Happy (Chinese) New Year!


I like thinking about which of Lisa’s traits will show up in which of her three daughters. Stephanie has her sense of do-good and the ability to be instantly hypnotized by a television. Michelle loves to laugh and make other people laugh.

And DJ, I am almost certain, will be a slave to tradition, just like her mother. She will one day host the whole family for Christmas Eve dinner, and she will spend the entire afternoon cursing the Christmas cookies. It is her destiny.

I know this because she already favors the customary, especially in this, her 8th grade and final year at St. Timothy’s. The most excited she got during Cross Country season was making sure the team dyed their hair and painted their faces for the final race, as had become the tradition. She takes great delight in participating (and being active in) annual events like the Homecoming pep rally, game, and dance. If her high school classmates are wise (or happen to know anything about her mother) they will go ahead and put her in charge of reunions for life when they’re all in 9th grade together next year.

She even has habitual things she likes to say when we’re driving around parts of Raleigh (often times it is a repeat of her first misperception of whatever the locale is). She’ll even declare that she has started a new tradition: “I used to think that building was a McDonald’s. I think I’m going to say ‘I thought that was a McDonald’s as a kid’ every time we drive by there from now on.”

And she has.

It was really no surprise to hear that after last Friday night’s dance she and Kimmy Gibbler were going by Red Dragon (our local chinese place) for dinner–it’s one of DJ’s favorite restaurants. But she seemed so adamant about going there, and making it before the restaurant closed, that I was curious as to why it was such a big deal.

I should have known: DJ and Kimmy had started a tradition of hanging out on New Year’s Eve a few years back. This year the Tanner family enjoyed some beach time with some of DJ’s other friends’ families for the New Year weekend. They had a good time, of course, but she was sad to break her tradition of hanging out with Kimmy.

The solution? The post-dance trip to Red Dragon was really a celebration of the Chinese New Year (which began officially, I read, on Thursday), and the pair had a sleepover that night. Tradition saved. Clever kids.

Oh, and FYI I discovered that, as suspected, Michelle and I are cosmically destined to be similar. We are both Horses under the Chinese zodiac. I also discovered that Horses were very compatible with Dogs, which is what Lisa was. I don’t know if she liked being a “Dog” but the description was pretty fitting: “In their career and love, they are faithful, courageous, dexterous, smart and warm-hearted.”


When The Cat Is Away….


The mice work on school projects and go to the mall. And need a lot more chauffeuring.

The division of parenting labor in the Tanner household is greatly misrepresented by this here blog (although Danny has been grumbling about how much more than me he’s been writing, so maybe the blog is representative). It is not a 50-50 deal. I wouldn’t even say 60-40. No, if you totaled up the time spent with kids, chores, driving etc. to calculate the total parenting time and then split it between us….I’d say it comes out closer to 80-20. Or 90-10. And then on weekends it goes to about 95-5…or sometimes 99-1.

But there is the occasional weekend when Danny is out of town, like he was this past weekend with Michelle. Here’s a recap of how I held it down with Stephanie and DJ:

Friday night Stephanie had a basketball game. I had to use a picture of her on the bench because I was using my phone’s low tech camera and all the action ones stunk. Sports are not the Tanner family forte (more posts to come on this for sure), but I think she genuinely enjoys team activities and you could tell she had friends on the team. And she got a rebound! She didn’t remember it, but the first shot of the game that went up bricked off the rim, hit the floor, and bounced into her hands. And that, my friends, is a rebound.

Stephanie also has become aware that she’s not wearing cool mesh basketball shorts (I think she payed in pink soffe shorts all last season) and wants to get a pair. I completely respect this, and even tried to find the smallest pair of mesh shorts I had to cinch on her for the game, but she said they were still too big. I need to remind Danny to pick up a pair of black mesh ones for her.

Afterwards we went out to dinner with friends who had a game on the other court at the same time. Bruce actually paid a babysitter to stay with the girls Friday night (because he didn’t want me to give up two weekend nights. as if I got plans.) and was peeved that I was late bringing them back because it meant he was paying the world’s best baby-sitter (she is. I have mentioned her before. we are not giving up her info because we want her as available as possible for when we call. sorry.) to just sit at his house. But you have to go out to dinner on a Friday night after a YMCA basketball game, right? I’m pretty sure it’s required. Besides, the world’s best baby-sitter was holding court with DJ and her friends when we got there. All joking aside, it reminded me how “non-female” Danny and I are (and I mean that in the most biological sense. we’re not macho by any means.). That despite the fact that he is a super-caring and attentive and a doting father, and I can be a decent listening ear at times, neither one of us can hold “girl talk”. Fortunately we have a rotating cast of characters who fall through the house to do some of that. We need to make sure we continue to.

You can knock her hoops game, but the girl can do some WORK. I smell a Sallie.

