Diary of a SAHD: Running with scissors

First attempt with a utensil. Sure why not.

First attempt with a utensil. Sure why not.

Unlike a lot of the titles I dream up for my posts, this one is right to the point. Scissors – Point, get it. Ha, I’m here all week folks, tip your servers and try the veal.

But seriously, a friend asked me today if Anne Marie was easier to deal with than Frank. I really had to think about that. After careful thought I’m thinking there might be a minuscule window where Anne Marie will be easier to deal with than Frank. I’m also guessing that window lies somewhere between when she potty trains and learns to dress herself, and the millisecond after she potty trains and learns to dress herself.

Mind you I’m not a scientist and I have not frequented any Holiday Inns lately, this is just pure gut instinct.

I get some foul looks when I say what I’m about to say. The looks coming from Mrs Frank’s Place, mother of Frank and Anne Marie of course. But I’m gonna say it anyway.

My four year old Frank is a smart kid. He can add and subtract without using his fingers or counting out loud. His old nemesis, the alphabet, is even starting to bow to his mental acuity. Having said that, Anne Marie is smarter than Frank by quite a bit. It’s starting to boarder on freakish.

You’ve seen the ladder she was building to jump the safety gate on the stairs. That was 5 months ago. That was a small step. Yesterday she took a giant leap. Here’s a refresher picture of the “Gate Box incident of 2013”.

Yeah no problem, I won't touch the gate. I'll jump over it.

Yeah no problem, I won’t touch the gate. I’ll jump over it.

Monday, 25 November, she realized she was tall enough to reach the kitchen cabinet drawers. Ten minutes later I realized it too.

I come around the corner into the kitchen to find my micro preemie jamming a pair of scissors like a crow bar between the refrigerator doors in an attempt to pry them open. She would have made it too if I was a few minutes later. The freezer door was about to give way. When I asked her what she was doing, two things happened. I got a look that basically said, “Really Stevie Wonder, what does it look like I’m doing?” And then realizing the scissors were her only chance to get the fridge open, she pulled them out from between the doors and attempted to flee. Thankfully she’s no where near as fast as her brother and I managed to grab her up after a few steps.

She had a strange look on her face. Sort of like this:

Don't underestimate my power!

Don’t underestimate my power!

I’m not sure if that look is saying, “In a few months I’ll be so fast you won’t be able to catch me,” or “In a few months I’ll be smarter than you and speed won’t matter.” I’ll get back to you on that.

I still have no idea what she was after, but I do know there was something specific in that fridge. She expends no effort unless she has a goal. That much I have figured out about her.

Not one to rest on her laurels, while we stopped in to see Pastor Dave at Frank’s school, she quietly wandered over to his guitar case and had it open in about 2 minutes. I was half wondering if she was going to throw down a riff or two or whatever a cool word for playing guitar is.

After we got home she showed me how she could turn on my iPhone and open the twitter app. Of course she learned that little skill from Frank.

And for the record, any one who got some weird garbled tweets from me today, it was Anne Marie’s fault and had nothing to do with me accidentally OD-ing on Sudafed. I mean it wasn’t a meth head amount of Sudafed, but it was enough. My sinuses have never been more free breathing.

Anyway, the conclusion is Anne Marie will be much harder because as my friend Chris would say, “She’s wicked smart.” Plus what she’s not figuring out on her own Frank is teaching her. Add to that I’m 3yrs slower and dumber.

That my friends is not a good combination.

Second child easier, not by a long shot.

Diary of a SAHD: Tis the season…for reruns and snot

Frank doing some editing for the show

Frank doing some editing for the show

No, no, no. There won’t be any posts to read about snot. Just my way of announcing the sickness has come to Frank’s Place again and the entire house is sick. To that end it might be a bit before I can post.

Until such time enjoy a few videos of a show Frank and I did when he was about 18 months old.

The Frank-n-Fran show never really caught on. The pilot was a little clumsy and the following two episodes never lived up to the hype. Here are a few reruns till the authors can get up and typing again.

Take a look and what the world was deprived of. Might be a second or two to load.

I mean it’s not Regis and Kathy Lee, but we had fun.


Hope to be back at it soon.

Diary of a SHAD: A traitor in our midst.

There is a myriad of reasons Mrs Frank’s Place is out of my league. Way out of my league. Too many to name here, but one area in particular comes to the forefront as the college basketball season starts to wind up.

She’s a huge sports fan. This is a great quality but can be a double edged sword at times.

