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

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!!!

(Come back tomorrow for the next chapter!)

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?”

Come back soon for our new chapter read aloud: The Deathday Party

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

Back to Hogwarts

September 1st has a significant meaning and evokes deep “feels” for all those who follow the Wizarding World Calendar. September 1 is day the Hogwarts students return for a new term by boarding the Hogwarts Express (or occasional a flying a Ford Anglia).

While schools across the United States prepare to go back to school virtually, or in some sort of hybrid model, as J.K. Rowling has said, “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

So in keeping with tradition, for the 6th year in a row I tweeted @jkrowling to get some advice for parents dropping off their children at Platform 9 3/4. 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, but maybe this year will be the year! So for now, Stephanie and I have to do our best as Muggles to figure out how this whole Platform 9 3/4 thing works.

Coronavirus: The Fifth Month (August)

Day 136: August 1

Today marked the end of Stephanie and Jax being in charge of our friends pool and cat while they were away. I’m happy to say (to the dismay of Mr. Dave) that the cat and pool survived during this time.

We love these friends, but every time Steph comes home from their house she wants something new. A few months ago it was a boat… then it was a deeper pool… not she’s asking for a cat. A cat??? With two kids and two dogs!!???? That’s friends disownment territory right there.

Day 137: August 2

The world is ending. The Tropical Storm that just hit us was extremely intense. We’ve lost power and the heat and humidity is threatening to take over… it’s going to be a long few days.

Day 138: August 3

Eversource still has not even sent people out to “assess the damage”

Day 139: August 4

…AND I QUOTE: “it will take days to recover power!”

All I knows not enough baby powder in the world for how hot and humid my house is right now

Day 140: August 5

Happy anniversary to a mom and wife who has successfully navigated work, marriage, parenting, and even more difficult… the apocalypse that has been 2020! We may be celebrating in the dark today, but they say candlelight is romantic, amirite? ❤️❤️❤️

Day 141: August 6

Phone and website= down
Outage map= “experiencing issues”
No text responses
Last tweet at 4pm= we’re assessing damages
No power for 12 hours…
“we’re here when you need us” slogan=
NOT A SUPER GOOD LOOK

Day 142: August 7

Spent half the year in quarantine and now we have no power for who knows how long and have to drive to a main road in town to call find out when we might have power back. At least we have each other:

Day 143: August 8

Hour 75 with no power and there is still no end in sight. The pool is turning green and is now half empty because we’ve had to use that water to flush the toilets . I know things could be worse, but 2020 just give us a break !

Day 144: August 9

We are now leaving on approximately hour 99 with no power we made pizza on the grill and ate outside on a relatively nice night.

That was until a tree came down across the street taking out two poles and is now laying across the whole road. Fire trucks and police car sirens are blaring and chainsaws are roaring. So much for sleeping tonight.

Day 143: August 10

Eversource to the rescue (sarcastic voice). We are now on hour 122 and we finally have a crew out here to “assess the situation!” Fingers crossed for some positive news.

Day 144: August 11

“BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL…”

Day 145: August 12

Mother Nature is now F-ING with us. We had power for almost a day and then all of a sudden, the power is gone again. It was only out for five minutes or so, but my PTSD kicked in and everyone in the house almost fainted.

That’s being said we made it though the (almost) second power outage and are now on our way to cranking the AC to North Pole come and leaving every electronic device on in the house.

Day 146: August 13

Today was a horrible, horrible day. Buster had a seizure and we had to rush him to the vet, but this time he is having long term effects. They think it may be neurological but we have to monitor him for the next 72 hours. (UPDATE: After a very visit and days of monitoring hes back to his normal self. Just a little slower. Jax has been so good to buster and is helping him around the house. Oliver even offered to take him around in his little wagon! #BrotherlyLove

Day 147: August 14

It’s been a long summer of reminders. I’m done:

Day 148: August 15

Six year old: “Dad, I want some alone time but my brother won’t leave me alone.”

Me: “Dude, same.”

Day 149: August 16

Cousin hang out day. The four boys got to hang out today.

Day 150: August 17

We’ve been cooped up together for far too long. Apparently, there’s now a cover charge to enter the house. Jax has set up shop in the mudroom with a cash register looking like a bouncer.

At least he had change for a $20

Day 151: August 18

Steph told the kids to be good and not fight for 20 minutes so she could take a shower in peace, and then we all laughed and laughed.

Day 152: August 19

This quarantine nonsense has (occasionally) allowed for some quiet time to spend as a family doing things that during a busy summer we would never have the time to do. In those quiet times I always find peace in my life.

The world is upside down, backwards and who knows what right now, but taking time to put away electronics and look through our baseball cards provided us boys one of those quieting moments.

Day 153: August 20

One good thing about quarantine is we’re obviously home a lot more than ever before. So Jax has had time for weekly piano lessons and to practice. He’s beginning to enjoy it and has learned to play a few songs (of course one of those songs happens to be Baby Shark, because why not.

