A Gift

I often get the question, “Do your kids ever read your blogs?”

Which I answer, “No.”

However, I know that one day they will. That is the whole point. To create a record of all of our craziness and random life events that they can look back on and laugh. That is also why I try to create nicknames and spread the love on embarrassing stories. I hope the stories will sneak past their teenage years. Past the unforgiving eyes of bitter tweens who may use the information for harm. I also hope that they are strong enough to ignore lesser mortals and their insults.

Even outside of this blog, I know my kids will share embarrassing truths with their friends and will face a situation where their delicate secrets get exposed. It happens. Friendships change and relationships end. Things you share in confidence don’t always remain that way. Write that down.

If I have learned something from writing my life stories for other people to read, it is this… Everyone has a similar life experience with someone else. In other words, if something has happened to you then that same something has probably happened to someone else. I can’t tell you how many of my stories that I thought were unique had a followup from a reader who said, “ME TOO!”

As adults we don’t share. We try to maintain decorum and civility. We try to act like we have things figured out. That life is going smoothly according to plan. It never is. Life doesn’t conform to plans. I try to keep the transparency pretty high for my kids. I figure that if I am going to be a mediocre parent then the least I can do is not lie to them.

We had a talk the other night about one of the kids and a funny poop accident. I could tell they were a little embarrassed so I let them in on a secret.

UD: You don’t have to be embarrassed about potty accidents.

Kid: I don’t?

UD: No. Don’t take that as an excuse to start crapping your pants but accidents happen.

Kid: Have they ever happened to you?

UD: Uhhh. Well… Sure. They happen to everybody. If you live long enough I guarantee that you will ruin at least one pair of perfectly good underwear.

Kid: *laughs* Tell me about it happening to you!

I sat for a moment frozen in fear. I have had no hesitation sharing their stories but I realized I didn’t want to tell them my own. What kind of role model is that? Some of their harshest stories are about poop-gone-wrong so I searched my soul and offered up a couple of tales.

UD: I can tell you that there were two times in my life when a fart lied to me.

Kids: *laughs hysterically*

I then shared the following accounts…

The first one that I can remember was during bath time with my cousin. I couldn’t have been more than three. I remember my cousin making bubbles in the bathtub using his mysterious internal gas powers.  I also remember my mother walking into the bathroom and spotting a suspicious looking floating object and having a mild “freak-out”. How to get this turd from tub to toilet was an interesting problem. The solution to this quandary was scooping handfuls of water out of the tub and into the air towards the toilet. Imagine trying to pick up a boat by scooping the water around the boat. Exactly like that but with a turd. I suppose the approach worked because I don’t remember anything after that except being blamed for the problem in the first place. That whole memory is fuzzy.

I also remember an incident from kindergarten. I was probably five. This one was not so much of an accident as much as it was a straight-up pants-shitting. It was nap time and I was drifting in and out of consciousness when suddenly I realized something wasn’t right. My body had bypassed all decision making processes and while I was dreaming, it shit in my pants. Adrenaline rushed into my veins and flooded my mind with one overwhelming feeling… Oh shit. Literally. I raised my hand and requested a trip to the restroom. I was told to wait a few minutes and we would go as a class. Fantastic. I didn’t have that kind of time but what else could I do? I waited. Play it off. Keep a poker face.

Fifty hours later (ten minutes) it was time for class potty break. Kindergarten is the worst kind of place to go to the bathroom. It is like an insane asylum. Other kids would peek through the cracks in the stall and try to hold a conversation. Not the best scenario for trying to perform damage control on what is left of your wardrobe. I won’t elaborate details but rest assured the logistics of the kindergarten bathroom were not suitable for me to discreetly correct the problem. I spent the rest of the day self-aware of my personal space and tried to minimize all movements. It was traumatizing. Like a kernel of popcorn in your teeth or a small rock between your toes when you are wearing boots, the feeling is unique and unmistakable. Somehow, I made it through the day and the ride home without drawing the attention of any of my soulless sociopathic five-year-old peer group. I rushed to the bathroom to try and re-handle the problem on my home turf. I recalled the process my mother used to clean my baby-sister’s underwear whenever she had an accident; wash them out in the toilet. Think through the steps. No mistakes. I knew that the water needed to be moving to wash the debris from the soiled cotton. No problem. I had seen it done several times before. Go time.

This is one of those memories that are burned extra bright.

I deftly pulled the handled to unleash the torrent of water and held the underwear against the raging stream. I remember thinking, “This is going to work!” The water promptly snatched the underwear out of my hand and sucked them down the toilet. I stood staring at the gurgling whirlpool with wet hands and wide eyes. Right on queue my mother, walking down the hall, asks, “What are you doing in there?”



