Michelle on the uke

Sometimes as a dad, you just have to brag.  Here is my baby, Michelle, at the school talent show.  She has her uncle’s ability to pick out a tune on a random instrument and her mother’s incredible voice.  Just listen…

So proud…

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Last First Day

STS last first day

I don’t cook these ideas up on my own.  They usually start as a small seed and then, the fam tends to play off each other and sim sala bim:  magic!

I have been a parent at St. Timothy’s School for 14 years, and actually, Lisa worked there before we had children.  Our family’s history there goes back to 1994.  This year, Michelle, my youngest, is an eighth grader.  When she graduates, we all graduate.

There are some pluses to this forward movement:

No more BINGO night!  This annual fundraiser crams 2,000 people in an unairconditioned gymnasium that was built for 50.  The Donovan family ALWAYS wins something.  In 14 years, we have never even left the place with a Chic Fil A coupon.

No more meet the teacher events!  I have met them.  I have socialized with some.  I can tell you the books we will read in eighth grade lit.  I know that my kids will write an essay for the Daugther’s of the Revolution and some lucky sucker will get chosen to represent our school on the district level of this prestigious contest.  Aren’t these daughters dead yet??

Overall though, leaving this place is going to be difficult.  We have a lot of feelings and memories tied to this sweet place.

So, DJ, Stephanie and I decided that on Michelle’s Last First Day of school at St. Timothy’s, we should celebrate.  We weren’t as concerned about recognizing her as beginning our year-long emotional exit strategy.  The Headmaster may have to peel my fingers off of the playground slide at the end of the graduation ceremony in May.

Our first, simple thought was that the older sisters would join Michelle and me at morning drop off on the first day of school.  And then, the what if’s began…

“What if… we all wear old uniforms to school that morning?”

“DJ, can you fit your butt into your middle school skort?”

“I’m insulted you would ask.  I can.  It’ll just be a mini-skort.”

“Dad, you can wear a kid’s sweatshirt.  It’ll be funny.”

“What if we make a poster that says:  Happy Last First Day at STS Michelle?”

“What if we take apples to the teachers?”

“What if we snap pictures, take a box of Kleenex and pretend like we can’t let her go?”

“Pretend?”

When she woke up that morning, I told her that her sisters had decided to go with us to drop her off.  That they wanted to see their former teachers.

She seemed excited.

When they barreled downstairs in her uniforms, with red and blue bows in their hair, she seemed a bit hesitant.

“Are you guys going inside the school with me?”  I could tell she was worried.

“Heck yeah!” her siblings replied.

“Dad, you’re not going to wear that sweatshirt.”

“I’m a bit chilly this morning.”

“It’s over 80 degrees!”

She was fine when we paraded through the office.  The faculty were all in.  When we walked outside toward the courtyard, where the entire STS middle school gathered waiting for the classroom doors to open, DJ yelled out at the top of her lungs:  “This is Michelle Tanner’s Last First Day at STS!  Let’s all celebrate y’all!”

Michelle, who is typically in the middle of our antics quietly whispered to me, “This is awkward.”

A familiar voice from the crowd, one of Michelle’s best friends, responded, “Michelle, your family is weird.”

We beamed with pride at the comment.

As we worked the crowd, she slowly slipped away disappearing into her circle of friends.  Our attentions moved from her to others we’ve seen grow up over the past 9 years.  Hugs, pinched cheeks, photographs, blown noses and fake tears.

At the end of the day, I asked if we totally embarrassed her.  She said no.  Our behavior was not unexpected.  She also said, “It was pretty cool to have you all there.”

Perhaps one of the best things about this small, intimate school environment is that kids and their families can be themselves.  We’ve known most of Michelle’s classmates for years.  They’ve walked through our rough times, and we’ve walked through theirs.  There is a ton of safety and acceptance at our school – and for that, I am thankful.

Traditions

AT Mary

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.

 

Legacy For Our Kids

My oldest kid’s dorm is three blocks from the White House.  This week media reported that ISIS threatened to blow the President’s residence up, “The White House will turn black with our fire, Allah willing.”

I’m feeling pretty good, because I can’t imagine anyone’s god willing to blow folks up.

