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.
Continuing with tradition (for the eighth year in a row) I tweeted at JK Rowling for advice in dropping the boys off at Platform 9 3/4.
I’m sure by now you know that September 1st is a sacred day for witches and wizards everywhere! Back to Hogwarts Day is when the Wizarding World boards the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Station heading to Hogwarts.
The hope being JK herself will acknowledge my tweet and show some love to two little wizards who have the unfortunate luck of being born to the biggest Harry Potter fan this side of Privet Drive.
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 what he said and the next page made me kind of suspicious about what this chapter might tell us.
We read on the next page that all the Riddle family were all killed by something and I thought they’re the gardener Frank that takes care of their house when they’re gone.
Everyone in the town thought he killed them so they arrested him and then they and then they 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 and they were like those ‘darn kids again’ he thought. So, he went to the house and he 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 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 so 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 green flash!!!!! And then just like that, now 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
Not much really happen 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 fight 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
“…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
Chapter 8: The Quidditch World Cup
Chapter 9: The Dark Mark
Chapter 10: Mayhem at the Ministry
Chapter 11: Aboard the Hogwarts Express
Chapter 12: The Triwizard Tournament
Jax is fascinated by the
Chapter 13: Mad-Eye Moody
Chapter 14: The Unforgivable Curses
Chapter 15: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang
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
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 ____.
POSTSCRIPT: Also, click here for our other alouds:
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!
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 and now will move onto Book two: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 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 Worst Birthday
We start the book with so much excitement, as we begin with Harry returning to the Dursley’s for the summer, and things are hardly going well. On Harry’s birthday, Harry is screamed at and berated by Uncle Vernon. Jax recognizes this and asks me to stop, while he thinks. He calmly asks, dad, whet book is he going to get a new family? We’re barely into Book 2 and Jax already dislikes The Dursleys and is asking why he needs to stay with his aunt and uncle.
I move slowly closing the book at saying, “great question, you’ll find out more clues to help you answer that soon!”
Chapter 2: Dobby’s Warning
This chapter was a fan favorite!
Dobby’s tennis ball sized eyes and his funny voice (watch out Jim Dale and Stephen Fry this dad does a mean Dobby voice)
Aunt Petunia’s pudding
Harry getting locked in his room with bars on the windows
The FLYING car!!!
Dobby finally told Harry why he was there – he had a warning: according to Jax, “Harry shouldn’t go back to Hogwarts because Dobby is trying to tell him that Voldemort is coming back to get him! “ this was followed up by one of the most insightful questions I’ve heard as a dad and educator… “Dad, can we hurry to the end of the book, that’s when Voldemort will try to fight Harry again, it always happens at the end!” This kid is a very, very thoughtful reader, with lots of tools to help him comprehend!
Drawing conclusions ✅
Relating background knowledge ✅
Chapter 3: The Burrow
We read this chapter excited mostly about how incredible it was That a flying car picked Harry up from his bedroom. The entire scene was so suspenseful, the sneaking out, getting his trunk, uncle Vernon trying to grab Harry as he barely gets away as Fred and George slam on the gas and free Harry from the Dursley’s. A pattern that Jax is beginning to pick up on!
I talked a little with Jax about how often times the author leaves you clues (JKs MO) about what they want you to figure out on your own. We talked about how the Weasley’s house is described and how Ron says, “It’s not much, but it’s home.” The deep thinking that is occurring as he processes so much information in these chapters is impressive. Most of the time he processes out loud, other times, he does it internally and sometimes I have to prompt him.
I asked Jax what he thought of the burrow and how that was similar or different to Ron’s opinion of his own house. Hearing his description of how Ron thought he was “poor” and that he was “embarrassed” by the above line was rewarding for a dad/educator trying to get their little reader to think deeply about the text!
Chapter 4: At Flourish and Blotts
A LONG CHAPTER that took three separate nights to compete (part Jax tired and part… mostly… dad exhausted).
We covered a lot in this chapter including (with Jax’ commentary in quotes):
-Why might Harry be embarrassed of his money. “Do you think he’ll share it with the Weasleys?”
-The Weasley vs the Malfoy rivalry. “The Malfoys are the worst.”
-The famous and over zealous Gilderoy Lockhart. “He thinks he’s the best wizard and he only likes Harry because he’s famous.”
As we ended the chapter I caught him sneaking a peak at the last chapter… I love that he’s wanting more!!!
Chapter 5: The Whomping Willow
It’s been a busy few days, but hearing Jax (and Oliver) ask about Harry Potter read aloud time is a welcomed addition to my day.
Both boys were excited to read together (I struggle with letting Ollie listen in, because I’d like it to be a unique experience for him like it has been for Jax, but for now intermittent participation in our read alouds will be permitted!)
The Whomping Willow and a flying Ford Anglia dominate this chapter. But it was Ron and Harry smashing into the brick wall at Platform 9 3/4 that had the boys hysterical.
There’s something about watching (or in the case picturing) someone falling over that seems to always bring out a chuckle (think America’s Funniest Home Videos). Of course both boys needed to stand up and act this scene out… with multiple takes.
Interestingly enough their door might be less forgiving than the brick wall in King’s Cross Station between Platforms 9 and 10 because I’m confident one or both of them had a concussion after their physical comedy. It was like watching a Chris Farley do a Harry Potter skit on SNL
As the chapter came to a close we saw our favorite mean professor yell at Harry, leaving Jax to say, “I’m glad he’s not my teacher!!!”
Chapter 6: Gilderoy Lockhart
The best part of this chapter is the two references to real life events that Jax makes quick connections too as we read. We being in the greenhouse, where Professor Sprout is explaining that the lesson of the day will involve repotting Mandrakes, which Hermoine explains are a are plants that look like pale green babies with leaves growing out of their heads and produce a cry that is fatal to anyone who hears it, so the entire class has to put on earmuffs to handle them. Which reminds Jax of his brothers newborn photo shoot from four years ago!
