Just Between You And Me

Posted by Jesse

You may have already seen this video of the twin baby boys chatting each other up in the kitchen. You can check out more of these web darlings at their mother’s blog, www.twinmamarama.com (the mother also happens to be a twin). When I came across the video yesterday I immediately posted it onto the Facebook wall of the set of twins I’m closest with. Between seeing what a great relationship those twins have, and now getting video confirmation that twins are just plain awesome, I’m more convinced than ever I want to have a set of twin boys at some point.

The video also reminded me of my own secret language, that of the third child. Four years ago when we were both bored waiting for food at a restaurant, Michelle and I began talking to each other in “third kid speak”. I told her it was a language that only third-borns could understand, and it was basically a series of squawks and squeaks not all too different from the twins’ dialect.

It was really more of an acting game, and what made it fun for me was how quickly Michelle picked it up, especially at a young age. Though the words were nonsensical (“bee-da-BOO-bop?” and “ahhh…latta-beeka-woo”), we would use inflection, facial expressions, body language, and repetition of sounds to really give the impression that we were talking to each other.

For example, when sitting in a restaurant, if you tap the person sitting next to you and say, “Lapaaaaa…A-rak-a ma-kee-na-do-way?” and look around quizzically as if you’re looking for something, you can clearly communicate that you are looking for the restroom. I might have replied to such an inquiry from Michelle with some head-swiveling to survey the restaurant, a point to the back corner and “Raaaah…la pee-ta ruku she-ma-too-da, a-rashana mayku ratalama”, which of course means, “Ummm…I haven’t been yet but I think it’s back over that way.”

It was a great way for killing time, especially since waiting patiently was never one of my strengths, a third child trait that Michelle has in spades. We were even exclusive about it; sometimes poor Stephanie would want to play and might jump in with her own jabbering. We would look at her like she was crazy and making up words.

“No,” we’d tell her (in english). “You can’t understand it. It’s only for third children.”

Then we would laugh and go back to talking in our own language. (yes, yes, you can take me off of your uncle of the year ballot for that one, but I maintain it’s good to, every now and then, side up with one of the nieces against the rest of the family. Just ask Stephanie how much I have done for her advancement into the front seat of the car despite DJ’s threatening protests)

We don’t dabble in third child babble much any more. Regretfully, the last time Michelle engaged me in our private language I brushed her off because I was watching a basketball game. Like tickling and picking up and laughing at body noises, there’s probably a cut-off date when these things will no longer be amusing or even possible.

But I bet on, say, her wedding day I could lean in and whisper in Michelle’s ear “ma-kee-la a-tu-ree-ka-ma-do” and she would smile and know exactly what I meant.

A&F Pushing The T&A Envelope, Again

Posted By Jesse

One of the Tanner family traditions that I have adjusted and grown accustomed to is the soundtrack of the morning: Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos talking world news and pop culture on “Good Morning, America”, which plays as breakfast background music while the girls munch cereal. Sometimes I fear they run stories that are not the best for kicking off a second grader’s day, like the one this morning where they kept showing the clip of the two teen moms beating the snot out of each other (shout-out to Brunswick County).

At times I consider turning it off or changing the channel, but then I fear that it’ll only draw more attention to it. Apparently we would not have been watching Chris Brown’s appearance on GMA last week if Lisa were still ruling the roost. Bruce informed me that his music (and presumably his morning talk show appearances) was banned from the Tanner house due to his penchant for hitting other people. Sometimes (because GMA producers, like everyone else, know what moves the dial) there will be a story on at 7:15 a.m. about s-e-x, usually dressed up as a “scientific study” revealing something new about men and women. I try to pretend uninterested and ruffle the sports page loudly so as to distract the viewers at the breakfast table.

Almost every morning they give us an update on something related to the royal wedding. Michelle cracked me up when they said, “Up next, the details behind Prince Harry’s TOP SECRET bachelor party weekend…” and she calmly replied to the television, “I guess it’s not a secret any more, then.”