On the plus side we get to watch a lot of sports. A lot of college sports. She’s also a huge fan of the Olympics. One Winter Games I had pneumonia and was laid up for a week. We watched Olympic Curling all day long for like 6 days.

She also saved me a little embarrassment when I met the dude who ran the sports at the University of Tennessee. When we ended up in the same church group with the athletic director from the University of Tennessee, she pointed him out. I said, that dude? He said his name is Mike. She says yeah and he runs the Athletic Department at UT, he’s a big deal. I had no clue. I grew up on pro sports, being 45 minutes from Phila. He was just a regular dude to me. Still is.

As always I would regale my friends at the base with stories on Monday mornings and when I repeated this one a few were quite impressed. Although they were more than slightly embarrassed for me that I had no idea who or what an athletic director was. They were slightly bowled over that Mrs Franks Place had to explain the importance of it all to me. I’m all like, dude she’s a huge sports fan. ESPN plays in our house more than anything. We were once late for a Christmas Party so we could see the Heisman Trophy presentation the year Carson Palmer from USC won it. Their mouths hit the floor. When I said I was retiring to raise Frank, (and later his sister AM), she achieved goddess like status in their eyes.

But all that comes with a price.

She’s a Kentucky fan. As in University of Kentucky, class of 95, homecoming queen in 94. When I met her in 2000 living in Knoxville, Volunteer country, she would be pretty reserved during football, and a maniac during basketball season. When Kentucky routinely whupped Tennessee in basketball she would call all her friends in Knoxville to bust their chops. When we went to games I had to keep my head on a swivel as she would degrade and demean Tennessee fans in her all blue and white get up.

We went to the Kansas – Tennessee game in Knoxville in 2010. Kansas was ranked #1 in the country and Tennessee saw half it’s starting roster go to the slammer after being arrested for drugs/driving/alcohol stuff a few days prior to that game. With a band of misfits and walk-on players UT upset by God #1 Kansas. She wore blue and cheered for Kansas the whole time.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too.  Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too. Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

We no longer go to games together.

She takes all the fun out of it. I’m no longer young enough nor do I have the desire to fight every hayseed who bleeds UT Orange, because my wife yells out “UT sucks” while we walk back to our car.

The picture left is us at our last game together. UT beat Kentucky by 30. In the picture you can see Tracy is worried about the score. I’m clearly calculating the hotdog to fan ratio and thinking I should make a run to the concession stand before the buns go empty.

I can live with the UK stuff for the most part. But it’s starting to rub off on my kids. And now I have a problem with it.

We have essentially swapped gender roles. Regardless of how much you hear about stay at home dads being on the rise, we’re still a minuscule part of the population. Not even 1% if I remember correctly. So I get that we’ve swapped and I’m cool with it. I’m the most secure dude I know, and this was my choice. And I have swapped with a person who could easily fill the traditional man’s role as it pertains to sports. I mean, she runs like a wounded duck but she can dissect football, hockey, basketball, curling, you name it.

She doesn’t pick winners based on mascots or helmet design. When we entered pool for the NCAA BBall championship, I won, but she came in second. It was a huge group and the winners take was over four digits. In other words there were a lot of people in this thing and she beat them all except me.

But still, introducing the kids to sports is my job. Or so I thought. It’s one role I wanted to keep. But the force is strong with Mrs Frank’s Place and she hates Tennessee sports with a white hot passion.

Et Tu Grammy?

Et Tu Grammy?

Because of that, Frank learned to chant C-A-T-S cats, cats, cats (as in Kentucky Wildcats) when he was two. Whenever any of my students would give us Tennessee apparel for our new arrival, Frank in this case, she would hide it. When I did manage to get him in an Orange and White onsie, her mom took him upstairs to change his diaper and he came down wearing UK Blue.

Here’s Grammy indoctrinating the boy at Rupp Arena in Lexington Kentucky.




We’ve even tried compromise:


188523_4782989174659_1713387405_n 311220_4782980774449_172109976_nDidn’t work because at the end of the day the boy still chants C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats.

I try to explain to her that I’ll have to teach him how to fight as he goes to a Volunteer dominated school in his blue a white Kentucky garb.

I even used the old, “why are you ruining this for me, this is a sacred thing between a boy and his father.” She’s unfazed. I get crickets out of her.

Well I’ve come to the realization that Frank is a lost cause. I’ll never be able to enjoy going to games with him because he’ll shout all manner of obscenities his mother taught him at anyone wearing UT Orange. Being a fan of UK means hating UT. I can’t enjoy sports like that.

