“I’m Bored”

Posted by Jesse

Being at home with DJ by herself is easy. Basically she’d just prefer you not be seen or heard, but be on hand to drive in case the store calls and her shoes come in. Easy enough. Stephanie likes to hang out, but if I need to watch a basketball game or write something, she can get lost in a book or a TV show or listening to music. Michelle, on the other hand, believes being entertained is her birthright.

She has no concern for your sightline to the television if she wants someone to crawl upon. She is indifferent to the computer she displaces as she slides into your lap. And she does not care what else you have going on when she announces, “I’m bored!” with the expectation that you will make moves to reconcile the situation.

Which is actually a shame, because when she doesn’t have the crutch of someone else to entertain her, the kid does some wildly creative stuff. You’ve already heard about Zelia the fortune teller, who has made multiple appearances.  But the list of characters doesn’t stop there.

Not too long ago, when we were at my mother’s house and I was watching my sister Sallie’s kids along with Michelle and Stephanie, Michelle got bored but realized I had to keep my main focus on the younger kids. So she started an impromptu “talk show” on the back patio furniture. She lined up family members as guests and asked probing questions like, “So, tell us what is up with you!”

Maybe she heard Oprah was retiring.

Recently Michelle asked what the paparazzi was and Danny explained it to her. The next morning she insisted I walk in front of her on our way to the car. I was curious as to why.

“To block the paparazzi, dear.”

She had created a new persona, this one half southern belle, half Hollywood starlet. I recognized this character when I saw her a few days later.

I was mowing Danny’s prize-winning lawn (two weeks in a row, for those of you scoring at home….I know I am) when Michelle comes out in a bathrobe, despite the fact that she had already been dressed for the day earlier. Her hair was also sassily done to the side. If I knew more about hair I could explain it better, and I didn’t have a camera because I was mowing the lawn.

As I finish the back yard, she is motioning for me to cut the mower immediately, and though she’s trying to look steamed, she’s having a hard time suppressing laughter. I finally cut the mower and saunter over. She lays into me.

“I am TRYING to get my beee-auty sleep and I cannot because of all this racket you are making!”

It’s the same character who was hiding from the paparazzi. She follows me as I finish the lawn, standing on the various porches, giving me the evil eye and telling me to shut it down, then giving me the “well, I never!” storm offs when I refuse to yield.

Later that day the whole crew is getting out of the car and Stephanie and DJ both have a few bags to carry in. Michelle doesn’t have anything, but she goes into character once again.

“I’m not really the carrying type, thanks,” she let us know.

We need to come up with names for all of her characters…the talk show host, the southern actress…I’m sure there are more to come. I’m not quite clear how she ever gets bored.

A&F Pushing The T&A Envelope, Again

Posted By Jesse

One of the Tanner family traditions that I have adjusted and grown accustomed to is the soundtrack of the morning: Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos talking world news and pop culture on “Good Morning, America”, which plays as breakfast background music while the girls munch cereal. Sometimes I fear they run stories that are not the best for kicking off a second grader’s day, like the one this morning where they kept showing the clip of the two teen moms beating the snot out of each other (shout-out to Brunswick County).

At times I consider turning it off or changing the channel, but then I fear that it’ll only draw more attention to it. Apparently we would not have been watching Chris Brown’s appearance on GMA last week if Lisa were still ruling the roost. Bruce informed me that his music (and presumably his morning talk show appearances) was banned from the Tanner house due to his penchant for hitting other people. Sometimes (because GMA producers, like everyone else, know what moves the dial) there will be a story on at 7:15 a.m. about s-e-x, usually dressed up as a “scientific study” revealing something new about men and women. I try to pretend uninterested and ruffle the sports page loudly so as to distract the viewers at the breakfast table.

Almost every morning they give us an update on something related to the royal wedding. Michelle cracked me up when they said, “Up next, the details behind Prince Harry’s TOP SECRET bachelor party weekend…” and she calmly replied to the television, “I guess it’s not a secret any more, then.”

