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.

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One in the bed and the little one said…

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For me, there was one grandparent that stole my heart.  Oh, I loved them all.  One granddad took us to get a Slurpee every time we came to town – that was cool.  But this one, we called her Idee, was something else.  Her real name was Ivy but my brother couldn’t say that.  His inability to speak correctly stuck.  She was forever our Idee.

There is something about the grandparent who drops everything when you came to town, but the best part about Idee was she could relate to us.  I distinctly remember just lying on her bed while she got dressed.  She “put on her face” each morning while talking to me about life.  Who would have thought that a seventy-year-old woman could give a 12-year-old advice?  She could.  And I hung on her every word.

When I went to her house to spend the night as a kid, she would pile blankets on the living room floor and my brother and I, along with Idee and Papa, would sleep there.  Before midnight, she would ship my granddad back to the bedroom ’cause his snoring sounded like a freight train.  Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why she was so anxious to not stay the night in her bedroom.

When we arrived at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving last Wednesday, it dawned on me that the day beds in their playroom had four mattresses stored underneath.  For some reason, my holidays with Idee popped into my brain.

“Girls, we’re sleeping on the floor tonight!  Four in a row.”

“But dad, there are lots of beds in this house,” my maturing college sophomore explained to me.

“That, is not the point.”

We retired at around 11, but sleep did not come until much later.

We sang, “There were four in the bed and the little on said, ‘roll over, roll over,’ and one rolled over and one fell out when she hit the floor you could hear her shout.”  And as we rolled across the mattresses, one would hit the floor.

Michelle told us the story of Danny the Ogre.  He wouldn’t let his children drink sodas at restaurants.

We recanted songs that we sang at bedtime when they were young, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tired and true…”

We named my future grand kids (Obediah, Boaz, Sheamus, Isabella, Minnie), and I chose a granddad name.

We laughed til it hurt, gossiped about most folks we know, and learned the moves to Juju on that beat.

Several days later, I’m still tired.  Although, it was certainly worth it.

Debutante in the House

deb·u·tante

ˈdebyəˌtänt/

noun

  1. young woman making her first appearance in fashionable society

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Interesting that I could sire one of these.  In the south, this is tradition.  In Raleigh, apparently, you don’t have to have a prominent father to be one.  Her mother was, however, a deb although a few years before my time.

DJ made her debut last weekend at the 90th annual North Carolina Debutante Ball.  It was a hoot.  Great fun was had by all.

DJ brought a gaggle of friends from George Washington University to view.  Two were from North Carolina; they understood.  One was from the British Virgin Isles – she sort of understood.  One was from New Jersey and gay.  He did not.  In fact, although he was excited to come south, he wanted to make sure that we would let him into our state.  We assured him it would not be a problem and coaxed him with a promised trip to Bojangles.  From my vantage point, he was the funnest person at the event with perhaps the exception of Uncle Jesse who wore black basketball shoes with his tux (dad, I know funnest is not a word).

I’ve learned a few things through this process.

There are not a lot of long dresses in Raleigh, NC, for young women ages 13 – 16.  Some stores have like one.  If I was shopping for great grandma, we’d be good.  But teens, not so much.

We finally found a killer gown (never, ever thought I’d be shopping for a gown) for Stephanie.  It was WAY on sale and was missing a hook, so they took another 15% off!  Whoop Whoop!  I was stoked.

Then, I took it to get the hook fixed and to get it hemmed.  It had several layers.  The alterations cost more than the damn dress.

Like it cost $8 to get my pants hemmed, with a cuff.  And there are two legs.  So I was thinking it might be $15, maybe $20 for this little ditty simply because the material looked more dainty and complicated. Nah.  Try $80.  Un.

At one point in the weekend, DJ came downstairs to ask me which earrings to wear to our father/daughter luncheon.  She had one in each ear.  The left had a gold hoop.  The right had another gold hoop.  “Which one looks better?” she asked.

“They are the same.”

“Dad, one is thinner but a bigger hoop.  The other is thicker with a smaller hoop.”

“I don’t see why you own both of those.  They are the same.”

It was like me going upstairs to her room and asking if I should wear navy pants or dark blue pants.

