Adventures

Hero’s journey.

TOH Part 1

I am a month or so behind on documenting our move. This month has been a black hole of time and energy. I have lost weight from the constant business of moving into a new old home. We knew it would be work. We knew it would be a level of effort to bring it into the 21stcentury. We were correct.

Tom Hanks starred in a great movie called The Money Pit. A young couple buys a charming old home and it basically falls apart at every turn until their marriage is on the rocks, constant construction is the norm, and one of them has sex with a guy in the symphony. Our ongoing adventure has felt a little like that at times, minus the affair with a musician and marital issues. Consider the next few blogs a potpourri of those stories. I will call them This Old House Part x, or TOH for short.


Our first day was a whirlwind. We signed away our old home, bought our new one, and backed the moving van into the driveway. We walked to the front door, slid in the brass key, and turned right and left with the force of an industrial torque wrench. Nothing happened. The eons of patina that had built on the deadbolt held it steadfastly in place. No matter, there were two other doors. The carport door opened right up. On the counter was a bottle of champagne and a note wishing us well in our new home. The previous owners, Mr. Richard and Mrs. Kay, left a trinket treasure hunt for the girls all around the house. So far, they have located teacups, an old pen, a photo of Dr. Langdon, an arrowhead, a metal rose, and some blueprints.

Various friends and family members showed up to help us move and every one of them came at the exact right time. I can definitely say that we would not have survived this process without them. A special thanks to Familydoctormom and her husband for serving us the first ever meal in our new home. A delicious spread of Rock’n Dough pizza.

OldHouse4

OldHouse3

Lady Bug was the only one adequately prepared for this move. 

Supermom released the dogs to explore their new home and within thirty-five seconds, Jasper took a shit in the foyer. “Joy! Let me find those packed paper towels.” He has never had a poop issue in the house so I assume he was showing his displeasure from being in his box all day. The dogs’ potty issues would turn out to be a continuous theme. We were all accustomed to having a fenced backyard. I plan on fencing in a portion of our new one but it is further down the list.

OldHouse2

It isn’t home if a dog or child hasn’t soiled it yet. 

Closer to the top of the list – a home for Bindi; our wallaby who is living in the basement at my mother’s house. We are making good progress in that area. When all is said and done I think racecars would be a cheaper hobby than our exotic rabbit deer. But again, I am ahead of myself.

There were some specific items we wanted to update. Item number one was carpet. The existing carpet was plush and dense but there is something about carpet that needs regular changing. My best guess is that the existing carpet had been in place since the 1980’s.

We got a price from a local company to put in some new flooring and one of the line items was “Removal”. I remembered that one of our dogs removed half a room of carpet in thirty minutes so I figured that would be an item that we could complete ourselves to save some money. I was right but my scheduling was ambitious. We agreed to the carpet installation on a Monday morning and we only had two days to get things ready.

OldHouse6

So carpet over hardwood was a thing for a while. 

Nothing will make you feel more at home than getting down on hands and knees to pick out a billion staples with a pair of pliers. You learn a lot about a place. We found hardwood under the stairs. We found old water damage in Delaney’s bedroom. We found old termite damage in the master bedroom. Neither problem is currently active which is good to know also. The carpet installers spent two days getting our new floors in place. They did an excellent job and I bet they would have been fantastic at removal too.

OldHouse7

Floor done. Walls next. 


My story from the Struggle Bus today is the story of our new dishwasher.

It all started one evening when I tried to cook a pizza. I turned on the oven and as it warmed I noticed a strange smell. A strong vaporous cloud that had hints of sweet, sour, and old grease. My first thought was from a few years back when a mouse made a home in the top of our stove. We turned off the oven and went on with life. I added the smell to the list of things to work on “later”. A day later I loaded up the dishwasher and started it on the normal cycle. I was impressed with the efficiency of the dishwasher because the outlet into the disposal only had a trickle of water during the pump-down cycle. Then, during the heat dry cycle, the strange smell returned. It was more overpowering from the dishwasher and we actually had to stay out of the kitchen for about half an hour. We had planned on appliances anyway so we purchased some a arranged to have them delivered a couple of days later.

