Diary of a SAHD: So this is Christmas

Growing up in a big family made holidays a lot of fun, especially Christmas. With 5 sisters and 2 brothers, there was always something going on. It really was a blast and I have some great memories of Christmas as a kid.

Mays Landing NJ Christmas  1967

Mays Landing NJ, Christmas 1967

Here we all are, Christmas 1967. Well not all of us. I was born that August so my little sister, The Warden, was three years away. We were/are just what you’d expect. A big Italian, Catholic family.

My Grandmother (dad’s/Italian side) usually stayed with us for a few weeks over Christmas before she eventually moved in. That always made for some fun in the kitchen as she would try to teach my older sisters how to bake. I remember a few older great Uncles or cousins around too.

The house was jumpin from early December right through New Year’s day. It stayed that way even after we all started to move out.

Mays Landing NJ, Christmas 2004

Mays Landing NJ, Christmas 2004

Here is a shot from 2004. Seven again as The Warden is here but my oldest brother is missing from this picture. Don’t ask. I’d have to start an entirely different blog to deal with that.

No matter, Christmas is always at the house.

Until now. I live in Knoxville TN, some 660 miles away. Christmas is still at the house in Jersey, I just attend by Skype. The place is mobbed too. A whole new generation sprang up. My new generation sprang up in Knoxville. Both kids born and likely will be raised in the south, hundreds of miles from the house where I grew up. Light years from all the memories.

One of the conditions of having children was they would do holidays in their own house. I was hoping Christmas would be fun for Frank, that he would get something similar to what I had. It’s been fun. I mean, he’s just one kid, he plays quietly for the most part. He’s a little weird. Goes very slowly with the opening of presents. Any candy he gets he passes around the room before he takes one. Freak.

But still, he was an only child. The effect of not having siblings became obvious when he started pre-school at the age of two. Something I was completely against, and consequently completely wrong about. The boy needs to be around kids his own age more than he needs to hang with me all day.

Now it's Christmas Season

Now it’s Christmas Season

Here he is at the school Christmas program. That big smile is the norm. The goofy dress with the bow isn’t the norm, regardless of what the Sac moms say.

Anyway, it looks like the memories will be a bit better this year. In fact they already are. He has a sister now, a sister who can run and yell and tear up his stuff. Christmas morning should be a lot more fun this year.

The school program was just the start. AM got to come to that and for the first visit to a church since her baptism she did great. Literally sat quiet for the whole program, about 30 minutes total.

The matching dresses is a little disconcerting.

The matching dresses is a little disconcerting.

Turned out edible too

Turned out edible too

Mrs Frank’s Place has also had them in the kitchen baking. They really look like they know what they’re doing. Frank only kicked AM off the step stool once. That’s a win folks.

They did pretty well for their first attempts at a pie made from scratch. While they bake like their mother, dirtying every freaking baking utensil, pan, measuring apparatus, etc…, the overall mess was much less than I expected.

Crucial, because I’m clean up crew.

We’ve even been to this fantasy of trees thing-a-ma-bob at the convention center in Knoxville. Snowed like crazy that day too. Really got the old Christmas blood pumping.

Frank wasn’t a fan, but Anne Marie was.

Wait, you mean I can't touch any of it? I don't get it.

Wait, you mean I can’t touch any of it? I don’t get it.

The place looked a lot like a hotel lobby until you got into the main hall. That caused Frank to go looking for the pool. We’ve taken him to Jersey quite a few times. He knows hotels have pools and he gets to swim in them.

So he was a little out of sorts for a bit, once he accepted our hard truth about the pool, or lack there-of.  He warmed up eventually, but AM was eyeballing the place from start to finish.

We were feeling pretty good about the convention center thing. We decided to tempt fate and let them both help put the tree up.

The reality is this, it could go 99 different ways and only one of those ways is good.

So it was either dumb luck or a Christmas miracle that both kids played nice and obeyed almost the entire time and the tree never went horizontal. I handed them an ornament, they ran to the tree to put it on. Then they ran back for another one. Tracy was at ground zero making sure all the ornaments didn’t end up on the bottom foot and a half of the tree, but for the most part they did it all themselves.

I’m not kidding. I have pictures.


The traditional pre-tree trimming pizza.

Going two fisted.

Going two fisted.

Trump could learn a thing or two from this kid.

Trump could learn a thing or two from this kid.


After a quick wardrobe change to their jammies it’s on to the tree!

Hat and all, just like a little Kringle.

Hat and all, just like a little Kringle.

Hip check by Frank...

Hip check by Frank…

...hip check has no impact. She's still on her feet!

…hip check has no impact. She’s still on her feet!


After the hip check incident of 2013 it was oddly civilized the rest of the night.

Mrs Frank’s Place threw on some music and we were all moving like a well oiled machine.

Well they were, I was just laying by the ornament bin like it was the company water cooler. My traditional position when work is occurring. Someone has to be the anchor.

