Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: That hair! To cut or not to cut….

So Frank has a great head of hair.  His hair was a modest rug when he was born but it grew in quickly.  That is a trait that runs in my family.  My dad had a great head of hair.  Of course he’s 80 now and bald on top.  My hair grows so fast and thick, by week 5 of basic training I already had a good stubble going up there.  By graduation you could just about see the natural part.  That was from being skinned on day 1.  After surviving the threats from the Drill Instructors about shaving my head again for graduation, I left Lackland AFB and started my military career with almost a full head of hair.

These are the hair genes that Frank has inherited.  As you’ll see from the pictures below, we let his hair grow out, a lot.  I didn’t think I would be cool with it, but the more it grew the more I liked it.  What’s cooler still, he really got hooked on Bon Jovi once he started listening to music.  Well Bon Jovi and Frank Sinatra.  Living on a Prayer and Girl from Ipanema are his favorites from those respected Jersey superstars.   Click the titles to listen.  When he started mimicking Bon Jovi’s moves in the video and using his golf club as a guitar, well we just couldn’t cut his hair.

We may have let that go a little too long.  He really couldn’t see.  That was even after I cut him a little window across his bangs.  I did it while he was in the tub.  It didn’t look bad but it wasn’t salon quality either.  Of course I was operating under the assumption that it would grow back pretty quick so it really didn’t matter what I did to it.  The shame would only last a little while.  For once I was right.  It grew back in a week.  So the time came, we had to get it cut.  Here is the only  before shot of his natural hair, untouched since the day he was born.  He is almost 2 yrs old in this picture.

My son is under there...somewhere

I was going to make it all grainy, like those fake pictures of Sasquatch running across a river in Siberia, but I think this picture stands on its own.  That is Frank under there.  He is inspecting the storm damage the morning after all those tornadoes ripped through the South.  We got hit with the tail end of the line of twisters that took out Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  This was the day or two before he got his first haircut.  Maybe the gods were trying to tell us something.  Anyway we didn’t listen.  We took him for his first haircut.

It went as well as can be expected.  Some tears, a quivering lip, me holding him for a while as a good friend and great cutter of hair, Courtney, gave Frank a nice trim.  A curl was recovered from the scene for pressing into a scrapbook.  It was not a full blown haircut mind you, but those curls you see never returned.  Now when we let his hair grow it just goes straight down his back.

Here are a few pictures below documenting Franks hair genealogy.  Be kind to me, I liked my hair like that.

Here are Frank’s great grandfather and great grandmother, James and Jenny Linardo hitting the boardwalk in Atlantic City NJ, September 1928.  That’s a nice head of hair right there folks and a good window into the future of Linardo heads of hair.

Franks Great Grandfather James Linardo - Atlantic City 1928













This is Frank’s grandfather, my dad, Francis John Linardo, circa 1930.  Another great head of hair.  Also some similarities in expressions emerging between grandfather and grandson.

Francis John Linardo - 1930











Here is a better shot of my dad’s mop.  That’s righteous.  Graduation picture from Roman Catholic High-school in Philadelphia, 1946.

Highschool Graduation 1946











Finally a picture of my rug, 1980ies-ish.  Not nearly as neat as my predecessors but just as full.  Often referred to as the “Mr. Kotter”, mostly by my wife, it was the style of the times.











Frank getting his first haircut.  He did well.  It was tough to watch those curls hit the floor.

Sampson, losing his strength.











He has had 3 haircuts since the first.  Here is the latest.  It’s also the first “full” haircut he’s ever had.  It went short enough to make the teachers at school fuss over him for several minutes the first day he showed up with it this short.  He is celebrating his first full haircut with the ceremonial “eating of the broccoli.”

Yes it's broccoli

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Christian Clopp – a profile in all that’s good.

Some of you are probably aware of this story already.  A little 9 year old boy, Christian Clopp, has been battling a brain tumor for some time now.   Most of you know him even though you never met him because his story has played out on Facebook since the little warrior was first diagnosed.  A Facebook page called Christian’s Crusaders sprang up and moved quickly to 5000 friends.  I happen to know Christian’s father Mark.  We came through St. Vincent De Paul catholic elementary school in Mays Landing, NJ together.  We also went to the same high-school.  Mark went on to be a police officer in Mays Landing, retiring last year.  I went on to the military and retired myself in 2010.  We reconnected, so to speak, through FaceBook right around the time his son Christian was diagnosed.