But then there are the stories where GMA is highlighting something that is wrong/bad/unjust, only I wonder if the attention they bring to the issue only makes things worse, even if they are condemning, not praising. Boy was I glad the girls had already exited the kitchen to brush their teeth when this story came on. I guarantee you Michelle would want one of these things. Better warn Danny to steer clear of Abercrombie next time he hits the mall.

Here’s the link to the story if the YouTube embed doesn’t work for you:
http://abcnews.go.com/assets/player/walt2.6/flash/SFP_Walt_2_65.swf

Like Milk?

POSTED BY JESSE

One thing I have learned in the past year of living in the Tanner house: kids are fascinating. I hold no degrees in doctoral science, but I feel like I’m always studying the behavior of the Tanner girls. And I’ve concluded they are unpredictably fascinating.

Most mornings the routine is that Danny wakes the girls, gets the lunch order straight, starts his coffee, and hands off the lunch order to me so he can go get dressed (unless I’m slow rising–then he starts making the lunches). I come out and and make/finish the lunches and, depending on who comes down in what order, aid in the breakfast prep (aka cereal distribution).

Much like making lunches–where I know who will take what sandwich, and which fruit, and which snack–I know what to expect when it comes to breakfast: DJ will have the most sugary cereal in the cabinet, with milk. Stephanie will usually have the same sugary cereal, though she may have a less sugary cereal, also with milk, sometimes with a glass of milk or a glass of water. Michelle will pick from any array of the available cereals (though Lucky Charms is typically a lock) and she eats it dry, with a glass of water.

Always. Every breakfast of every school day I have been here, Michelle has eaten her cereal dry. Until yesterday.

She came down for breakfast, the first one down. She poured herself a bowl of Lucky Charms. And she asked me to pour the milk for her.

“What?” I said, in a dramatic, shocked voice. “You’re having milk on your cereal?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “I don’t know, I just…thought I’d try it.”

And she repeated it today. And she announced it to my parents when we had dinner at their house last night.

I don’t know exactly how long her habit of eating her morning cereal dry stretches back–she says she can’t remember either. So why the change? Who knows?

And that’s what makes me marvel at watching these ever evolving mini-people. Who knows what they’ll like or dislike tomorrow or why? What spurs change, even small ones, in kids? Does it mean she’s starting to try to be more like her big sisters? Did she wake up that morning knowing she wanted to try it? Or did it just hit her as she poured the cereal? Or had she been thinking about it for weeks and finally made the decision?

And also, is there something I do every day that I could do a 180 on and like just as much?

I suppose calcium advocates vs. weight nutritionists will have to determine whether the additional milk is good for Michelle’s diet.

This All Started Innocently Enough…

POSTED BY JESSE

We’re eating out for dinner tonight, and it’s not my fault. Well, not REALLY not my fault.

See, there are basically two adults in this house. Danny is one. And DJ and I combine make up the other adult. We have enough grown-up between the two of us to equal one adult. This can be good or bad. In a good way, it means there are three people with “adult-like” qualities, so we can spread ourselves out and cover most things. But the down side is that if DJ and I team up for some mischief, there’s really no one to stop us.

You could, actually, blame it on the blog.

You see, earlier today, Danny concluded his blog post by saying:

Think we’ll just go out to eat for dinner; I’m tired

Only DJ and I (bloodhounds that we are) detected thawing bean and chicken soup in the sink this morning at breakfast. We knew he had no intentions of going out to dinner. He was lying on the blog! We felt justified in taking corrective measures.

This afternoon, just before Danny got home, I called up to her:

“Hey DJ, want to stick the soup back in the freezer so we have to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day?”

No hesitation from her: “YES! I almost did it earlier, but I didn’t want to do it on my own because I didn’t want to, you know, like get in trouble.”

See what I mean? Team up the two half-adults and we can’t be stopped. She was way too enthusiastic for me not to go through with it. But I had to pretend to be sensible:

Me: “Yeah, but you get out of dance late…”

DJ: “Yeah, but Stephanie already did piano and me and Stephanie already did homework. And Michelle never has homework!”

