Pizza Rat

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?!????

The OG Pizza Rat

#BackToHogwarts2022

Continuing with tradition (for the eighth year in a row) I tweeted at JK Rowling for advice in dropping the boys off at Platform 9 3/4.

I’m sure by now you know that September 1st is a sacred day for witches and wizards everywhere! Back to Hogwarts Day is when the Wizarding World boards the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Station heading to Hogwarts.

The hope being JK herself will acknowledge my tweet and show some love to two little wizards who have the unfortunate luck of being born to the biggest Harry Potter fan this side of Privet Drive.

Harry Potter and the the Goblet of Fire (Part Four in our Read Aloud

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

Yes, we did HP newborn photos and added a 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

The future Weasleys’ 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!”

POSTSCRIPT: Also, click here for our other alouds:

Sorcerer’s Stone: Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/07/01/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-our-first-read-aloud/

Chamber of Secrets: Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/09/24/harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-part-two-in-our-read-aloud/

Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2022/02/23/harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-part-three-in-our-read-aloud-series/

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Part Three in our Read Aloud Series)

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).

https://youtube.com/shorts/JMIKDpntF9s?feature=share

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:

EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!

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:

“OMG DAD… that’s a time turner on your arm!!!”

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:

Sorcerer’s Stone: Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/07/01/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-our-first-read-aloud/

Chamber of Secrets: Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/09/24/harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-part-two-in-our-read-aloud/

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Part Two in our Read Aloud Series)

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 now will move onto Book two: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 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 Worst Birthday

We start the book with so much excitement, as we begin with Harry returning to the Dursley’s for the summer, and things are hardly going well. On Harry’s birthday, Harry is screamed at and berated by Uncle Vernon. Jax recognizes this and asks me to stop, while he thinks. He calmly asks, dad, whet book is he going to get a new family? We’re barely into Book 2 and Jax already dislikes The Dursleys and is asking why he needs to stay with his aunt and uncle.

I move slowly closing the book at saying, “great question, you’ll find out more clues to help you answer that soon!”

Chapter 2: Dobby’s Warning

This chapter was a fan favorite!

  • Dobby’s tennis ball sized eyes and his funny voice (watch out Jim Dale and Stephen Fry this dad does a mean Dobby voice)
  • Aunt Petunia’s pudding
  • Harry getting locked in his room with bars on the windows
  • The FLYING car!!!

Dobby finally told Harry why he was there – he had a warning: according to Jax, “Harry shouldn’t go back to Hogwarts because Dobby is trying to tell him that Voldemort is coming back to get him! “ this was followed up by one of the most insightful questions I’ve heard as a dad and educator… “Dad, can we hurry to the end of the book, that’s when Voldemort will try to fight Harry again, it always happens at the end!” This kid is a very, very thoughtful reader, with lots of tools to help him comprehend!

  • Sequencing ✅
  • Inferencing ✅
  • Drawing conclusions ✅
  • Problem-solving ✅
  • Relating background knowledge ✅

Chapter 3: The Burrow

We read this chapter excited mostly about how incredible it was That a flying car picked Harry up from his bedroom. The entire scene was so suspenseful, the sneaking out, getting his trunk, uncle Vernon trying to grab Harry as he barely gets away as Fred and George slam on the gas and free Harry from the Dursley’s. A pattern that Jax is beginning to pick up on!

Best scene as a dad of boys who tinker w/ everything

I talked a little with Jax about how often times the author leaves you clues (JKs MO) about what they want you to figure out on your own. We talked about how the Weasley’s house is described and how Ron says, “It’s not much, but it’s home.” The deep thinking that is occurring as he processes so much information in these chapters is impressive. Most of the time he processes out loud, other times, he does it internally and sometimes I have to prompt him.

I asked Jax what he thought of the burrow and how that was similar or different to Ron’s opinion of his own house. Hearing his description of how Ron thought he was “poor” and that he was “embarrassed” by the above line was rewarding for a dad/educator trying to get their little reader to think deeply about the text!

Chapter 4: At Flourish and Blotts

A LONG CHAPTER that took three separate nights to compete (part Jax tired and part… mostly… dad exhausted).

We covered a lot in this chapter including (with Jax’ commentary in quotes):

-Why might Harry be embarrassed of his money. “Do you think he’ll share it with the Weasleys?

-The Weasley vs the Malfoy rivalry. “The Malfoys are the worst.

