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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindergarten: There will be blood! Part 1 The decision.

Let me start off with a simple statement; it’s just kindergarten. Let’s try to keep that in mind throughout this post and throughout life in general. Say it with me, it’s just kindergarten.

So with that little axiom in mind I offer, for your edification, a story of transition. It’s a story fraught with uncertainty, fear, and peril as we look over the precipice into the abyss, hypnotized by the eyes of the leviathan. (Or as Hupp would call it The Ohio Grassman)

I get that this experience is probably not the norm, but it’s our experience or at least our experience as I see it. This in no way is a debate or judgement about sending a child to kindergarten at 5 years of age or holding them back. It’s they story of our internal family debate over that issue; a slight but important distinction. The easily offended, the hypersensitive, and the correctors of all wrongs on the internet would do well to skip this one. Ok with all the public service warnings out of the way, here now the story of the Decision: To send or not to send 5 year old Frank to kindergarten.

19 May 2009

Ready for SATs Frank?

Ready for SATs Frank?

May 19th was a great day. Our first child was born, a son named Frank. Apart from a harrowing 10 minutes where they shifted from natural delivery to emergency egress through the sun roof (c-section), it was a perfect day. Little did I know 19 May 2009 was a date that would live in infamy. Had he been born on 19 July or 19 August this story never happenes. Had Frank been born on 19 January or even 19 February, this story never happens. But 19 May, that put us right in the cleavage of a growing trend/debate about preparedness for kindergarten.

May 19th put us in a jam. Like most people in Knoxville, I blame Mike Hamilton. On the 18th of May at a little gathering, we’re saying goodbyes and Mike yells out “Hope the baby comes tonight!” Sure enough 10pm that night, three plus weeks early, the birth sequence was initiated. What I did not know, what no one was thinking about, a very slow burning fuse was also lit that day. The end of the fuse was a powder keg called kindergarten.

May 2014

Frank is now five years old, has been in pre-school since he was two and the decision about kindergarten comes up. Not five months earlier there was no question. Mrs Frank’s Place and I were sure he would be starting kindergarten in August of 2014. Something changed from that moment to May of 2014 and the debate was on.

Tracy’s issue was one of a parent protecting her child and not wanting to see him flounder. Noble to be sure. My position, struggle is good. Birds struggle to breakout of their eggs with no help from momma because it strengthens their wings so they can fly. If she cracks the eggs for them, they’re doomed to under-developed wings resulting in a very short life, ending with a frightening drop from the nest with a crescendo of a skull shattering landing on the forrest floor.

Hyperbole aside, there is no soft, smooth path here. The kid is going to struggle at some things no matter what age he starts school. I have associates degrees in Math and Physics and I could barely solve the equation 3 + x=5 when I got to high-school. Sometimes you put your shoulder against the mill stone and just keep pushing. Simple as that. Having said that, Tracy had a very good point. We don’t want him to needlessly struggle, so much so that he may begin to hate school or fall behind too far too fast, never being able to recover. The bird that can’t get out of the egg winds up just as dead as the bird with weak wings who was helped out of the egg.

So the question of the day was, how weak or strong were his wings. We batted around what we thought were his struggles and strengths but that amounted to nothing more than both of us supporting our already decided positions with our own facts. Time to talk to his teachers and once that info was harvested we would talk to the principal of the school he was heading to. Oh yeah it was getting real and really complex. Remember it’s just kindergarten.

The sit down with his current and final pre-schol teachers went fine. It was a bit of an exercise in teeth pulling, but we got what we came for, information. God love em, they don’t want to say a bad word about anyone. I get that. I also get that I move through this world in a blunt force trauma sort of way and expect others to be as brutally honest and emotionally detached when they deal with me. They weren’t. It was a process getting to the info we needed to make a decision. His teachers operate under the directive of “We don’t make decisions about moving on, we just tell you what we’ve seen.” It’s not as binding as the Prime Directive from Star Trek, but you know, it carries some weight.

Through no fault of their own, his pre-school teachers highlighted one of the myriad of things that turns going to kindergarten into such a massive decision when it really shouldn’t be. Worried they might be influencing our decision they were not as brutally honest as we needed them to be. I would have preferred them to say “Look he’s half a dope and needs to wait a year.” I get that no one is going to say that, but if they did this transition would be much easier and quicker. It’s just kindergarten.

