As 2019 its door and the start of a new decade opens, it’s a time to reflect and look forward to the amazing things on the horizon. As far decades go… the 2010s were as Larry David would say, “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” And considering this last one was my fourth… I know a good decade when I see one. But really… four decades… that is pretty crazy. I’m now 40 – as in 40 years old.
This decade saw so many ups and downs, So many gains and so many losses. However, all of the losses make the gains so much more exuberant. I became a dad and also an uncle (which is like being a dad, except you can just send the little tyke home when you are done playing with them!!!)
This decade was pretty nuts… I “went viral” as is the popular phrase these days for my Harry Potter Cupboard Under the Stairs that i build for the boys… so that in of itself is pretty indicative of what this decade was like!
If I had to summarize the last ten years in a sentence or two it would read something like this… I fell more deeply in love with my beautiful wife then I ever imagined possible. I lost my person, my grandfather, but I gained two of the most amazing little boys anyone could ever ask for. (ohh… and I won a Super Bowl)!
The decade started out with me taking the career path I always envisioned, as I took my first administrative job as an assistant principal, which I later parlayed itself into becoming a principal, including turning that first building around from a “Tier 3 Schools” in need of improvement to a “Tier 1 School of High Distinction, High Achievement and High Growth” in under three years. I’m proud of what was accomplished and I’m proud of the amazing students that worked so hard every day.
As I said earlier, there were losses. I lost my last two grandparents. Pop, left us the day after Thanksgiving in 2016. Jackson still talks about him, and unfortunately Oliver will only know him through the stories that are still told at the dinner table like folk tales. Steph lost her father, which was one of the hardest to explain to our little ones.
I was able to walk in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (four times). I caught wide receiver Jordy Nelson during a Lambeau Leap and visited Broadway a few times.
Stephanie and I moved into our dream house in an amazing community with some of the greatest neighbors anyone could ever ask for. Our children love all their new friends and we are so lucky to have amazing people around us everyday.
There is no better part of the last ten years than that of bringing into this world two of the most amazing little boys that have ever lived. Jackson and Oliver have made Stephanie’s and my life so much more than we could have ever asked for all those years ago. They have changed my life. They make every moment of my life better, more important and most of worth living.
It hasn’t always been perfect… but two decades have gone by with you and my hope is that the next many decades are spent by your side. Our boys are lucky to have you as their mother, their protector and their best friend.
Every year Steph and I look forward to the thoughtful DIY Christmas gifts we get from the boys. From ornaments, to picture frames to cookie dough mix they are all (as Martha Stewart would say) so lovely.
This year we unwrapped what was likely the most odd gift we’ve ever gotten. Yes, a picture frame is not that crazy of a gift, as a matter of fact we’ve gotten a few homemade picture frames over the years. We still proudly display them around the house. Yet, nothing we’ve ever opened would ever prepare us for the amazing gift that was made for us in Jackson’s kindergarten class this year.
Was this Harry Potter character look alike purposely displayed in the beautifully handcrafted frame? Or is this all just a coincidence?!???
You say Frosty the Snowman Costume… I say Dobby, the Free Elf.
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.
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.
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.
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 made the switch to the big boy bed for big boy Ollie this weekend. It’s always a blessing and a curse when you make that switch. It was more a blessing for Jax as he actually slept better with out the crib front on. Oliver not so much.
Cue the curse
The first attempt was a success… I got him changed and he laid himself down with a. Big smile and he was out like a light. But, that was it. That was the highlight of our transition. From here on out it became a cruel and unusual punishment for mom and dad. That early nap wasn’t a sign of things to come, it was a fluke… there was a flaw in the plan. We didn’t take into account that Oliver is just so much smarter than us. He lured us into a false sense of security and we fell for it.
Bottom line, he won’t stay in the damn bed. We put him in he slid out, walked down the hall and let himself in our room. Over and over and OVER again.
He did laundry:
He wandered aimlessly around saying he won’t go to “sweep” and that he is a dinosaur:
He even pulled up a quiet seat in the bathroom in hopes no one would notice him:
It was a game of wills and in the end a toddler will almost always win. But this kid better recognize he’s dealing with two pros, two seasoned veterans of the toddler nonsense. When you come at these two parents you better come hard because we don’t mess around…
Case in point: toddler gets out of his bed every fifteen seconds… no problem… Front of the old crib gets zip tied back on and then wedge a a large rocking chair to keep it from moving for the night.
Just like in Coach Herm Edward’s locker room, in this house, “You play to win the game!”
And in the end… the way end (like 10:25pm- three hours after we first put him to bed) he fell asleep in his old crib, zip ties and all, and we won… Sort of.
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.”
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?!??