Poor planning. I didn’t have any fresh fruit-of-the-looms. I should have gotten some before attempting triage. Idiot! Cut me some slack. I was five. From there I remember going commando and acting surprised at my amazing disappearing underwear.

Luckily that is the last incident I remember as a young child. The next closest call was at a church Christmas dinner. We went to a Methodist church and there was food which meant it was a Wednesday. Santa was a surprise guest and everyone lined up to sit in his lap. I had just eaten an after dinner peppermint. The semi-chemy kind that had been sitting in the glass bowl in the lobby since Easter. I wasn’t aware that a sudden intake of sugar is sometimes a strong stimulant. Instant gut bomb. I didn’t want to leave the Santa line but I broke out in cold sweats and had to admit defeat. Thanks to all that is holy, I didn’t shit in Santa’s lap. That would’ve been a disaster. The little helper elf photographer would have captured the moment for eternity. For all that has gone wrong in my life, that moment landed in my favor. What is church for if not for small miracles, right?

So there you go. To my future kids. Here are a few tales of personal shame that you can enjoy. You’re welcome. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Pants On Fire

Kids are liars. Pathological.

They lie like a penny in a parking lot. Out in the open for anyone to see. The problem is that they believe their own hype and the blame falls to the parent.

We listen to a popular XM radio station that works as a sedative for children in a minivan; Kids Place Live. A few weeks ago the Absolutely Mindy Show was talking calls from children. The object was for the child to say three statements, one of which was a lie. Mindy would have to guess which statement was false and then the kids would request a song (always “Let It Go”). The first caller gave a few obvious truths and one obvious lie. Mindy spots it easily and then asks, “What song would you like to hear?”

The child never flinched and answered, “Turn Down For What” by Lil’ Jon.

Mindy replied with complete professionalism while I laughed and my children asked if we could hear that song too. I assured them that Mindy would probably not be able to find it but not to worry because “Let It Go” was on the way. I still imagine the parent, standing nearby while their eight year old sold them out to satellite radio, had to be mortified at the judging that was going on in the minds of all the minivan moms and at least one minivan dad. (Not judging but sharing a familiar empathy.)

Then came the second caller. The first embarrassed parent was quickly cleared of all bad parenting because of the second story. A six-ish year old boy whose lie turned out to be, “I sleep in a bed.” It went something like this:

Mindy: Wow! You don’t sleep in a bed? Where do you sleep?
Boy: In the floor.
Mindy: Oh awesome! Like camping or playing pretend?
Boy: No, In the attic.
Mindy: Do you have a bed in the attic?
Boy: Yes but I don’t have room to sleep on it.
Mindy: Oh so I bet you are messy and have too many toys or clothes on it. (Trying to move the conversation or give him a way out.)
Boy: Well it is full of stuff. My brother’s stuff that my dad put there.
Mindy: Oh okay. I bet you have a great dad since you have all that stuff. (The eternal optimist.)
Boy: No, it is just car seats and stuff.
Mindy: ….

If you are that parent, I am certain there is an explanation. You have satellite radio and have given over use of your cell phone to an elementary age child. It is hard for me to accept that you force a child to sleep on the floor next to junk in an attic.

That’s what kids do. They tell unintentional lies and the next thing you know you are under a social shakedown. You are feeling the shame of the working middle class beating down upon you while you plead to God that the child didn’t mention any names.

I am taking the side of the true victims, the parents. Maybe because I know that one day I will be caught in a similar situation. When conversations break down as fast as light travels, it is only a matter of time before some innocent bystander walks in at the tail end of one of my regular parenting meltdowns. Does anyone else ever stop after a little ranting and raving and think, “My God, I am a monster.”?

Here is a small example of how we go from “Happy Go Lucky” to “Sweet Holy Hell!” in about five minutes. Imagine that the child is seated in front of some freshly prepared spaghetti with garlic bread. And go…