On the day the appliances arrived we couldn’t start the install until that evening because of work and life. I tackled the dishwasher first because it would probably take the longest. A few wood screws were holding the dishwasher in place. I removed them and started to slide the unit out. The smell that rolled out from behind the dishwasher was familiar. All of the girls including Supermom gathered around to watch me work. When the dishwasher was about halfway out of the cabinet, something large and grey ran across my foot and under the stove. I let out a, “Oh holy fudge!” My audience didn’t see the rat so they asked, “What? What?!”. I said, “A rat” and they screamed and jumped up on whatever was close. It was so funny that I took out my phone and took a picture. While looking at my pictures I realized that Prima has the strongest survival instincts.

OldHouse8

This is the face of a woman questioning all her previous life decisions. Notice Prima opening the window. That kid is gonna make it. 

So the smell was indeed a rodent living under the stove and pooping under the dishwasher. Our dishwasher was not a high efficiency model, the rat had eaten the drain hose completely in half. The water had been running out through a hole in the floor. Awesome.

I was standing in the kitchen with a dishwasher half in the floor and the knowledge that a large rat was under the stove. My choices seemed limited.

We built a barrier of foam boards that were supposed to be a multicultural market school project. I put on boots and got some gloves. I slowly slid the stove out from the wall. The space under the cabinet was open on both sides. I lowered my phone into the gap to take a picture so I could assess the situation at a safe distance.

Right side = no rat.

Left side = no rat.

Superhuman power of deduction… –> the rat is in the stove.

We lightly strapped the stove to the furniture dolly and moved it into the carport with all of the other abandoned appliances that I’m sure have convinced my neighbors that rednecks are taking over the neighborhood. I checked and rechecked all the possible rat entrance/exit locations and the stove was the most probable location. With it safely in the carport I went back to removing the dishwasher. The plywood was completely soaked with rat pee and sealed with a layer of turds. I poured an entire container of cat litter under the counter to try and pull out the moisture. I noticed a hole in the floor that was probably the entrance location. I also noticed that the dishwasher supply line wasn’t connected under the sink like most lines and that there was not a place to turn the water off. That means I couldn’t remove the old dishwasher without turning off the water and immediately reconnecting the new one. I grabbed a wrench and went to the water meter at the road. Somehow in the process of turning the water off I pulled a muscle that runs from just behind my right nipple to an area between my shoulder blades.

I went to Lowes and arrived ten minutes before closing time. I grabbed a few water line supplies and a tool to open and close the water meter valve. The perky checkout girl commented, “I hope you are having a great night!” I relied with, “Look sweetie, if someone is buying this assortment of items at 9:55pm and smells like the underside of a diaper… It is not a good night. It will not be a good night. It will be something they will survive at best. And my right nipple is numb so let’s just bag this up.”

I don’t think she expected such an overshare of information. I apologized for being grumpy and assaulting her with random facts about my nipple. I made my way back to the house to finish my rat cleanup and dishwasher install. The dishwasher had to sit outside the cabinet for two days while we dried and sanitized the floor. I bought a box of rat poison and placed a block under each cabinet and crammed a cube of it through the floor hole before sealing it off with expandable foam. With everything connected and cleaned I felt victorious. I had driven out the rat and reclaimed my kitchen.

A few days later we noticed a small odor. The next day the odor was a little stronger. Something like… dead rat?

Maybe that last angry block of poison I shoved through the floor hole landed in a family of rats and they were scattered around the crawl space like victims of mass murder. Slowly rotting and exacting the final revenge. I had to know so I removed several vents around the crawl space to look under the house. I could actually crawl under the house but that sounds terrible so I just looked from the sides. I saw a couple of large piles of poo that were from something larger than a rat. Definitely a predator. Raccoon or cat.