And yet, I worry.  Not so much about what will happen to DJ during her tenure at George Washington University, I worry about what my generation is leaving my children.

Michelle has seen enough news lately, and we’ve had enough conversation that it has become apparent to me that she is feeling fear of what could come.  She asked if we could move to Canada – sort of joking, sort of not.  She didn’t want DJ to fly home for Thanksgiving, she much preferred me go pick her up in the car.  She is visibly concerned.

What a shame.

What a shame that my kid has to live with the fear of being shot down while dining outside in her own hometown.  Oh, and what a shame that a Syrian child listens to bombs exploding outside his window each night or is placed on a raft to float to “safety.”

None of them deserve this.

I work at the YMCA and before each staff or volunteer meeting, we open with a devotion and a prayer.  This past week a colleague of mine talked about conviction.  He asked what  we firmly and passionately believed in.  What, if anything, would we be willing to sacrifice for?  What, if anything, would we be willing to die for?

For me, maybe it is an inordinate desire to leave this world better than my parents left it for me.

I think I’m failing.

Perhaps that means paying higher taxes for military support or for social programs that give kids at home and abroad enough hope to feel that blowing themselves up isn’t their greatest option.   Imagine living such a life that strapping a bomb to yourself is the option you would choose over continuing life on this earth.

I want my 13-year-old to be worrying about the snotty girl who shunned her on the playground or the boy who picked his nose in math class and wiped his finger on her notebook – the stuff I worried about at that age.

A first step for us is to be united, to stop our political bickering, to listen and respect each other’s opinions, to work in harmony to bring light to the rest of the world.  I’m not the best listener, but for Michelle’s sake, I’m gonna try a little harder.

Sunday Post 193: Confucius Say

Last Wednesday I picked Michelle up from dance at 6:05pm, right after work.  We had another event at 7 so we were in a hurry.  Typical.

Michelle was standing outside of the studio when I pulled up.  She climbed in the car and looked me over, “Dad.  You have dark circles under your eyes.  You need to get some sleep!”

“Yeah.  I’m tired.  Late nights this week; early mornings.  It was a tough day.”

My first question when she gets in the car is always, How was your day?  On Wednesday, she beat me to the conversation starter.

“Tell me about it.  What made your day bad?”

“Well, if you really want to know,”

“I do.”

“I had an early meeting.  I hate early meetings.”

“Those are hard for you aren’t they dad?  It’s cause you go to bed too late.”

“Not by choice.  Anyway, I had to speak to a group of about 75 people at lunch today in Durham.  I was on a panel with three other folks talking about work/life balance.  It took me an hour to get there, find a parking place and get to the building.  And then, I spoke for five minutes.  They did table breakout groups after we each introduced ourselves.  An hour to get there, speak for five minutes, and then an hour to get back!”

“What else happened?”

“Then I had a meeting from 2:30 – 3:30 with these other two guys.  And one of them showed up at 2.  And then both of them stayed until after 4!  It took all afternoon!  And now I’ve got 80 emails I have to check tonight when we get home at 9:30!  Oh, and I spilled coffee on my shirt this morning.  It was just a bad day.  I have a headache.”

“Dad, did anything good happen today?”

“Mmmm…I didn’t get shot.”

“Dad!  I want you to think of ten good things that happened today.  Come on.  Think of something.”

I swear.  I’m gonna have to do this. Think     of      something.

“Well, Robyn who sits across from me at work came back to the office today.  She’d been on vacation.  And she’s fun!”

“That’s one!”  She seemed excited.  “And you just made it through that yellow stoplight!  That’s two.”

“Oh, and this woman who knew Uncle Matt came up to me after the meeting in Durham and gave me a big hug.  She said that she really connected with what I said.”

“See dad, in five minutes you made a difference.  You helped her, and then she made you feel good too.”

“Yeah.  It was nice of her to say that.”

“Dad, look at the sky.  I love the fall.  It’s my favorite time of the year.”

I looked up.  The pinks and purples were peering out from behind the clouds.  It was beautiful.

“Dad.  Did you eat today?”

“Yea.”

“You know, there are people right here in Raleigh who don’t have food.  That was a good thing that happened to you today.”

Good lord.  I’ve used those very words on her.  How dare her toss them back in my face! 

