Balloons on the ceiling: A birthday week survived.

You know that old saying, no good deed goes unpunished? Yeah, that’s a real thing. The saying is a living breathing thing, the punishment as severe as the deed is good. In other words the severity of punishment you receive for your good deed is consistently equal to the goodness of your deed. From what I can tell and have experienced, it’s not just a saying, it’s the law.

Anyway as you may or may not be aware March 22nd marked the start of Anne Marie’s birthday week. Yes week. This concept is new to me, baptized into it by my wife. It took me a bit to get my mind around it. My next door neighbor, who will go nameless (Whitney), claims there is such a thing as a birthday month. I can’t believe it, I won’t believe it. But I’m usually wrong about these things so…

No matter. The point being, with a birthday week in play there is a plethora of good deeds to be accomplished resulting in a cornucopia of punishment to be doled out for said good deeds.

Don’t laugh. You’re not exempt. Your punishment for the good deed of visiting my blog is having to endure social media’s version of home movies, i.e. the pics of AM’s birthday week in this post.

But as for me, the good deed causing my punishment was an early morning, like 7 am early, to the Kroger to get birthday balloons so we could decorate the kitchen for AM before she woke up. Yeah we could have done it the night before, but let’s face it, that’s just not our style.

Confirmation came from Tracy that she called and was told a worker bee would actually be there to fill said balloons. Cause you know, minimum wage employees never lie to get some crazy person off the phone at 11 pm on a Friday when they won’t be there 7 am the next morning to worry about it.

So with that solid intel, off I go. Out into the wee morning to see this fictitious Kroger Balloon man. Although I get the feeling it would be more likely I’ll find the Ohio Grassman (Ohio version of the Bigfoot).

Hey guess what, no Kroger Balloon man. No man or woman of any type at the Kroger in the 6:54 am time frame, save the produce guy. As luck would have it I happen to know the guy. He says he can fill the balloons. Nice!

Balloons filled and harnessed and floating, I stride confidently to the checkout lane. First in line at 7:10 am Saturday morning, who would have guessed. Annnnd she has no idea what they cost or how to ring them up. She tried everything short of just pointing her little bar code scanner gun directly at the balloons. Not sure I would have held it together had she done that.

I decide to head back to the produce/balloon guy and get some advice. With Balloons in hand, sort of. They were floating above me. I walk the 100+ yards back to the produce section and relay my tale of woe. The dude says “Man she knows how much they are, she has a bar code in the book.”

Ah the book, yes the book. It looked worse than the cookbook binder my little sister gave Tracy as a gag when we got married; no recipes, just take out menus. We still use it 11 years later.

He gives me the packages just in case and I walk back the same 100 yards, in danger of wearing a groove in the floor. It is now 7:30 in the am.

At the register she gets more physical about finding the bar code. In  the midst of thrashing about her work station she notices the two Mylar balloons have bar codes on the stem where the string attaches. She attacks. A tell tale beep is heard and joy covers the land for a brief second.

Whoops. No joy in Mudville. Code came up ERROR. Even worse, I notice the bagger kid looking strangely up at the ceiling some 40 feet away. I ready my self to render first aid and buddy care as I perceive he is about to take a seizure.

Turns out it was me who would need the aid. The lad was merely watching the two Mylar balloons escape from the bundle due to the register lady’s aggression, and float harmlessly but aggressively to the ceiling. Flipping me off the entire way. It is now 7:38 am and I have yet to accomplish anything but watch two balloons float away.

I can stand no more and let out a, “Oh c’mon man, are you freaking kidding me!” This caused some action. The kid ran back to the balloon counter and inflated two more and came back with a way for me to actually buy them. Should have yelled sooner.

Balloons, and reciept, in hand I make it to the Starship Frankerprise (our mini-van) at 8:07 am and begin the mile long journey back to the house. So yeah only 1 hour and 13 minutes to drive 1 mile to the Kroger, get 8 balloons, and drive the mile back. Einstein’s theory of speed of light was not in danger.

Wasn’t all that way. It turned out to be a pretty good week. If you’re not worn out from reading that take a look at the week that was.