If any of my neighbors are missing a cat, I think I know what happened.

If you like a series of random events, this post is for you. I have several to work on; Wallaby House, Fun With Asbestos, Welcome to Mayberry, Renovation Realities, Dining Room Dreams. We are still excited about our home but it will continue to be an adventure for the foreseeable future. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Home

Our move looms in the distance. One week from today. There seems like an endless supply of quality junk that we don’t really need but poor people are suffering so it seems rude to throw away. Like three tubes of perfectly good Silicone Caulk. Someone could use that and I’m chunking it into a bag like I’m King Midas. “I’ll buy more if I need it.” What an arrogant thing to say but where do you put this stuff? I’m a reasonable hoarder. That’s all I can conclude.

Maybe we won’t use the crystal glassware laser lithography Santa Clause platter but that doesn’t mean you throw it to the curb like some classless trailer whore-man-person. Geez.

Some of the rooms are empty for the first time since we moved here in 2009. I had a vision from the first day we were moving in and Jane was barely older than two. She had a mullet, two from teeth, and overalls with a pink t-shirt. She was the cutest little redneck on the planet. I thought about her standing there today, eleven years old and so tall. Such an independent, hard headed but soft hearted young woman. Time flies.

We were excited to get the home and I have to give props where it is due so Obama, thank you for the first time homebuyer credit. Sure it was a form of welfare but it was for the working man because we had to put the money down before we got it back. That program got us off the mean streets of Bemis. But over the years, our house has grown crowded and we need to spread out.

Home4

This is how they are choosing to sleep in our last two weeks at the house. One is actually sleeping in the crack between mattresses. I found her one morning sleeping in the closet.

They say the average amount of time in a home is 10 years. Looks like an accurate number for me. Both of my parents are anomalies, 1987-ish for mom and 1992 for dad. You guys are messing up the average. Time to move.

I hope we get about 40 years in this new home. I hate the uncertainty of moving and the whole dance. Low-ball offers. Arguing over who fixes a crack or ding or bad place in the paint. Home inspections that pick you apart and appraisals that magically go for about what the listing price was. I guess if the sellers get an offer in the ballpark then that must be what the home is worth?

You need lots of paperwork and bank statements too. Lawyer money, title money, closing costs, taxes, insurance, fees earnest money, utility deposits, moving trucks, and eating fast food for three weeks while you pack your house into storage units. Who says renting isn’t better? Pull up the tent stakes and move whenever you want. That sounds kind of awesome.

Our current house and our new house will both close new loans on the same day. We will load up everything we own the night before and hope signing day goes well. Then we will drive to our brand new house and vomit a load of boxes into the largest and closest rooms. The beds and furniture will be set up first and the boxes will dwindle but they will hit a critical mass where I feel that all my important things are out and the cost-reward ratio starts to favor other activities. That is how boxes of old CD’s get lost in an attic and found one hundred years later by a pouty teenage hiding from their parents. Suddenly Ashley Simpson and Jock Jams infects a whole new generation. Vintage. Retro.

So yeah. I’m excited about the house. I’m not as excited about the moving process and settling in to the new lifestyle. But…I am strong and the girls deserve a little more room to stretch their legs.

Home2

Typical afternoon shade.

Our new house has a cool history and once we are in I will share more. For now, know that a family built the home in 1965.

 

Home1

Notice the mother has her good southern lady pearls. 

There were four children. The oldest was eleven and the youngest was five. The home has never been sold and the youngest sibling has been living in the house while working through the parent’s estate. The stories parallel and I’m not much on things being meant to be but there are some strong coincidences that make my heart happy. The youngest sibling was so excited that a similar family was getting her family home that she insisted that we meet the older sister. We went to visit on a Friday afternoon and brought all four girls to visit. My four girls surrounded Ms. Lynn and took her on a tour of her own childhood home, telling her all the plans that they had for each room and all the wonderful games they could play. She told them all the history that she could squeeze into a thirty minute visit. “This was my room. That was my brother’s. This came from our cabin. This was from a trip to Europe.” After each room was visited and recounted the girls went to play outside on the giant steel swing-set and the older sister joined the group of adults talking in the kitchen. She embraced Supermom and I with tears in her eyes, “I’m so glad you are making my home your home. It needs little girls and playful laughter. That’s what it was built for. I hope you have many happy years just like we did.” It was a really good visit.