-The famous and over zealous Gilderoy Lockhart. “He thinks he’s the best wizard and he only likes Harry because he’s famous.

As we ended the chapter I caught him sneaking a peak at the last chapter… I love that he’s wanting more!!!

Chapter 5: The Whomping Willow

It’s been a busy few days, but hearing Jax (and Oliver) ask about Harry Potter read aloud time is a welcomed addition to my day.

Both boys were excited to read together (I struggle with letting Ollie listen in, because I’d like it to be a unique experience for him like it has been for Jax, but for now intermittent participation in our read alouds will be permitted!)

The Whomping Willow and a flying Ford Anglia dominate this chapter. But it was Ron and Harry smashing into the brick wall at Platform 9 3/4 that had the boys hysterical.

There’s something about watching (or in the case picturing) someone falling over that seems to always bring out a chuckle (think America’s Funniest Home Videos). Of course both boys needed to stand up and act this scene out… with multiple takes.

Interestingly enough their door might be less forgiving than the brick wall in King’s Cross Station between Platforms 9 and 10 because I’m confident one or both of them had a concussion after their physical comedy. It was like watching a Chris Farley do a Harry Potter skit on SNL

As the chapter came to a close we saw our favorite mean professor yell at Harry, leaving Jax to say, “I’m glad he’s not my teacher!!!”

Chapter 6: Gilderoy Lockhart

The best part of this chapter is the two references to real life events that Jax makes quick connections too as we read. We being in the greenhouse, where Professor Sprout is explaining that the lesson of the day will involve repotting Mandrakes, which Hermoine explains are a are plants that look like pale green babies with leaves growing out of their heads and produce a cry that is fatal to anyone who hears it, so the entire class has to put on earmuffs to handle them. Which reminds Jax of his brothers newborn photo shoot from four years ago!

Jackson’s Reference Exhibit 1:

Who’s scream is more fatal?
A mandrake or a newborn?

The single most annoying character in this series comes into play next. He’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart. I loathe this character (and this chapter in general). Jax describes him as a liar and says he definitely thinks he’s good at “stuff, but he definitely isn’t.”

As an elementary school principal Lockhart’s instructional ineptitude drives me crazy. As a teacher in his own class, he has no idea what he’s doing and he can’t even fake it well. The pixies he releases destroy the classroom, hanging students from the ceiling and tossing wands out the window. Lockhart is unable to stop them or to recapture them so he walks out and leaves the job to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, which leads Jax to agree that Lockhart is a, “really bad teacher!!”

Then again the Cornish Pixies bring us to our second favorite part of this chapter… The first time we visited the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, Stephanie and I were walking out after a long hot day and as we pass a shelf loaded with stuffed animals and other HP merchandise, Jax starts pointing and laughing uncontrollably. He was pointing at the blue Cornish Pixie hanging on the shelf… so of course we bought it for him. He still has it to this day… so I got his Pixie on my inner arm.

Jackson’s Reference Exhibit 2:

Tattoo inspired by a $45 stuffed animal

Check back soon for the review and updates of our next chapter read aloud

Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs

An interesting chapter as we start to see how “mean” other people can be and how others could and should respond to those when they are mean.

The highlight of this chapter read:

Jax asks, “How many Harry Potter books are there?”

Me, “Seven.”

Jax response, “What if Voldemort has seven lives and Harry has to fight one in each of the books?”

Chapter 8: The Deathday Party

It’s been a while, so I needed to check in to see if Jax remembers how to pay attention to a read aloud and utilize his oral comprehension skills.

– Why was Nearly Headless Nick not allowed to join the Headless Hunt?

“Remember, his head was not totally chopped off. It was, like, hanging off. I think someone tried to saw it, but the saw wasn’t working all the way.”

What are Squibs

“A kind of Octopus.”

What did Harry, Ron and Hermione find when they followed the voice that Harry heard?

“He keeps hearing voices. Nobody else can hear them so they think he’s crazy. Even his friends are thinking he’s a little crazy. Then they find Filtch’s cat hanging upside down because I think it saw Voldemort trying to open the Chamber of Secrets.

Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall

Jax’ summary of this chapter… so everyone thinks Harry is the Heir of Slytherin?!??? that makes no sense, because he already beat Voldemort!

He’s also now obsessed with the Polyjuice Potion and want to know if he can use it to turn Oliver into a rat like Scabbers!!!! (so much for using your magic for good).

