Bullfrogs

Nothing can spin your moral compass faster than the protective instinct of parenting. We are dealing with another round of bullying at school and hearing about turns me into a seething ball of anger. Holding my composure around my daughters is even tougher.

I sat down at dinner the other night with the daughter who is having the problems. She was acting tough or maybe it was just a disconnection from the day.

“I heard you had a tough day at school.”

“Yeah”, she said without looking up.

I prodded further, “Some kids being jerks?”

Tears welled up in her eyes and she set down the book she was reading. “I just don’t understand it.” A tear from her right eye rolled down over her cheek and was followed by one on the left. “They threw a ball into some weeds and asked me to get it. I got muddy and the other girls laughed. ALL of the boys are muddy everyday but no one laughs at them.” She leaned over on me and her shoulders slumped. I knew she had been waiting for Daddy for support.

“What else did they do?”

“I tried to throw the ball back to the group but it was wet and it went way left. It slipped out of my hand. One of the girls called me stupid and another said, ‘Throw it again. Make the dog fetch’.”

I could hear how wounded she felt in her voice. I could see the scene of kids gathered around having fun picking at the lone target. A girl who was too wrapped up in fairies and fantasy to realize she was walking into a trap.

“Then they smashed my fairy house I was making.”

She likes to pile up rocks and decorate them with moss to make a fairy house. I could picture this scene too. “Who smashed it?” I asked.

“My friend told one of the boys to do it. And they walked over and jumped on it and kicked it around.”

“Your friend? That doesn’t sound like a friend.”

“She was my friend. She was just being mean with the other girls. I don’t know what I did to them.” She looked at her empty hands. Searching for some reason.

My heart ached in my chest. What can I do? I can love her beyond words. I can be her friend at home and on the weekends. I am lost at how to make things better at school. I feel tears building in the corner of my eyes. Hot angry tears.

I know what I want to tell her. I want to tell her to pick the biggest one and completely lose her shit in a tornado of rage. Bite them in the face. Poke an eye. Smash and burn everything they have ever loved into a powder. Light fires. Raze the landscape and leave nothing but scorched earth in your wake. Make those little bastards pay. Put fear into the hearts of men and all of those who would be your enemy. Take no prisoners.

I take a breath. The instinct passes quickly. I would never tell her those things and it wouldn’t matter anyway. That isn’t who she is.

I’m a little more “Old Testament” kind of guy. I was the kid who would get hit with a spit-wad and return fire with a chair. My daughter wants to enjoy animals and talk about funny things. She loves reading magic stories and watching old movies. I can’t imagine a better friend in the world and hopefully she doesn’t let the mob mentality of a few 5thgrade dumbasses change her.

I put my arm around her and sit for a minute. I need to say something but it all feels empty. “I’ll talk with the principal. It may help. It may not. Don’t ever for a second think that you will be in trouble for standing up for yourself. If you feel threatened or in danger, fight with everything you have. Once you decide to fight… don’t stop until someone makes you. People go after easy targets because they are assholes. That never changes. This will get better, one way or the other. Most bullies are just bullfrogs. They sit around their little pond and croak at whatever walks by.”

“Okay Daddy…”

I’m not the guy who cries wolf at every little problem. I feel like society at large is quick to label things as bullying. I was teased by friends occasionally but I don’t feel it counts as bullying. I did my share of teasing too but I don’t think it crossed that line. My daughter’s scenario is different. The actions are petty but constant. It can be difficult to decide if “kids being kids” or there is a persistent trend that needs intervention. Most of the kids who bully are dealing with a challenge from some other part of their lives. Some of them are just shitty human beings. When it is your child who is bearing the brunt of their actions, you really don’t care which is which.

We are going to work through this. Things are quieter at the moment. Summer is approaching so we will have a few months to rebound and several of the problem children are claiming they are transferring school districts for next fall. Fingers crossed.

I went to eat lunch at the school in a show of support and I met a few of the kids. They didn’t have fire coming out of their ears or horns on their heads. They were just stupid kids who didn’t seem to have much direction. They certainly weren’t prestigious enough to be passing judgement on anyone. One of them might actually be part bullfrog. Considering it may me laugh out loud.

