Cougars, Babies, and Boroughs

Delivering the bad news or doing the pee pee dance

Delivering the bad news or doing the pee pee dance

Daddy a cougar got into Frank’s borough and took his baby, come quick!

This was the alarm sounded by my 3 year old daughter as she reenacted Paul Revere’s ride and came running into my office. It’s not a very long sentence, but there’s a lot to digest. It was probably a lot to spit out as well. But then again Anne Marie is the gabby one between the two of them. So let’s break down her ominous exhortation bit by bit so we can get a better understanding.

Daddy a cougar…

OK well I know she’s talking to me. I’m daddy. But a cougar, really? Is she trying to tell me there is an honest to god cougar in the house somewhere? Who knows with this kid. Maybe she’s trying to trick me into some ambush or something. Nothing is out of the realm of possibilities with her.

…a cougar got into Frank’s borough…

A Frank and his borough. No cougar in sight.

A Frank and his borough. No cougar in sight.

This requires some processing. I mean that phrase has several interpretations in several different age ranges. But since we’re talking about my 6 year old and my 3 year old and this is a family blog we’ll switch our interpretation setting to “innocent.” Although that still doesn’t help much. First of all we’re still dealing with a cougar in the house. But now it has found its way into Frank’s borough. A dangerous predicament to be sure. No idea what I’m going to do with that. And where the hell did Frank get a borough? More importantly why does Frank have a borough and where exactly is it?

…and took his baby..

Well holy crap. That cougar is causing all kinds of problems. But there now appears to be a bigger problem, actually two problems. Apparently Frank has a baby. I know they grow up fast and all but wow that was quick. And why exactly would a cougar want Frank’s baby? Did Frank provoke the cougar? Does the baby belong to the cougar and was he merely taking the baby back from Frank? And finally…

…come quick.

Seriously? There is a cougar running around the house stealing babies from boroughs and she wants me to come quick. What the heck am I supposed to do about it? I don’t know nothin bout stoppin no cougars. At least not the four legged kind. But that’s another story for another blog.

The finished borough. Still no cougar.

The finished borough. Still no cougar.

For now I’m dealing not with a cougar, but with a low rent tenement going up in my living room. The finished borough is in the pic to the left. He put the flag on there thinking I wouldn’t ask him to tear it all down if old glory was on the roof. He was wrong.

We came to an agreement, a building moratorium of sorts. He could build his low rent hovels or boroughs or whatever and leave them up for two days. Then said boroughs must be torn down and not replaced for a solid 48 hours from demolition completion.

Also, any untamed wildlife, four or two legged, would be the responsibility of the property management company(him) not the landlord(me). All associate equipment, i.e. blocks, legos, sofa pillows, etc… would also be policed up upon demolition of said structure.


Ya think Trump started out this way?



The Eagle has Landed!

Editor’s Note: This was published 26 July 2012. Three years ago we brought our little Anne Marie home.

If you follow this blog at all you know we do birthdays for days and weeks. Well for this little kid July is like a giant homecoming month. It started with this day in 2012. It was a day filled with the gamut of emotions. There are some things that are hard to recall during the whirlwind 5+ months in the NICU at UT Medical Center, this day isn’t one of those things. 

Enjoy a look back.

The Eagle Has Landed

Got a little curve ball this week.  The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) pulled a fast one on us. We had resigned ourselves to waiting the weekend to bring Anne Marie home on Monday when our pediatrician would be back from her vacation.  We knew we had one more hurdle to jump and that was the rooming in.  That’s where you stay the night in a room alone with the baby and any equipment they may be going home with.  It’s to make sure you can handle the events and the equipment in the middle of the night should the alarm go off.  In our case that meant dealing with a heart monitor.

By all accounts this thing was a nightmare generator.  Apparently it would go off all the time and 99.9% of the alarms would be false.  Plus the alarm could wake the dead.  We were told that by experienced parents and doctors alike.  I relayed this info to the technician charged with teaching us how to use the monitor and her reply was simply: operator error.  You know, one or two people tell me the thing is a piece of junk and I might buy the operator error excuse.  But when several people, including two of the doctors who are recommending we go home with one tell me the thing isn’t great, well the operator error excuse losses a little steam.

We were going to get the chance to test the theory.  Wednesday morning we got the call, “can you room in tonight, it looks like Anne Marie may be released tomorrow?  Will that work for you?”

Yes and yes.

We quick like packed some stuff, got Grammy to cover Frank for the night, and we were on our way for what just might be, finally, the last trip to the NICU we will ever make. Even if AM gets sick now we’re off to Children’s Hospital in downtown Knoxville.