Me: “Ok…maybe we can convince him to pick up chinese.”

The soup really did look and smell good. I'm glad we have more.

Finally we decide to go through with it, though we’re still not clear on the reveal. Only AS WE’RE PUTTING THE SOUP IN THE FREEZER Danny literally comes through the door. Almost busted! We hastily toss the soup into the freezer as he blows by us to the bedroom (probably has to pee). Maybe too hastily.

Danny ventures back out to pick up Michelle, so DJ and I work on what the excuse is going to be (by the way, she’s waaay to good at brainstorming excuses for a 13-year old). DJ is just about to bolt for her dance carpool. She opens the freezer to check on the soup and WHAM! One of the containers explodes on the floor. A pile of beans and chicken, with soup slowly spreading across the kitchen like the blood of a gunshot victim. Oops.

DJ’s out the door leaving me holding the bag. Stephanie, who was all too content to just shout out suggestions for dining options should we pull this off, is now very interested. She comes downstairs in time to snap some pictures of me cleaning (my blog instincts weren’t sharp enough to grab a snapshot of the whole spill. It was grand).

the "chalk outline" of the soupy victim

Steph asks me:

“What are you going to tell him?”

“I guess I’ll just have to tell him the truth, huh?”

But not before shooting it out in a quick blog post, right?

(by the way, he’s been home 30 minutes now and still hasn’t noticed the soup missing or the smell of beans and chicken in the air. Guess I do a pretty good clean-up job!)

just desserts?

“Big Time Rush” Got To Meet The Real Full House!

POSTED BY UNCLE JESSE

OK, so it’s probably more accurate to say we got to meet them, but, hey, we got 10,000 views this week, so there’s a chance they’ve heard of us. Though they are clearly more famous (and richer, and better looking…) I must confess, I had no clue who they were. But I do now:

My boys Kendall, Logan, Carlos, and James

“Big Time Rush” is, I have learned, a Nickelodeon made-for-TV boy band. Kind of like The Monkees. Their back-story is they were four hockey playing friends from Minnesota who moved to L.A. to join the music scene. Now they’ve got the show on Nick, as well as some songs getting some run on radio and iTunes.

They are big-time (pun intended) enough that you could tell Michelle and Stephanie were very excited and completely in awe. But the most telling may have been DJ. She was probably more jazzed that she got to see a sneak preview of Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never the night before, but she was definitely not feigning excitement when it was her turn to meet the guys. Or, as she explained it, “My friends would all say BTR is dumb, but they know all the words to the theme song, and they’ll be jealous I got to meet them.”

I don’t doubt their fame, but I don’t think any of my friends are jealous I got to meet them. Our good friend Catherine, who works in radio, got the Tanner girls in the see the guys and Danny had a morning meeting, so I got to do the honors.

But I’ll give the guys credit: even more than their handlers/PR people, the BTR guys were very good about being open to the room, taking any and all photograph and autograph requests, giving out hugs, chatting up the kids and adults, and not watching the clock/door for the earliest possible exit.

Overall, the girls were pretty pumped and I was pretty impressed. Check out the pics:

The car ride there. We were singing all the "Big Time Rush" songs we know. It's like two.

waiting for the guys to show up with our friend AP. They must run on "Hollywood time"

Getting autographs. Feel the rush!

 

the boys fielded requests for friends as well, so Kimmy Gibbler got one

Steph brought her own poster! These guys must train for this. I didn't see them shake their hands out once.

Michelle with Big Time Rush

Stephanie with Big Time Rush

DJ with Big Time Rush (she was taller than Carlos)

Michelle and AP making sure we captured the moment

One more Big Time pose with Logan (the hottie)

Overheard At The Breakfast Table: Boyfriends Beware!

POSTED BY JESSE

Unless I’m driving to school, my usual morning task is surveying who is ordering lunch, who wants a packed lunch, and what they want. The only constant is that Michelle does not order lunch from school, except for Fridays (Chick-Fil-A day).

