Adventures

Hero’s journey.

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?

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Sir Phillip, Et al.

I have been slacking on my duties. I have skipped a couple of opportunities to inform everyone that we have suffered a loss. Sir Phillip Ondeez, our pet squirrel, died in his sleep last Wednesday. He had been acting strange in the days before his death. I thought it was because of mating season because he seemed agitated and his nuts were enormous. He may be the first squirrel in history to die from blue ball syndrome. I briefly considered fixing him up some sort of stuffed animal girlfriend or other stress relief method but I felt that crossed a personal line of the bro-code. I laid out some pecans and hoped that he would be happy with the treat. After a day, I noticed that the pecans hadn’t moved. Very odd.

I tried to lure him out with my usual conversation but nothing moved inside his house. Not good.

I prepared Supermom for the news and dumped out his nest. He was buried in the strips of felt fabric, perpetually frozen in a curled-up napping pose. Dead as a doornail. So… we had an impromptu squirrel funeral before starting on Quesadilla night festivities.

Is that where our animal craziness stopped for the week? No. Of course not.

Bindi is growing and doing well. Except for the other night. Supermom decided that with our warmer weather it might be good to let Bindi wander around the back yard and stretch her legs. For the first five minutes it seemed like a good idea.

Then it went something like this:

Wallabies are two legged hairy T-Rex deer. They are wild prey animals who have strong instincts to run and/or die. When the fresh air of freedom touched her primitive nostrils, she forgot anything and anyone she had ever known. Supermom and I, her parents, became monstrous carnivores who wanted to eat her flesh. She began running circles around the backyard and breathing heavily. The more we tried to herd her to the back door the more she rebelled. We set up some obstacles to force her into a safe space. She ran headlong into the fence, slid across the concrete, and careened off the rabbit cage. She became overheated and started licking her arms in an effort to cool down. We eventually resorted to locking the dogs in a bedroom and leaving the backdoor open until she wandered back inside. At that point, her mind returned. Somewhat.

She was breathing heavily and showing the early signs of shock. Wallabies use their blood sugar in quick bursts of energy and sustained stress causes them to go into shock. The first step is to get them something with sugar. She had no interest in milk (a bad sign) and would not drink water. I did manage to get her to eat some honey which was helpful but she was twitching from panic. Our handy-dandy, how-to-keep-a-wallaby-alive guidebook said that shock “is often fatal” and “requires treatments of Diazepam” to bring things under control.

Hmmm. Our zombie deer needs Xanax because she is traumatized by Bermuda grass and may die for no reason at all.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

What now? Do I drive downtown and look for a questionable looking person on the street corner and try to score some totem poles for my wallaby? Dear authors of the handbook, suggesting controlled substances for an exotic pet is not practical.

Unless it is… I remembered that our youngest had a seizure several years ago. Part of the preparedness was a suppository gel that was comprised of petroleum jelly and Diazepam. I checked the back of our cluttered cabinet and sure enough the unused colon cannon was just waiting to calm something down. I broke open the box, adjusted the dosage dial to “Zen Buddhism”, and shot her mouth full of the calming rectal medication. I had the brief thought that the gel component may be harmful and the not-so-brief thought that I didn’t care at that point.

Bindi smacked her lips for a good five minutes and her breathing slowed down. She slumped into a pile. I didn’t know if she was dying or super-duper high. I think the second one. I am happy to report that she did live and is back to her old self.

High_life

Bro… Thats some killer stuff. 

If anything, her brush with death has given her a bitter edge. She no longer takes any chances with the dogs and even surprised Jasper with a well-placed missile drop-kick a few days ago. I heard a commotion and looked over just in time to see her kick him across the room with both back feet while standing on her hands. Ninja moves. He smacked the wall and looked confused for a second before walking away to find something better to do.

Jasper deserved it.. He has been pushing his karmic luck. He found a soft mud spot in the backyard somewhere. On two separate occasions, he has returned to the backdoor looking like a child labor coal miner.

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Doggy jail.

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Pre-bath shame.

If you have had a tough couple of weeks from things like Xanaxing your pets, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Oh and just in case you missed it, our girls identified a new holiday on our family schedule board. April 25th is now “Take a Dump Day”.

Holidays

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Uncensored

This update may be a little scattered around but I’ll share several pictures to make up for it. Work has picked up and I’m staying really busy. A routine has developed like a slow moving, low pressure system. The skies are steadily raining down the signs of spring. Warm weather. Cold weather. Green poking through the browns of winter. A few days of surveying offered some interesting views.

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This was an old wooden pile that is giving in to the moss and the moisture of the forest. Slowly being broken down with each change of the weather. You can focus in and see an entire world living under the microscope. Some infinities are smaller than others.

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The moss is having less success on a concrete drainage culvert downstream. The green is clinging to the grey and living on a steady stream of seep water and scant sunlight. On a long enough timescale the chemistry between the moss and the concrete will soften the surface and wear it down. Consuming it grain by grain.

