Christmas Ninja Stars

We do this family Christmas photo event every year and every year it’s a debacle. I just don’t understand why we continue to put ourselves through it. More so, I don’t know why Staci keeps letting us back. Although, this year she smartened up and made us take photos deep in the forest where no one could hear the screams.

The best way to describe the process is to break it down into chunks. Each section brings its own problems and creates its own issues. All atr equally chaotic and none are mutually exclusive… they occur naturally and each that proceeds the next creates and increases the chaos.

The Pre Photo Phase:

The whole morning routine is thrown to shit. Everyone is up at the same time, which means my morning coffee is sucked down while trying to wrangle two cranky toddlers who want nothing more than some apple juice and a few episodes of Blaze and the MonsterMachines. Instead I’m squeezing their heads through matching button down flannels and cardigans. The screams can be heard from neighborhoods afar. Feeding them goldfish for each article of clothing they successfully put on is all I can do to stop child protective services from showing up at my front door.

Once everyone is layered up with enough fleece and corduroy to protect from even the deepest freeze of Mount Everest, we all realize that mom hasn’t even started to get changed. Her 12 outfits still lay neatly on the bed each screaming to be lucky enough to be chosen as this years Christmas’ photo regalia.

As the tiny humans begin to unravel downstairs they wait for their fashionista of a mother to emerge from behind the velvet curtains and through the fog machine to cheers and excitement like a Victoria Secret Model on some primetime fashion show.

The Travel Phase:

Each of the past five years has ended in some sort of travel mishap, or disaster. The cars aren’t the same, but the results always are. Somehow, someway the travel phase always results in violation points on someone’s license and children so tightly squeezed into their booster seats that their eyes are likely to pop out.

Each round trip to and from family photos has produced some pretty significant accidents and lofty fines. Two accidents (one involving the photographer herself), a half injured turkey, and a speeding ticket (or two). We’ve been lost so many time we now know the backroads of New England better than Cookie Monster on Waze.

Let’s get this show on the road

The Photo Phase:

Cue the most amazing photographer who’s ever walked the Earth. “AUUUUNNNNNTTTTIEEEEE STAAAAAAACCCCIIIIIIIIIII!!!!”

You can heat them from across the Christmas tree farm. You can see her turn slowly, like it’s a horror movie. Her hair flips slowly as her wide smile turns into a grin that is half happy to see you… maybe it’s more half paranoid about what’s about to happen.

She smartens up each time she meets us, this time she has set up stations. That’s the trick with toddlers. Keep them on the move, keep them guessing and don’t let them catch their breath. It’s almost like running the hurry up offense. Keep the clock moving and keep the entire defense on the field. Eventually they’ll tire out.

The look that says evil is coming

Props are just par for the course when taking Christmas photos. They can provide the perfect backdrop for two brothers. The trick is getting that photo snapped before the props become weapons. The beautifully painted wooden “Let it Snow” sign that bear the calligraphy of a professional become shields for chocolate-chip cookie ninja stars.

And the tricycle that was perfectly set up in between two symmetrical Douglas firs quickly becomes a get away vehicle.

Faster than a speeding bullet and fueled by 12 large cookies

The Post Photo Phase:

Pictures happen quickly. There are lots of moving parts, lots of bribery and lots of tears. It takes the patience of a saint. Staci, Saint Staci that is, has it. She perpetuates sainthood. She’s good, she’s really good.

The photo session comes to end with as much anticipation as the end of a root canal. With puddles of tears, new clothes stained and tattered, the cries slowly quieted (and that was just from mom and dad). The kids on the other hand were hyped from the 15 Candid Cookie Eating takes, but I digress.

After herding these animals back towards the parking it was finally time to breathe a sigh of relief. Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Hell, the photographer is tired. It’s time to hitch a ride out of there.

Things are never easy and we always say we’ll never go through it again. That is… until we see the magic that Staci, Jax and Oliver have created. They are magicians and the photographs will forever be magic.

We Talkin’ bout Practice?!??

So it’s FALL BALL time again. Jax has been honing his skills throughout the summer. We’ve even been watching some games together where he’s able to sit and focus for more than 30 seconds. He loves watching players dive for balls in the field and was excited to start this new baseball season.

