Observations from the Quarry: Playing blocks with my kid.

Not sure when this happened.

I mean I’ve not played blocks in a while, but when did we graduate from making tall towers? When did it become this elaborate? When did playing blocks come with so many rules?

You have to build a house daddy! You need a place for your race car. It has to be high like this daddy.

Damn, the unions in Atlantic City didn’t have that many restrictions or building codes putting up a casino. But if you’re in Frank’s building union you do as Frank says or you are out. Plain and simple. He does not suffer people who don’t go along with the plan.

I’ll say this for the kid, his buildings have become more elaborate. In the “old” days it was all about height. He just wanted to make a singular tower as high as possible. Legos, the building material of choice then, allowed him to make towers higher than him.

At first he was able to build in relative safety in the living room. He had the joint all to himself. What he constructed after dinner would still be standing after breakfast the next day. In 2012 that ceased to be the case. That was the start of the dark times, the coming of the destroyer.

"I got your building right here bro!"

“I got your building right here bro!”

After she arrived and then went bipedal, nothing was safe. No building could withstand her. She knew no mercy, she gave no quarter, she practiced no subtlety. In fact at times she would wait until Frank was looking before she would Godzilla one of his high rise towers. Then she would belly laugh. It was really the only time she would laugh. Any other time something struck her funny she would just say, “That’s funny!” A tower hitting the deck always brought on the belly laugh though.

It was too easy for her. It’s not like he put deep foundations on these things. Plus he would admonish her as he was leaving the construction site for dinner, potty break or one of seven union authorized smoke breaks. All that did was encourage her to schedule a demolition event. It was like waving the red blanket in front of a bull.

He tried posting a guard a few times but they, me and his mother, were very unreliable. We would either fall asleep or worse, summon the beast just to see what would happen. Hey, a parent has to find some joy, yeah?

Anyway, Frank decided his school house was the only safe place for high-rise construction. There he not only found encouragement and a relatively secure construction site, he was able to hire some assistant builders.

We're gonna need a taller room.

We’re gonna need a taller room.

He continued to build at home and he continued to demand I build with him. But things changed. He went more low rise. Preferring to build more house like structures, materials became an issue too. He switched to blocks instead of legos. Bad move. The shortage was worse there. To combat that issue he stop demanding I play with him, instead inviting me to build after he had finished his.

Needless to say I was on the short end of the supply chain. Where his structures became these intricate three story houses with pools and three car garages I was left with the scraps and barely managed a single tenement that would be an embarrassment in the worst of  the early 1900 NY slums.

Where I was left to cobble together a singular hovel, he built small villages he quickly dubbed Franktown.

An early century Franktown begins to take shape.

An early century Franktown begins to take shape.

Don’t get me wrong, the kid has a heart for people and family. The cornerstone of every Franktown is a large house with all kinds of rooms. He always includes separate rooms for me, his mother and his sister.

The separate room for me and Mrs Frank’s Place is due to my snoring. I’m just not sure if it’s so I can snore in peace or so Mrs Frank’s Place can sleep in “silence.” I mean let’s just be honest, it’s not like she sleeps with the quiet of the dead. She can shake the shingles on occasion too, if you know what I mean.

I get a lot of fun playing with Frank. Mainly because I get to play with toys again. But the things you pick up on when watching your kid play, build, design is remarkable. Watching their wheels turn, seeing what their minds come up with is a unexpected benefit.

Watching the destroyer do her work is a separate unexpected joy all its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wheels on the bus: my big yellow savior.

I recieved more than a few comments or messages that the post about my new Fuller Friction Brush might have been a little overstated. I mean it’s just a fancy broom right? Yeah I guess, if you’re a knuckle dragging clod who can’t appreciate perfection, then it’s just a fancy broom. Well fancy broom folks this post might be a little disappointing as well.

I was rightly called out on my last post as well. My little rant about spanking drew the comment, “Spanking, schmanking. You are disappointing your readers who are anxiously awaiting a “hurricane AM” hits preschool story.” Well ok then. Maria you get your wish, or demand, or whatever. A pre-school update is forthcoming. First you’ll have to sit through a story about my bondage and subsequent deliverance from the chains of the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane.

When I say bondage that’s not hyperbole. If you pick your kid up from school, you are absolutely a slave to the car pick up line. You have to schedule around it, pack some sort of sustenance, plan out some meaningful activity to get you through the hour to hour and a half wait, and you better make sure your vessel is sea worthy.