Part of my visit was to try and see if my daughter was truly alone in her struggle. She did have one friend who seemed to have her back. The girl was holding half of a pair of scissors when I met her. I asked, “How well do those scissors work?”

“Just fine. They ain’t for cutting paper anyway…”

She then started to sharpen a pencil she was holding in her other hand. She stared blankly into the lunchroom crowd and let the shavings fall into her plate. I leaned over to my daughter, “It’s a good thing this one is on your side.”

“I know right. She is kind of scary but I like her. She doesn’t like people being mean to other people either. I teach her about animals and Greek Mythology.”

“Sounds like a good friend. Buy her an ice cream every now and then. I’ll pay for it.”

“Okay.”

Bears don’t mess with wolverines because the fight ain’t worth the crazy. I’m glad my daughter has a wolverine.

If you deal with any of this crap from time to time, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Bullying is complete crap. Be a friend and a safety net. That’s really the only advice I have.

-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.

Possum Dog Chronicles

He lived a simple life, sleeping most of the day and doing the same at night. His well-worn pillow, crammed into the bottom of the black wire pet carrier, was a retreat from the noise and confusion of his new home. A home full of squeals from four little girls and sideways glances from a surly black and white cat who, judging from her demeanor, had begrudgingly decided to let him live. There was another dog who lived in the house as well. A large sandy coated hound of some sort who was easily excited and falsely vigilant with intruders. He knew her name to be Judy because that is what everyone shouted at her whenever the garbage was toppled or her long tail knocked a drink off a table. The cat said that Judy’s first act of unintentional defiance was crapping in the brown leather dress shoe of the human that the small ones called “Daddy”.

Of course, that was a story from a cat which is always to be taken with a grain of salt.

Judy was outside his cage at that very moment. Making desperate pleads with him to wake up. Nudging the door and whimpering. The Daddy was calling out. Concerned but not quite upset.

“Jasper. Jasper. Wake up Jasper.”

Jasper heard the words like an echo down a hallway. A disembodied voice calling him back to a world he had started to leave behind. Light entering the edge of his still open eyes shone upon a shrinking universe. The forms huddled outside of his cage were shadows flitting at the corners of his eyes. Blurry figures. Like trying to see someone through steamy shower glass. He wanted to answer. He felt the urge to meet the calls but his body would not respond.

“Jasper… jaspe…”

The sounds faded and he slipped into the darkness. This wasn’t his first trip but he didn’t know if it might be the last.

A week before, he had gotten excited when the Daddy had unexpectedly appeared through the front door. Never mind the fact that the Daddy had exited the house two minutes prior for the sole purpose of checking the mail. Put aside the fact that it was a Saturday and no one had actually left the property at all. In Jasper’s dog mind, the Daddy had returned. None of the details mattered. The Daddy was back and anyone coming back was exciting. Adrenaline rushed through Japser’s veins and made his hair tingle just behind his ears in the spot that he liked to be rubbed. The euphoria was too much for his elderly stomach. Jasper froze in a wave of nausea and puked up the lunch he had just eaten into a rusty red pile of Purina. He lay down to rest and fell asleep. Or passed out. A minor darkness.

Half an hour later he woke to the smell of something delicious nearby. Snacks! How fortunate that the Daddy had not seen the vomit and thrown it away like he did all the other times.

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(His bowl is inside so Judy Cornbread doesn’t eat his food.)

This darkness was different. Deeper. More confining. He sank into the warm comfort of the nothingness while flashes of his short seven or eight years memory played in his mind. The home he shared with his first family. A father, a mother, two girls, and a rambunctious boy. He remembered laying in the sink in the bathroom while his Mother dried her hair with a magic contraption that created a wonderful stream of hot air that made his curly white hair ripple in the flow.

He thought of the house he was living in now and the baby bird in the backyard. He had been released into the backyard to pee. Somehow despite poor vision, a lack of teeth, and a general smallness; he had managed to track the bird to a small space under an old dog house. For a moment, instinct seized his sensibilities and forced his congested heart into service. Oxygen soaked into his inefficient lungs. He launched blindly at his prey and sank his one decent tooth into the baby bird’s vulnerable neck. He knew it was wrong but something in him cried out for murder. To show his power. To prove he wasn’t the feeble eyed, tendered footed Jasper. He was a conqueror. A warrior. The world was survival of the fittest and very rarely was that him. This memory made him feel large.