I give you AM’s Birthday Week, iPhone camera style.

Last night of being two.

Last night of being two.

 

 

In a fit of stupidity I decided to try and make a Minnie Mouse cake…

That's a lot of cake.

That’s a lot of cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which drove me back to this…

Nectar of the gods.

Nectar of the gods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first face attempt. Ever.

My first face attempt. Ever.

And the finish. At least AM recognized Mini.

And the finish. At least AM recognized Minnie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok enough bragging. Here are some pics of the birthday girl and her week.

Throwing down at Little Gym.

Throwing down at Little Gym.

Waiting on the Ohio Grassman or the Kroger balloons. It's a toss up.

Waiting on the Ohio Grassman or the Kroger balloons. It’s a toss up.

Hey it's the balloons!

Hey it’s the balloons!

 

Introducing her to fire was not my idea.

Introducing her to fire was not my idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corsage hand made by our friend Gary at Echelon Florists.

Corsage hand made by our friend Gary at Echelon Florists.

1st daddy/daughter dance.

1st daddy/daughter dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Daddy Daughter Dance was a great way to end the week. She loved dancing with her daddy and talked about it the whole way home.

The balloons on the ceiling was not a great start. But clearly the week rebounded nicely.

The birthday week bar has now been set.

God help me.

 

 

 

 

Hey Frank, It’s Masters Week!

I'll be carrying this kid's clubs one day.

I’ll be carrying this kid’s clubs one day.

Masters Week!

The Drive, Chip, & Putt Championship for kids is today, State of the Game address on Monday, player press conferences Tuesday, Par 3 championship Wednesday, and go time on Thursday through Sunday with 5 live streaming feed on Masters.org. Guess where I’ll be all week.

A Tradition Unlike Any Other. 

Well, there are a lot of traditions colliding today.

First and foremost it’s Pops birthday. Passing on last month he would have been 87 today. He didn’t specifically turn me on to golf, just sports in general. We watched them all. The first football game I remember is a pre-season game between our Eagles and the Cleveland Browns, 1974 I think. A kid named Brian Sipe lit the boys in green up. It was also the first time I remember my dad yelling at the TV. The Eagles then, much like the Browns now, tend to elicit that response.

But it was in 1986 when I watched golf with any interest. That was the year Jack did what we wished all of our sports heros could do. Jack Nicklaus, at the age of 46, turned back the clock and won the Masters. Jack played the game the right way according to my dad. “No histrionics, he just hits the damn ball!” my dad would say.

My Dad didn’t even play golf. He didn’t care for it very much as a sport, but he liked watching it and at that time the giants of the game were dominant, Jack, Arnie, Lee Trevino, Gary Player. But play it, nope. Only twice in his life did he swing a golf club. He always told me the same two golf stories during the Masters.

The first time he got talked into golf was at a driving range. He went for the express purpose of keeping the guy from busting his chops about it all the time. So my dad, who was a big man, 6′ 2″ ish and probably 220, grabs a driver of all things for his first attempt at hitting a golf ball. A natural athlete, he of course crushed the ball, by his estimate about 250 yards. He was barely trying. He fixed that on the next swing and decided to hit it as hard as he could. The ball never moved, the club went 60 yds. It would have gone further but it hit the cart of the guy scooping up the golf balls.

The next and last time he ever played was at an executive par three course in front of a hotel he was staying at for work. It was a green with a few different places to tee off. Between the tee boxes and the green was a deep trench about 15 feet top to bottom and some 60 yards across. In other words, hit the green or the ball is in the ravine.

That ball is getting across the Ravine.

That ball is getting across the Ravine.

So the golf nut working with my dad who talked him into hitting on this 100yd par three, jacked his first four shots into the ravine. The guy felt like his last shot didn’t go too far down the hill so he went to retrieve it. He tells my dad to go ahead and hit.

Well my dad could be a bit of a ball buster too. So he swings his club, picks up his ball, and throws it across the ravine and it lands on the green. All in plain view of an older couple siting on a bench in front of the hotel watching the next Arnie and Jack showcase their skills.