But then there are the stories where GMA is highlighting something that is wrong/bad/unjust, only I wonder if the attention they bring to the issue only makes things worse, even if they are condemning, not praising. Boy was I glad the girls had already exited the kitchen to brush their teeth when this story came on. I guarantee you Michelle would want one of these things. Better warn Danny to steer clear of Abercrombie next time he hits the mall.

Here’s the link to the story if the YouTube embed doesn’t work for you:
http://abcnews.go.com/assets/player/walt2.6/flash/SFP_Walt_2_65.swf

Affirmation Of Hipness

Posted By Jesse

the epitome of cool

I play it cool

I dig all jive

That’s the reason

I stay alive

My motto

As I live and learn

Is dig and be dug in return

-Langston Hughes

Let me begin by saying I am comfortable in my coolness. I mean, look at the above picture of Danny and me kicking it at DJ’s 13th Birthday poolside party last summer; it is not hard to discern who the hippest cats in the joint were.

I can quote from a wide variety of movies both classic and sophomoric. I am not afraid to wear my hat backwards. My music collection used to be jaw-dropping, before the digital boom hit and every sucker with an external hard drive could, in 30 minutes, obtain the amount of music I had spent two decades amassing. I can even drive a minivan while playing air drums and not look stupid doing it (I know this because DJ and Danny have both admitted they have attempted to play air instruments as well as I do, and so far have not been successful).

I know sports and pop culture well enough that I typically can catch allusions made to either, or weave them into my own conversation. I can still ride a bike no-hands. I can fake my way around a skateboard for a few minutes. I have mastered the two-fingered steering wheel salute and the expressionless head nod as a form of greeting strangers. I know freaking Langston Hughes poetry! Clearly, with all these things going for me, there is no reason to question myself: I am cool.

But you’d be amazed how much a teenager and two aspiring ones can make you feel like a geek. Here are a list of utterances I hear regularly. Let me know if any sound familiar:

“What are you WEARing?”

“How do you not know this song?”

“Have you really never heard of ______?”

“Were you trying to do The Dougie? Because you’re not even close.”

“Will you please play a song we KNOW? This is terrible.”

“What are you doing?”

“Can you just meet me around the corner so I don’t have to be seen being picked up?”

“This show is not stupid. YOU’RE stupid.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” “Of COURSE he doesn’t…who would be his girlfriend?”

“Oh my god you’re SO annoying.”

“Can you please stop talking, I can’t hear my TV show.”

Mean Girls, indeed. And, to be fair, the Tanner girls are generally nice, polite, well-behaved, respectful children. I can’t imagine being the Uncle to, you know, punks.

But it adds up. And makes me wonder, “Do they see me as a loser parent now? I kind of relished the role as care-free uncle.” Maybe you can’t enforce piano practice policy strictly AND be Mr. With-it.

So it’s nice to get reminders that you still got it, and that you can still be an influence when it comes to what’s hot and what’s not. I got one the other day in the form of a text from DJ:

“So I showed that song i’ll be in the sky to a few friends now like every1 knows and likes it. Haha”

That’s right, a song that I played incessantly last fall had now been passed along the middle school line and received favorable reviews. I was so full of myself I smugly texted her back that if she stuck with me, I’d keep her knee-deep in good tunes.

Maybe a girlfriend, or a better car, or some clothes I didn’t find buried in an overstuffed rack at the thrift store would actually bring my hipness up a few levels. But for the day, I was pretty satisfied that a few middle schoolers in Raleigh were digging the song I had floated out there into teenage-land.

And it IS a pretty catchy tune:

 

Tonight’s Dinner Special: Roast

POSTED BY JESSE

Since the girls wear uniforms to school all day, we do not have a dress code for the Tanner family dinner table (other than, you know, being dressed). It is advised, however, that you bring your layer of thick skin.