She went with the thicker which looking back on it was a good decision.  Made the outfit, and everyone’s afternoon was better.

Did you know that high heels could make your toes bleed?  These were not parties that you could easily toss your shoes off.  There were like people with hose and stuff there.  So DJ kept her stilts on all night and when she returned home, the damage was done.  Jesse had the right idea, tennis shoes.

I also discovered that it takes three people to get a long dress zipped.  Of course, the wearer, who has to hold her arms up and suck it all in.  Then there is the zipper puller upper who also has to hold the bottom of the dress tight so there is tension for the zip.  Finally, there is the dress holder togetherer who grabs the two unzipped pieces of dress and tugs them toward each other so the zip puller upper can do his/her job.  Once everything is tightly secured, the pieces all seem to drop right back into place.  It is truly amazing.  It is like putting up the walls of a house.

I wore white tie, or full evening dress, to the ball.  This included gloves.  At first I thought perhaps they were going to make us play handbells.  Our church bell choir always wears gloves.  We did not play bells.  I’m not sure why we wore them.  It was not even cold.  Very inconvenient.  Do you know how hard it is to text with formal, white gloves on?

Regardless, we had a blast, and now my oldest daughter is available for marriage.  We already have her wedding dress.

Next week’s post will be about her dowry.  Please be thinking of eligible dudes.

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Empire Strikes Back

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The Donald Trump Team

Our family plays a great game on vacation.  We learned it a year or two ago from friends when at our August jaunt to Capon Springs.  It’s called Empire.

We played at the beach last week.  The beautiful thing about the game is that it can be played by my 5-year-old niece and by Lisa’s 70 something-year-old uncle who suffers from Parkinson’s.

It takes no equipment, simply 8 or 10 or however many people.

Each player chooses the name of a famous person and secretly shares it with the game leader who collects all of the names and reads the list aloud to the group.  The players then guess who chose each name.

This last round, I chose Iggy Azalea.  I don’t really know her, in fact I had to Google to determine if she was actually a she.  But that was part of my strategy.  I figured no one would believe I could have come up with her name, because I am not that cool.

Unfortunately, Michelle saw right through me and by about the eighth round had figured out my strategy.  Because she guessed my famous person, I joined her “Empire.”  We were both now Scarlett Johansson, the name she put on the list.

Jesse outwardly celebrated as he had success.  My seven-year-old nephew was the first to fall to him at which time the two showed little class as they guessed six or seven more players in fairly short order.  Their hoots, shouts and victory dances were darkened when Michelle insisted that they were Donald Trump.  She was correct, and Jesse’s Empire fell to us.

Aunt Sallie was short lived as Strawberry Shortcake.   Nana chose Florence Nightingale which was also fairly obvious.  If played enough, it becomes clear that the older generation often leans toward historical figures, the middle generation tries to stump with the most unobvious choice and the youngsters go with someone they know, like Aladdin, a tried and true Disney character.

The game is part luck, part strategy.  While playing at Capon last year, I quickly guessed Uncle Jesse’s character, and then the two of us immediately figured out Aunt Sallie and Uncle Matt.  Other players suggested we were in cahoots prior to the start of the game.  In truth, we just knew each other well enough to make some fairly strong deductions.

As my kids age, I hope we will keep the spirit of inter-generational connections alive.  I don’t want to be an old person sitting alone on the beach.  I want to be in the mix with all.

A group activity is a great way to make that happen!

The Wedding Singers

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It has become sort of a Tanner family tradition to perform a song cracking on the bride and groom at family weddings.  I have to give credit to Lisa and Uncle Jesse for starting this custom.  My, has it brought joy to my life.

One of our first was Aunt Sallie.  This past weekend, my niece and now nephew-in-law.  It is so much fun to bust on your relatives when they can’t really respond…

My how we’ve grown…

For the right price, we will come insult you at your most tender moment.  Just give us the nod!

 

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!

 

 

Sunday Post 184: Six Days Each Year

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How can you feel close to people you only see six full days each year? It’s weird. And yet, that’s what you feel with those you meet annually at our August vacation in Capon Springs, WV.