I knew I was raising a superstar, but didn’t realize I was raising a superstar DIVA the likes of Keyshawn Johnson or Terrell Owens… or the infamous Allen Iverson

The minute we get to practice he’s tired and thirsty. He just can’t muster up the energy to go to his first warm up station. When the team is throwing balls through a hula hoop he needs to relax on the bench. When the other coaches are throwing grounders he wants to go home.

However, as soon as it’s time to hand in that lineup card this kid is ready to shine. He’s got his helmet on and he’s ready to bat clean up. He’s climbing the dugout fence to cheer on his teammates.

He went 2-2 and got his first hit in real pitch baseball. He’s a natural. He’s an All-Star… he performs best when the lights shine the brightest. (Just don’t ask him to show up for practice).

I assume the conversation he had with Coach Chris went something like this, “We sittin’ in here, I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talkin’ about practice. I mean listen, we talkin’ ’bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talkin’ about practice. Not a game, not a, not a, not the game that I go out there and die for, and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talkin’ bout practice, man. I mean how silly is that? We talkin’ bout practice. I know I’m supposed to be there, I know I’m supposed to lead by example. I know that, and I’m not shovin’ it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do.

“But we talkin’ bout practice, man. What are we talkin’ about? Practice? We talkin’ about practice, man. We talk — we talkin’ bout practice. We talkin’ bout practice! We ain’t talkin’ bout the game, we talkin’ bout practice, man. When you come to the game, and you see me play, you see me play, don’t you? You see me give everything I got, right? But we talkin’ bout practice right now.

#BackToHogwarts (again)

Another year another September 1 and I still haven’t received my Hogwarts letter. It’s fine I’m really fine I’m not crying inside the Harry Potter- Cupboard Under the Stairs that I built for my children.

Every year September 1st rolls around, I tweet the same thing to JK Rowling “Dear @jk_rowling any advice for parents sending their little ones to #Hogwarts for the first time?!?? #BackToHogwarts”. I never get a response or any advice from her, so Stephanie and I have to do our best as Muggles to figure out the whole Platform 9 3/4 thing. It’s not easy… but we do it anyway. It’s for the kids, right?

I’m not sure anyone realizes how much work and stress that Back To Hogwarts day is for us parents. It’s hard enough sending your five-year-old off to kindergarten for his first day when the school is right down the road, try sticking them on a magical train with only some old lady as a chaperone. I mean let’s face it Hogwarts isn’t the most safe place for kids. It doesn’t have the most danger-free reputation.

The good thing is Harry Potter is long gone from the Gryffindor Common Room. I get it, Harry didn’t mean to be an black cloud waiting to rain on everyone’s parade, but he definitely was. A murderous nemesis, a giant snake, detentions for all his friends? Not enough? How about dragons that attack children or the fact that the shambles was left in shambles after his last visit. The kid was a disaster waiting to happen.

Now, we are supposed to show at Platform 9 3/4 and act like it’s no big deal? And just because he saved the Wizarding world we are all just supposed to assume that everything is ok? But I digress… bottom line, another September 1st has come and I still can’t get any advice from anyone… I mean even Dumbledore met Harry at King’s Cross and he was dead… come on Joanne… help a parent out!!!

Also while we’re at it Mrs. Rowling… can you please do a guest spot on MuggleCast?!??

‘‘Twas the Night Before Kindergarten


Twas the night before Kindergarten Jax was asleep, his lunch was set out.
Then there was mom and dad who’s faces wore pouts.

His outfit was hung by the closet with care. In hopes that the school bus would quickly be there;

Both boys were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of breakfast danced in their heads;

And mommy in ‘PJs, and I in my shorts,

Just settled down after finishing school reports,

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon shown a shadow on the still of the pool

I yawned and I shuttered in the late summer cool.

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,

But a memory of a child so small we shed tears. 

We cried and we sobbed while we packed up his bag  

We were exhausted and beat, time to wave the white flag. 

We spoke not a word, but went straight to sleep,

We laid down with questions, but spoke not a peep. 

Yes, we were sad that our boy was growing so fast, 

But we knew it was time to move on from the past. 

While mommy and daddy wished time would go slow,

We realized Jax was ready, it was time to let go. 

So now as we lay, we wish him the best. 

All we can hope is mom and dad get some real rest. 

Toy Story

When I was five, Georgie was my best friend. He got me through some really tough times. My father bought him for me the day I was born and now he’s happy to have a best friend again!

