Observations from the Quarry: Playing blocks with my kid.

Not sure when this happened.

I mean I’ve not played blocks in a while, but when did we graduate from making tall towers? When did it become this elaborate? When did playing blocks come with so many rules?

You have to build a house daddy! You need a place for your race car. It has to be high like this daddy.

Damn, the unions in Atlantic City didn’t have that many restrictions or building codes putting up a casino. But if you’re in Frank’s building union you do as Frank says or you are out. Plain and simple. He does not suffer people who don’t go along with the plan.

I’ll say this for the kid, his buildings have become more elaborate. In the “old” days it was all about height. He just wanted to make a singular tower as high as possible. Legos, the building material of choice then, allowed him to make towers higher than him.

At first he was able to build in relative safety in the living room. He had the joint all to himself. What he constructed after dinner would still be standing after breakfast the next day. In 2012 that ceased to be the case. That was the start of the dark times, the coming of the destroyer.

"I got your building right here bro!"

“I got your building right here bro!”

After she arrived and then went bipedal, nothing was safe. No building could withstand her. She knew no mercy, she gave no quarter, she practiced no subtlety. In fact at times she would wait until Frank was looking before she would Godzilla one of his high rise towers. Then she would belly laugh. It was really the only time she would laugh. Any other time something struck her funny she would just say, “That’s funny!” A tower hitting the deck always brought on the belly laugh though.

It was too easy for her. It’s not like he put deep foundations on these things. Plus he would admonish her as he was leaving the construction site for dinner, potty break or one of seven union authorized smoke breaks. All that did was encourage her to schedule a demolition event. It was like waving the red blanket in front of a bull.

He tried posting a guard a few times but they, me and his mother, were very unreliable. We would either fall asleep or worse, summon the beast just to see what would happen. Hey, a parent has to find some joy, yeah?

Anyway, Frank decided his school house was the only safe place for high-rise construction. There he not only found encouragement and a relatively secure construction site, he was able to hire some assistant builders.

We're gonna need a taller room.

We’re gonna need a taller room.

He continued to build at home and he continued to demand I build with him. But things changed. He went more low rise. Preferring to build more house like structures, materials became an issue too. He switched to blocks instead of legos. Bad move. The shortage was worse there. To combat that issue he stop demanding I play with him, instead inviting me to build after he had finished his.

Needless to say I was on the short end of the supply chain. Where his structures became these intricate three story houses with pools and three car garages I was left with the scraps and barely managed a single tenement that would be an embarrassment in the worst of  the early 1900 NY slums.

Where I was left to cobble together a singular hovel, he built small villages he quickly dubbed Franktown.

An early century Franktown begins to take shape.

An early century Franktown begins to take shape.

Don’t get me wrong, the kid has a heart for people and family. The cornerstone of every Franktown is a large house with all kinds of rooms. He always includes separate rooms for me, his mother and his sister.

The separate room for me and Mrs Frank’s Place is due to my snoring. I’m just not sure if it’s so I can snore in peace or so Mrs Frank’s Place can sleep in “silence.” I mean let’s just be honest, it’s not like she sleeps with the quiet of the dead. She can shake the shingles on occasion too, if you know what I mean.

I get a lot of fun playing with Frank. Mainly because I get to play with toys again. But the things you pick up on when watching your kid play, build, design is remarkable. Watching their wheels turn, seeing what their minds come up with is a unexpected benefit.

Watching the destroyer do her work is a separate unexpected joy all its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wheels on the bus: my big yellow savior.

I recieved more than a few comments or messages that the post about my new Fuller Friction Brush might have been a little overstated. I mean it’s just a fancy broom right? Yeah I guess, if you’re a knuckle dragging clod who can’t appreciate perfection, then it’s just a fancy broom. Well fancy broom folks this post might be a little disappointing as well.

I was rightly called out on my last post as well. My little rant about spanking drew the comment, “Spanking, schmanking. You are disappointing your readers who are anxiously awaiting a “hurricane AM” hits preschool story.” Well ok then. Maria you get your wish, or demand, or whatever. A pre-school update is forthcoming. First you’ll have to sit through a story about my bondage and subsequent deliverance from the chains of the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane.

When I say bondage that’s not hyperbole. If you pick your kid up from school, you are absolutely a slave to the car pick up line. You have to schedule around it, pack some sort of sustenance, plan out some meaningful activity to get you through the hour to hour and a half wait, and you better make sure your vessel is sea worthy.

Can’t go breaking down in the car pick up lane. You sure don’t wan’t to lose cabin cooling during that wait and to that end you for sure don’t want to go empty in the old tank. Scorn and derision will rain down upon you. Help will not be forthcoming mind you but you’ll learn some new epithets from your christian brothers and sisters. Of that you can be assured. For the full experience click here Car Lobby Pick Up Lane.

