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This morning when I dropped the kids off at school, we were listening to Taylor Swift’s new album, Red.  The scary thing is that when I picked them up at 3, I was still listening to it.  I realized it when I noticed Stephanie aiming my phone at me as I drove.  At first I thought she was taking a picture – ahh, no.  It was video.

What’s wrong with me?

I used to listen to the Beatles, the Doobie Brothers, Maroon 5, Kiss – a little Earth, Wind and Fire.  Now I not only tolerate Lady Gaga and The Bieber, I’m listening to them when the kids aren’t in the car!  I know the words.  I driver’s seat dance to them.

I like Glee.

I’M BECOMING A TEENAGE GIRL.  Next thing you know I’ll have Tiger Beat posters in my bedroom.

How did this happen???

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.)

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).

Memorial Day, A Few Months Early

POSTED BY JESSE

I promise you, this is a blog about two well-meaning but often clueless guys trying to raise three wide-eyed girls in the wake of their mother passing away at too young an age. It is not a blog about a grief-stricken family. The latter, though meaningful and heartfelt, does not seem like a blog I would be interested in following for very long. The former is full of funny tales and moments that make you think, and, hopefully, would be a blog folks would find to be an interesting read.

But it’s “remembering week”, so that’s what we’re doing.

I speak for myself here, but yesterday (yes, February 24th was the date she died) was really not a difficult day for me. Maybe it’s because we were always on the go, flying up to Boston and running around town most of the day. Maybe it’s because we’re away from the house. Maybe it’s because–due to the approaching anniversary and some other stuff–I had a miserable week last week and didn’t have enough left in me to stay sufficiently glum.

But whatever the reason, I did not feel the harrowing sadness I did a year ago, and that I have felt at times this past year, and feared I might experience yesterday. Whereas I appreciated every single word, note, comment, and letter I received a year ago (even the ones I was never diligent enough to respond to) and read and re-read most of them multiple times, yesterday I kind of got annoyed as the texts, emails, calls, and facebook messages rolled in–like I was getting reminders that I should be feeling worse than I was. (note to friends: yes, I just irreverantly dismissed all of your good intentions. I am that jerk. But what can I do? That’s how I felt. I still advocate friends reaching out to friends, I promise!)

Which brings me to the multiple rememberances that have gone up to honor Lisa. Much like the generous gifts that were given in her memory to First Presbyterian Church and St. Timothy’s (and the $20,000+ that was given to cancer research through St. Timothy’s Spring Sprint), the physical memorials are a beatiful tribute to her legacy. But after yesterday, I wonder: will I look at these memorials and be happy and nostalgic? Or sad and annoyed? Will they bring joy in rememberance of a life well lived or anger at a life cut short? Of course, the memorials are not FOR me. They are for her, and Danny, and their girls, and my family, and all those who knew and have heard and will hear about Lisa. So I can get over myself. But I do wonder.

Regardless, they are beautiful and touching and despite my terrible introduction, I hope you enjoy seeing them. I hope I do, as well.

At St. Timothy’s, the front playground was dedicated to Lisa’s memory, marked by a plaque and a statue of two children on a bench reading (the picture at the top of the post is the writing on the bench). At DJ’s urging, Danny and the girls tied a balloon to one of the children in the statue before we left for Boston. Someone was also thoughtful enough to attach one on St. Timothy’s famous “Balloon Day”, one of Lisa’s favorite days of the year.

 

At First Presbyterian, an incredibly constructed, hand-made wooden music stand was dedicated to Lisa’s memory. The story, I believe, is that well before Lisa died the maker was moved to build the music stand, but wasn’t quite sure why. Then Lisa, a long-time director of the Children’s Choirs, passed away, and he realized (and I don’t want to speak for anyone here, but this is how it has been told to me) that the stand had been divinely inspired, his actions and hands guided by God. It is magnificent enough in its construction that I would find it difficult to disagree.

The engraving reads:

Lisa’s commitment to First Presbyterian Church was evident through her deep level of involvement. Lisa loved music and shared that love through her service as Co-Director of the Children’s Choir.

Dedicated in Memory of Lisa by the Choirs of First Presbyterian Church.

Designed and created with loving care by Hilliard Green, Jr.

 

At our family vacation spot, Capon Springs, WV, they have been going through some major building improvements. Our family opted to dedicate a new fireplace in the main house to Lisa. We picked the fireplace because it is the centerpiece of what was probably Lisa’s favorite activity at Capon: sitting around the main house living room, chatting with friends, catching up (read: gossiping!), playing group games, having sing-a-longs, and generally just loving life with good friends. After some good family brainstorming, my mom came up with “Sing Songs, Share Stories” for the inscription–it’s perfect. (note to Caponaires: the stone may not look exactly like this when you arrive in August).

“Just Because You’re A Parent Doesn’t Mean You Have To Be Lame”

Posted by Uncle Jesse

I’ve seen this Toyota ad several times recently. It definitely hits close to home in our family. I like it because based on this kid’s definition of “lame”, I am the lamest uncle/parent in the world:

Two preliminary observations: 1) these kids can hate all they want, but that is a fantastic song (more on that below) and 2) I respect how the parents toss in some pretty strong harmony on the “just touch my cheek before you leave me” line.

