Frank’s Place: Best of 2012

Wow, hard to believe another year has passed.  One minute it was March and the next – it’s New Year’s Eve.  There was a summer in there some where.  Might have even been some fall too, hard to tell.  A lot has happened this year.  We, celebrated, we grieved, we cried, we learned, and of course we blogged.

And since blogging is what we’re here to do, lets get to the posts with the most, the verbal stylings that y’all liked better than the rest.  As always they are in order of popularity based on views each post got.

It was a year of loss.

Christian Clopp: A Profile and Linda Claire    First a little boy named Christian Clopp proved it really is the size of the heart that matters and then was called home. Then our little Linda Claire gave us five short hours before she was called home.  I’ve spent more time thinking about those five hours than I’d hope too.  These were the only two posts that hit the four digit mark as far as views.  Heart warming really.  A lot of people weighed in to offer prayers, condolences, and well wishes.  I can’t speak for Christian’s father Mark, but trust me, it helped me a lot.

Christian Clopp

Christian Clopp

Linda Clare  22 March 2012

Linda Clare 22 March 2012










Then we celebrated

Four weeks and famous Linda Claire was a twin.  Her sister Anne Marie soldiered on in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit(NICU) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. When she was four weeks old and barely 2lbs we were approached about appearing in a video that would be used to fund raise for the NICU.  We did it and Anne Marie was featured as well.  The fund raiser made 1 million american dollars.  Not a bad nights work. Here’s the little diva/star in all her 2lb glory.

Hey, where's that breast milk I ordered!  And turn up the heat, it's freezing in here!

Hey, where’s that breast milk I ordered! And turn up the heat, it’s freezing in here!

The Eagle has Landed     Then after 4+ months they let us take her home.  They expected us to care for her.  Who’s idea was that?  We were apprehensive to say the least.  Tracy went in the hospital in early February.  We took Anne Marie home in late July.  We had been at that hospital in some capacity for 6 months. Being on our own with her was exciting and freaking terrifying at the same time. Plus we made some great friends at the NICU and now we wouldn’t be seeing them very much, after spending days and nights at a time with them.  Ah well, Frank didn’t care.  He was happy to finally meet his sister.

Actual first contact.  We told you she was real Frank.

Actual first contact. We told you she was real Frank.

Then more trauma -Mine  

Teat of Terror, I know that’s not mud, & They can’t do math were all examples of how many parenting lessons failed to translate from Frank to Anne Marie.  I mean the girl terrorized me for the first few months after she came home.  I’ll spare you the pictures, they ain’t pretty.  Actually those three events all occurred in the middle of the night so I don’t even think there are pictures.  I’m currently in counseling over it all, but they were three of the more popular posts of 2012.  Glad I could provide y’all some entertainment. Jerks.

Then a move 

I teamed up with my old broadcast partner from the Air Force to start a cultural/social/political blog called Unfiltered & Unfettered: The World Explained by Us .  It was time to move the political stuff off of Frank’s Place.  The last political posts to appear at Frank’s Place were about the debates during the republican primary.  I did a few posts about all the rules governing primaries, caucuses, and how delegates are sent to the conventions.  It was basically an Electoral College 101 primer.  A post called Unbound Delegates Explained made it into the top ten posts of the year at Frank’s Place.  Turns out, since almost no one understands our ridiculously rule heavy primary system, the phrase “unbound delegates” became the number 1 search term on the Google.  That made the Frank’s Place post 2nd on Google search, and during the Maine primary we were actually first for a week.  Crazy.

Then a fight

A good cause, always a good cause & Look what y’all did round out the top ten at Franks Place.  While we were in our little bubble of going to the hospital every day for four months, sometimes twice a day, life apparently moved on every where else for most. In that moving on, my little sister heard words no one wants to hear.  ”You have breast cancer.”  She has beaten it so far.  Radiation treatments are done and she on to the meds. Outlook is very good.  We live 660 miles from the rest of my family in Jersey so not a whole lot we could do but ask for help, and walk.  Team Kathy was formed in connection with my wife’s company to walk in the Komen Race for the Cure in Knoxville.  Y’all responded and came up with this great effort.

It's cold.  It's raining.  It's a good cause and a good lookin squad.

It’s cold. It’s raining. It’s a good cause and a good lookin squad.

Goal met.  And then some.  Thanks y'all.

Goal met. And then some. Thanks y’all.

