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.

Happy 14th Anniversary

Dear Stephanie, for our 14th Anniversary I was supposed to buy you ivory. However, I would never want to harm an elephant or narwhal. So instead I hired a few elephants to come to the neighborhood and allow you to see and touch the real Ivory on these magnificent creatures. I planned have our children ride in on the elephants for an extra surprise.

The problem however is that the elephants became scared by that ridiculous Jeep that speeds down our road playing loud techno music everyday. The elephants went crazy and tore down trees, power lines and wires. The town is a mess, no one has power or running water. This has become a disaster of massive proportions and it’s all my fault.

The thing is… it’s only due to the enormous amount of love I have for you and our IVORY ANNIVERSARY! Do me a favor though, let’s keep this between us and we can just tell everyone I bought you a bar of IVORY Soap for our anniversary.

PS: No elephant or child was harmed in the marking of this blog post!

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

In all seriousness… Happy anniversary to a mom and wife who has successfully navigated work, marriage, parenting, and even more difficult… the apocalypse that has been 2020! We may be celebrating in the dark today, but they say candlelight is romantic, amirite?

Coronavirus: The Fourth Month (July)

Day 106: July 1:

Virtual learning hasn’t stopped an amazing teacher from making sure her students are OK in person, even after the school year is done. Teachers are the hardest working and most underappreciated people in the world! (I won’t reveal who this teacher is)… but know that I would want my sons in her class every year!

Day 107: July 2:

My favorite part of summer is when my kids ask for the sprinkler and then I turn on the sprinkler and then they cry hysterically if they get wet from the sprinkler and then they yell at me to turn the sprinkler back on after I turn it off.

Day 108: July 3:

It may just last the night, or maybe only an hour, but for now brothers are best friends and they’re both so excited for a slumber party!

#Brothers

Day 109: July 4:

We spent the Fourth super low-key and it was perfect! We are so lucky to have amazing neighbors! Best part is they actually put up with us and even better, their kids like our kids

Day 110: July 5:

What do you do after spending an entire day with your neighbors? You wake up and spend the entire next day with them on their water slide! My kids would choose this water slide over anything!

Day 111: July 6:

Last night I tucked my Oliver in, kissed him goodnight and he hugged me and said “goodbye daddy.” So, I guess I won’t be sleeping until he moves out.

Day 112: July 7:

Things I have tried during Covid Quarantine to ensure better sleep:

-bribery

begging

negotiating

rewards

dark curtains

threats to call Santa

earlier bed time

later bed time

fewer snacks

more snacks

threats of violence against stuffed animals

Times either of my children have slept through the night as a result:

[ZERO]

Day 113: July 8:

He thought I wouldn’t dunk on him… let alone actually dunk HIM!

Day 114: July 9:

We made it to Cape Cod. I have not taken a REAL vacation in years. This was the first time I actually tried to shut down from work in ages (granted I didn’t do so well considering I conducted virtual teacher interviews from the beach and also called hundreds of families about our distance learning survey), but that’s me… I love what I do… and I don’t ever take a break from it!

Day 115: July 10:

This is what family vacation is all about. Forget Corona, forget quarantine and hand sanitizer. Family vacations are all about getting a KING SIZE BED for mom and dad and having the kids sleep in it. Relinquishing an amazingly comfortable mattress and 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets for a pull out sofa bed is parenting at its finest!

Day 116: July 11

The family… sans masks… sans tears… just happy to be out of the GD house!

Day 117: July 12:

Screw you CORONA! We still livin’ our best life!

Puffy said it best:

Don’t push us, cause we’re close to the, edge
We’re tryin’, not to lose our heads, a-hah hah hah hah…

get the feeling sometime, that make me wonder
Why you wanna take us under
Why you wanna take us under

I get the feeling sometime, that make me wonder
Why you wanna take us under
Why you wanna take us under

Can’t nobody take my pride
Uh-uh, uh-uh
Can’t nobody hold me down, ohh no
I got to keep on movin’…”

Day 118: July 13:

If there is a picture that represents our lives in 2020 this is it! All dressed up for a family photo with designer masks! #CapeCodCorona2020

Day 119: July 14:

We are home from the Cape and we spent some time just relaxing today. This quarantine thing has been stressful, scary, unpredictable, calm, insane, all of the above… but most of all, it has been a time to just reconnect with each other. Today we did just that. The boys and I took Buster and Max for a walk. No electronics, no phones, just us. It was as close to perfect as you can get… we were just missing mom.

