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.
Another year has come and gone, yet this one, this year specifically is like none other that any of us have ever experienced. This year you spent almost all of 12 months in lockdown. The Corona Virus Pandemic and this Quarantine led the way for an unprecedented time for a three year-old to grow up.
However, this day isn’t about viruses, Covid, or vaccinations. It is about you. A little boy who seems to have grown three feet over the past year. While you still might spell your first name with two Ls and forget the numbers 13 and 14 when you count (and maybe say your favorite number is “blue”), you have developed into a voracious reader, who can’t get enough Chica Chica Boom Boom or Paw Patrol.
You have survived as the second child, which has to be so difficult… just ask your uncle Vinny. The thing is, you are forging your own path. You aren’t just a shadow of someone else, you have your own personality. You are hilarious, energetic and so incredibly brave. Braver than I think I could ever be (I’m scared that the bravery is just craziness, but that’s for a different blog entry). You follow your brother’s lead when you want to, but also kick him down the stairs when you want to lead the way.
I watch how others act around you and how they they react to you. Your aura is invigorating. You can turn a lazy, snowy Sunday by the fire into a dance party. You can raise anyone’s spirit, even after the most stressful day… and for that I owe you. You make being a dad so worthwhile. You make being your dad so rewarding… and for that I owe you more than you’ll ever know.
Oliver Peter, keep asking questions and defying the odds, keep trying things that other people don’t think are possible, but most of all… keep being you.
Happy 4th Birthday.
I love you,
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore
Dear Stephanie, let’s get married and have kids so instead of spending quarantine binging Netflix we can tape balloons to our car and drive by some six year old’s house and sing happy birthday from six feet away.
Day 77: Tuesday, June 2:
I’m regretting panic buying $100 worth Of LEGO’s to end up with two kids ignoring them and instead playing with cardboard Amazon Prime boxes and a Tupperware lid for the last few hours.
This quarantine thing is intense!
Wife: “You should never question my choices, because you’re one of them.” Me: “That’s exactly why I question your choices.” _ Wife: “Good point!”
Day 78: Wednesday: June 3
The world is still fighting over toilet paper and today my son decides to give our few rolls left a bath…
Day 79: Thursday, June 4:
How do you keep two kids busy while you conduct Zoom Meetings all day? Give them a vacuum, a few baby wipes and put them to work!
Day 80: Friday, June 5:
What do you do when you can’t go out for pizza and you have ZERO DESIRE to cook… you put the kids to work!
Day 81: Saturday, June 6:
Today I got to catch up with good friends to celebrate one of their 40th birthdays. Interesting enough, Jax used to remind me to take my keys, wallet and cell phone… today he said, “Dad don’t forget your mask and Purell!”
Day 82: Sunday, June 7:
FOLKS… WE GOT SOME BIG NEWS HERE… OUR FIRST LOOSE TOOTH! This kid is growing up too fast! Bring on adulthood!
Day 83: Monday, June 8:
Today we attempting an early morning walk before work and virtual school started.
7:30am: leave house
7:32am: stop because Jax is so hot and “needs a sip of water”
7:36am: stop for rocks
7:37am: stop to pick flowers (that are actually weeds)
7:39am: now Oliver’s cold
7:40am: stop for sticks
7:42am: go home because both boys are really, really tired.
45 total steps logged.
Day 84: Tuesday, June 9:
Happy birthday to the only person who isn’t on Social Media. To my not so little brother! We’ve come a long way from me almost getting you eaten by a snake in the backyard when we were kids! Jax and Ollie couldn’t ask for a better uncle!
Day 85: Wednesday, June 10:
I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than spending the day with my family! It was our first family outing and first time out to dinner in MONTHS!
Day 86: Thursday, June 11:
Hard to imagine how my kids were ever able to survive a regular school days without 23 snacks.
Day 87: Friday, June 12:
Today Jackson had his VIRTUAL FIELD DAY!
Field Day VIA a computer might have been the most frustrating aspect of Distance Learning. My kids would rather watch the timer in the corner of the screen on the zoom conference than actually participate in virtual field day. Jax has now asked 16,000 times when this is over because he wants to go inside already!
PS: Do they give college scholarships for balloon dribbling?!?? Jax had a record of 30 before the balloon popped. What does that count as? Forget it… This has now turned into a way for me to feel athletic again! As a matter fact I’m playing the Rocky theme right now and shoving the kids to the ground!
Day 88: Saturday, June 13:
My two little Dirt Devils/Beach Bums! There’s nothing like burying yourself in the sand as kid!