Can’t go breaking down in the car pick up lane. You sure don’t wan’t to lose cabin cooling during that wait and to that end you for sure don’t want to go empty in the old tank. Scorn and derision will rain down upon you. Help will not be forthcoming mind you but you’ll learn some new epithets from your christian brothers and sisters. Of that you can be assured. For the full experience click here Car Lobby Pick Up Lane.

Breaking free of those chains was not going to easy. Escape has to be planned, orchestrated, and finally executed with precision. You don’t just walk away from the car pick up lane. So we planned. By that I mean I planted the seed of doubt in Frank’s head about the pick up lane at the same time I was talking up how the other kids in the hood love riding the bus. What I found out was this kid of mine is no weak minded fool. It was going to take more than a Jedi swipe of the hand and the power of suggestion to get him to ride the bus home.

To the promise land big Mo, and step on it!

To the promise land big Mo, and step on it!

That’s key to the plan. He only had to ride the bus home. No need to get greedy. The drop off line moves light years faster and taking him to school at 7:10 in the am actually helps me get moving in the morning. A lot of would be master criminals have that one fatal character flaw; the overreach. I just got away with stealing a million dollars, why not go for two… annnnnnnd boom, welcome to the Spring Hill Penitentiary for the criminally moronic and greedy. No, moderation would be the key to this escape. Moderation and hope in a promised deliverer would be the oasis at the end of what was shaping up to be a 40yr march through the desert.

The seeds were planted, now we needed to water them. I mean that literally. The second part of the plan unfolded at the neighborhood pool. The Saturday before the plan was to be executed I took Frank to the pool. At that precise time some of his friends, pre-positioned of course, would ask Frank why he doesn’t ride the bus and then go on to extol the virtues of said bus ride. Several parents joined in. It was like a tidal wave of brainwashing.

Frank jumps into the pool and a parent is waiting when he comes up to ask about riding the bus. Frank swims over to a friend and the kid goes on and on about how much he’ll love the bus. The way the kids spoke in the past tense as if the decision was already made was a master stroke by them. Not part of the plan at all, but it was a great ad lib. I’ll grant you this wasn’t the most subtle thing I’ve ever tried but I felt like it was the most effective option.

However, much like Ramses II (the Pharaoh from Moses time), Frank was obstinate. As time was becoming a problem I skipped the parlor tricks of the seven plagues and went right to the big kahuna. Although the flaming hail storm has its appeal, ain’t nobody got no time for that. I had no choice but to send in the angel of death in the form of “Because I said so!” Thankfully for me Frank had failed to spread the appropriate goat’s blood on the lentil post and it was curtains for him. It went a little something like this:

Daddy I don’t want to ride the bus. I want you to pick me up.

I will be picking you up Frank, at the bus stop.

But I want you to pick me up at the schooooooool. 

No bud, you need to ride the bus home. The line to pick you up is too long for me to wait it. Daddy gots things to do!

But daddyyyyyyyy

NO Frank! You are getting on the bus tomorrow. Sorry bud but you are going in, I can’t stop that now. (That’s a line from a courtroom movie I use on him when Frank has exhausted his appeals about anything I’ve asked him to do.)

Besides Frank, I’ve already talked to your teacher, she’s putting you on the bus.

So shall it be written, so shall it be done!

Man, the look that kid was giving me. The rear view mirror almost melted. It was that withering. After assuring him I would be right there waiting for him as he got off the bus he accepted his fate and I felt the chains of bondage begin to lighten. The deliverer was getting closer but we’ve not reached the Well of Median yet (watch the movie). One thing being a parent has taught me is nothing happens until it happens. Another thing I’ve learned is kids have incredibly short memories.

By the morning ride to school Frank had forgotten all about riding the bus home. I decided to wait till precisely the right moment to remind him about his new afternoon chariot. That moment, I decided, was just as Frank was jumping from the Frankerprise to head into the school. Yeah, cowardly I know. Sue me.

I was like a new man. A new free man. The time was mine until the bus would drop him one block from our front door. If this ride went well it would mean the end of lining up at 1:50pm for a 2:45 pick up at school. No more packing food for the wait, no more scrambling to find a babysitter incase Anne Marie was not up from her nap, and no more dealing with a whiny inconsolable child incase Anne Marie was not napping and instead waiting in the van with me.

If you’re scoring at home this is where we are currently:

How did he do that!

How did he do that!

The sea has been parted but we’re not to the other side yet. That wall of water could come crashing down at any moment. Just ask Pharaoh. Well, you could ask him if the water had not crashed down on his whole army and all that. Tough break for him.