This family game has been played before, and will surely be played again, and I’m not even sure who started it last night, but it was probably the world’s funniest 8-year old girl, Michelle. It started with her (or someone else) declaring: “I’m going to be Jesse,” and proceeding to imitate the family member that has been named. Everyone else quickly follows suit by naming someone they will ape and soon we are sitting around the table having a “conversation” that consists of each person repeating their chosen subjects’ favorite meal-time catchphrase: Stephanie (as Danny) incessantly asked everyone how their day was, Michelle (as me) talked about watching basketball, etc.

But the real fun comes when we all take turns playing the same person at once. The script and performance are both pretty short, and I doubt Saturday Night Live will be beating down our doors any time soon, but we sure did crack each other up for about ten minutes. Even though the parroting typically consisted of a one-liner and a prop, some of them were pretty spot on. Here’s a quick review:

  • Michelle: singing loud and laughing; fidgeting and clinging on other people, even if they were trying to eat their own dinner; asking to be picked up and tickled. Best Actor award: Me, for my portrayal of Michelle at meals, rocking, kneeling on, or standing next to her stool while eating…and then going the extra absurd step of rolling on the dinner table.
  • Stephanie: a lot of OMGs and other “net-speak”; name-dropping of 5th grade boys that she “definitely does not like” even though their names are heard a lot; complaints about “tons of homework” that will somehow get finished before American Idol starts. Best Actor award: Danny, for his role as “slow-eating Steph”, pausing between bites to take in the scenery and chewing at a cow’s pace.
  • DJ: a lot of “Oh my gosh” (note: different from “OMG”–I guess net-speak becomes less cool around 8th grade) and other teenage tone and dialect, fast-flying thumbs and a refusal to look up from a newly purchased smart phone, play-by-play recaps of what happened in Latin and science classes, and a rundown of how incompetent/unfair the rest of the world is and how it is adversely affecting her. Best Actor award: Michelle, for her cheerleader routine and broadcasting the word of a newly purchased sports bra.
  • Me: donning of a baseball cap and lots of sports-talk; an eye-lock on my phone screen while announcing funny/interesting tidbits that are rolling across Twitter; responding to kids’ stories of the day with a different viewpoint on the situation or attempting to teach a lesson. Best Actor award: Stephanie, who moved to the piano to bang out some chords and sing at the top of her lungs. (am I really that loud?)
  • Danny (who, of course, tried to end the game before his name came up): reading glasses and dumbbells, weird exercise positions, commenting that everything would “make a good blog post”, not knowing how to work his phone. Best Actor award: DJ, who drew the night’s biggest laugh for her depiction of “Father drinking milk from the carton”, turning up the gallon jug and then exuding faux-machismo by strutting around the kitchen talking about how it’s “my milk” because he “bought it from Harris Teeter”.

And with that, this round of Tanner family roasting was concluded.

Some people might think we’re cruel to each other, but I think if observed objectively most would conclude it’s a net positive: everyone gets a fair share and we don’t really dwell on others’ insecurities as much as their habits. And it can be funny and sometimes quite revealing to see which words and actions you put out there, and what the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when they’re “being you.”

Additionally, I have conceded that when it comes to physical pain, the Tanner girls are kind of wimpy and there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. I have induced tears from what I perceived to be light tickling and caused seemingly (at the time) irreparable damage to fingers during attempted sports outings in the driveway. I know they didn’t grow up being mercilessly flung into bushes and tackled onto tree roots by Ryan Combs, the 6-foot 6th grader with whom I played backyard football in my youth, but I had hoped to at least teach them the “brush off the dirt and keep going” routine. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

But there are different types of wimpy, and I can tell you that the Tanner girls are going to be emotionally resilient and mentally stalwart, armed to handle the inevitable rejections and insults that will come their way as they grow and learn. Hopefully, they won’t need all the good training we’re giving them in how to let things slide off your back. And hopefully they’ve already faced the toughest thing they’ll ever have to get through.

Like Milk?

POSTED BY JESSE

One thing I have learned in the past year of living in the Tanner house: kids are fascinating. I hold no degrees in doctoral science, but I feel like I’m always studying the behavior of the Tanner girls. And I’ve concluded they are unpredictably fascinating.