“Being there for a child is the most noble thing a toy can do.” -Woody

You’ve got a friend in me. You got troubles and I got ’em, too. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. We stick together, we can see it through ’cause you’ve got a friend in me.

A Mom’s Love

These three ❤️❤️❤️

“Love as powerful as your mother’s leaves it’s own mark.” #AlbusDumbledore #HarryPotter #SorcerersStone #JKRowling

Not much to say, some people are lucky and have great parents, moms/dads etc. But, Jax and Ollie are a lot luckier than a lot of people. They have this lady watching over them and there isn’t a better person for the job.

“Wizards and Rollercoasters and Sun, Oh My”

Wizards:

Walking through the Brick Wall to enter Diagonal Alley is always memorable, but experiencing it for the first time is special. I’ve done it (multiple times) and Jax did it last time we visited the sunshine state (although he had been there before). This time though it was time for Oliver to walk through the fabled brick archway that leads to one the most magical places in the Wizarding World.

I love the picture above because not only is Oliver sitting in the exact place that both Jax and I took photos in years prior, but in the background you can see the Quidditch Supplies Store in the background. Remember, Oliver was named for my favorite character in the series, Oliver Wood, who was a Quidditch junkie and Gryffindor superstar keeper.

Of course there is no Wizarding World without a couple of mandatory stops… when in Rome right?!??? First to grab a few of the required readings for first years like Ollie… and Flourish and Blotts provides just that. And then off to Knockturn Alley where Oliver was able to vanish a bird a lot quicker than Draco was ever able too. This Syltherin was all smiles when she met Ollie and I’m pretty sure they’ll be exchanging owls over the summer.

Both Jackson and Oliver LOVE trains so the trip to Hogsmeade on the Hogwarts Express was that of fantasy for them! Between Oliver yelling “choooo-choooo” every five seconds to Jackson building the LEGO Hogwarts Express this was a dream come true! I love that Jackson is still innocent enough to follow along with the CGI and really believe in what he was seeing, “dad, it’s Harry Potter he’s outside, LOOK!!!”

Bottom line with Harry Potter… it’s Hogwarts or Bust!! In a weird way for me this place feel like home.

⚡️⚡️⚡️

Rollercoasters:

I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again later… I do not like rollercoasters. I don’t like heights and of course I married a daredevil. Luckily for the boys they have their mom to take them on anything that goes above 20 feet high.

When you’re a parent and your child asks you to have a tea party, you sip that pretend tea like it was the best you’ve ever tasted. When they ask you to give them a horsey ride you neigh like you’re part stallion even though your back is shot and when your kid asks you to go on a wooden rollercoaster of course you swallow your fears and agree.

However I have to draw the line somewhere. So when my five year old strapped himself in the seat for his first rollercoaster ride ever and asked me if I was scared… I did what any respectable dad would do… I held him so tight and told him I wasn’t scared at all (I peed in my pants just a little on that ride). Damn you Buckbeak and The Flight of the Hippogriff for making me fake this smile:

Mom took our daring adventure seeker on the next ride while I wandered Hogsmeade with Oliver. Jax was just under the “you just be this tall sign,” but dive Steph was with him they waiting in a 75 minute line. Now I don’t know how many people have attempted to keep a five year old standing in a sow moving line for over an hour, but I would assume by the texts I was getting that it was not easy!

⚡️⚡️⚡️

And Sun, Oh My:

Listen there isn’t much I can say for this one. It was hot. It was unbelievably HOT. Orlando in July… extremely hot!

Don’t let the snow topped roofs fool you… it’s hotter than the Face of the sun out there!!!

A few years back we visited in mid December and even then as we escaped a winter snow storm In the northeast it was about 85 degrees in FL, which isn’t terrible, but factor in humidity and it was sweltering… IN THE WINTER. Fast forward to the spring and especially summer and you’re looking at unbearable heat. I always wondered why they made the Wizarding World at Universal look as if it were winter… fake snow on the roofs in Diagon Alley do not equate to cooler temperatures for visitors, as a matter of fact it’s like looking at a mirage in the middle of the desert! Here’s the thing, when you sign up to visit Hogwarts in Orlando in July… the heat, but more importantly the magic are a package deal.

Until next time… Mischief Managed.