Lisa’s mom was six or eight the first time she visited. They haven’t missed a week since.

I imagine my mother-in-law eating at the same table we eat at now. Her mom and dad younger than I. She likely had dark hair, maybe braids. Now her hair is short and white as my undershirt.

I wish I could string together a video with clips of each trip from years gone by.

The first time I came was in 1993. It was unprecedented because Lisa and I were already engaged. The potential suitors weren’t fully accepted until all tenured aunts, uncles and family friends approved. It was like a debutante, a coming out of sorts.

If the other guests liked you on your first Capon visit, it was a done deal. But many came through never to return again.

Capon is nestled right across the Virginia border near Wardensville. The most direct route takes you down a dirt road and over a mountain.

The first time I went Lisa was driving. We left Raleigh at 5 PM on a Friday. Neither of us had enough vacation time to go earlier in the week – we were mid twenties and new to our careers.

As we wound through the Virginia hills, service road signs discreetly displayed their names: Route 652, Route 664, Route 665. When Lisa pulled onto the gravel and we began to traverse the hill in the pitch black night I wondered if I had been duped. Was she taking me up Route 666 to dismember me? Was this some sick family ritual? Could they cover me with chicken blood and burn me at a stake?  How many other guys had she left in these woods?

There are informal initiations, like being pushed in the spring fed swimming pool (the temperature remains consistent – hovering around 70 degrees Farenheit). But there was no blood, no dismemberment. Just folks that I’d see six days each year.

These same folks drove hours to attend our wedding, and naturally they returned to Raleigh to support in our time of crisis.

We have no idea what we’re like in real life. We don’t see each other on a daily basis. In many cases we don’t understand each other’s career. You may be known as the best team captain in the annual Tuesday golf tournament or the guy who plays the banjo on the porch all day. Maybe your family is the one that enters four pairs in the Shuffle Board Tournament but never gets past the first round (I know that family well).

We may not have ever visited outside of August in West Virginia. But there is a tie, a connection, a closeness.

Life sort of stops this week. And then your return to reality until the next year where you pick up exactly where you left off… on the front porch of the main house at Capon Springs.

 

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks!

They’re Home

Someone told me that time creeps when you’re looking forward and flies by when you’re looking back. I believe that to be true.

Two and a half months ago, DJ left to work at overnight camp for ten weeks. A month ago, Stephanie joined her for a four-week stent. I thought to myself, That’s a really long time. And now, it’s already over. They’re back.

I’m glad all three are under one roof although it won’t be for long. It’s DJ’s senior year so pop ins and outs will become the new norm. Major transitions are staring me down.

But while they’re all here, I’m going to savor the things I enjoy most about my girls:

1)  Borrowed clothing

Stephanie: “Where are my jeans dad?”

Me: “I’m really not sure. I have not worn them.”

Stephanie: “Did you see Michelle leave the house today?”

Me: “Yep. I took her to Lilly’s.”

Stephanie: “Was she wearing jeans?”

Me: “I believe she was.”

Stephanie: “Daaaad!!!” Message to the father: I can’t believe you let her leave the house in my clothes. What were you thinking??

2)  Eating Out

Me to the crew: “Where would you like to eat tonight?”

Stephanie: “Anything but Mexican.”

DJ: “I ONLY want Mexican.”  Seriously?  

Michelle: “It really doesn’t matter what I want. You always go where DJ suggests.” Message to the father: Why is she your favorite child?

3) Laundry

DJ: “I don’t have anything to wear! It’s ALL dirty.” Message to the father: Dad, do my laundry.

Me: “You’d better wash some clothes.”

DJ: “I can’t. I have to go to dance all morning, followed by a manicure.  I have tons of homework, and I’m going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show with Maggie tonight.” Message to the father:  I am busy. You are not. Why won’t you do my laundry?

Me: “Bless your heart.”

She puts a load in and leaves the house.

Michelle: “Dad, I’m trying to do laundry and DJ’s stuff is in the wash. What should I do?”  Message to the father:  Come finish DJ’s laundry. She is YOUR irresponsible child, and remember, she is also your favorite.

Me: “I don’t know. I guess you could switch them or you could wait for her to get home?”

