Sunday Post 57: Gourds in the Glad bag

Posted by Danny

I occasionally teach my adult Sunday School class.  We study the bible trying to understand the historical times as well as trying to figure out what it can mean for us today.  By far, my favorite verse to teach was written by the apostle Paul and is in the book of Colossians:  “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

When that verse would appear in a lesson, I would read it slowly, awaiting my wife’s reaction.  She’d grab the sides of her skirt, cross her arms and shift in her chair.  I knew I was treading on thin ice.

Some of the men in class might have wanted to believe this verse was the true desire of God, but our wives wouldn’t let us.  Lisa had a great many talents but submission was not one of them.

As much as I enjoyed sparring back and forth with the women in the class about God wanting them to submit to their husbands, I did not want that in a wife and that is not what I want for my girls. 

Perhaps it’s because I have never seen that exemplified in my family.

We called one of my grandmothers Idee (her name was Ivy).  She did not submit!

One day she came home from work and my grandfather had her housekeeper, Ophelia, out hoeing in his garden.  Idee was not happy.

“Spurgeon!  If you ever come in my house and tell Ophelia to dig in that damn garden, I’ll have your head.  You need a farm hand?  You go find your own!”

The next day he dropped off a crop of squash on Idee’s kitchen counter which he’d grown himself (well, with a little help from Ophelia).  Idee opened the lid of the trashcan and with one swoop of her arm across the formica counter deposited the 12 yellow gourds into the Glad bag.

“Take my maid outside to hoe and then drop these damn dirty vegetables on my counter.  You bring any more of this %$&# in here and I’ll…”  She finished the sentence under her breath.  I intently looked down at The Florence Morning News as if I didn’t hear.

Papa didn’t get mad.  He just laughed it off.  Plus, I think he was scared of her.

Someone recently told me, “Your mother is the sweetest lady.”

Well, she’s sweet, but she’s not the sweetest.  Let’s just say she sometimes has opinions and obviously her mother, Ivy, didn’t set a great example of demure.

Yes – my girls are surrounded by strong women.  Lisa’s sister has a PhD from John’s Hopkins and a MD from Harvard.  She’s going to save the continent of Africa from AIDS.  And the only thing my mother-in-law has ever submitted to was a mandatory drug test upon hire in the local school system (she passed).

My dream for my girls is not for them to submit, in marriage or career, but rather to be confident and sure of what they want and need.  And if any guy thinks he’s gonna come in and find a Tanner girl willing to cater to his every whim, he might get a rude awakening.  Thus far, I see glimpses of thoughtfulness but not a lot of surrender.

Good luck fellas.

Sunday Post 55: Their Wobbly Bridge

Posted by Danny

A friend recently sent me an article by Dean Murphy, an editor at The New York Times.  He lost his wife to cancer and is now raising his three sons on his own.

He encapsulated something I’ve felt for a very long time when he wrote:  “It is an odd feeling as a father to be so transparent, so naked, in front of the children you still provide for.”

I can’t imagine seeing my father, the rock of our family, lose his heart.

I wonder what it was like for my girls when grief paralyzed me.  How did they feel when I was reduced to tears by a Kenny Chesney song or the scent of Lisa’s perfume?  I can picture them looking up at me when I stood in church, eyes fixed on that cross, unable to sing or recite The Lord’s Prayer knowing if I opened my mouth, I’d be overcome with sadness. 

Can you imagine being filled with your own grief and the person you most look to for comfort can’t do a thing but cry with you?

Looking back on the past two years, I wonder if my kids aren’t truly the ones who have lost the most.  Their lives were turned upside down instantly at a time when they should have been eating ice cream, snuggling with mom, or running with friends on the playground. 

Instead, as Lisa fought valiantly for her life, with me by her side almost every minute of her illness, they were tossed on a real life Tilt-A-Whirl.  Jerked from one family member to another.  Tossed in a car with a friend or at least a friendly acquaintance, assuming their mother would soon be back to gracefully bring our lives back to normal.

As Lisa became sicker, I couldn’t be the father they needed.  I was so desperate to save her.  I was consumed with finding her cure – medically, through prayer or voodoo if necessary.

As I missed work, they were required to proceed with life.  Walking on a tight rope with no apparent safety net.