Day 154: August 21

It’s been what feel like 500 years, but tonight we actually got to go out without being parents. A date of sort we both made it through appetizers before we took a nap!

Day 155: August 22

Swimming is a kid favorite activity, picking up after the multiple changes of clothes is not a favorite parent activity.

Maybe they leave a trail of clothes so they can find their way back to the pool?

Day 156: August 23

[8 AM]
Wife [walking into living room]: “What time did you get up?”
Me: “5AM.”
Wife: “But it’s the weekend! WHY SO EARLY?!”
Me [sipping coffee]: “I’ve had 3 kid-free hours of silence.”
Wife: …..
Me: …. [smiling]
Wife: “Why didn’t you wake me?”

Day 157: August 24

We’ve done a lot of family time and some (attempting for) alone time during this pandemic. With these two little monsters calm time is not usually and option. Today was what Steve Irwin might categorize as some “beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.”

Day 158: August 25

Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by a toddler today…

Day 159: August 26;

Who had “unsurvivable” and “catastrophic” hurricane on their 2020 BINGO card. I hope everyone has evacuated and is safe down there! (PLEASE TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU!!!) Ts and Ps 🙏🏼

Day 160: August 27

The planning of the reopening of schools has been a very detailed and interesting experience. we’ve been in “quarantine” for five-plus months and it’s crazy to think that in a couple of weeks we’ll have our students back walking the hallways again. It’s even crazy to think that teachers in our town are prepping to have Jax back in his own school. Educators are the real heroes.

Day 161: August 28

The last Friday before my school is officially back full time. We’ve been trying to prep Jax for going back to school too. We’re all going to sleep a little earlier. (Which just means more time of the boys complaining about having to go bed before actually falling asleep at the same time they always fall asleep no matter what time we put them to bed).

Day 162: August 29

If 2020 had an official marketing Movie Poster

Day 163: August 30

When you and your BFFs are ready to get things started. TMNT Arcade Style!!! This game has been quite the babysitter tonight so moms and dads could sit by the pool and relax a bit.

Day 164: August 31

Today is officially the last day before teachers come back to school in my school district and students then are back a week later. I began this DAY BY DAY QUARANTINE CHRONICLING the day my school district (and most school districts went out). So unless there is some crazy development, this will be the last day by day monthly update of the #CoronaQuarantine.

There were smiles and tears. There were screams and cries. There was anger and there was love. These last 164 days have challenged this mom and dad more than anything in the past. We learned so much about ourselves as people and as parents and I know our boys are ready to back to school (albeit HYBRID).

Coronavirus: The Fourth Month (July)

Day 106: July 1:

Virtual learning hasn’t stopped an amazing teacher from making sure her students are OK in person, even after the school year is done. Teachers are the hardest working and most underappreciated people in the world! (I won’t reveal who this teacher is)… but know that I would want my sons in her class every year!

Day 107: July 2:

My favorite part of summer is when my kids ask for the sprinkler and then I turn on the sprinkler and then they cry hysterically if they get wet from the sprinkler and then they yell at me to turn the sprinkler back on after I turn it off.

Day 108: July 3:

It may just last the night, or maybe only an hour, but for now brothers are best friends and they’re both so excited for a slumber party!

#Brothers

Day 109: July 4:

We spent the Fourth super low-key and it was perfect! We are so lucky to have amazing neighbors! Best part is they actually put up with us and even better, their kids like our kids

Day 110: July 5:

What do you do after spending an entire day with your neighbors? You wake up and spend the entire next day with them on their water slide! My kids would choose this water slide over anything!

Day 111: July 6:

Last night I tucked my Oliver in, kissed him goodnight and he hugged me and said “goodbye daddy.” So, I guess I won’t be sleeping until he moves out.

Day 112: July 7:

Things I have tried during Covid Quarantine to ensure better sleep:

-bribery

begging

negotiating

rewards

dark curtains

threats to call Santa

earlier bed time

later bed time

fewer snacks

more snacks

threats of violence against stuffed animals

Times either of my children have slept through the night as a result:

[ZERO]

Day 113: July 8:

He thought I wouldn’t dunk on him… let alone actually dunk HIM!

Day 114: July 9:

We made it to Cape Cod. I have not taken a REAL vacation in years. This was the first time I actually tried to shut down from work in ages (granted I didn’t do so well considering I conducted virtual teacher interviews from the beach and also called hundreds of families about our distance learning survey), but that’s me… I love what I do… and I don’t ever take a break from it!

Day 115: July 10:

This is what family vacation is all about. Forget Corona, forget quarantine and hand sanitizer. Family vacations are all about getting a KING SIZE BED for mom and dad and having the kids sleep in it. Relinquishing an amazingly comfortable mattress and 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets for a pull out sofa bed is parenting at its finest!

Day 116: July 11

The family… sans masks… sans tears… just happy to be out of the GD house!

Day 117: July 12:

Screw you CORONA! We still livin’ our best life!

