Throwback Thursday: Well it looks like mud!

Editor’s note: In honor of Frank’s first school field trip to the zoo today, here’s a little Throwback Thursday for you of our first trip to the zoo with Frank. This post is about 5 years old and written when Frank’s Place was just starting out. Enjoy!

Well it looks like mud!

...before the dark times. Before... the Mud Incident of 2009.

…before the dark times. Before… the Mud Incident of 2009.

So we decide to go on our first real family outing.  I think it was our first.  It was a weekday so that means Tracy took the day off.  It must have been a special occasion of some type, but currently it escapes me.  Stop the presses, my dutiful wife just reminded me it was Frank’s first birthday.  Yeah, seems like I should have remembered that.  Anyway we decide to make a weekend of the whole thing starting off with a trip to the zoo.

Whoa, whoa, whoa,  hold the phone a second.  My diluted memory is coming back, thanks to a photo album I did of the event on Facebook.   Frank was actually only 19 weeks old, so it would have been the end of September, not his first birthday which is in May.  It was the weekend I retired and Tracy went back to work from maternity leave.  Yeah seems like ol` mommy should have remembered that.  Well we’ll just keep that between us, no need to gloat to Tracy that I remembered and she did not.

No matter, we press on.  Our “garb” makes more sense now.  No way I would have been wearing a long sleeve sweatshirt in May; end of September, early October probably.  But its East Tennessee and the weather gets “ah mite bit squirrely” as they say round these parts.  That would account for the garb Frank had on.  And before I describe it let me just say Frank followed the runners code of dress ten degrees lighter than the temperature.  In other words if it’s 30 out, dress like it’s 40 because you’ll eventually heat up.  The problem in this case is Frank was not going to be doing any running and we dressed him like it was 60 and it was probably closer to 48 in the early morning hours at the zoo.

It's percolating under there!

It’s percolating under there!

Well too late to do anything about that now.  I covered him with my sweatshirt I think. Not too bad a mess up for first timers until we run into a group of friends in front of the bear cave.  Seems they have this little zoo get together club one a week I believe.

Now we feel like dopes and we can taste the judgement raining down upon us. They weren’t judging us in the slightest but we felt stupid and frankly probably deserved a little judgment at that point.  I mean for all we knew Frank was going to have hypothermia before we made it to the monkey cage.  That would have been a real downer too because the highlight of any zoo trip for me is always the Olympic style feces tossing that goes on in the monkey cage.

We did in fact make it to the monkey cage.  Too cold for the feces toss.  Can’t have the gorillas pull a hammy or blow an achilles while they’re tossing their excrement. Crap!

Although I will risk a fire bombing by PETA to say that seeing a gorilla blow a hammy in the middle of a feces heave might have been too funny for words.   Oh well.  It finally warmed up and we ran into the group of friends, all moms by the way, near the little zoo eatery.  We were pleased to show them that not only was Frank still alive, but the same color he was when they saw him 15 degrees ago.

On a side note I thought it was odd to put a hamburger/hotdog/BBQ joint right along the path of the animal cages.  I mean the cheetah habitat was to the right of this joint, the zebras a little further down.  You would think the animals wouldn’t take kindly to the smell of burning animal flesh all day.  Apparently they didn’t care so we sat down and muckeled some burgers.  I guess cows are not respected by the animals of the Serengeti.

All in all it was a lovely day.  Frank survived and we headed for the gate.  We stopped for the obligatory bathroom break for Tracy.  As I was sitting on the bench fixated on Frank I noticed some mud on his shoe.  That was really odd because at 19 weeks he couldn’t have walked or even stood up, not to mention the fact that we never took him out of the stroller.  The real odd part was the mud was on the top of his shoe near his sock, not on the bottom where you would expect to find mud, that is if he could have walked in the first place.  So no, the bell is not ringing for me yet.

Tracy walks up and I asked her where could he have gotten mud from.  She say’s what mud?  I said the mud on his shoe and as I point I can now see the mud on the side of his leg and in the stroller seat.  I’m like, dammit where is all this mud coming from? Tracy looks at me with that penetrating look that says, your smart enough to fix military airplanes for ten years and you can’t see that our son has just emptied his bowels all over the stroller!?!?

