Better With Age

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The snow in Raleigh this past week was a bit disappointing.  There was a smidge covering a solid layer of sleet.  You can’t make a snowman out of sleet.

In year’s past, Lisa and I worked hard on these days to keep the girls from climbing the walls: snow angels, sledding, hot chocolate and tons of soaking wet laundry.  We were exhausted by their bedtime.

All of my kids were home last weekend, and there we were – with no plans and no strong desire to venture out.  Thus the beauty of their ages: 19, 16 and 14.  We are beginning to enjoy the same sorts of things.

My youngest and I sipped a hot cup-o-joe together.  I remember similar imbibes with my grandmother at her white, speckled linoleum kitchen table.  Michelle nearly used an entire bag of sugar to get the brown liquid drinkable, but I started that way too.

Stephanie and I went On Demand and began watching a new TV show on NBC, This Is Us.  We are nearly caught up on the first season, something we can enjoy all semester.  What a pleasant change from Barney.

DJ is spending a lot of time working out right now, so I introduced her to Tony Horton, the 50-year-old hunk who leads P-90X.  I happen to own a collection of his exercise CD’s.  We did the shoulder and arm video.  She hates Tony as much as I do and agrees with me that he has a major crush on Dreya who exercises on the mat next to him throughout the video.

“Clearly something is going on between them.”

“Yeah, I noticed that too.”

On Saturday night, we played Trivial Pursuit.  But knowing we aren’t the smartest family on the block, we decided to change it up a bit.  We reassigned the color categories and made up questions of our own.  You landed on Brown?  The topic was Family, and your team had to answer a question that the opposite team made up like:  In which city was each of your grandparents born?  Or, where did your mother attend middle school?

Pink was questions about church.  Yellow about the camp they attend.  Orange was school.  Green miscellaneous.

It took us three hours to determine a winner, but man did we have fun.  Oh, we learned a lot about each other as well.  That’s not a game we could have played five years ago.

Sometimes I lament the aging of my kids.  I wish they were younger, that I had more time with them.  I long to carry them in my arms from the car to the house, their little noggins nestled between my neck and my shoulder.

That was a sweet age.  But you know, this is too.  I imagine in ten years I will enjoy them even more.

Perhaps it is not the stage they are going through that strengthens my delight.  Perhaps it is the depth of our relationship that makes each year more precious to me.

Home Again, Home Again Zip-pa-di-da

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She came in on a train direct from Union Station.  It was Friday night, the week before Christmas.  I was so joyful.  DJ, my college sophomore, was returning for an entire month!

I was committed to our performance in the Christmas Carol play so her grandmother picked her up.  DJ was in a hurry because she had agreed to bar tend at a neighbor’s Christmas party for cash.  I’m so proud – my daughter, a barmaid.

I was amazed that she got her suitcase into the house.  It was the size of a pirate chest, but heavier.  She dropped it in the kitchen, its innards spilled out under the bar – she apparently had a quick change.

I called my buddy Jack to see if he could help me get the Samsonite up to her bedroom.  He couldn’t come over until the next day.  So when she got home, we broke the contents up into four laundry baskets and then carried the almost empty case up on its own.  My grandmother always said, “You can eat an elephant in small pieces.”

I do love my girl.

She had plans on Saturday night and spent Sunday night with high school friends.

Tuesday she went to the beach with the same high school friends.  She returned Wednesday night.  We ate dessert together.  Quality time.

On Thursday she returned to the coast to meet a dude from college for dinner, the one she just spent an entire semester with.

“Honey, do you think you’ll be able to stop by the house to receive your gifts on Christmas day?”  I was just wondering if I should perhaps mail them to a friend’s house.  She assured me she was free for the entire day.

I love that child.

I enjoy the memories of times gone by when she visits:

  • her bedroom floor unfindable due to the mound of clothes
  • arguments over earrings borrowed from siblings
  • bras and socks on the kitchen counter

Memories – beautiful memories.

Oh, and when she’s here, three drivers get to share two cars!  I love sharing.  She loves getting up in the morning to drop me off in the work carpool line.  She even packs my lunch (just kidding).

“I’ll pick you up at 5:30 dad.  Be waiting for me in the lobby of your building because I have dinner plans at 6.”

Before break she called home and said, “Dad, I’m a little worried about being home for a full month for Christmas.”

Worried?  What’s there to worry about?  This is heaven on earth.

Merry Christmas!

A Bitmoji Christmas Card – xmas-card-2016-front

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(Card designed by DJ Tanner.)

Hands-on Giving

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I fully buy into Christmas being about giving.

As a kid, Christmas presents were a big, big deal.  My parents went over the top with Santa followed by gifts from them.  In addition, my brother and I were the only grandchildren on both sides of the family.  They ensured that any potential gaps in our want list were fully covered.

My parents also didn’t buy us anything the other 11 months of the year.  December not only brought in the toys we desired, but it also stocked us up on socks and underwear for the year, a leisure suit for church and shoes.

