Finally A Parent or A River Runs Through It.

It’s official. I’m finally a parent.

Yeah I had a kid before, Frank, but that wasn’t parenting. He was easy.

He ate everything in sight. He would reach over the bag of chips to grab broccoli. He’s eaten more vegetables by the age of 5 than I have my entire life. He’s polite to adults and most other kids. He says please and thank you. He sings to his sister when she whines or cries. Oh and he sleeps. He sleeps like a crazy bastard.

He no longer naps but when he did they would go from 2:30 to 6pm-ish. Yeah, almost 4hrs. He would get up for dinner and go back to bed around 8:00pm and sleep through till 8:30 or 9am. That’s not even the crazy part. When he started walking, he would take himself upstairs and put himself to nap. Not kidding. At first I would stop him to change his diaper and then send him on his way. After a while I just got used to the sight of him dragging ass up the stairs with Lenny/Lambie and listening for his door to shut.

For his first haircut at an actual haircut joint, he sat there and took it. He even followed Miss Courtney’s instructions. When we dropped him for his first day of pre-school, at the ripe old age of two, he never made a peep and never looked back. Been that way ever since.

That’s not parenting. That’s observing.

Frank was on auto-pilot

Frank’s sister is not on auto-pilot. She is always on a collision course with a mountain top somewhere. In the likely event of a cabin depressurization, complimentary oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Please affix your own oxygen mask before helping the person seated next to you.

Now I’m a parent. This kid is running my ass off. I have no ass. Although it may have rotated around to my gut. Regardless, I’m running morning, noon, and night with this one. And my complimentary oxygen mask has not dropped from the ceiling yet. Case in point below.

A River Runs Through It

Last week during the normal course of events it became apparent this child will require much more monitoring. Not necessarily in the helicopter dad mode, more of the NSA – Big Brother tracking her every move, mode.

Whilst folding the morning laundry in my room watching Return to Fat Camp: The Thinning, young Anne Marie played on her own in the bonus room. For whatever reason it felt a little too quiet. I shook that off, thinking I can at least fold these socks before I walk down there.

Always go with your first instinct.

This is what I found when I finally got those damn socks folded.

Didn't van Gogh start out this way?

Didn’t van Gogh start out this way?

Yeah, so permeant marker, Sharpie brand to be exact. However, amongst the myriad of things I learned that day was this little gem. Nothing is permanent for moms. They know ways around stuff dudes haven’t even thought about yet. I’m not ashamed to admit my first thought was to call my sister-in-law Rachel. Well, my first thought really was oh sh*t! Tracy’s gonna kill me, I gotta get this off before she gets home!

My second thought was Rachel. No matter the strides made by stay at home dads, the natural instinct to call a mom you know will have an answer for you, proves that we SAHD’s have a long way to go. I knew Rachel would know what to do. And as usual she did. Alcohol wipes and soak in the bath if wipes don’t work. No go on the wipes, a bath it is. This is perfect, AM loves the bath so this should be easy.

So I do a quick mental check of the ole to do list. Lunch first and then bath looks to be the most efficient use of already wasted time. AM says she wants to wash her hands. Perfect. You can’t see it in the picture but her hands were covered as well. This will be like a little pre-soak before the bath and give me a few minutes to get lunch going before she starts busting my balls about being hungry.

Downstairs I go. AM appears and wants to eat. I listen closely for the sound of water running upstairs. I hear nothing and AM says she turned off the water. OK.

Anyone feeling a little twinge right now. Hold on to that.

We eat lunch and kibitz around a bit downstairs, change a big time dirty diaper, etc… After about 40 minutes I can now hear water running. But I can only hear it if I stand in the hall way near the door to the garage. No sinks are running downstairs. Standing at the bottom of the stairs I still can’t hear water running upstairs. But I’ll be damned if I can’t hear water running by the garage door. I pop it open and take a peek. If Frank was there at that moment he would have said something like, “Daddy, why is there a waterfall in the garage?” Indeed Frank, indeed.

Yep, a full blown Niagara class waterfall coming from the garage ceiling. I’m no plumber but I figure that has to be coming from a sink or tub upstairs. Up the stairs I go, taking four steps at a time. When I turned the corner from the top of the stairs my feet were under water. I’m still not sure how this happened but when I went into the hall bathroom the water was up to my ankles.

