Musing

Hero’s thoughts and witty banter.

Just Next Door

I have a neighbor and he is in his 90’s. Let’s call him Mr. Jones. He is a really nice and interesting man. He lives alone and I don’t see him out and about much other than his daily walk to the mailbox. We talked a few times but, on the whole, I don’t know that much about him.

But I do notice how regularly he has his yard maintained. (Mostly because mine usually lags behind) He seems to like his yard to be really well looked after.

Mr. Jones’ backyard is a large expanse of Bermuda grass surrounded by tall and aged Oak trees. If storms knock down limbs or water isn’t draining away or the leaves begin to fall he has someone come and fix those things right away. He keeps things looking good. I’ve had the passing thought that it seems like a lot of work for something I rarely see anyone using. 

One of our impromptu mailbox talks led to a conversation about his backyard and how central it was as a gathering place for the teens in a church youth group many years ago. The weekly games of two hand touch football were a big deal in the neighborhood. I could tell that he held some really great memories of the time spent in that backyard. 

Today I heard some voices and laughter from my neighbor’s backyard and I looked over to see a mother and two young children running in the backyard and playing. A little later the dad joined in the fun. Then my neighbor’s son, which would be the toddler’s grandfather, made a few laps around the yard. Four generations of family with a shared memory of laughing with each other in that backyard. 

I thought about how Mr. Jones kept that backyard in top shape probably just for a few chance encounters. For days like today. He holds that space open.

I think of my Great Grandmother who had cable TV because we might want to watch it and bought cheese and Pringles chips because we liked to eat them. I think of my Grandmother who made sure our Christmases were special. My dad who keeps up a pool mostly because the grandkids swim in it and my mom who keeps a farm of animals that she should probably winnow down but because the grandkids like them… 

They were/are all holding a space.

That, to me, is our humanity. Our ability to love the next generation and give them a gift of memories they will open years down the road. Somewhere between receiving and giving is when we discover that the gift even exists.

I get caught up in the stories of the week and my chase for success in a hundred different forms. I forget that I am on the clock. I enjoyed seeing Mr. Jones and his family living in the middle of a moment. It reminds me that while you can’t demand memories be made, you can hold a space open for them and sooner or later they will come along. 

If you enjoy a nice and pure moment, this post is for you. You’re welcome. This is a crazy season for the world in general. Hold open some peaceful spaces.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.  

The Emperors New Virus

So how long until we can ask if everyone has lost their fucking minds?

Another week?

Another month?

Let me set out my logic early so you can decide beforehand if you agree or disagree without having to read a lot of words and then going through the pain and stress of rationalizing your opinion.

 

  • Closing shop for a short time was a good move. We knew very little about the virus and there were some very serious implications around it that would have dire consequences.

 

  • We can’t stay closed forever. That part should be obvious. The reason that we enjoy civilized life is because of how specialized and connected we are. That is already at risk and staying in the cave longer just pushes it that much closer.

 

  • People demonstrated to be at-risk should be our utmost priority. They should be protected and not forced into any kind of return to licking doorknobs.

 

  • Our president didn’t suggest injecting disinfectants. Not directly. But he did look over to his advisers with a twinkle of hope in his eye and ask questions about if it was a viable solution and that should be scary enough. It was not sarcasm. Most of his statements could be made around a watercooler with a close friend as small talk and they would giggle and say “man that old Donny T is crazy”. Most of his statements are not exemplary testaments to strong and powerful leadership at the Presidential level.

 

  • We are obsessed with death models and that keeps us from asking the right questions. I click on the CDC link at least twice a day. It’s a train wreck rubberneck reaction. How bad will it get. Morbid curiosity. But it isn’t the only decision tool. And it is related to testing which has been shown repeatedly to underestimate actual infections. This has been likened to a war. Battle decisions aren’t made on death toll alone. They include strategic advantage.