So it was a rough year and a great year and everything in between. Documenting it here at Frank’s Place has been fun and cathartic at times. Writing about grief that seemed unbearable somehow made it less so.  Having all y’all follow along makes it even better.  76 different countries have read about Anne Marie crapping on me in the middle of the night or latching on to my man cans thinking they were heavy laden with milk.  They got to read about Frank growing into a hilarious little 3 year old. (God what must that 1 poor bastard in Paraguay be thinking when he reads this?)

More important I get to look back at a year that has been a blur, slowly read, and remember.

That alone makes it all worth it.




Thanks for reading and commenting.

Happy New Year from Frank’s Place!

Bring it 2013!

Bring it 2013!






















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Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Frank the Christmas Socialist

Where did we get this kid?

It’s a question we ask ourselves a lot these days.  He displays charter traits that neither Tracy nor I have.

We take the kid to see Santa Claus a few weeks ago.  Santa, other wise known as Kringle – the enslaver* asks Frank what he wants.  The kid says, and I quote, “a candy cane and a soldier.”  So guess what, the dude produces a candy cane and a plastic soldier from the Nut Cracker.  Frank was happy, Santa was happy.  Christmas over.  All done.

Well where is the magic in that?  Even the hobo peeing on the side of the 7-11 in a Santa suit could have done that.

It gets worse.  The kid comes over and gives his candy cane to his mommy cause he wants to share.  Are you kidding me?

Mind you the kid wants for nothing at Christmas and birthdays.  We get him a few things, but I have parents and seven brothers and sisters who, along with Tracy’s brother and wife and Tracy’s mom, keep Frank amply supplied in the gift department.

So the big day finally gets here and I’m not feeling like Frank was getting it.  He’s only three but I thought he might exhibit a little more excitement.  Nope, he was pretty unimpressed by the whole affair.  We made cookies to put out for Claus boy and he wanted to eat one and give the rest to Grammy and Mommy.

We threw reindeer food, or bait as they call it down here, out into the front yard.  He would not go unless mommy and daddy threw some too.

Anyway, we get downstairs on Christmas morning and he sees his pile.  And it’s a pile, reference my large family above.  He sees a box of candy canes on top of the pile.  Since that’s what he asked for he thinks that’s his gift.  And he’s pretty psyched about it.  He runs to get the box and proceeds to give me and mommy one each.

When we explain the other presents are for him too he says “no they are for everybody. Everyone gets some presents.” That little Bolshevik!!  He’s going all socialist on us. Spreading the Christmas wealth.

Then it took him all day to open his stuff.  Not because there was so much, but because he would open something and then play with that thing for an hour or so.

Where did we get this kid? Every time he does something like this Tracy and I each separately, but silently, think “he may not be my kid.”  Tracy has no case, she knows he is hers, she carried his little commie butt for nine months.

But every now and then, in the right light, he looks like the dude who used to cut our lawn.

His sister on the other hand, at the ripe adjusted age of 5 months, tore open every package put in front of her.  Share? Her?  Yeah right.

Hopefully she’ll be the one to bring balance to the force.

Ah well, priecīgus Ziemassvētkus comrades!

Since everyone gets a present at socialist Christmas, here is yours.  Behold the fourth annual christmas pajama picture.  And some shots of the girl.


The family that PJs together…

Share?  Share what? What is this, the collective?

Share? Share what? What is this, the collective?

Let me show you how's its done big brother.

Let me show you how’s its done big brother.










All in all a good Christmas.  A good first one for AM and a good day for spreading the wealth for Frank.



*Think them elves wouldn’t rather be in Miami working the dwarf tossing circuit instead of freezing their tinsel off in a indentured toy factory?  Guess again.

Diary of a Stay at Home Dad: The christmas card photo – “there will be happiness!!!!!”

I thought we had escaped it.  I was wrong.  Sadly, I was so wrong.  Tracy’s side of the family was in town the first week of December and we did an early Christmas with their kids and Frank and Anne Marie.  So we were semi-dressed in semi-Christmas garb.  Or should I say holiday garb?  Can we still say Christmas?  Is it legal.  Oh well I’ll risk it.

Anywho, we were kinda dressed up and the idea of taking a picture for a family Christmas card was floated, much like a stale air-biscuit in church.  You can look it up in the urban dictionary here: He who smelt it…  

Then she got the great idea that instead of standing in front of the tree we should be lying down in front of it.  It was, she claims, the only way Anne Marie could participate.  You know because there is no way I could hold her up for the 3.7 milli-seconds it takes for a camera shutter to groan it’s way to completion.  I knew the real deal.  She doesn’t like the way either of us currently look in pictures or real life.

To be clear, she looks great.  Even though I have dropped 22lbs I still have about 40 to go, so the prone in front the tree position was probably to keep my gut out of the yule tide shot.