 

Behind me, in the same culvert, lurked another anomaly.

 

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The elusive graffiti penis. A man can go a lifetime and never see one in person. How lucky am I to witness it in the native habitat? Undisturbed by censorship. A misplaced outline, waiting like a coloring book, for an artist with the skill to color within the lines.

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Jasper has a new trick. Instead of faking a heart attack, he faked a stroke. He did the normal lying around thing but when I jostled him awake he kept one side of his face completely still for a good forty five seconds. This dude is a master at deception.

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I stayed at a hotel and after a night of tossing and turning on a bed that sounded like rubber shoes in a bag I woke to part of the mattress exposed. I don’t know what this means but it is April so….

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I saw this truck on the highway. I’m not sure how to feel about their suggestion. I suppose if you are going to buy, buy local. I wonder if the driver looks like my daughter’s snapchat filter…

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Jane turned eleven today. That is ridiculous. She is the oldest and therefore a pioneer for her sisters. She represents the forward wave of my children crashing into the future. Each year teeters on being less celebrated as milestones start the process of spacing themselves out. This year we celebrated the young lady she is becoming. She loves art, music, anything Lord of the Rings, Greek mythology, and Weird Al songs. I couldn’t be more proud of who she is and where she is going.

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I thought maybe this picture was a ghost floating through a sea of red and built of the very fabric of the universe. He is holding a flashlight towards the sky and pondering if the answers for his existence actually exist themselves. Jane tells me I am wrong and that she painted a wolf howling at the moon. I see both.

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It says “Squirrels sometimes eat trash.” Don’t drip your computer trying to read it. 

We decorated for the birthday girl by writing fun phrases on balloons and hanging them in the hallway outside her room late last night. An important fact… if a balloon doesn’t float then your pre-written message will appear upside down. Oh well. We tried.

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Finally, Judy Cornbread ran into something outside and jabbed a hole into her chest. I don’t mean finally as in I was wanting her to get injured and after a long waiting period it happened. I just mean that this is the last piece of my update tonight. She is fine. It resembles a gunshot wound so I think the scar will be badass.

If you have been noticing the uptick in the pace of life, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Censored

Lady Bug dropped her forked. It hit the edge of the couch and clattered onto the floor. Her frustration rolled out of her four-year-old mouth in a crystal clear “DAMMIT”.

I looked out of the kitchen where I was preparing a beverage, eyebrow raised, “Excuse me young lady?”

She looked around like she was confused by my question. Like I was obviously deaf for not hearing her the first time. “I said dammit.”

Wow. I tried to play the stern parent who doesn’t deal with nonsense. “I know I did not hear you say that.”

“Yes.” She looked directly at me and reiterated,  “I. Said. D-a-m-m-i-t.”

She had doubled down. I shifted to negotiation phase. “You don’t need to use that word.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “Why not?” What else should be used in a moment of frustration?

She was wielding the logic of a child. It was simple but effective. A real world litmus test for a concept without a previous experience to taint judgement. I thought to myself, dammit, and then I rolled out the catch-all fallback position, “It is an adult word and you don’t need to use it.”

She fired back immediately. “That is stupid.”

Double dammit. She was right. It was stupid. We spend our lives pretending we are better than we really are. An endless cycle where we try to convince each successive generation to be better than we know ourselves to be. I was impressed by her wisdom, her resolve. She might be the first person in our family to be free of society and our expectations. How could I respond? “It is stupid but that is life so don’t say it, okay?” I replied with a slight squint. Bracing for the rebuttal.

I played my last card. This was it. The bluff. The precipice. If she smelled blood in the water I might lose all the imaginary leverage that I held over her. I braced for her answer and walked into the living room to meet my fate. My terror of a teenager could emerge from her cocoon a full nine years before nature intended.

The world hung in the balance and she answered, “okay…”.

I breathed a sigh of relief and noticed she was staring at the cup of juice in my hand. Saved by a technicality. She is unable to pour juice from the massive Hawaiian Punch jug that I buy in bulk. She is at least smart enough to know that she needs my brute strength to survive.

I am the parenting version of a useful idiot. They let me believe I have some sort of power in exchange for my services. We both know that once they can drive a car or pour their own juice, I’m done for.

I was almost done for after a separate scenario.

Earlier tonight the girls were playing Mario Cart and talking about rhyming words. One said the word “Tickle.” Seamlessly, another said, “Pickle.” A giggling God tied their thoughts together and they erupted into a chant of “Tickle my Pickle. Tickle my pickle.” I told them to stop with the rhyme. They asked “why?”

“Because I said so”, I said as seriously as I could while rushing into the next room to wipe the smile off my face. It took me a full five minutes to gather myself and be able to face them again. It was hilarious.

If you struggle with censorship, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.