Underaddy: What would you like to drink with dinner? (Smiling and looking at the oldest child, Jane)
Child: I don’t know. (Child is draped across the arm of the chair like a sad Emo rock star)
Underdaddy: Well… We have some grape juice and some water.
Child: I don’t like water. (Picks at her spaghetti)
Underdaddy: Sit up straight you are going to…(child knock plate off table onto the floor) Ugghh.
Child: Daaaadddyyyyy. I dropped my fork.
Underdaddy: You dropped the entire plate. In fact, the fork is still on the table because you haven’t touched it. (Stares in disbelief)
Child: I’m thirsty.
Underdaddy: Can you pick up the spaghetti you just spilled? I will get you a towel.
Child: Why do we always have to clean!?
Underdaddy: It’s not …. Stand up. Take this rag. Clean up the spaghetti. (Breathe and count to ten)
Child: Here biscuit. (Starts flicking food towards the dog)
Underdaddy: Stop feeding the dog and clean up the food! What do you want to drink?
Child: Milk. (From under the table)
Underdaddy: We don’t have milk. I told you that. We have grape juice and water.
Child: Sweet Tea? (Picking up food with hands and slopping it on the table NEXT TO empty plate)
Underdaddy: Oh for the love of … Grape Juice or Water… (Rubs temples and recites a Buddhist calming chant under his breath)
Child: Can I have more spaghetti? (Child tries to stand up under the table with a THUNK she hits her head.) Owww!
Underdaddy: Water… I’m going to get you water. Bring me your plate and I’ll get you more. (Hands child a cup of water) Use two hands so you don’t spill it.
Child: Here’s my plate daddy. (Walks to table with cup of water and instead of putting it down she tries to pick up the plate and spills both into the floor.)
Underdaddy: Did you really just do that?
Child: I spilled my water! (She starts crying. For both of us, I assume. She bends down to pick things up and nails the table again with her face)

The dog is taking advantage and chowing down on spaghetti. I am certain that I will clean it up later once the dog pukes it on the carpet in my bedroom. The other children are finishing their meals and requesting refills of juice and/or more spaghetti. I prepare another water and plate of food for Helen Keller. I yell at the dog for eating the spaghetti and the dog runs towards the bedroom to escape. The fourth child is walking up behind the dog as the dog spins and knocks her down. More crying. BTW, we are now out of forks. I haven’t yet made myself a plate or a drink or even sat down since arriving home.

Child: Why do we always have spaghetti?
Underdaddy: Because daddy is inconsiderate. He doesn’t have time for much more than boiling water and browning beef in a skillet. (This is where things go south)
Child: Can I have grape juice instead? This water is spicy. (She is clearly just speaking to hear sounds)
Underdaddy: There is zero explanation for you having spicy water. Water is not spicy and no you have to drink your water first. I just made you a new water after you spilled the other one.
Child: My head hurts.
Underdaddy: That’s because you smack it on things like it’s the end of a blind man’s cane. You probably have a concussion or something. Eat your dinner.
Child: I don’t want it.
Underdaddy: Fine. Don’t eat your dinner. I don’t even care. I am going to eat mine. (I dump whats left of the sauce into the pan of noodles and stand over the stove cramming spaghetti down my gullet.)
Child: Daddy?
Underdaddy: (Stops and waits a split second before responding through a mouth full of spaghetti) Yes…
Child: Why are you upset?

-Here is the point where a stranger walking in and hearing the end of the conversation would not end well. These are the things I want to say for a brief moment.-

Underdaddy: (Takes a deep breath) I am upset because I do my best to feed you and keep you alive and yet you insist on beating your own head against a table, flinging food around like dishes at a Greek wedding, and using your ears as decorations instead of sensory organs. Thanks to your general lack of concern I have a ruined carpet, a vomitty dog, and a deep seated doubt of my own self-worth. I don’t care if you sit and stare at the damn spaghetti until it grows legs. All we will ever have from here forward is spaghetti and water. For the rest of your life. Italian prison food! Learn to love it or get your energy from the sun and lay around in the window sill talking about how terrible I am and comparing notes with the fucking cat. I’m going to eat this half-portion of food that is left in the back corner of my almost walk-in closet. You can put yourself to bed and good luck turning off the light without being eaten by the boogie man, he knows when you are alone. And don’t cry he can smell tears.

Of course I never say those things. I don’t have the money for therapy. I usually try to take pause and relax. But man would it feel good to let fly on those little energy hogs just once? Yes it would. A man can dream cant he?

If you repress your frustrations towards your children, this post is for you. It happens. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Rainbows and Butterflies

Sometimes life is rainbows and butterflies.

Of course the standard answer from Prima when I ask her what rainbows are is, “Unicorn farts.” Awesome parenting once again but today’s story will not focus on mythical flatulence. Today will be all about the butterfly.

It all started when Santa brought a Butterfly Garden on Christmas Eve. Jane received the gift along with her tent because it supported an outdoors theme. Immediately upon figuring out what the Butterfly Jungle was all about, she insisted on ordering caterpillars.

Now for those of you who have been reading for a while you might recall we have trouble raising anything with the ability to die. Outside of larger mammals that can fend for themselves like the cat and dog. We have accidentally killed lots of things through misunderstanding or sheer bad luck. Feel free to catch up on that here.