For the other two, there are a number of factors to consider. For Stephanie it is typically a matter of what’s being served for lunch that day, and what better options might be in the fridge. For DJ, it’s a lot about the food, but also some about what’s happening at school that day, and, honestly, what kind of mood she’s in. Which led to this funny conversation this morning:

Me: “OK, lunch for Michelle, Stephanie’s doing soup and salad bar. DJ, you want a lunch or are you ordering?”

This guy was definitely hauling lunches in 2nd grade

DJ: “I don’t know. I really don’t want what’s for lunch today but I reeeaaally don’t want to carry a lunchbox around all day.”

Michelle offered a solution: “You should get a boyfriend. Then you can make him carry around your lunchbox for you.”

She sounded as if she had experience in using this tactic, so I had to inquire, “Michelle, you got a boyfriend carrying your lunch around?”

She answered with no, but then–I kid you not–I listened to the girls list the boys in their class that they were certain would carry their lunches around, and which ones had actually been spotted carrying other girls’ lunches, regardless of the relationship status.

Look, opening doors, pulling out chairs, even carrying a girls’ books or lunch for her–all sweet things for guys to do. But I’m just giving you a heads up, fellas. If Michelle Tanner asks you to be her boyfriend, you better be clear what the expectations are.

And know that she does not order school lunches, she brings hers. Every day.

Traffic Duty Is Punishment For Parents

POSTED BY JESSE

I feel the need to preface this by saying I love the girls’ school. In addition to being a place that is both academically challenging and supportive, it is a great community. Much like my relationship with Danny’s family has grown and become a bright spot in the darkness of Lisa’s passing, I have been blessed and delighted and thankful and honored to become part of the St. Timothy’s community. And we are eternally indebted to the school: the support and shared grief through Lisa’s illness and death could be felt every day and continues to be. Its walls, its staff, and its students have been a true safe haven for DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle.

But I do not like traffic duty. I do not know the full logistics behind traffic duty, nor its purpose, nor its origin. I can only assume that it is founded in sound logic, because it existed (and probably even began) when Lisa was working there. If it had been totally useless I have no doubt she would have crusaded against it and had it eradicated, much the way she did the cumbersome risers in our church’s Christmas pageant. She would not have stood for anything this illogical (from my perspective), so I can naturally conclude there must be a practical reason for it. Maybe.

Not if I keep driving back and forth to school I won't

Here is what traffic duty looks like to an uninformed uncle: students in grades 6-8 (thanks goodness it doesn’t include 5th grade or we’d have two involved) are assigned by homeroom to “traffic duty” for the week. I am certain each homeroom’s week only comes up for duty once a quarter at most, but would you believe me if I said it feels like we have it every other week?

The student has to be there at 7:30 a.m.  instead of the usual time, 7:55 a.m. (that’s if Danny’s driving, more like 8:05 when I’m running the shuttle). Understandably the school does not have bus routes to and from school, so this of course means at least one parent also must rise half an hour earlier. And for parents with multiple children (that don’t happen to be twins in the same homeroom)? Well here are your options:

  1. One parent leaves at 7:20 to take the “traffic duty” kid to school, the other parent drives a second shift at 7:40 (that would be two cars leaving the same house for the same destination, 20 minutes apart).
  2. One parent takes the “traffic duty” kid while the other preps the younger siblings, then sends them out to be picked up by the parent who drove the first kid (that would be one car making the same trip twice, 20 minutes apart)
  3. You take the whole crew early and make the other two wait (not a lot of fun to roll everyone’s morning routine back 30 minutes for a week, and it probably means you’re either a) springing for breakfast at Panera to keep the non-“traffic duty”-bound kids happy or b) dropping off cranky kids at school. Or both. Enjoy that, teachers!)

And if you’re truly a single parent of multiple kids or live farther from the school than we do then your options just get worse.

