As I lay next to you on the eve of your sixth birthday (mind you, I wrote “fifth birthday” two different times already in this blog and I’m not even two sentences in) I can not believe how fast you are growing up. Writing tonight, one handed as you hold my other hand tightly in yours is tough, but worth every second. I know that the years continue to fly by so I continue to remind myself to relish in every second I get to spend with you.
This year you took on three new major challenges: basketball, football and kindergarten and have taken them on like you do everything in your life… with: energy, enthusiasm and with an all out CraZy passion that is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter if it’s running a new play as the quarterback (and remembering to stop running when the whistle blows), dribbling the length of the court for red-light green-light at basketball practice, or accessing the regulation station for an extra recess, your love for whatever you do is inspiring.
You are reading and writing and are so proud of yourself every time you come home from school. You make new friends where ever you go and see the world through rose colored glasses, but still know right from wrong and are not afraid to speak up for what you believe in (especially when that belief is advocating for chocolate instead of vegetables at dinner).
I know this year will continue to bring amazing things for you. I’m sure sometime in late May or early June you will set the World Record for consecutive days eating a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. I’m positive you will read your first full book on your own, you’ll continue to take sports head on. But mostly, I want you to just keep having fun.
There’s plenty of time to find your niche, and I’m confident you will, but for now, just keep doing you… Creeper Face and all!
In a world that so often focuses on the negative, it can be exhausting trying to be a positive for so many people. Sometimes, a kind act, even a small one can be the one time someone smiles on a particular day. The very definition of a random act of kindness is when you do something unexpected, thoughtful, or helpful without expecting anything in return.
Today was the day I needed a random act of kindness to remind me how good the world can be. Today was even better considering that particular act of kindness was initiated by my older son and directed towards his younger brother… it was completely unsolicited, unprovoked and even better un-observed… (or so he thought).
As an aside, I recently read an amazing book, The Kindness Advantage: Cultivating Compassionate and Connected Children. The book was mentioned by my amazing school social worker and a few parents had even discussed it at a recent PTO meeting. So, I decided to check it out. The focus on values of community, compassion, and tolerance are themes that will resonate with any educator.
With increased concern about meanness and bullying, I was impressed with how simply the authors discuss how kindness spreads. Also, described is how children who not only expience others being kind, but those who demonstrate kindness are more apt to also show unity, respect, empathy and compassion for others. As a school leader and parent anything that supports a climate of respect and rapport is something useful that can be taught and also benefit the environment in a classroom and at home.
So, as I stood silently, just beyond the small crack in the bedroom door, I watched my eight year old finish reading a book to his younger brother. As he tucked him in, he whispered just barely audible, “Good night buddy. I’m proud that you are my brother. Thank you for coming into my life.” You see sometimes, kindness isn’t just for the person giving, or even for the person receiving. Often times it’s for the person observing.
Today, one random act of kindness filled three buckets and left this dad smiling from ear to ear.
Pizza Rat is an internet sensation based of of the most famous NYC rat since splinter taught those crazy turtles karate. The thing is… how can this brown rat carrying a slice of pizza down the steps of a New York City Subway station in Manhattan be any cuter than our very own (above) pizza rat?!????
This dude right here is about to embark on a magical journey, in other words:
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip That started from this tropic port Aboard this tiny ship.
There’s no doubt that this little guy isn’t so little anymore and all joking aside, if kindergarten orientation is any indication of how this school year is going to go, sign me up for the Gilligan Island’s Theme Song, because Oliver and his preschool now kindergarten friends are going to cause all sorts of high jinx!
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, Two and Three now will move onto Book Four: Harry Potter and the the Goblet of Fire. 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: The Riddle House
(The first few chapters Jax asked if he could “talk to text” his summary of the chapter. Why not, right?)
I was reading the chapter 1 the Riddle House and I was wondering what going to happen right away. So, when my dad read me the first page it made me, kind of like happy, and then I thought this book was going to be good, but then what he said and the next page made me kind of suspicious about what this chapter might tell us.
We read on the next page that all the Riddle family were all killed by something and I thought they’re the gardener Frank that takes care of their house when they’re gone.
Everyone in the town thought he killed them so they arrested him and then they and then they were like you’re innocent and you didn’t do anything, so they let him go!