When the guy crawls up the other side of the ravine and sees my dad’s ball on the green some 15 feet from the hole he starts hollering about how great a shot it was. My dad says, “I told you I didn’t play and wasn’t any good.” The guy was dumbfounded. My dad, with a deadpan expression says, “Well if I was any good it would have gone in.” The dude was crest fallen and the old couple probably wet themselves laughing. Yeah my old man could break balls with the best of them.

Somehow, in spite of all that I became hooked on golf. My addiction is due in large part to a couple of friends who taught me the game. Because of that my son Frank, named for his Grandfather, is also currently hooked on the game. Unlike his Grandfather, my little Frank can hit the ball. He has a great swing and he loves playing. He would rather go to the golf course than sit in front of the TV. His Grandfather would approve.

It’s also Easter Sunday. The first since my dad went to his eternity. If there is a more devout Catholic out there, I’ve never seen them. At my dad’s funeral there were several people who came through he viewing line none of us eight kids or my mom knew. Turns out it was the 7am weekday mass crowd there to pay respects to Frank, the guy in the first pew every week. They all had a story about how they interacted with my dad. They seemed as sad as we were.

My dad, the guy who was adamant about getting to church, the guy who once took the pew reserved for King Gustav IV at St. Peter’s Basilica for Midnight Mass in Rome, is now front and center with his maker on the first Easter Sunday since he went home.

We should all have such an eternity.

Well, it’s Masters Week too Dad. And here is your grandson Frank, playing the game the right way; no histrionics, just hitting the damn ball, featured on the Facebook page of one of his era’s giants of the game. I think you would approve.

Literally left speechless when I saw this.

Literally left speechless when I saw this.

Happy Birthday Pop!

 

 

 

The Big Time: Frank’s Place get published!

Frank's Place is in this thing! Twice!

Frank’s Place is in this thing! Twice!

The book will be available for sale approximately 4-6 weeks after we receive final approval on the manuscript. We are targeting a release date of June 1 but hopefully a bit sooner. The book will be available on amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com as well as some select retailers. The likely price point will be $19.95. – Hogan Hilling

So yeah receiving that e-mail was a bit of a big deal here at Frank’s Place.

To clarify Al Watts and Hogan Hilling are the juice/muscle of the book. They are gathering stories from dads for a book called Dads Behaving Dadly II. Looking for contributors they somehow found me and asked if I would submit a few stories. I sent in three different stories thinking there is no chance in hell. I mean, the first book had actual authors, guys who are really good at this and do it for a living. The Dadly II book has real authors too. I am a hack who just writes like I talk. No recognizable skill there. Plus a lot of dads were sending in stories and the book can only be so big. So I just hit submit forgot about it.

Well, long story short, (see what I mean that was a horrible pun), two of the three stories I submitted made it into the book. I’m not sure I’ll even earn enough for my next round of golf, but I’ve learned something about myself. I’m a narcissistic glory hound. I’m much more enamored with the thought that something I wrote will be in a real book published by real people, Motivational Press, who do this sort of thing for real money, American money even.

Now the final editing process is in work at the publisher so there is still a chance someone with a functioning cortex will catch my stories and realize I snuck in through an open window in the back alley. But I’m being told the final process is just for grammar and spelling and to make sure no one dropped an f-bomb. Not sure why, but it felt like they were looking at me specifically on the f-bomb thing.

Anyway, two stories from Frank’s Place made the book. That means you made the book. Frank’s Place is nothing without the loyal readers, the clickers who click on every link I send out and read every story I write about my kids getting smarter than me by the day.

So thanks to all of you. You make Frank’s Place more worthwhile everyday. Take $5 from petty cash and buy yourselves something nice.

Oh and buy the freaking book. More info as we closer to the drop date.

(drop date: That’s insider talk for the publishing date)

Francis John Linardo: An extraordinary, unknown, life.

I don’t know a whole lot. That’s not really breaking news. But what I do know or what I have learned in my 48 years is this little earth shattering nugget: we are all different. Breathtaking I know. Because we are all different, we experience the same situation in different ways. My mom and seven brothers and sisters and I are experiencing and dealing with the death of my father in different ways. No way is more right and no way is any better than the next.

