Late. Again.

bus

I was literally looking down the snout of my long nose at the poor parents who would not have their acts together this year.  I mean, I generally run late, but I have NEVER held up a bus for a school trip.

Last year it was a friend of Michelle’s.  I can’t remember where they were going.  Maybe to spend the night on the battleship in Wilmington.  The charter bus was packed and no Kimmy Gibbler.  All the kids were on, waiting.  I texted her mom.  Are you guys awake.  You know the bus leaves at 6:30.  It was 6:34.

She sent back and expletive – not for me, for herself.  I let them know she was running a bit late.

I had compassion, but I’ll have to say that on occasion when I get it right, I am so very proud.  I sort of relished in her misery.  I was actually THE parent with HER phone number who got to text and tell her they were late… because I, in fact, was on time!!  I seldom get to do that.  It was quite a treat.

I despise the parents who always get it right.  Their kids are on time.  They don’t forget things.  Their registration form is already in and they had their doctor sign the medical form.  More than once Nurse Huber has scolded me in the halls of St. Timothy’s for my lack of compliance.  I deserved it.  There are just so many rules.  I do not like rules.

Anyway, we were driving up Six Forks Road listening to my new favorite song, Sunday Candy by Chance the Rapper, headed to school for the eighth grade trip to Washington, DC.  I do like to drive up to school blasting new tunes.  Michelle, Stephanie and DJ keep me up to speed on musical trends.

I felt good.  It was 6:25.  The parking lot was less than 2 minutes away.  We could park, grab her bags and walk up the steps to the drop off spot and still be on time.  Score!

As I was waiting to turn off the four lane road into the shopping center parking lot, my phone rang.  It was an unfamiliar number.  It took a second to register.

Son-of-a-&*%#$.

I didn’t answer, but I knew.  I screwed up.

We parked quickly, grab the bags and scurried up the steps.  And there they were – every stinkin’ eighth grader on the bus, and worst of all, many of the parents, standing there wondering why the kids had not yet driven away.

As Michelle and I took the walk of shame, they got their answer.

I couldn’t think of another reason that those parents would stand around outside of the bus except to harass the last person.  The bags were packed, their kids were aboard.  The windows on the bus were tinted so they weren’t gonna wave goodbye.  No, they stood there to find out who the sorry last parent was going to be.  And it was me.

I kissed my kid on the forehead, tossed her bag toward the open luggage chamber at the bottom of the mammoth vehicle, and quickly walked toward my car.  I did not make eye contact with the other, more timely, adults.

The thing I’m most embarrassed about is that I, on my way that morning, seriously thought to myself: I wonder which family is going to hold up the bus this year.  I sort of chuckled to myself as I considered the others who are as disorganized as me.  It won’t be you buddy.  You’re actually early.  You’re such a good dad.

I was congratulating myself on Ridge Road and then got the phone call one street over.  Two exits down the beltline can make all the difference in the world.

 

The Amazing Mule Ride

 

Posted by Danny

On Tuesday, our Nana had a significant birthday – I won’t go into which one, but it was a biggie!

To celebrate, the girls made a few decorations and Uncle Matt, Aunt Sallie and I cooked dinner.  We had a nice cake – compliments of the Whole Foods (no parmesan). 

And…we all dressed like Nana!  Some of the highlights included:

  • Popped up collar
  • Untucked shirt cinched with a belt
  • Big bling around the neck
  • Bracelets for days
  • Shoulder pads (we taped wash cloths to our shoulders)
  • Vests
  • Heels
  • Glasses
  • Baby powder on the head (she is graying a tad)

And we each wrote ten ‘memories with Nana’, presented to her one at a time.

My favorite Nana memory occurred on our family trip to the Grand Canyon.  As a surprise, the lovely in laws scheduled a mule ride down the canyon for Lisa and me.  I was apprehensive – I don’t like heights and I’m pretty allergic to animals.  But I really wanted to try.