Anyway, the moment of truth was fast approaching. I started out a little early. The last thing I want is to scuttle the whole deal because I was not there waiting for him after I said I would be. He’d be able to walk home no problem but it would be hell talking him off the ledge after I broke a promise I made to him. Crazy kid takes that stuff I say seriously.

Of course it was hot as blazes that day and I’m almost 10 minutes early. What to do. Oh yeah, let’s figure out a way to get Frank to walk back to the house by himself. Then I could save this ten minutes standing outside in the sun without a golf club in my hand.

Just as I was formulating some thoughts on that matter I heard a faint but distinct rumble. My savior had appeared. It was freakin beautiful man. All yellow and coming toward me instead of me having to drive to the school. Yeah I might have shed a tear or two. I caution you, experience the pick up lane before judging me.

Is that Moses actually driving the bus?

Is that Moses actually driving the bus?

There were moments of truth inside of moments of truth. He rode the bus. Now lets see what happens when he gets off, or if he gets off. Until I see him, he’s not really there. Read Aristotle. Oh, there he is. Immediately I realize his back pack is 400lbs too heavy for him. But he doesn’t look upset. This might be good.

Something else I noticed, the bus driver looked like he might actually be Moses, or at the very least his idol making brother Aaron. Wow he was old. Moses managed a slight wave. I thought, oh no bro, save your energy for the drive. His bones looked so brittle I thought the arm may drop right off as he lifted it from the wheel. He was able to reaffix his hand to the wheel and off he went. Leaving us in the freedom dust of my yellow savior.

Now the walk. No talking for the first 50 yards. A little awkward but this exchange was going to be critical. Patience was going to be key. Half way home I asked to carry his backpack. He was happy to shed it. And damn, it was heavy. No idea what I put in there to make it so.

He broached the subject first.

Daddy, you know when I said I didn’t want to ride the bus? I really did like riding the bus. But I like the van better.

First of all it’s not the van, it’s the Starship Frankerprise. Secondly, well duh who wouldn’t like riding in the command chair of that beauty. But the bus was pretty cool wasn’t it. 

Yeah, it was.

Woo Hoo! Promise land baby!

Subtlety people. Had I immediately jumped on his statement about how he liked the bus without throwing some sarcastic comment about the van he would have know I was working him, trying to get him to ride the bus all the time. And he would have all of a sudden hated the bus. The dance continues.

A week later he turned the tables on me. Told me it would be better if I didn’t walk home with him from the bus stop. He said it was because I walked too slow. I know it’s because all his buddies walk home by themselves. He’s embarrassed by that I guess. I get it and I’m glad he’s feeling independent. I’m still going to the end of the street to see him get off the bus. I get just close enough to see him without him seeing me and then I haul the mail back to the garage and make it look like I’m working (ha!) or cleaning up. He has yet to ask me why I’m in the garage everyday.

Mrs Frank’s Place and I are having different reactions to all of this, but yeah man. Promise Land!

Free man walking!

Free man walking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A promise broken.

I absolutely promised myself I would not weigh in on serious parenting issues. I defiantly swore to myself I would not start writing about social parenting issues just because stuff like that gets more clicks and might get picked up by web sites like Huffington Post or Time. And I confidently declared myself too lazy to wade into issues of that nature because of the research and facts that might be required.

Well, I’m about to break all those promises and declarations in one post. Of course it would have to be as hotly contested an issue as there is among parents. No point in starting with something easy like when should you put your kid in a real bed, or when should you start potty training. No, I’ve decided to jump into the deep end, put my head in the lion’s mouth as it were and talk about spanking.

Let’s set the boundary first. If you think what Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did to his 4yr old son is in the same universe as spanking, you are a toothless moron. Your opinion has zero validity and is not welcomed here. If you think or have written a statement saying parents who spank are “total scumbags” you are a f*%$#ing idiot and you should cancel your subscription to Frank’s Place immediately, un-follow me on twitter, and de-friend me on facebook.

Ok that’s it. Boundaries set. Let’s move on.

Sadly the issues in that third paragraph have been happening all over social media since the pictures of Peterson’s battered, bruised, and scarred son hit the internet. Mostly coming from the dad blogging community but not exclusively. When a brave soul ventures out to say they spank and believe it has helped in the discipline of their child, that poor bastard is drowned out by all the righteous parents that walk among us unwashed masses.

I’m not sure why or how parents who believe in spanking are being lumped in with the brutality by Peterson but they are. One bright lad went so far as to say if you have to spank a child to get them to obey or alter their bad behavior you should not be allowed to have children.

My response to that is simple. If you are too dense, or more likely too immature, to discern the difference between spanking a child for correction and assaulting a child with a weapon through anger, you are the dangerous parent and you are the person who should probably be held childless.

