Daddy, I need options! (or my life as a short order cook.)

Hey Frank, what do you want for lunch? It was a simple question. It’s not like there is an entire menu to pick from. The kid subscribes to the four basic food groups: chicken nuggets, squeezable tube apple sauce, squeezable tube yogurt, and PB&Js, light on the PB. But still I get, Daddy! I need options! Well how many options can there possibly be when you’ve narrowed your nutrition intake to Jelly on bread?

Frank, as an eater. Before the dark times.

Frank, as an eater. Before the dark times.

Wasn’t always this way. Oh no, for a time the kid ate everything in sight. For the first three years or so the kid was a human garbage disposal. He was our first so we were like most parents I guess. We went hyper-sensitive on how and what we fed him. Tracy even decided that for the first year we would make our own food. Yeah that was great. The making was easy actually. It was the clean up that was soooo much fun, ya know for me personally. You veterans of Frank’s Place can explain for the new kids.

There are several mile stones to be celebrated in the development life of your kid. I mean getting out of diapers is awesome, akin to man landing on the moon. But one of the most liberating was when the pediatrician says at the one year check up, Let him eat what you eat. Now’s the time to experiment. Ah wut? Yeah, experiment. Find out what he likes, what he doesn’t, what he may be allergic to, etc…

You know, I never had one of the science kits as a kid. I ordered a experiment book about magnetic poles once when I was a wee lad. It was supposed to have all these cool magnets and experiments about the earth’s magnetic poles. I was pretty excited, and as most adults who know me now will tell you I don’t get excited over much. Damn thing never came. Didn’t ship, lost in transit, mail order scam? Who knows? Getting to turn my first kid into a living breathing food laboratory is the cosmos way of righting that long suffering wrong.

So with that bit of karma in my pocket we began letting Frank eat from our plates. My plate, as you might imagine, was a waste land of what Frank now describes as Woe Foods, foods that are bad for you. But man he loved him some beef and broccoli, General Tso’ chicken, tacos, burritos, pizza, eggs, bacon, cheeseburgers. You name it the kid would neck it down.

Of course we made him some good stuff too. In fact the only vegetable he didn’t like was cauliflower. Is that really a surprise? Can anyone tell me a good use for the albino of the food kingdom? While the boy was fond of jamming broccoli two fists at a time into his cake-hole, butternut squash was his favorite. That’s some nasty stuff. But he loved it se we made it.

Now Frank is actually the one who regulated himself off the good stuff and onto the vegetables. Yeah I said it. We thought we had done so well, creating our little franken-eater. It was a lot of fun to take him out to restaurants and not need a kids menu. The gang who owned the Mexican joint up the street used to love watching Frank take down a burrito, or the chili queso. It was great. Then he turned 3 1/2.

When he started to develop the vocabulary to ask for his own food, his palate changed. All of a sudden broccoli and carrots is all he would eat from the vegetable community. The only chicken I could get him to eat were of the nugget variety. He no longer wanted to muckle my Italian sub from Firehouse. All he wanted was a peanut butter and jelly, heavy on the jelly. Much like Frankenstein and fire, Frank would recoil at the sight of squash.

I would make elaborate breakfasts like always, a little hazelnut french toast, bacon, and a jelly biscuit to get things rolling while waiting on the french toast, only to hear Frank say, I don’t want that, I don’t like that. Crushing.

So now when he’s hungry he’ll stare into the pantry and say, Daddy you choose. Of course when I choose he says he doesn’t want it. This little culinary dance will go on for two or three choices until I give up. That elicits the exasperated, Daddy I need options! 

Frank, all you have are options, what you need is the ability to make a decision. And no marshmallows and pizza is not an option at 10:45 in the morning. In fact that’s never an option. Forget that option. For ever. 

Bring me your finest meats and cheeses!

Bring me your finest meats and cheeses!

Thankfully his love of carrots has survived. So a PB&J with some carrots on the side it is. 

Franken-eater is gone. But his little sister, Ms Franken-eater is on the rise.

No fully loaded bacon cheeseburger is safe.



Kindergarten Cafeteria: Welcome to the Thunder-dome!

It's the Thunder-Dome bro. Come correct!

It’s the Thunder-Dome dad. Come correct!

I’m not so far removed from my school days back in Jersey that I’m unaware of the code. It’s unwritten and it’s unspoken, but it’s there. It’s everywhere. The school yard has a code, the bathroom has a code, and for sure the cafeteria has a code.

Now I went to a Catholic school, we didn’t have a lunch room. We ate at our desks with little terry cloth towels laid out for cleanliness sake. But still I know the code of the lunch room. All of that is the build up for what was coming.

