Kindergarten: One book to rule them all.

Look, it’s no secret, I’m slow. Things dawn on other people faster than they dawn on me. Not sure why it is, it just is. So when we got through the decision making process, the evaluation, and the car lobby pick up line, I thought we were finally off and running. It really never occurred to me we would have to dance for our supper. Peep that picture. Can you read the Established date? Yeah, they started this in 1969, a scant two years after I was born. Yet somehow I was unaware of my pending relationship with The Book. And by that I mean selling coupon books.

The Good Book.

The Good Book.

Fear not my good friends! This is not a sales pitch. The season of The Book has come and gone. I specifically waited to write this one until after the storm had passed. Lest y’all think I was shilling for sales to get to that coveted 30 book sales plateau. With all it’s free ice cream in the cafeteria, buy one get one apple pie type product at your local fast food joint, and of course the name recognition, it was tempting to reach for the stars. But NO! We here at Frank’s Place have a modicum of dignity, and dram of self respect, waning as it may be. Read on, unencumbered by the burden of the dreaded sales pitch.

Much like Major League Baseball, a lot of the rules surrounding The Book are implied or unwritten. Were we required to sell any books? Were we required to buy a few to make it look good? Are their penalties, ramifications, judgements? The kid is shy. What if he comes up empty? Would the boy be shunned, ostracized, marginalized? Lots to stress over. I picked a bad year to stop abusing Pepto Bismol.

As usual when crisis’ of this nature arise I lateral to Mrs Frank’s Place. Besides, she’s in sales, this is her arena. My arena appears to be bringing mayhem and disarray to the car lobby pick up lane. A task I’m suited for, possibly even born for. Anyway I tagged out and Tracy went in.

She had a plan. Tracy decided she would take Frank door to door and he would “sell” The Book to our neighbors. People who, I wagered, would no longer speak to us. She felt it would be a good exercise to draw him out a little, give him some confidence, and help him learn to deal with people. It was better than mine, which was to write a check for 5 coupon books and call it a day, straight lines and shortest points and all that.

I mean door to door? Lets put aside the fact the kid barely speaks in public. Door to door? It’s just so 1950. Then there were the loyalties to The Sac to think about.

Ironically, my lofty position as the only stay at home dad in our Sac requires me to send out Sac Alerts; text messages to everyone on the street when sales people, faith peddlers, and any other unsavory characters come a knockin. So I was in a spot here. Do I send out a Sac Alert on my own kid? Do I out him to the neighbors or let them get ambushed, thus being derelict in my duty as rif raf runner off guy? It was a moral quandary to be sure.

In the end blood is thicker … yeah you know the deal.

So off they went, my 5yr old and my wife, out into the cold, cruel world of door to door sales. And as I’m sure most of you have already predicted, he did great. He made a sale at the first house. Our prince of a neighbor, JB, bought two Books from Frank. It was like blood in the water to a hungry shark. Now he was looking for doors to knock on. No one was spared. He cleaned up the Sac in short order. But he didn’t stop there. Like a deranged telemarketer, he began the process of hitting up our neighbor’s relatives by phone. Then he hit up the moms of his friends from pre-school, again by phone. Then with his moms help, he started working the members of the board of education in Knox County, snagging the chairwoman for a sale. Then he flashed his smile at the local flower shop. They were putty in his hands. Knoxville gang, if you’re not shopping Echelon Florist, well you’re probably a communist. No matter, Frank was a juggernaut.

For the record, we, the parents, only bought one. Just one. The other 24 he did on his own, door by door, person by person.

First taste of victory.

First taste of victory.

The pay off: well Mrs Frank’s Place was right. He did open up a lot and he does interact with the adults in the Sac much better. Plus, he was the lead sales-kid for his class, got to help tape the Principal to the wall, and got in the local newspaper. Yeah they butchered the last name, but hey not the first or last time that’s gonna happen.

As far as school fund raisers go this one is pretty painless and The Book turned out to be a teaching moment. Who knew?

Apparently most everyone but me.




World Prematurity Day

Same Kid - Different Day

Same Kid – Different Day

Believe it or not the kids in that picture are one and the same.

The picture on the right is Anne Marie, September 2014, on her first day of pre-school, or spree-school as she calls it. She’s 2 1/2 years old and about 27 pounds in that shot.

On the far left is Anne Marie too. It was her first week of life, March 2012. Anne Marie was a micro-preemie, born 3 1/2 months early in week 25, she weighed 1 pound 12 ounces and was 12 inches long. If not for the doctors, nurses, and staff at the University of Tennessee, especially in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she would not be alive.

Linda Clare  22 March 2012

Linda Clare 22 March 2012

Anne Marie was not alone. She has a twin sister, Linda Claire, same weight, same length. Linda Claire passed away 5 hours after birth. Thanks to the UT staff, Linda Claire also survived the birth. It was what didn’t happen in week 21, no lung development due to lack of sac fluid, that left Anne Marie to go it alone in her 5 month stay at UT Med Center.

17 November is World Prematurity Day. You know I’m not entirely sure what these “Awareness Days” accomplish, other than allowing parents like me to brag on and remember our kids. I mean, yeah I’m going to shake you down for money at the end of this, but hey I can do that any time. World Prematurity Remembrance Day might be better.

