Another year has come and gone, yet this one, this year specifically is like none other that any of us have ever experienced. This year you spent almost all of 12 months in lockdown. The Corona Virus Pandemic and this Quarantine led the way for an unprecedented time for a three year-old to grow up.
However, this day isn’t about viruses, Covid, or vaccinations. It is about you. A little boy who seems to have grown three feet over the past year. While you still might spell your first name with two Ls and forget the numbers 13 and 14 when you count (and maybe say your favorite number is “blue”), you have developed into a voracious reader, who can’t get enough Chica Chica Boom Boom or Paw Patrol.
You have survived as the second child, which has to be so difficult… just ask your uncle Vinny. The thing is, you are forging your own path. You aren’t just a shadow of someone else, you have your own personality. You are hilarious, energetic and so incredibly brave. Braver than I think I could ever be (I’m scared that the bravery is just craziness, but that’s for a different blog entry). You follow your brother’s lead when you want to, but also kick him down the stairs when you want to lead the way.
I watch how others act around you and how they they react to you. Your aura is invigorating. You can turn a lazy, snowy Sunday by the fire into a dance party. You can raise anyone’s spirit, even after the most stressful day… and for that I owe you. You make being a dad so worthwhile. You make being your dad so rewarding… and for that I owe you more than you’ll ever know.
Oliver Peter, keep asking questions and defying the odds, keep trying things that other people don’t think are possible, but most of all… keep being you.
Happy 4th Birthday.
I love you,
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore
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.
… and he laid there, as quiet as a mouse still clutching the note as if it was the most important piece of paper a pencil had ever touched.
Earlier, he looked through book after book, he emptied two different shelves, but nothing could quite quench his thirst for poetry as the note that was slid under his door a few minutes prior. He tore through his favorites, cover after cover… title after title… Pete the Cat after Pete the Cat. The right text just wasn’t there.
Like JK Rowling with Harry Potter, or the Wyld Stallyns with the song that saved eternity, some people just have the gift. Tonight, after locking his brother out of his room, Oliver learned Jax is up there with the greatest authors of all time.
The note was slipped under his door in haste in hopes that it would convince Oliver to open up. But that note, three simple words turned into more than just a message. Like Michael Jordan before him… Jax crafted a note with so few words, yet it said so much.
As Oliver drifted off into a deep sleep he still clutched the note. Three words that his brother wrote him, the three words that he will treasure forever… or at the very least haunt his dreams:
“LET ME IN!”
Those three words may have formed the most impactful short sentence since Michael Jordan’s “I’m Back.”
Dear Stephanie, let’s get married and have kids so instead of spending quarantine binging Netflix we can tape balloons to our car and drive by some six year old’s house and sing happy birthday from six feet away.
Day 77: Tuesday, June 2:
I’m regretting panic buying $100 worth Of LEGO’s to end up with two kids ignoring them and instead playing with cardboard Amazon Prime boxes and a Tupperware lid for the last few hours.
This quarantine thing is intense!
Wife: “You should never question my choices, because you’re one of them.” Me: “That’s exactly why I question your choices.” _ Wife: “Good point!”
Day 78: Wednesday: June 3
The world is still fighting over toilet paper and today my son decides to give our few rolls left a bath…
Day 79: Thursday, June 4:
How do you keep two kids busy while you conduct Zoom Meetings all day? Give them a vacuum, a few baby wipes and put them to work!
Day 80: Friday, June 5:
What do you do when you can’t go out for pizza and you have ZERO DESIRE to cook… you put the kids to work!
Day 81: Saturday, June 6:
Today I got to catch up with good friends to celebrate one of their 40th birthdays. Interesting enough, Jax used to remind me to take my keys, wallet and cell phone… today he said, “Dad don’t forget your mask and Purell!”
Day 82: Sunday, June 7:
FOLKS… WE GOT SOME BIG NEWS HERE… OUR FIRST LOOSE TOOTH! This kid is growing up too fast! Bring on adulthood!
Day 83: Monday, June 8:
Today we attempting an early morning walk before work and virtual school started.
7:30am: leave house
7:32am: stop because Jax is so hot and “needs a sip of water”
7:36am: stop for rocks
7:37am: stop to pick flowers (that are actually weeds)
7:39am: now Oliver’s cold
7:40am: stop for sticks
7:42am: go home because both boys are really, really tired.
