Sock Hoppin: Raising money has never been so much fun!

Fram here to....

From here, 1lb 12oz…

For you new folk, our twins were born in March of 2012. They were born 3 1/2 months early and only weighed 1lb 12oz each. Sadly Linda Claire only survived for five hours due to lack of lung development. Anne Marie hung on and after five months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, we were able to bring her home.

We have a debt of gratitude to the staff at the NICU that can’t be repaid, ever. But between now and ever we are doing our best to help the cause. In this case the cause is the Phase II building project at the NICU, which will convert The Big House to private rooms. So when they’re done every kid will get a private room right from the jump. Right now the NICU is made up of about 30 private rooms and “The Big House” where most of the preemies start out. Once they improve and get to the feed and grow stage they usually move to a private room.

The rooms were great and we were glad when we moved into one if only because it meant we were making progress. But I kind of liked the community feeling of the Big House. It was noisy because you’re in there with about 60 kids, side by side, plus all the equipment keeping each one alive. And every damn thing in there beeps in some fashion, in some sequence. I got used to it and it was nice having a nurse with in arms reach if the buzzers on your kid went off. Ultimately though, the private room made it much easier for our long haul.

This is where you would use an adverb like immeasurable, as in the benefit of a private room to a preemie is immeasurable. Problem is that would not be true. The value is measurable. People much smarter than me measured it and found that preemies in private rooms respond and grow and heal much better then they do in the Big House. I would lay some stats on you but lets face it, that just wouldn’t be my style. So go here if you want to self smart yourself (NCO Academy inside joke) on the subject: UT NICU here. Sock Hopin at 23 months old.

…to here. Sock Hopin at 23 months old.

To that end Tracy had the idea for a fund raiser to help the cause. We did a Sock Hop. Yes only my wife would come up with a sock hop. You know, cause it combines the things I detest the most, costumes and dancing. Of course the costumes were optional, but I greased back my hair, threw on a t-shirt, slapped some smokes in the sleeve and I was ready to sock, or hop, or whatever. I actually managed to avoid the dancing by claiming to be running the music. You can peep the photo gallery below.

Turned out to be a great time. Uncle Butch provided some great 50s music and Frank’s preschool provided the venue. We had good food, good cookies, cakes, brownies, etc… There was an impressive limbo contest and an equally impressive hula hoop contest. All to raise some dough-ra-me for the NICU.

The goal was to raise about $500 American dollars.

The money is still flowing in but at last tally we were around $1100 not counting the people who sent donations directly to the UT Medical Center.

So yeah, goal exceeded and then some. Obviously we could not have done it without a ton of help. As a matter of fact without Mary Alice, Whitney, and Ashley, it probably doesn’t happen at all. Marisa, Morgan and Becky were the backbone of the deal on game day and made it so much easier to run and shut down when we were done.

Several local organizations got in on the act as well. Dinner was provided by Gourmet’s Market. All the baked goods were donated by The Sweetery, Magpies, Buttermilk Sky Pie Co, and The Cup. Decorations were provided by Echelon Florists. Knoxville people, go buy local, go buy a lot.

Not too bad for a first attempt at a fundraiser. Probably set our goal too low. Definitely learned some things. All in all it was a lot of fun and it’s a great cause. Everyone looked great too. A special shout out to April Grimsley, who could have easily stepped from the pages of a 1950s fashion mag.

Guess what? You can still get in on the fun. Make a donation in honor of Linda Claire at the UT NICU here: UT NICU Donations. Preciate ya.

Here’s a few shots from The Hop. First one of from the UT NICU and last one from Mag Pies Bakery.

Nurse Paula (rt) and Nurse  Farideh. Two of our heroes.

Nurse Paula (rt) and Nurse Farideh (middle). Two of our heroes.

My favorite part of the Hop.

My favorite table at the Hop.











It was my best 50s shot at a costume. Everyone else looked straight out of Happy Days.

It was my best 50s shot at a costume. Everyone else looked straight out of Happy Days.

King and Queen of the Hop. Mary Alice and Josh

King and Queen of the Hop. Mary Alice and Josh










Becky and a child she stole from someone.

Becky and a child she stole from someone.


Mike Whitney and Stylin Bennett

Mike, Whitney and Stylin Bennett










That hurts my back just looking at it.

That hurts my back just looking at it.


Hula Hoopin the night away

Hula Hoppin the night away











Really tough guy? You're wearing penny loafers.

Really tough guy? You’re wearing penny loafers.

Magpies Bakery in the Old City, Knoxville TN

Magpies Bakery in the Old City, Knoxville TN













Frank’s Place: Best of 2013

Best of the best of the best... with honors

Best of the best of the best… with honors

Ok, it’s that time of year again. Time to recount the posts with the most, the stylings that got you smiling…or something like that. Man another year that just blew by. I guess it’s always like this when you have two or more. Didn’t seem to go that fast when it was just Frank, but now that he has a partner in crime the space time continuum just hasn’t been the same.

