Frank’s Place Best of 2014!

BEST_OF_2014_sidebarAnother year and another healthy line up of Frank’s Place posts. For you newbies, this is the final post of the year and the staff at Frank’s Place compiles the data, makes some hard choices and spits out the top ten posts based on times viewed, comments made, and Pulitzer Prize candidacy. However, this year we have an added twist.

The staff also painstakingly combed through the comments on these ten posts; the comments on the blog itself, and comments on the Frank’s Place FaceBook page.

From there, 3 commenters were selected at random by Frank and his Christmas candy induced hand tremors. Those lucky souls will have their coolness tickets punched by receiving a Frank’s Place T-Shirt, thus ensuring a stellar 2015.

Pic of said shirt is at the bottom of this post.

As the veterans of Frank’s Place are well aware I loathe those dopey awards shows that tease the fun stuff right up till commercial, only to make us all wait or in my case, change the channel back to the encore episode of Fat Camp: The Gorging.

Well we don’t go in for that stuff here. So here now the winners for 2014:

1. From the hinterlands of South Dakota, Frank’s Place faithful Joe Thornell!

2. From right here in Knoxville TN, University of Tennessee NICU nurse, our very own Jamie Brown Ward!

Well a bit of an awkward situation here. Frank pointed at two comments simultaneously. He went way heavy on the chocolate truffles. Ok, well since a new episode of Octonauts came on all but eliminating his attention span and the replay angle was inconclusive, we’re just going with 2 t-shirts for 3rd place.

3. All the way from Manitoba, located somewhere in America’s hat, newly minted grandfather and a brother in arms, Bernie Verreault!

3. As I said 3rd was a tie so, loyal friend of Frank’s Place – Mary Alice MacDiarmid!  Knoxville TN! Come on down!

OK gang, here is your task: I need a shipping address and t-shirt size. Use the blog e-mail:  They do come in onsies Bernie, so if you’re looking to get Lennon some baby clothes, we’ve got you covered.

Enough with the festivities, here’s what you came for. The top ten posts of 2014 in ascending order. Enjoy. I know I did.

11 Years with a Steel Magnolia Starting us off this year, a sappy offering that both melts the heart and questions the intellect of the THEY that decide what porous metal is assigned to what anniversary.

His first mug shot. So proud!

His first mug shot. So proud!

Kindergarten Part 2: Nosebleed and The Evaluation I do few things well, but making bad first impressions is one of my best skills. For those that sat near me in Frank’s kindergarten class, I’m sorry.

She Sees You When You’re Sleeping My yearly venture into the horror genre. My daughter left a few calling cards near our bed in the wee hours. Just to let us know that she could. Caution, read this one with the lights on.

Just Call Me Francis The journey of self discovery by my son continues. First he began taking himself to bed for naps, then he went and still is on a I don’t need that. kick which includes toys. Then he wanted to be called by his legal name Francis.

Kindergarten Part 1: There Will Be Blood/The Decision  This was viewed by 174 people and almost as many e-mailed me with an opinion.

Putting those carpet painting skills to good use.

Putting those carpet painting skills to good use.

Hurricane AM Hits Preschool The kid makes her first appearance in public life, following in her big brother’s footsteps to his old haunt – preschool.

World Prematurity Day No wrist bands, no lapel pins, just some recollections and a beg for donations to the University of Tennessee Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Chased From NY: Jimmy Fallon Saves Us So Mr Bigshot has a baby on Tuesday which means I get no respite from mine on a Friday. Plus protesters!

Finally A Parent or A River Runs Through It Almost 200 of you read and reveled in the calamity that befell me when I left my then 2yr old alone for mere minutes. It’s cool though, I always wanted a waterfall in my garage.

First Rule of Car Lobby Pick Up Lane Man this one struck a nerve. With over 200 hits it was the top post of 2014. Who knew waiting endlessly in line to pick up your kid at school would be such a hot topic?

The hot Christmas item this year

The hot Christmas item this year

So that’s it for 2014. These are the ten top posts for the year, as decided by you, the readers, the people who support Frank’s Place.

Without you my ego would almost be non-existent. Well, that’s probably not true.

See you in 2015!



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You’ll smash your brains out kid!

One of the unintended benefits of kids is their near perfect comedic timing. It’s near perfect because they aren’t trying to be funny. At least my two aren’t trying, they’re usually serious when explaining things or excusing their way out of trouble. But make no mistake, Frank is the reincarnation of Jackie Mason. Google him.

