Diary of a SAHD: Zero to Holly Jolly in 8 hours.

We dig the Christmas season just as much as the next family. We just don’t do a whole lot about it from Thanksgiving to Christmas day. We’re not grinches as much as we are lazy. I put up lights but that’s only because the neighbors went all Clark Griswold and I had to respond. That’s really an exaggeration. The Sac was a little subdued this Christmas. I know one thing, Frank’s Place is copying the next door neighbors and going all color lights next Christmas. You’re a trend setter Mike, and have delivered me from these awful energy saving dull white lights. But my meager light display was about as much as the yule tide spirit we were willing to imbibe.

Frank’s unwillingness to see Santa this year played right into our laziness. Scribing the letter was easy, no fuss no muss. Shopping was even easier. Wait in lines? Get up at 3am the Friday after Thanksgiving? Who does these things with the advent of internet shopping? It’s cold out there man. Ain’t no way I’m getting up that early to put on 3 layers of clothes just to wait in line so I can duke it out with Ma and Pa Kettle over an leopard print iPad cover. I’m not ashamed to say there were some days I was Christmas shopping at my computer without wearing pants. Not sure why I never got a picture of that. Ah well, opportunity lost.

A Santa only a homeless shelter could love.

A Santa only a homeless shelter could love.

Anyway, Christmas Eve rolls around and Mrs Frank’s Place gets the holiday spirit. Lets take the kids to the mall and get a picture with Santa she says. Eh ok, what the heck. So we dress them in their Christmas PJs and off we go. Line is short. This can’t be good. Annnnnd potty break for Santa. A mere 25 minutes later Santa’s bladder is right as rain and we’re making pictures. Result to the left. A Christmas Miracle!

Look man, I don’t mind sayin the Santas were all pretty damn creepy this year. Look at that dude. If I ran into that guy in a parking garage in broad daylight I’d crap my pants. It took all my will power to keep it under control for that picture and it was 11:30 in the morning. His eyes haunt me even now.

No matter we got the shot, Frank asked for a snow ogre and we headed out into the mall for some shopping and then out into the world for lunch, on Christmas Eve no less.

A Bond Unbroken 

After lunch we decided to pay a visit to Linda Claire’s grave with some flowers. If you are unaware, Anne Marie is a surviving twin. Linda Claire was her sister and she died five hours after being born. Neither Frank nor Anne Marie have ever been there so it felt like a risky proposition, but we pressed on and told Frank to ask any question he wanted.

Tracy showed Frank Linda Claire’s grave and I put Anne Marie down and let her walk to Frank. Except she didn’t walk to Frank. She walked up to the grave marker which is a flat stone, flush with the ground. AM stood there for a second, then crouched down a little and stared at the stone for what seemed like forever. It was somewhere in the 5 minute neighborhood, maybe 6  or 7. I was having a hard time processing. AM never made a peep. She just stood there slightly crouched, staring. Then she reached down, touched the plaque, said “baby, baby”, turned and waked back to the van. Cemetery trip concluded.

I question my own sanity even typing that last paragraph. I have absolutely no explanation for what happened. As my father said, why waste time trying to figure it out, just enjoy it. Well said Pop, well said.

Frank broke the silence by asking how would we get LC the flowers. Great question. We had no answer other than to say she could see them from where she was, in God’s house. Ten minutes later he asked “What about all the other names on the ground?” What names Frank? “All the other names on the ground in God’s house? Do they get flowers too?” LC is buried in the infant section of the cemetery. Most of the graves are marked with stones that lay flat on the ground. Kids pick up on the craziest things and then ask about it in a way that makes their parents start crying all over again.

Then it was cookie baking time. AM and Mrs Frank’s Place went off for a nap and that left me and Frank in the kitchen to get our Christmas cookie on. I gave the orders and Frank did all the work, short of putting the cookie sheets into the oven. He plays the mixer like a member of the Philharmonic. We cleaned as we baked and fun was had by all. All two of us. Cookies were out and cooling and it was time for church.

This was going to be the biggest test of the day. The picture below should give you an indication of how it went.

Running laps in the church basement. Baby Jesus better put on some track shoes.

Running laps in the church basement. Baby Jesus better put on some track shoes.

My theologically versed sister maintains that you receive grace even if you sleep in church. So running a half marathon in the basement should be worth a “double portion”, as Benny Hinn would say.