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  • Our political parties are confused. We have the party of individual rights and freedom mandating private businesses to close. We have the party of socialism raising up individual safety as a reason for the herd to sacrifice. I’m not picking a side but you have to admit it is weird. I don’t blame them. I’m confused by this mess too.
  • The reason for flattening the curve was the objective of not overwhelming our healthcare. It was never intended to get back to normal life more quickly. If we wanted to get through this quickly we would put everyone in the same room and have a virus sharing party. Everyone share beverages and cough in each other’s faces. We would be done with it in 21 days. Disastrously, but true enough. This rollback was a move to avoid the situation in Italy where people were turned away and left to die. We’ve blunted the curve but we are at the other end of the spectrum, healthcare workers are being furloughed and fired because nothing is happening. We are now losing healthcare capacity from an action with the sole intent to protect healthcare capacity.

So those are the facts that fuel my thinking. If we are misaligned then don’t bother correcting me because I am just as hard headed as you and we will just waste energy in a comment section. If all that makes some little bit of sense and you can tolerate it as a base of discussion then let’s move to the next half.

 

  • We are not seeing the right numbers on actual infections, transmissivity, and mortality. The testing has not materialized and we are operating under the Italy assumption; the idea that mass death and chaos will ensue. All the while we are getting hints that infections are way more prevalent and that this has been here since maybe November of last year. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume these mortality and transmission numbers come out somewhere around a bad seasonal flu.

 

  • Some experts are suggesting that a vaccine for a corona virus is a pipe dream that has been tried for many years with no success in sight. It is the common cold. This is a deadly strain. Should we still pursue it? Absolutely. But I would like some reality conveyed to the masses about just how likely it will be to create one. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume this answer is something longer than two years to create one.

 

  • The media thrives on controversy and sensationalism and breaking news. Hopefully that is recognized as fact. Take all of the news with a grain of salt. When the lead headline of the day was fear about a second wave next fall I tried to find what they were basing it on. It was an interview in the Washington Post. The guy said that this virus will likely be seasonal and would likely coincide with flu season along with colds and a hundred other things. From that statement we got a day full of dire warnings about a second wave killing millions. Maybe it is true but we are struggling to assess the present situation. It seems irresponsible to start freaking out about the future. But for the sake of my final question let’s assume they are right and this is an annual event.

 

So… if everyone will catch this thing over some time period, we have no prospect of a vaccine, and this will happen annually in a seasonal pattern. Why are we crushing our economy, our healthcare capacity, and dismantling our way of life?

Its because we have a risk-averse culture who believes that no matter what something must be done. Safety first.

Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is nothing at all.

So here is my final question that I ask myself every morning…

What the fuck are we doing?

It looks like panic and it needs to stop. But it won’t. No one will put their neck on the line because you can’t prove what didn’t happen and safety is the safest thing. More infections will mean more death and no one wants that hanging over their head but in the end it may well be the lesser evil.

I’ll add a caveat that if a vaccine is on the horizon and/or if the true mortality rate is 1-3% or higher and if I’m wrong about the overall current stress on the healthcare system then we are doing the right thing but I don’t know that we-the-people are seeing the data to make that decision. And we should be involved in that decision. The two things that are rampant in government are tedium and micromanagement. The desire to control every single decision along a flow chart because the general public is considered too stupid to do the right thing.

This whole ride is a daily rollercoaster. I suspect that right and wrong decisions are an illusion because we are where we are and we’ve done what we’ve done. And what we do next won’t hinge on anything you or I think. I’ve never been so unsure and internally divided on an issue.

So, if you were trolling the internet for a random person’s internal dialogue and misguided opinions, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Share with caution. I could be a ten-year-old in Taiwan for all you know. It’s the internet. Anything is possible.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

This too will pass

And we’re the lucky ones…

Today I drove to the school and a sign told me to wait in my car and someone would come out to help me. It was true. Someone came out and asked me what classes my children were in and I told her. She disappeared and returned a few minutes later with two large Ziplock bags with workbooks and loose paper and a few extra number two pencils. I went home and set the work on the dining room table and went about my day.