So getting Frank to make a Christmas list for Santa provides some serious comedy for a lot of reasons. First of all, the kid is on some minimalist bender for the past year or so. I kid you not, he has been wearing out the phrase, I don’t need that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a kid who doesn’t want everything he sees but when you’re at a birthday party and a mom hands him a gift bag and he hands it back saying he doesn’t need it, not so great. Ask his 2yr old sister what she wants for Christmas and she doesn’t hesitate, TOYS! That’s my girl.

The second issue with the Christmas list is Frank can now write and he wants to write the list on his own without anyone present. A kid learning how to write making a list of things he doesn’t want or need, this ought to be good. Of course it’s 5 minutes in and he’s asking for help. He doesn’t need help spelling, no, he needs ideas to put on the list. So I start prompting him.

Out of nowhere he churns out a sleigh full of ideas which read like the equipment list from the Winter Olympics. Snowboard, ice skates, hockey sticks… he went on and on. He stopped short of asking for a luge. (pssst.. it’s a fancy sled used for racing) As he finishes his list, he pauses, looks up at me exasperated, This list is no good daddy.

Why Frank? 

Cause I can only think of things that will smash my brains out.

I had no response. I was too busy trying not to laugh. Of course, he’s not wrong. All of those things have the potential to smash the user’s brain out. But he got it sorted, dumped the hockey sticks because, well, he has a stick I bought him months ago. When he remembered that he decided he didn’t need two. After a few more ideas he asked me to go away. He came back with this:

Checking it twice...

Checking it twice…

He went old school with the greeting. I dig it. Star Wars stands all by itself, no explanation needed, but army game? No clue. The last item on the list caused a stir.

His mother was afraid he was asking for a switch blade, a weapon indigenous to my home state of souther New Jersey. Ah southern white girls, ain’t nothing like em. But of course he was asking for the supporting actor Blade Ranger from the movie Planes: Fire and Rescue.

I have to admit I had no idea other than knowing he was not asking for a knife. You know, not a bad letter from a kindergartner. Even used his full name. Love that kid.

The flu currently has him down and out, so our 2nd annual Christmas Eve-a-pallooza will be limited this year. But I got a list out of my minimalist first born.

It’s a Christmas miracle!


Merry Christmas from Frank’s Place!




The Night Sentinel

In those first 12 or so weeks after you bring your baby home you accept sleep deprivation. It’s part of the job. Even after they start sleeping through the night, you realize there will still be some sleepless nights with sickness, nightmares, adjustment from crib to bed, etc. But man, when they get passed all that, going all night on a regular basis, your tolerance and patience for getting up in the wee hours goes to zero, and your anger and disgust hit the top peg. At least mine did, does, has, is currently.

So we’re into the stuffed animal phase with AM. She must have, oh I don’t know, six, seven, 45 animals and blankets in her bed at any one time. And that’s great. It makes her happy, it helps her go to sleep, and that makes me happy. Of course having that many objects in the bed only increases the odds that one or more will fall out. Now you would think that wouldn’t be much of a deal, but in the early morning hours, if she wakes up, she immediately does an inventory. If any animal or blanket fails to respond with the appropriate “Here!” the wailing starts. As I stumble into the room and ask the dumb but required question, “Why are you crying?” I am told, through hysterical sobbing, so and so has fallen out of the bed.

After cursing Perry the Platypus, or Lamb, or Turtle, I re-install them and a national crisis is averted. You’re welcome America.

This has become such a ritual, I no longer need lights, or words even. I just stumble in at the appointed time, usually 3:30, reach to the ground to find the little prick that tried to jump for it, stuff him back under the blanket and go back to bed. So I was a little surprised the other night when 3:30 came and went with the still and quiet of a golf course just before the first tee shot of the day. Well all righty, I can sleep on through to 6:45 when I have to wake Frank for school.

The surprise didn’t end there. As I turned on Frank’s closet light to begin the wake up sequence I noticed what appeared to be two heads on his pillow. My first thought was if that’s a horse head I’m outta here. Nope. No horse head. It was Anne Marie, sound asleep and cutting as much lumber as Frank was. At some point during the night she left her room and crawled into bed with her brother and went to sleep. She must have been there a while because all I got out of Frank was some ancient Sumatran dialect. He probably slept on and off since 3 or 4am. Anne Marie has slept with us before. It ain’t peacful. She uses the Magellan principal, exploring every inch of the bed, using her feet to clear the way.

