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
About a month ago, it was a normal weekday afternoon as I walked down the driveway to the mailbox. Nothing pressing was on my mind other than how many Amazon Prime packages I might find. Today however, instead of finding boxes, bills or ads for extended car warrantees, I found a letter from almost 1,000 miles away (and no it wasn’t my acceptance letter from Hogwarts… although you have to admit that would be life changing too).
The envelopes were emblazoned with the Green Bay Packers logo stamped on both. I had tears in my eyes because I knew immediately what was inside, but would have to conceal both my excitement and the documents that were now in my hands.
People ask me all the time, (as I know they will both boys), how in the world did I become a Packers fan. Whenever I’m asked this question my head begins swimming with reasons…would it be Sterling Sharpe, who was Calvin Johnson before Calvin Johnson was even born and also happens to be the reason why I wore number 84 in my high school football days… Al Bundy reference). How about Brett Favre, the “Gunslinger of the North,” who kept us in every game? Or what about Charles Woodson, who displayed the heart of a lion and tried to play through a broken collarbone in order to bring the Lombardi Trophy home? Those are all obvious choices of why I became a packers fan. There are hundreds to choose from; I mean, come on! We’re the most legendary franchise in the NFL, right?
Then again, there is more to the Green Bay Packers than the legendary figures who once and still do roam The Frozen Tundra. To me, there is something else that makes our fan base a “real living, breathing thing.” Family… Vince Lombardi said it, my parents said it… heck, I’m saying it now… family is what makes being a Packers fan so special.
My boys were born seven and four years ago respectively and the joys of parenthood sometimes gets lost in dirty diapers, school events and sleepless nights… when the thoughts of Rodgers to Adams are far, far away. Yet, it’s that quick thought of ARod lofting a touchdown pass on a perfectly thrown back shoulder pass… even if for just a fleeting second, that gets me so excited. The thought of sharing the Green Bay Packers with my sons, the thought of Sundays with them in my lap, the thought of bringing them to Lambeau for the first time… that’s what it’s all about. It is the thought of something that is bigger than me, bigger than them… because the Packers make it about “US.”
Now that my family has grown, I have the opportunity to share something that is more than a game with my boys. And although there is no doubt there will be stories about that Gunslinger of the North, and the guy they called The Golden Boy, it will be more about the experiences father and sons share together. Besides, Coach Lombardi couldn’t have been wrong… he added it in his Top 3… God, FAMILY and THE GREEN BAY PACKERS
You see the Green Bay Packers are more than a team. These documents I was holding are about passing on a legacy. Now, both my boys can join me by saying they are more than fans… they are now the proud Owners of the Green Bay Packers.
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! 😂😂😂
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.
Oliver straight up predicting the Packers win to wrap up the NFC North Division Crown was pretty astonishing. (He gave a 36-10 prediction before the game began. However there’s a debate if he skipped 24 in his counting therefor possible giving a prediction of 23-10… the actual final score).
Either way this kid in his too tight Packers PJ onesie and Aaron Rodgers are on their way to the playoffs as The Kings of the North.
I feel like it’s been about 100 years since the last time I visited Scott’s Brats, a small beach front stand that serves authentic Wisconsin food. The best part is Scott, the owner, is a HUGE Packers fan.
His stand covered in Palm leaves and surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, but what stood out most (besides the amazing brats or Italian sausage on a Italian bread) was the Packers memorabilia and amazing license plates from all around the world, most depicting some sort of Packers saying. I took a picture with Scott before we left and told him we’d be back one day. I also asked him if I could buy one of his license plates. He told me he was still collecting them and the next time I came he’d give me one.
Well years later we came back. I had been telling the boys all about the guy in Aruba who loves the Packers. They were exited to meet him. Scott’s Brats is still standing, unfortunately no more Scott (he sold it to retire to beach life a few years back) and now that authentic Wisconsin food has a with a touch of Aruban flavor).
Matt, the new owner has kept the Packers memorabilia up and has added more license plates from all over Aruba. When I told him the story about the first time I met Scott, he grabbed a hammer, took down that Packers license plate from all those years ago and gladly handed it over to me. That golden “GOPACK” plate from “One Happy Island” will display nicely in the basement and remind me and the boys of our first vacation together, of the warm ocean, the hot sun, some great food and the fact that Packers fans are everywhere.
Traditions and rituals are more than just repetition… they often tell a story. A family sets it’s foundation on traditions… from the small of a secret handshake with your son or the big of a thanksgiving feast with all your relatives. On the macro level, traditions can teach children where their family came from or give them insights into their cultural or religious history. On a more micro level, traditions can serve as reminders of events that have shaped your family or reminders of great friendships.
There is irrefutable research that shows families hat engage is “traditions” have a stronger connection with one another. Traditions can be particularly effective during times of change or grief. When we moved and he had to go to sleep in a new room, Jax knew every night we would read a few books and “count the stars on his ceiling” before I kissed him goodnight. It provided him with a sense of security in a new environment.
Jax and I have our secret handshake: (Shout out to Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson who were the inspiration for this). But, Oliver and I were still searching for that father-son tradition.
