The 20 Minute Piano Lesson

Posted by Danny

I took piano lessons when I was a kid for about 5 years.  I can read music but I have to practice a song a really, really long time for it to be audience worthy.  And by audience, I mean anyone.  There are a lot of pregnant pauses in my music. 

I know my notes, but if you asked me to play a G cord, you’d be out of luck.  And heaven forbid you asked for an A minor or a C# cord.  I’d have a better chance of remembering a phrase from my 7th grade Spanish class.  Actually I do remember “Hay un medico in su familia?” – is there a doctor in your family; and “Donde esta el bano?” – where is the bathroom.  If you’re going to a foreign country, those are two questions you may readily need.

Jesse on the other hand did not take piano lessons and cannot read music.  An eighth note to him is just a black dot with some friends nearby.  But as I’ve told you before, he can plunk out any pop tune with a sheet of music with only the letter of chord written over the lyric.

I’ve thought to myself a hundred times this past year, “How does he do that?” 

Today, he gave me a lesson.

10 am Sunday morning:

6 pm Sunday afternoon:

He’s a pretty good teacher.  I’m a pretty good student.  Mrs. Haynes would be so proud.  (Oh, that’s Stephanie, the camera girl, in the background.)


Uncle Jesse

Posted by DJ

Uncle Jesse.  He may or may not know this, but I look up to him…alot. I honestly think he is one of the coolest uncle’s I will ever have.  He is always in the loop. 

A new song comes out, he knows it.   And he shares this knowledge with me.   I occasionally pass it on to a friend or two and within a moth, it is the most played song on the radio.   I have no idea where he gets this information, probably one of his many buddies.

It’s always my buddy Chip or Justin or Bomani.  What do you have to do to be Jesse’s “buddy”?  I don’t know.  But I do know he has over 1,000 facebook friends.  That is a lot of people.

He knows everyone.  Also, I look up to his musicality.  I used to take piano, but Jesse says he never really had official lessons, but he can hear a song once and play it almost perfectly.  He sits down at the piano (except Tuesdays, that’s basketball night) for about 20 minutes every day.  Half the time I have no idea what the song is, but I still seem to really enjoy his loud semi-annoying singing which I can hear very clearly from my room.  He gets one song in his head for like a week and then only plays that one song, so by the end of the week I also know a new song.

Jesse also has a lot of flaws, but I will save those for another post as I don’t want to ruin this one.

 He is a big part if my life.  Home, church, and as of recently school.  He has been subbing a lot in different classes and he is also the track coach. We argue, and mess with each other, but I know, and I hope he knows, that I love him and always will.

50% of the time he seems like a little brother.  The other half he is like a second dad.  We go places as a family, me, dad, Steph, Michelle and Jesse and often we get stares from passersby.  We don’t look like a normal family.  One old guy, one middle aged guy, a teenager, two kids and no mom.  A little confusing, but we are a family no matter how weird we are.  He has been a huge help through these hard times and I couldn’t have done it with out him.  Thanks Uncle Jesse.

Magically Delicious

Posted by Danny

Their Magically Delicious, even if eaten off the floor

The other morning as we were rushing to get ready for school, I walked in the kitchen to find half of a box of Lucky Charms on the floor by the kitchen bar.  As I surveyed the scene, I realized that Michelle was about to lose it.  Apparently she was the culpret.

I went to get the broom and said “Don’t worry about it baby.”  Her face was turning red and water was filling her eyes when Uncle Jesse piped in, “She didn’t do that, it was me.  Sometimes I like to eat my breakfast off the floor.  It helps me stretch.

He then laid down on the kitchen floor and began to eat the spilled cereal.

Michelle grinned and watched the show.

Is there anything he wouldn’t do for these kids?

The Tooth Fairy Sabbatical


Posted by Danny

I’ve been out-of-town twice lately on business trips, and I am thankful to Jesse for keeping the girls.  They always have a great time when he’s in charge -although  I”m not convinced that all of the rules are followed when I’m gone.

Jesse talks a big game about discipline, “We need to set some strict guidelines for Stephanie to shore up her study habits.”  By we, I’m pretty sure he means ME.  “Michelle really needs to stop asking 8 times during dinner if she’s eaten enough.  I think if she asks once that she shouldn’t get dessert.”  Yeah, he’s a big talker but when I walk out the door, it’s cotton candy for dinner. 

