River Days

Yesterday we took the girls to the river. What river? THE River. Anytime a place becomes a familiar hangout it loses any associated proper nouns. The river. The lake. The farm. The movies. Our river is a place on a bluff against the Tennessee River.

It was a work trip. Our goal for the day was to get the boat dock secured in place after the spring floods. The dock had been stored on a trailer all winter and now that it is June, the red wasps and mud wasps had built lots of nests. No worries though, I didn’t get stung. Dad used a broom and water hose to send most of the bees away. The few that hung around were murdered in a brutal chemical attack from GJ. We put the floating dock into the water at the boat ramp and embarked on a voyage to float it back to its home. Granddaddy, Supermom, and I paddled like an out-of-shape group of river rafters from a Mark Twain novel. A neighbor tried to bring his Waverunner out to help us but he discovered that he was out of gas and needed a paddle of his own. No good deeds go unpunished.

The dock and gangway were installed with zero life-threatening events. A definite improvement over days gone by. We had an audience from the local water police agency. They were watching us through binoculars. I assume they were trying to figure out what the hell we were paddling down the river and if we should be ticketed for not having running lights, registration numbers, using an unregulated paddle, or not being properly secured within a coast guard approved life jacket. Ultimately, they seemed satisfied that we were not going to die and the raced off to more important violations.

After some lunch and cleaning out mud wasp nests from the boat, we were ready to take a river cruise. The girls had been waiting all day to ride in the boat and swim in the river. We slowly migrated down the 42 steps from the pavilion to the pontoon boat. Everyone took their seat and we set sail.

The sky was a deep blue with a healthy supply of cotton ball clouds. We had a strong wind in our hair because the first cruise of the year must be enjoyed at full throttle, for the good of the engine. The girls were riding on the front of the boat with their faces in the breeze like four happy Labrador puppies. The music was rocking some summer-boat-country tunes and the girls were dancing along. Supermom was sitting on the back reading her kindle and soaking up some sun.

It was one of those nice moments that exist in the midst of the chaos of life. In that moment, everything was simple and right with the world. It made me wonder if they would even capture the day as a memory. I think so.

We landed the boat on a sandy bank that we call a beach. A river beach. The girls played in the water beside the boat and tried to bury their legs in the muddy sand. Granddaddy’s dog, a sometimes mentally challenge chocolate labra-doodle, ran up and down the beach as fast as she could go. We played until the sun started to set and we went back to the pavilion for some chicken, corn, and macaroni & cheese dinner. Jane got to drive the boat for a few minutes and learned about navigation buoys. We played some side-yard whiffle ball. I learned my children have better hand-eye coordination than I give them credit for. Darkness settled in and Granddaddy started a fire in the fire pit. Everyone gathered around in chairs and told funny stories while the logs slowly burned.

Around 10:00, everyone was way past tired and ready for bed. Supermom and I loaded everyone up in the minivan and headed home. We rolled in the door and all four girls marched straight to bed and went to sleep. Supermom and I did the same. It was a good day.

I know the girls will remember the river as they grow up. They will remember being able to ride on a boat, play in muddy sand, run wild in the yard beside the camper, sit on the deck and watch the barges, hunt for fossils in the crumbly limestone rock that lines the river bank, smell meat cooking on at least one grill, and hear a constant backdrop of music that drifts from country to rock and back again. I’m thankful that they have those opportunities. I know that I am loving dad and a fun dad, most of the time. I also know I’m not the dad that is going to own a camper or a boat or be really motivated to put those experiences together.

Thankfully my dad is. Happy Father’s Day. I love you and all you do to create space for all the memories we enjoy!

I have a second father who my children call Papaw. He has a lot of the same motivations albeit more farm and horse oriented. I’ve learned from both that doing things creates more memories than having things. We’ve done lots of things over the years.

If you have a dad who is awesome, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Summer 17 Notes

I have lots of good notes in my phone about things to mention in my blog. How about I just mention them and we have several disconnected laughs.