So she can have Frank.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

But this one is mine.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the only reason we have Anne Marie.

Without the people at the UT NICU Anne Marie would not have made it.

So Orange and White it is. Guess what I’m stuffing her stocking with this Christmas.

The sweet irony; even though she won’t need to, Anne Marie already knows how to fight.






Diary of a SAHD: Dangerous silence.

It’s amazing really, how two kids with the same parents, living in the same house can be so different. Not just different in their personalities, but in what they do and how they do it. It’s almost as if the experience with the first kid has no bearing on the second, even down to the diaper change.

With Frank, changing the diaper and dressing him was a wrestling match. No matter if it was the first time we did it or the 101st, he always put up a fight. Anne Marie got used to the process so quickly, she now just sticks her leg in the air so I can put on her socks or pants.

And that’s where the oddity of their differences astounds me. The diaper change is just about the only event where Anne Marie is more calm than Frank.

For example, if we told Frank the stairs were no touch he wouldn’t go near them, almost to the point of not needing a gate. We tell Anne Marie that and she stays quiet. We now know that quietness is just her analyzing the situation. So after telling her repeatedly the stairs are no touch we get this:

Yeah no problem, I won't touch the gate. I'll jump over it.

Yeah no problem, I won’t touch the gate. I’ll jump over it.

That’s the first of two boxes she used to build a ladder to get over the gate.

Same thing with the can. We told Frank, no touch in the bathroom. No problem, we could leave the door open and not a square of toilet paper would be unraveled. Now Frank is potty trained and uses the bathroom all by himself. It glorious really. The freedom that brings is akin to going commando. If you don’t know what that means then you have never experienced true freedom.

Anyway, to wash his hands Frank needs a ladder to get to the sink. So we bought him a step stool. He moves it in place in front of the sink, washes and dries his hands, then moves it back against the wall next to the sink. He even remembers to shut the door so Anne Marie can’t get in. His skills in the can have really come a long way.

Mind you he has to shut the door because the no touch rule means nothing to our little terrorist. Hey NSA guys, that’s just a term of endearment, go back to sleep, nothing to see here.

Anne Marie has unwound her share of toilet paper rolls, emptied her share of bathroom trash cans, and unpacked her share of bathroom cabinets. But mostly she would try to get in the potty when Frank, or any of us, was in there. We call her our bathroom buddy.

Once in a while she would be successful busting in on Frank. He would whine and I would come get her, only to find her staring at him up on his ladder washing his hands. So I was not completely surprised when at the ripe age of 17 months, she disappeared into the living room to play with her brother, or so I thought. It got quiet, dangerously quiet.

I go on the search and find this:

Just washin up pop.

Just washin up pop.

For those not studying the minute details of the picture, that’s the hot water she has her hand in. Her abnormal pain tolerance will be a separate post all it’s own.

She had absolutely no reaction when I asked her what she was doing. She looked at me, no change of expression, and went right back to washing her hands. That all changed when I took her off the ladder. No doubt our neighbors could hear her protest.

Now when it gets quiet I listen for the water. If I hear water running it means Frank or I have left the bathroom door ajar. If she busts in when me or Tracy are in there, separately of course,we just reach up and flip on the cold water. She gets to play while business is completed and she will comply with the “get down” request, usually.

I have since learned if it’s quiet and I don’t hear water, Frank is in danger… from Anne Marie.

To this date the most amazing and frightening thing I have witnessed this kid do is attack her brother. It wasn’t the savageness of the attack that was frightening. Well a little bit. No, it was more that planning, timing, and the attention span required to execute it. It took a while for her to pull off. Mind you, Frank loves the fact she can walk and run because that means he can push her down, which he does early and often. She never retaliates.

Almost never.

Two days after Frank pushed Anne Marie into the coffee table and left her with a welt on her forehead the size of Texas, she made her move.

Frank’s routine involves him coming home from school and laying on the couch for about an hour watching TV. He has extremely long hair. Keep that in mind.

Two days removed from the “Coffee Table Incident” Frank is on the couch and Anne Marie disappears around the fridge. It’s quiet, really quiet. Like milliseconds before warhead detonation quiet. I find her but she pays me no mind so I follow her at what I’m only slightly confident is a safe distance. She passes through the dining room, through my office and when she starts down the hall back to the living room, she goes to a crawl. A very slow crawl.