That was a long way to say this is my way. I bang on the key board, at times through tears and most times through grins. I pounded the keys when we buried our little Linda Claire. I pounded them when Anne Marie scratched and clawed her way through her first 6 months of life in the NICU. I’m pretty sure I’ll be pounding them again at some point in the future. But for now I pound the keys to humbly offer the story of my dad.

Francis John Linardo: An extraordinary, unknown, life.

A man is born, lives, marries, raises a family, works, retires, and passes on. Lots of people do that, right? What’s so remarkable about that? What’s so extraordinary about any of that?

Well, a lot really.

When my friend Kevin lost his dad this time 2 years ago I made these comments in reference to his father Ed:

This is what greatness should look like.  This is how we should define it.  These are the people who should be celebrated.  This is what we should strive for I think.

Look through that lens and I bet you know a lot more great Americans than you thought.  When you think of someone fitting that definition you should tell people, people should know it and we should celebrate them.

I didn’t know when I wrote that I’d be using it to describe my father so soon, to be celebrating him so soon. Well I am. Time to celebrate another extraordinary life, another great American. Time to celebrate my father, or Pop as I called him.

The first of his family to be born in the United States, Francis John Linardo or Frank, spoke a lot of Italian and not so much English as a kid. He would later learn to speak Latin, Spanish, and passable French & German. By passable, he could ask for the toilet, order food, find the exit and his way around town, and sing some songs, which he did often on Saturday mornings while making us breakfast.

On the stoop in South Phila. Early 40s I think.

Throwin down on the stoop in South Phila. Early/Mid 40s I think.

He learned to play piano and the accordion, a highly underrated instrument. He played that big accordion so well as a kid he was able to walk in the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day with a local band. For you non Jersey -Pennsylvania- Delaware tri-state folks I’ve provided a link to the Mummers at the bottom of the page. But trust me it was a big deal. His dad had to walk along side the band as they marched the streets of Philadelphia to give him a rest from carrying that thing.

The pic at left is him with his grandfather sitting on the stoop in South Phila. As I said, my father was the first in his family born in the U.S.A. There’s some real old world Italian blood on that porch.

As kids I remember he would play the accordion and the organ at the same time for us. My sister Carol would always request When the Saints Go Marchin In. That song, if I remember right, required the most dexterity between the organ and accordion. I loved it too. Again, he played them at the same time and both are two handed instruments.

Old School

Old School 1947

My old man was an old school baller too. Check the unis the City League Champs of 47 were sportin. Current NBA players are wearing overcoats compared to those things.

The Army came calling in 1950/51. Pop returned from a trip to Florida celebrating his graduation from LaSalle University only to find his draft notice waiting for him. I’ll never forget the way he told the story. He always started with the opening line of the telegram: “Congratulations! Your friends and neighbors have selected you to represent them in this current conflict.”

He would always laugh so hard after reading that and remark how appreciative he was of his neighbors for selecting him for this great honor. Still it was no laughing matter. The Korean War was ramping up and the War may have been over in Germany but the occupation was not. It was a dangerous proposition no matter how he laughed it off.

In a German forrest made famous not 10 years earlier.

In a German forrest made famous not 10 years earlier, 1952.

Of the two though, Germany was the safest bet. Lucky for all 8 of us, he was shipped out to a boat yard in New York. That meant Europe and a two year hitch in the Army of Occupation. Because of that, he never referred to himself or considered himself a Korean War veteran. He felt he was still part of the WWII era.

Plus he said to me once it would be wrong to, “Lump myself in with the guys who actually did the fighting.” I wish I had the space and time to relay some of his stories from his time in Germany and Western Europe. Maybe one day I’ll get them on virtual paper.

Ok just a taste. My old man was a great story teller who often found himself in incredibly strange situations. One of my favorites was his marching to the front of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome (the Pope’s home church) for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Plunking himself and his buddies, in full US Army Uniform, in the pew reserved for King Gustav VI of Sweden(?). The ? is for my recollection of the monarch involved. One of my sisters may know this info better.  Anyway, that story is the tip of the iceberg of great stories from his two plus years in uniform. 