Surely, we thought, Butterfly Garden could be different. The instructions said that you buy the caterpillars and put them inside. Boom. Done. Seal it up and watch them go. That sounded pretty fool proof so we thought that we might as well try and it falls under “Educational Experience” so it was for the children. We check the website and sure enough you can order caterpillars at any time and they ship in a couple of days.

Jane was on her best behavior for a full three hours one day in mid-January and convinced us to order. A few days later a package arrived at the house. I had forgotten that caterpillars were coming in the mail so the package confused me for just a minute. They might want to consider some extra description because the mailman still looks at me strangely.

Butterfly_Nice Try

So these little dudes crawl around a food paste in a plastic cup and grow into big fat worms. Once they attach to the paper in the lid of the cup you have to transfer the paper and all of the hanging pods to the Butterfly Habitat (ie. Plastic cylinder with paper aquarium-like background). The transfer was trickier than I thought it would be. The cocoons are barely hanging from the paper and when they feel movement they start swinging back and forth wildly. Think of a magician in a straight-jacket hanging by his feet and violently trying to get free. That is what it looked like to me.

This is about the time when things start to go south for the butterflies. One of the pods falls off and the online instructions said that cocoons that are on the ground will die. So I use a piece of tape and attach the end and hang the little dude back up in the air. I guess the tape covered an air hole or something because it turned black and died. That wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the ones that lived. About day seven they started dripping blood. Dark red liquid oozed out of the ends and splattered the ground below. More online reading assured us that the liquid was just a byproduct of wing color development. Another milestone passed.

Then the first butterfly emerges and crawls around the box. It is too fat to fly and the wings have to dry off so we have to wait for the majestic Butterfly Habitat experience. That doesn’t mean that the girls don’t still want to look so we try to turn the box so the girls can see and the new butterfly falls and is wedged between the aquarium-backdrop and the side of the box. They can see very clearly that it is wedged in really good and cant crawl out. The only problem is that we have five other pods at the edge of hatching so we don’t want to ruin them too. Sorry buddy. Another one bites the dust.

While further researching as to whether or not we can touch them and save the abandoned first born son, we realize that another step had been skipped. They needed food and the recommended setup was a slice of banana in a shallow dish of sugar water. Dammit. Now we have to open this thing anyway and soon because it will be easier to do this before all of the butterflies emerge.

We managed to get the food and sugar water in place and the lid closed just as another butterfly emerged. *Phew* Then another. Then another. “Okay this is going really good”, I thought. There were some brave soldiers who didn’t make it but we were going to win the war. Then I look into the enclosure and notice one of the butterflies had fallen face down into the sugar water and drowned? Maybe placing the watery death trap directly below the pods wasn’t the best idea? Three of seven are dead and none of them are flying yet. Awesome start. We should farm or something.

Empty successful butterfly shells.

Empty successful butterfly shells.

The next day all of the remaining butterflies have emerged, dried their wings, and survived the pool. They are flying repeatedly into the side of the plastic box trying to fly away. Really violently and steadily into the side of the box. At first I didn’t know what the thumping sound was but it was the butterflies. The girls liked watching them for about 4 minutes total but the cat was another story all together. The cat stared for hours on end at the box of victims. I wonder if the surviving butterflies could see the cat and feel panic? I kind of wanted to turn them loose and watch the cat go crazy but we had made it too far. Success was going to be achieved.

Just at the apex moment where we felt like maybe, possibly this adventure could be counted as a success one of the girls asks a key question.


“Yes honey.”

“Are they ready to be set free?”

“…..Well…..It’s February”

“But my teacher says you have to set them free or they will die in the box.”

“Yeah I see her point but I think these are special butterflies. They might have to be released at night when it is cold.”

“Butterflies don’t like cold dad.”

“Do you want a brownie? Who wants a brownie? Everybody lets go get brownies.”

So we went to the kitchen and everyone got a treat to distract them from the butterflies’ fate. We purposefully bought living things in the dead of winter with the sole outcome of nurturing them into butterflies that we could watch die horrific deaths of suffocation, crushing, drowning, and starvation. It is like we are the mastermind behind the Saw movies but with butterflies. Maybe for the sequel I can grow them inside a microwave with a motion sensor. For now I will just watch the one remaining butterfly as he lays on a mold slice of banana with one leg twitching, questioning why life would bring him here to die. IT WAS ME MR. BUTTERFLY! I MURDERED YOU AND IM SORRY!

He is looking at me and demanding answers for his life.

