Kathy’s Krew: Cause good causes never stop being good.

The dollars, always the dollars: Kathy’s Krew

Joe Pesci had it right in Casino. Ultimately it always comes down to money.

Yeah it’s a beg for money. Not claiming I won’t say some funny or wildly inappropriate crap on the way to the big ask, but at the end of the day, I’m asking for a donation. The beauty in this deal is I won’t be calling you at dinner time, hiding behind a caller ID that masks my true identity as a solicitor, and I’m not some obscure charity.

Nope this one is all too real and all too personal.

The Warden getting her walking papers from the radiation team.  Nice robe bro.

The Warden getting her walking papers from the radiation team. Nice robe bro.

This is my little sister Kathy. We call her The Warden. She’s the youngest of the 8 of us but for some reason when you say, “You’re not the boss of me” and she replies “Yes I am” – you believe her. Hence The Warden. Anyway, she is a breast cancer survivor. So far she’s kicking cancer in the ass. Even though I used to beat her ass when we were kids and would act out the WWF Wrestling we watched from The Spectrum in Philadelphia way too long ago, she’s tougher than me.

 

 

 

The kid whisperer with Frank and The Warden's son Nicholas

The kid whisperer with Frank and The Warden’s son Nicholas

This is my brother-in-law Bob. He’s one of the nicest, kindest guys you will ever meet. Never stops working. Works a little too hard if you ask me, but hey I think we’ve established my laziness already. Bob is also a pet/baby whisperer.  Not kidding. Bob can calm any animal, any baby. They all take to him immediately.  He really is a regular Dr. Doolittle and whatever the equivalent for kids would be. Bob was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (ALL) in 2010. He has been kicking cancer’s ass for a while now. He is a survivor too. He’s tougher than me too.

Now beside the cool nicknames and the survivor thing, they have another thing in common. They are the Lilliputians of our family. They’re tiny. Those pictures aren’t to scale, they’re life size. (not really) As it turns out, the smallest amongst my giant family, (8 kids, 7 spouses, 10 grandkids) happen to be the biggest ass kickers.

This small person/big ass kicker thing might be a new evolution of the human species. Read Lisa Haffner’s blog for an incredible story of a another pint sized woman who has been beating cancer about the head and face since she was like 11. Lisa Haffner is something special. She lost her leg as a child and is still kicking cancer in the ass. I continue to be amazed by this women’s will and fortitude.

Celebrating a deuce.

Celebrating a deuce.

Update Feb 28 2014: Lisa has since gone terminal but you would never know it. She was told she had 6 months to live…. 13 months ago. The picture to the left is of Little Lisa Lollipop and her husband Juan. That ain’t a gang sign they’re throwin. It’s to celebrate her first normal poop in quite some time. Yeah cancer struggles and victories come down to the smallest of battle fields.

Life’s not fair. Some people are just blessed with more grace and more smarts and more toughness than the rest of us. Lisa is one of those people who just squeezes every ounce out of life no matter the circumstances. Do yourself one favor this morning and read her blog. little lisa lollipop

The other commonality The Warden and The Kid Whisperer share is they both decided to take their survivor-ability on the road. They started a team to raise funds and awareness.  Their first Relay for Life event is June 13th in Linwood, New Jersey.

And yeah we have arrived at the moment.

The big ask.

The squeeze.

The pimpin.

The gratuitous beggin for your hard earned greenbacks.

Now do yourself another favor.

Donate.

Go to my sister Kathy’s Relay for Life web site and donate: Kathy’s Krew  If you see the same picture of her in that smart looking hospital gown, you’re in the right spot.  She has set a goal of 5 large, or $5,000 for you non street people. They are making progress but they are not quite half way there. This reminds me, she’s also a Bon Jovi stalker so you might see her quote some of his musical offerings on her page; another indicator you are on the correct web site.

Frank’s Place has already ponied up 50 bones, (again, a street term for money). Don’t be left behind. Drop a few nickels in the tip jar and join two of the smallest ass kickers I know in the fight against cancer.

They ought to put that on the t-shirt: Kathy’s Krew – Ass Kickers for Hire.

I’d wear one.

Advertisements

Diary of a SAHD: Storm Sleepers and the Noisy Reboot

Back in April of 2011 we had some vicious storms roll through Knoxville. Tornado force winds with hail. Wicked stuff. We just had Frank then but the only interior room was the downstairs bath and even with just the three of us it was cramped.

Anyway we got through that storm although not before losing the siding, roof shingles, gutters, and mail box. The deck was also reduced to a rickety lawsuit waiting to happen. We had the house fixed and I rebuilt the deck last summer. But I never quite got over the anxiety of it all.

