of Peeves again and his taunting of the “Ickle firsties!” He made me read (in Peeves voice), “Naughty, naughty, you’ll get caughty” about 14 times and we both laughed harder each time!

Jax ended the chapter with a prediction that the three headed dog was guarded something important in a big vault like at Gringotts.

Chapter 10: Halloween

Jax summed this one up quickly, “Harry got a new broom and learned about the Quidditch balls. Then a troll got in the dungeon and Harry shoved his wand up his nose and Ron did Wingardium Leviosa and killed it with his own club!”

No we’ll pause here to explain how Jax physically acted out the Wingardium Leviosa scene with the troll. I mean standing up on the bed… slowly drawing out the “WINgaaaaaarrrrddddiuuum,” just as Hermione instructed. He got the swish and flick dead on too! She would have been so proud of him.

It took some exposing to come around to the fact that Hermione lied to protect Harry and Ron and that is what bonded their friendship.

As we ended the chapter Jax continued to ask some great questions that I just can’t answer for him yet!

  • “When Voldemort was at Hogwarts was he ever a good kid?”
  • “Is Deathly Hallows the only time they battle Voldemort?”
  • “Why would they want to kill some old man wizard?”

Chapter 11: Quidditch

This was such a fun chapter to read aloud! The majority of the chapter is dialogue, especially that of Lee Jordan who is the Quidditch announcer for Hogwarts. I may have gotten into this a little bit, as I stood and delivered my best play by play of Harry’s first Quidditch match. Jax was caught up in every move as Alicia and Angelina whipped the Quaffle around and Oliver Wood made save after save.

I ran out of breath detailing every move as both Gryffindor and Slytherin players flew around the pitch. Listen I might not be as good as Vin Scully or as well known as Joe Buck, but I think I call a pretty good match… or at least as well as Lee Jordan!

The caveat to this chapter is Jax has been playing Lego Harry Potter on Nintendo Wii and has finally gotten to the point where he (to my dismay) has outplayed our reading. So he was excited to hear how Hermione set fire to Snape’s robes as Harry’s broom was seemingly cursed. He smiled a bit more during this chapter as many different medias are beginning to come together for him right before his eyes. As the chapter ended, I noticed Jax beginning to make some inferences about our main characters:

  • “How does Hermione know so many different spells; she is really good at magic!”
  • “Hagrid forgets stuff a lot, doesn’t he?!”
  • “Why doesn’t Ron do anything?” (This one made me laugh out loud!)

Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

“The Mirror of Erised is an ancient, ornate mirror. It has clawed feet and a gold frame inscribed with the phrase ” Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.” The mirror shows the most desperate desire of a person’s heart, a vision that has been known to drive men mad.”

“Jax, what would you see if you looked into the Mirror or Erised?” I asked.

“My family”, he replied, with a sly smile that told me both he was serious, but he also knew that his answer would make my heart melt.

This is one of the most emotionally draining chapters in the series. Harry sees his family, more importantly he sees his parents. They are there, with him and he is happy for one of the first times in his life.

Adding to the dramatics of this chapter Harry receives an anonymous gift which turn out to be his father’s invisibility cloak. Jax explained to me that Harry was both excited and sad to get his dad’s cloak because, “He doesn’t know his dad so he was excited to get it, but it made him miss his dad too!”

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

I show not your face but your heart’s desire

Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel

(Multiple times while I was at work this week I received face time calls from Jax asking about Nicolas Flamel. He has been asking to go to bed early so we can read. This is becoming a thing!)

We have two district “parts” of this chapter. Finding out who Flamel is… and The Quidditch match each playing a significant role in the current chapter. Obviously, we end the chapter with two hooded figures speaking to each other in the forest, which left Jax to predict that Snape and Quirell are working together to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. (The way his eyes lit up when he realized that was going on was phenomenal!!!)

Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

This was an interesting chapter… Jackson is still trying to figure out the Malfoy/ Potter dynamic. oh he did pick up and made a pretty good inference that Hagrid’s egg was a dragon, based on the clues that Rowling gives us along the way.

As the chapter comes to a close with Harry and Hermione leaving the invisibility cloak on the astronomy tower… Jackson comments as Filtch and Mrs. Norris catches them, that I’m sort of like Filtch… because I “always know when he and Oliver are being bad!”

Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest

There’s detention for everyone who was dumb unfortunate enough to get caught last chapter. The troublemakers head to meet Hagrid in the forbidden forest and encounter a hooded figure.

Jax is now completely enthralled as he hides his face under a blanket because he believes Voldemort is the hooded figure and is about to attack from behind a tree in the forbidden forest or maybe from under our sleep number bed… (same difference).

Everyone winds up making it out of this chapter safely (no unicorns we’re harmed in the writing of this blog post).

Chapter 16: Through the Trap Door

In this chapter, Harry, Ron, and Hermione follow the, as Jax believes is Snape through the trapdoor being guarded by Fluffy, hence the chapter title. Jax is obsessed with Fluffy, but also is excited to see that finally the trio has gotten past him.

The highlight of this chapter (selfishly) was reading how Harry dealt with the challenges through the trapdoor, but it was the corridor filled with flying keys that intrigued Jackson, the most because he finally understood the connection to one of my tattoos!

Chapter 17: The Man With Two Faces

It was almost impossible to stop at the end of the last chapter knowing Jax was just as surprised as everyone the first time they realized it wasn’t Snape or Voldemort who was waiting for him…

It was Quirrell… Jax said he had a feeling something was going to be a surprise, but it didn’t hit him until, “p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell,” stopped stuttering. Jax couldn’t take it in at first… but then it stated to hit him! It was Quirell who let the troll in, but why?

“It has to be Voldemort, right? Is he going to give it [the stone] to him!?? Then Jax excitedly he peeled back the Quirell’s turban, something he had been waiting to do since we began MinaLima’s designed and illustrated version of this book. He had seen the turban and knew that it peeled away, but I wouldn’t let him, until we were there. (I know if it were me I would have totally done it, but I give Jax credit for being patient). “IT’S VOLDEMORT!!!!” (Jax requested we read the rest of the chapter with the door closed and an extra light on) just incase He Who Must Not Be Named showed up in our upstairs hallway).

As the chapter played out we talked about how it was possible for Harry to find the stone in his pocket and why Quirell/Voldemort could not touch Harry. It was interesting to watch Jax process both of these deep questions. It took some pretty good patience and some really effective teacher wait time as I let him think through what we had read and what these two questions could possibly mean for the overall theme of the book.

We talked for a little bit about how Harry didn’t want to help Voldemort and just wanted to get the Stone back so he couldn’t use it to come back to life. We talked about how Lily Potter loved her son so much (just Jax’ mom and dad love him) that the love still “lives” inside of Harry. Jax said he can feel how much he is loved by so many people. This last chapter had us both feeling all the “feels.”

I loved closing the book with a giant smile on Jax’ face as he asked when we could start Book 2; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As we readied ourselves for sleep, Jax leaned over and said, “Dad, I don’t think Voldemort is totally gone. You know he’s going to come back again, right?”

Oh buddy, you have no idea… we’re just getting started!

⚡️⚡️Bonus Content⚡️⚡️ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- THE MOVIE

Anyone who knows me, knows that the first time I pulled out my tattered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone same one I read so many times over the last 20+ years. The same one that had been given to me by my mother-in-law all those years ago. Although the one Jax and I would eventually chose to read was newer and a copy he specifically picked out on a trip to our local book store and not the exact one I had read all those years ago, it still brought back memories of the first time I picked up my original copy.

The same book I had brought with me during four different moves, multiple track and field competitions, read to my first and last classroom or students and had clutched like a raft in a storm when my life turned upside down and I needed a familiar escape.

Handing this book to my son felt a bit like a ritual, like I was inducting him into something.The book was one thing. It was physical, we could flip the pages and hold it in our hands. As I said before it was a right of passage.

The movie however, that’s different. Just as important, but different. These days, I don’t know how much screen time is too much screen time, but this was the first time in a long time I was excited to sit down in front of the TV w the boys. Normally, if we do a Friday family movie, both boys will lay down comfortably snuggled up on Steph and I in a blanket. Oliver is asleep within 15 minutes and I’m dozing off by half way through. Jammies were on, popcorn was popped and all we heard about all day was how Jax was so excited foe Harry Potter movie night.

