We’re One Weird Family

weird family

Maybe it’s Mother’s Day that has brought about our most recent conversations.  I’m really not sure.

Lately it has been comical to hear my girls talk about awkward moments due to the loss of their mom.

When Michelle was riding with a friend and her mother, something was said about moms helping at school for some project.  The friend quickly reprimanded her mother for saying the “m” word in front of Michelle.

“It’s OK,” Michelle assured her.  “You can talk about mothers with me in the car.  It doesn’t bother me.”

Stephanie then shared the time last summer at camp where they were paired with a peer for prayer time before bed.

“The girl got on my bed and said, ‘My friend’s mom has cancer.  Can you IMAGINE your mom having cancer?’”

“Well actually…”

DJ was recognized at the Senior Salute, an end of year assembly for the National Charity League.  It’s a Mother/Daughter service club that Lisa started with her six years ago.  Each girl stood on stage with their mom and a short speech was given about their relationship and their work together over the past few years.  DJ decided she’d be recognized with another friend whose mother died a year or so after Lisa.  Pretty good strategy for what could have been a fairly awkward situation.

Last Tuesday Michelle asked me if dogs had periods.

To be perfectly honest, I had to think a minute.  We don’t have dogs, and I don’t recall ever seeing a doggie tampon (This is yet another reason not to have a pet).

I assured her they must and then DJ chimed in saying indeed they did and that there were diapers that could be purchased for that time of the month.

Apparently Michelle went to school and announced her findings to her girlfriends.  When she returned home that afternoon, she said, “Kimmy can’t believe I asked you if dogs had periods.” I asked her why Kimmy thought that was so odd.  “Kimmy said it is weird that I ask my DAD questions like that.”  We laughed.  I suppose she could have called the vet.

Last week we also talked about girls who are “loose in the booty” as my oldest kid describes them and why girls might be prone to be boy crazy.  We talked about self-esteem and how critical that it come from within and not from some shady dude who pays you a little attention.

The week before we chatted about Michelle’s class field trip to the Poe Center where they got about 75% of the sex talk.  I filled her in on the rest.  Stephanie told her at the Poe Center she was going to have to stand up in front of the group and talk about girls’ breasts.  “They actually call them breasts.  I hate it when they call them that.  They’re boobs.  Old ladies have breasts.”  Thankfully, Michelle was spared the chest chat.

I realize our family is a bit odd, maybe more open than others.  But I’m gonna take that as a win as we celebrate our sixth motherless Mother’s Day.

I Want Full Custody!

Family Circle 052614 0462

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!

Mr. Tanner, we’re gonna need that form.

Mr. Tanner, we're gonna need that form.

Mr. Tanner, we’re gonna need that form.

I am delinquent.  I admit it.  I have not yet completed my oldest child’s physical form for the upcoming school year.

There’s a good reason mind you.  She can only get a physical once each year, and her last one was on July 12, 2013.  She’s been working at an overnight camp in Arapahoe, NC, for the past ten weeks.  I don’t think there are doctors in Arapahoe.  If you have a tooth ache there, your neighbor extracts it for you.  We simply had no options.

She does have an appointment this upcoming week.  And I promise, the second we walk out of the office I will drive straight to her school and turn it in.

It has to be frustrating to deal with parents like me.

To deal with us, the delinquents, our school has hired a health form repo company to ensure that my child does not spread disease and that I meet my deadlines.  I was late on my middle daughter too.  Between the two of them I have received no less than 60 emails this summer informing me of my inadequacies as a parent.

This week, I didn’t get an automated reminder, I actually got a specific note from a staff member at the Health Form Repo Center.  I think his name was Guido.

Today I logged on their website to print the form, readying myself for the upcoming appointment, and at the top of the page there was a large red box.  It read, “54 DAYS PAST DUE” you idiot!!! (that wasn’t written but it was certainly implied).

I am afraid.  I am not sleeping well.  I look out of my windows at night fearful that Guido is going to snatch my child and hold her until her blood test comes back.  We don’t walk near windows anymore.  I just don’t know what might happen.  I have Michelle climb under the car, just to be sure nothing looks cut, before we leave home each morning.

I purchased a bulletpoof vest.  I wear it any time I leave the house.

Guido, have mercy!  Do I not get any credit for the forms I have completed?