Chapter 10: The Rogue Bludger

I asked Jax to summarize this chapter in the fastest way possible as it was about 9:45 at night!

  • Lockhart thinks everyone loves him.
  • Dobby sends a rogue Bludger at Harry, and Harry breaks his arm.
  • Lockhart messes up again!!! He says he can fix Harry’s arm but all his bones disappear and his arm turns into a rubber band!!!
  • Then Colin and Nearly Headless Nick gets Petrified.
  • IT HAS TO MEAN VOLDEMORT IS BACK!!!

Chapter 11: The Dueling Club

At this point Jax realizes that Gilderoy is a fake. Harry can talk to snakes as (people think he doesn’t) protect Justin from the cobra that comes from Draco’s wand. Jax quickly remembers the boa constrictor from the first book that Harry sets free from the zoo.

Chapter 12: The Polyjuice Potion

I love watching Jax’ reaction to surprises as he develops as a reader! Harry and Ron now know that someone other than Draco is the Heir of Slytherin. When Draco admits he’s not sure who did it, he gave his patented, “Eek!”

Chapter 13: The Very Secret Diary

Oliver is reading the wrong book, but then again reading is reading!.

This is the chapter of the very secret summary. I’m not going to lie. Both Jackson and I were half asleep for this one. I’m not sure I remember his reaction. I do know that before I officially fell asleep I observed this:

Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge

Tonight (for the first time) there was a guest reader! With dad at a board of education meeting… a text was sent, “This is from Jackson, ‘can I read Harry Potter with mom.’”

The next text that came through was from mom, “These chapters are long 😂.”

Jax summary of this chapter, “I liked reading with mom, but she doesn’t do good Harry Potter voices!”

Chapter 15: Aragog

Jackson’s Exact Chapter 15 summary:

“ This chapter is called Aragog and in this chapter Harry and Ron went into the forest and left their invisible cloak on Hagrid’s table. Then they went out in the woods to follow the spiders. They have to follow the spiders to a big, big, big Spider called Aragog. Harry could hear and talk to Aragon even though he’s a human and not a spider. Oh, wait and we found out that he [Hagrid] didn’t open the Chamber of Secrets!!!”

Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets

Jax’ suspicions throughout the book so far have been proven true. We now know that Lockhart is a fake. Jax says, “TOLD YOU!!!!!!!”

We see the picture of the giant snake skin and he very dramatically says… “The Basssssssssstaaaaalickkk!” (As he pronounces it!).

Chapter 17: The Heir Of Slytherin

This chapter has so much in it… but the only thing I remember (and I will remember forever, is the look on Jax’ face when he figured out who Tom Riddle really is. even before he officially reveals it to the readers with his wand… Jax figures it out and sits up from the bed and yells (loud enough for mom to hear down the hall way), “Riddle is VOLDEMORT!!!!!!!”

His face was priceless. It is the point I know he’ll look back on as the moment he fell in love w the series!!!!”

Chapter 18: Dobby’s Reward

Dinner out when you only have one chapter left in the book!

We spent our regular Friday night dinner out listening as Jax read the last chapter as quickly as he could! There was nothing that was going to prevent him from getting through this chapter so he could watch the movie that night! He was very excited to learn that Dobby was free and has clearly identified Lucious Malloy as a “jerk!”

In the end this read aloud took a while, as it did when I read it myself for the first time. However, there’s no doubt Jax is no hooked on Harry and can not wait for the next book.

PS: the MinaLima books are outstanding. I wish the rest were out already!!

Also, click here for our Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter by Chapter read aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/07/01/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-our-first-read-aloud/

#BackToHogwarts2021

Continuing with tradition (for the seventh year in a row) I tweeted at JK Rowling for advice in dropping the boys off at Platform 9 3/4.

I’m sure by now you know that September 1 is a sacred day for witches and wizards everywhere! Back to Hogwarts day is when the Wizarding World boards the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Station heading to Hogwarts.

And just like that tradition, another year has gone by with no acknowledgement from Mrs. Rowling. I thought this being year seven, with seven being such an important number in the series, she’d have responded:

Seven was the most powerful magical number, based on centuries of mythology, science, and mathematics, and therefore had a very important role in the wizarding world. Arithmancer Bridget Wenlock was the first to note this through a theorem which exposed the magical properties of the number seven.

I guess we’ll have to try for lucky number eight next year.