We started (after 15 bathroom breaks, extra popcorn fill-ups, drink refills and a few extra bathroom breaks, again). Both boys were in awe Professor McGonagall turns into a cat, and I’m pretty sure Oliver meowed at her. The letters flying in from all angles and possible openings at 4 Privet Drive elicit hysterics laughing and cheers from all!

Jackson is completely captivated by the scene in Olivander’s wand shop. It’s literally an exact replay of his experience when he was chosen for his wand at Ollivander’s in the Wizarding World we visited this summer.

Both boys think quidditch is probably the best thing they’ve ever seen in the history of the universe. But before I can ask who they think will win the first match, Oliver is sleeping. Jax has now settled in and at various points jumps up and is sitting on the edge of his seat. I have heard the phrase the jaw-dropping reaction before, but the majority of this movie has Jax mouth wide open, yet speechless.

Jax sat up and watch the majority of the movie from the edge of the couch. Each part he explained to his mom and I. He called out what was going to happen, but was equally as excited as he was surprised.

Fast forward to the climax and we are starting to wonder if Jax is ever going to sleep again. How is this movie rated PG?! Even watching this as an adult I am uncomfortable.

Did Harry just fried his teacher’s face off?!?! There’s no that he’s not going to have a nightmare tonight. Thanks Chris Columbus.

In the end, Jax asks (at 10:38pm) if we can start the movie over, or at least start reading the Chamber of Secrets. And with that being said, my work here is done.

Mall Rats

We’re still riding out a pandemic of epic proportions and yet there’s some hope for normalcy around the corner. I’m fully vaccinated. Stef is waiting for her second dose… the kids wear their masks like they would wear a pair of gloves in the winter. They wash their hands and use sanitizer like it’s their job. It’s no big deal to them anymore.

So today we ventured out as a family. Still masked up, sanitizer and Clorox wipes at the ready, but we decided to (god help us) go to the mall. I mean the grocery store, or a gas station during this pandemic is one thing, but the mall? It was a stretch, but we needed to get out of the house and to pick up a few things for the upcoming baseball season for the boys.

Oliver has never been to the mall, Jax has been maybe twice when he was in a stroller. This was like releasing to sharks into blood infested waters. I feel like I’d have more control over two monkeys released in a banana favorite (are banana factories real). If was insanity, but we survived. All children were accounted for upon our exit from the depths of hell and mom and dad are still talking to each other.

It was a successful day if you ask me.

The three stages of mall shopping:

1. In awe of the sheer size of the place you are in. The entire scene seems like a surreal version of supermarket sweep.

2. Enjoying perusing the many stores and exciting events. It’s like a carnival and a zoo had a baby. You see something you like, give the workers a plastic card and it’s yours!

3. All of the days hard work cumulates in being driven home snug in your car seat while dreaming of your next trip to shopping heaven (or as dad calls it… hell)!

Finally

It’s going to be a loooooong night.

“We want bunk beds,” the boys said, “get them bunk beds,” family and friends said. Bunkbeds will teach them life lessons like sharing and respect and they will help brothers grown closer.

So we got them bunk beds… two months later they attempt their first night together in said bunkbeds.

They’ve now said good night to each other 57 times, I love you to each other 34 times and asked if it was time to go to sleep more than I can count… but, I think we might be on to something here!

Pray for our sanity (and patience tonight)!

⬇️⬇️⬇️ UPDATE ⬇️⬇️⬇️

Exactly twenty minutes after publishing this post:

“Dad I don’t think I’m ever going to sleep on the top bed again. Why did you ever get us bunkbeds!!??”

Happy Birthday Mom

It’s been 20 years since the first time I wished you a happy birthday. I think I bought you a pair of plaid Abercrombie pants and a six pack of Smirnoff Ice. I probably took you to Olive Garden or Applebee’s and I’m sure we saw a movie afterwards.

It’s been years since that Olive Garden date and a long time since our time was our time. It’s no longer about birthday months or even birthday weekends anymore. As working parents we are tasked with so much more than just being a mom or dad. Parenting can feel isolating and lonely with its constant demands. Yet, somehow we balance it even if it’s not always perfect.

In my short stint as a parent, I’ve already wondered, more times than I like, if I’m doing it right, but one thing I do know is it’s hard. Yet somehow, even in the toughest times including giant tantrums or the occasional full on crying until they pass out, you stay strong. I appreciate you staying strong even when I’m a pain in the ass or act like your third child (or fifth if you count the dogs… then again at least I don’t pee or poop on the floor)!