At least she’s listening.

“Ok.  Ok.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad.”

“Yeah.  Every day has some good in it.”

It’s like I’m raising Confucius.

 

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48 Hours

Problematic suitcase

Michelle is going on a two night trip to the mountains with school.  She will be gone approximately 48 hours which, coincidentally, is the same amount of time it took us to pack.

It went like this:

“I have nothing to wear on this trip!”

“You have three dressers and a closet full of clothes.”

“But none of it is right for this trip.”

“You are going to the mountains for school.  You wear yoga pants, t-shirts and a coat!  You have all of said items.”

She looked at me as if I could not possibly understand what was going on in that little mind.  Her look was warranted.

She began digging in her middle drawer and pulled out a pair of black pants made of stretchy material.  “I’ll wear these  on the way down.  Actually, could you check the weather?”

“By all means Vera Wang.  It’s going to be 65 tomorrow, 63 on Thursday with possible rain and only 47 on Friday.”

“Then should I wear these pants instead?”  She held up a different pair of black stretchy pants.

They are both black; they are both long.  They are twins.  How can one override the other?

“Those appear to be much more appropriate for the climate.”

“I’m going to try them on.”

“Don’t you wear those often?”

“Yes.”

“Then why are you trying them on?”

“I need to see how they look with my tennis shoes.”

“I bet they look the same way that they did last Saturday when you wore them with your tennis shoes.”

She ignored me.  She then pulled out multiple white t-shirts as possible matches for her black pants.  I would have chosen the one on the top.

She then repeated the process with her jeans, a pair of crop yoga pants and a pair of leggings.  When done, she put one pair back on with her sweatshirt and a rain jacket.

“AHHHH,” she grumbled.

“What’s wrong now?”

“This stupid coat does not match my tennis shoes.”

“Actually, blue and pink go well together.”

“No.  They don’t.  And look, when I zip it I look fat.”

“You have two t-shirts and a sweatshirt under it.  Jimmy Walker would look plump in that getup.”

“Who?”

We then went to the attic to pick out a suitcase.  The Vera Bradley bag in her closet would not work.  She was afraid she was going to have to carry it too far.

“I want the one with the wheels.  The one with the pink polka dots.”

“It will certainly match your rain coat.  But I’m not sure about your tennis shoes.”

“Your suitcase does not have to match your tennis shoes.  You’re being ridiculous.”

“Oh.  I’m being ridiculous?”

“Yes.  And weird.  And don’t write about this!!”  She brushed her hair back with her hand, “I’m tired of being famous.”

I don’t think she was serious.  Well, about the last part.

Happy Bday Little One

It’s Michelle’s 12th birthday, and she wanted to blow it out.  I’m guessing there aren’t that many 15 girl sleepovers left in me – but, as long as they’re willing to come to my house, I’ll have ‘em!

The girls and I got home around 5:10 on Friday.  The crew started showing up at 5:30.

Michelle was having 9 friends over.  Of course, that meant that Stephanie needed a couple as well which is fine with me.  The older ones sort of disappear for the most part and occasionally step in to help entertain the youngers.  I just check on them to make sure they haven’t smuggled in boys or started a fire.

At 5:50 Michelle ran out on the front porch.  I was under the carport with Stephanie trying diligently to hook my laptop up to a borrowed projector so that we could watch Netflix on the side of the house.  You know, bigger is better.

“Dad, can we open presents now?”

“Noooo.   You still have two friends who haven’t arrived!  We’re gonna do that later tonight.”

“But we’re bored.”

“Bored?  Bored?  Good lord child, they’ve only been here 20 minutes!”  This was clearly going to be the longest night of my life.

“What should we do?”

“Pretend.”

She looked at me as if she had never heard the word.

“Do you know what we did for my 12th birthday?” She braced herself for the “Walk Two Miles to School in the Snow” story, birthday style.

“Your grandparents blindfolded us, spun us in a circle and had us stick a tack into the sketch of a donkey which was hung on our paneled basement wall.  And you know what?”

“What?”

“We were thankful we had a basement with paneling that was soft enough a tack could penetrate it!”

“You’re the weirdest person I know.”  She ran inside with her iPhone in hand.