When Frank did finally come to, he begged me to keep her out of his room. Poor kid. He digs his sleep. But you know what, he asks for so little, takes himself to shower and to bed, regulates his own sweet tooth which is to say he switched to milk for lunch and water with his snack because those aren’t Woe Foods. And apparently Santa is getting carrot sticks and grapes on Christmas eve. Great, that’ll be more fruits and veggies than I’ve ever had in my entire life. Undoubtedly some young, cute nutritionist came to his class to talk about eating healthy. Anyway, if the kid wants to sleep through the night in peace the least I can do is make it happen.

Cute Kroger shopper by day...

Cute Kroger shopper by day…

But Anne Marie is like an evil genius. The first night she crawled into Frank’s bed she opened and closed both her’s and Frank’s doors without waking me up. I sleep light so that was no small trick. She managed to do it two more times without me catching her. The third time it was Frank waking me up at 4 in the morn asking me to get Anne Marie out of his room. His supplication was dripping with equal parts frustration and derision. He just stopped short of saying, C’mon bro, you had one job! I felt the sting of his nonverbal attitude. Message received first born child. Vigilance set to stun.

Nabbed her the next two times. The first time I jacked her up she was halfway to his room, three of her favorite animals in hand. I’m not sure why but I feel compelled to ask her questions in the middle of the morning when I catch her out of bed. This time it was, Where you going! 

I don’t know. Where’s Frank?

He’s sleeping like everyone else. Get back to bed!


And that’s it. It’s not like a massive debate. Once she’s caught she usually gives up. But just for that night. She begins to scheme, refine, replan.

The next night she was riding clean. She left all the animals back at home base. She must have felt they gave away her position. In reality they did. Holding her animals makes it harder for her to close the doors quietly. She has to do it with one hand and that can get noisy. With both hands free she can stay flat footed and move the door more smoothly. But she messed up earlier in the day. She left her little Playskool phone in the hall. She kicked it on her way to Frank’s room.

Like the spotlights at a prison during a break, the alert went out and I was on her before she got past the hall bathroom. She initially took three quick steps down the hall as if she thought about trying to outrun me. She smartly abandoned that plan and gave herself up. Another notch in my belt, to go along with another night of interrupted sleep.

So yeah, I’m a super hero now. My watch is from 3 to 5 in the am. My charge; keeping bedrooms safe from co-sleeping. My arch nemesis is my 2yr old daughter. My super power: old man sleep patterns.

I am…

The Night Sentinel!

Niether lack of sleep, nor dark of night...

Niether lack of sleep, nor dark of night…















Kindergarten: Don’t underestimate their power.

I am now certain I’m learning much more at kindergarten than Frank is. Obviously it was going to be a new experience for both of us, I just didn’t think my learning curve would be as steep if not steeper than his. Feel free to peruse some of the back issues to see my transition to kindergarten. There’s some stuff in there about Frank to, I think, but mostly stuff about the lessons I’ve learned so far. Today’s kindergarten life lesson comes courtesy of the Turkey Trot and that lesson is endurance.

We were not directly aware of the upcoming Thanksgiving program at Frank’s school, but there were indications. You had to be tuned in to catch them. The first red flag was Frank wanting to take a shower. He is a bath kid, but one day he wanted to take a shower. I’m all in on that because my involvement for showers drops to almost nothing. Baths, sure I’m on site the entire time. But showers, ha, I’ll adjust the water but after that don’t call me until you’re ready for bed.

Whilst folding the laundry in the bedroom I could hear singing coming from somewhere. Turns out Frank was singing in the shower. Hard to make out the song, something about a turkey. The next day we heard him singing in the bathroom. Loudly. Same deal, a turkey something or other. Then I heard it, “Let’s do the Turkey Trot, come do the Turkey Trot…” Catchy tune. Tracy finally got him to sing the whole thing. Apparently he needs to be in close proximity to porcelain and water in order to sing above a whisper. Still, he got through the whole song and we got the run down on the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving program. Undoubtedly there were notices sent home but only the Lord knows where those bits of paper ended up.

I was instantly gripped with pride and fear. His preschool was such a small, seemingly protected community. Maybe as many parents as there were kids showed up for the Christmas program. Now he was in a big public school with 120 kids in kindergarten alone. He would be up on stage singing in front of all these people. I taught public speaking for ten years in the Air Force and still I was having palpitations. Or maybe it was the ten years of teaching public speaking that brought on the anxiety. Either way it was going to be a first for Frank and me.

The day of said Trot, the parking lot was jammed. The grass area that served as an impromptu parking area was covered up. I found the last spot. Frank’s Grammy came a few minutes after, ending up two blocks away. No matter, we both were in standing room only at the back of the gym. Huh, back of the room, just like church. Anyway, we actually were in a great spot to see the kids march in as the procession came in the back of the gym. Frank’s class came in last. Plenty of time to get my camera ready. Annnnd I missed him.

