“Wizards and Rollercoasters and Sun, Oh My”

Wizards:

Walking through the Brick Wall to enter Diagonal Alley is always memorable, but experiencing it for the first time is special. I’ve done it (multiple times) and Jax did it last time we visited the sunshine state (although he had been there before). This time though it was time for Oliver to walk through the fabled brick archway that leads to one the most magical places in the Wizarding World.

I love the picture above because not only is Oliver sitting in the exact place that both Jax and I took photos in years prior, but in the background you can see the Quidditch Supplies Store in the background. Remember, Oliver was named for my favorite character in the series, Oliver Wood, who was a Quidditch junkie and Gryffindor superstar keeper.

Of course there is no Wizarding World without a couple of mandatory stops… when in Rome right?!??? First to grab a few of the required readings for first years like Ollie… and Flourish and Blotts provides just that. And then off to Knockturn Alley where Oliver was able to vanish a bird a lot quicker than Draco was ever able too. This Syltherin was all smiles when she met Ollie and I’m pretty sure they’ll be exchanging owls over the summer.

Both Jackson and Oliver LOVE trains so the trip to Hogsmeade on the Hogwarts Express was that of fantasy for them! Between Oliver yelling “choooo-choooo” every five seconds to Jackson building the LEGO Hogwarts Express this was a dream come true! I love that Jackson is still innocent enough to follow along with the CGI and really believe in what he was seeing, “dad, it’s Harry Potter he’s outside, LOOK!!!”

Bottom line with Harry Potter… it’s Hogwarts or Bust!! In a weird way for me this place feel like home.

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Rollercoasters:

I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again later… I do not like rollercoasters. I don’t like heights and of course I married a daredevil. Luckily for the boys they have their mom to take them on anything that goes above 20 feet high.

When you’re a parent and your child asks you to have a tea party, you sip that pretend tea like it was the best you’ve ever tasted. When they ask you to give them a horsey ride you neigh like you’re part stallion even though your back is shot and when your kid asks you to go on a wooden rollercoaster of course you swallow your fears and agree.

However I have to draw the line somewhere. So when my five year old strapped himself in the seat for his first rollercoaster ride ever and asked me if I was scared… I did what any respectable dad would do… I held him so tight and told him I wasn’t scared at all (I peed in my pants just a little on that ride). Damn you Buckbeak and The Flight of the Hippogriff for making me fake this smile:

Mom took our daring adventure seeker on the next ride while I wandered Hogsmeade with Oliver. Jax was just under the “you just be this tall sign,” but dive Steph was with him they waiting in a 75 minute line. Now I don’t know how many people have attempted to keep a five year old standing in a sow moving line for over an hour, but I would assume by the texts I was getting that it was not easy!

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And Sun, Oh My:

Listen there isn’t much I can say for this one. It was hot. It was unbelievably HOT. Orlando in July… extremely hot!

Don’t let the snow topped roofs fool you… it’s hotter than the Face of the sun out there!!!

A few years back we visited in mid December and even then as we escaped a winter snow storm In the northeast it was about 85 degrees in FL, which isn’t terrible, but factor in humidity and it was sweltering… IN THE WINTER. Fast forward to the spring and especially summer and you’re looking at unbearable heat. I always wondered why they made the Wizarding World at Universal look as if it were winter… fake snow on the roofs in Diagon Alley do not equate to cooler temperatures for visitors, as a matter of fact it’s like looking at a mirage in the middle of the desert! Here’s the thing, when you sign up to visit Hogwarts in Orlando in July… the heat, but more importantly the magic are a package deal.

Until next time… Mischief Managed.

Wizards Unite: Harry Potter- Go

Rubeus Jackson

Pete Scamander

So I’m not a Pokémon person, but a few years back there was that Pokémon GO game that was crazy big. Well the Harry Potter franchise just finally came out with their own Pokémon Go type game. This game is very similar in that you’re hunting around looking for traces of dark magic and doing it in real time.

I’ve never really gotten into the video game world and definitely never got into any type of the cell phone game hype. The thing is, like Ron Weasley at any of the Hogwarts feasts, I’m literally about to gorge myself on every bit of information I can get my hands on when it comes to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

The best part of that is that Mike Dan is dropped at excited to get out there and help save the Wizarding community as I am. Playing a game like this lets parents engage actively as opposed to passively where you sit and watch TV. Yes, I realize you’re still holding a phone and that the dreaded “screen time” counter is running, but you’re outside and moving. It’s exciting and allows families to interact with the Harry Potter world as well. What better way to continue to develop my son’s love for the Wizarding World then to chase creatures around our neighborhood.

So far Jax and I have subdued a troll who was loose on the town green and rescued Hagrid who was trapped in Aragog’s massive spiderweb. We also were lucky enough to stop and capture a bunch of Cornish Pixies who were trying to destroy our man cave and honestly, we did a much better job than Professor Lockhart could ever do!