Breaking free of those chains was not going to easy. Escape has to be planned, orchestrated, and finally executed with precision. You don’t just walk away from the car pick up lane. So we planned. By that I mean I planted the seed of doubt in Frank’s head about the pick up lane at the same time I was talking up how the other kids in the hood love riding the bus. What I found out was this kid of mine is no weak minded fool. It was going to take more than a Jedi swipe of the hand and the power of suggestion to get him to ride the bus home.

To the promise land big Mo, and step on it!

To the promise land big Mo, and step on it!

That’s key to the plan. He only had to ride the bus home. No need to get greedy. The drop off line moves light years faster and taking him to school at 7:10 in the am actually helps me get moving in the morning. A lot of would be master criminals have that one fatal character flaw; the overreach. I just got away with stealing a million dollars, why not go for two… annnnnnnd boom, welcome to the Spring Hill Penitentiary for the criminally moronic and greedy. No, moderation would be the key to this escape. Moderation and hope in a promised deliverer would be the oasis at the end of what was shaping up to be a 40yr march through the desert.

The seeds were planted, now we needed to water them. I mean that literally. The second part of the plan unfolded at the neighborhood pool. The Saturday before the plan was to be executed I took Frank to the pool. At that precise time some of his friends, pre-positioned of course, would ask Frank why he doesn’t ride the bus and then go on to extol the virtues of said bus ride. Several parents joined in. It was like a tidal wave of brainwashing.

Frank jumps into the pool and a parent is waiting when he comes up to ask about riding the bus. Frank swims over to a friend and the kid goes on and on about how much he’ll love the bus. The way the kids spoke in the past tense as if the decision was already made was a master stroke by them. Not part of the plan at all, but it was a great ad lib. I’ll grant you this wasn’t the most subtle thing I’ve ever tried but I felt like it was the most effective option.

However, much like Ramses II (the Pharaoh from Moses time), Frank was obstinate. As time was becoming a problem I skipped the parlor tricks of the seven plagues and went right to the big kahuna. Although the flaming hail storm has its appeal, ain’t nobody got no time for that. I had no choice but to send in the angel of death in the form of “Because I said so!” Thankfully for me Frank had failed to spread the appropriate goat’s blood on the lentil post and it was curtains for him. It went a little something like this:

Daddy I don’t want to ride the bus. I want you to pick me up.

I will be picking you up Frank, at the bus stop.

But I want you to pick me up at the schooooooool. 

No bud, you need to ride the bus home. The line to pick you up is too long for me to wait it. Daddy gots things to do!

But daddyyyyyyyy

NO Frank! You are getting on the bus tomorrow. Sorry bud but you are going in, I can’t stop that now. (That’s a line from a courtroom movie I use on him when Frank has exhausted his appeals about anything I’ve asked him to do.)

Besides Frank, I’ve already talked to your teacher, she’s putting you on the bus.

So shall it be written, so shall it be done!

Man, the look that kid was giving me. The rear view mirror almost melted. It was that withering. After assuring him I would be right there waiting for him as he got off the bus he accepted his fate and I felt the chains of bondage begin to lighten. The deliverer was getting closer but we’ve not reached the Well of Median yet (watch the movie). One thing being a parent has taught me is nothing happens until it happens. Another thing I’ve learned is kids have incredibly short memories.

By the morning ride to school Frank had forgotten all about riding the bus home. I decided to wait till precisely the right moment to remind him about his new afternoon chariot. That moment, I decided, was just as Frank was jumping from the Frankerprise to head into the school. Yeah, cowardly I know. Sue me.

I was like a new man. A new free man. The time was mine until the bus would drop him one block from our front door. If this ride went well it would mean the end of lining up at 1:50pm for a 2:45 pick up at school. No more packing food for the wait, no more scrambling to find a babysitter incase Anne Marie was not up from her nap, and no more dealing with a whiny inconsolable child incase Anne Marie was not napping and instead waiting in the van with me.

If you’re scoring at home this is where we are currently:

How did he do that!

How did he do that!

The sea has been parted but we’re not to the other side yet. That wall of water could come crashing down at any moment. Just ask Pharaoh. Well, you could ask him if the water had not crashed down on his whole army and all that. Tough break for him.

Anyway, the moment of truth was fast approaching. I started out a little early. The last thing I want is to scuttle the whole deal because I was not there waiting for him after I said I would be. He’d be able to walk home no problem but it would be hell talking him off the ledge after I broke a promise I made to him. Crazy kid takes that stuff I say seriously.

Of course it was hot as blazes that day and I’m almost 10 minutes early. What to do. Oh yeah, let’s figure out a way to get Frank to walk back to the house by himself. Then I could save this ten minutes standing outside in the sun without a golf club in my hand.