I’ve not written anything about the Clopps even though I have felt a strong urge to do so.  A lot of reasons for that, but mainly it’s because there was no way to improve on what Mark has been writing.  The guy is gifted to say the least, but the sincerity and emotion he writes with about his youngest son could never be replicated or explained.  All the old adjectives like courage, heart, bravery, they all pale in comparison to the struggles Christian endured and the way he fought the fight.  That became more clear with every post Mark made to the Facebook wall of Christian’s Crusaders.  It literally would be impossible to write that kid’s story any better than his father did it.  It’s been a privilege to be let in to this family’s journey over the past year or so.

To say Christian lost his battle would not be an apt description.  That kids been a winner from day one of this thing.  His victories over his disease are too numerous to count.  The inspiration he provided us as we read, sometimes daily, how Christian defied not only the odds, but the experts, is impossible to quantify.  The display of faith by Mark and his family, again laid bare for all of us to see, is reaffirming, the evidence of the power of prayer by thousands of strangers; redeeming in some way.  This kid changed lives, he drew people together.  Some of my friends, who never have and probably never will meet the Clopps, would all of a sudden have a picture of Christian as their Facebook profile and post prayers to his FaceBook page.  Again, inspiring is not even close to what Christian has meant to a lot of us.

Today I read a headline asking the question, Should flags be at half staff for Whitney Houston, and I just shake my head.  Then I read about Christian, look back over the posts his father put on the Facebook wall and I believe that while ridiculousness rules the headlines, deep faith, abiding love, and an unending hope rules the heart of a 9 year old and his family.

As we are saying goodbye to Christian, God is saying Welcome Home Good and Faithful Servant.

Christian Thomas Clopp
August 15, 2002 – February 15, 2012     “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” 2Timothy 4:7

Christian Clopp

Christian’s Crusaders

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: He’s not going to eat that; is he?

So it appears he will eat that, and a lot of other things.  I beg you to read all of the following sentences before reacting to the single sentence that immediately follows.  Tracy doesn’t cook.  It’s not that she’s bad at it, or that she can’t do it.  She just doesn’t want to.  Because Tracy doesn’t cook very often, if at all, she doesn’t have much ability on those days she does make a foray into my kitchen.  So it would only be natural that Tracy would be the one to decide that Frank would be raised on all natural food.  In other words Frank will not be eating from a jar.  No Gerbers, no Beechnut, nothing.  “We’re” going to make all his food.

Yeah, I put up a lot of the objections you all are currently thinking.  We’ll skip the actual making and then cleaning up portion of my objections and focus on the less practical issues to begin with.  My first and foremost; he won’t eat that stuff.  I am a child of chemically altered food.  Stuff from stores, restaurants, and fast food joints tastes the way it does because they employ chemists, not cooks.  In my opinion that stuff is good because of that and can’t be recreated in the kitchen.   For example, the first time my mom tried to pass off English muffins covered in tomato sauce and cheese as “pizza”, I recognized the obvious chasm between large corporations and their ability to make food taste so good, and bad knock offs coming from our oven.  Now my mom can throw down in the kitchen, but trying to recreate products with only the natural ingredients in the kitchen just wasn’t going to cut it for me.  If the first few items on the recipe don’t include some of the basics from the periodic table of elements, I’m not buying.

I thought it only natural that my offspring would feel the same way.  I mean Luke was strong in the force because he was the offspring of Anakin.  Why wouldn’t this be the same thing?    Turns out it’s a lot different.  At least that’s what Tracy told me.  So my “he won’t eat that” objection went begging.  As for the more practical objections, who’s going to make it, who’s going to clean up?  Tracy answered simply 1. “Me”, 2. “You”.  In case you got lost in that last sentence, Tracy was going to make it and I was going to clean up.

I am here to say Tracy read up on how to do it, and just did it.  She made all Frank’s food after he came off the bottle.  Why isn’t there a Nike “Just Do It” commercial about that?  Not only that but she bought some great kitchen accessories that made it pretty easy to clean up too.  Then she proceeded to teach me how to make his food.  Talk about twilight zone.  I, however, was unsuccessful in my attempt to teach her how to load a dishwasher to achieve maximum water efficiency.  No matter, I was fascinated with making Frank’s food.

She made squash, peas, carrots, pumpkin, applesauce, etc…  It’s basically as simple as peeling a squash, cutting it up and throwing it in a blender with a little hot water.  Pick the consistency you want and hit the button.  At first we were pureeing everything.  We let it get chunkier as time went on.  Here’s the cool part.  She got some ice cube trays in the shape of stars, and animals and what not.   Well it was fun to me.  We started using regular ice cube trays when we realized the size of is appetite.  We poured the puree in and froze it.  Popped them out into a ziplock bag that sat in the freezer until it was time to feed him.  Take out a few squash cubes, microwave them, (if no chemistry, at least we were using some physics), let it cool and start shoveling.  When he got a little older we started using some spices, like cinnamon and such.  Very cool.  We were like little chemists!