Day 89: Sunday, June 14:
During quarantine I’ve been slowly working on a project that I had wanted to do for ages. I figured the perfect time was now! In between Zoom meetings and distance learning (and you know life) I decided to build a high back sofa/bar table for the basement. Mind you I’m lucky to come away with ten fingers after using a pencil sharpener. so this was quite the challenge. But, table saws, circular saws, hacksaws and vice clamps be damned, because it came out pretty good.
Day 90: Monday, June 15:
The tooth has fallen out (been pulled out). All packed up in an envelope with a note. That Tooth fairy better start looking for some spare change!
PS: Yes the first tooth only yielded a dollar and a pack of baseball cards, but remember the tooth-fairy is a nonprofit…. she’s on unemployed from her other “paying” job bc of Covid-19, so with that being said, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset!!!”
Day 90: Tuesday, June 16:
You want to wear a cut off tank top and rain boots up the street on your power wheels while carrying garden tools? Sure, at this point at least you have on pants.
PS: Today I learned my children can fix a squeaky wheel with hand held garden tools. Don’t ask!
Day 91: Wednesday, June 17:
The last day of Kindergarten also meant the last day of Distance Learning (for now). What a crazy, crazy cRAzY school year it was for this little guy! Mom and I are so incredibly proud of you and your accomplishments!
Day 92: Thursday, June 18
Today, after putting on my mask in the Big Y parking lot, I looked in the rear view mirror… I realized this is what my ears look like with a face-mask on:
Day 93: Friday, June 19
Can we just not with the screen time reports this week?
Love, mom and dad
Day 94: Saturday. June 20
Pre-Father’s Day Father’s Day Party: my wife, the boy’s mom planned a party for today…. my response to that… Thank you. This was perfect. I actually for once enjoyed myself. I did just enough cleaning, organizing and cooking, etc to keep sane.
Stephanie, I don’t know if you noticed but I actually went in the pool. That’s a big deal. We may argue and butt heads. But, If there’s anyone who is going to be by my side for all the nonsense that is me and what comes with it… I wouldn’t want anyone by my side but you.
Day 95: Sunday, June 21:
Father’s Day is always perfect when spent with the family, especially my two superheros!
Day 96: Monday, June 22:
My wife buys our kids a lot of kinetic sand, play-dough and painting supplies for someone who wants to stay married.
Day 97: Tuesday, June 23:
Today was my first official day I have taken “off” from work since Christmas Break. It was nice to spend some quiet time without the phone/emails for a little while. The boys and I went to the beach (mom was stuck in the office!!!)
With the tide out we were able to walk out almost to the top of the jetty! Nobody fell in (more importantly no one pushed anyone in!)
Day 98: Wednesday, June 24:
Today was a LOOOOOONG DAYYYYYY! Coordinating chrome book and iPad drop off at school for all the amazing students who borrowed devices during distance learning will take a lot of a guy! But, coming home to these two smiling little boys (SCREAMING, “DAAAAADDDDDIEEEESSSSSSS HOMMMMEEEEE!!!!” Will always help being a long day of to a happy close!
Day 99: Thursday, June 25:
My day today… on a Zoom Call with my assistant principal while working from home:
Assistant Principal: “Would you be able to…”
… my two kids run by the camera: one wielding a sword, one naked, both in ski masks and capes…
Assistant Principal: “Never mind.”
Day 100: Friday, June 26:
ONE-HUNDRED-FREAKING-DAYS-OF-QUARANTINE. It’s been 100 days since schools across the nation began distance learning and the quarantine began. As we mark that significant number in this global pandemic not much has changed. Cases are still spiking, masks are required almost everywhere
Day 101: Saturday, June 27:
Roman, our newest little nephew, was baptized today. It was nice celebrating with family for the first time in long time. We also learned Jax is a pretty good photographer!
Day 102: Sunday, June 28:
Heard the wife yelling this from the other room earlier: “STOP DOING THAT!!! WE CAN NOT GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM DURING A PANDEMIC!”
Day 103: Monday, June 29:
We’ve officially lost it here. No school for the kids, rain outside and Oliver wants his 14th M&M yogurt of the day. I have to draw the line somewhere. 13 M&M yogurts before noon is acceptable, but when you try for 14 you have gone too far. Sorry little man, but that temper tantrum is going to have to last a lot longer than…. forget just eat another damn yogurt!