But I have two nieces and was the fun uncle in my day too.  I understand when I come home from DC and find out that he watched movies with DJ and her buddy until the wee hours of the night.  And I’m ok with him using the Golden Corral gift certificates to take the crew out for a two-hour eating fest.  But what I don’t understand, is why when I go out-of-town, the Tooth Fairy takes a Sabbatical.

Michelle is losing teeth like NC State is losing basketball games (yeah, I’m a State fan).  And the past two times I’ve been gone, a bicuspid has sprung loose. 

Michelle gleefully shares the news with Jesse and calls me with full excitement.  She carefully places the tooth in the hand stitched pillow her Nana made her and tucks it neatly under her sleeping pillow.  I can just picture her dreams – the fairy flutters in wearing her pink tutu, sparkles sprinkling from her wand.  The dollar tucked in a nice lace pouch.

The sweet dream is rudely interrupted the following morning when she awakes and finds that her tooth is in the exact same place she left it the night before.  With disappointment she questions Jesse, “Why do you think she didn’t come?  What’s going on?”  I know those big eyes kill him.  And the stories, oh the stories, he extols.

“Well, it came out late in the day.  She probably had her calendar booked with other kids who lost teeth at an earlier hour.  She’s not a Genie, she’s simply the Tooth Fairy.”  As if you don’t have to have some sort of super power to sneak into millions of houses each night replacing money for teeth.  Or, “Maybe she’s at a conference like your dad.”  To my knowledge, there is not a conference for the Tooth Fairy!  What sort of semiars would they conduct?  The New Price of a Molar?  Change or bills?  Things You Can Do With Leftover Teeth? 

He once told her, “I bet she hurt her wing in a game of Lacrosse.  I”m sure she’ll be better soon.”  Yeah, like when your dad gets home.

Today he even suggested that perhaps I was having a rendezvous with the Tooth Fairy on my “business” trips.  I’m hard at work, missing my family and he suggests that I’m away sleeping with the Tooth Fairy.  Unbelieveable!

I’m sort of glad that I’m the only one in the house who knows how to get in touch with the Tooth Fairy.  Jesse’s so good, if it weren’t for that, I’m not sure they’d need me.

So Much Talent

I wouldn’t consider myself musical.  I can carry a tune fairly well and did have a few solos in productions as a high school student.  Once I played Adam in The Apple Tree.  My costume was a pair of khaki shorts.  I was so skinny, you could have seen the missing rib God used to make Eve. 

My mom was a piano teacher but couldn’t teach me because we fought too much.  She couldn’t take my whining.  I couldn’t take her frustration at my lack of rehearsal.  One of her friends was also a piano teacher so they switched sons; a win for all involved.  I can plunk out a tune with the sheet music, but you’d better plan plenty of time for pregnant pauses in between measures.  On the dance floor, I can shag fairly well, but I won’t be staring in A Chorus Line any time soon.

Jesse on the other hand is musical.  In fact, one of the few things that I don’t like about him is the fact that he has so much natural talent, it’s just not fair.  At weddings he has been asked if he was a paid dancer coming to get the party started.  He’s performed in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol at Memorial Auditorium as a main character.  He’s also a good basketball player and if you put him in front of any group of people, they will no doubt be WOWed.  I have him licked in a couple of areas – more hair, more money and thus far have proven better at producing offspring (granted, he’s never been married, but I’m still claiming that as mine).  Now, me bringing this up is not a desire for comments on how many talents I have (especially you mom and dad).  I’m simply pointing out that Jesse is remarkable in many ways (he ain’t perfect though!)

The other day I came home to a house full of music.  It started with Jesse on the guitar and Stephanie sitting at the piano.  One of the girls favorite songs right now is Grenade by Bruno Mars.  As I listened from the kitchen, I began to hear Jesse talking Stephanie through the chords of the song – “Now play a D minor chord, A minor, yes – good job.”  The song unfolded.  Stephanie listened intently.  I could see the lightbulb going off in her head – “This is why I’ve been taking piano for the past three years!” 

Talent abounds

Takes after her uncle

A few minutes later, Jesse was at the piano, Michelle belting out Grenade at the top of her lungs (and she really has a strong voice!)  DJ is also learning to play the guitar thanks to Jesse’s tutelage. 

Pretty soon we’re going to have the Dixie Chics on Dellwood Drive.  $$$ (I’ll take care of the finances, another talent of  mine).

The Great Clothes Migration, Part 2, The Stephanie Saga

Three weeks of work...

Look - they're all folded!!!

Posted by Danny

People in this family just aren’t normal.

On Saturday I began the Great Clothes Migration, Part 2, the Stephanie Saga.