Most mornings the routine is that Danny wakes the girls, gets the lunch order straight, starts his coffee, and hands off the lunch order to me so he can go get dressed (unless I’m slow rising–then he starts making the lunches). I come out and and make/finish the lunches and, depending on who comes down in what order, aid in the breakfast prep (aka cereal distribution).

Much like making lunches–where I know who will take what sandwich, and which fruit, and which snack–I know what to expect when it comes to breakfast: DJ will have the most sugary cereal in the cabinet, with milk. Stephanie will usually have the same sugary cereal, though she may have a less sugary cereal, also with milk, sometimes with a glass of milk or a glass of water. Michelle will pick from any array of the available cereals (though Lucky Charms is typically a lock) and she eats it dry, with a glass of water.

Always. Every breakfast of every school day I have been here, Michelle has eaten her cereal dry. Until yesterday.

She came down for breakfast, the first one down. She poured herself a bowl of Lucky Charms. And she asked me to pour the milk for her.

“What?” I said, in a dramatic, shocked voice. “You’re having milk on your cereal?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “I don’t know, I just…thought I’d try it.”

And she repeated it today. And she announced it to my parents when we had dinner at their house last night.

I don’t know exactly how long her habit of eating her morning cereal dry stretches back–she says she can’t remember either. So why the change? Who knows?

And that’s what makes me marvel at watching these ever evolving mini-people. Who knows what they’ll like or dislike tomorrow or why? What spurs change, even small ones, in kids? Does it mean she’s starting to try to be more like her big sisters? Did she wake up that morning knowing she wanted to try it? Or did it just hit her as she poured the cereal? Or had she been thinking about it for weeks and finally made the decision?

And also, is there something I do every day that I could do a 180 on and like just as much?

I suppose calcium advocates vs. weight nutritionists will have to determine whether the additional milk is good for Michelle’s diet.

It’s March: Time To Cover Your A$$

POSTED BY JESSE

I was checking out the Mothers With Cancer blog when I came across a post alerting me that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. I figured that would probably be a good thing to pass on to our blog readers since, you know, it’s kind of relevant to our situation here.

I am sure that March was designated as the month for colorectal cancer awareness before Lisa was diagnosed with hers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she planned her trip to heaven as a lead-in to Awareness Month; she was a meticulous planner. And this may be too blunt for some people, but it’s a fact: in March 2009 no one had a clue that Lisa’s gastrointestinal tract was a ticking time bomb; by March 2010 she was gone. If that’s not reason enough to get your colonoscopy, I’m sorry–that’s the best I got.

How clueless were we? Extremely. Ignorant enough that I didn’t even know what one was or why you got one before Lisa had hers. And based on our family email chain the week Lisa went to get checked out, you can tell that none of us had a clue what we were in for (the topic was the family Christmas exchange, but as you can see we took a turn into Lisa’s impending screening):

Sallie: I’ll take Lisa! I have lots of potty/poop-related items in mind. Sam will put together a collection of his favorite poopy diapers for her too. (Danny told me to say it!)

Danny: I DID NOT.  Her poop is off limits for me.  I have pledged not to make any jokes about her colon…and except for putting together a care package for her the other night (had each kid go find something potty related to put by her bed – magazine, plunger, t. paper, crossword puzzle), I have done well.

Me: what’s up with Lisa’s colon? And if she gets it -oscopied is there anything we can get bronzed? Or how about poo-wtered? [note: this was in reference to my mother giving us all our bronzed baby shoes one Christmas]

Sallie: Poo-tered – I laughed so hard I nearly peed in my pants. For once it is not me as the “butt” of the joke!

Danny: She’s been having a lot of stomach issues.  They are ruling things out.  Probably much doo doo about nothing.

Lisa: I’m not coming to Christmas [note: it is assumed she was rolling her eyes at this point]

Me: so no one has honestly answered my question about Lisa–has she been diagnosed? the closest explanation I got was Bruce saying it’s much doo-doo about nothing.