Day 120: July 15:

Parenting books never prepared me for how much time I’d spend arguing for my kids to get into and then out of the bathtub.

Day 121: July 16:

15 years ago she (Stephanie) said “Yes.” Then we quickly got in line on the Wildwood boardwalk for the Half Blood Prince midnight book release. I read the book all night in the hotel lobby and finished it in the morning on the beach! Such a memorable day… and still… After All This Time, I’m Sirius-ly happy to still be Making Magic with you Stephanie, You’re a Keeper and there is no one else in the world I’d rather be quarantined with than you!

Day 121: July 17:

We’ve been in quarantine for 121 days and my six year old has been talking nonstop for 150 of them!

Day 122: July 18

We’ve tried everything as parents to keep our boys engaged in educational activities, but it’s mid July now… we put together a schedule for the boys to give them some structure during the summer quarantine and I think other parents might find it helpful:

7am-7pm: Unsupervised screentime, with periodic snack time.

Day 123: July 19:

Don’t underestimate a child’s ability to grasp what’s happening right now. I’ve discussed the pandemic and social distancing with both boys. I figured Jax would get it and for the most part he does, but I was surprised how informed Oliver was. He really gets it. He’s now decided to speak 3 inches from my face instead of the normal 1 inch.

Day 124: July 20:

Today while we were out practicing some mask wearing to build up tolerance for Oliver a women with no mask on her or her children screamed at us to take off our masks because were falling for the “hoax.” I won’t put my response here in writing… but WTF?!???

I just don’t get it. The people who refuse to wear a mask they’re almost like those last couple of leaves on the tree right before winter hits. They are so proud of themselves. They must be so excited sitting on the tree thinking we’re definitely gonna make it, we’re gonna make it. That is until all your friends are gone and you’re the last one hanging on for dear life.

Day 125: July 21:

Today while listening to our secretary of education speak about re-opening schools full-time in person, I realized that she has a bookshelf with no books on it. Listening to this woman speak about re-opening schools is like listening to my three-year-old try to explain how to play chess… in Latin. 🙄

Day 126: July 22:

You would think with two dogs and two toddlers one of them would be the first to ruin the new patio…

If you put your money on that you definitely lost. In the category of 2020 just keeps getting worse… I spilled an entire canister of melted citronella wax all over the patio today.

Day 127: July 23:

Today we, painted pictures, went in the pool, completed two puzzles, cooked dinner together and watched a movie. Or, as the boys described it to mommy when she got home from work:

“Buster and Max peed on the floor and dad yelled at us two times.” 

Day 128: July 24

The boys are so used to staying in the house that they think pants are just optional at this point. God forbid I tell them we need to actually wear said pants when it’s time to go out…

Day 129: July 25:

Just heard from downstairs:

Jax: “Oliver USE YOUR FORCEFIELD…”

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Oliver: “ OWWWWWWWWWWWW!” Followed by screaming…

Day 130: July 26:

Today, I decided to take the filter and pump apart to clean it, since the water was a bit cloudy the past week.

After dissembling the filter… I am pretty sure I discovered where Coronavirus started.

Day 131: July 27:

Today while playing with his stuffed animals Jax told me he wants to be a dad one day.

My response: “Have you seen the shit I put up with?!!??”

Day 132: July 28:

Jackson complained this morning because his breakfast was not ready fr him when he came downstairs. I told him to be sure to leave his negative review on Yelp! and also, I don’t care!

Day 133: July 29:

My legs are in the best shape since I was running track in college. I think I have an idea for an exercise video for parents where all the lunges are just going around the house picking up juice box straws and wrappers.

