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.

Finding the Parking Lot

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I woke her up at 7 AM which was the usual time.  At 7:35, I walked to the bottom of the staircase to give instructions for the afternoon before I left the house.

“Stephanie, please pick Michelle up from school at 5:15.  I’ll be home at 6.”

I heard a scramble.  She had to be at school by 8 and her feet had not yet hit the ground.  She grumbled that she would indeed pick up her sister as instructed.

As I got in my car, I received a text message.

Dad, I don’t know how to get to the parking lot at school.

This was her first day driving alone to school.  This was the first time she had to find her parking space.

I texted back, Didn’t you ride with DJ to school your entire freshman year?  Didn’t you park in that lot for 180 consecutive school days???

The three questions marks that followed my words would come back to haunt me.  They clearly sent the message that I thought she was directionally deficient.  Which she is.  But I didn’t need to remind her at 7:38 AM when she was clearly having a worse than average morning.

She called.  “You are so mean to me!”

“I’m sorry.  I just thought after being at St. Mary’s School for girls for three years, you would know how to get to the parking lot.”

The for girls was unnecessary.  It was like my dad calling me by my first, middle and last name when I was in trouble as a child.  I could have just as easily said school or St. Mary’s.  The for girls was my way of sharing my exasperation that she wasn’t attentive enough to be able to master this seemingly simple task on her own.  Perhaps it was even a dig at women in general, my connotation being that all were directionally inferior to men.

Although I know that not to be true, my youngest daughter perhaps has better directional intuition than I, I did spend the first 18 years of my life with a woman who could hardly find her way out of our driveway.

At one point my mother was driving by herself down I-95 to her parents’ house in Florence, SC, 85 miles due south of Fayetteville, NC, where we had lived for ten years at the time.  She had made the trek with my father monthly for that decade; a minimum of 120 trips.  Likely many more.

In Lumberton, she got off of I-95 south to go to the restroom.  She then got back on I-95 north to complete her trip south.  Forty-five minutes later she was shocked to see road signs welcoming her to the City of Dogwoods.  Yes, she was back in Fayetteville.

There was also the time she drove back from Florence and missed Fayetteville altogether realizing her mistake around Benson, a good 45 minutes north.

I told Stephanie to call me once she got to Hillsborough Street.  That I would try to talk her to the back entrance of the school.  It was a difficult conversation.

“Stephanie, the school is on a square block.  You simply have to follow the streets around it to get to the back.”

She needed more.

“I’m on Hawthorne Street.  How do I get there from here?”

“I don’t know.  I am unfamiliar with Hawthorne Street.  What do you see around you?”

“Houses.”

“That is unhelpful.  Do you see any other streets?”

“There is one here called… Beneful or something like that…”

“Beneful?  That’s the powder I put in my juice to stay regular.  Just drive toward the school!  You’re bound to find it.”

And she did, making it to class on time.

I need to watch my words and my tone.  But dag gone, sometimes I just can’t think like they do.

The Male Period

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Michelle jarred my memory.

“Dad, do you remember when you chaperoned our middle school youth mission trip last summer?”

“I do.  That was fun.”

“Do you remember when you and Brooks convinced the boys that they were going to have periods, just like the girls?”

“Vaguely.”

She recanted the story.

Several girls were on their periods the week of the trip.  They were middle schoolers; it was a bit embarrassing.

At one pit stop, the boys saw the girls purchasing supplies, and the teasing began.  Smirks.  Whispers.  The giggles.  Typical male behaviors.

At the time, Brooks, a cool, young, male chaperon, and I were not aware of the ongoing conversations.  As the story goes, one of the girls approached an 8th grade boy.

“Shut up!  You don’t even know what happens!”

“Yes I do.  It’s when the blue water comes out.”  The laughter resumed.

Apparently he had seen the commercials advertising the absorbency of some of the most porous pads.  In it, a cylinder full of blue water is poured into the pad to show its effectiveness.  Not one drop of the Windex looking liquid leaked.  Pretty amazing.

Made sense that the young mind assumed that was actually what came out.  You wouldn’t advertise muffin tins by putting spaghetti in them, would you?