Jackson’s Reference Exhibit 1:
The single most annoying character in this series comes into play next. He’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart. I loathe this character (and this chapter in general). Jax describes him as a liar and says he definitely thinks he’s good at “stuff, but he definitely isn’t.”
As an elementary school principal Lockhart’s instructional ineptitude drives me crazy. As a teacher in his own class, he has no idea what he’s doing and he can’t even fake it well. The pixies he releases destroy the classroom, hanging students from the ceiling and tossing wands out the window. Lockhart is unable to stop them or to recapture them so he walks out and leaves the job to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, which leads Jax to agree that Lockhart is a, “really bad teacher!!”
Then again the Cornish Pixies bring us to our second favorite part of this chapter… The first time we 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 on my inner arm.
Jackson’s Reference Exhibit 2:
Check back soon for the review and updates of our next chapter read aloud
Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs
An interesting chapter as we start to see how “mean” other people can be and how others could and should respond to those when they are mean.
The highlight of this chapter read:
Jax asks, “How many Harry Potter books are there?”
Jax response, “What if Voldemort has seven lives and Harry has to fight one in each of the books?”
Chapter 8: The Deathday Party
It’s been a while, so I needed to check in to see if Jax remembers how to pay attention to a read aloud and utilize his oral comprehension skills.
– Why was Nearly Headless Nick not allowed to join the Headless Hunt?
“Remember, his head was not totally chopped off. It was, like, hanging off. I think someone tried to saw it, but the saw wasn’t working all the way.”
– What are Squibs
“A kind of Octopus.”
– What did Harry, Ron and Hermione find when they followed the voice that Harry heard?
“He keeps hearing voices. Nobody else can hear them so they think he’s crazy. Even his friends are thinking he’s a little crazy. Then they find Filtch’s cat hanging upside down because I think it saw Voldemort trying to open the Chamber of Secrets.
Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall
Jax’ summary of this chapter… so everyone thinks Harry is the Heir of Slytherin?!??? that makes no sense, because he already beat Voldemort!
He’s also now obsessed with the Polyjuice Potion and want to know if he can use it to turn Oliver into a rat like Scabbers!!!! (so much for using your magic for good).
Chapter 10: The Rogue Bludger
I asked Jax to summarize this chapter in the fastest way possible as it was about 9:45 at night!
Lockhart thinks everyone loves him.
Dobby sends a rogue Bludger at Harry, and Harry breaks his arm.
Lockhart messes up again!!! He says he can fix Harry’s arm but all his bones disappear and his arm turns into a rubber band!!!
Then Colin and Nearly Headless Nick gets Petrified.
IT HAS TO MEAN VOLDEMORT IS BACK!!!
Chapter 11: The Dueling Club
At this point Jax realizes that Gilderoy is a fake. Harry can talk to snakes as (people think he doesn’t) protect Justin from the cobra that comes from Draco’s wand. Jax quickly remembers the boa constrictor from the first book that Harry sets free from the zoo.
Chapter 12: The Polyjuice Potion
I love watching Jax’ reaction to surprises as he develops as a reader! Harry and Ron now know that someone other than Draco is the Heir of Slytherin. When Draco admits he’s not sure who did it, he gave his patented, “Eek!”
Chapter 13: The Very Secret Diary
This is the chapter of the very secret summary. I’m not going to lie. Both Jackson and I were half asleep for this one. I’m not sure I remember his reaction. I do know that before I officially fell asleep I observed this:
Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge
Tonight (for the first time) there was a guest reader! With dad at a board of education meeting… a text was sent, “This is from Jackson, ‘can I read Harry Potter with mom.’”
The next text that came through was from mom, “These chapters are long 😂.”
Jax summary of this chapter, “I liked reading with mom, but she doesn’t do good Harry Potter voices!”
Chapter 15: Aragog
Jackson’s Exact Chapter 15 summary:
“ This chapter is called Aragog and in this chapter Harry and Ron went into the forest and left their invisible cloak on Hagrid’s table. Then they went out in the woods to follow the spiders. They have to follow the spiders to a big, big, big Spider called Aragog. Harry could hear and talk to Aragon even though he’s a human and not a spider. Oh, wait and we found out that he [Hagrid] didn’t open the Chamber of Secrets!!!”
Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets
Jax’ suspicions throughout the book so far have been proven true. We now know that Lockhart is a fake. Jax says, “TOLD YOU!!!!!!!”
We see the picture of the giant snake skin and he very dramatically says… “The Basssssssssstaaaaalickkk!” (As he pronounces it!).
Chapter 17: The Heir Of Slytherin
This chapter has so much in it… but the only thing I remember (and I will remember forever, is the look on Jax’ face when he figured out who Tom Riddle really is. even before he officially reveals it to the readers with his wand… Jax figures it out and sits up from the bed and yells (loud enough for mom to hear down the hall way), “Riddle is VOLDEMORT!!!!!!!”
His face was priceless. It is the point I know he’ll look back on as the moment he fell in love w the series!!!!”
Chapter 18: Dobby’s Reward
We spent our regular Friday night dinner out listening as Jax read the last chapter as quickly as he could! There was nothing that was going to prevent him from getting through this chapter so he could watch the movie that night! He was very excited to learn that Dobby was free and has clearly identified Lucious Malloy as a “jerk!”
In the end this read aloud took a while, as it did when I read it myself for the first time. However, there’s no doubt Jax is no hooked on Harry and can not wait for the next book.
PS: the MinaLima books are outstanding. I wish the rest were out already!!
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?!??