So when I did my room mother duties in Frank’s classroom it took me right up to the lunch hour. I decided to go experience the lunchroom with my eldest child. I mean how bad could it be. From what I had seen so far that morning, the kids are well behaved. Plus it’s not like they’ll be alone in there. I’m sure some teachers get stuck with the duty. Well one thing became clear quickly; Frank’s teacher did not have the duty.

The kids walked quietly down the hall in two groups: those that bring their lunch and those that buy lunch. Bringers go in before buyers. Either way both kids made a left face and went into the lunch room. Frank’s teacher waved goodbye and hightailed it to the teachers lounge. She knows from whence she escapes. I, on the other hand, had to follow the kids.

It was a bit surreal watching my 5yr old essentially function on his own with no one telling him what to do. He found a seat, busted out his lunch and got busy, just like a worker taking a break. No grown ups, no teachers, just Frank and his buddies having lunch. He seemed so much older at that moment. As much as I was enamored and slightly dismayed at watching my son age before my eyes I knew this would be a delicate situation.

I cautioned myself to tread lightly here. One misstep could upset the balance of power in the lunchroom. Empires can fall over one careless lunchroom faux pas. The ripple effect of that could reach far and wide. My first test presented itself. There was an empty seat next to Frank. My action here could decide Harvard or trade school.

One of his buddies jumped into the empty seat. I moved to the next seat over. I could see Frank getting torqued over me not sitting next to him. That caught me off guard. I figured he didn’t want his old man sitting with him. Frank tells me to sit next to him. I actually have to ask the the kid next to Frank if he wouldn’t mind scooting over to the next seat. He did. For about 3 seconds. Then he got up and sat at an entirely different table. No one else at our table seemed to care. I can feel the pillars of kid justice shake just a bit.

So I sit next to Frank and he was happy. I was happy he was happy. But I have no lunch. Frank has a 6 or 7 digit code to buy lunch and I could certainly use that but I’m not standing in line with 40 kindergartners. Just not gonna do it. Besides it was only 10:45 and there was a General Tso chicken calling my name on the ride home. So I sat and we all talked.

I’ve experienced the student protection society from the teacher prospective as an instructor at the NCO Academy. I was unaware it started in kindergarten. Well this group is clear on the concept. The gang starts extolling Frank’s virtues. I’m all like, Hey fellas, I get it. Kid’s a saint. Surprisingly that drew a collective chuckle. Quite an advanced humor pallet this group. Then they revert to tricking me into saying underwear.

I was ready for this on two fronts. First, I’ve known this joke since I was younger than them. Second, Mrs Frank’s place repeatedly fell victim to this little joke during her day as room mother. Such a sheltered southern belle. So even though I didn’t need the forward intel, it gave me time to craft a response. A retaliatory strike if you will.

Every time they excitedly said Hey what’s under there? Hoping I would say, Under where? so they could laugh their little heads off, I would reply with showing my closed fist and saying You mean in here? When they look in, because lets face it they’re a bunch of kids they can’t help but look, I would spring my empty hand open and shout. They would jump back and I would laugh. Right. In. Their. Face. Boom!

I was looking good to escape the Thunder-dome in tact. And then…

The runt across from me couldn’t peel the foil off his juice cup. He hands it to me. I start to peel it. No words are spoken in this exchange. It’s man stuff. It’s the lunchroom. Almost have it all off and then some other runt falls against the table trying to get up while balancing his tray. He was holding it like it was filled with nitro glycerine. Good thing it wasn’t or we’d all have been vaporized.

But he hit the table and the juice is now all over me. The runt who handed it to me just looks. His eyes are widening but he’s trying to gauge my expression for permission to laugh. I gave him the exasperated Oh man! he and the rest of the table was looking for. The laughter exploded.

I get it. I mean it’s not all that funny, but I get it. Plus, much like the hobos that made fun of me in the church parking lot when they found out I was in the military, (read here: Sunday’s with Ricky) the lunch table laughter meant I was in. One of the guys. And that’s cool no matter what. Well not no matter what. I let that little rush go to my head.

As lunch comes to a close the kids follow the cues and line up to go to their next class. I walk with Frank, still feeling good about being the cool dad. I tell Frank I’m heading out and to have a good day. He’s not talking and has a strange look on his face. I disregard and move on for a hug. Bad move man, bad move.

He hugged me but it was uninspired. He wasn’t happy about it. The prior look on his face turned out to be his fear I would try and hug him in front of his bros. Lunchroom code man, it’s not to be trifled with.

