As I lay next to you on the eve of your sixth birthday (mind you, I wrote “fifth birthday” two different times already in this blog and I’m not even two sentences in) I can not believe how fast you are growing up. Writing tonight, one handed as you hold my other hand tightly in yours is tough, but worth every second. I know that the years continue to fly by so I continue to remind myself to relish in every second I get to spend with you.
This year you took on three new major challenges: basketball, football and kindergarten and have taken them on like you do everything in your life… with: energy, enthusiasm and with an all out CraZy passion that is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter if it’s running a new play as the quarterback (and remembering to stop running when the whistle blows), dribbling the length of the court for red-light green-light at basketball practice, or accessing the regulation station for an extra recess, your love for whatever you do is inspiring.
You are reading and writing and are so proud of yourself every time you come home from school. You make new friends where ever you go and see the world through rose colored glasses, but still know right from wrong and are not afraid to speak up for what you believe in (especially when that belief is advocating for chocolate instead of vegetables at dinner).
I know this year will continue to bring amazing things for you. I’m sure sometime in late May or early June you will set the World Record for consecutive days eating a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. I’m positive you will read your first full book on your own, you’ll continue to take sports head on. But mostly, I want you to just keep having fun.
There’s plenty of time to find your niche, and I’m confident you will, but for now, just keep doing you… Creeper Face and all!
In a world that so often focuses on the negative, it can be exhausting trying to be a positive for so many people. Sometimes, a kind act, even a small one can be the one time someone smiles on a particular day. The very definition of a random act of kindness is when you do something unexpected, thoughtful, or helpful without expecting anything in return.
Today was the day I needed a random act of kindness to remind me how good the world can be. Today was even better considering that particular act of kindness was initiated by my older son and directed towards his younger brother… it was completely unsolicited, unprovoked and even better un-observed… (or so he thought).
As an aside, I recently read an amazing book, The Kindness Advantage: Cultivating Compassionate and Connected Children. The book was mentioned by my amazing school social worker and a few parents had even discussed it at a recent PTO meeting. So, I decided to check it out. The focus on values of community, compassion, and tolerance are themes that will resonate with any educator.
With increased concern about meanness and bullying, I was impressed with how simply the authors discuss how kindness spreads. Also, described is how children who not only expience others being kind, but those who demonstrate kindness are more apt to also show unity, respect, empathy and compassion for others. As a school leader and parent anything that supports a climate of respect and rapport is something useful that can be taught and also benefit the environment in a classroom and at home.
So, as I stood silently, just beyond the small crack in the bedroom door, I watched my eight year old finish reading a book to his younger brother. As he tucked him in, he whispered just barely audible, “Good night buddy. I’m proud that you are my brother. Thank you for coming into my life.” You see sometimes, kindness isn’t just for the person giving, or even for the person receiving. Often times it’s for the person observing.
Today, one random act of kindness filled three buckets and left this dad smiling from ear to ear.
Pizza Rat is an internet sensation based of of the most famous NYC rat since splinter taught those crazy turtles karate. The thing is… how can this brown rat carrying a slice of pizza down the steps of a New York City Subway station in Manhattan be any cuter than our very own (above) pizza rat?!????
This dude right here is about to embark on a magical journey, in other words:
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip That started from this tropic port Aboard this tiny ship.
There’s no doubt that this little guy isn’t so little anymore and all joking aside, if kindergarten orientation is any indication of how this school year is going to go, sign me up for the Gilligan Island’s Theme Song, because Oliver and his preschool now kindergarten friends are going to cause all sorts of high jinx!
This blog entry will Chronicle (pun intended) a father and son’s continuation of the first time reading the Harry Potter series together. We finished Book One, Two and Three now will move onto Book Four: Harry Potter and the the Goblet of Fire. I’ll update it after each chapter so that I can capture the most memorable moments. Come back often and check in on our progress and leave us a note or some feedback!
I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I know Jax and I will.
Chapter 1: The Riddle House
(The first few chapters Jax asked if he could “talk to text” his summary of the chapter. Why not, right?)