At which point my mom informed me what was happening and why, though even then she said she suspected it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We would have really liked an IBS diagnosis–the fatality rate is much lower and, as you can see, we could have made potty jokes for days.

So what’s it going to take to get you to get checked out? I’ve tried fear and humor. I could sprinkle in some guilt and say you owe it to those around you if you won’t do it for yourself. And if you have had any recurring/consistent stomach issues, then by all means get your ass (pun very much intended) to the doctor now.

I don’t want to get into pitting one type of cancer against another (we’ve been through colon and breast in my immediate family; I think a grandparent may have even battled leukemia at one point), but colon cancer is not currently getting the love that breast cancer awareness enjoys, with its turning everything pink. Colon cancer is less of a sexy cause, so it’s even more important we push it on the grassroots level. (I feel compelled to point out again: I am not calling for LESS breast cancer awareness, I’m calling for raised levels of colorectal cancer awareness!)

Later this month Danny and I might share some of our own experiences with getting a colonoscopy. Go ahead and make your appointment now and we’ll walk you through this thing step by step.

Here’s some more colorectal cancer screening info from the CDC:

-“Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon or rectum—is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer also is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.”

-“It is estimated that as many as 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were screened routinely.”

-“You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often than other people if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer; or
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.”

Justin Bieber Is In My Bathroom

Posted by Jesse

Justin Bieber is in my bathroom. Seriously. I don’t know how long he’s been there, but I bumped into him last night as I was brushing my teeth before bed. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

I have a bathroom attendant. Goes by the name "Bieber"

As I’m sure you were aware, Tuesday was Justin Bieber’s birthday, and it was definitely cause for celebration at the Tanner house. DJ made a cake she took to school, and later that day Danny’s parents brought her a life-sized (actually, I think it’s bigger than he is) cardboard cutout of the Biebs.

So, being the last one in for the evening last night, naturally I was the sucker who got “Bieber-ed”. I came in from watching basketball at a friend’s house and nearly joined the peed-my-pants club when I found what appeared to be a 6-foot tall, 13-year old pop sensation standing in my bathroom.

Like any good prank-ee who was pranked sans witnesses, I downplayed the result to the conspirators this morning at breakfast, acting as if I barely noticed. Truth be told, I jumped a little last night. And a little this morning. And a little the two times I’ve been into the bathroom since and forgotten about him.

But more than scared, I was excited….because now it’s game on. If you live in the Tanner house, you should expect to see Bieber around every dark corner, behind every door, and in your bed every time you pull down the sheets (well, if you haven’t already been short-sheeted).

There’s nothing more fun than a running prank where all parties involved are thick-skinned enough not to raise a stink about a little fun, and creative enough to keep it going–and, as you can tell, there’s plenty of both to go around this house.

But the best part is I can start with the most dastardly prank I could think to pull on DJ: making her beloved Bieber cutout DISAPPEAR!

Any other good prank suggestions? I might need some help.

Happy Birthday, Bieber

POSTED BY JESSE

Today is Justin Bieber’s birthday. He was born on March 1st, 1994 at 12:56 a.m. How do I know this? I am living with a Bieb-ette.

Yesterday I picked DJ up from school. She told me she had to make a cake that night. What for?

The Biebs

“For Justin Bieber’s birthday!”

 

She also told me she was going to set her alarm for 12:56 a.m. because that’s what time he was born. I rolled my eyes, but I was amused.

This Bieber kid is the real deal. DJ first saw him in concert before he went to super-huge-megastar status when he was opening for Taylor Swift. She flew up to Boston to visit her Aunt Sallie and they went to the show together. She’s been hooked ever since.

And it sounds like she’s not the only one. His movie made $30 million the opening weekend. He’s a trending topic on Twitter daily. His fans even went after Esperanza Spalding, the poor girl who dared to win the Best New Artist Grammy over Bieber. So it’s safe to say he’s probably not going anywhere for a while, provided he doesn’t start rolling around Hollywood with, say, Charlie Sheen.

