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.

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…

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

#BackToHogwarts (again)

Another year another September 1 and I still haven’t received my Hogwarts letter. It’s fine I’m really fine I’m not crying inside the Harry Potter- Cupboard Under the Stairs that I built for my children.

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, so Stephanie and I have to do our best as Muggles to figure out the whole Platform 9 3/4 thing. It’s not easy… but we do it anyway. It’s for the kids, right?

I’m not sure anyone realizes how much work and stress that Back To Hogwarts day is for us parents. It’s hard enough sending your five-year-old off to kindergarten for his first day when the school is right down the road, try sticking them on a magical train with only some old lady as a chaperone. I mean let’s face it Hogwarts isn’t the most safe place for kids. It doesn’t have the most danger-free reputation.

The good thing is Harry Potter is long gone from the Gryffindor Common Room. I get it, Harry didn’t mean to be an black cloud waiting to rain on everyone’s parade, but he definitely was. A murderous nemesis, a giant snake, detentions for all his friends? Not enough? How about dragons that attack children or the fact that the shambles was left in shambles after his last visit. The kid was a disaster waiting to happen.

Now, we are supposed to show at Platform 9 3/4 and act like it’s no big deal? And just because he saved the Wizarding world we are all just supposed to assume that everything is ok? But I digress… bottom line, another September 1st has come and I still can’t get any advice from anyone… I mean even Dumbledore met Harry at King’s Cross and he was dead… come on Joanne… help a parent out!!!

Also while we’re at it Mrs. Rowling… can you please do a guest spot on MuggleCast?!??

A Mom’s Love

These three ❤️❤️❤️

“Love as powerful as your mother’s leaves it’s own mark.” #AlbusDumbledore #HarryPotter #SorcerersStone #JKRowling

Not much to say, some people are lucky and have great parents, moms/dads etc. But, Jax and Ollie are a lot luckier than a lot of people. They have this lady watching over them and there isn’t a better person for the job.

“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.

⚡️⚡️⚡️

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!

⚡️⚡️⚡️

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!!!

For in Dreams

“For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let them swim in the deepest ocean or glide over the highest cloud.” -Albus Dumbledore #ChroniclesOfANewDad

#HarryPotter #PrisonerOfAzkaban #ProfessorDumbledore #jkrowling #HarryPotterTattoo

Kindness Matters

“Random acts of kindness,” “look for the good,” and “pay it forward” have become popular phrases across social media, talk shows and in every day society.

Kindness has so many benefits not only for the person receiving the kindness but for the one who experiences the good feelings that are produced when being kind to others. The endorphins that are created from doing something kind activate areas of the brain that are associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Those same feelings can be contagious. They can be passed on to others and in turn help support positivity.

Teaching kindness is one thing… modeling kindness is another. Stephanie and I try to model the character traits we want out sons to exhibit. Do we do this every second of the day? No. Are we perfect? Not by any means. But, over the course of time saying please and thank you, saying sorry, holding the door for someone you don’t know and just smiling takes hold. Our children see kindness and in turn show kindness.

Jackson’s teacher reached out to me last week to tell me that a child who struggles with motor skills, was having some trouble reaching his name tag… Jackson left his center, walked over to the other child helped him reach his name tag, put it on him, held his hand and walked him over to his center. You can’t ask for much more. This little boy is kind at heart. He cares for other people, he be always puts others first (except for when he wakes his mom and I up at 5:30 in the morning on weekends).

Last week I got an email from one of Jackson’s teachers (his teachers are absolutely amazing. We need to more often recognize the amazing things teachers do). It described an act of kindness from Jax they made me so proud, an act of kindness that you can’t teach.

I know I’m not perfect. I’m far from. I know that I could have handled many situations differently and better than I did in the past. Hindsight is always 20-20… but one thing I absolutely got right is this little boy. The world needs more Jacksons in it. I think we’d all be in a better place if we stopped to notice and model more of what we see in our children.

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… therefore it’s no surprise that all of my tattoos are directly connected to my sons and/or 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 was a humble man and when he met Death at a crossroad in his life he asked for something that he could use to go forward and live a long and happy life, something 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.”