One night after getting out of jail, Frank woke up and the lights were on in the house and there were people jumping around the house and they were like those ‘darn kids again’ he thought. So, he went to the house and he wasn’t kids. There was a fire and then he went upstairs he looked inside a small opening of a door in a bedroom. He looked and he saw a weird man that had his face covered and a man that looked very old and looks and sounds like a rat. (We met them in the last book… The Prisoner of Azkaban… Peter Pettigrew.
Then a weird snake walked into the door and then the strange man that had the hood on said how are you doing Nagini. Nagini was the snake… so Nagini who was now in the room told the man with the hood that there was somebody waiting outside listening to all they were talking about so then the man opens the door and said come in man.
So Frank walked inside and then what he saw was the last thing he ever saw in his life… a green flash!!!!! And then just like that, now he’s laying on the ground, dead.
DEAD AS EVER!!!!
Chapter 2: The Scar
So Harry woke up with a SCREAM and was YELLING. The Dursley‘s were banging on the wall and telling him to… like, ‘shut up’ and he woke up and his Scar was burning more than ever!
When he woke up, he found a strange bird, he opened the window and found the bird was from Sirius Black! The letter said, ‘Hello Harry, I hope you’re having a good time, but I also know you aren’t really having a good time, because the stupid Dursley‘s are really rude to you.’
So, then Henry sent a note back that said, ‘Yeah I’m doing a little bit fine. But, my Aunt Petunia found Dudley smuggling donuts in his room yesterday. He’s on a diet so they took away his money and he threw his PlayStation out the window. Also, my Scar hurts really, really bad!’
Chapter 3: The Invitation
Not much really happen in this chapter, but I can tell you a little bit… So in Chapter 3 the Invitation, Harry got a letter in the mail from Ron that had about 38 stamps on it and there was just a little bit of writing in the middle. It said, ‘Harry we’re gonna come and pick you up to bring you to the Quidditch World Cup.
Chapter 4: Back to the Burrow
Harry woke up on a simple morning same as always, went downstairs and Petunia and Vernon commanded him to make breakfast. So it was a fight a normal morning until they heard something and the flames in the fireplace turned green, it was hotter and hotter in the room, he heard a whoosh, they saw legs… then they heard something that sounded like the Weasleys.
They were stuck in the fireplace! Mr. Weasley destroyed everything they were crumbs everywhere from the fireplace. Out spilled Mr. Weasley, Ron and the two twins Fred and George (you can’t tell them apart)!
As they were leaving Fred and George accidentally dropped some kind of magic candy. Dudley ate the candy one by one. Dudley ate all the candy and then his tongue grew 100 pounds! And the Dursleys were freaking out!!!
Chapter 5: Weasley Wizard Wheezes
Fred and George (the two twins), they love, love, love… (like, you can say love one million times????) love jokes. They once played a joke on their mother and they make fake wands and fart bombs. So now they decided to make a joke shop.
Chapter 6: The Portkey
“…Portkeys. They’re objects that are used to transport wizards from one spot to another at a prearranged time.”
Jax: “So dad, if anything can be a Portkey… can we use your weights from the basement, it’s not like you use them anyway!”
Chapter 7: Bagman and Crouch
Chapter 8: The Quidditch World Cup
Chapter 9: The Dark Mark
Chapter 10: Mayhem at the Ministry
Chapter 11: Aboard the Hogwarts Express
Chapter 12: The Triwizard Tournament
Jax is fascinated by the
Chapter 13: Mad-Eye Moody
Chapter 14: The Unforgivable Curses
Chapter 15: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang
Chapter 16: The Goblet of Fire
Dumbledore introduces the Goblet of Fire to the students and explains that those who wish to enter the Tournament should place their name on a slip of paper inside the goblet; he adds that he has drawn an age line around its perimeter, meaning that no one under the age of seventeen can approach.
Jax is fascinated by the age line and can’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t just tie something heavy to piece of paper with their name on it and throw it from behind the age line into the Goblet of Fire… (Hey Jax, maybe you should have told that to Fred and George before they tried an aging potion)!
“Dad, can’t they just ask someone older to drop their name in for them?!?? (Again, pretty good critical thinking Jax).
Jax face when Harry’s name came out of the Goblet:
Chapter 17: The Four Champions
Chapter 22: The Unexpected Task
They needed to find people to go to the ball with. Harry decided to go with Cho Vhamg but she was already going with Cedric Difgiey. Then he found out he needed to dance with a girl. I would NOT want to dance with a girl at the dance (well except my “girl” friend ____.
POSTSCRIPT: Also, click here for our other alouds:
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 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.
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!
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore
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).
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:
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:
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: