Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Part Three in our Read Aloud Series)

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 Two and now will move onto Book Three: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (my personal favorite of the series). 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: Owl Post

The excitement is building and we are officially at the point where the second one book ends Jax is ready for the next book. Ollie came along for the ride of chapter one tonight too, but only made a few pages deep before he was off with visions of Cornish Pixies dancing in his head!

A short chapter (for a late night before school after a long weekend is just what Madam Pomfrey ordered. Harry finally gets to enjoy a birthday as he gets some pretty cool gifts including what Jax would describe as, “the book that wants to eat Harry!” (Care of Hagrid). Jax brings up an interesting point… Hagrid has some really cool pets (Norbert, Fang, Fluffy, Aragog and now the Monster’s Book of Monsters).

…and the answer is no Jax, we can not get a three headed dog… and we can definitely not get a dragon 🙄

Chapter 2: Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake

About to get to a phenomenal part of the book (and one of the better done parts of the movies) and Oliver is already snoring next to us. I love that he is so interested in the books, or maybe it’s just soaking up special time with his big brother and dad? Either way, Aunt Marge is about to get blown up like a hot air balloon!

I love how this chapter plays out. Harry is starting to understand the line between the Muggle World and the Wizarding World. Jax loves that Harry says a curse word! Glad this book is playing out to our maturity levels!

Chapter 3: The Knight Bus

There’s a lot to digest in this chapter, but Jax focus is on a new way for wizards to coexist unnoticed with the Muggle world—the Knight Bus, a vehicle that seamlessly navigates through Muggle traffic undetected.

Instantaneously we are both transported back to the summer when Jax met Stan Shunpike and Dre (the shrunken head).

https://youtube.com/shorts/JMIKDpntF9s?feature=share

There’s many questions left unanswered in this chapter… why does Harry keep using magic when he doesn’t mean to? (Jax makes a connection to the glass at the zoo here too). How did Sirius Black escape? Why didn’t he get in trouble for doing more magic around muggles?

Chapter 4: The Leaky Cauldron

We met Crookshanks and now all Jax can think about is getting a cat. (Thanks Bammy)!!!

Chapter 5: The Dementor

Dad was at a Board of Education meeting so we had a guest reader for Chapter 5! Mom and her “not so great, but tries really hard” Harry Potter voices!

Jax summary of this chapter… and I quote:

“The train stopped when it was pouring rain and then, we were like, ‘what is it?’ Then we flip the page we thought it was a dead Dumbledore with no head, but we figured out what it was. It was a Dementor; they are like a ghost. What they do to you Is they kill you by trying to get all the happy feelings out of you.”

“The Dementors are like, you know sometimes when you feel really, really sad and your heart hurts a little bit? That’s like with the Dementors make you feel like. “

“We also got a new person for the Defense of the Dark Arts: Professor Lupin!”

Also, click here for our other read alouds:

Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter by Chapter readaloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/07/01/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-our-first-read-aloud/

Chamber of Secrets Chapter by Chapter Read Aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/09/24/harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-part-two-in-our-read-aloud/

Is My Kid Hallucinating?!!

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 up my____, 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 the hell 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 girl 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 [our neighbors dog] is barking! His face is right there, but it’s square?!!!”

My first thought: WTF?!? 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 a foot in their butt-crack and a four year old talking to the next door neighbor’s dog!

“Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is, ‘When can I come back here?’ It’s the carrot that keeps me motivated. Sometimes going to bed feels like the highlight of my day. Ironically, to my children, bedtime is a punishment that violates their basic rights as human beings.” –Jim Gaffigan

Wrap Star

‘Tis the season, and by that, I mean the season of terrible wrapping jobs to go appropriately with terrible presents.

It’s become a tradition to take the boys out and set them loose with no guidelines or structures. No rules, no regulations other than telling them no when they pick out a $2300 TV or Nintendo Switch.

Listen, when it comes to the worst possible gift wrapping attempts ever encountered, we’ve got the market cornered. This Christmas we’ve kept at least 30,000 small business in business (if those small businesses only make wrapping paper).