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 handled 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

These chapters alone elicit multiple questions during reading… but, try reading a chapter after spending a day visiting Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as we recently visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

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 starts 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 saw him on the ride? He was holding his pink 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

Jax starts the chapter hoping we can get through it in one sitting (which we’ve tried to read at least three separate times already with no success as one or both of us are always too tired to get past the first few pages). But before we even begin Jax asks if at the end of the books Harry will get a new family. I’m chomping at the bit to give him some info, but I can’t, I won’t!

As we move forward, Jax is not at all happy with Professor Snape as we see his character call Neville “idiot boy” and ignore Hermione who clearly knows all the answers. Jax says he’s mean and nasty. I think that’s the perfect first description of early Severus Snape.

This is an interesting chapter, Jax isn’t picking up on some of the more complex story elements yet. For example there have been a few foreshadowing moments already. This chapter especially (IE: When Hagrid avoids eye contact with Harry when asked if he knew anything about the Gringotts break in, or if Snape had a reason to not like Harry). I make sure to not give too much away, but will definitely come back to them later on as the plot unfolds.

Jax continues to develop as a reader and I know the deeper understanding will come with time. JK embeds some of the most subtle clues that I even missed a number of times the first few times I read the books. I’m trying to remember that this first read for Jax is about enjoyment. He and I can do a deep dive the next 394 times we read the books!

Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel

It’s important to note that while JKR weaves her story brilliantly, there are some chapters that are a bit more wordy than others. This chapter is FULL of back and forth dialogue. Therefore, reading to someone who is still developing higher-level comprehension skills as a reader and also knowing that I can not replicate the amazing character voices of audio book narrater Jim Dale it was important to ask some clarifying questions to Jax to check for understanding as we read through chapter nine. This was a long read tonight.

After some think-alouds and a some well planned questioning Jax summed this chapter up pretty succinctly:

  • Neville got a red glowing ball and broke his arm
  • Draco stole it from him and flew it up into a tree
  • Harry was a really good flyer too and scooped the ball out of the air after diving super fast (faster than an airplane) to the ground because Malfoy threw it.
  • Harry and Malfoy were going to fight.
  • Filch and his cat almost caught them sneaking out for their dual.
  • They almost got eaten by a dog with three heads, three snouts and venom dripping from its fangs.
  • The dog was standing on a secret entrance.

Not too bad of a summary (with some prompting). Jax loved the appearance of Peeves again and his taunting of the “Ickle firsties!” He made me read (in Peeves voice), “Naughty, naughty, you’ll get caughty” about 14 times and we both laughed harder each time!

Jax ended the chapter with a prediction that the three headed dog was guarded something important in a big vault like at Gringotts.

Chapter 10: Halloween

Jax summed this one up quickly, “Harry got a new broom and learned about the Quidditch balls. Then a troll got in the dungeon and Harry shoved his wand up his nose and Ron did Wingardium Leviosa and killed it with his own club!”

No we’ll pause here to explain how Jax physically acted out the Wingardium Leviosa scene with the troll. I mean standing up on the bed… slowly drawing out the “WINgaaaaaarrrrddddiuuum,” just as Hermione instructed. He got the swish and flick dead on too! She would have been so proud of him.

It took some exposing to come around to the fact that Hermione lied to protect Harry and Ron and that is what bonded their friendship.

As we ended the chapter Jax continued to ask some great questions that I just can’t answer for him yet!

  • “When Voldemort was at Hogwarts was he ever a good kid?”
  • “Is Deathly Hallows the only time they battle Voldemort?”
  • “Why would they want to kill some old man wizard?”

Chapter 11: Quidditch

This was such a fun chapter to read aloud! The majority of the chapter is dialogue, especially that of Lee Jordan who is the Quidditch announcer for Hogwarts. I may have gotten into this a little bit, as I stood and delivered my best play by play of Harry’s first Quidditch match. Jax was caught up in every move as Alicia and Angelina whipped the Quaffle around and Oliver Wood made save after save.

I ran out of breath detailing every move as both Gryffindor and Slytherin players flew around the pitch. Listen I might not be as good as Vin Scully or as well known as Joe Buck, but I think I call a pretty good match… or at least as well as Lee Jordan!