Yeah, alright now I see it’s not mud, but it looked like mud.  Even the “mud” that got on my hands still looked like mud to me.  It wasn’t until the smell overtook us that it became clear there was not one drop of mud anywhere.  It was all Frank.  Funny thing among a host of funny things, Frank was not the least bit concerned.  He had not a care in the world.  So we hotfoot it back to the car.  Yes the car.  This was October of 09.

We didn’t get the mini-van/shuttle Frankerprise until April the following year.  We’re going into hazmat mode in the back seat of my Grand Prix.  In case you were wondering, it ain’t built for that.  Plus we were woefully under-prepared.

I have no idea what were were thinking, but we only had 3 diapers and a small amount of wipes.  The diapers became an issue because the back seat was quickly becoming contaminated and Tracy threw me some diapers.  Wrong answer, diapers 1 and 2 now contaminated beyond usage.  I mean it was like this stuff was just multiplying.  “Mud” was everywhere and the wipes inventory was reaching a critical state.  Just as I wiped some up, there was twice as much as before.  I had to make a command decision.  The back seat was becoming uninhabitable.  We were about to lose the whole shooting match if we didn’t do an emergency egress.

I picked up Frank, stuffed the clean diaper in my pocket and moved to the trunk lid of my car.  We were in full view of the public in the zoo parking lot but at least I could breath and see the sky; two things I was almost positive I would never be able to do again.   Frank, the kid is a trooper.  He was quiet for the most part, probably dumbfounded by what he was witnessing.  At one point it seemed like he laughed a little bit.  Not a jolly, 19 week old type laugh.  It was more of a subtle, sarcastic, “God why do you hate me?” laugh.  Now I have to set up a potty triage on the trunk of my car.

The little mat that you put down on a public restroom changing table, yeah that was annihilated inside of 3 seconds.  But a quick lesson for the young kids – the reusable shopping bags all the tree huggers use at the grocery store – they double nicely as a diaper changing station and, when torn in small pieces are surprisingly absorbent.  So we might have to max out on the diaper rash ointment to save Frank’s bottom, but those shopping bags really cleaned up the area.

It was a shame though.  The 4 grocery bags that bit the dust were actually a gift from Tracy.  When she realized I was using those at The Kroger she got me 4 bags with the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies logos on them.  Good soldiers all. I’ll miss them.

Somehow we managed to finally get cleaned up.  We did have a onsie that survived the avalanche.  So Frank rode home in style.  We tightened up his diaper bag after that little adventure.  I also put a few packs of wipes in the car as well, just in case.

We learned some valuable lessons that day.  Not the least of which was, if your kid can’t walk, then that can’t be mud.

Balloons on the ceiling: A birthday week survived.

You know that old saying, no good deed goes unpunished? Yeah, that’s a real thing. The saying is a living breathing thing, the punishment as severe as the deed is good. In other words the severity of punishment you receive for your good deed is consistently equal to the goodness of your deed. From what I can tell and have experienced, it’s not just a saying, it’s the law.

Anyway as you may or may not be aware March 22nd marked the start of Anne Marie’s birthday week. Yes week. This concept is new to me, baptized into it by my wife. It took me a bit to get my mind around it. My next door neighbor, who will go nameless (Whitney), claims there is such a thing as a birthday month. I can’t believe it, I won’t believe it. But I’m usually wrong about these things so…

No matter. The point being, with a birthday week in play there is a plethora of good deeds to be accomplished resulting in a cornucopia of punishment to be doled out for said good deeds.

Don’t laugh. You’re not exempt. Your punishment for the good deed of visiting my blog is having to endure social media’s version of home movies, i.e. the pics of AM’s birthday week in this post.

But as for me, the good deed causing my punishment was an early morning, like 7 am early, to the Kroger to get birthday balloons so we could decorate the kitchen for AM before she woke up. Yeah we could have done it the night before, but let’s face it, that’s just not our style.

Confirmation came from Tracy that she called and was told a worker bee would actually be there to fill said balloons. Cause you know, minimum wage employees never lie to get some crazy person off the phone at 11 pm on a Friday when they won’t be there 7 am the next morning to worry about it.

