Author: Underdaddy

I am a well-intentioned father of four girls. I assume the identity of Underdaddy to carry out my mission of publicizing my mistakes and funny adventures so that others may smile. Engineer by day, I understand that if no one ever discusses failures then no progress will ever be made. In that light, I represent a lot of potential progress.

Ghosted

I am a grown man.

I am brave.

I do my best to ignore bumps in the night and a creaky old house.

I knew that when we moved in we would have some adjusting to do. The girls would likely hear things and make up stories. I was ready.

When they found an old photograph from right after the house was constructed, it was black and white and showed the father and mother sitting on the back porch, I dismissed it as something that was left behind.

When some of the doors move, I know it is a hinge that is misaligned from the foundation settlement.

When the girls created a Mrs Potatohead and dressed her in red and named her Lola which is also the name of the late matriarch of the house, I let it slide. Kids pick up on things. I don’t think they knew any names at that point but maybe they did.

When it sounds like someone is walking away from me when I go to the door at the carport, I could care less. Houses have their history and their owners. No need to get all excited about imagined ghosts and scary things.

But tonight… I must have had these thoughts hidden around the corners of my mind. They swirled and sat near the front while they waited for something to jump out and grab me. I needed a drink from the kitchen so I went through the living room where presents had been opened earlier in the day. When I rounded the corner of the living room and encountered the upper half of a torso rising out of the carpet, I nearly shit my pants. The wide dark eyes. The sparkling nails. The fact that something was emerging from my carpet and smiling at the same time. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to scream or warn my family. I just uttered an “uuggghh” while all my muscles locked into a ball of fear.

When I awoke a few seconds later I was face to face with the demon in the living room floor. I had one thought ringing in my head crystal-clear; Why did I buy this for Christmas and who the hell designed it.

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The room was darker. Stop laughing at me. 

My reptile brain didn’t even offer an alternative. It said, “Satan is crawling out of hell to eat your ankles.”

If you get freaked out over misplaced toys or strange shadows, this post is for you.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Ripples In the Pond

I have a lot of wonderful Christmas memories from my childhood. One of those memories surfaced recently. That Christmas Eve I was told that I should be on the lookout because Santa was delivering a big gift overnight and it would be on the front porch in the morning. Imagine that feeling. A kid in the age of doubt about the whole Santa process was just told the time and location of the Santa Claus delivery. I took this information as a tremendous opportunity to discover some of the mystery of life. From my cot by the window I could see most of the front porch. A yellow streetlight cast shadows across the front lawn while specs of frost glinted on the grass. I watched constantly for throughout the night, hoping to catch a glimpse of the gift or the man delivering it. I was primed to see a sleigh, some elves, a huge present… something.

Night came and went. At some point my eyes were too heavy and I fell asleep. I woke up while dawn was breaking and peeked over the window sill to survey the porch one last time before slogging to the living room to see if Santa had left anything at all. He had showered us with the usual living room decoration but the large mystery gift I was looking for was not around. “Did you look on the porch?”, my mother asked. “I didn’t see anything from my room.”

“Look again.”

I walked to the front door and opened it wide. Beside the pillar of the porch was a large box leaned against the column. It was just the perfect size and placement to be undetectable from my bedroom window. I dragged the box in the house and opened it to find a large telescope. Later that night we used the telescope to look at the Moon and Venus and some random stars. We could see things that our eyes weren’t made to see and it was awesome. Years later, in college physics, optics and focal length was relevant because I was terrible at finding things in the telescope and I figured out why.

Last week I was holding a telescope in Kohls when the memory came back to me. I had since learned that Santa was actually Mama C, my godmother. She loved computers and technology and the wonders of space.

She was the first person to introduce me to the internet. She had a series of numbers and decimals written on a piece of paper and when we typed them into the computer a NASA message board would load up line by line. She was also my teacher in high school for Computer Programming. She started as a math teacher and I have to assume was the first to volunteer to tackle a new subject concerning technology. We learned FORTRAN and C+. It was arduous to understand how computers work and the step-by-step logic behind it but I can’t count the times that it was helpful. The logic is beautiful and learning to think things through each and every step is good for an engineer.

