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.

 

Captain Kirk made me turn the lights on.

Yeah that's me.

Yeah that’s me.

Editor’s note: This is an oldie but a goodie. With Mrs. Frank’s Place in Chicago for three days it seemed like a good time to repost this. The difference between now and when I wrote this – 2 kids. It amps up the hysteria, let me tell you.

Enjoy

Captain Kirk made me turn the lights on.

You know, the more I read the headline for this post the more it sounds so much different from how I meant it. Such is life.

A couple posts back I was gloating about getting to spend four days and nights alone as the whole family went to North Carolina for the long weekend. Read it here if you so desire: Free Range Chicken

In that post I made an ambiguous reference to being deathly afraid of the dark when I’m alone. Maybe it wasn’t so ambiguous. Well, a few comments here, a few e-mails there and it turns out people want to hear the rest of the story. If you’re not one of them, stop reading now.

What kid isn’t afraid of the dark at some point? I was and if you say you weren’t you’re either a liar or in therapy for being a liar.

I may have carried my fear a little longer than some. Maybe I should be in therapy. I thought I had shaken it. I found out in 2005, at the age of 37, my fear of the dark was lurking in the not so deep recesses of my mind.

Let’s take a look at where and who I was in 2005. An instructor at the NCO Academy in Knoxville, newly married for the first and everlasting time in December of 2003, and in year 18 of a 22yr military career. A career, by the way, that had spanned the cold war, the drug wars in which I spent time in Central America fighting, and 10 years on the flight-line working on what was then the AF’s premier fighter, the F-16 Falcon. In other words I was a hero of the people. At least that’s what the plaque I had made at Mike’s Trophies and Sporting Goods says. Half off if you order in bulk.

All that to say I’m not a person you would tag as the afraid of my own shadow type.

All that would change one fateful night in 2005. It’s always one fateful night isn’t it? I mean it’s never a fateful afternoon, or fateful beautiful spring Sunday brunch right? Nighttime – it’s when bad stuff happens.

Like I say I was married to the lovely Tracy – Mrs Frank’s Place. She, and her posse of not to be named women (Becky and Sarah), decide to go on a shopping trip to Atlanta from Friday to Sunday.

Yes! The weekend to myself. It’s 2005, so no kids, except for the friggen cat, Pumpkin and mostly a clean house(friggen cat) and golf on TV, and then playing golf in the mornings and then late night TV watching the replays of golf.  Yeah you bet honey – go to Atlanta. Have fun, spend money. Yes I am aware those two things, fun and spending money, are redundant.

So off they went. And all was well.

Then it got dark. No problem. I closed all the blinds and settled into my Barco-lounger to watch TV. No golf replay for some reason so I start surfing.

Around 10pm I find a Twilight Zone marathon on Sci Fi channel. That’s some campy stuff. I was laughing at the “special effects” wondering how anyone could be scared by that.

The third episode had a dude who looked really familiar but it was a quick glance so I wasn’t sure. Then a close up. Holy cow it’s William Shatner, Captain Kirk, in what must be his first TV role ever. The episode was titled Nightmare at 20,000 feet. Might have been a clue there. Missed it.

In this Twilight Zone episode he’s playing a nervous passenger on an airline returning from a sanitarium. He has a window seat and the window has curtains. That tells you how old this show is. I believe John Lithgow played the Shatner character in an updated Twilight Zone movie.

That fur coat has Sears & Roebuck written all over it.

That fur coat has Sears & Roebuck written all over it.

So Shatner thinks he’s seeing someone on the wing, while they are flying, trying to sabotage the plane. Every time he sees the person on the wing he shuts the curtain and tries to convince himself he’s not seeing what he thinks he’s seeing. He alerts the stewardess she looks and sees nothing. It’s after he alerts someone for the first time that it gets interesting.

The next time he looks out the person appears to be getting closer. My spidey sense is tingling but not enough to alert me to what is about to happen.