James Linardo, my grandfather and Frank Linardo, my pop. Mid 50s I think.

James Linardo, my grandfather and Frank Linardo, my pop. Mid 50s I think.

After his draft hitch was up he felt God calling him to service. Turns out God was calling him to His service but the message lost a little in translation. Pop joined the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, a Catholic Monastery. God had other ideas. Ideas that revolved around a certain old testament command. Be fruitful and multiply I believe was the verse God was searching for when commissioning my father to godly service.

So as only the mystery of the faith can work, my dad left the seminary and met my mom, a young woman who felt the call too and joined the convent for a few years. Now let me be clear, they had both moved on from solitary service to God before they met. Let me say that again, BEFORE THEY MET. My mom would be none too happy if I left the impression there were some sort of shenanigans going on.

To the contrary, two devout people, feeling the call to serve God with their lives, experienced first hand what happens when God is planning your route for you. Look man, I’m not going to preach to y’all or even claim to know anything about anything when it comes to theology. All I know and all I believe is God wanted these two to meet and to multiply.

8 is just right.

8 is just right. NJ 1970.

Well, mission accomplished!

In that picture are the eight of us, my mom and dad, and their mothers. Other than my mom’s mom, the rest of us lived in the house in the background. And I also know we are all better for it. Well we’re better for it, the rest of the world has yet to cast their ballot.

In a house with four bedrooms, small rooms by today’s standard, and one bathroom, my parents raised eight kids, five of them girls. Yeah, one bathroom. To call the room down stairs a half bath is over selling it by half. Yeah it’s a toilet and a sink so technically it’s a half bath but it would fit inside most bedroom closets today.

Talk about godly service and sacrifice. What better example could there be than raising up a family. Eight kids and not a bum in the lot. I did 22 years in the Air Force and I’m the least successful of any of us. That should give you an indication of the caliber of upbringing we had. Hey we can all get lucky with a kid or two, but when all eight kids have life time careers, raising families of their own, and aren’t putting severed heads in the garage freezer, that’s not luck that’s parental service and sacrifice.

My mom still lives in the house. It was the house I was born into in August of 1967. As small as it seems now, back then it was normal. It was great actually. I can’t think of a moment of my childhood I would trade in or do over when it comes to growing up there. A lot of what I do with respect to Frank and Anne Marie is driven by the childhood I was privileged to have.

Some sad day they’ll be remembering their father as the eight of us have remembered Pop this past week.

If I’m half of what my dad was, Frank and Anne Marie will remember their childhood the way I do mine.

And I’ll die a success.

A soldier once, and forever.

Francis John Linardo – A soldier once and forever.

Thanks Pop.

Thanks Pop.

A soldier is free to be a hero. It is courage which gives them honor, and their sacrifice which gives us freedom.

The Final Call of the Bugle:

Here is the link to the greatest New Year’s Day parade on earth. The Mummers

Daddy, I need options! (or my life as a short order cook.)

Hey Frank, what do you want for lunch? It was a simple question. It’s not like there is an entire menu to pick from. The kid subscribes to the four basic food groups: chicken nuggets, squeezable tube apple sauce, squeezable tube yogurt, and PB&Js, light on the PB. But still I get, Daddy! I need options! Well how many options can there possibly be when you’ve narrowed your nutrition intake to Jelly on bread?

Frank, as an eater. Before the dark times.

Frank, as an eater. Before the dark times.

Wasn’t always this way. Oh no, for a time the kid ate everything in sight. For the first three years or so the kid was a human garbage disposal. He was our first so we were like most parents I guess. We went hyper-sensitive on how and what we fed him. Tracy even decided that for the first year we would make our own food. Yeah that was great. The making was easy actually. It was the clean up that was soooo much fun, ya know for me personally. You veterans of Frank’s Place can explain for the new kids.