So flash forward to 20 February of this year. Tracy was in California for the week on business. A storm of some type was predicted for Thursday into Friday but for some reason it never grabbed my attention. Apparently my anxiety must be waning. I mean I’m not a rush out and buy eggs, milk, and bread at the first report of a storm type of guy, but I am my father’s son.

That means communications baby. Weather channel on the main TV, the NOAA weather app and the local NBC affiliate storm team app going on the phone, and a standard weather app going on the iPad. I’m plugged in for a storm, but I also need to be charged up. Well for this caper I didn’t do any of that. When the Sharknado hit and took out the power at 2:30am, I awoke immediately realizing I was not prepared. Not a phone charged, not an app cued up. Couple that with my fear of the dark while alone, documented two posts back: Captain Kirk made me turn the lights on, and this could be the mother of all freak outs.

It got dark too. We’re talking vastness of space dark. Our Sac has no street lights, so when all the lights from the houses disappear, it goes zombies coming out of the ground dark. As Frank used to say, I can’t like that. Again these things never happen during a calm Sunday brunch. Always the dead of night, always the dead of night.

The power snapped back on about 2 minutes into my adrenaline rush. It was then that I realized how damn noisy our house is. I mean everything made noise coming back on. No lights of course, just noisy things going beep in the dark.

The microwave sounded like a cat being slowly crushed by one of those things that smooths out the tar in the road. The printers sounded like Russian dancing bears trying to come through the kitchen window. After my Nutella no doubt. The alarm system decided this would be a good time to tell me the motion sensor batteries were low. It does this with an ear-splitting tone that could make a dolphin cry and doesn’t stop until you punch in the password. As I’m on my fifth attempt at the f*&%#ng password the house goes quiet. Power out again.

Our electricity is all below ground. It doesn’t surface until the main highway. So it’s unusual for it to go out, especially off and on in relative rapid succession. Must be a poor squirrel dangling between two sets of wires. I imagine as the wind blows hard enough, his ass makes contact with the lower set of wires shorting out the power. For whatever reason that made me laugh at 3am. I also imagine the squirrel in question was not laughing.

In the quiet and terrifying darkness I wait for a second, wait for a different noise to pierce the night. The cry of my 4 yr. old and 23 month old never comes. Can’t figure out why. I head to Frank’s room and he’s sawing lumber, out cold. Truthfully I’d rather he was awake. I could use the company. A quick peek at AM and she’s out cold too. That is hard to believe. She sleeps very light. On this night she never woke up. Slept through till 9am. Nice.

The power came back on ten minutes later. This time the symphony of rebooting and some vicious thunder and lighting got Frank out of bed. He’s crying, he wants something to put over his ears. I tell him to put his head under his pillow. I get the look. You know, the look that says “Dude, really? It’s the apocalypse out there and you think a pillow will do the trick?” Ok, what do you want.

“I need your work ear phones!”

He’s talking about my ear protection I had when I worked on the flight line in the Air Force. I have an old pair in the garage that I use when I do yard work. He wore those a year ago. How he remembered they were there is beyond me. But no matter cause I’m trudging through the dark downstairs and into the garage to find work headphones.

The thunder really kicked up a notch and that drove Frank, with headphones, Lenny/Lambie, and his giraffe blanket into my bed. He slept on Tracy’s side and fell asleep with his thunder noise dampeners on. I finally fell asleep too.

A second round of thunderstorms roll through around 4:00. I wake to see this:

No greater love than this, when a boy gives up his hearing for his lamb

No greater love has a boy than this, giving up his hearing for his lamb.

He’s out cold but clearly bracing for the noise of thunder in his sleep. What that kid won’t do for Lenny. The other midget never woke up at all. Still can’t believe she slept through the entire night. Never made a peep, never even jostled.

I made one more check on her before settling back into bed watching the local news storm coverage at 4:00am.

I was way too jacked up to sleep. I was playing golf in the morning, provided the course was still there. My first tee time since hurting my ribs in late November and surviving the night of the noisy reboot, not once but twice, was too much to process. No point in sleeping now.

Besides I had to make a mental list of electronic gadgets to get rid of in the morning.

And find a better hiding spot for my Nutella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sock Hoppin: Raising money has never been so much fun!

Fram here to....

From here, 1lb 12oz…

For you new folk, our twins were born in March of 2012. They were born 3 1/2 months early and only weighed 1lb 12oz each. Sadly Linda Claire only survived for five hours due to lack of lung development. Anne Marie hung on and after five months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, we were able to bring her home.

We have a debt of gratitude to the staff at the NICU that can’t be repaid, ever. But between now and ever we are doing our best to help the cause. In this case the cause is the Phase II building project at the NICU, which will convert The Big House to private rooms. So when they’re done every kid will get a private room right from the jump. Right now the NICU is made up of about 30 private rooms and “The Big House” where most of the preemies start out. Once they improve and get to the feed and grow stage they usually move to a private room.