I woke up a few days ago to the news that Mama C had passed away suddenly the night before. In seven short hours, she went from a normal day of running errands to gone from the world. She was resolute in her faith and her family was informed of her medical wishes so when the situation went from bad to worse, she was able to left on her own terms; on the eve of her late husband’s birthday she went to meet him.

She lived her life in the same way. She always had great love and purpose. Compassion beyond measure. She had no time for foolishness though. I remember one of the first days in computer class when a girl whispered to me that she heard Mrs. Davis was stern and that I should behave because she didn’t mess around. I didn’t tell her that I knew her as Mama C and that I knew better already.

I remember her and Daddy Ron smuggling Blue Bell ice cream from Texas in an RV. I knew whenever they went to visit Aunt Mia that we would have an ice cream party when they returned. A bowl of Blue Bell Vanilla Bean and a little whole milk chopped into a slush is still one of my favorite treats.

There are many other memories and people who hold those memories close. Her grandson wrote a heartfelt tribute that I’ve included it below:

For the 29 years you devoted to making me who I am, I owe you my life. 

Math is described as the abstract science of numbers, quantity, and space. It is often referred to as the universal language as it can be shared by all people regardless of race, culture, religion, or gender. There is something inherently beautiful about the ability to bridge divides and calculate the unknown in the ways that mathematics does. The irony here being that, though you can always provide a formula to find the answers you seek, you cannot quantify the impact on the lives that Mama C has touched.

She believed in leading by example, no matter how much dedication and sacrifice the situation required. She never turned away those in need, her contagious smile always worn for all to see. She would choose to put herself in the middle of narratives that others would scoff at, or simply not be brave enough to take on, all while making it clear she was doing all things in Christ. The beautiful home that would make Southern Living jealous could have just as easily become a Salvation Army Outpost or a Natural Disaster Recovery shelter on any given day. There always seemed to be room still left in the Inn, no matter the circumstances.

Mama C taught me to believe in my dreams, no matter how big or small. I remember the heartbreak I felt when I told her I no longer wanted to be a police officer because they had to endure being pepper sprayed during their training process. What was a 6 year old boy to do now that his dreams of being a sworn protector were now dashed? “Well, we’ll just have to find you something else then, won’t we?” she said. The next day, I set my sights on becoming the best race car driver in the world! Still waiting on how that one pans out.

Her and Daddy Ron also showed me what limitless, unconditional love was. Through the years, the bond between the two grew stronger, the flame evermore engulfing the two pillars that set the foundation of what I knew true love should be. The stories and life lessons they were able to share shaped the way [my wife]and I approached our marriage. Apparently, anytime you look at your best friend and life long partner and exclaim “You’re boring”, the next logical step is to do something spontaneous – like get your pilot’s license or go road racing at Daytona. This is known as problem solving. 

Without her, I wouldn’t know what it’s like to play guitar at a 2nd grade level, understand that the Power Rangers made taekwondo look super easy, or be able to use the ultimate trump card a la “Mama C said so.”

Without her, I wouldn’t know what it was like to be chosen by God himself to do great things beyond what the world told me was possible. I wouldn’t be able to have the courage to face new challenges down a career path I never knew I loved. We wouldn’t be making the impact we are in a culture that is hurting by promoting constant growth and change for the better. We wouldn’t be able to have the faith that God has a bigger plan in place and to trust the doors that He has opened and the ones He has not.

I am the product of the endless love and faith Mama C had for those around her. I have her fingerprints all over me as she helped shape me into the man you see before you today. I can only hope to continue her legacy with the same fiery passion and wisdom that she so effortlessly displayed. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22 – 23

If you had a Mama C in your life, this post is for you.

-Underdaddy

Merry Purgemas

Tis the season. So they say.

We joined most of the western world yesterday at a retail-outlet-near-you and completed our holiday shopping. Everyone had the same idea. It might have been just as busy as Black Friday at Hobby Lobby. Best Buy was a little better. Everywhere was crowded.

I had a better attitude while shopping this year and it freed me up to make some observations.