There are several mile stones to be celebrated in the development life of your kid. I mean getting out of diapers is awesome, akin to man landing on the moon. But one of the most liberating was when the pediatrician says at the one year check up, Let him eat what you eat. Now’s the time to experiment. Ah wut? Yeah, experiment. Find out what he likes, what he doesn’t, what he may be allergic to, etc…

You know, I never had one of the science kits as a kid. I ordered a experiment book about magnetic poles once when I was a wee lad. It was supposed to have all these cool magnets and experiments about the earth’s magnetic poles. I was pretty excited, and as most adults who know me now will tell you I don’t get excited over much. Damn thing never came. Didn’t ship, lost in transit, mail order scam? Who knows? Getting to turn my first kid into a living breathing food laboratory is the cosmos way of righting that long suffering wrong.

So with that bit of karma in my pocket we began letting Frank eat from our plates. My plate, as you might imagine, was a waste land of what Frank now describes as Woe Foods, foods that are bad for you. But man he loved him some beef and broccoli, General Tso’ chicken, tacos, burritos, pizza, eggs, bacon, cheeseburgers. You name it the kid would neck it down.

Of course we made him some good stuff too. In fact the only vegetable he didn’t like was cauliflower. Is that really a surprise? Can anyone tell me a good use for the albino of the food kingdom? While the boy was fond of jamming broccoli two fists at a time into his cake-hole, butternut squash was his favorite. That’s some nasty stuff. But he loved it se we made it.

Now Frank is actually the one who regulated himself off the good stuff and onto the vegetables. Yeah I said it. We thought we had done so well, creating our little franken-eater. It was a lot of fun to take him out to restaurants and not need a kids menu. The gang who owned the Mexican joint up the street used to love watching Frank take down a burrito, or the chili queso. It was great. Then he turned 3 1/2.

When he started to develop the vocabulary to ask for his own food, his palate changed. All of a sudden broccoli and carrots is all he would eat from the vegetable community. The only chicken I could get him to eat were of the nugget variety. He no longer wanted to muckle my Italian sub from Firehouse. All he wanted was a peanut butter and jelly, heavy on the jelly. Much like Frankenstein and fire, Frank would recoil at the sight of squash.

I would make elaborate breakfasts like always, a little hazelnut french toast, bacon, and a jelly biscuit to get things rolling while waiting on the french toast, only to hear Frank say, I don’t want that, I don’t like that. Crushing.

So now when he’s hungry he’ll stare into the pantry and say, Daddy you choose. Of course when I choose he says he doesn’t want it. This little culinary dance will go on for two or three choices until I give up. That elicits the exasperated, Daddy I need options! 

Frank, all you have are options, what you need is the ability to make a decision. And no marshmallows and pizza is not an option at 10:45 in the morning. In fact that’s never an option. Forget that option. For ever. 

Bring me your finest meats and cheeses!

Bring me your finest meats and cheeses!

Thankfully his love of carrots has survived. So a PB&J with some carrots on the side it is. 

Franken-eater is gone. But his little sister, Ms Franken-eater is on the rise.

No fully loaded bacon cheeseburger is safe.

 

 

Kindergarten Cafeteria: Welcome to the Thunder-dome!

It's the Thunder-Dome bro. Come correct!

It’s the Thunder-Dome dad. Come correct!

I’m not so far removed from my school days back in Jersey that I’m unaware of the code. It’s unwritten and it’s unspoken, but it’s there. It’s everywhere. The school yard has a code, the bathroom has a code, and for sure the cafeteria has a code.

Now I went to a Catholic school, we didn’t have a lunch room. We ate at our desks with little terry cloth towels laid out for cleanliness sake. But still I know the code of the lunch room. All of that is the build up for what was coming.

So when I did my room mother duties in Frank’s classroom it took me right up to the lunch hour. I decided to go experience the lunchroom with my eldest child. I mean how bad could it be. From what I had seen so far that morning, the kids are well behaved. Plus it’s not like they’ll be alone in there. I’m sure some teachers get stuck with the duty. Well one thing became clear quickly; Frank’s teacher did not have the duty.

The kids walked quietly down the hall in two groups: those that bring their lunch and those that buy lunch. Bringers go in before buyers. Either way both kids made a left face and went into the lunch room. Frank’s teacher waved goodbye and hightailed it to the teachers lounge. She knows from whence she escapes. I, on the other hand, had to follow the kids.