I am enjoying spending more time with Jax outside, but I have to admit, I’m not a super parent. I’m not always completely happy to come home after a 13 hour day and play a game. Honestly, the majority of my parent life is spent living the tired parent zone. So with this game, I really appreciate how it has motivated me to get outside with Jax even if I’m still in my shirt and tie after a long day.

I hate to say it, but as someone who was trying to avoid long periods of TV time and electronics the first couple years of Jackson’s life… it has just become convenient while trying to get ready in the morning to throw on the TV or iPad especially with two kids now. Putting together four lunches, getting everyone changed and then figuring out schedules for the day and just getting out the door is a project. Same goes for trying to unwind after work and school. Lately however, everyone has a newfound enthusiasm for getting outside to take Buster and Max for a walk. Give it a bit and Oliver is going to be out there wrangling up Fantastic Beasts too. He’s a beast himself so I won’t be too long before he realizes what’s going on.

This “game” has been out for less than 24 hours and Jax is already begging to play every walking second. Last night before bed he asked me, “how many minutes before we can play Harry Potter- Go again?!??” This morning in the car… “Dad, can I have your phone? Lets park. I want to look for creatures to catch!!!” And honestly, I’d rather that then dad can I have your phone to watch Paw Patrol.

… luckily I handed my phone over, because Jax was able to subdue a fully grown Mountain Troll and let’s face it, even Hermione couldn’t do that!!!

Dr. Dolittle

I sincerely apologize for the Blair Witch Project cinematography, but this video is Oscar worthy. Best picture, best actor, best impression of multiple animals.

Oliver is Saturday Night Live’s new GoatBoy. What do you want… a horse? A gopher? A Yeti? He’s got you… you need a duck call? How about someone to help round up a flock of sheep? Oliver is your guy.

Most people need a few cups of coffee in the morning to even be cognizant, but not Oliver. It’s 5:35am on a Saturday morning in this video and he’s coo-cooing every animal between Noah’s Arc and Old McDonald’s Farm. He’s a savant, an animal whisperer… our very own Dr. Dolittle.

Happy Valentine’s Day

In what seems like 100 years ago I met a young lady with the whole world in front of her. She asked for some help carrying things up to her dorm room and of course the gentleman that I was… Could not leave a damsel in distress. In all reality I volunteered to carry some water bottles up to her room… but so started what would become two children, two dogs, a house, some laughs, some tears and a whole lot of love.

There’s been work. There’s been more work. There’s been interviews that have led to more work. Work that’s lead to more work. And then after that there’s been work because the work we do needed more work to be done. And all that work sometimes leads to frustration, short tempers, and the need for a quiet peaceful night. And then you get home to these two amazing, loving, kind, beautiful children and everything is right in the world again.

There are times that are tougher than others, there are times where you can imagine where the last 18 years have gone. I remember continually limping into the orthopedic on crutches and depressed that my track and field career could be over… I remember her accompanying me time after time comforting me helping me through one of the worst times of my life at that point. I knew then she was the one… She was less confident for a while as she wouldn’t agree to be “my girlfriend.” That was until the cast came off and I thought things couldn’t get any better.

I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies I remember the nerves I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice I remember sitting on the rooftop of the hotel in Wildwood. I remember being on the phone with my buddies, I remember the butterflies, I remember the nerves, I remember walking downstairs and being told by Jay and Brea that I better shave and put on something nice.

I shaved, I put on a purple Abercrombie polo, and I wore sandals. I was such a dork. I walked on stage, got up in front of thousands of people and asked the most amazing woman I’ve ever met to marry me. I’m still not sure if she actually said yes… but all these years later we’ve made it through a whole lot of stuff… good and bad… a couple of houses, multiple roommates, doggie hospitals, knocked out teeth, multiple wetlands violations, wiggle ball tournaments that led to broken vertebrae, parties that led to getting “iced,” winter power outages that led to sleeping like revolutionary war soldiers in front of a fire, baseball games, Football games, Backstreet Boys’ concerts (not my idea), glasses, contacts, Lasic surgery, great friends, great neighbors, great family members, a marriage that is stronger than ever… and most importantly… two of the most amazing children any parents could ask for.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” -Ferris Bueller

I’m glad we’ve taken the time to stop and look around a bit. You’re a better mother than I ever thought possible, you deal with my annoying personality daily and you’re not so bad to look at.

I love you more now than the day we met. Thanks for letting me carry your water bottles up to your room.

Love Always,

Me

…and Jackson

……and Oliver

………and Buster

…………and Max

The Rough-and-Tumble Life

Most days are full of running around, hurrying everyone up to get into the car so we aren’t late, or quickly moving to the next activity because my kids have the attention span of a goldfish (do goldfish have short attention spans, because it i feel that they do). There’s rarely down time. So when we do get a chance to take a deep breath and relax it’s a nice change of pace.

