Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

Posted by Danny

Michelle just got home from camp today.  Stephanie is there for two more weeks.

Now a days, parents are allowed to email their kid at camp each day.  Yeah, you get to pay$40 which allows you to try to come up with something to write them every night.  It’s like that damn Christmas Elf that you always forget to move.  At 2 AM I awake – Dag gone it!  Forgot the emails!!

I have convinced myself that all of the other 598 kids will be receiving a daily email from their parents.  What if my kids are at rest period and have nothing from me?  It could be traumatic.  This is a huge summer stressor.

Year one I tried to write about my day.  It went something like this:

I went to work.  Came home.  Watched TV.  Changed underwear before I got in bed.  Hope your day was good.

It was painful for me to write.  It was painful for them to read.  I mean seriously, what do you write to an 8-year-old every day for two weeks?

I’ve made a few changes in my correspondence over the years.  Here are a couple of excerpts from my emails to Michelle in 2012:

July 15: When I left camp today I did not see many girls at tennis. That is good. Tennis is not a good thing to do at camp. You should not play tennis. Your friend might hit a tennis ball and it could land in your mouth. Then when I pick you up next Friday you wouldn’t be able to say, “Hey dad! I love you so much.” So do not play tennis.

Instead, I have a great idea for you to do at camp.  Go to the infirmary. Tell them that you want to be a nurse when you grow up. Ask them if you can put on a nurse’s uniform. Put it on. Then ask if you can give shots to campers. Find some campers.  Give them shots. It will be fun. You can make people well.  They will call you Nurse Michelle.

That is a better camp activity than tennis.

July 18:  These are some things I think you should not do at camp:

Go down the zip line (it is too tall), ride in a motor boat (they are too fast), shoot archery (the arrows are too pointy).  Instead try this:

Paint yourself red and go stand by the Camp Seafarer gate. When people drive up they will think you are a stop sign. They will slow down and stop.  That will make everyone much safer.  That is a fun and safe activity for you.

July 19:  Here are some things that I don’t think you should do at camp:

1) Do not go to arts and crafts.  Glue is sticky and could get in your hair.  That would be bad. 

2) Do not look for shark’s teeth in the shark’s tooth pile. Sharks are bad and can bite you.  You could bleed and go to the infirmary.  They could be out of band aids. That would be bad.

Here is a really good idea for you to do at camp today:

Go to the bathroom. Use lots of toilet paper and take the cardboard paper roll. Go to another bathroom and use lots of toilet paper and take that roll too.  Get some duct tape. Tape the two rolls together. Then put on khaki clothes. Go to the end of the pier. Look through the toilet paper rolls.  See if you can see what color the sky is. If you can, go tell your friends in your cabin. They will be excited to know the color of the sky.  You will be very popular if you do this.

July 20:  There is some stuff that I don’t think you should do at camp tomorrow. They are not fun activities.  Do not go on a jeep ride. You could get dirty if you ride a jeep. And if it goes through the woods, there could be a big bear, and he could eat you.

Here is a better idea for camp tomorrow.  I think it would be a good idea for you to go to arts and crafts and get some pink paint. Then paint your body and hair. Next go to the zip line.  Crawl to the top and oink like a pig as you climb the steps. DO NOT tell the counselors you are a kid.  Just oink.  They will think a pig is going down the zip line.  They will be amazed and announce it in the mess hall.  But never tell them it was you!  The next day paint yourself as a cow – they will be amazed again.

I’ve got to have some fun while they’re gone.

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 Dreaded Camp Drop Off

 

Posted by Danny

Although I worked at Camp Sea Gull and understand the value of resident camp for kids, I still get butterflies when I drop my girls off at Seafarer.  It was hard when when Lisa was here; it’s harder now.

I remember when we first signed DJ up for Camp Kanata when she was seven.  Lisa was determined to begin helping DJ gain some independence, something she desperately needed.  I, on the other hand, was worried sick. 

That Sunday morning we were working to finish up the laundry.  Bailey was clearly concerned.  Every time I’d look at her I’d get a lump in my throat – “I’ll go check the laundry,” I’d offer.