We were off to a bad start and it got worse.  Since my little sister, aka the warden, lives in Jersey we were devoid of proper organization.  The following pictures detail some of the chaos.














At first the kids wouldn’t cooperate.  Thank God.  I thought once AM started to melt down we might be out of the whole deal.  But alas, she rallied.

Then Frank started to act up.  Was this the breaking point?  Nope, as hard as he tried, bless his little uncooperative heart, it just wasn’t enough.

Then Mommy disappeared.  It seems she was not adorned with the proper beautification products. I mean how long does she think an overweight 45 year old, a 3 year old, and a 8 month old can stay like this?

That’s when despair set in.  It was inevitable. Sadly I cracked first, then Anne Marie, then Frank.  Although I’m suspicious that Frank’s despair was at me and Anne Marie, not at the one person responsible for all this.



Here is what true exasperation looks like.

Three tired mice

Three tired mice

Trust me this was not staged.  Unbeknownst to me, my sister-in-law Rachel just kept taking pictures throughout the whole ordeal.  She ended up with almost 135 photos.

Eventually we all got it together, as much as that group could and managed a servicable Christmas card picture.

SPOLIER ALERT>  If you’re on our mailing list avert your eyes in




All we got

All we got

Of the 135 shots Rachel took, this was the only serviceable one.  And yeah, Frank appears to be asking God why he is being punished with membership in this family.

Merry Christmas from Frank’s Place!

SHES 2012



Flag half mast



Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11: 28 – 30




Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: The great escape…. Almost

So the little one catches on quick.  She was able to roll over from her belly to her back about a month ago.  That’s 8 months actual age, 4 months, 2 weeks adjusted age for those scoring at home.  Not great, but not bad for a micro-preemie.  We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, hoping really.

One of the unintended advantages of the heart monitor was the sleeping on the belly.  She loves to sleep on her belly.  When you have a monitor keeping tack of her breathing and heart rate it’s no problem to let her sleep like that.  That’s generally a no no until the kid learns to roll from back to front, the tougher of the two roll maneuvers.  Once they can roll on to their belly it’s out of your hands.  We were encouraged by the NICU docs and our own pediatrician to let her sleep on her belly if she liked it.  It was great.  She loved it and she slept a lot better that way.  But in October she was coming off the monitor and would either have to sleep on her back or learn to roll over from back to front.

Sleeping on the back was not happening.  It also appeared like the roll over would not happen either.  But then she learned to get that outside leg over and gravity would do the rest.  Victory, she can rollover for front to back and back to front.  She gets to keep sleeping on the belly and we get to keep sleeping through the night.  Hard to imagine but this kid sleeps as much as Frank does at night.  She routinely goes from 8pm to 10 or 11am with out a lot of fuss.

We were relieved to see she could roll onto her belly.  Until I came into the living room, looked down at the blanket I had left her on, and she was gone.

She could roll over, but she wasn’t making a habit of it, and she was just barely getting over from her back to belly.  So she was still fairly immobile.  Which was nice as long as she was happy laying there with a few toys to chew on.  I could run upstairs to get laundry going, clean the kitchen, dash off a few paragraphs of this, monitor my media empire, you know everyday stay at home dad stuff.

I think the day she disappeared I was polishing a post I was about to put up on our political/social/cultural blog, Unfiltered & Unfettered.  It got awful quiet in the living room.  Now I know from already having a kid that little before, and even now as a 3yr old, quiet means bad, danger, trouble, mine or theirs.  It’s like the antelopes on the Serengeti. They know when the lion is about to pounce.  The feel it right before it happens, it gets eerily quiet and still.  The gomer who’s not paying attention to the quiet? well, he’s an easy kill for the lion.  Only way it could get easier for the lion is if the antelope spread honey mustard on himself.  That’s what it’s like in a house with kids.  Not the honey mustard part, the quiet, the quiet is a bad sign.

So I feel the quiet and decide to take a look see.  Except there is nothing to look at.  She’s gone.  Not there.  Vanished.  The blanket just stares back at me as if to shrug, “I dunno.” Where the hell could a 5 month adjusted age micro premie who can’t walk, has no contacts outside of the house that I’m aware of, no access to resources, and no ability to speak, go in five minutes?  More importantly, how am I going to explain this.  “Well Tracy, Anne Marie left.  Yeah she left. No she didn’t leave a note or forwarding address.”

Then I see the Christmas tree moving.  I know it’s not the cat.  Frank and I finally buried Pumpkin’s ashes a week ago after two plus years of sitting in the china cabinet, which was a nicer place than being two feet under the dirt in the back yard.  I’m not sayin. I’m just sayin.