By lunchtime I had a pounding headache which I attribute to an unholy layer of pollen on everything. The south has many weapons to kill us and none as deadly as allergies. It still hasn’t totally left me but I am in a pondering mood so I decided to write.

A few years ago, I wrote a piece about life changing slowly but all-of-the-sudden. These little moments that seem small but when we look back we can pinpoint the exact moment that nothing was the same. The subtle shift of the earth under our feet. The moment our perspective was changed. There is something about those moments that are sad. It feels like something stolen or an opportunity missed. We grieve the memories slowly through life.

This whole COVID-19 situation will hit us in one way or another. Even if we succeed and stop the spread and protect ourselves (which I believe we are capable of). Even if the economy bounces back. We will still have some scars. The world will be different.

One of the kids asked me today when they could go back to school. That they really wanted to see their friends. I told them, “I don’t know… maybe soon.” And I smiled through the lie. My truth is that I think this school year is over. I don’t think we will go back and finish. For my daughters, I can see what they have lost. Even before they see it themselves.

For Lady Bug, it is the last two months with one of her most favorite people in the world. This person is a teacher with whom she finds love and comfort. She was having an especially hard day the other day and was able to have a Facetime to cheer her up. Those mornings of going to Kindergarten and working on her reading with volunteers and finishing the year out with her friends that she holds dear will probably not be the same. She won’t get to walk over the ceremonial bridge and show her community her growth. Next year she will go back and simply be in first grade. No celebration just a new stage. She will get to experience that odd feeling of seeing people who share your past but not your present. A teacher that you used to know…

For Donna Threeto, she might be even harder hit. Her current teacher has been her teacher for three years. It’s Montessori style so they have combined classrooms 1-3rd, 4-6th, and 7-8th. She loves her classroom and leaving for Spring Break might have been the last day. There. might be a true period of mourning for that loss.

For Threeto and Lady Bug, I can’t describe the comfort of knowing that your children leave home to spend the day with people who love them like their own. These two won’t see their loss until the new phase begins. If they are even able to put words to what they feel. I will donate a tear or two to their cause.

The older two are more flexible and adaptable. They have some chance to stay in touch with a few friends through phones and computers. Prima may miss a summer program that she earned a chance to attend through academic performance. Jane has a summer trip to Chicago that is already cancelled. These are also lost things. Experience that would have an effect and create a memory but now are something less.

But we are not alone. Just like all of the proms and graduations and societal rites of passage, pieces of our lives have been lost and we won’t know it until the night passes and day breaks. There will be talk of postponing graduations and delaying proms but this will only encroach on the next phase of life. It would feel fake and forced. You can’t put time back in the bottle. When the times comes we need to move forward. We will be better served to take the reminder that life can change on a dime and use it to love each other with a little more depth.

More appreciation of the moment.

Give the hugs an extra five seconds of squeeze.

We joke about growing weary of being stuck in our houses with our family. Our patience growing thin. Days like today it seems a very real thing.

But I have everyone close. And they are healthy. And happy. We are growing our own moment in time. We are building the next thing to be stolen. My kids are all at an age where they like me. There is food to eat. We have plenty of TP. Life is good. Amidst the chaos, life is good.

One day in the near future life will return to a new normal. We will emerge from our cave, blinking into the sun.

Our new routine will start suddenly and it will persist. I will mourn the change as another loss. As something stolen. An opportunity missed.

That missing thing is always… more time.

If you are struggling with change, this post is for you. Don’t be bitter about what should have been. Nothing is guaranteed. There are parts of this total shit show that you will miss when it is over. Mourn, adapt, rinse, and repeat.

 

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

 

Ps – Just as I finished this heartfelt piece Supermom smashed her big toe with a ceramic cup. Edge of the cup fell right on the joint of the big toe and it is black and blue big time. Send some positive feels her way. I bet she doesn’t miss that part when it goes away.

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?

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.