Puffy said it best:

Don’t push us, cause we’re close to the, edge
We’re tryin’, not to lose our heads, a-hah hah hah hah…

get the feeling sometime, that make me wonder
Why you wanna take us under
Why you wanna take us under

I get the feeling sometime, that make me wonder
Why you wanna take us under
Why you wanna take us under

Can’t nobody take my pride
Uh-uh, uh-uh
Can’t nobody hold me down, ohh no
I got to keep on movin’…”

Day 118: July 13:

If there is a picture that represents our lives in 2020 this is it! All dressed up for a family photo with designer masks! #CapeCodCorona2020

Day 119: July 14:

We are home from the Cape and we spent some time just relaxing today. This quarantine thing has been stressful, scary, unpredictable, calm, insane, all of the above… but most of all, it has been a time to just reconnect with each other. Today we did just that. The boys and I took Buster and Max for a walk. No electronics, no phones, just us. It was as close to perfect as you can get… we were just missing mom.

Day 120: July 15:

Parenting books never prepared me for how much time I’d spend arguing for my kids to get into and then out of the bathtub.

Day 121: July 16:

15 years ago she (Stephanie) said “Yes.” Then we quickly got in line on the Wildwood boardwalk for the Half Blood Prince midnight book release. I read the book all night in the hotel lobby and finished it in the morning on the beach! Such a memorable day… and still… After All This Time, I’m Sirius-ly happy to still be Making Magic with you Stephanie, You’re a Keeper and there is no one else in the world I’d rather be quarantined with than you!

Day 121: July 17:

We’ve been in quarantine for 121 days and my six year old has been talking nonstop for 150 of them!

Day 122: July 18

We’ve tried everything as parents to keep our boys engaged in educational activities, but it’s mid July now… we put together a schedule for the boys to give them some structure during the summer quarantine and I think other parents might find it helpful:

7am-7pm: Unsupervised screentime, with periodic snack time.

Day 123: July 19:

Don’t underestimate a child’s ability to grasp what’s happening right now. I’ve discussed the pandemic and social distancing with both boys. I figured Jax would get it and for the most part he does, but I was surprised how informed Oliver was. He really gets it. He’s now decided to speak 3 inches from my face instead of the normal 1 inch.

Day 124: July 20:

Today while we were out practicing some mask wearing to build up tolerance for Oliver a women with no mask on her or her children screamed at us to take off our masks because were falling for the “hoax.” I won’t put my response here in writing… but WTF?!???

I just don’t get it. The people who refuse to wear a mask they’re almost like those last couple of leaves on the tree right before winter hits. They are so proud of themselves. They must be so excited sitting on the tree thinking we’re definitely gonna make it, we’re gonna make it. That is until all your friends are gone and you’re the last one hanging on for dear life.

Day 125: July 21:

Today while listening to our secretary of education speak about re-opening schools full-time in person, I realized that she has a bookshelf with no books on it. Listening to this woman speak about re-opening schools is like listening to my three-year-old try to explain how to play chess… in Latin. 🙄

Day 126: July 22:

You would think with two dogs and two toddlers one of them would be the first to ruin the new patio…

If you put your money on that you definitely lost. In the category of 2020 just keeps getting worse… I spilled an entire canister of melted citronella wax all over the patio today.

Day 127: July 23:

Today we, painted pictures, went in the pool, completed two puzzles, cooked dinner together and watched a movie. Or, as the boys described it to mommy when she got home from work:

“Buster and Max peed on the floor and dad yelled at us two times.” 

Day 128: July 24

The boys are so used to staying in the house that they think pants are just optional at this point. God forbid I tell them we need to actually wear said pants when it’s time to go out…

Day 129: July 25:

Just heard from downstairs:

Jax: “Oliver USE YOUR FORCEFIELD…”

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Oliver: “ OWWWWWWWWWWWW!” Followed by screaming…

Day 130: July 26:

Today, I decided to take the filter and pump apart to clean it, since the water was a bit cloudy the past week.

After dissembling the filter… I am pretty sure I discovered where Coronavirus started.

Day 131: July 27:

Today while playing with his stuffed animals Jax told me he wants to be a dad one day.

My response: “Have you seen the shit I put up with?!!??”

Day 132: July 28:

Jackson complained this morning because his breakfast was not ready fr him when he came downstairs. I told him to be sure to leave his negative review on Yelp! and also, I don’t care!

Day 133: July 29:

My legs are in the best shape since I was running track in college. I think I have an idea for an exercise video for parents where all the lunges are just going around the house picking up juice box straws and wrappers.

Day July 30:

Steph is at work and I had a two hour meeting this afternoon that was extremely important about reopening the schools. Jackson and Oliver had to fend for themselves the entire time and they didn’t fight once in the playroom.

I heard them talking and giggling I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. They didn’t pick up their iPads or put the TV on once. When I was done they told me to come out of my office bc they had a surprise for me.

And when your two kids ask you to sit for a tea part (with wine glasses for the adult) you sit together the tea party.

Day: July 31:

… the end of the fourth month brings us right back where we were four-plus months ago, the same place almost every parent is in… what do we do with our kids… our children… our babies…