I’m a cheap sort of birthday dad.  I did spring for pizza – but not the restaurant kind.  I bought small circular crusts and let the kids make their own.  They at least acted like it was fun.

DSC_0860

We then headed out to the carport.  That’s when DJ drove up.

My oldest daughter looked at me.  “Dad.  You look tired.  Let’s project some music videos on the wall.  We’ll have a dance party.  Take a break.  I got the next 15 minutes.”

A quarter of an hour.  She is so thoughtful.

DSC_0855

The movie was a hit until it started pouring down rain about ¾ of the way through.  We grabbed all of our stuff and headed toward the basement door.  As the girls ran in, a snake the size of an earthworm squirmed passed the door.

From the noise that came out of the mouths of these children, I thought one had run into a chainsaw in motion.

The snake is probably in Montana by now.  Their screams no doubt scared the hell out of him.  He was slithering as fast as a serpent can slither.  I feel certain he will NEVER return.

At 10:30 we ate cake – well, sort of.  I rolled out cookie dough and etched a little pic of the kid ($3.69).  I figured after pizza and popcorn some fancy store-bought sugarfest would not be necessary.

DSC_0880

Look, if you’re gonna dress your children in Jack Rogers’ sandals, you gotta save somewhere.

Around midnight DJ came home from her adventures with friends, and she helped me settle the crew down.  I went to my room and began to doze off when I heard the back door open and a booming voice echo through the den.

“Happy Birthday Michelle!!”

Hayes at bday

The laughter and screeches began again.  Uncle Jesse had arrived.  He pulled out the family guitar and began strumming as he held court with the nine preteens.

His work was complete at around 1 AM.  He did the job of an uncle.  Rile them up and get out-of-the-way.

No stiches, no tears, no vomiting or fist fights.  Asleep before 2.  I’d say that it was a pretty good night.

The Nobel Prize in Math

Logo_of_the_Nobel_prize

I don’t mean this in an ugly way, but Lisa was a pretty good nagger. She didn’t really stay on me about stuff cause I typically do what I’m supposed to do. But she could harp on the kids about a plethora of things: practicing the piano, completing their homework, keeping their skin moisturized, getting their thank you notes written, and more!

Since I’ve been the sole parent, I’ve had to take up the role of naggart.

I don’t mind, there’s part of me that perversely enjoys getting under another’s skin. What I stink at is remembering. I just don’t care enough to be a great nag.

I so want to excel at this task. I long to hear a child’s annoyed whine, “Daaaaad. You don’t have to tell me again!”

I long to respond, “Clearly I do!  You did not do it the first six times I asked!”

The problem is, I never asked, because I forgot.

This week we’ve been at the beach, and I have had the awesome opportunity to hassle Stephanie all week long. She’s about the head to camp for four weeks, and she has to complete a massive math assignment for her class placement for the fall. She did the work once, but the school sent us an email encouraging her to push a little harder so they could put her in an honors class.

I was excited!

“Stephanie, if you increase your grade on the placement test slightly, you can take Honors Geometry next year!”

I had visions of Harvard, a PHD, maybe a Nobel Peace Prize! My daughter, one and the same as pi.

She didn’t bite.

“Isn’t the honors course harder?”

“It IS more challenging,” I thought I was giving her a boost!

“Then why would I want to take that?”

“The Nobel Peace Prize baby!  STEM is in!”

She just couldn’t see our vision for her future (by our, I mean my).

So, we’ve spent at least one miserable hour each day of our vacation fighting about math. We’ve been here six days, I have the conversation memorized.

“Stephanie,” I start in the kindest tone I can muster. “You need to start thinking about spending some time on your math.”

“I HATE MATH! IT’S SUMMER VACATION, WHO HAS TO DO MATH IN THE SUMMER?”

“You.”

“This is rediculous!”

“Baby, you’re good at math. You got an award in 8th grade assembly for math!”

“I like math, in the school year! I don’t like math in the summer. When am I ever going to use math in my life?”

“Mmmm.  Let’s see.  EVERY DAY!”

“Not this kind of math. Do you ever factor a polynomial at work?”

“Seriously? I work at the Y.”

“See.”

And then, I get to nag. For an hour at a minimum.