The girls busted out laughing, and the poor clueless boy was bewildered.

Later that day, as the story was unfolded to Brooks and me, the girls asked if we would convince the boys they too would soon be having a visit from Aunt Flo.  It seemed like a reasonable request considering the males had indeed begun the fight.

As we entered the bus after our afternoon outings, one of the males again chose to bring up the subject, this time in earshot of Brooks and me.

“Fellas, why are you bringing this up?” I questioned.

“Yah,” Brooks followed.  “You know, everyone has them.  Your turn is coming.  I just started mine last year.”

I added, “Boys start later than girls.  Usually around 18.”

A silence fell over the bus.  I’d never seen such big eyes IN MY LIFE!

The fact that the girls were rolling in the floor quickly gave our joke away, but if only for a few minutes, we had them convinced.

Now, in the guys’ defense, it is tempting to tease females.  It is our way of flirting.  As a kid, we hit you.  In middle school, we pick at you.  When older, we use lines that are meant to engage you.  And generally, regardless of age, the woman ends up with the upper hand.  My mother had it.  My wife had it.  And all three of my daughters have it as well.  We might as well give up.  We will NEVER know more about ANYTHING than they do.

How big is your mouth?

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I have noticed that females like small spoons. I’m not sure why. You can’t get enough food in your mouth with them. I want a mamba-jamba spoon. Big enough to expedite the eating process and enough to get a nice chunk of flavor on my tongue.

Years ago when a friend got engaged he and his fiancé went to Belk to pick out their china and flatware patterns. Rumor has it he actually put the spoons from several patterns in his mouth to make sure they could deliver. My man!  It’s an important decision, one you’ll live with daily for life!  You wouldn’t buy pants without trying them on. It is unusual that we don’t all put our silverware in our mouths before purchasing.

When I serve my homemade crockpot veggie soup to the girls, I put the larger of our two spoon options by their bowls. Do they appreciate my desire to fill them up? Nah. They complain!

“We aren’t mules, dad.  Give us normal spoons.”

“Based on my experience, you all have rather large mouths. I chose your flatware accordingly.”

“Why don’t you just use the ladle dad?  Or turn the pot right up to your mouth?”

“When I eat vegetable soup I want a plethora of tastes entering all at once.  With your spoon you solely get a carrot.  Then a pea.  Perhaps eventually a potato. That is not how God intended it.  Plus, I eat a lot, and my arm gets tired after a while. This cuts down on the number of trips to my lips.”

I’m trying to help them. To teach them the right way to do things in life. But you just can’t reason with these people. It’s fruitless.

If they want to dwindle their lives away daintily protracting one crumb at a time, so be it. It’s just not worth the fight.

 

 

 

 

I Made a Strapless Bra!

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I turned a regular bra into a strapless model.  Not intentionally.  The stinkin’ straps fell off in the wash.  I mean, I went to pull a load of laundry out of the machine and this cantankerous garment had wrapped all around itself and around its peers.  I put 25 small articles of clothing in and pulled out one.  One large knotted up blob.

As I pulled the pieces apart, I realized that the bra was the culprit.  Who knew its strap was 108 inches long?  In the end, it had ripped apart and put the strangle hold around the yoga pants and the St. Mary’s t-shirts.  Poor things.

At the bottom of the machine, I found a half-moon shaped, curved piece of metal.  It looked like a piece of my car engine.

How the heck did that get in there?  “Girls, have you been messing with the carburetor?”

In fact, it wasn’t the carburetor at all.  It was a piece of the bra.  Who knew there was metal?  I always thought they were made of silk and girlie stuff.  Nah, they are reinforced up under the lace with the same thing they use to make grocery baskets.  Mr. T couldn’t bend it.

A told a lady at work about my problem with intimates.  The next day she brought me a bra bag.  She told me to wash them separately.

Like who does that?  With three daughters, that could be 12, 15 bras a week.  Imagine?  I’m gonna have to quit my job.  I can’t do 15 loads of laundry every few days just because this finicky underpant doesn’t get along well with others!