At first I thought he must have gotten in trouble and was banned from all Trot activities. Nope. He walked right past me and I didn’t recognize him. Now in my defense he was wearing an indian head dress that was supposed to be turkey feathers, I think, and a huge turkey wing like jacket made from brown paper bags and cardboard. Plus he was dancing and singing. How the heck was I supposed to recognize him?

Since he walked in last his class was front and center on the stage. Pride was overtaking the nerves. What a weird/warm feeling to see him up there, big smile, doing the moves and singing the songs. Unlike pre-school the kids were not fidgeting in the first five minutes. My first thought was, yeah he’s getting older. Still not sure how I feel about that.

What I was sure about, these kids were well prepared. Grammy stepped to me and said what I was thinking. They were on their 8th or 9th song with no end in sight. Still most of the kids, Frank included, were doing the moves and singing the songs. Then we got a kid assisted interpretive reading of the first thanksgiving. One of the things I absolutely love about living in the South, the reading, done by a father who volunteers a lot and is a local artist, was about as un-politically correct as it could be. Sad thing is, it was a breath of fresh air. This is just our history as a 5 year old would know it and tell it. As it should be.

Then the songs started again. Don’t get me wrong, they were great, the kids were great. I was just marveling about how many songs there were and how well the kids did with the words and movements. I think Grammy and I counted about 16 songs in total. Gang, that’s a lot for anyone but for a kindergarten class I thought it was amazing. They were all so well behaved. Once the program finished they marched out the way they marched in. Singing the Turkey Trot song.

That took some serious stamina. For them, not me. Oh hey, I was good for 20 more songs at least, you kidding. That Turkey Trot song was may favorite. I still get it stuck in my head some 4 weeks after the program. And you are in for a treat. Making his singing debut at Frank’s Place, I give you Frank singing the Thanksgiving Program theme song and international blockbuster, The Turkey Trot!

No reason it shouldn’t be stuck in your head too. Your welcome.


Just like another crooner named Frank!

Just like another crooner named Frank!

Only cost me one fudge graham cracker, at 9am. He gave me the repeat for free. He also started doing the movements during the second stanza. But he did it all on the first shot.

First Take Frank, that’s what they call him.

He’s also available for Bar Mitzvahs after the 25th.



11 years with a Steel Magnolia.

December 6th 2003, Knoxville TN.

December 6th 2003, Knoxville TN.

So the “They” that decide these things say 11 years of marriage is the steel anniversary. Ok. I’ll play. A gift made from steel, gotta be a ton of options for that. Putting aside the fact of course that my wife is the hardest person to buy gifts for, getting the right steel gift should be a snap.

Or should it?

When racking my brain to come up with such a gift a title for this post came to me – Steel Magnolia. Perfect actually. It describes Tracy to a T. See what I did there?

A Steel Magnolia is an apt description. The Magnolia is a strong flower, beautiful in sight but also in design. The flower evolved primarily to foster the bee population. To that end the core of the flower is unlike any other. Not the normal petal and sepal set up on most flowers, the Magnolia’s bud is protected by a bract. So says wikipedia.

Beautiful, tough, created for a purpose, and not the normal set up…  yeah that’s describing my wife to a T. So the Steel Magnolia thing just flowed easily from that. But I still needed a steel gift. Ponder that as you peep pics of Tracy through our 11 year journey.


Christmas in Jersey 2004. Only 1/3 of the family in this shot.

Christmas in Jersey 2004. Only 1/3 of the family in this shot.

Back to Maui, our honeymoon spot, for anny #3

Back to Maui, our honeymoon spot, in 2005 for anny #3












Oh look at that Maui again in 2006. It was a good hotel.

Oh look at that Maui again in 2006. It was a good hotel.

As I glance into the kitchen while I type this I see my wife of 11 years dangling a piece of cinnamon bread over Frank’s head in an effort to get him to dance with her to her hip hop music. 11 years takes a toll people. Drastic times calls for drastic measures.





Leaving the Comcast Center - University of Maryland for my graduation. Hottest graduates wife there.

Leaving the Comcast Center – University of Maryland 2007, for my graduation. Hottest graduate’s wife there.

White girl dancin with The Warden. Christmas in Jersey 2008. Frank is on board - 5 months away.

White girl dancin with The Warden. Christmas in Jersey 2008. Frank is on board – 5 months away.