45 total steps logged.
Day 84: Tuesday, June 9:
Happy birthday to the only person who isn’t on Social Media. To my not so little brother! We’ve come a long way from me almost getting you eaten by a snake in the backyard when we were kids! Jax and Ollie couldn’t ask for a better uncle!
Day 85: Wednesday, June 10:
I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than spending the day with my family! It was our first family outing and first time out to dinner in MONTHS!
Day 86: Thursday, June 11:
Hard to imagine how my kids were ever able to survive a regular school days without 23 snacks.
Day 87: Friday, June 12:
Today Jackson had his VIRTUAL FIELD DAY!
Field Day VIA a computer might have been the most frustrating aspect of Distance Learning. My kids would rather watch the timer in the corner of the screen on the zoom conference than actually participate in virtual field day. Jax has now asked 16,000 times when this is over because he wants to go inside already!
PS: Do they give college scholarships for balloon dribbling?!?? Jax had a record of 30 before the balloon popped. What does that count as? Forget it… This has now turned into a way for me to feel athletic again! As a matter fact I’m playing the Rocky theme right now and shoving the kids to the ground!
Day 88: Saturday, June 13:
My two little Dirt Devils/Beach Bums! There’s nothing like burying yourself in the sand as kid!
Day 89: Sunday, June 14:
During quarantine I’ve been slowly working on a project that I had wanted to do for ages. I figured the perfect time was now! In between Zoom meetings and distance learning (and you know life) I decided to build a high back sofa/bar table for the basement. Mind you I’m lucky to come away with ten fingers after using a pencil sharpener. so this was quite the challenge. But, table saws, circular saws, hacksaws and vice clamps be damned, because it came out pretty good.
Day 90: Monday, June 15:
The tooth has fallen out (been pulled out). All packed up in an envelope with a note. That Tooth fairy better start looking for some spare change!
PS: Yes the first tooth only yielded a dollar and a pack of baseball cards, but remember the tooth-fairy is a nonprofit…. she’s on unemployed from her other “paying” job bc of Covid-19, so with that being said, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset!!!”
Day 90: Tuesday, June 16:
You want to wear a cut off tank top and rain boots up the street on your power wheels while carrying garden tools? Sure, at this point at least you have on pants.
PS: Today I learned my children can fix a squeaky wheel with hand held garden tools. Don’t ask!
Day 91: Wednesday, June 17:
The last day of Kindergarten also meant the last day of Distance Learning (for now). What a crazy, crazy cRAzY school year it was for this little guy! Mom and I are so incredibly proud of you and your accomplishments!
Day 92: Thursday, June 18
Today, after putting on my mask in the Big Y parking lot, I looked in the rear view mirror… I realized this is what my ears look like with a face-mask on:
Day 93: Friday, June 19
Can we just not with the screen time reports this week?
Love, mom and dad
Day 94: Saturday. June 20
Pre-Father’s Day Father’s Day Party: my wife, the boy’s mom planned a party for today…. my response to that… Thank you. This was perfect. I actually for once enjoyed myself. I did just enough cleaning, organizing and cooking, etc to keep sane.
Stephanie, I don’t know if you noticed but I actually went in the pool. That’s a big deal. We may argue and butt heads. But, If there’s anyone who is going to be by my side for all the nonsense that is me and what comes with it… I wouldn’t want anyone by my side but you.
Day 95: Sunday, June 21:
Father’s Day is always perfect when spent with the family, especially my two superheros!
Day 96: Monday, June 22:
My wife buys our kids a lot of kinetic sand, play-dough and painting supplies for someone who wants to stay married.
Day 97: Tuesday, June 23:
Today was my first official day I have taken “off” from work since Christmas Break. It was nice to spend some quiet time without the phone/emails for a little while. The boys and I went to the beach (mom was stuck in the office!!!)
With the tide out we were able to walk out almost to the top of the jetty! Nobody fell in (more importantly no one pushed anyone in!)
Day 98: Wednesday, June 24:
Today was a LOOOOOONG DAYYYYYY! Coordinating chrome book and iPad drop off at school for all the amazing students who borrowed devices during distance learning will take a lot of a guy! But, coming home to these two smiling little boys (SCREAMING, “DAAAAADDDDDIEEEESSSSSSS HOMMMMEEEEE!!!!” Will always help being a long day of to a happy close!
