The NC Coast

Aniver and Annie

I did manage to bury two teenagers last week!

We went to the beach last week.  I wasn’t able to stay for the entire time – I had to commute to work a day or two.  Those drives gave me ample time to reflect on trips of years gone by.

When I was a kid, a member of my dad’s church allowed us to use their beach house in North Litchfield, SC, for a week each summer.  Man – were those some great trips.

I remember my parent’s had a sedan, not nearly enough room for them, my brother, me, and two friends.  For years we took the Mozena boys on our annual vacation.  Greg was Chad’s age and Steven was mine.  We traded cars with their parents.  Sid and Jerry drove a massive blue station wagon.  Jerry had built a huge wooden blue box that sat on the top of the car strapped onto the roof rack.  There was a seat in the back that faced the opposite direction.  My brother and I fought over who got to sit there.  I don’t remember who won – if I know my mom, she determined the exact mileage for the trip and made a stop precisely at mid-point to switch riders.  The woman is FAIR.

One year we took several other families with us for the week.  This house had a massive picnic table in the kitchen with two long, wooden benches on either side.  The group convened for a card game called Spoons which required you to sometimes dive for the utensil once someone put together a winning hand.  For some reason, my young teenage self showed up for the game in a bathrobe.  Just a bathrobe.  When I dove across the table to grab my spoon for the win, the robe flew up, and I presented my entire lower being to not only my family but also to Mr. and Mrs. Benner and their teenage daughter.  Thankfully I was successful at nabbing the spoon else my exhibitionism would have been in vain.

I have long passed the days of required sandcastle building and burying children in the sand.  I watched my brother and sister-in-laws work their asses off this week entertaining on the strand.  I drank beer and read having the occasional grown up conversation with Michelle and her friend.  I sort of miss the digging.  For years, my carved out living rooms with dug out sofas were quite the place to chill on Topsail Island.

One of my favorite memories is the night my entire family went on an evening walk to catch sand crabs.  We used buckets and nets as well as frisbees to capture the critters.  As we walked down the dark beach, I picked up wet sticks and made it a point to sneak up behind my mom and tickle her ankles.  She would jump a mile EVERY SINGLE TIME I touched her.

It just never gets old to scare grandma!

This year was quiet.  Only Michelle was able to come for the full week.  DJ dropped in for about 24 hours and Stephanie couldn’t leave her job at Camp Seafarer.

I hope that one day we can all reconvene to begin to form new traditions and memories.  I wouldn’t trade anything for that time with the family.

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Frozen Drawers

frozen boxers

My oldest niece is now 25, 30, maybe older, I’m not sure.  All I do know is she’s getting on up there.

Since she was born I’ve worked hard to keep her in line – she is a handful.

One Christmas I decided to give her two of the things she loved the best – nicely packaged together.  So I took a pizza crust and hot glued macaroni all over it.  She was rude and didn’t eat it.

Fresh out of college and in a new apartment, she requested money and house goods for her holiday gifts.  Naturally, I bought a 24 pack of toilet paper, unrolled each and tucked a dollar in the middle.  I then wrote on the outside of the roll the title of a fabricated Christmas Tune – like “Oh Holy Wipe” or “Tinkle Bells.”  It took a great deal of careful thought to put it together, and yet, she complained about the rolls being unwrapped.  I just don’t get it.

The younger she was, the less she could throw back at me.  Now, with her old age and all, I’m having to be a bit more careful.

At the beach earlier this month, our entire family, all 12 of us, took our annual crab hunting exhibition.  We gathered the nets, the flashlights, buckets and frisbees (used to secure the caught crabs in the said buckets).

Since my mother is scared of everything, I decided I’d take a small twig, sneak up behind her and surprise her with a little tickle on her ankle.  It’s sort of fun to see a 76-year-old jump that high.  It reminded me of the time my brother put a plastic snake on her shoulder in a gift shop at Disney World when we were kids.  Her scream was so loud they called in security because they thought someone was dead.

So, maybe I took it a bit far when I repeated my trick four or five times on my mom, she is such a sucker.  Then a couple of swipes on my niece’s ankle and once or twice on Michelle.

I knew they were working to get me back when DJ and Courtney ran back to the house to “go to the bathroom.”  Both have camel bladders so I suspected revenge was in the making.