First note. A couple new rules. Toilet Seats do not double as armrests. I may have covered this before but it is still a relevant concern. Just because you can fit your narrow behind into the toilet doesn’t mean you should. I had to rescue a child who was panicked from being stuck. She looked like a bully had crammed her into the toilet down to her armpits. Legs were all hanging over the side like crab legs on the side of a buffet pan.

We also still have to discuss not using technology while on the toilet to prevent rooster-tailing the underside of the lid. I thought twice would be enough but apparently My Little Pony LARP is some fascinating stuff. I need to throw away their iPads.

Second note. Don’t wipe your face down the glass display case for the fancy meats and cheeses at the deli. Having a greasy booger streak mark across the assorted meat selection is not good for business. There really is zero need for it. Lady Bug was the culprit in this one. She was staring at the Oven Roasted Turkey loaf and suddenly pressed her nose into the glass with a thud and started sliding her face to the right. What neurons must fire in a brain for it to say, “Hmmm, I should rub my face on this surface.”?

I can’t take these kids anywhere. I shouldn’t take them to eat at fast food places because they don’t like anything. I’ll never understand how people who eat boogers and lick random surfaces can be completely disgusted by a ham sandwich and proclaim, “It’s GROSS.” They ended up with a small drink and a bag of chips. Restaurants should really research smaller straws for the small drinks because kids have a preset notion of where a cup should be located, in relation to their mouth. They end up gagging themselves on the large sized straw because it extends six inches past the top of the drink. Donna spent half the meal licking her straw like a mother cat cleaning a baby. She is encouraged by the phrase, “Please stop.”

Wed_PedalPub

Exercise and booze cruise combined into a strange street phenomenon. 

Third note. When should you have the big talk? You know the one… Here are the differences and how your body works and don’t trust men because they only want the goodies until they are around twenty-five, then they mostly want the goodies but they might carry an honorable or coherent thought. This is a topic I want to devote a larger blog post towards. The topic comes up from time to time and we have had a couple of talks with some of the girls. It is awkward and uncomfortable and necessary.

Fourth note. I got stung by a wasp a week ago. It left a mark that was about the size of my hand and it lasted for three days. Then I got better. Then I got stung again this weekend. A small bee got into my shirt and stung me twice before I could crush him into a venomous paste. I spent the better part of a wedding reception dosed up on Benadryl. I hate bees. So so much. They find me somehow. They taunt me at traffic lights and just outside my bedroom window. Flying anger needles.

Fifth note. You really never know what you will find in a house with lots of kids. While cleaning out a kitchen cabinet, Supermom found a tooth in a plastic cap. Dried. Cracked. Un-accepted by the toothfairy and therefore it hasn’t been placed into the official tooth record. We don’t know which child the tooth came from. I think the kids may know but they are testing the veracity of the toothfairy narrative by waiting to see if she gets it right. They suspect us and are working to unravel our lies.

Wed_Tooth

Sixth note. This weekend we attended my cousin’s wedding. (Congrats Mad and Cam!) The same wedding from the bee story earlier. There were several interesting things about the day besides the obvious magic of watching two best friends become husband and wife. None of my kids farted during a silent pause in the ceremony so we are doing better than the last wedding they attended. The reception was in an old car factory that was founded around 1913.

Wed_MarathonI’ve seen it several times from the interstate but I never knew it had been renovated and repurposed. One of the buildings houses repurposed antiques and oddities. It is associated with the American Pickers show. There was a baby wolfman mummy that was interesting but the giant pig-head that read “Kiss Me You Fool” was my personal favorite item.

Wed_PigHead

During our journey, out of town, there was a slow down on the interstate. We saw blue lights and some activity ahead. Turns out a small aircraft had to make an emergency landing. With all the light poles and overpasses it is amazing that the plane landed in one piece. The pilot definitely channeled some Captain Sully skills.