And the person who is supposed to be comforting them had been so deeply damaged, that at times, they became the comforter.  Michelle creating art to brighten my days.  Stephanie, quick to test, “Are you OK?  You look sort of sad today.”  And DJ, filling in the gaps.  The ones her mother left as well as the ones I wasn’t able to fill myself.

In many ways, they have become my protector –  their strong one, now “transparent and naked.”  For them, a journey that started on a concrete bridge ended up on an old wobbly log.

I’ve become stronger again – more able to provide the security that for so long has been missing.  But I wonder if they will ever experience the blind trust they had before?  Can good intentions and unconditional love rebuild the bridge?  Not fully I don’t think.  But hopefully it can come close.

The Date

Posted by Danny

It’s our first Winter Formal at St. Mary’s School, and it has been two of the most stressful months of my life.

Being an all girls school, some random guy isn’t going to invite you to the dance.  Someone asked me if DJ was going to a Sadie Hawkins Dance – I told her “Every dance at St. Mary’s is a Sadie Hawkins Dance.”

Normally, that would be a good thing.  I fully supported DJ’s decision to attend an all female institution – and my enthusiasm was in part sparked by the lack of testosterone cruising the campus.  Who needs that headache?  I was breaking girls hearts left and right at that age!  I thought myself sort of a young Don Juan, although I’m not sure any of the girls felt the same.

But in this case, I was wishing there were a couple of dudes on campus to take the pressure off me to find her a date.  Well, I didn’t really find her a date.  But I sure did feel the pressure. 

In October I started probing about who she might ask to the big event.  I pulled out last year’s school annual – when she wasn’t at home.  I earmarked several fellas I felt came from good stock and committed their names to memory.

DJ did not ask for suggestions, but I felt compelled to offer a few. 

I suggested the boy with great hair.  He’s like Bieber! I’ll kill to have that mane. Apparently, good hair was not enough.

With no nibble on “Hugh Grant,” I suggested another cute kid from her eighth grade class. 

Apparently he moved to Canada.  I wonder how I missed that.  No problem, we could fly him in I offered.

I also suggested a nice kid we see on our annual trip to West Virginia.  He lives in DC.

It didn’t take long for DJ to inform me that she wasn’t inviting a guy who had to be UPS’d to Raleigh.  I was shocked at her lack of appreciation for my input.  I had put hours of thought into my suggestions.

Each night as DJ calmly ate her dinner, I casually tossed out names: 

“I’m sure that boy on last year’s basketball team would put on a shirt with sleeves for a dance.  Certainly he owns a pair of dress shoes.”

“No one has to know you’re related by blood.  Just tell them you vacation together.”

“The kid who won the science fair last year is bound to grow up and invent something.  You’re doing well in biology.  You could talk to him about that.”

“I know you don’t know him, I don’t either.  But his father is hilarious. And he’s grown this year.”

“I was chubby in middle school too and look how I turned out.”

I suggested boys from church, sons of my friends, and the cream of the crop from our neighborhood, summer camp and beyond.  She was unfazed by my growing angst.

And then one day, as dinner began, she quietly announced, “I have a date to the Winter Formal.”  And…it wasn’t anyone I had proposed.

And that was that.  She didn’t need my suggestions.  She didn’t need airfare.  DJ had it all under control.

I often get accused of “freaking out” by Jesse and the kids, and I regularly dispute their claim.  But I wonder, just wonder, if this could be what they’re talking about.

I’ll take a sleepover, for 14, please

Posted by Danny

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and two days ago we decided to have a sleepover.  I’m not sure how we ended up with 14 girls, but we did.  Ages ranged from 8 – 15.  I say knock it out all at once!

Several folks at work asked me today, “Why in the world would you have 14 girls spend the night at your house?  Are you nuts?”

These are my top ten reasons:

Number 10:  Only one night of sleep deprivation.

Number 9:  Seeing this chaos is great birth control for Jesse.

Number 8:  I wanted to support the economy through significant Frito-Lay and Coke purchases.

Number 7:  It’s something to blog about.

Number 6:  I’ll get caught up on all the Justin Bieber gossip.

Number 5:  It’s a manly excuse to watch the Judy Moody movie.

Number 4:  The opportunity to use the mammoth amount of Boy Scout popcorn I bought last year.

Number 3:  It’s good practice for staying up on New Year’s Eve.

