Calamity Jane

Mom and Dad by Jane

Today I woke up to a pleasant surprise. There was a tray table fully set with a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie, a rock, a pencil, half an Easter egg, a bottle of water, and a beautiful story written for me. The three older girls collaborated on a morning surprise. For all the stories I tell that sound like literary birth control, this is part of the vast ocean of rewards that parents get from having children. Every now and then, they just want to love on you.

This is my excellent story.

Once upon a time there was a boy named David. He was really funny.

One day he saw a beautiful girl named Heather. She had black hair and brown eyes. David thought that she was really, really pretty so he talked to her. They went on they became boyfriend and girlfriend. Then they got married. They got a dog and a cat. The cat’s name is Madison. The dog’s name is Biscuit.

Then Heather had a kid named Jane. Then another named Prima. Then a kid named Don Threeto. Then another kid named Lady Bug. After that she got a wallaby. His name is Toby Dashnap Blackwood.

That is one story.

I wonder how long I should wait to let them read the real story?


-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.

Make One Move and The Dad Gets It

It was a cold Tuesday morning. The snooze button had been subconsciously hit about three times too many. Morning was upon us and if the girls were going to get to school before lunch, I needed them to move. Our daily morning routine has been boiled down to the essentials. I like to tell myself that it actually teaches the children the life skill of holding a really tight schedule and prioritizing critical steps to reach a goal. No judging. I know that is complete BS.

This particular morning was made worse by the fact we hadn’t done any preparation the night before. Our children wear uniforms to school and the older two wear the same size clothes. On mornings when we are running late having clothes laid out the night before is critical. Two pants and two shirts. Easy enough you would think.

The twist is that our oldest, Jane, is a pants-only kind of girl and Prima loves skirts and dresses. Prima will wear pants but Jane isn’t as flexible. We started the khaki load of laundry the night before and hadn’t moved it to the dryer. Skirts were the only bottoms that we had for them to wear to school. Zero other options and the clock says we have about fifteen minutes to get out of the door. Supermom took the skirt and tossed it to Jane who didn’t even try to catch it and instead let it hit her in the chest and roll to the floor. Her face was twisted in a painful disapproval. Then it started.

Jane lost her ever loving mind. She had a total and complete meltdown in protest. Neighbors probably heard the wailing and thought that I was burning her toys or butchering live kittens in front of my horrified family. The level of panic over wearing a skirt confused me and I thought maybe she had a burst appendix or was suffering hypoxic-hallucinations. These kids exhibit no shame or humility at home so a knee length skirt should be no problem.

This went on for about five minutes with no sign of letting up. There were threats, reasoning, bribes, and ultimatums. Then we pulled out the big guns. Grounding. The concept of taking something they love and denying all access for some hellish period of time. The legal negotiations went as follows:

I started the conversation with reasoning, “You understand that if you don’t wear this skirt to school then I will have to ground you for this kind of behavior.”

“I don’t care!”

“What is the big deal? Wearing a skirt is the worst thing you can think of?”

“I don’t want to wear one EVER!”

“You are not going to be able to go with your sisters to your Grandparents house or ride your horse.”

She starts pleading out loud and I have no idea who she is talking to. “Ohhh, Im soooo confused. I don’t want to wear a skirt? What do I doooo?”

I try to help her out with some encouragement, “Just wear the skirt. You don’t have to be grounded. You have a choice.”

So continues with her rhetorical questions to God, “Why is life soooo hard?!?”

“It isn’t hard. It is a skirt and you even have leggings so it is like pants with giant pleats.”

“If only there was a way to not be grounded. Whyyyyyyyy?”

I am sincerely worried about her logic skills at this point. I gave her the step by step of how to avoid grounding. I have backed myself into a corner. On the one hand she has a deep seated issue with a skirt but I also have given a consequence for the action and I don’t want to back up and encourage this freak-out behavior. Empty threats mean nothing to kids. I decide to deliver the promised punishment and also make provisions to avoid the skirt.

Supermom found a single pair (can you have a single pair?) of pants and Jane was given a house arrest sentence of two weeks. Two weekends of not leaving the house or riding horses. Surely a punishment she would remember and use to make better decisions.