I was surprised when we reached our destination – not pleasantly, just surprised.  You literally walked straight up to the edge of this vast hole in the earth.  There were few railings and no fences.  If you stepped too far, you would simply fall thousands of feet to the bottom of the gorge.  Twice during our stay, helicopters converged on the rim to find someone who was missing.  And to top it off, my father-in-law immediately purchased a book that chronicled the stories of all the people who died there.  It was a thick book because a bunch of people never made it out! 

In checking out the trail which led to the bottom, I realized that the six-foot wide path followed the rocks on the left side but that there was absolutely nothing on the right side.  If one of the mules decided to commit Harry Carry, there was no stopping him.  He could jump as easily as I could breath. 

I didn’t contemplate the mule ride very long.  I generously offered my mule to anyone in the family who had no concern for their own life.  There weren’t too many takers – but finally Nana agreed to take the voyage with Lisa.

We walked them to the trail head and saw them off at 8 am sharp.  The guide assured us that a mule had never jumped off the trail with a person on his back.  He said that  only a couple of the animals died on the trail – and that they were pack mules, not the ones carrying people.  And then he asked us to sign a waiver that explained that you could die at any moment on the trail and that regardless of how negligent they might be, they were not responsible for your death.  I think there was also a clause that said if you did depart on the ride, they could use your story in volume 2 of the “Stupid People Who Died in the Canyon” book.

I hugged Lisa, and assumed I would not ever see her again.  Then I took the kids for ice cream.

Eight hours later, they returned.  Both of them looked like hell:  dirty, leaves hanging off their hats, sunburned and smelling to high heaven.  Neither of them were speaking to me.  Well, Nana did say one thing, “You…are no longer my favorite son-in-law!”  She stormed off to her room.

Lisa couldn’t get her underwear off because the dried blood from her butt scabs had fused them to her skin.  Her upper legs looked like she had been beaten by Indian Jones’ whip. 

And I was looking like the smartest person in Arizona.

They eventually got over their anger at me, bragged about the incredible views they’d seen and felt proud that they’s survived this adventure.  We still have mule Christmas ornaments to remind us of that trip.

You know, that Nana is a pretty gutsy lady.  And she looks pretty good for ?0 years old!

Forgot the Panties

Posted by Danny

So I forgot her underwear and bras, what’s the big deal?

I was in a rush.  The kids usually help me pack their bags for our weekend jaunts.  Last week there simply wasn’t time.  I had to go it alone.  Stephanie and Michelle receiving an incredible education on Friday at school while I stuffed the Totes.

I remember at one point, while digging through Michelle’s shirts, thinking, “You haven’t gotten underwear.”  I headed to that drawer and threw a few pair in her bag.  But when I hit Stephanie’s room, my main focus was picking outfits she’d be seen in.  Underwear were not a part of my mental  picture.

When we arrived at our destination, clothes started flying.  She dug to the bottom, opened all of the side pockets.  No sign of undergarments.  I  was in the shower when I heard the scream.

“Daaaaadddd!!!  YOU FORGOT MY UNDERWEAR AND BRAS!!!”

Ohhh.  Stay in the shower.  It’s nice in here.

I tried to explain the benefits of giving your skin a break from elastic.  “That stuff can hurt your circulation.  It’s good to have a break.  Your blood flow will be excellent on Monday.” 

She didn’t buy it.

“Did you know that Jesse didn’t wear underwear for about six years?  Believe me, I know – as does everyone else who came in contact with him during shorts season.  And you think he’s mighty cool.  You and Jesse – no undie buddies!” 

No takers.

“How about your bathing suit?  That could work.”

“Dad, it’s a one piece.”

“Covers top and bottom!  Sounds like a fix to me.”

“You don’t know anything.”

“In medieval times, women didn’t even wear panties.  And bras weren’t invented until the 1900’s.  Your great-great-great grandmother never wore one.”

“Why are you talking about my ancestor’s underwear habits?  What am I supposed to do?”

“Wear your sister’s.  Ya’ll are about the same size.”

A minute passes.

