Vandalism with the Elf on a Shelf

Beautifully placed garland on a Christmas tree

I share a lot on here, but one thing I refuse to do is to share pictures of our Elf on the Shelf. We’re not a Pinterest family (well Steph tries to be, but her projects usually look like the after on a failed Pinterest page… but the effort is there).

Our elf doesn’t recreate movie elaborate Christmas movie scenes depicting himself dressed up as the main character. He doesn’t tend to use props and for the most part he sits in the same place he was when everyone went to bed (usually until someone panics first thing in the morning because we realized we forgot).

Tonight, however, I watched my wife, the mother of our children, help Elfie (yes our Elf’s name is Elfie) toilet paper the Christmas tree… if you could call it that. Now I don’t know what kind of childhood this woman lived… wether it was under a rock or simply spent in a bubble, but the fact that she didn’t know how to toilet paper something is telling.

I walked down stairs to multiple rolls of toilet paper carefully patterned and intricately placed like lacy garland on the ensues of the tree branches. I watched as Elfie sat, embarrassed perched high atop the Douglas Fir. Embarrassingly realizing that he would have to take credit for this “prank”.

What toilet papering should look like:

What Stephanie’s idea of toilet papering looks like:

Luckily there was someone in the house with a bit more knowledge and experiences when it comes to toilet papering. I won’t say who he is for confidentiality reasons… but I know Elfie appreciated the more random and vandalized look of his prank now that an expert lent his expertise.

Jackson really enjoys finding him each morning and this year is Ollie’s first time being interested…even with that though, it’s a good thing we don’t do the social media thing with our elf… he would have been embarrassed by this who situation. Sorry Elfie. Sorry.

Tantrum Time

Terrible Twos and/or Torturous Threes? How about the Fearsome Fours? Honestly, I don’t know what to call them… and more importantly I don’t know what i can’t stand more… either the people who don’t have kids and have advice for parents on what to do better, or the parents who tell us how amazing their children’s behavior always is.

We were pretty lucky in the beginning with Jackson. We never really had to deal with temper tantrums. Granted now we’re paying the price, as he has become a little toddler terrorist, taking what he wants and leaving destruction in his path. For the most part though, (he was pretty active), but he never really had temper tantrums.

Oliver, however, is a professional tantrum thrower. For being the happiest always smiling little guy… he sure knows how to throw down. I’ve witnessed this child lay on the floor and cry until you’d think he’d be dehydrated and then while still screaming, get up silently and laugh in my face thirty seconds later.

Those moments are what us parents dread the most, either in the mall or restaurant… or even just at home. When your child is flopping around on the floor like a fish just pulled up on the deck of a boat, screaming and crying like he just found out the next season of his favorite Nexflix series wouldn’t be released for another two years. And how do we try to stop it? We try reasoning with a this tiny human who won’t fully develop reasoning skills for another few years. I always here, “Use your words,” which is like asking me to hold a conversation during Game of Thrones (not happening).

Listen… a toddler tantrum, or any age tantrum for that matter, is a ride out the storm kind of situation. I try to stay calm (and more importantly try not to have an anxiety attack if we’re out in public) and just make sure everyone is safe. We save the talking for later.

Oliver can cry with the best of them. I’ve seen those crying fits come and go. Nothing, especially with a one year old, can prepare you for the intensity of an outburst especially when that outburst happens for the most asinine reason… have you ever suggested that your child not eat dog food? Or tell them to avoid touching a hot stove because, I don’t know… it’s hot? Yea, that’s all it takes. And, Oliver is no different.

Here’s a perfect example… we are decorating the tree and have a fire roaring. The perfect atmosphere to get into the Christmas spirit. The problem here… the placement of said fire. It’s not where my one year old wanted it to be. So what else is there to do but lay on the floor and kick and scream. Obviously, you want the fire on the other side of the room.

Yes my child, one and a half years old, was pissed off because he wanted the fire to be moved to the other side of the room.

… and on that note, bring on the tantrums.

Family Traditions

Traditions and rituals are more than just repetition… they often tell a story. A family sets it’s foundation on traditions… from the small of a secret handshake with your son or the big of a thanksgiving feast with all your relatives. On the macro level, traditions can teach children where their family came from or give them insights into their cultural or religious history. On a more micro level, traditions can serve as reminders of events that have shaped your family or reminders of great friendships.

There is irrefutable research that shows families hat engage is “traditions” have a stronger connection with one another. Traditions can be particularly effective during times of change or grief. When we moved and he had to go to sleep in a new room, Jax knew every night we would read a few books and “count the stars on his ceiling” before I kissed him goodnight. It provided him with a sense of security in a new environment.

Jax and I have our secret handshake: (Shout out to Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson who were the inspiration for this). But, Oliver and I were still searching for that father-son tradition.

That was until I realized we need search no more… we didn’t need to find one, because traditions aren’t just thought up one day. They are created authentically and often times are the moments that you don’t even think twice about. It was there right in front of our faces!

Every night before he goes down to sleep, Oliver climbs up on me and settles his head on my shoulder and says, well he doesn’t really say anything. He isn’t really talking much at this point. But, I know what he’s thinking… he’s thinking he really wants his dad to sing him to sleep… a lullaby, a beautiful, calming rendition of his favorite song… Hush, Little Baby.

This is our tradition. Jax never really took to my singing (probably because it sounds like multiple cats crying). However, Ollie… he loves snuggling with dad and listening to the smooth, sweet tones of his father’s voice whispering one of the most well-known lullabies as he drifts off into dream land.