Home5

Original blueprints were pretty cool.

There is something special to me about a place that was built purposefully and lived in. Made into a home. A safe place of refuge where anything in the world can be wrong but home is still there just as it always has been.

When either of my parents start talk of selling their homes and moving I understand what Ms. Lynn was feeling. So much has happened between the walls. So many memories and pictures and Christmas mornings and late nights talking the hours away. Waking up to emergencies or camping outside just far enough away to feel the danger of the forest but close enough to retreat inside if you needed to. Moving away is tough for kids, at any age. Our current home is the only one that they really remember. Only Jane has ever lived anywhere else. Lady Bug was born in our bedroom at the foot of my bed. It doesn’t get much more personal than that. We lost Biscuit here. We adopted Chester who ruined the carpet. We tried to buy vinyl hardwood and the cashier rang me up for 5 planks instead of five boxes so I was able to redo my living room floor for about twenty nine dollars. She threatened to call management on me for protesting her error. I was trying to do the right thing and pay correctly and she got so mad at me for implying she was wrong. I felt bad but I wasn’t going to get arrested for being a nice guy so we took the flooring and counted it as a win.

We hid in the master closet on several occasions during tornadoes. We rode out a couple of impressive floods. We fenced the backyard. Adopted a squirrel. Tried our hand at decorating only to find that we are not decorators. I’ll always remember the squeals of the girls when they hear that key turn in the dead bolt on the front door, “Daddys home!”. I will remember forever and ever, a period of about a year when I would put Jane to bed and tell her, “I love you.” She would say, “I love you to Daddy. You’re my best friend.” I choked back tears every single time and replied, “You are my best friend too.” My wife and I adopted the saying for each other at bedtime and Jane doesn’t say it anymore but it is as true for me as it ever was. I hope she reads what I write one day and knows that a girl never has a better ally than a Daddy who loves them.

Home3

So… If you ever have packed memories and happy tears into boxes to move on to the next great adventure, this post is for you. You’re welcome. It is hard to look back and forward at the same time. I have a week to say goodbye to this home. It has served us well and is going to a family who needs the same care. I planted some trees that will be just right for a treehouse in a couple of years. Maybe the craziness will continue. Anyway…. On to the next.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

 

Augtober

We have officially put the Underdaddy Lair on the market. We have a contract on a new secret hideout with more room, which is going to become important in the coming years. I hope the new house is everything that it seems to be because I never want to move again. It is a ball of stressful bullshit. There has to be a better way. Maybe home ownership is a scam and renting is really the right way to go? Oh well, I’ve come this far so I guess we will stay on course.

I have accumulated a few blog-worthy experiences to file away in the history books so here goes…


Packing Up

While packing our things and cramming them into a small storage unit we have really realized how much junk gets accumulated over a ten-year period. We also realized that naming boxes is important. To everyone who might help us move, “Bedroom Books” is not what you might expect. A non-descript box labeled “Stuff” is not what you would expect either. Yet another, unlabeled box, has the potential to ruin two aspects of childhood if the fragile cardboard doesn’t hold together during the move.

Augtober1

Hope the kids don’t find this one. 

We had gotten down to some of the last items hidden around the house and that included a box of vintage Playboys and our Elf on the Shelf. There was only one box and I was tired of moving stuff out. It was late in the day and hot. I made my decision, packed Elsie into the box and started towards the truck. The waterlogged cardboard gave way and the box dropped to the ground. I was alone but it made me laugh to think of four kids being witness to the truth of life’s secret lying in the driveway.