“You could have been done with today’s work in the amount of time you’ve spent complaining. Shut your pie hole and get to work!”

It’s no use. I think she just likes to argue. It’s gonna be a constant battle. She’s “asleep” now. Her computer screen is black. Geeze.

I’m just gonna drop it until next week.  By then I will have forgotten, and she’ll be in basic math.

Oh well, who wants a stinkin’ Nobel anyhow?

 

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

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My Political Dynasty

Like Joseph Kennedy, I’m working to build a political dynasty.

When DJ announced that she was seeking the position of Student Body President at her all girls’ school, I wondered where she found the confidence to put herself out there like that. I guess she thought she had a chance to win. At that age, I would have simply pondered the potential to lose.

She put together a cracker-jack campaign committee with representatives from all the grades. She handed out home-baked cookies (the whole family helped decorate them), and bacon. Yea, we got up at the butt crack of dawn one morning, cooked bacon and shoved each piece in an individual baggie with her campaign slogan written in Sharpie marker on the Ziplock.

“Why are you handing out bacon,” I questioned.

“Do you like bacon,” she retorted.

“Yah. Everybody does.”

“Well there ya go.”

I gotta give it to her. It worked. Plus, she had a really good speech.

I can already see her in the White House. She’s pretty good at problem solving.  And, her sisters would say that she’s mastered bossing others around.

A few weeks later, Michelle followed in her footsteps by running for Secretary of her middle school. This was her speech:

Roses are red, my granny is swell,

If you want a good secretary, vote for Michelle!

 

I am an honest girl, never committed a crime,

I’ll be prompt, and I’ll get to the meetings on time.

 

I am not very good at basketball, I can’t really dribble,

but when I take notes I am neat, and I do n’t scribble.

 

Student council sells biscuits, they’re only a dollar,

I’ll serve them hot, and you will holla.

 

I’ll be quick with communicating, I won’t be slow,

I’ll work really hard to keep you in the know.

 

I am very dependable, don’t worry about me,

If you vote for Michelle, you will see!

 

I could see her being the Ambassador to Spain in her future. Don’t they just throw parties and stuff?

And the middle kid? Well, the Peace Corps might be in her future, Stephanie has such a heart for serving others – she sincerely cares about people.

This is her on a mission trip attempting to demo a ceiling:

I’ve been told that tearing out ceilings was not her sweet spot but that she can spread insulation like a champ!  Talk about confidence, this kid left home to go to New York with 30 other teens, most 3 to 4 years her senior.

I was pondering their recent accomplishments as I opened their report cards this past week.  When I was their age, I was solidly churning out B’s and spending my free time watching Gilligan’s Island.   I would have no more run for office or gone on a mission trip without my best friends than I would have hang glided over the Grand Canyon.

They may get their humor from me, but I think the rest of their genetic makeup came straight from their mom.  Wish she was here to see all this.

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Give a Spit About Your Bracket

Some have asked me, “What happened to Uncle Jesse?”

He’s still in Raleigh and in and out of the house a couple of times a month.   On the occasional Saturday morning, he’ll call and ask to speak to one of the girls.

“Dad, can I go to lunch with Uncle Jesse?”

That’s code for:  We’re gonna hit the Kanki Japanese Steak House.

I’m cool with him taking them there.  Although I like the food, it does a number on my innards.  And, I always leave the place smelling like deep-fried chicken.  Instead of a night out with dinner and a movie, when Kanki is involved, it has to be dinner and a shower.

“Hey you guys, let’s meet at Kanki for dinner and then hit the Y for a group shower?”

Jesse also continues to be the producer for the Dave Glenn Show on 99.9 FM.  It’s your “statewide home for sports talk.”  Jesse pulls in all the cool music, lines up the interviews, mans the phones,and  holds down the Facebook and Twitter accounts.  He knows more about sports than I know about eyebrow waxing, and that’s a lot.

On the side, Jesse makes these interesting videos and uses them on different venues through the sports and media worlds (what I’m really saying here is I don’t know why he makes these videos or what he does with them).

The other day he popped by and he and Michelle came up with this ditty.  In NC, NCAA basketball is HUGE, even for a non-sports fanatic like me.  Enjoy the music!

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