The two of us headed up to her room and began the process.  I had her strip down to her underwear and bra so that the changing could go faster.  When we start, I focus.  No time for play or snacks or lunch or bathroom.  On – off – quick decisions! 

About 15 minutes into it, I heard noises coming from DJ’s room.  I opened the door to find DJ, Jesse and Michelle brewing up some mischief.  Apparently they had been in bed acting like they were taking a nap in the hopes that I’d come in and stir a ruckus.  But I didn’t have time for their junk.  I had work to do – Mount Kilimanjaro of clothing awaited.

Without pause, they looked at Stephanie who was about to undergo four hours of agony, and began to sing a popular song – but they changed the words from “Yellow and Black” to “Panties and Bra.”  She grinned at first but both of us grew tired quickly.  We shut her door and went on about our business.

About ten minutes later, we heard chanting outside.  Looking out of her second floor window, we noticed something unusual – three people, on the roof, glaring in the window at us.  It began with the same chant, followed by skipping by the window, dancing by the window and spinning by the window.  The grand finale was a slight mooning courtesy of Uncle Jesse (for someone with a butt as big as his, even a slight moon is fairly obvious).

Now that Stephanie was fully distracted, I’d had enough.  My glare showed my disapproval.

The show appeared to end.

About ten minutes later, DJ came in to see if she could help. 

“Do I need your help?  Yes.  Are you capable of helping?  From the looks of things, I’m doubtful.”

“I’ll help you but it’s hot up here.  Can you turn the heat down?”

Stephanie chirped in, “I’m comfortable.”

DJ replied, “You’re in your bra and panties.”

“Well I’m the one trying on all the clothes!”

“Fine, I’ll put on my sports bra with shorts and help.”

The next thing I knew, DJ and Michelle were in the room in sports bras and shorts.  I heard them holler downstairs, “Jesse, we’re having a shirtless clean out party upstairs.  Come join us”

“Un.”  I knew what that meant.

It took about ten seconds for him to show up.  Shirt off, hairy chest and stomach grossing me out.

They left the room and found Jesse a sports bra to help make him a bit more presentable. 

He claims he “helped” with the Great Clothes Migration this year.  I think “helped” is a strong word.

Jesse was about as much help as the Justin Bieber cut out.

This is the give away pile for my friend Paige. Better bring a U Haul.

Uncle Jesse’s Night Life

Posted by DJ

Thursday Night:  Asleep by 9:13

Friday Night: Asleep by 8:57

He’d be an exciting date wouldn’t he?

You’ve Got a Friend In Me

Posted by Danny

There have been times this past year that I’ve said I have ten wives.  Before Lisa died, she said, “I don’t worry about our children.  We have surrounded ourselves with really good people who will care for them and help you raise them.”  She was right.  

I find that it’s usually easier to talk to women about Lisa.  I can walk into Panera and, without looking, find one of her girlfriends or acquaintances who will immediately bring up her name.  Some people might think that would be difficult.  It’s actually nice.  The more I become comfortable talking about Lisa and the different place she has in my heart and in our lives, the faster I heal.

Surprising to some might be the way that my buddies have also supported me through this pile of manure.  They reminisce with me about the times we had together. Some have cried with me.  I’ve receive a lot of manly bear hugs and pats on the back.  I think these friends of mine are extraordinary.  

Unfortunately, I believe that too many men fit the stereotype – less open and less able to deal with difficult emotional issues.

How often do men take the time to build the kinds of relationships that allow for that sort of intimate connection outside of their marriage?  How often do men talk about their fears or really, I mean really, talk about their faith?  I don’t mean standing up in front a men’s bible study with bobbing heads agreeing with the leader’s suggestions.  I mean wrestling with our deepest doubts.  I mean sharing our biggest, most outlandish dreams that may likely never come true.  There’s a vulnerability in that – perhaps a perceived weakness.  We should already know what we’re doing with our lives.  We should already know what we believe.  Many of us don’t. 

What’s behind our inability to talk to each other and support each other? 

Jesse and I were moderately close before Lisa died.  We cracked on one another and often teamed up at family events, playing off of each other at the expense of Lisa, a parent or another unwitting family member.  But when he moved in and was faced with returning home some nights to find me sitting on the couch in a really dark place, it was impossible for him to go grab a couple of Oreos and turn on SportsCenter.  He was faced with the unraveling of a brother.  And I have to hand it to him, he didn’t back away.  He listened and listened and listened.  He heard the same stories time and time again.  He asked questions and pushed.  He held me accountable at times.  He worked hard at empathy, playing on past times in his life when he’d hit a hard spell.