We look at Anne Marie run into her spree-school classroom and we remember the days and nights in the UT NICU wondering if she would survive. We remember the constant buzzing, beeping, and blipping of the myriad of equipment hooked to her and all the babies in the Big House, the large ward were the preemies fought their battles literally side by side. We remember the docs and nurses working tirelessly morning, noon, and night; dealing with heart monitors, feeding tubes, needles, and of course deer in the headlight parents. I even remember little George, a boy making his fight just the other side of Anne Marie. George was thriving one day and gone the next. No answers, no reason, no explantation, just gone. So we remember.

Of course every March 22nd and July 29th and Christmas we go to Linda Claire’s resting place and remember the events that altered our family forever. I remember Tracy digging deep at the moment of truth, realizing she would have to keep her head amidst the chaos of the triage room if these kids were to have any chance at all. I remember the doc who was working on Linda Claire, he just couldn’t bring himself to give up. I remember another doc, a kid really, a kid I would come to call TopGun, telling me someone had to make a decision. The someone was me, the decision was to keep going or stop extreme measures, with just a few more hours with our Linda Claire the only result, no matter the call.

I didn’t want remember any of that. But it turns out it feels good to remember, feels good to cry a little. There is some joy in the remembering, some sanctuary in the story telling. Awareness Days come with a lot of stats and facts, but Linda Claire isn’t just a statistic, she’s our story and we’re hers. Anne Marie isn’t just a fact, she’s a reality. Something she’s fond of reminding us everyday.

No, these kids aren’t stats and facts and fund raiser flyer material. They are part of who we are. They’re part of our history and thankfully, our future. They shape us, reveal things in us we might not have known about ourselves. They are our story.

Take it from me, they are a story worth telling.



If you must, here’s a link for the stats and facts:

And if your heart desires, donations can be made to:

In Memory of Linda Claire Linardo

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center c/o Office of Development

 2121 Medical Center Way, Suite 110, Knoxville TN, 37920

Hey man, it’s dead already.

Just eat the thing already Anne Marie.


There’s no need to kill it again, it died a while ago. So eat or don’t, but stop playing with your food.


What did you say?!?

I said NO!

Such are the dinner conversations with my two year old these days. Hard to tell from that exchange but I’m pretty sure I’m losing. The big problem is she thinks I’m deaf. So when she gives me the “I said no” routine she says it with the attitude of, look donny deaf boy I’m getting tired of repeating myself. That’s no joke. The slant in her voice is clear and obvious.

She has no fear.

She has no fear.

With Frank all I had to do was look like I was about to stand up and he would recant, confess, and beg forgiveness. Anne Marie just doesn’t defy me, she flat out dares me to come over there. It’s as if she likes her chances against me. How old, broken down, and feeble must I look in her eyes for her to adopt that attitude?

Of course her tune does change once I get to where she is. The shocked look on her face the first time she realized she was no longer hypo-sensative to pain and could now feel getting spanked made me turn my head to keep her from seeing me laugh. Ah small victories. Didn’t last long though, once the shock wore off she was right back to finding a new angle. Always thinking, always thinking. Still, it hasn’t changed her pig headed ways. Maybe dulled them a bit. She is really in her terrible two’s, hopefully climbing out of it.

The one area she will not relent is in the dismantling, dismembering, and destruction of her food before she eats it. And it drives me up a wall. For whatever reason, playing with food is the one sin I can not overlook or handle with any degree of sanity. It was programmed into me at some point, but I don’t remember it being such a big life lesson. It just was a thing I remember hearing, “Don’t play with your food.” But Anne Marie is not really playing with it as it turns out. It’s like she’s killing it so she can eat it.

Now I’m no sociologist, or whatever ologist would be responsible for studying the hunting, killing, and eating habits of the indigenous two year old, but it seems to me like our indigenous two year old is working for her supper. It’s the only thing I can figure.

Give her a slice of pizza and she’ll tear the heart out of it, literally ripping the center from it before eating it. Hand her a slice of toast and she’ll stab it with her fork, hold it up, utter some unknown language, and then laugh like she’s putting the head of her mortal enemy on a pike for all to see. Frank laughs with her like he understands what she’s saying, but he doesn’t. He’s just playing along casue he’s afraid he’s next. And my favorite, give her a PB&J she keeps begging me for and she pulls it apart, pokes 8 to 10 holes in each piece before spiking the jelly slice to the floor, business end down of course, and mauling the peanut butter side. SHE DOESN’T EVEN LIKE PEANUT BUTTER!

All I get from her by way of explanation is, “Oh man, not again!”

The signs were there...

The signs were there…

I blame myself of course. I should have seen this coming, should have been prepared. I didn’t, I wasn’t. How could I have missed it. The signs were there.

<———-Who does that to beef and mushroom? That is an 18 month old with the taste for blood and the look of the devil. Tell me she’s not plotting something. This picture is the reason I haven’t taught her to use a knife yet.

Well she’s almost 3 now and learning to use scissors in pre-school, the proper way, not to pry open the fridge with or perform an appendectomy on her closest neighbor.

<———-But still.