As for what goes on at “traffic duty”? Well here is what I surmised, again admitting

We had Safety Patrol when I was in school. And it was voluntary.

that these are merely the observations of an uninformed outsider:

  1. 5-10 kids opening doors of cars. My guess is this was the great need and that some teachers grumbled loudly enough at the suggestion of making it a regularly rotating teacher task (as I most certainly would if I worked there) that someone came up with the plan of using students. Bear in mind these are middle-schoolers who have never actually driven a car and are not necessarily aware of the best flow, so they are liable to walk to your door even though you can see the line is about to move and everyone is going to move up a few spaces. Some kids give a warm greeting, but most seem embarrassed that they are looking inside your car. Some actually improve at learning the best way to carry out their task as the week goes on. Then we get new kids on Monday.
  2. 2 kids walking kids back and forth in the crosswalk. Bear in mind the crosswalk is where the full-time traffic guard/school security monitor stands. He is not only very good, but very necessary in directing the flow. He is kind to all of the student/parent/teacher pedestrians and not afraid to stare down an impatient car. Again, my issues are not with this wonderful man. But with him standing in the crosswalk with a large stop sign and a whistle, plus a faculty member on either side of the walk, I feel pretty certain that the kids in the walk would be safe without the “traffic duty” middle schooler escort.
  3. 5-10 kids assigned to guard a door. Ok, so I’m sure they’re really there to open the door for others and greet them warmly, but since almost every kid I see walking to school has a parent in tow, again, I do not believe unwatched doors would be a huge loss for anyone. I see kids go ten minutes without talking to another person because they’ve been assigned a remotely located door. Also, since we’re talking about middle school kids who patently object to wearing pants, their options under the uniform guidelines are shorts for boys and skirts for girls. This morning I heard them talking on “Good Morning, America” about how it only takes five minutes of exposed skin in extreme temperatures to get frostbite. Then I dropped off at school and saw more skin on the “traffic duty” kids standing outside than I did at the St. Timothy’s Dads pick-up basketball game the night before (the 30+ crowd is not big on playing shirts and skins).
  4. Remaining kids on flagpole and announcements These are two tasks that surely no one would argue take 30 minutes to prepare for, but because it has to be fair to the pre-teen popsicles who are outside opening doors, everyone has to show up at 7:30. Flag duty is definitely a good thing to learn, but why not make it the realm of the Student Council? Or at least Tom Sawyer the thing and sucker kids into getting their turn to raise the flag by making it an honor. Every kid in the school could have their official day to raise the flag and parents would come out with cameras and load the pictures onto facebook with the caption “Mikey’s first flag raising!” And I’m quite sure you could get 5-10 students to volunteer to read the announcements because getting to talk over the loudspeaker still has to be one of the coolest ten things that could happen to a kid at school. Call it the “Radio Club” and you might even inspire a career.

So with apologies to the school and whoever came up with this plan, I’m not feeling traffic duty. You can double the price of cupcake day and I’ll back you up (come on, we’re in tough times and everyone can find an extra quarter somewhere in that car). You can assign projects that no kid could possibly complete without parental help and I won’t object. But until I hear a better explanation of traffic duty, you can count me as a detractor.

Maybe I’m just grumpy because I was informed by Danny that he’s got a morning meeting tomorrow and I get to make the double-commute or buy Panera. Either way I know I’m getting up earlier.

“Just Because You’re A Parent Doesn’t Mean You Have To Be Lame”

Posted by Uncle Jesse

I’ve seen this Toyota ad several times recently. It definitely hits close to home in our family. I like it because based on this kid’s definition of “lame”, I am the lamest uncle/parent in the world:

Two preliminary observations: 1) these kids can hate all they want, but that is a fantastic song (more on that below) and 2) I respect how the parents toss in some pretty strong harmony on the “just touch my cheek before you leave me” line.

The Tanner girls know this scene all too well. When I first moved in with the family Danny and I were usually splitting mornings driving the girls to school and driving Lisa to the hospital for chemotherapy and other various treatments.

And most of the mornings I drove to school, I would try to get a loud, upbeat, thumping song in queue on my iPod just in time for the pull-in to the drop-off line. Despite the fact that it was winter, I’d roll the windows down. Everyone at the school knew when the Tanner family was being dropped off.

