Christmas Tree

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.


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.


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.


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.


A few more days of details and painting and the structure was finished.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Soap the Tree

The holidays are a time of memories and tradition. We grow up celebrating holidays a certain way and it becomes ingrained in who we are. Sometimes our traditions are not always that traditional.

My earliest Christmas memories are tied forever to the smell of the big green and red candles, Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, and soaping. If you are like most people I talk to about soaping then you have one eyebrow higher than the other right now and you are thinking, “What is soaping?”

Soaping a Christmas tree involves shaving Ivory soap into a bowl and then blending it with boiling water. Whip it into a foamy froth with a cake beater and spread it by hand onto the branches of the Christmas tree. It has several useful functions; Looks like snow, holds the dead needles on the tree longer, and makes the house smell like a fresh bar of soap.


For most of the childhood that I remember the Christmas trees were always fake. My mother had a tree with color coded branches that was fun to assemble but over the years took some pretty heavy wear and tear. If Charlie Brown had went looking for a fake tree he might have found something like ours in a smashed box in the clearance section.

I liked that tree.

That is how nostalgia works, I suppose. I also like multi-colored lights with the really big bulbs. They always cast a glow into my room and from early December until sometime in February I had a soft rainbow glow of a night light. I still love multicolored lights.

There was also a gigantic Santa head that we hung over the garage on what I imagine was a lonely nail. I call it a lonely nail because it held on to the giant plastic Santa head in an almost constant winter wind. Something about the shape of his beard or the gable over the garage made the head thump against the house. Some nights it was an all-night struggle between the wind and the nail to see who could control the glowing Santa head. There’s nothing like waking up at three am from something banging on the outside of your house only to look outside and see lights and shadows dancing around the front yard. I don’t love the Santa head but I enjoy the memory.

Fast forward several years and I am newly involved in a long term relationship with Supermom. We are living with her father while I finish school and I tell her on our first Christmas together about soaping the tree. She gives me the eyebrow squinch and so does my soon-to-be Father in law. Apparently I grew up thinking this was a “thing” and it is not a “thing” to everyone I have asked since. Somehow I convince them to let me demonstrate and we have a soaped tree for Christmas. It was something from my memory and it made Christmas feel a little more like the ones I remembered as a kid.

Take another leap of three or four years and we have a house and children of our own. We restarted the tradition of the soaping of the tree. The Grandparents joined in and we took several pictures commemorating the event. We take pictures of everything, or used to before we had so many kids, and while it was special it didn’t stand out as significant to other events around the holidays.

Prima learning the right way to decorate a tree.

Prima learning the right way to decorate a tree.

This year I started my blog and I looked through old pictures to get some images for stories and maybe rekindle some older memories for a good post. It worked for a couple of funny stories about rabbits and clowns but don’t read those right now. Finish this and then come back up the page if you are interested.

One image I found was the picture of me as a kid helping Grandma soap the tree. It immediately struck me how similar the picture was to the recent photos of my own children and the Grandparents in their life.

Tree Soap Four

We do these things at the holidays and it seems burdensome. The kids don’t seem to care for more than fifteen minutes and I wonder if they even notice. Then I look at my pictures and am reminded that it isn’t about the kids enjoying the here and now. Christmas tradition, and any tradition like it, is about planning seeds of memory that flower into nostalgia, and later give fruits of live to a family where new seeds are planted and the process repeats.

That is why I soap my Christmas tree. That is why the ornaments are a growing collection of personal knick knacks and special things with no cute theme or organized thought. That is why the lights are multicolored and they stay on the entire time the tree is up. The girls have a small tree for their room and I can only imagine into the future how that may affect what they enjoy. The other night one stopped me while leaving the room and asked, “Daddy, can you leave the lights on our tree? It is a pretty night light.” If you know the big ball of emotion that I can be then you could head my forced crackly answer of, “Sure honey, as long as you want them.”

Explosion of Christmas Tree awesomeness.

Explosion of Christmas Tree awesomeness.

These happy moments are the ones parents try to save and watch and re-create. It is the reason that we will do the same thing next year even though there is very little that I actually enjoy about the holiday season. We all bring in our traditions and they mix and become something new. We have a list of things that are required to officially kick off the Christmas season.

  1. Christmas tree, soapy branches and colored lights.
  2. Christmas songs, All I Want for Christmas Is You by Vince Vance and the Valiants and Tender Tennessee Christmas by Alabama.
  3. An evening where we turn off the lights and leave on the tree while watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (This is my favorite book to read all year round.)

I also enjoy planning Santa and sneaking with Supermom to place Santa without waking up our elves. Snuggling each other on the couch for a few minutes after the stage is set for Christmas morning. The soft glow of the lights casting shadows over the toys. The smell of baked cookies and milk. The note to Santa. They all sit frozen in time for a few seconds while I hold Supermom in my lap and we relax. That quiet few seconds is parenting, love, partnership, relaxation, and recharging for tomorrow. It is the silent climax to our holiday duties and a sigh of relief.

Those are things I never could see as a child and they only make sense from this side of the coin. Tradition can take all kinds of different forms. The only place I know to start is by putting soap on a half-dead Frasier Fur tree.

I hope we all realize what traditions we can start as parents and make an effort to make them strange and memorable. If you actually have heard of soaping a tree, this one’s for you. You’re Welcome.

-Underdaddy to the Rescue