The rooms were great and we were glad when we moved into one if only because it meant we were making progress. But I kind of liked the community feeling of the Big House. It was noisy because you’re in there with about 60 kids, side by side, plus all the equipment keeping each one alive. And every damn thing in there beeps in some fashion, in some sequence. I got used to it and it was nice having a nurse with in arms reach if the buzzers on your kid went off. Ultimately though, the private room made it much easier for our long haul.

This is where you would use an adverb like immeasurable, as in the benefit of a private room to a preemie is immeasurable. Problem is that would not be true. The value is measurable. People much smarter than me measured it and found that preemies in private rooms respond and grow and heal much better then they do in the Big House. I would lay some stats on you but lets face it, that just wouldn’t be my style. So go here if you want to self smart yourself (NCO Academy inside joke) on the subject: UT NICU 

...to here. Sock Hopin at 23 months old.

…to here. Sock Hopin at 23 months old.

To that end Tracy had the idea for a fund raiser to help the cause. We did a Sock Hop. Yes only my wife would come up with a sock hop. You know, cause it combines the things I detest the most, costumes and dancing. Of course the costumes were optional, but I greased back my hair, threw on a t-shirt, slapped some smokes in the sleeve and I was ready to sock, or hop, or whatever. I actually managed to avoid the dancing by claiming to be running the music. You can peep the photo gallery below.

Turned out to be a great time. Uncle Butch provided some great 50s music and Frank’s preschool provided the venue. We had good food, good cookies, cakes, brownies, etc… There was an impressive limbo contest and an equally impressive hula hoop contest. All to raise some dough-ra-me for the NICU.

The goal was to raise about $500 American dollars.

The money is still flowing in but at last tally we were around $1100 not counting the people who sent donations directly to the UT Medical Center.

So yeah, goal exceeded and then some. Obviously we could not have done it without a ton of help. As a matter of fact without Mary Alice, Whitney, and Ashley, it probably doesn’t happen at all. Marisa, Morgan and Becky were the backbone of the deal on game day and made it so much easier to run and shut down when we were done.

Several local organizations got in on the act as well. Dinner was provided by Gourmet’s Market. All the baked goods were donated by The Sweetery, Magpies, Buttermilk Sky Pie Co, and The Cup. Decorations were provided by Echelon Florists. Knoxville people, go buy local, go buy a lot.

Not too bad for a first attempt at a fundraiser. Probably set our goal too low. Definitely learned some things. All in all it was a lot of fun and it’s a great cause. Everyone looked great too. A special shout out to April Grimsley, who could have easily stepped from the pages of a 1950s fashion mag.

Guess what? You can still get in on the fun. Make a donation in honor of Linda Claire at the UT NICU here: UT NICU Donations. Preciate ya.

Here’s a few shots from The Hop. First one of from the UT NICU and last one from Mag Pies Bakery.

Nurse Paula (rt) and Nurse  Farideh. Two of our heroes.

Nurse Paula (rt) and Nurse Farideh (middle). Two of our heroes.

My favorite part of the Hop.

My favorite table at the Hop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was my best 50s shot at a costume. Everyone else looked straight out of Happy Days.

It was my best 50s shot at a costume. Everyone else looked straight out of Happy Days.

King and Queen of the Hop. Mary Alice and Josh

King and Queen of the Hop. Mary Alice and Josh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becky and a child she stole from someone.

Becky and a child she stole from someone.

 

Mike Whitney and Stylin Bennett

Mike, Whitney and Stylin Bennett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That hurts my back just looking at it.

That hurts my back just looking at it.

 

Hula Hoopin the night away

Hula Hoppin the night away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really tough guy? You're wearing penny loafers.

Really tough guy? You’re wearing penny loafers.

Magpies Bakery in the Old City, Knoxville TN

Magpies Bakery in the Old City, Knoxville TN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off Topic: Captain Kirk made me turn on the lights.

kid_clipart_bedYou 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.

Captain Kirk made me turn on the lights.

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.

Diary of a SAHD: Parenting issues activist? Eh… no thanks.

I think anyone who writes and puts it out there to the general public feels uneasy or nervous or insecure. With the blog I’m generally not that way. I write what I write, don’t apologize for it, figuring if you don’t like it then don’t read it. If someone else wants to publish a post of mine then the nerves kick up a bit. Generally though I’m not worried about what anyone thinks about what I write. These stories are more for me than you all anyway, although I’m glad you enjoy them and I appreciate everyone who clicks and reads and comments.

But I have always wondered if I went the wrong way with this blog. Honestly I never expected so many would be reading this. I know these stories are funny, but I also thought they’d probably only be funny to me. I’m not sure I should be glad or frightened for humanity that so many of you have a similar sense of humor to mine.