It is now two weeks later and I have to say that grounding is the stupidest idea I have had to-date. What dark and sadistic bastard started this idea? When I describe “Grounding” in the simplest terms it is very obviously a bad idea; Take a kid who is pissing you off and require them to remain directly under your feet for a long period of time. Maximize the awfulness by pointing out all the fun the kid is missing so they work extra hard to piss you off more. Spiraling into a feedback loop of almost hate where you are yelling and smashing furniture. Anyone had that happen?

My God, I’m a genius. Those two weeks were miserable.

I’ll never tell her but grounding is out as a punishment. It is the functional equivalent of telling a child, “If you don’t follow my rules I’m going to kick myself in the groin.” You better hope that kid has a strong empathy instinct.

I give up. Discipline is for someone but not for me. I’m just going to start drinking more heavily in the evenings so the loud noises and crazy ideas might start making sense again. I have to find my bluff with these tyrants. Grounding is not it.

For you parents who have been down this route, This post is for you. 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.

Threeto Wisdom

No matter how many times my children remind me, I am always in awe of just how fundamentally different each child can be. I am also somewhat frightened by some of the personality traits that I don’t have control over. I asked the girls a few questions just to see what types of responses I would get from a seven, five, and four year old.

First question is “What makes you happy?”

Jane answers, “Horses. Oh oh! Riding Horses! My happiest was sitting on Prince (a horse that has since died) when I was a baby.”

Prima answers, “Unicorns! Dancing in ballet class makes me happy. My happiest day was signing up for ballet class. I like funny jokes!”

Don Threeto still has a tendency towards baby talk but she answers with enthusiasm, “Wombat!” I ask her, “Did you really say Wombat? Do you know what a wombat is?” Her reply, “No no no, Combat!”

Even better.

I thought it made sense for a kid who may lead a crime syndicate one day.

She wasn’t done with the question and then told me, “Long Necks!” Which I hope is a dinosaur and not glass bottles of beer.

Second question is “What makes you sad?”

Jane gives a heartfelt response, “When Mamaw’s old horse named Magic died. Then a boy in my class said he was happy magic died. I hate him.”

I told her that “hate” is a strong word but anyone who delights in someone losing a pet may qualify for a strong word. I assured her that he may be trying to pick at her because he likes her and doesn’t understand how much she loves animals. I also told her that he might actually be an asshole and that one day she may have no choice but to kick his ass and to use her discretion. Jane isn’t an aggressor but one of her sisters make take up that slack.

Prima may not be much help because her answer to the sad question was, “If I don’t get to play music or if someone beats me up.” She is about two grade levels above her size so I think the getting beat up has to be empathy and not actual experience. She is a gentle giant type of personality and wants everyone to be happy.

Don Threeto tackled the question with the same aggressive randomness that I have started to expect.

“What makes you sad Threeto?”


“Reindeer make you sad?”

“Yeah and dead ones too.”

“So pretty much all Reindeer are just depressing for you?”

“Yeah. And puppies.”

“Good to know.”

So just some side notes. Two of the children are loving and compassionate. One is not yet forming sentences and the family gangster is pleased by combat and beer bottles while being depressed by puppies and reindeer. I love that kid, we honestly broke the mold when she popped out.

These question and answer sessions are always interesting. Over the weekend Prima came running into the kitchen laughing and trying to tell me what Threeto said. Once she calmed down and I could pick out the words inside the laughter I figured out two things:

1) Don Threeto says she named two of her turds (Larry and Bob).

2) These magical turds are alive and Don Threeto can text them with an iPad.

I wonder if the app is named iPood.

Lady Bug has a full understanding of what is said to her but her responses are limited to words that only a few people understand. She is the baby of the family and in true cute-as-a-button fashion she tugged at my heart strings.

“What makes you happy Lady Bug?”

“Da Da.”

“Daddy makes you happy?”

She grins and then gives a coy sideways glance, “No. Hahahaha”

Little rat.

Some families form pop bands like Hanson or the Partridge Family. Mine can’t sing or perform but they will be the perfect team. Focus, compassion, enforcement, and deceptive cuteness. A deadly wolf pack.

So if you expected to shape and mold your children into caring citizens of the world only to find out that your attempts are useless, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.