As for my initial objection, well the kid ate everything.  At the moment I can’t think of a thing we made that he wouldn’t eat.   Tracy may weigh in on this at some point, but I can’t think of one.  His favorite for a long time was butternut squash.  Peas and then pureed broccoli moved into the top five.  Of course pumpkin and applesauce were huge favorites, especially after we experimented with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Tracy accounted for and was absolutely correct about every facet of the operation.  Short term: it made feeding very simple and less expensive.  Long term: I have no science for this but I believe it may have expanded Frank’s pallet once he began eating regular food.   And man did he start eating regular food, meaning he got to eat what ever we were eating.

His doctor mentioned early on that at the one year mark start giving him the food from our plates.  Experiment she said, see what he likes and doesn’t like.  So those that know me know that meant I would have to start eating vegetables.

Broccoli x2 Not human!

Frank had already eaten more veggies in a year than I had my entire lifetime, so I was in for a bit of a change.  But I manned up and almost went spoon for spoon with Frank.  Today he still blows me away with the veggie count.  Last night he was two fisting broccoli.  Kid’s a freak.

Lima beans are his current favorite.  When giving him mixed vegetables he’ll separate all the lima beans and eat them first.  He still muckels green beans, corn and carrots with both hands as well.   The fruit thing is not even worth mentioning, but I will.  Raspberries hold the distinction as the only fruit he’s tried and immediately dismissed.  He eats lemons by biting into the thing whole or in half, cherries, blackberries, bananas, apples, strawberries, blueberries, the list goes on as to what he’ll eat now.  One thing is a certainty, whatever fruit I put in his lunch for school, it’s the one thing he’ll eat all of.  He’s left some sandwich and even pretzels or chocolate fish behind, but not his fruit.

Don’t get me wrong the kid now eats all of the bad stuff too.  He likes a good Reese’s Cup, and cookies all day long.  Those cheese fish are like air to him.  It’s just hard to deny him those things when he’ll eat a whole baked chicken breast and a pile of string beans right in front of you at dinner, or two hotdogs and a bowl of blueberries at lunch.

His appetite is far and wide.  The doc said give him what was on our plate, so we did.  At a year old he ate everything from taco meat to egg rolls.  He’s a chicken and broccoli man now, or L8 as we used to call it back in the day.  For some reason most of the chinese places around the base in Jersey had chicken and broccoli listed as L8 on their menus.  So the gang on the nightshift would call out for L8 over the radio and if you wanted in you answered back.  It was good eatin, and Frank has developed the taste for it.  The biggest shock so far was on the drive home from his first trip to Jersey.  Almost home, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Abingdon Virginia.  At a loss as to what to get a 1yr old, we started giving him what we ordered.  He wasn’t too interested in my chicken finger basket, but he was all over Tracy’s chicken fried steak and okra.  There we were just having come from Jersey, my home state, and we were in the parking lot of the CrackerBarrel sitting on the tailgate of the starship Frankerprise, (our mini-van), watching Frank destroy a chicken fried steak and okra.  Does the phrase, you might be a redneck if… come to mind?

Of course he also likes his fill of Italian food.  Digs my stuffed shells.  Big time pizza lover.  He was eating a whole slice, uncut, at a year old.  He takes his pasta simple, with olive oil and oregano, just like the old country.  We found that out the hard way.   We were trying to get him to eat some mac-n-cheese.  It was some off brand with organic something or other in it.  After a few failed attempts, I tried it and almost coughed up my shoes.   Tired of throwing out pot after pot of this stuff, I put in some olive oil, oregano, basil, and mozzarella cheese and reheated.   Man he was on that like a, like a, like a…. well he liked it a lot.

Lots of people said he would lose that taste for fruits and vegetables, that he would become finicky with all the stuff he was eating and we’d be down to chicken nuggets and cheerios.  Yeah, tell that to the chicken fajita with onions and red peppers he demolished last week.

He’ll be three in May, we’ll see what he thinks of egg rolls then.


Hitting a cheeseburger on Christmas Eve

Organic what? 1st birthday cake haze
Cleaned up the pasta at the Rosini festival
Butternut Squash facial, it must be spring.
By the slice, like it was meant to be.