Augtober2

Summer ended before it even got started this year. Luckily we took pause during the last week and visited with our Califamily at Discovery Park of America. If you find yourself in Tennessee around the western side, be sure to check it out. I see something new every time I visit. The indoor exhibits are themed and arranged in a somewhat chronological order. There is a progression of rooms that start with modern instruments of warfare and go backwards through history in each of the major conflicts. Somewhere around the Civil War exhibit I noticed a photo that summarized what I find truly awful about war.

Augtober3

There is no way this guy was more than eighteen. Fighting a war against neighbors. It was a good reminder that those who declare war and those that fight in a war are two different age groups.

Augtober5

Outside it was a beautiful day.

Augtober6

Lady Bug is still pondering her own mortality. 

The park added an Escape Room and we thought that try to solve the mystery with five kids was a good idea. Everything was going smoothly until the smoke machine turned on to simulate a fire outside of the cabin that we were trying to “escape” from. The youngest children thought that we were going to burn to death because we couldn’t figure out which square object from a shelf was supposed to be used to get the last key. Nothing like some life-or-death panic to create quality time together.

Augtober7

The figure on the left is someone who just jumped from a rope swing. Not a ghost. 

Following a week fully of painting and packing, we decided to hit the pause button and go spend some time on the water. We left early in the morning and rode to a special cove with a waterfall that forms a natural slide. The natural slide has a natural bump in the rock near the bottom that will give you a natural bruise on your ass. Big purple one. I will spare you the photo.


No Fun In Funeral

During our lake outing Supermom got the call that her Grandfather, Pop, was not doing well and was unresponsive. He held on for a few days but his body gave up and he passed away on August 9th. It was not unexpected but it was difficult all the same. We hastily made plans for our children to stay with grandparents and we made a road trip to Supermom’s hometown.

We stopped along the way to buy some nice clothes because most of our stuff is in a storage unit. I selected a few shirts and went into a fitting room. I heard a few other doors open and close in the fitting room. As I am standing in my boxers I look at the wall of my changing station and have a moment of deep consideration.

Augtober8

Maybe it was a Bro. 

If I am in a men’s area why is there a bra? Am I in a men’s area? Am I in my underwear in a ladies fitting room?

I could have sworn that this particular fitting room was adjacent to the Men’s clothing section. I was 99% positive.

Anyway. Moving on.

We selected our garments and continued on the road. Supermom got a really pretty dress and adorned it with a pin that her Grandmother had given her as an heirloom a few weeks prior. It was really beautiful.

Autober9

At the funeral home we visited with family and mourned the loss of a good man. He had a peacefulness that is hard to describe. In the moments between catching up with family, we walked around the front room and admired some of the antique furniture.

Augtober10

I wonder what he was like as a person?

I took a picture of this chair because it reminds me of something from Beauty and the Beast. I have a fear of sitting in that chair and having it grab me.

A fact that I glossed over in the previous paragraphs is that we left our wallaby at our house while we traveled to the funeral. She was enclosed in a cage-like structure but that only matter for a few hours because she escaped. So for about twenty four hours a T-Rex goat hopped around my living room and shat on about everything. She also pissed on the only remaining section of our sectional couch that has been flaking off the fake leather for the last six months. We are now couch-less. The wallaby lives elsewhere while we work to sell the house.

The next day I left for a conference for two days which made Supermom really happy. She thought it was pointless but consider this…

Augtober11

I met a cool frog.

Augtober12

I ate at Waffle House. Twice. Allstar, Scrambled, Bacon Crispy, Hashbrowns instead of Grits, Toast, and Waffle. Can’t go wrong with that.

Augtober13

I played pool at a dive bar named Old Shakey’s because the sign advertised “Booty Tuesday – Rap Hits with DJ Meow Meow” and I needed to know what that meant. Sadly, I will never know because the guy with a SECURITY T-shirt told me that it wouldn’t be the REAL DJ Meow Meow but instead, a reasonable facsimile. If I can’t see the real DJ Meow Meow then I hardly think the three dollar cover is worth it.