She turns the corner into the living room, crawls under the glass end table by the couch, and perches under the arm of the couch. Watching all this it occurs to me Frank’s hair is really long because it’s hanging over the arm of the couch by a lot.

My next thought was, we need to get the boy a haircut. None of my thoughts were, she’s gonna attack him.

The only other thought I had was she might jump up to scare him and I was worried she might smash her mellon on the underside of the table. I was not even close.

She reached up, grabbed his hair with both hands and lifted her feet. That put all her weight on his hair. Have I mentioned she was only 18 months old when this happened. She almost dragged Frank over the side of the couch. Once he got over the pain and fear, he laughed a little, but he was scared man. Holy cow she caught him so off guard he was nervous the rest of the day.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My next thought was, Tracy will never believe this. She didn’t have to. Anne Marie did it again two days later with Tracy and I sitting in the living room. She took a shorter route this time but she was as successful.

Ha! We never even thought to warn Frank. Poor kid, we just watched in total amazement. Turns out she can be quiet as a mouse when she wants to be. And that’s ten kinds of bad for Frank.

We got him a haircut a few days later. As it turns out, a few days too late.

Sorry bud.

Diary of a SHAD: I guess I am that guy…

Hurry up dad, the regular dads are beating you!

Hurry up dad, the regular dads are beating you!

I worked so hard at not being that guy. It was in vain apparently.

I didn’t even know there were guys like that until I started running into more stay at home dads, and dads who believe themselves to more involved then what society considers the norm.

It had happened once before. In fact the story surrounding that incident is what got this whole blog thing started and became the intro to the book. You can read that first post here: The the Kroger Lady Strikes Back. But I was a rookie then, brand new to being a father, a retiree, and a stay at home dad. It was also our first adventure out together.

After that exchange at the Kroger I vowed to not become “That Dad”. You know the type, easily offended at the smell of the slightest degradation of stay at home dads, or the faintest sniff of placing moms higher on the pantheon of parenting then dads.

Navy fighter pilots used to have a saying, “Don’t ask a man if he’s a fighter pilot. If he is he’ll let you know, if he’s not, don’t embarrass him.” Stay at home dads are starting to corner the market of the “he’ll let you know” part of that quote.

I promised myself I wouldn’t become that. I even went to war with some of these dads on a web site called the Goodmen Project over an “offensive” commercial made by Huggies diapers. You can read that here if you want: I’ll be taking these Huggies…”

Damn it!

All a waste of time. I’ve been assimilated.

I picked Frank up from pre-school on Monday like I do every day. I knew it was Veterans Day but I did not equate that with the increased number of dads in the parking lot picking their kids up from stay-n-play. By the way, the person who came up with stay-n-play, keeping the kids in the schoolyard for an hour after school, is a freaking genius. I would take a bullet for that person. They should retire the Nobel Peace Prize in this person’s name.

Anyway, so I’m not clueing in that the number of dads in the lot has gone up exponentially or why it has. Honestly, I really didn’t care as I am a self centered person of the highest order.

But then I got to the gate of the Stay-n-Play yard. It’s not unlike yard time at your better high security prisons. I notice a newbie on the gate. Maybe a newbie, probably not, but I’ve never seen her before.

Newbie girl says, “wow another one, a lot of dads picking up their kids today.” The look on my face must have said, “I’m stupid, enlighten me.” So she does; “You know cause of the holiday and all.”

Then it hit me. She thinks I’m just one of these other dudes. I resisted the hollywood star faux pas and did not say, “Do you know who I am?” Again I did not say that, although I wanted to. What I did say was about as bad.

“Oh, I pick Frank up every day. I’m retired.” Hahaha. Sounds as dumb now as it did then. I might as well been wearing a Members Only jacket with the SAHD letters embroidered on the pocket.

Good God.

Ask any one who ever served with me, I built a 22yr military career on not caring what people thought of me. I had no other discernible skill and still lasted 22 years.  Yet in a heart beat I was reduced to idiocy in the parking lot of a pre-school. By a newbie too.

Ah well, such is life.

Gotta run, have to send hate mail to some diaper companies that think moms are better than dads at handling a crap riddled cloth with ultra absorbent material and stay put tabs.