“Didn’t you just check it?”  Lisa would clarify.  “Good Lord man, it’s a week of camp in Durham.  We’re not sending her to Indonesia for the summer.”

Lisa did all of the packing for camp.  Another thing I was totally unprepared for.  I started pulling out bathing suits a week or so ago – we seemed to be fine, there were several.  Then we headed to the pool last weekend.  By the time we were ready to go, this nice little hand-me-down bikini that fit just perfectly at 2:00 was sagging to Michelle’s knees by 5:00.  The outer material covering her butt just drooped – like an old lady’s butt.  I’d never seen anything like it. 

Along with the new bathing suits, I bought her new Crocs, Rainbow flip-flops and bug spray – because the 15 bottles we already have at our house just didn’t make the cut.  It’s that Target thing.  I just panic in there.  A counter full of bug spray when I know it’s on the camp list just won’t let me pass it by. 

“What if I’m wrong?  What if there aren’t five bottles of bug spray in the kitchen cabinet that I open and look at six times a week?  What if all five bottles are almost empty?  What if they have passed their expiration date?  She could be eaten alive by a pack of horsefly.  I won’t be there to look after her and I bet those counselors would never notice.  I’ll just buy the damn stuff.  Where’s the biggest bottle (her friends might need some) with Cutter.”

My child’s can of Off could spray down a camp of 1,200 girls for six years.  Twenty dollars it’s unopened when I pick her up.

What a bunk! Complete with egg crate, matress cover, matching sheets and a Camp Seafarer blanket. The bug spray is in her locker.

I had almost finished packing Michelle when I remembered that Lisa wrote the kids’ names on all of their clothes tags with a Sharpie marker.  Errr – I pulled it all back out.  I’m glad our last name isn’t Von Bibberstein.

Life size cut out, it's almost like she's there!

Michelle was worried that I might miss her so she created a life-size cutout of herself with the assistance of her babysitter.  She convinced me to tape it on my dresser so I’d remember her every morning and every night.  I kind of like having her there for the week.  I may put the cutout in the car and take her to dance and piano  – it’ll feel just like she’s here.

Stephanie rode with me for the drop off.  She worked hard to make sure I was OK even sporting a shower cap from the hotel on her head as a distraction.  “Do you like my new look dad?  Would you call room service and ask them if they’d bring a few more of these up here?  I think we should all wear them tomorrow when we drop Michelle off.”

Last year Michelle cried at breakfast, lunch and dinner I was told.  This year she was convinced that she’d be ok.  “You know dad, my buddy Annie has never been to camp before.  I’m going to tell her I’ll be there for her if she gets upset.”  I wondered who she was going to lean on when the tears were rolling into her scrambled eggs tomorrow morning.

Thanks to Stephanie and a year of maturity for both Michelle and me, things went alright!  I think we’re headed for a very good week.

Notes From The Beach…

POSTED BY JESSE

The girls are at the beach with friends so Danny and I, through the kindness of a good friend who lent us his house for a couple days, decided we did not want to wait out the anniversary week of Lisa’s passing (does that need a catchier name? Lisa Week? Eh, that would be more fitting on her birthday. Death Week? Seems a bit morbid. We’ll work on it…) at home in a quiet, familiar, childless house. Instead we came to a quiet, unfamiliar, childless house, so it’s not like we’re having a party or anything. I think the thought was to get away, let ourselves mope a little bit, and then return with fresh faces to see the girls and face the 24th. It’s gray and windy here at the beach, and if I didn’t know any better I might think that we were creating the male version of the tear-inducing “Beaches”, and that one of us was the one with a terminal illness. But, no, we’re just a bit melancholy, missing a wife and sister. Here are a couple other things I’m thinking about:

What day was that again? I’ve found it interesting the way people consider dates, especially for something in recent history. Lisa passed away in the early morning hours of February 24th, but as we’ve been playing things back in our heads, we typically run off the weekly schedule of life. For example, we remember things like, “Friday so-and-so came to visit her, Saturday was the day we were told this, Monday was the day we had the family meeting…” etc.