The culprit… well we all know who the culprit is, but the cause of the river running through my house was a plastic medicine cup placed perfectly over the drain in the sink. The reason I could not hear the water running was because a wash cloth had been stuffed or “gotten stuck” in the little overflow slit in the front of the sink and the faucet was under water.

Believe it or not the Sharpie covered face was now on the back burner. I’m in crisis management mode. This is one area where me being the stay at home parent is an advantage.

Once I got the water stopped, I’m hauling the mail to the garage to get my industrial shop vac. But I know the Vac can only get the surface water. It’s not strong enough to get the water out of the carpet. For that I’ll need my carpet shampooer. I’m not saying there aren’t moms who could get both of those big appliances up the stairs in one trip, but I gotta believe that’s a few trips for most moms. Engaging my big shoulders enhanced by baby muscles and I’m rolling up the stairs with a Sears & Roebuck vintage Craftsman, 5 gallon, 3hp, variable speed, shop vac, and a Hoover Deep Clean carpet shampoo type machine.

It took a while but I got the water all cleaned up. Even managed to re-org the cabinets and drawers under the sink, as they were all filled to the top with water. I’ve been meaning to do that anyway. The water in the garage poured through an already existing hole, so not much to do there but let it air dry. The Vac/shampooer combo worked to perfection on the hall carpet. Aside from the throw rugs in the bathroom needing to be washed and the hallway carpet being slightly damp, everything was back in order. Almost everything.

While all this was going on my Sharpie covered daughter was laying on her back in the dry part of the hall way with her feet on the stair banisters, singing about wanting to take a bath. Not kidding. So I still have to get her in the tub to de-sharpie-ize her and meet Tracy for an appointment in about an hour. Thankfully Rachel was right and after about 10 minutes it came off. Grammy showed up right after that and I was able to shower and make the appointment.

I figured it was OK to tell Tracy all of this when I met up with her since the water and the child were cleaned up. Wrong. The moral of that story is, don’t tell your spouse anything about the kids or house they wouldn’t have seen on their own.

As for the kid, well she strolled to her room to plot her next conquest. As you can see below, contrary to popular belief Emperor Palpatine is alive and well. Not a Star Wars fans – google it.

So this is what parenting is like.

 

 

 

 

 

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Diary of a SAHD: Parenting issues activist? Eh… no thanks.

I think anyone who writes and puts it out there to the general public feels uneasy or nervous or insecure. With the blog I’m generally not that way. I write what I write, don’t apologize for it, figuring if you don’t like it then don’t read it. If someone else wants to publish a post of mine then the nerves kick up a bit. Generally though I’m not worried about what anyone thinks about what I write. These stories are more for me than you all anyway, although I’m glad you enjoy them and I appreciate everyone who clicks and reads and comments.

But I have always wondered if I went the wrong way with this blog. Honestly I never expected so many would be reading this. I know these stories are funny, but I also thought they’d probably only be funny to me. I’m not sure I should be glad or frightened for humanity that so many of you have a similar sense of humor to mine.

As I encounter more dad bloggers in my travels throughout the internet it occurs to me that I never get into discussing parenting or parenting issues. A lot of dads write about that stuff. In fact most, if not all, of the dad bloggers I have seen write about stuff like that in some way or another. And some of them have huge followings, like numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

So I worried. Did I go the wrong way making this such a personal blog? Should I be out there advocating for dads and then writing about it here? Should I be worried about the public’s perception of stay at home dads, trying to combat it at every turn? Should I be giving out parenting tips, do’s and don’ts lists about rasing kids, or best practices that have worked for me as a dad?

If you’re playing the home version, the answers are in order: no, no way, no, and ye…ah…no.

Yeah I worried, but only for a few seconds. Turns out I’m way too arrogant and lazy for any of that crap.

Advocacy takes work. You know, you have to research stuff, look up facts and stats and quotes and on and on. I’m tired from just typing that sentence. Mocking advocates is so much easier as it requires no facts what ever. Plus it’s just much more fun.

The bigger issue, apathy. I really don’t care if Huggies makes an ad that doesn’t feature dads or pokes fun at dads. I mean that’s a device that collects poop. Why would I care what they think about dads. Add to that the fact my daughter can’t handle the chemicals in Pampers Baby Dry, so we buy her…wait for it…Huggies Natural. If I need diapers does it really matter that Huggies markets to their biggest customers, in this case moms. Answer, no it doesn’t, I’m still buying them.