Diary of a SAHD: Hipsters come to The Kroger

Tell it walkin you half a hippie

Tell it walkin you half a hippie

So Frank and I were making our usual Kroger run, and as always the folks there go out of their way to be nice to Frank. It’s not unusual for employees and customers alike to make idle chit chat with Frank. Me, well as a wise sage once quipped, they wouldn’t pee on me if I was on fire. I get it. Kids always make dorky parents way more interesting than they ever had a right to be. Eh, I embrace it. I get free cookies from the Kroger bakery lady just the same so what do I care if people talk to me just because I’m totin around a kid.

Anyway, we make the turn to the condiment isle and we pass two 30 somethings who seemed to be a couple. As it would eventually turn out they were a couple; a couple of chooches.

They looked strangely alike, not just in the face but they were dressed similarly and their hair cuts were styled in like fashion. They were a man and women but I got the impression they were trying to confuse the rest of us as to who was who. Whatever. I know two chooches when I see them, they come in all shapes, sizes, genders and colors. And these two were chooches with a capital CH.

They see Frank and smile and chuckle at him as if they were amused to see a child in the grocery store, or if they felt the idea of having children was cute or novel. They had that annoying attitude of people who think they have life all figured out and the rest of us are just flailing about. That’s irritating and I don’t like being irritated whilst I shop the Kroger. I decide there will be a reckoning.

Frank said Hi, but they didn’t say hi back. They said something on the order of “yeah man.” I couldn’t tell so I asked what Frank what the lady said and he replies, “That man said cool.” He was pointing at the woman and he wasn’t using his inside voice. I love that kid.

I care not for their response to this so I go about grabbing up my 2 for $5 ketchup Kroger special and off we go.

As fate would have it we would meet again. They get in line behind us at the checkout. How quickly the wheel comes round.

They are still chuckling, about life in general apparently. I guess they are happy to be happy or maybe my fly is down. It’s 50/50 at this point.

They engage Frank again, asking him all kinds of stupid stuff, like where he works, does he have kids of his own, etc… The only thing more irritating than know it all young people is know it all young people who are hideously bad at being funny. So if you are scoring at home: 1.Know it all 2. Bad at funny. Hipsters are 0 for 2.

Frank was really not sure what to make of them and of course had no idea what they were talking about. The lady in front of me has yet to start filling out her check for the $8000 of groceries she’s about to buy so I’m stuck for a bit. So I decide to stare at the hipsters while they try to talk to Frank.

In my staring it hit me. Similar hair styles, just on the edge of being able to wear skinny jeans but went for it anyway, amused at the world and those of us that live comfortably in it; holy crap it’s a couple of hippies. But a new age type. Shaggy hair but clean, clothes were neat, no foul or cannabis smells…hipsters, a couple of hipsters are behind us in line at the Kroger. Now I’m amused. I mean not watching monkeys throw their feces at the zoo amused, but close.

Here is what the Urban Dictionary has to say about hipsters.

Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often be seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses. Both hipster men and women sport similar androgynous hair styles that include combinations of messy shag cuts and asymmetric side-swept bangs.

Asymmetrically androgynous, yep that’s them, except for the ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers part, since ya know they were shopping in the same place I was.

They finally get around to asking Frank his name. They were amused at that too. “He’s like a little man.” Yes, yes he is.

Then they step on to my turf. “Hey Frank make sure your dad gets you a Blo-pop. Lots of good sugar in them.”

Now look, I have learned to bite my tongue a lot since having kids but if you’re gonna tee it up for me, I’m swinging. “Hey Junior, you gonna pay for that sucker you’re telling him to ask me for?” I think they were free at the checkout, who cares. It took hipster boy by complete surprise and at the end of the day isn’t that the whole point of this exercise.

Man that kid didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden he looks me in the eye for the first time and he is no longer amused. He literally had no idea what to say. Since he was skipping his turn, I went again. “Do you know me?” For a second I thought oh lord what if these kids are parents from soccer or pre-school and I actually do know them or should know them. This could be bad. No one is dying, but it could get extremely embarrassing if he says, Oh yeah I coach Frank’s soccer team. Trust me that’s not out of the realm of possibilities. I’m that dumb.

Off the hook, he doesn’t know me. So my next question is “Lot’s of good sugar, really, to a kid you don’t know?” That’s it. That’s all I said and it was said in a curious fashion, not a don’t talk to my kid fashion, I guess. No matter, he mumbled something about it being funny and was able to finally break eye contact. He then sought solace in the three feet of personal space provided by his hipster type wife. She appeared to be no longer amused either.

I on the other hand was much more amused then when I first ran into them, by at least half.

Hipsters in Knoxville, God help us all.