After a one-sided water gun war, I thought I had paid my penance.  What I learned when I climbed out of the shower was that all of my boxer shorts, every single pair – even the dirty ones, were missing.  I searched for a while and then gave it a rest.  I figured them knowing that I knew was torture enough.  They had to fear my next move.

I reminded them that I wasn’t big on underwear and that I could go months without my shorts.  I’ll have to admit though I didn’t want to have to buy 8 new pair.

Two days later, with still no sign of my boxers, I made my move.  While they were sunning by the pool, I snuck into their rooms and snatched their undies.

I then called truce and worked out a swap wtih my father as a neutral party.  We’d each give our goods to him, and he would return them to the rightful owner.  He’s a minister, I knew I could trust him.

What I didn’t realize was that little rat had wet my shorts, wadded them all up and crammed them on the bottom shelf of the freezer behind the ice pops and in front of the frozen kale.  When recovered, they were solid as an iceberg, formed in-between the crevasses of the wire rack that hid them.

It was nearly the rudest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.  Who does that?

PS – If you’re reading this, and you know who you are, just wait, wait until next year…

Ballet on the Beach?

I’ve done a lot of things on the beach.

When the kids were younger, we’d spend hours and hours digging.  It didn’t matter what I was digging for, as long as I had a shovel in my hands, the girls were happy.

I remember making holes so big the entire family could sit in them – mom, dad, and all three kids.  We had sand-made chairs, couches and occasionally a table.  My kids would request bureaus and refrigerators.  “How about a Duncan Fife couch dad, like the one Great Grandma has?”  To them, there was nothing I couldn’t construct out of wet, salty sand.

“Dad, make the hole deeper!”

“Dad, the moat for the castle is too small.”

I felt like I was on a chain gang.  At the end of the day I’d take three Alleve and hit the sack by 8 pm.

This year was different.  The kids are older, spending more time on their own.  What they want to do now is sit in a chair and Instagram their friends all day.  My, how times have changed.  You know, I actually sort of miss the hard labor.

This year on the beach, I didn’t dig.  No, instead, Michelle spent one afternoon teaching me her ballet moves.  Naturally, DJ had her iPhone on the beach so was able to capture the moment for posterity’s sake.

 

As long as they keep asking, I’m pretty much up for anything!

Cowabunga!

Posted by Danny

I’m not sure if there was ever a time in history where a parent was considered cool by their teenager. I got along well with my parents and usually enjoyed being with them, but I don’t think I would have ever considered them cool – especially not when I was in high school.

I distinctly remember a trip to K-Mart as a teen. Not only was I mortified to be in that store, it was not a cool place to hang out in 1979, but I was also there with my parents. At one point when they couldn’t find me, they began to call my name in unison, “Danny, Danny Tanner, where are you?”

If I’d had a sword I would have jabbed it through my jugular. I’m still scarred by that moment in time.

Now it is my turn!  I get to be the parent of a least one teenager for the next decade.

I don’t desire to be the coolest parent around; you won’t find me hosting parties for my kids with kegs of beer that I’ve purchased. You also won’t find me sloughing off curfew or looking the other way when a “C” shows up on the report card. But I am striving to find ways to connect with my rising sophomore.

On our recent beach trip, DJ asked me if we could rent a surf board. My initial instinct was that her request was ridiculous. Neither one of us would ever be able to surf, and I was sure she’d be frustrated and done with it after rental day 1.

But a little voice inside my head told me to “shut up.” It told me to take this opportunity to connect with my kid and potentially rack up some cool points (I think I have negative 645 currently). So I bit.

What I gained in coolness in renting the board, I apparently lost when I tried to start talking like a surfer.

“Dude, I’m really amped about surfing. I hope we have some epic waves.” I used a surfer accent.

As we drove up to the rental shop, DJ jumped out of the van.

“Hang loose chic, I gotta get my wallet.”

“Dad, you’re such a dork.”

The owner told us the rental for three days would be $35. He then gave us a bar of wax.

“Sick DJ. We have our own wax.”

Sometimes I don’t know when to stop.

When we got back to the beach, I’m fairly sure I looked pretty darn cool walking along the shore carrying my board. But that’s when the coolness stopped.