The girls hated it, or at least acted like they did. But even as they rolled their eyes and moved briskly away from the minivan, I could see a few smiles–at least from their friends.

Anyone got the code to my lame car's lame stereo system? I've got lame songs to sing.

In the Fall I had to get the battery changed in the minivan, which triggered a security measure in the super high-tech 1999 Honda Odyssey’s stereo system that locked it up until someone entered the code. Only one person knew the code (and she’s laughing at me from heaven). Danny has tried, I have tried, the radio is still locked. The car is silent.

But I need to get that thing fixed. The girls have been getting off way light on the embarrassing starts to the school days when I drive. Their Dad, for the record, is like the parent in the other car in the ad–calmly driving his fancy car with DVD and TV screens in the back, so it’s not like the Tanner girls have it that bad when it comes to getting around.

See, my philosophy as a parent (or “parent” or pseudo-parent or whatever I am) is that taking great care and effort not to embarrass your child is worthless, because ultimately you’re going to slip up–or they’re just going to change the rules as to what counts as embarrassing–and your kid WILL be mortified. So I do the opposite. I ALWAYS embarrass the Tanner girls. I wear goofy clothes. I play my music loudly and sing along over top of it. I call out to them from across crowded spaces. I dance when I should just be walking. I try to make hip-sounding references around their friends that I know are tragically un-hip.

But it works in my favor in a few ways. The first is that by continually being unabashed about abashing them, I water down what it means to be embarrassed. They’re used to it, they expect it. They’ve gotten over it, accept it’s going to happen and don’t get very flustered when it does. Sometimes they even smile. The second reason it works is because on the rare occasions I do exercise a little class and dignity around them and do my best not to embarrass–like when we had a bunch of kids from the 8th grade over for dinner before a school dance–it is actually appreciated.

And the third reason? Well, DJ clued the other two into this one early on during the “loud music in the mornings” routine. As we would make the turn into the school driveway and the girls would see my hand go for the volume knob, they would play their part.

“Noooo, don’t play the loud music!” Stephanie and Michelle would dutifully cry, bound by the rules of childhood to fight any efforts to be noticed because of something their parent (or uncle) was doing.

“Why do you guys even bother,” DJ explained to them, bookbag already on shoulder, ready to sprint for the nearest buidling. “You know he’s just going to do it anyway.”

And she’s exactly right. I do it because I want them to know that it’s not going to stop, and that I’m not going anywhere.

Oh yeah, as for “Angel Of The Morning”–it IS a great song, and here’s my favorite version of it (sorry, Juice Newton fans, this one is waaaay better):

And here, as far as I can tell, is the original one. Pretty risque for its time now that I think about it. Also cool how the military-like “rat-tat-tat-tat” to start each line survived to the Juice Newton/Pretenders versions:

Meet The House Fashion Consultant

Posted by Uncle Jesse

That’s right. It’s me, baby.

I generally steer clear of discussions involving dress and style in the Tanner household. I’ve determined that I don’t care enough about what the girls wear to put in the work it would take for them to actually listen to me about it, so I don’t waste anyone’s time–theirs or mine–getting in the middle.

Sometimes I do have to stand up for Danny when he’s being hassled about a certain item looking “too old” or “not cool”. I remind the girls that they know next to nothing about what’s cool for a 45-year old man, despite what they may think. A perfect example would be Danny’s new shoes, which were panned by DJ but praised in the comment section.

Prediction: when viewed in retrospect, Uggs will be like the big hair and poofy shoulders I see in Lisa's high school yearbook

I also like telling the girls that no matter how “cool” they think they dress, it’s pretty much guaranteed that in five years they’ll look back on what they’re wearing now and say, “I can’t believe I EVER thought that looked good.” (and, yes, I’m looking at you, Uggs. I can’t wait to be right about those things)

My only other fashion tip: if you like it/thinks it looks good on you, wear it. Don’t worry what other people think. Right before school started, DJ wanted to get a pair of Toms because all of the counselors at Camp Seafarer wore them. But she really wanted the silver sparkly pair, the ones that definitely stand out from a crowd slightly more than the plain blue ones. She got the sparkly ones. But after they were purchased, the first two reviews (I won’t say from whom they came) were less than enthusiastic, so DJ immediately started questioning her decision. She returned them and got the plain blues. She wasn’t happy, but that “what if people think they’re stupid?” thought had crept in her head and, admittedly, it’s a tough one to get out.