It was amusing reading what all these moral high-grounders wrote about never even thinking about hitting a defenseless child, not wanting to use superior strength and size to intimidate someone who can’t stick up for themselves. You know because Adrian Peterson whipped his child bloody, anyone who spanks must be as bad, anyone who does that is a neanderthal and a heartless parent of questionable ability. Christ, I can’t even type that without a pain in my side from the laughter. Instead they would much rather reason with them and then deny the child something they covet, like video games or their freedom in order to illicit proper behavior.

It’s laughable and somewhat cute that these perfect parents think mentally and emotionally controlling a child in that way is any less intimidating than spanking. Hey hippies, you think Johnny is not being intimidated when you snatch his X-box from him? How do you explain the relevance of his X-box to his bad behavior? Unless he used a controller to brain his sister or used the power cord to string up the cat, the X-box has zero relevance to the situation. So all you’ve done is substitute the X-box for your open hand on his backside. You think he values your parenting acumen when you imprison him in his room on a sunny day or embarrass him by putting him in a corner? Can he reciprocate by taking your iPhone? Better still, can he stop you from taking his X-box, or grounding him, or shaming him in the corner?

Spoiler – no he can’t. Congratulations you progressive model of non-spankiness, you just mentally and emotionally intimidated your child with your superior force, size, and strength. In fact you’re so skilled at bullying you didn’t even have to spank his bottom to make him mad, have him cuss you under his breath or wonder if you still love him. That’s efficiency.

But the question isn’t about bullying efficiency is it. The question really is what bullying tactic is better or worse. In my opinion it is relative to the situation. Now stand back cause comments like my previous sentence triggers an avalanche of the data people.

Data people is the group of people, parents and non-parents alike, who will flood you with links to surveys and studies and research that basically says your experiences are totally false and you must be a liar.

So it would go down something like this. You see a discussion about how barbaric and heartless and incompetent parents who spank are and you jump in to say your experience was not like anything they are describing. Then the data gang will sing you the song of their people: “THAT’S ANECDOTAL. THAT’S NOT DATA. SHOW ME DATA TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM! YOU’RE A SPANKER AND MUST BE STOPPED!” Usually sung to the tune of Happy Days Are Here Again. (Free Frank’s Place T-shirt if you video yourself singing that and post it to the Frank’s Place Face Book page.)

Okay, a lot out of tune with that song. First off, who the f*#k are you that I need to support my claim? Second, it’s not a claim, it’s what happened, told in first person, ya know like personal testimony. Third, and I can’t stress this question enough, yeah it’s anecdotal but so what? This is one of those moments where anecdotal evidence, in other words your personal experience, weighs more than “the data”.

I don’t need some jerkweed in a think tank telling me the data says I’m wrong when I can clearly see from the experience right in front of me that I’m right. Anecdotal is not a synonym for wrong. Data is not a synonym for correct.

Let’s not get in the weeds too much, but the “data” is not exactly accurate either. Dive into any one of the surveys or studies and most of the time you’ll find they don’t differentiate between open hand smack to a child’s kiester and striking a child in any other manner. But that’s a huge distinction. Punching my son in the mouth is a far cry from smacking his bottom.

Lastly on the data, read through the groups of people studied and you’ll see an erie trend toward one race of Americans. No surprise there really. It only proves statistics on any subject can be bent or twisted to fit the answer of the question being asked. Hence the importance of your experience or anecdotal evidence over “the data”.

Now in fairness I saw several meaningful offerings on why guys could never spank their kids. They ranged from not being able to look at their sweet child and raise a hand, to being an abused child themselves. All completely valid and heartfelt, and all completely anecdotal. Are those dads weak-minded fools because they can’t bring themselves to spank their kids. Of course not. They are caring, loving fathers who through their experiences chose to discipline in another fashion that suits their situation. Mind blowing isn’t it; grown men making parenting decisions based on their experience and gut feeling instead of a freaking data sheet created by a grad student at Tunnel Vision University.

Hey man, spank, don’t spank. I advocate neither. You know why? Cause it’s none of my damn business how you discipline and parent your kid. Your opinion on how I do that is as irrelevant as anything I can think of.

I don’t advocate any parenting styles. I just parent my kids.

The rest of you are on your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bro it’s not a sweeper, it’s a Fuller Brush!

Let me just say this is not a paid advertisement for Fuller Brush, but it probably should be.

What’s a Fuller Brush you say? Good god man were you raised by wolves in the Outback. I mean Australia boy, not the bloomin onion place. Well I see some history is in order.

