Sunday Post 42: The Ostrich

Posted by Danny

I often just miss the little things.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps its a lack of focus or maybe a tad too much self-absorption.  This trait didn’t instantly appear due to grief; I think I’ve always been this way.  I’m just not aware of the small things that I could do to make others’ lives a little bit better.

Last week I stumbled into a tiny opportunity and took it without realizing what I’d done.

A mother from Michelle’s school sent an email to the other parents in the class asking if someone could cover her lunch duty.  At our school, parents cover lunch once a week so that the teachers can have one day to eat in peace.  I never signed up to help with this task (I’m sure I had more important things to do).

When I got the email, I glanced at my calendar and realized that I didn’t have a lunch meeting on the day she needed help so I shot a quick reply that I could help.  I didn’t want to sound too eager in the event some other parent had already volunteered, although I was glad to take on this 30 minute role.

When she responded that I got the job, I entered it into my calendar and didn’t think another thing about it.

The next night when I arrived home, Michelle greeted me at the door. 

“Dad, are you doing lunch duty for my class on Thursday?”

“Actually, I am.  How did you find out?”

“My teacher told me.  She said, ‘Mrs. Jones was coming to class on Wednesday for an art project and that Mr. Tanner was the parent volunteer for lunch this week.’  I said, ‘He is?’  I couldn’t believe it!  You never do lunch duty!” 

I gave her a hug and moved on about the business of cooking dinner.  When we sat down to eat, I tossed out my usual conversation started, “OK, it’s that time!  Tell me the best thing that happened to you today.”

Michelle jumped in, “My best thing was when my teacher told me that you were coming to lunch at my school tomorrow!”  

That sweet little comment knocked the wind out of me.  The best thing that happened to my child on Wednesday was finding out that I was spending 30 minutes at her school – WOW.

She did warn me not to do my stupid magic tricks at the lunch table – that they were in third grade now and that they wouldn’t be amused.  So I didn’t.  Instead, after leaving the dining room, I did my ostrich impression across the school blacktop.  In fact, I taught all of the kids how to do it, and we ran back and forth four or five times, necks protruding, arms dangling out and knees bobbing up and down toward our armpits.

Michelle rolled her eyes, but she ran along with us laughing all the way.

I want to learn how to make more joy for my kids – and really for the world.  If all it takes is 30 minutes and an animal impression, it just isn’t a very hard thing to do.

How can we remember all this?

This is how we learn vocabulary in our house when the mind just can’t take any more and the clock is ticking down.  Kids are given a word bank and a list of definitions and must match the two.  It’s all about connections.

Vigorous:  strong; energetic

I hold my big guns (biceps) up in the air – “Look Stephanie, my arms are strong and energetic and are in the shape of a V – just like Vigorous.”

Illogical:  contrary to the rules of sound reasoning.

“Do you know what logical is?”

“Yes.”

“Most people just study – they follow the study guide that their teacher sends home.  Tonight you are crying and pitching a fit.  That is illogical.  ILL – means sick.  Your logic about studying tonight is sick.  We need to get it well like it was last night.  Ill-logical.”

Subdued:  quiet; not as active as usual.

“Ships are on top of the water – moving quickly and loudly.  Submarines are quiet and sneaky under the water, like subdued.  Now what is the word?”

“Sub something.”

“Think about the time a kid pooped in the pool last summer.  Sub – like a submarine; dooed – like an underwater poop.”

“Got it.”

Invariably: constantly; always uniformly.

“Dad, the word uniformly reminds me of my uniform.”

“Well, you invariably wear a uniform to school.  And the “v” in invariably looks like the “v” in your uniform collar.  And the “n” sort of looks like a pair of short pants, just like your uniform.”

Vantage:  favorable or advantageous position for observing.

“I hate to have to point this out, but the word vantage is in the middle of advantageous.  Take advantage of that.”

Laboriously:  with much labor, toil, or difficulty.

“Do you know what labor means?”

“Yes.”

“I and Us go with Lee to do labor.  Labor is done by I, us and Lee.  Labor-I-US-LEE. ”

Loped:  Moved with a long swining stride.

A big, funny, daddy lope across the den floor.  Arms dangling like a monkey.  “I’m lopin’ baby, I’m lopin’.”

Warily:  In a careful, cautious manner.

“Let’s all sing…Warily we roll along, roll along, roll along; warily we roll along in a careful, cautious manner.”

Rancid:  Unpleasant odor or taste.

“Your uncle’s feet smell rancid.  Remember the smell.  Remember the word.”

(By the way, rancid is one of my all time favorite words.)

Respite:  a temporary period of relief or rest.

“You tired of this?”

“Yea.”

“Me too.  We need a respite.”

“Yea.”

“Let’s go to bed.”

My kids are going to fail the SAT.

Goofy Guys for Hire

Last month Jesse and I were asked to ref the St. Timothy’s teacher/student basketball game during spirit week.  I was so excited – but DJ put me in my place pretty quickly.  “Dad, the only reason kid’s like this game is because they get out of class.  It’s really not a big deal.” 

Regardless of whether the students had fun, Jesse and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

These are the teachers.  No wonder the kids won.

Jesse brought me a pair of gym pants from 1982 to wear during the game.  The elastic was from that era too.    As I felt them begin to sag, I figured why not take advantage of a good thing.  I let them fall to my ankles on multiple occasions throughout the game (I did have shorts on under them).  At the end of the day, DJ said, “I suppose after your father drops his pants in front of the entire school nothing more embarrassing can happen to you for the rest of your life.”  I wouldn’t count on that DJ.

 

At one point things were getting out of hand.  Teachers were tackling the kids as they took their free throw shots.  I had to protect the players.

 I believe this was right after we called a technical on Mrs. Iiames for giving DJ a B on her science project last year.   Two shots!  (We actually created an Eggspander for the project.  It was made out of cardboard.  It was designed to save space in your fridge by expanding or shrinking based upon how many eggs you were trying to store at any given time.  I was my idea!  Ingenious.)

Jesse also gave Coach Nowak a technical for too much homework.  The crowd went wild.

DJ was head cheerleader that day.  They performed their dance routine at half time.

I think I got confused and called a touchdown.  Remember, basketball isn’t my thing.

Jesse’s a pretty good ref…

When he’s not slacking off.  Who’s carrying the load?  As usual.

He even recruited a mini-referee to help him make the calls.  He’ll do anything to get out of work!

You need two goofy guys for an event?  You know who to call!

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.

The Check Arrives!

Posted by Danny

We discoverd that this check has been in DJ’s coat pocket since December 9!  It was meant to pay for her school lunches.  Has she not used her pockets in the month of December?  With a mom who worked at her school, this was not a problem.  We’re all still learning…

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