Church was OK for a first try in a long time. Thanks to an amazingly large basement the kids were able to run laps for the entire service. But we had to git on home, there were cookies to decorate.

But first we had to throw reindeer food on the lawn. Down here they call it bait, but it’s really food for Santa’s team when he comes to the Sac. Then it was cookie decorating time.

Frank’s cookie decorating style could loosely be described as a cross between the great cubist Pablo Picasso and a drunk of his ass Andy Warhol. Ultimately it got the job done. We put four masterpieces on a plate and put them under the tree.

Kids went off to bed and thus ended our first family Christmas Eve-a-palooza. We crammed more Christmas into this past Christmas Eve than we have the last 5 Christmases combined.

Not sure what got into us but it was a good day from start to finish.

By golly it was a holly jolly Christmas indeed.

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!






















Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: First Contact….. and an update

After the dust had settled over the little medication mishap and all the “naming a wing of the hospital after us” jokes had subsided I casually suggested that the suits could appease me by making a way for Frank to meet his sister.  The NICU has a strict policy on visitation, only two people near the child and everyone who enters must be at least 18.  Kids are a walking petri-dish of germs and microbes, so I get that.  Not quite as clear on the 18 years of age cutoff.  It seems a little arbitrary.  I mean I’ve seen some germy 18 year olds.  Hell I was one.

Anyway, one of Anne Marie’s docs said he could make that happen, no problem.   Once she didn’t need as much support with breathing etc.. he could set it up.  This was one moment I thought was ripe for the over promise – under deliver column.  Like so many other times in my life, I was wrong.

We got the call on Saturday.  Bring Frank to the NICU at 1:30 on Sunday and they would bring him to a back hallway between the NICU and the Cardiac operating Room.  The hallway passed right behind the “Butterfly Cove”, the wing of private NICU rooms where Anne Marie was.  Frank would be able to see her through the glass doors that separated the NICU from the hallway that normally serves as a quick shortcut for surgeons headed to the OR.  Shortcut, that’s funny right there.

Of course around 12:00pm on the big day Frank promptly crawled into the pack-n-play set up for his little cousin visiting from North Carolina.  He wasn’t just exploring, no he went complete with blanket, binker, and his stuffed lamb Lenny and commenced to cutting lumber.  That’s snoring for those of you un-afflicted.  He finally snapped out if it on the way to the hospital.  Then much like the military it was hurry up and wait.

The nurses and respiratory techs were in on it and they were busy setting up a portable breathing system they could move to the glass doors.  So we sat in the family lounge watching the Indy 500.  Frank thought he saw Francesco, or Acesco as he calls him, about 100 times.  Francesco is the Italian open wheel race car for the movie Cars 2.

After what seems like hours, the nurse who figured out the medication error and saved our daughter’s life, came through the door.  She was waiting for a new baby to be admitted so while she was in hurry up and wait mode for the new arrival she came out to meet Frank.  She had heard so much about Frank she felt she knew him already but nothing beats seeing in the flesh.  After I made the introductions she led us down the zig-zaggin hallways to the glass doors where Tracy was standing on the other side with Anne Marie.

Something was familiar about the winding hallways and all the turns.  We passed a room with a five button lock.  Then it hit me.  That was the room where we said goodbye to Linda Claire, these were the hallways they led us down after she passed away in the NICU.  Most of that day is a blur.  A nurse will speak to me as if she knows me, thenTracy or my mother-in-law will say, “she was in the OR when the twins were delivered.”  Yeah, I don’t remember them.  They remember me because I went through 3 boxes of tissues that day.

When we got to the glass doors I could see Tracy holding Anne Marie, surrounded by the nurses and repository therapists that made this all happen.  Frank’s expression was priceless.  He had a huge smile on his face and his eyes were locked on his baby sister.  The staff standing with Tracy were watching Frank.  He didn’t disappoint them.  It reminded me of our wedding day.  When Tracy came down the isle, a lot of our female friends turned and looked at me.  They were making sure I had the appropriate expression of happiness and admiration on my face.  My expression nine years ago was the same as Frank’s yesterday.

Frank and Anne Marie – First Contact

Frank was a lot more excited than I thought he would be.  I had explained to him what we were going to do, but how much of that he understood is hard to say.  I mean, he just turned three last week, he knows colors, counts to 15, can count to three in Italian, and knows how to operate the microwave, iPad, and the TV remote.  I didn’t know most of that stuff till I was in my mid twenties.  But we were never quite sure if he was able to understand he was a big brother and had a little sister named Anne Marie.