So with that solid intel, off I go. Out into the wee morning to see this fictitious Kroger Balloon man. Although I get the feeling it would be more likely I’ll find the Ohio Grassman (Ohio version of the Bigfoot).

Hey guess what, no Kroger Balloon man. No man or woman of any type at the Kroger in the 6:54 am time frame, save the produce guy. As luck would have it I happen to know the guy. He says he can fill the balloons. Nice!

Balloons filled and harnessed and floating, I stride confidently to the checkout lane. First in line at 7:10 am Saturday morning, who would have guessed. Annnnd she has no idea what they cost or how to ring them up. She tried everything short of just pointing her little bar code scanner gun directly at the balloons. Not sure I would have held it together had she done that.

I decide to head back to the produce/balloon guy and get some advice. With Balloons in hand, sort of. They were floating above me. I walk the 100+ yards back to the produce section and relay my tale of woe. The dude says “Man she knows how much they are, she has a bar code in the book.”

Ah the book, yes the book. It looked worse than the cookbook binder my little sister gave Tracy as a gag when we got married; no recipes, just take out menus. We still use it 11 years later.

He gives me the packages just in case and I walk back the same 100 yards, in danger of wearing a groove in the floor. It is now 7:30 in the am.

At the register she gets more physical about finding the bar code. In  the midst of thrashing about her work station she notices the two Mylar balloons have bar codes on the stem where the string attaches. She attacks. A tell tale beep is heard and joy covers the land for a brief second.

Whoops. No joy in Mudville. Code came up ERROR. Even worse, I notice the bagger kid looking strangely up at the ceiling some 40 feet away. I ready my self to render first aid and buddy care as I perceive he is about to take a seizure.

Turns out it was me who would need the aid. The lad was merely watching the two Mylar balloons escape from the bundle due to the register lady’s aggression, and float harmlessly but aggressively to the ceiling. Flipping me off the entire way. It is now 7:38 am and I have yet to accomplish anything but watch two balloons float away.

I can stand no more and let out a, “Oh c’mon man, are you freaking kidding me!” This caused some action. The kid ran back to the balloon counter and inflated two more and came back with a way for me to actually buy them. Should have yelled sooner.

Balloons, and reciept, in hand I make it to the Starship Frankerprise (our mini-van) at 8:07 am and begin the mile long journey back to the house. So yeah only 1 hour and 13 minutes to drive 1 mile to the Kroger, get 8 balloons, and drive the mile back. Einstein’s theory of speed of light was not in danger.

Wasn’t all that way. It turned out to be a pretty good week. If you’re not worn out from reading that take a look at the week that was.

I give you AM’s Birthday Week, iPhone camera style.

Last night of being two.

Last night of being two.



In a fit of stupidity I decided to try and make a Minnie Mouse cake…

That's a lot of cake.

That’s a lot of cake.









Which drove me back to this…

Nectar of the gods.

Nectar of the gods.










My first face attempt. Ever.

My first face attempt. Ever.

And the finish. At least AM recognized Mini.

And the finish. At least AM recognized Minnie.










Ok enough bragging. Here are some pics of the birthday girl and her week.

Throwing down at Little Gym.

Throwing down at Little Gym.

Waiting on the Ohio Grassman or the Kroger balloons. It's a toss up.

Waiting on the Ohio Grassman or the Kroger balloons. It’s a toss up.

Hey it's the balloons!

Hey it’s the balloons!


Introducing her to fire was not my idea.

Introducing her to fire was not my idea.



















Corsage hand made by our friend Gary at Echelon Florists.

Corsage hand made by our friend Gary at Echelon Florists.

1st daddy/daughter dance.

1st daddy/daughter dance.











The Daddy Daughter Dance was a great way to end the week. She loved dancing with her daddy and talked about it the whole way home.

The balloons on the ceiling was not a great start. But clearly the week rebounded nicely.

The birthday week bar has now been set.

God help me.





Hey Frank, It’s Masters Week!

I'll be carrying this kid's clubs one day.

I’ll be carrying this kid’s clubs one day.

Masters Week!