“These are like grandma underwear!  They come up to my belly button.”

“Your mom loved her granny pants.  Said those were the best undies she owned.”

I think that struck a chord!

The Vanishing Point

Posted by Danny

It was ego, sure male ego that made me do it.

Stephanie was invited to the lake with friends for the weekend and DJ, Michelle and I were looking for an equally exciting activity to fill our Labor Day hours.  As I pondered our time, interests and finances, I landed on a day trip to Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Va.  Not too close, not too far away and an outdoor experience (versus the indoor Great Wolf Lodge disaster from February) was all too appealing.  With some coaxing, Jesse decided to come along for the ride.

 The pinnacle of excitement for me came at 5:45, fifteen minutes before park closing.

We had walked by Vanish Point, a slide that takes off from a 75 foot tower nestled in the back corner of the park, several times during the day.  This was the description on the sign at the entrance to the attraction:   Get ready for the ride of your life on Water Country USA’s epic new drop slide: Vanish Point. Inspired by the point on a wave where water and gravity form a perfect partnership, this summit supplies a wicked wet way to drop out of sight.  You can step into a skybox where you fall down when the floor drops out beneath you.

Although I was curious, had Jesse not been there, I would have kept my 45-year-old, ground loving self at the bottom of that tower of terror.  But once he decided to take the plunge, my ego simply wouldn’t let me sit the attraction out. 

“I’m going, you in?”

“I don’t know, you know I’m not a fan of heights.  And the girls really need a father.”

“OK.”  He turned toward the long staircase.

“I’m in!”

We started the climb up the mountain of stairs.  My knees a bit wobbly from fear; Jesse and I tailed a gaggle of 9-year-old boys – excitement buzzing around them like bees on a honeysuckle vine.  Not only was I motivated by wanting to keep up with my brother-in-law, but there was also something motivating about this group of kids.  I could picture myself with Adam Fair, Jimbo Martin, the Mask boys and my brother – the Berkshire Road Gang – from my childhood.  If we’d only had the chance to conquer this challenge as kids.  Our closest adventure to Vanish Point was jumping off the dead tree stump in Adam’s yard with the sprinkler gradually dampening our bodies.  I had to do this for them.

The anticipation was palpable as we reached the staging area.  We were so high, I swear I could see Mt. Rushmore in the distance.

 An attractive college student in her bathing suit was at the helm.  One by one she loaded the boys into the Star Wars type tomb of doom.  My turn was nearing.

Jesse:  “Do you want to go first?”

Me:  “Yes, I need to get this over with.  Goodbye.”

She opened the door.  I gently pressed on the mechanical floor with my foot to make sure it was locked.  I knew within seconds it would fall out from under me, dropping me to what could be my death.  I climbed in – glancing at the lifeguard – a nice final image if this was the end.

“Cross your legs and put your hands over your chest.  And remember to lean back.”

I had entered an upright coffin, albeit a wet one.  

She closed the door.  The male guard at the controls glance toward me, my hangman.  I was guilty.  Guilty of stupidity.

Whoomp!  The floor vanished.  My body darted down like a missile heading toward Cuba, my stomach lodged beneath my tonsils.

I tried to open my eyes but the force was too strong.  Within seconds I was at the bottom, water permeating my body through every orifice I owned.

Stand up quick man!  Look cool.  People are watching.  You’re wet all over, they can’t see the tears.

And Jesse right behind.

“How’d you like it?”

An unconvincing, “It was great” fell from my mouth.

“Too bad the parks closing – we could do it again.”

“Yeah.  What a bummer.”

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.

Our Decapod Crustacean

Posted by Danny

We’ve avoided animals like the plague in our family.  Lisa grew up with a dog that had bad gas.  I with a cat named Bunny who had an identity crisis.  And one day when I was in about 9th grade, I got to see my first X rated event when Reagan, our neighbors tom cat, raped Bunny in our driveway.  I did all I could but I just couldn’t stop him.  She never was the same.