Day July 30:

Steph is at work and I had a two hour meeting this afternoon that was extremely important about reopening the schools. Jackson and Oliver had to fend for themselves the entire time and they didn’t fight once in the playroom.

I heard them talking and giggling I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. They didn’t pick up their iPads or put the TV on once. When I was done they told me to come out of my office bc they had a surprise for me.

And when your two kids ask you to sit for a tea part (with wine glasses for the adult) you sit together the tea party.

Day: July 31:

… the end of the fourth month brings us right back where we were four-plus months ago, the same place almost every parent is in… what do we do with our kids… our children… our babies…

Oliver X

Oliver X

It wasn’t the first time I’d barely ducked out of the way of a two-foot-tall tyrant, but it’s still surprising every time. I’ve been to the toddler rodeo before. So, normally I’m not surprised. This time though, I took things way to lightly: I paused and took notice of my internal reaction. Did it hurt? Yes. Did it seriously tick me off? Yes. Did my child intend to hurt me? Certainly not. Then again, does this three year old have super powers… possibly.

However, this kid, Oliver Peter… he’s special. Is it because he’s the second? Is it because he’s a boy? Is it because we’re so tired and we just gave up?!?? Obviously the answer is no to all of those questions. However, he is still a beast.

Our first was relatively easy. There were times where we considered the possibility that’s he was part ware wolf. Yet, with time it was obvious he was just a normal toddler. But, I’m telling you… this one.. the second one… he’s part wolf, or bear, or tin man… something. I guarantee you Professor X is going to be knocking at our door sooner rather than later looking for the most recent mutant toddler (AKA Oliver-X).

CoronaVirus: The Second Month (May)

Day 45: Friday, May 1:

Everyone’s snuggling in bed after a long day watching a movie. I finally go to lay down, but Buster is in my spot. Oliver says, “no, Buster stay.”

I moved Buster, lay down and Oliver started kicking me off the bed and says, “No, go back and do work.”

Insert eye roll here

Day 46: Saturday, May 2:

“The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering.”David Whytetq

Oliver today, “dad can I poop on the grass like Buster and Max?” 🙄

Day 47: Sunday, May 3:

There has to be a time where we can just go do stuff, right? like there’s no way people can just sit inside all day, seven days a week. It’s Sunday, so we should all be gathering as a family around the kitchen table or out by the pool with friends.

Day 48: Monday, May 4:

A friend sent this to me today, “I get a scratchy throat sometimes and think, ‘crap! I’m getting the virus!’ Then I remember it’s scratchy because I was just screaming at my kids with everything I have, because they are driving me crazy.”

That’s what this virus is doing to everyone. Parents can’t even tell if they’ve been infected or been yelling too much at their kids! And no I won’t admit who made the above statement (snitches get stitches).

Day 49: Tuesday, May 5

Me: Quarantine is going well right?

Wife:

Day 50: Wednesday, May 6

Fifty days of quarantine, of distance learning and homeschooling and these two are closer than ever. Today I found them sitting together and Jax was teaching Oliver about number bonds on his math program.

… and by night they wanted to sleep in the same bed.

Tomorrow they will probably be slap fighting and pushing each other down the stairs, but for now they are best friends.

Day 51: Thursday, May 7:

One of the beat parts of a global pandemic is how everyone is a little more lax with their dress code. Case in point… you can wear your six month old Third Birthday Blaze TShirt for the eighteenth day in a row, or just go as the Naked Cowboy from Time Square.

Day 52: Friday, May 8:

My six year old used the phrase “a long time ago today” to describe the morning and it’s probably the most accurate description I’ve ever heard.

Day 53: Saturday, May 9:

We ventured out a bit today. Just being able to drive down the road to go to the beach was a blessing. The boys were so happy, their eyes were wide and they had giant smiles on their faces. They built sandcastles, filled buckets with sand and threw shells and rocks into the water. It was nice to “get out” for a bit.

Day 54: Sunday, May 10:

This quarantine nonsense is effecting every aspect of life. At bedtime both of my children turn into dehydrated philosophers who need a hug.

