Two year ago today Stephanie and I were excited to celebrate with Jackson his Pre-K “graduation”. We were excited, nervous, yet most of all optimistic. Later in the summer we were notified of his kindergarten teacher. We didn’t know much about her, but we hoped for the best.
As an elementary school principal I have high expectations for teachers. One of the most important characteristics of an excellent teacher is the ability to create a learning environment for all, not just for their students, but for the families they serve as well. I firmly believe that the most effective educators are learners at heart and work diligently to create an overall culture of learning.
True teachers believe in everyone, encourage us to reach our highest potential, and convince us that we can do anything we set our minds to. They help foster a love for reading, writing, and learning. They take pride in the little things their students accomplish and the milestones they make. They celebrate student accomplishments and although teachers know they only have their students for a short period of time, they are proud to see them succeed and move on.
The past two school years for our son have been more than that. They have been a time for him to develop into the amazing little boy he is today. A leader, a kind soul, an inquisitive little boy who wants to know more about everything. That is part him and part her. Her being the teacher who has inspired him to ask questions (and to make sure the questions are on topic and relatively appropriate… I know my son and relatively appropriate is pushing it).
Mrs. G you are a saint. You are a true kindhearted and special person. I know my son. He’s not perfect (god knows none of us are), but he tries. He loves you, and I’d like to think that I know positive student/ teacher interaction. You helped support his love for learning, but more importantly his love of “wondering”. You never shut him down. You never made him feel like he was asking too many questions. You helped shape his inquisitive mind, while pushing him to want to know more. That, I will never be able to thank you enough for.
Mrs. G, as an educator I truly believe there is not better compliment you can give another educator than to say you want your children to be in their class… with that being said… do you have any interest in looping to second grade?!??
There’s nothing in the world as a parent that’s worse than waking up in the morning to a list of things that need to happen… Four-year-old’s birthday party… play date at the playground on the other side of town… Or meeting some new people from your child’s class.
Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a parent we’ve met that I haven’t enjoyed hanging out with. We’ve met some of our best friends through the boys, but at what point do parents of young kids get a break. It never ends. Baseball, soccer, swim lessons… play dates…
First, of all any attempt to label the word play as “session” annoys me. Why is everything timed now a days… “hey boys, your play will commence now. You will have fun for the one hour that has been allotted for this activity.” Why do we need to formalize the word play? A session should be used for scheduled visits with your personal trainer or therapist (although I’m not sure which one I need more after this pandemic shutdown!)
But, I digress… I woke up this morning to this email. (It was the greatest email of my life):
I needed a day of this. Both parents needed a day like this. We just need to normalize not having anything to do.
PS: We I wound up inviting multiple people over to swim in the pool this morning… so much for relaxing!
Imagine this: your dad knows every teacher you have, used to work with them and even evaluate some of them, knows your schedule (because he was on the team that created those schedules and hirings, knows the curriculum like the back of his hand, and know that you’re learning virtually has the ability to walk into your class at any given moment. In other words, your dad is the boss at school and at home.
You think virtualing leaning is tough? Try being the kid of an elementary school principal!
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
It’s hard enough being an educator during this pandemic… Add in the fact that having your own kids who are in school is beyond anything like we’ve seen before.
I know it because I’m living it in my professional and personal life. If you’re a parent and are looking for somewhere safe loving caring where you can feel comfortable sending your child there’s nowhere better than Oliver’s preschool.
The bond that our boys have is so amazing. And having Mrs. Ta take a few minutes out of her busy day to send us updates about our boys is what it’s all about.
Today we got this message from the owner of Ollie’s daycare:
First grade? First grade?!?? Wait what happened to kindergarten? This pandemic, this homeschool your kid even when it’s impossible to homeschool your kid when you’re prepared to do so… that… that was nuts, but not as nuts as waking up today and realizing we have a first grader in the house.
This little dude was up at 6:00am and got himself dressed and ready for school by himself. He even made me a cup of coffee. Granted he woke up everyone in the house in order to tell us he had brushed his teeth and was hungry for breakfast, but I digress. With only about three hours to burn before drop-off this morning, we were able to play catch, ride power wheels and change outfits four times.
I’ve taught first grade. I was a first grade teacher for seven years. It’s the (in my opinion) the most challenging and complex grade level to teach and in turn has to be one of the most complex grades to be a student.
This is going to be such an interesting and even more challenging year for Jackson (let alone mom and dad). Then again if this morning is going to be any indication of how the school year is going to go… I think we’re in for a successful year.
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!
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:
–threats to call Santa
–earlier bed time
–later bed time
–threats of violence against stuffed animals
Times either of my children have slept through the night as a result:
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…”
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…
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! 😂😂😂
You will probably not read this letter for a long time and that’s ok. It’s better I save it for a time when you are older and can better understand the significance of the year you just completed. Ten months ago you walked into “Kindergarten.” You we’re excited, but nervous even though you wouldn’t admit it, but I could tell. I know you too well (don’t worry your mom and I were nervous too). You didn’t cry that morning, but I did. I had to leave for work very early for my first day at my new school and would miss you getting on the school bus for your first day.
I laid with you and held your hand a lot longer than usual that night before school started all those months ago. I’m sure your first day was similar to mine, we both probably read a few stories with our new classmates/students and played a game or two during morning meeting to learn everyone’s name.
I watched you grow over the next six months… you continued your growth in reading, became a stronger mathematicians, scientist, and loved being around your friends. You played with others, took turns, worked through problems, and practiced patience.
You smiled, laughed, and sometimes cried. And mom and I received our first call from your principal. Not all of your days were easy, but most of your days were filled with learning, excitement, and happiness. Your teacher email us to tell us about your profess and how kind you were to others especially new students who joined your class late in the year.
Fast forward to March and the world was changing so fast my around all of us. You had no idea, your classmates and teachers had no idea what laid ahead of us all. You packed up your things on a Thursday afternoon, put your folders and pencils in your book bag and zipped up your coat and said good bye to Mrs. G, not knowing it would be for the last time as in person.
Time has seemed to fly by, since the last day you stepped off a school bus and while I am excited for summer and happy that you are through distance learning, I sometimes wish that you had the opportunity to finish the year as a real kindergartner, with your friends and your amazing teacher INSIDE of a school, not at our kitchen table.
You are part of a generation that has reinvented education. You made the impossible possible and it happened overnight. You learned Google Classroom as a five year old (there are adults with college degrees and Google training who can’t figure that out! You video-taped yourself reading, watched videos and held court during weekly Zoom Meetings. It was truly amazing to watch, but at the same time sad to see you miss out on the last few months of kindergarten the way it should have been.
Yet, I know you are ready move on, I’ve learned just how much of a critical thinker and independent learner you are. You, the kindergartner taught your dad, a former teacher and now principal, a thing or two about distance learning through all of this.
But, before you just go on to first grade, please remember that I believe you succeeded through one of the greatest challenges in education and some of the most unprecedented times that our world has ever faced.
And while I know that much of this year will fade from your memories as time goes by. I’ll never forget how you faced these new challenges with determination, grit and that same huge smile that we’ve all grown so accustomed to.
Congratulation on “graduating” Quarantined Kindergarten. We are all so proud of you!!!