On Saturday morning DJ had to go sort potatoes for community service hours for a club she’s in, so Stephanie and I worked on her Helen Keller book report timeline project. I am not all that helpful with school projects and it’s not because I take a principled stance against parents who do their kids’ work for them, it’s because I’m lazy and easily bored (but sometimes I do hide behind my “fostering independence” justification).

I am, however, great at suggestions for projects (I’m like a golf caddy for life). I explained how the illustrations didn’t have to be literal interpretations, so for a picture of Helen Keller’s mother dying, we didn’t have to find a picture of Mrs. Keller’s actual coffin, we could merely cut out a picture of a graveyard from a magazine. And I helped make her a little chart to organize which points on the timeline go with which years, and which pictures, and which captions so we could then see what we still needed to collect.

She cut them all out perfectly in, like, 3 minutes. See? I AM fostering independence.

She asked for help in cutting out all the pictures, and I didn’t even have a good basketball game to say I needed to watch. But I was saved by the rubric: 4 points for neat cutting . “I really don’t think I should cut pictures if that’s part of what you’re getting graded on.” Whew, that was close.

I texted a friend that I was working on a Helen Keller biography project. The text I got back: “Are you going to throw in some Helen Keller jokes to show she’s still a cultural icon?” I didn’t have the heart to tell Stephanie that those horribly cruel jokes are the only thing I can recall about the poor woman.

Later that day Stephanie went with Nana (my mom) to get a haircut, and then I took her to a birthday party. She said this birthday party was for one of her BFFLs (best friends for life). There are a lot of things that are different about the way the Tanner girls have grown up and the way I did, but I realized a glaring one this weekend: as a child my closest friends were literally my closest friends (the latter geographically speaking). I could ride my bike, if not walk, to all of their houses in under five minutes. None of the girls’ closest friends live within a 30-minute driving round-trip of them. Score one for public schools, I guess.

The second half of Saturday had only two objectives: finding DJ a dress at the mall, and watching the N.C. State-UNC game. Unfortunately, these events coincided. My only hope in winning out in this conflict was if DJ couldn’t find anyone else to go to the mall with, because she had told me, “I’m not going to the mall with just you.” Well then.

I don’t know if she put out an emergency all call “stuck with UNCLE for mall trip! please help!” text or just got the first person she tried, but she quickly had someone. Darn. Off to the mall we went.

I dropped off and parked and assured them I would try not to be on the same floor, much less the same store, as them. But I got bored after looking at some basketball shoes, so I started cruising some of the stores I thought they were likely to be browsing to see if I could embarrass them. Therefore, at 2:10, the approximate tip time of the Pack-Heels game the, here was my view…

…of H&M. But they weren’t there. I tried J. Crew, too, but gave up when I didn’t see them there. We were supposed to meet up at the food court so I texted with DJ and eventually we did. Honestly? I didn’t mind not being in front of the TV at tip, and I kind of enjoy being the person that makes it possible for DJ to technically be at the mall without any parents. In today’s world of DVR, I’m a lot less up tight about seeing things live (and, really, it was just the State game).

DJ and Kimmy Gibbler entertained themselves when we got back while I watched the game on a slight delay (I was caught up by mid-second half). Side note: the scheme to convert all three girls into full-fledged Carolina fans is going swimmingly. Thank you, Sidney Lowe.

If you bought this dress to wear to Friday night's dance, TAKE IT BACK because DJ's wearing it.

Later DJ and I went to get some yogurt at this place called Freshberry, where you get as much frozen yogurt as you want and can pile on your own toppings. My favorite part about one-on-one time with DJ is how much she is like an adult. You can level with her, gossip with her, she fully understands sarcasm in humor, you don’t have to change the song because it has one bad word in it, we can make fun of Danny, etc.

Then she rode with me to pick up Stephanie and we tried to steal things out of Steph’s party favor bag. I can’t even remember the comment, but Stephanie said something that made me laugh out loud. It also made me realize how close she is to being an “almost adult” like DJ.

I tucked Stephanie in that night and tickled her a lot because I realized that as they become more fun to talk to like grown-ups, the sacrifice is you can’t pick them up as much. By contrast: I stuck my head in DJ’s room (she was doing homework because she had missed some days being sick. what a kid.) and asked her if she needed me to tuck her in. She said “nah”, she’d probably be asleep soon. I said “cool” and fell asleep on the couch watching Saturday Night Live.

Sunday was another busy day for Stephanie: early service and 11:00 church because her group was doing a moment for mission (but someone else gave her a ride down for the early service. THANKS!), then eat lunch and change for basketball practice, followed by another outfit change for cotillion. For lunch I made grilled cheeses with DJ on my back about how they weren’t the way Mae (Danny’s mom) makes them.

After I dropped at cotillion, Danny was back in town, so we resumed our 90/10 ratio. All in all, though, a solid weekend.

Wallaby Hell

Posted by Danny

Look like new, huh?

So Michelle and Stephanie needed new shoes and it happened that a couple of Lisa’s college girlfriends were in town.  We met them at the mall, ate dinner and began the search.  This was probably the first time I had been responsible for purchasing kids’ shoes independently.  I always had an opinion about what our kids wore, it just didn’t matter; until now.