Number 2:  Hair, nails and makeup – all free.

And the number 1 reason to have 14 girls sleep over tonight:  I’m racking up major daddy cool points.

Hiding Out From Child Protective Services

she looks fine to me

Posted by Jesse

I can’t believe this happened again.

I offer to drive the morning shift all the time (by “offer” I mean I stumble into the kitchen two minutes before departure time, sparsely dressed, one eye open, and grunt “need me to drive? no? cool.”) but Danny handles it almost every day. He says he enjoys the time in the car with the girls and I enjoy the extra sleep enough to believe him.

But once every two weeks or so Danny has an early meeting, and I get the morning shift.

Late in the spring we had one such morning. The girls were eating cereal and I was making lunches, when Michelle begin mixing tears with her milk. It should be noted that encountering her melancholy countenance in the a.m. is NOT a rare occurrence. It can be triggered by a frustrating bout with hair, a missing button on a skirt, or not getting the prize in the cereal box. Or, apparently, an upset stomach.

“I don’t feeeeeel gooooood,” she sobbed.

Uh-oh. Two things come into play here:

1) The Tanner family (Danny’s parents) and the Katsopolis family (my parents) handled sick days very differently. He likes to claim we weren’t allowed to miss school if we revealed a severed appendage dangling loosely off of our bodies. I like to tease that he was basically home-schooled since “sick days” meant any day he had gym. Both are exaggerations. Slight exaggerations.

2) I am not about to be the sucker Uncle who gets played! And, to be totally honest, I hate having to bother Danny when I’ve got “kid duty” because he won’t ask for help unless he really needs it, meaning he’s either got an important meeting or he’s taking his quarterly night out to socialize. I try to avoid contacting him if at all possible. His over-caring self would literally feel guilty that one of his girls got sick on a morning he wasn’t there.

So I did the thermometer thing. Normal enough. I inspected for unusually pale (or green) skin complexion. Other than her claim of not feeling good, I couldn’t see any obvious sign of illness. I worked at Camp Sea Gull for over a decade, and the nurses have told me repeatedly that a stomach ache with no other symptoms is usually just something else. Michelle probably forgot to do her homework and was dreading facing the teacher.

I cracked a few jokes, got a smile or two out of her, got the other two girls in on the “buck up, kid, you’ll be fine by lunch” routine, and we were off.

She threw up on her desk around 9:30 a.m.

If there were a place you could go to voluntarily be lashed with a whip, I’d have signed up in hopes of relieving my guilt.

Fast forward to last week. I’m on morning duty again, and again we have morning tears. This day Michelle is going on a field trip, so she’s picking out an outfit rather than wearing her usual uniform–a source of much consternation, since she has to choose between shorter-legged jeans (tapered? capri’ed? cuffed? what do you call those things?) that leave her a bit chilly or the longer jeans that will almost certainly get a bit wet. I know where this choice will go–Michelle HATES wet jeans. But she’s not happy being chilly either.

“I don’t feel good,” she let it be known. But–Stephanie can attest–there was no force behind this statement. No insistence. I was sure it was all about the jeans. I didn’t even take her temperature.

Her teachers did. She had a fever of 102. Though, I’d like to point out, that was a reading taken after being outside and doing some creek stomping, so I think when I am on trial my lawyer will be able to make a good case that you cannot prove she was actually sick when I dropped her off.

Regardless….don’t tell Michelle, but next time I’m driving the morning shift? She’s got a four-word “get out of school free” card if she’s smart enough to play it. Blame Danny–he’s the fool who leaves me in charge of these girls.

 

Sunday Post 33: Enjoying my Girls, one at a time

I truly enjoy my kids.  Each of them brings laughter and joy into my life on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

One of the things I strive to do each week is have some time that I spend one-on-one with each of them.  Recently, Michelle and I have been jogging together.  She came home with a get active calendar from her physical education class at school (Go Mr. Lyons!)  She’s now pushing my old, raggedy kneed self to hit the pavement.  Although I have more stamina than she does, she can flat sprint circles around me.  And she’s 8! 

Today we had a conversation about boyfriends and girlfriends and the fact that just because you sat near a boy at lunch or talked to a guy didn’t mean he was your boyfriend (i.e. Dad stop teasing me about my male buddies at school). 