Wed_Plane

If life has been busy and the summer has been in full swing, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Potassium Roger

I haven’t had a good old-fashioned rant in a while. At least not in the written form. Usually a good source for finding consternation and inducing ranting is a trip to Walmart. Not today. I have decided to rest those useless protests in favor of another. Fair warning to people with a lofty opinion of me I am wearing my swear-bear pajamas and will probably drop some eff-bombs. I find it therapeutic to type the words. It makes me more “Zen” during my normal day-to-day life. Nirvanish? Placified?

Okay. Let’s talk about Kroger. Alternative to the Walmart grocery oligarchy. The Target of middle-class grocery-only vendors. The comfortable shopping relationship that gives just enough to keep you involved but never lets you know where you truly stand as a customer. We no longer have a Kroger on my side of town and it is a damn shame because that one was a great place. We recently got a Zaxby’s though. But this isn’t about Zaxby’s, it is about the grocery store.

Sometimes I stop on my way home to pick up a few things. Essential items, like bread or milk or some combination of protein/carb/cheese that we are having for dinner. We never have all the things we need to prepare a single dinner. So off to Kroger I go. I walk into the warm lighting (from the old style fluorescent tubes), grab one of the mutant grocery carts (who designed these things), and emerge in the vegetable section. What the vegetables lack in ripeness they compensate for with random arrangements and narrow aisles. Maybe the aisles just feel narrow because I am avoiding the never-ending traffic of the suburban mom. These ladies give two-shits about who or what is in their way. I can see it in their eyes. They are stressed and on-edge. They need one fucking loaf of whole grained organic bread so kindly move your ass out of the way. Meanwhile, I loiter in front of a few while I try and decipher what goods are in what aisles based on the hanging descriptions. The arrangement is awful. If the carts had horns I would be honked at. Or gored to death. I guess it depends on what kind of horns. Hateful glaring is much quieter. I barely notice. I’m too busy giving my own hateful glares at the blank spot on the shelf where the generic item should be. Now I get to buy name-brand whole kernel corn.

I will concede that the meat department is awesome. They have beef that was fed pre-softened grasses and heard bedtime stories nightly before they were slaughtered into steaks. And there is an attractive caring woman on the label which really sells the whole approach. It really comes out in the flavor too. Plus, the flower area is super handy at times. I think they sell free range roses.

But God help me find the bread in that forsaken labyrinth. Do they even sell bread? I circled five times looking for bread. I never found bread. Is Kroger gluten free now? Onward to make my tacos.

I found myself in the Aisle of Varied Ethnicity. It was a puzzling mix of politically correct sensitivity and, at the same time, not. For instance, one of our go-to dinners of choice is Taco Salad. I categorize this as “Mexican Food”. I eat lunch about four times a week at a “Mexican Restaurant”. I feel validated because the packaging and the restaurant sign both use “Mexican” as a descriptor. (It may be the best food on the planet. I know that my idea of Mexican food is extremely Americanized but I like to believe that children growing up in the hot, cactus-y, central American deserts at least have the pleasure of enjoying every meal with a bowl of salsa and bottomless tortilla chips. I can’t live in a world where that isn’t true.) How surprised am I that someone has labeled the area of tacos, refried beans, and jalapenos as the Latin American Foods section? Very. I have zero problems with that but I am confused how the Asia food section still gets a breakdown into Thai, Japanese, or Chinese. Is Panamanian cuisine indistinguishable from Mexican? Are there no foods that are unique to Guatemala? What did Mexico ever do to you? Maybe we should shift to a spicy, greasy, or hippie type of classification on our food so not to offend any group. After all, every culture has a signature meat/carb/cheese dish. Except Asian food because of the whole lactose intolerance thing which is okay because they have soba noodles and sushi which is a fair trade.

I’m veering off topic. My main point is that I can’t find anything. The informational boards at the ends of the aisles list individual items instead of general categories. Example, one board might advertise; Brown Mustard, Black Olives, Ranch Dressing… A real store would slap Condiments on the sign and still have room to describe the rest of the aisle. Don’t woo me with tales of exotic toppings. Just tell me where I am in this Neverland. I get all my fitbit steps just looking for things on my logically arranged shopping list.