After a little teeth pulling they finally spit it out. We think he should wait a year. Thank God. Now we can start asking serious questions, like why do you think that. Nothing they said changed my mind in the slightest: He didn’t like doing the evaluations. He wanted to play as soon as he was done with evals. He had trouble with letter sounds and sight words. The only issue that even caused my mind to stop turning for a milli-second was “He gets stuck in the bathroom.”

Ah wut?

Yeah he gets in there to do his business and then can’t get out. He’s completely potty trained. He can handle his business, he just couldn’t get out when he was done. The door was too heavy and they would have to let him out. He is little but he’s not that little. I dismissed that out of hand for several reasons. One, that door is like the gate of King Richard’s castle and two, if I remember correctly, grade school bathrooms have no door, or they are kept propped open. Turns out the kindergarten Frank would be going to has doorless bathrooms, something akin to what you see in airports these days.

Very thankful for Miss Leigh Ann and Miss Beth.

Very thankful for Miss Leigh Ann and Miss Beth.

Needless to say I saw this information completely differently than Tracy and his teachers. They thought he should wait a year. To me this is exactly what the next step in school is for, aside from the crapper issue, to teach him these things. His skill with numbers on the golf course and in general would already have him ahead of his peers in that regard. So if comparison is the yard stick for this decision, should’t those other kids be held back until they catch up with him and can add and subtract in their head without use of fingers or sounding it out? No of course not, that would be rediculous. They would learn to do that just like Frank would have to learn and catch them in the area of letter sounds and reading. It’s just kindergarten.

School is for learning, not reciting what you already know to an adult. At least that’s the fallacy I was operating under. But let’s say he should wait. What then? Where does he go next year? Back to the same pre-school? That made no sense to me. Tracy felt very strongly with holding him back and I went along with her in that. But in no way was I gonna hold with putting him right back in the same place. That seemed just silly to me. If he’s not ready then another year in the same joint wasn’t going to help, let’s send him somewhere else for a year.

Let me say Miss Leigh Ann and Miss Beth were great and Frank loves them. Miss Beth taught Frank to swim, and Frank always went on and on about Miss Leigh Ann. We were lucky Miss Leigh Ann moved on with Frank from his second year to his third year at pre-school. Her temperament and style is exactly what you would hope for when your kid goes to school. I say that as a parent and a trained evaluator of educators, having done so for several years towards the end of my time in the Air Force. Frank, and his parents, miss that little school and his teachers. They were a tremendous blessing.

Quidam Romanus, semper Romanus – Once a Roman, always a Roman

Tracy had a great and terrible idea. Let’s check out Sacred Heart Catholic School. We can send him there as a trial run at kindergarten and then send him to the public school kindergarten the following year if he’s not ready to move on to first grade. The feeling being he wouldn’t get held back in the same school, thus being upset about not moving on with his friends. Hear that, that’s the very slight sound of the bird’s egg being cracked for him, wings being weakened.

It was a great idea in that it was the mother of all compromise. Truly this woman should be the Speaker of the House. John of Orange (Speaker Boehner) could learn a lot from Tracy in the art of negotiation and compromise.

However it was a terrible idea because that would require me to step foot in a place I had shunned when I was 13. My eight years in catholic school were the worst years of my life. I hated that place and hated school because of it. In 7th grade I sat in the pew with my father during Confirmation practice vowing, silently to myself of course, that my children would never go through this, ever.

As Tracy will gleefully tell you I can’t even see corduroy pants without having paralyzing flashbacks to the days of getting slapped in the face, punched in the mouth, denied my lunch, being locked in a dark closet, being made to eat on the floor, having my hair pulled till I sang properly, and being forced to copy a book by hand for two weeks straight at lunch time because they felt I was being lazy. I was denied my lunch and yard time for those two weeks. Yard time people, it was a prison from which there was no escape and no parole. Much like boot camp the only escape was graduation. I never had those issues in grades where the teacher was a civilian, in fact those were the grades I performed the best. All those things you see there, and more, only occurred in grades where my teacher was a Nun, the Sisters of St. Joseph to be exact. It doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to trace where my blunt force trauma style comes from.

Anyway, we approached the Death Star Sacred Heart Catholic School. Palpitations were limited but growing in intensity. I could not feel the presence of my old masters yet, but like Obi Wan, I was ready and willing to drill one in the snot locker should the need arise.

Well what a let down, a build up with no payoff. Turns out my vow at 13 would not be broken. Other than the uniforms this place in no way resembled the Shawshank I endured. In fact we left there thinking the place and people were so awesome I could actually see Frank and his sister going the entire distance, K-8, at Sacred Heart Catholic School. It was odd. It felt safe, secure, dare I say loving. The Church has changed in the last 34 years.