As I encounter more dad bloggers in my travels throughout the internet it occurs to me that I never get into discussing parenting or parenting issues. A lot of dads write about that stuff. In fact most, if not all, of the dad bloggers I have seen write about stuff like that in some way or another. And some of them have huge followings, like numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

So I worried. Did I go the wrong way making this such a personal blog? Should I be out there advocating for dads and then writing about it here? Should I be worried about the public’s perception of stay at home dads, trying to combat it at every turn? Should I be giving out parenting tips, do’s and don’ts lists about rasing kids, or best practices that have worked for me as a dad?

If you’re playing the home version, the answers are in order: no, no way, no, and ye…ah…no.

Yeah I worried, but only for a few seconds. Turns out I’m way too arrogant and lazy for any of that crap.

Advocacy takes work. You know, you have to research stuff, look up facts and stats and quotes and on and on. I’m tired from just typing that sentence. Mocking advocates is so much easier as it requires no facts what ever. Plus it’s just much more fun.

The bigger issue, apathy. I really don’t care if Huggies makes an ad that doesn’t feature dads or pokes fun at dads. I mean that’s a device that collects poop. Why would I care what they think about dads. Add to that the fact my daughter can’t handle the chemicals in Pampers Baby Dry, so we buy her…wait for it…Huggies Natural. If I need diapers does it really matter that Huggies markets to their biggest customers, in this case moms. Answer, no it doesn’t, I’m still buying them.

Do I care what ads Procter and Gamble are running during the Olympics? No. I’m down for 16 days of curling and I care not one wit if Procter and Gamble or any other advertiser doesn’t specifically include me or other SHADs in their concepts for commercials. To be honest I have no idea what products P&G even makes so I’m probably supporting the enemy without knowing it. And yet my life surprisingly goes on unabated.

Am I kerfuffled by a zoo that marks out a space to take a break and calls it Mom’s Cove or that they provide a space for moms to breast feed? First of all I don’t get kerfuffled. Secondly who the hell has the kind of time to get worked up over that? Besides I’m too busy trying to figure out how to whoop my kid at light-sabres on the Wii.

A Jedi's power flows through the binker.

A Jedi’s power flows through the binker.

I mean it’s not like he’s an expert Jedi or anything. No, Frank’s light-saber fighting style is more like an epileptic getting electrocuted. So the one controller moving the light-saber and the other using his force powers are going one hundred miles per hour. Although that’s an unofficial speed as I have not calibrated my radar gun in a while. Regardless, I have absolutely no chance. I must figure this out and whoop him and I can’t be wastin my limited brain capacity on deep issues. The bigger issue is Frank is not a gracious winner and it’ll be a few months before I can get him on the golf course to take him down a notch or two. (Man I know I’m gonna get angry e-mails from people that have been electrocuted. Ah well, that’s the price of fame. franknfran0967@gmail.com)

Anyway, apparently there is a cadre of moms out there shooting dismissive, laser like, looks at dads who come to the park. I’m usually way too oblivious of people around me to ascertain if they are giving me looks. I also live in a great neighborhood and the moms in The Sac treat me like one of the gang. I’m a bit more of a Gossipy Gertrude than they are but they’re still pretty cool. So no I don’t understand the ‘cold shoulder at the park’ complaints a lot of dads write about. Again, I’m way too arrogant, or self assured if you like, to be phased by that.

Ultimately it comes to this; aside from my smart-alec responses before, the real issue is the mission. Caring for the well being of my two kids is the mission.

On that score I’m laser focused.

I can’t think of a time in my life where that ideal was not drummed into me either directly or by example. My parents and seven brothers and sisters all model the axiom  ‘What other people do has no bearing on me until it does.’

Of course the military lives on the mantra of the mission, and for good and obvious reasons. On the flight line early in my military career that was drummed into me by some great men. It’s the mission stupid. Figure out the mission and whatever isn’t the mission isn’t important. When I arrived as a new instructor at the NCO Academy I found there was a lesson in the curriculum addressing this very issue.

So apathy is part of why I don’t take up the banner of dad issues and the slighting there of. But at the end of the day, commercials, crossed eyed looks from moms at the park, spots at the zoo marked Mom’s Cove, have no impact on the mission and in my opinion don’t warrant my attention.

Let me say God bless the guys out there fighting the fight. I’m not sure what the exit strategy is, but they must because they all seem very good at what they’re doing. They have been blessed, unlike me, with the ability to de several things well at the same time, to include writing great blogs. But as for me and my house, we shall focus solely on the mission. As myopic as that might be.

Kids bring their own problems, I don’t have the time or energy or the brain pan size for what appears to me to be manufactured problems.

So we shall continue with dopey stories about how my kids terrorize and amaze me, sometimes simultaneously.

Here endeth the wasting of brain cells.

Now where’s my light-sabre?