DJ went first, she’d done this before. She paddled out on her belly, then sat up like a champ.

“DJ – there’s a gnarly wave coming your way! But look out for gray suits (I’d been on line, that means sharks).”

She tried several times but couldn’t stand up.

“That was bitchin’,” I thought I’d earn points by throwing in a cuss word – she is 15. “Now watch this.”

I paddled out and worked to sit up, my legs thrown across each side of the board. It took less than a second for the entire board and 46-year-old surfer to do a 180. Not front to back but right side up to upside down. My hair was brushing against sea shells, my feet above water.

I wondered if this could be considered a wipe out.

I tried again.  This time I swear my head brushed up against a sting ray.

“DJ, I think you should practice some more.  I’m going to go check on the boogers (boogie board riders).”  Thank goodness I have other children.

DJ surprised me.  She stuck to it and surfed multiple times each day.  I even got to the point where I could sit, with my head OUT of the water and even attempted to stand up a couple of times.

I think we’re less Hawaii 5 – 0 and more Gidget.  But who cares, we had a great time and spent hours chilling together!  Maybe I’ll say yes more often.

Our Family’s Pyrotechnicians

Posted by Danny

Why is it that the fourth of July turns seemingly normal men into temporary pyromaniacs?  I bet that’s how those fires started when Yellowstone burned down years ago.  Had my brother been in Wyoming at the time I would have guessed it was him.

It actually started with my brother-in-law Matt during our first beach vacation the last week of June.  He showed up for the weekend giddy with his Costco purchase.  I knew they sold toilet paper by the crate, but dynamite?  Apparently for $30 you can walk out with enough explosives to burn down four sand dunes and two three story beach houses.  You can always get a great deal there.

On our last night, after dinner, he grabbed a bag from the carport and announced he had a treat for all.  The kids gathered around as he unpacked his treasure.  On the side I saw the letters T N T.  I felt like Wile E. Coyote.  Had the Road Runner come to blow me up?

Have you ever tried to light a match on the beach?  All the men in the family were expected to gather around the explosives to block the wind while Inferno Boy struck the match.  If per chance the fuse did ignite, we were instructed to run like hell. 

After several attempts and extreme disappointment from Matt, we moved the package of pyrotechnics to our pier which was wedged between sand dunes.  This time it lit.  I took cover on the beach with the children, poised to jump in the Atlantic if necessary.

The sparklers began, flames popping out left and right.  The wind carrying the balls of fire blocks away. 

I’m sure the neighbors were appreciative of the free entertainment – well, those whose porches weren’t on fire.

The next week, at the beach with my side of the family, my brother made the Zambelli’s look like luminary lighters.  His fireworks display put Matt to shame.  Chad’s rocketed 50 feet in the air and exploded like the ones you see on the National Mall in DC, although only one at a time.

As I watched him hover around the small round launcher, I couldn’t help but think what might happen if a slight breeze blew the paper towel type holder on its side.  Perhaps I’d be lucky and get out with only singed eyebrows.  I could jump behind the neighbor’s car – nah, probably has a full tank of gas.  How many yards is it to the sound?  Not sure I could make it with three kids in tow.  Rockets are fast.

Fortunately for us, the launcher died after the third explosion.  But that wasn’t all.  Now Grandpa stepped in with the sparklers.  Finally, something my speed – a small handheld stick of fire.

Dang it.  I’d forgotten how much they sting when the little flame shoots off and lands on your forearm.  I should have brought the aloe.

I guess we were lucky.  I was reading reuters.com and saw the following headline:  Fireworks Accident Claims Man’s Testicle

Reframe:  Saved money.  Vasectomys cost a lot more than $30.

Animals? Grandchildren? Ahhh!!!

Posted by Danny

It hit me this past week.  I am going to have to raise my grandchildren.

We were at the beach which means an annual argument about purchasing Hermit crabs.

I’m not sure if other families have this issue; I sense it’s only us. I believe it is a genetic condition. My oldest niece started it about 15 years ago. I have her to thank.

When we go to the coast, we eat seafood in Calabash, NC. It’s where my grandfather took us. At times we’re staying two hours away from Dockside Seafood Restaurant – doesn’t matter, my father insists that’s where we go.

