The Tooth Fairy is Broke

Another one bites the dust 🦷. To bad he put all the Tooth Fairy’s money in the band’s tip jar at dinner tonight.

What do you do when it’s 9:45pm and you kid loses a tooth and you have no cash? We are literally repurposing birthday and Christmas money over here. Big shout out to Steph for leaving her purse unattended tonight at dinner which allowed Jackson to request at least seven songs in a row from the live band at dinner.

PS: Jax I want you to know how much I hate teeth. When you read this one day… just know how grossed out I was, but I kept a straight face and held strong like the brave and heroic dad that I am.

Dear Teacher,

Two year ago today Stephanie and I were excited to celebrate with Jackson his Pre-K “graduation”. We were excited, nervous, yet most of all optimistic. Later in the summer we were notified of his kindergarten teacher. We didn’t know much about her, but we hoped for the best.

As an elementary school principal I have high expectations for teachers. One of the most important characteristics of an excellent teacher is the ability to create a learning environment for all, not just for their students, but for the families they serve as well. I firmly believe that the most effective educators are learners at heart and work diligently to create an overall culture of learning.

True teachers believe in everyone, encourage us to reach our highest potential, and convince us that we can do anything we set our minds to. They help foster a love  for reading, writing, and learning. They take pride in the little things their students accomplish and the milestones they make. They celebrate student accomplishments and although teachers know they only have their students for a short period of time, they are proud to see them succeed and move on. 

The past two school years for our son have been more than that. They have been a time for him to develop into the amazing little boy he is today. A leader, a kind soul, an inquisitive little boy who wants to know more about everything. That is part him and part her. Her being the teacher who has inspired him to ask questions (and to make sure the questions are on topic and relatively appropriate… I know my son and relatively appropriate is pushing it).

Mrs. G you are a saint. You are a true kindhearted and special person. I know my son. He’s not perfect (god knows none of us are), but he tries. He loves you, and I’d like to think that I know positive student/ teacher interaction. You helped support his love for learning, but more importantly his love of “wondering”. You never shut him down. You never made him feel like he was asking too many questions. You helped shape his inquisitive mind, while pushing him to want to know more. That, I will never be able to thank you enough for.

Mrs. G, as an educator I truly believe there is not better compliment you can give another educator than to say you want your children to be in their class… with that being said… do you have any interest in looping to second grade?!??

Sincerely,

A Fellow Educator,

but more importantly,

a Dad

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 handed 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

The chapters themselves are cliffhangers and illicit multiple questions during the reading… try reading a chapter after spending a day visiting Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. 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 status 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 say him on the ride? He was holding his 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

Blank Calendar

There’s nothing in the world as a parent that’s worse than waking up in the morning to a list of things that need to happen… Four-year-old’s birthday party… play date at the playground on the other side of town… Or meeting some new people from your child’s class.

Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a parent we’ve met that I haven’t enjoyed hanging out with. We’ve met some of our best friends through the boys, but at what point do parents of young kids get a break. It never ends. Baseball, soccer, swim lessons… play dates…

As an aside… WTF is a play date? Merriam-Webster defines “playdate” as “a play session for small children as arranged by their parents.

First, of all any attempt to label the word play as “session” annoys me. Why is everything timed now a days… “hey boys, your play will commence now. You will have fun for the one hour that has been allotted for this activity.” Why do we need to formalize the word play? A session should be used for scheduled visits with your personal trainer or therapist (although I’m not sure which one I need more after this pandemic shutdown!)

But, I digress… I woke up this morning to this email. (It was the greatest email of my life):

I needed a day of this. Both parents needed a day like this. We just need to normalize not having anything to do.

_________________________

PS: We I wound up inviting multiple people over to swim in the pool this morning… so much for relaxing!

Proud of My Dad Share

Jax had to chose something special to represent his dad for his share at school today. This is what he brought in:

He told his class that his dad, “jumped over hurdles and that he ran really fast.”

PS: Listen Jax, you’re now back on top as my favorite child… (I’m kidding, I don’t have a favorite. Unless you keep talking about how great of a track star-hurdler I was).

A Pollen Death Sentence

Poor Oliver. This kid is (as the kids call it) a hot mess. Claritin, Inhalers, Benadryl and Nebulizers… ohh my.

The pollen covers the earth like a warm blanket. Oliver’s allergies cover him like a goddamn plastic garbage bag.

I don’t get how we can land people on the moon, clone humans and gather sediment from lakes on Mars, but someone can’t figure out how to keep my sons eyes from turning purple every night.

Damn You Pollen. Damn YOU!

Bash Brothers

They might practice wrestling moves on each other daily and they might annoy the ever living hell out of each other on a regular basis, but there is one thing you can’t deny… they are each other’s biggest fan!

Ollie’s first real game turned out to be a heated battle of four year olds fighting for the title of least amount of children left on the field at the end of the game. Four innings of T-ball on an early Saturday morning might be torture for some, but not for these two tag team partners.

Just when you thought things were going to go to hell… the team was losing interest. The players were losing their minds and there were no more dandelions to be picked… then out of no where here comes Jackson to coach first base.

It was like the clouds cleared, the Red Sea had parted… his arrival was a miracle. It had a direct impact on the outcome of the game and dare I say it may have changed the landscape of T-Ball forever (Sandlot reference).

Jax was just the spark that Ollie’s team needed. Oliver was completely inspired and began the “Rally Heard ‘Round the World.” We came back from a large deficit… I’m actually not sure if that’s actually true. I don’t think we keep score and T-ball. But for the sake of the story we were down quite a few runs I needed someone to come up with a big hit. Oliver was just that guy.

…and the rest is history, to be told for years to come. There’s even a rumor that Oliver‘s hat that and Jackson’s autograph on the scorecard are displayed probably in the Hall of Fame…

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Baseball, Again

I’m not sure how many times I can write about how important baseball is to me and the fabric of my family. Go back and read things that I’ve written about my grandfather. We shared so many amazing experiences through baseball and those amazing experiences don’t lessen at all even as time goes by. In fact the feeling of extreme happiness and family connection is only heightened as each my sons experience the same firsts as I did so many years ago through “America’s Past Time.”

This time it was Oliver’s turn to don his first jersey and baseball cap, to slip on a pair of cleats and take a few hacks in the batter’s box. The smile on his little face when he was handed his first jersey, pulled on his hat and walked out onto the field was indescribable. He might as well been in heaven (not Iowa).

I watched this tiny little baseball player so excited to figure out where to stand in the infield and how to run the bases. I won’t lie, I was nervous. Oliver can not stand in one place for longer than a nanosecond, and I’m sure he would have been the kid in the field chasing butterflies and/ or picking dandelions (or at least chasing the kid who’s chasing the butterflies).

However, he was anything but disinterested. He was the one who was first in line to bat, first to put his glove on and run out into the field and the first to give coach knuckles after the game. He loved every second of being with his friends, being in the field and getting to wield a giant metal bat without repercussions.

He may be a few years away from really understanding the intricacies of the game and maybe even a few years from that before he understand how important baseball is to me. But today was about him.

Hopefully as he grows he’ll be able to enjoy the game as much as I did when I played and more importantly how much I enjoyed the time I spent with my grandfather as we experienced the game together, because there is nothing that compares to being able to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in you arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases … stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third and wrap your arms around the bag.

Hopefully one day he’ll get it, but for now, he enjoys being out there… maybe it’s just about getting dirty, but he enjoys it nonetheless.