Homicide or Honey Mustard: Life choices at the chik-fil-a.

You know, sometimes there are things you should just not write about. This may be one of those things. Not sure, so I’ll judge by your reaction as to whether or not I’ve erred here.

Frank decides he wants to go out for lunch. He rarely makes that request. In fact he’s never made that request, so we go. It’s just me and him. He’s very decisive about where he wants to eat too. You know, that place with the cows and the funny words…

He knows the name, he’s just being a pain because he thinks he’s asked for chicken too many times. Plus the chik-fil-a he wants to go to is the one with the playground in it and he thinks I won’t want to take him there. So I give him two quick life lessons.

Lesson 1: I can eat my body weight in chick-fil-a chicken, and I can do that every night; twice a day if necessary. There is never a time I can’t be talked into chicken and waffle fries.

Lesson 2: I have no issue with the playground joint. It’s fenced in, the only way in is through the restaurant. Our southern border should be so secure. Plus he’s six now, I don’t have to watch him. He can go out there on his own and I can sit in chick-fil-a air conditioning, necking down a box golden fried chicken like objects with alarming efficiency.

But like I always say no selfish deed ever goes unpunished. Well I never say that really but it’s still true. As I’m relaxing in relative quiet, muckling what I’m sure was once a chicken, I look up as Frank is coming back in from the playground. Two things happen. I realize he’s coming in to finish his lunch. That would be the lunch I am currently eating. Whoops.

The other thing? I see out of the corner of my eye a very tall snot nosed 14 year old making for the same door as Frank but going in the opposite direction and moving much faster, fueled by whatever life altering angst he’s currently carrying. The kid slams the door open, sending my 6 year old flying backward off his feet, onto his back.

I am three steps to the snot nose kid before Frank can get up. I can’t decide what I’m going to do when I get there, but I resign myself to the fact it won’t be pleasant for anyone involved but me. As I get through the door and move toward the now pouting teen and what appears to be his parents, Frank is up and jabbering on about something.

It occurs to me Frank is trying to tell me something in a very excited almost hyper fashion. Great, his friggen brains are all scrambled, probably has a concussion. No golf for me tomorrow. It’s my only four hours out of the house. I can’t be missing my tee time cause I’m in trouble for breaking Frank. Now I’m really gonna make Tommy Troubled Teen pay.

But I can’t because my now brain damaged son is jabbering and grabbing my pants. So it hits me, why isn’t he crying? When his sister hits him half as hard he’s inconsolable for an hour. Frank just got catapulted across the playground and he’s extremely excited about something.

I finally heard it and my heart sank. Stopped me dead in my tracks. My anger all but dissolved. I can’t see Snot Nosed Ultra-angst Teen anymore. I can only see the next 15+ years of my 6 year old’s life. I was hoping this would come much later. Hoping I’d have him hooked on golf for life so he would have a safe haven after the first one broke his heart.

Daddy she’s here. She’s here!

Oh son, you have no idea how much I want to protect you from the pain coming your way at some point or another for the next several years, maybe more. I’m not a gambling man but unless this girl is the one you’ll grow old with, I’m betting there’s a few more heartbreaks in your future.

I’m happy you’re happy but I already ache for the ache coming your way. There is no way around it, over it, or past it. You just have to live through it until you finally find your one.

And yeah, will Frank break a heart or two, of course. But right now, the look in his eye, and knowing how his heart works, some girl is gonna crush him. It’s life but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, for son or father.

I didn’t even know who he was talking about, but I assumed it was someone from his kindergarten class, kids he hasn’t seen since school let out a month ago. I know who she is now and obviously won’t name her. She’s 6 as well so no doubt she can read the drivel I write but I’m guessing she’s not a Frank’s Place follower. No matter, he was so excited she was there he was unfazed by Too Tall Teen knocking him off his feet.

Turns out Frank wasn’t coming to eat, just to tell me; Daddy she’s here! 

A boy and his chicken... and the playground of life

A boy and his chicken… and the playground of life

As he finishes telling me about her he decides he does want some of his chicken after all. Unfortunately heartache came sooner than later. He looks at the empty box and then looks at me. Sorry dude, it’s in my belly. Saying that with the fat man’s Irish accent from Austin Powers movies doesn’t assuage his disappointment.

He was crest fallen. But that was an ache I could fix, and fix fast. A quick trip to the counter and he was eating again in no time. And by no time I mean he plowed through that chicken, keeping one eye on her the whole time. When she ran back out to the playground, off he went. Never even looked back.