Just as I was formulating some thoughts on that matter I heard a faint but distinct rumble. My savior had appeared. It was freakin beautiful man. All yellow and coming toward me instead of me having to drive to the school. Yeah I might have shed a tear or two. I caution you, experience the pick up lane before judging me.

Is that Moses actually driving the bus?

Is that Moses actually driving the bus?

There were moments of truth inside of moments of truth. He rode the bus. Now lets see what happens when he gets off, or if he gets off. Until I see him, he’s not really there. Read Aristotle. Oh, there he is. Immediately I realize his back pack is 400lbs too heavy for him. But he doesn’t look upset. This might be good.

Something else I noticed, the bus driver looked like he might actually be Moses, or at the very least his idol making brother Aaron. Wow he was old. Moses managed a slight wave. I thought, oh no bro, save your energy for the drive. His bones looked so brittle I thought the arm may drop right off as he lifted it from the wheel. He was able to reaffix his hand to the wheel and off he went. Leaving us in the freedom dust of my yellow savior.

Now the walk. No talking for the first 50 yards. A little awkward but this exchange was going to be critical. Patience was going to be key. Half way home I asked to carry his backpack. He was happy to shed it. And damn, it was heavy. No idea what I put in there to make it so.

He broached the subject first.

Daddy, you know when I said I didn’t want to ride the bus? I really did like riding the bus. But I like the van better.

First of all it’s not the van, it’s the Starship Frankerprise. Secondly, well duh who wouldn’t like riding in the command chair of that beauty. But the bus was pretty cool wasn’t it. 

Yeah, it was.

Woo Hoo! Promise land baby!

Subtlety people. Had I immediately jumped on his statement about how he liked the bus without throwing some sarcastic comment about the van he would have know I was working him, trying to get him to ride the bus all the time. And he would have all of a sudden hated the bus. The dance continues.

A week later he turned the tables on me. Told me it would be better if I didn’t walk home with him from the bus stop. He said it was because I walked too slow. I know it’s because all his buddies walk home by themselves. He’s embarrassed by that I guess. I get it and I’m glad he’s feeling independent. I’m still going to the end of the street to see him get off the bus. I get just close enough to see him without him seeing me and then I haul the mail back to the garage and make it look like I’m working (ha!) or cleaning up. He has yet to ask me why I’m in the garage everyday.

Mrs Frank’s Place and I are having different reactions to all of this, but yeah man. Promise Land!

Free man walking!

Free man walking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A promise broken.

I absolutely promised myself I would not weigh in on serious parenting issues. I defiantly swore to myself I would not start writing about social parenting issues just because stuff like that gets more clicks and might get picked up by web sites like Huffington Post or Time. And I confidently declared myself too lazy to wade into issues of that nature because of the research and facts that might be required.

Well, I’m about to break all those promises and declarations in one post. Of course it would have to be as hotly contested an issue as there is among parents. No point in starting with something easy like when should you put your kid in a real bed, or when should you start potty training. No, I’ve decided to jump into the deep end, put my head in the lion’s mouth as it were and talk about spanking.

Let’s set the boundary first. If you think what Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did to his 4yr old son is in the same universe as spanking, you are a toothless moron. Your opinion has zero validity and is not welcomed here. If you think or have written a statement saying parents who spank are “total scumbags” you are a f*%$#ing idiot and you should cancel your subscription to Frank’s Place immediately, un-follow me on twitter, and de-friend me on facebook.

Ok that’s it. Boundaries set. Let’s move on.

Sadly the issues in that third paragraph have been happening all over social media since the pictures of Peterson’s battered, bruised, and scarred son hit the internet. Mostly coming from the dad blogging community but not exclusively. When a brave soul ventures out to say they spank and believe it has helped in the discipline of their child, that poor bastard is drowned out by all the righteous parents that walk among us unwashed masses.

I’m not sure why or how parents who believe in spanking are being lumped in with the brutality by Peterson but they are. One bright lad went so far as to say if you have to spank a child to get them to obey or alter their bad behavior you should not be allowed to have children.

My response to that is simple. If you are too dense, or more likely too immature, to discern the difference between spanking a child for correction and assaulting a child with a weapon through anger, you are the dangerous parent and you are the person who should probably be held childless.

It was amusing reading what all these moral high-grounders wrote about never even thinking about hitting a defenseless child, not wanting to use superior strength and size to intimidate someone who can’t stick up for themselves. You know because Adrian Peterson whipped his child bloody, anyone who spanks must be as bad, anyone who does that is a neanderthal and a heartless parent of questionable ability. Christ, I can’t even type that without a pain in my side from the laughter. Instead they would much rather reason with them and then deny the child something they covet, like video games or their freedom in order to illicit proper behavior.