I told DJ I had no opinion on which shoe looked better  (and I didn’t say this, but I think Toms, like Uggs, will probably fall into the “I can’t believe I ever wore those!” category, but I could be wrong–and I definitely don’t deny they are the “in” thing right now), but that I did think that as a general rule she should go with her intuition when buying/wearing clothes. Every now and then you may get some funny looks, but as long as you have a pretty good reputation for wearing good-looking clothes, most of the time you take a risk it will be met with approval. And often times you’ll be looked at as a trend-setter and see others follow suit.

I don’t claim that my advice had a thing to do with it (I think maybe she spied some older girls rocking some of the

I say wear it loud and proud.

“louder” Toms) but eventually she did get a pair of silver sparkly Toms (and kept the blue ones for a more subdued option when the occasion calls for it).

But yesterday was something different. I was not consulted for my fashion philosophy, I was consulted for my fashion advice.

The 8th grade had a field trip or social event or something else that meant DJ did not have to wear her usual St. Timothy’s uniform. She informed me that the entire 8th grade (though I’m guessing it was just the girls) had been up since 6:30 am texting each other about what to wear. Growing up in public schooling I always mocked kids who had to wear a uniform. Now I see there is some sound logic in the idea.

"What's everyone wearing today? We must individualize but not stand out!"

She basically had her outfit put together–it looked stylish and cool, but nothing I would have thought would have taken an extra half hour to assemble. It was basically jeans and a white top with light blue stripes (light blue like…halfway between Carolina blue and Duke blue…sorry, I can only describe these thing in my terms). And some shoes.I probably should have noticed which ones.

And it was probably because she was standing in the living room with no mirror. Or because I was the first person to emerge after she came down in her selected outfit. Or maybe even because, sadly, I probably am–by process of elimination–the person in the house aside from her who would best know what teenagers think is cool. But the reason doesn’t matter. She asked me. She asked ME. Here’s what she asked me:

“Should I go with the darker jeans?”

My first thought was, “I have no clue. And what would make you think I would have a clue? I am clueless on this type of thing.” But I could tell by the question she really wanted someone else’s opinion, and I wanted to make the most of the situation. Heck, if I got it “right”, I might even get asked again some time!

But I was still clueless as to which looked better. It’s a good thing she didn’t ask, “Do you think I should wear lighter or darker jeans with this?” because I would have had to admit I could not tell if she was currently wearing the lights or the darks. I tried to evaluate what a darker pair of jeans would look like with the top she was wearing. How dark would the other pair be? How can you tell what the effect of changing the shade of the pants will be on the stripes? WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR???

I had nothing. So, again, I put things in my terms.

I don’t bet on sports (much) but I follow sports a fair amount. I even do a little work in sports media. Because of this, my friends often mistake me for someone who will have good advice for which team to bet on and will text me before a big game to ask my opinion. Most of the times, I don’t have a clue. And in fact, I believe anyone who thinks they do know something is kidding themselves. There’s a reason they say “the house always wins”. It does.

So I’ve come to find that the best advice I can give to my friends who are trying to pick winners is to tell them the team they already want to pick. If they say “I like Team A” and I say “go with Team B”, it only serves to make them more tense and nervous about their pick. And I know, no matter what they might believe about my “insider knowledge” that my pick is no more of a coin toss than theirs. If they say, “I like Team A” and I say “me too” and we win, I look smart for confirming the pick. If we lose, they feel like we  made the “right” pick and just got a bad break. If they switch their pick based on my word and I end up being right, I’m just going to say I got lucky anyway. And, worst of all, if I tell them to go against their gut and I’m wrong….well then all of a sudden I feel like I need to send a friend money I don’t have to cover their losses when I’m not the dummy who was throwing it around on a football game anyway! When at all possible, I try to feel out what their intuition is telling them, and that’s my pick.