“I was reading the chapter 1 the Riddle House and I was wondering what going to happen right away. So, when my dad read me the first page it made me, kind of like happy and then I thought this book was going to be good, but then the next page made me kind of suspicious about what this chapter might tell us.”
“So, we read on the next page that all the Riddle family were all killed by something and I thought it was the gardener Frank that takes care of their house when they’re gone.”
“Everyone in the town thought he killed them too, so they arrested him and then were like, ‘you’re innocent and you didn’t do anything,” so they let him go!”
“One night after getting out of jail, Frank woke up and the lights were on in the house and there were people jumping around the house. He was like those ‘darn kids again’ he thought. So, he went to the house and it wasn’t kids. There was a fire and then he went upstairs; he looked inside a small opening of a door in a bedroom. He looked and he saw a weird man that had his face covered and also a man that looked very old and looks and sounds like a rat. (We met them in the last book… The Prisoner of Azkaban… Peter Pettigrew.”
“Then a weird snake walked into the door and then the strange man that had the hood on said, ‘how are you doing Nagini’. (Nagini was the snake)… so Nagini, who was now in the room told the man with the hood that there was somebody waiting outside listening to all they were talking about. Then the man opens the door and said, ‘come in man’.”
“So Frank walked inside and then what he saw was the last thing he ever saw in his life… a GRREN FLASH!!!!! And then just like that, he’s laying on the ground, dead.”
“DEAD AS EVER!!!!”
Chapter 2: The Scar
“So Harry woke up with a SCREAM and was YELLING. The Dursley‘s were banging on the wall and telling him to… like, ‘shut up’ and he woke up and his Scar was burning more than ever!”
“When he woke up, he found a strange bird, he opened the window and found the bird was from Sirius Black! The letter said, ‘Hello Harry, I hope you’re having a good time, but I also know you aren’t really having a good time, because the stupid Dursley‘s are really rude to you.’”
“So, then Henry sent a note back that said, ‘Yeah I’m doing a little bit fine. But, my Aunt Petunia found Dudley smuggling donuts in his room yesterday. He’s on a diet so they took away his money and he threw his PlayStation out the window. Also, my Scar hurts really, really bad!’”
Chapter 3: The Invitation
(For clarification purposes we are still in Jax-Talk-to-Text summary mode)
“Not much really happens in this chapter, but I can tell you a little bit… So in Chapter 3 the Invitation, Harry got a letter in the mail from Ron that had about 38 stamps on it and there was just a little bit of writing in the middle. It said, ‘Harry we’re gonna come and pick you up to bring you to the Quidditch World Cup.’”
Chapter 4: Back to the Burrow
“Harry woke up on a simple morning same as always, went downstairs and Petunia and Vernon commanded him to make breakfast. So it was a normal morning until they heard something and the flames in the fireplace turned green, it was hotter and hotter in the room, he heard a whoosh, they saw legs… then they heard something that sounded like the Weasleys.”
“They were stuck in the fireplace! Mr. Weasley destroyed everything they were crumbs everywhere from the fireplace. Out spilled Mr. Weasley, Ron and the two twins Fred and George (you can’t tell them apart)!”
“As they were leaving Fred and George accidentally dropped some kind of magic candy. Dudley ate the candy one by one. Dudley ate all the candy and then his tongue grew 100 pounds! And the Dursleys were freaking out!!!”
Chapter 5: Weasley Wizard Wheezes
“Fred and George (the two twins), they love, love, love… (like, you can say love one million times????) love jokes. They once played a joke on their mother and they make fake wands and fart bombs. So now they decided to make a joke shop.”
Chapter 6: The Portkey
(Back to you’re regularly scheduled summary of chapter by chapter)
“…Portkeys. They’re objects that are used to transport wizards from one spot to another at a prearranged time.”
Jax: “So dad, if anything can be a Portkey… can we use your weights from the basement, it’s not like you use them anyway!”
Chapter 7: Bagman and Crouch
We’re getting to the point in the story where we are meeting so many new and IMPORTANT characters… it’s hard to keep track of them. But most of all, they’re all suspects!
“Dad, this Crouch guy doesn’t seem to be all that trustworthy! Look at his mustache, very creepy!!!”