When I am wandering around in lost in the vintage-1990-value-shopper food wilderness I am forced to admit a dark truth.

I miss the familiarity of Walmart.

It is my safe zone.

It’s the people that really make it great.

The broken smile of the older lady on register 4 who should be able to retire but Medicare doesn’t cover her diabetes supplies. The man with the bottle thick glasses who has to check items out very slowly and in precisely the right order. He is going to be on Criminal Minds one day played by a more attractive but equally crazy actor who kidnaps remote tollbooth workers to feed a toe eating fetish. Or the lady who rode to Walmart last night on the back of her boyfriend’s Honda Shadow to run in and get some supplies. These people were either camping or cooking meth and given her twitch and what seemed like a few too many scabs, I’m going with meth. That’s judge-y of me. Maybe they had been camping AND making meth.

Totally plausible. These two were in the self-checkout lane when Skinderella realized that she hadn’t eaten in four days and wanted a prewrapped turkey roll from the deli section. She ran and grabbed the lunch meat roll and, with a giggle, launched it towards the checkout like a football pass. It landed in the self-checkout area and exploded a colorful lettuce and tomato burst. Her boyfriend muttered something that rhymed with “Crazy Bitch” and continued to scan his beer. Commerce and comedy at 9:00 at night. I made my trip worth the drive. Happy Memorial Day! This is what the veterans were fighting for!

But not at Kroger. Most of those trips are monotonous grinds of a hurried life. Memorial to nothing in particular. There are crazy and dangerous people at both venues but the difference is somewhat like a well run zoo versus a walking tour safari park where the tigers might eat you in the parking lot because the rangers don’t give a shit. Plus the tigers are high, hungry, and mad that they dropped their turkey roll.

Who knows where I was going with this. Welcome to my week. If you find any piece of this remotely interesting this one is for you. I realize I didn’t manage to swear as much as I felt I was going to at the first. What can I say? Shit happens. Hope I didn’t fuck up the experience. I’m such an asshole. Oh and to Kroger. Nothing but love, locate the bread better, get some real carts with capacity. Carry on.

You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

 

There’s A Snake In My Boot

I’ve never thought about how creepy it must have been at Hogwarts for the students who knew about the Basilisk. They slept each night knowing that beneath the floors of the castle a reptile made its home. A cold-blooded killer. Something that would wait for darkness and would be unleashed to slither in and seek their warm bodies. An animal that could kill you with a look. A snake.

My oldest daughter wants a snake. She held a boa at the exotic animal expo. She has been saving her money for a pink corn snake. We have an aquarium, a water dish, and even bought some crickets for her pet gecko to get a handle on how the crickets thing works. (How long they live, etc.)

WED_1

This guy seems tolerant of crickets.

This last weekend we were attending a wedding. Before attending, the girls found a rough green snake and put it in the corn snake aquarium and gave it some small crickets to eat.  They named him Severus Snake and he seemed content enough to hang out with the crickets. We figured that if Jane was still excited about having a snake then we would return Severus to the bush from where he came and go buy the pink corn snake.

The wedding was fun. It was in the second oldest Catholic church in the city and the pews were packed with family and friends. My family was enough to pack a couple of the pews and I had to sit separate in front of the girls. Keeping the four girls entertained is always a challenge and a Catholic wedding is no different. About a third of the way through the ceremony I heard a wave of giggling behind me. I turned around to see my brother doing his best to keep from laughing out loud. Prima had decided that a silent moment from the pastor/preacher/father was the perfect moment to fart. We raise them classy around here.

We danced up the reception. Electric slides. Wobble wobbles. Until my children were completely wiped out on marshmallows, dancing, and they were essentially buffing the floor with their faces because their motor skills had deteriorated to a state of circling using only their feet for locomotion. My youngest lay on her back and watched the DJ’s lighted disco ball spinning color patterns on the ceiling like a college stoner. I knew it was time to go back to the hotel.