The Drive, Chip, & Putt Championship for kids is today, State of the Game address on Monday, player press conferences Tuesday, Par 3 championship Wednesday, and go time on Thursday through Sunday with 5 live streaming feed on Guess where I’ll be all week.

A Tradition Unlike Any Other. 

Well, there are a lot of traditions colliding today.

First and foremost it’s Pops birthday. Passing on last month he would have been 87 today. He didn’t specifically turn me on to golf, just sports in general. We watched them all. The first football game I remember is a pre-season game between our Eagles and the Cleveland Browns, 1974 I think. A kid named Brian Sipe lit the boys in green up. It was also the first time I remember my dad yelling at the TV. The Eagles then, much like the Browns now, tend to elicit that response.

But it was in 1986 when I watched golf with any interest. That was the year Jack did what we wished all of our sports heros could do. Jack Nicklaus, at the age of 46, turned back the clock and won the Masters. Jack played the game the right way according to my dad. “No histrionics, he just hits the damn ball!” my dad would say.

My Dad didn’t even play golf. He didn’t care for it very much as a sport, but he liked watching it and at that time the giants of the game were dominant, Jack, Arnie, Lee Trevino, Gary Player. But play it, nope. Only twice in his life did he swing a golf club. He always told me the same two golf stories during the Masters.

The first time he got talked into golf was at a driving range. He went for the express purpose of keeping the guy from busting his chops about it all the time. So my dad, who was a big man, 6′ 2″ ish and probably 220, grabs a driver of all things for his first attempt at hitting a golf ball. A natural athlete, he of course crushed the ball, by his estimate about 250 yards. He was barely trying. He fixed that on the next swing and decided to hit it as hard as he could. The ball never moved, the club went 60 yds. It would have gone further but it hit the cart of the guy scooping up the golf balls.

The next and last time he ever played was at an executive par three course in front of a hotel he was staying at for work. It was a green with a few different places to tee off. Between the tee boxes and the green was a deep trench about 15 feet top to bottom and some 60 yards across. In other words, hit the green or the ball is in the ravine.

That ball is getting across the Ravine.

That ball is getting across the Ravine.

So the golf nut working with my dad who talked him into hitting on this 100yd par three, jacked his first four shots into the ravine. The guy felt like his last shot didn’t go too far down the hill so he went to retrieve it. He tells my dad to go ahead and hit.

Well my dad could be a bit of a ball buster too. So he swings his club, picks up his ball, and throws it across the ravine and it lands on the green. All in plain view of an older couple siting on a bench in front of the hotel watching the next Arnie and Jack showcase their skills.

When the guy crawls up the other side of the ravine and sees my dad’s ball on the green some 15 feet from the hole he starts hollering about how great a shot it was. My dad says, “I told you I didn’t play and wasn’t any good.” The guy was dumbfounded. My dad, with a deadpan expression says, “Well if I was any good it would have gone in.” The dude was crest fallen and the old couple probably wet themselves laughing. Yeah my old man could break balls with the best of them.

Somehow, in spite of all that I became hooked on golf. My addiction is due in large part to a couple of friends who taught me the game. Because of that my son Frank, named for his Grandfather, is also currently hooked on the game. Unlike his Grandfather, my little Frank can hit the ball. He has a great swing and he loves playing. He would rather go to the golf course than sit in front of the TV. His Grandfather would approve.

It’s also Easter Sunday. The first since my dad went to his eternity. If there is a more devout Catholic out there, I’ve never seen them. At my dad’s funeral there were several people who came through he viewing line none of us eight kids or my mom knew. Turns out it was the 7am weekday mass crowd there to pay respects to Frank, the guy in the first pew every week. They all had a story about how they interacted with my dad. They seemed as sad as we were.

My dad, the guy who was adamant about getting to church, the guy who once took the pew reserved for King Gustav IV at St. Peter’s Basilica for Midnight Mass in Rome, is now front and center with his maker on the first Easter Sunday since he went home.

We should all have such an eternity.

Well, it’s Masters Week too Dad. And here is your grandson Frank, playing the game the right way; no histrionics, just hitting the damn ball, featured on the Facebook page of one of his era’s giants of the game. I think you would approve.

Literally left speechless when I saw this.

Literally left speechless when I saw this.

Happy Birthday Pop!