Anyway back to finding the kid.  Look down, nothing.  Tree still moving and then a giggle. Get down on the carpet and see this:

It's not the cat

It’s not the cat









Yeah I grabbed my phone and took a picture.  She looked OK to me.  Wasn’t like she was getting eaten by a camel or anything.

She rolled clear across the room.  That’s no small feat.  She had just rolled over from her back to her belly a few days ago, now she went about 15 feet.  That must have been at least six or seven rolls.  Never can tell what will motivate a kid.  We had just put the tree up.  Must have grabber her interest.


Here is a shot of Pumpkin.

Pumpkin Cat 1988-2010 That was his favorite spot too.

Pumpkin Cat 1988-2010 







Must be something about that spot.  He loved sitting there too.  Although he just walked there.  Rolling was not his style.



Diary of a Stay at Home Dad: As fast as his little legs would carry him.

In general we all have a hierarchy of needs, right?  I mean we all subconsciously keep a running list of what things are most important, and in what order their importance lies. Food, shelter, safety, etc.. usually populate the top of any list for an adult.  When put in a crisis the list becomes much more clear, much more defined.  So for example if the house was burning down, aside from your kids, what would you try to save?  What if everyone was safe, including pets, and all important documents were secured and you were given the option to run back in and get one or two things, what would it or they be?  That might be a tough decision.

Would that be tougher for kids? What does their list look like?  What would they grab in a time of crisis?  Well, we got the chance to see exactly what Frank’s list looked like the other night.

Frank’s Gobby, (my mother), came for an much needed impromptu visit last week.  My brother was headed to Atlanta for business and she tagged along.  He kicked her out around exit 338 in Knoxville and she made it to our humble abode around 2am.  Yeah my side of the family are all night owls for the most part.  Frank is not so he was in bed when his Gobby finally came through the door.  She was going to stay in the room across from his, so we were trying to be quiet as we got her settled.

Apparently we were not quiet enough and he started stirring.  But he didn’t get up so it looked like we dodged a bullet.  I went back to bed, Tracy was already asleep, and Gobby went to the can down the hall to perform her evening/early morning ablutions.  At some point during that time Frank got up and wandered out into the hall.  He saw a light on in the bathroom and opened the door.  He was confronted with my mother who he sees about once a year.  Now I know the kid is slick, but I didn’t know he was this slick.  He looks up and my mom says, “hi Frank! It’s Gobby!”  It’s 3:30ish in the morning, but the kid remained cool and responded with a shrug and a nonchalant  “eh” and wandered back to his room.

Once there he must have shifted into some form of crisis management because when my mom went to her room and shut the door, he grabbed what was important and came flying down the hall to our room.  He was hauling the mail.  In track and field parlance he was at maximum foot turnover rate.  He may have touched the floor every third step.  My side of the bed is positioned so I can see down the hall through the slightly cracked door, allowing me to see both of the kids room doors by barely lifting my head.  All I have to do is open my eyes and attempt to focus. As this event was unfolding all I could hear was small feet pounding the carpet at a high rate of speed. I could see nothing.

All of a sudden there was Frank, bedside, speechless, and holding something in each hand.

The mind of a child is fascinating.  He presented himself bedside with what he felt were the two most important things in his life: Lenny, his stuffed lamb, and a sword.  It’s not just any sword, it lights up green like a Jedi’s light-sabre.  He got it at the zoo when we took him for halloween.  He wouldn’t come up on the bed unless we took the sword up first.  Then he passed us Lenny.  Once he was assured Lenny was safe he climbed up on the bed with us. When he got up there we could tell how hard he was breathing and how fast his tiny little kid heart was racing.  He was scared.  So he grabbed his buddy, a weapon, and hot footed it to mom and pops room for a defensive fall back position.

A warrior at heart, who knew.

We’ll just overlook the fact that he ran past his defenseless sisters room, not once but twice, and never so much as glanced at the door.  I guess when the zombie apocalypse comes she’s on her own, although if she’s walking by then, zombies are in for a rough night.


Here is a reenactment.  Note the steely eyes and how he keeps Lenny away from danger. Kid’s an assassin.  Gobby was lucky to come out of that encounter alive.

The binker, or passy as some of you upper crusters might call it, is a permanent attachment, he didn’t need to go back for that.

At the ready, come what may

At the ready, come what may



Alright, so let’s hear it from the peanut gallery. If faced with a similar situation, what one or two valuables would you go back in for?