We stayed in a hotel room with two double beds and somehow slept six people. The next morning the children woke up and told me how wonderful they thought the hotel was and how today was, “The best day of my life.” I have really set the bar low as a parent. Somehow sleeping in a crowded hotel room is the most exciting, fulfilling experience that any of them have ever enjoyed. I went out for coffee and donuts early that morning and got a coffee cup that resembled a monkey. The girls thought that was hilarious. They thought it was even more hilarious that with each drink I was “kissing” the monkey.

We left our paradise of a hotel room and went to spend the day with other family who we rarely see and who we always enjoy spending time with. The girls swam and played all day until sun burns and exhaustion wore them down. Fizzled to a nub. We hugged our way to the door and headed home down the interstate. I always want to spend more time and have more connection with my family but we are limited by time, space, and history of interaction. I know we would be great friends if given the chance and maybe in the future we will get more opportunities.

The girls passed out hard enough that Supermom and I could listen to 90’s hip hop on the radio with very little fear of turning our children into aggressive pimp crack dealers. It was an excellent ride.

We arrived back at home and entered to the usual music of a lonely cat celebrating our return. As we filtered throughout the house I am beckoned by Supermom, “Hey daddy… Did someone borrow Severus Snake?”

“Not that I know of…” Maybe we were robbed? It would be hard to distinguish from our general motif of destroyed living area.

“Well. He is somewhere besides where we left him.” She left him in a box.

“Well… Shit.”

So now we are in from a busy weekend. Tired with roadway travels and sunburns. And a snake has escaped into our house. Somewhere in these four walls is a rogue snake. I have no idea where. I looked all I cared to and I have run out of time to look before bedtime. The girls are asleep.

I understand Harry Potter’s mental anguish. Hogwarts is settling in for the night and the Basilisk is still at large. I will try and keep everyone updated on how things unfold. Needless to say, I think the pink corn snake might be put on-hold while our security measures are validated.

Also, I forgot to mention the newest evidence in my plight to establish Donna Threeto as a super villain or hero. She is really into Pokemon recently. So into it that she has worn a Pikachu outfit for three days straight. She watched all of the episodes on our DVR and has been systematically drawing pictures of all the characters. My two favorite so far are Meoweth and  Pikachu. One is a hero and one is villain. I noticed they have very different emotions.

WED-MEOW

Yay for villainy and world domination!

WED_PICA

This is how I found this picture. In a drawer in our hotel room. Like a memorial to Pikachu. God rest his soul. 

So if your kids fart in weddings or party down to the frame, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Birthday Goat Summer

School’s out for the summer. Yay.

Everyone passed their classes so everyone has leveled up. Donna Threeto graduated kindergarten. I guess a lot has happened since I last updated everyone.

We had a birthday party for Jane several weeks ago. She is ten now. We have gotten out of the habit of holding birthday parties for anyone but usually feel guilty enough to slap something together at the last minute. It isn’t that we don’t want to celebrate but rather we are poor planners. Who wants to juggle the coordination of locations, spending five times what you expected, and trying to have a guest list that invites everyone who would be offended if they were but is pared down enough to fit everyone into one space. Maybe we are just bad people or unmotivated. Who knows. Janes birthday was going to be different.

She felt a special significance towards reaching double digits and was emphatic about having a party. Her choice of party was having all her friends out to the farm to meet her animal friends. This would be a friends party and I made sure the invitations mentioned “Horses, Goats, Food, and Fun”. We folded the invites and wrote each friend’s name on the outside and packed them into her backpack.

Here is where I will offer a tip for other last minute parents. If you write out an invitation on the computer, save a copy. Or print an extra. Or write down the time that you invited everyone. I didn’t do any of this. I printed an exact number and closed the Word document without saving. About a day later I couldn’t remember the exact time of the party.

As the party date got closer the weather forecast became more ominous. Jane looked at me on the Wednesday before that weekend, with tears in her eyes, afraid we would cancel. She had been dealing with that transition from childhood to tween where the illusions of life begin to fade and mix with reality. She needed to know that a special fun day was still possible. I promised that rain or shine we would have the party. And we did. The forecast the night before showed rain until the start of the party and then it was predicted that the weather would clear. If we could deal with a few minutes of rain then the party might be a success.