On a side note, this gremlin or person or whatever on the wing looked for all the world like they were wearing a kids winter coat from the Sears catalog, circa 1950. Again special effects budgets weren’t great back then. But that’s important because I took my eye off the ball. I was concentrating on getting a good look at the monster’s garb or “fur”. A move that would come back to haunt me, literally.

So about the time Shatner is losing his crap over all this he decides to go for one last look. And the moment of truth has arrived. He yanks open the curtain and sees this….

That would scare the balls off a brass monkey

That would scare the balls off a brass monkey

Well what the hell am I supposed to do with that? No idea but I was scared to the point of being speechless. I’ll tell you what, had that freaking cat hopped up on the chair at that moment he would have spent every one of his nine lives faster than an old lady working the slots in Atlantic City. My fear induced adrenaline rush would have ripped his head off before he could have got off even one “Meo…”

To his credit, Pumpkin never moved. Part of that is because he was ninety gazillion years old and part because he really was a smug little prick. I know he’s long since departed and all but let’s just have a little truth telling shall we. That cat looked down on me from the jump.

But now I’m stuck. It might as well be nine miles from the Barco to the bedroom. Not to mention this haunted house is covered with windows. Only the living room has blinds. How am I supposed to keep from looking out into the darkness on my way up the stairs?

I need a plan, I need the floor plan. I need to devise a path and a sequence in which I can turn off the lights behind me as I make my way up. However, in order to do that the lights need to be on, all of them. I need options.

So the house is lit up like a beacon and it’s about 12:30 in the am. Then the phone rings.

Who the world is calling me 12:30 in the morning with all this going on? Luckily the phone is right next to me. It’s Tracy, and it sounds like she may have a margarita or two on board.

Wow, my skin is crawling just looking at that picture while I’m typing and it’s 2:30 in the afternoon.

Anyway Tracy and I are talking and she asks what I’m doing. I tell her what I’m watching and there is a very long pause.

Then she says, “All the lights in my house are on aren’t they?” Hey what can I tell you, the woman knows me. I hear a little laughter in the background and I know full well I’ve just given “the girls” something to talk about for the next few minutes.

Can’t worry about a bunch of hens cackling over my trauma though, I still have to get upstairs.

The rest is fuzzy to me. Clearly I made it upstairs, I just can’t recall the sequence of lights.

Probably should have written it down.

All I know is windows and darkness are not a good combo. You just never know when a kid in a matted down Sears fur coat and a horrifically bad hair cut will be staring back at you.

Ultimately, as the saying goes, I’m not afraid of the dark, I’m just afraid of what’s in it.

Kindergarten: To purgatory and back again.

If you’re going through hell… keep going.  – Winston Churchill

Now that may be overstating it, but I’m not sure by exactly how much. It was my turn in the breech. My trial by fire. I was the heated iron, awaiting the forger’s hammer. Of course I’m speaking about my time as room mother in Frank’s kindergarten class one Wednesday in January.

Be advised my time in the Catholic Penal System School System in the early 70s through 1980 all volunteers in the classroom were room mothers. I understand there are some among us who will take exception to my phraseology in the use of room mother. All those now suffering from the vapors at my comedic slight of long suffering dads everywhere, the X is up and to the right, again that’s up and to the right. (Unless you use Apple products, then the red dot is up and to the left, that’s up and… well you get the idea).

Funny thing happened when the schedule came out for volunteers. I saw my name in the Wednesday block and I got a little worked up, apprehensive, frightened even. It had been quite a while since I felt like that.

I mean I had been a teacher, an instructor at an Air Force Noncommissioned Officers Academy for almost ten years. In the final four years I was teaching on a live TV program four hours a night, two nights a week. Even funnier, I had already done time in Frank’s class for the Christmas party in December. I ran the cookie decorating table and then the Christmas Bingo.