So knowing that we are settling down to wrap up Mardi-Gras beads and a 12 pack of paper towels for Mom… you too, can give you the best-terrible things this holiday season as long as you WRAP it with love!

Merry Christmas, you messy scoundrels.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Part Two in our Read Aloud Series)

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!

  • Sequencing ✅
  • Inferencing ✅
  • Drawing conclusions ✅
  • Problem-solving ✅
  • 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!

Best scene as a dad of boys who tinker w/ everything

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:

Who’s scream is more fatal?
A mandrake or a newborn?

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:

Tattoo inspired by a $45 stuffed animal

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?”

Me, “Seven.”

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

Oliver is reading the wrong book, but then again reading is reading!.

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

Dinner out when you only have one chapter left in the book!

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!!

Also, click here for our Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter by Chapter read aloud: https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2021/07/01/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-our-first-read-aloud/

#BackToHogwarts2021

Continuing with tradition (for the seventh 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 1 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.

And just like that tradition, another year has gone by with no acknowledgement from Mrs. Rowling. I thought this being year seven, with seven being such an important number in the series, she’d have responded:

Seven was the most powerful magical number, based on centuries of mythology, science, and mathematics, and therefore had a very important role in the wizarding world. Arithmancer Bridget Wenlock was the first to note this through a theorem which exposed the magical properties of the number seven.

I guess we’ll have to try for lucky number eight next year.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Our First Read Aloud)

This blog entry will Chronicle (pun intended) a father and son’s first time reading Harry Potter together. 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 feedback!

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I know Jax and I will.

Finally! “I did my waiting! Twelve years of it!” (Ok maybe seven years of waiting)! But, the day has finally arrived!!! Tonight Jax and I begin our journey at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging… to Platform 9 3/4 and finally on to Hogwarts! Wish us luck… then again, we won’t need luck… we’ll be with Professor Dumbledore.

Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived

We first meet the Dursleys and learn of the peculiar happenings surrounding the arrival of Harry Potter on their doorstep.

Jax: “Wait, Harry’s parents are dead, why didn’t Voldemort kill him too????” “Why can’t they say his name?”

Me: Stop asking great questions, damn it! This is going to be harder than I thought!!!

Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass

We finally get to see some magic happen (albeit unbeknownst to the new reader). Harry grows his hair back in one night, flies to the top of the school roof and helps a snake escape from the zoo after literally having a conversation with it, but Jax is most interested in the VCR Dudley gets for his birthday and “why the heck would a kid want to watch a movie on a tape when he could just use Netflix”.

Chapter 3: The Letters From No One

Tonight was a little difficult to get going on the reading (Jax wants to also read his other chapter book that he’s been reading), but I remember it took me a few chapters (and a few tries) to get into this first book when I started too. This chapter, luckily has a little of everything to really hook the reader. Give us a little bit of magic, some funny scenes (everyone getting hit with Dudley’s Smelting stick), a bunch of “bad words” and a shocking “to be continued” chapter ending! This may be the chapter that has him craving more!

Jax summary of this chapter: Harry gets in trouble because someone keeps sending him like two-hundred forty thousand letters. Uncle Vernon let’s Harry have a bigger room so he doesn’t have to stay in the cupboard anymore, but then says a bunch of bad words like “STUPID and DAMN!” (Jax needed to repeat these words multiple times to really drive home their importance, LOL). So then they tried to get away, so the mailman wouldn’t bring anymore letters to a house across the sea, but someone found them on Harry’s eleventh birthday! I think it might be Dumbledore!!!

Chapter 4: The Keeper of the Keys

Wait, Dad are you telling me I’m a wizard too?

Tonight, Jax was excited to meet Hagrid again. although not as excited to find out that my Hagrid voice sounded more like a defunct pirate.

I was worried a bit about this chapter as we hear a lot about death and literally get a visual of the green flash that kills Harry’s parents and almost kills him. Jax handled it well and inferred the flash of green light was from “Voldemort’s Stupid Wand!” I’d say even JKR herself couldn’t have described it better.