“It’s good food and it’s a great price.”

All true. Although if you’re driving three vehicles 240 miles each, I question if there is true savings.

On the corner near the restaurant is an enormous nic nac shop. On the porch is a cage, maybe four feet square in width and four feet tall. It is packed with Hermit crabs. Their shells have all been painted by a local “artist”. There are flowers, Picasso type designs, even Spiderman Hermit Crab – so very, very tempting.

Although we have two at home who survived the past 12 months, according to my kids it is imperative that we have more.

“We are NOT getting more crabs,” I insist. “What joy do they bring? You don’t like them in your room because they are loud at night – so they take up prime real estate on the bathroom counter. You don’t play with them – in fact, all they do is sleep. When their cage starts smelling like crustacean poo, who cleans it out? That would be me. No — No. No. No.”

“But dad…”

“You never take care of your animals. Why don’t you play with the ones you have?”

Although DJ didn’t pushing for one this year, she pointed out that her crab immediately changed shells when she got him home last year. “He left the flower designed shell I picked out and moved to the ugliest shell we had – I didn’t like him after that.”

He was probably a dude and embarrassed to be stuck in a tulip.  I wouldn’t want to live in a house with a garden painted across the front door.

I then began to toss out all of the animal failures the Tanner’s had endured:  “What about your hamster Stephanie. You never played with her.”

Miss Piggy bit! Would you play with something that draws blood on a regular basis?”

“What about the guinea pig? No one played with him.”

“If you recall, I didn’t want a guinea pig. I wanted a hamster. Mom made me get JW. Therefore, we never connected.”

That’s when it hit me.  I suddenly had the realization that I was going to have to raise my grandchildren. If my kids found fault in their child, they would simply turn its well-being over to me.

Panic grabbed my chest. I felt the car closing in.

“AAAAhhhh! What if you treat your children like you do your pets? I am not going to raise your kids. I can’t do it.”

I could see it clear as day:

“DJ, where’s my grandson?”

“Oh, well you know dad, we really wanted a girl. I guess he’s still up in his room; haven’t checked in a few days.”

Or

“Stephanie, what’s that smell?”

“I’m not changing diapers, that’s gross.”

Or

“Michelle, is that your baby screaming?”

“That’s her – but she bites.  We don’t pick her up anymore.”

I don’t know if I can do it.  I mean I’ll be 15, maybe 20 years older than I am now.  I may not have the energy.  I’m supposed to be through with diapers. 

Oh Lord – give me strength.

The Jungle That Is Stephanie’s Bedroom

Posted by Jesse

Most of the times I’m flying solo with the girls, I pride myself on being fairly entertaining. Not tonight. I was a tad weary from a long day and a late-breaking sports story that had me phone-watching for much of the evening. Working in sports, I hesitate to refer to anything I have to work on as “big” or “important”, but…people do like to talk sports and these people several means to communicate and, well, a lot of people used those means to ask me tonight what the hell happened to Butch Davis. If you have no idea who Butch Davis is, I currently envy you a great deal.

 So when a crisis broke out, I knew I had to spring into action with twice the usual exuberance to make up for my lackluster performance the rest of the night. After going upstairs to change into pajamas right before bedtime, Stephanie returned in tears. This itself was not the crisis, expecially considering earlier in the evening Steph had admitted that fake crying was a skill she traded on. (DJ, who may miss this post because she’s at camp, will be happy to learn this: remember the time you hit Steph with your dance bag and suspected she was embellishing the injury a bit? She was.)

Apparently the source of the tears was an animal on the looose. Not a stuffed animal mind you (though lose track of her stuffed moose and I guarantee you there will be tears, REAL tears, and lots of them), but a real, live animal. The missing creature? You guessed it, one of the vaunted Decapod Crustaceans that came back from Myrtle Beach.

My first move was to assess the tears.

“Are you crying because you’re worried your hermit crab is gone, or are you worried it’s running around your room?”

As suspected, it was most certainly the latter. And in fact, that’s not an unjustified paranoia. As has probably been chronicled on the blog before, Stephanie once had a hamster get out of its cage and bite her on the nose while she slept. Her room is where animals go to party. And bite people. That’s how we ended up with a hamster cage under a blanket behind a couch under lock and key in the unifinished, unvisited part of the basement. Poor Steph.