Like I said, nothing beats seeing in the flesh.  He called her name as soon as he saw her.  Tracy unwrapped her a little bit, just enough for Anne Marie to get her hands free.  The arms went straight forward, palms out, fingers stretched.  It looked like she was trying to move the glass door.  Apparently she has grown tired and bored of removing measly little feeding and exhaust tubes from her belly.  The force is strong with this one.

Jedi in training

Frank thoroughly enjoyed meeting his sister.  Until his mother mentioned ice cream.  Through the glass she says “y’all going to get ice cream?”  She just chucks it out there like a grenade.  We never talked about ice cream.  Well I guess we’re going to get ice cream.  Food and sleep is where Frank’s Jedi focus become apparent.  He heard ice cream and immediately he was like a blood hound.  Led us right out of the labyrinth to the elevators taking us to the Lido Deck, or in this case the first floor cafeteria with a fridge full of Nutty Buddies.

Love that kid.

Good work mom.

An Update

It was a weekend of firsts.  Anne Marie took her first bottle and earlier, while on kangaroo detail in her mothers shirt, took matters into her own hands, latching on and feeding.  She is weighing in at 4 pounds 10 ounces, measuring 17 inches.

Frank was all smiles on Sunday.  He got to meet his sister and because of that meeting he got ice cream too.  Ironically, if she ever makes it out of there and gets home to touch all his stuff, those smiles will be a thing of the past.

Alert Reader Segment

Ok gang, look at the picture below.  What item in the picture would tell you that this baby, premature by three and a half months,  has grown significantly?  To my sisters, cousins, aunts and in-laws, (looking at you Dan & Diane) directly in the business, e-mail me your guess.  Everyone else respond in the comment section.

Good luck.

To my brothers and sisters in arms Happy Memorial Day.

I’m much bigger than my initial 1lb 9oz. How can you tell?

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Four Weeks and Famous

I’ve hesitated to write about my daughter for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost; she’s battling for her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NIC-U) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  I wanted to be sensitive to the very real and frighting thought that she may not make it, and then here I am writing semi-funny blogs posts about her.

She is doing much better now, gaining weight, growing longer.  She is now 2 pounds 12 ounces, a full pound heavier than the day she was born. She’s also taping out at 15 3/4 inches, three and three quarter inches longer than the little 12 inch sprout she was, born a month ago.  But, one thing I have learned is it can all go downhill in a literal breath or heartbeat.  Life is unbelievably fragile.

That’s when I decided it was ok to write about my daughter.  Her life is fragile, but all of our lives are fragile.  We all hang on the edge of living or dying.  Not talking or writing about Anne Marie in funny and positive ways won’t change the balance of that.  This stems from an old adage or practice that you don’t really tell anyone you’re having a baby until the pregnancy gets past 12 weeks.  The odds of something catastrophic happening go way down after 20 weeks.  I get it and we’ve even done that.  But this is different, for me anyway.

So I’ve been sitting on my hands, worried that I’ll write something funny and then something catastrophic may happen.  Then I looked around the NIC-U again.  Something catastrophic is always happening.  In the five hours she was alive, Linda Claire taught me to enjoy while you can.  Anne Marie is alive, and I am going to enjoy my daughter and celebrate her for as long as she’s here and part of that celebration, for me, means writing about her.

Introducing my daughter, Anne Marie Linardo – Four Weeks and Famous.

Great grip for a baby 3 months pre-mature. Another golfer I think.

So when we wrote the obituary for Linda Claire we did what a lot of people do.  Instead of flowers we asked for a donation be made.  It took Tracy and I about two seconds to decide the donations should go to the NIC-U at the UT Medical Center here in Knoxville.  The staff there have just done an outstanding  job in every conceivable way.  The nurses are the total package.  Healers, ministers, counselors, you name it they can do it.  It was an easy choice to ask people to donate there instead of send flowers.

Well, some family members sent donations, then some friends, then some friends of friends.  Even a few people who just happen to see the obituary in the paper but have no connection to us sent a donation.  I know this because every time someone donates, the Director of Development at UT Medical Center sends me a letter acknowledging a donation made in memory of Linda Claire.