One trick Lisa discovered was to give a kid a token pet to appease them.  Two started out with fish.  Our second phase was to give them something they could hold – a hermit crab.  We didn’t really have a phase 3.

DJ got her first when she was about six or seven.  Stephanie followed several years later.  This year, when shopping near Myrtle Beach, Michelle spotted an enormous cage filled with the nasty boogers.  I bet there were 150 of them – climbing all over the place.  One of them changing his shell so you could see his entire body – something I’d never encountered in my years as a crab owner.

I quickly acquiesced to her request hopeful that this would put off the dog conversation for another six to eight months. 

All three girls decided they had to have one – but I was only bankrolling Michelle’s crustacean.  The other two were on their own.

They stood and stared at the choices.  It was overwhelming, like having to pick out your baby from a lineup of cribs.

These days, the store owners have folks paint the crab shells to make them more appealing to the prospective owners.  Which to choose?  They all seemed perfect in their own little way.

The one with a flower on its shell?  How about Superman?  The fuchsia with neon green stripes looks like a winner.  Personally I liked Goliath – the largest one in the cage.  His legs sprawling down the one limb that spanned the axis of the cage. 

“That ones too big dad.  His pinchers could really hurt.”

I went to the counter to ask who would open the container and fish out our choices.

The stout, grandmotherly checkout clerk informed me that the cage was not locked.  “YOU get it out sir.”  The implication was I ain’t sticking MY hand in there.  I’ve seen what can happen.

“So I just open it and get the ones I want?”

“Yup.”

They decided on their pick:  for Stephanie the bright pink, DJ wanted Spiderman, and Michelle the one with the dainty pink flower.  I mustered up my courage and wound my arm through the hole – watching Goliath with one eye and my own prey with the other.

Stephanie’s was wild – a poor choice she thought.  “I’ve changed my mind daddy.  I want a calmer one.” 

“Me too,” DJ echoed.  “Spiderman looks angry!”

“I don’t like mine either – I think he’s dead.  Look, he’s just sitting there.”

I go in again.  “Are you sure this is it?”  The decision were made.

“They need extra  shells, a sponge and plenty of food” my checkout friend informed.

Yeah, you’re all about helping now aren’t you?  Clearly grandma was working on commission.

On the way out the door, each one made a last-minute swap.  My patience and bravery were about to expire.

In the car Stephanie informed me that her crab and DJ’s were cuddling…or mating.

“Do they really…” DJ didn’t finish her sentence.

I was glad.  I didn’t need to have that conversation with the grandparents in the car.

The Jolly Roger

Posted by DJ

This past week, we have been at Topsail Beach with my moms’ side of the family.  We have many traditions when we go to Topsail, such as Putt Putt, Dairy Queen, crabbing, and burying each other in the sand.  This year I may have established a new tradition!

The Jolly Roger Pier is about a 10 minute walk on the beach from our rental beach house.  Generally, we chose a night to take the entire family for a walk on the pier, which we did as planned.  I curiously asked my dad what time the pier closed.  He said he didn’t think it ever closed – crazy people fished all night long.  “In that case,” I said, “let’s go at midnight!”

“Why would I do that?”

“Everything is more fun at 12:00 a.m.”  He’s getting really old.

So after everyone was asleep, except for my dad and me, we sneaked out of the house, and walked down the dark beach to the pier.  He was right, there were a few folks there fishing. 

We didn’t stay long, but we had fun hanging out.

I will definitely try to continue this tradition. (Whether I will be successful is debatable.)

Sunday Post 24: Stuck in Reverse

Posted by Danny

We’re at Topsail beach this week with Lisa’s side of the family.  We’ve vacationed here, in the same rental house, for about a decade.  The owners aren’t much for redecorating so every piece of furniture, every kitchen utensil, every knickknack seems to symbolize a part of our past. 

My mother-in-law and I can picture Lisa doing the girls’ hair as she sat on the not very attractive off-white leather couch.  The floral vacation sheets I dig out of the trunk in our bedroom have seen years of sandy, slightly sunburned bodies.  The white 80’s style lace on the pillow cases matched the stack of t-shirts Lisa lived in this week.