Vital Health Record – took 20 minutes to complete – CHECK

Consent to Treat – CHECK

Over the Counter Medicine Form – CHECK

Prescription Medicine Form – CHECK

Psychological/ADD meds Form – CHECK

Copy of Health Card – CHECK

Concussions Form – in the event my child gets hit in the head with a ballet slipper?? – CHECK

Asthma, Allergies, Diabetes, Seizures, Mental Health Condition forms – CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!

I have also completed the Transportation to/from and at school form.  I agreed to have any and every photograph of my child be displayed anywhere the school wants to put it.  I have given them information on all four grandparents, my credit card number for school purchases and volunteered for two committees.  They know my shoe size, that I prefer boxers, and that I had a crush on Janice Middleton in 4th grade.

This week I will attend multiple orientation sessions to seep up more information.

But I will attend only, only if I get this dag gone physical completed and turned in.

What if my car breaks down on the way to the doctor’s office?  What if the doctor is sick that day?  What if their copier is broken or their pens run out of ink?

I’m going to begin investigating home school options.

 

 

Sunday Post 176: Forgive and Forget

Maybe I’ve always held a grudge.

As a child as fairly nondescript. I didn’t excel at much of anything. I wasn’t popular. At the same time, I wasn’t overly weird – didn’t really stand out for good or for bad.

I was bullied on occasion, but I think I was more fearful of being bullied than I was actually bullied. In the few instances where someone did pick on me, I simply worked to avoid the bullier. I’d change my lunch table or take a different path home from school. But I never forgot. To this day I can recount the handful of times someone messed with me – the hour of day I was approached and the exact words that were said.

My children, on the other hand, seem to forgive and move on. It’s actually a quite honorable trait.

Several years ago, I invited a group of eight girls to go the mall to select outfits for the upcoming school dance. The posse paraded around Crabtree Valley, poking in and out of stores and critiquing each other’s choices. The next week, one of the girls sent an email out to the group asking if they wanted to dress for the dance at her house. Well, she sent an email out to six of the kids. She didn’t send one to my daughter and one other. She explained it was because her mom said she could only invite six.

Maybe they could only fit that many in their car and their phone was on the fritz so they couldn’t ask another parent to help drive the group to the school. Or perhaps they were planning a formal dinner and only had seating for six at their dining room table. It could be that six was their lucky number! Maybe including seven or eight would have put a curse on the family. Perhaps they had an older house with electrical issues and they feared two more curling irons would have started a fire. All great reasons to exclude my child.

I certainly understand that not every kid can be invited to every party. And had I not just taken this Queen Bee to the mall myself TO PURCHASE AN OUTFIT FOR SAID DANCE, it wouldn’t have bothered me that my kid wasn’t invited.

Interestingly, my daughter was not fazed. She said, “It’s OK dad, we’ll just invite a group here for dinner.”

I, on the other hand, wanted to go punch her mother in the nose.

My kid is so forgiving, I am not. It’s been several years and I still hold the grudge. I see the kid and turn up my nose. My daughter says, “Dad, she’s not so bad. I sort of like her.”

I want to tell her to stay away from the creep.

Maybe my girls are right. Maybe the thing to do isn’t to just avoid those who do you ill will. I guess forgiving, forgetting and starting over is the better thing to do.

I’m an elder at my church which I guess would somehow make it seem like I should be the one driving the forgiveness train. But sometimes I’m taught more from my kids than I’m teaching.

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 173: A Little White Lie

The other day in the car, Stephanie turned to me with a very serious look on her face and asked, “Have you ever told a lie?”

That’s a loaded question, especially with her eleven year old sister in the back seat.

“Mmmm.”  I needed to buy some time.

“Yeah. I’m sure I have.” The fact of the matter was I knew I had but I didn’t want to be that confident, like I’d done it that morning. Wanted it to seem like I couldn’t really pinpoint anything specific any time in the recent past.

I thought my guilty plea would end the conversation – I was wrong.

“When?”

She acted like it was once. Sort of like when I got my appendix removed.

I honestly couldn’t think of a recent fib so I had to reach back to come up with something. The one that popped into my head was one I was sure they could relate to.

Well, you see, in high school I hated PE class. I hated changing clothes in front of the other guys, and I particularly hated the weeks we spent doing gymnastics. We were required to walk on the balance beam, and I could not. We had to jump the horse and my legs did not split in a horizontal fashion.

But what was even worse was climbing the rope in the gym. It was hanging from a rafter and we had to shimmy up the thing like Tarzan.

Joey Brenier could do it. Hank Downing could do it. Sam McNally could do it. I could not.