“I don’t care if my hermit crab is dead I just don’t want it crawling around my room!”

“I don’t see how that thing could have gotten out,” I said, examining the empty shells in the glass cage, doing my best Lenny Brisco impersonation and trying to determine if this nimble crab really could have scaled a glass bowl.

“Oh yeah, they definitely can,” offered Michelle. “My friend Kimmy had one and it got out and they found it a week later crawling on the stairs.” Glad she’s here.

I offered the sleeping downstairs option (no sweat off my back since “downstairs” means “Danny’s room”), but with uncaged animals and little girls, it is most definitely a “once bitten, twice shy” situation. Stephanie was not convinced that the hermit crab would not seek her out for retribution for being taken from his friend in Myrtle Beach. The crab had to be found.

It was about this time Stephanie recalled that she had been playing with her pet with a friend and, perhaps, could have left him outside the bowl. I confirmed this was highly likely, but the point remained: we had to find the monster crab that was threatening to terrorize the night’s sleep. And I needed a night’s sleep.

So I got down on hands and knees and after an extensive, exhausting 11-second search, was able to locate Priscilla swimming in the dust ruffle. Problem solved. Night saved. But just to be safe, everyone’s sleeping downstairs tonight.

Did something just move in the corner?

Our Decapod Crustacean

Posted by Danny

We’ve avoided animals like the plague in our family.  Lisa grew up with a dog that had bad gas.  I with a cat named Bunny who had an identity crisis.  And one day when I was in about 9th grade, I got to see my first X rated event when Reagan, our neighbors tom cat, raped Bunny in our driveway.  I did all I could but I just couldn’t stop him.  She never was the same.

One trick Lisa discovered was to give a kid a token pet to appease them.  Two started out with fish.  Our second phase was to give them something they could hold – a hermit crab.  We didn’t really have a phase 3.

DJ got her first when she was about six or seven.  Stephanie followed several years later.  This year, when shopping near Myrtle Beach, Michelle spotted an enormous cage filled with the nasty boogers.  I bet there were 150 of them – climbing all over the place.  One of them changing his shell so you could see his entire body – something I’d never encountered in my years as a crab owner.

I quickly acquiesced to her request hopeful that this would put off the dog conversation for another six to eight months. 

All three girls decided they had to have one – but I was only bankrolling Michelle’s crustacean.  The other two were on their own.

They stood and stared at the choices.  It was overwhelming, like having to pick out your baby from a lineup of cribs.

These days, the store owners have folks paint the crab shells to make them more appealing to the prospective owners.  Which to choose?  They all seemed perfect in their own little way.

The one with a flower on its shell?  How about Superman?  The fuchsia with neon green stripes looks like a winner.  Personally I liked Goliath – the largest one in the cage.  His legs sprawling down the one limb that spanned the axis of the cage. 

“That ones too big dad.  His pinchers could really hurt.”

I went to the counter to ask who would open the container and fish out our choices.

The stout, grandmotherly checkout clerk informed me that the cage was not locked.  “YOU get it out sir.”  The implication was I ain’t sticking MY hand in there.  I’ve seen what can happen.

“So I just open it and get the ones I want?”

“Yup.”

They decided on their pick:  for Stephanie the bright pink, DJ wanted Spiderman, and Michelle the one with the dainty pink flower.  I mustered up my courage and wound my arm through the hole – watching Goliath with one eye and my own prey with the other.

Stephanie’s was wild – a poor choice she thought.  “I’ve changed my mind daddy.  I want a calmer one.” 

“Me too,” DJ echoed.  “Spiderman looks angry!”

“I don’t like mine either – I think he’s dead.  Look, he’s just sitting there.”

I go in again.  “Are you sure this is it?”  The decision were made.

“They need extra  shells, a sponge and plenty of food” my checkout friend informed.

Yeah, you’re all about helping now aren’t you?  Clearly grandma was working on commission.

On the way out the door, each one made a last-minute swap.  My patience and bravery were about to expire.

In the car Stephanie informed me that her crab and DJ’s were cuddling…or mating.

“Do they really…” DJ didn’t finish her sentence.

I was glad.  I didn’t need to have that conversation with the grandparents in the car.