4:00 – 7:00 pm is my absolute favorite time of the day on the beach.  The strong breeze seems to blow the summer heat away.  Not too cold, but cool enough.  Lisa knew I loved this time of day and each afternoon would head back outside with ice-cold drinks in hand.  We’d spend hours talking about the kids, dreaming of the future, planning our escape from the problems of life. 

Looking back on it, I realize we didn’t have any.

Today I sat alone – my thoughts consumed with her.

Lisa’s mom said she heard of a song entitled Stuck in Reverse.  Sometimes that’s where we all live. 

Grief is a circle; you move forward and circle back.  Perhaps not to the beginning, but sometimes mighty close. 

I’d give both of my eyes to have her back.

Two Guys and a Subaru

Posted by Danny and Jesse

Jesse and Lisa’s sister and her family are moving to Raleigh this week.  That is great news for all!  To assist with the move, Danny and Jesse flew to Boston this morning and drove one of their cars home today.  This was our trip:

5:15 am – Grandaddy Tanner wakes up to be sure we are not late for our flight.

5:30 am – Grandaddy Tanner wakes Danny and Jesse.

5:39 am – Danny is showered and dressed and ready to depart.

5:52 am – Jesse runs out of his bedroom, wet head and belt pending.

9:00 am – Danny has peed five times thus far.  

9:35 am – Sister and brother-in-law feed us well – pancakes and sausage – might not help the bathroom issues.

10:05 am – On the road – Danny at the wheel, Jesse with Google Maps.

1:15 pm – Driving through Manhattan, Pride Parade Traffic a significant problem.

1:27 pm – Wreck on George Washington Bridge.

1:30 pm – Honked at by a New York Cabbie; honked back just to fit in.

1:32 pm – Discovered Hot 97.1 Rap Radio

Morning Topics of Conversation:  Cuss words (which are most inappropriate), Voter ID Registration (got no problem with it), Gun Control (probably need it), sibling dynamics (we have some), Twitter (Danny needs to get with the program – would you follow him?), private school tuition (ouch), marriage (you can only imagine), what we’ll be doing in 15 years (we have some theories), rest stops in the North East (not a fan of the rest stop/fast foot/gas station combo), God – and other religions.

2:00 pm – Driver switch at a New Jersey rest stop (guess who peed?)

3:00 pm – Concert in the car baby! (Take me to the River – Talking Heads, Love in an Elevator – Aerosmith, America – West Side Story – didn’t expect that one huh?)

3:22 pm – About to run out of gas, Jesse says, “Let’s push it.”

3:25 pm – Stop for gas, Danny said, “Are you nuts?”

5:15 pm – Tears over Lisa

Afternoon topics of conversation:  Taxes (hate ’em), pick up basketball rules, skinny dipping (nothing recent), Is it ok for a minister to be gay? (both sides of the issue discussed), texting while driving (shouldn’t be doing it), pink shirts (can be cool), Churches (conservative, moderate and liberal), UNC football program (don’t won’t to comment until the investigation is final).

7:30 pm – Food finally.

Last four hours – since Danny has an affinity for Earth Wind and Fire, Prince and other soulful music, Jesse decided to expose him to Outkast and Kanye West.  Danny’s visiting itunes tomorrow!

11:15 pm – At grandma’s house looking for her cat (don’t ask).

11:30 pm – Home at last.

My Big Tent

Stephanie and Michelle entering the foyer

We just returned from our fourth annual Memorial Day Weekend camping trip.  We started this tradition with four other families and have hit different North Carolina parks each year.

I’m not sure why we go.  None of us are really camping people.  We’d be much more comfortable at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, Fla.  Of course, this is easier on the pocketbook, and I guess we all want our kids to spend some time outside looking at stars and enjoying nature and stuff.