One February morning, I happened to walk by the gym early during first period. I’d been anticipating Rope Day for a few weeks, but I glanced in the gym and there was our 95 year old gym teacher, Miss Cherry, holding the bottom of the rope while the fellas were doing all they could to hoist themselves up the fibrous vine.

When I hit the gym third period, I skipped the locker room and headed straight to the bleachers. Miss Cherry was pacing the gym floor, waiting for her plebes.

“Tanner,” she always called us by our last names with her deep southern drawl, “why aren’t you dressed out?”

I couldn’t tell the truth – well Miss Cherry, I hate climbing the rope so I’m taking the day off. No.  I instead I lied. Without flinching and without explanation, I reported: “I forgot my gym clothes. Just give me a zero for today.”

“Tanner.”

“Yes m’am?”

“Let’s go check your locker.”

Oh snap.

I knew if I opened my locker it was likely that I hadn’t forgotten my PE clothes at all. It was quite likely they were on the top shelf, and I had simply overlooked them.

I don’t know why I didn’t just confess that I’d lied while we were still in the gym. I guess I’d hoped that perhaps a hoodlum had broken into my locker and stolen my t-shirt and shorts between my arrival at school that morning and third period. Unfortunately for me, that was not the case.

I opened the door.

“Just like I thought Tanner. Get dressed. We have a rope to climb.”

The girls enjoyed my story, and I explained that lying sometimes did not pay off. Then I asked them if they had ever lied.

Without missing a beat, Michelle lit up, “Well, I did tell you I loved you.”

She giggled.

Stephanie tossed her thoughts in, “Awwwkward.”

I hope they learn from my mistakes. But it is likely they’ll have to go through their own Miss Cherry debacle to truly learn their lesson.

If I had to do it again, I wish I hadn’t lied. I wish I would have just left the gym shorts at home that day.

Sunday Post 173: Becoming a Real Father

The second week of DJ’s life, I defined my role as a father.

I came home from work at around 6 pm. The house seemed empty but I knew Lisa was home. Her car was there, and she really hadn’t been out much since the birth.

I made my way to the second floor of the house and found my wife vigorously rocking the new kid. DJ was tightly bound in the blanket we’d received from the hospital. She was crying with all of her itty bitty might.

“Why’s she crying?” It was an innocent question.

“I don’t know,” my wife snarled. She’s been like this since you left at 7:30 AM. She stressed the AM.

I thought I knew how to respond, “I’ll take over. I’ll put her to bed.”

That wasn’t what she was looking for.

As both bodies swayed back and forth, a deep voice boomed from my wife’s body, “I am her mother. I will make her sleep.”

Her look frightened me. The thought, she might kill our child tonight, ran through my brain.

Another thought quickly followed, she might also kill me.

Some dads might take charge in a moment like this, demanding that his spouse take a break explaining that perhaps she’d had enough. I, however, slowly backed out of the room, my eyes on her – ready to run if need be.

I went downstairs and put the phone in my hand. I put my thumb on the 9 in the event I needed help.

I then grabbed some peanuts and a beer and turned on the Nightly News.

Sure, I cared. We’d worked too hard over the past ten months not to have the opportunity to try to raise this new addition to our family. Plus, deep down I didn’t really think Lisa would hurt our child.  It was at this point, however, that I decided my wife knew more than I did in the parenting department and that she should be the one to lead in this arena.

I would support as directed, and mow the lawn.

It wasn’t until Lisa died that I found out what I had been missing. Instead of just hanging with my kids, I was thrust into full care provider. And that responsibility changed my life.

No longer is work my number one priority. It’s important to me, very important to me; but my girls come first. Period.  I now know what they’re doing, and I’m driving them all over town. I didn’t know that chauffeuring was the primary key to garnering information. Toss ‘em in the back seat, and they chirp like little birds.

Oh what I was missing. Oh what I have gained. The depth of my connection with my girls is so much more significant than it ever was before. I wonder how many other parents are missing out because they’re consciously choosing to take a back seat.

Take it from me, the front seat is better.

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

Bra Issues, Again

Victoria's Secret

We’re having bra problems again.

It’s prom weekend, and DJ found a pretty bright pinkish dress at a fairly reasonable price. I was excited that I wasn’t going to have to take out a second mortgage to pay for it.

But there was one hitch. The back of the dress had some holes in it which made it difficult to brassiere-ize, and she is not one who can go without.

I learned last year that they make these bras that aren’t really a bra at all. They’re like a bumper sticker that you put on your boobs. And…they cost $53!!!