Do I care what ads Procter and Gamble are running during the Olympics? No. I’m down for 16 days of curling and I care not one wit if Procter and Gamble or any other advertiser doesn’t specifically include me or other SHADs in their concepts for commercials. To be honest I have no idea what products P&G even makes so I’m probably supporting the enemy without knowing it. And yet my life surprisingly goes on unabated.

Am I kerfuffled by a zoo that marks out a space to take a break and calls it Mom’s Cove or that they provide a space for moms to breast feed? First of all I don’t get kerfuffled. Secondly who the hell has the kind of time to get worked up over that? Besides I’m too busy trying to figure out how to whoop my kid at light-sabres on the Wii.

A Jedi's power flows through the binker.

A Jedi’s power flows through the binker.

I mean it’s not like he’s an expert Jedi or anything. No, Frank’s light-saber fighting style is more like an epileptic getting electrocuted. So the one controller moving the light-saber and the other using his force powers are going one hundred miles per hour. Although that’s an unofficial speed as I have not calibrated my radar gun in a while. Regardless, I have absolutely no chance. I must figure this out and whoop him and I can’t be wastin my limited brain capacity on deep issues. The bigger issue is Frank is not a gracious winner and it’ll be a few months before I can get him on the golf course to take him down a notch or two. (Man I know I’m gonna get angry e-mails from people that have been electrocuted. Ah well, that’s the price of fame. franknfran0967@gmail.com)

Anyway, apparently there is a cadre of moms out there shooting dismissive, laser like, looks at dads who come to the park. I’m usually way too oblivious of people around me to ascertain if they are giving me looks. I also live in a great neighborhood and the moms in The Sac treat me like one of the gang. I’m a bit more of a Gossipy Gertrude than they are but they’re still pretty cool. So no I don’t understand the ‘cold shoulder at the park’ complaints a lot of dads write about. Again, I’m way too arrogant, or self assured if you like, to be phased by that.

Ultimately it comes to this; aside from my smart-alec responses before, the real issue is the mission. Caring for the well being of my two kids is the mission.

On that score I’m laser focused.

I can’t think of a time in my life where that ideal was not drummed into me either directly or by example. My parents and seven brothers and sisters all model the axiom  ‘What other people do has no bearing on me until it does.’

Of course the military lives on the mantra of the mission, and for good and obvious reasons. On the flight line early in my military career that was drummed into me by some great men. It’s the mission stupid. Figure out the mission and whatever isn’t the mission isn’t important. When I arrived as a new instructor at the NCO Academy I found there was a lesson in the curriculum addressing this very issue.

So apathy is part of why I don’t take up the banner of dad issues and the slighting there of. But at the end of the day, commercials, crossed eyed looks from moms at the park, spots at the zoo marked Mom’s Cove, have no impact on the mission and in my opinion don’t warrant my attention.

Let me say God bless the guys out there fighting the fight. I’m not sure what the exit strategy is, but they must because they all seem very good at what they’re doing. They have been blessed, unlike me, with the ability to de several things well at the same time, to include writing great blogs. But as for me and my house, we shall focus solely on the mission. As myopic as that might be.

Kids bring their own problems, I don’t have the time or energy or the brain pan size for what appears to me to be manufactured problems.

So we shall continue with dopey stories about how my kids terrorize and amaze me, sometimes simultaneously.

Here endeth the wasting of brain cells.

Now where’s my light-sabre?

Diary of a SHAD: A traitor in our midst.

There is a myriad of reasons Mrs Frank’s Place is out of my league. Way out of my league. Too many to name here, but one area in particular comes to the forefront as the college basketball season starts to wind up.

She’s a huge sports fan. This is a great quality but can be a double edged sword at times.

On the plus side we get to watch a lot of sports. A lot of college sports. She’s also a huge fan of the Olympics. One Winter Games I had pneumonia and was laid up for a week. We watched Olympic Curling all day long for like 6 days.

She also saved me a little embarrassment when I met the dude who ran the sports at the University of Tennessee. When we ended up in the same church group with the athletic director from the University of Tennessee, she pointed him out. I said, that dude? He said his name is Mike. She says yeah and he runs the Athletic Department at UT, he’s a big deal. I had no clue. I grew up on pro sports, being 45 minutes from Phila. He was just a regular dude to me. Still is.