You ever heard of Bye, Bye Birdie? A Broadway show turned movie about a star singer going off to war and the fan who wins the chance to give him a goodbye kiss? The Tanner girls love it because they watch old musicals at Danny’s parents’ house (I am a BIG fan of this–they have a great collection that the girls just love. Kids will watch classic movies; there’s a reason they’re classics!).

I have a soft spot for the show because my middle school and my high school both put on a production of it and I was cast in the same role both times: Hugo, the nerdy, left by the wayside boyfriend, who, perhaps not coincidentally, is about the only lead character who does not sing any solos.

Well DJ is a living Kim MacAfee, the main girl in the show. She definitely has 2011 version of the “Telephone Hour” song mastered, though instead of the rotary it’s today’s teenage combination of text, talk, facebook, and skype.

Bieber's birthday cake, pre-icing

And Bieber is her Conrad Birdie. She paid some exorbitant amount of money to the Justin Bieber movie, Never Say Never, a week before it officially came out in theaters. If there were a contest to kiss Justin Bieber before sending him off to fight in Libya, DJ would be in it and I wouldn’t bet against her winning.

 

And last night she made him a birthday cake. I think (hope) that deep down she’s being a little bit tongue-in-cheek in her obsession, but she did insist on making purple icing and spent a lot of time trying to figure out which combinations of food coloring would produce it, so maybe she really does have a problem.

But I admire her creativity and the way she completely throws herself into silly projects like this from time to time. It adds a little spice to the ordinary routine.

some father-daughter time in the kitchen

And maybe the best part was how unfazed Danny seemed that his daughter was making a mess in the kitchen for a Bieber birthday cake. After a day of work, and running the late shuttle for kid pick-up, and cooking dinner, and answering homework questions, I don’t even think I heard him sigh when DJ said, “Daddy, will you help me make icing for the cake? We don’t have any.”

 

In fact, it was kind of neat to see him passing down some of his better-than-average baking skills to his oldest daughter.

“Grab the confection sugar and the vanilla out of the cupboard….”

And together they made cake icing and iced Justin Bieber’s birthday cake. DJ then took the special purple icing to do the writing.

Unfortunately cakes don’t come with spell-check, so with only Stephanie as the consultant, they first came up with this:

Oops.

It’s B-i-e-b-e-r (but she fixed it). Whew, maybe she’s not as obsessed as I thought.

Memorial Day, A Few Months Early

POSTED BY JESSE

I promise you, this is a blog about two well-meaning but often clueless guys trying to raise three wide-eyed girls in the wake of their mother passing away at too young an age. It is not a blog about a grief-stricken family. The latter, though meaningful and heartfelt, does not seem like a blog I would be interested in following for very long. The former is full of funny tales and moments that make you think, and, hopefully, would be a blog folks would find to be an interesting read.

But it’s “remembering week”, so that’s what we’re doing.

I speak for myself here, but yesterday (yes, February 24th was the date she died) was really not a difficult day for me. Maybe it’s because we were always on the go, flying up to Boston and running around town most of the day. Maybe it’s because we’re away from the house. Maybe it’s because–due to the approaching anniversary and some other stuff–I had a miserable week last week and didn’t have enough left in me to stay sufficiently glum.

But whatever the reason, I did not feel the harrowing sadness I did a year ago, and that I have felt at times this past year, and feared I might experience yesterday. Whereas I appreciated every single word, note, comment, and letter I received a year ago (even the ones I was never diligent enough to respond to) and read and re-read most of them multiple times, yesterday I kind of got annoyed as the texts, emails, calls, and facebook messages rolled in–like I was getting reminders that I should be feeling worse than I was. (note to friends: yes, I just irreverantly dismissed all of your good intentions. I am that jerk. But what can I do? That’s how I felt. I still advocate friends reaching out to friends, I promise!)