Day 99: Thursday, June 25:
My day today… on a Zoom Call with my assistant principal while working from home:
Assistant Principal: “Would you be able to…”
… my two kids run by the camera: one wielding a sword, one naked, both in ski masks and capes…
Assistant Principal: “Never mind.”
Day 100: Friday, June 26:
ONE-HUNDRED-FREAKING-DAYS-OF-QUARANTINE. It’s been 100 days since schools across the nation began distance learning and the quarantine began. As we mark that significant number in this global pandemic not much has changed. Cases are still spiking, masks are required almost everywhere
Day 101: Saturday, June 27:
Roman, our newest little nephew, was baptized today. It was nice celebrating with family for the first time in long time. We also learned Jax is a pretty good photographer!
Day 102: Sunday, June 28:
Heard the wife yelling this from the other room earlier: “STOP DOING THAT!!! WE CAN NOT GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM DURING A PANDEMIC!”
Day 103: Monday, June 29:
We’ve officially lost it here. No school for the kids, rain outside and Oliver wants his 14th M&M yogurt of the day. I have to draw the line somewhere. 13 M&M yogurts before noon is acceptable, but when you try for 14 you have gone too far. Sorry little man, but that temper tantrum is going to have to last a lot longer than…. forget just eat another damn yogurt!
Day 104: Tuesday, June 30:
What a way to end the month. I came home to Jackson narrating a live video of Oliver playing with his Magic Trax! Apparently he’s started his own YouTube channel. Best part, he signed off by saying, “Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to like and subscribe!!!
I guess that takes us into month four… hello July!
PS: Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to like and subscribe! 😂😂😂
As I sit here and contemplate the words that are needed to wish you the happiest of happy birthdays during this unbelievably unprecedented time we are living in right now, I am struggling to even come up with a way to start. How do we explain to a six year old that he can’t be with his friends, or go somewhere for a birthday party? That’s what 2020 is for you at this point… an everlasting, unexplainable time that you have somehow become accustomed to.
So I guess this is where we start. During a time that even grown ups can’t understand or handle. Yet, you, a six year old, have handled it with humor and confidence. You ask questions and want to learn what is going on. That’s who you are. That’s who you’ve become these last six years. From the little boy who brought joy and happiness to everyone around him to the six year old… not so little boy who brings joy and happiness to everyone around him even in the darkest of times.
I enjoy being around you more than you know (yes you drive me insane sometimes but then again I had a hand in creating you! I never realized how annoying I could be until I created a miniature version of myself and started arguing with it daily). Yet, even in those times I never stop loving you. Your mom and I will never stop loving you.
Tonight, as we readied you for bed as a five year old one more time, you called us back to your room fourteen-million times. You just wanted is to lay with you and talk. You apologized for keeping us up so late, but wanted us to know you were just being a “chatterbox” tonight. How do we stay mad at you when you come up with things like that?!??
What has stood out to me the most in this past year is how you have taken your little brother under your wing. I’ve written about how you love him, but recently you have become a mentor, the way an older brother should. Today I listened in as you taught him how to play bingo and smiled as he just threw the balls across the table, not once did you lose your patience with him. That’s a lie, you lost it a few times, but never gave up hope that he’d get it in the end (he didn’t).
While we have been distance learning/ homeschooling you have been teaching Oliver how to hold a pencil, how to do reading centers and most importantly have been a shoulder for him to cry on when he is upset. You share with him and always tell him you love him.
The last month and a half has defined the year 2020 so far. The CoronaVirus will forever be tied to your kindergarten school year and your sixth birthday, but it will never define you. You are creative, passionate and caring. You want to do things for others and recognize that something as simple as making a heart out of red construction paper to hang on our window makes other people smile. You are stronger than any virus, hell you’re stronger than me in many ways too.
I love the big boy you have become, but wish you could slow down growing up so fast. This family is lucky to have such a loving little boy, who’s smile lights up a room and who’s laugh can brighten even the darkest of days.
Happy QUARENTINED Birthday, Jackson. We all love you very much!
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore
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.
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.
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.
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?!??
“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.
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.
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.