He also got to open the letter that Hagrid gave Harry which he was excited about. Since the book we are reading has lots of pop-up type 3D visuals in it, there’s some manipulatives that add to the experience as we read. After we finished the chapter I showed him the Hogwarts Letter that I had made for him when he was born. He was wide eyed when he asked if he had to start going to Hogwarts for second grade.

Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

I absolutely love this chapter more every time I read it. JK Rowling’s description of where to find the Leaky Cauldron completely throws the reader’s mind for a loop… it’s one of the most important and fascinating ideas about the wizarding world: “it has always been there, if one has the knowledge to find it.” This is the chapter that hooks so many readers, that makes the Lunas and the Nevilles feel at home. After a few reads I always interpreted this chapter (or more specifically the entering of Diagon Alley) as a place for anyone who feels different: that they can find the place where they belong, as long as they know where to look.

This chapter has really begun to peak Jax’ curiosity the most so far. So much so, that we only got through the first half of the the chapter tonight.

He realized it was the “same place” he had been two years ago and actually asked how people become wizards.

The following interaction actually happened:

Jax: “Wait, Dad. How do they all know him… did they read about him in the newspaper?… but I thought only old people read the newspaper?”

Me: “I guess wizards and old people read the newspaper.”

Jax: “But dad… you read the newspaper?”

Me: “That’s because I’m a wizard.”

Jax: “No, it’s because you’re an old man!”

Chapter 5 continued… After resuming the chapter Jax reminded me that Harry needed to buy his supplies and loved the “fold out” of Diagon Alley this book provided. (Maybe a trip to the Wizarding World at Universal is in store soon?)

The most intriguing part of this chapter was in Olivander’s Wand Shop. Jax face when Hagrid lied to Mr. Olivander about “never using his wand anymore” was priceless. He obviously remembered Hagrid’s pink umbrella. Of course then we learned that Harry’s wand’s Phoenix feather had a brother… and that feather belonged to VOL- He-Must-Not-Be-Named (I loved LOVED Jax catching himself, making sure he didn’t say VOLDEMORT! 💀

We ended the chapter with Harry heading back to the Dursley’s until the start of term and right as Jax’ eyes closed for the night.

Chapter 6: The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

These chapters alone elicit multiple questions during reading… but, try reading a chapter after spending a day visiting Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as we recently visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

I literally couldn’t read two sentences with out Jax interjecting or questioning something about a character or place that was mentioned… (and it was amazing), every single question gave me goosebumps! He’s starting to catch on.

Our trip to Platform 9 3/4 this past week added a special touch to this chapter

This is where so much of the book and really more importantly the entire series starts to come together. we meet Neville and Hermione and Draco shows his true colors. The chapter is full of foreshadowing, things that I still sometimes notice for the first time all these reads later!

“Dad, wait!!!! Platform 9 3/4… we were there”… “Dad, remember when Harry, Ron and Hermione were outside our room on the train”…………..…. “OK, wait, Draco doesn’t like Hagrid? Remember we saw him on the ride? He was holding his pink umbrella too!!!”

Every word he wanted to reread and every picture he wanted to inspect! It gave me goosebumps! I was closing my eyes as the chapter came to a close and Jax asked if he could stay up and look back at the previous chapters (he promised he wouldn’t read ahead! I hope he doesn’t… but I know I would if I were him!)

Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat

Damn you, Peeves! That damn poltergeist is such a minor character and used for comic relief… but according to Jax, “he’s the funniest so far!!!” Ok, yes he blows raspberries and makes farting noises, but geez Jax… grow up a little bit!

This chapter importantly introduces us to many new characters, the Hogwarts Houses and also forces us to really think about the preconceived notions that we bring with us as we read. Which brings us to the first really, really tough question of our reading.

“Why Slytherin Dad?”

It’s no secret that I’m a Slytherin. It’s tattooed on my arm:

Our hero, who we are experiencing the book through, has very strong feelings about Slytherin:

Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin. “Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. ... You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no? Well, if you're sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!”

