A Letter on Your Last Day of Kindergarten

Started kindergarten in the classroom…
finished kindergarten by the pool.

Dear Jackson,

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!!!

Love,

Mom, Dad, Oliver, Buster and Max

Happy 6th Birthday Jackson

Dear Jackson,

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!

Love Always,

Dad

April 27, 2014
April 27, 2015
April 27, 2016
April 27, 2017
April 27, 2018
April 27, 2019
April 27, 2020

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore

Distance Learning Potty Training

Distance learning has its benefits and it’s downfalls. Being home everyday, while also being almost completely unavailable is the perfect definition of what I mean.

BENIFIT: Being able to help potty train your three year old.

DOWNFALL: Being able to help potty train your three year old.

We’ve had many trials and tribulations with the whole potty training thing with everyone in this house. Hell… the dogs are still strategically placing landmines all over the house. We’re a clean up crew around here.

But then there are days that make the landmines all with it…

Oliver walked calmly over to Mom and said he needed to go potty. It was a clear potty training win. People all over the house, from far and wide screamed, danced and bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Amazing right… Fast forward a few hours…

I was summoned by the screams of an almost six year old… “Dad, Oliver is POOPING!!!” The same child that hours earlier had calmly walked inside and properly asked to use the restroom to do his business, now smiled, half hidden behind the coffee table.

Potty training… The highs are so high, but let me tell you the lows are so low (and messy, as well).

A New Normal

Everyone’s normal life has quickly grinded to a halt as governments across the globe and here in America set new guidelines and restrictions in order to try to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Stores are selling out of everything, toilet paper is worth more than gold and silver and for the most part people are getting ready to stay at home for a long time. Everything is different and life has been disrupted and altered. If you cough in public (and you shouldn’t even be out in public), but if you are and you sneeze you might as well be wearing a scarlet letter!

I’m a glutton for punishment in all this mess. After all the conference calls, ZOOM Meeting and emails, the homeschooling, the questions, the concerns and the news briefings… I had little of any time to just try and be mindful of what is in my control and what is not. I tried to take a few moments and breath. I tried to fit in 13 seconds on me time. “And on the seventh day he rested.” Even the Lord took a day to himself. Now I’m not comparing myself to God, but if anyone deserves a rest you’d have to vote working from home parents with two little boys as a top candidate.

I’m tired. I’m really tired. My back is causing excruciating pain and my brain is spinning in circles trying to figure out how to balance our new (for now) lives. All I needed was some quiet time. Do some yard work, fix a few squeaky doors and watch a movie or two.

Problem being so far during this I’ve chosen… Shawn of the Dead, Deep Impact and always a fantastic choice while facing a global pandemic… Outbreak. Even the voice of Morgan Freeman can’t undo the damage done from those three movies. The damage is done and there’s no coming back from it.

Its scary. I know that I have never been part of anything like this before. I guess the only thing we can compare it to was the weeks and months after 9/11. People were scared of further attacks, there were schools and businesses scared to open and people looked at each other differently. I cant figure out how to deal with this, because I can not figure out what is even going on.

I am a teacher again, I am a parent, a principal, a health care worker… I am not sure what I am from minute to minute. This world, the world as we know it has been turned upside down… actually when you think about it, upside down would be easier to deal with.

I can not, CAN NOT IMAGINE what it must be like to be a child right now. A kindergartner who needs routines and rituals, and a three year old who is used to playing with friends and looking to his preschool teachers to help him learn to navigate the social aspects of a toddler, practicing how to say please and thank you, play with others, share and how to advocate for himself. Those things are gone. Imagine being a senior in high school and not being able to finish your sports career. Imagine not being able to participate in graduation and walk across a stage with your friends.

Schools are closed across the country, people are not allowed to go outside… and daily The President comes on TV to tell us how amazing he and his staff are handing this pandemic. The thing is… who else is? I do well during crisis. I am dealing with 75+ staff who are so nervous and not sure what their careers will look like tomorrow. We have students who are trying to figure out who their teacher is, and why they are not allowed back into their classrooms.

I deal with children everyday, I have dealt with every single kind of tragedy you can imagine with my students. I know what to say when a parent dies, or a classmate has to move to a new town and wont get to see their friends anymore. I have had to talk with students about horrific events that have happened in their lives. Yet, I have no idea what to say to my own children. All I have been able to do is calm them, reassure them that their teachers love them and that we are going to do the best we can.

It’s been an interesting few weeks… it’s been an ever crazier few days. Stephanie, who runs an entire financial department for a school district during this impossible to predict financial crisis, is now a kindergarten teacher. Great teaching is something that can’t just be learned. It’s the hardest job I have ever done. This new “thing” so many of us are embarking on… teaching at home… (even for a veteran educator and current principal), is so hard. What she has done has been amazing. A mom and kindergarten/preschool teacher/ school district financial director/food service manager… she’s doing it all.

Speaking of teachers, Jax was able to participate in a ZOOM Meeting with his teacher this week. All his classmates were on and they all were talking to each other. It was so amazing. He couldn’t sit still. He was rocking back and forth. They shared about their weekend. It was good to know that I could watch him (even for a few minutes) still access his social curriculum. He can still tell jokes and tell his friends he misses them. Basically he can still be awesome. I guess social interaction with his friends VIA a computer screen are his new normal. They are everyone’s new normal.

So new normal it is… everything has changed… and we just have to deal with it.

Has it Been Two Weeks Yet?

We’re on day two of the coronavirus pandemic which has canceled much of society. Schools are closed, libraries are empty… and most businesses are so full of panicky people you’re better off staying home.

That causes quite the quandary when you have two small children who have the attention span of a fly. The number of activities they can breeze through in even a small amount of time is incredible. We’ve read, we’ve drawn pictures, we watched a movie. We’ve taken the dogs for a walk and we rode our bikes. That’s it. We’re done!

That is until the oldest of my brood had the idea to write happy messages to the neighbors in chalk on their driveways. While some of the messages are less inspiring then others, it’s the thought that counts.

So friends and neighbors check your driveways for something special courtesy of Jax and Ollie.

Your Move Ebola

I’ve about had it with this Ebola nonsense.  It used to be having a baby, the only thing you had to worry about was croup or maybe diaper rash.  Now the Rapture has come and is about to wipe out the planet in the name of Ebola.  People are just walking around passing germs around like they’re freaking tic-tacs.  No one knows what’s going on, governments holding secret press conferences, nurses catching it from patients, people being scanned at the airport… this is too much.

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The best part is, we are totally prepared to handle this thing if it spreads, right.  WRONG: The map shows the hospitals in the US that have Bio Containment Units.  There’s like four… FOUR!!!  Are you kidding me?  There are 11,910 Starbucks in the United States… but we only have four Bio Containment Units?  Priorities people!  Anyone with Ebola is getting shipped out to one of these hospital units… once the ten beds are full, then what?  Can we send them into outer space?  Send them to the International Space Station.  I bet zero gravity will help contain the spread of Ebola.

I’m not taking any chances here, no grocery store, no gas stations, I’m not even welcoming house guests anymore.  That’s it… Our doors (and windows) are closed.  Nobody in and nobody out.  Jackson is being raised in a bubble.

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Hey Ebola, Have fun running rampant across the amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties and above the fruited plains, because you aint getting to us.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend like this is the Bird Flu, H1N1 or Y2K, which clearly were scams… this is real and you are not going to find us bleeding from our ears or pooping out our kidneys.  Your move Ebola.