 I have always worked better under this system, mostly because I’m terrible with dates, but also because it’s easier to use other events for context. I can’t tell you the date I started going out with a girl, but I can tell you the first time we kissed was the night of the UNC-Georgia Tech game that year. Danny joked he’s got enough emotion to “celebrate” both the day of the week and the actual date Lisa passed away, so we don’t need to worry about picking which one is the date we’re choosing to remember her passing.

“How’s Lisa?” That is not intended to be funny–Danny and I were talking on the drive down here about still coming across folks who don’t know. Recently, my Mom emailed with a family for whom Lisa had nannied for multiple summers. She loved the job, the family, and really enjoyed her time in Marblehead, Massachusetts. We were thinking about visiting since we’re headed to Boston this week to visit Sallie and Matt and their kids (Danny and I have godparenting to do!), but everyone feared that when we reached out to Lisa’s summer family, we’d also have to let them know she had passed away. We were right.

I also recently bumped into a guy who had worked at the Y with Lisa and Danny for a number of years. We greeted each other, and he quickly stated how he and his wife had just been talking about Lisa the other day and all the good times and stories they remembered of her. I assumed he was bringing this up because she had passed away and he was letting me know how much he thought of her. Then he caught me off-guard, “How is she doing?” Uh…

On the drive down, Danny relayed that DJ had a similar incident, only she had no clue who the person was. A lady, almost certainly a friend of Lisa’s, approached DJ, showered her with praise, told her she looked like her mom, and then promptly asked “How’s your mother doing?” I think Danny fears that such a question will send his daughters into a tailspin (since, admittedly, there have been times when someone will ask about her, or Danny, or the kids, or anything and the only answer that comes to mind is overwhelming sadness, and tears come before words), and that they might stuggle to answer. He asked her what she told the woman. DJ correctly pointed out, “Well, I couldn’t just say ‘she’s fine’, could I?!”

It sounds like DJ politely and unawkwardly told the woman that her Mom had passed away about a year ago. I think I need to take lessons from her. I still get terribly befuddled when people ask me how many siblings I have. Two? One? Had two, have one? How do you draw the line between being uninformative and avoiding a conversation that neither party is looking for?

This blog is a DOWNER Danny asked me on the drive down if he thought the blog was getting too depressing. I answered that I thought, yes, it had recently taken on more of a somber tone, but I thought it was more reflective of our current mood and what’s on our minds than anything. I told him I didn’t think it was a big deal and would not drive loyal readers away in droves if we had a week or two (or month?) of more thoughtful, somtimes even sad posts. However, f it’s still this way in April then we probably need to examine things, or not be surprised if people look for a more cheery place to visit on-line.

So stick with us, readers. This should be the blog at its most despondent. Things are getting better all the time🙂

How are the girls doing? Nothing makes me feel like a more inadequate guardian than not having a good answer to this one. With the temporary exception of one of the them seeming not her normal self for a stretch last summer, I feel like I have not noticed any major changes in the girls. In fact, people are always telling ME the things they have seen in the girls that are different, and I wonder if I’m too aloof to notice things or if I’m right and everyone else is just looking too hard. The girls are….girls! DJ is figuring out which high school to go to and probably more stressed out about the adults around her talking about it than she is by making the decision. Stephanie wants to sleep in on Saturdays and has a birthday party at Embassy Suites every other week. Michelle got a lot of Valentine’s Day candy and wants a later bed time. I have not been a parent, but all of this comes across as fairly normal to me.

I am not suggesting losing their mother will have no effect on them. I must admit, when 8-year old Michelle was filling out her “Letter to My Summer Counselor” for camp, and she wanted to describe herself as “sarcastic”, I worried a little bit that the influence of having two knucklehead adults in the house and no tough-love mom was probably taking its toll. (but I was still tickled to death. We convinced her to just go with “funny”).

Stephanie may prefer an extra hug this week, and DJ, true to form, is hunting for new traditions she can start to commemorate the 24th. But the girls are great, and I promise my lack of a better answer isn’t because I haven’t been paying attention. And that definitely mean don’t ask–like I said, I just feel silly when I don’t have much more of an answer than “great!”

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.

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