The caveat to this chapter is Jax has been playing Lego Harry Potter on Nintendo Wii and has finally gotten to the point where he (to my dismay) has outplayed our reading. So he was excited to hear how Hermione set fire to Snape’s robes as Harry’s broom was seemingly cursed. He smiled a bit more during this chapter as many different medias are beginning to come together for him right before his eyes. As the chapter ended, I noticed Jax beginning to make some inferences about our main characters:

  • “How does Hermione know so many different spells; she is really good at magic!”
  • “Hagrid forgets stuff a lot, doesn’t he?!”
  • “Why doesn’t Ron do anything?” (This one made me laugh out loud!)

Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

“The Mirror of Erised is an ancient, ornate mirror. It has clawed feet and a gold frame inscribed with the phrase ” Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.” The mirror shows the most desperate desire of a person’s heart, a vision that has been known to drive men mad.”

“Jax, what would you see if you looked into the Mirror or Erised?” I asked.

“My family”, he replied, with a sly smile that told me both he was serious, but he also knew that his answer would make my heart melt.

This is one of the most emotionally draining chapters in the series. Harry sees his family, more importantly he sees his parents. They are there, with him and he is happy for one of the first times in his life.

Adding to the dramatics of this chapter Harry receives an anonymous gift which turn out to be his father’s invisibility cloak. Jax explained to me that Harry was both excited and sad to get his dad’s cloak because, “He doesn’t know his dad so he was excited to get it, but it made him miss his dad too!”

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

I show not your face but your heart’s desire

Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel

(Multiple times while I was at work this week I received face time calls from Jax asking about Nicolas Flamel. He has been asking to go to bed early so we can read. This is becoming a thing!)

We have two district “parts” of this chapter. Finding out who Flamel is… and The Quidditch match each playing a significant role in the current chapter. Obviously, we end the chapter with two hooded figures speaking to each other in the forest, which left Jax to predict that Snape and Quirell are working together to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. (The way his eyes lit up when he realized that was going on was phenomenal!!!)

Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

This was an interesting chapter… Jackson is still trying to figure out the Malfoy/ Potter dynamic. oh he did pick up and made a pretty good inference that Hagrid’s egg was a dragon, based on the clues that Rowling gives us along the way.

As the chapter comes to a close with Harry and Hermione leaving the invisibility cloak on the astronomy tower… Jackson comments as Filtch and Mrs. Norris catches them, that I’m sort of like Filtch… because I “always know when he and Oliver are being bad!”

Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest

There’s detention for everyone who was dumb unfortunate enough to get caught last chapter. The troublemakers head to meet Hagrid in the forbidden forest and encounter a hooded figure.

Jax is now completely enthralled as he hides his face under a blanket because he believes Voldemort is the hooded figure and is about to attack from behind a tree in the forbidden forest or maybe from under our sleep number bed… (same difference).

Everyone winds up making it out of this chapter safely (no unicorns we’re harmed in the writing of this blog post).

Chapter 16: Through the Trap Door

In this chapter, Harry, Ron, and Hermione follow the, as Jax believes is Snape through the trapdoor being guarded by Fluffy, hence the chapter title. Jax is obsessed with Fluffy, but also is excited to see that finally the trio has gotten past him.

The highlight of this chapter (selfishly) was reading how Harry dealt with the challenges through the trapdoor, but it was the corridor filled with flying keys that intrigued Jackson, the most because he finally understood the connection to one of my tattoos!

Chapter 17: The Man With Two Faces

It was almost impossible to stop at the end of the last chapter knowing Jax was just as surprised as everyone the first time they realized it wasn’t Snape or Voldemort who was waiting for him…

It was Quirrell… Jax said he had a feeling something was going to be a surprise, but it didn’t hit him until, “p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell,” stopped stuttering. Jax couldn’t take it in at first… but then it stated to hit him! It was Quirell who let the troll in, but why?

“It has to be Voldemort, right? Is he going to give it [the stone] to him!?? Then Jax excitedly he peeled back the Quirell’s turban, something he had been waiting to do since we began MinaLima’s designed and illustrated version of this book. He had seen the turban and knew that it peeled away, but I wouldn’t let him, until we were there. (I know if it were me I would have totally done it, but I give Jax credit for being patient). “IT’S VOLDEMORT!!!!” (Jax requested we read the rest of the chapter with the door closed and an extra light on) just incase He Who Must Not Be Named showed up in our upstairs hallway).