One thing that keeps me from being a more frequent camper is the lack of adequate bathrooms.  In fact, on the way to Jones Lake in Elizabethtown, we took a 30 minute detour to my parent’s house in Fayetteville for one last pit stop before closing down the old plumbing until we got back home.  I called my dad to tell him we were coming and to stock each bathroom with a new roll of Charmin.  When we hit the driveway, we noticed the sign he’d hung on the door – “Clean Restrooms Available!”

I was glad we made that stop.  At the campground, the men’s bathroom had stalls but no doors; at least I didn’t see any from where I was standing (I didn’t actually go back there).  I have a phobia about no stall doors.

One time when I was the director of the Cary YMCA, I was making my nightly rounds.  I hit the men’s lockerrom and as always, began flushing all toilets since our male members seldom did.  I hit the three urinals and the first stall quickly – I was in a hurry as always.  When I flew into the second stall – the door was wide open –  much to my surprise, there was a man sitting there.  I didn’t really glance up until I was nose to nose with the dude.   

I ran to my office and stayed there until thirty minutes after the building closed.  I left all bathroom patrols to our maintenance staff from that day forward.

That incident scarred me.  I wonder how he’s doing.

Our family at the West Entrance

About six years ago my father-in-law asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I suggested a pup tent built for two.  DJ and I had joined the YMCA’s Y-Princess program, and I knew we’d have to camp together once a year.  I told him there was a small tent, just our size, for $20 at Target. 

On Christmas Day, I opened my large box.  Inside was a $350 Sierra Design tent from REI – it slept six – adults.  David doesn’t always get you what you want – he often gets you what he thinks you need.  He makes up his mind, consults Consumer Reports and you get the top of the line!

I wondered what in the heck I was going to do with a tent that large.  It was more square footage than my first apartment.  The east wing had a closet and the dining room sat 8. 

To my surprise, I’ve used the dang thing 15 or 20 times over the years – often sleeping four or more folks.  David ws right, I did need a big tent.  One that I could be proud of.  In fact, one of my camping buddies had tent envy last year and showed up this year with an upgrade.  That made me walk a little taller around the campfire.

I don’t understand why they make tent and sleeping bag covers 12% smaller than the actual tent or sleeping bag.  I busted three blood vessels in my head trying to shove the dang sleeping bags back into the holders.  I nearly pulled my back out trying to squish all the air out of the blow up matress.  I was hugging it with both arms while I squeezed the middle with my legs.  I felt like a boaconstrictor; all this work to make a single matress fit in a carrying case the size of a sandwich bag.

My friend Martin can make wet wood burn. I think he's a Boy Scout or a Warlock.

At 2:30 am on Saturday night, my buddy’s truck alarm went off.  Lights were flashing and the horn was going nuts.  It scared the mess out of everyone – at least everyone in my tent.  I spent the next hour wondering what could have caused that alarm to go off.  I narrowed it down to three things – a mechanical malfunction, a theif, or a big animal.  The third potential was the most unnerving.  Heck, there was a bear walking around downtown Garner last week – imagine what could have been lurking in the woods in Bladen County, NC.

I saw Jeff walk by my tent to go check things out.  I briefly considered getting up and going with him, but I decided it would probably be better just to listen and keep my phone close.  Although I had a great tent, it wasn’t bear proof and we were the closest family to the cars. 

Last night after we were in our tent and the lights were out, the girls asked me to tell them a ghost story.  I shared about Crazy Nell who was killed right there in Elizabethtown many years before.  When I finished, DJ said, “I believe in ghosts.”  And Michelle added, “And the holy Catholic Church.” 

Our minister will be glad to know she’s been paying attention during the Apostle’s Creed.

I wish I could post more pictures but one of the moms there told me if I put a picture of her on this blog after a night of camping that Crazy Nell’s death would look tame compared to what she would do to me.  From her tone and the look in her eyes, I think she was serious.

Can’t wait until next year!  Thank you camping buds.

I'm allowed to publish this picture -these are the clouds that produced 10 inches of rain all over our camp site.