Day 104: Tuesday, June 30:
What a way to end the month. I came home to Jackson narrating a live video of Oliver playing with his Magic Trax! Apparently he’s started his own YouTube channel. Best part, he signed off by saying, “Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to like and subscribe!!!
I guess that takes us into month four… hello July!
PS: Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to like and subscribe! 😂😂😂
Everyone’s snuggling in bed after a long day watching a movie. I finally go to lay down, but Buster is in my spot. Oliver says, “no, Buster stay.”
I moved Buster, lay down and Oliver started kicking me off the bed and says, “No, go back and do work.”
Day 46: Saturday, May 2:
“The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering.” – David Whytetq
Oliver today, “dad can I poop on the grass like Buster and Max?” 🙄
Day 47: Sunday, May 3:
There has to be a time where we can just go do stuff, right? like there’s no way people can just sit inside all day, seven days a week. It’s Sunday, so we should all be gathering as a family around the kitchen table or out by the pool with friends.
Day 48: Monday, May 4:
A friend sent this to me today, “I get a scratchy throat sometimes and think, ‘crap! I’m getting the virus!’ Then I remember it’s scratchy because I was just screaming at my kids with everything I have, because they are driving me crazy.”
That’s what this virus is doing to everyone. Parents can’t even tell if they’ve been infected or been yelling too much at their kids! And no I won’t admit who made the above statement (snitches get stitches).
Day 49: Tuesday, May 5
Me: Quarantine is going well right?
Day 50: Wednesday, May 6
Fifty days of quarantine, of distance learning and homeschooling and these two are closer than ever. Today I found them sitting together and Jax was teaching Oliver about number bonds on his math program.
… and by night they wanted to sleep in the same bed.
Tomorrow they will probably be slap fighting and pushing each other down the stairs, but for now they are best friends.
Day 51: Thursday, May 7:
One of the beat parts of a global pandemic is how everyone is a little more lax with their dress code. Case in point… you can wear your six month old Third Birthday Blaze TShirt for the eighteenth day in a row, or just go as the Naked Cowboy from Time Square.
Day 52: Friday, May 8:
My six year old used the phrase “a long time ago today” to describe the morning and it’s probably the most accurate description I’ve ever heard.
Day 53: Saturday, May 9:
We ventured out a bit today. Just being able to drive down the road to go to the beach was a blessing. The boys were so happy, their eyes were wide and they had giant smiles on their faces. They built sandcastles, filled buckets with sand and threw shells and rocks into the water. It was nice to “get out” for a bit.
Day 54: Sunday, May 10:
This quarantine nonsense is effecting every aspect of life. At bedtime both of my children turn into dehydrated philosophers who need a hug.
Day 55: Monday, May 11:
Today was like no other day. I know I’ve touched on it before, but that was when we had Jackson only. To accomplish what we accomplished today is reminiscent of the “Jordan Shrug” Game. Everything we did hit today, every shot we took, every attempt we put out there… all of them hit.
Everyone’s work was completed without complaining, no one fought viscously over the remote control, lunches and dinners were eaten including fruits and veggies. Baths were taken and every body part was washed without any begging Just like MJ against the Trail Blazers in the 1992 NBA Finals , we couldn’t miss.
Day 56: Tuesday May 13:
Finally got Oliver under the clippers! I couldn’t take the Lloyd Christmas look anymore! (PS, my bad on trying to cut his bangs the day before!)
Day 57: Wednesday May 13:
Jax and Oliver want to know when they don’t have to wash their hands every time they come inside after playing. These kids apparently think that general hygiene will be a thing of the past once the pandemic is over. Even when this coronavirus nonsense is over we are going to have to reiterate that those things aren’t optional.
Day 58: Thursday May 14:
I had to get out of the house. While I appreciate having so much time with my family (even the tough times are still time spent with them), I had to get some fresh air! After all the zoom meetings and the last Google Meet of the day… the golf course, on a late sunny afternoon provided just that.
Day 59: Friday May 15:
Today I had a few very important PPTs to chair and Stephanie was sorting through budget cuts and balancing a school district account during the unprecedented Covid-19 shutdown.
We asked the boys to sit calmly and be quiet. What our children heard: “Battle Royal. Everyman for himself. Run, fight, scream!!!!”
Day 60: Saturday May 16:
It’s always great when you get a surprise visit from family! Today, the newest little family member came to say hello! Mima also surprised us with an appearance!
Day 61: Sunday, May 17:
Now that we’ve all been cooped up in our houses for days, or weeks, or months, the days just seem to…blend together. Weekdays and weekends no longer have any separation. After all, where are we going to go?