Speaking of time, lets stop wasting it. There are trays of pigs in a blanket with my name on it so here goes. I give you the top ten posts at Frank’s Place for 2013, in descending order by total views in a single day.

A Girl Stands in Knoxville! A lot of people clicked on this little gem. And why not. It had everything: a feel good story about a premie standing before she should have, some great before and after pics, and exploitative gambling. That’s right, guesses were made as to when AM would walk, now that she was vertical. The eventual winner was May524 who guessed it to the day, but she failed to reply. Susan Hupp and Andy Traugot tied for next closest at 13 months, 15 days. Hupp took an unedited version of the manuscript of my soon to be book and Traugot failed to claim his prize. Still here if you want it Andy.

Anne Marie Year 1 Few words and lots of pictures vaulted this one to the top of the charts. Not sure how I should feel about that. A momentous year non the less as we went from a weighing 1lb 12oz to eating a 1lb cake.

It was a Hairy Bear This was a little weird. When visiting AM’s twin sisters’ grave on their birthday we noticed a small bear my nephew Sean had put there during the funeral was still there. I mentioned it in a post about AM’s birthday. It got a lot of attention. So much so it became it’s own post. I can report that on this Christmas Eve the bear was no longer there. Although we still have the bear’s twin sitting with a picture of Linda Claire.

This is not a Rock Kicking Contest Mr. Linardo! A sad one for sure. This is what I wrote about my brother-in-law Bill, my sister’s husband, who died way too sudden, way too soon. The title of the post comes from what Bill, or Mr. McClory as I knew him then, would say to me when I was kicking rooks in the school parking lot waiting to walk down to the bus to go home. He said it a lot. I was dense back then. Or should I say denser? Can I say denser? Who knows, it’s late.

A lot of fish died to get this shot. I'll miss them.

A lot of fish died to get this shot. I’ll miss them.

It’s Always Hurricane Season! Hey she can walk. Great. She put her walking to good use, moving around the house destroying everything in her path. Busted up a few things with her wake too. This one got a lot of attention because you people like to see me suffer. I get it. I’d be laughing too.

Is there a Doc in the House? More suffering. Mostly mine. Not really. The whole house took sick and Frank had to evacuate to Grammy’s house with Mrs Frank’s Place as AM’s immune system would not be able to cope. It was a weird 4 days. Frank loved it. Had his mom all to himself. What’s not to love?

Running with Scissors  This is my personal favorite. Coming around the corner to find my 19 month old daughter using a pair of scissors in an attempt to pry open the fridge made me proud. I spent ten years working on an airplane that required serious improvisation to get things done. I was mediocre at it to say the least but to see my girl already developing those skills brought a tear to my eye.

No touch? Yeah no problem, I won't touch the gate. I'll jump over it.

No touch? Yeah no problem, I won’t touch the gate. I’ll jump over it.

Coming in to her own!  This was a post about AM building a ladder out of a diaper box and my wife’s work boxes to jump the child gate on the stairs. But really it was just me bragging on my daughter who turned 17 months old that day. Coming out of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, her brain pan was the only thing that had me worried. My fears were apparently unfounded.

What a Year a Baby Makes We celebrated her one year birthday in March. We celebrated her actual due date at the end of June. So one full year home from the hospital on July 29th, sure we’ll celebrate that too. Another extremely popular post with a lot of pictures and not much of my thoughts or words.

Yeah don’t think I’m not seeing the “just shut up and show us pictures of your kids” trend.

Making his shadow hand touch his shadow forehead

Making his shadow hand touch his shadow forehead

Dancing with Squirrels  The ever popular sequel to Dances with Wolves, this was a favorite of mine for a lot of reasons. Mostly because it was fun to watch Frank make shadow puppets while he was playing in a live soccer game. But it also gave me a little insight into the kids psyche. And I liked what I saw. Apparently y’all did too.

On a side note, I did have a top ten moment myself the other night. At a wedding reception featuring some of the who’s who in Knoxville, including the mayor and a local doctor who has a TV show here in town, my wife introduced me to an avid reader of Frank’s Place.

It was great to meet you LT. I appreciate all the nice things you had to say about the blog. You made my night. It was a humbling to say the least. Especially considering you walked right past Mayor Burchett and Dr. Bob to talk to me.

Of course most of the credit goes to my kids. They really write the stories, I’m just their interpretive stenographer.

So that’s it for 2013. These are the ten top posts for the year, as decided by you, the people who support Frank’s Place. Without you my ego would almost be non-existent. Well, that’s probably not true.

Anyway Happy New Year to LT and all of you from all of us here at Frank’s Place.