As always I would regale my friends at the base with stories on Monday mornings and when I repeated this one a few were quite impressed. Although they were more than slightly embarrassed for me that I had no idea who or what an athletic director was. They were slightly bowled over that Mrs Franks Place had to explain the importance of it all to me. I’m all like, dude she’s a huge sports fan. ESPN plays in our house more than anything. We were once late for a Christmas Party so we could see the Heisman Trophy presentation the year Carson Palmer from USC won it. Their mouths hit the floor. When I said I was retiring to raise Frank, (and later his sister AM), she achieved goddess like status in their eyes.

But all that comes with a price.

She’s a Kentucky fan. As in University of Kentucky, class of 95, homecoming queen in 94. When I met her in 2000 living in Knoxville, Volunteer country, she would be pretty reserved during football, and a maniac during basketball season. When Kentucky routinely whupped Tennessee in basketball she would call all her friends in Knoxville to bust their chops. When we went to games I had to keep my head on a swivel as she would degrade and demean Tennessee fans in her all blue and white get up.

We went to the Kansas – Tennessee game in Knoxville in 2010. Kansas was ranked #1 in the country and Tennessee saw half it’s starting roster go to the slammer after being arrested for drugs/driving/alcohol stuff a few days prior to that game. With a band of misfits and walk-on players UT upset by God #1 Kansas. She wore blue and cheered for Kansas the whole time.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too.  Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too. Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

We no longer go to games together.

She takes all the fun out of it. I’m no longer young enough nor do I have the desire to fight every hayseed who bleeds UT Orange, because my wife yells out “UT sucks” while we walk back to our car.

The picture left is us at our last game together. UT beat Kentucky by 30. In the picture you can see Tracy is worried about the score. I’m clearly calculating the hotdog to fan ratio and thinking I should make a run to the concession stand before the buns go empty.

I can live with the UK stuff for the most part. But it’s starting to rub off on my kids. And now I have a problem with it.

We have essentially swapped gender roles. Regardless of how much you hear about stay at home dads being on the rise, we’re still a minuscule part of the population. Not even 1% if I remember correctly. So I get that we’ve swapped and I’m cool with it. I’m the most secure dude I know, and this was my choice. And I have swapped with a person who could easily fill the traditional man’s role as it pertains to sports. I mean, she runs like a wounded duck but she can dissect football, hockey, basketball, curling, you name it.

She doesn’t pick winners based on mascots or helmet design. When we entered pool for the NCAA BBall championship, I won, but she came in second. It was a huge group and the winners take was over four digits. In other words there were a lot of people in this thing and she beat them all except me.

But still, introducing the kids to sports is my job. Or so I thought. It’s one role I wanted to keep. But the force is strong with Mrs Frank’s Place and she hates Tennessee sports with a white hot passion.

Et Tu Grammy?

Et Tu Grammy?

Because of that, Frank learned to chant C-A-T-S cats, cats, cats (as in Kentucky Wildcats) when he was two. Whenever any of my students would give us Tennessee apparel for our new arrival, Frank in this case, she would hide it. When I did manage to get him in an Orange and White onsie, her mom took him upstairs to change his diaper and he came down wearing UK Blue.

Here’s Grammy indoctrinating the boy at Rupp Arena in Lexington Kentucky.

 

 

 

We’ve even tried compromise:

 

188523_4782989174659_1713387405_n 311220_4782980774449_172109976_nDidn’t work because at the end of the day the boy still chants C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats.

I try to explain to her that I’ll have to teach him how to fight as he goes to a Volunteer dominated school in his blue a white Kentucky garb.

I even used the old, “why are you ruining this for me, this is a sacred thing between a boy and his father.” She’s unfazed. I get crickets out of her.

Well I’ve come to the realization that Frank is a lost cause. I’ll never be able to enjoy going to games with him because he’ll shout all manner of obscenities his mother taught him at anyone wearing UT Orange. Being a fan of UK means hating UT. I can’t enjoy sports like that.

So she can have Frank.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

But this one is mine.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the only reason we have Anne Marie.

Without the people at the UT NICU Anne Marie would not have made it.

So Orange and White it is. Guess what I’m stuffing her stocking with this Christmas.

The sweet irony; even though she won’t need to, Anne Marie already knows how to fight.

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a SHAD: I guess I am that guy…

Hurry up dad, the regular dads are beating you!