In November, we looked like we’d just stepped out of the play Oliver Twist.  Our pants too short, and we had holes in our drawers.    January 1, it appeared as if Daddy Warbucks was kin.  We were looking great again!

But now, I have the ability to buy what I need, when I need it.  I’m not rich, but if my tennis shoes are worn, I pretty much have the capacity to replace them winter, spring, summer or fall.  Thus, this time of year has shifted for me.  Unlike my youthful self I am appreciative, but unmotivated by what awaits me under the tree.  A coffee cup with my kid’s art on the side is more exciting to me than a Brooks Brothers’ suit.  It’s all about maturity and perspective.

I do, however, really, really want others to appreciate what I have chosen for them.  And it saddens me to think of those who aren’t able to celebrate the holiday with the same vigor as we do.

For years I have adopted a family from the YMCA’s Angel Tree.  Our organization works to help bring Christmas to thousands of underserved kids who participate in our programs.  With my busy work schedule and the play I’m in with the girls, I became overwhelmed this year.  I was stretched in so many directions.  Therefore, I made the choice to give money to my church for those in need rather than to take a name off the tree and go on a shopping spree for a specific child.

That decision hasn’t ruined the season for me, but I’ll have to say that I regret simply giving a check.  I truly miss the excitement of picking out cool stuff for someone specific.  Each year, the girls and I would get so excited about a cool pair of jeans and a hat for our unknown three-year-old boy.  Finding the Thomas the Train playset he requested filled my cup.  With no boys in my house, I was pumped to pick out little dude tennis shoes and boy toys.

I took the easy way out this year.  I checked the ”helping others’ box” on my Christmas list with absolutely no effort on my part.  And it is just not the same.

Certainly the money I give will be helpful, maybe more so.  But there is a difference in giving to fulfill a quota and being fully invested in the process.

I give checks to several nonprofits throughout the year understanding that they must have my support to do their work and don’t bat an eye.  But at Christmas, I feel compelled to do more.  I won’t make this choice next year.

The Real Full House – One Direction?

This is what happens when you’re bored over Christmas and your college Freshman is studying media.  The first semester video class is paying off!

I love my kids!

 

 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Tanner Family (with our real names)!  Our 2015 Christmas card was created by the oldest Tanner kid, DJ.  That George Washington University media class paid off.

Thank you for following our blog.

Christmas Card Picture 2015

 

Traditions

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My Michelle wrote this paper for her writing class.  I think it says a lot about the importance of tradition.  Life is all about building memories.  It often takes year to learn the impact of what we do today.

The Christmas Pageant

The chapel at St. Timothy’s during the Christmas season is beautiful. Standing at the front of the dim room, is a huge Christmas tree that almost touches the ceiling. Four colored candles are placed on a garland that is held from a long, bulky, black chain. Blood red poinsettias line the edges of the alter. The smell of cinnamon fills the air and makes me feel relaxed. The Christmas spirit surrounds the chapel. Different Christmas celebrations take place in the chapel including a special Christmas service and singing holiday hymns. My favorite tradition is the annual Christmas pageant.

Every year St. Timothy’s puts on a Christmas pageant for family and friends. Each grade is assigned a distinct costume to wear. My favorite year was in first grade when all of the girls got to dress up as angels, and all of the boys dressed up as shepherds. Angels had to wear a white dress of any shade. Every little girl had a different and unique dress. My dress was bright white with sleeves that covered my shoulders, as well as a rectangular shaped collar. We also got to wear halos with shiny fringe on the top. That night we all felt like real angels.

The next year, in second grade, everyone had to dress up as an “around the world” character. Some students were European soccer players and held a soccer ball as they walked down the middle of the pews. Others wore snow boots and a jacket to show that they were from a cold part of the world, like Antarctica. The dress I wore was green, and it had a Jamaican style to it. My two older sisters, as well as other friends, wore it in previous pageants. The outfit included a headband that wrapped and tied around the head. My aunt, Sallie, had it especially made for us when she visited Africa, so the dress is very precious to my family.

When my mom was sick with colon cancer, my sister, Stephanie, was Mary. My mom always helped with the readers and the choir in the Christmas pageant. Since my mom wouldn’t be able to see the real Christmas pageant, because she had to have surgery, the Headmaster arranged a dress-rehearsal, with Stephanie as Mary, just for her. Even though I wasn’t there, I can still imagine her smiling face.

The last year our grade was in the Christmas pageant was in fourth grade. I tried out for Mary, Jesus’s mother, and Gabriel, the angel. Everyone was so anxious to know their part. Mr. Farmer, our chorus director, hung a sign outside of his office. Everyone crowded around the small printed, but long list. I was elated to find out that I was going to be Mary, and that I would have a solo! Mary sings a song about her son, Jesus. My favorite part of the song was when the choir echoed me. I was so proud of myself, and I knew my mom would have been too.