Imagine, dig them out of the laundry basket, put one in the zip lock mesh bag, wash it, dry it, repeat – 14 more time.  Consider what they’d say at my funeral:

Well, he didn’t do much for our community, but his girls always had clean bras.

My boxers love their friends.  Nothing makes them happier then to go swimming with buddies.  They’re so easy.  You can wash them with jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, dress shirts, socks, dish towels – it doesn’t matter!  Hot, cold, warm!  Dry til your heart is content.  And they last for decades.

Why can’t they be more like a guy’s clothing?

If I was a bra, I’d be thankful I had a good job and stop being so picky.

 

 

On The Go!

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Last Thursday night DJ and I headed out for our last college tour. It was accepted students’ day at George Washington University in DC. We left Raleigh at 5 PM.

Stephanie fussed as I walked out the door, “Dad, you’re NEVER home!  You’re gone all the time!”

I reminded her that she was the one who spent four days the week before on a school sponsored Outward Bound trip and that it was also she who had plans both Friday and Saturday nights for the weekend that was before us.  That didn’t seem to matter to her. Apparently I should be at home when she wants me there. Or, to be safe, always.

Although in my head I knew she was being unreasonable, I  did feel a bit guilty for leaving.

I had warned DJ that we had to leave Washington right at 2 PM on Friday so that I could get back before 7 to see Michelle’s school play. Although she had only a small part, I felt it important that her parent be in the audience.

DJ understood, “Dad, we always leave these college visits early.  You always have to get back home for something.”

She said it matter of factly, no irritation intended.  But, irritation was taken. Another slight breech to the parenthood portal.

At 4:30 Saturday, I gave up. We were right around Fredericksburg, Va, and traffic was at a standstill, similar to what it had been since we pulled out of downtown two and a half hours earlier.  I was doomed to disappoint again.

I jumped from I-95 to US 1. I was working my GPS and my iPhone traffic alert aggressively seeking alternative routes.

One thing is clear:  I’m going to have a massive heart attack in my car one day.

When we finally hit Richmond, it was 5PM. The GPS indicated we’d get to the theater by 7:45. That’d be too late. At least I’d equally disappoint all of my kids!  No favorites.

I cranked up the speed and wondered what was worse, teaching my 17 year old that it was OK to break traffic laws in the name of Peter Pan or lying to my 11 year old, telling her how much I enjoyed the performance i did not see.

A 17 year old has a more mature mind.  I broke the law.

We came to a screeching halt at 7:19 in the driveway of the school. I jumped out of the car and ran toward the door. The gas tank light was on empty. The place was dark, Act 1 complete.  The lights came up, and Michelle entered stage left.

Hot damn!  I made it.

It’s hard to be a parent.

Believe it!

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The other day my youngest child said something that I can’t get out of my mind.

I was putting her to bed, we were having our normal nightly conversation:  reviewing the school day, the schedule for the week, homework, the usual.  And then, she sort of quietly said, “Sometimes I look at you, and I just can’t believe you’re my father.”

I said, “What do you mean by that?  Do you mean that in a good way?”

I was hopeful she meant, I just CAN’T BE-LIEVE you’re my father!  I’m the luckiest girl in the world!!

She said, “Not really.”

This is when things because a bit uncomfortable.

“Do you mean it in a bad way?” I asked.

Like, I can’t believe YOU’RE my father because there are so many better choices out there.

No.  I didn’t mean it in a bad way.

I pressed, “Well, then exactly what DID you mean?”

Oh, I don’t know.  It’s hard to explain.  She stammered a bit.

My mind was zipping around like Tinkerbell:

I can’t believe you’re my FATHER – you don’t have the maturity to handle this job. You’re only qualified to be my brother.

I can’t believe you’re MY father – we have so little in common.  I had to have been adopted.

She tried to pacify me.  “Dad, just don’t worry about it.  I didn’t mean anything by it.  It’s hard to explain.”

I eventually dropped it and put her to bed.

Yesterday I told DJ about our conversation.  Her response?  “Yeah.  I sort of feel the same way.”

I Want Full Custody!

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Sometimes my little angels, well, aren’t.  The problem is, I seldom know when these sweet little people I am raising are going to turn on me.