I watched him through the glass, another plus of this joint, it was like having your own little kid zoo without the gorilla feces toss. As I watched him follow her around I thought, his little whatever this is may have kept me out of jail. I really wanted to go do violence to the kid, but I had just opened a fresh honey mustard and a chik-fil-a sauce, and Frank left some chicken on his plate, so…

I don’t generally feel one bit of my 48 years. However moments like that, watching my son getting happy over a girl while I eat all his honey mustard chicken is actually better than doing murder. The mind was willing, but the body weak. Apparently I must be getting old.

Jerk weed and his parents leave the place and Frank waves me out to the playground. He is up in the big climbing maze like thing they have and going full tilt. But he stops long enough to ask me if I saw her. Oh Frank.

She went back inside with her family and after ten minutes in the sweltering heat I decide it’s time to go. Just as Frank starts to climb down she comes back out and actually speaks to him. I feel this won’t end well for me.

She says “Come on Frank.” I absent mindedly say at almost the same time, “Hey man let’s make tracks, chop chop.” And this moment will be forever etched in my mind. Surely it’s a memory that will follow me even beyond the grave into the ether.

My 6 year old son looks down at me from this giant kid hive and gives me a look. The look. Then he has to do it again cause I have no idea what he’s trying to say. I resist channeling my mother by yelling at the top of my lungs, “What did you say!” Thus outing any covert messaging he might be trying to convey.

As I bear down to concentrate I realize he’s looking at me, then nodding his head toward you know who, and then back at me. Without using words, and now that I’m paying attention, two bros have just communicated about 8 paragraphs worth of information in two nods.

Basically he was saying pop don’t jam me up here. Can we hang for a few more. She’s right there and talking to me. Wait right over there with the grandparents, I’ll be down in like 10. Attempting to process what just happened I walk to the old people area and sit down. I was conflicted.

Obviously I don’t want to wreck whatever game the kid is running. On the other hand do I really want to be complicit in letting the kid run game? That answer is pretty easy actually. He’s going to fall for who ever he’s gonna fall for, with my input or not. I take solace in the fact he involved me, ever so slightly, in this part of his life.

Playing golf as much as I do invariably I’ll run into people from the other side of the tracks; the rich side that is. Some 30 year old will be running his yapper about some business deal or about being on the precipice of becoming a half millionaire or whatever and I’ll make a joke about my bad life choices. You don’t join the military for the money. That statement gets truer and more apparent after a 22 year hitch.

But as corny as it must sound, even though I’m almost 48 and he’s only 6, seeing my Frank get goofy over a girl restores my faith in my life choices.

Well except for eating about 10lbs of fried chicken like pieces. I paid dearly for that life choice later on.




Naked and Afraid: Two hours in the mall without my phone.

This was a completely new experience for me. Caught so off guard, I had no idea how to act. Where do I go? What do I do? What the hell do I do with my hands? Am I allowed to make eye contact with people? What’s the protocol? So many questions and so few answers. One thing was vividly clear. I would have to find a way to survive almost two hours in the mall without my phone. I was…. Naked and Afraid!

Unlike the marginally popular cable TV series, I was not really naked. Good chance the title would have gone from Afraid to Alone had I been naked. No the nakedness was emotional, dare I say spiritual.

Before moving on let me just say this is not a treatise on the current smart phone culture. This will not be a plea for people to get their faces out of their smart phones and reconnect with humanity. Quite the contrary. I love my phone. I enjoy my phone. I’m not ashamed of my phone.

My phone gets me.

My phone gets me.

My phone can guide me to new places and play my music over the speakers of the Frankerprise (our mini-van). It allows me to walk through crowded, busy, places without engaging people. No way to even calculate the value of that.

More importantly, my phone tells me how far I am from any given pin on and given green on any given golf course. My phone knows how far I hit my 7 iron. It tracks how many fairways I hit. It just… gets me.

So no, this is not me smugly telling you that the people of earth have become too obsessed with their phones and have lost the ability to engage in the most basic human contact. This is me saying it sucks when said phone is taken away and you’re stuck at the mall forcing you to engage in the most basic human contact. It’s a very discombobulating feeling.

I kind of knew I was in trouble when I dropped my phone on the hardwood floor. Of course I dropped it face down so as to eliminate any protection from the phone cover and provide maximum damage potential. Mission accomplished. Complete shattering of the touch screen. I knew in my heart what that meant. I would have to journey to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in the mall. God those people love to talk to you and make you feel like one of them with all their customer servicey behavior. I hate that.

But my burden would be compounded. The joint was covered up. I mean at 10:05 in the a.m. it was packed. Every other store in the mall was like a mausoleum. This place, barely had room to walk. Genius 1 spots me and moves in.