Small side note.  I also got a three page hand written letter from a woman who wants me to become a Jehovah’s Witness.  She sent the letter to the funeral home listed in the obituary and they mailed it on to us.  She really threw down a sales pitch.  She sent me a few tracts from the Watch Tower.  For you young folk, that’s an old version of the literature JWs used to hand out.  They moved away from that because it became a bit of a stigma.  If a person was preaching to you on the street or your porch all you had to do was look at the back of whatever publication they gave you and if it said Watch Tower publishing, you had some JWs on your hands, well on your porch anyway.   Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Anyway, word got around, as did the edible arrangement my sister Mare sent to the NIC-U nurses. Master stroke dude.  First it was about our tragedy and then about the donations made in memory of Linda Claire.  We got a call from the development office at UT Medical and they want to interview Tracy about her feelings on the NIC-U and film her interacting with Anne Marie in the NIC-U environment.  The interview will be played during an event called “An Evening in Orange” at Neyland Stadium.  It’s a large, yearly fundraiser for the hospital and this year it will benefit the NIC-U.  So naturally they wanted parents with children in the NIC_U to participate.  I think four families were interviewed.

Neyland Stadium is home to the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team.  It seats 102,455 people on game day and is the 6th largest non-auto racing stadium in the world.  Just in case you were wondering.

I imagine this event will be tents and tables on the field.  I don’t expect 102,455 people in Knoxville have the desire or the 750 shekels it takes to get in.  Yeah, this is a big time fundraiser.  Hell, we’re in the video and we’re not going.

Today was the day of the taping.  Tracy was interviewed and then the crew followed us over to the NIC-U to film what amounts to some action shots.  Wasn’t sure how much action they were going to get out of a bunch of one to two pound premies.  Of course our daughter didn’t disappoint.  As soon as the crew sets up and starts filming, Anne Marie falls asleep, stops breathing, and her heart rate dropped into the 40 to 50 range.

That’s bad of course.  It normally sits around 165.  Alarms start going off, people start coming.  However, this is “normal” for a baby that weighed less than two pounds and was born 3 1/2 months early so we’ve seen this a lot in the past four weeks.  It’s just funny because she had been fine all day until the very moment the cameras were on.  Tracy had her hand in the Iso-Box and so she just sprung into action.  Normally a few strong pats on the butt or feet will be enough to wake her up and she’ll start breathing again.  It was maybe 5-10 seconds and her heart rate went right back to where it should be.  Welcome to our normal.

Once everyone settled down, it was movie making time.  The interview had already been conducted so this was just film footage, no talking.  Our nurse decided she did not want to be famous, said something about getting her hair done had she known and shot off to work on some other babies.  There is a reason the nurses in the NIC-U are badass.  They fight the fight 12 hour shifts at a time and take none of the credit or glory.

Tracy put her hands into the Box and Anne Marie just laid there, sleeping.  She normally works the camera, but not today.  One terrifying heart event is all you get today boys.

It was a tiring day, for everybody, but it was worth it.  The NIC-U staff of doctors, nurses, support folk, and front desk gang are all top notch, earning every nickel and then some.  After everything they’ve done for us the least we could do was spend a few hours helping in the fund raising effort.  Although when they see the part of the video I’m in they may start a collection to send me to fat camp.

For those of you who attend this event, remember the camera adds ten pounds at least.  And yes there was only one camera on me.

You sure that's my best side?

Getting the close up.

Hey where's my breast milk! Ordered that 10 minutes ago. And turn up the sun lamp!



















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

When Last We Spoke…

So a lot of things have happened in the past 11 days.  In the political world all of it was good, if not funny as all get out.  Some of the high, or low lights, depending on your level of cynicism:

  • President Obama
  1. In a stunning open mic incident the President leans in to tell Russian Preisdent Medvedev to pass a message to Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia and its defacto dictator
  2. The message – give me some slack until I’m re-elected, then I’ll have more flexibility
  3. Wow, hard to know what he meant by flexibility but easy to know that he thinks he’s going to whoop Mitt or Rick in November
  • Rick Santorum 
  1. verbally dog cussed* a New York Times reporter, telling him to quit the “bull shit” because:
  2. the reporter asked the candidate to clarify the remarks made when Santorum said he would vote for Obama before he would support Romney
  3. Santorum also called Romney the worst republican ever –  he drew swift condemnation from party leaders for that little gem
  4. after Santorum finished crying about the media lying about his own words he went on FOX to brag saying “You’re not a republican if you haven’t cursed out a NYT reporter”  So now we know Rick, you’re a republican, a crybaby, a liar, oh and a chooch.
*dog cussed – souther term for really laying into someone.  Dog cussing involves those four letter words like the F word, the already mentioned BS, and of course Yankee.
  •  Newt Gingrich
  1. called the President uppity because Newt claims the Pres. thinks everybody should go to Harvard
  2. Not sure President believes we should all go to Harvard and ironically this comes from the only PhD in the field
  3. hard to know what’s in Newt’s mind but I gotta believe in close circles he finishes off that “uppity” sentence with what he really thinks
  4. Somehow Mitt Romney is not uppity even though he also went to Harvard
  5. Newt fired 1/3rd of his staff this week – no money to pay them
  6. the last two print journalists covering Newt’s campaign left to cover Mitt and Rick
  • Mitt Romney 
  1. is building a ridiculously enormous beach house complete with an elevator for the car
  2. One blogger/reporter floated the idea that Ann Romney ‘s Multiple Sclerosis is getting worse and the elevator makes it easier for her to get in and out of the car and house

See a small but unsubstantiated correlation there.  It’s not clear that Mitt will be a better candidate, but it’s obvious he makes fewer mistakes and therefore is not required to say outlandish things to get votes.  The biggest issue on Mitt the past month is a car elevator.  The other two guys have athletes tongue from constantly sticking their feet in their mouths.

Mitt also picked up some huge endorsements.  Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Tea Party poster boy, endorsed Mitt.  President George Bush 41 endorsed Mitt.  Now Senator Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, another Tea Party guy, has endorsed Mitt.

Of course Wisconsin is a big deal because their primary election is this Tuesday, April 3rd.  Washington DC and Maryland will vote Tuesday as well.  Mitt has decent leads in all three places.  Should Romney win Wisconsin, the matter is all but settled.  The primaries in April are winner take all, so now winning the state means you get all the delegates and Wisconsin has a ton of delegates, 42 to be exact.

Short of a Romney scandal, there is no way Santorum can get to 1144 delegates and it’s almost impossible for him to stop Romney from getting there.

Newt and Ron Paul are in a dead heat for the “Crazy Old Man” conciliation prize, awarded to the candidate who comes in dead last, or dead broke, or both.

Newt’s campaign now has the feel of someone angling for a cabinet job.  He’s not slammed Romney in a week and only has ire for the President.  Secretary of State Gingrich perhaps?

On a personal note, we have had the greatest and worst 11 days of our lives here.  Some of you know that our twin girls were born 3 1/2 months early.  Anne Marie and Linda Claire were born at 1:53 and 1:54pm respectfully.  They both weighed in around 1lb 12oz, give or take an ounce.  Unfortunately Linda Claire’s lungs were not developed enough and she passed away around 5:45pm that same day.  We buried her in a wonderful ceremony this past week.  Her obituary is the post previous to this one if you would like to read it.

I felt like I needed to stop the blog for a while but after almost two weeks it’s more therapy for me than it is political info and funny Frank stories for you.  So for better or worse, I’m hitting the keyboard again.

On the bright side, Anne Marie is progressing nicely and we are thankful for every breath she takes.  She is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University of Tennessee Medical Center.  Those people are, in a word, awesome.   In the graceful way the dealt with Linda Claire during the 5 hours of her short life, the aftermath of her death, and the treatment of Anne Marie, they have been an oasis in a desert of turmoil and grief.  We look and pray for her homecoming sometime in late June.

I appreciate all the comments on Linda Claire’s obituary, the e-mails, and text messages.  I’ll answer them all at some point.  Trust me when I tell you they are a big help.  I can’t explain why, but it’s a bit comforting to read well wishes, offers of prayer and assistance at a time when you feel completely helpless and out of control.   Thank you all for that.

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Consignment Sales – The Belly of the Beast

So, for those of you who don’t know, Tracy is laid up in bed for the final 3 months of pregnancy. She’s had some issues which for my own safety I won’t go into here. If you’re that curious e-mail me. Anyway this development has some serious implications……for me. Tracy was never a domestic dynamo and that’s ok and that can’t be a surprise to those that know her. I’m a little particular when it comes to cleaning and cooking anyway so I gladly do both.