  • Everyone I interacted with in-person was nice and in a good spirited holiday mood. Some were tired from shopping and navigating crowds but nearly all showed some genuine goodwill towards men. One lady gave me a $20 coupon that she wasn’t able to use. A cashier suggested I make two separate purchases because the rewards system would save me $15. There was overwhelming care and concern.
  • Every car I met on the parking lot battle ground was a chunk of fiery metal cast from the forge of hell and the demonic drivers were all consumed with moving forward towards an unspoken destination and could give two shits about manners, traffic signage, or running over an elderly grandmother crossing the street. Civilization was coming apart at the scenes. I found myself happy that cars aren’t equipped with guided missiles because I would have blown at least three cars turning left (across five fucking lanes of traffic) into a flaming heap of aluminum and cheap plastic. I would have rummaged through the wreckage and taken any unburned gifts as my trophy spoils of war. There was overwhelming angst and rage.

Once we emerged from the madness and were on the ride home I thought about the whole experience. Is it possible that rage is an important ingredient in the Christmas spirit?

Is the holiday shopping experience just a version of the Purge? Do we empty the hate from our hearts onto random strangers so that we have more room for the good? Is this a version of the Orwellian Two Minutes Hate?

Purge2

Hear me out. Is there a pattern to holidays? Do you have to have good with the bad?

Let’s try some out.

Easter. It kicks off with Palm Sunday. There is a parade and kids get to carry palm leaves in memorial of the welcome ceremony for Jesus. The next Friday we get to remember the Angel of Death flying around Egypt and honoring an agreement that if a family will kill a sheep and rub its blood all over the front door then God will not murder their children. Seems more than fair to me, I love my children and I am lukewarm when it comes to sheep. There is also a brutal torture/murder where Jesus finds out he was setup by the trifecta of Jews, Judas, and (plot twist) his OWN FATHER. I guess the Romans had some blame as well. He handled it like a champ though. There was anger, sadness, violence, and the sweet release of death. Life starts to return to normal. Then BAM, Sunday it’s all rainbows and unicorns again because, just like a trick birthday candle, Jesus bounced back to life, busted out of his granite grave and encouraged a large rabbit to deliver candy eggs. DEATH WHERE IS THY STING? Jesus FTW! (Thats For-The-Win for you older people who are not hip to the text slang. If you read it too fast it would look like WTF and that would be an inappropriate sentence to associate with the resurrection.)

But you see what I mean about the holidays. The up and down mix.

What about Lent? There is a celebration period that climaxes with Mardi Gras which is notorious for splurge and excess and showing breasts for plastic beads. Drink all you want. Eat all you want. Steal a kidney or two on Bourbon Street. Live it up! Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and a week of fasting. After that, food returns and everyone is happy and ready to repeat it all next year. Except the guy who lost his kidney. He probably had enough of the whole thing. I’m out of my depths with this Catholic holiday stuff. Don’t bother correcting me on this one. I never listen.

Christmas fits this same mold. We start with Black Friday; a shotgun-start to the financial footrace to outspend each other to show our deep love through material things. There is the gluttonish excess of Thanksgiving and the pleasurable swiping of the credit cards to get discounted deals. The continuous holiday parties and office lunch. The parades of cars looking at lights. Sitting on an old man’s lap and asking him for free things. Holiday TV specials where underprivileged people are given thoughtful things by over-privileged people and we all smile on the inside because justice has been served. Life has balance. With all this warmth filling us up from the inside it is no wonder that our normal amount of ba-humbug is condensed and squeezed to one end until it erupts over the jackass who stole our parking space.

I propose that we no longer fight this process. Feel free to scream and swear. Make rude hand gestures. Throw some serious Facebook shade. Get in a fist fight in the checkout line. This is America, we do what we want. No guilt. No apologies.

In fact, I think the shift towards a real and raw America has already started. I offer the following proofs…

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Gold plated metal turkey decoration.

If anyone reading this has one of these bad boys just say “guilty” in the comments. I want to know who Im dealing with.

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No PC language here. Just some genuine Piss-Remover.