It was a bit surreal watching my 5yr old essentially function on his own with no one telling him what to do. He found a seat, busted out his lunch and got busy, just like a worker taking a break. No grown ups, no teachers, just Frank and his buddies having lunch. He seemed so much older at that moment. As much as I was enamored and slightly dismayed at watching my son age before my eyes I knew this would be a delicate situation.

I cautioned myself to tread lightly here. One misstep could upset the balance of power in the lunchroom. Empires can fall over one careless lunchroom faux pas. The ripple effect of that could reach far and wide. My first test presented itself. There was an empty seat next to Frank. My action here could decide Harvard or trade school.

One of his buddies jumped into the empty seat. I moved to the next seat over. I could see Frank getting torqued over me not sitting next to him. That caught me off guard. I figured he didn’t want his old man sitting with him. Frank tells me to sit next to him. I actually have to ask the the kid next to Frank if he wouldn’t mind scooting over to the next seat. He did. For about 3 seconds. Then he got up and sat at an entirely different table. No one else at our table seemed to care. I can feel the pillars of kid justice shake just a bit.

So I sit next to Frank and he was happy. I was happy he was happy. But I have no lunch. Frank has a 6 or 7 digit code to buy lunch and I could certainly use that but I’m not standing in line with 40 kindergartners. Just not gonna do it. Besides it was only 10:45 and there was a General Tso chicken calling my name on the ride home. So I sat and we all talked.

I’ve experienced the student protection society from the teacher prospective as an instructor at the NCO Academy. I was unaware it started in kindergarten. Well this group is clear on the concept. The gang starts extolling Frank’s virtues. I’m all like, Hey fellas, I get it. Kid’s a saint. Surprisingly that drew a collective chuckle. Quite an advanced humor pallet this group. Then they revert to tricking me into saying underwear.

I was ready for this on two fronts. First, I’ve known this joke since I was younger than them. Second, Mrs Frank’s place repeatedly fell victim to this little joke during her day as room mother. Such a sheltered southern belle. So even though I didn’t need the forward intel, it gave me time to craft a response. A retaliatory strike if you will.

Every time they excitedly said Hey what’s under there? Hoping I would say, Under where? so they could laugh their little heads off, I would reply with showing my closed fist and saying You mean in here? When they look in, because lets face it they’re a bunch of kids they can’t help but look, I would spring my empty hand open and shout. They would jump back and I would laugh. Right. In. Their. Face. Boom!

I was looking good to escape the Thunder-dome in tact. And then…

The runt across from me couldn’t peel the foil off his juice cup. He hands it to me. I start to peel it. No words are spoken in this exchange. It’s man stuff. It’s the lunchroom. Almost have it all off and then some other runt falls against the table trying to get up while balancing his tray. He was holding it like it was filled with nitro glycerine. Good thing it wasn’t or we’d all have been vaporized.

But he hit the table and the juice is now all over me. The runt who handed it to me just looks. His eyes are widening but he’s trying to gauge my expression for permission to laugh. I gave him the exasperated Oh man! he and the rest of the table was looking for. The laughter exploded.

I get it. I mean it’s not all that funny, but I get it. Plus, much like the hobos that made fun of me in the church parking lot when they found out I was in the military, (read here: Sunday’s with Ricky) the lunch table laughter meant I was in. One of the guys. And that’s cool no matter what. Well not no matter what. I let that little rush go to my head.

As lunch comes to a close the kids follow the cues and line up to go to their next class. I walk with Frank, still feeling good about being the cool dad. I tell Frank I’m heading out and to have a good day. He’s not talking and has a strange look on his face. I disregard and move on for a hug. Bad move man, bad move.

He hugged me but it was uninspired. He wasn’t happy about it. The prior look on his face turned out to be his fear I would try and hug him in front of his bros. Lunchroom code man, it’s not to be trifled with.

I had no sooner stood up when I heard for two different voices from the line, neither of them Frank, mockingly say Bye bye daddy I love youoooooo! 

Oooof.

Well, trade school it is.

Kindergarten: You Shall Not Pass!

Apparently being the silent brooding type can only carry you so far. At some point someone will invent a piece of technology that will stick it right in your shorts and cause you to interact with, dare I say it, people.