Jax has a very valid question, “Why are you in Slytherin? Dad, that’s where the bad guys go!”

I’m having an existential crisis at this point in the book. This chapter doesn’t become so much about comprehension, foreshadowing or character introductions… I had to navigate how NOT TO explain the thematic elements, the changes in characters as they develop though a story and most importantly about not judging a book by its cover.

We’re just not there yet. Jax is not there yet. Harry isn’t there yet either and that’s OK.

Chapter 8: The Potions Master

Jax starts the chapter hoping we can get through it in one sitting (which we’ve tried to read at least three separate times already with no success as one or both of us are always too tired to get past the first few pages). But before we even begin Jax asks if at the end of the books Harry will get a new family. I’m chomping at the bit to give him some info, but I can’t, I won’t!

As we move forward, Jax is not at all happy with Professor Snape as we see his character call Neville “idiot boy” and ignore Hermione who clearly knows all the answers. Jax says he’s mean and nasty. I think that’s the perfect first description of early Severus Snape.

This is an interesting chapter, Jax isn’t picking up on some of the more complex story elements yet. For example there have been a few foreshadowing moments already. This chapter especially (IE: When Hagrid avoids eye contact with Harry when asked if he knew anything about the Gringotts break in, or if Snape had a reason to not like Harry). I make sure to not give too much away, but will definitely come back to them later on as the plot unfolds.

Jax continues to develop as a reader and I know the deeper understanding will come with time. JK embeds some of the most subtle clues that I even missed a number of times the first few times I read the books. I’m trying to remember that this first read for Jax is about enjoyment. He and I can do a deep dive the next 394 times we read the books!

Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel

It’s important to note that while JKR weaves her story brilliantly, there are some chapters that are a bit more wordy than others. This chapter is FULL of back and forth dialogue. Therefore, reading to someone who is still developing higher-level comprehension skills as a reader and also knowing that I can not replicate the amazing character voices of audio book narrater Jim Dale it was important to ask some clarifying questions to Jax to check for understanding as we read through chapter nine. This was a long read tonight.

After some think-alouds and a some well planned questioning Jax summed this chapter up pretty succinctly:

  • Neville got a red glowing ball and broke his arm
  • Draco stole it from him and flew it up into a tree
  • Harry was a really good flyer too and scooped the ball out of the air after diving super fast (faster than an airplane) to the ground because Malfoy threw it.
  • Harry and Malfoy were going to fight.
  • Filch and his cat almost caught them sneaking out for their dual.
  • They almost got eaten by a dog with three heads, three snouts and venom dripping from its fangs.
  • The dog was standing on a secret entrance.

Not too bad of a summary (with some prompting). Jax loved the appearance of Peeves again and his taunting of the “Ickle firsties!” He made me read (in Peeves voice), “Naughty, naughty, you’ll get caughty” about 14 times and we both laughed harder each time!

Jax ended the chapter with a prediction that the three headed dog was guarded something important in a big vault like at Gringotts.

Chapter 10: Halloween

Jax summed this one up quickly, “Harry got a new broom and learned about the Quidditch balls. Then a troll got in the dungeon and Harry shoved his wand up his nose and Ron did Wingardium Leviosa and killed it with his own club!”

No we’ll pause here to explain how Jax physically acted out the Wingardium Leviosa scene with the troll. I mean standing up on the bed… slowly drawing out the “WINgaaaaaarrrrddddiuuum,” just as Hermione instructed. He got the swish and flick dead on too! She would have been so proud of him.

It took some exposing to come around to the fact that Hermione lied to protect Harry and Ron and that is what bonded their friendship.

As we ended the chapter Jax continued to ask some great questions that I just can’t answer for him yet!

  • “When Voldemort was at Hogwarts was he ever a good kid?”
  • “Is Deathly Hallows the only time they battle Voldemort?”
  • “Why would they want to kill some old man wizard?”