But with Tracy laid up there will be no middle of 2nd tri-mester surge of energy or nesting response. If you’re not tracking, that means I have to go out and set these twin girls up with all the accouterments that girls require, plus some of the standard twin stuff that either gender would need. I have no problem doing it, for the most part, but it requires me to engage a trait known as taste. The only thing harder for me to engage than taste is my core. Those that know me know my taste ranks right up there with my rhythm; don’t have it, don’t need it, don’t want it.

Let me take you back to Friday March 9th. After an ultra-sound where we got some up-beat news for a change we get home and prepare for the end of the world as a line of storms/tornadoes would start hitting Knoxville around 4:00pm. The downstairs bathroom is the Ark. We load it down with supplies, emergency stuff, and the ipad to keep Frank busy and we sit and wait for the pigeon to find land, which in this case means getting through all the tornadoes without leaving the ground unnaturally. Twelve tornadoes in all swept through Tennessee that night, none of them hit us. This russian roulette with mother nature lasted until 11:30 – 12:00am. It was in the Ark that Tracy, pregnant with twins, all squished on the floor of the downstairs bathroom, reminds me of the consignment sale for twins the next morning.

Yo man, I have 2 weather radios, my computer weather maps auto updating, 2 national weather alert apps on my phone, and the tv on local weather, I got no time for no consignment sale talk. Then she mentions I have to get there early, 7:00am, and drop 2 bucks so I can shop before the masses who have to wait till 8:30 and get in for free. Masses! There might not be masses by the end of the night. We’ll be lucky if our house isn’t in Jersey by the time the sun comes up.

Well the sun came up, the house was still there, and apparently the masses were rushing to the consignment sale because at 7:30, eyes still bloodshot, I start getting text messages begging me to go to the consignment sale. I was getting text messages from my wife laying in the same bed not 2 feet away. Now I had been up till about 1:00 am because Frank was spooked and we couldn’t get him out of the bathroom. We eventually bribed him by letting him sleep in the big bed with mommy and daddy. That meant another kidney-ectomy for me, courtesy of little Pele`.

The Ark. It's well lit.

So you know what happens next, I’m putting on clothes and going out the door at 8:00 to the consignment sale. I was the picture of health I can tell you that.

The sale itself was run by the KMC, or Knoxville Multiples Club. At least that’s what they told me to write on the check; the one check I brought with me. That came back to bite me. Tracy was really interested in finding a side by side stroller for the twins. You could feel the anger in her texts that I had not been there at 7:00 to get the good strollers. God help me. Well it turns out we got a good stroller. It was a good name brand, in great condition and it was about 175 cheaper than if we bought it new. So I grab it up and realize it’s too bulky to deal with. No problem, I’ll just pay for it, put it in the van, and go back in. That was a great idea until I started back in and realized I used my only check. Now I have to go find some money so I can go buy some clothes for the little divas.

There was an ATM up the street next to a McDonalds, score x2. 60 bones and a #3 with a diet coke and I’m rolling back to the sale. All is right with the world. Knock down the #3 by the time I park, take out my reusable shopping bags to haul my discoveries, and I’m surfing the newborn – 3 month old clothes racks in the girls section. Of course that was after a call to Tracy to say there were no girls clothes here, just blue stuff. “Dude, you’re in the boys sections, we are having girls, they keep those clothes in a separate place.” Or words to that effect. So with that bit of counsel I find the girls section and start shopping.

After a few false starts I find the groove and start bagging some nice outfits. The bag is getting heavy so I heft it over my shoulder like a … wait for it… like a purse. Felt like that the minute I swung it up there. Did I mention I am the only male of the species in the joint. Even the quasi security at each entrance are women. I don’t exactly look like the friendly type either. I’m slightly dark complected, two day growth of beard going, dark hair, dark eyes, hair disheveled and probably had McDonalds #3 crumbs on my sweatshirt, now carrying a red grocery bag as a purse. I would have called the cops on me.  Not a “One Shinning Moment” moment to be sure. (March Madness – look it up).

But women are better than men in a lot of ways, this is one of them. I couldn’t count how many compliments and offers for help I got. More women engaged me in conversation that morning than in my entire life, and I have 5 sisters. After they all asked enough questions to understand that I was there because my wife is on bed-rest for the next 3 months, I was the greatest thing since the wheel. Three different women would have gladly carried my bags to the car if I had let them. If there was homecoming king of the consignment sale, I would have had a chance. It was awesome, I didn’t want to leave. I just feel sorry for all the dudes married to these women. They were getting their onions busted that afternoon and they have no earthly idea why.