The ornament station. (Bingo gambling station not pictured)

The ornament station. (Bingo gambling station not pictured)

That was a good party. No sprinkles went unspilt, no icing went un-tainted by germ ridden stir sticks. We were decorating man. It was a party. We also amped up the Bingo a little, made it high stakes. Last person to get Bingo had to give up their candy cane to the first person who got it. Surprising how quick the kids picked up on the thrill of gambling. Only one little gambler got upset when it was time to pay up. One kid out of 20, that’s not bad. Hopefully he’ll remember that feeling before he plunks down his own kid’s college fund on 11 black in Vegas. I’m an educator people.

Anyway the point of all that is to say this, I had already been in the classroom. I had been a public speaker for a long time with a lot larger audiences, still I was having shortness of breath. This wouldn’t be the Christmas party. No results were expected of me then. We could eat cookies and gamble candy canes all day with no pressure. But this. This was going to require effort, some output, expectations would be had. No matter, anxiety or not, the day was upon me.

Started out great. I was already familiar with the school’s fancy new sign in system. A harrowing post on my first attempt with the new system coming to a blog near you. But having already muddled it up once I was prepared this time. Remembered to bring my reading glasses. So I cruised through while a first timer sat behind me, watching me work the sign in system like a savant. I could smell his fear when his turn came quicker than he expected. I moved on. I had people waiting on me. Not sure if he ever made it out. Ah well, such is life in the jungle.

Five minutes early to the classroom. Boom! Already this day is shaping up nicely. Hot as blazes in the classroom so off comes the pullover, and crap. Tore my fancy, still wet from the printer ID badge. Credibility lost. It can happen that fast folks.

Frank finally looked over at me. They were coming to the end of a lesson. He gave me a quick but deliberate hand wave. Nothing too frantic. It conveyed a message of, “I acknowledge your presence father, now settle down.” Very proper without being disruptive. Kid is all business at school. Which is bizarre because he’s a lunatic at home.

As the lesson ends Frank’s teacher starts calling names and instantly kids start moving to what appeared to be designated areas. No questions, no protestations, just movement. I mean it wasn’t military precision or anything but it was impressive. Then I got my marching orders. Mrs Givens would man the main work center and I would float around to the other three centers.

Ok this is it. This is what you’re here for. Time to do work. Annnnd stop. A voice from above says the kids need to report to the lobby for a hearing test. Lined up and ready to go in about two minutes, off we walk. In seconds the kids were lined up in the lobby waiting their turn. They were so quiet walking in the hall it occurred to me this might not be a elementary school at all, but an advanced training ground for assassins.

The test was going to be some time so Frank’s teacher sent him, and me, back to the room to get some books. Frank has never moved that fast or that straight to a destination in his entire life. He was practically marching. Books in hand he spins and marches back to the lobby for what turned out to be reading time with Frank’s daddy, AKA me. It went well except for a constant critique from the peanut gallery. “You read very fast.” Ha. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that. I resisted the urge of telling them to listen faster.

Back in the classroom things got hoping. For the most part the kids did what they were supposed to. Not sure what help I was to them other than the odd login in help with the computer center. Oh and I was a star there. All Apple products in the classroom. Since I have a giant Mac desktop I was right at home. I looked like a wizard to these kids. Except for that one young man who decided to debate me on the necessity of a tissue.

He needed one and he needed one bad. He refused however. Then he decided I need to do it. No way bro. Your snot is all yours.

He wasn’t having it. He had me over a barrel. Either I wipe his nose or he’s just getting early lunch. I’ve been wiping noses for five years but when it’s not your kid it’s no where near as much fun. But watching him willingly use his tongue was gonna make me puke. So I’m getting a tissue. But before I could get the blast zone completely covered the kid starts blowing snot rockets everywhere. “Do it better.” The kid says to me. Not kidding.

It was all downhill sledding from there. A few kids didn’t get all their centers finished but most of the herd did what they had to do. The freedom she allows the kids has really paid off. Most of them do their assignments, put the work in the appropriate bin and then move on to a secondary assignment until it’s time to move to the next center. Just impressive. And tiring.