As we began strolling past the stores, one caught my eye.  It was big and full of shoes, racks and racks of them.  I darted in and immediately spotted the kids’ aisle.  From behind me I heard Lucy, one of our guides.

“Back away from this store Danny.  Just back away.  There is nothing here Lisa would allow your children to wear.  Back away quickly.”

I’m compliant.  I didn’t question.  But the store did have a TON of shoes and the prices were remarkable from what I could tell from my short stint there.  That night we found nothing and our women helpers were gone.

My kids always had cute and stylish shoes.  Where did they come from?  The next day we hit Target, Kohls, Payless, Paymore; I couldn’t find a thing.  Finally I phoned one of my “moms on call”:

“Jill, where in the heck can I find decent shoes for Michelle and Stephanie?”

“Well, there’s a cute store near my house but it’s not cheap.”

“At this point, I don’t care.”

We walked in the door and the salesperson could sense I was weak.  How many times a day do you see a father alone with his daughters in a shoe store?  I felt like I had a target on my forehead.  She began engaging the kids, walking back and forth between the Uggs, Wallabees and Toms.  All cute; all expensive.

We walked out with five pair of shoes and a hair bow.  I also walked out $250 lighter.

When Michelle got to school with her new Wallabees, one of her friends told her she did not like them.  She said she thought they were ugly.

The next day I pulled them out as she was getting dressed.  “I think I’ll wear something else today”, Michelle informed me.

“I spent $60 on these shoes!  I don’t care what Kimmy Gibbler thinks about them!  PUT THEM ON YOUR FEET!  NOW!”

I have to give credit to DJ who came in the room and tried to convince Michelle that they were really cool shoes.  It didn’t work.  I think she’s worn them twice in the past two months.  I think I’m going back to the big store in the mall.

Borrowing My Genes

Posted by Uncle Jesse

Without a doubt (in my mind, at least) DJ is the child most like her mother. This makes sense, of course–being the oldest she spent 13 years by Lisa’s side, 30% more than did Stephanie and nearly twice as much as Michelle.

And though we are very different in some aspects, Lisa and I were most definitely cut from the same cloth, so naturally I see a little bit of myself in DJ. She is a leader among her peers, funny, social, and is a sucker for guilty pleasure TV shows (I’m more bad MTV reality shows and she’s more America’s Next Top Model). She even slid in nicely this summer at Capon Springs as my new partner for the vaunted shuffleboard tournament, replacing Lisa. She adopted the team ethos: if we win, great. If we lose, even better–more time to do other activities!

Our assessments of our team's shuffleboard chances differed slightly

Of course (and never having been an actual parent, I’m not sure but maybe this is something all parents go through) sometimes I worry about DJ and I being similar. I think back to difficult times or mistakes I’ve made in my life and fear that the DNA or genes or character traits or family attributes that may have contributed to those will then fall on her (or any of the girls, for that matter).

Fortunately, there are certain things she won’t have to worry about getting from me.

I hope she always looks up to her Uncle....but not TOO much

Recently DJ was hanging out with Kimmy Gibbler, who was asking her about her hair. A total towhead as a child, DJ’s blond has been looking more and more brunette-ish the past few years. I was the same way–in fact I was so accustomed to being “blond-haired and blue-eyed” as a child that when I got my first driver’s license I checked “blond” for hair color despite the fact that my hair was pretty much light brown at that point.

“Where did you get your blond hair from?” Kimmy asked her, noticing that no one else in our family has such light-colored locks.

“I don’t know,” said DJ. “I think maybe I get it from my uncle. He had blond hair as a kid, but it became brown when he was, like, a teenager.”

“Oh, no!” Kimmy replied. “Does that mean you’re going to start balding soon, too?!”

Funny kid, that Gibbler.

Beach Trip: Welcome to 2011

Posted by Danny

Happy New Year from DJ and the Kimmy Gibbler Experience

At the beach for New Year’s Eve with four other families, 17 in all.  Are these new things for family vacations or have I just been oblivious for the past 16 years?

  1. Four people in my family, 16 towels used in three days.
  2. A 13 year old’s bra in the toilet.
  3. Sunny Delight bottles EVERYWHERE!  Seriously, everywhere.
  4. My kid is on Facebook at 1 am???
  5. Sand – from the beach to my boxer shorts – how did that happen?  Seriously, who has been wiping their dirty feet in my suitcase?
  6. Not one moment when a child is not hungry.
  7. A dishwasher immediately adjacent to the sink – and yet no one under the age of 45 seems to know how to put anything in it.
  8. Not one moment when a child is not thirsty. 
  9. Teenagers not speaking to their parents when other teenagers are in sight.

10. Reproducing clothing?  We didn’t purchase anything, why won’t it fit back in the suitcase?

Hungry or thirsty--which one are you?

Happy New Year! Party time.

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