I used this lesson and applied it to DJ’s fashion dilemma. I stopped worrying about trying to figure out what looked best to me and tried to decide what she was looking for. She didn’t seem confident that the light jeans were the best choice. And maybe, just maybe, I was thinking that you don’t want the stripes in the shirt too close in color to the jeans….right?

"we" went with the darker jeans (but she wouldn't pose for a picture)

“I think maybe I’d switch to the dark ones,” I said.

“Yeah, me too,” she replied and rushed up to change.

Score. I did so well she even asked me about her necklace choice when she came back down.

“This one, this one or both?”

“I’d go with just the dangly links one.”

“Cool.”

I was on a roll. Maybe if I just speak with confidence I can keep this up. Or maybe she’ll realize taking a picture of her outfit and texting it to friends for approval is probably the best option. I can’t wait to pick out prom dresses. And I’ll let her know to always bet the SEC in national championship games.

Rocks Are Everywhere

Posted by Uncle Jesse

Getting ready for school is not the easiest thing for the Tanner family, though I suspect it’s not any more or less of a hassle for us than it is for others. DJ is generally pretty efficient and autonomous. Stephanie tends to drag her feet a bit, but for the most part is good-natured and usually remembers what she needs for the day’s activities (though the addition of earrings to the equation has been a bit of an adjustment). And the “wild card” of most mornings is Michelle. One morning she may traipse down the steps before the other two, singing out loud and making jokes about my outfit. The next day, she might have a meltdown over her ribbon not matching her shoes. It is impossible to guess which it will be, but not very difficult to discern once you see her morning face.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

One morning recently, Danny had an early meeting so the morning rush was a solo job for me. Our big task for the morning was having to transport Michelle’s class project, a giraffe in its habitat, to school. It happened to coincide with a Tuesday, which meant we also had to get piano books. And it was cold, so coats and gloves were a last minute addition as well. All of this was proving too much for Michelle, who in addition to being a little frazzled was also not thrilled about how the giraffe was looking. The other girls tried to help.

“It looks great!” said DJ.

“I’ll grab your piano books,” offered Stephanie, often a very helpful, selfless child.

But while minor problems could be fixed, Michelle had seemingly decided this was just not going to be a good morning.

“It’s falling apaaaart,” she whined, almost on the verge of tears.

“The giraffe is just heavy,” DJ countered. “You can re-assemble it once we’re there and it will be fine.” It was at least enough to get us out the door. But two turns into the drive to school, Michelle had found another thing wrong:

“It doesn’t have any rocks! It’s supposed to have rocks because I said in the report…” and the rest was hard to make out because the tears had started in earnest.

“We can find rocks at school, I promise,” I told her. “We’ll find some.”

“But…” She continued to cry.

Though my play here is typically to brush off seemingly major issues as minor ones, and though I knew it would not be difficult to add some rocks once we got to school, I made an astute assessment. This was not about rocks. This was about changing the direction of the morning, and it needed to be done before we arrived at school.

When we arrived at the next stop sign I braked a little harder than normal and threw my sister’s minivan into park. The crying stopped briefly and the other two paused, not sure what I was doing. Truth be told, I think they all thought I was about to turn around and tell Michelle to suck it up and quit crying (and truth be told, I had considered–it would have been justified).

Then, with an air of mystery, I got out of the car, left it running, walked the few steps to the small park we were passing and picked up a few rocks. Seconds later I was back in the car, and as I placed them gently next to the giraffe, with a smile and a tone that suggested I had no idea Michelle had even started crying I said simply, “See? Rocks are everywhere. No biggie.”

Like a prince’s kiss, the spell was broken and the evil morning mood was lifted, and Michelle and the giraffe lived happily ever after, rocks and all.

This project rocks.

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