Sorry fellas.

Consignment Sale Treasure:

Double-wide or twice as nice

Diary of a Stay at Home Dad: Two of them? Really?

So most or maybe some of you know we are having twins.  If you didn’t know, well, we are having twins.  Read about it here, 2nd Heartbeat.  When we had Frank we waited to find out his gender until he was born.  It was going to be a little surprise.  It was such a surprise in fact that when they finally cut Frank out of the sun roof (c-section) the doctor didn’t say anything.  He was mute in-part because Frank was not breathing and was gray as ash, or whatever a good example of bad gray is.  They got Frank breathing in about 2 minutes and the nurse said to the doc, “Well what is it?”  He replied, “It’s a baby, what do you think it is?”  Love that guy.  He or his cohort will be delivering Frick and Frack.

Well finding out we were having twins was enough of a surprise so we decided to find out the sex of these two as soon as was physically possible.  In this case, since Tracy is still considered a high risk pregnancy we might find out by the 16 week mark.  I think the norm is around the 20 week mark.  Tracy is currently getting an ultra-sound about every 3-4 weeks.

We went in for said ultra-sound at the 13 week mark.  This was just to check the little carbon copies out, take some measurements and what not.  All was well.  That is until the ultra-sound tech said “Oh look at that.”  Look at what?  “Baby A doesn’t appear to have too much bone density around the pelvic area if you know what I mean.”  No I do not know what you mean, is this bad?  No it was not bad unless we were dead set against girls.  The tech was trying to say there was no support structure for male parts, indicating Baby A was a girl.  It never occurred to me to look for what wasn’t there.  I was solely concentrating on looking for the carrot and peas.  That’s why she’s the pro.

She gave the old caveat of it’s only 13 weeks, can’t be sure, don’t quote me, I’ve been wrong before, we’ll know better at the 16 or 20 week check, blah, blah, blah.  A quick pass over Baby B’s nether region first indicated a boy but it was really tough to get a good look, so nothing definitive.  Again this ultra-sound was not for finding the sex of the Bobbsey Twins.  However, I concluded Baby A must be a girl because she was hogging the ultra-sound camera and even gave a little Miss America wave.

Baby A. She's just relaxing and waving to the crowd.

So we went home, waiting for the 16 week ultra-sound to find out if Frank would be out numbered.  I had grown up out numbered so I know it’s not a big deal.  My little sister, Kathy, and I used to watch Sunday Night Wrestling at the Spectrum in Phila. on that old cable channel called Prism, we bare knuckle fought all the time, and had some of the greatest badminton matches in the history of the sport, followed by some of the greatest victory laps around the back yard by me.

It would certainly be easier with two more boys.  We have a bunch of clothes already, the toys are sort of male specific, but probably not too much, and ultimately I was hoping for two more since I was staying home with them.  You know you always get the question, “What are you hoping for?”  Well I have long hated the answer, “I just hope they’re healthy.”  Well who doesn’t hope for that?  I mean has anyone ever said, “I’m really hoping for gills and a dorsal fin cause we’re gonna name him Flipper.”  So the healthy thing is a universal given.  I answer questions put to me, and my answer was 2 boys.

The gleeful taunts to my answer were amazing.  There were several variations but all boiled down to “You’re going to have two girls, ha ha.”  I just wonder what would have been the response had I said, I’m hoping for two girls.  I doubt it would have been the gender biased retorts I’ve been getting.  Now let me say, this excludes my family.  I have 5 sisters and 2 brothers.  Of the 9 grandkids we have produced, all but one have been boys.  The family was getting pretty lopsided.  Even my father is hoping for 2 girls.

Well pop you get your wish.  The week 16 ultra-sound showed a definitive girl for Baby A and almost a definitive girl for Baby B.  So unless her B’ness grows a pencil between now and week 20, we need to come up with another girls name.

As my sister Mary Grace, the lone producer of the female grandchild Meghan said, “Girls do play golf you know.”  Right you are Mare.  Even a good friend who knows about these things told me college scholarships for women’s golf go unused, so if she, or they, are any good and the earth is still spinning on it’s axis in 18 years, they have a good shot of going to college for free.  So I got that going for me.

Meghan, hang tight girl.  Help is on the way.