I was worn out. More exhausted than I am after walking a mid-summer round of golf. I was asleep ten minutes after I got home and I only was there for two hours, plus my time in the cafeteria eating lunch with Frank and his pals.

But that’s another jungle story for another day.

Coming soon – Kindergarten Cafeteria: Welcome to the Thunder-dome!

 

I’m not your Huckleberry!

Want some of this bro!

Want some of this bro!

Ok so one of us needs to work on our sense of humor. Either I have to tamp mine down a bit or Frank needs to grow one ASAP. I vote for Frank growing a sense of humnor. He’s only five. It could be a long row-to-hoe going through life as serious as he seems to be. And when the boy is doing his homework he is droopy dog serious.

Whilst assisting the boy with his writing homework we were discussing words that begin with the “H” sound. Once you come up with a word you have to spell it, write it, and then draw a picture of it. It’s a good little exercise that can show, and help, with comprehension. It’s one thing to say and write a word but drawing a picture of it shows you know what the word is and what it means.

I like to let him come up with words but sometimes I’ll toss out a few examples or ask him questions that might lead to an example. I know I know, Teacher of the Year here I come. Before I can get one swallow of Diet Coke he yells out HOSE! Almost choked on my DC cause I heard HOES. The under-appreciated gardening implement is not the first thought that came to my mind. However the boy was undaunted and started drawing.

Oh hose! 

What did you think I said daddy?

Hoes.

How would I draw a hoe? I don’t even know what a hoe looks like.

Good, lets keep it that way. 

I got the, “Daddy are you dunk?” quizzical glare. No matter. Crisis averted. Moving on.

So abstract boy kept tossing our words that did start with the “H” sound but seemed, to me at least, difficult to draw. My next offering – Hat. Good word, easy to spell and write, and more importantly very easy to draw.

No daddy I don’t want that word.

Why not? I asked indignantly.

I want to use hot.

Well how in blazes are you going to draw hot? Again I’m in full indignant mode. Here’s a rare parenting tip from me. Never go full indignant mode. Especially when you’re dealing with kids, whose minds have not been sullied with the limitations of the three dimensional world and the pessimistic adults who inhabit it.

Like this silly McGilly. Silly McGilly? I decided not to ask.

He proceeds to draw a large orange/yellow ball with rays of various shapes and sizes raining down upon the earth. Ok so he drew hot, big deal.

He was proud of himself. Then he starts the trash talk. Laughing at me because I didn’t know how to draw hot.

You know, I’m the adult in the room. I know better than to sink to his level. However, as it turns out his level may actually be above mine.

I reply with, Okay huckleberry, lets see you draw Habits. This is really nothing new. I generally call him a buch of different names when we’re talking. He felt differently.

Setting his pencil down and turning his head toward me in a manner that gave me Catholic School principal office flashbacks, he began to lecture me on name calling.

I Am Not Huckleberry!

Yes Frank I know that.

You should not call names. It’s not nice. You shouldn’t do that. 

You’re right Frank. I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry.

It’s ok Daddy.

And we’re back to drawing abstract words that start with H.

God it’s going to be a long school year.

 

Oh Crap. They’re gonna make it.

Let me just say I’ve come to realize that the adults in the room are not always the smartest or necessarily the most qualified when it comes to parenting decisions. Such was the case in our humble little home on New Year’s Eve. With not one drink taken, yet, Mrs Frank’s Place and I made a “What were we thinking” type decision. Or as Mrs Frank’s Place mom succinctly summed it up, “Are you out of your minds!”

Yes Linda. Yes we are.

It seemed pretty harmless at first. Honestly I thought there was no way we could lose. It appeared to be a parenting win/win situation if there ever was one. Vegas would have taken it off the board due to everyone betting on us. That’s how win/win this was.

And then it wasn’t. It’s not like we didn’t consider mitigating factors, their age, how long they had been up already, etc… They just gutted it out. Hard to put a betting line on effort.

So yeah we decided to see if our 5yr old and 2yr old could make it to midnight for the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. And the little chooches made it. One made it with ease, the other had to rally. I’m sure you can figure out who’s who in that scenario.