Stephanie and I are snuggling buddies.  If we’re both home in the evenings, we’re gonna find at least 10 minutes for cuddling.  Both of us need that physical closeness.  There are times I think she could just crawl inside of me – and me her for that matter.

DJ and I typically connect 15 or 20 minutes before she hits the sack for the night.  She’s getting old enough that we can really talk about interesting and funny subjects.  Sometimes we’ll start cracking on Jesse or laughing about something one of the younger girls said that day and nearly fall of the bed.  It’s the deep down belly sort of laughing – the kind that makes your soul feel good.

Wherever my daughters land on this planet, I do hope that we’ll find time to connect.  And not just with a crowd of family and friends around.  I hope I’ll have the ability to seek them out, and that they’ll have the desire to connect with me.  And that we’ll jog, or snuggle or laugh our butts off into perpetuity!

They’re Back!

DJ and Stephanie at the Camp Awards Banquet

Posted by Danny

The arguing began over the I touch as we drove out of the Camp Seafarer gate.  It was music to my ears!

Today I picked DJ and Stephanie up from Camp.  DJ’s been there for four weeks, Stephanie for two.  Michelle and I have had a lot of one-on-one daddy/daughter time and I think I wasn’t the only one ready for the return of the sibling duo.  She desperately wanted to share what she’d been up to for the past four weeks without them. 

We stopped at Chic-Fil-A for lunch in New Bern. 

Michelle:  “I want a three-piece nugget with fries.”

Stephanie:  “I want the same thing.”

Me:  “Are you sure you guys can eat all of that?  I don’t want to buy it if you aren’t going to eat it.”

In unison:  “Yes dad,” a little annoyed that I asked.

Sixteen minutes later –

Michelle:  “Dad, you can have the rest.”  There were three lone nuggets still in the box.

Stephanie:  “I’m done too.”  Another three staring me in the face.

Usually I’d give them a speech about waste paired with how money doesn’t grow on trees followed by a big I told you so…

Not today!  A fast food tray with half eaten fare could only mean one thing:  THEY’RE BACK!

We have Mt. Kilimanjaro of laundry in the basement.  I’m on load four.  There are many, many more to go.  I may, not sure, finish before it’s time to pack next July.  But you know what?  I’m loving folding each little pair of Target undies and I’m exhilarated by my search for the matching socks!

Last night DJ and I were up until 1 a.m.  I was working diligently to figure out if she’d met “Johnny Sea Gull” at one of the camp dances.  She wouldn’t divulge, but we sure did laugh a lot as I guessed potential names of her imaginary suitors.

Sending all three to resident camp is a big step for me, that was Lisa’s job.  But they grew a ton during their time away – both physically and in maturity. 

Maybe I did too.

The Elevator Button

Posted by Danny

What is it about an elevator button for a kid?  It’s like hitting the winning lottery ticket.

I was at a hotel in New Bern, NC, on Saturday night with the kids.  We parked, grabbed our bags, checked in, and it began.

“I get to press the elevator button!” Stephanie exclaimed.

“No, I want to!” Michelle shouted.

“You guys, it’s a four-story building.  This isn’t a big deal” I explained.

As we approached, I could see the look on DJ’s face.  She was casually in the lead.  Neither of the others would suspect.  I saw it but couldn’t get the words out before her long, 14-year-old arm with outstretched finger pressed it before either of the others knew what had hit them.

“Dad!  DJ pressed the button!!!  I called it first!!!  It’s not fair!!!”  my middle child loudly reasoned.  The youngest just in tears.

“DJ!  Why did you do that?”  I don’t know why I asked.  It wasn’t likely that she could explain the psychological implications of wanting to torture her sisters and act as if she hadn’t heard any of the conversation.

“IT’S A BUTTON DAD.”

Yes, but it is a very important button.  It’s the elevator button.

We have cell phones, i touches, Wii and television remotes, computers at their disposal.  And yet, the coveted elevator button.

I’ve never seen the thrill.  It’s not like silly putty or that goopy stuff that comes in a can – now those things feel really good to the touch.  I even enjoy a handful of playdough, nice and squishy.  No, the button is hard.  It doesn’t even go in that far to the wall; it’s a slight touch.  Maybe it’s the light…

You’ll be glad to know that I made a mental schedule of who got to press the button for the rest of the stay.  DJ wasn’t concerned about being in the rotation.  If she wasn’t going to annoy her sisters, she could go buttonless.