Chapter 11: Quidditch

This was such a fun chapter to read aloud! The majority of the chapter is dialogue, especially that of Lee Jordan who is the Quidditch announcer for Hogwarts. I may have gotten into this a little bit, as I stood and delivered my best play by play of Harry’s first Quidditch match. Jax was caught up in every move as Alicia and Angelina whipped the Quaffle around and Oliver Wood made save after save.

I ran out of breath detailing every move as both Gryffindor and Slytherin players flew around the pitch. Listen I might not be as good as Vin Scully or as well known as Joe Buck, but I think I call a pretty good match… or at least as well as Lee Jordan!

The caveat to this chapter is Jax has been playing Lego Harry Potter on Nintendo Wii and has finally gotten to the point where he (to my dismay) has outplayed our reading. So he was excited to hear how Hermione set fire to Snape’s robes as Harry’s broom was seemingly cursed. He smiled a bit more during this chapter as many different medias are beginning to come together for him right before his eyes. As the chapter ended, I noticed Jax beginning to make some inferences about our main characters:

  • “How does Hermione know so many different spells; she is really good at magic!”
  • “Hagrid forgets stuff a lot, doesn’t he?!”
  • “Why doesn’t Ron do anything?” (This one made me laugh out loud!)

Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

“The Mirror of Erised is an ancient, ornate mirror. It has clawed feet and a gold frame inscribed with the phrase ” Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.” The mirror shows the most desperate desire of a person’s heart, a vision that has been known to drive men mad.”

“Jax, what would you see if you looked into the Mirror or Erised?” I asked.

“My family”, he replied, with a sly smile that told me both he was serious, but he also knew that his answer would make my heart melt.

This is one of the most emotionally draining chapters in the series. Harry sees his family, more importantly he sees his parents. They are there, with him and he is happy for one of the first times in his life.

Adding to the dramatics of this chapter Harry receives an anonymous gift which turn out to be his father’s invisibility cloak. Jax explained to me that Harry was both excited and sad to get his dad’s cloak because, “He doesn’t know his dad so he was excited to get it, but it made him miss his dad too!”

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

I show not your face but your heart’s desire

Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel

(Multiple times while I was at work this week I received face time calls from Jax asking about Nicolas Flamel. He has been asking to go to bed early so we can read. This is becoming a thing!)

We have two district “parts” of this chapter. Finding out who Flamel is… and The Quidditch match each playing a significant role in the current chapter. Obviously, we end the chapter with two hooded figures speaking to each other in the forest, which left Jax to predict that Snape and Quirell are working together to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. (The way his eyes lit up when he realized that was going on was phenomenal!!!)

Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

This was an interesting chapter… Jackson is still trying to figure out the Malfoy/ Potter dynamic. oh he did pick up and made a pretty good inference that Hagrid’s egg was a dragon, based on the clues that Rowling gives us along the way.

As the chapter comes to a close with Harry and Hermione leaving the invisibility cloak on the astronomy tower… Jackson comments as Filtch and Mrs. Norris catches them, that I’m sort of like Filtch… because I “always know when he and Oliver are being bad!”

Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest

There’s detention for everyone who was dumb unfortunate enough to get caught last chapter. The troublemakers head to meet Hagrid in the forbidden forest and encounter a hooded figure.

Jax is now completely enthralled as he hides his face under a blanket because he believes Voldemort is the hooded figure and is about to attack from behind a tree in the forbidden forest or maybe from under our sleep number bed… (same difference).

Everyone winds up making it out of this chapter safely (no unicorns we’re harmed in the writing of this blog post).

Chapter 16: Through the Trap Door

In this chapter, Harry, Ron, and Hermione follow the, as Jax believes is Snape through the trapdoor being guarded by Fluffy, hence the chapter title. Jax is obsessed with Fluffy, but also is excited to see that finally the trio has gotten past him.

The highlight of this chapter (selfishly) was reading how Harry dealt with the challenges through the trapdoor, but it was the corridor filled with flying keys that intrigued Jackson, the most because he finally understood the connection to one of my tattoos!