Is urine a big enough problem to get a dedicated line of stain remover? Can we blame this on free range parenting? I feel like I am missing some context here.

If you have enjoyed holiday shopping, this post is for you. I’m exhausted. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Oodles of Noodles

I have zero doubt that we are on a special radar at school. Red flagged. The Underdaddy children are subject to shenanigans and special trips to the principal’s office a couple of times each year. It’s fine. At least they are making a mark.

So far we have visited for:

Fear of Alien Abduction

Hearing Voices

Random Excessive Crying

Bullying and the Fallout

Defacing a Religious Text

Attention Deficit Disorder

Sassy Preteen Mouth

 

Our legend gets passed by word of mouth and each new teacher is given a briefing from the teacher before. “Bless your heart, I had that one last year…” or “She is a little eccentric but really sweet. Good luck.” I’m not certain of this but people are people and the teacher’s lounge is like any other water cooler gossip spot.

But never in the disarray that is our life did I think that we were giving off a vibe of abject poverty. My kids are malnourished but it is through their own personal choice. They only eat whatever things they can confirm that we don’t actually have. If I only have Mac and Cheese, they want Hot Dogs. If I have Hot Dogs they want Mac and Cheese. They exist on juice and imagined injustices.

And I will admit that some mornings we don’t all roll out the door looking polished and primed for the day. Maybe someone has a ring of Oreo Pop Tart around the mouth. Maybe someone’s hair escaped a brushing. Same for teeth occasionally. These are signs of being behind the schedule, not of being poor.

I wonder what stories my children are sharing at school?

Whatever the cause, fast forward or err… rewind to a few days ago and Prima sets her backpack on the counter. Inside the backpack are some generic cans of tomato and chicken noodle soups along with some instant noodles.

 

UD: What are these honey? (Holding up a can)

Prima: (Shrugs her shoulders) Someone put it in my locker.

UD: Why?

Prima walks off as if I wasn’t talking to her. Her sister walks in.

Jane: They do it randomly for kids who need it.

UD: Okay well, that isn’t random. That is targeted and how did it get in her locker?

Jane: The guidance counselor does it sometimes. I’ve seen her.

UD: Does she know whose locker she is leaving surprises in?

Jane: Yeah. Probably.

UD: Sooo… they think we are not feeding you guys?

Prima returns to the room.

Prima: I like these noodles they gave me.

UD: That’s not the point. And don’t walk off on me while I’m trying to talk with you. There are other kids who probably need these noodles.

Prima: Can I eat them?

UD: No! Maybe. I don’t know. (Turning to Supermom who just walked into the room) Can you return angel tree food? I don’t know the rules.

Prima: I’m eating the noodles.

Jane: I’m eating the Ravioli.

UD: I’ll eat the Ramen.

Supermom: No! This food is for the children.

UD: For our children apparently.

Supermom: No! Maybe… I don’t know. Put it in the pantry.

 

So now we have nonperishable food items for our underserved children to heat up and leave sitting in a bowl on the table while the go play their Nintendo Switch and wait for me to pour it out later into the garbage disposal.

If you have been on the receiving side of a community act of compassion then this post is for you. We are going to try and notch up our hygiene and nutrition plans since we are sending poverty vibes. I wouldn’t mind if it were true but I lament the fact that someone actually needs these things and they got sent home with a clan of children who have complete meltdowns over the wrong kind of juice or getting denied two types of meat in one meal. Example: Lady Bug requested a bologna sandwich with a side of hot dogs. She is a terrible vegan and, obviously, a princess accustomed to luxury in her processed meat selection.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

TOH 2 – Wallaby Trees

Part of our planning for the new home included building a place for our wallaby Bindi to reside. She needs a place that serves two purposes; 1) She needs to be protected from the elements and other harmful things. 2) She needs to be able to not shit in my house.

The Bindi Bungalow serves both purposes.

After checking with some local retailers, I realized that I am not wealthy and therefore would have to build the critter condo with my own free labor. And by “my own free labor” I mean my children. And a coworker who was willing to work in exchange for pizza and pasta.