Back at home and we finally listed our house this weekend. One showing so far. Here’s hoping.

If you have been too busy to notice summer morphing into fall, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Summer and Goat Balls

Tonight my daughter came into the house holding something tight. Hidden in her palms. A barely contained giggle seeping out of her smiling face.

UD: What are you laughing about?

Jane: I brought you a gift.

UD: Why do I feel like it isn’t a real gift?

Jane: Guess.

UD: Some kind of poop?

Jane: No. It is from an animal though.

Great. Mamaw walked in with a smile. I became very suspicious.

Mamaw: Did she show you her gift?

UD: Not yet.

She hands me a Great Value brand plastic bag with something small and furry inside. It looks like a rabbit’s foot but there are no toes or nails. I think that it looks like the world’s tiniest set of mittens. Something about the roundness and the flat dried circle on the other end told me what is was.

Jane: Do you know what it is?

UD: Looks like a furry ballsack.

Jane: (Beaming) IT IS! IT IS FROM A GOAT! Dad got it right!

UD: Jesus… Why did you bring me a goat scrotum?

Jane: Hahahaha.

Maybe she will be a vet like she says. Playing with dismembered body parts is a good sign right?

Summer1814

Actual phrase I uttered, “How can I photograph these balls in a good light?” 

So yeah. My kid brought me the shriveled testicles of a farm animal. If that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your ass.


 

We went to another Painting with a Twist to celebrate Jane’s birthday. We got to paint a rainbow unicorn doing The Dab.

 

Summer1811

Picasso who?


Supermom bribed the children to help clean the playroom. She promised them Sonic drinks if they helped her. I doubt she told them that she wanted Sonic anyway and her plan was to make me go when I got home. We didn’t plan for the severe thunderstorm that rolled in just as we got ready to leave. But that Tiger’s Blood Slush is a bomb-ass refreshment so we risked certain death.

Summer1802


Sometimes efforts to get the children involved spark new action and an initiative to complete small tasks. Sometimes those efforts are misguided although well intended. One of the girls remarked that the new hand soap was very bubbly. So I investigated.

Summer1813

Who sees the issue?


Supermom met the new cow. We can never eat any part of this cow now. Supermom would be the worst farmer ever. The animals would be fat and happy and we would be near death from a no-doubt terrible crop of vegetables and a crippling inability to murder our pets.

Summer1808

They named it something greek… Hamburgerous Maximus?


Father’s Day was going to be a day of rest. It was my day. I started it off right. Honeybun. Coffee. Netflix documentary on Hiroshima followed by another documentary on Happiness. An odd mix but I grew as a person through each story. The nuclear bomb has created a world of nervous peace and it did that through two truly horrific detonations. The eye witness testimony and stories were heart wrenching because the voice and the narrative had nothing to separate it from a typical day in heartland America. The whole Japanese society was trained to defend their isle to the death. To fight the evil Americans until the bitter end. It was a mindset that existed in every country involved in World War II. The idea that the monster is out there somewhere trying to get in. The real monster was the quiet whisper telling us that we were all different. The bomb revealed a monster beyond what everyone could imagine. I hope we never witness that brand of death on this earth again.

The Happy documentary was interesting because it tells us what we all instinctively know. Money and success don’t fulfill our needs like solid social connection and love. A group of people living in a shack can be just as happy with life as any millionaire in a mansion. It doesn’t stop me from wanting a mansion but it is interesting.

But back to my story. Father’s Day. Documentary. Daughters volunteer to cook me lunch. Pizza and a cold Coca Cola. Hell yes. I went to the kitchen to help place the frozen pizza into the hot oven. Just as I placed it on the baking stone there was an electrical zapping sound under the oven. A bright light burned for a minute and then orange flames began to creep out of the vent slots in the bottom. I got worried and sprayed the flames with a dry chemical extinguisher from under our kitchen sink. It worked. The downside was the heavy coating of white powder all over my kitchen. Happy Father’s Day!