“Is today Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday?!??”
Day 62: Monday, May 18:
Oliver and I got up early as we usually do. It was 5:30am, my coffee was hot and Oliver’s apple juice was cold. We both settled in for a calm and quiet morning and all of a sudden Oliver starts cheering. Like, yelling, whooping and was just so excited. I had no idea why, but I just joined in. It was marvelous!
Day 63: Tuesday, May 19:
Netflix needs to get it together and stop asking us if we’re “still watching”. Of COURSE we’re still watching! It’s a pandemic home lockdown! Just keep it rolling the shows out there.
Day 64: Wednesday, May 20:
So today the shark IQ robot special was on TV… Jackson had been waiting for this day like it was Christmas morning. He had it ready to DVR and was hoping to stay up all night to watch it. It’s a three hour long show… He binged watch it like it was a special on Netflix. By the time everyone reads this I guarantee you he’s probably seen it 15 times.
If anybody needs to know the specs of the shark IQ robot… Or even just how its sensors keep it from toppling down the stairs just let us know and we will have Jackson give you a call.
Day 65: Thursday, May 21:
Jax just ripped the door off the hinges again I fixed it it took me an hour and as he was trying to close it because the keys scared bugs are going to come in the house he literally ripped off the hinges
Day 66: Friday, May 22:
Social distancing in the mind of children:
Day 67: Saturday, May 23:
Rain, rain??? We haven’t seen a cloud in weeks. I forgot how insane children are when they are stuck in the house on a rainy day paired with CoronaQuarantine.
There’s only so many crayons, construction paper and Disney movies one family can go through in one day. Is there a Guinness Book of World Record for that? Someone look it up. I’m pretty sure we’ve got that one locked up.
Day 68: Sunday, May 24:
Happy birthday to the best Mima in the world…
Day 69: Monday, May 25:
Today begins “Quarantine Homeschool Spirit Week!” See below for the weekly schedule. Join in, we’d love to have you!
I’ve had it. This house is a prison. It’s like we are living in a small shed and the walls keep closing in on us. No matter how much I clean up… No matter how many times I asked the kids to clean up after themselves… No matter how much organizing I do… There’s still stuff everywhere.
Recently I’ve been binge watching Hell on Wheels, a story of the building of the Trans-Continental Railroad that connected the United States following the Civil War. The show centers on the men and women who helped forge those tracks. Black, White, Asian, or Native, the people who lived in the mobile town of Hell on Wheels came from around the globe to be a part of history.
Things around here have been mimicking what we watch. Meet the main character of Hell on Wheels:
Day 72: Thursday, May 28:
Today I clamped a 2×4 to my weight bench in my basement and used an extension cord I found in the ceiling to power my circular saw. I’m not sure why I though this was a good idea, but then again… COVID don’t care.
By the way, it worked and I still have all my fingers and limbs.
Day 73: Friday, May 29:
Today I watched my boys get along. I heard Jax tell Oliver he was his best friend. I heard Oliver tell Jax he was his best friend. I watched them share.
Day 74: Saturday, May 30:
Today was the perfect day to sit by the fire.
Day 75: Sunday, May 31:
We had a nice little surprise visit today from the family. I finally got to hold my nephew!!!
Another month of Coronavirus Quarantine has passed… bring on June!
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!
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore
I am not sure if you are turning three or twenty three today. It seems as if you have grown so much in the last year. You have so much energy and are full of life. You laugh loudly, hug tightly and fall hard! You are an amazing son, a loving little brother and an all around happy little boy.
In the past year you have learned to ride your big boy bike, you started peeing on the potty (and on the floor and on the walls and in the front yard… ohh and in the pool), you don’t sleep in a crib anymore and you learned how to thoroughly annoy Jackson. You love building and knocking down block towers and playing with trains. I also see a pretty strong right arm developing as you throw a baseball (amd other objects all over the house).
I am proud of the things you have accomplished. I am proud of how you overcome obstacles and most importantly I am proud of how you have become your own little person. Being the second child has to be hard. I wouldn’t know, because like Jax I’m the oldest, but you continue to forge your own path.
That’s all I can ask you to do. Be kind, be helpful be respectful and be you (that and don’t poop on the floor at school anymore). Do those things and you will continue to be
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore
PS… I don’t know what’s more congratulatory worthy… Oliver turning three years old, or Steph and I actually surviving three years with two kids.
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.
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.