Which brings me to the multiple rememberances that have gone up to honor Lisa. Much like the generous gifts that were given in her memory to First Presbyterian Church and St. Timothy’s (and the $20,000+ that was given to cancer research through St. Timothy’s Spring Sprint), the physical memorials are a beatiful tribute to her legacy. But after yesterday, I wonder: will I look at these memorials and be happy and nostalgic? Or sad and annoyed? Will they bring joy in rememberance of a life well lived or anger at a life cut short? Of course, the memorials are not FOR me. They are for her, and Danny, and their girls, and my family, and all those who knew and have heard and will hear about Lisa. So I can get over myself. But I do wonder.

Regardless, they are beautiful and touching and despite my terrible introduction, I hope you enjoy seeing them. I hope I do, as well.

At St. Timothy’s, the front playground was dedicated to Lisa’s memory, marked by a plaque and a statue of two children on a bench reading (the picture at the top of the post is the writing on the bench). At DJ’s urging, Danny and the girls tied a balloon to one of the children in the statue before we left for Boston. Someone was also thoughtful enough to attach one on St. Timothy’s famous “Balloon Day”, one of Lisa’s favorite days of the year.

 

At First Presbyterian, an incredibly constructed, hand-made wooden music stand was dedicated to Lisa’s memory. The story, I believe, is that well before Lisa died the maker was moved to build the music stand, but wasn’t quite sure why. Then Lisa, a long-time director of the Children’s Choirs, passed away, and he realized (and I don’t want to speak for anyone here, but this is how it has been told to me) that the stand had been divinely inspired, his actions and hands guided by God. It is magnificent enough in its construction that I would find it difficult to disagree.

The engraving reads:

Lisa’s commitment to First Presbyterian Church was evident through her deep level of involvement. Lisa loved music and shared that love through her service as Co-Director of the Children’s Choir.

Dedicated in Memory of Lisa by the Choirs of First Presbyterian Church.

Designed and created with loving care by Hilliard Green, Jr.

 

At our family vacation spot, Capon Springs, WV, they have been going through some major building improvements. Our family opted to dedicate a new fireplace in the main house to Lisa. We picked the fireplace because it is the centerpiece of what was probably Lisa’s favorite activity at Capon: sitting around the main house living room, chatting with friends, catching up (read: gossiping!), playing group games, having sing-a-longs, and generally just loving life with good friends. After some good family brainstorming, my mom came up with “Sing Songs, Share Stories” for the inscription–it’s perfect. (note to Caponaires: the stone may not look exactly like this when you arrive in August).

Notes From The Beach…

POSTED BY JESSE

The girls are at the beach with friends so Danny and I, through the kindness of a good friend who lent us his house for a couple days, decided we did not want to wait out the anniversary week of Lisa’s passing (does that need a catchier name? Lisa Week? Eh, that would be more fitting on her birthday. Death Week? Seems a bit morbid. We’ll work on it…) at home in a quiet, familiar, childless house. Instead we came to a quiet, unfamiliar, childless house, so it’s not like we’re having a party or anything. I think the thought was to get away, let ourselves mope a little bit, and then return with fresh faces to see the girls and face the 24th. It’s gray and windy here at the beach, and if I didn’t know any better I might think that we were creating the male version of the tear-inducing “Beaches”, and that one of us was the one with a terminal illness. But, no, we’re just a bit melancholy, missing a wife and sister. Here are a couple other things I’m thinking about:

What day was that again? I’ve found it interesting the way people consider dates, especially for something in recent history. Lisa passed away in the early morning hours of February 24th, but as we’ve been playing things back in our heads, we typically run off the weekly schedule of life. For example, we remember things like, “Friday so-and-so came to visit her, Saturday was the day we were told this, Monday was the day we had the family meeting…” etc.