The hang up, as it turns out, was her eating.  One doctor had concerns over the amount she was taking.  She was just getting the bare minimum required per 12 hour shift. Hmmm, just doing the minimum eh?  Just enough to get by, is she?  What do you know, I guess she’s my kid after all. Better cancel that afternoon slot on Maury Povich’s Who’s the baby’s daddy? episode.

Anyway, Anne Marie didn’t sleep during the night, hence the Povich joke – I’m fried – but she ate like a pig all night.  So that was the last thing keeping her there.  Consequently, she’s not there anymore.  She’s here.  And by here I mean not there.  She’s home. Photographic evidence below. But the monitor performed like a champ, no false alarms, no alarms at for that matter, and that’s always good.  The rest of the rooming in, well lets just say that is an exercise in futility.

I was skeptical before doing it and now I really have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish.  We got zero sleep, but not because of the kid or the monitor.  The whole freaking room is loud.  It’s like every item in there has a volume knob and they are all set to “stun”.  The paper towel dispenser sounds like a assembly line robotic arm, the flushing toilet sounds like a jet engine.  You couldn’t even turn over in bed because the mattress made the sound of 1000 rusty gates opening all at once very slowly.  Then we get Ma and Pa Kettle next door, also rooming in, and they decide that 2am was a good time for the airing of grievances.  As loud as it got in the hall I thought for sure they would quickly move on to the feats of strength.  So again not really sure what the sleep deprivation therapy was supposed to accomplish but I think we missed the mark a wee tad.

I have tried, over the course of a few postings, to convey the bonds and relationships that we have been building with some of the staff in the NICU.  It was a tearful goodbye as you might imagine. We have been seeing these people every day, sometimes twice a day, for the past four months. You don’t just walk away from that without shedding a few tears.

A lot of the staff, nurse, docs, admin, came by and said some very glowing things about Anne Marie and some nice stuff about us too.  Well it was mostly about Tracy, but I’m married to her so I get lumped in by default.  It will be very weird not to drive to the hospital every day.  Here’s hoping a lot of them can make it to AM’s first birthday.

Once the van was loaded and the tears had dried, almost, it was time to head home.  We were on our own for the first time.  Again very surreal driving away.  Might take us a few days to get our legs back underneath us.  But as we pulled in Frank came running out to meet his sister.  As usual he rose to the occasion.  “She’s so cute.” “That’s Anne Marie!” came out of his mouth the first time he saw her face to face.  This kid, he is going to be a problem down the road.  I can feel it. Nobody says the right thing at the right time, all the time, unless they’re plotting something.

Here is Frank getting to see and hold his sister for the first time, keeping her warm in her swing, and offering her a binker, albeit with a little more force than is commonly necessary, but he got the job done, binker-wise.  I have no picture or video of it but he also sang her a song that he made up himself.  It was the requisite amount of cuteness and adorableness, I can assure you.

Actual first contact. We told you she was real Frank.

Got to stay warm – the old man likes it freezing in here.

I said take the binker! I’m the big brother now!











We really weren’t sure what Frank would do. Turns out he wants to hold her, feed her, burp her, which he did, take a nap with her, etc…  Frank even started to offer her his toys. Not just any toys mind you, but his cars from the movie Cars 2.  And not just any cars from Cars 2, but Francesco Bernoulli, the open wheel Formula One race car. Crap I don’t even get to play with Bacesco, as Frank calls him, and I take Frank to the golf course, to the pool, make him pizza and what not. Here he is, having never seen his sister face to face and he’s already giving her Bacesco!?

I mean, she really hasn’t earned it if we get down to brass tax.  Well yeah she survived death defying odds after being born 3 1/2 months early and all but I’m not sure that warrants getting Bacesco. She didn’t even appreciate it.  She just crapped her diaper.  Them’s fightin words, or ya know, fightin noises, on the streets of my home town.

But sharing his stuff?  Already?  This dynamic I am not prepared for.  And I’m feeling like I got a little chooched because I barely get to play with Jeff Gorvette when we play cars and she got Bacesco.  Put it this way, if there is a Cars 3 sequel, Gorvette buys the farm in the opening credits or shortly thereafter, that’s how unimportant he is.  If Frank offers her any Thomas Train above the stature of, say, Skarloey, we will throw down.

Regardless of that little game within a game Frank is pretty jazzed to see his sister finally.  He held her for a second time and she started to cry.  “I’m all done with Anne Marie.”