Yesterday when I asked, “How was your day?,” I was taken down an elaborate journey through the halls of St. Timothy’s School.  It was beautiful.  I learned about friendships, the lunch menu, assignments and teacher personalities.

Today I asked the same question.  I was cut off at the pass in a very terse tone, “I don’t want to talk about it!”

“Is everything OK?”

“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!”

What happened?  I thought we were friends.  I thought you were daddy’s girl!

Last week I was asked to help with homework.  We laughed while we worked on the memorization for the history quiz, making up nutty phrases to cue her mind:  “Bangladesh” – “I can’t remember Bangladesh.”  We ran to the kitchen and pull out a plastic plate, slamming it on the counter, “Bang The Dish!  Bangladesh!”

Tonight I walk in, the computer is open, the tears are flowing.

“What’s wrong?  I thought you didn’t have much homework.”

“THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT!  AND THEN I DISCOVERED THE FOUR MATH PROBLEMS WE HAD TO DO.  WE’VE NEVER DONE THIS KIND OF PROBLEM BEFORE!  I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!!!”

“Your teacher said as long as you attempted to do the math homework you’d get credit.  Just try.”

“BUT I D-O-N-‘T K-N-O-W   H-O-W  TO DO IT!  YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!  GO AWAY!”

Go away?  I’m just trying to be helpful!

What makes these beautiful little beings, often dressed in pink, transform from Snow White to Jafar?  How is it that the same simple question on Monday can elicit such a polar opposite answer on Tuesday?

Sometimes I feel like I have three sets of twins.  There’s a good one and a ornery one.  They look identical, and yet they pop in and out of my house interchangeably without me knowing.

Is there another family with three girls that might be keeping my children’s twins?  Are you in on this?  Are you gas lighting me?  Stop it!  I want the good twins back – and not just 75% of the time.  I want full custody!

20 Cans of Tuna

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Sometimes it is difficult to be my child.

Last Sunday I was working hard to be ready for our afternoon activities and for the first day of school which was Monday.  We had two covered dish dinner events – one for the girls’ mother/daughter charity club and one at church.

Lisa and DJ began participating in the National Charity League five years ago.  There are meetings, socials, and service projects, and mandatory expectations for participation.  When Lisa died, Aunt Sallie stepped up and filled the mother piece of the duo.  When Stephanie aged in, she joined too.

The kickoff picnic required a salad for the covered dish meal and canned goods to be donated to a local nonprofit.

Because I had to bring an entree to the church picnic that followed the NCL dinner, I decided to knock out a slew of ham biscuits.  I made about 50.

That morning I ran by the grocery store to purchase supplies to create my sowbelly delights and at the same time purchased 20 cans of food.  I was thoughtful enough to purchase tuna because the cans were small, easier for my delicate daughters to tote from car to picnic shelter.  I was on my A game.

At 4, I shipped DJ and Stephanie off to NCL and shortly thereafter made my way to church.  They showed up at 6 for their second dinner of the day.

As soon as Stephanie got out of the car, she ran up to me.

“Dad!  Guess what?”

“What baby?”

“Well, we walked up to the NCL picnic and went to put our Food Lion bags full of canned goods on the table with everyone elses’ stuff.”

“Yeah?”

“Everyone else was standing there with Target bags full of shampoo and toothbrushes.  Do you know why?”

“Ahh…no.”

“Because we weren’t supposed to bring canned goods!  We were supposed to bring toiletries.  Do you know how embarrassing it is to show up with TUNA when everyone else has Colgate??”

“What did you do?”

“DJ said to just put the bags down quickly and walk away.  It was humiliating!”

“Well I would imagine that if someone needs toiletries, they likely also need canned goods.”

“At our next meeting we are taking all of the stuff we brought and putting it in bags for the people in need.  I guess the bags will include toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, Q-tips and TUNA!”

She sort of grunted and walked away.

The beautiful thing about DJ is that she didn’t even bring it up to me.  She’s used to this sort of stuff.  No need to get bent out of shape.  With me as her father, it just is what it is.

 

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

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