He thought of cheese snacks that he got every night and the little white pill hidden in the center. The powdery substance was bitter but the creamy goodness of the Kraft single was worth it. So savory and delicious. Even now, his dying mouth watered slightly at the thought; just as Pavlov hypothesized that it might.

Sound returned. Jasper’s ears became keen to the world around him. The humans were talking.

“What is it Judy? What’s wrong with Jasper? Uh oh. Hey honey… I think Jasper is dead.”

“What?”

“Jasper. I think he died.”

“You always think he died.”

“This time I think he really did. Judy thinks so too.”

He heard more of the humans press closer around the cage. Peering at his lifeless body. The oldest female, the one called Mommy with the colorful hair, leaned in close to the cage and asked, “What should we do? Oh God. He is dead isn’t he?”

The small humans ran into the room. “Mommy, mommy, what is wrong with Jasper? Daddy what is wrong?”

“I think he is dead.”

The smallest of the group declared, somewhat inappropriately, “Boom! Jasper’s dead.” And she ran out of the room.

The Mommy was worried. “What are we going to do?”

“Dig a hole in the backyard I guess. What else is there?”

The Daddy left for the kitchen to get a ceremonial shovel and the customary garbage bag.

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98.7% deceased. 

Jasper held tightly to those last words. A hole. In the backyard. A spark fired in his brain. Suddenly the darkness he thought was warm began to feel cold. A loneliness crept into his soul and he fought against the fading of the light. Fear. He swam towards the voices. Panic. He kicked against the currents. Desperation. Think of cheese. Think of killing birds in the backyard. This is not the end. Do not go gently into that good night.

Slowly he felt the tingle returning to his paws. He felt the rise and fall of a breathing chest and the irregular thump of an old dog’s heart. His eyes flittered and wiped away the milky glaze of death. He had returned and, just like the Daddy returning from the mailbox, he was excited. Jasper rose from the depths of the afterlife with a renewed vigor. An urge to spin circles and yip loudly like small dogs are prone to do. He was alive and excited! Resurrected! Full to the brim or hope and adrenaline and… nausea.

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He danced in a circle and then vomited a small yellowish pile of stomach acid at Daddy’s feet.

“Never mind. He was just asleep.” The Daddy walked to the kitchen for yet another paper towel. “Welcome back buddy”, he said as he scooped the warm goo into a trash can, ruining what was sure to be a decent midnight snack.

If you enjoy stories about certain death that is overcome by the power of life, this post is for you. Happy Easter. I don’t think Jasper is any sort of savior but his name does start with a “J” and he has visited the realm beyond. If only he could talk.

You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Country Fried Childhood

The modern interpretation of “country” is nothing more than a misplaced label. It is a fashion fad that includes shiny trucks, fancy boots, domestic beer, and songs that manage to weave all three themes together with a catchy tune. The term “rural” probably applies better to the contemporary trend. Country is an ethereal way of life that is hard to define but when you see it, you know it.

I recently discovered a treasure trove of old pictures that I would like to submit as evidence towards a country certificate. This can be a game. First, look at the picture and try to spot everything interesting you can see. I will then assist by pointing out the things I see. We can compare notes in the comments.

I do want to offer a caveat or a p.s. to my mother and stepdad for what you are about to endure. I cherish everything about my childhood, it most definitely gave me perspectives and opinions that I would never have gotten. Plus I got lots of awesome pictures for my blog. Also, we are now square on the you-shooting-me-through-the-kitchen-window thing.

Okay disclaimers out of the way. Who is ready to play?


PHOTO 1

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Lightning in Buffalo River

This one is easy. I’m riding a horse in a river. Notice anything about my horse?

No? Let me assist…

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If your original answer was “Oh, I notice your horse looks like a victim from Jeepers Creepers or maybe the horse from Sleepy Hollow.” then you win. This was Lightning and he was the slowest stallion on the planet. A tumor left him with only one eye and he walked with his head slightly tilted to the left so he could see where he was walking. He was also really tall which is handy for lumbering around with a visual impairment. He was a good horse though. I hope he died of old age and not from wandering into traffic.