I think grief makes it alright for two muscular, hairy, tough guys (like us) to shed a tear in front of each other.  It gives us a pass to utter phrases that are unfamiliar to our vernacular. Phrases like –

I feel…

It was tough when…

I question…

I don’t believe…

Do you believe?

I’m scared…

It’s a deep connection that I’m thankful for. 

When I think about this incredibly sad situation, I often work to find some silver in the lining.  Frankly, there isn’t a lot.  However, my deepened friendships with Jesse and Brad and Eric and Steve and Jon and Jeff and many others, both male and female, shine bright through the dark cloud.  And that lining is what is leading me to the other side.  I hope I can pay that forward in the months and years to come.

Rehearsal Dinner

Posted by Danny

It’s a Katsopolis family tradition to compose and sing a song at all familiy weddings.  Since Kenny has been like a member of the family for the past 32 years, a performance was in order. 

Here are the lyrics, written by Jesse:

(To the tune of 867-5309)

Kenny, Kenny, you need to get married

We’re here to help you we know it can be scary

We would have thought that you’d gotten over your fears

Since you’ve been dating for like 13 years


Kenny we got you a woman

You need to make her yours

Kenny don’t lose this woman


Kenny, Kenny it’s not as hard as it seems

Specially since we found the girl of your dre-ams

And I don’t mean like dreams that you’ve had before

Like the one where you played on the PGA tour


Just try it, Just try it

We really think you will enjoy

You’ll like it, you’ll like it

Even though you’re a Mama’s boy

And Katherine for you this could be a bit scary

Because his arms and hands and feet are so hairy

But there is no question who he likes the best

They only one to pass the Capon test


The Laundry

Posted by Danny

Jesse can fold a fitted sheet like Martha Stewart.  It’s incredible.  When he gets through with it, it’s like it just came out of the Bed, Bath and Beyond wrapping.  I won’t brag about a lot he does around the house, but he has mastered that skill.  I don’t know if he took Home Economics or if it is just genetic.  His mom is the best folder I’ve ever met.

I was actually required to take a quarter of Home Ec in middle school.  Our teacher was Ms. McLaurin.  She was over six feet tall and had red hair, on her head and on her toes.  They hung off the end of her sandals about an inch.  I guess all of that tallness pushed them forward in her shoes.  I’m not a huge toe fan anyway.   I have to leave the room when the commercial about fungus under your toenails comes on.  It grosses me out.

I don’t remember much from the class but we did learn to change a bed with the person still in it.  Since I decided not to become a nurses’ assistant, I’m not sure what to do with that knowledge.  If you are ever in a position to change a bed with someone in it and need help, I’m your guy!

My buddy Brad is going to a really nice resturant with his wife this weekend.  Jesse is spending the night in Winston Salem visiting friends.  I went over to my friend Jeff’s house today, he was cleaning his gun – he has a really cute daughter, I think he’s getting ready for the future.  Me?  I’ve got a big weekend planned.  I’m doing laundry!  There are nine loads calling my name.

I wouldn’t mind doing laundry if the folding and shoving it back in the drawers wasn’t a part of the process.  And I’ll have to admit that my mother-in-law and mom do the lion’s share of it.  Sometimes with travel schedule, etc., it falls to me.  I guess that makes sense since I helped create the little bodies that wear all of these dag gone clothes.

We have differing philosophies on laundry in our house.

If DJ looks at an article of clothing, it automatically goes into her laundry bin.  The bin is large enough for Jesse and me to comfortably sit in together (although we’ve never done that) and it is always full.  I’m doing her laundry today, it will be full by tomorrow – and she is out of town.  I think there are little minions in her room who open her drawers at night and carry the clothes to the hamper.  It is truly amazing.  And when something she wants to wear is dirty, who do you think gets blamed?  It ain’t the minions.

Stephanie, on the other hand, is very good about refolding her outfits if she doesn’t wear them for long.  On Thursday she said she didn’t have any long pants to wear to school.  If she says that, it means I haven’t done laundry in a very, very long time.

When Michelle takes an article of clothing off, she typically asks me if it’s dirty.  That works for now.  But from the looks of her room, it is likely she will mirror DJ in her laundry habits.

Me?  Easy.  I take a good sniff.  If it doesn’t smell bad, it goes back on the shelf. 

I gotta go – Stephanie needs pants.

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