Stuff my kid says: From the mouth of a preemie.

Who knew?

Strange how time affects things, how it can change your point of view or even your philosophy on stuff. Take for instance my now 5-year-old daughter. While in the NICU weighing a slight 1 pound 12 ounces any sound she made was met with joy and celebration. A burp, a cry, even a tiny little preemie fart, was cause for elation. Now, five years later, well let’s say the philosophy has changed a wee bit.

We summoned her upstairs to try on some new PJs. She was in the living room alone, it was quiet. And that’s important. When I called her to come upstairs it got dead quiet. Think of the quiet before a nuke goes critical and destroys everything in 100 square miles and you’d be close to the quiet before what we now call The Event.

When she realized we wanted her to stop what she was doing and come up stairs we clearly heard her say semi-under her breath, Well Shit. That was followed by her slow stomping her way up the stairs.

I am not embarrassed to say it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Not only did she use the proper word and context. She used the proper inflection. It was impeccable delivery.  I mean it was wrong on almost every level but damn it was funny. Tracy did not think so but I didn’t notice because I was too busy peeing my pants laughing.

But she wasn’t done. In fact she has offered so much funny lately I’m only giving you the best few as I see it. Or hear it as it were.

Behold:

We are both having hotdogs with ketchup. Frank and I are equivalent. Daddy equivalent means equal or the same. As you might imagine that was uttered with condescension dripping from all sides of it. She actually paused, taking the time to explain it to me as if I was the one in the room who could not possibly comprehend that word. She might as well have said excuse me while I explain it to you know who. All accompanied by a smirk and the old thumb wave that says hey look at the dope. Just remember when you point one finger at someone there are four more pointing back at you. To whit…

Daddy, dog water tastes just as good as people water. This revelation was made mere seconds after she educated me on the word equivalent. But this is the joy of young minds right? To her both of those statements were equally smart and observant. You might say they were equivalent. That is until your mind stops long enough to ask what should have been the obvious question. Anne Marie how do you know what dog water tastes like? Turns out thew answer is as obvious as the question.

The road warrior herself. Dreaming of first class leg room.

Daddy if it takes 13 hours to drive to New Jersey why don’t we just fly? Ah silly little child. If we flew we would be depriving you of that great American tradition; the family road trip. You see Anne Marie it’s supposed to take 13 hours so you can, we all can, experience the misery of the road trip in all it’s pee stops and hours long traffic jam glory. It’s what builds character and makes American strong. Fly? Fly! Don’t be silly. That would only take 1 hour and 45 minutes. What the hell are we supposed to do with the other 11 hours and 15 minutes?

Daddy we could live here forever! She tossed out that gem after it was discovered that Avalon NJ, the city where we rented the beach house for the week, had a Duck Doughnuts. That’s a cake doughnut place that has become wildly popular in the south. They make the doughnuts right in front of you, then put anything you want on them. I’m not saying I would do violence for a maple glazed with bacon on top, but I’m not not saying it either. Strawberry glaze with rainbow sprinkles is her regular. Of course this desire to stay in the homeland was also after we had real pizza for dinner one night and Italian subs the next and we spent a six days on the beach and at the pool. Live there forever, of course she’d want to. But will we? Of course we won’t.

I just don’t know who I’m going to marry. That bombshell came when I found her, at the ripe old age of four, sitting on the hallway floor in front of her room looking despondent. When I asked her the issue, she dropped that on me. She was very concerned that she would not find someone to marry. I suggested that she wait till at least her 5th birthday to get worried about that. She was agreeable but not happy. I’m still in counseling.

And for the top, and likely most disturbing comment…

Daddy do girls grow a penis? Tracy and I just looked at each other for a very awkward minute and it became painfully clear this was my hot potato to handle. It was like tip toeing though a mine field. Ah… no Anne Marie only boys have a penis. She paused for a quick second and offered this, That’s good. Cause I don’t want one of those. My thought – Hold on to that attitude for the next 80 years if you don’t mind.

And with that the conversation ended and she jumped into her bed and reminded us to turn on her sound machine and ceiling fan. That was our invitation to leave so she could go to sleep. So it appears we will be paying dearly for all of the quite, happy go lucky, rule following we got from Frank.

God help us all.

Diary of a SAHD: Beach Travel Time – a new standard of measure

The hoarder on the long  voyage to a land far far away.

The hoarder on the long voyage to a land far far away.

I may have mentioned a time or two our beach trip back in August. Read here if you dare: Toll Booths, Traffic Jams and Torrential Rain. A good time was had by all but it was a long drive to and from. I mean looooooong. Turns out it was so long some of us have not fully returned yet and because of that we have to recalibrate how we describe time as it relates to travel in the car.

Anyone who has ever taken a beach trip knows you’ll be finding beach sand for weeks in all kinds of places. Usually the biggest spot is the car, but it turns up in shoes, clothes, luggage, etc… It’s like bringing a little bit of the beach back with you. Actually it is bringing the beach back with you, but I was talking more the spirit of the trip. So every time you dump out a canvas bag full of clothes you found in a closet somewhere and a pound or two of sand hits the deck you get to take a little trip down memory lane.

Well it’s mid December, the trip was the end of August and Frank is still finding piles of metaphorical sand. His sand comes in the form of trips in the car. As I said the ride to and from Jersey is long. I had no Idea it was so long that Frank would now apply that distance to every trip we take. When we got to Maryland on the way to the beach Frank declared “The beach is too far away and I want to go home.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him we were two hours from Jersey and more than ten hours from home.

So worried about another long car ride, now whenever we go anywhere he asks, “Is ____ as far away as the beach?” It matters not where we are going.

His school is 1.3 miles from our driveway, Kroger is 2.1, the golf course we play most is 5.something, and every time we mount up to go to anyone of these places I get, “Is school as far away as….” He mixes it up too. Once in a while he won’t ask that before we go, he’ll just point it out once we’ve arrived. “That was as far as the beach.” No Frank, Kroger is not as far as the beach.

Hobo sleeping - it's what he does best

Hobo sleeping – it’s what he does best

He just went to Dollywood with his Aunt, Uncle and three cousins. That’s about an hour from here. I’ve not heard if he introduced them to his new space time continuum. He must not have because I think they would have mentioned it. Plus he was asleep before they got to the car for the ride home and he never woke up as I undressed and then dressed him for bed. The kid gets his snooze time.

We just walked our Sac putting Christmas cards in neighbor’s mailboxes. One box was around the corner and down the road a bit. Frank says, “Daddy that’s a long way.”

“Don’t say it Frank.”

“Daddy that’s as far as the beach.”

Although not so far as to keep him from running the entire way to the mailbox and then back to the house. All of a sudden it was as far away as the beach for me and I felt like I was running in sand. May be time for a fitness blog.

Anyway.

Of all the memories I would have liked him to bring back from the beach, the mind numbingly long car ride was not one of them. I mean he still remembers the hole in one he dropped on me at the miniature golf course. He clearly remembers me getting hit in the face with two blasts from a water cannon when our shots on 18 missed the mark. An event he brings up often, although he leaves out the part about one of those blasts being meant for him. Speed kills but short stays dry I guess.

Unfortunately the memory permanently saved to his hard drive is the long ride to the beach.

I’m not sure the people at The Kroger realize how far away their store has become when measured on beach travel time or BTT.

I can’t wait to see how he reacts to the two hour plane ride next year.

 

 

 

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.