Ok then, other than a sit down with the principal from the public school, looks like the prodigal son is sending his offspring to Catholic School.

Expecting to get the same analysis from the head shed that we got from the pre-school peeps, I again was knocked off my pins. That dude was all like, “Oh send him. It’s just kindergarten. We get kids who don’t know the difference between a number or a letter and Frank can add and subtract? Send him. He’ll be fine.”

Whoa man that can’t be. How is that possible? He says, “We’re a pubic school, people send their kids, we take em.” No, no I mean how is it possible that a kid can come to kindergarten not knowing letters or numbers? What we’ve been told from teachers and other people, friends, etc… is if your kid can’t read Chaucer you better hold them back.

He says in almost a casual unimportant manner, “Yeah, that’s a big fad, holding kids back. No real merit to it. I mean would we all benefit from starting school at 6 instead of 5, of course, but is it necessary, nope. It’s just kindergarten. We don’t even make decisions on holding back until the end of first grade anyway. Plus we have one of the best kindergarten programs around. He’ll know what he needs to know by year’s end.”

He said it was Just kindergarten, the principal of the school said that. I could not believe what I was hearing.

I agreed with him about the new fad of holding kids back. It’s even crept into societies vocabulary. A very educated and common sensical person said “It won’t kill him if he goes early.” Did you catch that? Goes early she said. At 5 years old he would not be going early, he would be on time. “Well I meant in relation to the other kids in the class.” No Frank still won’t be early. He’s five, he’ll be on time. Those other kids will be late in starting school. Hey that’s not an opinion, that’s just fact. Kindergarten starts at 5. If a kid starts kindergarten at 6, then that child started a year later than anyone who started at 5. There really is no subjection there, it’s just a simple linear timeline.

I must admit my neighbor has said roughly the same thing the principal did about sending Frank long before this. She’s a elementary school teacher and she interacts with Frank in the street daily. Her position was if he can sit quietly for long periods of time she’d take that over a kid who’s disruptive but can read. Or something to that effect. Her thought process was the fact that Frank can already tie his shoes, dress himself, loves going to school, and is polite to a fault when dealing with the adults in our hood puts him on par or ahead of a lot of his peers, so send him he’ll be fine. Amen sister.

But for Tracy, she needed to hear it from someone official and I understand that. Well can’t get more official than the prinicpal. But to add on to that, Frank and I went to the Kindergarten Round Up. Like an open house for the kindergarten program. He met all six teachers and got to tour three of the six classrooms. They were of the same mind. Send him, he’ll be fine.

The teachers, to a person, were very impressed with Frank and his manners. When he said “May I please go in the play area…” in the back of the classroom, I thought one of them was going to cry. The PTO gave him a car magnet with the school logo on it that he stared at the entire ride home. Walking out of the place he says to me, “I’m a Rocky Hill Ram!” Yeah he’s ready. It’s just kindergarten.

So we changed course. No Catholic school for Frank, although I would have been absolutely fine with it. Some personal demons were slain during that visit so it was fruitful no matter if he goes there or not. The plan is set. He starts school on the 14th of August. We’re ready to go, or are we?

There was still a matter of his kindergarten pre-evaluation on the 5th of August. The debate, it seems, was about to be re-ignited.

 

Check back in a few days for Kindergarten: There will be blood – Part 2 The Eval.  

 

Lost in the wilderness… of soccer camp.

We are at the age with Frank where activities outside of the school year have become a thing. I’d be perfectly happy to let the kid just enjoy his summer running around outside, playing inside, going to the pool, etc… But Mrs Frank’s Place has other ideas. So soccer camp here we come.

Look man, I never did any of this stuff when I was a kid; no little league baseball, no pee wee football, and certainly no soccer. I forged my parents signature in high-school so I could be a pole vaulter on the track team. That means I am a fish out of water when it comes to dealing with stuff like this. But Mrs Frank’s Place put it on our (mine & Frank’s) schedule so off we go to soccer camp. A British soccer camp, run by British people. That becomes important for two good reasons later on.

There were two sessions for five year olds. He could go early at 9am or play later at 10:45. Later is always better. Except when it isn’t. Only one other five year old at the 10:45 session. They chucked that kid and Frank in with the 10-11yr olds for that day. I sat back, waiting for hilarity to ensue. And if it wasn’t for a meddling 11 yr old girl, who took Frank under her wing and basically chaperoned him the entire session, there would have been some good hi-jinx I think.