Yeah, not my strong suit really. I know I know, hard to believe. But it’s true. People – I’m just not a big fan of em. Which is strange because I can’t remember life without my two little people. Nor would I want to. But when my five year old runs through the room acting like, as he describes, a long tooth dinosaur and my two year old girl turns to me and says, “Frank’s a chooch.” Well, kinda hard not to like that.

Anyway, as schools ramp up their security efforts and my involvement in a certain elementary school increases, interaction is bound to occur. Case in point: Frank’s school just went from a sign in sheet to a computerized deal to ID yourself so you can freely roam the hallways.

The sheet was fine, it was good. You come in, put your name on the little tag, sign the book, take your tag and you’re off to the races. No people, just me and the pencil. It was clean, simple and most of all self explanatory. Now the sheet has been retired, the pencil… well, sent to wherever pencils go when they are no longer useful.

While we’re talking pencils, did you know NASA, in the early days of the space race with the Soviets, spent thousands of dollars developing a pen that could write in zero gravity. When the US and Russia finally did a joint space mission the geniuses at NASA asked the Cosmonauts how they solved the pen in zero G issue. The Cosmonaut’s response, “We used pencils.”

So my pencil is gone, replaced with a touch screen. Now I’m not saying the computer system isn’t as good as the pencil and sign in sheet. In fact it’s obviously better. But the first time I ever signed in with the sheet I needed no help. Not so with Mr Fancy Touch Screen.

That's me, yelling at the big bad ID system.

That’s me, yelling at the big bad ID system.

As I walk in to the office I see this tiny little computer screen, probably a 15 incher. I say small because it’s dwarfed by my giant 26 inch Apple screen at home. The reason for this will become obvious. So already I can’t see the thing but I press on. Two screens into it the thing asks who I’m going to visit. I pick my son’s first initial as it can’t find him. I use his full first name. Can’t find him. Entire name, same deal. Well crap I’ve been using Frank. I repeat the cycle with his given name. Still no joy in Mudville and my patience is rapidly diminishing.

Enter the people. You have to type who you are coming to see. Now I feel like I have the upper smug ground. Yes, I’m aware. But it says it can’t find him. And yeah, that came out like Smuggy McSmugerton. So the woman, who is only trying to help, starts rattling off male names with a Mr in front.

My idiotic stare indicated to her I may be under the influence of a mild but debilitating concussion. Which teacher are you coming to see? I say I’m not coming to see a teacher, but my son who is in kindergarten. Who’s his teacher? Mrs Givens I say. Well you have to type that hun.  Be helpful if the machine said that, hoping I thought that and didn’t say it out loud.

Turns out it would be even more helpful if I had brought my reading glasses. Not only does it say that on the first screen, by the third screen I apparently had taken several pictures of myself; mostly from the chin down. Now I know what that green square is for. And the helpful lady now knows that I know what the green square is for. I miss you people-less pencil and sheet.

Once I actually got through the process, my four free chin-mug shots printed out, thus declaring for all standing near that I was an imbecile. Needless to say I was not the impressive figure I normally put forth in public.

Thank god I had my wallet with me. I usually leave it in the car for quick trips into a joint where I don’t need money. Needed my license cause the freaking thing scanned the bar code on the back. Then it took another picture. But this time I had the help of the two people behind the desk and the two moms waiting patiently behind me. And they were, trust me. The fifth shot was the charm as it managed to catch my eyes in the frame. So I had my name badge and I was rollin.

Unlike the sheet, you can’t just leave when you’re done. No sir. I had to go back and face my nemesis to sign out. This was just a matter of scanning my brand new name tag. No buttons, no people. I’ve worked on military bases that were easier to access than this joint. Such is life I guess.

As with anything repetition breeds success and cockiness. Now I stride confidently to the terminal, reading glasses affixed, and take amazing ID photos of myself while scoffing at the newbies with pictures of their left ear. Still not as fast as the old sign in sheet, but way cooler now that I know what I’m doing and I remember to bring my wallet and reading glasses.

Once again it’s becomes painfully obvious that I’m the one getting schooled in this place, not Frank.

Hope they put me in the yearbook.