The Tanner girls know this scene all too well. When I first moved in with the family Danny and I were usually splitting mornings driving the girls to school and driving Lisa to the hospital for chemotherapy and other various treatments.

And most of the mornings I drove to school, I would try to get a loud, upbeat, thumping song in queue on my iPod just in time for the pull-in to the drop-off line. Despite the fact that it was winter, I’d roll the windows down. Everyone at the school knew when the Tanner family was being dropped off.

The girls hated it, or at least acted like they did. But even as they rolled their eyes and moved briskly away from the minivan, I could see a few smiles–at least from their friends.

Anyone got the code to my lame car's lame stereo system? I've got lame songs to sing.

In the Fall I had to get the battery changed in the minivan, which triggered a security measure in the super high-tech 1999 Honda Odyssey’s stereo system that locked it up until someone entered the code. Only one person knew the code (and she’s laughing at me from heaven). Danny has tried, I have tried, the radio is still locked. The car is silent.

But I need to get that thing fixed. The girls have been getting off way light on the embarrassing starts to the school days when I drive. Their Dad, for the record, is like the parent in the other car in the ad–calmly driving his fancy car with DVD and TV screens in the back, so it’s not like the Tanner girls have it that bad when it comes to getting around.

See, my philosophy as a parent (or “parent” or pseudo-parent or whatever I am) is that taking great care and effort not to embarrass your child is worthless, because ultimately you’re going to slip up–or they’re just going to change the rules as to what counts as embarrassing–and your kid WILL be mortified. So I do the opposite. I ALWAYS embarrass the Tanner girls. I wear goofy clothes. I play my music loudly and sing along over top of it. I call out to them from across crowded spaces. I dance when I should just be walking. I try to make hip-sounding references around their friends that I know are tragically un-hip.

But it works in my favor in a few ways. The first is that by continually being unabashed about abashing them, I water down what it means to be embarrassed. They’re used to it, they expect it. They’ve gotten over it, accept it’s going to happen and don’t get very flustered when it does. Sometimes they even smile. The second reason it works is because on the rare occasions I do exercise a little class and dignity around them and do my best not to embarrass–like when we had a bunch of kids from the 8th grade over for dinner before a school dance–it is actually appreciated.

And the third reason? Well, DJ clued the other two into this one early on during the “loud music in the mornings” routine. As we would make the turn into the school driveway and the girls would see my hand go for the volume knob, they would play their part.

“Noooo, don’t play the loud music!” Stephanie and Michelle would dutifully cry, bound by the rules of childhood to fight any efforts to be noticed because of something their parent (or uncle) was doing.

“Why do you guys even bother,” DJ explained to them, bookbag already on shoulder, ready to sprint for the nearest buidling. “You know he’s just going to do it anyway.”

And she’s exactly right. I do it because I want them to know that it’s not going to stop, and that I’m not going anywhere.

Oh yeah, as for “Angel Of The Morning”–it IS a great song, and here’s my favorite version of it (sorry, Juice Newton fans, this one is waaaay better):

And here, as far as I can tell, is the original one. Pretty risque for its time now that I think about it. Also cool how the military-like “rat-tat-tat-tat” to start each line survived to the Juice Newton/Pretenders versions:

Bringing the Music Back

Posted by Danny

Our nightly ritual for bed for Michelle and Stephanie is reading a book and saying our prayers.  After we prayed tonight, it dawned on me that a very important part of our routine had been lost.  We used to sing a song every night after prayers.  When Lisa got sick, we stopped singing.  I’d thought about it before, but just didn’t have it in me to sing.  I still just stare at the cross during hymns at church, unable to participate as I used to because the emotions just take over.  Today as I was riding to work, I cried to Earth, Wind and Fire’s song “September”.  You know something’s wrong with you when you cry to “September”.  It is not an emotional tune!  What is it about music?

I began to recall our favorite bedtime tunes:

“Frogs Jump, caterpillers hump (hang with me here), worms wiggle, bugs jiggle, rabbits hop, horses clop, snakes slide, seagulls glide…”  My mom taught it to me when I was a kid.  I however added my own flare – kids sitting on my stomach as I hopped, wiggled and jiggled them as the verses moved on.  My favorite was near the end “deer leap” – I’d say dear and then close my eyes and count to 15 or 20 in my head, not moving a muscle.  Then I’d lunge my hands toward their bellies in a surprise attack. They’d get so nervous during that 15 seconds that I was afraid one day I’d get peed on.  I can remember the same anxious pit in my stomach when my dad would pull a similar stunt on me.

Another favorite song was in two parts – it combined a strong allelujah chorus with the verses “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace”. Another that tears me up.  Of course we’d sing the Bologna song too:

My My My Bologna has a first name

It It It It’s O S C A R

An old YMCA favorite.

It made me sad that the music was gone.  So, I decided to pull out a golden oldie from my Bible School days:  Ah la la la la, la la  le lu jah followed by verses that you make up:  Scratch another back scratch a back next to ya, or tickle under arm under arm next to ya.

There was a bit of laughter, although Stephanie refused to participate until we got through the under arm verse.  Sometimes we may sing and cry all at the same time.  But I think it may be time to bring that tradition back.

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