Summer1807

The stone was black. The pizza was exactly the food that I wanted. Stupid bullshit stove.


I hope my children appreciate the things they do voluntarily that other people often cite as a case for poverty. Once again, our summer standard has been all four girls sleeping in a pushed-together pair of twin beds. They insist on sleeping like this and get very upset when I don’t let them.

Summer1805

We are tribal people. 

 


Lady Bug had a birthday and suggested Chuck E Cheese but I am not a huge fan. We opted for Dave and Busters. All of the great games. Tickets for prizes. Booze for Daddy. Everyone wins. We had a great day and won enough for everyone to get a Pokemom stuff animal.

Summer1806


The State of Tennessee has a really great system of parks. Within that system of parks is a junior ranger program that tries to allow children to experience the great outdoors. On Thursdays, our three oldest girls visit a local park and learn life skills from a real Park Ranger. Last week’s skill was hiking so I was picked to accompany the girls because Supermom doesn’t like to sweat and Mamaw doesn’t have “hiking knees”. I enjoyed the hike. Not the mosquitoes or the humidity but the conversations between lots of kids who don’t know each other and are scrambling to establish a social hierarchy in two hours. They say the craziest shit. I’m genuinely worried about our future generations. I want to hand out ranger badges next time but with a secret recorder so I could re-listen to some of the crazy stupid things kids say.

Summer1803

That owl wanted to murder me but Ranger Bridgette wouldn’t let it. Thank you!


While walking a project in town I saw several areas where the asphalt had been broken away to reveal the old brick roadway. I love the layers of history that places accumulate. The stories that they hold.

Summer1804

How cool is that?


We want to build a house. I don’t know why because our kids insist on sleeping in one bed and live like a resident of a tent city in Rwanda. We want enough room to separate everyone during an all out sister fight. And we hope to invite guests to our house someday. We found a house plan we would like.

Summer1810

Now to rob a bank or start a scam for some big bucks.


After my stove burned and my pizza was ruined, we decided to go swimming. Supermom got a new bathing suit and wanted her mom to see it. I took a picture and posted it on Facebook as the fastest route to make sure Noni saw the new outfit. I got in a slight bit of trouble but I think it is misplaced because a) she is a sexy lady and is rocking that 1950’s versus Minnie Mouse style and b) she knows me and this is not above something I would do. I mean the picture of her vacuuming the box springs at 2 am was worse than this one. I should be good.

Summer1809

A rare double unicorn picture.

 


If you have had a slow start to a short summer, this post is for you. You’re welcome. I know we are making memories but they seem small and slowly acquired. I’ll try to do better about getting some stories on here but life is busy and I am poorly motivated at the moment.

 

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Reunited 2018

Our Memorial Day weekend this year doubled as a family reunion. This story also contains some theft and possible arson but those are just footnotes. The common thread between us was the mitochondrial DNA of the Willis Clan as passed on by a lady known as Mother, Grandma, Great Mother, and, I believe, Jimmie for some reason.

She is a bold woman who had the audacity to give birth to five children. These children got later married and procreated. The second round of offspring learned nothing from the first (which is the primary problem with humans) and after many years the number of people gracing this earth associated with the original Willis female now numbers near sixty. Almost all of them gathered together on the banks of the Tennessee River to take one epic photograph and to fill the rest of the time with medium talk and Bloody Marys (Maries?, Mary’s?, English is a tough language).

Medium talk is a step above small talk in case you were wondering. I don’t need you distracted by trying to decipher “medium talk”. Let’s continue.

First, the theft.

As luck would have it, my name and phone number where associated with the registration of one of the rooms. Most of my relatives were staying at this hotel including our guest of honor; Great Mother. Just as everyone arrived and we were beginning to settle in to our morning Vodka with tomato juice I got a phone call.


Lady Voice: Mr. Underdaddy?