Anyone notice my first mistake/lesson. If you didn’t you’re not a soccer mom. I stayed for the session and watched. And I was the lone adult aside from the six coaches. 60+ kids and they were all dropped off. There may have been a parent or two in the parking lot. Hard to tell. But I started to feel a little helicopterish and thought I must not have enough to do in my day if I have an hour and a half to stand here watching the kid run around. I rectified that the next four days by bringing the running stroller and taking Anne Marie for a quick two mile hike around the “futbol” complex.

Coach Kate. She taught Frank a ton of futbol. I learned a bit too.

Coach Kate. She taught Frank a ton of futbol. I learned a bit too.

My second mistake of course was signing up for the late session. No way he can go the whole week playing with 10-11 year old kids. So the coach, Kate, comes up to me after the first day and says the following: “thith’r’ll be moo five er c’rky kids a te 9 o’clock sess. Best ring im then aye.” And that was a generous translation of what I heard. Of course I just stared at her, then said, “Sorry I got nothing.” She laughed and tried it again. I finally got it and we switched to the 9am session.

My second lesson – If the coach is from an english speaking country and you still can’t understand her, your kid is going to learn a lot about futbol, or soccer for you die hard Americans. And learn he did. He went from running around in the giant kid amoeba chasing the ball in AYSO soccer on Saturdays to actually understanding the game. It would take ten years of AYSO to match what Kate taught him in four days. He also learned how to put me on my ass. Literally.

The last day of camp we were a bit early and I was kicking the ball around in the wet grass with Frank. The friggen grass was always wet. Anyway, all of a sudden my son, who never kicked the ball once in AYSO soccer eight months prior, squats in some kind of futbol ready pose and dares me to try and stop him as he tries to get by me with the ball. Challenge accepted.

He went right, I took one step left. He quick like went back to his left and had the angle on me. I went hard two steps to my right. My last step was the last time I was upright. Both legs now in the air, above my head, I began to feel like this might end badly. It did. I managed to turn to my side and take the brunt of it with my shoulder and not land flat on my back. But I was soaked and muddy. It must have looked really bad because I was quickly aware of several parents standing over me saying things like, “Oh my god are you ok?!”

I also became keenly aware of a familiar sound. Laughter. It was coming from two places and both were related to me. Yes, it seems daddy flying upside down into the mud was the source of great joy for Frank and Anne Marie. Not a sole laughing out of 60 kids and 30 some odd parents except for the two who emanated from my loins. Yep it ended badly.

It was the grass! It was the grass!

It was the grass! It was the grass!

In my defense the damn grass was always wet. Also, and my neighbors can attest to this, the old spike-less golf shoes I knock around in have the treads of a slimy piece of baloney. Photo evidence to the left of the field conditions that led to my demise. Notice the only place where there is no grass on the entire complex of like 11inty billion acres of grass is where I went down like an oddly shaped sack of taters.

Anyway I picked myself up, refocused my eyes, which took longer than I had hoped, took AM by the hand and walked back to the van. As we get closer to the van I noticed the damn auto key thing-a-ma-jig ain’t working. I’m now right in front of the van, pointing the key fob right at the windshield and furiously pushing buttons and dog cussin and nothing is happeneing. It is then I notice a women staring back at me from the driver seat. “Well what the hell is she doing in my va…..” Oh….. Yeah, wrong van. Well they all look alike man.

Ok then. The only plus side of all this; it’s the last day of camp. There’s a good chance I won’t be seeing most of these people again. My vision was so blurred from the massive headache coming on I couldn’t see any of those people anyway.

Ah well, small price to pay so the little tyke could learn some futbol from people who can’t speak `Murican english and still refer to us as the Colonies.

Cheerio!

 

 

 

Oh stomach virus, we hardly knew ye…

Been a little quiet around Frank’s Place for the last week. Well not really quiet, just not a lot of meaningful conversation going on. Unless you count the deals we’ve all been making with God. Aside from the painful noises associated with blowing yesterday’s breakfast all over the bathroom, deals with God were the next most frequent noise you would have heard this week at Frank’s Place HQ.

One of the best movie lines ever uttered, and most repeated by my brother, sums up our week nicely: “The raven of death has dropped a black feather at your door.” The black feather came in the form of a vicious stomach virus. The raven who delivered it came in the form of our 2yr old tornado.