I don't care if you're trying to beat Frank. One ornament at a time.

I don’t care if you’re trying to beat Frank. One ornament at a time.

Nice try bro. One to a customer.

Nice try bro. One to a customer. Note 2nd wardrobe change for midget 1.


So the second midget has been a much needed addition to the Christmas festivities. The first midget may push her down a lot, but he’s awful glad she’s here.

It will be interesting to see if Frank picks up the pace unwrapping gifts when he sees the Tasmanian Devil shredding hers.

And she will. She already found one by complete happenstance. I only know because I heard the ripping of paper.

It’s not an official time, I think it was wind aided. It was laying near the vent and the heat was blowing on it. But she skinned that cat somewhere in the 4.6-5.1 sec time frame.

Christmas morning should be a lot more fun when she finishes her stuff and goes to work on Frank’s.

This is feeling dangerously close to “Careful what you wish for” territory.

Ah well, here’s to memories in the making.




Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: The great escape…. Almost

So the little one catches on quick.  She was able to roll over from her belly to her back about a month ago.  That’s 8 months actual age, 4 months, 2 weeks adjusted age for those scoring at home.  Not great, but not bad for a micro-preemie.  We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, hoping really.

One of the unintended advantages of the heart monitor was the sleeping on the belly.  She loves to sleep on her belly.  When you have a monitor keeping tack of her breathing and heart rate it’s no problem to let her sleep like that.  That’s generally a no no until the kid learns to roll from back to front, the tougher of the two roll maneuvers.  Once they can roll on to their belly it’s out of your hands.  We were encouraged by the NICU docs and our own pediatrician to let her sleep on her belly if she liked it.  It was great.  She loved it and she slept a lot better that way.  But in October she was coming off the monitor and would either have to sleep on her back or learn to roll over from back to front.

Sleeping on the back was not happening.  It also appeared like the roll over would not happen either.  But then she learned to get that outside leg over and gravity would do the rest.  Victory, she can rollover for front to back and back to front.  She gets to keep sleeping on the belly and we get to keep sleeping through the night.  Hard to imagine but this kid sleeps as much as Frank does at night.  She routinely goes from 8pm to 10 or 11am with out a lot of fuss.

We were relieved to see she could roll onto her belly.  Until I came into the living room, looked down at the blanket I had left her on, and she was gone.

She could roll over, but she wasn’t making a habit of it, and she was just barely getting over from her back to belly.  So she was still fairly immobile.  Which was nice as long as she was happy laying there with a few toys to chew on.  I could run upstairs to get laundry going, clean the kitchen, dash off a few paragraphs of this, monitor my media empire, you know everyday stay at home dad stuff.

I think the day she disappeared I was polishing a post I was about to put up on our political/social/cultural blog, Unfiltered & Unfettered.  It got awful quiet in the living room.  Now I know from already having a kid that little before, and even now as a 3yr old, quiet means bad, danger, trouble, mine or theirs.  It’s like the antelopes on the Serengeti. They know when the lion is about to pounce.  The feel it right before it happens, it gets eerily quiet and still.  The gomer who’s not paying attention to the quiet? well, he’s an easy kill for the lion.  Only way it could get easier for the lion is if the antelope spread honey mustard on himself.  That’s what it’s like in a house with kids.  Not the honey mustard part, the quiet, the quiet is a bad sign.

So I feel the quiet and decide to take a look see.  Except there is nothing to look at.  She’s gone.  Not there.  Vanished.  The blanket just stares back at me as if to shrug, “I dunno.” Where the hell could a 5 month adjusted age micro premie who can’t walk, has no contacts outside of the house that I’m aware of, no access to resources, and no ability to speak, go in five minutes?  More importantly, how am I going to explain this.  “Well Tracy, Anne Marie left.  Yeah she left. No she didn’t leave a note or forwarding address.”

Then I see the Christmas tree moving.  I know it’s not the cat.  Frank and I finally buried Pumpkin’s ashes a week ago after two plus years of sitting in the china cabinet, which was a nicer place than being two feet under the dirt in the back yard.  I’m not sayin. I’m just sayin.

Anyway back to finding the kid.  Look down, nothing.  Tree still moving and then a giggle. Get down on the carpet and see this:

It's not the cat

It’s not the cat









Yeah I grabbed my phone and took a picture.  She looked OK to me.  Wasn’t like she was getting eaten by a camel or anything.

She rolled clear across the room.  That’s no small feat.  She had just rolled over from her back to her belly a few days ago, now she went about 15 feet.  That must have been at least six or seven rolls.  Never can tell what will motivate a kid.  We had just put the tree up.  Must have grabber her interest.


Here is a shot of Pumpkin.

Pumpkin Cat 1988-2010 That was his favorite spot too.

Pumpkin Cat 1988-2010 







Must be something about that spot.  He loved sitting there too.  Although he just walked there.  Rolling was not his style.