You may not see it, but you are strong. You are strong for them… Jackson and Oliver will never forget that. It will make them strong and caring and most importantly, empathetic.

Twenty years later, the birthday presents that were plaid pants and Smirnoff may have turned into a teakettle for your night time chai and a travel coffee mug for your long commute after a Board of Eduction meeting… and dinner and a night cap has transformed into standing over a pot of Mac and Cheese and watching Frozen 2 for the 700th time… but no matter what, I loved you then and love you everywhere in between those Abercrombie pants and the teakettle.

Coronavirus: The Fifth Month (August)

Day 136: August 1

Today marked the end of Stephanie and Jax being in charge of our friends pool and cat while they were away. I’m happy to say (to the dismay of Mr. Dave) that the cat and pool survived during this time.

We love these friends, but every time Steph comes home from their house she wants something new. A few months ago it was a boat… then it was a deeper pool… not she’s asking for a cat. A cat??? With two kids and two dogs!!???? That’s friends disownment territory right there.

Day 137: August 2

The world is ending. The Tropical Storm that just hit us was extremely intense. We’ve lost power and the heat and humidity is threatening to take over… it’s going to be a long few days.

Day 138: August 3

Eversource still has not even sent people out to “assess the damage”

Day 139: August 4

…AND I QUOTE: “it will take days to recover power!”

All I knows not enough baby powder in the world for how hot and humid my house is right now

Day 140: August 5

Happy anniversary to a mom and wife who has successfully navigated work, marriage, parenting, and even more difficult… the apocalypse that has been 2020! We may be celebrating in the dark today, but they say candlelight is romantic, amirite? ❤️❤️❤️

Day 141: August 6

Phone and website= down
Outage map= “experiencing issues”
No text responses
Last tweet at 4pm= we’re assessing damages
No power for 12 hours…
“we’re here when you need us” slogan=
NOT A SUPER GOOD LOOK

Day 142: August 7

Spent half the year in quarantine and now we have no power for who knows how long and have to drive to a main road in town to call find out when we might have power back. At least we have each other:

Day 143: August 8

Hour 75 with no power and there is still no end in sight. The pool is turning green and is now half empty because we’ve had to use that water to flush the toilets . I know things could be worse, but 2020 just give us a break !

Day 144: August 9

We are now leaving on approximately hour 99 with no power we made pizza on the grill and ate outside on a relatively nice night.

That was until a tree came down across the street taking out two poles and is now laying across the whole road. Fire trucks and police car sirens are blaring and chainsaws are roaring. So much for sleeping tonight.

Day 143: August 10

Eversource to the rescue (sarcastic voice). We are now on hour 122 and we finally have a crew out here to “assess the situation!” Fingers crossed for some positive news.

Day 144: August 11

“BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL…”

Day 145: August 12

Mother Nature is now F-ING with us. We had power for almost a day and then all of a sudden, the power is gone again. It was only out for five minutes or so, but my PTSD kicked in and everyone in the house almost fainted.

That’s being said we made it though the (almost) second power outage and are now on our way to cranking the AC to North Pole come and leaving every electronic device on in the house.

Day 146: August 13

Today was a horrible, horrible day. Buster had a seizure and we had to rush him to the vet, but this time he is having long term effects. They think it may be neurological but we have to monitor him for the next 72 hours. (UPDATE: After a very visit and days of monitoring hes back to his normal self. Just a little slower. Jax has been so good to buster and is helping him around the house. Oliver even offered to take him around in his little wagon! #BrotherlyLove

Day 147: August 14

It’s been a long summer of reminders. I’m done:

Day 148: August 15

Six year old: “Dad, I want some alone time but my brother won’t leave me alone.”

Me: “Dude, same.”

Day 149: August 16

Cousin hang out day. The four boys got to hang out today.

Day 150: August 17

We’ve been cooped up together for far too long. Apparently, there’s now a cover charge to enter the house. Jax has set up shop in the mudroom with a cash register looking like a bouncer.

At least he had change for a $20

Day 151: August 18

Steph told the kids to be good and not fight for 20 minutes so she could take a shower in peace, and then we all laughed and laughed.