Wallahouse1

Maybe my only shot at an engineer.

We built a footing, joists, and a floor fit for a queen. The pad was ready for the DIY Shed kit from Lowes

We traveled across the barrens of asphalt and traffic known as “The Bypass” to the home improvement store. I purchased a pre-cut, unassembled shed that would look great and wouldn’t take more than a long afternoon to assemble. How could it possibly take longer than a couple of hours? It couldn’t. Impossible.

The staff at the home improvement store were not what I would describe as the sharpest knives in the drawer. They almost crushed my truck with a fully loaded forklift because of a general misunderstanding of gravity and geometry. I was able to wave them off before the springs exploded and I redirected them in actually unloading the pallet of wood into the bed of the truck. The load was really long and was trying to fall off the forklift so the operator stacked a pallet of mulch on top of the shed and tried to set both in my truck.

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FYI, these kits don’t include roofing or paint. 

I drove home and promptly began construction… on something else. Then the next day I was able to begin on the shed.

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Just as I finished the walls, our fall weather brought three inches of rain. It was a hard week of finding time to finish shingles to protect the high-quality particle board walls.

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A few more days of details and painting and the structure was finished.

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Then we started on the inside of the house. We waterproofed the floor with flex seal and added a wire grid to keep our dear wallaby away from the front door and prevent her escape; an escape that we have determined from past experience, is probably fatal.

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After a solid three weeks of effort. It was time for Bindi to come home. She had been a resident in Mamaw’s basement for entirely too long. She had forgotten who we were and gave exactly two shits about leaving the basement. Oh well.

We loaded her into a pet carrier and drove home. We spread wood chips on the floor and wrapped her crate in blankets for insulation. Winter was approaching and she hadn’t put on any extra fur. Supermom had the fear that she would freeze to death. I had less of a fear and more of a scientific curiosity about the matter. I hypothesized that she would respond to the cold and grow fur. She did so everyone is happy.

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Queen Bindi in her new castle.

We could tell that Bindi was stressed from her new environment so Supermom decided that she needed to be able to watch her remotely.

SM: I need to see what she is doing. She could be eating the floor coating or something could get in there with her.

UD: Video would be just like a baby monitor. Whatever bad things you are worried about, listening or in this case watching isn’t going to help. You just get emotionally scarred by watching the murder happen in real time.

SM: I need to see her.

UD: She is going to be fine. She is a T-rex goat deer. She doesn’t have a box of razors or hard narcotics. Very little to monitor.

SM: I. Need. To. See. Her.

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Infrared wallaby cam 3000. 

Long story short – we got a solar panel, Wi-Fi-cameras, and a battery powered *(won’t stay charged so now I am likely running a power circuit out to the wallaby shed to power a 12v, 5mA) webcam.

Also, queen princess on high Bindi requires a leisurely area for her majesty to stretch her legs outside of her dedicated 8×12 day room so, I will likely be building a small fenced in area and a doggy door in the shed for her to hop in and out as she pleases. And I know that five minutes after I complete the fence and the webcam and we settle in to watch all the excitement beside a window-that-we-could-open-and-do-the-same-thing-but-it-is-cold-so-we-don’t, a giant hawk will swoop in and carry her away.

We will both cry but for different reasons.

Just kidding. I love Bindi and the shed and the challenge of making things work for this weird pet. It makes life interesting. And I don’t think a hawk could carry her away, she is getting huge. An eagle maybe, but a hawk? No.

Somewhat related subject – The previous owners left a palm tree and it is an impressive palm tree. I did notice that we live in an area where palm trees are not native but I really like the palm tree so I had an interest in keeping it alive. They told us that it would need to be moved into the sunroom for the winter. Makes sense.