 I have always worked better under this system, mostly because I’m terrible with dates, but also because it’s easier to use other events for context. I can’t tell you the date I started going out with a girl, but I can tell you the first time we kissed was the night of the UNC-Georgia Tech game that year. Danny joked he’s got enough emotion to “celebrate” both the day of the week and the actual date Lisa passed away, so we don’t need to worry about picking which one is the date we’re choosing to remember her passing.

“How’s Lisa?” That is not intended to be funny–Danny and I were talking on the drive down here about still coming across folks who don’t know. Recently, my Mom emailed with a family for whom Lisa had nannied for multiple summers. She loved the job, the family, and really enjoyed her time in Marblehead, Massachusetts. We were thinking about visiting since we’re headed to Boston this week to visit Sallie and Matt and their kids (Danny and I have godparenting to do!), but everyone feared that when we reached out to Lisa’s summer family, we’d also have to let them know she had passed away. We were right.

I also recently bumped into a guy who had worked at the Y with Lisa and Danny for a number of years. We greeted each other, and he quickly stated how he and his wife had just been talking about Lisa the other day and all the good times and stories they remembered of her. I assumed he was bringing this up because she had passed away and he was letting me know how much he thought of her. Then he caught me off-guard, “How is she doing?” Uh…

On the drive down, Danny relayed that DJ had a similar incident, only she had no clue who the person was. A lady, almost certainly a friend of Lisa’s, approached DJ, showered her with praise, told her she looked like her mom, and then promptly asked “How’s your mother doing?” I think Danny fears that such a question will send his daughters into a tailspin (since, admittedly, there have been times when someone will ask about her, or Danny, or the kids, or anything and the only answer that comes to mind is overwhelming sadness, and tears come before words), and that they might stuggle to answer. He asked her what she told the woman. DJ correctly pointed out, “Well, I couldn’t just say ‘she’s fine’, could I?!”

It sounds like DJ politely and unawkwardly told the woman that her Mom had passed away about a year ago. I think I need to take lessons from her. I still get terribly befuddled when people ask me how many siblings I have. Two? One? Had two, have one? How do you draw the line between being uninformative and avoiding a conversation that neither party is looking for?

This blog is a DOWNER Danny asked me on the drive down if he thought the blog was getting too depressing. I answered that I thought, yes, it had recently taken on more of a somber tone, but I thought it was more reflective of our current mood and what’s on our minds than anything. I told him I didn’t think it was a big deal and would not drive loyal readers away in droves if we had a week or two (or month?) of more thoughtful, somtimes even sad posts. However, f it’s still this way in April then we probably need to examine things, or not be surprised if people look for a more cheery place to visit on-line.

So stick with us, readers. This should be the blog at its most despondent. Things are getting better all the time🙂

How are the girls doing? Nothing makes me feel like a more inadequate guardian than not having a good answer to this one. With the temporary exception of one of the them seeming not her normal self for a stretch last summer, I feel like I have not noticed any major changes in the girls. In fact, people are always telling ME the things they have seen in the girls that are different, and I wonder if I’m too aloof to notice things or if I’m right and everyone else is just looking too hard. The girls are….girls! DJ is figuring out which high school to go to and probably more stressed out about the adults around her talking about it than she is by making the decision. Stephanie wants to sleep in on Saturdays and has a birthday party at Embassy Suites every other week. Michelle got a lot of Valentine’s Day candy and wants a later bed time. I have not been a parent, but all of this comes across as fairly normal to me.

I am not suggesting losing their mother will have no effect on them. I must admit, when 8-year old Michelle was filling out her “Letter to My Summer Counselor” for camp, and she wanted to describe herself as “sarcastic”, I worried a little bit that the influence of having two knucklehead adults in the house and no tough-love mom was probably taking its toll. (but I was still tickled to death. We convinced her to just go with “funny”).

Stephanie may prefer an extra hug this week, and DJ, true to form, is hunting for new traditions she can start to commemorate the 24th. But the girls are great, and I promise my lack of a better answer isn’t because I haven’t been paying attention. And that definitely mean don’t ask–like I said, I just feel silly when I don’t have much more of an answer than “great!”

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