As the chapter played out we talked about how it was possible for Harry to find the stone in his pocket and why Quirell/Voldemort could not touch Harry. It was interesting to watch Jax process both of these deep questions. It took some pretty good patience and some really effective teacher wait time as I let him think through what we had read and what these two questions could possibly mean for the overall theme of the book.

We talked for a little bit about how Harry didn’t want to help Voldemort and just wanted to get the Stone back so he couldn’t use it to come back to life. We talked about how Lily Potter loved her son so much (just Jax’ mom and dad love him) that the love still “lives” inside of Harry. Jax said he can feel how much he is loved by so many people. This last chapter had us both feeling all the “feels.”

I loved closing the book with a giant smile on Jax’ face as he asked when we could start Book 2; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As we readied ourselves for sleep, Jax leaned over and said, “Dad, I don’t think Voldemort is totally gone. You know he’s going to come back again, right?”

Oh buddy, you have no idea… we’re just getting started!

⚡️⚡️Bonus Content⚡️⚡️ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- THE MOVIE

Anyone who knows me, knows that the first time I pulled out my tattered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone same one I read so many times over the last 20+ years. The same one that had been given to me by my mother-in-law all those years ago. Although the one Jax and I would eventually chose to read was newer and a copy he specifically picked out on a trip to our local book store and not the exact one I had read all those years ago, it still brought back memories of the first time I picked up my original copy.

The same book I had brought with me during four different moves, multiple track and field competitions, read to my first and last classroom or students and had clutched like a raft in a storm when my life turned upside down and I needed a familiar escape.

Handing this book to my son felt a bit like a ritual, like I was inducting him into something.The book was one thing. It was physical, we could flip the pages and hold it in our hands. As I said before it was a right of passage.

The movie however, that’s different. Just as important, but different. These days, I don’t know how much screen time is too much screen time, but this was the first time in a long time I was excited to sit down in front of the TV w the boys. Normally, if we do a Friday family movie, both boys will lay down comfortably snuggled up on Steph and I in a blanket. Oliver is asleep within 15 minutes and I’m dozing off by half way through. Jammies were on, popcorn was popped and all we heard about all day was how Jax was so excited foe Harry Potter movie night.

We started (after 15 bathroom breaks, extra popcorn fill-ups, drink refills and a few extra bathroom breaks, again). Both boys were in awe Professor McGonagall turns into a cat, and I’m pretty sure Oliver meowed at her. The letters flying in from all angles and possible openings at 4 Privet Drive elicit hysterics laughing and cheers from all!

Jackson is completely captivated by the scene in Olivander’s wand shop. It’s literally an exact replay of his experience when he was chosen for his wand at Ollivander’s in the Wizarding World we visited this summer.

Both boys think quidditch is probably the best thing they’ve ever seen in the history of the universe. But before I can ask who they think will win the first match, Oliver is sleeping. Jax has now settled in and at various points jumps up and is sitting on the edge of his seat. I have heard the phrase the jaw-dropping reaction before, but the majority of this movie has Jax mouth wide open, yet speechless.

Jax sat up and watch the majority of the movie from the edge of the couch. Each part he explained to his mom and I. He called out what was going to happen, but was equally as excited as he was surprised.

Fast forward to the climax and we are starting to wonder if Jax is ever going to sleep again. How is this movie rated PG?! Even watching this as an adult I am uncomfortable.

Did Harry just fried his teacher’s face off?!?! There’s no that he’s not going to have a nightmare tonight. Thanks Chris Columbus.

In the end, Jax asks (at 10:38pm) if we can start the movie over, or at least start reading the Chamber of Secrets. And with that being said, my work here is done.

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.

A Decade to Remember

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.

To Stephanie,

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.

2010 ➡️ 2020

Dobby is a Free Elf

Every year Steph and I look forward to the thoughtful DIY Christmas gifts we get from the boys. From ornaments, to picture frames to cookie dough mix they are all (as Martha Stewart would say) so lovely.

This year we unwrapped what was likely the most odd gift we’ve ever gotten. Yes, a picture frame is not that crazy of a gift, as a matter of fact we’ve gotten a few homemade picture frames over the years. We still proudly display them around the house. Yet, nothing we’ve ever opened would ever prepare us for the amazing gift that was made for us in Jackson’s kindergarten class this year.

Was this Harry Potter character look alike purposely displayed in the beautifully handcrafted frame? Or is this all just a coincidence?!???

You say Frosty the Snowman Costume… I say Dobby, the Free Elf.