It started out innocent enough. Anne Marie never wants to go to bed anyway so we thought tonight of all nights let’s call her bluff. Let’s just see what this kid is really made of, as if we didn’t know that already. I figured she makes it to 10 maybe 10:30 tops. No big deal there.

With Frank it was hit or miss on whether he would care one way or the other. As AM gets more wild he gets more serene. As she has become more labor intensive, he has become more maintenance free. Most of the time he’s ready to go to bed at 7:30 or he just takes himself.  So we weren’t sure if he would even want to stay up. But I knew one thing, he wasn’t making it to midnight. I put my money on 9:30 he’s passed out on the couch.

Can you see that win/win scenario shaping up. We look like the good guys cause we let them stay up, and they barely make it to 10:00 and still get to bed at a decent enough hour considering they are still on Christmas vacation. Plus we get to go to bed right after cause we didn’t really care about staying up till midnight anyway. That’s some quality parenting right there. The whole thought process just smells like win doesn’t it? Well, doesn’t it?!

Yeah I know now it doesn’t. But it sure smelled like win at the time.

The plan begins to unravel

The plan begins to unravel

It’s not like we sat them on the couch and made them stay awake. We played games, we made crafts; nifty New Year’s Eve hats, with decorations and everything. We made all kinds of party food, sort of. Tracy found a way to make sausage meatballs that came to resemble something JB and Becky’s dog Goose might leave in the Sac. But she rebounded with little homemade pizzas. We were partying man!

Then the first sign they were starting to crack. After some interpretive dance numbers, Frank took up residence on the couch. This is it, he’s gonna close his eyes for a long second and be sawing lumber in no time. It was 8:45pm, Dec 31st. We might all be in bed by 10:00.

Anne Marie on the other hand was just limbering up. To make sure we understood her commitment to the long haul of midnight, she ran seven or eight laps around the downstairs part of the house. Then proceeded to do actual stair climbers, going upstairs for some wind sprints in the hall way.

I was unimpressed. If anything I thought she peeked too early, only making herself more tired and thus shortening her awake time, not lengthening it. Yeah I know. I’ll never learn. But in my defense I was paying more attention to Frank.

Frank had been on the couch and very quiet for a long time. His eyes were still open but I sensed he was fading. He was in the 1000 yard stare zone. Only a matter of time now. I hoped. It was 9:20pm. It may have been the sausage dog balls or the fear the kids would make midnight, hard to say. But I was starting to sweat just a tad, bead up a little, glisten almost.

By 10:30 I had sweated out the dog balls. Frank was still awake and now running laps with his sister. I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Frank gave me the old Ali rope-a-dope. He  sat on the couch just waiting for the rest of us to use our precious energy, then he came out swinging.

Here she was just toying with us.

Here she was just toying with us.

Anne Marie is just a bull, a grunt, never tiring, never wavering, always pushing forward, always forward. She never showed a single sign she was tired. In fact, she seemed to get stronger as the night wore on.

By 11:20 we were resigned to our fate. They were gonna make it. Even Frank, now back on the couch with a laser focus on the TV, was determined to make it to this silly “Ball Drop” is parents had been yammering about.

I can’t post the pics of our 2yr old Anne Marie, drinking sparkling grape juice from an actual crystal glass at 12:01 on January 1st 2015, because Mrs Frank’s Place is afraid the authorities will come for us. However I can report, after she downed it all she put her finger in the glass, wiped it around the bottom, being sure to get every drop and then tasted the sweet victory of having idiot parents.

Frank watched the ball drop, took the required sip of sparkling grape, said the mandated Happy New Year and took himself to bed. No touchdown dance, no spiking of the ball. He just handed it to the ref, gave an “up yours” glance to the opposing sideline and walked to the bench.

No doubt you can guess what’s coming next. They were both up by 7:30 that morning, bright-eyed and ready to do it again.

Serves us right.

Happy New Year!