Next time, we’re staying in a tent.

You Weak Little Man

Posted by Danny

It’s almost time for braces in the Tanner household.  Teeth have the potential to become a significant focus in the months and years to come.

Our orthodontist called me a few weeks ago and said, “If DJ doesn’t want to be wearing braces in the 12th grade, she probably should get her last three baby teeth extracted.”  Since she was headed to resident camp for four weeks, I quickly made an appointment with our dentist.

So last Thursday, at 3 pm, we slinked in to the office waiting room, DJ understandably nervous.  Me, a wreck.

I’ve never had a cavity.  I floss without ceasing.  When Lisa and I were first dating we went to the mountains for the weekend.  On the top of Grandfather mountain, I looked out at the sights around us.  It was beautiful.  I then pulled out my dental floss – and went to town.  Why not merge the three things I liked most in my life at that time?  Hiking, Lisa and flossing.  It’s amazing she continued our relationship.

My love for a pure mouth and my squeamish stomach hinder my ability to be of  significant support to my children in an oral surgery situation.

With the permission of the dentist, I entered the examining room with DJ.  The nurse on one side of her, the dentist on the other.  Me on a round, backless, rolling stool at the base of her chair.

It started out simple enough – a mirror and cleaning pick.  That did not last long.

Her nervousness drew him to offer the laughing gas.  She began to inhale – she calmed a bit.

I, on the other hand, needed some too.  I became light headed as he pulled out the needle, longer than my forearm.  With a circular handle on the end, it reminded me of a small caulking gun.

The shots began – I looked out the window.  I could hear him shake her jaw – the sound of lips, spit and teeth, like a horse eating dinner.

“One tooth is out DJ.” 

Whew!  Relief.

“I’m just going to clean up the socket.”

How long can it take?  Is that the drill he’s pulled out?  Something is wrong.

“Are you OK DJ?”  the doctor asked with concern.

“Are you OK Mr. Tanner?” he asked with a grin.

My tan skin was white, my pits sweating profusely.  I need a chair with a back, I’m going to pass out.

I moved to the nurse’s computer with a more solid seat.  I held my head down as the blood rushed back in. 

Think happy thoughts Danny – the Christmas parade last year.

I was right in my thinking – something had indeed gone wrong.  Two roots broke off in her gums – he dug and he dug – like an archeologist searching for King Tutankhamun’s tomb. 

“I couldn’t get them all but I think they will resorb.”

Resorb, resorb, what exactly does that mean?   A cousin of absorb?  We can’t come back for more. 

You are such a wimp – you weak little man.  Lisa could have taken the teeth out with tweezers and peroxide.  You’ve got to buck up – this is your job now.

Sunday Post 25: “Just a Minute”

Posted by Danny

I love my kids more than life itself.  I love them with every fiber of my being.  You’d think that this love would outweigh all of the other things I have to get done.  I often don’t let it.

Tonight I told Michelle and Stephanie that we’d watch a movie after they took their baths.  We met in my bedroom.  I turned on The Miracle Worker which their Nana had rented for them to watch last week (didn’t get around to it).  They snuggled in my bed…and I changed the laundry, paid several bill, lifted my ten pound dumbbells, called my mom, packed for our next vacation and made my coffee for tomorrow. 

About 45 minutes into the movie, I heard little footsteps, “Dad!  Dad!  I thought you were going to watch the movie with us.  The girl in it acts like an animal and I’m scared.  Will you come lay down with us?”

“I’ll be there in a minute.”

I bet I say that 17 times a day.  Or “as soon as I finish this.”  Or “I’ve got to get this done first.”

The problem is, THIS never ends.  There is always THIS or THAT to do. 

And now, my baby is 14.  The bills are paid, the lawn looks fine and I’m in fairly good shape – but I’ve missed hours and hours of cuddling.  And I’ve missed creating Crayola pictures and I’ve missed building the biggest sandcastle.  And it’s a shame. 

I can clean the house when DJ moves away to go to college.  I can pay the bills after they go to bed.  But I’ll never get the first 45 minutes of  protecting Michelle from the scary girl in A Miracle Worker.  What a mistake on my part.

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