Chapter 8: The Quidditch World Cup
“So… Krum is like Aaron Judge of Quidditch!???”
Chapter 9: The Dark Mark
As we read the chapter Jax is starting to worry about the book a bit… it’s starting to get a bit dark and now that we meet actual Death Eaters and see the Dark Mark, “Dad, THE DARK MARK IS A SNAKE!!??!!… Syltherin?!?!!!” Things in the Wizarding World and Chapter by Chapter are getting real!
Chapter 10: Mayhem at the Ministry
This chapter is a bit of a quiet one compared to the last couple. I have to be honest, it took us a couple of nights to get through this one! 💤💤
Chapter 11: Aboard the Hogwarts Express
Thanks to this chapter, every time I ask Jax to take out the trash… I’m confident he’s going to go all Karate Kid on the garbage cans. of course he found this hilarious.
Chapter 12: The Triwizard Tournament
Dumbledore announces the Triwizard Tournament and we are ready to win! It’s pretty obvious from the title, but we are at the point where Jax realizes that if something is going to go wrong in these books, it’s going to involve Harry!!!
Chapter 13: Mad-Eye Moody
This is one of the chapters that I’m so excited to watch with Jax in the movie! When Malfoy attacks Harry, but Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret is one of the only scenes that’s better in video form!!!
Chapter 14: The Unforgivable Curses
Another chapter filling in lots of details and setting the stage for a lot of things to come. Interestingly, we talk a lot about the Unforgivable Curses.
“Why would anyone use them?”
“Avada Kedavra—— that’s what Voldemort used in Harry!!!”
“Cruciatus? Those are the things mom puts in her salad right?” (He says with a smile, knowing he’s now trying to be funny!)
Chapter 15: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang
“There’s way too much homework at Hogwarts!” Jax apparently isn’t a fan of homework?!??
Chapter 16: The Goblet of Fire
Dumbledore introduces the Goblet of Fire to the students and explains that those who wish to enter the Tournament should place their name on a slip of paper inside the goblet; he adds that he has drawn an age line around its perimeter, meaning that no one under the age of seventeen can approach.
Jax is fascinated by the age line and can’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t just tie something heavy to piece of paper with their name on it and throw it from behind the age line into the Goblet of Fire… (Hey Jax, maybe you should have told that to Fred and George before they tried an aging potion)!
“Dad, can’t they just ask someone older to drop their name in for them?!?? (Again, pretty good critical thinking Jax).
Jax face when Harry’s name came out of the Goblet:
Chapter 17: The Four Champions
Professor Dumbledore sends Harry into the back room. Everyone is like, “what?!?? Well that’s new!”
They are trying to find out who put his name in the Goblet of Fire. Jax thinks Malfoy did it because, “he’s a jerk,” but then remembers he’s not old enough… so changes his mind and says maybe it was Dumbledore.
Chapter 18: The Weighing of the Wands
Jealousy is such a deep rooted and higher level consciousness. I can’t expect Jax (a third grader to pick up on the subtleties of jealousy in a friendship that is in a book.
“Ron is so mad!!! He thinks Harry snuck his name in the Goblet of Fire!!!” (Then again he’s still stuck on the fact that the Twins turned into old men!)
Chapter 19: The Hungarian Horntail
Jax has just about had it with Rita Skeeter at this point.
Jax is also becoming slightly obsessed with where Bertha Jorkins is. Sirius says that she was last seen in Albania, oddly enough, where Voldemort was last sighted. “That’s it, she’s done for! I know Voldemort had to have killed her…!!!”
Chapter 20: The First Task
We read this chapter as Jax holds his wand (he’s confident that he knows the spell to beat the dragon).
Chapter 21: The House-Elf Liberation Front
I’m not going to exaggerate to make this chapter by chapter something it isn’t. Jax is secretly happy Harry and Ron are friends again. But we struggled through this chapter and considering how unbelievably exciting the chapter before was, that’s not surprising here.
Chapter 22: The Unexpected Task
They needed to find people to go to the ball with. Harry decided to go with Cho Vhamg but she was already going with Cedric Difgiey. Then he found out he needed to dance with a girl. I would NOT want to dance with a girl at the dance (well except my “girl” friend ____.