Hurry up dad, the regular dads are beating you!

I worked so hard at not being that guy. It was in vain apparently.

I didn’t even know there were guys like that until I started running into more stay at home dads, and dads who believe themselves to more involved then what society considers the norm.

It had happened once before. In fact the story surrounding that incident is what got this whole blog thing started and became the intro to the book. You can read that first post here: The the Kroger Lady Strikes Back. But I was a rookie then, brand new to being a father, a retiree, and a stay at home dad. It was also our first adventure out together.

After that exchange at the Kroger I vowed to not become “That Dad”. You know the type, easily offended at the smell of the slightest degradation of stay at home dads, or the faintest sniff of placing moms higher on the pantheon of parenting then dads.

Navy fighter pilots used to have a saying, “Don’t ask a man if he’s a fighter pilot. If he is he’ll let you know, if he’s not, don’t embarrass him.” Stay at home dads are starting to corner the market of the “he’ll let you know” part of that quote.

I promised myself I wouldn’t become that. I even went to war with some of these dads on a web site called the Goodmen Project over an “offensive” commercial made by Huggies diapers. You can read that here if you want: I’ll be taking these Huggies…”

Damn it!

All a waste of time. I’ve been assimilated.

I picked Frank up from pre-school on Monday like I do every day. I knew it was Veterans Day but I did not equate that with the increased number of dads in the parking lot picking their kids up from stay-n-play. By the way, the person who came up with stay-n-play, keeping the kids in the schoolyard for an hour after school, is a freaking genius. I would take a bullet for that person. They should retire the Nobel Peace Prize in this person’s name.

Anyway, so I’m not clueing in that the number of dads in the lot has gone up exponentially or why it has. Honestly, I really didn’t care as I am a self centered person of the highest order.

But then I got to the gate of the Stay-n-Play yard. It’s not unlike yard time at your better high security prisons. I notice a newbie on the gate. Maybe a newbie, probably not, but I’ve never seen her before.

Newbie girl says, “wow another one, a lot of dads picking up their kids today.” The look on my face must have said, “I’m stupid, enlighten me.” So she does; “You know cause of the holiday and all.”

Then it hit me. She thinks I’m just one of these other dudes. I resisted the hollywood star faux pas and did not say, “Do you know who I am?” Again I did not say that, although I wanted to. What I did say was about as bad.

“Oh, I pick Frank up every day. I’m retired.” Hahaha. Sounds as dumb now as it did then. I might as well been wearing a Members Only jacket with the SAHD letters embroidered on the pocket.

Good God.

Ask any one who ever served with me, I built a 22yr military career on not caring what people thought of me. I had no other discernible skill and still lasted 22 years.  Yet in a heart beat I was reduced to idiocy in the parking lot of a pre-school. By a newbie too.

Ah well, such is life.

Gotta run, have to send hate mail to some diaper companies that think moms are better than dads at handling a crap riddled cloth with ultra absorbent material and stay put tabs.

Diary of a SAHD: Toll Booths, Traffic Jams and Torrential Rain

Editors note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series on our summer road trip to NJ. They are not in sequential order.  Some of this will be akin to eye wateringly boring home movies.  Anyway, you’ve been warned.

Here is a long one for a rainy Saturday in Knoxville.  

Well we have come to the actual trip of the road trip.  I’ve avoided these next few posts for some reason.  Might be all the emotional scars that develop when spending 26+ hours in the Starship Frankerprise with this cast of characters:

The navigator.  Sort of.

The navigator. Sort of.

The hoarder

The hoarder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sleeper cell.

The sleeper cell.

The tail gunner. AKA Grammy.

The tail gunner. AKA Grammy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It really wasn’t as bad as I’m about to make it sound.  At least that’s what my therapist says.  And if you haven’t guessed, I was not authorized to use what was deemed an unflattering car picture of the Navigator, also known as Mrs. Frank’s Place. I mean let’s just be honest here, I’m retired, she pays the bills up in this joint.  So, hello great looking beach shot.  We at Frank’s Place aim to please.

Anyway, that’s the crew I hit the road with.  To Jersey and back or bust…or something like that.

Except for stopping 1.5 hours into the trip for a potty break at the Virginia welcome center, a scant 12 hours from Jersey, we were rolling.  Ahh the Virginia welcome center, where I used the ladies room without knowing it, with my mother-in-law in the next stall.