Diary of a SAHD: Pain don’t hurt

I think I may have alluded to Anne Marie’s very weird pain threshold. We first started to notice it this summer. Once she got her gallop on and could run the street with her big brother and his friends she would fall down, as most of them would. Our Sac* is not breeding the next Baryshnikov, that much I’m sure of. Anyway, as Anne Marie would hit the deck and invariably take a chunk out of her knee she would pop back up and keep running. The blood running down her leg was apparently only a concern to her parents.

Mrs Frank’s Place is an over-reactor. I can be one as well, but in the Sac I play it cool. You know, retired military and all that. Don’t want to ruin my rep as a efficient killing machine/defender of freedom and what not. In this particular case I think I noticed it before Tracy did. It wasn’t that Anne Marie didn’t cry, it was that she appeared be unaware she had cut herself at all.

The hand is not the injury.

The hand is not the injury.

Man if Frank had cut his knee like that we’d still be changing his bandage and the neighbors would be tired of looking at his “boo boo” every ten minutes.

I offer this photo as proof of my son’s drama-itis.

This was Frank after surgery to remove a cyst on his right ear lobe. He was two I think.

Don’t get distracted by the look on his face. He’s trippin on the after effects of Versed or silly juice and his fourth banana popsicle. Note the bandage on his left hand. It was to hold the IV in place during surgery. It was supposed to come off when we got home that day. He wore it for a week. His left hand was immobile for some reason. He held it out like a wounded claw – for a week. His hand magically returned to normal when we finally coaxed him into taking the damn thing off.

I know for a fact Anne Marie wouldn’t react like this. I watched the docs and nurses poke, stick, and prod her for months. They took blood a lot. When they did, the dude in the red scrubs would slap a warmer on her foot to get the blood flowing, making it easier to draw. The blood people wore red scrubs, that had to be an on purpose ironic choice. After a while she would get worked up when she felt the warmer on her foot. After a few months she would get worked up when she saw the red scrub guys. But towards the end she didn’t react much when they stuck her.

I didn’t think much of it and I may be remembering it wrong, it was a bit of a blur. But when I watch her close her hand in the accordion door on the hall closet and calmly open the door and run off, it makes me wonder. When she slams her hand in the drawer on the coffee table she doesn’t cry, she looks pissed because she’s stuck.

The speech therapist and OT, and some other mom type experts in the Sac, feel like it’s something she will grow out of. The doc all but confirmed this yesterday when she went for her 18 month check up, 3 months late. Kids have a switch she says, at 6 months they have no fear then a switch flips and everything hurts. That’s true with Frank. He got the flu mist when AM got a needle in the thigh. She didn’t blink, he acted like he’d been hit with a taser. So maybe AM’s switch is a little delayed. OK I can buy that. That’s what the Sac moms said anyway.

It’s possible, the doc says, she did build a tolerance to pain while in the NICU. Sac moms offered this up as well. Maybe I’m paying the wrong people for pediatric care.

I am having a harder time with the pain tolerance theory. I always thought pain tolerance had to be a conscious effort. But what do I know, I’m a soft, middle aged, retiree.

The doc is explaining all this as she readies a pin to stick AM in the finger to get blood. Yeah, not a peep. Not during the stick, not during the squeezing of the finger to get blood to flow, not during the continual wicking type maneuver they use to get blood into the little midget container. I usually am proud during these moments because the place is filled with screams from kids being tortured. But her lack of response to any of it is starting to creep me out.

Of course I say all that but when laid on her back for inspection she freaks out. Needle in the leg, no problem. Nurse lays her down to check stuff out where there is no pain involved at all, not even a cold stethoscope, she acts like she’s being deep fried.

After the nurse laid her down to do the cursory exam, we waited for the doc. During that time AM gets my wallet out, pours it on the floor and comes up with my drivers license. Then goes to her bag and gets the keys to the van and heads for the door. I asked where she was going and she said, “Home!” She was done with laying on the exam table. So I watched. Just as I’m thinking no way she gets the door open, she gets the door open. Rachel who is a nurse practitioner really but doc is easier to say, intercepted her in the hall way. AM came into the room backing up the entire way, looking up at Rachel. I expected them both to be holding six shooters, the stand off was that epic.

Can't a sister just eat some ice in peace?

Can’t a sister just eat some ice in peace?

We are taking her to see her developmental pediatrician in a week. The lady has a fancier and more accurate title but I can’t think of it. Mrs Frank’s place will yell it out for the 100th time as soon as she reads this.

For now, aside from AM not knowing when she’s really injured and thus endangering herself even more, it could be a pretty cool super power. Especially in a cul-de-sac full of boys.

Frank, Bennett, Jack, and Grant, you fellas better toughen up.

Might be a new sheriff in the Sac.

*Sac – the name all of us on our street gave our cul-de-sac. We have t-shirts. Yes we are that cool.