Frank's Baptism  - 2009

Frank’s Baptism – 2009

The cool kids Easter - 2010

The cool kids  – Easter 2010

Look at that awesome mop! Easter 2011

Look at that awesome mop! Easter 2011


















First contact. UT Med Center NICU 2012

First contact. UT Med Center NICU 2012

Easter 2013

Easter 2013

Birthday June 2014

Birthday June 2014




























So that’s it. 11 years in 11 pictures. But what gift to get that aligns with the steel anniversary?

Let me rephrase. What to get the girl who is impossible to shop for that aligns with the steel anniversary? Of course the New York trip was really the gift. And it was a good one. Plenty of steel in that city. But as you may or may not know, Jimmy Fallon called the whole thing off, leaving me holding the gift bag as it were. All because he had a kid on Wednesday. Wimp.

Undaunted, I pressed on. I had to get on the edge of gift buying. Something so out there scrutinizing it would be a waste of time. Something impervious to the scrutiny of an impossible gift getter. And it had to be steel.

By the way, my new life goal is to find the people who decide these ridiculous things and knock their chicklets down their throats.

Anyway it finally hit me. Free from scrutiny, the appropriate metal, and a damn fine idea if I do say so myself. And I do say so.

An integral part in the grieving of our lost soul Linda Claire was making sure she remained part of our family story. A very grainy picture of her at the moment of birth is really all we have, remembrance wise.

So I thought what better way to make her a permanent part of our family story than submitting her name to the national star registry – naming a star after her. A tad on the corny side, but still cool enough. So somewhere in the heavens is a binary star, two stars from the same celestial body, in other words twin stars, composed of all sorts of metal including STEEL!  The stars now have the names Linda Claire and Anne Marie and the inscription, Sisters…cum in aeterno in aeternum.  (together forever in eternity).

Yeah corny. I know. Happy Anniversary dear!

We’ll always have New York.





Chased from NY: How Jimmy Fallon saved our lives. (not really)

Mr. Linardo, this is the Tonight Show. As I’m sure you’ve heard Jimmy Fallon and his wife welcomed a beautiful new baby into their lives Wednesday. Unfortunately The Tonight Show will not be taping on Friday. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Please feel free to call if you have any questions. 

Thus started the unraveling of our anniversary weekend.

Well I’ll tell you one thing, they know how to do customer relations at the Tonight Show. Be advised, we weren’t guests on the show, just two faces in the crowd. We managed to get two tickets to the Friday show and that call came Thursday. I was sad but stunned at their level of effort and commitment to their fans. Seeing Fallon was arguably the main reason we were heading to NY and yet they almost made us feel good about not getting to see the show.


The problem was we were flying in Thursday, the same day they called to say the show was cancelled. So the main thing we wanted to do was now out. Ok. We get it Jimmy. We have kids. Anyone who does knows there is not much sleeping in the first few weeks or months even. Having to perform for a national audience might be a bit much. So yeah we get it. But we ain’t happy about it.

Still, Christmas time in NY is pretty cool. We could see the huge tree at 30 Rock, go ice skating, shopping, see the city…

Then the rains came.

A forecast of tame weather turned to rain Friday and all day Saturday. Well balls. There goes walking around the city. The dark cloud of gloom was taking up residence over my wife. A point she emphasized with an interpretive “dark cloud” dance complete with narration. Anyone in the street that day would have seen it as she threw down in my office, right in front of the giant window that affords my oversight of The Sac.

The feel was maybe we should punt and try some other time. No point in going to NY and not liking it. We could enjoy the dark cloud right here in Knoxville, for free I might add. A mere 2hrs from our flight time, we punted.

The airline put our tickets on hold, the hotel cut us some slack, just canceling our reservation without charge. So no harm, no foul. Still, there was this feeling. Should we have just gone anyway?

Then the protesters came, and came, and came.

By 9pm, the time we would be walking out of La Guardia Airport to ride to mid-town Manhattan, protesters had blocked the BQE, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, the Lincoln Tunnel and a group was moving toward Rockefeller Plaza. We probably would have made it to the hotel, about 2 blocks from Rock Plaza, but not much else, unless we wanted to be part of the protest. Which we did not.

By midnight police had put up a blockade on the Brooklyn Bridge and started arresting people downtown and those laying on the road blocking the Lincoln Tunnel. Any chance this all clears up by Saturday – not hardly.

Thanks to Jimmy and his new baby we escaped all that nonsense. So 11th anniversary in Knoxville. All in all I gotta believe this is better than sitting in the hotel watching peaceful protests clog the streets and block traffic.

Isn’t it?

Thanks Jimmy