4) Shoes

 By the back door

In my bedroom floor

In the bathroom (why do you take your shoes off in the bathroom?)

Under the couch, coffee table, book bag which is strewn in the middle of the kitchen floor

The office

Beside the printer which is on the desk – perhaps it was in hand on the way to tho put them up, nah

On the back porch

In the car – if you leave home in shoes and then leave them in the car, what is on your feet when you get out of the car?

Message to the father: You should pick up all of our stuff cause we don’t feel like it

5) But the best thing about my girls all being home is times like these:

 

Message to the father:  We do like our family

 

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful: Click here. And thanks

Sunday Post 182: Teaching to Pray

Last week my Sunday School class talked about prayer. We were discussing the news story about the woman who owns a restaurant and gives random discounts to customers who pray before dining.

The conversations in the room went from exasperation with those who would criticize the woman for her spiritual price cut to folks who felt praying in public was not what Jesus preached.

After reading the lesson, I was torn. It almost made me feel like praying with my kids at night, in particular my older two, wasn’t a great idea. Perhaps my push to pray at meals and bedtime was teaching my kids that those were required. Maybe we reviewed the same prayer list too often. Am I teaching my kids to have a conversation with God or am I teaching them an obligatory recitation?

That night I went to tell DJ goodnight. As I was walking out of her room I said, “Don’t forget to say your prayers.” And then I said, “Or not! I mean, pray if you want to – if it feels right. If not, don’t. You can pray later. Tomorrow. At 3:32 if you want. In the bathroom. Whenever. Goodnight.”

Later that week I ate lunch with a friend of mine. When we sat down at the table, with tons of folks around us, he looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s have an open-eyed prayer.” He then looked across the table at me and thanked God for our friendship and for our food.

He did pray in public. He just did it in an unobtrusive way.

After much debate and discussion, I think our class decided that there were two things we needed to keep in mind when praying:

Pray because you feel led to pray. Don’t pray for recognition or because you want others to see you. That ain’t what it’s all about. There’s no reason not to pray in a restaurant, but you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t. There isn’t an obligation to pray at any given time.

I don’t think God wants us to stand on a corner and shout at folks about His love or redemption. I think He wants us to quietly show.

I would rather see a sermon than to hear one.

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful: Click here. And thanks

Sunday Post 175: Wierd Little Family

On Wednesday I had a church meeting after work. It put me late getting home. I rolled in about 8.

I’d promised the girls we’d go out to dinner so we hit the Mexican restaurant closest to our house.

We returned home at 9:39, about to puke we’d eaten so many chips.

“Girls, I think I need to jog or I’m gonna be sick. You want to join me?”

“Dad, it’s 9:30!”

“Yeah, but you guys can sleep in tomorrow. Let’s jog to the playground.”

Michelle jumped on board quickly and Stephanie, who hates to run, acquiesced to my request likely because she didn’t want to sit at home by herself that late.

We jogged about half a mile down Ridge Road to the Lacy Elementary School playground. The girls hit the jungle gym while I took a few laps around the paved track. When I finished, we all lay down on the grass and looked up at the stars.

We live in the middle of town, there were lights around, but the sky was clear. Stephanie was the first to spot the Little Dipper. She pointed up.

We talked about the brightest stars in the sky.

“I think that one is mom, beaming down on us.”

We sat a few more minutes. Michelle crawled up into a contraption I call The Spinning Mushroom. As she spun she said, “I love our family. Not everyone would do this.”

What beautiful words for my ears.

At 4 PM that same day a guy interviewed me for a book he is writing about grief. He asked me about our family, before Lisa’s death and after. I shared that I thought we were a weird little group, that it wouldn’t be unusual to find us having a fight with wet sponges in the kitchen or having a theme for a typical weekday dinner. I think we have special, but in a fairly unconventional way.

I think there are a number of families like ours, not quite the norm but pretty darn cool. There are also many families who struggle, unable to find joy because of dysfunction, impatience with each other, or laziness.

I’m thankful that my kids see our family as unique. I’m glad we’ve moved from a grief-stricken quartet to the family Michelle “just loves!”

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

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful: Click here. And thanks