Good times.

The sequester must have hit Va. hard because they apparently can’t even find budget money to label the bathroom doors properly.  No matter.  The only other issue on the trip to New Jersey was having to stay overnight about 2 hours from the promise land.  Go two posts back and read Night of the Alligator for a more in depth look at our night in Maryland.

No, it was the ride back to Knoxville that was fraught with adventure.

It started out so well. Did I mention it was Labor Day weekend?

Cargo hold of the SS Frankerprise

Cargo hold of the SS Frankerprise

Had the cargo hold of the Frankerprise all loaded and secured for the voyage. Besides the people there are a few items missing, but for the most part that is the bulk of our “stuff”.  Peep that picture folks.  That’s some grade-A arranging.  Even had a center aisle all the way to the front for easy movement about the cabin. There are some churches in town that don’t have a center aisle that nice.

Ok stop looking.  We hit the road at 7:30 in the am.  Perfect time if you’re planning to make the whole 660 miles in one shot.

We got out of Jersey as fast as I think we ever have. On Saturday of Labor Day weekend at the shore that’s huge. Everyone is settled in and I’m thinking this might go smoothly. I’m a dreamer of dreams, sue me.

The dream didn’t turn to a nightmare until we hit I-81 in the northern part of Virginia.  The little McDonald’s has the dubious distinction of being a great stop and a very bad stop all in one.

It was a great stop because it was our first stop, almost 5hrs into the trip back to Rocky Top.  At this point I have no doubt we will be in our own beds that night.

It was also great because in the parking lot of the McDonald’s stood Eli, a guy who was probably in his mid fifties but looked like he was 750 years old.  Eli apparently was having a dispute with his wife or his brother.  Maybe his brother’s wife.  His vocabulary choices didn’t allow me to narrow it down any further.  Eli was not a student of discretion because he was speaking at the top of what was left of his Marlboro smoke-filled lungs, or lung maybe. It was pretty awesome. I love listening to southerners use the F-bomb.  A good Yankee will conjugate the F-bomb into every possible form and fit it all in one sentence; Johnny Reb, not so much.  But oh how I love to listen to them try.  Made my morning.

It was an incredibly bad stop because the Navigator had dialed up that particular establishment on the inter-webs and it was billed as having a playground.  It didn’t of course.  It did have a great big field next to it where Sleeper Cell and the Hoarder could run around and stay clear of Eli as he brought down all the saints (ask a Yankee).

After the Navigator recovers from her thinly veiled invective filled rant about what lying turds McDonald’s is, we do a manual waste dump, off load some ballast, (you’re welcome McDonald’s with no playground), and get back on the road.

In a flash we’re lost.

The exit to get back on I-81 had magically vanished.  Signs pointed to it but it wasn’t there.  This is what I was getting from the Navigator:

No clue bro.

No clue bro.

Both me and the Tail Gunner are in agreement that the exit was there but now was not. Remnants of some construction became visible on our 2nd pass.  The Navigator spots a makeshift, and I do mean makeshift, sign pointing to the possibility of a new on-ramp to 81.  Had I not been conjugating F-bombs I would have taken a picture of it.

So after that ten minutes of trail blazing we were off and running below the Mason Dixon.

We hit Roanoke and now we are 4 maybe 4.5 hours from Knoxville.  Yes I was bending a few laws.  But in Roanoke we hit a wall of water.  It was Ten Commandments, parting the Red Sea wall of water.  Now my eyesight is ok at best.  It’s almost non-existent in the dark when it’s raining.  It wasn’t dark yet, but it wasn’t sunny either, and unlike Knoxville these folks on 81 don’t slow down just because there’s a measly inch or two of water on the road.

So we’re hurtling down the highways at about 75 mph in what is now a book of Revelation type downpour.  I’m lookin for the Four Horsemen, now on jet skis, to come up behind me at any moment. But it’s an interstate right, should drive through it any minute, right.  Yes true enough, if any minute means 3 hours later, than yes we drove through it.

We bust out into sunshine in Bristol.  We will make it home.  Dinner at the Chick Fil-A, with a playground, was uneventful and we’re back in the Frankerprise making warp speed to Knoxvegas. And we’re back in the rain.  Not Armageddon type but still some serious rain.  And Sleeper Cell decides now is the perfect time for an attack.