Over the next few weeks I learned that I am the only person on the planet who doesn’t fully understand the value of this palm tree. Apparently, a palm tree that reaches eight feet tall in the south is an equivalent value to one of the tablets that Moses carried off the mountain where he talked with the burning bush and it burned moral suggestions into solid stone. I learned this fact in the following way…

One afternoon I decided to move the palm tree inside. I found it was rooted through the container directly into the ground. Problem number one. No matter, the roots were small and I could probably break it loose by grabbing the top and swaying it from side to side. I grabbed the top and felt a shooting pain through my fingers down to my spine. I swore loudly, “Holy border wall Batman! What fresh hell have I summoned?”. Of course, that is a paraphrase but the Lord was referenced at least once. I looked at my now bleeding hand and realized that this particular palm tree has a double row of serrated teeth that look like the back of a dragon. I let go of the base with my other hand and the tree rocked back into place and slapped me with a giant palm frond. My next thought was, “Fuck this tree. It can die in a deep winter freeze and rot in the spring like an unharvested potato in a field.” I relayed this sentiment to Supermom who disagreed.

UD: We don’t really need it. We will have to do this every year!

SM: I like it and they worked hard to keep it alive. We cant just let it die!

UD: Watch me! Effortless!

SM: Do you know how expensive a nice palm tree is?

UD: People pay lots of all kinds of stupid things. We bought a wallaby for godsake!

SM: You don’t mean that!

UD: I’m just angry about the thorns in my hand.

SM: It is a scratch.

UD: TWO scratches!

SM: We are keeping the palm tree.

UD: In a hole in the ground after it dies.

A few days later my stepmom, GJ, is at the house.

GJ: You need to bring in the palm tree.

UD: I’m not keeping it.

GJ: Are you just going to let it die?!

UD: Pretty much.

GJ: You can’t do that. That is a really nice palm tree.

UD: Only nice palm trees deserve to live? It is not native. I will have to do this every year.

GJ: They are expensive. Your dad can help you move it inside.

UD: I’m not in good standing with that tree I think we just need to let it die.

Later that afternoon my phone rings.

Dangraddy: GJ says you need help moving a palm tree.

UD: Nope.

Dangraddy: Did you already move it?

UD: Nope. Screw that tree.

Dangraddy: That is a nice palm tree. You cant just let it die.

UD: YES I CAN. IT IS MY TREE. I DECREE IT HAS OFFENDED THE KING AND ITS SENTENCE IS SLOW FREEZING DEATH ON MY PORCH. WHAT IS IT WITH THIS PALM TREE? DOES IT OWE YOU MONEY OR CURE CANCER?

Dangraddy: Your wife wants the tree you need to save it. It is going to frost tonight. Cover it up and I’ll come help you move it tomorrow.

UD: Just look the other way and this will all be over tomorrow. We can go about our lives and forget about this magical albatross tree.

Dangraddy: Cover the tree. I’ll see you tomorrow.

UD: Fine.

I attempted to cover the tree with a bedsheet and a canvas drop cloth. It was comical but it worked. The next morning we wedged it out of the ground and moved it into our sunroom with a furniture dolly and a work ethic fueled by bitter hatred of the tree. I stepped in dog shit and cut my hand a few more times. One of the barbs went right under my thumbnail and into the layer below. Other than those little annoyances the move went smoothly. I thanked my father for his help and for forcing me into the right decision. Supermom was happy and the tree was safe for the winter.

Wallaby_Palm

Perfect fit. 

Five minutes after getting the devil tree settled.

Supermom: That container is kind of ugly and falling apart. Can we change it to a bigger pot?

UD: (Left eye twitching) …No.

With the wallaby safe and the blessed palm of Jesus safe we moved on to other projects. Like the fact that we can get a really tall tree into the sunroom.

Wallaby_Tree

Everyone likes the tall tree. Supermom was right again.

If anyone is a constant victim of what they feel is misplaced effort, this post is for you. You’re welcome. It is all worth it in the end and happy wife does equal happy life. I promise. More of our adventures to come.

Oh and I almost forgot. I got this page from a coloring book and I am trying to interpret what my seven year old was trying to convey. It is from a fire safety book.

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All I can deduce is that Bob’s mom has a hot ass. Supermom says I am incorrect. 

What weirdo hangs the smoke detector on the wall. It goes on the ceiling at the highest point. They would be dead before this thing went off.  And the floating tree out the window. Why are they checking the smoke alarm in a tornado? I’m so confused.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.