Fuller Brush Company makes the greatest carpet cleaning products around. Oh sure you can git ya a Dyson, but for pure cleaning efficiency coupled with style, craftsmanship and history, nothing beats a Fuller. I have coveted a manual Fuller Friction Brush since I saw Don, the clean up guy in our studio from my Warrior Network days, use one some 10 years ago.

Very simple principle. Two rubber rollers separated by that patented Fuller Brush head comprises a compact unit that picks up crumbs, dirt, paper, you name it, simply by creating a static charge when you push it back and forth across the carpet, tile or wood floor.

Simple is good most of the time.

Don had him a Cadillac too. Very high-end model. The handle came in three pieces and screwed together like an assassins’ rifle. It was so quiet you could sneak up on an Injun with it. A Fuller Brush is so awesome Injuns don’t even care if you sneak up on them with it. Send all indignant e-mail to…

You need ya a Fuller bro!

You need ya a Fuller bro!

Anyway, it’s an awesome cleaning apparatus man. So much easier than yanking out the big vacuum when midget 1 crumbles his granola bar or midget 2 makes confetti out of her pop tart and pretends she’s at a parade. Yeah, that really happened.

Well my coveting days are over. Mrs Frank’s Place gave me a Fuller Friction Brush for my birthday. Yes Tony, I know this upsets you to some degree but this is my world now. It may very well have been the first natural reaction I’ve had to a gift in decades. The old ball and chain thought I might be offended, thought she might be bending some stereotypical lines by getting the little lady of the house what essentially amounts to a manual vacuum.  Not so.

As soon as I saw the name on the box I knew what it was. I should say I knew what I hoped it was. I had that thing assembled faster than Oswald got off those three shots, (he had help). In mere seconds I was cleaning the carpet and hardwood floors of our downstairs. Mrs Frank’s Place watched with a semi-sigh of relief and some bewilderment.

Ladies, if your man cleans the house, never underestimate the worth of an efficient cleaning implement. In fact the more gadget-ey said implement, the more the castle maintainer will like it. That’s predicated on the cleaning ability of course. Plus there’s that added lazy factor involved. Not having to actually vacuum some small crumb disaster is worth it’s weight.

I think that may be the appeal of the Fuller. It transcends gadgetry. Yeah I just used transcends when referring to a push brush that cleans floors. The Fuller Friction Brush is so refined it’s almost like the feel of a brand new hammer prior to being swung for the first time or the look of a brand new sleeve of white golf balls, un-hit and thus unmarred by neither tree nor cart path.

Look, I get that y’all think I’m going overboard here, but then again you probably don’t have a Fuller Push Brush. I got one for my birthday and aside from a new sleeve of golf balls, it might be one of the best gifts I could have received at this point in life.

Sometimes it’s the little things and then sometimes it’s a Fuller Friction Brush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11th 2014

September 11th 2001 I had the good fortune of wearing the uniform. Still 8 years from retirement, I was also fortunate to be tucked away in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee, as an instructor at the Noncommissioned Officers Academy.

As I stood with my brothers and sisters in arms watching the world fall apart seemingly around us, it struck me and just about everybody standing there, we were living through the most pivotal moment in our history. Our personal history and surely our military history had just taken a 90 degree turn. As cliche as it sounds, life was never the same again.

Our procedures changed, our curriculum changed, our incoming students changed.

13 years later I’m still riveted by the stories and pictures and documentaries that play on this day. But on that day, on September 11th 2001, I can still remember watching the little TV in my testing office as the reports came in about a plane hitting the Twin Towers. The conjecture was flying on the Today Show about how or why it happened, then it wasn’t. The second plane ended all that.

I’m not sure who said it, maybe then TSgt Don Felch, but someone said, “We’re under attack!”

90 degrees. It was as sudden as that.

I remember most of the people standing there, Don Felch, Mark Lane, Jerry Bivins, Mitch Lollar, Jon Hawk, Mike Smeltzer, and a few others. I remember heading home the next day after standing guard all night because someone thought they may be coming for the nerds next. I remember sitting in complete silence in front of the TV all the next day with my then roommate Chris Morin, now a father and still an Officer, not believeing a thing I was seeing.  All have gone on to full military careers and most have since joined me in retirement.

The rallying cry that has become the norm for September 11th is Always Remember, Never Forget.

I wonder, is it possible to forget a day like today? With our high speed lives of moving from one huge experience to the next at a dizzying pace, is it possible?

I remember where I was and who I was with. We all have a story from that day I imagine.

What’s yours?

 

Always Remember Never Forget

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