A Saturday morning, just the boys at home taking it easy. A cup of coffee for dad, some milk for the boys and Blaze and the Monster Machines on repeat. I mean can you dream up a better start to your weekend? Neither can I, but that’s what easy mornings are now… a dream.

I try to let Stephanie sleep in as much as possible. I’m an early riser and waking up before anyone else enables me to have a quiet cup of coffee. I’ll gladly wake up with the birds if it means a silently enjoyed cup of coffee and an uninterrupted few minutes of SportsCenter. It rarely happens, but when it does it’s heavenly.

…I put the remote down, sit back and and take the first sip of a perfectly brewed cup of joe, sure enough, here come the footsteps down the stairs. It sounds like a stampede, did a herd of elephants just over take my once peaceful house? The scene is fuzzy as I’m still wiping crust from my eyes, but I can just barely make out a couple of sets of little arms and legs as they land on top of me knocking coffee everywhere. The dogs, once relaxed are now barking and trying to lick coffee stains out of the carpet. The day has begun.

Two little boys jump, arms outstretched, are now flying through the air. I feel like I’m participating in a Ringling Brothers’ acrobatic act. It’s just a blur of body parts pushing me over. One of these little monsters shows his claws and gnashes his teeth, I swear he’s possessed (it’s all fun and games until you need to call an for an exorcism).

I didn’t ask for this. I just wanted some kids to help with the household chores and laugh at my jokes. I didn’t realize I was going to be dealing with broken arms, bloody noses and CTE.

Exhibit A:

…Hashtag Brain Injury

Added to the chaos is the fact that Oliver is now almost two and living the daredevil life. He’s up, he’s down, he’s all over the place. He jumps off the couch with the look of an old school Hulk Hogan leg drop. He rolls down the stairs… I swear lately he’s been trying to ride Buster like a wild bull at a rodeo. As a kid you love having a tough sibling… especially when you live the rough-and-tumblr life like these two. Honestly, Oliver isn’t just a little brother, he’s a real life crash test dummy.

Exhibit B:

…Hashtag Vehicular Homicide

I’ll tell you this… Oliver is one tough little dude. He’s survived two years of Jackson saying, “I swear it was an accident dad!” Parent life is not all rainbows and unicorns around here. There’s little down time and there sure is very little quiet time anymore. But, I wouldn’t want it any other way. (Although it’d be nice to have to make such frequent trips to the ER).

Oll-E > Wall-E

Both are pretty cute and they even sound the same

I’ve blogged about all the normal baby and toddler firsts… I’ve talked about cleaning nuclear-like diaper messes and first solid foods… I’ve written about bubble wrapping and baby gating the house for their first steps. Now don’t get me wrong those are all hugely significant moments in time, but they all pale in comparison to hearing you child speak their first words. I’ve been in educational for nearly 20 years… I’ve taught children to read, to multiply triple digit numbers and I’ve taught children how to explain their thinking, but teaching a child to speak… that’s just magical.

Parenting is just a series of events that makes you feel equally proud and sad… watching your child become more independent each and everyday makes your heart both swell with pride for the amazing little being you are raising and also makes your heart long for the days when your baby needed you for everything. Like Elton John said, “it’s the Circle of Life” (I’m not sure if that analogy works here, but it sounds good so if you don’t mind, please just roll with it).

Listen, becoming mobile matters, it’s a huge step (pardon the pun) in the growth and development of a child. Learning to talk… to have a reciprocal conversation… is like the when the caveman first discovered fire, or first time you realized you didn’t have to actually flip open a cell phone to use it. It’s a game changer

Oliver has been saying words for a bit now… some much more clearly than others. But to hear him say his own name… I don’t know why… it was really cool. It was special. I know he has asked for juice when he’s wanted it and I’ve heard him yell, “dog” when Buster and Max were being naughty, but this… saying his name… I feel like it transforms him from a parakeet to a real person. I’m not sure why (especially since he was literally repeating his name), but just stay with me here… it’s my blog so I can write whatever I want.

Talking is transformative, getting to a point where you’re child knows his name, can say his own name and can string a word or two together changes an entire parent-child relationship I’m just hoping we are getting to the point where we can get a response from Oliver when ask him, “why are you screaming and what was the purpose of throwing yourself on the ground just now?”

But for now… I’ll take the slow and steady progress, even if he sounds like that robot WALL-E when he talks!

Elf

Boys night watching #Elf 🌲🎅🏼

Half and hour in and my four year-old has already made approximately 187 references to Elfie (his #ElfonTheShelf). Check out @thedadexperience on Thursday, December 20th for a hilarious look at how that damn Elf has ruined parents everywhere. There’s also an in-depth look at the #Hanukkah equivalent of the Elf called #MoistureOnAMat

What breakfast, lunch and dinner looks like with two children

“The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”