Chapter 23: The Yule Ball
When Dobby wakes Harry up and gives Harry his present: a pair of mismatched socks he made himself I asked Jax why he thinks Dobby is so obsessed with socks.
He said to me that it’s obvious, “Socks set him free!”
He then turns to me and says (deadpan), did someone set you free with sneakers?
Chapter 24: Rita Skeeter’s Scoop
Empathy is such an important trait that so many people lack. I’m watching Jackson empathize with characters in this series. Rita Skeeter writes a defamatory article about Hagrid and Jax becomes quiet for a little while (anyone who knows him, knows that this happens very infrequently). A few minutes later he asks me, “why there are so many mean people in the world.”
Chapter 25: The Egg and the Eye
After reading this chapter we are now apparently ordering a hot tub and tons of scented and colored bath bombs!
Chapter 26: The Second Task
Jax: “Dad what’s a Grindylow?”
Me: “Grindylows are very aggressive water demons known to live in the Black Lake at Hogwarts. Or in other wards, you and your brother when I’m trying to relax in the pool.”
Chapter 27: Padfoot Returns
Jax quotes this chapter:
“Wait so everyone loves Ron now?!?”
“Rita skeeter sucks!”
“I knew Barry Crouch, Sr was a bad guy!!!”
Yup (PS don’t say that something sucks).
Yes, sort of. But, well… keep reading.
POSTSCRIPT: Also, click here for our other alouds:
Our second child is graduating pre-school. Next year, he’ll be entering Kindergarten. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Your baby is growing up!” Most parents get all teary at this revelation. In fact, the teachers gave parents tissues at the gate before the ceremony… all the parents in my son’s class get glassy-eyed when we talk about “graduating.” Especially those, like us, whose youngest child is the upcoming pre-school graduate.
Last week, mom wrote the last check we’ll ever write for preschool. For the better part of the last eight years, we’ve have had a kid in daycare or “preschool”. We loved our boys’ schools. Everyone one of them. Their teachers, their email updates during the day with pictures of our children interacting and having fun with their friends.
In preschool, there are programs for every holiday. Sweet little songs and children dressed up in costumes. Handmade Christmas gifts with photos of our kids and Mother’s/Father’s Day poems and stories and some very sketchy art projects that often resembled those ink blots that you see psychologists use in movies.
The preschool teachers are family. They are more than one and done. They have watched Oliver grow from the time he was a few months old until now, in cap and gown accepting his preschool superlative Caring Classmate (I would have voted for Crazy Classmate).
Preschool graduation means no more hand-holding while walking into school. Oliver, our baby, will trade in the preschool drop-off, for the big, yellow school bus. His class size will double. We will say goodbye to the teachers who have known him since he was born. We will say goodbye to many of those hand made gifts. Kindergarten is the big time, but this time we’re ready. (Or at least we say we are). There is no doubt that Oliver is ready for the big time. He’s a leader, kind, helpful, FUNNY and his graduating class’ Caring Classmate.
Mom and I watched our baby on the preschool stage (wood chips) wearing a pint-size cap and gown, we sat through the slide show from the past five years, we saw pictures of our little boy across multiple rooms from his past five years, but the tears I anticipated didn’t come.
Instead this time, all I could do was smile and nod. This time, I was prepared, ready and confident that we did the best we could. I was confident that nothing can ever be totally planned and that the most important aspect in life is trusting that what got you to where are now will help you continue to succeed. So with that being said, Oliver keep being the caring, crazy classmate you are! Mom and I could not be anymore proud of the little boy you have become.
Oliver, you will be successful in whatever you do as long as you always put forth your best effort. Always be kind to others, treat those who need help with respect and kindness and never stop asking questions and learning from everyone you meet.
So with kindergarten on the horizon, I didn’t think I would be… but I’m ready this time. And, more importantly, so is our son.
Eight going on EIGHTEEN! Seriously, when I woke up this morning I feel like you had a full beard and were reading the Wall Street Journal. It’s insane to me how much you have grown. You are such an exceptionally hard worker, a fierce, fierce friend and most importantly a loving big brother.