It’s laughable and somewhat cute that these perfect parents think mentally and emotionally controlling a child in that way is any less intimidating than spanking. Hey hippies, you think Johnny is not being intimidated when you snatch his X-box from him? How do you explain the relevance of his X-box to his bad behavior? Unless he used a controller to brain his sister or used the power cord to string up the cat, the X-box has zero relevance to the situation. So all you’ve done is substitute the X-box for your open hand on his backside. You think he values your parenting acumen when you imprison him in his room on a sunny day or embarrass him by putting him in a corner? Can he reciprocate by taking your iPhone? Better still, can he stop you from taking his X-box, or grounding him, or shaming him in the corner?

Spoiler – no he can’t. Congratulations you progressive model of non-spankiness, you just mentally and emotionally intimidated your child with your superior force, size, and strength. In fact you’re so skilled at bullying you didn’t even have to spank his bottom to make him mad, have him cuss you under his breath or wonder if you still love him. That’s efficiency.

But the question isn’t about bullying efficiency is it. The question really is what bullying tactic is better or worse. In my opinion it is relative to the situation. Now stand back cause comments like my previous sentence triggers an avalanche of the data people.

Data people is the group of people, parents and non-parents alike, who will flood you with links to surveys and studies and research that basically says your experiences are totally false and you must be a liar.

So it would go down something like this. You see a discussion about how barbaric and heartless and incompetent parents who spank are and you jump in to say your experience was not like anything they are describing. Then the data gang will sing you the song of their people: “THAT’S ANECDOTAL. THAT’S NOT DATA. SHOW ME DATA TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM! YOU’RE A SPANKER AND MUST BE STOPPED!” Usually sung to the tune of Happy Days Are Here Again. (Free Frank’s Place T-shirt if you video yourself singing that and post it to the Frank’s Place Face Book page.)

Okay, a lot out of tune with that song. First off, who the f*#k are you that I need to support my claim? Second, it’s not a claim, it’s what happened, told in first person, ya know like personal testimony. Third, and I can’t stress this question enough, yeah it’s anecdotal but so what? This is one of those moments where anecdotal evidence, in other words your personal experience, weighs more than “the data”.

I don’t need some jerkweed in a think tank telling me the data says I’m wrong when I can clearly see from the experience right in front of me that I’m right. Anecdotal is not a synonym for wrong. Data is not a synonym for correct.

Let’s not get in the weeds too much, but the “data” is not exactly accurate either. Dive into any one of the surveys or studies and most of the time you’ll find they don’t differentiate between open hand smack to a child’s kiester and striking a child in any other manner. But that’s a huge distinction. Punching my son in the mouth is a far cry from smacking his bottom.

Lastly on the data, read through the groups of people studied and you’ll see an erie trend toward one race of Americans. No surprise there really. It only proves statistics on any subject can be bent or twisted to fit the answer of the question being asked. Hence the importance of your experience or anecdotal evidence over “the data”.

Now in fairness I saw several meaningful offerings on why guys could never spank their kids. They ranged from not being able to look at their sweet child and raise a hand, to being an abused child themselves. All completely valid and heartfelt, and all completely anecdotal. Are those dads weak-minded fools because they can’t bring themselves to spank their kids. Of course not. They are caring, loving fathers who through their experiences chose to discipline in another fashion that suits their situation. Mind blowing isn’t it; grown men making parenting decisions based on their experience and gut feeling instead of a freaking data sheet created by a grad student at Tunnel Vision University.

Hey man, spank, don’t spank. I advocate neither. You know why? Cause it’s none of my damn business how you discipline and parent your kid. Your opinion on how I do that is as irrelevant as anything I can think of.

I don’t advocate any parenting styles. I just parent my kids.

The rest of you are on your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bro it’s not a sweeper, it’s a Fuller Brush!

Let me just say this is not a paid advertisement for Fuller Brush, but it probably should be.

What’s a Fuller Brush you say? Good god man were you raised by wolves in the Outback. I mean Australia boy, not the bloomin onion place. Well I see some history is in order.

Fuller Brush Company makes the greatest carpet cleaning products around. Oh sure you can git ya a Dyson, but for pure cleaning efficiency coupled with style, craftsmanship and history, nothing beats a Fuller. I have coveted a manual Fuller Friction Brush since I saw Don, the clean up guy in our studio from my Warrior Network days, use one some 10 years ago.

Very simple principle. Two rubber rollers separated by that patented Fuller Brush head comprises a compact unit that picks up crumbs, dirt, paper, you name it, simply by creating a static charge when you push it back and forth across the carpet, tile or wood floor.

Simple is good most of the time.

