Half Birthday

Smile you’re a half year older

Listen here readers (and by readers I mean the mother of my two children). Let me be VERY clear we… are not starting a half birthday tradition. We already have mom’s birthday weekend which has suspiciously transponder into a birthday month. I can’t deal with now having to remember half birthdays and anniversaries and other dates that are all jumbled up into forty something years of celebrating other people’s days.

When your birthday is in January and it’s covid …you get a 1/2 birthday party. He said it was the best birthday ever , spent with his preschool buddies. Today, this amazing, chaotic, handsome, weird, hilarious little guy celebrated 4 1/2! With that being said (and knowing that I’m not in charge around here) Happy Half Birthday to Oliver!!!

Half birthday or no birthday, I watched my little guy play with his friends, they played soccer and basketball. They swam, they played tag and ate cake. He didn’t ask mom or dad to play or push him on the swings… he just played. He laughed and gave hugs to his two amazing teachers who showed up to see their students (which is probably why mom and dad were put on the back burner). I get it, when you’re in pre-school and your teacher shows up to your birthday party you’ve pretty much solidified yourself as the coolest kid in the school!

I’m sure the day will come when his electric smile and HUGE brown eyes won’t want mim and dad to lay with him at night, or read him a bedtime story. I know there will come a time when I won’t be able to lay awake holding him close after he sneaks into our bed (thinking he did it slyly and no one noticed). He’s growing up so fast. Four, four and a half, or five years old… it doesn’t matter… Oliver is growing up way too fast.

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

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!

Tool Time

Apparently this whole Covid lockdown thing has driven people to want to remodel and do construction to their house the likes that no one has ever seen before. Many things have been put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but home renovations aren’t one of them. I see neighbors putting in new decks, ripping out old cabinetry and installing new HVAC units left and right. How people are not going bankrupt with all this going on is beyond me.

While I understand most of the world is concerned for their health and well being and you and your family are just trying to get through each day right now… someone here is planning to turn the boys’ bedrooms into a reincarnation of the Palace of Versailles. The thing is I’m totally not up for making decisions about anything at the moment that includes random people making messes around my house that I (for all intents and purposes) can’t leave for more than a few hours at a time.

The thing is… I want to be able to be agreeable and more importantly help… maybe even take on these home projects myself (even if they are far from DIY). I wish I could. I try. I’ve done a lot recently… some plumbing and electrical, but I’m not so sure I should be the one operating a circular saw.

Even my boys know this. They tattle on me if I use a hammer around the house and god forbid I break out the screw gun. I wish I could do more. I have friends like this. They can just build an house in a weekend. I’ve gone to his house and he’ll hand me a beer and ask me to check out his new shed.

“Wait, you built a shed? When?” I’ll ask.

His response, calm, cool and collected,

“Today… I finished before you got here.”

“It’s 11:30am!!!” I’ll reply. Dejected.

Today… he built a shed today… I ran a few miles… maybe answered some emails… but he built an arc to save the animal kingdom overnight. I’m just not there yet. I built a bar/table for the basement. I’ve hung a couple of shelves and installed some blinds. But I’m just not ready to drive a flatbed truck and use saw dust as cologne.

I’m trying. I’m not perfect. But at some point we’ll have a new front door and maybe a shed. Hopefully I’ll come out of all of this with all ten fingers and the majority of my 401k.

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)!

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.

My Dad’s the Principal

Imagine this: your dad knows every teacher you have, used to work with them and even evaluate some of them, knows your schedule (because he was on the team that created those schedules and hirings, knows the curriculum like the back of his hand, and know that you’re learning virtually has the ability to walk into your class at any given moment. In other words, your dad is the boss at school and at home.

You think virtualing leaning is tough? Try being the kid of an elementary school principal!

Into the Night to Save the Day!

Everything is different, so it’s pointless to make a big deal about the impact of Covid-19 on daily life and the impact on Halloween this year is no different. Masks and candy shoots seem par for the course in 2020.

However, for some reason (at least for a guy who really isn’t a fan of Halloween) this year seemed pretty fun. It was just enough and yet, it was still perfect for the kids.

A downtown stroll from small business to small business was just what the doctor ordered (pandemic pun intended). We ended the night with great neighbors and a lot laughs.

If there was ever a quote to exemplify our 2020 Family Costume this is it: “Night in the city, and a brave band of heroes is ready to face fiendish villains to stop them messing with your day.”

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.