Eight years after you were born and we (mom and I) are still amazed by you every single day. Yes, you drive us crazy, there is a lot more talking back and many, many more “No’s” than all those years ago, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Covid has put a damper on so much of your childhood, but you continue to persist. Masks, virtual learning, vaccinations and social distancing are as much part of your birthday as cake and balloons. Yet, here you are… eight years old and still making the best of everything.
I’ve watched you pick up your brother when he falls, then push him back down five minutes later, then pick him back up again! I’ve watched Oliver have a meltdown and you try to calm him, then laugh. (Always with him, never at him… just like a big brother should do and I would know!)
You have become such a leader in your school and among your friends. You know right from wrong and always make sure to advocate for anyone that needs help.
Mom and I want nothing more than you to be happy, healthy and grow into a caring, kind and respectful young man… and if the past eight years are any indication… then you’re already there!
Happy Birthday, Jackson. We all love you very much!
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore
We’re at the point in parenting children (in terms of a nighttime routine) where it’s not just dealing with diapers and trying to get them to sleep w out crying. Those infant stage all-nighters are expected when you have babies. They poop themselves and they want to eat that’s what babies do. But now we have older kids… no more babies. They are supposed to read a book and fall asleep peacefully.
Therefore, taking care of two children who are almost eight and five years old we expect nighttime cooperation. Unfortunately, these damn kids are at the age where they have learned that they have some power in the world, and they’ve decided to seize any opportunity to use it. We’re not surprised by our mini-negotiators saying anything to stall their bedtime—even if they’re about to fall asleep mid-sentence. That’s not an issue. I can deal with that.
But, this is different. This is every night at 1am… 2:30am… every night. They seek us out. They are just there. I don’t know how they get in our bed. I don’t understand the science behind being able to climb over us get under the blankets and not wake anyone up. They just do it. It’s magic, it’s sorcery. Somehow they just appear. Every. Goddamn. Night.
I wake up with either a foot jammed in my back, or with someone crying about a monster that might be in the closet, or bathroom, or on the roof. Listen, I respect that. I had my fair share of nightmares a kid. But, I’m starting to wonder if these stories are just made up. Legit, made up dreams to make mom and I just give in and let them stay in bed with us.
Case in point:
Last week… It was the middle of the night, and we were sound asleep (Steph had already abandoned ship after being up for hours trying to calm a miserable four year old who wanted to stay up and watch tv/ have a drink of water/ have a snack/ read one more book/ etc, etc, etc). I thought I had finally gotten a night of sleep only wake up at 3:30 to the sound of someone having a full on conversation in the bed. It took me a minute to realize it was Oliver talking to someone. I looked around to see who he was talking too. “Steph?,” I whispered. That’s when I realized we were alone.
I jumped out of bed and did whatever a guy needs to do when he believes his home is being invaded, (or his son is possessed), I screamed like a 14 year old seeing Harry Styles for the first time in concert. “Ok, everything is fine,” I said to myself. No one is here. No poltergeist or anything like that, right? But then I heard more mumbling… “Gyro [who is our neighbors’ dog] is barking! His face is right there, but it’s square?!!!”
My first thought: what the heck is he talking about?!? My second thought: Is my kid hallucinating?!!
That’s our life now… waking up to children in our bed at 2am talking about our neighbor’s dog. (And we thought the baby night time stage was hard). It’s exhausting, but the good news is I’ve read some advice from a parenting blog (clearly one that takes themselves way more serious than #ChroniclesOfANewDad. Their advise was:
“Carry your midnight wanderer back to their room every time they bust into yours. If you let them crash with you, you’re setting the stage for a never-ending bedtime battle. Consider hanging bells on your doorknob so you can hear your toddler coming; that way, you can walk them back to their room before they climb into your bed and make themselves comfy.”
“Walk them back, tell them to stay in their own rooms, carry them back yourself”… it’s not working here (there’s no way it’s happening anywhere). Everyone has advise, everyone has ideas until they wake up with child’s foot in their ear and a four year old talking to the next door neighbor’s dog!