Bonus: I think I’m wearing one of my parent’s T-shirts.


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You might be a redneck if entertainment was rolling down the hill in front of the house and letting the dogs chase you. It was good during snow but a little bumpy on grass. Also, I am wearing rubber boots which is the official childhood boot on a farm. Cowboy boots are for riding.


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This is awards day at my elementary school being held in the parking lot. The only parking lot. Where did everyone park? We had a gymnasium. Why?

I don’t suppose this picture really goes towards the whole country theme but check out how deliciously 1980’s this day truly was…

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Is that Michelle Duggar? What is she wearing? They still own this camera.


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This photo.

Family vacation to Fall Creek Falls. What the hell were we wearing? Did we share a new pack of tube socks? This photo counts towards country because I showed it to my mother yesterday and she said, and I quote, “This looks so suburban.” On what planet under the almightly Lord’s sweet creation is this style any measure of “suburban”? Good lord.

A) I don’t think my sister has pants. Mom swears she does but I’m unconvinced. I do remember her Pizza Hut shirt was from a Land Before Time themed birthday party.

B) My stepdad looks like he escaped from the law and robbed the first elderly man checking the mail that he happened upon.

C) My cousin has rainbow short shorts. God bless the eighties. This might have been early nineties but those clothes are a hold-over. And we shared a haircut style too.

Who thought, Hell yeah, this is a moment. Y’all squeeze in close for a picture. They were right. This is awesome.

I may frame this one.


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We built this barn like the Amish. Except the Amish get lots of people and do it in one day.  I remember building the skeleton of the barn and then adding to it every season by recycling some nearby building. Maybe a neighbor had a chicken coupe that they no longer wanted. Piece by piece we sculpted a masterpiece. There were these eight inch nails that were forged by the devil himself and intended to drive you insane because they would bend in a slight breeze. If you didn’t hit the nail perfectly it would bend in half. The nails were ribbed so they were impossible to pull out once they got started. I hated those nails.

Thirty years later and I think this barn is almost done. In multiple ways. I love sitting in the barn while it rains on the tin roof. It is very soothing.


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This is a picture of my mom with a newborn foal but the item of interest to me is the livestock trailer in the background. The infamous “red trailer”. The yellow top is a recycled chunk of school bus and the sides and front were welded onto a regular flat bed trailer. Everything was then spray painted red. A few years of UV damage and some miscellaneous rusting created an awe inspiring symbol of country perseverance.

The foal was a girl and named Grace. She is an ornery old lady now. Also, that stall in the barn now has a solid back wall. When did that happen? Who knows. Barn gnomes.


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We put a lot of effort into super fancy dog beds. This is Alicia, patron saint of our farm. She lived to 123 in dog years and in her final months of life she appeared to be a solar powered skeleton. She once fell off of a spiral staircase onto a concrete floor. Smacked like a bowling ball. Any mortal dog would have died from a brain bleed but not her. Nine feet down and she walked it off like a zombie that got shot anywhere besides directly-in-the-head. She was a really good squirrel dog and loved hunting down rats that lived under the dog houses.

All this stuff counts right?


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This photo has lots of options; the wooden cows, the gun by the backdoor, the outdoor plant hanging inside, the playhouse in the backyard that was crammed full of junk or chickens (I can’t remember which), the curtains, and the pet bird (Spike) that was later eaten by a cat.

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This is the cat, Patches. She avoided a brutal broomstick beating and lived to be an old lady. Its a miracle mom didn’t take her out with a shotgun after Spike got eaten.


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This one is self sustaining. House trailer, trucks, dogs, a spare tire, gravel road. A song in a picture.


We had some farm animals that were dangerous and we kept a stick with us for self defense. We had a turkey and a goat that were both mean and immune to physical assault. I watched my mom loose her shit on the turkey when it tried to spur her. She grabbed a stick and whooped that dude like a dirty rug. He lived but not much longer after that incident.  I couldn’t find any pictures for those.

If you enjoy pictures that capture an era frozen in time, this post is for you. You’re welcome. To my Dad and Stepmom, don’t think you got off easy. I just haven’t gone through photos on your side in a while. Soon. soon….

-Underdaddy to the rescue.