Day 55: Monday, May 11:

Today was like no other day. I know I’ve touched on it before, but that was when we had Jackson only. To accomplish what we accomplished today is reminiscent of the “Jordan Shrug” Game. Everything we did hit today, every shot we took, every attempt we put out there… all of them hit.

Everyone’s work was completed without complaining, no one fought viscously over the remote control, lunches and dinners were eaten including fruits and veggies. Baths were taken and every body part was washed without any begging Just like MJ against the Trail Blazers in the 1992 NBA Finals , we couldn’t miss.

Day 56: Tuesday May 13:

Finally got Oliver under the clippers! I couldn’t take the Lloyd Christmas look anymore! (PS, my bad on trying to cut his bangs the day before!)

Day 57: Wednesday May 13:

Jax and Oliver want to know when they don’t have to wash their hands every time they come inside after playing. These kids apparently think that general hygiene will be a thing of the past once the pandemic is over. Even when this coronavirus nonsense is over we are going to have to reiterate that those things aren’t optional.

Day 58: Thursday May 14:

I had to get out of the house. While I appreciate having so much time with my family (even the tough times are still time spent with them), I had to get some fresh air! After all the zoom meetings and the last Google Meet of the day… the golf course, on a late sunny afternoon provided just that.

Day 59: Friday May 15:

Today I had a few very important PPTs to chair and Stephanie was sorting through budget cuts and balancing a school district account during the unprecedented Covid-19 shutdown.

We asked the boys to sit calmly and be quiet. What our children heard: “Battle Royal. Everyman for himself. Run, fight, scream!!!!”

Day 60: Saturday May 16:

It’s always great when you get a surprise visit from family! Today, the newest little family member came to say hello! Mima also surprised us with an appearance!

Day 61: Sunday, May 17:

Now that we’ve all been cooped up in our houses for days, or weeks, or months, the days just seem to…blend together. Weekdays and weekends no longer have any separation. After all, where are we going to go?

“Is today Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday?!??”

…. “Yes.”

Day 62: Monday, May 18:

Oliver and I got up early as we usually do. It was 5:30am, my coffee was hot and Oliver’s apple juice was cold. We both settled in for a calm and quiet morning and all of a sudden Oliver starts cheering. Like, yelling, whooping and was just so excited. I had no idea why, but I just joined in. It was marvelous!

Day 63: Tuesday, May 19:

Netflix needs to get it together and stop asking us if we’re “still watching”. Of COURSE we’re still watching! It’s a pandemic home lockdown! Just keep it rolling the shows out there.

Day 64: Wednesday, May 20:

So today the shark IQ robot special was on TV… Jackson had been waiting for this day like it was Christmas morning. He had it ready to DVR and was hoping to stay up all night to watch it. It’s a three hour long show… He binged watch it like it was a special on Netflix. By the time everyone reads this I guarantee you he’s probably seen it 15 times.

If anybody needs to know the specs of the shark IQ robot… Or even just how its sensors keep it from toppling down the stairs just let us know and we will have Jackson give you a call.

Day 65: Thursday, May 21:

Jax just ripped the door off the hinges again I fixed it it took me an hour and as he was trying to close it because the keys scared bugs are going to come in the house he literally ripped off the hinges

Day 66: Friday, May 22:

Social distancing in the mind of children:

Day 67: Saturday, May 23:

Rain, rain??? We haven’t seen a cloud in weeks. I forgot how insane children are when they are stuck in the house on a rainy day paired with CoronaQuarantine.

There’s only so many crayons, construction paper and Disney movies one family can go through in one day. Is there a Guinness Book of World Record for that? Someone look it up. I’m pretty sure we’ve got that one locked up.

Day 68: Sunday, May 24:

Happy birthday to the best Mima in the world…

Day 69: Monday, May 25:

Today begins “Quarantine Homeschool Spirit Week!” See below for the weekly schedule. Join in, we’d love to have you!

Monday: Pajama Day!
Tuesday: Pajama Day!
Wednesday: Pajama Day!
Thursday: Pajama Day!
Friday: Pajama Day!