Chapter 17: The Man With Two Faces

It was almost impossible to stop at the end of the last chapter knowing Jax was just as surprised as everyone the first time they realized it wasn’t Snape or Voldemort who was waiting for him…

It was Quirrell… Jax said he had a feeling something was going to be a surprise, but it didn’t hit him until, “p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell,” stopped stuttering. Jax couldn’t take it in at first… but then it stated to hit him! It was Quirell who let the troll in, but why?

“It has to be Voldemort, right? Is he going to give it [the stone] to him!?? Then Jax excitedly he peeled back the Quirell’s turban, something he had been waiting to do since we began MinaLima’s designed and illustrated version of this book. He had seen the turban and knew that it peeled away, but I wouldn’t let him, until we were there. (I know if it were me I would have totally done it, but I give Jax credit for being patient). “IT’S VOLDEMORT!!!!” (Jax requested we read the rest of the chapter with the door closed and an extra light on) just incase He Who Must Not Be Named showed up in our upstairs hallway).

As the chapter played out we talked about how it was possible for Harry to find the stone in his pocket and why Quirell/Voldemort could not touch Harry. It was interesting to watch Jax process both of these deep questions. It took some pretty good patience and some really effective teacher wait time as I let him think through what we had read and what these two questions could possibly mean for the overall theme of the book.

We talked for a little bit about how Harry didn’t want to help Voldemort and just wanted to get the Stone back so he couldn’t use it to come back to life. We talked about how Lily Potter loved her son so much (just Jax’ mom and dad love him) that the love still “lives” inside of Harry. Jax said he can feel how much he is loved by so many people. This last chapter had us both feeling all the “feels.”

I loved closing the book with a giant smile on Jax’ face as he asked when we could start Book 2; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As we readied ourselves for sleep, Jax leaned over and said, “Dad, I don’t think Voldemort is totally gone. You know he’s going to come back again, right?”

Oh buddy, you have no idea… we’re just getting started!

⚡️⚡️Bonus Content⚡️⚡️ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- THE MOVIE

Anyone who knows me, knows that the first time I pulled out my tattered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone same one I read so many times over the last 20+ years. The same one that had been given to me by my mother-in-law all those years ago. Although the one Jax and I would eventually chose to read was newer and a copy he specifically picked out on a trip to our local book store and not the exact one I had read all those years ago, it still brought back memories of the first time I picked up my original copy.

The same book I had brought with me during four different moves, multiple track and field competitions, read to my first and last classroom or students and had clutched like a raft in a storm when my life turned upside down and I needed a familiar escape.

Handing this book to my son felt a bit like a ritual, like I was inducting him into something.The book was one thing. It was physical, we could flip the pages and hold it in our hands. As I said before it was a right of passage.

The movie however, that’s different. Just as important, but different. These days, I don’t know how much screen time is too much screen time, but this was the first time in a long time I was excited to sit down in front of the TV w the boys. Normally, if we do a Friday family movie, both boys will lay down comfortably snuggled up on Steph and I in a blanket. Oliver is asleep within 15 minutes and I’m dozing off by half way through. Jammies were on, popcorn was popped and all we heard about all day was how Jax was so excited foe Harry Potter movie night.

We started (after 15 bathroom breaks, extra popcorn fill-ups, drink refills and a few extra bathroom breaks, again). Both boys were in awe Professor McGonagall turns into a cat, and I’m pretty sure Oliver meowed at her. The letters flying in from all angles and possible openings at 4 Privet Drive elicit hysterics laughing and cheers from all!

Jackson is completely captivated by the scene in Olivander’s wand shop. It’s literally an exact replay of his experience when he was chosen for his wand at Ollivander’s in the Wizarding World we visited this summer.

Both boys think quidditch is probably the best thing they’ve ever seen in the history of the universe. But before I can ask who they think will win the first match, Oliver is sleeping. Jax has now settled in and at various points jumps up and is sitting on the edge of his seat. I have heard the phrase the jaw-dropping reaction before, but the majority of this movie has Jax mouth wide open, yet speechless.

Jax sat up and watch the majority of the movie from the edge of the couch. Each part he explained to his mom and I. He called out what was going to happen, but was equally as excited as he was surprised.