For whatever reason she is out of her mind, bat-crap crazy.  Tail gunner is practically standing on her head while singing to keep the kid entertained.  We are but 90 minutes from home.  I am not stopping.  In the entire van from front to back, packed with metric tons of stuff, the only thing that will keep Sleeper Cell happy is my wallet. She played with that thing for 40 minutes.  I was still finding things like credit cards, my Kroger card etc.. on the lawn the next morning.  That is clearly a look into the future when she becomes a teen-ager.

The rain tapers off as we near Knoxville and the Navigator brings up a very important point in the form of a question.  She’s the Alex Trebek of navigators.  What is “Are we going to hit game traffic?”

Well crap, it’s opening day of college football and the Vols had a home game that might let out as we pass through downtown.  I’m now dropping F-bombs in my head faster than might be humanly possible.  Took every bit of Jedi mind power to keep them in my head and not release them into the pressurized atmosphere of the Frankerprise.

Navigator dials up the game on the radio and it appears the game will not let out for several minutes after we pass by.  Bullet dodged, because that stadium holds about 105,000 people. Probably only 98,000 at the game, but either way I-40 in Knoxville literally becomes a parking lot for an hour or so after the game is done.

But we missed it and it then occurred to me we hit not one traffic jam the whole way from Jersey to Knoxville.  No accidents, no jams at the myriad of toll booths you have to go through to leave the northern part of the country, nothing.  Well there was one small incident involving a traffic cone at the merger between 70 and 81.  Look for that in a post called The Power of the Cone.

But all in all it was a smooth trip as far as the stopping and going went.

As for all the rain, well lets just say this is what I looked like when we started out for home…

The world at my feet.

The world at my feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this is what I looked like when we finally pulled in our driveway.

So let it be written...

Thou shalt be driven from the north by torrents of rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great trip, but man that drive is a killer… almost.

 

 

 

Diary of a Stay at Home Dad: What’s in a name?

Apparently I’ve been doing it wrong.  For a while.  Most of the time it’s on purpose.  But sometimes I just didn’t realize there was a different way, a better way.

It seems the titles of my posts are too long according to some.  Spelling out Stay at Home Dad is long form and not internet friendly.  Turns out Stay at Home Dads have an acronym.  Well color me surprised.

All this time I had no idea I belong to Stay At Home Dads.  Or SAHDs.  

Huh, who knew?  I think this is my first acronym.  Well other than WOP, which didn’t start out as a derogatory term for Italians, but an acronym indicating an immigrant had arrived on America’s shores With Out Papers.  Just so happens that Italians, by percentage, arrived With Out Papers more than any other immigrant group during the big wave of immigration in the late 1800s early 1900s.

We have our own shirts and everything!

We have our own shirts and everything!

Anyway I’m a SAHD.  I’m assuming the H is silent which would make us all SAD, although I’m not. To tell you the truth, go to any SAHD web site and they are generally sad or mad about something.  It could be some ill treatment they feel they’ve received from a women comedienne or they might be railing and wailing because they have been grievously wronged by a diaper commercial.  I had just such an experience not that long ago.  Wrote about it here: I’ll be takin these Huggies

But what do y’all think?  Is the H silent?  Comment below, you know the drill.

I’m not even sure how to pronounce it if the H isn’t silent.  No matter, I don’t think I’ll be saying it very much.  But I will be using it in the title of the posts from now on.  Because the one overriding characteristic of my life is that I’m lazy.  The only reason I “work smarter” is because the “not harder” portion is thrown in.

Not sure if there is an initiation or a pledge week, or some other high-jinx, you know fraternity style.  Is there a secret handshake, a high sign,  gang symbol?  I really need to do some research. Although not sure when I can do that since I’m SAHD’n all the time.

So yeah, SAHD.  I guess I’ll learn to like it.

Frank’s Place: Best of 2012

Wow, hard to believe another year has passed.  One minute it was March and the next – it’s New Year’s Eve.  There was a summer in there some where.  Might have even been some fall too, hard to tell.  A lot has happened this year.  We, celebrated, we grieved, we cried, we learned, and of course we blogged.

And since blogging is what we’re here to do, lets get to the posts with the most, the verbal stylings that y’all liked better than the rest.  As always they are in order of popularity based on views each post got.

It was a year of loss.