Don had him a Cadillac too. Very high-end model. The handle came in three pieces and screwed together like an assassins’ rifle. It was so quiet you could sneak up on an Injun with it. A Fuller Brush is so awesome Injuns don’t even care if you sneak up on them with it. Send all indignant e-mail to…

You need ya a Fuller bro!

You need ya a Fuller bro!

Anyway, it’s an awesome cleaning apparatus man. So much easier than yanking out the big vacuum when midget 1 crumbles his granola bar or midget 2 makes confetti out of her pop tart and pretends she’s at a parade. Yeah, that really happened.

Well my coveting days are over. Mrs Frank’s Place gave me a Fuller Friction Brush for my birthday. Yes Tony, I know this upsets you to some degree but this is my world now. It may very well have been the first natural reaction I’ve had to a gift in decades. The old ball and chain thought I might be offended, thought she might be bending some stereotypical lines by getting the little lady of the house what essentially amounts to a manual vacuum.  Not so.

As soon as I saw the name on the box I knew what it was. I should say I knew what I hoped it was. I had that thing assembled faster than Oswald got off those three shots, (he had help). In mere seconds I was cleaning the carpet and hardwood floors of our downstairs. Mrs Frank’s Place watched with a semi-sigh of relief and some bewilderment.

Ladies, if your man cleans the house, never underestimate the worth of an efficient cleaning implement. In fact the more gadget-ey said implement, the more the castle maintainer will like it. That’s predicated on the cleaning ability of course. Plus there’s that added lazy factor involved. Not having to actually vacuum some small crumb disaster is worth it’s weight.

I think that may be the appeal of the Fuller. It transcends gadgetry. Yeah I just used transcends when referring to a push brush that cleans floors. The Fuller Friction Brush is so refined it’s almost like the feel of a brand new hammer prior to being swung for the first time or the look of a brand new sleeve of white golf balls, un-hit and thus unmarred by neither tree nor cart path.

Look, I get that y’all think I’m going overboard here, but then again you probably don’t have a Fuller Push Brush. I got one for my birthday and aside from a new sleeve of golf balls, it might be one of the best gifts I could have received at this point in life.

Sometimes it’s the little things and then sometimes it’s a Fuller Friction Brush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11th 2014

September 11th 2001 I had the good fortune of wearing the uniform. Still 8 years from retirement, I was also fortunate to be tucked away in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee, as an instructor at the Noncommissioned Officers Academy.

As I stood with my brothers and sisters in arms watching the world fall apart seemingly around us, it struck me and just about everybody standing there, we were living through the most pivotal moment in our history. Our personal history and surely our military history had just taken a 90 degree turn. As cliche as it sounds, life was never the same again.

Our procedures changed, our curriculum changed, our incoming students changed.

13 years later I’m still riveted by the stories and pictures and documentaries that play on this day. But on that day, on September 11th 2001, I can still remember watching the little TV in my testing office as the reports came in about a plane hitting the Twin Towers. The conjecture was flying on the Today Show about how or why it happened, then it wasn’t. The second plane ended all that.

I’m not sure who said it, maybe then TSgt Don Felch, but someone said, “We’re under attack!”

90 degrees. It was as sudden as that.

I remember most of the people standing there, Don Felch, Mark Lane, Jerry Bivins, Mitch Lollar, Jon Hawk, Mike Smeltzer, and a few others. I remember heading home the next day after standing guard all night because someone thought they may be coming for the nerds next. I remember sitting in complete silence in front of the TV all the next day with my then roommate Chris Morin, now a father and still an Officer, not believeing a thing I was seeing.  All have gone on to full military careers and most have since joined me in retirement.

The rallying cry that has become the norm for September 11th is Always Remember, Never Forget.

I wonder, is it possible to forget a day like today? With our high speed lives of moving from one huge experience to the next at a dizzying pace, is it possible?

I remember where I was and who I was with. We all have a story from that day I imagine.

What’s yours?

 

Always Remember Never Forget

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Kindergarten: First rule of Car Lobby Pick Up Lane…

I am currently breaking the first rule of Car Lobby Pick Up Lane: don’t talk about Car Lobby Pick Up Lane or CLPUL for short. But before I transgress maybe we should discuss the practice of kindergarten staggered start. It is this strange beast called staggered start that creates the need for the first rule of the pick up lane.

See, in order to acclimate the little tykes to their new environs, they go one half day a week for two weeks. That half day is critical to the pick up lane people. That half day is what triggers the feeling, “Oh this doesn’t seem so bad.” Gotcha!

Yeah see, the staggered start half days means there are only about 40 parents coming to grab up their little tykes and tyke-ettes. The week following the final staggered start is when the parent of a first timer will get the full monty. It’s a sight to behold.