Sharknado has nothing on this kid.

Sharknado has nothing on this kid.

<—–Yeah that’s her.

Happily on our way to Raleigh last Friday, I was alerted to a problem within the Starship Frankerprise when I felt something hitting the back of my seat. We were 20 minutes into our trip and our little Anne Marie was spray painting the front two rows of the van. The problem: she wasn’t holding a can of spray paint. Projectile with a capital P best describes the torrents of vomit coming out of our 2yr old. It was everywhere. Only Frank escaped the barrage. After three healthy blasts of the vomit cannon she ran out of steam. Time to make some decisions.

Continue on or turn around to possibly relaunch the next day? No way we can keep going. Back at the house the kid let loose again. In fact she barfed, puked, up chucked, hoarked, dry heaved and otherwise threw up for the next four hours. Other than when her little body was locked in vomitus expellius, she was fine. You would not know she was sick. The same could not be said for the two adults in the house.

Tracy was the voice of doom. “We’re going to get this.” Yeah I figured. Look, the only thing that frightens me more than looking out of a window in the dark is throwing up. So I was hoping against all hope that we, or at least I, would be spared. No luck.

By Friday night Tracy was giving back a weeks worth of meals. By Saturday night into the early Sunday hours I was giving back a very bad choice of pulled pork sandwich I had for lunch on Saturday. I took a different tact this time around. Instead of using my extensive Jedi mind power to hold off prayer time to the goddess porcelain, I decided to embrace the puke.

Looking at every vomit event as a little weight loss plan I felt it might go easier. It worked for the first few times. By the second round of dry heaves, I went from confidently standing over the hopper giving back lunch and trimming my waist to a crumpled mess on the floor hanging onto the crapper much harder than DiCaprio held on to that huge piece of wood when the Titanic went down. Dumb bastard. There was plenty of room on that thing for him and that english chick. No reason for him to float in the ice cold water….

I was so friggen exhausted, but there was no icy deep to absorb my body and relieve my misery. I had to go on, although at that moment not by choice. At one point I was convinced someone would burst through the door and kill me, taking away my pain, making everything alright. Not to be. Had to drag my ass back to the couch in the bonus room and live on. Covered in sweat, smelling like death, I lived on.

While I suffered in silence, the two kids were fine. Frank had yet to get sick and Anne Marie was already better. Tracy was having a harder time than me, laying in the master bathroom where she set up shop. It put us in a position never before experienced. We were both gravely ill while both our kids were fine.

I knew both kids were awake by 7am Sunday. Tracy managed a burst of energy, putting the cartoons on and making it back to bed. At some point morning became afternoon and Frank kept bringing me different food products to open. I was so weak I couldn’t get the granola bar open. He looked at me like I was a moron. I found the TV remote, took off the battery door and stabbed the corner of it into the granola bar. A rip in the package! Success! A quick chuckle and I triumphantly handed the treasure over to my 5yr old son who gave me one more moron look and disappeared into the hall.

As it turns out Frank was making lunch for his sister. A granola bar, apple sauce, saltines, a piece of wheat bread and apple juice. Quite the spartan menu, but at that moment had he feed her M&Ms and mint chocolate chip ice cream I would not have cared. Actually other than the granola bar everything else was perfect for a kid with a stomach bug.

I finally regained semi-conciousness Monday morning, nine pounds lighter for my troubles.

For all Frank’s troubles, his willingness to do what he could for his sister, taking some burden off of his parents, essentially baby sitting for an entire Sunday, he managed to escaped the … Nope, no he didn’t. Murse Frankingale started puking Sunday night into Monday morning. Worse, his kindergarten assessment was Tuesday morning. The kid is a trooper, he rallied late Monday and answered the bell Tuesday and did great. A post of that little experience is up coming.

It takes a village.

Or in this case a SAC, as in our cul-de-sac. We had no choice. No relief in sight and no help coming we had to put up the SAC Signal. The SAC responded. Within minutes there were relief supplies and dinner for the kids on the porch. It was a true life saver.

Rachel & John, Amber & Travis, Whitney & Mike, all came to our aid and pulled us through a pretty dark moment. Honorable mention to Becky & JB for volunteering to be added to the SAC Signal and putting themselves in harms way for next time. Kidding aside, it sounds silly but being so sick as to be immobile, unable to help your children, is a sad and sickening thought all on it’s own. Knowing we live on a street where people rush to help is a comforting feeling.

Thanks guys.