He is looking at me and demanding answers for his life. His only friend is dead in the background.

So if you have done something educational but ended up questioning your decisions, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Some Animals Were Harmed

So today I am on the confessional. I kill small animals. Not on purpose or maliciously but it happens. That doesn’t make it any better, I know. In fact my bad luck isn’t limited to animals. This black cloud of death has always lingered around house plants and small scale gardening too.

I have a certified black thumb. I can’t begin to tally the tomato plants that were doomed when I put them in the cart at Lowes. Plant food, over watering, under watering, bugs, over application of pesticide, kids trampling the plants, mowing the plants with the actual lawn mower. I was not meant to sustain small and fragile life. Our long term pets make it because they remind me of what they need.

My wife is also not immune to the accidental murder juju. One spring in a particularly wet season we found some tadpoles in a puddle across the street. Being awesome parents we thought, “What a wonderful opportunity to teach the kids about biology.” We collected the tadpoles in a large flat plastic Tupperware container and filled it with pond water. The kids were really excited and I energetically described how they would grow legs and lose the tails. Then the tadpoles would become frogs and leave the water. Each little swimming thing was given a name and we checked on them all day long. My oh my how the girls loved those tadpoles.

Those little dots are tadpoles.

Those little dots are tadpoles.

Once the kids went to bed we talked about what a mistake we had made. Here are these tadpoles that are living and we have zero idea what to do to keep them alive. The slippery slope of reasoning took us to putting pieces of crackers in the water and adding crushed up stoneware for the tadpoles to use once they get new legs. Now, I’m not placing any blame but the next day someone put the tadpoles on a picnic table to get some sun and by the time I saw them they were baked. I assured my wife it was a quick death but who can say how long they fought… Then we thought of the kids.
Fortunately the kids were away at Grandmother’s house so we had a short few hours to come up with a plan. Obviously the kids would be destroyed emotionally from such a devastating loss. We had to come up with a believable story or find a more interesting replacement. My children are expert interrogators but they have the attention span of a fruit fly. The only option was to replace the tadpoles with something even more difficult to keep alive. Fish. What a spectacular idea.

New distraction

New distraction

The pet store sold us a starter tank and a set of fish that were supposed to play well together. They were beautiful; pink, rainbow colors, glow in the dark, and a sucker fish for the algae. The children returned home to a bubbling tank of entertainment. We watched the fish for hours like a group of college kids staring at a Lava Lamp. The best part was that they didn’t mention the tadpoles. Success.



Then a few of the fish got the Ick, a fungus that kills everything in the tank except the sucker fish. Our replacements had the Ick too. We treated the tank and only half of the third round of fish died. Our kids, who we worried would be devastated by death of a beloved pet, had made a game of “spot the floating fish” and “who’s turn is it to flush?”

Once we went on vacation and I guess there was a power outage that turned off the filter pump. A week later there was a cesspool of fish skeletons. The sucker fish, named Vacuum, was happily eating the algae. Then a fish got sucked up the filter pipe and decayed. That was awesome too. I finally sent the sucker fish to a bigger tank at a new home and put the ghost town fish tank on the back porch. Suddenly the sight of a tank with a little water on the back porch triggered a memory and the second child looks at me and asks, “What happened to our tadpoles?” The first child, Calamity Jane, answers immediately, “They probably died.” They had zero concern for the tadpoles or the fish. I could have told them that the tadpoles turned to unicorns and flew away.

It was decided, from now on we will just observe things like bugs and fish and birds. They aren’t meant to be pets anyway and they will be safer from us. This seemed like a very good rule.

One night we noticed a beautiful green and yellow tree frog on our back window. He was stuck to the glass and every now and then he would move around. The girls watched in wonder and we got several good photos.

Majestic beauty of the tree frog.

Majestic beauty of the tree frog.

We even followed the new rule. Previously, I would have put him in a box and tried to feed him flies. We would have looked at him and eventually he would have starved or been baked in the sun. We had learned our lesson and the next morning he was gone but we rested well knowing he was in the natural habitat. No doubt eating flies and enjoying the cool night air.

I know the air was cool because I let the dog out at about 1:00 in the morning. She has the bladder of a squirrel. By 7:00 am she already has to pee again and when I let her out again I found this…

He sticks really well now.

He sticks really well now.

Dammit! Not again! If you are having trouble, this is what happens when a frog gets on the edge of the door and gets closed in the door frame.

If you stare at the picture long enough it looks like he was playing “Heaaads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, Knees and Tooooeees!” Too soon?

If you are an unintentional serial killer of small creatures, I feel your pain. You’re welcome.

Underdaddy to the rescue.