Fast forward to the climax and we are starting to wonder if Jax is ever going to sleep again. How is this movie rated PG?! Even watching this as an adult I am uncomfortable.

Did Harry just fried his teacher’s face off?!?! There’s no that he’s not going to have a nightmare tonight. Thanks Chris Columbus.

In the end, Jax asks (at 10:38pm) if we can start the movie over, or at least start reading the Chamber of Secrets. And with that being said, my work here is done.

Blank Calendar

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…

As an aside… WTF is a play date? Merriam-Webster defines “playdate” as “a play session for small children as arranged by their parents.

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!

Tool Time

Apparently this whole Covid lockdown thing has driven people to want to remodel and do construction to their house the likes that no one has ever seen before. Many things have been put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but home renovations aren’t one of them. I see neighbors putting in new decks, ripping out old cabinetry and installing new HVAC units left and right. How people are not going bankrupt with all this going on is beyond me.

While I understand most of the world is concerned for their health and well being and you and your family are just trying to get through each day right now… someone here is planning to turn the boys’ bedrooms into a reincarnation of the Palace of Versailles. The thing is I’m totally not up for making decisions about anything at the moment that includes random people making messes around my house that I (for all intents and purposes) can’t leave for more than a few hours at a time.

The thing is… I want to be able to be agreeable and more importantly help… maybe even take on these home projects myself (even if they are far from DIY). I wish I could. I try. I’ve done a lot recently… some plumbing and electrical, but I’m not so sure I should be the one operating a circular saw.

Even my boys know this. They tattle on me if I use a hammer around the house and god forbid I break out the screw gun. I wish I could do more. I have friends like this. They can just build an house in a weekend. I’ve gone to his house and he’ll hand me a beer and ask me to check out his new shed.

“Wait, you built a shed? When?” I’ll ask.

His response, calm, cool and collected,

“Today… I finished before you got here.”

“It’s 11:30am!!!” I’ll reply. Dejected.

Today… he built a shed today… I ran a few miles… maybe answered some emails… but he built an arc to save the animal kingdom overnight. I’m just not there yet. I built a bar/table for the basement. I’ve hung a couple of shelves and installed some blinds. But I’m just not ready to drive a flatbed truck and use saw dust as cologne.

I’m trying. I’m not perfect. But at some point we’ll have a new front door and maybe a shed. Hopefully I’ll come out of all of this with all ten fingers and the majority of my 401k.

Happy Birthday Mom

It’s been 20 years since the first time I wished you a happy birthday. I think I bought you a pair of plaid Abercrombie pants and a six pack of Smirnoff Ice. I probably took you to Olive Garden or Applebee’s and I’m sure we saw a movie afterwards.

It’s been years since that Olive Garden date and a long time since our time was our time. It’s no longer about birthday months or even birthday weekends anymore. As working parents we are tasked with so much more than just being a mom or dad. Parenting can feel isolating and lonely with its constant demands. Yet, somehow we balance it even if it’s not always perfect.

In my short stint as a parent, I’ve already wondered, more times than I like, if I’m doing it right, but one thing I do know is it’s hard. Yet somehow, even in the toughest times including giant tantrums or the occasional full on crying until they pass out, you stay strong. I appreciate you staying strong even when I’m a pain in the ass or act like your third child (or fifth if you count the dogs… then again at least I don’t pee or poop on the floor)!

You may not see it, but you are strong. You are strong for them… Jackson and Oliver will never forget that. It will make them strong and caring and most importantly, empathetic.

Twenty years later, the birthday presents that were plaid pants and Smirnoff may have turned into a teakettle for your night time chai and a travel coffee mug for your long commute after a Board of Eduction meeting… and dinner and a night cap has transformed into standing over a pot of Mac and Cheese and watching Frozen 2 for the 700th time… but no matter what, I loved you then and love you everywhere in between those Abercrombie pants and the teakettle.

Happy Fourth Birthday Oliver

Dear Oliver,

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,

Dad

January 31, 2017
January 31, 2018
January 31, 2019
January 31, 2020
January 31, 2021

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