Yeah that didn’t take long.

Do what you will with Frank, for he is already poisoned by KY Blue, but I belong to the Power T and Rocky Top!

Yeah great, can we go already?

Finally rid of us.

Seeing the sun and breathing outdoor air for the first time ever.



















As most of you know, we did leave someone behind.  Anne Marie and Linda Claire started this together.  No doubt they’ll see each other again.  Hopefully a long time from now.

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






From there to here: 3 years home.

Linda Clare  22 March 2012

Linda Clare 22 March 2012

Seems like a forever ago. At the time, and while we were spinning through all of it, we thought we would never recover. For sure we were thinking we’d never forget. Of course we’re not forgetting, but I didn’t think it would feel as distant as it does now.

When I started writing this blog it was mainly to make myself laugh. It wasn’t with the intention of keeping a running record of my kids upbringing. Well, turns out it’s good for that too. A nice diary for my kids where the can read about each other and themselves and how they entered the world.

Anne Marie & Linda Claire’s entrance was no more important that Frank’s, but it was a bit more stressful and of course sorrowful. Burying Linda Claire days after she was born was absolutely the most shocking and saddest thing I have ever experienced. With Anne Marie still fighting it out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU, there wasn’t much time to absorb the body blow of losing our daughter. She needed us and I can tell you without hesitation we needed her.

Sleeping by his sisters crib waiting for her to come home. Yeah he was feeling it. Animals set for perimeter defense.

Sleeping on his sisters play mat waiting for her to come home eventually. Yeah we were both feeling the stress.

I say all that because at times it seems Frank gets pushed to the back burner a bit. The irony is it was watching Frank and his sister run around today that sparked this post. Anne Marie is now the same age Frank was when she came home from the NICU. Those five months leading up to her homecoming was tough on him. His mommy was in the hospital for a long time, the sisters he was expecting didn’t come home, and his old man was not sleeping, thus I was more grumpy than what might be considered normal.

I wasn’t really sure what he was picking up on if anything at all. But the day we came home from a hospital visit to see his mommy finally clued me into the stress he was carrying. He took himself to bed for a nap at 3:30. That wasn’t new. He had been doing that since he could walk. But he slept through dinner and right on through the night, through breakfast the next day and finally woke up at 10:00am. He was still just two at the time but he was clearly picking up on what was happening.

From here  22 March 2012.  1lb 12oz...

From here 22 March 2012. 1lb 12oz…

Seeing 3 year old Anne Marie today gave us a little insight on how almost 3 year old Frank may have be processing the whole deal. That conversation invariably led to a walk down NICU memory lane. Which then put us on How the hell did we survive that avenue. A lot of it is still somewhat of a blur for Tracy, and me too I guess. I managed to keep writing in those days; mostly updates for friends and family. So we have a good running record of what was going on which helps fill in the foggy blanks.

You can start here: Second Heartbeat? and just read your way forward to get the full story. But if you don’t have 40 hours of free time to commit you can just keep scrolling here.

It’s July 2015 and three years ago this month we brought Frank’s sister home to him. So we celebrate and remember how we got from there to here. Since I’ve babbled enough and pictures tell a much better story than I ever could, here is a little pictorial history for you.

This one is etched in my memory forever.

Etched in my memory forever.

What do you mean "we're Italian?!"

What do you mean “we’re Italian?!”










What it took to keep her from pulling all her tubes out. Strong and determined even at 1lb 12oz.

What it took to keep her from pulling all her tubes out. Strong and determined even at 1lb 12oz.

Frank and Anne Marie - First Contact

Frank and Anne Marie – First Contact











I'm sorry you want to put her where? Kangarooing for the first time.

I’m sorry you want to put her where? Kangarooing for the first time.

After being told she had to say for a bit longer.  BOOM!

After being told she had to say for a bit longer. BOOM!

Yeah we slept a lot. So what.

Yeah we slept a lot. So what.

You just refuse to cut those nose hairs, don't ya pop.

You just refuse to cut those nose hairs, don’t ya pop.










Yeah great, can we go already? 26 July 2012

Yeah great, can we go home already?

... to here.

… to here. Homecoming – almost 7 pounds, 26 July 2012


Bath time. Big brother is on it.

Bath time. Big brother is on it.

Always on her hip.

Always on her hip.

















3 years home. We're excited too girl.

3 years home. We’re excited too girl.


Of course now she’s a berserk 3 year old; flooding bathrooms so she can swim, play-doughing the carpet, and climbing the outside of the stair banisters.

We’re loving (sort of) every second of it.