Arriving for my first full monty pick up I realize I’m early, it’s 2:12pm and pick up starts at 2:45. Turns out I was late. It’s 2:12 in the PM and I’m 45 or 50 cars from the front of the line. This can’t be! It can be and it is.

As with all endeavors where people who have never been taught to be in charge are in fact in charge, a glut of time is required to complete said endeavor as a multitude of procedures are in play. Many of those procedures are unspoken or unwritten.

By the way, first rule of pick up lane is in the rear view mirror. We are now transgressing.

Anyway, the first unwritten rule I encountered and subsequently broke was leaving the vehicle. Stopped by a police officer and sitting the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane are the two circumstances where it is still legal to pepper spray a motorist if they exit the vehicle.

You have no friends in the Car Lobby Pick Up Line

You have no friends in the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane

Case in point, I survive the 45 minute wait from my paltry 58th position in line and roll to a perfect stop in front of the herd of kids waiting for pickup. I pop the hatch on the Starship Frankerprise (our minivan for the uninitiated). A fine young man, I make him to be 5th grade, wearing appropriate accouterments marking him out as a person of considerable authority, approaches the side hatch.

In his charge is one Frank Linardo, 1st Mate of the Starship Frankerprise. The lad escorts Frank to his command chair. I jump out to secure Frank in his seat in case we encounter turbulence on the homeward voyage.

Ok, now how many of you parents just cringed or otherwise yelled “Don’t get out of the car you chooch!” directly at your computer screen and/or mobile device?

It took me 3.8 seconds to secure Frank and get back in the car. In that time a woman, presumably in charge, approached with death laser vision engaged. She peered in my passenger window, glanced around, spun on her heel, withered the young lad in the safety patrol gear with a spleen melting stare, and returned to her position on high. I quick like lowered the window and yelled, “What’s the problem?” I figure I’m in trouble for something, might as well put my head all the way in the lion’s mouth.

She was nonplussed and ignored me. I asked the safety kid why he got the stare down. Like a loyal capo he covered for his Don, saying she was just making sure Frank was buckled in. That story might have held up had it not been for a kindergarten parent wide e-mail sent the next day saying, “Stay in your cars dumb asses!”

I know that was aimed at me. I can read between the e-mail addresses. Hey I may be paranoid but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.

So yeah don’t get out of the car. I can only imagine the indignant faux rage directed at me from the driver seats of the cars who were delayed that extra four seconds. And yes Smarty McSmartypants I can do the math if every parent jumped out and what delay that would cause. But the question remains, who was going to secure Frank in his seat?

Answer – nobody. Frank secures the top harness across his chest himself and because he doesn’t have the leverage to push the tabs into the buckles he leaves the buckle around his waist loose until I get to a spot up the street where I can stop and jump out.

Makes for an efficient exit from the CLPUL but it seems to be missing something in the safety area. No matter. More important to get in and get out of the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane quickly than have Frank buckled in safely.

My second foray into the CLPUL was not much better. I received word, via forward scouts, the traffic was piling up on the approach to the school. I headed out forthwith, avoided the traffic jam with a deft back road approach and found a small line forming in the Pick Up Lane. I motored to the end of the line and executed a quick like 3 point turn to take my place in line. Whilst performing point #2 of the turn I encountered some hardened earth, taking a heavy hit to the underside of the Frankerprise. All systems seemed to be in order so I continued on to wait the requisite 60 minutes for pick up.

As the time for pick up arrived I could hear a strange noise every time I moved forward. Turns out a five foot piece of trim had broken off and was hanging on by one small screw under the front mud flap. The piece of trim was sticking straight out into the road on a 90 degree angle from the front tire. In other words no one waiting in line behind me bothered to give me a heads up even though they could all see it. So I rolled down the window, shouted some niceties, and kept on rolling. Hey man, I’m not giving up my place in line. I’d have been there for hours if I got out of line to fix the van and you know, no getting out of the vehicle in the Car Lobby Line so… Yeah I drug that five foot hunk of plastic down the street, through the school parking lot and right up to the pick up point in front of the Car Lobby door.

Frank jumped in and a very helpful teacher showed me a spot in the Car Lobby area where I could pull over, dismount the vehicle, and get her road worthy. Car Lobby – 2 Starship Frankerprise – 0

UPDATE

I have since completed three more runs at the Car Lobby Pick Up Line with no incident. In fact I am writing this post as I sit in the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane. I have to say the system does work well unless you have a kindergartner still in a full size car seat. Then it gets dicey as to security of the five point harness at pick up time. Aside from one individual with a Napoleon complex, the Car Lobby gang are usually very nice to us first time idiots and they do a pretty good job with what seems like an insurmountable task.