That was until I realized we need search no more… we didn’t need to find one, because traditions aren’t just thought up one day. They are created authentically and often times are the moments that you don’t even think twice about. It was there right in front of our faces!
Every night before he goes down to sleep, Oliver climbs up on me and settles his head on my shoulder and says, well he doesn’t really say anything. He isn’t really talking much at this point. But, I know what he’s thinking… he’s thinking he really wants his dad to sing him to sleep… a lullaby, a beautiful, calming rendition of his favorite song… Hush, Little Baby.
This is our tradition. Jax never really took to my singing (probably because it sounds like multiple cats crying). However, Ollie… he loves snuggling with dad and listening to the smooth, sweet tones of his father’s voice whispering one of the most well-known lullabies as he drifts off into dream land.
The best part of this… I have no idea, literally none whatsoever, what the lyrics to this song really are. I’ve tried everything. I rhymed real words and made up words… I’ve tried looking up the lyrics, but I can’t remember them in the heat of the performance. I feel like I do when I’m in the car belting out Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing… apparently it’s not, “smelly wine and sheep perfume.” Then there’s anything by Notorious BIG (including the ever confusing), “Birthdays were the worst days/ Now we sip champagne every Thursday.” I know a few words and the rest are completely made up.
That brings us to the greatest tradition our family knows… dad and Oliver’s version of Hush, Little Baby:
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Daddy’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don’t sing, Daddy’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
And if that diamond ring don’t shine, Daddy’s gonna buy you an air freshener that smells like pine.
And if that air freshener doesn’t smell right, Daddy’s gonna buy you a dragon kite.
Different lyrics… same tradition… and it puts the kid to sleep… EVERY.DAMN.NIGHT.
Doesn’t matter where… when he hears Dad’s version of Hush, Little Baby.., he’s out cold
Every toy has been unwrapped, opened, put together, had batteries installed and played with. Now to shove them in a corner so the boys can play with the toys Jackson got for his first birthday three years ago. Matching outfits are packed away never to be seen again until the above picture comes out at some holiday get together 20 years from now.
Elfie has returned to the North Pole… (thank god)!!! Santa has come and gone and in his wake is enough cardboard and wrapping paper to pollute the Mississippi River (I still can’t spell without that little tune we learned in third grade). Only one wine glass was broken yet somehow 30 more boxes of decorations than we owned last year seem to have made their way into the attic.
I’ve written about this before, but I still contend that the day after Christmas (especially for someone with OCD) is the worst “day after holiday” of the year. Yea, I know what I’m saying… I was up all night and celebrated a Packers Super Bowl win just a few years ago and had to get up early the next day for work, but that was a joyous wake up… my team won the Super Bowl, so who cares about that day after… I get it… but for me the day after XMAS has always been a disaster.
However, this year… I tried to let it go as best as I could. I let stuff stay out, I didn’t pack up ornaments or the garland on the mantle. the leftovers weren’t nearly packed in separate Tupperware (yup… that’s right, I just covered them with tinfoil). I allows my children to play with their toys and didn’t even make them put one away before playing with another. I sat comfortably while a fire burned warmly in the fireplace, and enjoyed watching my two little boys play together with all the new toys Santa left them the day before.
This Christmas was about them… not me… not anyone… just them… and I enjoyed that much more than a day of OCD controlled cleaning and organizing like I usually do on December 26th… (at least for today).
It finally happened. I finally have a child in the family that I can have fun with, rile up, teach to make farting noises and then send home… no further responsibilities, no worrying if he is going to tell his teachers where he learned to burp the alphabet from. I am now the cool uncle. That’s a huge responsibility.
I remember my “cool uncle”. He taught me to play Techmo Bowl and took me to the arcade is his silver Camero that would cause even most avid motor heads jealousy. Going for a ride in a four door Honda sedan might not be as cool as speeding through toll booths in an Iroc Z… and there may not be any arcades left around, but I know I can figure something out.
With that being said… here are some pieces of advice I got when I asked Twitter for help on being a cool uncle:
Back off. Defer to the parents always.
Make it clear you want to spend time with all of them, but be cautious about inviting yourself over.
The parents are in charge, and your opinion doesn’t matter.
If the parents say, “Peter, please don’t do that with our baby,” then obey them.
spoil him rotten and ensure that he likes your favorite football (Go Pack Go) and baseball teams (Pinstripe Pride).
With your decent, disposable income open a savings account for emergencies and/or higher education.
give frequent small gifts, like a cool new flashlight.
All great advice for a new uncle… a new COOL uncle. Although I’m not sure who’s more excited over the new family member… me or Jax, who apparently after hearing someone exclaim they wanted to “pinch baby Dominic’s cute little cheeks,” has given his new cousin his official nickname: Baby Cheeks. Well I guess if Baby Cheeks is now officially part of the family that makes me officiant Uncle Pete. Or as Jax would say, Uncle Peep… or as I would say… Cool Uncle Peep!
Introducing my first Nephew: (I really hope I can afford a cool enough flashlight for him)