Christian Clopp: A Profile and Linda Claire    First a little boy named Christian Clopp proved it really is the size of the heart that matters and then was called home. Then our little Linda Claire gave us five short hours before she was called home.  I’ve spent more time thinking about those five hours than I’d hope too.  These were the only two posts that hit the four digit mark as far as views.  Heart warming really.  A lot of people weighed in to offer prayers, condolences, and well wishes.  I can’t speak for Christian’s father Mark, but trust me, it helped me a lot.

Christian Clopp

Christian Clopp

Linda Clare  22 March 2012

Linda Clare 22 March 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we celebrated

Four weeks and famous Linda Claire was a twin.  Her sister Anne Marie soldiered on in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit(NICU) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. When she was four weeks old and barely 2lbs we were approached about appearing in a video that would be used to fund raise for the NICU.  We did it and Anne Marie was featured as well.  The fund raiser made 1 million american dollars.  Not a bad nights work. Here’s the little diva/star in all her 2lb glory.

Hey, where's that breast milk I ordered!  And turn up the heat, it's freezing in here!

Hey, where’s that breast milk I ordered! And turn up the heat, it’s freezing in here!

The Eagle has Landed     Then after 4+ months they let us take her home.  They expected us to care for her.  Who’s idea was that?  We were apprehensive to say the least.  Tracy went in the hospital in early February.  We took Anne Marie home in late July.  We had been at that hospital in some capacity for 6 months. Being on our own with her was exciting and freaking terrifying at the same time. Plus we made some great friends at the NICU and now we wouldn’t be seeing them very much, after spending days and nights at a time with them.  Ah well, Frank didn’t care.  He was happy to finally meet his sister.

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

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

Then more trauma -Mine  

Teat of Terror, I know that’s not mud, & They can’t do math were all examples of how many parenting lessons failed to translate from Frank to Anne Marie.  I mean the girl terrorized me for the first few months after she came home.  I’ll spare you the pictures, they ain’t pretty.  Actually those three events all occurred in the middle of the night so I don’t even think there are pictures.  I’m currently in counseling over it all, but they were three of the more popular posts of 2012.  Glad I could provide y’all some entertainment. Jerks.

Then a move 

I teamed up with my old broadcast partner from the Air Force to start a cultural/social/political blog called Unfiltered & Unfettered: The World Explained by Us .  It was time to move the political stuff off of Frank’s Place.  The last political posts to appear at Frank’s Place were about the debates during the republican primary.  I did a few posts about all the rules governing primaries, caucuses, and how delegates are sent to the conventions.  It was basically an Electoral College 101 primer.  A post called Unbound Delegates Explained made it into the top ten posts of the year at Frank’s Place.  Turns out, since almost no one understands our ridiculously rule heavy primary system, the phrase “unbound delegates” became the number 1 search term on the Google.  That made the Frank’s Place post 2nd on Google search, and during the Maine primary we were actually first for a week.  Crazy.

Then a fight

A good cause, always a good cause & Look what y’all did round out the top ten at Franks Place.  While we were in our little bubble of going to the hospital every day for four months, sometimes twice a day, life apparently moved on every where else for most. In that moving on, my little sister heard words no one wants to hear.  ”You have breast cancer.”  She has beaten it so far.  Radiation treatments are done and she on to the meds. Outlook is very good.  We live 660 miles from the rest of my family in Jersey so not a whole lot we could do but ask for help, and walk.  Team Kathy was formed in connection with my wife’s company to walk in the Komen Race for the Cure in Knoxville.  Y’all responded and came up with this great effort.

It's cold.  It's raining.  It's a good cause and a good lookin squad.

It’s cold. It’s raining. It’s a good cause and a good lookin squad.

Goal met.  And then some.  Thanks y'all.

Goal met. And then some. Thanks y’all.

So it was a rough year and a great year and everything in between. Documenting it here at Frank’s Place has been fun and cathartic at times. Writing about grief that seemed unbearable somehow made it less so.  Having all y’all follow along makes it even better.  76 different countries have read about Anne Marie crapping on me in the middle of the night or latching on to my man cans thinking they were heavy laden with milk.  They got to read about Frank growing into a hilarious little 3 year old. (God what must that 1 poor bastard in Paraguay be thinking when he reads this?)

More important I get to look back at a year that has been a blur, slowly read, and remember.

That alone makes it all worth it.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Happy New Year from Frank’s Place!

Bring it 2013!

Bring it 2013!