I offered other more reasonable options:

“If you’re not going to get a real bra, couldn’t we rig something up? We could buy those face masks that doctors wear and tie them together. A pack of 25 for only $4.99 – and you’d be set for dances well into your sophomore year of college.”

She didn’t like that idea.

“I could fold my Dr. Scholl’s inserts, not these – I’d buy ones that haven’t yet been used, and hot glue them in a cupish sort of position.”

She just doesn’t have vision.

“Your sister can make incredible stuff out of Duct tape…”

We were getting nowhere. So I succumbed. We headed to Victoria’s Secret. The secret is they charge you $53 for a large band-aid.

After going to two of their franchises to find the right size, we got it home and she tried it on. And the damn thing fell right off. It was like making a jock strap out of a dish towel and attaching it to your body with Scotch tape. Sir Isaac Newton could have told us that wasn’t going to work. Nothing just cannot hold up something. And to make it worse, the sales clerk at the classified undergarment store told us if we removed the tape we could not return the bumper sticker.

Well we’ll see about that! I’m gonna go in and if they give me a hard time I am going to find the most endowed employee and insist that she go put that dag gone thing on and prove to me it can hold those items in place! It’s defective. It simply DOES NOT WORK.

And tomorow, I may have to buy a new prom dress. But that will probably be cheaper than the bra!

 

 

 

Sunday Post 160: Got My Umbrella, I’m Ready for Rain

umbrella
I recently had the opportunity to sit on a panel for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. We explored the topic of children who have a parent with cancer. We spoke and answered questions in front of about 1,000 oncologists.
One of our main points was to help them understand their necessary role in helping the entire family cope with cancer. Helping them understand how important it is for them to be honest without taking away hope, preparing parents for all potential outcomes – even death.
I work at the YMCA, and we don’t even like to tell people we canceled a Zumba class. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to tell a family that mom or dad could die.
And yet, what a gift they give when they allow us to prepare.
I wish every family would have the tough conversations before they face a true tragedy. It is much easier to prepare for death when there is no reason to believe you’re going to die.
One of the panelists likened this planning to taking an umbrella with you on a cloudy day. Your hair looks nice, you’re wearing suede shoes – you hope it doesn’t rain.  But if it does, wouldn’t you be glad you took the umbrella?
If everyone would answer a few simple questions before something critical happened, they would be much more ready for the rain.  Or in our case, the monsoon.
1)  Do you have adequate life insurance?  If one spouse died, would the other be financially secure?
2)  What is most important in the culture of your family?   For me, and I hope Lisa, although we never discussed it, our family must have:  honesty/transparency, kindness to self and others, and humor.

If someone else ends up raising my kids, those are the three most important things I want them to live by.  Besides faith, which is understood in our family, that is what I want their foundation to be built on.

3)  Does each spouse understand the role of the other?  Can the father log onto the school website and does he know how to plan a birthday party?  Does the mother have the ability or resources to do the taxes.  Those examples may seem sexist, but I chose them based solely on my family’s experience.

Yeah, oncologists have a responsibility to be open and forthcoming with patients. But not all of us will die from cancer.  We may get hit by a bus. We may outlive our children.

Now that I know it can pour on a bright and sunny day, I ain’t leaving home without my rain gear.

Sunday Post 153: Dumb Miss Brayboy

My daughters have incredible role models – folks surrounding them who make them laugh and love life. Those who they respect. Those who through their actions show them how to live the kind of life Lisa and I would want them to live.

There is Mrs. Balentine, the former cheerleading coach, who still takes DJ to lunch on occasion. And Profe – the Spanish professor who she loves to death but who also just gave her an 18 on her pop quiz (she’s a great student, she’ll pull it up). She didn’t argue with him, said it was pointless. She also didn’t get mad at him, because of respect.

Michelle has Betty Anne Doorman, the same Sunday School teacher who taught her mother in 5th grade. And her best friend’s mom who thinks she hung the moon.

Steph has Mrs. Bond and Aunt Sallie who dote on her endlessly.

When I was a kid, I lived at church. My dad was a minister – and we LIVED in that building. Mr. Lundy was my 5th grade Sunday School teacher, and I distinctly remember climbing under the table during the lesson and tying his shoes together. At the time I thought he didn’t know I was doing it – now I know better.

And Miss Patty taught us in high school. She was a bit older than my mother and one week wore her leotard and grass skirt to class. She’d been taking Jazzercise with the other ladies in the Baptist church gym, and she wanted us to see her moves. Talk about motivation to attend! You never knew what she was going to do.