Day 70: Tuesday, May 26:

Day 71: Wednesday, May 27:

I’ve had it. This house is a prison. It’s like we are living in a small shed and the walls keep closing in on us. No matter how much I clean up… No matter how many times I asked the kids to clean up after themselves… No matter how much organizing I do… There’s still stuff everywhere.

Recently I’ve been binge watching Hell on Wheels, a story of the building of the Trans-Continental Railroad that connected the United States following the Civil War. The show centers on the men and women who helped forge those tracks. Black, White, Asian, or Native, the people who lived in the mobile town of Hell on Wheels came from around the globe to be a part of history.

Things around here have been mimicking what we watch. Meet the main character of Hell on Wheels:

Day 72: Thursday, May 28:

Today I clamped a 2×4 to my weight bench in my basement and used an extension cord I found in the ceiling to power my circular saw. I’m not sure why I though this was a good idea, but then again… COVID don’t care.

By the way, it worked and I still have all my fingers and limbs.

Day 73: Friday, May 29:

Today I watched my boys get along. I heard Jax tell Oliver he was his best friend. I heard Oliver tell Jax he was his best friend. I watched them share.

Day 74: Saturday, May 30:

Today was the perfect day to sit by the fire.

Day 75: Sunday, May 31:

We had a nice little surprise visit today from the family. I finally got to hold my nephew!!!

Another month of Coronavirus Quarantine has passed… bring on June!

Happy Mother’s Day 2020

Dear Mom,

When you brought us into this world, I’m sure you weren’t prepared for what kind of damage and destruction we had in store for you. After all, being a good parent doesn’t come with instructions (or safety gear), but nothing kept you from loving and protecting us.

No one ever knows what life has in store for them and yet look at us. We made it! You were able to raise us and keep us safe (and let’s face it, dad is basically a toddler too, so essentially you’re raising three boys!!!) Even in a house of all guys, we all are growing up strong, happy, and caring.

Being a mom means being patient when your little boys want to run around and put stuff in the shopping cart when you just want to get the groceries and get out of Big Y. Being a mother means answering every dumb question we ask when you just want relax. Being a mother means watching “Trolls World Tour” over and over and over again even though your DVR is overloaded with Beverly Hills of Something shows. Being a mother means being able to take good care of your kids, (and dad, and Busty and Max), while still working 700 hours a week. Lastly, being a mother means being the never ending source of love and support for your kids.

You are the best mom anyone could ever ask for! Thank you for loving us and letting us grow up and learn how to be a good person from you. We love you very much!

Love Always,

Jackson and Oliver

And Buster and Max

“TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE DISTANCE LEARNING”

T’was the night before Distance Learning, students asleep, their lunches set out.

Then there were teachers who were ready although with some doubt.

Their outfits were hung by the closet with care.

In hopes that the Zoom App was ready when they were there;

The students were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Google Classroom danced in their heads;

And teachers in ‘PJs, and I in my shorts,

Just settled down after finishing reports,

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter,

Everyone sprang from the bed to see what’s the matter.

Away to the window we flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon shown a shadow on the still of the yards

We yawned and we shuttered over ethernet cards .

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,

But a memory of a normal school day so distant and clear.

We cried and we sobbed as we packed up our laptop bags

We were exhausted and beat, time to wave the white flags.

We spoke not a word, but went straight to sleep,

We laid down with questions, but spoke not a peep.

Yes, we were sad that distance learning was coming so fast,

But we knew it was time to move on from the past.

While we wanted to take time and move on real slow,

We realized our students were ready to go.

So now as we sleep, we wish them the best.

And all we can hope is all these students and parents can get some real rest.

Dear Students, and my own two boys…
I’M READY IF YOU ARE!!!
-Mr. Fragola/Dad

I Almost Lost My Son

Almost six years ago I became a father and it’s been a long six years of worrying! I still check on the boys when they are asleep just to make sure they are ok. I cut grapes and hotdogs into tiny bite size pieces because I’m afraid of them choking, which they did do (and still do), so I panic and lose it after every single bite.