So if you’re scoring at home: Car Lobby Pick Up Lane – 2   Starship Frankerprise – 3

However, the wait in the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane is one of the most excruciating hours of my day. Completely jacks up everything and the freaking bus beats me home anyway. Riding the bus home from school is looking better and better everyday. I broached the subject with Frank. His response, “Oh no no no I’m a car rider, I go to the car lobby.”

Well buddy now you’re a bus rider and you go to the Bus Lobby and if you have a problem with that, write your congressman and donate to his reelection lobby.

Tuesday ought to be exciting.

 

Kindergarten Part 2: The Nosebleed and the Evaluation

Time to clear a few things up.

I care not one wit when you sent your kid to kindergarten. 4, 5, 6, 76 years old, makes no matter to me. My issue stems from the idea that sending a 5 year old to kindergarten when he is 5 is now considered early somehow. That premise cast a mighty web over what should have been a simple decision. He’s 5, he’s going.

So stop e-mailing me, unless you have millions of American dollars you need to transfer from your bank in Burkina Faso and just need my bank account numbers to send me the money.

Secondly, when I say it’s just kindergarten I don’t mean to belittle the institution of said kindergarten. The statement “It’s just kindergarten” comes from my experience of turning 5 on August 20th and my mother putting me on a bus two weeks later to go to kindergarten. I went to no pre-schools and no advanced day cares. I turned 5 two weeks before kindergarten started and I was sent to kindergarten. Simple as that. Now I will say I have six brothers and sisters older than me and one younger sister so there’s a good chance my mother was trying to ship as many of us out of the house as soon as possible. My experience with our second child, miss ultra heavy maintenance herself, is leading me to the same desire.

Ok armed with that info, plus what we gleaned from Frank’s pre-school teachers, the K-5 principal, and some very trusted neighbors, we now felt confident it was time to go to kindergarten. The last step was his pre-K evaluation where they gather what the tyke knows so as best to situate him in one of six kindergarten classes at his new school. Simple, smooth, no problem.

Well if you’ve read this blog at all you well know smooth just isn’t our style and simple is our mortal enemy. And the debate of him going or not was just waiting for a spark to re-ignite it.

His eval was on a Tuesday. The weekend just prior to that we all became deathly ill. That’s no exaggeration. Tracy ended up at the doctor and almost landed in the hospital and I was flat on my back for the two days before this pre-K eval. Frank waited to get sick until Sunday night into Monday. You can read it here if you like: Stomach virus we hardly knew ye! Anyway with the extra degree of difficulty thrown  in to impress the Russian judges, we approached the day of evaluation.

By Tuesday morning I had lost nine pounds, had a pounding headache, and my vision was blurry. That’s three and a third pounds a day if you’re scoring at home. Frank, who was sick the day before, seemed fine. But he only weighs nine pounds so go figure. I don’t know if it all played a part in the ensuing hi-jinx but the kid who wanted to start kindergarten back in May before he finished pre-school was no longer interested in being a Rocky Hill Ram. So disinterested was he, that a small barricade appeared under the dinning room table and he basically dared me to go all ATF/FBI standoff with him.

Short of fuse and having not eaten in four days I upped the intensity and went Soviet Union style KGB, dragging him out kicking and screaming, no charges, no one phone call, no lawyer, no chance of freedom. Strapped in the paddy wagon, off we go to pre-K evaluation. And that’s where it got interesting.

We pulled in about 10 minutes early and I would need every one of those minutes to get it together. I no sooner had the van in park when my nose just started gushing blood. Absolutely no warning. I literally thought this might be the big one, the aneurysm to end them all. Since I had been cleaning the van the day before from our little holiday cancelled by our daughter’s projectile vomiting, there was a roll of paper towels in the front seat. Half a roll and ten minutes later the bleeding was under control. The front seat looked like a scene from the operating room in M*A*S*H. Undaunted we soldiered on. Well one soldier and one captive being dragged.

Besides the bleeding I became aware of the fact I was sweating like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Bloody and sweaty and hysterical, we were mere steps from inflicting ourselves on the good people at Rocky Hill, and me without my ozone depleting aerosol deodorant. Upon entry we happened on a mob assembled in the lobby of the school. Parents with their equally unwilling kindergartners-in-waiting, were actually waiting on a teacher to shepherd us all back to the classroom. In the nadir of that long wait, Frank decided pulling me back to the car would end his nightmare. Ah but I had deployed a defense without knowing it. I was sweating so badly, he kept slipping off me and falling to the floor.

First impressions are our specialty.

At last the teacher appears and, with a second and third glance at me, led us down the hall to the classroom. I was relieved now because we were in the hands of the professionals. I operate under the principal of the Roman Soldier in the bible who begs Jesus for help. The dude basically says, Bro don’t bother coming to my house just say she’ll be healed and I’m good. (slight paraphrase from the original greek) When I’m with people who know more than me and are in charge of their area, that’s how I do it. Just tell me you have it under control and I’m a willing sheep waiting to be herded. That sounded better in my head.

However, demonstrate you have not the slightest idea and act like this is the first time you’ve done this thing you’ve been doing for years, then I’m like the man people called Legion because he was possessed by so many demons. Anyway the kindergarten gang at Rocky Hill did not disappoint. They have a system and they work it to perfection. Willing sheep I was.

The midpoint of the hall was the moment of truth. A teacher stood holding a door to a classroom. She was in a funny stance, like she would be blocking parents from getting in. Guess what, that’s exactly what she was doing. A human wedge, she was separating child from parent. Child went in the room, parents kept moving down the hall. Three kids went full psycho. Never go full psycho. Frank went stiff, like those fainting sheep do. I gave him a quick hip check and in he went, head down, resigned to his fate and what he thought must be his imminent death.

We continue down the hall and I find a bathroom, finally. I felt like a giant. This can was designed for Lilliputians. It really threw me off. It was hard to get my bearings in there. It was no help anyway. I was only sweating a little now and the blood was almost gone, but I smelled like death on a stick and nothing would fix that.

In the classroom I go with the other parents. We are told to take a seat. No. Nope. Not in my most nimble of days could I sit in what the teacher referred to as a seat. That damn thing might as well have been a futon it was so low. The only plus side, after about five minutes other parents slowly adjusted themselves away from me and my cloud of death smell, leaving the midget table to me alone.

We get a briefing about what’s happening in the next room and then the forms come, always the forms to be filled out. Before I could focus on my favorite form, the volunteer form, a kid comes back from the other room. Then another appears, and another. All smiles these kids were. Then a few more. Now there are only a few parents left in the room. Balls. He must be bombing in there. He did tell me on the ride over the reason for his French Revolution style barricade. He was afraid he would do poorly and get things wrong on the test. That thought alone shows me he’s ready.

Well he was second to last coming back. This can’t be good for him or me. I know I’m getting it with both barrels when I get home.

Frank finally reappears, all smiles with a teacher who is also all smiles. She hands me the sheet of what he did and it was full of a lot of stuff. He did a lot. Weak in the area of sight words and letter sounds, strong with counting, number recognition and writing his name. All stuff we knew already. So it turns out the kids who were ultra smart and the kids who refused to speak came back first. The other kids, the middle of the pack kids came back according to how much they could do. So Frank was slightly above average. Hey man, I lived there through grade school and high-school and I turned our alrig… ok never mind.

Back in the van Frank was ready to start kindergarten again. He asked how he did. I said, “Frank, the fact that you were scared to death but went in the room anyway and then performed through that fear means you were perfect.” It wasn’t Vince Lombardi material but you know, it sufficed for a 5 year old. He had a smile and he was hungry.

Quick tip: never let a kid coming off a stomach virus have chik-fil-a no matter how well he does on his evaluation the next day. Stomach virus – 1 Daddy and mommy & daddy’s bed sheets – 0

Well needless to say, the news of his triumph was not well received in the homestead. Apparently middle of the pack will simply not do. Never mind the fact that both of his parents planted flags in the middle of the pack through our early school years and one of us stayed there through college. (pssst… not me)

After much debate, gnashing of teeth and renting of garments, the kid is going to kindergarten, we’re not moving to a new city, and balance has been restored to the force. I think. Stay tuned.

But he is going to kindergarten. I have proof. Check it:

His first mug shot. So proud!

His first mug shot. So proud!

As it turns out I’m the one who may not be ready for kindergarten. These people have rules and they enforce them. At pre-school I just showed up, a kid would yell “Frank your dad is here!” and Frank would come running, a teacher would mark him off the sheet and Frank would get in the van.

At kindergarten Frank has a number and I have a corresponding ID marker I need to display to pick him up. Helps if you actually bring that ID marker with you. I failed in that regard for the very first pick up. Second in line for pick up I felt something was not right. Again smooth is not our style. I look at the car in first position and damn it! I forgot my school ID.

So I break out my retired military ID and beg forgiveness. The first lady seemed OK with it but then disappeared back into the school. A second person wandered out, asked the same questions and wandered back into the school. OK I know when I’m being cased. I deserved it. Lesson learned. Contestant number three came out, gave me the once over and sent the high sign back toward the school doors. Out comes Frank with his teacher. I plead stupidity and she’s cool with that.

It’s really not my fault man. It’s this kid’s fault.

 

When does she start school?

When does she start school?

Sending one kid off to school has done nothing to lessen the chaos on the homefront. In fact I think she feels more free now that she has my full attention.

But don’t you worry Anne Marie, pre-school is coming for you in a few weeks.

Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty I’m almost…..