I had no sooner stood up when I heard for two different voices from the line, neither of them Frank, mockingly say Bye bye daddy I love youoooooo! 


Well, trade school it is.

Kindergarten: You Shall Not Pass!

Apparently being the silent brooding type can only carry you so far. At some point someone will invent a piece of technology that will stick it right in your shorts and cause you to interact with, dare I say it, people.

Yeah, not my strong suit really. I know I know, hard to believe. But it’s true. People – I’m just not a big fan of em. Which is strange because I can’t remember life without my two little people. Nor would I want to. But when my five year old runs through the room acting like, as he describes, a long tooth dinosaur and my two year old girl turns to me and says, “Frank’s a chooch.” Well, kinda hard not to like that.

Anyway, as schools ramp up their security efforts and my involvement in a certain elementary school increases, interaction is bound to occur. Case in point: Frank’s school just went from a sign in sheet to a computerized deal to ID yourself so you can freely roam the hallways.

The sheet was fine, it was good. You come in, put your name on the little tag, sign the book, take your tag and you’re off to the races. No people, just me and the pencil. It was clean, simple and most of all self explanatory. Now the sheet has been retired, the pencil… well, sent to wherever pencils go when they are no longer useful.

While we’re talking pencils, did you know NASA, in the early days of the space race with the Soviets, spent thousands of dollars developing a pen that could write in zero gravity. When the US and Russia finally did a joint space mission the geniuses at NASA asked the Cosmonauts how they solved the pen in zero G issue. The Cosmonaut’s response, “We used pencils.”

So my pencil is gone, replaced with a touch screen. Now I’m not saying the computer system isn’t as good as the pencil and sign in sheet. In fact it’s obviously better. But the first time I ever signed in with the sheet I needed no help. Not so with Mr Fancy Touch Screen.

That's me, yelling at the big bad ID system.

That’s me, yelling at the big bad ID system.

As I walk in to the office I see this tiny little computer screen, probably a 15 incher. I say small because it’s dwarfed by my giant 26 inch Apple screen at home. The reason for this will become obvious. So already I can’t see the thing but I press on. Two screens into it the thing asks who I’m going to visit. I pick my son’s first initial as it can’t find him. I use his full first name. Can’t find him. Entire name, same deal. Well crap I’ve been using Frank. I repeat the cycle with his given name. Still no joy in Mudville and my patience is rapidly diminishing.

Enter the people. You have to type who you are coming to see. Now I feel like I have the upper smug ground. Yes, I’m aware. But it says it can’t find him. And yeah, that came out like Smuggy McSmugerton. So the woman, who is only trying to help, starts rattling off male names with a Mr in front.

My idiotic stare indicated to her I may be under the influence of a mild but debilitating concussion. Which teacher are you coming to see? I say I’m not coming to see a teacher, but my son who is in kindergarten. Who’s his teacher? Mrs Givens I say. Well you have to type that hun.  Be helpful if the machine said that, hoping I thought that and didn’t say it out loud.

Turns out it would be even more helpful if I had brought my reading glasses. Not only does it say that on the first screen, by the third screen I apparently had taken several pictures of myself; mostly from the chin down. Now I know what that green square is for. And the helpful lady now knows that I know what the green square is for. I miss you people-less pencil and sheet.

Once I actually got through the process, my four free chin-mug shots printed out, thus declaring for all standing near that I was an imbecile. Needless to say I was not the impressive figure I normally put forth in public.

Thank god I had my wallet with me. I usually leave it in the car for quick trips into a joint where I don’t need money. Needed my license cause the freaking thing scanned the bar code on the back. Then it took another picture. But this time I had the help of the two people behind the desk and the two moms waiting patiently behind me. And they were, trust me. The fifth shot was the charm as it managed to catch my eyes in the frame. So I had my name badge and I was rollin.

Unlike the sheet, you can’t just leave when you’re done. No sir. I had to go back and face my nemesis to sign out. This was just a matter of scanning my brand new name tag. No buttons, no people. I’ve worked on military bases that were easier to access than this joint. Such is life I guess.

As with anything repetition breeds success and cockiness. Now I stride confidently to the terminal, reading glasses affixed, and take amazing ID photos of myself while scoffing at the newbies with pictures of their left ear. Still not as fast as the old sign in sheet, but way cooler now that I know what I’m doing and I remember to bring my wallet and reading glasses.

Once again it’s becomes painfully obvious that I’m the one getting schooled in this place, not Frank.

Hope they put me in the yearbook.