He starts his assault on my disdain for people. By that I mean he used every cliche greeting short of the Ned Flanders from the Simpsons classic, “Hi-dilly Ho-dilly Neighbor!” But beyond that he was all bad news. A three hour wait meant an appointment two days from now. Yeah I had to go back. Twice in a week is just about my lifetime limit.

Well thank the Apple gods I had an appointment. Two days later the place was jammed again. Sullen but judgmental Ned Flanders greets me this time. When he finds I have an appointment he perks up, judgment abated. Another 3 hour wait for the non-appointees, he tells me. But not me, I go straight to the genius bar. I don’t drink but that’s OK cause I  think the genius tag is an honorary thing, so it’s a push.

Fix-it Ned says he can change the glass in ten minutes. OK now they’re speaking my language. Hold the phone Fix-it Ned says, (haha see what I did there), glass change is ten minutes, but another hour or so, 90 minutes most likely, for the touch screen and all its glorious-ness to calibrate. An hour or what? Ned says, “When you come back you’ll have your phone all fixed or a brand new phone.” When I come back? I have to leave?! A new phone, that’s awesome, but that doesn’t help me for the next hour and a half Ned.

So out I go. Into the dark cruel world of the mall. When I crossed the threshold of the Apple Store into the mall I felt cold, naked even. The dark side of the force is strong here. I wasn’t even sure which way to turn. What do I do with my hands? I have nothing to hold, nothing to pretend to be so engrossed in allowing me to ignore all those around me. I need to move. My feet need to move in some direction.

Pretzels, I smell pretzels! I’ll go get a pretzel. That should take at least an hour right? I have no idea. Sadly it took much longer than it really should have. Old girl Annie, of Annie’s Pretzel fame, was gettin the 411 from a friend standing at her counter. Apparently there was some dust up with Gina and Mark at a rather raucous social engagement the night before. Mark was all like being a butt-hole and Gina was having none of that drama. Gina, as it turns out, doesn’t suffer butt-holes.

Good for you Gina. Raise the bar girl. Mark is a chooch, you know you can do better. OK so the mall may more fun than I thought. So the town crier finished her appointed rounds of gossip and toddled off to parts unknown, American Eagle Outfitters I would imagine. Or whatever place the kids gather these days. Never the less I had my pretzel and diet coke in short order and wandered off myself, contemplating the fate of Mark and Gina. Maybe those crazy kids can make it after all.

Well I had food, so that means I must need to report to the food court. A bold move considering I was without my shield. Nothing in my hands but a pretzel and a 20oz mall cup full of the nectar of the gods. Eye balls are everywhere. People looking, wanting to engage in some fashion. It was a mine field for sure. Navigated safely, I found a table. Harking to my Italian roots, my back is as close as can be to a wall. No whacking for this weary mall traveler.

Even after I sit down the issue of my hands keeps cropping up. I’m running out of pretzel. What the hell do I do when I have no more butter drenched twisted dough to jam in  my face? It was a quandary.

People watching is good. I’ll people watch. Yeah the was a bad move. Doing that caused me to weep for humanity. I’ll just leave the food court experience like this. If Whitney Houston was right and children are our future, mall children in-particular, take the gas pipe now my friends we are doomed!

It occurred to me I had no way of knowing what time it was. I didn’t have my phone. I don’t wear a watch. No way to see the sky, although I’m not sure what that would get me. I dropped the phone off Wednesday afternoon, it could be Thursday already for all I knew. So I walked out to the Frankerprise and used the on-board computer (dashboard clock) to calculate my time and season. What felt like a millennia, was only 55 minutes.

OK I can meander through Sears Hardware for a good 15 minutes and then arrive at Apple 5 minutes later making me 10 minutes early. If the gods are happy and my nectar, (diet coke) holds out I should get to the Apple Store to find my phone ready to go. And that’s what happened.

Phone in hand, watching Star Wars Rebels, as God intended.

Phone in hand, watching Star Wars Rebels, as God intended.

A little anti-climactic really. But I had my phone.

My emotional clothes are back on. The world will keep turning for another day.

And now, thanks to Fix-it Ned, I won’t have to engage anyone in it.







Potty Training: Paul Revere and The 1000 yard stare

Aye matey, I be needin a change down there if ye know what i'm a sayin. Arrgh!

Aye matey, I be needin a change down there if ye know what I’m a sayin. Arrgh!

Never in my life would I have imagined so much about my Air Force career and raising my two kids would intersect. In a million years I never would have seen the connection between Air Force test pilots and potty training.

