First Day of First Grade

First grade? First grade?!?? Wait what happened to kindergarten? This pandemic, this homeschool your kid even when it’s impossible to homeschool your kid when you’re prepared to do so… that… that was nuts, but not as nuts as waking up today and realizing we have a first grader in the house.

This little dude was up at 6:00am and got himself dressed and ready for school by himself. He even made me a cup of coffee. Granted he woke up everyone in the house in order to tell us he had brushed his teeth and was hungry for breakfast, but I digress. With only about three hours to burn before drop-off this morning, we were able to play catch, ride power wheels and change outfits four times.

I’ve taught first grade. I was a first grade teacher for seven years. It’s the (in my opinion) the most challenging and complex grade level to teach and in turn has to be one of the most complex grades to be a student.

This is going to be such an interesting and even more challenging year for Jackson (let alone mom and dad). Then again if this morning is going to be any indication of how the school year is going to go… I think we’re in for a successful year.

Back to Hogwarts

September 1st has a significant meaning and evokes deep “feels” for all those who follow the Wizarding World Calendar. September 1 is day the Hogwarts students return for a new term by boarding the Hogwarts Express (or occasional a flying a Ford Anglia).

While schools across the United States prepare to go back to school virtually, or in some sort of hybrid model, as J.K. Rowling has said, “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

So in keeping with tradition, for the 6th year in a row I tweeted @jkrowling to get some advice for parents dropping off their children at Platform 9 3/4. 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, but maybe this year will be the year! So for now, Stephanie and I have to do our best as Muggles to figure out how this whole Platform 9 3/4 thing works.

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 the planned imperative sentence. It became a treasure.

As Oliver drifted off into a deep sleep he still clutches the note. Three words that his brother wrote him,,, three words that he will treasure forever…

“LET ME IN!”

Coronavirus: The Third Month (June)

Day 76: Monday, June 1:

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:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_6541.jpg
Started Kindergarten in the classroom and ended it by the pool

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

Dear Apple,

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! 😂😂😂

A Letter on Your Last Day of Kindergarten

Started kindergarten in the classroom…
finished kindergarten by the pool.

Dear Jackson,

You will probably not read this letter for a long time and that’s ok. It’s better I save it for a time when you are older and can better understand the significance of the year you just completed. Ten months ago you walked into “Kindergarten.” You we’re excited, but nervous even though you wouldn’t admit it, but I could tell. I know you too well (don’t worry your mom and I were nervous too). You didn’t cry that morning, but I did. I had to leave for work very early for my first day at my new school and would miss you getting on the school bus for your first day.

I laid with you and held your hand a lot longer than usual that night before school started all those months ago. I’m sure your first day was similar to mine, we both probably read a few stories with our new classmates/students and played a game or two during morning meeting to learn everyone’s name.

I watched you grow over the next six months… you continued your growth in reading, became a stronger mathematicians, scientist, and loved being around your friends. You played with others, took turns, worked through problems, and practiced patience.

You smiled, laughed, and sometimes cried. And mom and I received our first call from your principal. Not all of your days were easy, but most of your days were filled with learning, excitement, and happiness. Your teacher email us to tell us about your profess and how kind you were to others especially new students who joined your class late in the year.

Fast forward to March and the world was changing so fast my around all of us. You had no idea, your classmates and teachers had no idea what laid ahead of us all. You packed up your things on a Thursday afternoon, put your folders and pencils in your book bag and zipped up your coat and said good bye to Mrs. G, not knowing it would be for the last time as in person.

Time has seemed to fly by, since the last day you stepped off a school bus and while I am excited for summer and happy that you are through distance learning, I sometimes wish that you had the opportunity to finish the year as a real kindergartner, with your friends and your amazing teacher INSIDE of a school, not at our kitchen table.

You are part of a generation that has reinvented education. You made the impossible possible and it happened overnight. You learned Google Classroom as a five year old (there are adults with college degrees and Google training who can’t figure that out! You video-taped yourself reading, watched videos and held court during weekly Zoom Meetings. It was truly amazing to watch, but at the same time sad to see you miss out on the last few months of kindergarten the way it should have been.

Yet, I know you are ready move on, I’ve learned just how much of a critical thinker and independent learner you are. You, the kindergartner taught your dad, a former teacher and now principal, a thing or two about distance learning through all of this.

But, before you just go on to first grade, please remember that I believe you succeeded through one of the greatest challenges in education and some of the most unprecedented times that our world has ever faced.

And while I know that much of this year will fade from your memories as time goes by. I’ll never forget how you faced these new challenges with determination, grit and that same huge smile that we’ve all grown so accustomed to.

Congratulation on “graduating” Quarantined Kindergarten. We are all so proud of you!!!

Love,

Mom, Dad, Oliver, Buster and Max

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

Dear Kindergarten Class of 2020

Dear Kindergarten Class of 2020,

You might not be a high school senior, but this was a big year for you also. You began your journey as a student. You met new friends, began to learn in a whole new way, and set the foundation for your educational career.

We know how much you are missing so many things that were new and exciting to you, like riding the bus, learning a schedule, having lunch with your peers, and developing relationships with others who may become life long friends.

We know that this whole situation is hard for you to understand. We know that you miss your friends and teachers. We know that you were looking forward to so many fun things that were promised to you, like school trips, field day and even your hot lunch day… pizza on Friday. We as your parents have been looking forward to that too.

For us parents, we have been so excited to watch your journey begin this year. We have watched you mature and navigate a new experience. This has been the beginning of a whole new chapter for you and us as well.

We want you to know that no matter what, we will do our best to make sure that this time, although a time we could have never prepared for, will not damper this special time in your life. We promise to make this time as memorable and happy as possible.

We love you Jax!

Sincerely,

Mom and Dad

I read this on Facebook and wanted to share. It says everything perfectly.

“TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE DISTANCE LEARNING”

T’was the night before Distance Learning, students asleep, their lunches set out.

Then there were teachers who were ready although with some doubt.

Their outfits were hung by the closet with care.

In hopes that the Zoom App was ready when they were there;

The students were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Google Classroom danced in their heads;

And teachers in ‘PJs, and I in my shorts,

Just settled down after finishing reports,

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter,

Everyone sprang from the bed to see what’s the matter.

Away to the window we flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon shown a shadow on the still of the yards

We yawned and we shuttered over ethernet cards .

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,

But a memory of a normal school day so distant and clear.

We cried and we sobbed as we packed up our laptop bags

We were exhausted and beat, time to wave the white flags.

We spoke not a word, but went straight to sleep,

We laid down with questions, but spoke not a peep.

Yes, we were sad that distance learning was coming so fast,

But we knew it was time to move on from the past.

While we wanted to take time and move on real slow,

We realized our students were ready to go.

So now as we sleep, we wish them the best.

And all we can hope is all these students and parents can get some real rest.

Dear Students, and my own two boys…
I’M READY IF YOU ARE!!!
-Mr. Fragola/Dad

Educators… MOUNT UP!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hubris

hubris. noun

[ hyoo-bris, hope-bris ]

excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.


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

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

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

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

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

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