Mrs. Brayboy was one of my favorite high school teachers – typing. I called her DMB – for Dumb Miss Brayboy. Another, much cooler, guy in class called her that one day, and she sent him to the office.

“Why does Danny get to call you that and not get in trouble?,” he protested.

“Because I like him,” she explained.

To her credit, he was an ass – always.

If we’d each pour a little bit of ourselves into the next generation, it’s amazing what we’d get in return – both individually and as a society.

I can’t do this on my own. Others are investing in my kids with everything they’ve got. One day, they’ll look back and realize that these selfless folks made them who they are. They’ll be a beautiful concoction of their mother and their father and Mrs. Balentine and Aunt Sallie and Betty Ann Doorman – and no doubt will have a small piece of Brayboy in their blood as well. Because she, is a piece of me.

My Strategic Savings Plan

The very first blog post I wrote over two years ago was about learning to braid hair.  It took Stephanie and me thirty minutes to pull off one small strand on the side of Michelle’s head.

I was so proud!

But now, now I’ve learned to French braid!  And not only  regular French braid, but reverse French braid.  I call it Hcnerf (Huk – nurf).

Two weeks ago, Stephanie walked in the kitchen with a head of wet hair.  “Dad, can you do the Katniss braid?”

“The cat nip braid?  What are you talking about?”

“No.  Katniss from The Hunger Games.  It’s a reverse French braid.”

“The backward French braid?  Oh, you mean the Hcnerf?”

Blank stare.

“Anyway, no.  I can’t do a forward French braid, much less a reverse French braid.”

“Will you try?  I can tell you how.”

I’ve found that braiding hair is sort of like juggling:  two hands, three clumps of hair.  It’s more difficult than riding a unicycle while tossing bone china in the air.

For those who want to learn, here’s how you do it:

Step 1:  Grab three independent clumps of hair from the front of the head.

Step 2:  Hold two clumps in one hand but keep them separate, they CANNOT intermingle.  Hold the third clump in the other hand.

Step 3:  Take the clump furthest to the left and tuck it under the middle clump.

Step 4:  Look for some random hair on the right side of the head.  Just a little.  Pick it up.  Incorporate it into the original right clump while still independently maintaining full control  of the middle and left clumps.  Then tuck the new right clump (original plus the small random piece) under the new middle piece (which used to be the left piece).

Step 5:  Repeat Step 4 on the left side of the head.

Step 6:  Continue doing Steps 4 and 5, adding little bits of hair each time.

When you get to  the top of the neck, or when two hours have passed, whichever comes first, combine all clumps of hair into one mumbo clump.  Pray to the good lord above that you remembered to grab a rubber band and that it is within arm’s reach.

Now for the hard part.  Hold the clump in one hand while you twist the rubber band around the bottom of the braid.    Do this until your child screams in pain.

Take a quick picture before your kid moves her head, and the entire thing falls out.

Hcnerf on Stephanie, by Danny

Hcnerf on Stephanie, by Danny

My dad used to give my mom a permanent in our kitchen.  He did this because we were poor.  I don’t know why they call it a permanent because it isn’t.  It should be called a temporary.  Right after the procedure, my mom’s hair would be tight as a tick, boofed up like John Travolta’s doo in the movie Hairspray.  Four weeks later she’d look like Squeaky Fromme.

When my dad gave my mom this treatment, our house smelled like a combination of formaldehyde and a nuclear reactor leak.  If I took a deep breath, it would burn the hair out of my nostrils and my lungs would sting deep down inside.  And when it was over, my mom would feed us in the same room.  Meatloaf with a chemical aftertaste, mmmm.

It’s a wonder I don’t have seven toes.

Lisa would not let me do her hair.  “Chris” did it.  I never met him but given the choice of me or him moving from Raleigh, I’m not sure which she would have chosen.  I don’t know how much it cost to dye her hair, but I know it was well over $100, and it seemed like she went once a week.  I tried to convince her that gray hair was sexy.  She disagreed.  If I would have taken over Chris’ responsibilities, like my dad did, we could have purchased a beach house with the savings.

Fortunately, I’m building trust with my daughters.  I have a plan.  It starts with braiding.  Before you know it, I’ll be giving them a wash and set, maybe even highlights right in the kitchen.  With the money I’ll save, I’ll send them to college.  Thank goodness permanents are not in style.

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