UD: Yes. This is he. Him. Uh, me.

Lady Voice: This is Darla from the front desk.

UD: Okay. Can I help you with something?

Darla: Well… Someone from your party borrowed a wheelchair to transport a lady to the parking area. Those wheelchairs are not supposed to leave the premises.

UD: I see. That sounds like a problem.

I scan the perimeter and notice that Great Mother is sitting in a shiny new wheelchair. One that I am certain she didn’t have the day before.

Darla: The problem is that we are getting close to lunchtime and we usually have guests who need that wheelchair during lunch. We need it back.

UD: I understand. I’m sure it will be returned very soon.

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It is the dollar store version of a wheelchair if we are being honest. 


We tried later to gather for a family picture. It was incomplete but most of the family made it into the frame. Everyone was saying cheese and looking into the camera when someone noticed a slight flame peeking out from under the lid of the gas grill. Turns out that Dangraddy’s Rubbed Beef Butt had become the victim of a grease fire. Not to fear because GJ dashed a small bottle of water into the flames. The flaming grease flushed under the grill and started to burn near the top of the propane bottle. Sadly, there was no massive propane explosion. The pictures would have been epic.

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Or everyone would have died in a blaze of glory. The scraps of someones cellphone would have recorded our last moments which would look something like this…

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The best part about gathering everyone together was having time that was free for all the cousins to play together. Creating the family bond is important and life tends to let us drift apart and tatters the threads that hold us together. It may be several years before we gather again but the memories will hold us over.

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Everyone got to ride the boat. All the children got to ride Super Mable. My child jumped off of the inner tube in the path of an oncoming barge. That was fun.

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Aunt Ebee made sure the kids were entertained with plastic balls and glow sticks. They had a pool too.

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Working for dinner.

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Smelled like delicious.

We had a stew dinner the first night. During the day, everyone took turns stirring the stew so it wouldn’t burn to the bottom of the black kettle. A small group was perpetually gathered around the stew in a fellowship of cooking smells and tidbit stories. Trading the large wooden paddle to the next cook in line when their arms got tired. The stew was delicious and as we sat together to eat it with our small Styrofoam bowls I couldn’t help but think about a conversation I had the week before. Apparently the banks of the Tennessee River have been a popular gather place for hundreds of years. Native Americans would gather in large groups and eat mussels as part of large family events. The discarded pile of shells would eventually be covered by soil from river floods and buried in the earth. As the river erodes side to side across the valley, these piles of shells appear and slide down the banks. I think it is neat to realize that there is a universal comfort in food and family. And spending time together.

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On the last day the kids enjoyed a color run. White T-shirts and colored chalk powder has never been so fun.

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The camping chairs and overcast skies were a nice setting for a lazy afternoon.

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Fun with glow sticks and some fashion.

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The threat of rain never caused an issue for us but lots of rain fell in other parts of the state so by the time everyone was going home the river was on the rise.

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It feels like these two guys are related somehow. 

We sat on the back deck reflecting on our big event coming to a close. Time passes too quickly and the warm feeling of family is something I would have enjoyed for several more days if I could. My heart broke for my girls who had to say goodbye to their new friends. They exchanged emails and one autographed rock with a heart drawn in Sharpie.

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Fun fun fun!

Great Mother had quietly retired from the party earlier that day as well. This past year has been a tough one for her and one of the motivators for the reunion was the question around how much time she may have left. She spent her life as such a strong woman that it is hard to see her in such a state of dependence. It feels like a final lesson from a thorough teacher.

When I think about her passing into this new phase of life I think of a quote from the movie Nanny McPhee that captures all of my feels about Grandma.

“When you need me but do not want me, I must stay… When you want me but no longer need me, I must go…”

If you cherish the happy moments in life while feeling the shadow of bittersweet memories, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Nothing is forever so we enjoy our moments in the sun. I love you crazy people. And remember… Next year VEGAS!

-Underdaddy to the rescue.