We had a pool installed and now I‘m afraid of them drowning. I had a pool my entire life. Growing up my parents were diligent in ensuring we were safe. We were always supervised and even as a teenager, someone was always around just in case, but still now it’s my kids… so I worry. I worry about them in the tub, and riding their bikes. I worry about them jumping off the couch and not being buckled in their car seats tight and/or loose enough.

All of this leads me to the ten minutes (which felt like ten years) that I almost lost my son.

The place we visited was split into multiple sections, divided and roped off areas and metal fences to separate the older kids area from the younger. A wall to wall adventure course, arcade games, flashing lights and indoor playscape. Trampolines lined the floor and the place was packed with sweaty little children and parents on their cel phones. The kids were having a blast and we were all enjoying watching them smile from ear to ear. It was great to see our friends again.

Jax. The oldest and easily the fastest of the group was darting from area to area. It was an overload of excitement. As soon as he entered the darkness that is the indoor playscape, I knew I’d never see him again. It’s weird, they say parents have a sixth sense. I felt it. It didn’t feel right and about three minutes in with no sight of his return… I didn’t think… I KNEW something wasn’t right.

I hurriedly walked from corner to corner. I began to move children out of my way like I was Ryan Reynolds playing ice hockey in “Just Friends.” Then… as time went on with no sign of him, I began to panic. I tried to think clearly. Where could he be? But I couldn’t. My normally clear thinking in times like this, I had nothing.

It took me a little bit to realize that I was there with other people… Of course Stephanie. And amazing friends that we’ve known forever… they share the same level of anxiety as me when it comes to parenting, so they were amazing in attempting to find Jax.

I was resisting the urge to shut the place down, go over the loud speaker and curse everyone out for not helping me find my son. The tension was palpable… I was losing it… and no one seemed to understand what was going on. Things at this point are at a boiling point, everything is fuzzy, and I’m not running at full speed and not even sure what I’m doing or where I’m going.

I tried to slow down, take a deep breath and clear my head, just as our friend came running towards us with Jackson in tow. I didn’t know how to react. Should I be mad or cry. I thought about situations I’ve seen, movies, TV, the news. I scooped him up and held him so tightly I was sure he’d never escape (to the neon lit ball pit and obstacle course on the complete other side of the building, or anything like it) ever again again.

It could happen to anyone. It was horrific. Losing him and finding him again… this was the lowest of low and the highest of high moments as a parent… and I don’t want to experience either of them ever again.

PS: Not to make light of the situation, but this is an almost realistic depiction of me running through the playscape looking for Jax…

Thank You Kevin Bacon

Moving in from Chicago, newcomer Ren McCormack is in shock when he discovers the small Midwestern town he now calls home has made dancing and rock music illegal. As he struggles to fit in, Ren faces an uphill battle to change things.

And that’s where our story begins. There in a small midwestern town, it was there that Kevin Bacon saved the world. Without his historically brave fight for freedom Jackson and his mom wouldn’t have had access to the world of school dances. Ed Sheeren on repeat, inappropriate lyrics by Pitbull and Justin Timberlake blaring through the speakers for all the kindergarteners to shake their groove things to.

Fast-forward decades since Kevin Bacon stood up for the rights of us all… a little boy with the sparkles of disco-balls twinkling in his eyes asked a beautiful young lady if he could escort her to his first school dance.

The smile this kid had, knowing he was going to a school dance with his mother was HUGE! I have to admit seeing your children smile is one of the most amazing experiences. That is until you see your child smile while presenting his beautiful mother with a little wrist corsage before his first “mother/son” dance… that smile… this one:

…that smile is life changing.

I’ve never seen Jackson so excited. He couldn’t wait to put on his “suit” and pin on his boutonnière. He was changed and waiting at the door with mom’s flowers for a half an hour!

Asking her out…
an anxious moment for anyone.

I didn’t get to witness the booty shaking, i wasn’t there for the loud music and slow dancing, but heard it was fun for all.

… and for that, we all have Kevin Bacon to thank.