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?