So the obvious and tired lesson is: never say never.

Air Force test pilot and breaker of the sound barrier Chuck Yeager was once asked if he was ever frightened testing so many new aircraft. His response, “I figure an airplane won’t swap ends without letting me know it.” Meaning Yeager felt the plane wouldn’t just break apart or crash without the giving him some type of warning, allowing him to take action.

Air Force test pilots in the late 40s early 50s also had a saying that there was no such thing as an accident, only a series of events leading up to a crash.

What does any of that have to do with potty training? Well funny you should ask.

I’ve learned some things as a parent believe it or not. That may come as a shock to a few people who know me from my Air Force days. We may need to let them catch their breath…     Ok everyone back with us? Great.

Let’s tell some truths shall we. Kids don’t have accidents. From my experience with the potty predicaments kids know what they’re doing. It’s not an accident. It’s a series of events or more closer to the point, a series of decisions, leading up to a mess. A mess they have no burden to clean.

Too many times have my kids stood there looking right at me saying/yelling/crying they had to potty. But instead of moving to the bathroom, they just stand there going potty! Had they been hysterical for 10 seconds instead of 15, they would have made it to the bathroom. They may not have hit the potty, but the clean up is so much easier on the linoleum bathroom floor than it is on the carpet, on the hardwood, or in the tub.

Happier times, before the incident.

Barnacles in happier times, before the incident. We’ll miss him.

Now Frank was a bit of a slow starter but rarely a sneak attacker. He got me once when he was six months or so. Took his diaper off and he hosed me. But that’s about it.

He did whack the tub twice. And I mean whack it, like a Haz Mat Level 5 whacking. But some of that was my fault. Captain Barnacles never had a chance. My first burial at sea. Full Naval honors too. I’ll never watch Octonauts the same again.

Still for the most part Frank would give some good indicators of a pending evacuation. He did the traditional red face, and then the shock face. But he could go quiet as well.

If he abruptly stopped doing or playing and headed for a door jamb or coffee table or ottoman to lean on, I knew he was pooping. When he held on with two hands and then added the red face, I got an extra pack of wipes.

Once he could speak with any consistency we would get the Paul Revere treatment. “I have to poop daddy! Mommy I have to poop!” One day he just went on his own, long before he was potty trained, and dropped a two right in his Lightning McQueen potty. He walks out into the kitchen, bare assed, pants at his ankles, and yells with much attitude, “Can I get some wipes!” I almost fell into the pot of ravioli.

After Frank started on the road to potty independence he would shut the door. He went from public poop proclamations to discrete defecator pretty quickly.

His sister on the other hand is still in the pronouncement mode. She’s almost fully trained and I’m still getting the Paul Revere. She’ll even run past the bathroom to my office to tell me she has to potty. She won’t move till I say “Ok Anne Marie, go potty.” Then it’s off to the races to the potty only to reemerge 5 minutes later: “Daddy I went potty!”  She is a proud pottier.

Throwin the deuce.

Throwin the deuce.

Anne Marie did the red face too. But she developed another signal that a #2 was eminent. She grew out of the red face and went to a very spooky 1000 yard stare.

She would just all of a sudden look off into the distance as if she was contemplating her place in the universe. It took me once or twice to get the signal down. If she goes quiet and stares like she sees dead people, she’s going to poop. If she stares a hole in the wall as if she can see another dimension, she’s going to poop.

However, much like the golf pro who can take his practice routine to the course, Anne Marie has taken her game to the potty. The 1000 yard stare that was the harbinger of diaper doom has reappeared on the big people potty. It’s now the sign of intense concentration.

Unlike her brother, the bathroom door stays open when she’s in there. That’s a two birds with one stone situation. First and foremost if the door is closed and she’s in there, she’s up to no good. More than likely she’s trying to fill the room with water from the sink so she can go swimming. So the door is open for safety’s sake; my safety.

It also stays open because Anne Marie is still in the throws of potty training and still needs help from time to time. With the door open I can hear her calling for me. Because the door stays open, I noticed the 1000 yard stare is still in effect.

Walking past the bathroom I saw my youngest doing her business. At first glance I thought she looked at me. On second glance, her eyes were facing me but she was looking through me, not at me. I’m not entirely sure she even saw me. It was spooky, not gonna lie.

When she didn’t respond after my second try I decided to treat her like a sleepwalker. We’re still not waking sleepwalkers right? Anyway, I figured she was finding her place in the universe while concentrating on making poo. Plus she is almost to full potty independence. I’m not gonna break her routine.

Hey a little concentrated poo making never hurt anyone.

I don’t think.