Day 152: August 19

This quarantine nonsense has (occasionally) allowed for some quiet time to spend as a family doing things that during a busy summer we would never have the time to do. In those quiet times I always find peace in my life.

The world is upside down, backwards and who knows what right now, but taking time to put away electronics and look through our baseball cards provided us boys one of those quieting moments.

Day 153: August 20

One good thing about quarantine is we’re obviously home a lot more than ever before. So Jax has had time for weekly piano lessons and to practice. He’s beginning to enjoy it and has learned to play a few songs (of course one of those songs happens to be Baby Shark, because why not.

Day 154: August 21

It’s been what feel like 500 years, but tonight we actually got to go out without being parents. A date of sort we both made it through appetizers before we took a nap!

Day 155: August 22

Swimming is a kid favorite activity, picking up after the multiple changes of clothes is not a favorite parent activity.

Maybe they leave a trail of clothes so they can find their way back to the pool?

Day 156: August 23

[8 AM]
Wife [walking into living room]: “What time did you get up?”
Me: “5AM.”
Wife: “But it’s the weekend! WHY SO EARLY?!”
Me [sipping coffee]: “I’ve had 3 kid-free hours of silence.”
Wife: …..
Me: …. [smiling]
Wife: “Why didn’t you wake me?”

Day 157: August 24

We’ve done a lot of family time and some (attempting for) alone time during this pandemic. With these two little monsters calm time is not usually and option. Today was what Steve Irwin might categorize as some “beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.”

Day 158: August 25

Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by a toddler today…

Day 159: August 26;

Who had “unsurvivable” and “catastrophic” hurricane on their 2020 BINGO card. I hope everyone has evacuated and is safe down there! (PLEASE TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU!!!) Ts and Ps 🙏🏼

Day 160: August 27

The planning of the reopening of schools has been a very detailed and interesting experience. we’ve been in “quarantine” for five-plus months and it’s crazy to think that in a couple of weeks we’ll have our students back walking the hallways again. It’s even crazy to think that teachers in our town are prepping to have Jax back in his own school. Educators are the real heroes.

Day 161: August 28

The last Friday before my school is officially back full time. We’ve been trying to prep Jax for going back to school too. We’re all going to sleep a little earlier. (Which just means more time of the boys complaining about having to go bed before actually falling asleep at the same time they always fall asleep no matter what time we put them to bed).

Day 162: August 29

If 2020 had an official marketing Movie Poster

Day 163: August 30

When you and your BFFs are ready to get things started. TMNT Arcade Style!!! This game has been quite the babysitter tonight so moms and dads could sit by the pool and relax a bit.

Day 164: August 31

Today is officially the last day before teachers come back to school in my school district and students then are back a week later. I began this DAY BY DAY QUARANTINE CHRONICLING the day my school district (and most school districts went out). So unless there is some crazy development, this will be the last day by day monthly update of the #CoronaQuarantine.

There were smiles and tears. There were screams and cries. There was anger and there was love. These last 164 days have challenged this mom and dad more than anything in the past. We learned so much about ourselves as people and as parents and I know our boys are ready to back to school (albeit HYBRID).

Canon

… and he laid there, as quiet as a mouse still clutching the note as if it was the most important piece of paper a pencil had ever touched.

Earlier, he looked through book after book, he emptied two different shelves, but nothing could quite quench his thirst for poetry as the note that was slid under his door a few minutes prior. He tore through his favorites, cover after cover… title after title… Pete the Cat after Pete the Cat. The right text just wasn’t there.

Like JK Rowling with Harry Potter, or the Wyld Stallyns with the song that saved eternity, some people just have the gift. Tonight, after locking his brother out of his room, Oliver learned Jax is up there with the greatest authors of all time.

The note was slipped under his door in haste in hopes that it would convince Oliver to open up. But that note, three simple words turned into more than just a message. Like Michael Jordan before him… Jax crafted a note with so few words, yet it said so much.

As Oliver drifted off into a deep sleep he still clutched the note. Three words that his brother wrote him, the three words that he will treasure forever… or at the very least haunt his dreams:

LET ME IN!

————————-

Those three words may have formed the most impactful short sentence since Michael Jordan’s “I’m Back.”