The best part of this… I have no idea, literally none whatsoever, what the lyrics to this song really are. I’ve tried everything. I rhymed real words and made up words… I’ve tried looking up the lyrics, but I can’t remember them in the heat of the performance. I feel like I do when I’m in the car belting out Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing… apparently it’s not, “smelly wine and sheep perfume.” Then there’s anything by Notorious BIG (including the ever confusing), “Birthdays were the worst days/ Now we sip champagne every Thursday.” I know a few words and the rest are completely made up.

That brings us to the greatest tradition our family knows… dad and Oliver’s version of Hush, Little Baby:

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Daddy’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don’t sing, Daddy’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring don’t shine, Daddy’s gonna buy you an air freshener that smells like pine.

And if that air freshener doesn’t smell right, Daddy’s gonna buy you a dragon kite.

Different lyrics… same tradition… and it puts the kid to sleep… EVERY.DAMN.NIGHT.

Doesn’t matter where… when he hears Dad’s version of Hush, Little Baby.., he’s out cold

Oliver’s First Fourth Day of Daycare

Lately, Oliver has been floating all over the face of the earth. Just a Nomad living a nomad’s life.

Daycare to daycare.

Teacher to teacher.

Cot to cot.

… until today. Until the day he finally found a place to call home and a cot to call his own. (Don’t get me wrong where he was previously was amazing. They treated him like family. They communicated more than I could ever have imagined and he loved it there). But now… he’s home. He’s the little Italian boy… in the little Italian daycare.

Listen, this ain’t our first rodeo… we’ve been here before. We’ve done the first day of day care thing before. We have this down like clockwork. – Lay out his clothes, pack his lunch, lay out all his extra clothes, bottles, cups, bowls… all packed and ready for transport.

Forms were filled out. Emergency contact list had been updated. We were set… all we needed to do was get the little guy there, drop him off and head to work. All seemed to go according to plan until it was time to leave. The cries filled the room. Panic set in and guilt gripped our hearts. It’s what every parent who drops their child care off at daycare for the first time goes through… and it’s terrible.

The teachers tell you everything is ok and that he’ll be fine… hell I’ve said that to a thousand parents on the first day of school for years. It hurts just as bad each time. But it does get better and it did get better. Ollie turned out to be the star student.

His best subject: NAPPING!

Drop That Beat

Webster’s Dictionary defines “beat drop” as “the moment in a dance track when tension is released and the beat kicks in. Great drops create overbearing drama. They’re built for the unabashed and uninhibited, releasing the enormous energy accrued during a song’s progression.”

Think about it. You’ve been bumping and grinding… you’ve been bobbing and weaving … the music is progressing… you’ve gone through a few verses and even the hook. The sweat is building on your forehead and you can feel the tension in the rhythm buildingbigger, louder, until suddenly — the drop.

I imagine that’s exactly what Ollie was feeling at this exact moment:

I know it’s not house music… I know it’s not some big time bass hit produced by DJ Kool… but, boy can Imagine Dragons drop that beat with the best of them… Oliver thinks so!

I know I’m dating myself a bit here… but tell me this song doesn’t make you want to throw it back to 1996. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qG9ZWUitFik

PS: Fun Fact… DJ Kool borrows the phrase “Let Me Clear My Throat” from the Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill album.

Why Tattoos are Life

Tattoos have been around for centuries and getting a tattoo inspired by your children or your favorite book is nothing new… therefor it’s no surprise two of my tattoos are directly connected to my sons and Harry Potter.

As a guy who enjoys tattoos… I wanted to get some ink done to represent my first after he was born. I decide on a meaningful representation of father and son taken from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [short story] “The Tale of the Three Brothers.”

The story’s moral is that you should live life for the right reasons: love and those you love. The youngest brother in the story youngest brother was a humble man asked for a thing that he could use to live a long and happy life. One in which he was allowed to see his child grow. He was given a cloak of invisibility. And thus because of this he attained a great age and passed The Cloak of Invisibility to his son. I was happy to get a tattoo representing a moment that every father dreams of… Passing down something (knowledge, skill, an invisibility cloak) to their child which will ensure he will live long, happy and successful live.

When I decided it was time to get a tattoo honoring my newest little man it was obvious it would be something related to his name, Oliver, and also had to have some connection to Harry Potter. The olive branch has a very symbolic meaning which made it the perfect choice both references. The Olive Branch symbolizes a beginning of a new life. In the Harry Potter story, Oliver Wood is the first Quidditch player we meet. He is the keeper and captain of the Gryffindor team. He’s an athlete, a leader and a loyal friend. He’s also and one of my favorite characters in the story.

My most recent tattoo is just as special to me as the other ones I’ve gotten that were dedicated to my sons. The first time I 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 (that he calls Pickie) on my inner arm.

Here are my other Harry Potter inspired tattoos:

And a quote on my ribs dedicated to my sons: “If anything should happen to me, the love for my sons should never go unsaid.”

Do you have a tattoo inspired by your child(en) or of Harry Potter? Show them in the comments below!

Refreshing the Soul

The beginning of the school year is a whirlwind. The days fly by and the work piles up. However there’s nothing like story time to refresh the soul. Taking time to breath and live in the moment each day is so important and I very much look forward to a few moments enjoying a good book with such an amazing little guy!

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” J.K. Rowling

“The stories we love best live in us forever.” J.K. Rowling