After my last year in the Christmas pageant, I was very sad that my grade and I would not be participating anymore. This pageant made my friendships, as well as my connections with my teachers, much stronger. I am also always amazed by the story of Christmas, and I am so happy I got a chance to get to learn more about it. I will always remember the happy, and sometimes sad, memories of the St. Timothy’s Christmas pageant.

Thank you St. Timothy’s school for the impact you’ve had on my children.

 

Parking? At Target? At Christmas???

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I found myself in the undesirable position of shopping on December 23.  It made me so stinking mad!

Discount the long lines at the register, the lack of percentage off on any item that I desired, and my inability to make a purchasing decision; I was already miserable because I could hardly get into the parking lot.

I started at North Hills Mall, a relatively new outdoor complex.  On the back corner is a Target.  I spend $118 there each week of my life.

I don’t know why, but every time I go, the sales clerk informs me that the total is $118.  Target is so sophisticated that I scan my card and sign that I agree to the purchase before the employee even finishes scanning my items, so I can’t back out of it.  Whatever the total, I’ve committed, I’m in.  And it is usually $118.

I believe that a polite regular customer like me should be able to call in advance and reserve a parking place near the front.  I mean, I’m there on a rainy Tuesday in February at 8:30 PM when no one else in the world is thinking about giving them $118.  Shouldn’t they stand by me two days before Christmas when I’m at my most vulnerable purchasing moment?

“Hello.  This is Danny Tanner, #118.  I’m tired, frustrated and in a hurry.”

“We’ll have your spot coned off.  Pull up right beside the basket return on row 2.”

It doesn’t have to be THE closest space, just top 20.

You’d think they’d offer that service.  But no.  I’m out there scrapping for an 8 foot by 12 foot space just like every other Tom, Dick and Harry – those damn dudes who haven’t graced the Target since last December.  It’s like the once a year church goers.  Where were you in July when the baby Jesus was 7 months old?

On the 23rd, I had to park six miles away from the front entrance.  Even the spots reserved for “Parents with Children” were taken.  I am a parent, and I have children.  None of them were with me, but I was gonna park there anyway – nope, it was minivan city, not an opening to be found.

In the parking deck, there were three great spots.  I approached all thinking I’d won the jackpot only to discover the sorry putz parked next door had crossed the painted line so far that there was no way to squeeze my mid-sized SUV in the space.  I was livid!  It is a time like this that I would like to put my car in park, get out and rake my house key down the entire driver’s side of the asphalt bogart’s vehicle.

And what is up with the “C” spaces.  Compact cars get priority?  I tried parking in one of those at Crabtree Valley but we all had to climb out the back hatch of the car.  That ain’t cool, especially if you’re on a date.

Oh, and what about the always open reserved spots for plug-in cars?  There is a 1 to 2,456 electric car to reserved electric car parking space ratio in the City of Raleigh.  I would love to park my car, hook it up to a gas pump, and come back in an hour with a free full tank.  What is up with that?

I finally found a space, well sort of.  It was half a space right beside the curb and the mulched evergreen border.  I parked two wheels on concrete and two on the greenery.  I have that same plant by my driveway, and you can’t kill it.  DJ backs over it daily and the stuff is a hearty as the day before she turned 16.

It ended up being fine, because I hadn’t jogged that morning.  I got my three miles in, did not commit vandalism and purchased everyone’s favorite candy.

Next year I’m gonna start shopping in February.  Anyone know the shelf life of Snickers?

 

Merry Christmas To All!

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For some reason, the kids and I feel compelled to do something out of the ordinary for our Christmas card.  Hope your day is grand.

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

The Horizontal Christmas Tree

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It’s never, ever, ever good when you get that urgent Christmas tree catastrophe call.

Text last Monday:  The Christmas tree fell.  Come home now.

I’ve received that communique twice in my life.

I like pretty big Christmas trees; we have two.  This year, the small one has about an 8″ diameter trunk.  I screwed the supports into the booger with the same vigor I used to bolt my tires onto my car.  I mean business!  I actually use pliers to twist the metal in – sap oozes down my fingers.  When I was finished, the jessie was standing as straight as Miss Alabama in the Miss American contest.

I evened out the ornaments and gave it a little shake to make sure it was secure.

It stood for days – and then, ker-plunk!

Special ornaments were busted and Fraser fir needles were scattered around like germs from a sneeze.  I’m gonna be vacuuming those dudes up in July.

Why can’t they make a tree stand that can hold a durn tree up?  Would you make Tupperware that couldn’t hold soup???

As if getting the lights to stay on isn’t enough of a challenge, we have to deal with this too!  You can’t buy a Christmas tree stand that is big and sturdy enough to ensure verticality.  Would we try to balance the Statue of Liberty on a thimble?  I think not!  Target, Walmart, Home Depot – HELP US!

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I lifted the thing back up, rehung the lights that once lay on the top of the tree but had moved to its waist, and tied her with bobbed wire onto two separate door handles.  If it comes down again, the door frame to my front porch is coming with it, and I’m gonna take it directly to the street – lights, ornaments, garland and all!

Errrrrr…

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