Party2

The day of the party was cloudy and had been rainy right up to an hour before party time. We had three tailgating tents, a charcoal grill, and several camping chairs. Her friends all arrived with mud boots or flip flops. For the first thirty minutes everything went smoothly. Then the rain started. It got more intense and the wind started to drive it sideways into the safety of the tents. Lightning started to crash and everyone was pretty well soaked by the time we acknowledged time-of-death and moved the festivities indoors.

Party1

I was a little disappointed because I bought several foam swords and hoped to have an epic battle. We had one at the house later so that was cool. The only downside of the foam swords is that now Judy Cornbread is deathly afraid of anyone holding anything that looks like a sword. She is non-confrontational and watching us beat each other was traumatizing. Plus the kids have probably beaten her when I wasn’t looking.

What I went on the trip to California.

We had the traditional Mother’s Day. Good lunch. Good dinner. Supermom didnt get any time to sit alone and read which I found out is what she actually wanted.

Then things turned a little darker last weekend. I warn you about some graphic pictures to follow. Read on at your own risk.

So my mother lives near some bona-fide white trash pieces of shit who own some large dogs who roam the neighborhood and team with other strays to terrorize the countryside. They started a fight with Chester Sparkles last year and he fought them off but was hurt pretty bad.

Party4

This is Chester Sparkles. He is a happy boy. 

They have returned to kill a few chickens here and there. Last week they returned and got into the goat pen. Two baby goats are dead and two adults are seriously injured.

Poor_baby

Bite marks on the neck only. They had one intention. 

One of the goats is named Eli and is a favorite of the girls. He got goat polio as a kid and was nursed back to health by constant attention from my mother and the girls. He is extremely friendly and definitely a main character on the farm. The dogs did some damage to his front right leg and his hind leg. Another goat, named June, is questionable to recover because the dogs tore a muscle in her rear leg.  I’m usually a big fan of dogs but this rogue pack has two Rottweilers and a Pit Bull and no oversight from their owners. At the end of the day, dogs are pack predators and, if left in the wild, will act accordingly.

A couple of days after the attack, Eli was still not eating and was just laying around. Mamaw suggested having the girls come visit to make him feel better. The minute the girls got there he began eating and moved around more than he had the day before. He wanted to feel the safety of his friends. They lifted his spirits. She captured several heartwarming pictures.

Eli_Visit

Is there a sweeter picture? You are crying aren’t you? You should be.

Everyone feels better after a visit from their friends.

Eli_Note

As far as the dogs. I hope they die of parvo and heart worms. Slowly. One upside to living in the country in the south is that neighbors are all armed and have no trouble protecting each other. Offering hide out and snipe the offenders was as common a response on Facebook as the tearful emoji.  I expect it won’t take too long to relocate the problem animals. As far as the crappy owners, that problem is not likely to resolve itself. Unless their meth lab explodes or the moldy cement blocks under their rusty El Camino crack just as one of them slides under the frame to cut off the muffler for the platinum catalyst because he read on the internet that it was worth “big bucks”. I’m sure if he drank less than a case of Natural Light by noon each day then he would be able to feed his dogs instead of letting them off the chain to go scavenge. Fucking hicks.

I’m venting and assuming. I don’t really know them that well.

Take a breath. Count to ten. Okay… Moving on.

Lady Bug came to visit me at work the other day. She enjoyed some delicious pizza and then proceeded to draw a little over 105 separate rabbits. One of my co-workers drew a recognizable rabbit and then Lady Bug attempted to recreate it.

Rabbits

She actually has some good scale and artist skills. She is turning four in a couple of weeks so I’m impressed.

Jane is trying to convince me that we need a snake as a pet. Petsmart has a pink cornsnake that she wants. I think we need a new house or a small petting zoo before we add any animals.

If your life is going a little, birthday goat summer, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Here is a funny picture of a dog photobombing an Easter photo session.

Ruining_It

-Underdaddy to the rescue.